Your most meaningful work
A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were catching up at our favorite rendezvous Chili’s, eating what we dubbed “crack chips” years ago with excessive amounts of salsa. We skimmed through the happenings of our lives to catch up on the important stuff – the cream of the crop version of “what you missed, while you were out.” Conversation inevitably wandered, and before we knew it, we were aiming darts at that elusive target called purpose.
My friend Jenny lives and breathes and waits out the definition of a good listener. Talking to her is both restful and rejuvenating. She’s never just waiting for her turn to talk. She’s always patiently hearing you and waiting to encourage.
Hearing my unspoken words seep out alongside my spoken words, she encouraged me not to discount the undertakings of right now; not to overlook the meaningful work of raising children as a divine calling. Not perfect children, but loved children, loving children.
And there are days when I feel like I am failing miserably at this. Days when I can’t even get the kids to sit still for 10 minutes in church, much less an hour. Days when I find out we weren’t kind to a classmate at school and I want to crawl under a rock and hide. Days when sharing seems the unfathomable task. But, 2 and 4-year-old boys don’t sit still for an hour for any purpose. They are wired to catch fireflies and jump on beds and precariously hang from chandeliers. Two and 4-year-olds still struggle to find the right words to express frustration and hurt feelings. And, you’ve all heard the logic of toddlers on sharing. The ones that sound like: this is mine, this is mine and that, that is mine, too.
A few years ago, I left a promising full-time job to work closer to home and people would ask. What’s next? What are you going to do now? Yeah, yeah, raising kids, all hands on deck, we got it, but what else? Right now, there is nothing else and that my friends is okay.
I still plow through days, leading to weeks, forgetting this simple truth.
Maybe it’s just been said too many times, that we overlook it. Yes, raising kids is hard and rewarding, but what else? What else are you going to do with this one wild and crazy life?
It’s like every time we hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 at a wedding. We all hear love is patient, love is kind and we can’t help it, we just stop listening. We tune out not because it isn’t gospel truth, not because it isn’t meaningful and timeless, but we’ve just heard it too many times. We should all be tattooing this on our foreheads and reading this out loud to ourselves every morning, but we just gloss over. Yes, yes, preacher man I’ve heard this, what else? But it’s these essential truths that are eternal and give purpose.
There isn’t just one right way to show your children the way. My most meaningful work isn’t compared or measured against anyone else’s. There are so many ways to be enough, love your children enough. There are so many ways to contribute, so do not overlook the value of your most meaningful work, even when it feels small or when others don’t understand. Ignore the, “what else’s?” if your chosen calling is small or unexpected in societal terms.
“Your most meaningful work in the Kingdom of God may not be the big things that you do — but the one little person you love.” ~ Ann Voskamp
When I wander into these woods of forgetfulness and get fixated on the trees, I remind myself about the joy in the forest. The forest of meaningful work that is not tallied by check marks on a list or rungs on a ladder. Meaningful work doesn’t keep score, or whip out measuring sticks. It often doesn’t pay well or at all. But, it does encourage the celebration of small wins. Little victories gifted in glimpses of wide-eyed boys learning to notice the little things or playing peacefully with their brother.
I forget to turn in permission slips and I wreck my kids with happy meals. I spoil them with too many books and I just make do with the six-time hand-me-down sandals. Loving them is the work that doesn’t keep score – but it does adds up. It adds up to more meaning, more joy and more contentment.
They are what is now and what is next.
My most meaningful work isn’t glamorous, and it doesn’t require heels or a suit, but it does pay dividends in hugs and kisses. And, it only crashes after the sinking sun. I hope you find joy and value in whatever or whoever your most meaningful work is today. And, I promise you, I will never ask “what’s next?” as a question implying now is not enough.