For the Family: 20 Date Night Conversation Starters

“So, anything interesting at work today?” I stir a straw around my restaurant glass and glance across the dinner table at my husband.

“Nope, nothing much. How was your day?”

“Fine. I took the girls to the library after school. We got some new books.”

“Good. They like the library.”

“Yep. Books are good.” I stare at the ice in my glass and wonder what’s taking the waiter so long. Then I smile at my husband again. “So, anything interesting at work today?”

Date night conversation starters

Does your date night small talk lack that old spark? For a husband and wife in the throes of raising kids, it can be difficult to flip the switch from parenting to romance mode. Sometimes our intimate conversations need a little help.

Today on For the Family, I’m sharing 20 date night conversation starters for married couples. Are you ready to boost your connection with your hubby? Join me on For the Family!

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Smile. Because I Said So.

It started last Christmas. After weeks of thoughtful shopping, I sat giddy in front of my daughters, eager to relish their squeals over every toy and game. But each time my second-grader tore open a piece of wrapping paper revealing some much wished-for gift, all I got was a solemn face and a quiet “thank you.”

“Sweetheart, don’t you like your gifts?” I crinkled my eyebrows, wondering why she wasn’t jumping off the sofa in excitement. “You don’t seem very happy.”

“Mom,” she dropped her chin and peered at me over her glasses. “I’m excited on the inside, but serious on the outside.”

That is her personality in a nutshell.

Smile. Because I Said So.

As my sweet girl grows, I’ve observed a sober, pensive leaning to her temperament. This is how God made her, and I want to nurture that. However, sometimes our natural tendencies can work against us, and we need to stretch beyond them. Like last Saturday—at her eighth birthday party.

“Sweetie, remember to smile, okay?” I whispered in my daughter’s ear as she reached for the first gift. Fifteen lovely pals surrounded her, and each of them had contributed a generous present to the pile. They were anxious to see the birthday girl’s reaction.

Of course Momma knew what that reaction was going to be. And I thought our party guests deserved a little more, uh, outward evidence of my daughter’s gratitude. So I offered a few quick instructions.

“I know you’re excited on the inside, but try to show it on the outside, too,” I whispered some more. “Smile big and say a nice loud ‘thank you’ to your friends so they know how much you appreciate their gifts.”

She nodded and immediately flashed a stiff smile to confirm she understood. Precious child, for the next twenty minutes she worked those smile muscles so hard they ached.

Don’t we all need a little help sometimes? When our natural inclination is to withdraw or hide or appear ungrateful, we sure could benefit from a guiding whisper in our ear.

Do this.

Don’t do that.

Remember to count your blessings.

And by the way, do you know how much I love you?

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

God isn’t just some big, benevolent grandfather in the sky. He’s here, walking with us, indwelling us, and gently whispering encouragements to our souls. When was the last time you listened for it?

Sometimes the clamor and busyness of everyday living drowns out his still, small voice and so we miss the cues. But he loves us enough to lean in and speak above the proverbial party noise so that even when everything around us overwhelms, we have the chance to hear him. And then we can go where he leads us.

My daughter returned home from her party with a bagful of treasures and an even bigger haul of memories. And I came away with a reminder that God is with us, guiding us, and showering us with blessings. Anybody who wants proof of a loving God needs only to look at a child. Eight years ago, I had no idea how huge my heart could grow.

Happy birthday, my love. I thank God so dearly for you—on the inside and the outside!

* * * * * * * *


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Ditch the Mom Guilt

I love my kids. But—I don’t love everything about raising them.

“Mommy, will you build a tower with me?” My four-year-old sat on the carpet, surrounded by mega blocks. She looked up at me and grinned with her teeth clenched, pleading. “Please, Mommy?”

“A tower?” I stalled. I’d just settled on the couch with my iPad, investigating chicken recipes for dinner. I kind of wanted to stay there. But, instead, I drew a deep breath and flipped the iPad shut. “Sure, I can help you build a tower.”

