I'm afraid I'm a little slow to say thank you, but that doesn't mean I haven't been incredibly grateful for your kind words from the day you spoke them! What a blessing you were to me, and to all of us! And what a blessing your words have been every time I've thought of them since.
We didn't have a chance to explain, but maybe you noticed our license plate. We were far from home, over 800 miles from it, in fact, and just passing through Arlington on our way from Fort Worth to Shreveport visiting family.
We hadn't even intended to stop in Arlington. We were just looking for an In-N-Out Burger, because we had heard the burgers were amazing, (and they were,) and that the company is Christian-owned, (which is always a plus.) We actually missed our intended exit, a mistake I think must have been God-directed, and from there our GPS led us to Arlington where our tired little family tumbled out of an over-stuffed minivan to take in a little lunch.
We ordered, taking advantage of the "secret menu", of course, and we got everyone's drinks and found a table. I think it was one of the kids who first noticed the scripture references on the cups, and when we got our food they spotted them on the fry boxes and even the hamburger wrappers.
It became a bit of a game, I suppose. The kids found the references and my husband looked them up on his phone and read them and then we talked and laughed and enjoyed a little break in a yearly trip that is always long and wearying.
But I didn't feel like our family did anything especially beautiful. We were all very tired and a little disheveled and if the kids seemed particularly well-behaved, (and I'm not sure that they did,) it was really only because they were so drained and so happy for a brief reprieve from the confines of the minivan.
But you took the time to stop by our table on your way out. You smiled approvingly and spoke cheerfully, complimenting my bedraggled, in-every-way-imperfect little family, even calling us "Family of the Year", and I think we were all a little stunned by your kindness and your praise.
So stunned, in fact, that we didn't even ask your name. A gray-haired woman who had been in your party approached us after you had gone and told us how impressed you had been. She said you were a pastor and also her son, and yet it still never occurred to us to ask your name or the name of your church. She, too, walked away and we were left touched and humbled by the kindness of perfect strangers who, sadly, we will likely never meet again in this life.
Such a simple gesture, to stop and speak kind and encouraging words to people you didn't even know, but what a tremendous blessing to me.
You see, I am overwhelmed sometimes with the knowledge of my own inadequacies. I know I need to be a better wife. I struggle with self-doubt in my efforts as a mom and I constantly battle the fear that, whether we're talking about setting a good Christian example, homeschooling, or just parenting in general, I'm not good enough at any of it.
Sometimes I struggle to keep our family as the priority it should be. I never mean to, of course, but our lives are busy, often too busy, and it's easy to get distracted from the things that matter most. Sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes I say the wrong things or I handle conflict the wrong way or I realize I've simply erred through neglect.
And while I wish I could find my validation in the virtue of my own children, I'm afraid I can't always do that. I have good kids and I love them dearly, but they're just as faulty and mistake-prone as their mother and, whether it's completely fair or not, it's easy to see their mistakes as further evidence of my own woeful inadequacy as a mom and Christian.
And though I don't look to society to help me raise my children, (I believe that's mine and my husband's responsibility alone; there will be no "village" in the raising of my kids,) it would nonetheless be nice if the culture could at least offer some support. It doesn't. More often it bombards my children with filth that is destined to wreck their lives if they follow after it, at the same time telling me my faith and my morals and my completely respectable, but "small-minded, judgmental Judeo-Christian views" are detrimental to their healthy growth and development.
I don't look to the world for affirmation, but I don't need its discouragement either. I get tired of the way it demeans stay-at-home moms, frowns on anything larger than a family of four, and seems suspicious of anyone so crazy as to educate their children at home. I get frustrated with the sentiment that says children are a bother. And I find it all the more discouraging when I encounter those same attitudes even among other believers, which happens very, very frequently.
I adore my little family. With all its imperfections, I think it's beautiful. But sometimes it's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to doubt my impact for good and be fearful for the future success of these little people I'm trying so hard to nurture in faith and in character.
But that's why your words that day were such a blessing. A stranger thought my family was beautiful, too. A man I'd never met and will probably never meet again affirmed my feeble efforts and reassured me in all my labors.
You don't know how you helped me that day. You didn't have to say much. It just confirmed to me once again that I'm doing the right thing, that pouring myself into my little family is the right thing to do, no matter how many distractions there are or how many people may be telling me I should look for fulfillment elsewhere. You lightened my heart a little and encouraged me to keep trying. To keep praying. To keep teaching. To keep plodding on to fulfill my calling as a mother to the very best of my ability, knowing, of course, that God in His grace is able to fill in every gap this oh-so-imperfect mother is sure to leave behind.
We're not the perfect family. But you talked to us that day as if we were. It was kind. And flattering. And a little overwhelming.
And I needed to hear it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us that day.
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