Are you familiar with those sharp guilt pains that sometimes pierce your heart as a mother? Yeah, I thought so. I truly believe those started at the Fall and at the moment of conception we as moms come under their influence!

As I move my way through motherhood, I am trying to discover the difference between conviction from the Holy Spirit and guilt that originated in the Fall. Wow – that’s not easy (for me anyway!).

On December 5, the day of the 10/40 Connections annual fundraising banquet, I experienced those sharp guilt pains.

That morning, I dashed into the mall with my 4 and 6 year old. Somehow I had to find a shirt to wear to our 10/40 Connections banquet in 15 minutes and grab my kids’ lunch to take to the venue. Before sprinting into the mall, I gave my typical spill before any crazy 10/40 event, “Kids, today this is a big day for people in the world. Daddy and I need your help today. Can we count on you today to join us and God in His work?”

Laughingly we ran into the mall – their laughter sounded of care-free trust; mine sounded like “they are awesome – but how I am going to make it through today?”

I quickly found a shirt, then raced to the Chik-Fil-A. I looked down and started laughing, realizing I was literally dragging my 4 year old through the mall so that I could get back to the banquet preparations before all the volunteers arrived. I challenged him to run beside me as I walked.

But then, those swords pierced me deep – is it right to be in such a hurry? Am I pushing them too hard? Too early? (You know all those crazy questions that bombard your mind in rapid succession?)

But due to responsibilities, I pushed the thoughts aside. Arriving at the church, my kids entertained themselves, helped one another, and played together. Five hours later, I rushed us home to get ready in 20 minutes. This time upon exiting the car, I looked into their faces and said, “Kids, you are doing great. 6 more hours. Can you hang in there?” Doing a small cheer together, we smiled. But looking into their small, trusting faces, I again felt a sharp pain of guilt.

Somehow thanks to relatives, volunteers, and dear friends of ours, my kids somehow ate. They sat during the two hours quietly listening. During the tear-down and clean-up after the event, our kids continued to entertain themselves. I saw them twirling around in circles in the banquet hall. I heard them call out periodically, “Mommy, look at this! Look how fast I am! Watch me twirl in circles!”

At 10:30 – my kids had been doing “banquet stuff” for almost 14 hours. I heard the first whine of almost the entire day. “Mommy, I am thirsty.” I said, “Let’s go home and have an orange juice party!”

Over juice, we told our kids how proud we were of them and how they served both Jesus and us through the day. I touched the tops of both their heads and said a quick prayer of thanks to Jesus for them. Looking at them as I prayed, I will never forget the looks on their faces. Smiling at one another, they looked deeply delighted in their circumstances.

Exhausted, I reflected on the day and the intermittent guilt pangs I had experienced. Were they of the Holy Spirit or from my culture that insists kids are placed at the center?

I thought of their faces as we prayed over them. I saw the glow of contentment on their faces. No trip to Disney World could have created those faces. Those faces showed dignity for having done well for both us and Jesus. At that moment, all the day’s previous guilt stings melted away.

None of us lives immune to the trappings of our day; therefore, I find desperate need for the Holy Spirit to guide my parenting! As I listened to God, culture’s trappings slid off my shoulders. This day was NOT about my kids. They gave to us and to God and the world that day. They are healthier, not deprived, for it!

We all went to bed exhausted – and yet richer for having spent that day together for God’s purposes. Beethoven said, “Recommend to your children virtue; that alone can make them happy – not gold.”

But I recognize something deeper. We can’t just recommend virtue to our kids as we are on the go in life. We have to give them opportunities to practice virtue – in real, sacrificial, and challenging ways. The 10/40 Connections banquet gave my kids that opportunity. I am grateful.

So how do you think parents can discern between true conviction from the Holy Spirit and guilt that comes from the Enemy? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.