I robbed myself of joy

I want to raise givers. I want to be a giver. The saying that it is better to give than receive is so very true. Sure it is fun to get a gift or a special surprise – it is tons of fun – but there is a deeper more sustaining joy that comes with giving. Giving makes a happy heart. I’ve learned that. I’m still learning that. I want my kids to experience the kind of consuming joy that is so much deeper than the happiness of receiving.

We’ve told the kids the story of the ‘real’ St. Nicholas in the past. This year a friend gave us The Story of St. Nicholas by Cheryl Odden.

So good.

This week Chris met the kids and I at Walmart after school. Our church is one of the host sites for Toys for Tots and we were armed with a list of some of the biggest toys needs.  There were needs for boys ages 3-5, boys 6-9 and girls 6-9. I told each of the boys they could pick out x-number of gifts for another boy their age. I wanted them to have fun, to be excited to give, to enjoy the adventure of it all.

There was the part of me that was thrilled to be given much so that along side my kids I could give much. Then there is the part of me that gets tense and high strung when going into a store with all four kids. My kids are well behaved for the most part, but I worry way too much about what others think when they see me out with all four. I’m hyper sensitive to every look or expression of strangers. I worry more about what those around me are thinking than what my kids are thinking. I want to change that. I am working to change that.

The boys were so excited. Their voices were a bit louder than normal. They would pick up a toy and then set it down to look at another. They wanted to dart from aisle to aisle in search of the perfect gifts for boys that may only receive one present this Christmas. A few times they were in the center of the aisle and didn’t move out a stranger’s way quite fast enough. My thoughts were on the strangers. Harsh judgement and grumpy looks are easy to find in big stores this time of year. I didn’t want our family outing to be an annoyance or bothersome to other shoppers. I focused on the list on my iphone and getting the job done. Please just pick the toys and put them in the basket. We don’t have to study every toy on every aisle. Just pick something. Move over. Not so loud. Walk, no running.

Basically, I wanted to contain all their excitement and just get the job done. In the twenty minutes we were there, all 4 kids had to go to the bathroom. When we checked out, I looked at Chris and told him, “Next year I am just doing this by myself.”

We got to the church. Completely stressed and frazzled, I wanted to just unload it myself and go home. Each of the kids wanted to help unload and carry bags inside. They laughed. They ran, They carried bags bigger than they are….they relished the act of giving. My thoughts were on the spectacle we were at Walmart.

The next morning, I read Ann Voskamp’s words, “Only self can kill joy. I’m the one doing this to me.”

I wanted my kids to experience the joy of giving, but I was so blinded by concern about what others thought of my family…I robbed myself of joy.

Instead of relishing and etching the memory of their joy filled faces in my mind, I chose to focus on the grumpy faces of strangers.

Instead of being in a life changing moment with my kids, I was wanting to change the moment.

Instead of delighting in a shopping spree of fun, I couldn’t get to the check out line fast enough.

I did it to myself.

I missed out.

My kids taught me the unabashed excitement of giving. Instead of just picking a gift and being done with it, they showed me the delight in choosing the best gift even if it means picking up and setting down 20 others first. They showed me a truly happy heart in giving delights in the process as much as the gift….and doesn’t care if everyone else thinks their zeal and delight in giving is annoying. My kids got it this week. And they taught me in the process.

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  • Becs - A beautiful and honest post, thank you for sharing. I am constantly in awe of what our kids can teach us.

  • steph - I don’t know why but this post made me so emotional! What a great lesson, and yes you missed out bigtime but good came from it – you learned something, and now so have I. Thank you!

  • Lisa J - Oh Ashley, that was just what I needed to read today. Thank you for your honesty. You are truly an amazing woman and mother!

  • sarah - what a great, honest post. thank you ashley! this weekend i will be taking my 2 year old on his first shopping tree for 2 “angel trees” one for an elderly woman, the other for a 3 year old little girl. It’s the start of what i hope to be a family tradition, showing that it IS better to give than to receive. I will be keeping this post and your words in my heart all day. Thank you.

