A play day. That’s what we needed.

Two months into summer, and my children turned into monkeys on speed. I couldn’t take it anymore. To make matters worse, I’d been working too much. I knew better, of course. But you know how a to-do list can take hostages. With the start of a new school year just weeks away, I needed to reclaim our fading summer. Give the monkeys—and me—a diversion. A fun one.

So I got up early last Thursday morning, holed up in my office, and tackled my to-do list before the dawn. By lunch, I’d accomplished a near full work day. Closing my laptop, I shut my office door.

Enough work. Time to play.

“Kiddos, I have a surprise for you!”

Cheers erupted. “A surprise? For us?” Skipping, dancing and all sorts of merriment ensued.

They adore surprises.

“Hurry, get your shoes on! We’ll leave in just a minute.”

Woohoo!

You’re the best, Mommy!

Thank you!

Yay!

What followed wasn’t extraordinary. Time at the park, a short walk, lunch at Chick-fil-a, and an hour on the indoor playland. Still, a child’s dream afternoon. Ordinary, but abundant.

On our way home, satisfied from several hours of quality time together, we made a quick stop at the grocery store. Ten minutes, tops, and then the check-out lane.

That’s when it happened.

A few feet away sat a penny horse. The kind you see at grocery stores everywhere. A boy, probably five or six years old, rode the horse with a penny from his mom. Not exactly a thrill ride, but my children watched with envy.

“Can I ride the horse, Mommy?”

For the briefest moment, I hesitated. What would it hurt? But we’d already lingered at Chick-fil-a too long, and I hadn’t yet made dinner. And if I did it for one, I’d have to do it for three.

“No, not this time. We have to get home. Maybe next time.”

That’s when all the good things I’d poured into the day spilled out the bottom like a bucket with a hole.

“Ahhhh. NO FAIR! We never get to do anything fun!” An oscar-worthy pouting fest.

You should know that within my calm, smiley mommy exterior lives a tired, grouchy hag. Most days, she stays locked in dark, hidden places. But at moments like these, when I feel unappreciated and criticized, she busts out and delivers a doozy.

“Really? Never do anything fun? What do you think I’ve been doing FOR THE PAST FOUR HOURS?!?!?!”

I payed for our groceries, pointed the monkeys to the car, and muttered under my breath.

For the love. All I do is GIVE, GIVE, GIVE. And no matter how much I pour in, you’re a cavernous black hole swallowing all my best gifts. Spoiled. That’s what you are. Spoiled and ungrateful. 

(Not my best moment, I know. But it was the hag, not me, remember?)

Now, I don’t make a habit of seeing visions. But, if God has eyebrows, he looked me square and raised one.

Uh-oh.

He didn’t have to say a word for me to get his gist.

I’m surrounded by evidence of how much I’ve been given. A family. Home. Food to eat. Eyes that see. Friends who love me, and allow me to love them in return. A sun that warms my back. A tree the blooms every spring with flowers. Everywhere, life.

But instead of celebrating, I still find reasons to whine.

“No fair!” I cry.

There, standing in the grocery store, I saw the truth, stark and embarrassing:

Every time I look at someone or something with a heart that covets and complains, I punch a wide and deep hole in the bucket holding everything I already have.

Pouting over a penny horse when I’ve been given the lottery.

Spoiled? Yes, I am. Shamefully so. If God never gave me another thing, I’d still be holding a full bucket. Sloshing, overflowing.

No fair? Definitely. Because there is absolutely nothing fair about a God who holds the world and chooses to share it with me.

So today I’m saying “no” to the penny horse. “No” to all the temptations to mourn what I lack and long for what I wish would be. Instead, I’m giving thanks for life, as it is, in all its imperfection. Even whining, monkey children.

A beautiful, sloshing bucket of ordinary goodness.

I find myself full.

What’s filling your bucket today? I’ll start. It’s my birthday, and I’m celebrating the gift of one more year of life. 

 

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