The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Why I Don’t Cry Over Burnt Bread Anymore

(Or the Simple Secret to Surrendering those Mommy Measures!)

I was squashed knee-to-chin between kindergarteners in the school cafeteria when he said it. 

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Honest words that made me laugh.

Words that may have spawned tears years ago.

I was joining Josh for lunch when the little boy next to me pulled a sandwich out of his bright blue lunch box that garnered my son’s full attention.

“That sandwich is huge!” Josh exclaimed as he poked at the lukewarm carrots on his cafeteria tray and gazed longingly at his classmate’s lunch.

I glanced at the mile-high sandwich—the over-sized slice of cheese dangling off the edges, the wispy green sprigs and sprouts poking out the sides, and the fresh fluffy bread that held it all together. 

And I wondered how much cash it would take to talk that little guy into a trade. 

One soggy school-made sloppy joe for one fluffy fresh sandwich.

“Can you even get that big thing in your mouth?” I teased as Cold-lunch Boy freed his sandwich from Saran Wrap and lifted the masterpiece to his lips.

“I’m used to big bread,” he replied with a grin. And then added proudly, “It’s my mom’s specialty.” 

Josh raised an eyebrow, slowly catching on. “You mean your mom makes the bread at your house?”

His classmate nodded happily, mouth full of food.

Josh looked at me and shrugged his slender shoulders, then chirped, “Oh, my mom’s specialty is burnt bread.”

My kindergartener threw his arms around me like he’d just announced that I’d won the presidency. “Right, Mom?”

I nearly choked on my swig of chocolate milk as the laughter rose from my toes.

“Right!” I concurred. 

I winked at Cold Lunch Boy and confessed in sing-song: “If the crust’s not charred, the bread’s not ours.” 

The sweet boy beside me didn’t even blink at my corny rhyme. I had, after all, just spent the morning in the kindergarten room conducting a poetry workshop prior to lunch. (I may not bake bread, but I can cook up a poem in a flash!)

The cafeteria monitor rang a small bell to indicate the lunch hour’s end, and the kids quickly inhaled their final bites. 

Josh gave me a one armed hug; then joined his classmates lining up for recess, and left me alone with my speckled pink lunch tray and a small mound of lukewarm carrots.

I cleared my tray just like I’d done a thousand times as a three-foot elementary student in that same lunch room.

And I laughed my way to the van as the innocent lunchtime conversation echoed through my mind. 

With gratitude, I realized just how far I’ve come in dropping those crazy measuring tapes. 

A decade ago my young son’s honesty would have left me feeling second-rate. 

But recently, I’ve been learning that a good mom isn’t good at every thing.

She’s just really good at this one thing:

A good mom is good at being who God has created her to be.

On any given day, I could list a few things I do well.

But maybe, more importantly, I can list the things I don’t do at all.

I’ve learned the hard way that I miss all sorts of sacred and significant moments when I live with a frantic insistence that I can do it all. 

When I’m striving to be good at all things, I miss the joy of the small things

The truth is: I wasn’t created to do it all.

I was created to play one small role in a gigantic Kingdom tale. 

And if I spend my life trying to be like every mom I admire; if I exhaust myself racing to do it all; then I may miss that one thing I was put in this world to do.

If I weary myself trying to copy every grand idea that’s ever been pinned; if I breed stress trying to implement every marvelous suggestion that’s ever been posted, if I grow crabby trying to replicate all the good things other great women in my midst have accomplished; then I set myself up to fail at the one unique thing God earmarked just for me.  

God is less concerned with how I measure up against other moms and more concerned with how I measure my days

He doesn’t need me to be Martha Stewart. He needs me to steward my time. And my gifts. And my passions.

One day I’ll stand before the Lord and give an account of what I did with this life. 

And I hope that when I finally see Him face to face, I will be able to  say, “I did my best to count each moment as a gift.  And by Your grace, I completed the good work you created me to do.” 

There are things that are only mine to do in this world. A script written just for me.

Five children to raise, one husband to serve, the least of these to love, and a Savior to pursue in my own unique way.

In the words of one wise mother: “It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” 

So here’s a small tip that has changed my life; my secret to surrendering the measuring tapes—

“Prayerfully figure out what you don’t do.  Make a list. Post it where you see it. Stick to it and watch your life grow deep and rich.” (Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet)

If you’re ready to be set free, make that list. Write it down.
And refuse to feel guilty for being you.

As I tell my kids, “I would never ask you to do something I’m not willing to do…”

So, here’s my list. For now.

It was first scribbled on a coffee-stained page of my journal, but today I’m posting it for all to see. Because sometimes it’s just good to know that you’re not the only one who lives with don’ts.

I’m guessing my list will change as the kids grow, and I do, too. But for today, this simple little list keeps this mom from being harnessed with guilt when an unassuming five-year-old pulls a gourmet sandwich out of his lunch box.

