After volunteering at the school library the other day (and living out my life-long fantasy of being a school librarian…), I still had 30 minutes before school was out, so I popped over to our neighborhood coffee shop across the street to drink tea and read for a bit. When I came outside with my drink, I noticed a mom from the school also sitting on the porch, hard at work. I had a pang of guilt—what am I doing here drinking $4 tea that we really can’t afford and reading my just-for-fun book while mamas like this are doing actual work-work? She is contributing to her family in important financial ways, but she is also contributing to something bigger through her workplace. Every morning when she wakes up, she gets to put on fancy clothes, sleek high heels, lovely makeup, kiss her children goodbye, and then go do something productive—something bigger than feeding two silly chickens mealworms.
I often think about what it would contribute to our family if I got even a part-time job. And I also think about what it would mean to me to have that kind of productive purpose—more productive than finishing whatever book I’m reading. I think about the example that would be to my children to see their papa AND mama heading off to work each day to do Important Things.
I quickly remember that this was Aaron’s and my dream for our family—for me to stay home with our babies while they were little. I am home to our children, the safe place for them to land every day. But is that enough? Would I be a better mama if I were working? So many mamas do amazing things—they have businesses they run out of their homes; they go to work doing important jobs pushing back the effects of The Fall in their workplaces; they create pieces of beauty for this broken world, bringing healing through their art; they homeschool their children and help others teach their kids, too. They are powerful, beautiful examples to their children.
I often think of the mamas who work at our elementary school. These are truly amazing women!! They come to school, love and nurture tough kids with wisdom and grace all day, then go home and lavish their own families in love. I admit that I am jealous of their ginormous capacities. I seem only capable of staying in my own little corner of the world, putting one foot in front of the other, and living a simple, mundane life—the biggest excitement in my life lately was last month when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a mouse run by in the house. We bought at least 10 traps but haven’t caught anything! And there are no smells of a mouse that got trapped somewhere and died. So either the mouse found its way out or it was all in my imagination. Pretty riveting, right?
Is it okay that I live in the mundane? That my existence is quiet and unremarkable? That I spend my mornings enjoying two silly hens? Is it enough that I don’t have big career goals or that I’m not dreaming of ways to change the world? Is it okay that I push back the effects of The Fall through simple things like baking apple pie and helping in the school library? Will my children be impacted by how tight our budget is? Will they be disappointed in the half-written book on hospitality saved on my computer? Will they be scarred by our lack of vacations in their childhood?
Oh, friends, how many of us get trapped in this way of thinking? How many of us compare ourselves to others to see if we measure up? How tempting it is to question our calling or to be dissatisfied with where God has placed us?
God brings to my mind Jesus’ life on earth. Apparently he lived a pretty mundane life until his ministry started, because the Bible skips more than 15 years of his life during that period! And then, even once his ministry started, he moved and worked within the mundane. He didn’t go to Rome and preach the gospel there, getting attention from fancy people. No—he moved in and out of the banality of everyday life. His closest friends were ordinary men who wrestled with their faith and marveled at God’s love, just like me. Jesus didn’t enter into ministry with a band of angels or a gold crown. He lived simply, owning nothing more than the clothes on his back. He enjoyed the company of others, loved those around him, and healed hearts (and bodies!) along the way. His life, though complex in its purpose, was not full of glory.
In light of Jesus’ ministry in the mundane, how can I put expectations on myself that are outside of God’s calling on my life? I think it must be enough to find joy in that $4 cup of tea, learn from that book I’m reading, appreciate those super moms who are gifted with the talents and visions to do extraordinary things, help out at school, and love on my family. I think it’s enough to spend vacations driving to visit Aaron’s grandmother and aunt in Iowa, never finish a book I’ve been writing (or finish it—either way!), drive cars that are 10+ years old, and believe that God has purpose in my life, as plain as it may be.
My life may be simple, but it’s not without purpose or joy. And it’s certainly not without love.
How do you struggle with God’s calling on your life? Do you struggle with dissatisfaction? How do you fight that? What scriptures do you cling to to remind you of God’s sovereignty and love?