Because good moms build towers with their kids. Right?

Ditch the Mom Guilt from Time Out with Becky Kopitzke

I have a running list of “good mom” expectations like that.

Good moms play Candy Land without going brain numb.

Good moms are never distracted by e-mail or Pinterest.

Good moms buy organic. They would rather die than feed their children Kraft mac ‘n cheese.

Trouble is, I don’t live up to my own standards. I stink at it, quite frankly.

Sure, I’ll play Candy Land. But I might reply to a text while I’m doing it. And then I’ll serve my kiddos a bowl of fluorescent orange noodles for lunch, which they love. Yum.

I am not proud of that.

But hey, I do other mom stuff really well! I do!

Tell me to bake a killer cupcake and I am ON it. Baking is my thing.

Dare me to hug my kids ten times a day and I’ll show you twenty. Affection and encouragement come naturally to me.

And if good moms take their kids to the library and the zoo and sign them up for piano lessons and soccer and karate, then I am AWESOME.

Are you?

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

It’s taken me a while to learn that the “good mom” standards are a bunch of garbage. God made us all with different gifts for different purposes. Some moms love delving into a child’s world, building forts and stacking LEGOs, while others are better at listening or cooking or showing up on time to preschool. We each have our own strengths, and they’re all valuable. So instead of feeling guilty about the areas we lack, why not celebrate the areas for which we were built to excel?

Consider this. No woman is a superstar in every aspect of parenting. If we met a mom with my flair for baking and your energy for crafts, plus somebody’s else’s unshakeable patience and another mom’s passion for family fitness or serving in soup kitchens or finishing the baby book—if this woman had a piece of the best of everyone’s gifts—then she would be THE perfect mother.

And let’s be honest. We’d all hate her.

I find comfort in knowing other moms are just as challenged as I am when it comes to mastering or simply mustering enthusiasm for certain aspects of parenting, don’t you? Because our challenges make us genuine, vulnerable, and dependent on God. He already knew our gifts before he laid the first babe in our arms—these precious children, designed uniquely for our families by a purposeful, flawless God. Only he can fill in where we fall short.

So imagine a world teeming with openly imperfect women who need God and share a desire to encourage and not judge one another. Where we can all ditch the guilt over what we think we “should” be, and really embrace the moms God made us to be.

Wow. In my eyes? That’s as close to perfect as parenting will ever get. Will you join me?

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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When the Queen of Sheba Comes to Visit

Play dates. Book club. Birthday parties. Dinner guests. All of these events flip me high into hostess mode—and it isn’t pretty.

“Can you please pick up your socks?!?” I bark at the little people in my maniac cleaning path. “Young lady, how many times have I told you, your sleeve is not a napkin. Now we have to change your shirt! Why is my spatula caked with purple Play-Doh? Aaack! Who crushed Chex Mix into the carpet? I just vacuumed!”

By the time the doorbell rings, I’ve de-cluttered six piles of crayon drawings and newspaper coupons, scrubbed three sinks and four countertops, baked a dozen blueberry muffins, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher twice, and scolded my family at least twenty times. All of this adds up to one frazzled momma smiling broadly on the welcome mat as though ushering guests into my home were no big fat hairy deal.

I wish.

When the Queen of Sheba comes to visit

Hospitality is not one of my natural gifts. I try, but I lack finesse. My home is not stylishly decorated, some portion of my menu is often burnt, and most attempts at adult conversation are interrupted by a child either asking for juice or falling off a chair.

Does this make me a bad hostess? I used to think so. Until I dug into the Old Testament story about the queen of Sheba—how she’d heard that Israel’s King Solomon was exceptionally wise, so she trekked to his palace to see for herself. Let’s take a minute to read the story together—with my commentary in [bold brackets].

