Tsh in Turkey with her baby

When I first arrived in Turkey many moons ago to live our family’s new life, I was the mother of a two-year-old. A few months later, I became pregnant with our second-born. Two years later, I became pregnant again, miscarried; then six weeks later, got pregnant one last time with our third-born. Most of the years we lived abroad, I was either parenting a toddler, dealing with the bodily unexpected times of pregnancy, nursing a newborn, or some combination of it all.

Of course, that’s not why we moved 6,000 miles from our home turf; to change diapers and worship the porcelain god. But that’s what I ended up spending quite a bit of my time doing. I’d meet my tutor at a tea house several days a week to learn the language, I shopped at the local markets, I’d walk to the nearby park to practice language with locals while the kids played, and I got to know our neighbors—but otherwise, my life was at home, doing pretty much the same mundane stuff I was doing as a new mother in the States.

I found it odd that God brought me all the way to the other side of the world to, well, raise little kids and manage a home.

In fact, I found it more than a little odd. There were many days when I was frustrated at my supposed time-wasting, emotionally exhausted from feeling unused, and quite honestly, a bit bored from it all. At least living everyday life in my own culture meant access to English television and coffee with old friends. What on earth was I doing with my days?

“If God has come in the flesh, and if God keeps coming to us in our fleshly existence, then all of life is shot through with meaning. Earth is crammed with heaven, and heaven (when we finally get there) will be crammed with Earth. Nothing wasted. Nothing lost. Nothing secular. Nothing absurd…. All are grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.” -Paul Stevens, Down-to-Earth Spirituality: Encountering God in the Ordinary, Boring Stuff of Life

About a year into our life in Turkey, a fellow American friend confided this in me: “I’ve become so frustrated at my lack of usefulness here that I wonder if God brought me all this way not to use me, but for me to better know Him.” Our lives’ daily liturgy, when focused on how grandiose, or useful, or even productive they might be, can become the bastion of frustration when we end our days not having accomplished much more than the humdrum of life.

olives in a Turkish market
{Photo by Tsh}

My friend’s comment changed my perspective for the remainder of our time abroad, because it reminded me that no matter where I am or what roles I’ve been given, the point of my life is not usefulness, but in knowing God and enjoying Him forever.

This realization is nothing short of revolutionary. Tasks like laundry, nose wiping, errand running, and job clocking stop becoming a burden, and start becoming ingredients for our spirituality—a real one, where we relish in the fact that we are God’s and God is ours, regardless of our usefulness. Even when we’re given “big” tasks, like living cross-culturally or serving in leadership, these roles become less of a pressure to perform and more of an assignment to better know Him when we acknowledge that all of life, big and small, is crammed with heaven.

We are His children, and just as we don’t love our own children because of how useful they are to us, neither does God’s love for us depend on how productive we are in our days. He is passionately wild about us, even when the majority of our waking hours are spent in the everydayness of it all.

clothespin on a laundry line
{Photo by Ann Voskamp}

At the end of our life, we won’t be able to look back and remember most of the hours of our days, but we’ll remember what those hours produced. My hopeful goal is intimacy with God, knowing Him as a true Father and friend. Don’t fret or curse your mundane tasks. They’re grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.

by Tsh Oxenreider

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  1. 1

    ‘We are His children, and just as we don’t love our own children because of how useful they are to us, neither does God’s love for us depend on how productive we are in our days.’

    Love this line, love this post! I’m all about being, rather than doing and the doing coming from a place of being, if you get my drift! Originally, I too would have always thought about the ‘big’ productive stuff, but in recent years and with the arrival of my first baby a few months back, God is really teaching me how the little things can make such a big difference.

    Definitely going to share this post in my Weekend Reads over on my blog, thanks!

  2. 2

    Tsh,
    What a wonderful and refreshing post. No matter what phase of life we are in, there is always the mundane. Like you said, God did not create us to be useful, He created us out of His good pleasure to have an intimate relationship with Him. When I am tempted to become a human “doing” instead of a human “being”, I remember that even in my doing, I am totally reliant on Him (apart from me you can do nothing). Thanks for a great perspective adjustment!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  3. 3
    Andrea says:

    This is exactly what I needed to reach this morning! :)

  4. 4

    god has been whispering this in my ear lately and your post is one more loving reminder that this season i am in of doing less ‘big stuff’ is absolutely a season of god doing ‘big stuff” in me rather than through me. taking deep breath to take in your encouragement. thank you tsh. xo –kris

    • 5

      I couldn’t have said it any better than you, Kris. I am in a hard season of restlessness, wondering what my purpose is and wondering what God is going to do next (as if every waking moment wasn’t His next for me). And, lately, He has been speaking this into my heart. Thank you, Tsh, for this wonderful, much needed, affirmation. It’s going into the save folder.

