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Unglamorous Roads

I have been walking through, what seems to be, a series of consecutive seasons of transition.

From leaving Huntsville, to spending a year working, to having a baby, to support raising, to moving overseas, to moving back, to having another child, and re-entering a place that is familiar, where for the most part the people are not, I have literally spent the past several years in the midst of a season of transition (and often loneliness). And I wish that I could say that I have handled it all gracefully, but the truth of the matter is, I have had so many days where the weight of the lack of fellowship, or the need for adult companionship and conversation, or the struggle to function in a foreign culture and speak a foreign language (to understand and be understood) and to see a purpose and a relevance in my life, in this season, has ended in some serious flesh-outs and breakdowns.

We all have seasons that the Lord allows us to go through that are not necessarily difficult (though they can be), but maybe fail to reflect our ideal ministry. We want excitement, we want to (and like to) feel busy, and useful, and needed, but sometimes the work that needs to be done, what God calls us to is, well…anything but; and sometimes we struggle to find how we fit in. How am I relevant in this place? ministry? circumstance? What is my purpose?

I am so grateful that we serve a God that grants us the freedom to come to him honestly with these kinds of questions, and that more often than not, He redirects our hearts and minds to focusing simply on Who he is. Do we trust his person? Do we trust Him simply on the basis that His character tells us he is trustworthy?

As a mother of young children, one of my biggest struggles has been finding where I fit. It is something I struggled with in Nepal. We tried for a long time to make it work with us both being equally involved. We were doing this together as a family, and I tried so hard to make it work because in my mind, doing this “together” meant that we worked and experienced things as a unit. The end result was two very tired and strung out parents with poor attitudes that could never fully engage in anything because we were both half involved in the task at hand, and half involved in chasing and entertaining a very active toddler.

I spent so much time in prayer asking the Lord how to make this “family ministry” (as I saw it) work, and the answer I got? Stop trying to make it work. I had to let it go, and realize that my purpose and the way for our “family ministry” to be the most effective, was for me to take a step back and be a mom, and champion my husband.

Once we made this decision, it really did get easier, and we saw more fruit because of it. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for me, because I want to be in the action, and it felt like just being a mom was not fulfilling for me. I know this sounds bad, maybe it makes me sound like a bad mother, but it was my honest feeling. I love my kids very much. They are a joy and a delight, but to change my attitude to one that no longer looked at this season as mundane or un-glamorous, to remove the “just” mentality, was and is a process.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my husband when he comes home from work talking about how long or hard his day was. I am genuinely jealous, envious, and annoyed. It isn’t a right attitude, but it is an honest admission. Sometimes I wish to feel exhausted but fulfilled, and most days I’m just exhausted.

I think we all have similar seasons, just different variables. What I feel and wrestle with in this season of motherhood (particularly of young children), might be what someone else feels about their college classes, or another about their workplace.

These are the un-glamorous roads, the mundane and tedious everydays.

G.K. Chesterton in The Emancipation of Domesticity says that “there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not ‘give her best,’ but gives her all.”

He goes on:

“Supposing it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior. Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
We need to remove the word “just” from these seasons of life, because what I am coming to realize is that God does some of his most sanctifying work in them.

Sanctify is defined by Websters dictionary as:
a) to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use (consecrate)
b) to free from sin (purify)

In the areas of our life that seem in our eyes lackluster, vague, unclear, tedious, or slow, we are often being consecrated and purified, as well as being taught crucial truths about the Lord’s character. Are we allowing the Lord to use us in the workplace, in our classes, as an example of a wife/mom simply through our obedience to live our lives well in front of others?

Do we repent and ask forgiveness when we are stretched and pushed and that junk that was in our heart comes pouring out? Are we allowing ourselves to be purified?

Let’s get rid of “just”
When we arrive at a place where we are no longer just a wife, just a mother, just a student, just a teacher, just a small group leader, just an intern, etc…we free ourselves to look at our life with joy and thanksgiving rather than disappointment or discontent.

I think a lot of times we allow ourselves to become disappointed with the work we are doing. Maybe it’s because the newness of it has long worn off and we have been doing the same thing for so long that we have lost our excitement for it. We look at adventures our friends are having in some foreign and exciting place and our little bubble looks kind of blah and lame in comparison. Because we aren’t doing the BIG work, we begin to feel as though our work is insignificant and small, or sometimes we fail to see if we are really doing any work at all.

Having been on the other side of that, there were parts of ministry in Nepal that were truly adventurous (and trust me, I have stories), but even in the midst of trekking through the mountains, there were moments when we found ourselves wondering “what are we even doing here?” We felt like we were literally sitting around twiddling our thumbs at times because while we were resting from trekking between villages (something most of these people do daily), all the people were off working. No one was home!

Sometimes we would be looking at FB and all the things going on back home, all the things our friends were doing, and think, “wow, they are doing such big things for the Kingdom.” And it was true, but so were we, even if we didn’t always feel as though we were making much headway, or much of an impact. I have to remind myself too, that not all the things we are called to are for others. Some things we walk through are meant specifically for us.

Whether it’s a season of waiting, a season of transition, working a 9-5 job, going to class every day, a season of “I just don’t know what to do with my life”, having to step back or adjust involvement because of health reasons, or needing to take care of small children…God does not waste our time or our circumstances.

In waiting we learn patience and trust. In raising support we better understand God’s timing and provision. In times of hardship we learn our weaknesses, and see His strength. In times of stress, we see what’s truly in our hearts. In times of mourning, we receive his comfort….

Sometimes in our desire to simply feel relevant or useful we make our own plans. They might come from good intentions, and they might be good works, but they can often get in the way of what the Lord is trying to do. We become impatient, and assert ourselves into the seat of authority.
Prov. 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
We so like to be in control don’t we? All too often we can’t see the forest for the trees. (in other words, we concern ourselves so much with the details that we fail to see the bigger picture.)

I’ve struggled with feeling relevant this year. I’ve felt lonely, disconnected, bored, unfulfilled, and lacking purpose. Then, I remembered that not even a year ago, I was praying and asking the Lord for a season of rest. (duh!) And my gracious and loving Father gave it to me!

So what about these un-glamorous roads; these mundane everydays?

1 Cor 7:17 “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned him, and to which God has called him.”

Prov 16:3-4 “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

– lead the life the Lord has assigned you
(in other words, don’t concern yourself with the grass on the other side of the fence. Be faithful with the grass the Lord has assigned to you.)
– commit your work to the Lord…and your plans will be established
I picture our lives like this – when we look back at our lives, as a great landscape, we will see Mountains, we will see valleys, but more than anything else, we will see miles and miles of flat winding roads connecting all the peaks and the valleys. They seem insignificant, until you realize that without the roads you would never have reached the peaks, and you would never have made it out of the valleys.

Let’s rejoice and be grateful for the sanctifying work of walking out our unglamorous roads.

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