“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. [Also translated ‘riddles.’] Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones [this lady was no beggar]—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. [What? No children butting in asking for cookies? Solomon must’ve had nannies.] When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD [burnt on purpose, unlike my appetizers], she was overwhelmed. [Overwhelmed by what? Solomon’s wisdom or his fancy lifestyle? Presumably both. Yet, she was a queen, so surely she’d seen opulence before. Something must have been different about this king. Read on.]

“She said to the king, ‘The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. [Note: She saw, and she believed.] Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. [Ding, ding, ding! She recognized that Solomon’s blessings came from the Lord.] Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness,’” (1 Kings 10:1–9).

Maybe she was skeptical at first. Maybe she was seeking hope. Whatever piqued the queen’s curiosity enough to embark on the journey to Solomon’s house, when she got there, she found what she was looking for. The luxury, the bounty, the sagacious discussions—it all pointed to one source: God. She left satisfied. She left changed.

She left praising God.

That is the point of hospitality.

We can make ourselves crazy trying to get all the details right—a clean house, tasty snacks, polite and smudge-free children. But if it’s not done for the purpose of sharing God’s light with other people, then we’ve missed the point. We’ve missed the opportunity.

There is one part of this story that stabs me. It’s when the queen of Sheba says, after immersed in Solomon’s household a while, “How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”

Could my friends say that about me? Or yours about you? How happy your children must be! How happy your husband, who continually stands before you and hears you nagging to take the garbage out before the guests arrive!

In our quest to host the perfect party, we moms can too easily neglect our happy officials. I’ve been guilty of this. I harp on my family because I’m stressed. I see them as obstacles to my chore list rather than the reason for the celebration. And it occurs to me—with a twinge of shame—that if I want people to see and believe that the Lord is good, simply by the way they’re treated in my home, then I ought to begin with my own family.

So welcome to my home, friends, in all its parenthood glory. God lives here. His wisdom reigns. And I’m going to demonstrate these facts by loving my family first and foremost, laughing when the pizza burns, and opening my doors wide for heartfelt fellowship and genuine conversation—interrupted though it may be by happy little officials begging for lemonade.

Will you join me?

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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If this post* encouraged you, please share it. You might also like If You Were in My House Today, When Sick Kids Cramp My Social Life, and How to Love Your Family More Than Your House.

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*Revised encouragement from the archives

For the Family: Is Your Marriage Getting Moldy?

What does marriage have in common with a rotten bag of grapes? More than you might imagine.

How to keep your marriage from getting moldy

Today on For the Family, I’m talking about ways to prevent “mold” from creeping into our relationships. You know what I mean.

Like when you spend all day chasing after toddlers or carpooling kids to school and basketball practice, then you crash after dinner with no more energy left for the guy who once held your hand through every push and contraction.

Or when you communicate about bills and piano recitals and what’s for dinner, but you stop asking “how are you” or “what are your dreams” until the man sitting across the dinner table is more like a roommate than the love of your life.

And on those days when patience runs short and feelings get hurt and you wonder if this married life is worth it . . . it is. You just have to scrape off the mold to see the fruit underneath.

So let’s take a deep breath together and come with an open mind and a vulnerable heart to For the Family, where I’m offering five anti-mold marriage tips for exhausted moms and dads. It’s never too late. Will you click here to join me?

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The Wisdom Test (and why I’m blocking the game show channel)

The thing about kids is—you never know what’s going to come out of their mouths.

“Momma?” My seven-year-old whispered from her top bunk where I’d just tucked her in.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Do you know what KY Jelly is?”

“Uh. . . yes.” Good thing I’d already turned off the lamp so she couldn’t see my eyes bugging out of my head. “Do you?”

“It’s a lotion, Mom.”

“Yep. Sort of. Where did you hear about it?”

“On Family Feud!”

Oh great.

The Wisdom Test

“Okay, sweetie, but we don’t talk about KY Jelly in front of people. Like at school or anything.” Please, Lord, don’t let her strike up this conversation with her second grade teacher.

“Why not?”

“Because most people think of it as a lotion for, ah, ladies’ private parts. It’s not appropriate.” Thank you, Family Feud.

