She Still Kisses Me Goodbye

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

I held her hand through the parking lot and pushed open the heavy double doors. We maneuvered through swarms of eager kids and frazzled parents, some wielding cameras, others blinking tears. She hung her backpack on her hook, collected her morning snack from the zippered pocket, then spun around and marched toward the doorway of room 315.

Second grade.

Where did our summer go?

She still kisses me goodbye

I love the school-free months. Popsicles, lazy mornings, back yard sprinkler runs. As soon as Labor Day passes, I start counting days ‘til June. Give me playground picnics and tennis courts and sparklers by the dozen. Yet here we are again, another first day of school, another lurch forward in the growing up parade.

I poked my head in the classroom. Tidy and inviting. Bustling yet surprisingly empty. What’s missing?

Oh, yes.

Toys.

Unlike years prior, the second grade room is void of free-time toys. No buckets of blocks or LEGOs or puppets.

My girl is too serious for those now.

She must read and write and discover science. She will learn full sentences in Spanish and increase her English spelling list beyond two-syllable words. Her class is oldest on the playground and veterans at lunch. She will teach the younger kids how to open their milk cartons and search the Lost and Found. She is the queen of the monkey bars. A pro.

But she’s still a piece of my heart.

Sprinkler

“Bye, sweetheart.” I called after her. “Have a wonderful day.”

She turned around, red hair swishing across her shoulders. “Mom, wait!” She hurried toward me then stretched her neck to reach my face with pink lips puckered. I leaned down for a kiss.

“Bye, Mom!” And off she fled toward a desk piled with pencils and glue sticks and stiff new math workbooks.

My firstborn is growing up, that’s inevitable. But she still kisses me goodbye.

Friends are gaining influence and teachers get smarter than Mom. But she still kisses me goodbye.

She wears glasses and lisps over a mouth full of orthodontic gadgets, true beauty in its shifting, awkward form. But she still kisses me goodbye.

She climbs her top bunk to weave bracelets and read Pippi Longstocking—with a “PLEASE KNOCK” sign tacked on the door because she needs her time alone. But she still kisses me goodbye.

I will blink and she’ll be driving to high school, pledging a sorority, shopping for a wedding gown, and rocking my grandbabies in her arms.

And then she’ll know this feeling. This ache that settles in my stomach like a stone whenever a new school year comes and a child is ushered closer to the expectation of maturity and independence. She thinks she’s just learning cursive and multiplication. But a mother knows the fleeting measure of childhood is found in these rites of passage, one grade to the next, like a ladder with fourteen finite rungs from preschool to senior year.

We cannot peel our children off the ladder. We cannot shake them loose. They must climb. And our job is to spot them from below, to coach and cheer so that one day they can reach the top and leap—into God’s plan for their adult lives.

The choice rests in a mother’s hands. We can sniffle over days gone by and resist what lies ahead. Or we can embrace today as a gift and entrust the future to an all-knowing, perfect-loving God.

I’m choosing today. And I’m grateful.

Because my big girl still kisses me goodbye. I’m still her momma, her first love. And no grade, no graduation, no college nor job nor lifetime to come can take that away from us.

Sprinkler

So on second thought, instead of counting days ‘til next summer, I’ll count my blessings instead. I really ought to soak up every moment of this second grade business, knowing this could be the year when my daughter develops a healthy sense of embarrassment over her old lady. And when that happens, I will survive. Because as much as I love my little ones, I love God’s will for them more, and I want to see my children grow into the people he designed them to be.

There is no greater privilege in parenting. Amen?

Happy school year, fellow moms. Whether you’re on the first rung or the last, may God bless your child’s steps—and hold you tight in his arms as you learn to let go.

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like Kindergarten Is Not a Big, Green, Ugly Monster, When You Wish They’d Stay Little Forever, and Why I Don’t Plant Petunias in January.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThings I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.

About Gratitude, Toaster Waffles, and Those Starving Kids in Africa

There are certain things I swore I’d never say to my children. Like this one.

“Don’t waste those waffles, girls. Did you know there are kids starving in Africa??”

“What?” My four-year-old crinkled her nose.

“In Africa. And all sorts of other places around the world. Even here in our own country! Not all kids get to eat as much as you do.”

