Today’s post, “Our Advocate” is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click on the picture or link below!
“Are you sure Mary can wear her princess dress to school?” my husband asked before they walked out the door.
“Yes! I’m positive.” I explained how a second grader had told me all about “gold day” and how there was a concert, and the girls were supposed to wear gold princess costumes. Lucky for us, we have Belle’s beautiful gold dress in our playroom ready for such a day. Mary goes to a Christian school where the children wear uniforms, but today was different.
As he pulled up to the school for drop off, Will called me. “Are you sure? It doesn’t seem like anyone else is wearing a princess dress.”
Just to be sure, I texted the teacher. I told her that Mary had on a gold princess dress for the concert like she was supposed to, but that for PE she had on a yellow shirt and khaki skirt underneath. See, I think of everything.
As they were pulling up, she texted back.
Big gulp. What in the world? I recalled my source. A precious second grader. I flipped to the newsletter and read about the day. It was not a concert, but rather a prayer gathering around the flagpole and the children were to wear the color gold to support childhood cancer. No concert. No costumes. Huge gulp.
I felt terrible. How could I have missed the details of such an important day for such a worthy cause SO badly? And, I had actually read the newsletter yesterday!
Will did what any good husband would do and called me after the awkward drop off. He was rightfully frustrated. He took this time to vent a few other things that had frustrated him lately, a few other balls I had dropped, and suggestions for how we (and he meant we) could do better. Will and I have very different personalities, which makes us work so well. He never misses a detail and I miss a lot from big picture land. In these conversations, sometimes the enemy has a way of making me think there is something wrong with me. The “I’m not good enough” lie has a way of getting through to me, of no fault at all to my gracious husband.
While we were having this challenging conversation, my one-year-old climbed on a chair and started eating the jewelry on my dresser. Gold earrings were being shoved into her mouth at warp speed. Did I feed her breakfast? My three-year-old son was running around in his new batman cape crying because I wouldn’t let him watch the superhero show on Netflix. Not just a cry, but an all-out fit the neighbors could probably hear. I glanced at the clock, twenty minutes till we were supposed to be out the door to Bible Study, and I had not showered. No time to defend myself, I told Will I had to go.
I need a break. I need a day off. I am just not good at this. I cannot seem to get it all together. I keep forgetting things. I bet other moms don’t do this.
As I was putting on the kids’ shoes to get out the door, John cried about leaving the glow-in-the-dark spiders we had just gotten for Halloween. We had actually bought the spiders for other little kids we were “booing” in hopes of making them feel special by anonymously dropping off a pumpkin of candy with a sign. A sweet gesture, but as I looked at the spiders, I recalled a recent message relating spiders to sin. Maybe I am just spreading darkness to my kids and others with these silly candy buckets.
It’s crazy, isn’t it?! Insane! But if you’re a mom, you’ve walked through this mommy condemnation. It comes straight from the pit. You take one wrong turn and suddenly everything you do is seen through the microscope of that cloak of shame labeled “bad mommy.” It spirals out of control so fast! As crazy and silly as these thoughts are, when you’re in them, they are real.
Shame led to self pity as I crashed into a full mommy meltdown. You may know the kind. I texted my husband to tell him I was sorry for everything. I added, “I’m just tired of being me.” It was exactly how I felt. Maybe someone else would be better at this. Tears welled up as I looked at the clock and saw how late we were. I gave up. We won’t go to Bible study. We won’t go anywhere today. We’ll just sit here. I thought of Mary and her princess dress and how silly I made her look for such a respectable cause and I cringed.
And then, the next thought came. Maybe I should just go back to work. I was good at that. If I missed details there, it was all on me, not on my poor 5-year-old and husband. I got a paycheck, people told me I was good, and while I know God clearly called me out of that into this…this is HARD. Maybe I should just go back to that.
And in my pity party on the floor, in the chaos of John and Anna running circles around a crying mommy holding their little shoes, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper these two powerful words: “MOVE ON.” Earlier I had read those very words in the story of the Red Sea crossing in Exodus. While I’ve read it many times, it’s as if a divine highlighter showed me those words and said, “these are for you, sister.”
