The Holiday HobLob Hiatus is at an end.
I've been mostly MIA here of late because I took a seasonal job at a craft store. We needed a little extra cash for a major upcoming purchase, so I snagged 27 hours per week during Christmas to help cover it.
I spent my hours there smiling and chatting with strangers, counting out change, guiding people in their crafty endeavors, and coming home covered in glitter at 10:30 p.m.
I loved it.
And I hated it.
All at the same time.
After 15 years of not having a regular job, I loved the satisfaction of a job well done, a paycheck rewarding my efforts, hearing my boss' or customers' admiration when I did my work well, and feeling like an integral part of a team. These are not always things I receive as a stay-at-home mom.
However, on the wall of my son's room one day, I discovered that he had created a countdown calendar in which he scratched an "X" onto each day that I worked, anxious for the end to come.
Sure, I had noticed that my job had some residual effects. For instance, I found myself crankier than normal with my family because I was more exhausted than usual. I discovered things falling through the cracks -- my kids weren't eating healthy meals anymore, piles were developing around the house of things I needed to get done, my desk was a disaster, errands weren't happening, and I was starting to drop the balls that I was juggling.
Then there were the interpersonal "balls" that were dropping around me. Conversations that I needed to have with kids were having to be scheduled in before or after I got home from work. Sometimes those chats were rushed and hurried. My kids needed me to stop and listen to them, to talk them through personal drama, to reassure them when they weren't doing well in a class. But I wasn't around to pick up on these issues. Sometimes when I DID pick up on the issues, I was too tired to tackle them.
And I could see the effects this was having.
But I learned something important from that soul-crushing countdown calendar discovery:
Mothers really DO make a difference.
We spend our days feeling like the words we say are falling on the floor or evaporating into thin air, unheard and unheeded by our progeny. But I've discovered this is simply not the case. My absence here was felt during the holidays. Keenly. I did, indeed, matter. The time I spent talking, listening, playing games, watching movies, sitting by the fire, cooking meals, or cleaning mattered to my people. When I wasn't there to do those things, they noticed. It impacted them.
Similar to the lesson Jimmy Stewart learned in "It's a Wonderful Life," I discovered that my presence in the world of my people had a significant impact in their lives -- and in their contentment, joy, and peace.
When I saw the countdown calendar on my son's wall, a lesson hit me like a ton of bricks:
I could look at that calendar from the glass-is-half-empty perspective and feel the weight of the guilt weighing me down because I willingly chose to begin a job that took me away from him. OR I could see the countdown calendar from the glass-is-half-full perspective: My presence here matters so much to my son that he can't wait to have me back full-time again. And I should make the most of the time that I DO have with him.
So on those days which inevitably come -- the days when you feel like you straight-up suck as a wife and mother -- just be encouraged that, even on a bad day, you're still making a difference because you showed up. And you continue to show up, day after day after day. You might not knock the parenting ball out of the park every day, but you are there, daily, doing the best you can with what you have.
I learned long ago, during a 15-month deployment, that Jesus can bring beauty from the ashes of sketchy parenting. (And I am the originator of some sketchy parenting up in here, let me assure you!)
But your people are likely similar to mine in that they are ready to forgive -- and even forget -- your failures. I have found that my kids are remarkably willing to let go of my past screw-ups if they see me seeking forgiveness and genuinely trying to do my best.
AND sometimes when they see you struggling, and admitting to the struggle, it inspires them to do what they can to contribute, to help, to lighten the load.
So keep showing up for your people. Make the most of the time you have with them. (Even sitting down for 15 minutes to talk while you drink a cup of cocoa or play a game will go a long way toward filling up their hearts.)
And above all, ask Jesus to help you. Ask Him to restore what has been lost or broken between you and your people. Ask Him to help you see them through His eyes. Ask Him for discernment so you can see, clearly, the biggest needs of your children. Ask Him to show you how best to meet those needs. Ask Him to give you ideas for how to engage with your kids, even in the midst of your fatigue. Ask Him to give you joy -- and energy -- for the journey.
His mercies truly are new every morning, so cling to that, knowing that today can be better than yesterday. Especially if yesterday just happens to have been a complete dumpster fire!
There will be more lessons from the checkout aisle coming another day, but for TODAY, that's the one I wanted to share. Hang in there, Mommas!