Keep an organized prayer journal, full of verses you've prayed for your children and husband. Spend 30 minutes a day, mediating and chewing on spiritual things. Serve more. There always seems to be this list running through my head about what I ought to be doing as a good Christian woman. Add in my own issues with over achievement plus my task oriented personality and it's a lovely little mix of a woman who delights in finishing projects, in accomplishing things (yes, even the spiritual things), and in doing meaningful, worthwhile jobs. I dream big, see the big picture, and value eternity. And sometimes, this stay-at-home mom gig can end up falling short of those expectations.
Pray like a prayer warrior with heartfelt writing and references to Scripture? Some days, forming coherent sentences to the people who live in my house is a challenge. Follow a Bible study all the way through, start to finish? Too often I'm choosing between Bible time, showering, breakfast, and exercise. Finish one list of projects and then tackle a few more? More often than not, I get the dishes and laundry done and then count anything else as a bonus. Be inspired to tasks that leave their mark in eternity? Scrubbing sticky counters and continually sweeping the floor just doesn't feel all that inspiring.
To stay home, I left a job I loved, where my gifts for teaching, compassion, creativity, and organization were utilized daily. My old job was one where I believed in the purpose of my position, where I believed that what I was doing mattered, where I could often see progress. In some ways, it is easy to compare that old job to staying at home and feel like I am being stifled, to wonder if I ought to be doing something that impacts more people than just my brood of four. In many ways, the easier task for me to do would be to be teaching full time.
We have been studying the book, Anything, by Jennie Allen as part of our church's summer Bible study. The author tells her story of praying to God, "Anything. I will do anything you want". It's about this prayer of surrender, where we willingly admit that unless we are living yielded to Him in all things, then we are living a life where we will never really be fulfilled. For me, I've prayed such a prayer many times, over many different areas of my life, from my marriage, to my adoptions and pregnancy, to health issues. So the concept isn't exactly new to me. But looking at my mundane, not-so-flashy life and holding it up next to the idea of "anything" easily causes me to think I should be doing more.
I think most of us, especially those of us who appear successful by the standards of the world, like the idea of doing more. When you believe yourself to be capable of such achievements, when we feel like we measure up most of the time, it's not wonder we find our value in those things. It's all tied to our performance based thinking, where we know that God loves us but where we feel like doing more for Him will prove our relationship and will somehow cause Him to feel differently about us. We know in our heads that He loves us the same regardless of what we do but our hearts slip into making His love like the love of people, where hearts are swayed because of the way someone has acted.
In my own life, in terms of vocation, it's easy to look at the tasks of homemaking, and then feel discontent. Thinking about the monotony of life at home can cause me to wish that I could be impacting eternity in a much grander way like if I were teaching or working at another service oriented job. My humanness somehow makes it all about a math equation where my kids' souls are one side of a sideways v, indicating that those lives one impacts while teaching are somehow more important. I forget that God doesn't keep score like I do, that He cares equally for each one of the people in that equation.
In terms of my spiritual life, I can't help but feel a twinge of guilt when I compare my life now to my pre-kid life. In this moment, I cannot keep up a prayer journal. I cannot keep up with a Bible reading plan. I cannot keep up with a Bible study that requires a significant time investment. Instead, I find myself on Sunday mornings taking in big gulps of His presence, believing that my time in Sunday school and worship time is the air that keeps me from drowning. Most Sundays I find myself sitting in worship, continually praying.
"Take it all, take it all, my life is in Your hands."
"All to Jesus, I surrender. I surrender all."
"In my heart and my soul, I give You control. Consume me from the inside out."
"Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise."
Over and over, it seems like my Sundays are full of that simple prayer, that I would have a heart that knows well Who it belongs to.
So what if my anything really feels like nothing? What if saying anything to God means not working at a job where I daily impact scores of people? What if saying anything to God is not about my portfolio of spiritual activities? What if saying anything is more about not doing any of the things that make me look better in the eyes of others? What if saying anything is not about a tangible product, where at the end of the day I can easily assess just how good of a job I've done? What if instead, my anything is murky and messy? I'm pretty sure right now, my life right now is not the pinnacle of Christian living. There will be no book titled, "Ten Steps to Being the Woman God Wants You to Be." based upon my life. But perhaps the alternative is just as precious to God, a story based on His unwavering love for me that does not want my performance but instead merely my heart.