  • Sarah @ w30 - Beautiful post! A great lesson for all of us…

  • Lisa - I do exactly the same thing. I am always concerned with how others are viewing my child and myself as a parent. Often, I try to step back and tell myself to chill out, it never seems to work. I get so tired of being annoyed all the time, and to read your post this morning was another reminder that I need to relax and stop with the sabotage of myself.

  • Gabriela L. - This is just what I needed to read, so thank yo very much for nailing it. It baffles me how you can write the right thing at the right moment. I have a 2 yo, and she is boisterous, funny and loud, she runs, enjoys and explores, and I often find myself so worried about what the rest of the family might think, of what others might think is proper and polite that I generally miss the joy of watching my kid learn and life….
    I try to restrain myself, but it’s hard. My family has always been “perfect” with perfectly behaved children, and I constantly struggle with the fact that my girl will not sit down and play quietly. Instead I’m working on embracing it, and I’ve become a wanderer of public places with her… Thank you so much for being this honest… It’s so nice to read people feeling the same as you are.

  • Christy - A little off topic, but guess whaaaat? OKC is allowing us for Christmas to do for our big foster shelter what you Tulsians got to do for Thanksgiving. Woo Hoo!

  • Jenni - Sooo in love with this post. I do that all of the time and have never thought of it that way. You always have a way of making my cheerios better!:) lol

  • Jennifer - I do this to myself way too much. I need to knock it off! Thank you for being transparent. I love it when we teach each other things and are not afraid to share our mistakes. I appreciate you.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - Once in my early twenties (before mommy-hood) I went on a ski trip with my church. I was riding the shuttle bus with a friend when a huge family group got on. I told my friend that I would go sit in another spot so this family wouldn’t have to separate. She looked at me and then said “but then we’d have to separate”. And her words really struck me. I began to think, why do I always ask the ones closest to me to sacrifice for strangers? What is my TRUE motivation? I wish I could have said that it was true selflessness that motivated me. But as I prayed on it and thought on it, I realized it was so I would “appear” a certain way. I began praying that God would change my heart on this. That I would sacrifice for pure reasons, but not so I could look like a nice person. He is so gracious to hear our prayers and began to transform me in that area. Your story reminded me of that work that God did in my life. Sorry for the longest comment ever!

  • Bethany - Oh man, I’ve totally been there… more than once. Thank you for the reminder to be in a life changing moment. Praying God blesses you and your family this Christmas!

  • Leslie - We’ve all been there. Thanks for sharing this

  • Amber P. - Ashley, Remember that people might just be looking at you thinking how lucky you are to be a mother to 4 beautiful, happy, healthy children. Maybe they are watching to try to feel a part of the joy of your family for just a moment. I might be one of those people who look a little too long, because I want that for myself one day. I can only hope.

  • Jessica Lynette - It really is amazing the amount of things we can learn from the sweet little lives we’ve been entrusted with!

    This summer my just turned 3-year-old wanted {totally of his own desire!} to use his birthday money to buy something for the mailman, something for our neighbor and ice cream treats for him and his brother.
    I took them to Target and let the little one pick out the treasures. The box of icecream he picked were the individually sealed Drumsticks – he picked the box of 8.

    After we paid they sat outside Target and he said he wanted to give away his extra 6 ice cream cones. My two boys approached TONS of people and most were cold and harsh with them. It took them a long time to give away 6 ice cream cones {that were SEALED!!}

    It was a little embarrassing to do that, given that it’s not normal, but I learned so much watching his determination and joy. He didn’t care a bit about those that were harsh – he was seeking to make others happy and he relished in those he made happy… and he EXERCISED in a big way his ability to give.

  • Jen B. - Thank you for sharing this post. As a mom of a boy and a girl, there is always something I can relate to in your posts. Your blog inspires me in so many ways and for that I Thank you! I also just ordered the St. Nicholas book you talked about. Looks like a wonderful book. I was looking for some of the books that you have mentioned in your blog. Is there a way to search for those titles? Thanks!

  • Seriously Sassy Mama - I feel the same way when I walk into a store with my three girls. Especially the three year old. It never fails, she will throw a fit, then i get stressed out. People are watching etc.

