By Mary

This afternoon I sat in my shady corner of the deck next to our pool, and watched my kids splash into the water one by one. With only one child in the water, waves were small. But as more kids splashed and leaped their way in, the water got choppier, the waves bigger, the decibel level higher. That’s life in a family. The more people in the family, the choppier the waves.

As a mom I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by so many waves roiling in different directions. There are days where I barely go five minutes without dealing with issues. If I’m not reminding someone for the gazillionth time not to use that biting tone with a sibling, I’m asking that a job be redone correctly, or requiring a redo of a reply to me that was way too sassy. Always, issues. With no guarantee I’m making any headway.


But this evening I was gifted with a glimpse, a moment of sun sparkling down into my forest of ‘issues’. I’d assigned my 12 year old daughter the week’s cookie-baking. I’ve given her this job almost every week for the past year. It started as my way of giving her more reading practice. She came home from Ethiopia 3 years ago knowing 20 words of English. Early on, this job would have been impossible. Two years in, it was still a difficult task. She despised it at first. Didn’t understand so many things. No surprise. There’s so. much. to learn when coming to a whole new world. “What is ‘Nestle Toll House Morsel’, Mom?”

But gradually, slowly, she has come to master cookie baking. This afternoon I caught a look of pure peaceful absorption on her face as she leaned over her cookie sheet, neatly, precisely laying balls of cookie dough down. And this is a child who doesn’t find peace easily. She’s gone from hating the task to really owning it, to caring about the outcome.

A few minutes later when I asked her to run help a sibling find a shoe, she counseled me to set the timer for nine minutes exactly. Not eight. Not ten. She knew exactly how she wanted those cookies, and she wanted to make sure I’d finish them properly. Whether she cares to admit it or not, she’s come to take pride in knowing how to make cookies well.

If I’d allowed her to quit in those early learning stages, given up and reassigned the job to someone for whom reading was easier, she wouldn’t be at this stage of mastery right now. She wouldn’t get to experience the satisfaction of being truly good at this. And I’d have missed  the pleasure of seeing her absorbed and engaged in doing something so well.

Glory hallelujah, perseverance really does pay off.

Yes, as with all things in life, I need to remember balance. Every day I remind myself to not over-expect, to model contentment with now, to praise the good that’s there. But it is wonderful to have these brief shining moments where I see fruit of effort with perfect clarity. Where the end of the difficult path is illuminated, and I see there really is hope for the future. My kids are learning, benefiting from my dogged persistence, my insistence that they work on things that are not easy or convenient.

And in teaching them, I am learning and relearning the very same lesson.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

And sometimes that harvest looks like perfect chocolate chip cookies.


Mary Ostyn is the mother of ten children, ages 5-22. Six of her children arrived via adoption, from Korea and Ethiopia. She is the author of Family Feasts for $75 a Week and A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family. She blogs at OWLHAVEN.

2 Responses to Harvest
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