“But I don’t want waffles! I wanted cereal!” My seven-year-old whined.

“Too bad. Eat the waffles. Some children are lucky if they get a bowl of rice—and that’s all they eat for the whole day. Be grateful.”

“So? Rice is healthy for you.”

Heaven help me.

Sippy-Tray

I’ve been working on instilling a sense of gratitude in my kids. Lately they seem to demand entitlement, as if food and toys and iPad games are their birthright rather than a blessing. Sure, they say please and thank you, but they have no earthly clue how fortunate they are. How some children on this planet can beg pretty please with a cherry on top from dawn to dusk, but that won’t make a taco casserole appear magically on their plates.

My children won’t touch my taco casserole.

And I’ve decided there’s something wrong with that on a deeper level.

Gratitude.

True appreciation for our bounty and comfort.

It’s lost on my kids.

Why?

Probably because I haven’t sought it for them.

Gratitude

When I sit down to a full meal of fresh grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and buttery corn on the cob, do I see the richness on my table or am I just thinking ahead to the dishes?

If my closet looks drab and I can’t afford a Stitch Fix, do I praise God for a dozen pairs of shoes when some people have none?

When my Wi-Fi barfs for 20 minutes, do I take it as an opportunity to appreciate the other 23 hours and 40 minutes per day that it functioned just fine, or will I growl at my laptop as if it’s my God-given right to be connected?

And when my sweet husband scoops up a double dish of salted caramel truffle ice cream and sets it in front of my face as a loving gesture, do I fret over the extra calories or for once in my well-fed life can I just enjoy the indulgence as a gift many people will never, ever taste?

So my kids are ungrateful, eh? Maybe they learned it from their mother.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

God wants us to be thankful. He wants us to pray. He wants us to rejoice. It’s no coincidence those three things are tied together. Maybe the first step to growing grateful children is joy. Take pleasure in what you have. Then pray. Stay in tune with the God who gives all good things. And this will lead to gratitude—not a forced, obligatory, what do you say, children? kind of thanks, but a genuine, natural outpouring of the faith within us.

When we really know what awesome grace God has lavished on us, we won’t be able to contain ourselves. We’ll be busting from the hairline with thanksgiving.

Wow. I don’t just want that for my kids. I want it for me, too.

Summer-lake-tree

“Mom, I ate my waffle. Can I have some cereal now?” My seven-year-old handed me her empty plate. “Please?”

“Yes, you may.”

“Momma?” She spread her arms for a hug.

“What, sweetheart?”

“Thank you for making my breakfast.”

“You’re welcome, my love.” I squeezed her hard. “But do you know who really deserves a thank you? God.”

“Oh, yeah!” My four-year-old piped up. “He gives us money so we can buy waffles, right, Mom?”

“He does.” I smiled.

“Well next time,” she wagged her finger, “let’s ask him for the blueberry ones. I like those better.”

{Sigh . . .} Yep.

Gratitude.

We’re still working on it.

Are you?

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like Three Things I Won’t Tell My Children, Cut Me Some Slack, Little People, and Why We Didn’t Quit Ballet.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThrive at Home Thursday, Things I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.

Thursday Special: When Motherhood Isn’t What You Imagined

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a children’s book author. And a pop singer. Sometimes a lawyer, thanks to L.A. Law and that huge plate of donuts in the conference room. Plus I had plans to inherit my mom’s sewing business, but she changed careers before I could discover I didn’t really have a knack for sewing.

Today I write, but not for kids. I sing but I never did become the next Debbie Gibson. Law school? Forget about it. Funny how our original plans don’t always pan out.

The same goes for family life.

Today on The Better Mom, I’m sharing some encouragement for any woman who imagined motherhood would be different from what it is. I don’t want you to miss this. Will you join me there?

Proverbs 19

Why You Shouldn’t Have a Family

Out of the mouths of babes.

“Momma, get up!!” My four-year-old climbed into my bed and yanked off my covers. “I’m hungry for my bref-kist!”

“Noooooo,” I whined into my pillow. “Come snuggle with me. I’m still tired.”

“But I’m hungry! Get up!”

“I don’t want to get up.”

