I drove down the road, sobbing salty tears of frustration and discouragement. Once again, I felt like such a failure. Letting out an exhausted sigh as I parked my car at the craft store, I doused my eyes with saline to mask my miserable mama’s cry. I felt lousy and weary, but I was no stranger to those feelings.

The majority of our Saturday had been nice. My husband and I had thought it would also be nice to let our four school-age kids have a sleepover in the boys’ bedroom, watching a movie. They were so excited but couldn’t agree on what to watch. At dinner they voted but it was still a tie. My husband and I came up with a solution and I declared that if anyone was upset about the final choice, they could just go to sleep…in their own bed. Before the decision was made, our older daughter and younger son were already upset about the sleeping bag arrangement. Once the movie was selected, our 11-year-old flopped down on his bed crying, and our 5-year-old was sent to her room for throwing an all-out fit! Wow! How in the world could a fun plan go awry so very quickly? Why did this seem to happen here so often? How had we gone so wrong in our parenting?

Endless love memeMy heavy heart pondered all these questions during my drive. I felt discouraged and confused. Why, no matter how hard we try to parent well, do we always seem to fail? I fired my questions at God with tears running down my cheeks. The irony is that I was driving from our country home into town, with only minutes to spare, hoping to find a simple gold chain for my older daughter’s emerald charm that was a gift from her Grandma. Frustrated in my mama’s heart and, if I’m honest, frustrated with my children, I instinctively still wanted to show my daughter love!

When I arrived home with the gold chain and some early Easter gifts in tow, my sweet husband offered encouraging words. My response was that it made no sense whatsoever to feel such disappointment and frustration yet choose to spend my time, energy, and money doing something special for my children. I was motivated by fierce love, but not because I felt that love. I still felt disheartened.

God put it all in perspective for me the very next morning at church…because he’s awesome and faithful like that! Our pastor preached about the prodigal son and his older brother. Both sons disgraced and rejected their father’s love and expectations in different ways. I could relate! I wondered if that father ever questioned where he went wrong? I sure had! But guess what? He wanted both sons with him, sharing in all that was his. I could relate to that also! Rather than dwelling on his own disappointment or questions, he threw an elaborate party for the prodigal son upon his return home! And his older son, outside pouting? The father wanted him to come join the celebration also. He even risked embarrassment in front of his guests in order to go to his son! He continued to give his love, despite any feelings of disappointment or frustration he may have felt.

Our Heavenly Father is like that with each of us. We all need his grace and forgiveness. And he gives it freely! During the message, my husband leaned toward me at church and whispered, See? That’s why you did what you did last night! Yes, it was. I selflessly sobbed my way into town to bring a smile to my daughter’s face. That is the endless and irrational love I have for her, and it is a picture of the kind of love our Heavenly Father has for us. No matter how often my children cause me frustration or disappointment, I still desire to show them my love. There is probably little I wouldn’t do for them. God loves us even more so! My love came naturally, even amidst discouragement. The Father’s love comes supernaturally, full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He loves us with arms wide open. He chose to use a Saturday evening full of raw emotion to reveal his nature to me so specifically. And through his endless love toward me, I was able to delight anew in my children and receive fresh grace to love them even more.

Guest contributor Stephanie Hinz is a stay-at-home mama who is passionate about God, her family, good books, good coffee, and encouraging others to trust fully in God. She and her husband have been married for fifteen years and are renovating an old farmhouse in the country where they enjoy simple family life with their five children and fifteen chickens. She writes about God’s gentle whispers in her life at Afternoon Coffee Mama.