Last night’s interactions with my kids were through waves of mommy-exhaustion. And when I get tired, I lean towards being overly emotional, insecure, and task-driven. I overreacted when my son threw something in the fish bowl; when my 3-year-old continuously asked questions to which he already knew the answer; when they were demanding and (surprise) didn’t use their manners during dinner, wiping their plates with their hands and forgetting to pray or use a fork. I was a nutcase who was eyeing the clock for bedtime—theirs and mine. At least twice, I pleaded, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me. I am so tired right now that I’m overreacting.” I was just hoping that I’d make it to bedtime without a meltdown.

I trudged up the stairs, picking up the debris that preschoolers drop behind them like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. My 5-year-old put his hands on his hips when I got to the bathroom: “Okay, Mom, we’re going to have a meeting in our room with just us kids. And we’re going to close the door. And you can’t come.” Hey, no arguments as long as you land in bed in the next 15 minutes.

He was obviously on a mission after their little powwow, so I continued our nightly routine, getting toothpaste on the toothbrushes as I rubbed my eyes and periodically sighed heavily to myself. But when I came into their bedroom, there was a truly pleasant surprise: The wasteland of toys, blankets, and clothes formerly known as the boys’ bedroom had been returned to its rightful state of cleanliness by my 5-, 3-, and 2-year-olds—and they’d initiated it themselves. My regular direction and prodding of cleanup time that marked one of the day’s final battles had been entirely avoided. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but in that moment, I was very touched. My son had seen how I was feeling, and initiated actions to take care of me.

“Did you guys clean your room all by yourselves?!” My oldest was jumping up and down with the thrill of his innovation, hands clapping and blonde head bobbing. They all looked up at me proudly. “SURPRISE!”

That night as I climbed in my own bed, I contemplated why their actions had moved me so deeply. Though there are a lot of reasons, I realized that my kids had just done what God did, and does, for me: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). On a night when I was calling all cashiers to the front register for even a hint of self-control, punishing my kids from my own exasperation and fatigue, they proudly loved me, thrilled with themselves at their kindness (and rightly so!).

Sometimes I’m amazed at how God reveals Himself to me in my own children.