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 am a child surrounded by a world of adults, a frenzy of activity swarming tables with enticing samples, bright signs, overwhelming allures. My mother stands behind one of these tables, discussing curriculum with fellow homeschool parents. Back then, I didn’t see the curriculum. I wouldn’t know until two decades later that we even sold curriculum. The imprints held in my memories of those days only reveal the educational toys we also displayed at our booths. My brother, sister and I played with them for hours, enticing young children to our table, their parents following then conversing with my parents. Hands exchanging money. Minds exchanging wisdom.
From as early as I can remember, my mother worked. Selling at homeschool conferences, running homeschool co-ops, and later launching her own business in graphic design, printing, and web design. Eventually, she merged her business with my father’s and went to work full time while educating my brother, sister and me from their office. “It seems we always had too many irons in the fire,” she told me recently. But I never saw all the irons. I never felt the fire.
A generation later, I feel that heat. My husband and I stand before our own fire, delicately balance our own irons as a juggler tosses their lit torches… at times suffering a burn or two. Our fire holds a few smoldering embers from my parent’s own, as if flint carried forth from one generation to the next. Right alongside her own web design work, my mother taught me to code from scratch as a child. Later I began building websites, blogging, writing, publishing, managing social media accounts, registering an LLC. I became a second-generation homeschooling entrepreneur mother. I never set out to, it’s just what I knew.
Looking back to childhood, I know I must have interrupted my mother’s work a million times. Yet I don’t remember her interrupted. I remember her kind. From the other side, I now the interrupted mother, I see how hard she must have fought for that kindness and patience. “The teaching of kindness is on her tongue,” I read in Proverbs 31, and I realize in hindsight just how much my mother leaned into this teaching.
I see my mother all throughout the verses of Proverbs 31. Right along with “rising early while it is still night,” to bake dozens of cookies for our church family each Sunday, and working hard with her hands in delight, and creating things to sell while tending to her household, and all the while, teaching us with kindness. And yet I’ve learned something most important about the Proverbs 31 woman: she was fictional. An ideal. None of us embody her perfection, not even my mother, one of the hardest working women I know. I see it now in my own life, that none of us can copy every verse of the chapter — not all at one time. Too many irons. We’re bound to get burned.
I know now the hard-pressed nature of being a mama balancing countless responsibilities in and outside the home — of striving to not allow those responsibilities to infringe on her children’s innocence. I know the intense fear of dropping the iron of their upbringing or education while tending too greedily to the iron of my career.
When they come in for a hug, ask for a snack, request a story, I must fight hard not to let my stress seep out into their little souls. So, I pivot, hard and fast, towards what matters most. And it’s not at all that to-do list or work agenda. It’s their hearts.
I watched my mother make this pivot a million times, I just had no idea what I was watching. I only saw her turning toward me, not the hard-fought battle to turn away from her work. Now I see it, though, now that I am the one making the pivot. And I’m so grateful that she taught me it well, by simply showing me what it looks like to lean into what is most important. I see in that delicate yet forceful move her creativity, ingenuity, passion, resourcefulness, and values. And how, when she turned to me over her work, she was also passing all these qualities to me. A transfer of entrepreneurial pursuits and creativity, and of discernment in how to spend time. I’m grateful for the bookend vantage, the perspective both as a working mama, and the daughter of a mom who worked. Each time she made that pivot, I witnessed her trading the measurable work of completing a project for the immeasurable work of tending to a soul.
My memories, selective or delayed as they may be — lending insight all these years later — provide me confidence for my children’s future recollections. That one day they will look back and not see everything I fear they observe now — my furrowed brow, tensed shoulders, hesitation to close the laptop — but instead, they’ll remember me turning towards them. Again, and again, and again. And one day, as their own responsibilities grow, they’ll look back and see, just as I do now, a mother who made hard choices. A mama who knew and lived by her values. A mother who decided to work very, very hard, and to endeavor even harder in setting aside the tasks for a better work: that of nurturing her children’s hearts.
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!