I have a confession. I remember being in high school and envying my mom as she dropped me off in the morning. I imagined her day full of running errands and checking things off her to-do list...and something about it seemed so free. I couldn't wait to one day be a "free" stay-at-home. (For anyone who is a stay-at-home mom, I'm sure you are already recognizing the absurdity in how I pictured her world). Somewhere in there I was also going to go to college, have a professional career and then settle down with my husband, a SUV full of kids and a part-time job on the side. Flash forward to this last fall. My undergraduate degree hangs neatly above my desk. Our little family of three eats a quick breakfast together before we kiss Daddy goodbye and I carry our son back upstairs. I push the laundry through, make our bed, read him a book and get us a both a snack. BJ and I share a car, so until he comes home for lunch, we will be staying right where we are. Maybe if it is a day when I can keep the keys with me, we will head up to the grocery store for dinner supplies and then Target for diapers. If we don't have the car, I may steal away a little quiet time to sip my coffee and read a book during his nap. And then I look at the clock - it's 10:30 AM! WHAT?! How is that possible? I pay some bills. Make lunch. And I'm feeling good...until I remember that it's Monday and that this is my routine each day until Saturday.
My frustration and anxiety builds. Now it's a beautiful day in October and I grab lunch with BJ on our way to take him to a work event. He is excited and we talk about what he'll be doing and who he will see. What he doesn't know is that every time he has someplace to be, or his phone rings, or he has to stay up late getting work done, my heart burns green with ugly envy. As we continue to talk about his day and I think about returning home to prep for another nap time and to start dinner, I reach my breaking point. With no warning for my sweet husband, I burst into tears and sob uncontrollably for the next hour. I'm still crying when we drop him off for the meeting and when Ian and I pull back into our driveway. I cry again when he calls to tell me he has a ride home.
I thrive on a busy AND varied schedule. I want to stay home with my children and take care of our house, but I also want to attend meetings, take phone calls from people other than my family, and respond to emails related to something outside of play-dates.
So here's my confession - I get restless at home. I don't mind doing laundry, buying groceries and making the bed, but I feel less valuable when I'm not also doing additional, supposedly "more important", outside things. And it's the value and "more important" part of that statement that uncovers the problem.
Getting the message
I start making lists of ways to change my circumstances. If only I had more to do, I would feel better. I would feel more important...more valuable.
As I plot new ways out of my frustration, I begin to hear a voice pushing me in the opposite direction - whispering for me to stay where I am and be thankful. I work hard to make sure my world is comfortable. If something rocks the smooth waters, I get out of it rather than pushing through it. So how am I now supposed to be still and thankful when I could come up with a dozen ways to ease my anxiousness through distraction?
The more I push for a way out of the restlessness and into a busier schedule, the stronger the voice becomes. I ignore it. Then I hear a quote by Elizabeth Elliot. It was in passing and I'm sure I'm going to misquote it now, but here's the summarized version...
"Stop asking God to change your circumstances. Instead, ask Him to change you in the midst of your circumstances."
That's hard for me to swallow. After a brief moment of reflection, I ignore it again and look for ways to make my routine more conducive to my liking. One week later I approach Nicole Unice, a woman I respect greatly and often look to for sound advice, hoping she can reassure me that it's a good idea to pursue new commitments...reassure me that it's a smart strategy and proactive thinking. After all, I'm deciding to not just wallow in my frustration right? I begin to talk...then I begin to cry...and she asks a couple questions to better determine how I am feeling and why. When I start to describe additional job opportunities I'm considering, she stops me mid-sentence. "Changing your circumstances is not going to make you feel better. I don't think you're going to leave this place until you learn whatever it is God wants you to learn here." Ok...that one isn't just tough to swallow, it stings on the way down.
This time I listen to the voice. I don't want the Lord to feel the need to speak in an even stronger and more direct tone. I got the message.
What I'm learning
In her brilliant book One Thousand Gifts, Anne Voskamp talks about learning to be grateful even while washing dirty dishes. In doing so, she writes words that pierce my heart every time I read them "do not disdain the small things." Instead, she challenges us to live lives of profound thankfulness.
When my routine feels "small" and unfulfilling, I'm learning to lean into God. I'm learning to thank Him when I want to complain. When I want to ask Him to take away a discomfort, I'm learning to ask Him to change my heart instead. I'm learning to view the small things as opportunities to not only serve my family, but to work as if it was for the Lord and know I am serving Christ in doing so (Colossians 3:23-24). I'm learning to invite Him to enter into those difficult places and comfort my heart, even if the circumstances don't change.
The result? I am peaceful. I find life in the small places. The process of learning to be content in those places because of God's provision and comfort is life-giving.
I still look forward to the day I can focus more on the career I'm working towards. And I get excited for the projects I'll work on in the future and the clients I'll meet. But today, I'm excited to watch our son learn to put puzzles together while I fold laundry. And I'm grateful to be able to read a book while he naps. I'm learning to embrace the value in the small things and the importance in my various tasks. And through that, I am being changed. Peaceful. Content. Grateful.