And I pray that by sharing this raw moment that they might be for someone else too. They come when the Israelites are about to cross the Red Sea. We know that, but of course, they don’t. All they can see are the 600+ chariots of Egyptians coming after them. They are terrified and cry out to God, “what have you done to us…it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” (Exodus 14:11-12) Oh, how I get them! Oh, how I just said “it would be better if I just went back to work.” That plan when someone else owned my time was so much easier than this crazy plan!
Moses encourages them to trust God and then God says these powerful words, “Tell the Israelites to MOVE ON.” (Exodus 14:15 NIV) The ESV version says “tell the people of Israel to GO FORWARD.” He doesn’t address their questions or complaints in that moment. He just says “MOVE ON.”
I sometimes hear and say “move on” in a condescending way, implying the things to move on from are not a big deal and should be forgotten. But I don’t believe the Lord has that tone or that this isn’t a big deal. Also, I don’t believe He is ever condescending to His people. I hear His words more as a loving and very firm command: MOVE ON.
Because in order for them to be delivered into freedom, they had to participate. He was doing the AMAZING miracle of parting the red sea and drowning their enemies, but they HAD to move forward for this to happen. They had to stop staring at the Egyptians in terror, turn the other way and take a step forward.
Those words fell on me like a waterfall in my puddle of self pity on the floor. I can either stay here or I can follow His instructions to move on and go forward…both in my mind and my day.
By the grace of God, I got everyone’s shoes on and we made it to Bible Study. Wednesdays are some of my favorite days with my kids and it was great! I was able to hear another mom share about not feeling good enough. I was able to laugh about my morning. My kids learned about the Gospel of John and sang songs. We enjoyed a lunch outside with friends. It was a life-giving time I would have missed had I not chosen to move on. That territory was mine today, but I had to step forward into it.
I believe I have been delivered, and that God has freed me from the bondage of sin once and for all. I believe that when I received Jesus Christ as my Savior, I was rescued from my sin, past, present and future, and that I became a new creation. Deliverance has happened in my life, praise the Lord.
But I also believe that the Lord delivers me every day. Today was a big one. The mommy condemnation is a big one. My thought process can spiral into defeat and I need deliverance. I need freedom. I need to get to other side of that sea and I need the voices that drag me into the slavery of shame again to be drowned.
I believe the key to it is in those two very powerful words tucked away in this grand story. When we are in the pit, we can stay there or we can do as God says, “MOVE ON, GO FORWARD.” He is ready to do a big work. He is ready to do the miraculous. The sea is ready, the plan is unfolding, but we have got to turn direction and take a step forward. That’s our role to play. I pray someone out there needs to hear those powerful words as much as I did today. Whatever your pit, whatever your bondage, whatever your crazy…maybe you find these two firm words spoken from the heart of a loving Father who longs to deliver you to freedom as life-giving as I do: move on.
“How was school today?” I asked.
“It was good. But did you know I can’t skip, mommy? We did skipping in motor skills and I can’t do it.”
“Well, that’s okay, baby. You’ll learn. We can work on it … Do other people in your class know how to skip yet?”
“Yes mommy. Everybody can skip. But me. I can’t do it.”
“Um hmm. All the other kids.”
My heart dropped. How could every other kid in Pre-K skip but Mary? Did their moms get a secret memo to teach skipping lessons? The child walked at ten months and is an animal on the soccer field – why in the world can’t she skip? My mommy worries started to spiral out of control. I was sad for her.
None of these thoughts seemed to enter Mary’s mind.
The teacher said she was just overthinking it. Mary is definitely a thinker! About a week later, the teacher was very touched to tell me that all of the children were taking turns helping Mary learn to skip. She would talk about it every day at pick up. “I practiced my skipping with Daisy! I had fun skipping with Valen! Lane is teaching me how to skip!”
And then one day – she got it! She now skips alongside her classmates on the lawn after school in complete joy. They love showing off together. She skips around our yard in glee. She introduces herself to perfect strangers by saying, “Hi. I’m Mary and I can skip. Wanna see?”
This was a heartwarming experience that made me realize I can learn from Mary. Because when I can’t do things others can, my tendency is to retreat. I hide out in shame. I avoid that thing, or write it off as dumb and elevate myself above it. I seldom ask for help when I’m the last to learn something. I pretend. And despite my outward strength or nonchalance, I inwardly care deeply and feel inadequate.
