Echoes from the Courtroom

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Do you struggle to prioritize being a mom among all the other responsibilities you have?

There it was… glaring up at me as if to remind me that my well-ordered life could be catapulted into chaos in an instant. I must confess to a not-so-generous reaction when I was summoned for jury duty recently. Sadly, my thought process was not, “Oh, good, I have always strongly supported the notion of a free and just society, and I get to participate!” No, it was (I’m paraphrasing here): “Oh, crud.”

Am I the only one who instantly cringes at realizing that… well… I’m really quite selfish when it comes to my time?

And unfortunately the cringe factor was only beginning.

Within 10 seconds of opening that envelope I was on my computer, looking at my calendar and breathing a huge sigh of relief when I saw that the week I was called for jury duty was a week I was in town. Miracle of miracles, there were no speaking engagements that week and no meetings that couldn’t be changed.

Then I took a closer look and realized something that turned the relief into angst quicker than you can say, “Mommy guilt.” I had scanned my calendar looking for the “big things” that might be a problem: speaking engagements, meetings, radio interviews, major conference calls… and I’d ignored the fact that I was supposed to volunteer at my daughter’s seventh-grade field day that Friday.

Here’s the thing: I’m never around on Fridays for things like that because I’m usually on a plane somewhere. I’ve missed nearly all of the field days for both my kids for seven years. I’m very purposeful about being at other school events with my kids precisely because of that “Friday fact” (more on that later) so I was thrilled, this year, when I looked on the school calendar and realized: I can finally be at an actual field day!

But suddenly… jury duty. Talk about a conflicted heart.

I know this is probably a coward’s way out, but I decided not to break it to my daughter that I may not be able to be there. Instead, I just prayed for a way out. I know that sounds oh-so-spiritual, but honestly, these were not faith-filled prayers! These were throwing-up-my-hands, God-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do-you’ve-gotta-come-through prayers.

And I will tell you: God had a sense of humor in how He answered. I’d been recovering from a stubborn bout of bronchitis for weeks, but as I was sitting in that courtroom, I started coughing. Not that polite, quiet cough you can ignore, but that embarrassing she’s-going-to-damage-a-lung cough that echoes around a courtroom and distracts the attorneys from what they are saying. For two hours. I’m not kidding.

Within those two hours, I had gone from the bailiff asking if I was okay, to her bringing me a glass of water, to trying to ignore the glares of the lawyers and their clients. Finally, the judge dismissed me from jury duty. Because my cough was so distracting.

I was so embarrassed… and then realized: Oh, wow, God. You are so good. I can be at field day.

Almost missing that particular event at school made me intensely aware that I cannot let slip the discipline I began a few years back of volunteering for as much as I can at my kids’ school on Monday through Thursday, precisely because Friday is so often a casualty of my work schedule. At the beginning of the year, I put myself on the volunteering list to drive every possible field trip, work every big class party, serve at the science fair, and lots of other little dates that together make sure I’m there for my kids those days since Friday and/or Saturday I often can’t be.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it allows me to prioritize being a mom while still paying the household bills and running the ministry.

Out of curiosity, as I was writing this, I just asked my daughter, “Do you view me as being involved at your school?” And without hesitation, she answered “Yes!” Surprised by her vehemence, I asked her to elaborate, and she said, “Because you’re always helping out at field day and stuff, whenever you’re available. And you get involved in my schoolwork and email the teachers and stuff.”

I of course was feeling pretty good about this, when she dropped the seventh-grade bomb. “Sometimes you get too involved, Mom.”

Ah, well. A mom of a middle schooler can’t have everything.

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