I have two areas of motherhood that I regularly fail in. One of them is remembering to trim my children’s fingernails. At just about every family function, you can guarantee that one of my children will either scratch or disgust a relative with their grossly long nails. *Sigh* Who else should be responsible for trimming their finger nails except me? I’m the one that spends the majority of the day with them, bathe them, change them… shouldn’t I notice their nails and jump right up to get the clippers? You’d think so. For some reason, I never notice and I never remember. But when I DO remember, you better believe that I must declare my good deed by saying aloud to anyone listening, “Ahh, see? Such beautiful nails! Mommy remembered!”
The truth is, my own fingernails also scream “Failure!” since they usually are of various lengths containing various amounts of crinkled nail polish. Yes, crinkled. I tend to remember to touch up my nail polish 5 minutes before heading to the van for church on a Sunday morning. Some of you reading this are thinking, “But those 5 minutes before church are so packed with things that require dry fingernails!!” Yup, that is why my polish is not polished at all. Traces of my “touch up” can be found on the baby’s blanket that is needed for a nap attempt during Sunday School, and on the Keurig button, and on the toddler diapers that were almost forgotten, and on the church bag that is exploding with last week’s bulletin, Sunday School papers, and animal crackers.
The second area of motherhood where I repeatedly fail is playing the role of “tooth fairy.” My oldest is 6 years old, almost 7 (he reminds me of his age daily). He lost his first tooth when he was 5. That night, I nervously waited for him to fall into a deep sleep. I couldn’t wait to trade the tiny tooth for a dingy dollar! Success! He was so excited the next morning. The second tooth fell out a few nights after this same child decided it would be fun to suck on a nickle and swallow it while lying in bed. Everything turned out okay (the X-Ray confirmed it’s successful voyage), but we had a strict “No Coins In Bed Rule” after that. The tooth fairy obliged to that rule and left a note and 4 quarters on the child’s dresser.
The third tooth is when it all hit rock bottom. The tooth fairy FORGOT! The next morning, a distraught 6 year old came sobbing to my bedside declaring that the tooth fairy never came!! Oh boy. My husband and I never discussed who would actually take responsibility for the teeth, but being that I took it under my wing the first & second time and was so excited about it, we both just assumed this would be my territory. But NOW what was I going to do?! Thankfully, Easter was a few days away, so I sent the boy to watch cartoons while I found a plastic egg, a dollar, and a peace offering (candy). I placed everything in the egg along with a note that read, “The tooth fairy is on vacation and asked me to take your tooth instead. I only come out early in the morning, not at night. Love, the Easter Bunny.” Yup. That’s what I did. I’m not proud of it, though he certainly bought into it. He told everyone he knew.
Fast forward to today. Tooth #4. The tooth fairy forgot…AGAIN. What is wrong with me? I even laid out a dollar last night to bring up with me when I went to bed….So I comforted the struggling-to-be-strong child by saying, “Huh…maybe she’s running behind? Why don’t you go downstairs and you can check again later.” Of course I snuck a dollar under that pillow as soon as he went downstairs! Oh the story does not end there. Today, at noon, my plum-loving boy comes rushing into the kitchen to show me that yet another tooth has come out while trying squish his chompers into a ripe plum. Gross. However, he is pretty cute with his two front teeth missing. I rejoiced with him and we placed the tooth into a little Ziploc. Come bedtime tonight, I called to the boy and asked if he had put the tooth under his pillow. Dread came over his summer-kissed face as he realized he had no idea where the tooth was. “Mom, weren’t you the last one to have it?” Dread came over my summer-kissed face. “Uh…” Tooth fairy strikes out again. (I’m pretty sure I threw it away when cleaning up after lunch and my husband, lovingly, took out the trash shortly after that.) Bye-bye little front tooth #2. My husband queried, “Weren’t you just frustrated this morning that you can’t remember to be the tooth fairy? Just give him the dollar now.” Oh, BUT, I want to be the happy tooth fairy that makes fun and excitement for the morning to come…ugh. Fine. The toothless one followed me down the stairs to my wallet. I handed him 4 quarters and I told him that it didn’t matter that the tooth was no longer here or that he won’t have the excitement of having a dollar under his pillow in the morning. What matters is that we get to celebrate him growing up. I told him that mom and daddy are proud of him for being so brave when his tooth fell out and for not being scared when he saw blood in his ice cream cone later in the day. He responded by saying, “Ok, but don’t you have a dollar bill instead of quarters?” “No, go to bed.”
