“Is this your best work?”
I overheard this question from a mother working on an assignment with her child at the local library. I could tell by the sheepish grin on the little boy’s face that the answer was no. They both knew he could have done better. They giggled through a quick discussion, then the child made a few corrections and proudly handed over his piece of paper. I was impressed by this mother’s ability to challenge her son in a way that motivated him. He may have been prone to take the easy way out, but she called him on it and he stepped it up a notch.
That’s a valuable lesson, for sure.
He shook off the question much better than I did. It hung in the air as I drove home. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d asked that of myself.
“Is this the best I have to offer?”
Maybe that’s why it bothered me so much.
I no longer have any idea how to answer the question.
The kids are grown.
The nest is empty.
After decades of running to keep up with the kids and their impossible schedules, I now find my weeknights free of ballgames, church events and errands. Our focus has shifted to our parents and grandchildren, but I’m not sure exactly what it looks like for me to do my best in these areas on a daily basis? How should it feel?
Not only that, but now that we’ve lived through the past few years of a pandemic, personnel shortages, supply chain issues and canceled events, I’m not sure when to push harder or when to pull back.
For example, for almost a year, we barely made it to church and chose instead to worship from home. The experience was easy, convenient, and inspirational.
But the church is much more than a building. The church is the people, and we need to be there.
This one is easy. Push.
I hear so many people talking about self-care and self-focus during these trying times, but in many ways, this doesn’t feel right either. It doesn’t come naturally. If I give up the chance to serve others, then I feel as if I’m no longer fulfilling the purpose God instilled in me. But it’s okay to be still. To take stock and pay attention. To slow down to see what I need from time to time.
This one is harder. Pull back.
We live in such a world of shifting sand. It’s much more difficult to rest on the truth when the world is screaming so many different versions of it. Good thing our Sunday School teachers prepared us for such a moment as this from our earliest days in church.
“The wise man built his house upon the rock.” Here’s the Veggie Tales version, just as a reminder.
Though my seasons of life may shift, I can only do my best if I stick with what I know to be true.
Family matters. Show up. Look people in the eye. Enjoy each moment. Be thankful. Listen. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Good thing none of that has changed.
The Bible tells us how to do our best.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)
It applies to every situation. Whether driving my mother to the doctor or helping my grandson learn to write his name, God is there in the midst of these simple but powerful moments. It applies to my writing career, which is finally getting started. It applies to my marriage, which is better, but different.
In this stage of life, this is what doing my best feels like. And I’m learning that it doesn’t require perfection.
Ah, there’s the grace I often forget to offer myself.
Finding the balance takes time, and being an empty nester, we now have plenty of that.
“Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV)
Turns out, this applies to all stages of life.
I’m yours, Lord.
Show me how to do my best, regardless of the circumstances.