  5. 7

    “No matter where I am or what roles I’ve been given, the point of my life is not usefulness, but in knowing God and enjoying Him forever”

    “We are His children, and just as we don’t love our own children because of how useful they are to us, neither does God’s love for us depend on how productive we are in our days.”

    These two statements really resonated with me today. Thank you for sharing this morning!

  6. 8

    I totally agree. It’s easy to forget in our purpose driven productivity induced hyper culture but yes, it really is about knowing God and enjoying him.

    • 9
      Sarah Westphal says:

      Ha! So accurately said: “our purpose driven productivity induced hyper culture”

      It is a disease! To which we all fall pray…

  7. 10

    Also, super cute picture! Is that Tate?

  8. 11

    I think I just copied almost this entire post into my folder about the glorious ordinary. Thank you thank you thank you, Tsh. Also just ordered that book. Booyah – a good start to Friday.

  9. 12

    I didn’t move across the world, but I did move 500 miles away from all my family and friends – my entire support structure – to set up a home, have a child, quit working and stay home full-time.

    Oh my GOSH, there have been days when it was so hard, so lonely and so frustrating. Thoughts of “what am I doing?” nipped at my peace over and over.

    I came to realize that God had me (and still has me) exactly where he wants me. On my knees, daily, unable to do any of this without Him.

    I’m being drawn to Him continually, and He’s used my circumstances to bring me closer.

    This quote lingers with me:

    “Every cross is a message from God and intended to do us good in the end. Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees.
    Health is a good thing, but sickness is far better if it leads us to God. Prosperity is a great mercy, but adversity is a greater one if it brings us to Christ.”
    - J.C. Ryle

    Thanks for your post. Timely – I still need this reminder every day!

  10. 13

    Thank you, Tsh. This was beautiful! I’m on the back-side of life (let’s just say, in my 60′s), and the Lord has opened a door for me to share my reflections on those boring times…but times fraught with meaning as I look back. Love your quote also!
    http://www.abranchinthevine.com

  11. 14

    This is beautiful. Gives me so much new understanding of the day-to-day. Thank you!

  12. 15

    Love this beautiful reminder to slow down and just BE – and to stop looking for the big things and realize all the little things ARE the big things! Thank you for this wise post- I wish I’d learned these things years ago, but better late than never!

  13. 16
    Jackie Folkert says:

    Yesterday my six-year-old daughter asked me, “What did you do today, Mom?”
    I wondered, Really, what did I DO? What did I PRODUCE? What am I PROUD of?
    Her innocent question brought me back to my devotional time that lately has been packed with questions about my purpose and how I can hear God’s direction for my life. I’ve been running scared, as if mediocrity is right behind me, reaching out to yank the back of my shirt.
    “He is passionately wild about us, even when the majority of our waking hours are spent in the everydayness of it all.”
    Thanks, Tsh, for another reminder that I can be faithful in the ordinary parts of life.

  14. 17

    Though my child-rearing days are behind me, I SO remember the mind-numbing routines that occupied those days. What wisdom you are bringing to the situation, Tsh! And thank you for sharing that quote from Paul Stevens’ book. “Nothing wasted; nothing lost,” he says. Powerful words to remember as we wash dishes, fold laundry, etc. Turning those mindless tasks into visits with God, especially worship of him, does have a tremendous impact on our spirits and attitudes.

  15. 18
    Joanne Peterson says:

    Hi Tsh,

    This is such a necessary reminder. My life has changed so much from what I thought I heard the Lord say to me when when my youngest left home. Not ever ever anticipating this turn of events. Going from a near empty nester to adopting 2 tiny boys who are now two and three years this year.

    Second round of family. Feeling lost and so unused, going from relative freedom to being back home. Being involved with new work I loved and was a contributor, and could see the difference in people’s lives, and was myself stimulated. Now back to perpetual being tired, constant messes, lack of adult conversation, and continual house chores and sibling squabbles, and a tough time of even a start to my day time spent with Jesus. Going between being over the top challenged with the behavior of the boys, and the constant re-direction and discipline, and back to very mundane housework.

    I can’t put my finger on everything you said, but the tone of what your article said spoke to me right where my thoughts are and where I am in my life right now. I sense the Lord saying this is important, the very mundaneness (it’s a word now) of what I am doing is right where I need to be.