  • Alice H - This post made me so very sad for you. That you let what others think bother you. You are a wonderful mother to 4, almost 5, precious children. And other people need to get over themselves with giving grumpy looks, etc. I am a very young mom. I had my oldest child 19 days before I turned 17 years old. She is now almost 13 and I am almost 30. I also have an 11 year old and a 2 year old son. You should see some of the looks I get and have received. But this is MY life I was given and that I choose. And I really don’t care what other people think, or say for that matter. I hope that you continue to work on not letting others (including yourself) take away your joy. You have so much to be thankful for. You are truly blessed. And you bless ALL of your readers every day with your honesty.

  • Lynne - Thank you so much for sharing! I feel the same way often and realize it yet can’t control myself! If you figure out ways to change the way you think/act please share! Just last night at dinner my 5 year old wasn’t paying attention and knocked her bowl of food off the table. I was not nice about the whole situation, when really it’s not a big deal! Easier to see for me after the fact, and not so much while I’m in it!

  • Ms. Megan - Beautiful post!!

  • emmybrown - <3

  • Lisa Johnson - beautiful post Ashley! Thank you

  • Nicole - Maybe if I say this too often it loses its meaning, but BEST. POST. EVER. Thank you for the reminder. This was just what I needed this morning.

  • Jennifer B - How true that we all have been there. We need to remember to slow down in times like this and remember they are young once. Thank you for the reminder!

  • cynthia - Beautiful post!

  • Melissa - thanks for your honesty…because we have all been there! God really uses our kids to teach us and refine us!

  • alison - I love reading your posts. They are so encouraging and helpful. I also have 3 young boys and 1 baby girl. I struggle with the same exact things with them. I actually had a similar experience with just my older boy in Target while picking out a bday gift for his brother. I am going to try to get this book too. I love the images and words. Thanks so much for all of your honest posting. It always reminds me to pause, be thankful, and let go of my own expectations

  • Lisa P. - The Lord is molding us constantly towards His likeness and we can’t expect perfection from ourselves. We can try. And then try again.

  • amy - Ashley, I look forward to visiting your lovely site each day. Today’s post actually brought me to tears. I am a Mom of high energy boys, and each time I bring them out with me on my Target runs they promise to be well behaved as long as once I finish up my shopping we can go to the toy isle; they love to check out any new Star Wars Clone Wars and Batman action figures and of course our outing isn’t complete without a check of the Lego isle. Thank you for this post! I too go through the same ‘tense’ feelings by being hypersenstive to the watchful eyes of strangers. My boys are young and still learning to be mindful of other shoppers. I rationalize this in my own mind, I do, but for some reason it is so difficult to curb the anxious/tense feelings that overcome me as I see strangers reactions. Because I am sensitive to this ‘feeling’ inside myself, when I see other Moms with their children and see her obvious apologetic expression because maybe her child didn’t move out of the way soon enough (until she reminded them) I always smile and say “no worries, I am a Mother too and I understand”. We are not alone in feeling this way. Thank you again 🙂

  • Rebecca - Thank you for this post! This is exactly what happened to me when I took my kids to another store a few days ago to choose gifts for donations – rushing, worrying about the kids bumping into people, asking them not to pick up every toy in the store. Your words hit me right in the heart. Such a wonderful reminder! Thank you!

  • mixedmolly - We have four kids too and I can really relate to this post. What a valuable lesson…

  • Lauren - Great post. How very easy it is to do at Christmas time or anytime… an honest lesson we all need. No doubt I will be reminded of your words in the next few weeks.

  • Lisa M. - Thank you for this post. I only have one child, he is 6 years old. I am constantly worried about his behavior in public, not because he is a bad child (because he isn’t, by any means) but because I’m so afraid he will “inconvenience” another shopper. Ridiculous. And I didn’t even realize how ridiculous until I read this post. I am not enjoying life through his eyes, I’m just trying to make sure he’s not “standing in the middle of the isle” blocking another shopper, talking too loudly, running instead of walking…I am definitely going to work to change this. Thank you so very much, Ashley!
    Merry Christmas!

