Danielle Macaulay TITLE-min

Lessons I Learned from 936 Pennies

I made a big mistake this year. I said “yes” to too many things. And, I am feeling the weight of it.

Now, everything I said yes to was something good – Kindergarten cafeteria helper, the school talent show, the baseball league my son was dying to play in, a new small group community, a ladies book club (not nearly a comprehensive list).  All things I felt were important and that added value to our life in some way. The thing is, the sum total of them “adding” to our lives actually took value away from the atmosphere of our home. Looking back, I know I bit off more than my family could chew. And now, I am stressed – and when momma ain’t happy – nobody’s happy!

I’ve witnessed with my own eyes people who are over stressed, over committed, over scheduled…and it ‘aint pretty. And now I’m the ugly one. It can get real ugly the mornings when there’s not enough time to get out of the house. My boys need time. I also hate when our evenings are rushed. The nights that I have to hurry them to get their homework done and get some food shoved down their throat because we’ve got somewhere to be – that is not quality time to me. The time they see of me is just hurried and impatient and naggy, and then we’re all cranky.

Of course God knows exactly what we need when we need it most. As our schedule is coming to a head this spring, God woke me early (just when I thought I needed an extra hour of sleep) and so I proceeded to go downstairs, wrap up in a blanket on the couch and grab a book that a friend had given me – one that I’ve been too busy to read.

The title of the book is “936 Pennies”. The author, Eryn Lynum was handed a jar of that many pennies – each penny representing a week of their child’s life until they reach adulthood. Did you know you have 936 weeks to raise your child? Seems like a lot, right? Well, they’re fleeting my friends, and I am just beginning to figure this out.

If I had been given a jar filled with pennies for my oldest boy’s life, and taken one penny out for each week he’s already been here…to my disbelief, the jar would be exactly half empty. That’s right – 468 pennies vanished before my eyes. And my younger one is not far behind.

So, how do I want those remaining pennies spent? How do I want those precious weeks filled? Do I spend them running the rat race, pushing them and carting them here and there, or do I make the most of the time we have with them before it’s over?

My first reaction is one of fear. How do I tell others “no”? Will I come across lazy or uncaring? Will we look like the misfit family, out of touch with society?

But quickly, my fear is pushed aside by a big fat wave of relief. I don’t have to buy in to this world’s standards of busyness. I simply don’t. And, I don’t want to – because the proof is in the pudding, and all I see around me are stressed out moms and dads and kids piling into souped up SUVs. And, I don’t want that. I don’t need that.

I am happier with less. Less gives me a lot. It gives my children a great deal too. There is something to be said for boredom. This book that swept me up into it’s truth said it quite eloquently:

“Boredom is where they are forced to create, and where they begin to draw conclusions about life. It is where they are afforded room to grow without a forced path or prescription for that growth.”

It went on to quote another wise woman..

If one never has to sit still and engage one’s mind as a child, if one is constantly being entertained, when does personal creativity develop? When does patience kick in? When does one ever develop the ability to wait?” – Serena B Miller, More than Happy

You see, as much as it’s great to offer our kids a world of opportunities, there is also something to be said for blank space. But, if we don’t intentionally create that space, they will miss out on valuable moments by themselves, and with you.

“It’s incredible, the glimpse we can glean into our child’s heart when we are willing to allow our own plan and agenda to derail. When we are set so rigid in our schedule, routine, and plan that there is no place for deviation, we often miss some of life’s best opportunities for connecting with our children. When was the last time you allowed a day to unravel at it’s own whims? When did you last leave an entire day open and ready for your children to fill it with their own ideas and interests?”

My parenting philosophy had always agreed with this, but it wasn’t until this over scheduled season of life that I’ve realized the real value of leaving space and creating peaceful moments in our days. I now get what Eryn, the author of 936 Pennies means when she says, “Margin and flexibility may be the key to bringing more peace to our days.” But, she informed me that peace doesn’t just come – it must be created intentionally. She says, “Peace is not arrived at on a whim or wish…We must work at it.” The great news is that when we choose to promote a peaceful atmosphere in our homes, we will be rewarded something else

Those who promote peace have joy” -Proverbs 12:20


I want our family to be a peace and joy filled family – not a hurried one.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking – of course we can’t toss all of our to-do list out the window, but we can certainly get rid of some of it, and be intentional while we cross things off the list. Of course it’s wonderful and necessary to help our neighbors, excel in education, serve our church, be involved in our communities and see our children’s talents flourish, but never at the expense of the peace and health of our home. By all means, go and do all that stuff – sometimes life requires hustle – but maybe don’t attempt it all at once. We can string together moments of busyness with a quiet time, a cuddle, a walk together, a quiet cup of coffee and a book. Maybe we can cross some things off the list together. We can certainly shut off our phones more and put down the screens from our laps. And, we can learn to say “no” and not be guilty about it. Because, when we say no to others, it offers a yes to the ones we love the most.

Yes, a home of peace and joy come at a cost. Sometimes a financial one. Sometimes it means your kid won’t be the best athlete. Sometimes it means they won’t see their friend as much as they’d like. But, we must ask ourselves, “what is most important”? Every home is different and can handle varying levels of busyness. It is important to keep our feelers up though, and recognize when something’s gotta give. It is ok to give up good things to give ourselves to the ones who need us most…while they still need us. 

I get that some days will be more frantic than others, but I will do my darnedest to make sure they are the exception to the rule.

So, what do I do about this busy season I’m in? It won’t help to grumble and make things worse (or so my husband tells me). I follow through on my commitments, and then I learn from this. I refuse to let this be Pandora’s box of busyness.  We can slow down. We are in the driver’s seat. No one says we have to keep up this pace. I am determined to get back our days – to redirect them from just keeping our heads above the waters of busyness and distraction, to that of peace and purposefulness.

I agree when Eryn says, “I want more than pressured days and stress-filled schedules. I want more than demanding agendas and exhausting evenings….I want (my kids) to discover true fulfillment in Him – not in our work.” – That can only come with created space.

So, what have I learned via this book, and this busy season? I learned it’s imperative to be intentional. I was reminded that less is a whole lot more. I saw that it’s ok if my kid doesn’t get everything he wants. He’ll be ok. He may actually thank me one day that I chose time really with him over dragging him to another baseball game.

What we think will make our kids happy, doesn’t always make them happy. And, we must remember that joy and peace trumps happiness any day of the week – all 936 of them.

Lessons I Learned From My Mom Fails

“Failure is success in progress” – Albert Einstein Mom guilt is a legit thing – even when you’re doing everything right. I can literally feel guilty for both letting my children play outside in the cold (because, I’d be the worst mother ever for making them shiver) and making them stay

Read More »

Lessons I Learned on Rejection

Rejection. It’s right up there with betrayal. There aren’t too many other more painful vibes that you can feel from people, other than their rejection. I dealt with that pain recently – not rejected by one person, but multiple people. It stings. It causes me to think “Is it me?

Read More »

Books from Danielle

on Amazon

© 2023 Danielle Macaulay