Just then, my four-year-old piped up from her bed. “Princesses wouldn’t talk about KY Jelly, right, Mom? Princesses don’t talk about things that aren’t appropriate.”

“Right, sweetie, yes, that’s right. So now we’re all going to stop talking about this, okay? Go to sleep! Good night!”

“Good night, Mom!”

My husband and I are super vigilant about what we allow our kids to watch on TV. We lock down their choices to certain pre-approved channels and programs, and we fast forward through commercials, for crying out loud. How was I supposed to know the family game show station could introduce my seven-year-old to intimate lubricants?

Sometimes I wish I could tape my children’s ears shut so they’d never hear a dirty or disrespectful word. Yet as they grow and go to school and begin experiencing new adventures, so must I learn to release them. At some point, we moms can no longer protect our kids from every indelicate exposure. However, we can teach them how to filter.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere” (James 3:17, NLT).

How can our kids recognize the difference between good vs. evil? Teach them the wisdom test.

Is it pure, gentle, and kind to others?
God says that’s okay!

Is it crude, selfish, or picking a fight?
Turn away and pray.

The wisdom test works for a variety of influences our kids will face including TV, music, friends, books, fashion, social media and so much more. And honestly? It works for grown-ups, too. If our kids need to filter it, so do we.

So let’s not fear the unpleasant teachable moments. Instead, we can lean into them, knowing that our job is not only to protect but also to equip our kids to make wise choices even when we’re not around.

“Mom, do you know what a Trojan is?”

“A what?!”

“A horse! It’s a really big horse, Mom!”

“Yes,” thank you, God, “it’s a horse, from ancient Greek mythology. And where did you hear that word, may I ask?”

“On Jeopardy!”

So about those teachable moments—heaven help me. Some of them can wait.

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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Would Everybody Please Leave Me Alone

Sometimes I want to hide from my children. But it’s no use. They always find me.

“Mommy, are you in there?” I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at the gray circles under my eyes. My four-year-old rattled the doorknob from the hallway. “Mommy? Where are you?”

“I’m in here, sweetheart. Just give me a few minutes, okay?”

“But Mommy, I want you.”

Would everybody please leave me alone

I cracked the door and spied a button nose shining in the hall light. “What do you need, beanie?”

“I thought you were gone.”

“Nope, I’m not. I’m right here. Just washing off my makeup.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“Can I have a cookie?”

“Ask your dad.”

“But I want you.”

Yup. I know. Problem is—I want me, too. So who’s going to win?

Motherhood is a series of constant demands. I can hardly sit for one minute without someone asking for help or juice or a game of checkers. Kids want attention. They want affection. They want potato chips from the top of the fridge and a cat for their birthday. When both my children chirp at me at the same time, they fight over who spoke first, and I’m expected to keep track. This requires focus. And some days I’d rather focus inward than outward. Because outside of my own head, I hear this kind of stuff:

“Mom, guess what.”
“Mom, look at this.”
“Mom, can I show you something?”
“Mom, listen to this.”
“Mom, I have a question.”
“Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!!!”

Bwaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!!!!!!! Please! EVERYONE!!! Give your mother some silence PLEEEEASE!!!

At least I’m not the only person in my house who knows how this feels.

Jesus does, too.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5: 15–16).

Sometimes I go a little nuts with just two kids in my house. Jesus had crowds. They followed him everywhere he went, reaching for him, calling to him, shoving their sick and needy loved ones in his path. And what did Jesus do? He served them. He healed them. He taught them. He fed them. He provided much of the same nurturing we moms do for our children, except for one big difference.

When Jesus needed a break, he took one.

He withdrew to lonely bathrooms places.

Why?

Not because he didn’t like the people who were demanding from him. He loved them, just like we love our kids—deeply, joyfully, and unconditionally.

And it’s not like he couldn’t provide what the crowds needed, either. We’re talking about the king of miracles here.

