This past week has been a joy-filled visit to the mountain top, colored by many moments of encouragement and affirmation. And my cup is full. I know that I don’t get to stay here forever, but it sure is nice to visit. Life is a series of peaks and valleys and I accept that I need both – as well as plenty of time spent in the places in between – to become the woman God is refining me to be. I can already feel the temptation to linger here too long, re-reading kind messages or letting my mind wander off to replay an affirming conversation. But while the mountain top is a great place for refreshment, it is not a place of growth. And I do want both. And God is telling me that it’s time to go. It’s time to do the work.
And I don’t just mean the work of writing. I mean the work of living my life. Of doing all the things necessary to live out my various roles well. Doing the things that are full of passion and purpose, the things that are ordinary, as well as the things that are hard.
However living a life of joy and significance in the routine of doing the ordinary things can be one of life’s greatest challenges.
I am a homemaker. It is what I write in the box for “occupation”. Which means that much of my time is spent doing ordinary things that are necessary to keep my busy home in order. Tidying. Numerous trips to Costco and the grocery store (I have three boys and allowing our kitchen to run out of snacks is about the greatest offense I can commit against them.) Laundry. Carpooling. And the relentless cycle of preparing food and washing dishes.
My twenty-year-old self would label me a sell-out. In college I spent hours having conversations with friends about wanting to open up a group home that would be a place of healing for wounded children. Or practicing social work in a major hospital, bringing peace and hope into situations that were chaotic and broken. Or joining the Peace Corps to live a life of adventure overseas. My senior year of college I actually did send a tear off card to the Peace Corps requesting information, but I never heard anything in response – and I have never been quite sure how to interpret that.
But then life happened.
I fell in love with my statistics tutor senior year of college – who could see that coming! – and we were married a year after graduation. I went to grad school for my Master’s of Social Work – but our first son (surprise!) was born six weeks after graduation. I worked as an on-call/per diem medical social worker for a local hospital network – but then my husband started grad school for his MBA and baby boy #2 came along, and the income I was able to generate was not worth the stress of trying to manage my work and babies.
So my career was put on hold. At twenty-eight I became a full-time homemaker and my daily routine became an endless list of tedious tasks. My family is my greatest joy, but that doesn’t mean that every moment and season has been fulfilling. You put in a lot of years of parenting before your kids can even have a conversation, let alone say “Thank you.” or “I love you.” – and mean it.
In those early months of parenting, I remember talking on-and-on to Ryan about something that I had heard during the day on talk radio. As I took a breath he innocently asked, “Why do you always talk to me about what Dr. Laura said?” And I burst into tears saying, “Because I don’t have anything else to talk to you about. I don’t do anything interesting while you’re at work and the baby doesn’t talk to me.”
Sixteen years have passed since that emotional conversation in a tiny apartment kitchen. That baby is 6 inches taller than me and is researching colleges that he’d like to attend. And I have come to realize how valuable those years of tedious work are to my spiritual formation and the work I love developing the community that we share with young adults…