mama wisdom & faithful instruction

This morning I snuck downstairs before any of the darlings were awake. I sat on our living room rug, hot coffee next to me, and my Bible open in front of me. I found my way to Proverbs 31 where verse 26 tells me this proverbial wonder woman "speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."



Faithful instruction.

I stopped right there and asked God to fill my words with wisdom and faithful instruction. I asked that my words be a blessing to my children, pointing them to Jesus.

So beautiful. So inspiring.

And ten minutes later, those darlings woke up...


Good morning, darlings.

Go use the potty.

Everyone needs to go potty when they wake up.


Yes, you need to wear pants.

Stand still.

Let me help you.

No, you can do it yourself.

Sit down.

Hands to self.

Ask me again in a different way.

Take your plate to the kitchen.

Stop it.

Let's go.

Spit spot.

Put your shoes on.

Grab a coat.

Get in your seat.

Try to buckle yourself.

Quiet down.

Speak up.

I can't hear you, sweetie.

Respect the no.

Hold my hand.

Look both ways.

Walking feet.

Obey quickly, please.

Speak truth and love.

I can see you're feeling frustrated.

Slow down.

Hurry up.

Stop running.

Give him space.

Take off your shoes.

Did you wipe?

And flush?

Wash your hands.

Let's pause to thank God.

Please use your spoon.

Here, eat a carrot.

No, you can't have another treat.

You have enough ketchup.

Don't say "stupid."

Stop provoking your sister.

Yes, you may be excused.

Go play.

Stop bugging me.

Turn that down.

Gentle hands.

Remember, brothers and sisters are for life.


You need to play in separate rooms.


Mommy is feeling frustrated.

Pick that up.

Wipe that up.

Carry that up.

Take that up, too.



Please respond when I ask you something.

Be gentle.

Wait a minute.

Give me a moment.

Oh my darlings.

Look at me.

I'm sorry I yelled.

What is that?

Where did you get that?

Put that back.

Oh good grief.

Keep the worms outside.

Look for a chance to show love.

What do you say when someone gives you something?

Not right now.

Go back outside.

The snow shovel is not a toy.

No, you can't have another snack.

Where'd you get that Popsicle?

Dinner will be ready soon.

Oh look, Dad's home!

Go ask your Dad.

Talk to Dad about it.

Show Dad.

Go find your Dad.

Wash up.

Let's pause to thank God.

Please use your fork.

No, you can't have another treat.

You don't need ketchup.

Head upstairs.

And carry something up.

Put your dirty clothes in the basket.

Pick a book.

No, a shorter book.

Let's pray.

Ok, but this is the last song.

Give me a kiss.

And hug.


I love you, too.

See you in the morning.

Go to sleep, darling.

Stop yelling "mom."

Go back to your own bed.

I mean it.

Get back in your bed.


I love you.


Surely there's some wisdom and faithful instruction in there somewhere.



because one day you won't, part 3

Milo was born in April, and the transition to three children has been as expected - insane and delightful all at once. At times I can see my knowledge and confidence as a mom coming on strong this time around; other times all three of the darlings are crying at once, and I am cursing Stephen for not working from home more often. The reality that this little guy will be walking and talking (read: running away from me when I call his name and using phrases like "pooper butt") all too soon has made me aware of moments to remember.  Even more so than I did with Charlotte and Andrew, I am slowing down, noticing, and smiling that both childhood and baby life are happening in our home.

"Because one day you won't" is my unapologetic, sappy mom writing. You can read more about it here and here.



Because one day your cheeks won't be so big.


Because one day you won't fit so perfectly in my arms, letting me hold you close and squish your cheeks.


Because one day you won't wake me up throughout the night


And despite my constant exhaustion and occasional complaining, the corner of my heart will miss the sweet stillness of those nighttime moments when it is just you and me.


Charlotte and Andrew,

Because one day you won't walk curiously into my hospital room, eyes wide, ready to meet your baby brother.

Because one day you won't think bathing your little brother makes for the best day ever.


Because one day you won't kiss him so fiercely.


Because one day you won't both fit in the rock & play.


Because one day you won't stare at him over the crib.


Because one day you won't beg to hold him just a few more minutes.


So today I will notice those moments.



could i have grace instead?

I paced around our small bedroom, bouncing a swaddled infant and singing Jesus Loves Me. We were interrupted by a knock on the door, again. Andrew was only a few weeks old, and his two-year-old big sister had not yet mastered the art of playing quietly in the other room while I put him down for a morning nap. I whipped open the door and knelt down to Charlotte's level. "If you knock on this door again, you will have a time out."

