“Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, emphasis added).
Welcome to my world. I’m hosting Christmas for oodles of beloved family members, and the Martha in me wants to show my love by making everyone else’s Christmas perfect: Decorations? Check. Clean house? Check. Gourmet food? Check. (“Sort of. Wait. Let me run into the kitchen to prep a few things . . . I’ll be back in five hours.”)
But you know . . . the clean house, and gourmet food, and Pinterest-worthy Christmas decorations, aren’t what’s most important for our family holiday. A great holiday is about time spent together, about laughing so hard you snort egg nog through your nose, about the light of magic shining in our children’s eyes. So I hope you’ll join me in taking Jesus’ gentle words to Martha to heart this holiday season. Let’s “choose what is better.”
And what did Mary choose? She chose to be present. To be engaged. To be with—fully with—the people who had come into her home. To spend time sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening and learning. That’s what makes the holidays great. That’s what is “better.” So won’t you join me?
Let the dishes soak a little longer.
Let the pine needles rest on the carpet a little longer.
Let the meals be a little simpler.
Let’s just be there with the people—and the Lord—we love.
That, my friends, is better. That’s BEST. And Jesus will not take it away from us!
Merry Christmas to you and yours, from the Thompson Crazies! (Here’s hoping we don’t actually GO crazy.)
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Don’t let the title fool you: this isn’t exactly a parenting post.
Two weeks ago, we got rid of pacifiers for the last time at our house. (Sniff sniff…I can’t believe we’re almost through the baby stage forever—it’s killing me.) The first night went swimmingly—not a single cry or complaint, just an angelic “Night-night, Mommy!”—all thanks to Sawyer’s initial thrill at getting to sleep with a toy for the first time. She gave me her pacifiers, I gave her a giant stuffed Olaf to sleep with. That’s our rule, by the way: No toys or stuffed animals in the bed until you get rid of pacifiers. This simple policy has given us some leverage in convincing our little pacifier addicts to surrender their passies. But back to our story.
That first morning, two-year-old Sawyer woke up all smiles and bragging rights: “Me a big girl now! Me give up my passies!” The first nap also went beautifully—not a single cry. So for about 23 hours, we were like, “Whoopee! We got off so easy! What an angelic child! Lucky us!”
We spoke too soon.
The second night, I put my daughter in her bed and tried to tuck her in. She did not lie down.
Instead she handed me Olaf and said, “Here, Mommy, take Olaf. Me want my passies back.” When I attempted to explain in two-year-old terms that the pacifiers had a no-exchange, no-return policy, her little face melted. There was a long pause, the calm before the storm. And then the wailing started… and nine days of sleepless misery began. (To add to our joy, my husband’s back went out the same day, leaving him in excruciating, debilitating pain. Isn’t that just the way of it?!)
The next afternoon during “nap time” (a.k.a. “scream-until-you-lose-your-voice-and-then-dig-down-deep-and-find-a-way-to-scream-some-more” time), I went in to check on Sawyer, and found her lying naked in a naked crib. Everything was on the floor: pillows, sheet, blankets, clothes, Pull-Up, even poor Olaf. Sawyer just lay there, a pale little girl on a stark white mattress, and gave me a tired, watery smile. In a pitifully hoarse voice she croaked, “Me pooped in my crib.” I stared down in dismay at the tangle of sheets and blankets, wondering where, exactly, the poop was hiding. Wondering where Carson and Anna and all of my household staff were when I, Lady Elizabeth, needed them. Wondering why oh why we had ever decided we needed to get rid of pacifiers when they are the most blessed invention ever granted to sleep-deprived parents.
And as I began the world’s grossest-ever scavenger hunt, Sawyer supervised my work (still naked in her crib) and announced, “Me not a big girl anymore. Me a baby.”
I had to walk out of the room so I could laugh-cry at her (you know those moments: the I’m-so-exhausted-and-this-is-so-revolting-that-I-can’t-decide-if-I-should-laugh-or-cry-so-I’ll-do-both moments), and somewhere mid-laugh-cry, I started laughing at myself. Because the truth is, I’m not so different from my daughter. It’s not her fault she’s so stubborn. I’ve done something similar many times in my life—only I’ve done it to God.
