We’re cleaning out the garage and moving boxes up to the attic so I’ve been tasked with sorting through them. I get sidetracked with a box of photo albums from the old days when we actually got pictures developed and took the time to paste the best ones in books instead of just scrolling through Instagram.
I sit for a long while thumbing through the pages, remembering.
It’s difficult to live in the present. I’m often nostalgic for the past. I’ll think back to the times when life seemed more full of possibilities and less full of lived experiences. I’ll remember what used to be, before kids or marriage or the mundane weariness of days where I am neither a world changer nor crisscrossing the globe as I had once hoped. I didn’t accomplish half of the things I dreamed when I was a girl in the picture, tanned and smiling into the sunshine, unaware of what the next 20 years would hold.
Instead, I am a wife and a mother, someone who defrosts chicken for dinner and pays the mortgage. Someone who lathers on sunscreen because instead of that tanned girl in the picture, she now has wrinkles and age spots and skin cancer to consider. Someone who adds toothpaste and paper towels to the grocery list and wakes up everyday to do pretty much the same things. It’s hard not to long for other days.
Or I am a woman who pines for the future. Everything will be different once I lose ten pounds, once school is out for summer and I can rest, once I finish this to do list, once we have more money or time or health, or that new couch at Costco. Everything will be better eventually.
Somedays I have nothing but sorrow for what used to be or what might have been or what could be if only…
I had a conversation last week about contentment and how hard it is to settle our souls. I want my life to matter and in that very desire lives a multitude of regrets.
Where is the balance between holy discontent and the desire to live a fuller more robust faith, the kind of itchy passion that stirs things up and leaves us hungry and desiring more beauty, more wonder, more of Christ in our everyday, and the siren song that woos us with promises that our one life could be so much fuller if only things weren’t so ordinary, so hard, so unspectacularly not what we had hoped for?
Sometimes I get stuck in the flux of that timeline and I lose my place entirely. I wish I were as certain about things as I was in my twenties when everything seemed black and white and I dealt with the blows life dealt with a surety that the right faith and the proper theology could deflect. But I don’t really wish for that, because those were the years when I was so sure of myself, of my mind, of my own strength and abilities, and so very unsure of God.
I was going to change the world, but now I realize the only thing changing is me.
I am learning faithfulness to the ordinary. I keep learning it again and again and still my mind wants to retreat through time back to places where I am not confronted by my discontented soul of now. I want to unhinge the call to be content from my everyday and latch it onto better times, either to come, or long past. I don’t want the uncertainty of quietness, of smallness, of faithfulness to a present day I must simply live.
What is required of me is the steadfast dwelling in the goodness of God each and every day, moment by moment, even if those seconds don’t seem to add up to much. And that may be one of the hardest things of all. Because our obedience will always be more important than our effectiveness and yet that’s not what the world applauds, it’s not even what my own soul often appreciates. It’s certainly not what I had hoped for all those years ago when I asked God to take my life and make it His. And yet our lives being His requires that daily taking.
It is a relentless release, not my will but Yours.
When I look back over my shoulder, I don’t want it to be with longing but with remembrance of all God has brought me through, His abundant goodness to me all of my days. When I dream of possibilities, I want them to be rooted in obedience first, not glory or success or the praise of man.
All I really have is right now. What has God tasked me with for today? What thanks can I give? What beauty can I behold? What grace can I share? What prayers can I pray? What injustice can I right? What forgiveness must I ask? What bitterness must I confess? What joy can I feel? What sorrow can I cast on Him? How can I be faithful in my right now with laundry to be done, bills to pay, and floors to mop? How can I live wholeheartedly in today?
I am learning faithfulness to the ordinary. I am learning it again and again.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
“Where is the balance between holy discontent and the desire to live a fuller more robust faith . . .?”
Thanks for taking the either/or out of this equation that I tackle with algebraic ferocity almost every day of my life!
