My youngest daughter started nursery school this year. She loved school and everything about it. She would climb into our van after her school day (a whole 2.5 hours!) bubbling with excitement to tell me about her day. They played and they did a paper and this friend did such-and-such or said this. She would chatter all the way home. Many times she would tell me, “It was the best day ever, Mom!”
She finished her school year a week before the rest of the children. This past week, it was just her and me and the baby all day. I would ask her if there was just one thing she would like to do each day. One day she said she wanted to go to the library. I had planned to go anyway. Her response, “It’ll be the best day of my life! Woohoo!” Another day she said she wanted to play with our next-door neighbor, who is the same age. Done. Said neighbor came over and asked her to play. Later that evening she said, “It was the best day ever!” Even when we didn’t end up doing that one thing (we need to bake cookies still!), she responded to the day with enthusiasm. Even when it was a cleaning day, she smiled and started making “buildings” or “pies” as she folded the towels and washcloths.
Where does this simple joy go? As we get older, it seems to slowly fade away. It slips away as our focus turns to responsibilities and to-do lists. But what if we held on to that joy? What if we looked at the sink of dishes or the pile of shoes or clothes and thanked God that we were able to feed and clothe His children? What if my focus flipped from what I HAVE to do to what I GET to do – what I have the honor and privilege of doing as I live out God’s will for my life?
As we head into summer, I asked each of my children to write a summer bucket list. We wanted to see (and put on paper) the things they each felt would make the summer the “best ever.” I am excited to see how we can incorporate their ideas into our summer this year. Their ideas range from the simple, “a nothing day” to our family vacation.
My challenge this summer is to make sure the “bucket lists” do not become “to-do lists.” I don’t want to be so caught up in crossing things off the lists that we forget the joy that can be in everything. It is easy to start getting bogged down in making sure we have everything we need for a day at the beach (how many tubes of sunscreen alone for a family of 8?!?), for example, that the joy of the outing is lost before we ever make it out the door. Embracing the simple joy of being able to go and do and even just BE together needs to be our focus. When I reflect back, I will remember simple moments. And I will remember that without the climb, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view from the top! If I didn’t have the challenges of raising six children in a life of faith, my life would be empty of the joy that these wonderful little people bring in their simple enthusiasm for life!
Yes, joy can be found even in that sink of dishes or pile of laundry! Each moment may not be the carefree joy of childhood, but each moment presents an opportunity to accept God’s Grace and Presence in our lives. My challenge each day this summer is to embrace the simple joy that children have and to nourish it. I want to find the joy that makes every day, “The best day of my life!”
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John