the “yes” face

My cousin Mary Edith, my grandma, me, and my horse, Blackie, when I was in my Zorro phase.

Looking out on a lawn full of freshly fallen snow this morning, I am remembering how much I loved snow days as a child. They often meant that I could pack a bag and spend the day with my grandma, enjoying her undivided attention, not to mention the bottomless cookie jar.

My grandma owned a “yes” face. From the moment I walked in the door to the time I had to leave, she was a positive person who looked for ways to tell me “yes” about life. Never one to stifle creative thought, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t encouraging or positive about my ideas or my projects.

One afternoon, while I was going through my hairdresser phase and dreaming up all sorts of new ways to arrange hair, she agreed to be my live model. She pulled out all her supplies: combs, rollers, clips, and a wonderful treasure trove of hair accessories. While she sat patiently in a chair at her dining room table, I curled and teased and bouffantted to my heart’s content.

As I stood back to admire my creation, sort of a salt and pepper colored version of Marge Simpson’s upsweep adorned with small felt bows, a literal tower of hairsprayed loveliness, the doorbell rang. Not hesitating for a moment, my grandma said “Excuse me, honey girl,” her special term of endearment for me, and opened the door to Mr. Simmons, the chairman of the church deacon board. Then I heard her ask, “Won’t you come in and join us for tea?” A bit taken aback by the sight of this woman in front of him, Mr. Simmons uttered a “Thank you, don’t mind if I do.”

My grandma took me by the hand into the kitchen to arrange three tea cups and saucers and a plate of cookies on a tray. No one mentioned her hair, though poor Mr. Simmons had a difficult time diverting his eyes. We had a lovely visit with enjoyable conversation and my grandma sported her new do and her “yes” face for the rest of the day, smiling and telling me that she just knew I would be the best hair stylist ever when I grew up.

Sadly, my growing up years were full of many people who wore “no” faces. There was the older lady who glared at children from the choir loft, her voice conveying disapproval even when she sang about the glories of heaven. There were the two third grade teachers who made Matilda’s Miss Trunchbowl look like Miss Congeniality contestants as they stomped around in scary black shoes and thumped disruptive boys on the head with their knuckles. There was the Sunday school teacher who refused to let any of us do our own crafts for fear we would make a mess in “the Lord’s house” so we were forced to sit perfectly still as she cut, pasted, and glitter sprinkled, ever so carefully, while we longingly watched. There was the woman who worked in my dad’s hardware store who scrutinized every customer who came in the doors, pronouncing only a rare soul as “neat and clean,” and always examining my clothes for wrinkles or spots. There was the junior high principal who brought his “board of education” into the classroom upon occasion, slamming the 3 inch thick paddle on the desk of some innocent bystander and warning us we all deserved to meet with that board personally. I would be certain that all of these poor souls wore the “no” face as they entered their eternal rest, their pursed lips and scowls frozen forever in time.

I have several trophies in my Hall of Shame and one of them is engraved with “The “No” Face Award ~ She Said No Once Too Often and Didn’t Even Have to Open Her Mouth.” If I could climb into a time machine and wend my way back to 1975, the beginning of my mothering gig, I would try my best to not win that prize. I would say “yes” far more often, hand out supplies to make lots of messes, put away school books and pull out the roller skates. I would serve more cookies and even allow someone to make me look like Marge Simpson. I would enter the race for the “yes” face gold and I would win.

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  1. says

    What a great article! Thank you for your gentle reminders to put our children ahead of ourselves, ahead of our reputations…and NOT by cooking and cleaning for them (although that is great) but by entering life with them, joining them at the “hair studio” or the “horse stables” or the writer’s den (my daughter asked me just yesterday to help her write a story and I DID it! Dinner was late, and I’m so glad I did it.)

    Thank you for the gentle reminders,
    Resting In Him,

  2. Paula says

    Thank you so much! A few years ago, I resolved to say, “Yes.” I don’t always wear a yes face, but I do more often now 🙂

  3. janell says

    i love this post!! What a great reminder, of how we should inspire the creativity in our children. i hope all is great….miss you guys.

