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It seems every mom has a Target story. A chatty child overshares family business with a fellow shopper. The 5-year-old loudly asks innocent questions about the birds and the bees, while surrounded by silent pharmacy-goers. Baby has an explosive diaper blow-out in the canned soup aisle. A DVD display case is toppled by wrestling brothers. Or the most common occurrence—your precious pumpkin throws an epic tantrum, a raging 140-decibel screamer, while the masses stare at you.

Amidst our unpredictable and often stressful trips to the popular shopping spot, moms are inevitably met with a comment from an older woman who means so well:

“Treasure every moment!”

When I look back over my toddler parenting years, of course I wanted to treasure the moments. But for so long, I felt like I couldn’t. Life was too hard, too busy to even consider “treasuring every moment.” So instead of feeling encouraged, I felt corrected, like I was a bad mom because I couldn’t find a path to enjoying my calling. Every time a sweet older woman grabbed my arm, exhorting me to enjoy my young kids, I felt overcome by shame. Because a trip to Target—or anywhere for that matter—with three kids aged 3 and under felt less like a treasure, and more like herding feral cats.

Those sweet old ladies always managed to make comments at the most terrible times, too—right after I broke up a fight over who got to hold the diapers or just before the 1-year-old projectile vomited in the checkout line.

Treasure every moment? I couldn’t remember the last time I showered. I hadn’t been to the bathroom alone for the better part of a decade. Some days I felt lucky to survive until bedtime. I wondered what these experienced mamas and grandmas knew that I didn’t? How could their advice for all the chaos be “to treasure” as I navigated the responsibility of motherhood?

The early years of motherhood for me were just so hard. I wondered how I could possibly adopt the joyful-grandma-at-Target outlook in a season when I felt like I was drowning; a season when God blessed our family with four kids in under six years.

Over and over, God showed me His grace in the mundane and messiest parts of my days. I felt His provision and sustenance. But delighting in every moment? It wasn’t until I had six kids in my care that the Target comments began to sink in and my perspective changed. I grabbed hold of them like a lifesaver in a sea of overwhelm.

LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO TREASURE

We had just taken placement of a 14-year-old foster child. Mom-guilt checked in with me approximately 30 times per day, asking me helpful questions like, “Mac and cheese again, huh?” or “Have you spent enough time with your baby girl today? You sure have been busy with this teenager. What business do you have parenting more kids? Are you even a good mom to the ones you already have?” Oh, Mom-guilt. Isn’t she just the worst?

In a rare but serendipitous scheduling overlap, I found an hour in my day alone with my youngest. Her 4-year-old voice squeaked, “Mom, can we go to the park?” From the driver’s seat of my minivan I pictured the disaster scene at home: a million loads of laundry waiting for me to tackle, dishes piled high in the sink, phone calls to return, floors to vacuum.

In a moment of clarity, I realized something important: When Mom agrees to an impromptu trip to the park, preschoolers feel like they’ve won the lottery. And something told me to forget the mess at home, seize this moment, and just say yes. So I did. And my little girl cheered like I’d told her we were headed to Disneyland.

We spent an hour together at the park. I pushed her on the swing as her giggles filled the air, her eyes sparkling in the September sunlight. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face. The Lord intimately knew my deepest insecurities and lovingly gave us just what we needed—an hour to connect and enjoy one another. A moment to treasure, in the middle of one of our family’s busiest seasons. And you better believe I treasured that hour with all of my heart.

A CLOSER LOOK AT “TREASURING EVERY MOMENT”

If we gave those wise older ladies a little more time to expand on their exhortation to “treasure every moment,” I bet they’d say this:

“Treasure every moment that you can—because the work of moms is not for sissies. It is exhausting and sometimes impossible. It brings you to the end of your rope and then even a little further. You will see your limitations and character flaws like never before, but you will also have opportunities every day to delight in the beautiful souls entrusted to your care. Look for those opportunities. Search for them like gold. And when you find them? Store every one of them deep in your heart. Because one day, in the blink of an eye, the phase will pass and you’ll be an old lady just like me, passing along this encouragement to young whippersnapper mamas. So go. Treasure every moment that you can on this wild and crazy ride we call motherhood.”

If we can take a moment to listen and consider the sweet ladies’ exhortation, we realize these seasoned mamas also endured blowout diapers and viral stomach bugs that took the entire house down. They lived through a decade of interrupted sleep and years of disciplinary throw-downs. Their sinks were piled with dishes to the ceiling. They’ve folded enough laundry to develop carpal tunnel. And now, as they look back on the younger years, the years we are living in now, they do it with a 30,000 foot view. It’s with this entire picture in mind that they exhort us to “take the long view and treasure this.”

INSPIRATION FROM A BIBLICAL MOM

If we need help imagining what it looks like to ‘treasure’ in the midst of unpredictable motherhood chaos, we needn’t look further than another young mama, 2,020 years ago.

Mary birthed her first born baby while out of town, as farm animals watched. While we’re over here stressing about whether or not to use the crib or the pack-and-play for our newborns, Mary made do with a feeding trough. Can you even imagine? The mere idea of a home birth makes me break out in a cold sweat. Yet, Mary birthed the King of the universe—in a barn. Certainly this was not a part of her birthing plan. No epidural in sight. No adjustable hospital bed or medicine ball. But did Mary throw a fit? Nope. As surrounding family and friends wondered about the miraculous birth and visiting shepherds, Mary “treasured” it all. Me? I would have had a panic attack. But not Mary. No wonder she was blessed among women. She knew how to take the long view in the midst of what appeared to be a stressful situation. She looked at her circumstances through the lens of the truth she already knew deep in her heart: God was doing something miraculous in her midst, and she was chosen to be part of His plan. She shifted her mindset from the feeding trough bassinet she could see to the eternal plan that she could not.

ETERNAL TREASURE

Whatever season we’re facing, may we, like Mary, turn to the One who is sovereign over all of it. May He give us the grace to rest in His perfect provision and the confidence to trust Him with the hardest parts of our days—and truly delight in them.

Deep in our hearts we know that as we pour into and teach our beloved babies, the momentary, light affliction of Target tantrums are producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we look not at the toddler scuffles and dirty dishes, but past them—to the unseen, to the souls of the little humans entrusted to us. One day, we will smile as we remember the wild and crazy days of toddlers. We will smile recalling their sparkly eyes and self-forgetting giggles. Let us look for moments to treasure them today, our blessings from the Lord. Even when those blessings scream in the middle of Target.

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