    I have sensed restlessness in myself for a while, and couldn’t put into words what was going on in the inside of myself. You just explained in your article what was swirling around in me. In a way, it felt like life was passing me by. I realize now, it’s not passing me by.

    Because the majority of my friends are empty nesters, and my schedule and theirs don’t cross often, and not for lack of caring on either part, I have joined MOPS. I realize I will be the oldest one there, but that’s okay. I’m in sort of the same season they are, I just also happen to be a grandmother too.

    Thank you for your gift today.

    Blessings,

    Joanne

  16. 19

    thank you this is how i feel, i was pulled out of relationship, the mission field and like minded Christian friends and family to a new city. Im not doing anything really, no african jungle, no exciting testimony but mundane, stuff looking after people etc. i was wondering why i was still here, could He not take me home if im not going to do anything important. motherhood is important, working at big job is important i have neither, just to help someone who needs help. I suppose it is that important to God, in the little stuff.

  17. 20

    Amen.
    Intimacy with the LORD.
    Our privilege.
    An honour.
    Amen amen and amen.
    Ai.

  18. 21

    thank you! I SO needed to hear this today. My husband and I were talking about this very subject last night. I’m a mother of grown children and I love the Lord and serve in many ways but still feel so useless. I am slowly (much TOO slowly) coming to the conclusion that I need to just enjoy each day for what it is and be more proactive at making this my “hopeful goal” too! —-” intimacy with God, knowing Him as a true Father and friend.”

  19. 22

    A sweet reminder of what our Father desires most, relationship with Him. Whether we’re in foreign land figuratively or physically. Been there, even in Turkey actually, and while the purpose was cloudy in the midst of it all glorifying Him should have always been the ultimate goal. Thanks for sharing and encouraging.

  20. 23

    Beautifully put to words. This has been a message God has been speaking to me about through many sources. Thank you for using your story to encourage.

  21. 24
    Lu Wings says:

    God may have been using you in ways you cannot fathom.
    In most countries, Americans are not looked on fondly….we’re labeled as arrogant, wanting everything in English, unwilling to mingle with the Natives or simply “hang out”, unwilling to learn the language….just setting ourselves apart from.
    Yet here you were, raising your children among the Natives, hanging out, making forays into the language and culture…..being a Mom WITH other Moms IN another country. Who knows what pathways you paved for someone else’s work down the road?
    And yes, without a doubt, He was also doing His good and perfect work WITHIN you.
    AND your children were exposed to a vast array of cultures, so that they are not as “set in their ways” as many folks are…..they have a wordless understanding that “differentness’s are good, are rich are worth getting to know”.
    No doubt about it, He’s prepared a way, and you and your family have been His hands and feet.
    Thank You.

  22. 25

    Tsh,

    This is a beautiful reminder that we can enjoy every moment when we are enjoying the presence of God…and that God Himself is content with being with us even in the mundane!

    Love and Blessings,
    Brandi

  23. 26

    “He is passionately wild about us, even when the majority of our waking hours are spent in the everydayness of it all.”

    Love this!

  24. 27

    Jess shared the quote I love best, too. I need to be reminded that my God is passionately wild about me! Thanks much for your encouragement!

  25. 28

    That word “useful” is reverberating in my head, it seems to be what I’ve been wanting (for so long, I’m ashamed to say.) But It’s one of those things I’d never say someone else had to be, you know? I’ve had some times when I thought my solitude was God’s way of drawing me closer & I guess I thought there was still something else I had to do first! Thank you for a better perspective.

  26. 29

    To know God and enjoy Him forever. Beautiful.

    After 14 years in the Middle East, I often feel exactly like you did. We get so caught up in doing “great things” for God, when knowing Him and serving Him simply are what matter. My most valuable ministry here is cooking meals for guests. Simple.

  27. 30

    There are many missionary wives and Moms all over the world who need to hear this. I have been in Kenya with my husband and family for nearly eleven years now, and sometimes there is that whisper from the enemy suggesting it’s a farce, a waste, I ould have been a wife and Mum back home, what am I really doing for the Kingdom? Thank you for writing this and being open, and for heling us right skewed perspectives to be in line with the Father’s heart.

  28. 31
    LaRhonda Ladner says:

    Exactly what I needed at this very moment. I have been feeling agitated because of so much down time but I have kept reminding myself that in God’s timing I would be made to understand why. I have a very deep relationship with God but your message is confirmation that I need to know Him better. God’ s timing is awesome!

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