Gratitude for the Undone


Some call it mom guilt.  I don’t know what to call it, maybe just the list of today’s failures.  Whatever it is, almost without fail, I finish my days slumping into a remembrance of all the things I wished I had done but didn’t get to.  Going to the library usually finds its way to the top of the list every night, sometimes it is just the pile of laundry that I still didn’t fold, sometimes it is the dozens of emails that I never managed to respond to, or the fort that I wanted to build with the kids but never found the time for.  Some of these things can be fixed with organizational tweaking, but most of the days I am running around doing one thing after the other, helping one person after the other, and I never make it through my list.  It’s a terrible way to finish a day- completely exhausted, falling into a bed that was never made and letting my mind cloud over with all the regret, the regret of the undone.  But regret cannot stay alive in a heart that is full of gratitude.  Thankfulness can quickly choke regret, replacing it with contentment, contentment with my hours and contentment with my assignments.  If I have really been lazy and disorganized and unkind, then that is another problem that needs to be confessed.  But so many days I try my hardest and still come up short.  Can I just be thankful for the shortness?  Thankful for my finitude? Can I be especially grateful because it usually means I have spent my time serving others rather than checking off my to-do list?  The Lord has given me a life where self-sacrifice is not optional.  Can I be grateful for all the things I do not have and all the things I am not?

When my whirling head finally meets the quietness of evening, Lord, thank you for my headache today.

When my dishes are high and my laundry is spilling over, Lord, thank you that I didn’t get to these today.  Thank you that You required self-sacrifice of me today instead of self-serving.

When I didn’t have time to read to the kids, when I did not make a blanket fort, when I did not get on the floor and do puzzles like I was hoping to, Lord, thank you for my hours, give me grace to do better tomorrow.

When my bathrooms are still not clean, Lord, thank you.

When I have skipped my workout too many days in a row and my skinny jeans still don’t fit, Lord, thank you for this body you have put my soul in so that I can have life.

When I have set a meal on the table that the whole family pushes around with their forks, Lord, thank you for these little failures that chip away at my pride.

When we are going on a week or more of too little sleep and I have drunk my weight in coffee, Lord, thank you for coffee.

When I see the stack of books by my bed that I still have not cracked, Lord, thank you for books and thank you for teaching me without them during this season.

When I’m pacing the halls during service every Sunday, and I hear about 1/8th of the sermon, Lord, thank you for this baby that keeps me from worship, and thank you that you offer me grace even in the hallways.

When my house still isn’t looking very cute and we have lived here a full year, and my Pinterest boards that were meant to inspire just leave me wishing I had the time for a project, Lord, thank you for this house and for all the happens here, for all the games and the meals and the learning and the snuggling.

When I miss another get-together with friends so that I can spend the evening tucking my kids into bed and cleaning up their daily messes, Lord, thank you for my kids and for my friendship with them.

When I have over-spent and under-planned and missed too many phone calls and stretched my time too thin and pushed my body too hard, Lord, thank you for my weakness.  Thank you that I can’t be perfect.  Your power is made perfect in my dog paddle life.

Grandma Leithart


She would have turned 96 on Monday, but she has been with the Lord for almost eight years. Although we never lived close, our annual visits engraved their way on my childhood. She always told me that she wished she was a boy, and that when I grew up she hoped I only had boys. I told her that was crazy and asked to paint her nails, and she always let me. She would never allow the bright colors, usually it was clear polish, and always something muted and sensible. She would let me “style” her fuzzy gray hair, and I loved standing in front of her vanity in her maroon tiled bathroom. It was like stepping back in time. She never threw anything away.  People always told me I looked like her, and I hated it. She had a big German nose and very long arms and kind of a crooked smile. They were right though- I look just like her.

I can’t shake the memory of her old hands and exactly the way it felt to hold them as I sat on her bed while she gave me things. She was always trying to give me her jewelry from around the world (what was left of it) and old funny things, because she said she was going to die soon. I never remember a visit where she didn’t say she was about to die, and I remember 18 years of visits. The Lord kept giving her more years and she kept playing organ at her church and making spaghetti when we visited and serving breakfast on the screen porch and refusing to buy new clothes and giving away anything fancy and clapping for our silly plays and faithfully walking through life when she knew she was ready to be finished. She always told me to stay close to the Lord, and that you can’t serve God and money, and that being a wife and mother is a full time job and I should treat it like one when the time comes.

On my last visit before she died she sang for me, as she always did before we left, “God be with you ’til we meet again, ’til we meet at Jesus’ feet“. But that time I knew it was really true, it was really the last time we would see each other until we are both with Jesus. When I visited again a few months later, I cried when I saw her hands. Those were not the hands that I loved and the hands that I remembered- those hands had no life and were not serving. But my grief was short and the sadness overshadowed by the hope in her words to me. When she passed on I felt more pride than sadness, pride that she had lived a faithful life, relief for her that she was finished with her race, proud of what she left behind and proud to hold the memories, proud of the boy she raised into my father, and most of all I felt privileged to live a life in the shadow of her faith.