  4. says

    I was just reflecting last night on Cindy Rushton’s Me-Time-Myth rebuttal post and thinking back on all the advice I received from the Titus 2 grandmothers in our church during our oldest’s baby shower. “Dust less, play more, pray hard, and leave the results to Him” pretty well sums it up. So I’ve been thinking about how to go about implementing that advice with 4 children not-quite 6 years old and younger… and the Lord sends me past your “Yes” face post. 😀 Thank you!!

  5. says

    Okay,two questions.

    One: The dog lover in me wants to know if your Grandma is holding a little Rat Terrier. (in the picture) If so, I like your Grandma even more!

    Two: Not trying to play the devil’s advocate, but even though I do agree with the point you wanted to make, and enjoyed the stories you used to do it, can someone tell me why, with my children now at ages nearly twenty and seventeen, I wish I would’ve been less loosy-goosy mom and more boot camp mom? What’s wrong with me?


  6. says

    Susie, believe it or not, that is an English setter pup that my grandma had just gotten. His name was Sydney and the father was our family dog whose name was Cedric. Sydney eventually grew to be a huge handful for my grandma but she loved him!

    On to the second question…I don’t think there is a thing wrong with you! I think that is the absolutely normal response from a mom with two kids just venturing out into the world! You are losing control and it is a scary place to be. At that stage I think we tend to look back and lament all the things we wish had been different and are tempted to dwell on the “if onlys” of parenting. I still have days when I wish I could grab them all up and shelter them from the realities of living in a fallen world and could serve hot chocolate all around, even when they are 35! In many ways,life was simpler and more predictable back then. What we don’t realize is that while we have lost control, which is a good thing, we have not lost influence and our kids really do carry that with them like a little voice in their pockets! That influence is the desire for things of the Lord and His absolute truth as they sort through the issues of life. That is the legacy I know you have left them.

    I also think it we need to keep perspective on the things that are worth debating and the things that aren’t. I remember when a friend’s daughter wanted to get her ears pierced, a few years before it was as common to do as it is now. This mom wisely decided that there are parenting battles to be won and she decided she wasn’t going to “die on the hill” of pierced ears. In the scope of all of life, it wasn’t the big issue. In looking back over those years with my kids, there were lots of those issues that I now think “How dumb was it that I made such a big deal out of THAT?” My older kids remind me of these things all the time and laugh together at me. I laugh, too, and wait. None of them have teens yet! 😉 But seriously, erring on the side of grace (probably not really being “loosey goosey,” I would guess)is not a bad idea. I have been reading Chuck Swindoll’s book called The Grace Awakening and so much of what he says applies here. If you get a chance to read it, I highly recommend it.

    One more thought…..I think the biggest faith issue for me has been trusting God to finish the work He has begun in my life and in the life of my family. How can He do all these things without me? During the past few months, I have had two friends with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Both are roughly my age and with children still at home. I have thought “What if that was me?” and “How could this family survive without me?” I have learned to trust Him more in these months I have been praying for my friends. I have come to embrace His sovereignty in a new way. His plan is perfect and He will do what He will IN SPITE of me!!!

    What do you think?

  7. says

    Hi Karen,

    I’m visiting your blog for the first time this morning, clicking over from Holy Experience, and I’m so glad to be here. I am younger mother with four little ones and I often struggle under the weight of trying to do it all perfectly. There is so much pressure in the homeschooling circles to do things “just so” and it almost stifles me at times.

    What I’ve read so far on your blog today has been like a breath of fresh air, particularly your articles on the Family Integrated Church and your post on “What Children Really Want For Christmas”. This post about “the yes face” hit home with me, but I often wonder how I can ever have one of those faces, with all of the responsibility to raise my family in a “Biblical model”.

    Thank you so much for this encouraging place. I’ll be back to read more when time permits.


  8. says

    Karen,I love it that your dinner was late….what a great message you sent to your daughter. The next thing you know, we will all be reading her blog!! 🙂

  9. says

    Mel,I LOVE that advice you received and “amen” it! I also love how you distilled it down to one sentence…..needs to be cross-stitched…in your spare time! 😉

  10. says

    Hi, Anna and welcome!

