There was a voice that seemed to ring out above the background noise, during my late 20’s and 30’s–the years I was home, taking care of preschoolers. I’m not sure if it was an audible voice, or one in my head, but I know I heard it clearly. The voice claimed that a woman who scaled back at work, or put her career completely on hold to raise kids, was squandering her training and talents.

Sometimes I would listen to the voice. I would daydream about certain rewarding moments of my professional life–times when I received a huge compliment, or I got an exceptional review. Inevitably, my daydream would be shattered by the not-so-professional moments of the present–which usually involved some sticky mess or wailing child.

I would sigh and get back to work–my new work, which didn’t seem to be special enough to daydream about.

Strangely enough, however, now that my kids are all taller than me, those sticky, frenzied moments have taken on a new glow in my mind’s eye. Those are the moments I dream about these days. And my fond moments from way back when I was getting paychecks, are becoming much more dim.

Recently, I found a picture, tucked into a file. It was of me, holding my newborn son. He was sleeping against my chest with his arms tucked in tight and his feathery head resting under my chin. I spent several moments studying each curve of his face, and shape of his pudgy fists, reviewing each detail from the treasure chest of my memory. The years since this photo was taken have served to emphasize the tenderness of the moment captured.

Time does that. The sands of time are a filtering system, which shift and reorder which moments rise to the top, and which sift to the bottom, and are forgotten. Now, in my mid-40’s, I see the pictures from that era of my life different.

Sure, there are piles of dirty clothes in the background of my snapshots. There are dishes on the breakfast bar, and toys scattered everywhere… but who cares? The mess holds a certain nostalgia for me, and I almost miss the things that used to drive me crazy.

I’m getting to the point where I’ve almost forgotten how hard it is to go grocery shopping with three preschoolers hanging off the cart. Or how hard it is to keep the house picked up. Or how incredibly peaceful the house would become at 8 p.m.

But here’s what I haven’t forgotten: Those years were so incredibly worth it. Sure, there was an opportunity cost. There was sacrifice involved. Yes, I spent entire days doing nothing but cleaning up messes that would be remade the following day. But, I believe that God was looking on with a smile, as I spoonfed little mouths, and wiped little runny noses. And someday, I hope to hear His voice, rising above all of the background noise, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

That hope gives the preschool years a lasting glow.

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