“Well,” she stood on the mattress and planted two fists on her hips, “you shouldn’t have this family, then!”

Huh. If that ain’t the awful truth. You heard it here first, folks.

If you want to sleep, do not have a family.

Child running

After years of midnight baby shushing, 2 a.m. fevers, late night closet-monster slaying and 4:57 a.m. eyeballs-on-fire wake-up calls, I do believe my daughter has a point. Sleep is not for mothers. In fact, a lot of things are off limits for us moms.

If you want peace and quiet, do not have a family.

If you love clean floors and smudge-free windows, do not have a family.

If you can’t live without hot meals, lazy Saturdays, dangly earrings and the ability to process your own thoughts, then sister, do not give birth to children.

I’m telling you. You’ll never be able to eat another M&M without ravenous little sugar mongers sniffing out the goods from halfway across the house, nipping at your heels, “What do you have, Mom? What is that? What are you eating? Can I have one?” So for the love of all things Cadbury, woman, if chocolate is important to your lifestyle, then definitely DO NOT HAVE A FAMILY.

Except on Halloween. Then kids are kind of convenient, with their “oh what a cute little bumblebee, let me give you this big handful of mini Hershey bars for all your cuteness” factor. You just have to snitch from the bucket when they’re sleeping.

But if you don’t like Dum-Dums and bat-shaped pretzels, then don’t have a family.

And if you can’t stand it when your face hurts from smiling and your abs turn sore with belly laughter, don’t have a family.

If bottomless hugs and kisses aren’t your thing and you’re convinced unconditional love is overrated, then by all means don’t try to have a family.

And if you want to hold tight to who you are and never change, never stretch beyond what you think you’re capable, never surrender your time and energy and expectations, and if you’re just not a fan of trusting God in ways both ordinary and unimaginable, then please. Do NOT. Have a family.

Because family life is hard. It’s immeasurable. It’s heart-wrenching, faith-wielding, and downright beautiful.

It will require all you have and return even more.

Except for sleep. You might never really catch up on that.

So don’t have a family, ok?

It just might transform your life.

And your arms can’t possibly contain all those blessings.

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3, NLT).

Peek a boo

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like When You Wake Up With a Foot in Your Face, What That Mess Really Means, and How to Get the Life You Always Wanted.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThrive at Home Thursday, Things I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.

When Mom Blows It Big Time (Yes, I Ate Your Cookie)

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man,” (2 Corinthians 8:21).

I’m a big fan of forgiveness. Especially when I have to beg my kids for it.

“Are you hungry for a snack?” I wiggled eyebrows at my husband. We’d just settled into the family room for our quiet hour—that precious time of night after kids are in bed and we can talk openly, watch cartoon-free TV, or scan iPads without anybody asking to play Angry Birds.

“Sure.” He kicked his feet up on the sofa.

“Do you think the girls will notice if we eat their cookies?”

“Pffff. . . No.”

Yes I ate your cookie

I giggled and tiptoed to the kitchen cupboard. Earlier that evening, our daughters completed their fifth and final youth fun run of the summer. Past the finish line, all runners were treated to the usual smorgasbord of pizza, fruit, ice cream bars, and a jumbo cookie from a local bakery. Now after five races, we knew our girls’ routine. They start with their ice cream bars, finish off the pizza, ignore the fruit and stash the cookies in our cupboard for later—where they forget about them until the cookies turn stale and I toss them in the trash.

It’s such a shame to let a good cookie go to waste. The kids weren’t going to eat them, anyway. So hubby and I snatched those delicious oatmeal toffee treats and licked every crumb off our thumbs.

The next morning, my three-year-old climbed out of bed and asked for breakfast. “Mommy, can I have my cookie from the fun run?”

My eyeballs popped in a split second of panic, then I recovered with a smooth mom reply. “No, sweetheart, we don’t eat cookies for breakfast. Maybe you can have a cookie later.” Notice I didn’t say which cookie, exactly. There was plenty of time to whip up a fresh batch before lunch.

Two minutes later, my six-year-old padded into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Mom, I want my cookie from the fun run.”

Seriously?

“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” I faced her straight on. “You can’t have a cookie for breakfast.”