The knocking did not stop, but it did change to a soft tapping, allowing me just enough peace for Andrew to doze off. I laid him in the pack 'n play and moved toward the door, committed to following through with my threat. I didn't care how many times I put her in time out over the next few days, that little girl would learn to be quiet when her brother was napping.

I opened the bedroom door to see her sitting in the hallway surrounded by pretend food. She smiled. So big. So genuine.

Shoot. Stick to your guns, Joy.

"I made you soup," she said, holding out a small plastic pot filled with wooden carrots and peppers.

Oof. Don't cave. Don't you dare be a parent who spits out empty threats. 

"Charlotte, thank you for the soup, but you kept knocking on the door when I said to stop. You have a time out." As expected, the tears began, but it wasn't temper tantrum tears; she was sad, disappointed. She finally had my attention, and I was barreling in with a consequence.

I was flooded with compassion. She'd been a big sister for sixteen days, and I expected her to play quietly in the living room while I snuggled and smooched her brother. I was being unreasonable, and I knew it. She didn't need a lesson in obedience right now; she needed grace.

My next sentences were a jumbled mess. There was something about how she'd made a mistake by not obeying. Something else about not getting what she deserved, and I probably threw in something about Jesus for good measure. It wasn't eloquent and possibly not theologically sound. But if I want my children to grasp the grace of Jesus, I need to fill our home with tiny snippets of grace. This was a first, mediocre attempt.

"So," I concluded,  "Mommy is going to give you grace instead."

I exhaled a sigh of relief, hoping to move past the moment, but Charlotte wasn't done. She looked at me with expectation and held out her hand.

"Grace," she demanded. "I want grace."

Oh rats. My holy moment was coming to an abrupt ending as I realized Charlotte wanted something put in her hand. I told her I was giving her grace, and she was ready to receive. No doubt she imagined grace to resemble a chocolate chip cookie.

"I want grace," she demanded again, now stretching out both hands.

"Well honey," I began, knowing I was already sunk, "grace isn't something I can put in your hand. It's kind of like..." Oh, this ought to be good. "Like...a hug."

A hug? Really, Joy? Grace is like a hug?

It seemed appropriate to lean in for a hug, but she pushed me away in frustration. With her hands outstretched and head flung backwards, she began screaming, "Grace! Grace! I want grace! Give me grace!"

Preach it, sister. We all do.

Would you think less of me if I told you I went and got her the cookie?


A few months ago, the kids and I met some friends at an indoor play place. We played, ate lunch, and played some more. I intentionally held off on dessert knowing it might be just the motivator I would need to gather the darlings when it was time to go. There were a dozen candy machines next to the escalator, and I'd be happy to trade a quarter for a handful of Skittles if it meant a smooth exit to the car.

It was nearing 1:00. I gave the five minute warning.

The one minute warning.

Then the casual, "Time to go," as I swung the diaper bag over my shoulder and turned toward the exit.

No one followed. Shocking.

Eye contact was made, and I mouthed the words, "Let's go," from across the room, complete with a forceful hand gesture and deathly mama glare.

No response.

I walked toward them as they ran even further from me, a sure trigger for my blood to start boiling. I knew it wouldn't be easy to collect the darlings, but I had to keep my composure. After all, there were other moms watching me. I couldn't go all crazy mom, yet.

They began climbing a giant pig structure and I moved in, ready to pull a good, old-fashioned dessert threat out of my back pocket.

"You need to come now, or you will not be able to get a treat." I stood silently and watched them disregard my instructions with glee.

The next ten minutes were a blur, and I can't remember how I wrangled them in, zipped their coats, and tied their shoes. I was frustrated, tired, and ready to enforce my threat. Today I would teach them a lesson, even if it meant screams and tears because by golly, when I say it is time to go, it is time. To. Go.

We approached the escalator and the colorful candy machines locked eyes with my children.

"Can we get a treat, mom? Please, can we get a treat?"

Deep breath. Here we go.

"No. I told you it was time to leave, and you didn't come. Your consequence is no treat today." Boom. Done. Consequence enforced. Lesson learned. Well done, mom.

"But please, can we just get one treat?"

"No. I told you it was time to leave, and you didn't come. Your consequence is no treat today."

Charlotte stopped walking, and I braced myself for the inevitable wailing. She buried her face in her hands and let out a loud frustrated exhale. A moment later she looked up and said, "I'm sorry. Could I have grace instead?"

