I’m not the nicest person she knows.
Not by a long shot.
But today- well, today that’s what she said.
And today- well, today was one of those days that got off to a great start (early morning devotions, just me and my girl)-
But by nine o’clock there had been fusses, tears (mostly mine), a pep talk , apologies and desperate prayers (those were mine too).
After we got attitudes back on the right track, and breakfast dishes put away, my girls and I headed off for our annual Christmas and birthday shopping date.
The one where we do awesome mom-and-daughter things together, right?
Things like miss exits on the freeway, and get grumpy at my girls because I feel like a bad driver.
Things like bite my tongue so I don’t tell my passive nine-year old which Christmas stocking she really wants.
Things like swallow back arguments with my almost-twelve-year old daughter over what birthday party supplies are her style. Or my style. Or whatever.
Yeah, those kinds of things. I’m pretty amazing like that.
After a morning of Christmas and birthday shopping, my girls and I settled into a table at Chick-fil-A. Meal times are important to me, and I usually try to be pretty intentional about the “table talk” that happens over a meal- even if it’s fast food.
So I attempted to push aside some of my inner frustrations from the day and struck up some fun conversation starters with my girls.
What’s something you used to be afraid to do, but now you’re not?
What’s something you feel like you’re pretty good at?
Who do you know who laughs a lot?
Who is the most creative person you know?
And then, around grilled chicken and a peppermint shake, I asked,
“Who is the nicest person you know?”
My girls, who had quickly engaged in my little table conversations game, had to stop and think about that one.
My nine-year old named a friend from church.
My twelve-year old paused with a waffle fry in route to her mouth, and replied, “You are, Mom. You’re the nicest person I know.”
I laughed, because I thought she was kidding.
“I am the nicest person you know? Are you serious?”
She nodded, and I could tell that this girl who (like her mother) does not render compulsory words of affirmation, was indeed serious.
“You are very nice.” The small voice from my nine-year old beside me made me smile.
My sweet Miss E. To her, all the world is pink and fluffy. Of course she thinks her Mommy is nice.
But my pragmatic Miss A… I didn’t expect those words from her.
We finished our conversation, our meal, and our shopping.
And now the day is done, as well.
My always-noisy house is quiet tonight, but I still hear my daughter’s matter-of-fact voice in my ears: You’re the nicest person I know.
I keep thinking about those words, because they mean a lot to me. And, honestly, because I feel like I absolutely don’t deserve them.
Some days, I might feel like I did something “right” that merited a compliment and a high five from my husband or kids.
But today? Today I struggled. Today I ran smack into my not-good-enough-ness.
Not a good enough mom.
Not a good enough listener.
For Pete’s sake, not even a good enough driver!
This morning, when I was praying and telling the Lord how I’m an awful mom and how I’m sure I’m messing everything up, I felt Him gently remind me,
“There isn’t a magic formula, Kristy. Stop trying so hard to do everything right and just love them. And love Me, so I can teach you how to love them.”
In all my pursuits to be a “good” mom, an intentional mom, a productive mom, I so easily forget that I am called to tend hearts, not conquer to do lists.
I am called to nurture and forgive and empathize, not program perfection into little robots.
Because, no matter how hard I try, and produce, and strive, we are all still just a bunch of humans trying to do life together.
Many, many times, it feels like there are more messes than holy moments and more stresses than strengths.
And in the middle of it all, the Holy Spirit whispers,
Stop trying… just love and be loved.
So, on days like today, I learn a little more about loving like Jesus loves. Without conditions. Freely.
That’s how He loves me, and how He is asking me to love my kids.
So when they know that I love them even more than I love their good behavior, clean bedrooms, matching socks and “yes ma’am” obedience…
When they’re convinced that they don’t have to earn every smile, every “good job,” every affirmation and approval…
When they know that I’m far from perfect, but that their vulnerible hearts are always safe with me, no matter what…
Well, maybe then I’m starting to understand the kind of love that draws me to Jesus on days like today, when my ugly humanity rears it’s head and reminds me that I’ll never be good enough.
Maybe I’m not the nicest person my daughter knows… although, in her opinion, I guess I am.
But I hope I am the most teachable.
Because I have a lot to learn!
And, mostly, because He is a gentle and gracious Teacher.
“Learn of me. For I am meek and lowly in heart. And you shall find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11: 29
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.”
I John 3:1
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time! Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.