    You know, it is interesting, but somehow holiness and “biblical model” parenting has just assumed “no” as the face to have. All of the most popular child raising books promoted by conservatives assume that there is an adversarial relationship between children and their parents and between husbands and wives for that matter. Jesus warned us that offenses will come, part of living in the fallen world and being fallen human beings, but woe (destruction) unto those by whom the offenses come. I think if we look at the story of Jesus and his disciples greeting children we see just the opposite of this view. The disciples were the ones with the “no” face and Jesus had the “yes” face. In fact, Jesus had a stern warning for those who offend little ones. I also think the one another commands of Scripture certainly apply to all our relationships and certainly don’t assume that being adversaries is the standard.

    I look forward to getting to know you better and to hearing your thoughts!

  11. says

    Well, okay, I guess your reply to my comment does make sense. I suppose it is rather typical for parents who are on the verge of becoming empty nesters to think about all of the things they think they should’ve done differently, perhaps.

    Come to think of it, I do have rather fond memories, myself, of those times I just decided to ditch the school books for the rest of the afternoon and take the kids to the park or on a short drive to a neighboring town for an ice cream cone. It was even rather ‘fun’, in it’s own nerve-wracking way, when I let then 16 yr.old new driver, son, take daughter and I on a drive in inclement weather, ending up about an hour and a half away, eating a lunch at a little restaurant with a nice fireplace to warm ourselves on a cold winter day…no matter that all I could afford from the menu was hot dogs!

    Okay, you’ve convinced me.

    And, yes, it certainly is an issue of faith…watching our children grow into adulthood. For this too, His grace is sufficient. Thanks for the reminder.


  12. says

    It is so good to hear this encouragement while still in the throws of a messy house, messy children, a cluttered mind, and “no” sometimes out of my mouth before the question is even asked. Thank you for this thoughtful reminder.

  13. says

    Thanks for the reminder. I know that I try to be a “yes” mom and create positive memories and be a positive person, but sometimes I get stuck in the “this is real life” position where I worry about messes or getting places on time…etc. My kids are still young and I want to get this right before they get too old, so thank you!

  14. says


    I clicked through to your site from Tonia’s study in brown. I can’t tell you how delighed I am to find you! That Mom! How I pray that we are raising young women to be like you: giving of their time and wisdom to the young moms in the trenches. Thank you.

    And — since I’ve found you, I’ve got a great big question. Its about this idea of being a “yes” mom. My question is really rooted in the truth that every time I say “yes” to something, I say “no” to something else. It is the nature of the thing.

    I will tell you, I feel more like a “no” mom. I pray for children who love God, who are self-controlled, disciplined, good thinkers and able to reason well. I am praying that my boys will be ready to be elders in their local churches, that my girls will be well-taught and prepared raise godly children and then invest in younger women. But, the battle that rages against their souls it great. There are so many things that they are surrounded with that, in order to cultivate their taste for that which is beautiful and good, I must say “no” to. Most of the time those are things which seem to them to bring immediate gratification.

    Like: No to constant video games so that they learn the joy of saying yes to rewarding work, no to lots of movies that their friends have seen so that they can say yes to good books, no to some the youth group activities so that they can say yes to family discussions. No the toys that they might want to have so that we can introduce them to toys they didn’t even know existed. The list seems so long… internet usage, cell phones, iPods… But how do you cast this kind of vision for children so that they see these things as “Yes” rather than only hearing “NO.”

    I bathe these things in prayer but I’d love to hear your advice, too.

    Thank you!

  15. says

    I also came over from Holy Experience!

    I’m a mom and a Grammie and I am so glad I took parenting lessons from my mother (who was FAR from perfect). But she left us with memories of giggles and lots of love in the midst of our sad times and trials. I hope that I brought that to my son and daughter (now grown).

    It also reminds me of my husband’s mother, whose house was always very clean and there were three perfectly cooked meals every day but who was very definitely a “NO” person.

    Love this!

  16. says

    Thank you for this, Karen!

    I am so thankful for ladies like you and my own mother who are such good examples of being “yes” people for their children. Of letting kids be creative, make messes, and just be kids. I say this as my one daughter writes a hop-scotch with a crayon on the kitchen floor, and the other daughter is playing with play-dough that is sparkly because she dumped a bunch of glitter into it. 🙂 There’s so much that I HAVE to say no to, that I love finding things to say yes to.

