A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I paused on some photos a friend had posted from her family’s vacation to Florida. She had just posted the photos five minutes before I saw them, and it occurred to me that she and her family were, at that very moment, making spectacular memories together while I was at home, unshowered and trying to pretend my children weren’t making a mess in the other room. And as I looked at those photos I suddenly felt something twist up inside of me.
I was jealous.
Because I wanted a vacation.
Not because I needed a vacation. I had just recently enjoyed a weekend away with my husband. I really just wanted a distraction from the slow drudge of my everyday, something to help me avoid the real work that I had to do. Because a change of pace is always easier than being consistent.
Big memories are easier to get excited about than slow faithfulness.
The truth is, I struggle with consistency and often find myself fighting against those routine tasks that pull at me everyday. The minute I write something on my to do list it becomes the last thing I want to do. I can spend an impressive amount of time dancing around the things that must be done simply because I don’t want to do them, and I don’t think I’m alone. I have yet to meet a mom who gets excited about doing laundry. Nobody loves cleaning toilets. And sure, we get these things done because that’s what adults do, but we treat them as things to be avoided or escaped, necessary evils that get in the way of what we really want to do, mere distractions from things more worthy of our attention.
I have let myself believe the lie that for something to be meaningful it must be significant. I stumble into thinking that I need to give my children significant memories – extravagant adventures and picturesque vacations – in order for their childhood to be well spent. But what would happen if I chose to put just as much care into the small and insignificant work that is put in front of me every day? Isn’t a life full of quiet faithfulness also worth remembering?
I can learn to love the work that is right in front of me. I can stop rushing through my life, always waiting for the next significant event, and choose to see the small-but-meaningful — the way the evening light shines golden through the window; the familiar smell of coffee every morning; the subtle rhythm that a pile of laundry necessitates. A life spent noticing beauty is by no means wasted. But when we spend our time longing for something more significant we can miss the opportunity for something truly meaningful.
My family took very few real vacations when I was growing up. But when I was a little girl, I remember driving the many miles to visit my grandparents’ farm several times a year. And once each year my brother and I would descend the steps into the basement of the old farm house, and right there on the door my dad would mark our height, with our name and the date, next to the marks for all the cousins and aunts and uncles that were already written there. I can still feel the ruler and pencil up against the top of my head and hear my dad reminding me to stand up straight as he measured me. There was something wonderful about seeing myself measured among all those others, to see where I had been and to know that I had more growing to do.
It is the wonder of this slow, steady growing that I want my children to know and remember more than any adventure we may take. There is beauty worth remembering in choosing to live faithfully in the small things, a breathtaking growth that takes place when we stop and notice. But it requires that we slow down, pay attention, and learn to love what must be done.