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.
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.
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
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Loved this! God has never moved me half way around the globe to get my undivided attention, but He has sidelined me several times with surgeries. My initial mindset was – how long Coach till I can get back in the game? When, in actuality, the real activity was taking place on the sidelines. When we aren’t able to “do”, we have to learn how to just “be”. I’ve learned that just being in God’s presence is delightful, soothing, peaceful, refreshing, and filled with love. Our whole purpose in life is to be in relationship with Him, yet we struggle against this. When we slow down, lean close into Him, and just be…that is when we truly live.
Blessings and thank you for sharing,
Melissa Lu says
This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read in a long time. I’m in the toddler phase and it is so nice to know that what I feel is normal, frustration, boredom and all. Love those kiddos but the struggle is real. 🙂
Meg Vanatsky says
I loved your article and could identify with your feelings of isolation and loneliness as a young mom. I have experienced your boredom, feelings of being unused and your life seeming mundane and “unproductive.” I am a mother of 5…4 biological and one son we took-in at 18. I have moved and felt the pains of being “uprooted” 6 times in our 24 year marriage. Like you, I had my 3 oldest children within 5 years, so exhaustion, fatigue and feelings of isolation and uselessness were very common to me. It was not uncommon to hear me occasionally mutter under-my-breath, “Is this really worth it?” As they grew, I also chose to stay home and homeschool them several years, which also kept me at home and cut-off from the outside world at times. However, I heard a woman speak at a homeschool convention and it totally changed how I saw my time as a stay-at-home mother much differently. It was like hearing a great motivational speech at halftime, her smacking us moms on our pads and saying, “Now get back in the game and remember WHY you are playing and for WHO!” She encouraged us young moms that we were right where God needed us to be and He was definitely not unaware of our days as a stay-at-home mom. We are on HIS team and playing for him! HIs game plans just don’t always make total sense to us. We are training His future generation, our precious kiddos, in fertile soil within our homes. We are being given the amazing PRIVILEGE(although many days it doesn’t feel like it) of having lots of TIME (sometimes it feels like way too much ha ha) with them and building into our children our strong morals, values, and a strong faith and relationship w Him at early ages that God says, “When they are older will not depart from them.” They also reap the benefits of our constant love, gift of time & attention, having us there to console and talk to over their own ups & downs. By being constantly accessible to them, we have the amazing ability to be their cheerleaders and help cultivate strong confidence and self-esteem into them. The list goes on and on. To give you encouragement to press-on and not lose hope, I can honestly say I am now so grateful and aware of the SIGNIFICANCE of my job as a mom! My children are now 25, 21, 19, 16 and 10. I am now starting to see the “fruits” of my years of labor-at-home as they are becoming wise, mature young adults, confident, like each other and us & actually ENJOY our family! (Not easy to say for many teenagers and young adults these days!) But, most importantly, they all have embraced their faith and have their own personal relationship with the Lord. That, in itself, makes all those years of stress, fatigue, loneliness and feelings of my time at home being meaningless and useless SO WORTHWHILE and part of God’s plan! I hope this encourages you that what you are doing truly matters and is VERY worthwhile. Think of your home as God’s mission field and you are being given the awesome opportunity to “train up” His children in the comfort of your own home! You have the most important job in the world so keep up the great work!
Kim Duvall says
Oh how I needed to hear this – I am a stay at home mom and even though I have kids in college and high school I still feel the way you have talked about – thank you for sharing and being honest – may the Lord bless you and keep you
Tsh, what a reality-altering perspective! I think, especially in the US culture, we find our value, identity in our usefulness, in what we can do. In being productive. Right now, I’m recovering from knee surgery, and it’s very humbling to have to have others serve me. Yet, this is where God has me in this moment. And it’s where He knows I need to be so I can seek Him more, and learn to find the value in receiving from others.
I love this: “He is passionately wild about us, even when the majority of our waking hours are spent in the everydayness of it all.” It’s so true. God loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are or what we can do for Him. What freedom there is in that truth! I think I’m making your goal mine: to know God more and enjoy Him forever.
Thank you for sharing this!
