Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down last month.
She just doesn’t know it.
Five years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.
Now that I have three girls in elementary school, that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.
My kids are typically on top of this, too. If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.
Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right? When are you coming?
The very first day my kids went back to school after winter break—the very first day!!!!!–she came home from school and asked when I was coming for lunch.
But January zipped right past me. I made it up to the school for my youngest daughter (or I’d never have heard the end of that failure!), but not to eat with my two older girls. Every time I planned a day for school lunch-time, we had a snow day.
When they actually had school, I was in a mad rush to make up for everything I didn’t get done because of those same snow days.
My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home. Doesn’t that count?
No. That does not count.
Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth: I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by winter weather and a packed calendar.
Funny thing is, the one daughter who I thought would be bruised and destroyed forever by my failure never even noticed. She didn’t pressure me about it, didn’t nag or pester.
So, I’m not telling her I missed out on January’s cafeteria lunch. It’ll be our little secret. I just went early in February and hoped for the best.
At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life: Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.
I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.
I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.
But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.
It’s this: Choose to be gentle with myself.
It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.
It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.
It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.
It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.
It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.
And yes. The struggle is real to let go and choose grace.
I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January. It’ll probably plague me for a long time. Because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.
Then I read what the Psalmist said:
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).
Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.
It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”
But that’s not what God asks of any of us.
God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.
He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good. Choose the right things. Show up day after day. Be faithful.
Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.
He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.
He gives us the desires of our heart when our greatest desire is for Him.
And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires? It’s to love my kids to Christ. One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.
You cannot be perfect today. Neither can I.
But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.
And we can choose to be a little gentle with ourselves today.
Shrug off some shame and step into some grace.
Let go of some expectations and cling to the freedom Christ offers.