I sometimes feel dizzy, spinning around, filling buckets every moment of every day. Going into week eight of staying home because of this pandemic, refilling feels more exhausting. But, as I sit here on the sofa, awaiting our four little humans to wake for the day, I remind myself, “There is no work I could be doing that is more important than this right now”.

As I mentioned in ‘Twelve Cents’, in our home, we call our hearts “love buckets”. We teach our kids that their actions and words either fill or empty each other’s bucket. And, when our bucket is full, love is what spills out onto others. But, when it is empty, we tend to act with unkindness, impatience or selfishness. As parents of three daughters and a son, it is our duty to keep each of the buckets full, but that can be more difficult when our own buckets seem empty because of the extra demands and worries put on us during this time of family isolation. Not to mention that each of our kids requires us to dig into different types of sand to fill their specific bucket. While one child needs mental challenges, another needs active play, another needs snuggling, and yet another needs constant words of affirmation. Before the end of the day, my bucket can feel quite empty.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it”.

I’m re-evaluating these words as our children are missing the things that help to fill their buckets. Things like sports, school, friends, and other activities that we think they need to grow and thrive and get the most out of life. I still believe these things to be beneficial and helpful in their development, and we miss them dearly in this season of caution. However, is it possible that what we are able to do during our unexpected and unchosen ‘stuck at home’ period is more beneficial to their well-being than any of the above? When I read the words of that verse, I have to ask myself, “What is the way they should go?” I have questions about when they step back into the world…will the fills we deposited into their buckets sustain them as they adjust to yet another new routine, tangle with the fears of sickness, question if they are still on track in school, or reengage with peers? Will they step back into the world with buckets that are fuller than when they had to step out of it? Will their buckets be so overflowing with confidence and love, that they will be capable of filling the buckets of others who might be struggling? I know the way they should go is in love, and we have the privilege of filling each of their buckets beyond the brim with all of this time together. Not that it is easy…

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Repeatedly pouring into many buckets is not supposed to be easy. Sand castles don’t build themselves, and children can’t either. But, when our desire is to accomplish a beautiful castle that will stand firm when others surround it, our patience and dedication can overcome the exhaustion of the work. Parenting does feel consuming sometimes, but as the Lord has compassion on us, we also have compassion on our children, and should have it on ourselves.

I believe this is an unprecedented opportunity for parents to fill love buckets, and teach the skills of filling buckets, in ways that pack the sand so tightly, the world will have to struggle to empty it out. And, as the walls of the castle (think child) continue to be built, they will not easily crumble, but be able to stand firm in the midst of the swirling winds of life.

Parents…we are tired. But, be encouraged that this time of bucket-filling can leave an everlasting impression on the hearts of our children. The return on investment, no doubt, will be watching our kids thrive and know they are loved no matter what life throws their way, and become bucket-fillers themselves. Keep filling. Your work will not prove futile.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, not because you must, but because you are willing…” 1 Peter 5:2