Things I don’t do (right now):

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  • I don’t make bread from scratch (but I do shave off the burnt bottoms of the heat-and-eat dinner rolls I always manage to char!)
  • I don’t wander malls for fun (Maybe this one will change when I don’t have little shoppers in tow)
  • I don’t make fancy birthday cakes (a box is fine for me)
  • I don’t scrapbook (all my photos are either in a shoe box or are dangling out there somewhere in cyberspace)
  • I don’t belong to a gym (I’d prefer to climb on the treadmill in my pajamas each morning)
  • I don’t spend more time working out than I spend in the Word. (I need a spiritually fit soul far more than I need a firm backside and rock-hard abs)
  • I don’t watch TV  (I’m still a fan of good books and a comfy couch).
  • I don’t grow things (besides children)—no plants, gardens, or gorgeous landscaping.
  • I don’t sew or mend (Praise God for grandmas who do!)
  • I don’t collect things (umm… except for all those books on my shelves and in baskets and cupboards….)
  • I don’t do hair (My poor girls know I can barely pull up a pony tail without leaving large bubbles on their heads. Thank heavens for headbands and barrettes!)
  • I don’t spend much time or effort decorating my house (although I will be quick to appreciate your gorgeous color scheme and darling decorations if I visit you).
  • I rarely clean my refrigerator (unless something STINKS in there!)

And by the way, don’t you dare pull out your mommy measures and compare your don’ts to mine!  Here’s the ultimate gift in this little exercise…

Yours list won’t look like mine. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. 

  • You might be that mama who bakes bread from scratch and feeds your family fresh from the garden.
  • You might be the woman who blesses her family with a beautifully decorated home and captures your favorite memories in a stunning scrapbook.
  • You might be the mom who shines the light of Christ at the gym or at the mall or at the office.

And, if that’s what God has created you to do, then that’s exactly what you should do.  

One secret to discovering joy in these bottomless trenches of motherhood is to learn to celebrate the women in the trenches beside us.

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Instead of comparing our similarities, we’re wise to extol our differences.

Your gifts don’t diminish mine. And my do’s don’t invalidate your don’ts.

Your small part to play in this forever and ever story of God’s amazing grace is different than mine. But it is equally important and just as special.

And it would be no small shame to miss it.

So, friends, if you were made to bake bread, by all means bake it.

If you were created to serve up laughs. Please do.

And if you were made to sing, start filling this earth with music.

But whatever you do, don’t try to do it all. 

Or you just might miss the one thing this world desperately need you to do.

This spinning globe doesn’t need more moms with measuring sticks, but it sure could use an army of women willing to measure their days and play their part with grace.

 No matter how BIG or small their role.

Playing my small part in these link-ups: Emily at Imperfect Prose, Jennifer for Tell His Story, Beth for Wedded Wednesdays, and Jill for Hearts at Home’s Third Thursday Thoughts.


7 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Cry Over Burnt Bread Anymore

  1. wow…this is profound stuff here. I never ever thought of making a list of what I DON’T do. Thanks for sharing your list and being so open! love this.

    May 9, 2013 at 11:41 am
  2. This is so great, Alicia! I loved every part of it … from the story of your burnt toast to the list you so authentically shared to the practical application all of us can take away from your post today. I’m going to do this. I’m going to make a “don’t list.” I love your insight here and am so thankful you’re passing it along to all of us, my sweet friend!

    May 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm
  3. I can’t really explain why, but this post has drawn tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart. Maybe because I regret the moments I’ve missed in the impossible pursuit of trying to do more than I was created to do. Thank you, Alicia. I love the idea of embracing my don’ts. The list is looooong, sister. And I don’t want to feel guilty about it anymore. You are quite simply one of my favorite writers. Your words are wise and from the heart. If we ever meet in person someday, be prepared for a suffocating hug. Beautiful post. Absolutely beautiful.

    May 10, 2013 at 12:17 am
  4. Thanks for stopping by and splashing a bit with me. And yes, of course, you are more than welcome to snag our Easter egg night hunt poem. SUch a blast. Hope its the same for you. I’m thinking, next year of spray painting the eggs with glow in the dark paint. Think boys and black lights.

    Happy day,

    May 10, 2013 at 1:24 am
  5. “I’ve learned the hard way that I miss all sorts of sacred and significant moments when I live with a frantic insistence that I can do it all.

    When I’m striving to be good at all things, I miss the joy of the small things. “

    Oh I loved that. Thank you so much for that gentle reminder.

    May 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm
  6. “A good mom is good at being who God has created her to be.”

    This is so, so true! I appreciate your honesty with the bread story; really made me smile. 🙂 Sounds like you’re a wonderful mom to me, even if you don’t bake big homemade bread. I’m glad that’s not a requirement. ha.

    May 11, 2013 at 12:04 am
  7. Katie

    I am going to start a don’t list. For example: I don’t do amazing birthday parties. We do something special with the birthday kiddo, let them choose a simple gift and have ice cream sandwiches and hostess cakes…and I now feel a whole lot better about that. The kids like it so why should I feel guilty? I also don’t stay at home with my children (for now) as we need two incomes to support our larger family which after eleven years has me torn up. Thank you. I will continue to work on my don’ts and not feeling guilty 🙂

    August 29, 2016 at 5:05 pm

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