“But where is it? Can I see it?”

“See what?”

“My cookie! I thought about it all night long!”

Bugger! Five fun runs leading up to this moment, and I testify these children did not give a rip about those cookies before today. I had to fess up.

“Girls,” I swallowed hard, “Mom and Dad ate your cookies.”

Their jaws dropped, and their faces distorted into high-pitched heartbreak. “Waaaaah! How could you eat our cookies?! We wanted those cookies! They were OURS! Waaaaaahh!”

Stab me with a spatula, why don’t you.

“Girls, I’m very sorry.” I grabbed their hands. “I didn’t think you wanted your cookies. Dad and I never would have eaten them if we knew how important they were to you. You’re right, the cookies belonged to you, and we were wrong to eat them. Please forgive me.”

They wailed. They thrashed. They dripped tears onto the kitchen floor. For crying out loud, we ate their cookies, not their hamsters! But their little hearts ached; therefore, so did mine.

Then I did what any loving mom would do. I bribed them.

“Girls, I have something better. Will you stop crying if I give you a different treat?” I rushed to the cupboard and pulled out two full-size Hershey bars, intended for s’mores but awfully handy in an emergency like this. They took one look at those chocolate bars and jumped.

“We can eat it for breakfast?” My three-year-old wiped her tears with the back of her hand and grinned.

“Yes!” Mommy guilt hijacked my nutrition rules. “Have at it.”

“The whole thing?” Her eyes grew round and sparkled.

“The whole thing.”

“Yay!” They squealed and tore into the wrappers, and they never mentioned those cookies again. Thank the Lord.

So what’s a mom to do when she blows it?

Confess. Honesty is a core value in our family. In order for my kids to learn it, I have to model it, even when—especially when—it reveals a weakness or mistake. When kids learn their parents aren’t perfect, they discover perfection is not the goal. Honesty is.

Humble yourself. Ask for forgiveness when you mess up. It’s how I expect my kids to behave toward each other, so I should do it, too.

Don’t assume you know your child’s heart better than she does. This one was hard. I know my kids. I study them and nurture them day in and day out. But that doesn’t mean I own their feelings. I had to allow them space to hurt—and to take responsibility for the hurt—even when my grown-up reasoning told me the whole thing was ridiculous. They’re kids, after all. They have childish emotions. And that doesn’t make them wrong; it makes them normal.

And finally, keep a stash of candy on hand at all times. You never know when you might need it. Like the following day, for example, when I threw away my girls’ leftover pudding. Who knew they were planning to feed it to their dolls?

Oh, well. It’s nothing an apology and a handful of Skittles can’t fix.

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Encouragement from the archives. Next week, I’ll be back to posting new devotions! Have a wonderful week, friends.

How to Marry Your Husband All Over Again

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. . . For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” (Mark 10:6–9).

There’s nothing like a wedding to make a girl fall crazy in love—again.

Last Saturday, my brother-in-law got married. He’s 15 years younger than my husband, which makes us the wise older couple. After 11 years of marriage, two children and a minivan, hubby and I have this marriage thing down.

Or so I thought. Until a moment during the ceremony when the minister spoke these words.

“Marriage isn’t a vow you make once and for all on your wedding day. It’s a daily recommitment.”

Huh. A daily recommitment—to love, honor and cherish this person, in sickness and in health—every single stinking day, whether you feel like it or not.

I turned to look at my husband, the tallest groomsman on the altar, standing regal and proud among a line of young men. He’s still my groom, I thought. He’s still the one I love.

MarriedThis man, whom I know beyond the tuxedo.

The one who mows the lawn in hole-torn jeans and a sweaty three-day beard.

The one who clutched my hand through childbirth and whispers bedtime stories to our girls.

The one who harbors dreams still not reached, and cheers me on toward mine.

I know his virtues. I know his faults. Do I still wake up every day vowing “I do”? When his hair peppers gray and he gains a few pounds. When we go to bed in silence the night before, angry and hurt. When other people or places start to look more interesting than this life we share. Will I lay it all on the altar again each morning and promise to love my husband most?

If there’s anything I’ve learned since my own wedding day, it’s that the exhilaration of new love fades. But it can grow to something deeper, something even stronger.

