It was one of those checkout lines that was not made for women with four children seven years old and under. Twenty, maybe thirty minutes long. I was seriously doubting whether or not the 20 percent off was worth it. After weaving through masses of women on a mission for the last half hour, you could stick a fork in my kids, ‘cause they were done. And their mama was close.

My toddler decided to manifest his frustration in occasionally sitting down on the floor and crying angrily, with which I could totally relate. My five year old boy thought some version of, Wouldn’t it be fun to body-slam my siblings or spin them around into assorted displays? My daughter thought she would amuse herself by irritating the boys until they screamed and shoved her, when she would then proceed with her impression of a wounded animal. My oldest laughed crazily along with the rest until someone frustrated him, in which case he got a look on his face that I once saw on a video of Mt. St. Helen’s.

My mission until I hit the cash register: Keep everyone under control, including me. Now, in stores I happen to see it as a mission field in a variety of ways through the ways I respond to my kids and the people we encounter:

  • We can encourage them and love on them, especially recognizing store employees. People enjoy interacting with kids who are friendly, have great manners and thankful hearts.
  • I can demonstrate that kids are a blessing, which isn’t necessarily always a given in our culture.
  • We can show people we love Jesus.

In short, I know families can “make much of God” out in public. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. At that moment, when my children were dangling there on the tipping point, I wasn’t hoping to make much of God.

I was hoping to make much of me.

I knew that people were watching me there in a Christian store, and I wanted people to think I’m a good mother who knew how to keep control of my children and my emotions. Not bad aims, when they’re in God’s direction. And there was some of that. But most of the honor was intended for me.

The result? Probably didn’t look that different from what it could have been, although I can’t underestimate what would have happened if I had stopped and prayed for the Holy Spirit’s help. I did appear to be in some degree of control of kids who just had way more energy than my checkout line’s capacity. I got my 20 percent off, and we made it out of the store without being arrested for something. But later I had to admit that I could have come out from the store with more than I did—in what I gave God from my heart.

God, thankfully, continues to forgive me for the ways I hijack His honor and make myself the center of my admiration (…otherwise known as idolatry). I’m a firstborn who loves to achieve, loves to please people, loves to be admired—so unfortunately, this happens a lot. But hopefully, when I’m rescuing my kids’ next inevitable implosion, I’ll be doing it to sing the praises of someone other than yours truly.