July 25, 2011
Friday night at dinner, Ben surprised me [greatly] by saying he wants to give me the day off on Saturday.
A very stunned wife stared at him in amazement, because a day off —-?
Exactly what is a day off? It seems I can’t remember.
I’ve only had one other such day since beginning my career as a mother. Without any appointments or schedules or places that I had to go. Exactly what does one even do on a day off?
My kind husband continued on… “I think you’ve been really tired lately. Maybe a little burned out? I know I’ve been working Saturdays and some evenings, so you’ve been doing double duty. And I’d like to give you Saturday off… Would you like that?”
A slow smile crept across my astonished face. Would I like that??
WOULD I LIKE THAT?!
Oh, indeed, kind sir, I would LOVE that, in fact.
My Type A personality wished I would have had a week to plan!
What does one do on a day off?
Where does one go?
What stores would I go to, without two kiddos in tow?
Where would I park with my journal and Bible and books?
What books should I read?
My tired-mommy mind, on the other hand, wasn’t about to plead for the following weekend instead of the the following day. What kind of woman would EVER refuse such a generous offer?! A day off looked like a breath of fresh air!
A few quick idea were jotted down, possible places to go, since I knew going out of town was definitely in the plans. We have no coffee shop in town, or bookstore/cafe, or anything remotely charming for such an occasion. McDonalds just wasn’t going to work. Or any of the many fast-food options we do have in town.
Saturday morning dawned…. We had already been planning to host people for lunch on Sunday, so I did spend the forenoon doing some food prep. That was okay. I was getting all afternoon and evening off, and that in itself was enough to make even the food prep exciting.
While I was making dessert and other meal plans, Ben took Olivia out on her first date. It was beyond precious. It was really for her birthday, two months ago, but it was her first date ever.
I have to insert here, that when I birthed Zoe, one of my very first thoughts upon knowing we had a little girl, was the excitement that she could go on a date with her daddy. I don’t know why that was one of my first thoughts, in the midst of birth excitement and feelings of physical pain beyond what I expected. But I was so excited about my little girl going on a date with her daddy.
Fast forward several more years, and it’s my second daughter now going on dates. To the donut shop. I should have sent the camera along with him, but knowing my husband, that would not have added to his time there. So I took a few pictures of them before they left.
They just melted me. A daddy and his little girl have got to be one of the most precious and tender things in this world.
Another little girl was also melted. As in “melt-down” though, at not being included in this one-on-one date. I tried to think of something to console her with, so Zoe and I made a paper chain, to count down the days until HER birthday, which at that point was less than a week away. Thoughts of birthdays made all tears flee at rapid speeds, and a happy three-year-old was chattering away as I mixed cream cheese with sugar and patted herbed hamburger steak into big pans.
And then – it was dress up time for me! Strappy sandals, flower brooch, sheer scarf, a touch of make up… and after kissing Husband and a million thanks, and after hugging wailing little girls who didn’t like the idea of their mother going away without them [how dare she!], I drove off.
A phone call to my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday as she nears 80 years old, a call to the florist shop to deliver flowers to her door, a chat with my own dear mother, and even some moments of utmost quietness made up my one-hour drive to my destination.
A few stops at various stores, just because I could. A music store, to buy a copy of beautiful new piano music, a craft store to buy a few supplies for a party coming later this week, a few clothing store faves…. just to check their sale racks, of course. Nope, just because I could. And finding a few new cutesy things that good prices. I did try to be a good girl…
I do adore the feminine style that can be found so readily these days. Designers sure are creative when it comes to styles and fashion. I love the ruffles, the lace, the flowers, the skirts and dresses… It seems the last few seasons I keep thinking styles can’t get any more darling, and they DO! They sure know how to tempt people trying very hard to stay within the budget…
But the majority of my time was spent at a little table in the cafe corner of Barnes & Noble.
My heavy bag containing my journal and Bible was taken off my weary shoulder,
and I had a date with my Daddy.
More than anything, solitude and quietness refresh my soul.
As much as I adore my husband and little girls, time spent solo is what my soul craves for restoration and rejuvenation.
A quiche from the cafe, as well as a [venti] Caramel White Mocha, added the perfect touch.
Oh, and One Thousand Gifts.
Pages in my journal were scrawled, pages in books turned.
If I could have openly wept in that little corner of B & N, I would have. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like causing a scene. But my eyes were constantly filling with tears as I sat there… reading… writing… thinking… thanking. My heart really needed to be refreshed… encouraged.
That week I had been feeling so weary, and yes, a little discouraged.
Am I doing this mommy thing okay?
I feel like I mess up so often…
Will my children need counseling when they grow up?
Could someone please walk beside me and just tell me I’m going to make it?
How can I have enough of energy for everything that I’m supposed to do?
How can I reach around and love everyone well?
I had been longing for mentors, in flesh and blood.
God gave me mentors that day, but in the form of written words.
There were two mentors “present” with me, other than God.
One was an article from John Piper’s website [found on Janelle's blog - thank you!!] that I had printed and brought along with me. Here are a few paragraphs from a powerful post…
“Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.
Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing…
If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children….Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?…
Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.
Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.
The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?
It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.
Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.
Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work…”
I read and re-read those words, finding strength and deep encouragement in them. I was so challenged and convicted and encouraged all at once.
The whole article can be found here.
And I read the first three chapters of Ann Voskamp’s beautiful words. Through tears. She is an anointed writer, who reaches deep into the hearts of readers with her words. Now I know why people read and re-read this book. I would have sat all night and finished at one time, had I had no time limit.
The last few years I’ve felt and known my need of God more than any other time of my life.
When I was single, I thought I was a fairly sanctified person. Sure, there were areas I knew that needed God to desperately work in them, but it felt like I was on the road to being a person with less and less flaws. [doesn't that sound awful!? i'm embarrassed to admit it!]
After I got married, my weaknesses suddenly flared up wildly. You mean I had disagreements with my husband? You mean I had a hard time admitting I was wrong? You mean I had a hard time surrendering to an unknown life? Yes, all of the above. And I suddenly felt very much in need of God.
And then there were children…. and my weaknesses and faults and blind spots seem to glare at me daily. How can little people of such short years and short stature show up my sinfulness so drastically? How is it that I feel like a perfect heathen some days? Never have I realized my own shortcomings, not only in myself and how I relate to my family, but in how I relate to other people, and my faults in relationships and how badly I mess up.
But there is grace. Sweet grace.
And in those few short hours, I took hold of His grace yet again.
I walked away feeling like a new woman, with a fresh sense of hope. A renewed sense of purpose. A taking hold of Truth once more, a desire to live our of fresh conviction and courage and love and life and purpose….
Such days are rare, quiet rare. And I cannot live my life waiting for such glorious moments of quiet. For long time of no interruption.
But God will continue to meet in the midst of the busy moments, in the middle of pitter-patters of feet and chatter of baby voices. He is always near.
And thank you, dear husband, for the my soul refreshment…
I am a better wife and mother because of it.