Commitment.

And commitment isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.

Later that night, I watched with my heart stuck in my throat as my husband held our six-year-old daughter’s hands and spun her on the dance floor. Someday—in a blur of years like a single breath—I’ll look on this same scene at my daughter in shimmering white, and her daddy blinking back tears as he gives her away to her own husband, her own lifelong choice. And I pray it’ll be a good one.

Because marriage still matters. It’s the love of God growing through generations in good times and bad. And I’m going to choose it again and again, day after day, ‘til death do us part.

Will you?

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Encouragement from the archives. You might also like When Hubby Leaves His Socks on the Floor, The Measure of a Good Life, and He Called Me Beautiful So I Cleaned the Basement.

Nobody Notices When I Sweep the Floor

“Great job on the siding, Bob!” We stood in our neighbor’s driveway admiring his new vinyl  exterior. A small crowd of friendly faces had wandered from summer yard work to enjoy an impromptu chat. This time of year, the conversation often centers on home improvement jobs.

“Hey, Joe, I saw you put up a new play set. How do the kids like it?”

“How big is that pool you installed in your yard, Dave?”

“Is that lumber in the garage for your deck expansion, Chuck? How’s that going?”

And I got to thinking of all the projects my husband does around the house—noticeable projects. The finished basement, the fresh stained fence. Brick landscape edging and a tidy cut lawn.

“My husband repaved the driveway, and all the neighbors commented on how nice it looked,” a friend told me recently. “How come nobody congratulates me for folding laundry?”

Amen, sister. Why doesn’t a woman’s work get the same kudos as her man’s?

Nobody notices when I sweep the floor

Don’t get me wrong—I realize some of you ladies sweat over glorious flowerbeds or climb the roof to hammer shingles yourselves. Bravo if you do.

But for many of us moms, our usual household contributions are a little more obscure.

Nobody notices when I sweep the floor.

Nobody applauds when I mix oatmeal for breakfast.

Nobody drives by our house to admire my sidewalk chalk drawings or the rebate forms I filled out and stuck in the mailbox.

Just once, I want my kids to say, “Mom! You did a fantastic job grilling this cheese sandwich! You are one seriously talented woman.”

But why?

Why do I need praise? Does it give my labor greater significance? Does it prove I’m a good mom?

Well, let’s consider this picture in Matthew.

“Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River,” (Matthew 4:23–25, NLT).

Wow. Talk about a hot topic in the neighborhood. Jesus displayed supernatural healing powers and drew swarms of followers everywhere he went. If anybody had the right to boast, Jesus surely did.

But do you know what comes immediately after this passage?

The Beatitudes.

“One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. . . . ‘God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth,’” (Matthew 5:1–2, 5, NLT, emphasis mine).

Really? Jesus just performed a spectacle of public miracles, and then he delivered a lesson on humility. Not praise. Not power or validation.

Humility.

What does that say about how we should approach our work?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving,” (Colossians 3:23–24).

Praise from people doesn’t make our work more important. Knowing who we’re working for does. And God doesn’t just pat us on the back—he promises a reward! An inheritance! Can a friendly neighbor’s compliments come anywhere near as cool as that?

So let those men have their repaved driveways and their shiny green lawns. The Lord sees our laundry. He sees our grocery shopping and our scrubbed bathroom floors. Next time you flip that grilled cheese, ladies, tune your ears to imagine this—the Lord of the universe is cheering you on.

My child! You did a fantastic job! 

Thank you for serving me today by taking care of your family. 

You are one seriously talented woman. 

I know—because I made you that way.

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Encouragement from the archives. You might also like and Oh But I Used to Work in Marketing, On Dreams, Contentment and Spaghetti, and Why I Stopped Folding My Underwear.

When the Kids Wear Pajamas ’til Noon

Hi, friends. I’ll be traveling, restoring, and soaking up my kids for the next few weeks before summer slips away, so I’m taking this opportunity to share some encouragement from the archives. It’s been three years since Time Out first carved this little space online, and I am so thankful for each of you whove joined me on the journey. If you don’t yet subscribe to these weekly devotions by e-mail, I’d love to see your name on my subscriber list. Just enter your e-mail address in the “Subscribe” box on the blog and watch for a verification message in your inbox. Blessings to you and your families!

