My babies and I rise and fall to the very same breath. We wake together and play together and work side by side together. We color and we build forts and we explore the backyard. We read and dance and create and jump and do it all again tomorrow.
Our days are everything and nothing all at once. I raise these babies and do my best to build them up every single day, in the most ordinary ways, into magnificently courageous hearts who know how to be kind and be brave and speak their mind and to be confident in their own skin.
It is daily, it is nightly.
It is unending, it is tiring.
The other night, I had been deep asleep for either hours or mere minutes I can’t remember, but a voice whispered in my ear “Mama? I need to throw up.” There are few other phrases that will wake one up with such ferocity than the appeal for help to make it to the bathroom on time.
I grab her body and run out of the bedroom, laser focused on my purpose in that moment, and as we race out of the door my pinkie toe slams into the doorframe with such intensity that I immediately knew I broke it. No time to stop though, I can feel my baby’s stomach start to heave, and we fling ourselves into the bathroom and I collapse on the floor as her body gets sick time and time and time again.
I rub her back, murmur Mama’s here, it’s gonna be alright. That’s right baby. Get it all out. It’s gonna be alright baby girl.
And as I whisper the love and presence that she needs to hear, her body depleted again and again, I stare down at my throbbing pinkie toe in amazement as it swells and bruises before my very eyes. I tell you the truth, I have never seen anything like it.
We sat there on the linoleum floor in the dark of night, one sick and the other broken. I sat there, somewhere around midnight, holding my sick baby girl and I couldn’t stop myself thinking Really? This is my life right now? Cleaning up throw up in the middle of the night, breaking my toe because of it, and I can’t even stop to let myself feel the pain? Really?
Did I think I was above this, that waking in the middle of the night isn’t good enough for me, is too difficult for me? Did I wish that I could live another life?
Sure, being a mama is hard work. The hardest there is.
But is there other work that matters more?
This is all just so… ordinary. So common. So un-noteworthy.
Are the everyday ordinary moments of holding babies on the bathroom floor and wiping noses and sweeping the floor and carpooling to school fulfilling my ultimate purpose?
Because if you just look around it’s so easy to see the others- women, even; mothers, even- starting organizations, employing women around the globe, traveling. Aren’t they the ones who are actually brave, who are actually stepping out and making a difference? Aren’t the difference-makers the soldiers walking the desert streets, the millennial building water wells in third world countries, the workers in refugee camps in Syria, the families adopting in Haiti, the pastors ministering in China? Shouldn’t the word brave be saved for those doing the sexy work of the world?
Because wiping booties and reminding to say please and holding babies in the middle of the night with unwashed mascara underneath my eyes doesn’t feel sexy. The ones out there changing lives, aren’t they the ones making a real difference?
And it is there that I pause.
That is exactly what we’re doing.
Sure, the scale might be smaller but the worth is equal, the purpose is equal, the love is equal.
Sure, our face might never grace the cover of a magazine, but stick figures of us holding hands will cover the front of our fridge.
Sure, we might never be the keynote speaker at a conference accepting an award on behalf of a community, but there’s three little girls right here who think I hung the moon because we had a princess song dance party before dinner.
We are changing lives in the most ordinary of ways, through the most common of means. We are changing lives through the important work of bedtime prayers and morning snuggles. Through field trip chaperoning and sports practice shuttling. Through birthday dinners and after school snacks and fussy newborn holding and bathroom floor reassurances. Through showing up moment after moment because the common, everyday ordinary moments matter.
There is no line marking where work becomes more holy. The common is sacred, the sacred is common. Jesus broke down that barrier the second the curtain ripped as he hung on the cross.
The common, everyday ordinary matters because God is in every inch of it.
There’s a certain discipline to being present in our days, and if we’re too focused on what we’re not doing, we’re going to miss it. There’s a certain beauty in being able to recognize the face of God not only from the mountaintop but also from the kitchen sink. Because work is sacred whether it takes place on the conference stage or the playroom floor.
Sometimes we follow Jesus on the dirt-paved streets of Ethiopia and sometimes we follow him to cup the tear-stained face of a two-year-old. Sometimes we follow him to the non-profit organization headquarters and sometimes we follow him to story time.
The ultimate purpose stays the same, though: through it all, because of it all, we become more like Jesus. More loving, more generous, more patient, more courageous, more confident, more trusting. We are his image-bearers whether we live that out in front of the homeless or the babies underfoot with peanut butter on their cheeks.
All work is valuable, is purposeful, is worthy, because of the One who says every inch of it is sacred because it is all His.
In God’s upside-down economy, teaching the classroom full of second graders is just as sacred as the guy building wells in Africa, changing diapers is just as sacred as employing women across the globe, making chicken for dinner is just as sacred as creating a nonprofit.
The baby woke up last night at 2:54. I changed her, fed her, rocked her, I went through the steps of doing what it takes to get us all back to sleep. And then I stood above her crib, holding her against my chest, swaying and thinking how this is the most universal, common of moments- a mother holding her baby.
How ordinary it was.
How very sacred it is.
And I realized that all of these moments- the big ones as well as the common, ordinary ones- are saturated in significance. For us to live a life that matters doesn’t require us to go there
All I needed to do was just open my eyes right here because there was God- waiting for me to notice him, right here all along, sitting with me on the bathroom floor that night as I held my girl.