Alia Joy says
Me too! So much of walking in obedience and faith is holding tension. We always want to lean towards a side, whether it’s legalism or liberty, or so many other things. Only the Holy Spirit can help us walk the narrow path, it’s so very constant.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When I read your post, I look back on my 20 something years when I thought I was doing great things and conquering the world. To the outside observer, I may have looked like I was “on fire”, but in reality I was serving me….not Him, sadly. I was looking for the accolades and affirmation of ME. I wanted to show that I was strong, intelligent, capable, a leader and I guess I did in some respects. But who was I leading people to?? I wasn’t walking in true obedience so the only place my life arrow pointed to was myself. Then came the mothering years. The diapers, the perpetual weariness, the endless frustration in living in mess and chaos. I was obedient in bringing my children up in the way they should go. I really, really tried. But I don’t know if I ever slowed down enough to really take it all in. I always thought that that was for someday when they were grown. Not that I wasn’t ever just present in the moment….I was….but I wish that that was the norm and not the exception. Oh how I look back and treasure the moments that I was fully present…fully obedient. I totally agree that it’s in the those moments of being totally obedient to Him that we find our contentment. It’s not our accolade moments, it’s our obedient moments that define our lives. Now as an empty-nester, I have more time to be obedient and I’m not setting the world on fire and accomplishing things like in my 20’s….but I feel like my focus is clear. For 2 months I sat on my couch, unable to do anything noteworthy, but I was obedient to meeting Him in His Word, writing about what He told me to write about. I soaked in His presence and felt a closeness that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. Obedience. It may not be razzle dazzle, but it is what the Lord wants – that and our undivided heart and attention. Beautiful redefining of living wholeheartedly for today, Alia Joy. I affirm you in your obedience today….
Blessings to you in the mundane,
Carla M. Beam says
Very well said!
Alia Joy says
Thank you, Bev. I saw you connected with Jennifer Dukes Lee at SheSpeaks and we (in)courage gals were so blessed by that picture. Thanks for being a steadfast part of this community. You make it better for everyone involved.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you for your kind words. It was so good to meet up with Jennifer! Everyone at (in)courage should be SO proud of her. She rocked her sessions – especially the one that I sat in on. Later at dinner, some of the women were saying that hers was one of the best sessions of the conference. She truly represented the (in)courage community well!!
Lydia Joy Slater says
Thank you, Alia Joy!
I’m with you women on the obedience of living our faith out and loving God back as He loves us like no other… my hearts been heavy missing my alone time as I fill my summer mornings trying to weed and walk before hot summer days take my energy like a dropped flower by 2 pm. Today it was raining so I read and read some more! Steadfast is the word of the day.. thank you sisters for your obedience… to us the following women of our faith and of In~courage ! Xoxo
Alia Joy says
Sometimes those odd rainy summer days are such a gift and reminder to slow down and connect with God.
Lisa Swanson says
Thank you for touching a heart in Montana! The words you penned had an impact on my heart. Thank you!
Alia Joy says
So great to hear, Lisa!
God does work in mysterious ways, but never forget that He works in mundane ways as well. I have to remind myself of this daily, or even multiple times a day as I go about making a home. Lifting others up doesn’t come with awards and acclaim, but the absence of it is always evident. By faithfully attending to the mundane, I often see quiet miracles unfold.
Alia Joy says
Quiet miracles indeed. There is so much wonder and beauty here too, if only we pay attention.
Tracy Frazier says
This wonderful message is universal to all of us–obedience and not effectiveness. I loved this message and your honesty. We all need a little less “me,” and more Him. What could be more effective than honoring Him? Thank you.
Thank you- it certainly feels that there is a season we enter where we finally have experienced enough to look back on and see with perspective and still have some life stretching ahead. Like switching gears- I’m waiting for the new momentum, vision, to learch me forward, to mark a new beginning. I feel weariness instead. All the rationales and wisdom of the past don’t seem to explain away what could have been and they don’t ignite inspiration to press forward reinvention. Pressing into God is more important than ever, more important than pressing into future with intensity, drive or “greater purpose.” It’s taking care of the basics and strength renewal season in my life, which can be more than enough to manage, even though it’s neither invigorating nor identity defining.
Again, thank you!
Alia Joy says
Yes! All of this. I know that weariness well.
Thank you , Ailia for touching me today with this ! What a great way to get started on the new week .