    I’m becoming so much more relaxed in my relationship with my kids as I let the ideas and parenting advice of the conservative homeschool world just roll off my back and into oblivion. I’m so tired of the underlying belief that we must teach our children to do without, to never get gratification, and to learn self-control by being needlessly “no” people. Because “it’s good for them not to get what they want”. Yet I am reminded of my Savior who said “If you, being mere men, desire to give good things to your children, how much more does your Father in heaven desire to give good things to you?”

  17. says

    I’m so tired of the underlying belief that we must teach our children to do without, to never get gratification, and to learn self-control by being needlessly “no” people. Because “it’s good for them not to get what they want”. Yet I am reminded of my Savior who said “If you, being mere men, desire to give good things to your children, how much more does your Father in heaven desire to give good things to you?”

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Unfortunately for my children, I default to “no” even when there’s no real reason not to say “yes.” Need to work on that. I love being able to have a Biblical defense for it too!! 😉

    @Karen–I used to do counted cross-stick, back in the BC days…. 😀

  18. says

    This is a wonderful post!

    To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ve had any kind of close relationship with a “yes” person until I met my husband six years ago. I’m about to turn 47! I’ve known folks who were “yes” people with others, but not me. I’ve never been on the receiving end of that kind of acceptance until now. I tried not to be too negative with my children, knowing how I hated that quiet but steady stream of disapproval. I didn’t do too bad. But I could have done much better. My greatest moments of shame as a parent were the result of buying into the bits of advice I got from a “spare the rod” book that taught me to distrust all the motives of my children, to think the worst of them, and to feel like a failure if they didn’t obey perfectly. How the heck are you supposed to have a “yes” face when you just know whatever they are doing has some evil subtext, or could be the first step down the slippery slope to hell?

  19. Rosy says

    This was such a good reminder to me! My dear sister-in-law early in our parenting journey told me that she always tries to say “yes” whenever she can because you have to say “no” pretty frequently! This advice has always stood me in good stead…and I need to remember it as my children’s requests often inconvenience me. If there really isn’t a good reason to say “no” , then don’t say it!! 🙂

  20. says

    I got here from Ann Voskamp’s link, and am so thankful I did! What a refreshing, uplifting post! (And my Grandma, one of the most influential and precious people in my life was just like yours!) I am a friend of your dear Mollie, and she’s such an inspiring “yes” mommy. I see where she gets it!

  21. says

    Teren, I understand what you are saying. Using time wisely does require us to use wisdom and to consider the value of things that we do which does mean that saying “yes” to things mean we say “no” to other things. For me, I know that many times something might have looked like the right thing to say “no” to on paper but in reality, I have should have said “yes.” Here is one story that comes to mind: I told one of my boys that when he completed the last page of his Alpha-Phonics book, I would take him to Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch, his most favorite dream-come-true meal! On the way out the door, I stuck our notebook in my bag and thought “Great! We can go over the last lesson while we are at lunch.” Sounded like such a great use of time and, after all, there would be no disruptions from younger kids. So, after we ate lunch, during which time this boy was sooooo happy and telling me all sorts of wonderful things that 6 year old boys tell their moms, I pulled out the lesson book and insisted that we go through the last pages. The only word to describe his face was “crestfallen.” But I was too determined that we were going to follow my agenda, my lesson plans that had looked so good on paper. I totally missed the moment and didn’t even know it until I looked back at that day, years later, and realized that building the relationship, one on one my with son, SHOULD have been the priority that day. This is the kind of stuff I am talking about. Did it really matter if we did that lesson that day? No. I cringe when I think of how many times I have done this sort of thing.

    As moms, we all know there are things we absolutely have to say “no” to some things. But when our whole demeanor and being exudes “no” most of the time, we are in trouble. And we need to stop and change directions when we see ourselves falling into the “no” pattern. Does that make sense?

  22. says

    Just wanted to say, you all have blessed me so much in your comments here. I love it when we exhort one another “to love and good works.”

