There are a million things my Dad said that I remember fondly. He was a goofball who loved to make folks laugh. These days, random little things fly out of my mouth that he used to say. Whenever someone would find him and say, “Whatcha doin’, Dad?” he would always respond with, “Takin’ a bath.” And no matter what question we asked him about what time we were leaving or how many items he needed, if it involved a numeric quantity, he would answer, “Eleven or eight.”
That side of him was wonderful. Advice, however, wasn’t something I got often. He just wasn’t involved or invested enough to have input, I think. One time I remember being really worried about an upcoming test. As usual, I followed him around chattering away about my little things, rarely getting a response. Not sure if he said it to make me shut-up or because he was really trying to encourage me (the former more likely, the latter a nice thought), but he gave me words that I have never forgotten.
He said, “Just do your best, Kid. That’s all you can do.”
If I could tell you how many times I’ve needed that encouragement and told my own brain, or used that encouragement for my own kiddos…
I think my dad would be pleased to know he said something that really stuck and mattered.
This summer we found ourselves inundated with love in the presence of wave after wave of lovely friends coming to see where we had moved ourselves. At one point, we had a family of three for the girls to host overlapping with a family of ten that the boys entertained until we dropped the first family off 6 hours away.
Due to entertaining our forty guests, I only had two days at the beach. This summer girl barely got a tan — and we had a beautiful summer. We would usher folks in and out and then
relax clean and wash sheets and cook some more for a day or two and the next beautiful family would arrive with gifts and smiles and love and very welcome hugs. It was such joy. And such work. And though it may sound like it, this is not a list of complaints. Because part of why we believe we moved here was to provide a place of rest for whomever God let us knew needed it. This summer was extraordinary because it was new. Not only did we need to let everyone we love see it, but we needed to come to the understanding as a family that not every single person we know needs to be invited in one season. And, just because it’s beautiful here, it isn’t a bed and breakfast for folks who’d like to see the area.
You live, you learn, right?
So one day, somewhere around July, I found myself in tears. Completely overwhelmed and exhausted with guests here and more on the way, all I could do was cry and say, “I can’t do this anymore.” A voice whispered into my spirit, “Just do your best.” Not perfect, not a superhero, just give what I had to offer.
It’s tough when I hear demands in my head. Not sure if it’s my own gray matter or the way I was pushed to be perfect as a child, but quelling the drive to push myself way too hard is a constant battle. I sometimes question for whose approval I am working so hard. Because I am surrounded by love, and love doesn’t even want my over-driven, self-imposed requirements. I doubt I’m very lovely when I’m in the mode of being all to all.
I recently apologized to my grown and almost grown children for my obvious-to-me-inadequacies as a homeschool mom. I pushed myself pretty hard in the days when all my brood was studying at home and I was also working at home and without a husband in town much of the time. I know I missed a lot of details in the shuffle, and I wonder if I could have done better. They chuckled when I told them I was so sorry I made them do Singapore math that was pretty much a disaster. “Did you do your best, Mom?” they asked. I did. I really did. And I suppose they turned out just fine. One of those Singapore math survivors thrived as a bank teller, and the other just figured out crazy math equations to build an octagonal dwelling place. I love that they had learned the lesson and asked me the right question.
Being a grandma has taught me a couple things. When Josie comes over, if at all possible, my busy world comes to a screeching halt. I often find myself sitting on the living room floor playing with toys or dancing in the kitchen — anything for her giggles. When my own were little, I had too much responsibility for them to see the beauty of those moments as clearly as I do now. Don’t get me wrong, I was on the floor playing a lot with my babies, but it was different. I was at a younger, busier place and my role was different. Now, I have the time to see the value of dropping everything to just enjoy the joy that is Josie, and I’m pretty sure I give her the best of me.
So what is my best? This is worth evaluating. I think of my best like a little offering of loaves and fish. I scrape up what I have in my little lunchbox and hand it over to One Who is capable and He, without fail, graciously and miraculously, turns it into an all-you-can-eat buffet with enough to go around several times and still overflow.
One little cracker becomes the ultimate grilled cheese when grace is the multiplier and gap-filler. So cut yourself some slack and hand over your little fish. Just do your best, kid.