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


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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When you feel like a hot mess and it’s hard to fight for friendship

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Dear friend,

I’m not a good friend. I’m not. Perhaps there was a time when I was. But the truth is that being my friend today requires a good portion of patience and heaps of grace. Being a mama to my little flock requires much of me. Sometimes, it feels like all of me. And, though I’m eager to connect, and I love you from my depths, friendship feels hard.

I desperately want to be there for you when you need me. I want to be dependable. Consistent. Punctual. I want to be truly present. I want to remember your birthday, and all the days that matter to you. I want to be distracted by nothing when your heart is hurting and you need my listening ears. That’s my heart, as it always has been.

I want to be the best of friends to you.

But these little people who need me, and this other side of my heart where the light began to shine eight years ago…it steals me away. And the scary truth of my beautiful, messy life now…is that I never, ever stop being mama.

I forget to call. I forget to respond to emails and texts. I sometimes forget to follow up after an important conversation.

My thoughts are muddled. I cannot remember how to speak in full sentences, because it has been eight years since I finished one.

When the school called while we’re out to coffee, I answered. When I heard a crash in the next room, I sprang to my feet in the middle of your sentence. When one of my people got hurt or sick, I canceled our time together. I backed out of commitments when I saw things get unbalanced in my home. I never wanted to do that to you.

I have packed up lunches and children and arrived at a playground picnic only to leave 45 seconds later with a handful of bee stings to tend to, and a van load of tantrums. I once left your tender moment when a child of mine mistook a playhouse chair for a potty. Yup, that happened.

I grow frustrated that even your tears or deep pain can’t find the shelter of my uninterrupted focus.

I have arrived without someone’s shoes. Without enough snacks or Band-Aids. We have been overtaken by whining, and potty breaks, and questions. We have been defeated by the shear noise.

I know you understand.

It’s not convenient to be friends. And it’s not safe. We could start to think that friendship needs to just be put on a shelf until our children are older. But some deep down place in us knows better.  Doing it alone is not the answer.

Despite the best of intentions and sometimes what feels like monumental efforts, I fail you. And I recognize that I really can’t make you any promises. The truth is my promises were always weak – my dependability was always reliant on the grace of God. But I really know it now. I know it in the flesh because I have failed you time and again.

It was not always a crisis that stood in our way, friend. It’s just that my little flock took all of me. My heart’s eye zoomed in a bit, and my other loves fell out of focus for a moment. But I need you to know that your friendship – right there in the mess – it keeps me going.

We must fight to believe that it is so very worth it. As we balance the needs of these precious little people, we must offer one another grace upon grace to believe that our love for one another remains.

I want to say “I’m sorry” for not being a good friend, but I can’t say it in good conscience. I see that God made you and me with one fleshy body and 24 hours in a day, and a mind and a heart that can’t keep all the things in focus, the way that He can. And I see that He gave us these little flocks and a job to do. So, I really can’t say “I’m sorry,” because I will fail you the same way again. And please don’t say “sorry” either, because I want the same for you.

I need you to know that I am trusting a gracious God who can keep your heart in focus all day and night – that He will tend to your heart when I can’t.

I need you to know that even though I fail to be there, that I am with you. I see you. And I believe in you.

I’ve never gone to war, but I imagine that the dearest soldier friends are comforted by one another’s presence on a battlefield. You and me are like that. The soldiers are unable to keep an eye on one another as they fight, but their hearts belong to one another. They are empowered by fighting as one. And, as soon as the dust begins to settle, their eyes dart around looking for one another. They are prepared to tend to one another’s wounds, and carry one another out of harm’s way, if they need to. I’m fighting alongside of you, friend. And I will always come looking for you.

I never stop being a mama…but I need you right next to me. Will you stay?

I know you will.

I want to ask you to trust that I treasure your presence in the middle of it all. You help keep the beat – the rhythm of my life. And your partnership makes me strong.

The inconvenience, the risk, the interruptions, the mess, the utter failure to connect when distractions mount – I wouldn’t trade it for doing this without you. To keep fighting for friendship feels dangerous, but doing it alone is far more so.

We must keep fighting.

Motherhood brings these unique challenges to walking in community. There is no water cooler or office party, where we share our successes and grievances. There is no performance review that helps us feel confident that we’re on the right track. Our “direct reports” are not likely to offer any helpful feedback or thanks for many, many years…if ever. And the only job description is an unwritten “Do All The Things.”

We are often hungry, worn down by sibling squabbles, messes, and discipline challenges. And we are oh, so very tired. In the long days full of little people who don’t speak in logical sentences, with carpool and nap schedules, with frequent interruptions, doing it alone can feel easier. But the more alone we are, the heavier this thing of motherhood feels.

Alone, we start to think we’re the only one. The only one struggling. The only one who yells at her kids. The only one who locks herself in the bathroom for a break. The only one who can’t stop nagging and criticizing.  The only one who finds it so difficult to try to switch from Spit-up Covered Mama to Sexy Wife.

Alone, we might believe that lie that every one else is doing it better.

Alone, our hopelessness might get the best of us.

Alone, our shame has no accountability. The darkness of isolation hides and feeds it. Shame can hold us down in those dark spots where we believe we’re the wrong one for the job, and our children are doomed.

Alone, we forget to pray.

Alone, we forget to laugh.

Let’s not do it alone.

This is why I’m so grateful for the understanding we have between us. When it comes to those social graces we learned in elementary school, about eye contact and not interrupting. We’ve let those go. We know a million times over that it’s not personal.

We both know the struggle of a heart that is always, always divided. That never stops being a mama. Our hearts are one, yours and mine. We’re fighting on the same battlefield, and we’ll come looking when the dust settles.

We know and believe that it’s worth the struggle. That we need each other.

This kind of friendship is something magical. Sister, our hands are full, but our spirits are walking hand-in-hand.

And I couldn’t do it without you.

With Love,

Your Not-So-Awesome Friend, Who Will Always Come Looking