Jesus withdrew because he knew his first job was to fuel his soul by connecting with his Father—alone. He couldn’t pour out what he hadn’t first been given from God.

It’s the same with us. Taking a “time out” to pray and reflect and breathe is not selfish. I used to feel terribly guilty about needing a mental break from the constant input, especially considering there was a time when I would’ve given anything in the world to hear little siblings shrieking through my house. Surely something was wrong with me for not relishing every moment of chatter and questions and Candy Land.

Until I realized through Jesus’ example that occasional solitude is not only healthy, but necessary—for me, and for my family who deserves more than my leftover fumes.

What does that look like for you? First, I urge you to get honest with your husband so he can support your escapes, then do the same for him. Or if you’re a single mom, find a trusted friend who’s willing to care for your kids when you’re craving fresh air. Maybe you don’t need a weekend at the spa, but an hour at a coffee shop will do. Heck, give me chance to get through a hot shower without somebody pulling back the curtain asking for chocolate waffles. That alone can work wonders for my soul.

And consider this. As faith-filled moms, we want to be more like Jesus, right? Often that means hardship and sacrifice—but not always. In the case of lonely places, it means rest. And what mom can’t use more of that?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).

Now—if you’ll pardon me, I have a date with the bathroom sink. And this time, I’m locking the door.

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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Quit Being So Grateful

She tacked it to the end of her story, like an apology. “I know I need to keep this all in perspective. It’s really not that bad.”

Not that bad. A lovely woman in my Bible study had just finished updating us on her home remodel horror story. After several months and thousands of dollars spent gutting and replacing every inch of her kitchen, a plumbing leak destroyed the whole thing and now it has to be entirely redone. She’s been living with deafening industrial dryers and packing her kids to stay at a hotel meanwhile.

A little stressful, maybe? Uh, yeah. But good Christian women are taught to have this “perspective” thing, which prevents us from fully acknowledging our heartache.

Quit being so grateful

It comes out in phrases like this.

But things could’ve been much worse.

Other people have bigger problems than mine.

I know I’m blessed. So I shouldn’t complain.

Yes, yes that’s true. The Bible does say “do everything without complaining” (Philippians 2:14), so you have no right to do that.

But you do have a right to speak truth. And sometimes the truth is we feel frustrated, mad, disappointed, or hurt.

God made us emotional beings, did he not? He designed us to feel.

Of course I’m not saying “trust your feelings” because “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In fact, we’re called not to indulge the heart but to guard it. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

But how? How do we guard something that is by nature a wild beast?

We don’t.

God does.

We just have to give him the key.

That means opening our heart-gates wide to the Lord, allowing him into every nook and cranny so he can examine, console, heal and restore. This is not a process reserved just for the “big problems” in life. It’s a daily surrender.

And it requires vulnerable conversations with the Lord.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. . . . Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:6, 10).

God desires truth in the inner parts, the heart. Consider maybe he allows some trials in our lives not so we would “perspective” them away, but so we would acknowledge the truth of the hurt or frustration. So we would feel it deeply enough to bring it to him.

What if we looked at our trials—big or small—as an invitation from God. He wants to hear from us. Are you going to talk?

Oh, that’s right. There’s nothing to talk about. Because you’re fine. You’re blessed. No complaints here.

Uh-huh.

God deserves more than a surface relationship with us. So do our close friends and sisters in Christ. If we brush authentic heartache under the rug and convince ourselves we’re not really bothered because we’re not “supposed” to be, we have cheated God of his divine right to fellowship with us, and we’ve lost an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with fellow believers.

So your beautiful new kitchen just caved in? Your kids have been throwing up all week? Your stylist turned your hair pink? Dang, girl. Do the ugly cry if you have to. God can take it. Your friends will hand you tissues. And yes, you are blessed, and God knows you know it. You’re mighty grateful for all the things going right in your life. You should be.

Just don’t let your gratitude suppress your honesty. That’s not being holy. That’s called denial—which is really a fancy word for lying.