Insert pin drop.

What just happened?

Did she ask for grace?

Is she allowed to do that?

Am I allowed to do that?

I've made stupid choices recently, some toeing the line of foolish and others that are downright sinful. Either way, they are mistakes deserving of a consequence. I never considered just asking for grace. I've opted for guilt instead, fearfully waiting for a smack down that might finally teach me a lesson.

Guilt is a poisonous beast I rarely see in my children. They mess up all the time but are never slowed down, dragged down, or consumed with guilt. I, on the other hand, talk with the Lord about the same foolish choices for months, continue to apologize, and then dwell some more in the sorrow of my stupidity.

Could it really be that simple? Am I allowed to just ask for grace instead of a deserving consequence? Grace instead of guilt?

In Matthew 18:2, Jesus says that we must "become as little children" in order to enter the kingdom of God. It is from this verse that the church coined the term "childlike faith," a phrase tossed around when Jesus stops making sense in our grown-up lives. Jesus is pretty confusing to me most days, and I am not crazy about this "childlike faith" phrase. Mostly because I don't understand what it means or how it plays out in my day to day.

I suppose on my worst days, when the weight of my decisions and the filth of my sin are overwhelming, childlike faith looks something like a crying toddler, hands outstretched, head flung backwards, screaming, "I want grace! Give me grace!" And on my more dignified yet weary days, it might look more like a girl who just lost 25 cents worth of Mike-N-Ikes but is bold enough to ask for grace instead.


I let her have the candy that afternoon, and on the drive home I started to doubt my decision. Was that a good parenting move? What about obedience? What's my plan if she starts asking for grace all the time?

Asking for grace all the time.

I like that.

So, I followed Charlotte's lead that day and decided to ask.

Lord, discipline is hard, and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not sure what just happened in that mall and if I made a wise decision. Would you cover this one in your grace? Would you take my feeble efforts, weakest moments, greatest mistakes, and give me grace instead?

Asking for grace all the time. I think I'll start doing that.

This essay was first published by Mothers Always Write


because one day you won't, part 2

This past summer, I went all sappy mom and wrote this.

I'm doing it again.

These past two months have taken me down. Our hearts are celebrating the news of baby #3, but my body is rebelling against all parts of life that don't involve lying on a couch eating Rice Krispies. I'm irritable and ill and have had to force myself to notice quirky, childlike moments invading our home. It seems like these moments are hiding, lost in the blur of me running to throw up, again, but they are there. And I know they won't be for long.

Because one day she won't come to my gynecologist appointment with a baby doll hidden under her shirt

c with baby.jpg

Because one day she won't wear a Snow White dress and have a picnic in her room. 

room time.jpg

And because one day she won't ask to go to the Verizon store with me rather than staying home to play with friends. 


Because one day he won't line up tiny twigs when his dad asks him to gather firewood.


Because one day he won't mow the lawn in his diaper, rain boots, and winter hat.  


And because one day he won't call rabbits "bunny hops."

So today I will notice those moments.



because one day you won't

Two years ago, I walked into my bathroom to find this.

shoe filtered.jpg

Charlotte's Croc filled with acorns.

There is no story behind this photo, no explanation other than this is what happens when children live in your home. I laughed when I saw it, which is a blessing because had it been a different day or different hour I might have thrown those acorns away and chucked the shoe into her room, annoyed with how her stuff invades every corner. But on that day, at that moment, I loved it. It was quirky, confusing, and so childlike, so perfect. I took a picture because one day she won't leave a shoe filled with acorns in my bathroom.

Every so often, I've thought of that picture and try to mentally dogear other moments that ooze with childhood. But now I can't remember most of them. I wish I had written some down. I wish I had taken a picture.

Some have been ridiculous scenes, announcing to the world that children have been busy living in this home.

Some have been irritating moments, reminding me I laid down my preferences when I chose to be a mom.

And some moments have been so precious they steal my breath to whisper,  "Yes, you really are a mom."

I want to notice those moments. I want to remember those snippet of life.

Because one day she won't lay on the floor doing puzzles in her rain boots and underwear; she won't decorate every dresser knob in her room with a sock, and she won't ask if we can buy matching dresses.


Because one day he won't spread out blankets and pretend to be a pig rolling in the mud; he won't insist on sleeping with trucks in his bed, and he won't ask "You go oomba?" each time he sees me grab my neon yellow Zumba shoes.

A with truck.jpg

Today I will notice those moments.