In certain circles, talk of an “Expanded Capacity” seems like a vague but popular Christianese phrase — one that I am loosely acquainted with, but not sure I completely understand. Someone might pray, or have a word of encouragement like: I’m trusting God to give you an expanded capacity to do His work or God is expanding your capacity, and your ability to handle your circumstances.get it and at the same time, I’m not always totally sure I get it.

What does that actually look like… feel like… ??

{Did I ever tell you about how when I was pregnant with the Bear I didn’t like my belly button sticking out so I used the Royal Mail’s Air Mail stickers to flatten it out sometimes? Yes, really.}

I recently realized that pregnancy is one incredible life opportunity for the very literal experience of what it’s like for your capacity to be expanded. In the most literal sense, for the past nine months, my capacity has been expanding. Not all at once, but slowly, over time, I’ve been watching my “capacity” {READ: middle section} as it has very literally expanded to hold this entire other person inside.

Stopping for a moment to ponder that thought is really huge for me: This whole other life that will live and breathe and move and laugh and cry and so on — it has its very beginnings happening, and I am the space where it’s currently contained. Wow.

Along with the literal capacity-expanding that has been going on around here, I’ve sensed some ‘stretching’ in areas that won’t really be helped with a good bottle of lotion, or even one of those expensive anti-stretch-mark creams.

Some capacity-expanding has been happening in my soul.

I’ve experienced some of those moments that I hoped didn’t actually exist: the days I’ve heard other mothers talk about, where it seems like all of your kids are against you. I was in the middle of one of the moments when… well it’s better just to tell you the whole tale, isn’t it?

It all started with an early-rise from Tiger Tank. He was up way earlier than usual, so I decided to let him watch a video on Disney Jr in his highchair, with his breakfast in a little bowl in front of him. He happily ate and I got to go back to bed for another twenty minutes or something which, these days, is better than gold. When his brother woke up and asked if he could eat his breakfast and watch something too, I thought it was fair enough to oblige, on the condition that he sit in the high chair — which I know seems kind of weird because he’s four, but it is the only way to elevate his bowl of cereal and milk to the point that his toddling younger brother won’t reach up, grab it and dump it out on the carpet.

There’s method to the madness, friends.

But the Bear — to put it mildly — did not fancy the idea of sitting in the highchair. You’d’ve thought it was an electric high chair. And this was no opportunity for a calm discussion, oh no — he was going to have an all-out cry and holler session at the fact that his options were breakfast at the table or breakfast in the high chair.

Meanwhile, Tiger Tank desperately wanted to climb the bar stool in the kitchen to play in the sink — with the dirty dishes, sharp knives and whatnot — and while I was trying to make him happy with alternative solutions, he decided he, too, needed to lose it in order to let me know exactly how he felt about his obviously over-protective mother trying to avoid him slicing a finger off. I eventually had to carry him gently to his crib and let him cry it out for a few minutes, because tantrums cannot result in positive outcomes around here. Meanwhile his four-year-old brother cried it out in the high chair, like a baby. Seems appropriate, I guess.

And I, the Mama who had been trying to do everything right to make it a special and happy morning, promptly walked to the kitchen in the midst of the hollering coming from each end of the house, sat down on a bar stool, glanced at the ceiling, sighed, and took a few sips of the coffee I’d just reheated in the microwave.

And getting real honest, I probably shed a tear or three out of frustration that I wanted things to be nice and everyone else wanted to freak out.

This is the discipline — I sensed it in my soul right there on the bar stool in the kitchen. This is the stretching. These are the moments that are absolutely God-ordained to expand my capacity to parent. Because I have often looked at the ceiling and asked, “How am I going to do this with three?” Here is the answer. You started with one. And then there were two. And gradually, over time, you gained the discipline necessary to handle two without freaking out.

And the cray cray you are experiencing now? This is preparation for what’s next.

Here’s the beautiful, challenging, soul-stretching truth:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. {Hebrews 12:11}

It has been itchy and uncomfortable, feeling my belly expand again — but here at 39 weeks and nearing the end of the journey, I am absolutely confident about the harvest ahead. The journey hasn’t been completely pleasant, with nausea and heartburn and mood swings and cravings and incredibly painful attempts at just turning over in bed at night.

But the thing that all of this leads up to?

Do I even have to say, knowing what I know already, living what I’ve lived already — can’t it go without saying? — the harvest is worth the work.

So. If your soul starts getting itchy and uncomfortable, if your heart feels stretched beyond what you think you are capable of handling — know that the unpleasantness of the stretching will bring about good fruit if you will endure it. You can trust your amazing Creator to know when your capacity needs expanding — He knows and sees tomorrow long before we do.

And how beautiful it is when we get to those moments where we’ve endured a hardship and we are enjoying the peace and good fruits on the other side — to look back and say “I made it. And it was because I {stuck it out for a year at the Pawn Shop… pressed on when I wanted to quit school… made myself keep going to the gym when I felt like giving up… chose to believe I could do something better with my kids…} that I had the capacity to endure this.”

That is sweet victory.

If you know what I mean and can relate to what I’m saying, then hang in there, my friend. You’ve got a sweet harvest ahead of you, so don’t lose heart!