Some days, life is good: Things are… not exactly easy, because life is never easy, but they’re manageable, pleasant, and as predictable as life can be with a visionary preacher-husband and four crazy kids in the house. And on those days I’m all gratitude and smiles. I’m like, “Thank you, God! You’re the best! I love my life. I love being a Christian. I love knowing that you guide me through my days. ‘Your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ (Psalm 23:4). Thanks for all the ways you are helping me to grow and mature.” I’m a big girl, God!
And then something changes.
Maybe it’s something big: a friend’s serious illness, a major financial setback, a heartbreaking disappointment. Or maybe the change is on the smaller side, one of those things that isn’t catastrophic, but ruins your plans and steals your joy nonetheless: hurt feelings, a sick kid (or two or three or four), a broken-down car.
All of a sudden, life isn’t so shiny anymore. I don’t want to be a grown-up anymore. I’m not a big girl, God. I’m a baby! I stop short of stripping off my clothes, but even so, I know that God sees me as I am, in all my unadorned glory:
“Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:2)
I toss all my toys out of the bed and give in to dark thoughts. When God comes in to check on me, he finds me lying there pouting: “This is harder than I thought. I wasn’t ready for this. I want to go back to the way things were, when life was simpler. I didn’t realize what I was getting in to—you tricked me, God!”
And in those moments, I have a choice to make: I can scream and fight God until I lose my voice (knowing full well that I’m wasting my time, and God’s), or I can give in and let him guide me through the change.
Like Sawyer, it usually takes me a few days to work my way through it. I have to cry and complain to God a little. I have to wrestle with the Scriptures a lot. I have to talk to friends who are wiser and more rational than I am. I have to write about it and process it on paper. I might have to apologize to my visionary preacher-husband and four crazy kids.
But in the end, like Sawyer, I end up giving in and quieting down. I let God have his way with me. Eventually I admit, “Okay, you win. You’re the dad, I’m the daughter, and you know what’s best.” I’m a big girl again. Eventually I find joy in experiencing my own growth, knowing my heavenly Father is proud of me. And at long last, like Sawyer, I sleep peacefully through the night, knowing God is watching over my dreams.
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In case you missed it, here are the first two videos in the new LizzyLife YouTube channel: Building Family God’s Way, and First Comes Love! (In spite of my crazy eyes in the thumbnails, I think you’ll enjoy the videos!)
I’m haunted by this nightmare where you come to me as an insecure preteen and ask, “Mom, can I see my baby book? I need some dates and things for a school project.”
Choking back tears of shame, I dig out a dusty blue and yellow book. You pluck it from my guilty hands. A few souvenirs and ragged coloring pages slip out. To you, they look random, unimpressive, disorganized, but I remember: That’s the first time you drew a circle. That smiley-faced blob there? The picture you drew of me on our third Mother’s Day. That thumbprint collage? Your first preschool art project.
You flip through, and I know what you’re seeing: A handful of haphazard photos, too many half-empty pages. I try to distract you with the highlights: There’s an ultrasound photo—that grainy peanut is your very first picture . . . There’s a coming-home-from-the-hospital shot; you’re swaddled, pink and scrunchy, in the striped hospital blanket . . . Look, twenty-six pictures from your epic first birthday party . . . A few play dates at the park . . . And then we skip ahead to your first day of preschool (that stain there? definitely raindrops, not tears) . . . er, one blurry shot from preschool graduation . . . Okay, let’s keep moving.
In the margins, you’ll find a few handwritten notes:
Seven weeks:Still not sleeping, but oh, that smile!
Five months:You must be teething. You drool through four outfits a day.
Eight months:You love bananas, your daddy, the dog, and screeching at the top of your lungs.
Eleven months:You lunged forward today, trying to pinch the dog. First step? Maybe?
Twenty-two months:You got into the magic markers. I need a new kitchen table.
