Last Updated on March 19, 2018

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.

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  1. This article is great, because, it's so true. I think sometimes that you've been inside my head, somehow!

  2. I can not count the number of times I have been that mom. Embarassed by my children's behavior. Knowing that everyone around me is thinking horrible things. Praying we get out of the store before I loose every ounce of sanity I have.

  3. Oh Janel….. I'm right along with you. I have to pray and be prepared anytime I have all of mine with me. My daughter has started the sit-on-the-floor thing in public. I usually give them a look and if that doesn't work, I pray about what's next! Wish I could hit the invisible button sometimes LOL!

  4. Ha! Sometimes I forget that other moms are dealing with the same fiascos in stores and just trying to make it through. I'm with you on the invisible button, Kennisha! Praying for you three ladies 🙂

  5. Wonderful article Janel! You are letting me know what I have to look forward to…lol. ~Blessings!

  6. I was just convicted of this a couple of days ago, and here is God reminding me again! Thanks Janel!


    1. He seems to know I need reminding and convicting of this on a regular basis :). So there with you!

  7. Good thought…I wrote about our trip to the dollar store not long ago. I need to remember that people are watching. And I loved your thought on how some people don't see kids as a blessing. Isn't that the truth. I should be trying to show them how blessed (even in those moments!) that I am!

    1. Your blog post made me laugh out loud, Theresa…perhaps because I resonate with all of it, including the two different-colored left-foot flip-flops. Loved it.

  8. Love this! There was a season where every… Single… Time…that I went grocery shopping with my 3 young, spunky girls, a random stranger would give me some terse, unwanted (note — not unwarranted) advice. Thankfully my kids are older now and can actually handle a trip that lasts about an hour or so. But I would seriously go shopping at 10 p.m.! Anything to maintain some sanity!

    1. COMPLETELY with you on the shopping at 10 PM–desperate for solutions! Steering around fifty workers stocking stuff was nothing compared to shopping with four kids in the cart. So funny that you did that too!

  9. Janel, I so wish I could have been of any assistance whatsoever to you that day. 🙁 For what it's worth, when I ran into you, I was envious your children were so well-behaved! But girl, that's been me SO. MANY. TIMES. I once wrote a post about a Whole Foods trip that about did me in. It was quite a while ago, but I re-read it from time to time to remind myself. Warning: it reveals some pretty nasty stuff about me.

    1. Your post captured the craziness of Shopping With Children so well, Lori! There are times when I can't tell which needs reined in more–my kids or my attitude–! God was obviously seeking to do some work in me that day. 🙂 Thanks so much for your authenticity.