This is the last day of my boys' three-week break from school.
Which means I am buried under laundry, my house is a disaster, and I am exhausted.
It also means that we have been out and about - my four little boys and I - all over town for the last three weeks. Which is quite a spectacle, for obvious reasons, but considering my seven year-old is almost as tall as I am, I must look utterly outnumbered.
This week, I've been thinking back to this day several years ago when I had just three of my boys.
When "Grace" met me in an unusual and unexpected way.
And, it serves as a reminder to me - and I hope to you as well - that you can be grace to a young mother, even a stranger, and bless her with the simplest of words.
Happy Mother's Day - to my friends, young and old, who have walked the path of motherhood before me, and to those who currently brave mall corridors, crowded Chick-Fil-A lunch hours, and everyday life with precious little ones in tow.
Originally published May 4, 2008.
My little boys and I trekked to the mall one day last week. I had to run an errand and I had to do it that day.
The early morning warning signs were there. That little voice inside me, that I have LEARNED to listen to on most occasions said, "This isn't gonna work today. You know this, right?" But, nonetheless, I had to go.
I loaded up my wiggly little trifecta of mini-testosterone and headed out. Jack, who loves the mall and typically says, "Mom, can we go to some stores today? Pweeease?" was throwing his mini-bod onto the dirty mall floor, not obeying, and testing me at every turn of the behemoth double stroller I was pushing.
Max, who hates being strapped in anywhere anymore, was letting everyone at the mall know that I was the Wicked Witch from the Midwest by screaming, "Me out. Me out."
And, Lincoln - my precious little newborn - wasn't interested in eating before we left, but the moment we walked into the mall wanted to do nothing but, you guessed it, munch on some grindage.
I was scurrying towards our final destination, pushing a wailing Max, a hungry baby Lincoln, and doing all I could to keep a very unhappy Jack in tow when an older man, probably in his 80's, stopped me and peered into Lincoln's baby seat:
"Three boys, huh?"
I screeched the stroller to a halt, looked him right in the eye and waited.
I get this comment a lot. And it is usually followed by, "Wow, you must have your hands full" or "You sure are brave for bringing all of them out here" or (and this is my favorite) "So, are you going to try for a girl?" I waited for his choice of them.
But that day, this sweet, older man continued, "To carry on your family name. It must be such an honor to raise them." And, he walked away.
I burst into tears.
I cried because it was such a difficult day, and I felt so convicted for yelling at my children who didn't want to go to the mall in the first place. I cried for being so impatient with the littles God has given me. I cried because raising three boys that don't like to shop on my terms and who run around the sofa for hours on end and crash their dump trucks into my ankles and heels and every door they can find seems so overwhelming on days like this.
But, the big tears, the puffy ones that kept flowing even into our car ride home came pouring out because it is such an honor to raise them. And, I am so proud that they will carry on our family name. And, this man was kind enough, thoughtful enough, and sensitive enough to stop and share those words with me.
I wonder if he knows how much it meant to me that he stopped to encourage me. Maybe he has three boys or ten of them, and his wife didn't hear those words when she was a young mom. Or maybe he would have said something equally encouraging to my friend, Jenni, if she had been walking through the mall that day with her three girls - because that's just the kind of man he is.
Undoubtedly, he was God's grace to me that day. And, oh, how I needed it.
So, if you see me, or more likely another young mom toting her little ones along somewhere, please trust me when I tell you that she knows her hands are full, and that telling her she's brave feels condescending and makes her feel judged, and that implying that she's "missing" part of her family is hurtful.
Telling her what an honor she's been blessed with will make her day.
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
Children a reward from Him."