A simple mantra to make your failed attempts a victory and not a defeat

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This was one of those mornings when the beauty of the sunrise, the snowflakes decorating the bare branches in our front yard, and the excitement of a first school delay….none of it seemed quite enough to save us from a mess of ugly words and sharp tones and time outs. None of it seemed to save me from waves of that gut-deep ick of not feeling especially tender or affectionate towards my children. None of it saved me from the sinking shame of not being able to make myself like them as they screamed accusations at me about how I must have moved their boots or forgotten to wash the shirt they put back in the wrong drawer, or how I didn’t pour enough milk, or how it was All My Fault.

 

God must have sent his angels to my aide because my words caught on my tongue, and there was a spark of grace. In the midst of wanting to make sure everyone knew that I actually was not guilty of the things they accused, a greater truth set in that I am guilty of so much more than not keeping up with laundry. There’s this deeper and more beautiful truth that in our guilt, Jesus took on all of the accusation meant for us, and didn’t fight back. He gets it, and he took it all straight to the cross for us.  Jesus calls me his sister and co-heir, so I don’t have to fight back either.

The flash of grace almost kept me from saying anything snippy…but not quite. And the rest of the story is that Christ covers my present failures, too.

And then…the snow boots and gloves are all located and tightened to an acceptable fit, and these little ones swarm me with hugs and charge out the door to spin with arms spread wide, and tongues held out to catch snow flakes. They yell through the door how they love me and sorry for yelling. And it’s all worth it for ten minutes of magic before school. And I breathe and die to my convenience and comfort and dignity, and realize that this ten minutes is better than nothing.

 

And most likely all they will remember is the magic.

 

Is it not such grace that children never seem to remember all the other moments in between the magical ones? They don’t remember the snacks and diapers and potty trips and wrestling in between the magic of seeing animals at the zoo. They don’t remember the waiting and whining in between the moments of magic at Disney World. They don’t remember the bedtime arguments in between the magic of snuggling up to a good book. And they don’t remember the trauma of unmatched boots and gloves, and missing clothing items in between the magic of playing in the snow.

Those in-between moments fade away in light of the moments that are really something.  And this one was.

Would I have preferred to have our stuff together to get out 30 minutes earlier to make it feel more enjoyable and less rushed and more worth it? Absolutely. But their ten minutes of bliss was so much better than nothing.

 

Better Than Nothing.

 

So much in this life as a mom of tiny people feels like settling for the real-life, less-than version of what I thought the thing was supposed to look like. When I picture obedient happy children prancing through my tightly controlled plan, the real-life, less-than version always involves far more cost to me and far less ease of enjoyment.

But, I’m trying….Sisters, I am just trying to let “Better than nothing” be ok.

I’m trying to embrace freedom to just do what we can, and accept the limits that God knows about, and that I can’t do anything to change. And truly, every time I take the road of celebrating the moments we get instead of mourning the moments we don’t, this flood of grace follows…

 

I realize now that I’ve had this constant scale running in my head, weighing the cost and the gain of everything in my day. Is it really worth it to try to get up early to have a quiet time, if I know for almost certain that I will be interrupted? Is it really worth it to go through all the hassle of hats and gloves and coats and shoes and potty breaks and snacks and water bottles and ‘oh, I forgot to feed the baby’ for a little park time? Is the aftermath of never-the-same laundry really worth their joy for splashing in the mud puddles? Is a kitchen covered in flour worth their thrill of their “helping” me make cookies? Is it worth it for me to try to keep a commitment to daily-ish exercise when I’m so dang tired, and can’t seem to ever get more than 20 minutes?

Undoubtedly, yes – with heaps of grace when I can’t – it is worth it. It is worth it to lean in the direction of moments of life-giving joy. I heard this quote from G.K. Chesterton on God Centered Mom (one of my favorite podcasts!)…

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

 

Funny as it sounds, I am finding it to be so true. Many of the things in our days that are worth doing, we will never be able to do perfectly, or even well. But our efforts towards life-giving joy are worth it for our sake and for the sake of our children.