When my friend’s kitchen is restored and the stress of it all is a distant memory, I’m sure we’ll sit around her countertop laughing about it. But not yet. Right now is a chance to walk that strange line between blessings and trials, gratitude and grief. It’s a lifelong tug-of-war, really. The more we learn to embrace both the joy and the sorrow, the closer we’ll grow to the God who grants us both. And to know God, well—that is by far the greatest blessing of all.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like No, You Are Not Failing; The Older I Get, the More Money I Cost; and About Gratitude, Toaster Waffles, and Those Starving Kids in Africa.

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When Mom Is on the Phone

It never fails. I pick up the phone and suddenly my children—who had been quiet as lambs ten seconds earlier—morph into wild, bleating sheep desperate for every ounce of my attention.

This is especially lovely on business calls.

When Mom Is on the Phone: The only tip you'll ever need when your children interrupt

“Eeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!” A thud rattled the wall between my office and the living room, and a high-pitched wail rang through the house. My four-year-old came barreling down the hall holding her cheek in both hands.

“Mommy! I-I-I-I hurt myself!” She sputtered between gulps of air. Normally this is when I’d kneel beside my babe, wipe her rolling tears and gush out the motherly compassion. But I was on the line with a long-distance client, and we’d already spent three weeks trying to schedule the call. Terrible timing for personal injuries.

“Shhh, shh!” I cupped my palm over the receiver and held an index finger to my lips. My daughter only shrieked louder. Then her seven-year-old sister rushed in.

“We were dancing in the living room and she ran into the wall! It wasn’t my fault!”

I flailed my arms in maniac sign language. Please! Hush! Mom is on the phone! Can’t you SEE that?

And the answer is—no.

No, they cannot.

Oh sure, they see their mother, they see her holding an electronic gadget to her ear, and they might even hear the dear woman talking but all of this together means absolutely nothing in their “I’m hurt” or “I need a snack” world.

So what’s a mom to do?

Enter their world.

Trampoline

You probably have phone etiquette guidelines in your house. We do, too. Be quiet when Mom is talking. Do not interject with questions about my conversation. Do not beg for chocolate. Do not turn up the TV in annoying attempts to compete with my volume.

So we train. We correct. We start all over again the next time the phone rings. This is good. This is necessary. Someday the phone etiquette will sink in, just in time for our children to birth their own children and experience the joy of poetic justice.

But I’d like to suggest we moms look beyond the rules for a minute. Beyond the frustration, the embarrassment, or the feelings of isolation when it seems we can’t even talk to human beings outside our own walls, aaaaaahhh!

What do our kids want when we’re on the phone or focused on some other grown-up business? Do they want our help? Our sympathy? Another popsicle?

Yes, yes, and of course. But I think it’s even simpler than that.

They want our availability.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:16–17).

If we were truly like little children, we’d be vying for our Father’s presence constantly. We’d want to sit in his lap, hang on his words, ask question after question and beg him for blessings like candy. But God has a big job, people. He tends to every soul in the universe. He holds together the details of this world. He’s a busy guy, get it? God is always on the phone!

Yet he doesn’t shoo us away.

He invites us in.

God the Father is always available.

Legos

What if, instead of getting annoyed at our kids for tugging on our sleeves at the most inconvenience moments, we knelt down and hugged them? There’s time later to reinforce the rules, and you’d better believe I’m going to. But in the moment, fighting with our children will only further disturb our business and hurt their hearts. So why not take it as an opportunity to reinforce their security instead.

Because our kingdom is their kingdom, too.

“Girls, is everyone okay now?” I met them in the living room after I’d hung up the phone. My four-year-old sat on the couch with a stuffed animal pressed to her cheek, watching her sister play a math game on my iPad.

“Sorry we bothered you, Mommy.”

“You can always come to me when you’re hurt,” I said, and kissed her on the forehead.

“What about when we want marshmallows?”

Uhhh. . . about that phone etiquette training. Let us begin again.

