I didn't really accomplish anything today. Oh, I was busy, and now that I've tucked my kids into bed I'm tired no doubt. But I don't have much to show for my day. I folded a little laundry but there are still piles on my bed that need clearing off before I crawl into it. I unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it with supper dishes, but the kitchen table still has the unswept remains of a two-year-old's supper underneath it (those remains could feed a small country). I like to make my bed every morning as a tangible sign of something accomplished, yet soon I'm going to crawl into my still unmade bed. My to-do list still mostly consists of projects that are yet undone. I can't even remember if I showered.
For 3 weeks I've been meaning to make September's supper calendar. Ummm....we're more than half-way through the month now. Maybe I'll eventually work on October's menu instead. For 3 weeks I've also been meaning to make a laundry schedule...but I can't get caught up enough on folding to feel ready to make an organized schedule. My piles of mail are still piled. My bills that need paying still need paying. The phone calls I received today are yet unreturned. (I'm sorry.) The groceries I unloaded from my van at noon today were finally all in cupboards by 5pm.
Yep. I accomplished almost nothing.
But I did rescue my two-year old from many mishaps today. I ran the stairs a hundred times retrieving the rolls of toilet paper and the ice skates and the kitchen tongs and the entire bag of play-doh toys that he chucked down the stairs, and I grabbed sharp objects out of his hands too many times to count, and I washed his chocolate popsicle artwork off of my patio window...so that all must count for something. I also gave lots of hugs and wiped lots of tears and read lots of books and facilitated art projects.
But according to my lists, I accomplished nothing. Actually my day would make another fairly amusing mommy-style minute by minute.
For some reason it still surprises me at the end of a day when I have so little to show for it. But God whispered in my heart the other day that I'm in a season of accomplishing nothing. Honest to goodness, He told me that I have to be prepared this year to accomplish very little of the daily tasks I lay before myself. The to-do lists. The laundry folding and window washing and mail unpiling. Those things. I'm still writing and speaking and trying to carve out some exercise when I can....but you know...the lists of all the "stuff"...it's not getting done.
You see, this school year's plans didn't start according to our plans. We thought we were going to have 3 mornings a week with just one child at home, as the other boy went off to the adventurous world of preschool. I thought I'd have extra time to "accomplish stuff." But no.
(I mean, besides, the other boy is the crazy two-year-old, so who was I kidding?).
You see, this boy who we thought was going to preschool is quite the boy. He's awesome, I tell you. He makes my heart soar. He also was the most difficult three-year-old we've ever had in our house. (We all know the "terrible two's" aren't actually terrible and should be re-labeled just the "crazy busy but happy with a handful of tantrums each day two's.") Because after two comes three, and that's the year of "Oh goodness gracious I can't last one more minute...please sun won't you just set so I can put this defiant child to bed!"
Yep. This boy, for 15 months (it started early and didn't miraculously end on his 4th birthday) made every single day a challenge in our house. It was so hard. Tears. Anger. Madness. Many prayers. We are so thankful that God knew it was coming and told me to stay home full time as we headed into it. He knew we would need as much stability at home as possible to make it through this boy's age three.
We made it through, by golly. God's good grace pulled us through and then we were all set for preschool this fall.
Until six days prior to it starting. The boy and I were at his four-year well check (just a couple months late:) and his pediatrician told me that he could see significant anxiety in my boy. Huh. Well that is completely fascinating information. Immediately, the last 15 months made so much sense. (It's so clear after a trusted professional puts a name to it, isn't it?). Anxiety. It's so obvious now.
Throughout that day as I processed this information I knew that God was telling me to pull the boy from preschool...even though I'd already paid the September tuition and his backpack and new tennis shoes were ready to go. Paul and I prayed about it for 2.6 seconds and knew our answer.
What the boy needed was not more stimulation but less. Less stimulation and more one on one time. More face time with Mom or Dad, reading, playing trains, doing puzzles, driving the road grader through the sandbox, digging holes, pitching softballs, sitting on the lawn chair. More attention. More gentleness.
More of my face and less of my back.
He needs my attention. It does us well to remember that the saying goes "Pay attention" for a reason: attention is in fact something we pay. It costs us something. In my case and the case of many a mama out there, paying attention to this child who needs me is going to cost me my to-do list. It's going to cost me my accomplishments.
And when I give this boy my attention, when I turn my face toward him, I am in turn actively turning my back on my to-do lists. That's why the laundry is still piled on my bed and why the mail piles are still piled and why the eight extra pounds around my middle may not be removed as quickly as I'd like them to be. As much as part of me wants to hit the gym for two hours every day to tackle those eight pounds, the boy is more important than my waistline.
Obviously I can't entirely turn my back on my household responsibilities. But I am increasingly and intentionally learning to include my boy in my chores (this week I learned that the boy loves loading the washing machine with dirty laundry, vacuuming the mini-van, and spraying windex on my windows.)
And it's working. This new turning of our faces in gentleness and intentionality to our boy who struggles with anxiety...it's working. He's more compliant, happier, calmer, more confident, more fun to be around. God is good. I realize it's not exactly rocket science, but it is learning to deny myself, and that's hard stuff. I fail a lot. Gentleness is very not natural to me; Paul is doing much better than me. But I'm trying. We're trying. And it's working. I can't calculate it and I can't check it off a list and I certainly can't say I've accomplished much, but things are happening.
So friend, the friend who feels like you accomplished nothing today...it's okay. I am so with you. And now I'm blogging about it so I'm still not doing my laundry. Often the things to which we pay our attention can't be calculated like the tasks on a list. It's impossible to calculate "hugging my boy on the couch" or "laying on the floor laughing with my boy and his blankie" or "giving airplane rides to my boy" or "grading the sand road that leads to the huge sandcastle."
That's okay mama. Life isn't about calculations. You're doing great.
Or perhaps right now you're in a season of life when the most important thing for you to "turn your face to" is bringing home a paycheck so your family can have good food and school clothes and a strong house. Perhaps God has given you a full-time career that fills your heart and He has called you to turn your face toward that. Sister, I know that even though you probably shower everyday, you still feel like you're not accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Since you're saying "yes" to that which is most pressing right now, you too feel like me...like you're not accomplishing your lists at home. And mama, that's okay. You're doing great.
I think the key for us as moms, wives, professionals, humans, is simply to be faithful. Not to be "accomplished" at the end of the day, but to be faithful. To be able to look back on our day as we crawl into bed and not ask ourselves "Did I accomplish anything today?" but rather, "Was I faithful today?"
At the end of days like this, let's remember that when we get to heaven, the most amazing welcome we can possibly receive into Heaven will not be "Well done good and accomplished servant," but rather "Well done good and faithful servant."
Peace, friend. God doesn't ask us to accomplish our lists. He asks us to be faithful to His plans for each day. While we shouldn't totally ignore our lists, let us also not measure our days by our lists.
So, today, friend, did you love a child? Did you help a friend? Did you cook a meal? Did you spend time serving another person? Were you faithful? Did you pay attention to the people or work God told you to pay your attention to, even at the cost of something else? Did you turn your face to someone who needed your face turned toward them today?
Then well done, friend. You're doing great.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you His peace.