Twenty-nine months:I wish I could give your pacifiers back. You miss them so much.
Three years:You got your first princess dress today. You smiled so big, I thought your cheeks might pop.
You flip to the back pages. The tooth chart is woefully empty. I managed to jot down the month when your first tooth came in—not the day, I couldn’t remember which day—and then I drew a sad little frowny-face when it came back out again, five years later.
The how-we-celebrated-your-first-five-birthdays section? Well, I did a killer job on the first birthday—see the pictures? see the cake I spent three days researching on Pinterest and sculpting in the shape of Elmo?—after that, the birthday party pages are all blank.
Worst of all, I picture you flipping to the chart of firsts, that page where I’m supposed to write down every first from your First Year of Life, and even some milestones from your toddler years. Your baffled gaze runs down the page, finding only a few scattered notes. You’ll never know the exact date you spoke your first word, or which day that first pointy tooth poked through, or how much you weighed at your eighteen-month doctor visit.
And I picture your expression crumpling in confusion, an accusation etched in your eyes as you glare at me, mystified and hurt: You don’t love me enough. If you really loved me, you would have made me a baby book I could be proud of. You would have written down all of the things so we could remember them. Didn’t you care?
And I’ll try to explain, to help you understand:
I didn’t write down exactly which day you spoke your first word because I was too busy clapping, too busy savoring the sweet sound of that voice I’d been trying to coax out of you for so long. You were so excited, so proud of yourself, and you wanted me to listen. And I did.
There wasn’t time to mark down which day your first tooth came in because you were so fussy that you wouldn’t let me put you down. You just wanted me to snuggle you and rock you and sing to you. And I did.
I forgot to record how much you weighed at every doctor visit, because after all the prodding and shots, you were always tired and grumpy, and so was I. And so I got my coffee and you got your chocolate milk and we called it a day. We just cuddled on the couch and watched Elmo until we both felt better. And we did.
I didn’t write down what we ate at your second birthday party, because I’d learned my lesson from the first party—a blur, the whole grand cake-sculpting affair—so for the next few years, I got a store-bought cake, inflated balloons with my own breath, blew some bubbles, and crazy-danced with you and a few friends. I put down my camera and watched joy twinkle in your eyes while you played silly games and tore open gifts. When it was all over, you wanted to ignore your presents, ball up the wrapping paper, and have a wrapping-paper fight. And we did.
I didn’t actually forget to take pictures of your preschool graduation. It’s just, my eyes were so cloudy, I couldn’t focus the lens right. But I tried.
And every time I found a spare rainy afternoon and thought to myself, “I could catch up on the baby book today,” a chubby fist tugged on my pant leg, a sunbeam smile flashed up at me, and a little voice lisped, “Come play with me, Mommy.” And I did.
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This article first appeared on The Huffington Post.
3. Sugar-free, vitamin-filled, cavity-fighting lollipops that coat kids’ teeth in the perfect level of fluoride.
4. Emergency toilet paper and diaper air-drop delivery. Your nine-year-old used up the last square of toilet paper just before bedtime? No problem. No need to resort to tissues or—heaven forbid—paper towels. Call the air drop hotline, and an emergency super-soft eight-pack will land in your front yard within five minutes. Your husband forgot to mention that he used the last diaper while you were out, and every diaper bag has already been cleaned out? No problem. Call the airdrop hotline. (For a small additional fee, milk, bread, children’s ibuprofen, humidifiers, and poster board for your fifth grader’s last-minute school project can also be air-dropped.)
5. A drive-thru kid-wash. Hold child out the car window—or better yet, buckle them into a small bucket seat that attaches to the side of your minivan, like a motorcycle sidecar—and then kids go for a fun ride! While Mom and Dad put the van in neutral and relax inside, rocking out to non-kid music and munching on hors d’oeuvres, the happy child gets sprayed by colorful soap bubbles, tickled and cleaned by a fun scrub brush, and gently blown dry. For an extra fee, their teeth can get brushed and flossed, too. When you pull the child back inside the van, they are ready for bed: clothed in fresh pajamas, hair combed, teeth shining. The minute you get home, you can toss a clean, happy child in the bed.