 

So lately, “Better than nothing” has become a bit of a mantra for me.

I finish a 15-minute workout in our basement gym with the sound of baby cries through a monitor, and I say to myself “Well…that was better than nothing.”

I give the floor a quick once-over before running out the door for carpool, and I think “Better than nothing!”

Their daddy and I lead 47 seconds of an intentional conversation with our children at the breakfast table…Better than nothing!

A friend and I each squeeze in a few broken sentences at a park play date, and part ways with a hug and a look that says “Just being together in our mess… it’s so much better than nothing.”

My husband and I grab a quick chat in front of the fireplace between the last child getting to bed and our faces flopping into pillows…As far as a date is concerned, it’s better than nothing.

 

Some days “Better than nothing” seems to be my anthem. And you know what? On all accounts, it actually is Better. Than. Nothing. A ten-minute workout or an attempt to connect with my husband, or a moment to listen for the voice of God in the quiet of the morning…

these are a victory, not a defeat.

 

I believe God blesses and multiples these choices we make…not just our success to do them well every time.  I believe God sees the inclination of our heart, and the direction we are leaning, not just how effective we are at changing course.

 

There was a time, not so long ago, when I wasted sweet moments beating myself up over each and every one of these things. I wondered why I couldn’t get my children to sit still to finish a devotional. Or why I couldn’t get up early enough to have a good workout or quiet time. I was burdened by the steady decline of the cleanliness of my house. I would beat myself for not being a better friend, or wife, or church member. But I’m beginning to realize that the decreasing size of my offering due to the increasing amount of capacity taken by life’s necessities…it actually does not decrease the worth.

 

My Better Than Nothing is the two copper coins from the poor widow, worth far more than what I brought from my excess of time and energy when I was younger.

 

My Better Than Nothing is the five loaves and two fish from a little boy with faith to give it away and see what Jesus would do to feed the 5,000.

 

Without our measly offering, we don’t get to see the miracle.

 

So, sisters, when we’re tired, and it all seems like too much of a hassle, let’s bring our Better than Nothing to the feet of Jesus and watch him do the miracle of joy, the miracle of peace, the miracle of moments of magic multiplying in the lives of our children.

 

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13 thoughts on “A simple mantra to make your failed attempts a victory and not a defeat

  1. Elise Hebert

    Love your post today! Can’t wait to listen to the podcast. Every season looks so different from the last one and the new one even more so. The Grace to cover and settle into today and simply enjoy. What a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emily Guinn

    Whew. This pierced me: “And truly, every time I take the road of celebrating the moments we get instead of mourning the moments we don’t, this flood of grace follows…” I’m not the only one? I’m not the only one whose days in these brief, precious years sometimes feel filled with mourning over perceived missed moments? Your vulnerability makes me feel seen and safe and gives me courage to be vulnerable and real, too. Thank you, Jen, as always.

    Love you,

    Em

    On Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 1:48 PM, Raw. Mercy. Mama. wrote:

    > jennymslattery posted: ” This was one of those mornings when the beauty > of the sunrise, the snowflakes decorating the bare branches in our front > yard, and the excitement of a first school delay….none of it seemed quite > enough to save us from a mess of ugly words and sha” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennymslattery

      Thank you for your sweet comment, Em. I am writing from the raw places in faith that I’m not alone. And I am so grateful to know that I’m not! Thank you for your encouragement. I’m so blessed to be connected to you in this way. Love you!

      Like

  3. Jan

    You write so beautifully & perceptively ! Although I’m a grandmother now, I remember those days so well. Once I broke down in tears when my parents came to visit. “How did you raise 4 chilren?” I asked them. “I can’t even manage two.” My wise dad said, “We had those days, too. Now they seem like a drop in a bucket.” Now, looking back all those years, he was right. You will remember the magic!

    Liked by 1 person

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