Electric seashell sculpture

I’m always discouraged when I start my day feeling depleted. Going weeks at a time with no break from my 24/7 mom job takes everything out of me, particularly when my self-care is as shabby as it had been the previous two weeks. I woke Thursday morning wondering how I would make it till lunchtime without crumbling. And then everything shifted.

The boys were playing with the seashells we collected when we lived in Mexico and, as they were miraculously engaged and not breaking anything, I drifted around the house picking up toys, emptying an occasional item from the dishwasher and checking my email. In my five minutes of zoning out, Charlie had stacked white coral, spiral shells and little clamshells inside of what I remember to be a scallop shell from the Sea of Cortez. He often makes these types of “sculptures,” as he calls them, but this time, he announced it was for me. For me. “I made this for you, Mommy,” he was brimming with love, wearing a sweet, hopeful smile that released a flurry of jubilant tears from my tired eyes. “Do you like it, Mommy? Do you think it’s pretty cool? I made it for you. Here you go, Mommy. Do you want to hold it?

In that very instant, my three-and-a-half-year-old virtually hooked me up to a generator, recharging me on the spot. It was like a gentle jolt of warm vitality that, in one gesture, replaced all the energy I’d expended caring for him and his brother that week.

I’m baffled and in awe that such a simple, commonplace act—that of a child creating something for his mother—could be so powerful. And the scary thing is that I almost missed it; there was a tangible nano-second between the presentation of the gift and my response. I could just as easily have said, “Thanks! It’s awesome. How sweet of you!” while nonchalantly carrying on with my little to-do list. Had I not looked at Charlie’s face, noticed his outstretched hand or felt him beaming, I might’ve let the moment slip away into quotidian minutia, and I certainly wouldn’t have felt the revitalizing surge of love that changed my day. That gift came to me from a far grander place than a stack of seashells, and if I hadn’t been open to it, I would’ve missed it.

How much love do we miss out on each day? How many times a week does God try to fill us up only to find our hearts closed? Charlie’s gift reminds me that if I open up to love in the daily details, it almost always shows up.

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