6. An instant food lukewarmifier. What’s a food lukewarmifier? It immediately heats or cools any food to that perfect but elusive lukewarm temperature that picky kids demand. No need to cook your child’s food, then put it in the freezer for a never-fast-enough cool-down, only to find that you’ve over-cooled it, and now you have to microwave it all over again for exactly nine point two seconds. All while your starving toddler shrieks and stabs your table with their baby fork.
7. Pacifiers that gradually wean the child automatically: Like, maybe the pacifier begins to release a gross-tasting flavor (probably kale) when the child reaches 18 months of age. After a few hours or days of this flavor, the toddler decides, “Hey, I don’t like my pacifier anymore. All done. Habit broken. Now Mommy doesn’t have to get a second job to fund my braces.”
8. Emergency mute buttons for children. For those humiliating parenting moments when your child points at a stranger and shouts something horrifying like, “Look, Mommy! That man has a baby in his tummy!” These buttons would come with remote controls that reach to the back of the car, across the dinner table, even across the playground or shopping mall.
9. Family-size invisibility shields (complete with sound barriers). Press a button, up goes the shield, and voilà—instant privacy. Your kid starts throwing an epic tantrum in public, and you can’t properly deal with them while all the bystanders are glaring at you and judging your parenting? Shields up! Your potty-trainer yanks down their Pull-Up and tries to use a potted plant in the mall for a toilet? Shields up! Your child goes digging for gold in their nose in the middle of a restaurant? Shields up! Your toddler walks up behind you, goes for a hug, but accidentally hikes your skirt up for the whole world to see? Shields up!
10. Cough medicine for babies that is safe and homeopathic and actually works. Because BABIES COUGH ALL THE TIME, ALL NIGHT LONG, WHENEVER THEY GET THE SLIGHTEST SNIFFLE, AND NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAY, HONEY AND VICKS BABY RUB DON’T HELP AT ALL. (Okay. Rant over.)
11. Mad-Eye Moody Eyeballs for moms—you know, from Harry Potter. These magical eyeballs can roll 360 degrees, see through the back of your head, and even spy on people through walls. (Ideally, you would be able to assign a different Mad-Eye Moody Eyeball to each of your children, to help you keep track of multiple kids at once on crowded playgrounds.)
12. Go-Go-Gadget Arms. You remember, from the classic 80s cartoon “Inspector Gadget” (recently revived on Netflix). These arms can extend like 50 feet in any direction, even around corners, to rescue people and grasp unreachable things. These arms can morph into drills, screwdrivers, crock pots, dental equipment—whatever shape you might need. A pair of Go-Go-Gadget Arms would especially come in handy while driving with children in the backseat: Toddler drops pacifier on minivan floor and begins to shriek? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Three-year-old gags on a piece of apple and may need the Heimlich maneuver while you’re doing 65 on the Interstate? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Six-year-old can’t put straw in juice box and has a meltdown? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Brother keeps pinching sister and making her cry in the back seat? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue!
13. Emotionally intelligent holograms of Mommy that can attend any function with your children, for those times when you need to be at two field days, one swim meet, one parent-teacher conference, and a piano lesson all at the same time. A basic hologram would not do. The hologram must be empathetic: able to comfort the child who has lost the sack race; cheer enthusiastically for the child who has won third place in the 50 backstroke; nod and “hmm” at everything the teacher says; and commiserate with (while also gently disciplining) the child who forgot to practice piano this week.
Okay, your turn: What inventions do you really need to help you survive motherhood?
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new book, When God Says "Wait," is now available from Barbour Publishing. READ MORE.
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Great food for thought, especially for parents with older children: "I wish we could all focus on the victories that we scored during each season. Mistakes and down times seem to pull at our memories so often. And if at some point our kids don't embrace the good teaching we tried to instill, we can be drawn even more toward the trap of guilt." ... See MoreSee Less