936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
I was homeschooled. And although we did attend a homeschooling group, I didn’t wear denim skirts or fear society. I was not weird.
Our homschooling group was hosted at a local church. In between classes, I would sit behind an outdated, light blue loveseat in a side room, snacking on too many cheese sticks to keep count of while feeding our 2-day old pet mice milk from a syringe. No but really, I wasn’t all that strange.
I can still remember one of my homeschool assignments from when I was 8 years old, or perhaps 9. The assignment was to write a short story. I wrote of a man. He stood in the cabin of a ship beside a small bed, and next to the bed stood an end table.
Atop the end table was a photo, of which he was staring at. It was a photo of himself and his family. The photo was hugged by a wooden frame; not the cheap kind of wooden frame you buy from the Dollar Store, but real wood, with grain that the man could feel under his finger tips when he picked up the photo to observe it closer.
I don’t remember the grade I received for this short story. But I remember my mother’s encouragement after she read it. She told me she was impressed by the details I included in my writing. And perhaps that is why I remember this particular assignment.
First, because I took an extra few moments to truly feel and articulate the scene I was imagining, but moreso because my mother encouraged me in my ability to write.
Her practice of instilling confidence within me did not end with that assignment. She, along with my dad, would encourage, enable, and challenge me in my writing for years to follow. They still do, in fact.
Last week I laid down on our sofa after a long day of raising two rambunctious boys. Heavy was my body but restless was my mind.
God had been laying words, ideas, and pictures on my heart for days, and I felt them accumulating into something that needed to be shared. And so in the course of a couple hours, one bar of very dark chocolate, and a cold glass of whole milk, I typed out God’s stirrings in my heart.
I clicked “Publish”. And then I was blown away.
It ends up, I was not the only one who needed to hear this message.
In one day, the post brought 3 times the “hits” on my website then I had ever had in one day. And it hasn’t stopped. I was completely humbled by the response of friends, and then complete strangers, as this message spread across Facebook, quickly beyond what I could keep track of.
Since it was published one week ago, it has reached 1,415% more readers than any other post I have ever written on my blog.
Apparently there were a lot of parents as hungry for this message as I was.
Something caught me as I watched comments float in from the blog and Facebook. Many readers with children already grown expressed that they felt they could have “spent their pennies better”. They wished they had heard this message when they still had their children young and at home.
And so my message today is for those who wish they could have the time back.
This message is also for those, like me, who are watching the weeks slip out from between our fingers, no matter how tightly we clutch onto them, and we are just so desperately searching for hope that we are doing things right; that our children will grow up loved, happy, and ready for what life will bring them.
But mostly, this message is for my mom.
It began in the cabin of that ship, with the man smoothing his fingers along the grain of the wooden frame, gazing at his family. It began when I was a child, my stocking feet planted firmly on the wooden grain flooring we installed as a family the week we bought our home.
You sat quietly at the table as you read my story. You complimented me on my writing style. And I don’t know if you remember that day, or my story, or know that I was a little bit nervous to have you read my work.
I don’t remember your exact words, but whatever they were, they shaped me. They set me on a road that would eventually lead me to one of the things I am most passionate about; the thing God uses in my life daily to show me myself, and Himself–sharing God’s grace and my story through words.
Your words on that ordinary day, whatever they were, they told me to keep going.
And so I did.
Your words that day were a penny well spent. They were a choice you made on one ordinary day to set me up to see my life years later–to really see it, take it in, understand it, enjoy it, and share it.
And years later, when your pennies of my childhood were all spent, and I packed up my Spiderman-decorated Jeep Wrangler with photos, empty notebooks, bedding, and a few dollars, and set off down the highway towards college and my adult life, you understood that although the jar was empty, a new jar was of pennies was standing ready, waiting to be invested.
Your role was changing, and you understood that. I am a mother now, and I can barely fathom the hurt my heart will bear the day my babies drive away to their new life. But somehow on that day as you watched me drive away, you embraced your new responsibility as a mother to an adult.
You let me go. And I cannot even imagine the prayers you whispered on that day, and every day since. Those prayers were your first and most important investment in my new life.
Months later I would show up back home, unannounced. Surprise shone on your face as you hugged me, and my tears began to fall as I explained my first heartbreak. All I needed in that moment was your arms, and that’s exactly what I arrived to.
The following year I would drop little hints through texts and during phone calls. I’m sure you took notice of my excitement. Perhaps you already knew I was in love. You and Daddy drove up to meet this man I was smitten over. He was not what you expected. He was older. Outdoors-ie. And not Emo. At dinner he excused himself to the restroom. You told me you liked him.
A year following, you would drive up regularly to take me to try on dresses, assemble impossibly-detailed invitations, and share with me in my excitement to become a bride.
And then on that day, I don’t remember your words beforehand. Maybe because you were behind the scenes, making sure everything was just perfect for me. But you were there, exactly as I needed you to be. Mother of the bride. Beautiful–no, absolutely stunning, as you shone with pride in your daughter.
A few years later I faced the scariest day of my life. Doctors ran around that small dark room, adjusting lighting, giving me instructions to change position, kneel on all fours, my gown draped over me, tears spilling down my face as they told me my first baby was in distress inside of me. His heart rate had dropped. And the commotion in the room–the nervousness of the doctors and nurses–I didn’t know what to do; what to think.
And there you were.
When things calmed down, and his heart rate raised, and you and Daddy prayed with us as the doctor came in to deliver my boy. Everyone left, besides the doctor, Grayson, and you. You watched as your first grand baby was brought into the world, and later you would tell me it was one of the most incredible experiences of your life, and thank me for allowing you to be a part of it. I don’t think I told you then–but thank you. Thank you for being one of the first faces he saw. I needed that for him, and for me.
Each of these memories, along with the countless others I cherish–they are the investments you are making now, as a mom to a grown woman.
Because life is what it is and distance separates loved ones, we can’t be physically together for every major event or memory made. But when you’re not there by my side, the confidence you instilled within me as a child steps in. And in that way, you are there.
You have shown me exactly what it looks like to remain faithful in the investment of a child even when that child is grown.
I can just picture it, an imaginary jar sitting on your desk, in your home, hours away from mine. You think of it everyday–as you think of me. There are three jars, actually, one for each of your children. And next to them sit 5 more jars–one for each of your grandchildren.
You have given me hope, the hope I need as I grapple to hold on to every moment I have with these little boys now. You have shown me that I don’t need to fret the end of these days, because the end is a new beginning; and that new role as a mother of grown children is rich.
You have shown me the rich friendship that there can be between a mother and her adult child.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!