In Praise of the Small and Ordinary


We sat on the couch a few nights ago, his hand on my ever-expanding midsection. The baby girl who inhabits that part of me was active: she pushed against him, moving my belly in strange undulations, sparking laughter from us.

He grinned at me. “There’s a tiny human being in there. Inside of you. Isn’t that crazy? Do you ever think about that?”

I snorted (in a dainty, ladylike way, of course). “All the time. This little one doesn’t give me much opportunity to NOT think about the fact that she’s in there.”

We settled back into the comfort of the couch, content, until another, darker thought hit me. We’d been talking about other things, heavier things, before our baby girl kicked her way into our conversation. About the turmoil of the world around us, the way it seems everything is falling apart. About police shootings and race relations and terrorist attacks and ISIS and global financial concerns and Brexit and the fact that, during a time when our country desperately needs strong leadership both at home and abroad, we’ve managed to nominate two of the least qualified people imaginable for the highest office in the land.

I held these conflicting thoughts – the ugliness of the world with the wonder of life growing within me – until a question rose. I blurted it out.

“What are we doing, bringing kids into this crazy, messed-up world?”

He returned my gaze, serious. “We’re hoping they’ll make it a better place.”

We’re hoping they’ll make it a better place. Of course we are.  Not because of grand expectations, not because we expect them to do big things, but because of the people we hope they’ll be, the light we hope they’ll carry, the love we hope they’ll show to those around them.

My constant prayer in this parenting journey is this: that I might guide these little souls well, encouraging them to become who God designed them to be. That I might show them the way of Christ, the way of grace, the way of kindness and respect and empathy for others. That they might grow up knowing how deeply and richly they are loved, and from that place of security, go out and love the world well.

I believe this for my children, that no matter what they do with their lives, no matter their vocation or their family situation or their position, if they live fully and love deeply, they will make their world a better place simply by being who they are created to be. That they need not do big things, live big lives, to bring glory to God and good to the people around them.

I believe this for my children. So why is it so hard to believe it for myself?

I had big ambitions once. Call me a product of the youth group culture of the late nineties, but there were some years there in high school and college where I was sure I was destined to do world-changing things. To be a missionary, perhaps, or to start an impressive non-profit. To make a dent in sex trafficking or to find solutions for global poverty or to take the gospel to unreached people groups. Sure, I’d marry, start a family, maybe even work a “normal” job for a bit, but my life would be so much more than that. Bigger. Better.

And then, those big ambitions ran smack dab into reality. Into the nineteen-year-old boy who changed the nature of my dreams and then, three years later, put a ring on my finger. Into engineering professors who challenged me to rethink vocation and ministry and what it means to love God in the workplace. Into the 9-5 and the mundane and a life that is altogether beautiful but oh-so-different than what I envisioned as a starry-eyed teenager, ready to make my mark on the world.

Yesterday, I celebrated nine years of marriage to a man who has made me a better person in every way. I spend the bulk of my days at home, caring for one small child while growing another inside of me. I go for walks with friends and I practice hospitality and I manage our single income so that we can give to ministries we believe in. I write about finding the joy and the purpose in the small, the mundane, the everyday, about choosing this moment in the here and now. My life, my work, my actions – all of what I do seems small.

But I live fully. I love deeply. And, though this stubborn heart of mine still struggles to believe it at times, I’m beginning to trust that there is value and beauty and good here, that by being who I am created to be, by doing these small tasks set before me, I bring a smile to my Father’s face, and that to want to be bigger, to think that this simple life is not enough is, in itself, a kind of misplaced ego, a type of hubris.

As I cling to this truth for my children, that they can love God well in the small things, that they are so very beautiful and so very loved, that their lives are worthwhile even if they are ordinary, I’m working hard to believe it for myself, too.

What are we doing, bringing kids into this messed-up, crazy world?

We’re hoping they’ll make it a better place, simply by being who they’re created to be.

Yes, Lord, yes. May it be true of them. May they revel in whatever life they find themselves living, big or small.

And may the same be true of me, too. May the same be true of me.

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you,for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,  so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

-1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

3 response to "In Praise of the Small and Ordinary"

  1. By: Jennifer Posted: July 15, 2016

    You are wise beyond your years. I can sense the struggle between doing worldly good and raising a family for the good of the world. Both are important. Thanks for writing this – it’s so nice to know other mothers are sacrificing for the bigger picture. Solidarity is a wonderful thing.

    • By: Jenn Posted: July 16, 2016

      Thank you, Jennifer. I’ve always thought that writing’s greatest power comes through the way it connects us with one another, allows us to empathize with another human being, and tells us we aren’t alone, so your encouraging words mean a lot to me. Thank you!

  2. By: jywatkins Posted: July 18, 2016

    So lovely, Jenn. In thinking about having children, I’ve been asking the same question about the kind of world they will have to live in, but I love your husband’s answer. And you’re absolutely right, they–we– don’t have to do big things to make the world a better place. Live fully, love deeply, so beautiful and true!

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