The Shopping Trip

It’s a blazing hot July day, but I’m thinking about October. It’s not because I like to watch the leaves turn. (To be honest, I’m usually too busy to notice.) And no, I do not long for cooler weather; I’d happily reside at the Equator.

I can’t wait for October because it is the seventeenth annual Mahaney Girl’s Shopping Trip—our twenty-four-hour excursion into the wilds of northern Virginia retail country. My mom, two sisters, and I stay in a hotel, buy tons of Christmas gifts, walk at least fifty miles, and laugh a lot. It always ends too soon.

On the inaugural trip I was an awkward twelve, and my sister Kristin was a year younger. Mom (Carolyn) didn’t have any gray hairs back then. 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 (my sisters and I all 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, and our hearts. Of course there's been conflict and a few tears; then more laughter. And a healthy dose of chatter sprinkled over everything.

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 mother-daughter 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 article 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 some exciting mother-daughter conversations. In the months to follow we’ll share a lot from our own lives (although you might get to know us better than you wanted to!), but most importantly, we’ll look at the Bible and discover the unique purpose that God has for us as mothers and daughters.

Sometimes we’ll shine the spotlight on a mother’s responsibility, and at other times we’ll focus on a daughter’s response. But we hope you’ll read the articles together and talk about what you’ve learned.

Well, there are three months until our next Shopping Trip. But at least it’s still hot outside. And my Mom, sisters and I are hanging out again this morning. We’ve got a lot to talk about. In between the chatter and the chores, we are fulfilling God’s plan for our relationship -- and you can too. 

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Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: 7 Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, and Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one twelve-year-old son, Chad.

Nicole Mahaney Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband, Steve, have one son, Jack.

Carolyn and her three daughters keep a weblog for women in all seasons of life, also entitled "Girl Talk." Check it out at http://www.girltalk.blogs.com.

This column is the first in a series adapted for Crosswalk from Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood (Crossway 2005) by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre © 2005 (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.gnpcb.org.)