Just a few days after Christmas twenty years ago, I plopped exhausted into our big blue naugahyde recliner, appalled at the angry words that had just spilled from my lips.

What was the matter with me? Why did I keep giving into my frustrations and taking it out on my children?

I wanted everything to be perfect- my house, my kids, my marriage, myself. And nothing ever was- not me, not them, and certainly not my house.

As I cried out to God, confessing my shame to Him, He gave me the clearest, most soul wrenching vision of what would happen if I kept on that path to perfection. I felt transported to another time. I saw myself as an old, embittered, disappointed woman.

And I wrote down what I saw.

These are the words from my journal on December 28th, 1991— from a vision that changed the way I live.

Christmas morning.

No footsteps running down the hall. No stiffeled giggles coming from the children’s rooms. No one wakes me before dawn; yet awake I lie, listening for what I will not hear.

My house will stay clean all day.

No one will spill milk or leave toothpaste smeared all over the sink. I’ll not trip over anyone’s hastily thrown shoes.

My scissors will stay where I put them.

Christmas morning… and I am all alone.

Memories keep cold company on a day such as this. Regrets weigh my heart with shame and remorse as I remember Christmases past.

Sharp words, impatient gestures. Too much shopping, too little playing. Hurrying and scurrying instead of sitting and listening. Cleaning when I should have sat and watched.

Oh how I wish I hadn’t frittered away those precious years— those priceless, irretrievable years!

Mother’s, wives, listen for a moment to a lonely old woman. Hear with your heart these words I have to share.

My life, too, was once busy like yours. Meetings to attend, phone calls to return, a never-ending pile of clothes to wash and a million errands to run.

The work seemed limitless. My energy was not.

I meant to play with my kids, to read them good books, to listen to their sorrows and share their joys. I never intended to yell at them or say those things I wish I’d never said.

I loved my children!

Life just got overwhelming at times. Pressures mounted, anger flared. I was too busy for another mess. I had better things to do than solve another argument or play a silly game.

But now those years are gone. And I am sorry, oh so sorry. If only I could do it all over again.

If only I’d said no more to others and yes more to my little ones.

If only I’d…

slowed down,

done less,

played more,

listened longer.

What a fool I was! If only I hadn’t worried about what didn’t matter: clean floors and uncluttered rooms, a perfectly put together life and every pressing need crossed off my list. If you’ll listen to my mistakes, you’ll let some things slide, let a lot of things slide— you’ll have years and years for all of that and just a few countable days with the ones you love the most.

If only I’d known then what I know now- that nothing, sbsolutely nothing, is more important than creating a home- a haven- for my family.

My regrets won’t bring the years back to be relived, but perhaps, if you’ll really listen, they’ll save yours.

And so I’ll say it again:

Listen mothers, hear with your hearts.

Slow down. Play. Laugh. Treasure the gifts of God that grace your home this Christmas.

From an old woman’s heart…

And so I pass my passion on to all of you. In the ensuing seasons I did slow down. My house was rarely really clean. I stopped sending Christmas cards and trying to match wrapping paper. I even stopped subscribing to magazines that fed my penchant for perfection. And (gasp!) I declined countless invitations to women’s bible studies so that I could stay home and play house.

My four children are all grown now, with children of their own. Somehow they survived my way-too-picky-about-things-that-don’t-matter years. In fact, they seem to hardly remember my meltdowns, instead covering all my missteps with a grace I do not deserve.

And so this Christmas I will not be alone, in fact they’ll all be here, crowding every corner of our home, making noise and messes and laughing loud- and probably arguing a time or two as well.

And I’ll be loving every minute of it!

From my heart,


My HeartIntentional Parents