  • Emily - Ever since you switched how you load your pictures I can see ost of them and the ones that I can see take FOREVER to load…..I miss my daily dose of crafty, creative, cuteness.

  • Breena - Thank you for this post! It came at the perfect time today!

  • Kristin Taylor - I actually laughed when I read all of this..because Im the same way, and Im trying my hardest to ‘let it go’..my husband is like a kid (this is not an insult to him either), he just gets ‘overly’ excited about things, hes too loud in stores, gets in everybody’s way..ect..well what I have learned about my self (through him), Im a controlling person, I have to present a certain image, I like to get things done fast, ect..so through all of this, Im slowly learning to let go of trying to control everything..

  • liz - thank you for this post! and for the book recommendation…i’m ordering several- one for my kids and some for friend’s families!
    have you heard of http://www.adventconspiracy.org?
    worship fully. spend less. give more. love all.
    seems just like the things you’ve been talking about!
    (our church and pastor helped start this)

    the video explains it all!
    love your writing, your photos and your heart for people and adoption ashley!

  • lisa b. - It is obviously almost my time of the month- why else would this post make me cry! 🙂
    A good reminder for all of us.

  • Kate S. - I have trouble with this habit, too. My husband is so good at ignoring what’s around him that he never pays any attention to others’ opinions, but I can’t help noticing. I wish I had seen this article yesterday morning, before I, too, spent a day shopping and paying too much attention to those around me.

  • Heather - Just wanted you to know how blessed and relieved I feel when I see other moms in stores with kids acting like kids. This is obviously a common struggle (to be so worried about what others think that we let it steal our joy. I know I do it all the time.) Just know that when I see a mom with a big group of kiddos in a store, all I ever think is “Wow, she is awesome!” I have a difficult time taking just two into the store, so I’m always impressed with big families. Thanks for the share on the book. I’m definitely wanting one now.

  • jami nato - ann voscamp is rocking my world right now. did you read her devotional yesterday on how they do christmas. i sat their crying at the computer. i made nato read it. and i thought…this all isn’t right. we have to do something different next year.

    anyway, beautiful post.

  • melyssa - thank you for sharing! i love that your are teaching your children to be givers, something i very much want to do. Thank you for the inspiration to give & to enjoy the moments instead of trying to control them:)

  • heather - this is such a great post ashley!
    i’ve done the same thing to myself way too many times to count.
    and the thing for me is…those people i’m worried about offending or getting in the way of probably don’t even notice my kids being a little nutty, ya know.

  • allison - Don’t feel so bad…Walmart shoppers in my area are the RUDEST, GRUMPIEST bunch around…the workers at my store are the nicest people too…always so kind and pleasant to my little boy…I feel so sorry with who they have to deal with. I’m always considerate when I’m out with my son, but if people are just nasty I ignore them!!
    Funny true story I read on another blog…while on a noisy DISNEY WORLD bus…she overhead a man annoyingly saying to his wife? that there should be adult buses only…lololol! It’s a theme park built around cartoon characters for goodness sake..some people are just grumpy and miserable…never let them ruin your or your kids good times:)

  • Lynn - Thank you so much for sharing and making me realize that I too need to stop worrying about what others think and just enjoy.

  • amber - I’m a guilty robber of joy for myself too. And I pick it up daily to work on. I love the days I get it right. And the days I get it wrong, well, I ask forgiveness, pray a lot, & try to move on. Because, I choose joy & gratitude. Even though it’s hard sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  • michelle - I could’ve, should’ve written these very words. I, too, have 4 young ones & am generally overwhelmed & tense when I venture into a public place with all of them. My children are generally very well behaved but when they’re excited, which is often this time of year, as they ARE children, loudness & laughter follow. I am so attuned to the “looks” I’m getting from others that I, too, am often robbing myself of the chance to make memories & be present in the joy surrounding me. I feel such self-imposed pressure to be a good “witness” to those around me that I am often giving off an impression of perfection or “having it altogetherness” that is SO not me at all. I’d be the first to admit that I am FAR from “together” I waste so many precious minutes fretting over what everyone will wear, how we will look to others & rehearsing behaviors in my mind. I am asking the Lord to help me overcome this crazy bondage, to care more about what HE thinks than anyone else & to stop trying to be the perfect Mom to bring Him glory…I am enough, He gave us these 4 incredible children b/c He thought I could mother them in a way pleasing to HIM. I am enough, and you are as well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Rachael - Thank you for this post. As a mom of two-year old twins and a one-year old singleton, I often feel the same way when we are out and about. I’m going to remember this post and do better about enjoying the moment.