Next time I can’t do something, I simply want to ask for help. I don’t know how to curl hair, properly install a carseat, iron a wrinkle, tie pretty a bow or sew a button. These are things I feel like I should be able to do, so I don’t ask for help. I have never played the piano and wonder if I’m too old to learn. A few years ago someone asked me to pray out loud and I couldn’t do it. I felt inadequate. Others graciously helped me overcome that, and God did too. It was an awesome breakthrough!
As as adult, I often feel the need to have it all figured out, but now I see that as a trap to keep me from a being life-long learner. I pray for the humility to step into that blessing and off the sidelines!
Mary’s classmates didn’t like her any less because she couldn’t skip. She invited them into her challenge and they became cheerleaders and encouragers who were proud to see their friend learn. It bonded them closer. When we admit our needs and help one another, it ties us together, not apart. Love unites, shame divides.
God says His power is made perfect in our weakness. In this world of hiding weaknesses and pretending, it can be so hard to embrace them and ask for help, from each other and from our Father.
I think Mary knew deep down her inability to skip did not define her in any way. She reminded me we are loved unconditionally regardless of the things we can’t do or have done. And never for a minute did she think she wouldn’t get it. There’s no time for shame when we are becoming! Like Mary, I want have the courage and humility to reach out for help. Because when we do, it’s as joyful as this:
This is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. I have never put it on my blog, mainly because I didn’t want to offend anyone who has chosen a different path. I am a strong believer that women should encourage one another as much as we possibly can and not judge each other. I also believe everyone has good, thoughtful reasons for the path they choose and that God moves people in different ways. Whatever your lane, go Momma! But, in light of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this to honor my own Mom. It’s called “Just Like Her.”
When I grow up I want to be…just like him. My dad was my hero. The teacher asked in 6th grade what we wanted to be and I wrote, “a banker.” He wore a suit, he worked in a very tall building, he did important things with important people and he carried a very cool briefcase.
Mom was the wind beneath my wings. She cheered me on and shared my dreams. She was so smart, but all she offered seemed to stay within the four walls of our home. Things were different for me. I could be anything, and I wanted to be…just like him.
And so I was. Not at a bank, but in another business. She cheered me on with pride. She was my biggest fan. My dreams were coming true. I was important with an important salary.
Then, one day I saw my child’s face looking up at me. One who said, “Help me, Momma.” How could such a tiny baby need so much? Oh sweet child, you will fit into my life just fine. And others can help while Mama does the things Mama needs to do. And even though she couldn’t talk, her eyes screamed, “I want YOU, Mama. You are the most important…to me.”
The world said one thing, my heart said another. So many options made things confusing. And even Mom, my great source of wisdom, couldn’t empathize. The wind beneath my wings never knew what it felt like to fly over her babies looking up from a distance.
And during this time, I met Him. I began to understand His grace and who He says I am in Christ. He says “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) Every woman has her own story, calling and wisdom. I am simply sharing mine. And wisdom came to me in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus says, “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) I thought of Jesus, the servant King. I thought of how he bent low to be lifted high. How he washed feet. How he said the last would be first. How the world didn’t understand him. How he stopped in his tracks for children and said “let them come to me and do not hinder them.” (Mark 10:14) And then, I thought about her.
I thought about the long waits in the doctor’s offices, the lunch box notes, the face in the carpool line that brought me comfort even when I was too old to admit it. If something was wrong, she knew…because she was always there. I thought of the endless laundry, the talks and giggles in the kitchen, the messes, the times in the yard picking flowers. She taught me how to pump my legs on the swings, how to count, how to read…she made the mundane fun too, and deep down we found comfort knowing there was nowhere else she’d rather be.
I thought of all the homework, the rides in the van, the questions she answered. She was the referee, the encourager, the cook, the nurse, the photographer, the counselor, the teacher. She was so smart; she taught me everything. It’s no wonder Dad made it look so fun. He had her, the one tirelessly working behind the scenes. She was the invisible glue who held our family together.
My dad has so honorably worked hard to provide for us and accomplished much. I am so proud of him and the way he has led our family. But the bank building, like my office, will go on just fine when he leaves. And she has poured her life into me, life that will go forward to generations that will long outlive her. Her invisible job has produced fruit that will last well beyond her time. The world may overlook her, but she is most important…to me. Dad was my hero but God has opened my eyes that there were two heroes in my home.
In trying to fly, I found a higher calling. I can be anything, and I want to be…just like her.