DEAR MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS,
We’re a little blurry-eyed this morning. We just returned last night from the Mahaney Girls’ Shopping Trip—our annual twenty-four-hour excursion into the wilds of northern Virginia retail country.
Wish you coulda been there. But you’d be stained with fruit punch and hot chocolate by now. As usual, we had a couple of spills. All part of the fun. We stayed at a hotel, bought a pile of Christmas gifts, walked at least fifty miles, and laughed a lot. When we finally left the mall after dark, we drove around aimlessly for half an hour before going home. We didn’t want it to end.
Best we can figure, this was our fifteenth year. On the inaugural trip, Nicole (the oldest) was an awkward twelve and Kristin a year younger. Carolyn (Mom) didn’t have any gray hairs yet. Janelle (the youngest) came a few years later when Mom determined she was old enough—and then only for the food. Not much has changed!
Actually a lot has changed. All three girls have gotten married, and four grandsons have been added to the family (three of them are Kristin’s; so we pray for her a lot!). But in spite of weddings and moves to other states (and back again) and emergency surgeries and busy ministry schedules (all the girls married aspiring pastors), the Shopping Trip has survived.
Each year we’ve shared countless fits of hysterical laughter (you had to be there) punctuated by serious and memorable discussions about God, life, our hearts. Of course there has been conflict and more than a few spills (this year we set a new record!).
Although every Shopping Trip has its own unique memories (like the time Kristin left her wallet full of cash at the Gap), there are certain things you can count on. Like Nicole’s and Kristin’s perennial argument about how to organize the family gift-giving. “Should we give presents to each other or only to the grandsons?” “Should everyone give to everyone, or should we pick names?” “How much should we spend so it’s fair?” Kristin always has a plan, and Nicole always disagrees. Janelle’s happy either way, as long as we talk about it over lunch.
Nicole, the complicated one, usually arrives with a Christmas list to rival Saint Nicholas. She wants to buy “small” gifts for all the cousins (twenty-seven total), all the people she’s ever worked with and their kids, and anyone she’s ever said “hi” to at church. Because of budgetary limitations she solicits ideas for homemade projects that fit within her also-very-limited creative abilities. We try to help. So there was the hot-chocolate-mix year and the homemade-cookies year and finally the just-buyeveryone-a-cheap-CD year. Paring down her list takes some time. Meanwhile Janelle is getting hungry. She’s ready to take a break, and we haven’t even started shopping yet.
Taking a break is the furthest thing from Kristin’s mind. She’s armed with coupons, sales advertisements, and a Christmas list complete with dollar amounts (she’s put money aside every month for the last year). She takes this shopping thing a little too seriously. We almost feel bad for the clerks. They don’t stand a chance against her thorough research and polite assertiveness. It usually goes something like this:
Kristin (to clerk): “Good morning, ma’am. I have a question. [Here it comes!] According to this coupon, these T-shirts should be three for fifteen dollars, but they are marked seven dollars each.”
Clerk (confidently): “Ah, yes, well, that sale ended last week.”
Kristin (very sweetly): “Oh, I see. But may I point out that this coupon doesn’t carry an expiration date? Therefore, I expect it should be valid indefinitely. Is that not so? I know you value customer service here; so I was wondering if you might be so kind as to honor this offer?”
Clerk (not so confidently): “Well, ah, like I said, that sale ended last week.”
Kristin (not as sweetly): “Okay, I understand, but may I please speak to your manager?”
Five minutes later Kristin walks out (a tad triumphantly) with all three T-shirts for fifteen dollars. Meanwhile Janelle is chafing over the delay. All she can think about is that we could have been back in the room an hour ago, eating Reese’s Pieces and laughing at Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show reruns. It’s not that Janelle doesn’t like shopping. She just imports her dual life themes of “food and fun” into the shopping experience and then finishes as quickly as possible so she can return to pure “food and fun.” Recipients of her gifts can count on hers being the most unique under their tree. This year the classic child’s game Operation (remember, bzzzzz?) was the gift of choice—and not just for the kids. Even her pastor was blessed with this slightly annoying game.
Three girls. Three very different girls. And one mom, trying to manage all these competing agendas and maybe even making a memory in the process. Of course, she has a longer list of gifts to buy than all three of us girls put together. But we’re kind of high maintenance (can you tell?). By the time she’s helped us, she’s happy to come home with even one gift or two. That’s fine because “making a memory” is her highest priority. It’s why she uses the Christmas gift money from Grandma for a hotel room and special meals out. It’s why she tries to stimulate meaningful conversation at meals and on shopping breaks.
This can be tricky, as she has had to referee minor rivalries and the tears that we would turn on at a moment’s notice (c’mon, we’re girls!). But the conflicts and tears usually ended in sidesplitting laughter or unforgettable discussions. Although we haven’t always made the memories Mom intended, we wouldn’t trade those conversations for anything.