  • April - Oooh…lots I wanna say Ashley…have to run out the door to PTO meeting blah….let me just say. Beautiful, touching and meaningful !! Thanks for YOU and your precious children who taught US ALL !!!

  • Stacy Harp - Hey AshleyAnn – I just wanted to let you know that we highlighted this post today on our The Voice of the Martyrs Persecution Blog. 🙂 Loved it! Merry Christmas and give your kids a hug from me.

  • Charla - A BEAUTIFUL Lesson, Thanks for being so open. I struggle this time of year too with endless to do lists. I want my kids to be caught up in the wide eyed wonder of the season, but I want to raise GIVERS! There is such pressure this time of year. You are an AWESOME mom and an inspiration. p.s. Where can I get this book?

  • Victoria - I can totally relate! I have four kids and spaced really close. I get those looks all the time and not just looks, people say things like and they are not always nice. I try to dress my kids well when we go out, it makes me feel better. Their clean, neat and look cute and if you have cute kids why not have four? When that is the case, I worry less about what others think. But it’s always so much work going out, especially in winter, by the time I get out of the house I’m tired.

  • Carmen - thanks so much for sharing. I too do the same thing. I too want my children to learn to be generous and want the best for others. thank you, x

  • Carmen - by the way, I LOVE the new look. I loved the old look too… but I love the new look!

  • Monica - This week I also read my kids a story about the history of St. Nicholas. It’s a nice story. How important it is to transmit good values ??to our children!

  • Persecution Blog: A Christmas Story About Raising Children to Be Givers - […] visit the blog called Under the Sycamore written by AshleyAnn.  Her post is so poignant and really ties into the whole season of Christmas and […]

  • Ti Madame - Not only did your kids teach you a lesson, but me and everyone else who reads your blog. Thank you to you and your four amazing kids for being salt and light in all of our lives.

  • Cheryl - I’m glad I’m so self centered I never care about the huffs and puffs of strangers when I bring my 3 out at the same time. 😉

  • Sophie - Ashley,

    First of all, I love the new blog design. I have a few of Katie’s prints in my little guys nursery and she is so very talented.

    On to the real reason for this comment: I am originally from Germany where it is tradition to celebrate St.Nicholas Day on December 6th. Ever since I can remember my parents told me and my brothers to put one of our boots outside the door on the night of December 5th, which was then filled with candy and small gifts (similar to stockings) over night. This was such a great tradition and taught us kids about the meaning of St. Nicholas Day and also made the wait for Christmas a little bit sweeter.
    I can’t wait until I can start this tradition with Logan once he is a little bit older.

    You may of course already know about this tradition, but just in case you do not I thought I would share 🙂

    Merry Christmas

  • Kayla - Just wanted to drop in and say hello… I’ve been following your blog for about a month or two now and need to say that it is one of my favorites. There are so many great blogs out there about home design, living simply, etc. but your heart for the Lord and your family just radiates from your posts. It is so inspiring to see another Christ follower’s vision for their family. Thank you for being so honest and candid in your reflections on life, it is a blessing to me and so many others who read. Blessings to you are your family!

  • Irene NZ - Hi Ashley, just want to comment on this post. I am not yet a mother myself, but I can really see this coming when I’m becoming a mother. Often times I think about what others think instead of just ignoring them and truly be joyful for what God has given me. Thanks for sharing this post to help us focus on what’s really important in this life. Have yourself a Merry Christmas, much love to you and your family. xx

  • Rebecca - Ashley, As I read this my heart broke for you! kept thinking no no no don’t worry about the people around you! We all need more Joy in our life and who in this world shows Joy so purely? KIDS!!! I also read Ann VosKamp’s blog and LOVE how she directs us right to the cross!! You are being an awesome example to your kids at LOVING others!! Don’t we make life to difficult sometimes! My mottos lately is “Choose Joy”! (LBB inspired that) A daily choice! I will pray that for you Ashley! Blessings!!