  23. says

    Laurie, I wept when I read your note. I wonder how many others have had that same experience, of never feeling like you are good enough. I can relate to this in many ways but always had my grandma who was such an encourager. I cringe now when I see little ones treated as though their opinions and cares didn’t matter.

    I have shared this story before but it bares repeating. One time we were at a potluck and one of the women had made two cheesecakes. My youngest son LOVES cheesecake and his whole face lit up when he saw them. As I walked toward the table with him, I said “Oh, you are Joe’s favorite person today! He LOVES cheesecake!” to which the woman replied, “Oh, these aren’t for the children. I made cheesecakes for the adults. The children can have the other desserts people brought.” Immediately it made me angry inside. By what standard do children fall into a lesser category of dessert recipients? In fact, who probably loves dessert more than children? So I said “But it is Joe’s favorite dessert!” I glanced over at my son who looked like he might cry. She repeated “Children can have the other desserts, the cheesecake is for the adults.” Then she added “Would you like a slice?” I said “Yes I would” and after she handed it to me I turned and gave mine to Joe, saying “Here you go! I know you will love this!” Let me just say, the woman did NOT give me a “yes” face.

    Laurie, I am so happy that the Lord has blessed you with such a wonderful husband. I am always in awe at God’s goodness to me in the same way!

    {{{{{}}}}}coming to you today, friend.

  24. says

    “I am a friend of your dear Mollie, and she’s such an inspiring “yes” mommy. I see where she gets it!”

    Actually, I think most of what I have learned about this came from my dear, sweet Mollie. Poor thing, she was my guinea pig and we all survived in spite of the years I drug her through life with my “no” face firmly intact! She blesses me every single day!

  25. says

    This is such a great article, Karen. Even without the blessing of motherhood it touched me. When I was very young, around 10 (give or take a couple years) I wrote a list of things I would do or not do when I ‘became a mom’. One of them was to always try to say yes and only say no when I really had too.

    So this is precious to me. 🙂

  26. says

    Very thought-provoking post. You had a great grandma. My kids have one of those, too. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder. I teach Sunday School and, while I definitely let the kids do their own crafts, sometimes I think I may have a “no face” more often than I’d like to admit.

  27. says


    Being the ever-practical one in my home, I’d love to know how a mother who has a “yes” face ever gets anything done. 🙂 I am asking in all serious, because if I did have a yes face with my children, no housework or schoolwork would EVER get done. lol I have five kids ages 9 and under and they all want to do different things at the same time and I already feel pulled in way too many directions and I am a “no” face mom.

    Could you maybe share a little bit on how this would look in a day of a mother with many littles?

  28. says

    Kelly, I think this is so hard because each mom has certain things that weigh on her that don’t weigh on others when it comes to use of time. Some moms are bothered by dishes in the sink, others hate beds that are unmade, others must have sparkling bathrooms. For me, when my kids were crawlers and toddlers, the floors needed to be cleaned all the time or it bothered me. Every day we started out with the older guys running the shop vac all through the house upstairs and downstairs, on the wood floors. As far as chores are concerned, the trick is finding out what your priorities are and choosing to not obsess over the rest. That means not noticing when the kids or Dad don’t do those chores as well as you might do them and smiling and thanking them. It also means being willing to walk out the door with stuff undone in order to enjoy some serendipitous event and not complaining or fretting about what isn’t done.

    Another thing that I think happens too often with homeschooling moms is that they make the “school work” so much more difficult for themselves than it needs to be. When I hear people talking about “curriculum” for their pre-schoolers and full packages of textbooks and workbooks for the early grades, especially with some curriculum companies like Abeka, I feel tired just thinking about it. These are unnecessary things that just add burdens where it isn’t necessary. Highly recommend looking at the Moore philosophy and listening to the podcasts I did with their daughter and long-time assistant.

    Also the series on beginning homeschooling covers some of these things:

    And the interview I did with Corrie Marnett:

    And finally, the article on Minimalist Homeschooling:

    I truly think simplifying life makes the”yes” face so much more possible! Now dealing with the inside issues that make is “want” to do things the difficult way is another issue and I think is related so much to the “grace killers” in our lives.


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