In a way the Shopping Trip is like a twenty-four-hour slice of us: mother and daughters. It tells a lot about who we are, how we communicate, and even what we’re living for.
What does twenty-four hours in your relationship look like? Mostly tension or mostly fun? More tears or more laughter? More talk of God or more empty words? Are you close friends, or are you worlds apart? Maybe there is nothing but silence.
For every mother and daughter, there is a different and unique relationship. We each have our own distinct strengths and weaknesses, styles, interests, thoughts, and our often-amusing similarities. Being a mom and three daughters, we know this all too well.
If you’re a mom with even one girl, you’ve probably pulled more than a few hairs out trying to understand this “raising daughters” thing. You lie awake at night with mothering questions driving your sleep away: How do I guide this girl into womanhood? How do I protect her from ungodly influences? How can I keep her from rebelling? How can I help her be passionate for the Lord? How can I remain her friend? How can I get her to really talk? You may even sometimes wonder why God gave you this particular daughter and what role you are supposed to play in her life. In the end there seem to be more questions than answers, more problems than solutions.
Daughter, you may be skimming this book because your mom is making you read it (caught ya!). Maybe you don’t think it’s that important to have a relationship with her. Your friends are a lot more fun and easier to talk to. Or maybe you and your mom argue a lot. You wish she understood you better. But you may have a good relationship with your mom—and you want it to be better, like she does. Congratulations. You’re mature beyond your years.
But no matter the difficulties in your mother-daughter relationship, the problem isn’t the other person. The obstacle isn’t a mom who is hard to get along with or a daughter who won’t listen. And you can’t get to the root of your problems by digging up back issues of parent or teen magazines or tuning into the afternoon talk shows. A primary source of our trouble is that we have forgotten God’s purpose for the mother-daughter relationship.
This is why as mothers we often have no clear parenting goals. It’s why as daughters we sometimes lack appreciation for our mom’s involvement in our lives. It’s why our relationship sometimes feels like a minefield of touchy subjects, and we run at the first hint of conflict. It’s why we lack reasons to talk and something to talk about.
The diagnosis of our problem is found in God’s Word, the Bible. After all, He’s the one who created the mother-daughter relationship. God’s Word speaks to all of us—mothers and daughters. It unravels the tangled issues in our relationships, spans any distance between us, and points the way to rich and meaningful interaction. But more than just helping us get along, the Bible unfolds an exciting and important plan for mothers and daughters: to pass on the legacy of biblical womanhood that commends the gospel.
It’s within this momentous mission that our questions come to rest, our strife comes to resolution, our loneliness and alienation become companionship and laughter, and our ineffectiveness is revived into usefulness for the gospel.
As we seek to follow God’s plan, the pleasant fragrance of Christ will permeate our mother-daughter relationships, extending to the atmosphere of our homes, our churches, and our communities. The aroma will linger long after we are gone. And the enduring effect—in our lifetime and for future generations—will be incalculable (2 Cor. 2:15).
This is our reason to talk. This is what we talk about.
The four of us know this is true because we’ve experienced it. And we’ve observed its effect in the lives of many mothers and daughters. We’re not mother-daughter experts. And we don’t think we’re anything special—we’ve had our times of trouble. In fact, we’re extraordinarily ordinary. But through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have a relationship with God, the Father. Through Him and because of Him we have wonderful, enjoyable relationships with each other.
So please join us for an exciting mother-daughter conversation. We’ll share a lot from our own lives (although you might get to know us better than you wanted to!), but most important, we’ll look at the Bible and discover the unique purpose that God has for us as mothers and daughters. Carolyn and Nicole have done the writing, but this book is from Kristin’s and Janelle’s hearts too.
At various points throughout the book we’ll shine the spotlight on a mother’s responsibility, and at other times we’ll focus on a daughter’s response. But all the chapters are for both mothers and daughters. You may want to sit down and read them together, or you may prefer to take turns reading on your own. If someone is in the habit of marking up her books, you might each want to get your own copy!
No matter how you choose to read this book, “listening in” when the other is addressed will help strengthen your motherdaughter communication. Once you’ve read a chapter or two, get together and talk about what you’ve learned. We’ve provided discussion questions based on the chapters for you, Mom, to use with your daughter (Appendix A).
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, we have to be honest: It won’t always be easy. You will probably hit a few bumps in the road. It may be awkward or uncomfortable at times. You may even sin against each other. But don’t give up. There is an allimportant reason to hang in there and keep talking: A strong, enjoyable, and fruitful relationship awaits you. It will be worth it!
There are 364 days until our next Shopping Trip, but we are hanging out again this morning. We’ve got a lot more to talk about. In between the chatter and the chores, we are fulfilling God’s plan for our relationship. And you can too. So are you ready for some girl talk? Let’s get started.