When the kids wear pajamas til noon

My kids wrote a summer bucket list. It’s filled with fun and educational activities—gymnastics class, library reading club, play dates, the zoo. Most days, we check at least one item off the list.

Some days, we don’t.

And those are the days I hear the voice. You know her. I’ll bet she lives in your head, too.

“You’re wasting your summer,” the voice whispers. “Shouldn’t you be planning some Pinterest-worthy craft or taking your kids on a scavenger hunt or something? Really, my dear, just look at them over there, lounging in the living room watching Sprout and eating popsicles. Don’t you have anything better to do?”

I peeked at my girls snuggled in front of the TV, laughing, slurping and dripping blue Freeze Pop juice on the carpet, and I realized—no. We do not have anything better to do. Not today.

This is what summer is about.

Freedom.

“I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls,” (Jeremiah 31:25, MSG).

For nine months, school laid siege to our household. The academic schedule dictated everything, from wake-up calls to bedtimes and all activity in between. By the time June finally arrived, we desperately needed a break.

So I won’t feel guilty for taking it.

Structure is good for kids, yes. I orchestrate enough summer activities to keep my daughters occupied and learning, and you probably do, too. But when did we start believing that down time is less valuable? Sometimes my girls just want to run barefoot in the yard and squish toes in the sandbox. They want to build forts and play house and mix mud pies. They want the security of home, knowing I’m here watching over them without taking over every hour of their day.

So I’ve decided it’s okay to spend a morning cleaning house while my kids play make-believe grocery store in their pajamas until noon. It’s okay to sit on a patio chair reading while they practice cartwheels in the grass. It’s okay to have nowhere to go and nobody to see and nothing impressive to post on Facebook, because an open day is a gift to unwrap and explore. We all know that when September comes, those gifts will hide away. Let’s grab them while we can.

Rest. Restore. Enjoy.

You’re not wasting your summer. You’re making the most of it.

Last night, after I tucked the girls in bed, I climbed over two heaping laundry baskets to reach the sofa. My husband slid a disc into our Blu-Ray player and grabbed the remote. Then I heard the voice again.

“Shouldn’t you fold those towels?”

This time, I answered.

“Zip it, lady. I’m watching a movie. You’re not welcome here anymore.”

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Encouragement from the archives. You might also like For Inadequate Mothers Everywhere, I Should (Not) Do That, and How to Get the Life You Always Wanted.

Next Time, Hold the Gummy Bears

“Mom, I think I’m full.” My seven-year-old grimaced, stuck out her tongue, and shoved her cardboard cup across the table. We were enjoying a rare trip to the frozen yogurt bar, in which Fun Mom and Dad allowed the kids to dish up any flavors and toppings their little stomachs desired.

Next time, hold the gummy bears

“How was your concoction?” I peeked inside my daughter’s cup, still half full of candy bits floating in a runny pool. “Goodness sakes, what did you put in this thing?”

“Um, just some good stuff.”

“What yogurt flavors did you have?” Tough to tell, since at that point they’d all melted to a gooey shade of gray.

“Oh, I got cake batter, pink lemonade, and rocky road.”

“Yum,” I gagged. “And I see some Skittles in there.”

“And peanuts, cookie dough,” she counted off her chosen toppings one finger at a time, “M&M’s, Heath bar, Butterfinger, rock candy, Nerds, sprinkles, blackberries . . . .”

“Gummy bears,” my husband reminded her.

“Oh, yeah, gummy bears, and whipped cream!” She grinned, flashing a jigsaw puzzle of missing teeth, then wrinkled her nose and slid back in her chair. “I have a tummy ache.”

No kidding. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with cake batter yogurt or gummy bears in general. On their own, they’re quite tasty, I’m sure. But pile too many good things on top of one another, and you’ve got a recipe for indigestion.

Every sensible mom knows this about sundaes.

But what about our weekdays?

