Read an Excerpt
Doing Things Right
Linda tucked in her shirt and clipped on her earrings before surveying her reflection in the mirror. "Good enough," she said before rushing downstairs to finish getting ready for work. Halfway down the stairs she could hear the energetic buzz of her family preparing themselves for their own busy day.
"Good morning, boys!" Linda bent over the kitchen table to plant a kiss on the cheek of each of her three sons. Her oldest son, Sean, who was eleven, greeted his mother with a quick "good morning," only briefly looking up from his hand-held video game. Her younger boys-Conner, nine, and Ryan, seven-jumped up from the table to return their mother's kiss. "Good morning!" they chimed.
Grabbing a piece of toast and a small glass of orange juice, Linda began the same routine of questions she asked every morning before the boys left for school. "Did you wash your face?" "Do you have your homework?" "Did you pack your lunch money?"
Rarely did she have to send any of them back upstairs to retrieve a forgotten item. Linda was proud of how responsible her boys were. Since her husband, Mike, took an early commute to work and Linda had to get herself ready for work each morning, the boys had learned to be self-sufficient in preparing for their school day.
In spite of the hurried schedules, however, Linda felt it was important for her to be there to see the boys off to the school bus. In fact, she'd recently made it her tradition to pray with her children before they walked out the door. Each boy took a turn praying-for success on a big test or that they would do well in a soccer game or about whatever challenges they might be facing that day. Linda always concluded the prayer time with two requests: She prayed that God would keep her children safe and that they would always act as Jesus would. This routine was special to them all.
Today's prayer seemed fairly typical until her oldest son, Sean, prayed. Linda noticed that he seemed to have a heavy heart. His eyes were closed tightly and his shoulders hunched. "Help me to do the right thing," he whispered. His words were simple, but it was obvious that much remained unsaid.
Linda ended the prayer as usual and kissed her children good-bye, all the while wishing she had time to ask Sean what was troubling him. She was perplexed with her son's petition. Was he having problems in school? With his friends? Was he in trouble? Come to think of it, he had been avoiding her lately. She was angry at herself for not having picked up on the subtle changes in his behavior earlier.
Since returning to work, Linda had found that it wasn't easy to strike a proper balance between all areas of her life. With too much to do, her attention usually went to whatever clamored the loudest. Now she was beginning to see that sometimes the most important needs just might be the quietest.
Reflecting on the morning's prayer, Linda imagined all the terrible problems her son might be facing. She blamed herself for being too preoccupied to notice. It didn't take long for seeds of doubt about her competence as a mother to take root. Her focus turned to all the things her children missed while she was at work. She wasn't there to greet them when they came home from school. Rarely did they find a meal on the table that wasn't takeout or from the freezer. And though she did her best, it was challenging to give each of them personal time at home.
Did her boys feel neglected or that her other responsibilities were more important to her? Was she being a good example of a godly wife and mother? Although Linda knew her heart was in the right place, she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that she just wasn't good enough. What could she do to be a better, more effective individual, wife, and mother? Quitting her job wasn't an option because of the family's financial situation.
No matter how she turned over the situation in her mind, she couldn't find a workable solution to achieve that perfect balance. Feeling helpless, Linda did the one thing she knew she could do. She whispered her own prayer for God to help Sean make the choice that would honor Him. Still, she couldn't escape the echo in her mind of Sean's whispered plea: "Help me to do the right thing."
The workday finally over, Linda arrived home feeling weary and defeated. She was glad to see that Mike had already started heating frozen lasagna for supper. She found him reading the paper in the living room and sank into the sofa beside him. "Hey, Sweetie, how was your day?" Linda asked as she rested her head on his arm.
Mike put the paper down and kissed his wife's forehead. "Fine, how was yours? You look exhausted."
Linda looked up and smiled weakly. "I am tired. It's been a long day."
Mike put his arms around her and squeezed tightly. "Well, when you feel like getting up, Sean is upstairs, and there's something he's been wanting to tell you."
Instantly the lethargic feeling that had come over Linda vanished. Her heart rate quickened in anxious anticipation of what she was about to hear. "I think I'll go on up," she said, already pulling herself out of her cozy position.
Sean's door was closed, so she knocked before entering. "Hi, Sean. Dad said you wanted to see me." She sat on the bed next to her son.
"Yeah, I wanted to tell you before you heard from my teacher," he said hesitantly.
The worst-possible scenarios raced through Linda's mind as she strained to conceal her worry and control her reaction. "OK," she said. "What's up?"
Sean took a deep breath and let it out quickly, gathering his courage, then blurted out his confession.
"Yesterday I let my friend Rusty copy my math test because he said his parents would be really mad if he got a bad grade." He paused, already feeling relieved to get things out in the open. Linda sat silently as Sean continued.
"I just couldn't believe that his parents would be so mad about a test. I felt guilty for letting him cheat, but I didn't know what else to do.
"Then I remembered how every morning you pray for us to do what Jesus would do-and yesterday, I didn't do it. So today I told the teacher what happened, even though I knew I'd get in trouble and Rusty would be mad at me. I was scared, but I just kept thinking, I've gotta do the right thing. Ms. Matthews gave us both a zero on the test, but she told me she was proud that I told the truth."
Sean looked up at his mother with a renewed gleam in his eyes. "I'm proud, too. I think that's what Jesus would have wanted me to do."
As Linda swallowed the lump in her throat, she hugged her son tightly. "Sean, I am more than proud right now. You've given me a special gift today." He couldn't have known how his triumph translated into her own, but it did.
Linda left the room feeling lighter than air. Suddenly the self-accusations about her ineffectiveness as a mother lost their effectiveness. Those negative thoughts were replaced with feelings of pride in her son and satisfaction with herself. She was having a positive effect on her children-she must be doing something right!
As she walked back downstairs, Linda whispered her own prayer-one of thanks that God not only was clearly guiding Sean's life but that He had taken special care to give her just the reassurance she needed as a woman on the go.