Ministry in the Mundane

Ministry in the Mundane

“If only I didn’t have to [cook, do dishes, sweep, dust, do laundry, go to the grocery store, etc., etc. etc.], I could get something meaningful done.”

Have you ever thought something like that? Or said it out loud?

Life is full of necessary but mundane tasks.

And whatever we do today likely has to be done again in a few days, if not tomorrow.

I was struck recently by how often I have to refill things: the salt shaker, the tea pitcher, the napkin holder, the toothpick holder, the paper towel and toilet paper holders, the pantry, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer, the toiletry closet.

When we want to write or participate in some kind of ministry, it’s hard to make time without leaving something else undone.

Yet when I look at the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31, most of her day revolved around what would have been everyday tasks of her time: sewing for herself, her family, and her home (no department stores or online ordering in those days), cooking, seeking food “from afar,” buying a field, planting, working “willingly with her hands” late at night and early in the morning, making items to sell to supplement her family’s income. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” She fears the Lord. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” She does all of this with strength, kindness, faith, wisdom and dignity.

A couple of blog friends remind me of this lady. Sadly, they are no longer blogging. But they used to write about their everyday activities in their homes: house projects, gardening and canning, sewing, cooking, etc. They didn’t write devotionals or Bible lessons, but they shared observations in passing about God’s dealings with their lives. Their spirit shone through even in the “homey” activities. They brought a “sense of Him” in everything they did, not just the “spiritual” activities.

The one lady I count as my main mentor was the same way. We never studied through a book together. She never sat me across the table for a lesson. There is nothing wrong with those things. But she taught me plenty by how she managed her home (which she graciously invited me to) and conducted her life. She may have said a few things on purpose as a means of guidance or instruction, but if she did, they were so mild and gentle that I didn’t know I was being “taught.”

When my kids were younger, I regretted that I didn’t have more time for just playing with them. Oh, we played. We’d make Lego creations, read tons of books, go to the park, throw a blanket over the kitchen table and picnic underneath. But I felt guilty because it seemed like I never spent “enough” one-on-one time with them.

Then I thought about this Proverbs 31 lady, or Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of times that her mother played with her children, and I am sure the Proverbs 31 lady played with hers as well. But they didn’t spend all day at it. They didn’t just play together: they worked together. And Mother passed on to children characteristics they would need not only by direct teaching, but by example.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do”—ordinary, everyday activities—“do it all to the glory of God.”

Of course, we have to be careful not to be like Martha, so busy that we neglect what Jesus called the one needful thing of spending time with Him.

And It’s fine to seek ways to do our work as efficiently as possible so we do have time for other activities. If God opens the door for writing, speaking, organizing gatherings, or whatever, great!

But we can glorify God and minister to others in those everyday activities as well.
______

For those of you reading this on Mother’s Day, I hope you have a happy day honoring your Mom. If, like me, your mom is no longer living, I hope you have sweet memories.

For those who are moms, I hope your family gives you some relief from those everyday duties and pampers you today.

I realize that though this day is joyous for some, it’s painful for others—those who did not have a good relationship with their moms, who have lost children, who don’t have children but long to. My heart goes out to you, and I pray God will specially minister to your heart today.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

22 thoughts on “Ministry in the Mundane

  1. Good words for mums!
    I chuckled at your observations on the routines of life. I also catch myself lamenting that if something is full, it probably needs to be emptied, and if it’s empty, it likely needs to be filled.

    • That’s true–it’s not just the filling, but the emptying–only to be refilled again. I’m trying to change my mindset to gratefulness that God provides what’s needed for refilling. There’s probably a spiritual parallel there.

  2. Barbara, this is a message so dear to my heart. 1Corinthians 10:31 has been our principle family verse…one that we tried to teach our kids by example and instruction. It breaks my heart to see Christian women feeling discouraged because they feel that they aren’t doing anything “important” for the Lord when in reality they have the best opportunities to do so.

    • Isn’t it funny/sad that we so often look for grand gestures, when faithfulness in the everyday aspects of life are where we can (and need to, and where it’s hardest to) shine for Christ more.

  3. Good thoughts. Getting something meaningful done… doing enough…the strivings of my lifetime…only to find that I am indeed NOT enough in and of myself, thus the need for Jesus’ death and life and my identification with Him. But oh the challenge of letting this message truly permeate my heart and then get lived out in all the seasons of life! Good words of reminder ( : Thx for persevering here.

    • That’s so true–we can never be enough in ourselves. Only Jesus can be enough in standing with God, and we’re identified with Him when we believe on Him. And He is enough for our everyday needs and trials. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

  4. Love, love, love this! A few times in recent years I’ve felt almost panicked as I realize my life is more than halfway done and yet I’ve not done anything big — not accomplished much in the world’s view. This post helps put things in perspective. And I loved your thoughts about your mentor — reminds me of an 82-yr-old friend I meet with each week. I have learned so much life wisdom just from eating lunch each week with her and seeing how she handles things. This is true with our kids too; I think more is “caught” than “taught.” I’ll be coming back to read this one again.

    • Thanks so much, Susan. About twenty years ago, I think, I heard of a man from my college who was a few years younger than me who became a college president. And I had that same feeling–he’s a college president? And he’s younger than me? What have *I* been doing with my life?” But I have been called to a different path. I agree about more being caught than taught in the home. Faithfulness in everyday life goes so much farther than the occasional grand gesture.

  5. Barbara, your words resonate with me. I think guilt comes with mothering. We look back and see how we could have done it better. I too have been struck with how much of life is mundane. Obviously, God is not surprised by that and wants us to practice His presence in the routine.

    • I think guilt is a part of mothering, too–we can never do it perfectly or do all we’d like to.

      That mundaneness of life is what struck me in my last reading of Proverbs 31. I realized I don’t have to escape or neglect the mundane to serve or fellowship with God, but I can do those things in regular everyday life. It’s funny we want the occasional big opportunity instead.

  6. Hi Barbara, I so enjoyed reading this post. You remind me of why I started blogging in the first place, and I forgot how precious those blogger friends are who encourage us through our daily walk through the mundane sometimes. Great post
    God bless
    Tracy (www.faithhopeloveandtea.blogspot.com)
    Visiting from instaencourage linky

  7. This is a beautiful post Barbara. I never met the expectations of the Proverbs 31 woman, I was so far out in left field. In the autumn of my life I find myself thinking about the Titus 2 woman, and embracing her when God places someone in my life now to model.

  8. Perspective effects everything! When we enjoy Him in the midst of the little things, it makes all the difference. I remember while in college, the Lord leading me to use dish washing time as a time of prayer. “Lord, as I wash this plate clean, I pray you would cleanse me.” And this carried over to married life and parenting – turning the little “down times” of chores into a time of prayer or praise.

  9. I know! What’s with having to always refill things? Enjoyed this post. Especially your observations about those who teach us through their everyday lives. Hoping you had a blessed Mother’s Day!

  10. I love this post, Barbara! And thank you for your kind words at the end. Mother’s Day is special in our home now, but it hasn’t always been that way. It helps when someone acknowledges it can be hard, no matter the reason.

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  12. I need words like this again and again. I recognize so much in what you say. Last week I read this through the truth for life app: “He’s working everything according to His will (Romans 8:28), not as a package that is let down from heaven on a string but as a scroll that unrolls day by day as we walk through life. His favor in the ordinary things of life keeps us marching for another day. Your day may not look exciting or glamorous. You may not be sure how you will overcome what confronts you. But it is the day that God has given you, and He will give you all you need to do all He calls you to.”

    God bless you and your blog, dear sister (in Christ)
    https://kostbaar.blogspot.com/

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