  • Lisa - Thank you so much for sharing this! I also struggle with caring more what others think of me and my family then what my heavenly father thinks of me. Kids are such a great reminder to enjoy life and have joy! Thanks for reminding me yet again to not get caught up in what doesn’t matter. 🙂

  • Dawn - Thank you SO much for sharing! I can relate to this post for sure…on a daily basis. I want to have the JOY seen in my little one’s eyes!

  • Amber Machado - Ashley, thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate how transparent you are. It would be so much easier to avoid these types of subjects, but instead you are real and sincere. Thank you. It was a good reminder to me, it is so easy to focus on the behavior of our kids instead of the big picture. Oh and thanks for sharing about the book too. Last year I walked into a christian book store asking if they had a book about the “real santa” and they looked at me like I was crazy for even wanting such a thing. I am going to oder one! Thanks again!

  • A Christmas Story About Raising Children to Be Givers | The Chronciles - […] visit the blog called Under the Sycamore written by AshleyAnn.  Her post is so poignant and really ties into the whole season of Christmas and giving.  Here […]

  • Maggie - Thank you so much for sharing this post! I realized the other day that I was letting guilt of not being the perfect mom or having it all together, and the denial that another year is quickly coming to an end rob me of the joys that each moment can bring if I will just be in them. Worrying about what I haven’t done or won’t get done doesn’t let me enjoy what I am getting to do with my kids. This season is so joyous and I, too, want to share joy and the excitement of giving to others. I love the reminder you have shared here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

  • Lindsey@ Piecefully Home - i do think most moms have been there at one time or another. i used to be this way, but i’ve learned not to care so much what others think of me as a person or as a mom. i need to care what god thinks of me, the one who knows me inside and out. when i care only about his thought of me, everything else falls into place naturally. of course you have valid concerns, i don’t want my kids to be in the way of others, or rude, or ill behaved either. it’s a matter of finding a balance and looking upon the situations with grace.

  • Miles - I have 3 kids and they were all under the age of 18 months so I understand being stressed and worried that your kids are not being their best and may be annoying someone else. I am a terrible people-pleaser and I do let that side of me steal my joy sometimes. This is what I have decided to do about that part of myself. I ask myself “Am I pleasing to God in this moment? Have I done something that would displease Him?” If I have answered no to this then I move on and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

  • Kathy Myers - This little light of mine….im gonna let it shine. 🙂 Don’t forget to let your kids light shine also 🙂 Have a wonderful Christmas!!

  • Cloie - I had to comment today. I have 4 children also, but I have 3 girls and a boy, ranging from 9 to 3. I wanted to tell you something I have learned to do when I take mine to the store. First I am the mom that takes all the kids EVERYWHERE I go. Always have been, and more so now that its just me with them.
    First it started as a game, now it helps me keep the kids close. I tell them they are my ducks in a row. I usually line them up from youngest to oldest. This is when I don’t have my youngest in the cart, and usually she will hold the hand of my oldest. I do spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder, but the kids love the “independence” of being able to walk alone in the store. And honestly they make enough noise that I KNOW they are all behind me lol.
    Also I learned a long time ago people are going to give you dirty looks. Some think 4 kids are just too many, some don’t like kids at all, some think I am too young to have 4 kids, some think that children should be seen and not heard….the list goes on and on. I have learned that I will NEVER make every stranger in walmart happy. So I do the best I can. I try and keep the kids in one line, I try and keep them from shouting so that they echo off the ceiling, I try and keep them from being “that screaming kid in walmart” but I don’t always succeed. And so you know what? Poo on anyone judging me. I am trying to teach my children what it is like to be out in public, how to behave, and how to respect other peoples space and property.
    There are times that my children have bumped into someone, or ran in front of them or whatever, and I just smile and say sorry we are learning. I also tell my kids to say sorry. Some times we have to remember that the only thing we can do is apologize when we do something wrong and move on with life! 🙂

  • Alysia - I also struggle with worry of other’s thoughts and opinions. This makes me think of a quote I recently pinned on Pinterest. I use this quote when I’m having these moments. “Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy too.” You have a beautiful family!