Gummy Bears

Take one glance at my calendar and you’ll see plenty of “good” things. Bible study, book club, worship team, freelance work, conferences, exercise class, coffee dates, prayer groups, speaking engagements, dinner with friends, play dates for the kids, and the constant carpooling to tennis lessons, tumbling class, ballet and school. Individually, such excellent pursuits! But toppled into a heap of a day or a week or a year, this kind of to-do list can settle like a rock in my gut. Literally.

Stress for me manifests as stomachaches. When my schedule trips a threshold, I can measure my diminishing mental and physical margin by the quantity of Rolaids I reach for at bedtime. So just like my daughter swallowed too many treats at once, trying to consume too many activities at one time can also create a serious case of belly rot.

Or worse.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Don’t you want to know God’s heart? To catch a glimpse of his desires for your life? I sure do. The better we get to know God, the better we’ll be able to discern his will—which is good, pleasing, and perfect! Sign me up, right?

But how can we really get to know him if we’re too busy to stop and say hi?

Women today are blessed with a bounty of opportunities. I’m grateful for modern equality and the potential it allows. Trouble comes, though, when we stand at the smorgasbord and fill our cups with too many opportunities at once. The “pattern of this world” tells us we ought to stuff ourselves, that it’s no longer enough to care for our family’s basic needs. We must enrich every moment with technology, extracurricular activities, volunteering, social commitments, work and personal development. Why? Because we can! It’s all available to us now, and we buy into the lie that if we don’t keep up then we must be missing out—or worse, lazy.

So we fill up on striving, and ruin our appetite for God.

No wonder the Bible urges us, don’t conform to that lifestyle. Busy is not better. More productive does not mean more purposeful, more accomplished, or more accepted. Instead, God says, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Take a break, a rest, a Sabbath (Genesis 2:3). And choose the Lord above your task list, Martha, old gal (Luke 10:38–42). Then once we do take the time to meet with God, we’ll discover he is wonderfully counter-cultural. And that might be the best news a busy mom needs to hear.

When we got home from the fro yo bar, my daughter stuck her leftovers in the freezer and ate them the next day. “Mom,” she mumbled with a mouth full of goo, “Skittles are hard to chew when they’re frozen.”

“Yeah? How about those gummy bears?”

She thrust her spoon into the cup and chiseled an icy chunk. “I think next time I’ll just get M&M’s.”

“Good idea, my love.” I planted a kiss on her forehead and smiled. “So will I.”

* * * * * * * *

If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like The Trouble With To-Do, If You Give a Mom a Minute, and On Dreams, Contentment, and Spaghetti.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodBad Mom MondaysTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThrive at Home Thursday, Things I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.

And now for a word from our mentors . . .

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:3–4).

Best-Advice2

“Momma, what do we do when we have to go potty in preschool?” My four-year-old posed this question one morning last week. Next month she’ll begin 4K at her big sister’s school, and we’ve been talking it up all summer.

“Well, there’s a bathroom right inside your classroom,” I assured her. “All you have to do is ask your teacher.”

“You have to hold up two fingers!” My seven-year-old called from down the hall.

“What?” My four-year-old ran to her sister in the playroom and stood at attention for more details on this highly important topic.

“You hold up two fingers, like this.” Big sister raised her hand and made a “V” with her index and middle fingers. “That’s the sign that you have to go to the bathroom. I remember that from when I was in the preschool room.”

“Oh, thanks!” Little sister mimicked the potty sign with her right hand. “Like this?”

“Yep. That’s it.” Big sister nodded. “Good job.”

Isn’t it great to have a mentor? Somebody who’s gone before us and can share the insights we need for daily survival. I’ve been blessed to have several such mentors in my parenting journey. Over the years God has brought a few key women alongside me who’ve filled my heart and soul with their wisdom and encouragement to get up and do this mom thing another day—and to do it well, with love, grace, and godly intention.

Today I want to share those mentors with you. Last month on Haven Help Us, we featured a different mom mentor each Monday in the form of a Q&A session. These ladies are so God-soaked and wise, I couldn’t keep them all to myself—they ought to be paid forward again and again. So please, take a few minutes to click through these posts and read their words of wisdom and encouragement. I know they’ll bless you just as they’ve blessed me.

Ruth Foss
Tammy Muller
Tami Ziegler
Cindy Kirkpatrick

Have a wonderful week, everyone!