Today I took Emily and Charlotte for a quick trip to the store to pick up charcoal for this evening’s barbecue. My normally well-behaved-in-public little girls decided to engage in a bit of mischief. I found myself growing increasingly impatient with them, trying to moderate my voice and tone, eventually losing the battle and resorting to that all-to-familiar parental nagging. I coaxed them back to the shopping cart with the promise of a new box of sidewalk chalk and soon had two compliant children by my side.

As we approached the checkout line I noticed with dismay that only three lanes were open. We waited, as patiently as possible, though once again the girls were antsy and began rifling the shelves full of distracting goodies. At last! Transaction complete…

As we were heading towards the door, Charlotte cried “my sidewalk chalk!” We quickly realized that Charlotte, while playing with the “shelved goodies,” had laid down the chalk, and mom failed to notice that it didn’t make it through checkout. Irritated. Very irritated. “Why did you take it out of the cart, Charlotte?” “Don’t you see how long the lines are?” “Mommy is very tired of waiting, and now we must wait again…” “That was very irresponsible.”

Charlotte, who had been joyful over the discovery of the missing box of sidewalk chalk, was now very upset. And I took a bit too much delight in her remorse. While waiting to pay for the box of chalk, my eyes rested upon a magazine on the shelf. They are so very vile now, but this article title really caught my eye: The New Super Pill: no weight gain, no mood swings, no baby!

No baby. Who wants a baby? Why would anyone want children? Such is the message so many young women are fed on a daily basis. As I tried to imagine my life without children, I wondered what kind of an advertisement for the joys of motherhood I was, at that particular moment. Could I, by my impatience and harsh words, convey that motherhood was an annoyance? That children were a burden? My cold words over such a small thing came back to me. I resolved to change my tone that instant, so I hugged the girls and told them how sorry I was for being such a grouch. Their smiles were so very beautiful…all hard feelings faded away as we proceeded toward the car.

While trying to place the very large bag of charcoal into the back of the van, I noticed that Emily had not gotten into her car seat. I felt the familiar surge of impatience and irritation, but quickly checked it and then noticed that she was helping unload the rest of the cart. “Oh…how adorable you are! You were just trying to help. Thank you so much, sweetheart!”

I had no sooner uttered those words, when an older woman approached the back of the van and said: “Excuse me, but I justed wanted to say ‘thank you’ for the way you are encouraging your child. I’ve heard so many parents today berating their children, using harsh words. It makes me so happy to see a mother working towards something better. I had three children within a three year period, and the third was born profoundly mentally and physically handicapped. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and I know how hard it is to maintain patience and control. Thank you for reminding me of what I had to do everyday, long ago…”

I could’ve wept. If she had seen me just a few moments earlier…kind indeed. But how quickly we can change our behavior! And others do notice…I worried that I could be a bad example, but didn’t really think about trying to be a good example. I told that dear woman that I hadn’t been nearly so kind while in the store, but she just smiled as said “keep doing what you’re doing now…that’s what counts!” God bless her…I need that reminder everyday.

When I came home from the shopping and found that the boys had not completed their household chores, I found myself once again, in that same place. Frustrated. Impatient. Irritated.

And I had to laugh…sharing the story with my husband and a dear friend, I realize that this is the foremost  area where I need perfecting. I love my children, my husband, my life…I wouldn’t trade places with anyone for anything. I pray that our dear Lord will continue to strengthen me, and burn away the dross that hides what He wants revealed.