PS—I had the opportunity to visit Istanbul many years ago, and I loved it there. 🙂
Yes friend I can certainly relate. After having dreamt of a life filled with high career aspirations and knowing God has gifted me with incredible abilities I’ve wondered if it’s all a waste in the 13 years I’ve spent pregnant or nursing 5 children with #6 on the way. Oh but praise be to God for removing the scales from my eyes that I might have “eyes to see heaven’s realities here on earth”. I love the quote you share about earth being crammed with heaven. The Lord has allowed me to be MAGNIFICENCE in the mundane. Keeping our eye on Him gives us eternal perspective.
Thank you so much for this!!! This is so true. I know that I need to enjoy the everyday mundane things in life, basking in the beauty of God’s presence. It’s as you’ve said, it’s knowing Him and just enjoying being in His presence.
Sally Ferguson says
I need to remember this, in this season as a caregiver for my Dad. I feel useless most days, but purposed for the task. God is calling us to greater relationship with Him, no matter what our circumstances!
This was really, really good! When my daughter was small, I learned so much about God and about myself (even though I wasn’t necessarily a willing pupil and I complained a lot about His lesson plans.) During that time I began to see His heart. I was awed as He modeled for me His patience, His kindness, His love, His delight, His discipline.
After that I began to wonder if it is not so much what we do that matters, as whom we do it with. I began to think that when we do life with God, we are enriched and that richness spills over into other people’s lives.
Nancy Wolfe @ livingcenter.me says
As a recently retired teacher, searching for the next “calling,” I pondered my boring stuff. And wrote this down: “There are countless inspired and faithful Believers all over the world who live hard lives. Lives I can’t even imagine. They don’t have a variety of options about education or job opportunities. They don’t have a choice about daily work or even where they live. They get up early, take care of their families, thank God for His love, go to bed, and do it again tomorrow. They never agonize over this job or that house. They just live a worthy life in ordinary ways, following God’s call to live as He directs, with love, integrity, and desire for goodness (2Thessalonians 1:11). That’s their calling.
It’s everybody’s calling.”
May we all bless each other with the daily call to love…xoxox
Joanne Peterson says
God’s purposes, plans, and ways, certainly are not my ways. I like and need the reminder of my purpose is to know God and enjoy Him forever, and then to teach this to my children. If I’m focused on productivity, my kids will learn this trait too, and miss the lifelong love of Who God really is, and His delights in His kids. This is causing me to reflect on do my kids feel as though the productivity is more important than they are? Do I have balance between the jobs and the relationship? I didn’t grow up knowing God loved us unconditionally, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it was all based on performance, and obedience and don’t make God made. It took me a long time to really learn and know deep down God loves me no matter what I do. Being in the ministry made the other better than us who were in the daily family stuff. Everything is sacred, I discovered this truth as an adult. I have a lot to think about and put into practice, firstly focusing more on knowing God.
Kate @ A Ringing Bell says
This kind of thinking takes the pressure off. I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago that “Your identity is not in what you get done.” Yes. Rather, my identity is found in being a daughter of God’s.
Thanks for inviting us to know Him, rather than perform for Him. So rich and so good for me tonight.
This is the third time this week the answer to “What is the chief end of man” has come across my eyes and ears. Thank you, Tsh. Good things still come in threes.
Lauren Gaskill says
YES! THIS. “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.” I love this! And you are so right. Thank you for sharing this post! <3 Great reminder to remember it's not necessarily about where we live, what we accomplish, etc., but it's about the fruit of our daily lives.
Beth Williams says
I can relate to feeling useless and wasting your life away! That is so true here in the US where we get our identity by what we do & how much we make. God finds ways to “sideline” us and get our attention focused back on Him! I am currently a stay-at-home wife caregiving for my aging father. At first I had feelings of not being productive enough! I used some of my “free” time to pray more, read the Bible, & really get closer to God! I try to “do ” something each day for my dad–even if it just a visit! I’ve gotten more involved in my church. I realize that this is precious time and I won’t regret using it for my dad! God will bless this!!
Brittany Bergman says
This is one of the best posts I’ve read anywhere in so long. I’m in the thick of new motherhood, and sometimes I feel strangely guilty for not being productive enough for God or even for myself. Thank you for this reminder that the everydayness can draw me closer to him.