The “Keep it Together” Club (All Mamas Welcome)

I am honored to have a new friend guest posting today. When I first read Katie’s blog, Operation Leap of Faith, I liked her immediately. Her witty and comfortable writing is like getting a letter from a lifelong girlfriend. But it was the “meat” of her writing that really stuck with me.

When I found out she and her husband work in orphan/foster care while raising their three rambunctious boys…well, my respect for her went through the roof! Welcome, Katie!

Mamas, it's time to resign from the "keep it together" club! |

We had been up and down the aisles long enough. He’d gone through the Goldfish crackers and now he was waving the coupons in the air and dropping them to the ground like we were our own miniature ticker tape parade.

We had just moved to the neighborhood and this first-time mama was mighty proud to be successfully grocery shopping with the little one AND with such a valuable $10 off “Welcome to the Neighborhood” coupon in hand. Well, in his hand.

After meandering our way through the new grocery store we made it to the checkout. I glowed in the light of being such a fiscally responsible wife and mother. Oh, the pride I would feel when I handed over my mega-coupon! Physical proof that I was a successful, smart, good-steward-of-our-finances kind of woman.

Only . . .

The coupon wasn’t there.

It had been in my toddler’s hands. He’d waved it around up and down the aisles. Remember the parade? But it was nowhere.

A lot rested on this coupon in my mind so I plucked the baby out of the cart and ran up and down each aisle like a crazed maniac. The little one thought this was hilarious. I was sweating profusely.

Nowhere. It was nowhere. And I felt like nothing.

You would’ve thought I had misplaced my wallet or my child or my own head. Failure played loudly in my ears–a painful yet recognizable tune. I quietly paid my bill and slowly rolled the cart out into the day.

There is a universal truth of mamas the world over: we are all card-carrying members of the “keep it together” club. Only none of us can live up to those standards so we carry this membership around in our too-heavy purses and just feel bad every time we think about the ways we haven’t lived up to our own ridiculous expectations.

Why do we join that club? Who is the president? Impeach! Impeach!

I unloaded the groceries from my cart as I mentally kicked myself. “You might as well have flushed a $10 bill down the toilet,” I thought. “Ten dollars is a big deal. A BIG DEAL! And you just lost it!

The last bag was finally put away. I lifted my little one out of the cart.

And then…a miracle.

His little arms wrapped around my neck and squeezed. A hug. But not just any hug. It was the very first hug he ever gave me. Ever. Right there in the grocery store parking lot. Right after I lost that oh, so important . . . what was it again?

God gave me that moment. I knew it down to the very marrow in my bones. He thrust it upon me, making me stop right there in my tracks on a dangerous path I was traveling. It’s as if He was saying, “Your identity is not found printed on a piece of paper. Your identity is engraved on the palms of my hands. I want you to know the difference.”

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:16)

If I were to describe the tangible arms of Jesus–right then and there–they were one-year old arms, clasped ever so tightly around the neck of this mama. Not in some picture perfect movie scene but in the parking lot of a little Pasadena grocery store. My milk and eggs were growing warm in my hot car but you better believe I didn’t move from that spot until his arms let up.

And they didn’t let up for a long time. Neither did the tears.

The meaning of that hug was not lost on me.

Yes, I think I was meant to lose something that day. That membership card? With those unrealistic, graceless expectations of myself as a mama? Oh, yes. That hug all but tore it up and threw it in the air–like my very own miniature ticker tape parade.

419674_441200885953708_634901459_nKatie Kenny Phillips lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, andtheir five hilarious kids (three biological boys: Bigs, Middles and Littles and two foster children: Little Man and Baby Girl). Their home is made up of two parts Legos, one part dirt/sticks/rocks/acorns and all parts “whose underwear is this and why is it in the middle of the family room?” She and her husband just started an orphan/foster care ministry at their church and are excited to become foster parents themselves in the next few months. Follow Katie’s awesome adventures in foster care at Operation: Leap of Faith.

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

15 thoughts on “The “Keep it Together” Club (All Mamas Welcome)

  1. I kinda feel like I am bombing the picture here, adding my two cents,being on the opposite gender from those in the Mamas club. I have however been married to a Mama
    for almost 48 years, one who has 6 littles to her credit, and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express not to long ago. With those credentials I will chime in here. I love reading Katie’s writings because she is so right on, during a time in her life that it is so easy to lose track of the scenery while riding the train, because of the desire to get to the destination. With hind sight the destination comes much too soon. Katie stops to smell the flowers, and enjoy the blessings of the Creator while she is living it.
    We so much want to impress the world we live in, it is easy to forget,where the giggles that brighten our day, the words that gladden our hearts and the arms that give us the hugs that melt our souls, come from. The world can only hope to give us that.

  2. Oh Katie, your writing…your words…warm my mama heart to the core. You speak to so many of us who have walked the very same path at one time or another in this motherhood journey. Myself included. While I haven’t run up and down a grocery store aisle with child underarm and sweat pouring down my face looking for a $10 off coupon, I HAVE done that very trek looking for my daughter’s shoes (each in a different aisle), among many more moments of mama horror and frustration. I have cried so many tears and have asked my own mother time and again why nobody warned me that motherhood was so difficult. Her response…because you wouldn’t have gone through with it and you would have missed out on the most amazing and rewarding experience of your life. Amen, mom! Amen! Thanks for sharing your heart here and thank you Nancy for having Katie as a guest. 🙂

    1. Rosann, your words mean so much to me. We are all in that same club and I wish we would just collectively toss our memberships out the window and be real. We all have those moments and we MUST NOT let them define us. Thank you for your encouragement!

  3. I wrote something similar today, but never living up to perfection, but using our mistakes or “oopses” to connect with our children. You couldn’t had displayed a better picture, Katie!

    1. Thank you, Christin! Isn’t it funny when we write things on the same topic on the same day for no reason other than it is a topic that weighs heavy on all of us? And God wants our transparency so others can not feel so alone? I’m so thankful that God allowed me that moment of redemption right then and there in the parking lot–I think He realized this mama needed a hug.

  4. I know that feeling all to well. Isn’t it funny how random events like this can cloud our perception of ourselves. Fortunately, God’s always around to remind us of who we really are.

    1. Thank you so much, Alyssaz! Haven’t we all been that crazy, panicked mama at some point or another? 🙂 I’m so, so thankful that God chose to teach me about my identity right there in the parking lot. A beautiful redemption moment!

  5. Hi!

    Nancy and Katie,

    I’m stopping over from Fellowship on Fridays. I’m glad I found this. I can relate so much. It brought tears to my eyes and I had to stop and hug my sweet 7 month old. Beautiful post!

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