  • Amber ~ Cloud9 Design Studio - Beautiful, authentic and heartful post. Thank you for sharing.

  • amber P - I needed to hear this.

  • brooke - I do this all the time….with my husband 😉 I can’t imagine how I will be with my kids, but I sure know it will be a constant battle. I am proud of you for realizing it, even if after the fact, that your sweet kids are learning the lessons you mean for them to…giving and doing it joyfully..

  • Brooke - PS. Can’t believe voice of the martyrs linked you…whoa. So cool 🙂 I am buying this book as Finn’s one Christmas present this year. He won’t know any different right now, but I really want him to have it…for the future!!

  • Heather S. - Thanks for reminding us to focus on what is important – isn’t it crazy that those little people that we are supposed to be teaching, so many times actually are teaching us? What a wonderful tradition for you and your family. I wouldn’t worry about what other people are thinking, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with the whole process (it makes me nervous if I can’t see all of my kids at once in the store), maybe you can take 2 or 4 separate trips (with one or two at a time) so that you can relax and enjoy it a little more 🙂

  • rachel - Because of this post i just ordered 4 books. i was also really happy to see these books are written by VOM. I just signed up to be a prayer/letter writing partner with them last month!


  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - You are so precious to me. Thank you for sharing this story and reminding me to really embrace my kids right now. Just as they are.

  • knuckstermom - First, stop shopping at Wal Mart. Encourage your kids to find alternatives that support your community and small businesses.
    Second-Don’t imagine you can guess what people are thinking when they look at you and your beautiful family! You never know what is behind a strangers eyes, could be sadness that they don’t have such a wonderful family, could be evil thoughts could be just plain aggravation that they don’t have a happy life…YOU just never know!
    Thanks for the reminder for me as a Mom with nearly grown kids to watch for the wonder in the youngsters I run across.

  • bree Johnson - beautiful post- know your not alone- so many moms feel this way- i have twin 3 year old boys one who is autistic and an 18month old daughter….every time we are out there are meltdowns over not following routine- or him not being able to keep the toy or book taht keeps him quiet through the store and people stare…but you know I just know something they don’t know about my son,we never know what someone is going through,and i bet there are other mothers there at the same time who arnt judgjng but are ,maybe there alone without there own kids- or they are an aunt who gets what there and silently cheering you on,they understand,and maybe stare because they know how you feel- so now every time i go to the store I try and think that way-

  • bonnie - lovely post. i also have 4 children. really good children but when they are all together and out at walmart things get a little hectic and I’m always concerned about what others think. i often let it steal my joy! thanks for putting things back into perspective.

  • Abby - Thank you for being so honest Ashley!

    As a mother of 3 I know the “fear” you must have had when you were in walmart. Just so you know none of the mothers were giving you a dirty looks, they were empathizing with you. (: I always empathize with a mama and her brood in a public place. It is a lot of work to train littles on how to conduct themselves in public. And you know what I bet the joy on their faces spoke more to the grouchy people than their busy little hands.
    Loved this post!!!!!
    Bless you mama!

  • Monica - I was recently told something so beautiful and similar to what you are saying. We were visiting our best friends who just had a baby and my kids were playing with cousins and started running around. My husband and I started telling them not to run around the house, etc, etc….when my friend’s father said in spanish (roughly translated) ‘Let them. This is how kids are. Let them be. In church right now we are being told to rejoice. This is how they rejoice so let them show it.’ 🙂

  • Jolie - Thank you for posting this Ashley – it was exactly what I needed to read today. As much as I adore your creativity and your photographic help, I think I come here at least as much for the pep talks and the support and mentoring…something I feel much in need of right now! Thank you!

  • Kathy C - XXOO!