I know that these are only two small examples of motherhood failure. In fact, I’m sure there are other mothers out there that don’t count them as being important enough to dub as “failures,” but it is how I see it. There are other areas where I don’t concern myself and just move on (such as matching socks). However, on any given day, there are a number of forgetful moments, “why did I say that?!” moments, mommy-guilt moments, housekeeping fails, and the list goes on. I consider myself a pretty easy-going person and I can let things roll off my shoulder’s pretty quickly. I got the shoulder shrug down. “Meh. Oh well.” So what’s the big deal? Why can’t I just settle down and embrace the chaos? Isn’t there such a thing as grace?
Lately, I’ve been feeling the tension between striving and resting. Striving for holiness vs. resting in God’s grace. I was listening to a podcast recently about motherhood- in fact the podcast is called Risen Motherhood. The woman being interviewed was author, Hannah Anderson. I have not read any of her books, but intend to after listening. She was speaking about the importance of humility as mothers, but also pointed out something I’ve held dear ever since I heard it. She brought up how many women speakers, bloggers, and authors run with this theme of “embrace the chaos” or “bless this mess” which invites us mom’s to be content with the messiness of our lives… to be content with our failures (ahem see above) and even have some pride in them. Her challenge was to remember that, as Christians, isn’t it our desire to be more Christlike? To pursue holiness? Huh…. That got me thinking… Am I okay with my lack of focus and my high level of forgetfulness? Does it please the Lord to settle into the mess and say, “Oh well?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting over here thinking that I must strive for perfection as a mother in this world. That’s unreachable. What I want to pursue is righteousness. I want to spend more time thinking about how I can honor God through what I do every day and less time shrugging my shoulders and giving up because I’m okay with “the mess.”
As I was thinking about this recently, the following passage came up in my daily devotional and it hit the nail on the head: (italic emphasis mine)
1 Peter 1:13-16
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Let’s face it. My children will not have perfectly trimmed nails and the tooth fairy may not exist beyond today’s date for how I handled this evening, but I’m not giving up. God has given me breath in my lungs, a heart of compassion, a brain, a family, a community, and a call to action: to be holy and glorify Him in all that I do, no matter how terribly I do it. When I do remember to clip those fingernails, I want to thank Him for those chubby fingers on which the nails grow. When the next tooth falls, I want to thank Him for healthy blood that trickles onto my clean(ish) floors.
Don’t you love that, in the midst of the call to be holy, we are also called to “set [our] hope fully on the grace to be given [us] when Jesus Christ is revealed.” So our hope and redemption does not lie in whether or not we can achieve holiness. WHEW! In fact, the passage in 1 Peter continues…
1 Peter 1:17-21
“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
I’m thankful that I can rest in God’s grace and that no amount of striving for righteousness (or earthly possessions) can earn me salvation. Out of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, my heart overflows with a desire for holiness and righteousness. Or at least it should… 😉
What rings in my head is the line from 1 Peter 1: 15 “…be holy in all you do…”
In conversations with other moms at the playground… In the kitchen with dinner half-cooked, a crying baby, and a whiny preschooler… In stain-removing… In re-capping the whole day to the hubby… In disciplining… In tooth-fairy playing… In nail trimming…
So, what does this REALLY look like? To be holy in these daily tasks? Holy means “to be set apart” from this world. Worldly is often equated with selfishness. So, to be set apart from selfishness when it comes to daily tasks is actually not easy to do. Much of my drive to accomplish something is so that I can gain: free time, order, a treat, affirmation to feed my ego, quiet. Now, all of those things are not bad. I can be a better mom, wife, and friend if I get quiet time and rest (and a coffee break), but it is good to check motives and keep in mind how I can honor God and others in what I do. Doesn’t that also bring out so much joy? I love to offer to do the dishes after supper for my husband when I know he’s had a particularly rough day. (Usually that is his job because he knows I don’t like it.) However, I begrudgingly do them all day long when I am focused on how much time it is taking away from what I want to do.
The call to be holy is not simple. Once again, I’m SO thankful that my redemption does not depend on it. I am glad for grace and I know that I can rest from the striving. However, I want to be holy… in all I do. I want to be set apart from how I was before Christ redeemed my soul.
So let’s get out the nail clippers and set a phone alarm to remind the Tooth Fairy.