A few rainy mornings ago, Carson’s teacher came running out of her classroom to meet me in the carpool line. She knew that surgery and physical therapy had prevented me from signing up for a parent-teacher conference slot, so she took it upon herself to bring the conference to me. Rain pouring on her head. First graders piling into her classroom waiting for their day to begin. And still, there she was, smiling as she chatted about my son’s reading comprehension.
Teachers always amaze me. It’s probably because God didn’t give me a single teacher-ish gene in my body. But when teachers go out of their way to love and care for my kid and our entire family? I just can’t.
But then I look around and find this everywhere. People doing what they do really, really well. With joy. And excellence. Unrelenting doctors who are so committed to seeing me well again because they view me as a person rather than a diagnosis. My husband who has spent the past few days putting in extra long hours at work and yet crept out of bed at 5:15 this morning to pick up coffee and donuts for his family.
Recently, I have been particularly attune to people like this and moments like these and, as as a result, I find myself inevitably turning the lens on myself. I look at my days filled with shuttling kids around and spreading peanut butter and wiping boy pee off of bathroom toilets and floors (for.the.love.), and I question if I’m making any mark on this world at all.
These thoughts and questions have come into play so much more over the past few months, since my shoulder woes have sidelined me from my job. You see, my job as a nurse practitioner- specifically to a largely underserved and underresourced pediatric population- has always made me feel like I’m doing something of worth and has lent me a sense of significance. But with that yanked out from under me, I’m finding myself scrambling to figure out what in the heck I’m doing with my life. How to make these days matter. How to do something, anything, with excellence in this crazy season.
And then this morning happens. My to-do list was forever long, and my way-too-caffeinated brain was working overtime. Because who do you think runs this place, people?? Then, I hear it. “Mommy, can you play with us?” A good 95% of the time, my knee jerk reaction to this question is, “Are you kidding me? I have All The Things to accomplish today! You’re FINE without me. Play on!” But sometimes, not often enough, I stop. Push the vacuum and lists and phone aside and sit. Play.
Today, this girl made the meanest Play-Doh ice cream sundae that ever was. Was I completely undistracted, my mind totally focused on the girls and their Play-Doh? Well, no. I was still thinking about dinner plans. But my body was. I showed up and sat down. And I was trying my DARN BEST.
It hit me that maybe this concept of purpose and a job well done might just look a bit different for me these days. Maybe excellence right now looks a lot like embracing Play-Doh and Legos and endless games of Battleship as God-given ways to love and shepherd the hearts of my kids. And maybe it looks like cleaning that boy pee off of obscure surfaces without harboring feelings of “OMG I’m going to start making all males, especially those under the age of 8, PEE OUTSIDE FOR THE REST OF TIME.”
One of the (many. why oh why are there so many?) lessons God is teaching me in this season is that my job is to be faithful in what he has given me to do. My roles and my career may not always look the same. That’s okay. But if am faithful to what he has set before me and am following his lead, I can (and should) stop with all of the ridiculous comparison games and doubt.
Because excellence does not always look as grandiose as I once thought. Often, “making my mark on this world” will look a lot more like speaking truth and love into my kids at a table littered with chunks of dried up Play Doh. Maybe there are times when we’re just supposed to show up and sit down.