When in Barnes & Noble, Play with the Trains!

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Over time, as the Lord has begun to open my eyes regarding my need for being more intentional as a mom, I’ve come to the realization that there are additional relationship building opportunities beyond playtime at home that would benefit from me being more engaged and present in the moment…

And, you know, it really didn’t take too long for an opportunity to present itself where I could actually begin taking practical steps in that direction.

In fact, the opportunity came one day as I was at the local mall with my son.

On this particular day I decided to take my little guy to the oh-so beautiful bookstore by the name of Barnes & Noble. You know it well yourself… It’s the one with a Starbucks coffee shop tucked neatly in the corner with small tables that invite you to just sit and cozy up quietly for an hour or two with a good book…

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In days past, that could have been something a “pre-mommy” woman like you or I could perhaps leisurely consider as a relaxed destination option, but these days, that’s not our draw. No, it’s what’s directly in front of us when we enter the store that brings us the “greatest” joy!

…The two escalators leading up to the “pot of gold” at the top of the “rainbow”!!!

And you, my friends, know the very place I’m talking about… Because it’s every stroller-pushing parent’s go-to spot!!!

The CHILDREN”S BOOKS SECTION!!!

Hooray!!!! (Yes, we are all looking for things to do with our little ones these day, and Barnes & Nobles just seems to get that. Oh how we love you B&N!)

Once we reach the top of the rainbow- by taking the elevator, of course-  we excitedly remind our little ones that we are about to arrive at our primary destination in that area…the train table!!!!

Okay, Class, now let’s all say it together, “Hooray for the trains!”

Our little ones are excited and so are we. We love them oh-so much and just want them to have the most fabulous time and loads of fun every single day… Truly that’s just something God placed in our hearts as parents.

So, we stroll our little ones over to the train table and lovingly lift little “Johnny” or “Suzie” out of the stroller and repeat, “Yay! Look where we are! The Trains!!! Hooray for the trains!!!”

And then what do we do next……..?

WE…SIT…ON….THE….CHAIRS……….

…And we get on our iPhones while they play.

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No… Of course the story’s not over… because on this particular day, I was really excited about being more intentional as a mom and giving my son the gift of my focus and attention.

I hadn”t started writing the blog post on “Confessions of a Self-Diagnosed ADD Mom” just yet, but God was already working on my heart regarding my need for being more engaged during playtime with my son.

So, my friends…. On this day….

“Yes, yes?” I can hear you say. (Oh, I just know all of you are holding your breath.)

On this day…..!!!!

I decided to PLAY WITH THE TRAINS! (Cue the applause soundtrack, as I curtsy and take a dramatic bow.)

Yes, Dear Friends. I decided to play with my son at the train table. No, I may not be the best at playing trains, but truthfully that doesn’t really even matter….because it’s my time and focused attention that are what truly counts during moments like these.

And you know what…. In addition to enjoying the time with my son at the train table and seeing him happy that I was involved in train play, something also took place that helped reinforce the value of making that decision. I was actually able to catch a glimpse of what that time “could have been like” if my mindset had not been changed earlier that day by the awareness of my need to be more intentional in my focus during playtime with my son.

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A few minutes into our play, another parent also came to the train table with his little girl. (She was probably around three or four. And “Hooray for the trains!!!” was, I’m sure, his thought as well.)

But viewing this scenario, from my place at the train table with my son, was almost like watching my own version of Charles Dickin’s classic “A Christmas Carol”….as I watched a past version of myself in his response to the amazing train table.

He brought his child to the train table…

He sat on a chair…

And then he went on his iPhone…

I think at one point, he even asked his little girl to look at him, perhaps for a picture… (And sadly, I could identify…) As parents we sometimes think, “Let’s take a picture of our cute little one in this moment, while he/she is doing something fun…” All the while, we as parents are not active participants in that fun.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all of our photos as parents are of moments in which we are not actively present. But in this moment, I could identify with that father from times past at the same train table.

Yes, take pictures of your children having fun. Yes, celebrate along with them that there is a train table at the “top of the rainbow” in Barnes & Noble…

But, for goodness sake… Play with the trains!

And leave the chairs empty…

And let your iPhones starve for your your attention….

Because in this moment, only one can be fed… And it’s either your phone or your child.

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Am I Beautiful?

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Ok, tell me I’m wrong… But do you ever feel as a woman like there’s just something more you need to be or have different in your life before you can officially say you “feel” beautiful?