* * * * * * * *


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Stop, Pray, Obey

My four-year-old sucks her thumb. She’s been doing it since her bitty babe days. At first her dad and I thought it was sweet, and we appreciated the thumb’s magical soothing properties. But now we’re staring down a fortune in orthodontist bills and, well, that thumb has got to go.

My daughter knows this.

And she doesn’t like it.

Stop, Pray, Obey

“Momma, can I suck my thumb? I’m kind of tired.” She looped an arm around my leg, looked up at my face and batted her puppy eyes. I blew a deep sigh. Because I hear this exact request about a dozen times a day.

Funny how she knows she’s not supposed to suck her thumb, so rather than sneaking around or openly defying my expectations, she simply asks permission. Heck, I figure that’s half the battle won.

Maybe I’m a softie, but I truly believe that telling my daughter to give up her thumb is like asking a smoker to quit cold turkey. So right now I’m offering her a transition period, like a nicotine patch, where she’s allowed to suck her thumb only when she’s going to sleep.

Therefore, the question is always, “MommacanIsuckmythumbImkindoftired.”

When I say no, she throws fits. Naturally.

When I cave and say okay fine—usually in moments of frustration for the sake of my own sanity, and yes I know that’s weak and ineffective but work with me here, people—she smiles and curls into a ball on the sofa, quiet and content. Temporarily. Because even she knows she is delaying the inevitable.

The thumb is no good anymore. The longer we let it go on, the more damage it will do. It’s just so hard to break the habit.

Sound familiar?

I wonder—what if we stopped to ask God for permission? Anytime we’re tempted to do something he disapproves, to engage in old habits—what if we turned our eyes to the sky and begged?

God, can I snap at my husband? I’m kind of tired.

Lord, can I hurry my kids and ignore their hearts? I’m kind of on a schedule here.

Heavenly Father, would you mind if I worried incessantly about that thing I cannot change? I know you’ve got it covered, but, right now I’m kind of freaking out. You understand.

What do you think God would say?

Oh, there are plenty of Bible verses granting us clear direction on certain behaviors and attitudes. But I’ve started responding to my daughter with one simple question of my own. And I wonder if God would do the same.

“What do you think?”

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24).

God gave us free will. Knowing right from wrong and lost from found is an important first step in using that free will wisely. But what if we went beyond the “rules” and considered how our choices affect not just us but other people? How would that change our decisions?

Yes, I might be tired. But that’s not my husband’s fault. He doesn’t deserve my snappishness.

I’m busy and distracted again, yep. But it’s not all about me. I owe my kids my presence.

Here I am, buried in my fears and what if’s. But you, Lord, are working within them and through them and above them for some purpose I cannot see. I know it’s the right choice to trust you. Will you help me?

“Momma, can I suck my thumb? I’m kind of tired.” My daughter lifted her hand to her mouth and waited for my reply.

“What do you think, sweetheart?”

She stood motionless, with her thumb suspended in mid-air, and stared at me for three seconds.

“I’m gonna do it. Thanks, Mom!” And off she ran to the couch, where she curled into her usual snuggle ball and sucked away.

What was I saying about free will? It may take my daughter some growing-up years to really get the hang of putting other people’s needs first—i.e., her parents’ savings account, which would prefer not to go broke for braces. But then I’m 40 years old and I still haven’t completely figured out how to put other people’s needs first, either. Have you?

Ask God for permission. Now that’s a clever place to start. Because, unlike my daughter’s thumb habit, stopping to talk with the Lord Almighty before making a dumb move could very well prevent the dumb move from happening. Who wants to disappoint God, right?

Stop.

Pray.

Obey.

What a simple formula for Christian living. It just might change the world.

Will you join me?

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
Don’t miss a post. Sign up here!

If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like The Foolproof Cure for Hollering, No Eat Play-Doh, and Life Lessons from a Bird, a Net, and a Scissors.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving Thursdays, Mom 2 Mom Monday Link Up, Tuesday Talk, and Things I Can’t Say.