The Tension Between Ideals and Reality: Choosing Beauty Amidst it all!


Sarah's room, filled with mystery and treasure and beauty.

How encouraged I have been to see your many wonderful comments and blessed to see how many of you shared the video yesterday. I hope we can make more that will encourage you as a mom.

The video shared the ideals of motherhood and the beauty of our children. And yet, there are so many, many days when there are messes everywhere; deep weariness abounds; we would like to escape and feel guilty for it; and then become angry one more time when we promised ourselves we would be patient. At 59, I think, maybe when I am 60, I will become patient and loving all the time! So we exist to please the Lord and to inspire our children and then fall short of the very ideals we hope to attain.

Yet, I am convinced that Jesus is so very patient with us and wants us to lighten up a little. Even my own children have been the very source of His gentle love towards me. I thought I would share this little story with you, about a time in January several years ago, when God stopped me in my tracks and gave me perspective again. I pray you weary mamas will be refreshed soon and I wish all of you all a full time housekeeper!

My shoulders and neck were already aching from tension, as I felt the overwhelming burden pressing on my mind of all that it would take to get my home back in order, and of all the tasks that were looming large around me. Not to mention, I was so exhausted from all of the Christmas fun that I felt like I needed a one-woman vacation and about 15 hours of sleep just to begin to feel better.

Washing my piles of clothes and towels began the long list of chores, and I could already tell my mood was dangerously close to a spewing rage. When the soap had been measured into the washer, I grabbed a pile of clean shirts and ran upstairs in a huff to Sarah’s bedroom to find out when she was leaving for work and why it took so incredibly long for her to remember to get her laundry off the top of the dryer. I knocked on her door loudly, still catching my breath. Her muffled voice from the other side of the door calmly bade me enter, and I did so in a great hurry, feeling a need to keep up my momentum. But as I stumbled in, the sight of her stopped me dead in my tracks. I just stood there and, for an instant, was quiet.

As the first child, Sarah had borne almost as many burdens of the holidays as I. She had washed piles of dishes and helped me beyond what could reasonably be expected. So she must also be overwhelmed. Amid my own hurry and bustle to get the day started I had quite forgotten to spend any time in quiet. Surely with the holidays we’d had enough times to sit and be in beauty.

But apparently, Sarah didn’t think so. She was beginning her January in quite a different way, and I was magnetically drawn into her world. She sat in her maroon chair, regarding me quite serenely with a book in one hand and a pen in the other. Haunting piano music was playing through the room (I found out later that it was the soundtrack to the new Pride and Prejudice movie) and three tiny vanilla candles flickered in different spots around the room.

The unhurried beauty of the room was strongly present all around me, evidence of Sarah’s determination to make room for loveliness and serenity in her days, since all of us were weary to the bone from busyness, illness, too many people and too much activity. She had matted small prints and postcards from our trips and arranged them along her walls and in lines above the shelves that held her numerous and much-beloved books. A barely wilting Christmas rose stood in a tiny crystal vase on her windowsill, and there were pine branches still fragrant in a basket by the door.

A basket of cards and writing paper with her favorite pen sat next to her rolltop desk, guarded by the brightly painted eyes of her Matryoshka dolls. I noticed a new picture on her shelf too; a brightly sketched pair of birds, done by an artist she had just discovered in Canada. There was color, symmetry, and music, and everywhere I looked I was confronted with the richness of a soul made visible in the world it created--quite determined to enjoy this moment despite the rush. I felt stopped in my tracks by the sudden presence of this choice to begin the busy day in an instant of soul-beauty instead of frenzied worry and hurry. I felt I was somehow catching my mental breath.

“Hi, Mom,” she said, raising her eyebrows in a can-I-help-you sort of look. I waited a minute before replying, letting my pulse (if she only knew) return to normal. “Here’s your laundry,” I said slowly when my breath came back. In the presence of her room I didn’t even remind her that it had been sitting on the dryer for two weeks. Nor did I notice the lumpy pile of new laundry, expertly concealed with a blanket next to her closet. I simply smiled and took the paper she handed me as I walked out of the room.

