Faithful with the Small Things

 

Do you ever wonder if what you are doing really matters, if the mundane tasks of everyday motherhood and married life are really of any eternal consequence? I do. Sometimes I get to looking around at women who have big, visible ministries with nation, even international platforms. I see them making a big impact on the lives of thousands of women through speaking, writing, singing, teaching, etc. Then I look at the sink full of dishes and hear my toddler dumping a bin of legos in the other room while her brother yells at her to stop, and I think, “Is this it? Does this repetitive, monotonous work of child training and housework and homeschooling really make much of a difference at all in the world?”

A radical life for Christ is not always visible to outside eyes.  ~Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

Yes, I have chosen this role as a wife and mother, and I do feel called to stay at home and teach my children full time, but there is still that nagging little voice that tells me that this is not enough, that I should be doing more, or doing better, at the very least. After all, I have a Bible college training and a degree. I could be teaching more than basic math facts and proper table manners. But then, there is another small voice that speaks to my hearts, this time gently and softly, and He says, “This is what I have for you to do right now. Do it well. Love these children. Teach them with humility and diligence. Love and support your husband, encouraging him daily. Be faithful in these seemingly small things, my child. They matter to me.”

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  ~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am reminded then that it is not about what the world sees, or what even the modern church sees, as successful ministry. It is about being obedient and faithful in what He gives me to do today, and every day. It is about being willing to do whatever He leads me to do, great or small. It is not about being seen or being recognized for what I do.

It’s not about the size of the serve. It’s the willingness to do what he asks.  ~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

My role as a wife and mother is about being Jesus’ hands and feet to my family. My ministry is like that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It is not glamorous or even well-respected in society. It is dirty and tiring and mundane. But I have the opportunity to show my children the love and grace of God in how I discipline and serve and teach them each day. And if these two precious little souls are the only two I ever can reach with the gospel of Christ, then so be it. I am following the Shepherd who went looking for the one that was lost and rejoiced greatly when it was found.

In God’s economy, the thousands are just as important as the few.
The few are just as important as the one.
The one is why He came.
Because He cares.
~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

Maybe someday the Lord will add to my ministry and enlarge my circle of influence to extend beyond my family or even my local church. But for now I need to learn to be faithful in the small things, so that when He wants to give me bigger things, I will be strong and prepared to handle them well. I pray I will learn to be His obedient and gracious servant, to be a reflection of Christ in both the monotonous and the monumental tasks He sends my way.

For more information on authors mentioned in this post, see Sally Clarkson’s website, her book Own Your Life, or Suzanne Eller’s website and her book Come With Me. (Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you click through them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commision, at no extra expense to you. This helps support the blog, so thank you for your help!)

The Comforts of Home: Thoughts on home, heaven and the local church

As I write this, I am sitting at a plastic folding table, surrounded by moving boxes in the middle of our new dining room. Last night as I was making cornbread from a mix I had brought from our other house. As I set everything up, I realized that the one thing I was missing for the process was a mixing bowl! Thankfully, I had brought the mix in a large Mason jar, so I simply stirred all the ingredients together in the jar! We don’t have any of our living room or bedroom furniture moved into our rental house yet, so there is nothing to sit on except the floor or folding chairs. I want to unpack some boxes, but without any bookshelves for books or dressers for clothes or bins for kids’ toys, it is hard to really do much of that. Moving over the long term is an adventure, and we are making the very best of it, but at times I do miss the ease of having all my belongs and my family in the same place at the same time. You could say that I miss the comforts of home.

Ever since we knew where we were moving, we have been researching churches in the area and wondering where God will call us to serve next. We have seen a few different “styles” of churches and are not sure just where we should even begin looking. We know that God has made us with specific gifts and talents to fill a place in His local body of believers, but we don’t know which place that will be yet. I started out asking the Lord to give us, just this once, a place to belong where I could feel comfortable being myself and feel like I fit in, somewhere I could be fed while also serving and being useful, with minimal discomfort of uneasiness. After all, we often refer to the local meeting place of a specific body of believers as our “church home,” so why should we not look to that place as having all the comforts of home a church could offer?

