On Saturdays We Paint Nails (For When You Feel Like a Failure)

Today was supposed to be a fun day.  We were supposed to bake cookies, and paint our nails, and FaceTime with a friend.  I was supposed to be the Fun Mom, the Laughing Mom, the Playing Games Mom.

But today I ran on fumes.  The baby’s teething and hasn’t let me sleep more than a couple hours at a time all week.  One child was sick this week; she’s better now, but I joke with my husband that it takes longer for me to get over the sleep deprivation and stress I go through when they’re ill, than it takes them to get over their illness.  We missed our plans to get together with our support system due to that illness.  And now my husband, that faithful strong man I rely on so much, is out of town for work.  And I’m exhausted, and overwhelmed, and lonely.

Today I felt so empty it was hard to give to the ones who need me most.  It was hard to conjure up the warm fuzzies.  It was hard to be a Fun Mom.  Today the needs were all met and that’s about it.

Tonight I go to nurse the baby and put him to bed.  And as I sit here looking in his face in the dark, quiet room, I whisper to the Lord, “Can you be enough Today, Lord?  What about Today?  When I’ve failed so miserably?”  Silence for a minute.  Then the words from this popular song enter my mind, the one we played at our wedding: “He is jealous for me/ Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree/ Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy/ And all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory/ And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me/ Oh, how He loves us…”*

Tonight He fills me up.  Again.  Though it’s the thousandth time I’ve asked Him, He fills me up.  Again and again and again He has filled me up.  This girl who doubts His love, who forgets her worth, who lets fear back in more times than she cares to admit.  With His love that never quits He fills me.

I rock the baby a little longer and kiss him a few more times before putting him down.  When he’s finally resting in his crib I pause and look at that soft sleeping face.  And thank God for the miracle that he is, just being there, whether we had a Fun Day or not.

I go out to find the girls, who’ve been waiting patiently and playing with dolls while I put their brother down.  They look at me with faces that don’t remember the forgotten cookies, or the unpainted nails, or the missed playdates.  They look at me with faces that just want to be loved.

Tonight we have blanket storytime.  It’s a Thing To Do when you want to love on your kids but you’re too tired to do anything else.  It’s when we bring our books to the living room floor, cover ourselves with a pile of blankets, and read together.  My three year-old wraps two of her arms around one of mine and says, “I love you, arm!”  My six year-old reads a new story to her little sister.  I close my eyes and listen to their sweet voices, willing my memory to file the sound away forever.

And I wonder… why do I put so much pressure on myself, anyway?  Oh, homemade cookies and painted nails and playdates are wonderful.  I’m not saying that I’m on my way to crossing all those good things we do off my calendar.  Those activities bond us, create warm memories, and make life just fun.

But why do I attach so much of my value as a mom into what I can do for my kids?  After all these years of walking with Jesus, do I really still believe my worth must be earned?  Do I really believe my kids will love me based on what I can do for them?  Why do I lose my good-mom status if I haven’t filled the day with fun activities for them?  Why is it not ok to just have a quiet day once in a while?

We’re still on the floor with the blankets, only now they’re wrapped around us, and I don’t know how we’ll get untangled.  Big girl snaps me out of my thoughts by showing me her wiggly tooth, and little girl asks me to smell her stinky feet.  All they want is to be noticed, to be loved.  And I give my attention, I give my listening ear, I give my heart again.

And I remember another One who gives good gifts.  He gives us life, and He gives us family, He gives us flowers and seashells and sunsets. He gives us lots of good things.  Yet the greatest gift He ever gave was the gift of Self.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” ~1 John 4:10.

Tonight we snuggle, and laugh, and I love my children some more, and they love me back.

Tomorrow we will bake cookies.  Big Sis will give Little Sis egg-cracking lessons.  Little Sis will help me measure the vanilla.  They’ll both help dump in the flour.  We’ll get as much on the floor as we do in the bowl.  Baby Boy will watch, amazed, from his perch on my hip.  I’ll clean up the mess while they get out their watercolors.  And later we’ll have a Kitchen Dance party.

But tonight I can rest easy.  Tonight I can lie down and sleep in peace.  Tonight His Love Is Enough.

Today was a good day.


*The song mentioned above is called “How He Loves Us.”  There are many different versions.  The version we played at our wedding is by David Crowder Band.


Learning to offer the Gift of Self together,


Laura Jane


“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4