I had thought the note she handed me was some sort of information, but as I glanced down, I saw that it was a card for me, written just that morning. Dropping into my desk chair, I opened it and read:

Sweet Mom,

Just thought I’d tell you that I’m praying for you as you go back to routine life. I just know that God is going to bless you soon. You are so faithful and have such an enduring heart (I’ve been reading Revelation and one of the big themes I’ve caught is endurance), and God is going to bring greatness and beauty out of your perseverance. God will redeem all of us kids because of you. He’ll bless you with the fulfillment of your dreams, and He will make my way and all of our ways straight before us. He will do something new!

So don’t be discouraged as you sit and pound away at your book, grocery shop,  and tame all the messes. Great things are going to happen and I love you so much - and that’s got to count for something.

So blessings and love and peace of Christ be with you.

Your Sarah

In that moment I felt as if I had been given a gift through my daughter. It was as if in the rush of my day, God had put it on her heart to stop me in my tracks and call me back to a spirit of calm and beauty. Sarah embodied for me what my soul held so dear - a life reflecting the beautiful reality, goodness, and love of God because of her filled soul.

Sitting in my chair and catching my breath, I realized that my sudden rush of feeling overwhelmed, I had completely lost sight of what mattered. Yes, the house needed to be cleaned and presents delivered to their various new spots and food needed to be bought for the cupboard. Yet, in the moment, I realized that I needed to take time, over a period of days to get it all back together.

Staying centered and opening my eyes to the needs of my children was now entering the priority list I was mentally making. All the work I did was so that our home would be a haven, a place rich with life and warm with thought, love, and beauty. My spirit that morning, though, was one of frenzied worry and irritated anxiety that cared only that things get done, not that people be loved or life enjoyed.

Glancing up as I thought this, my eyes caught a glimpse of Sarah’s present to me that year. For Christmas she had given me a hand-drawn scene of an old country home by a pinewood, bathed in the light of a brightly setting sun. In the sunset sky, she had inscribed my favorite verses of the year (Psalm 16:5-6) in carefully formed calligraphy:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup.

You support my lot.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places,

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

Beautiful to me…Sarah represented a physical reality of the philosophy that the Lord wants me to continue to embrace. The Lord’s presence in my life is beautiful, and I want my spirit to be one that accepts it in thanks and appreciation - even on January Monday mornings.

…Instead of hurrying back downstairs, I took a deep breath and walked away slowly, planning what I would do next. I consciously made a decision to brush away my previous mental list of important things to accomplish and replaced it with the high priority of focusing my efforts on how to communicate love in the hours left in my day, especially to my youngest who had been dragged and pulled a lot during the holidays. Often she was the one who had to stretch to match her older siblings' activities.

I put on the kettle to make Joy a cup of vanilla-almond tea. I lit every candle I could find in my little living room and turned on my favorite Celtic CD. I lit the gas fireplace so that we could have a glowing fire and made a piece of cinnamon toast to accompany my little girl’s tea. Then I called her in and invited her to snuggle up next to me on our cozy, overstuffed couch. I kissed her sweet head and told her how glad I was to have time alone with her. We finished reading together the end of the book, Heidi, cloaked in our own spell of beauty and intimacy…

…At the end of our time and to my great surprise, she suddenly turned her eyes to me very tenderly and said, “You know, Mom, I would rather have time alone with you,  than even my Christmas presents and parties. I missed you when we were so busy. I just love it when we spend time alone. It makes me feel so special.”

God had used Sarah to gently remind me that, after all, I had another sweet girl just waiting for me to help her become another princess for His glory. And shaping her soul should not require hurry or bustle or modeled irritation at the busyness of the world. It required love, and love expressed tangibly through time, words, and lots of beauty Love, it seemed, truly was the greatest gift after all.”


Once again, my lovely daughter Sarah will be sharing with us at the MomHeart conferences. I know it will be a treat, as she is one who takes time to fill her life and soul with beauty, and then share what she's learned with us! I wanted to share a story from my book, The Mom Walk to give you a bit of a glimpse into my sweet girl's heart, and perhaps a taste of what you might hear at a conference. We teach freedom, grace, love and joy in the journey and have lots of foundational encouragement for your precious moms, even amidst the many duties of life. I am praying for rest and beauty for each of your souls. Have a wonderful day! 


I do hope to see you at an upcoming conference!