The One Thing You Need to Know When Your Life Feels Small

by, Alicia Bruxvoort

I spotted it the moment I stepped out of the shower: a small blue footprint on the crisp white tile. My stomach twisted at the sight. Because every mom knows where there is one footprint, there are more.

I wrapped a towel around my dripping hair and followed the trail of blue smudges out of the master bath and into my bedroom. Blue blobs with poke-a-dot toes criss-crossed the cream carpet from the foot of my bed to the hallway beyond. I considered retreating back to the steamy shower, but slipped into a pair of sweats, instead, and opened my bedroom door. The incriminating prints led down the hall, across the living room, and step-by-blue-smeared step to the basement. The trail ended in the craft room where I’d left my preschooler finger painting while I’d savored the three-minute luxury of hot water and silence.

My three-minute escape from reality had come at a high price.

Maggie greeted me with a happy grin, her pink paint-shirt splattered with rainbow dribbles. “Mommy!” my littlest girl exclaimed, “I was looking all over for you. I wanted to show you my masterpiece.” She dropped her paintbrush and raced to the easel where a poster-sized creation hung. She pointed proudly to the paper.

Big Blue Elephant“Don’t you love my HUGE blue elephant? I made him ‘specially for your bedroom. ‘Cause your walls are so brown and boring. I tried to hang it up by your bed, but I couldn’t get it to stick. Maybe we need some glue.”

I stared at the masterpiece, a thick blotch of blue with a dozen wobbly lines protruding from the drizzly blob. And I gave my daughter a weak smile.

“I can try to hang it up in your room again if you want me to,” Maggie offered.

“No,” I replied, taking a deep breath and rubbing the tension out of my neck, “I think I’ll hang it on the fridge when it’s dry.”

I pictured the blue footprints stretching across the house and then noticed my little artist’s fresh blue toes. Blue toenails wouldn’t have piqued my curiosity. But blue toes? I lifted Maggie onto the table and inspected the bottom of her feet. Sure enough, her piggies weren’t the only thing sporting the color of the sky.

“Why do you have paint on your feet?” I asked.

Maggie studied her toes and then shrugged. “Oh, I guess I stepped in some of that paint I spilled on the floor.”

I grabbed a washcloth from our pile of art rags and scrubbed my daughter’s foot.

“It’s okay, Mommy,” Maggie said, pointing to a small puddle of blue beneath the craft table. “It was just a little spill.”

“Yeah, just a small spill,” I murmured, as I headed for the laundry room to find my industrial sized jug of carpet cleaner.

Three hours later, I added carpet cleaner to my grocery list and ran through the store on my way into town.

Mommy and BabyAs I was maneuvering my cart through the cereal aisle, I spied a friend and paused to chat. Her cart was piled high with diapers and formula, and her baby fussed in the infant carrier balanced on the front seat. She moved the baby from carrier to hip and returned my greeting with a glazed smile.

“How are you?” I asked. My four-year-old began to re-arrange the boxes of pop tarts on the bottom shelf, and I leaned on my grocery cart and waited for an answer.

I could see the emptiness in her eyes, the tears welling unwelcome at the brims.

“I feel like all I ever do is change diapers,” confessed this sweet young mom.

I nodded and plucked a stray Cheerio off my arm, wondering how long I’d sported that soggy accessory.

The baby burped, and my friend flashed me a wry grin. “You can tell me over and over that I have a big important job, but on most days it just feels really small.”

A thousand wise words rolled through my head.
Words I’d heard when I’d walked in her shoes, tears hovering in my eyes, a baby squealing on my hip.

You’re raising up the next generation.
You’re planting seeds for a big harvest.
You’re living out a high calling.
You’re partnering with God in something beyond yourself.

But I glanced at my friend and said nothing.
I just gave her a hug and promised to pray.

Because sometimes the greatest gift one mom can give another isn’t a hearty dose of wisdom or a look-on-the-bright-side cheer, but a heart that says, I understand.
Sometimes it’s just enough to know we’re not alone.

Say what we may, the grit-honest truth is this – even though we know that motherhood is a big and important job, on most days, it still feels small. {Tweet This}

And no matter how many people tell us that what we’re doing day in and day out is sacred; when we’re on our knees wiping dirty bottoms or dirty floors, when we’re bent low folding laundry or playing Legos; it’s hard to remember that we’re kneeling on holy ground.

We can tell ourselves this matters – all this face wiping and boo-boo kissing and hand-holding – but some days it feels like it doesn’t.
Some days the endless line-up of small tasks – of dishes and laundry and reading Green Eggs and Ham twenty times over and over again – leave us aching for something bigger.

Becoming a mom expands your life and shrinks it all at the same time
It simultaneously stretches your heart and binds your hands.
It fills your days and empties your soul.

motherhoodAnd sometimes, more than anything, we just long to take a few giant steps beyond our daily grind rather than grab a tiny hand and saunter slowly around the block. Again.

That’s why now and then words fall short.
And that’s why our legs grow weary.

But, you and me, Mom, we can do something small for one another that makes a big difference.

We can pass out hugs in the grocery store and smiles in the carpool lane.
We can stop talking and start listening.
We can offer laughter instead of platitudes.
We can walk together and pray each other through one more step.

Because we both know that a dozen small steps creates a steady stride.
And a steady stride marks a faithful life.
And if we just keep grabbing our children’s hands and putting one prayerful foot in front of another, some day we’ll walk ourselves right out of a job.
And we’ll wonder why our carpets are so clean.

That baby’s fussing morphed into wailing, so my friend waved good-bye and hustled to the check out line. And I pushed my cart toward aisle nine.

Maggie pirouetted around a tower of graham-cracker boxes while I reached for a bag of frozen peas. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my girl curtsey wildly and bump the cracker display with her fancy flourish. Honey Maid boxes tumbled to the floor. I hurried to my ballerina’s side and began stacking the boxes once again.

“I’m sorry, Mommy,” Maggie whispered in my ear. “I was just doing a small dance.”

I looked straight into my daughter’s baby blues and remembered a puddle of paint.
And one small bare foot.
And a house filled with blue footprints.

And as I lifted up my mess maker, I reminded myself of that truth that every mama needs to hear now and then – sometimes the smallest things leave the biggest imprints. So I kissed my little girl and offered her a small smile. And prayed for strength to keep walking in grace, one small step after another.

Alicia BruxvoortAlicia Bruxvoort is a lover of Jesus Christ, a seeker of abundant life, and a freelance writer and speaker. She’s got a handful of children, a home full of laughter and a life full of noise. She’s the frequent hostess of kitchen-floor dance contests, meal time talk-a-thons and dirty laundry campaigns. She loves the sound of her children’s laughter, the feeling of her husband’s hand in hers, and the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. She makes her home in the Midwest where tulips bloom and neighbors smile. While her laundry baskets are NEVER empty, her soul sometimes is. When all is said and done, she doesn’t want her minivan to be the only thing crammed to capacity. Alicia wants a soul that’s filled to the brim, too. She wants to live the life Jesus dreamed for her when He declared, “I have come that (you) may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To read more from Alicia, please visit her blog: The Overflow! Where souls are filled and faith is spilled.

Pirate Preacher

The Pirate Preacher is the Communications Director at Christ' Church at Moore Square. On Monday nights he leads a "Jesus Study" in Moore Square. Each Sunday between 12:30 and 2:00 the Pirate Preacher and others, gather in the park to hand out food, water, and other items that add to the abundant life Jesus promised. He's also is an award-winning author of middle-grade, YA, and adult fiction and a writing coach and instructor.

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