But then the Lord began to gently prick my heart. He reminded me that this world is not my home, and that includes the church. Heaven is my real home, and no matter how blessed and abundant my life here on earth may be, it will never truly satisfy the longing of my heart to be home with the Lord. Only there will I truly enjoy ALL the comforts of home. So while we may search for a place for corporate worship, a place in which our gifts can be useful to the local congregation to serve and uplift, we ought not be seeking comfort. In fact, we should expect discomfort, challenges and difficulty. We should expect to be stretched, to be called out of our comfort zone into deeper waters and tasks beyond our current abilities. This does not necessarily mean we have to go out of our way looking for a local church that does not fit our doctrinal beliefs or practices in a way with which we do not agree. We still ought to hold to our beliefs and gather with others who share those basic tenets of the faith. However, we do need to be willing to go to a place that feels too big or too small, too loud or too quiet, too new or too old, too this or too that, for us to feel totally comfortable. If we sense God calling us to a specific church location, we must follow His lead. He wants to use us for His glory, not for our ease. So I am learning to let go of my wants so that I can be filled with His desires instead. I know that wherever He places us, it will be better than whatever I might choose. I might will be uncomfortable for a time, but I then I will be reminded to look forward to my eternal home even more.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭~Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!

Psalm 121: Help for Your Journey (and a FREE Printable!)

On Sunday, the pastor at our temporary church home taught from Psalm 121. This psalm has long been one of my favorites, and each time I read it, I am reminded of the Lord’s protection. If you are not familiar with Psalm 121, it starts out like this:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

This psalm is part of a group of psalms known as the Songs of Ascent, meaning that they were sung on the journey up to the mountain city of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. I really love the opening verses so much as they encourage me to look to the Lord for my help and remind me that my Helper is the very One who created the universe! But on Sunday the verse that actually struck me the most was the final verse:

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121:8

When I read these verses this week it was as if the Lord were speaking to me directly, saying, “I know you are worried about this whole moving process. But don’t fear or fret, my child. I have this all planned out and will guard your going out of this place and you coming into the next in my perfect time. You are held in my hands. Be at peace.” It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. No matter how many times we have read a passage of Scripture, it can impress us with new insights because God’s Word is living and active.

Because of this truth, it is so valuable for us to spend time meditating on Scripture and letting it sink deep into our hearts and minds. In light of this, I wanted to create a tool to help us meditate on Psalm 121 together, so I came up with this little coloring page with the entire chapter centered on it. This printable is available FREE for my blog subscribers as a little thank you for joining me on this journey! Subscribe below if you have not already, and you will be sent a password for my new Resource Library. Then you can download the PDF and print as you wish. I encourage you to read and meditate on the psalm as you color the floral motifs, then display it somewhere where you will see it on a daily basis and be reminded Who is your Help and Keeper!




Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Open Hands: Releasing Control of What Is Not My Own

We had a house showing today. I am not sure how many we have had now, but every time it stresses me out so much. Today was no different. I cleaned most everything yesterday because I knew we would be out of the house this morning for prior commitments and would only have time and energy for vacuuming and final tidying in the afternoon. Still, the whole day I was on edge. I snapped at the kids for stupid little things. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I complained to God about how long this process is taking and grumbled about all the hard things that have happened to us during our time here. When it was finally time to clean up before leaving the house for the showing, I was super tense, worrying that everything might not be just perfect enough and that the people coming would not be impressed and not want to buy the house. And it would be my fault for not cleaning enough, for not taking good enough care of the house or the yard.

That is when it hit me. I was taking sole responsibility for selling this house upon myself. Forget the fact that God gave my husband his new job without any help from me. Forget the fact that He has provided everything we have needed up to this point, again without my help. Sure, I keep praying for Him to help us sell and move and all. But then when it is time for me trust Him to work, I take it all on myself. And that makes me a very nasty person to be around. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t do a single lick of good for the house, actually! That stung, to realize that I have been so faithless and allowing that worry to control me to the point of even taking it out on my kids.

But even in the midst of conviction, I felt a sense of relief. I do not have to sell this house. I do not have to clean every speck of dust off the floor in order for God to bring us a buyer. I do not have to stress about the house having the perfect lighting and temperature set for a showing. Those things might help, but God does not need me to do them in order to sell this house. It is not ours anyway, not really. He has given us at a resource for a time, and now we are releasing it fully back to Him to use for a different purpose. What if I let go completely and let Him work as only He can? Yes, I do still have to do my job. But I don’t have to hold tightly to control every detail. I do not have to sacrifice my relationship with my children over this. I can hold loosely to all things because my Father is caring for me.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

So from this point forward, I am making an effort to release control of the sale of this house and all the details that go with that. I am going to prioritize spending quality time with my family, making heart connections and memories with my children. I am committing to open my hands to release that which is not mine to control and to accept that which God has already given me. And I am thankful that tomorrow is a fresh new day. . . And nobody is coming to look at the house, so I will not be cleaning. Well, maybe I will at least do the dishes. 😉

This post is part of the Grace & Truth link-up at Arabahjoy.com.