Oh…. Maybe it’s your hair, your skin’s condition, your weight, your teeth, your nose…

…Achievements you want to attain…

…Your personality that you’d love to change…

Perhaps you want to be more outgoing or, on the other hand, more refined…

Regardless of what it is, though…

There’s just that one other thing you need in your life that will finally give you permission to check off that last little box on your mental “I-finally-feel-beautiful” checklist.

Oh, trust me, I have my little boxes as well.

And while I am working on those areas, and honestly believe we all should work on being the best version of ourselves we can be…

Somehow I’m absolutely convinced that checking that last little box off isn’t going to be what ultimately convinces me.

You want to know how I know…?

…Because I’ve checked off that box once before… and for some odd reason… I still didn’t feel as though it was good enough to be checked.

Furthermore…even though I checked off that last little box, another box appeared for something else making me still feel inferior.

Yes, we all should have goals in life.

We all should do the things possible to make ourselves feel outwardly beautiful. There are definitely things we can all do to improve ourselves, and we should do our best to work on them. Goals are definitely important to our overall feelings of well-being.

But one thing that saddens me is that many women simply cannot give themselves permission to feel beautiful until they’ve reached the end of their goal….

And yet at the same time, I think somewhere deep inside we all long to feel beautiful and have someone to tell us we are… before we can be “fully” convinced for ourselves.

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In some sense I think that’s one reason why “selfies” have become such a popular phenomenon these days. (…And, no, I don’t claim to be an expert in “selfie” psychology.)

But somehow as I see multiple selfies within a short period of time, something inside of me says, “Women want to know they’re beautiful. They want confirmation that what they see in the mirror really is true and visible to others.”

They simply want affirmation.

How do I know this?

Um…Because just a few years ago that  was me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take selfies every now and then (many of which never get seen), but I definitely have stopped posting them as frequently.

Why?

Well, for a few reasons…

For one, God helped me understand the deeper reason “why” I was needing to share my selfies so much.

He began to heal my heart of my need to “request” that affirmation from others.

And more importantly, He also began to show me that my purpose in life is not to highlight myself but Him.

Have I arrived at a place where I can officially say I don’t ever desire that affirmation from outside sources?

Well….. Unfortunately, I have not. I’m still a work in progress. But, trust me, God’s working on me….

Of course there are definitely still days when I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful because (even though I may think so at times myself) I think it’s still in us to just want that extra affirmation from the outside. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and get confirmation about it, right?

But you know what…?

Even that affirmation is never enough. We all still end up needing more………..the next day, the next week, and on and on it goes.

Why is it that the compliments just don’t stick or keep us in a place where we remain fully convinced that we are?

Maybe, it’s because our definition of beauty is flawed…

If you want to know the real scoop about beauty…..

Outward beauty is temporary… Look at the godly great grandmother in her 80’s who’s lived a full life but now looks nothing like her younger self. But here she is… smiling in her hospital bed surrounded by three generations of family members. They treasure her dearly for the joy she’s been in life and will always be grateful for the godly legacy she’s leaving behind.

Beauty isn’t the mark of our value… Look at the military servicemen and women whose faces are almost unrecognizable after surviving a hit by explosives. They risk their own lives to preserve our freedom and safety….and return to short-lived recognition followed by lifelong injuries and scars.

Beauty is “vain”… A focus on beauty so often makes life all about “us”. And thank God our eyes are situated inside of our sculls rather than outside our heads because, in this day and age- if it were the other way around- I’m sure many of us would stare at ourselves all day to see how good we looked.

But most importantly… Something beauty was never meant to be… is the main focus of our lives or the measure of our success in life.

It was never meant to define us, to show us who we are as women, or to show us how much we are worth.

It was never meant to be the deciding factor as to whether we were worth being loved or not.

It was never meant for any of that.

And ultimately… Beauty fades…

But you know what… Beauty can be a really AWESOME word when redefined.

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And if it’s true that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, God’s eyes have a really awesome perspective of what true beauty really is…. And it’s not limited by our weight, the straightness of our teeth or whether we’re having a good or bad hair day… Not any of that.

According to God, true beauty springs out of who we are on the inside… This is what truly gives us permission to feel beautiful…

And, you know… Another cool thing…. Is that the beauty of those inner qualities never fades like outward “beauty” so often does.

Our Heavenly Father’s definition of beauty is not limited by the numbers on the scale, how we look in the mirror, or how others have treated us.

…Because true beauty is not determined by those surface standards but by a different and more purposeful set of qualities.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”                                         Proverbs 31:30-31 NASB

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NLT

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

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