When I was in grade school, I took my lunch almost every day. What I didn't have in my lunch box was the Fruit Roll-Ups that everyone else (seemingly) had. But what my lunch did include, on the inside of the top lid, was a sticky note.
In my mom's script was a message:
I'm proud of you!
Have a good day!
See you after school!
These notes almost always included a sparkly sticker or a hand-drawn smiley face.
These sticky notes, which I'm sure there were hundreds of them over the years, were small reminders of my mom's great love for me. In the midst of a sweaty day, full of math facts and spelling words and games of four-square, were small squares of paper that reminded me of the fact that I had someone cheering for me, encouraging me, loving me.
Fast-forward a few decades.
I'm a stay-at-home mom of three littles. They are wonderful, crazy, energetic, and at times, all-consuming. My life is predictable: dishes, laundry, kisses, cooking, driving, reading books, negotiating, tickles, sweeping, writing, picking up, wiping, reassuring, packing, unpacking. It can be simultaneously blissful and chaotic and frustrating and mind-numbing and humbling.
And it's so easy, despite being in church for as long as I can remember, to forget my foundational truths.
Because in the midst of disciplining, planning, cleaning, teaching, playing, loving, and going, it's always immediate needs first. Who needs food? A diaper change? An appointment made? A drink? A bath? We run out of milk. Something spills. The kids cry or argue. Who needs a hug? A bandage? Redirection?
I need a reminder. No, I need reminders.
Renewal. Redirection. Reassurance.
I need a lunch box love note.
And that's why there's the Bible. And the Christian radio station. And Christian friends. And small, everyday miracles and moments.
These are the ways God whispers into my life and says, "I'm still here. I've never left. And I never will."
I can do great things through Christ.
I am doing great things, but only through His strength.
I need His strength, because the job of raising three kids (successfully) is simply impossible to do on my own.
Some days, I'm so overwhelmed. Other days, I simply surrender to the chaos, and not just surrender to it, but join in. Some days I'm muttering curse words under my breath as yet another huge mess is made and another argument ensues over who gets to be Peter Pan. Some days are sunny and happy and everyone is well-behaved and well-mannered.
But every day, every day, I need His strength.
Most days, I fail to recognize this fact.
And no matter how unfaithful or forgetful I can be, God shows up.
In a song playing quietly in the background of our noisy kitchen.
In a text from a friend.
In a phone call from my sister.
In a smile from a stranger.
In a verse during a very quick skim of my Bible.
These love notes are my breath, my hope, my possibility.
My encouragement that says I can keep going, keep doing, keep loving.