Great Things

This week I received the alumni magazine from the college I attended, in which I can see all the important things my former classmates have achieved. There are bank CEOs, college presidents, scores of lawyers, surgeons, jet-setting executives. And me. I smile when I imagine what my paragraph would look like:

Since launching her career, Shannon has changed 29,283 diapers, many of those without turning the light on. She can recite in their entirety over 2 dozen children’s books, including (but not limited to), Goodnight Moon, Zoom City and Silly Sally (latest reports are that she make the accompanying animal voices for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) Her associates report that she can prepare a casserole, wipe a nose and double-check math homework simultaneously. She is unrivaled in the art of sewing on a Cub Scout patch.

Fifteen or twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been impressed by such a list. I was going to do Great Things, you see. I would write a book, win a Pulitzer Prize, live in a huge city, marry late, make a lot of money, change the world. I wanted to be a mother, always, but I thought I would somehow tuck it in between the spaces of all those Great Things. My definition of "Great" came from…well, I’m not sure–the world? my college professors? Glamour Magazine?

I don’t remember the day when my definition of "Great" began to change. It was a subtle shift, as my desire to be a mother grew and the desire for those other things began to pale in comparison. Falling in love with a wonderful man certainly sped things along. And before I knew it, I was the opposite of everything I once considered great–no salary, no career, no by-lines or title pages with my name on them. And somehow, that had become quite fine with me.

There were days, early in my motherhood journey, when I had flashes of wondering if I took the right path. I had many friends doing exciting, prestigious things, and I realized the likelihood that all the "dreams" I once held would not be realized. But those flashes came less often, and less often, until one day I was watching my oldest son read a book and I was nearly knocked over as the realization washed over me: he is my Great Thing. Loving him, training him, investing myself fully in him is the Greatest Thing I could’ve possibly done with my life.

Somewhere in our society, it’s become a little "pathetic" to achieve your fulfillment by serving others. How has this happened? Shouldn’t this be a character trait that is admirable? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "When you serve another’s dream, you will find your own fulfilled." Scripture says it even better: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" Matthew 20:16.

So despite what the world, or college professors, or Glamour Magazine may have to say, I’ll plug along and be thankful that God nudged me down the path that He knew would fulfill me most. My 14-month-old daughter learned to give kisses this morning, and she gave her first one to me. I think that’s pretty Great.

This post was originally published on January 11, 2006

36 thoughts on “Great Things

  1. Cheri says:

    Our church just got done with a two week “Servant Festival.” The theme was “Striving for Silver.” The understanding was that we help others attain the gold. It was a wonderful time of getting to serve our community.

  2. Heart Gone Walking says:

    I never thought just three years out from college I would be home listening to Veggie Tales and using a Mom Binder instead of an employee handbook.
    From a young mom who had dreams of a glamorous career as well but now staying home (and loving it), thanks for this post.

  3. Sandi says:

    If more parents felt there job was this important, we would have fewer kids doing “Whatever they want” because the parents aren’t around. Parenting is a job that has no days off!!
    I had a lady in Sunday School class one morning say “My life is not where I thought it would be at this time, However it is right where God wants me and that’s what matters!” I was blessed reading this. Thank You…

  4. Smelling Coffee says:

    What a “Great” post. It is well worth it, isn’t it? I’m so thankful to be able to be a wife, mother, and homemaker. Keep up the “Great Thing” God has called you to. May He bless you richly in it and through it…

  5. Amy says:

    I really needed to read this right now. I’m still “early in the motherhood journey” and mourning all the paths I didn’t take… Not that I don’t love my kids, not that I would change a thing, but sometimes I still feel small because I don’t have a string of letters after my name, or a wall full of advanced degrees, or a list of patents with my name on them.
    Thanks for reminding me what really matters.
    Amy @

  6. Amy A says:

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I’m really hoping you will write that book one day. In fact, I might just preorder my copy on Amazon right now.

  7. Renee says:

    If I had read this the day you wrote it, I probably would have cried. I had just found out I was pregnant and was really struggling with not being able to live out my “dream” if not at least for a little while.
    My husband and I decided before we got married that I would stay home and take care of our babies when we had them, but I didn’t think reality would come so soon. Anyway, as I sit here today, I can identify with you much, much more — sometimes those ideas still creep in though, probably because I was really good at what I did and now I feel completely inadequate a lot of the time. That baby is almost two now, and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing!
    It’s so good to hear that I am not alone in the way I feel, sometimes it feels like I am because a lot of women don’t like to admit that they want or wanted something for themselves.

  8. Amy says:

    I made career plans, I was going to be an archaeologist. The only thing I ever really got to dig for was lost toys in the sandbox. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have three kids who are my career and my love. I have a good husband who has made it possible for me to stay home with the kids, working two jobs at times. We had the same priorities when we married, raise a family with Mommy-care, not daycare. My oldest is in college and it makes me proud to see how successful he is.

  9. Luke Holzmann says:

    I hope that, despite having to work because bills still come in, that I will be able to at least take a little part in the Great work of raising kids.
    Currently, I get to work before 7am so I can get home by 3:30 in the hopes that I will have more time to spend with my kids… when they arrive.

  10. Crystal says:

    That is beautiful. I don’t think that if I had become some great CEO type person that I would have learned so much about myself and become the person I am. The main reason I am who I am is because of my love for my kids and their love for me. That is something that no name plate, no fancy title, or business card could ever give.

  11. hogphan says:

    When I was the dad to a young family, I kept a saying under the glass on my desk that said “what a dad says to his children is not heard by the world, but it IS heard by posterity!” It confirms exactly what you’re posting about.

  12. Wani says:

    Its nice to be reminded how important our role at home is. After today (filled with reports that my 3yr old was hitting his friends, blatant disobedience, temper tantrums, having the sprinkler turned on me (by said 3yr old) while I was nursing, and having to clean up pee off the kitchen floor)…. yeah – its nice to be reminded that there is “greatness” in what I do here – even if its hard to remember it sometimes.

  13. mamalovelock says:

    Sometimes I feel the bug biting me to get out there and get my career on track and do all those things I love to do, but then I think of my children and well, they are the things I love to do. I wouldn’t trade my job title for nothing!! The money isn’t great, but the hugs and kisses make it all worth while (even on the worst day).

  14. threeundertwo says:

    I have trouble reading about my former classmates and their stellar careers. Sometimes it’s so hard to see that what we moms do is great too. Thanks for the eloquent reminder.

  15. stacey says:

    Due to God’s goodness I have done both. I know the sacred nature of raising children far outshines what I can contribute to a business deal. Contracts are temporary–children are forever.
    A line from a movie years ago touched me so powerfully that I copied the mothers remark to her child, “Your my best thing.”
    Since they were little I have consistently reminded my children that they are my best thing. I am blessed to know the difference.

  16. happyvalleygirl says:

    I don’t look at my alumni magazine for fear that I might have those same feelings. I, instead of changing the world, had 2 sets of children. The other day an old friend who had children the same age as my first set of children, now grown and married themselves, wrote me all about her life post raising children–her recent college degree, her recent business venture and vacation. When she asked me what I was doing, I had to honestly respond, “I’m doing the same things we did when our kids were young together, only now I do it in triplicate”. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  17. Brenda says:

    What an absolutely beautiful post! I left the business world five years ago to take on the challenging role of full-time mommy. I have never looked back or regretted my choice.
    But until tonight, I have not heard it expressed more honestly or beautifully.
    I am so glad I found this blog and got the chance to read this!
    YEAH YOU!!

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