Originally published Sunday, 28 May 2017.
This time last year, my high school junior stood on the edge of a year of lasts.
Every time I watched friends post pictures of their seniors’ award, their last prom or their graduation, I whispered thanks that we weren’t there yet.
We had one more year.
It was as if all of his 17 years -- his infancy and preschool and boyhood – were compressing like an accordion into the one final year at home that stood before us.
How could I make each day count?
Pulling out two mason quart jars from the pantry, I counted out 365 pennies and poured them into the first jar.
My goal was simple: every day I’d pull a penny from the first jar and drop it into the second.
And every day I’d remember to make this day count -- to be intentional with my parenting, conversations and the lessons that still needed teaching.
It wasn’t just my son facing a year of lasts. His whole friend group would turn the page on their childhood.
So I pulled more mason jars from the pantry, filled them with 365 pennies and gave them to my mom friends with rising seniors along with these words:
“This year our kids will go through their last first day of school, the last football game, the last soccer game, the last banquet and prom and senior night and high school Sunday school class.
We’ve got a hundred hoops to jump through this year – volunteer hours, testing, college apps, college visits, senior pictures, scholarships, senior trips…time is going to accelerate come fall.
So, I’m giving you 2 jars. The first is filled with 365 pennies, one penny for each day we have left with our kids until they walk the stage. Every morning, take a penny out of the jar. What will that day hold? What will we focus on? What will we prioritize? What really matters on that one day?
But we don’t just keep taking pennies out. We’re adding pennies to the other jar.
Every day, we get to pour into our kids. 365 days’ worth. To purposely move past the busyness of sports and homework and jobs and parent their hearts. Every day, when I take that penny out, I want it to remind me to use that day as God would have me use it.
And as I pray for mine, I’ll be praying for yours. I’m so honored to parent alongside you. Love you, friend! Here we go!”
Well, here we are, four days from graduation and I’d like to tell you I’ve dropped 361 pennies into the second jar, marking each day with high purpose and intention.
But sometime this year, the jars got pushed aside, then taken off the counter, and then forgotten altogether. (So sorry mom friends!)
Maybe I pushed them aside the week my son’s car breathed its last and our septic backed up and the air conditioner condenser went out.
Maybe it was a groggy Saturday morning after a late-night football game, trying to get the house picked up and make dinner for college kids home for the weekend.
Or maybe it happened one day when I was up to my eyeballs in homeschooling and deadlines.
Make each day count.
I can only say I’ve been intentional about one thing – well, two. First, one goal. ONE. Everything else – sports, school, priorities, the rhythm and rules of our family – has conformed to this one goal.
From the outset, I’ve asked God for one thing – not wealth or a huge house or any of the other things we can strive for. Over and over, I’ve asked him to help me teach my kids to love the Lord with all their heart and all their mind and all their strength.
Even with that one goal, life sometimes got off balance. I’d find I was parenting toward another goal and have to make course corrections.
The second parenting intention began as a happy accident. I had five young kids who needed history and so we started from the beginning. Which meant we pulled out the Bible, opened to Genesis 1, and gathered on my bed each morning to slowly make our way through Genesis, then Exodus and so on as we read and learned together.
I was hooked. I knew THIS was how we could know the Lord, and as we knew Him, could learn to love Him. From then on out, I’d have to fight the telephone and my to-do list and that math curriculum staring us down to carve out time with my kids in the Word every morning.
Eighteen years later, it’s been the singular most formative practice for my kids, for my family, for me.
Make each day count.
We don't need pennies to remind us of the gravity of this parenting job. And our own limitations. I’ve parented way past my patience and known solutions, begging God for wisdom and direction. I’ve had to apologize for carelessly-flung words, for the times it’s been clear this mom isn’t so much a saint as a sinner who needs a Savior.
In four days, I’m ready to launch my graduate, not because I’ve executed this parenting thing perfectly at all but because in my own desperation the only thing I knew to do was the best thing I could do – point them to Jesus.
Make each day count.
Son, I could not in my wildest plans make each day count. Only God does that. Hold onto Him with everything in you. Fight every distraction to seek Him by yourself every day. And make Him your only goal.
* * *
*This post appeared first at LisaAppelo.com. If you'd like encouragement delivered right to your inbox,subscribe here and I'll send you my free Personal Spiritual Retreat Notebook & Journal.