Well done !
“All I really have is right now.” I kinda feel like I need to take that whole last paragraph and print it out to read every morning that I wake up in my peri-menopausal emotional funk (magnified by my introverted soul feeling sucked dry by summertime’s extrovert-oriented schedule). Some days it’s hard to even remember which questions to ask beyond “what do I have to be grateful for today”, so I really appreciate this list of questions that direct my focus toward truth. I’ll be referring to this post often today, based on how my Monday started…
Alia Joy says
Yes, summer can be hard for introverts. I get it. Hope your week is going better than your Monday. 😉
Needed. This. Today. Thank you Alia Joy! Praying for joy in the mundane for you, me and every woman in the same struggle!
Struggling with this today, have been for awhile. I feel like you put all of my rambling thoughts into something that makes sense. Maybe I’ll send you my journal and you can translate the nonsense into something I can understand! 🙂
Alia Joy says
Ha! I journal to figure out all the nonsense too. I don’t know that I have actual deciphering skills though. 😉
This is so eerily similar to where I am at that I could have written it almost word for word, albeit without your poignant eloquence!
Alia Joy says
I’m glad it resonated with you, Andrea!
Thank You for sharing your soul journey – which encourages mine.
C. Beck says
This hit me exactly where I needed it to today. We so often get caught up in the “busyness” of everyday life, that we tend to forget or take for granted that God does some of his best work in the mundane of our day in and day out when we learn to be truly sold out and obedient to Him in all things. I so needed to read this to see that I always need to realize that it is so not about me, but about Him, about me being obedient and bringing Him glory even in the smallest and most nonsensical things. Every moment is an opportunity whether we realize it or not. Surrender in All things brings Freedom in all things. Thank you for this beautiful reminder today. Be Blessed.
julie holly says
“I was going to change the world, but now I realize the only thing changing is me.” Amen.
Your words were the answer to my prayers today.
All we really have is right now. YES! Thank you. Beautifully written and eloquently stated. May we be faithful, to the One who is faithful. I’m learning again and again also with you, Alia. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow… heck, only because of Him can I fave the next five minutes! Thank you for this today!
Alia, your words spoke volumes to me this morning. I too, have a hard time living in the present and as I grow older, I find myself re-living the past memories more often, wishing I could return to a younger, simpler time with years of living ahead of me. But there are no do-overs. My children are grown now and I spent the majority of my life being a housewife and mom doing the mundane, everyday things required of me. It was what God called me to do (and I loved it) but I always felt like I should be doing more for the glory of God. Now it’s just my husband and me living a quieter life, yet I often still long for the past. The last paragraph of your post was a true eye opener to me! That’s what I want my daily desire to be! To appreciate the past and all God has done for me and yet live in the contentment of the present, in His presence and doing His will, not mine. Thank you for the beautiful words of wisdom today! God bless you!
First of all I want to say I have a lot of photo albums and I am grateful for them because we recently had to put one of our cats to sleep, Jewel was only 10 years old so when she was a kitten I was still taking pictures with film and then having the pictures developed, it has helped me to look at those pictures and I have been sharing on Facebook pictures of her.
I also want to add that I am 61 years old and I don’t know how many years God has remaining for me, but I have decided that as long as I am alive, to the best of my ability, I will continue with my responsibilities-even if those responsibilities are doing laundry, dishes, shopping, cleaning-it is just my husband and I but it seems like there is always something that needs to be taken care of at home. Yes, it’s tiring at times but it is necessary work.
Rebecca L Jones says
My life the past 20 yrs and even more was not what I planned. I had good plans and He had better. One day they will collide. Congratulations on your book deal.
Eunice C. says
Thank you, Alia and (in)courage! I am struggling through a season of discontentment — with much of the same sentiments you very wonderfully translated into words — and this was life-giving to me this morning!
Allison Wixted says
Hi Alia! Visiting today from H*W!
“We are ordinarily extraordinary to God” landed in my thoughts earlier today. Your post so beautifully expands this thought. As a chronic striver/achiever, I needed this reminder that the mundane can be the best place to meet Christ. Blessings!