The Unlikely Missionary
It’s approaching three o’clock on this warm Sunday, the first day of November. We’ve been to church, where Quinn got a “thumbs up” from all three of the teachers in his Sunday school class—a celebratory event we’re sure to remark on for the rest of the week. Not only was he attentive, respectful, and participatory; he prayed aloud during their prayer time. My little pray-er, he is.
After church, we grabbed slices of delicious pizza, eating it in the overcrowded, vibrantly electric pizza shop that could easily double as a walk-in closet right in the center of Amherst. Then, we went grocery shopping. The sacramental act of our family that brings me back to the focus of my toasty kitchen while I knead and stretch pizza dough as homemade “chex mix” crisps away in the oven.
This is my life. A life I spent many years fighting against. A calling I rejected any chance I got, whether or not anyone asked. A life not learned in the hallowed halls of the ivy-covered brick buildings at Cornell University. A life not stamped and signed away on my degree. In fact, it’s a life that a degree like that mocks. I started out as a Sociology major with a minor in Women’s Studies. We learned a great deal about the Women’s Movement, but from my memory, I don’t recall the most important point of the entire movement: choice. The movement was about giving the women the right to choose where we worked. That employers doors would be open to us, and the sexual organs we possess would not, in theory, be a disqualifier for the job. Or, as the movement meant to shout just as loudly, but my classes didn’t particularly highlight, women could choose to stay home.
It was about choice.
And, as far as I was concerned, there was no choice: I’d be working a job from the time I graduated college until the time I retired.
I didn’t know God as well then as I do now, and just reading that above sentence made me chuckle. All of the things I “knew” and all of my “plans” must have provided God with great comedy over the years. I bet he watches my plans on loop at night the way I watch reruns of “Friends.” With popcorn if I know him like I think I do.
But on this day, I find myself in an entirely different role. Using skill sets mined from my ancestral human history. Planning different things, now. Like loads of laundry, which toilet hasn’t been cleaned in how long, and meals.
Ensuring they—we—have food ready for the week ensures not only their health and sanity, but mine. I take the day of rest God has given me and mediate here. No, it’s not work today in this tiny kitchen. It’s worship.
Thank you, God, for giving me this amazing family, food to buy, and ability to prepare. Thank you for this mission. To feed and comfort your disciples, as you have fed and comforted me.
The littlest disciples are playing and giggling away outside with their friends in the fast-fading daylight of a post-time change autumn afternoon. The teenage disciple is reliving Glee on Netflix, while the oldest disciple in our home is sitting at the kitchen table, following a linguistics lecture online for the degree he’s gone back to college for. One twenty-plus years in the making.
I pull the mix out of the oven to cool and commence making little pizza pockets from the dough. One slice of pepperoni, a dollop of sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Fold, fork-pinch close, line up, brush with egg wash, repeat.
Somewhere between folding, pinching, and commenting on the linguistics lecture my ears are privy to, it hits me.
This is a heavy responsibility.
To follow Christ and have a family comprised of a partner and children—let alone a blended family—is truly a mission. I’ve seen the books and read the articles that have assured me that, yes, this is a mission. Motherhood is a mission and the home is a mission field. But on this particular Sunday, after a sermon on hearing from God and listening to his voice and following him, The Voice comes in to my heart and settles in my bones.
Thank you for listening. You’re doing well. I love you.
I keep folding, pinching, then begin preparations for our Sunday dinner—one that will include a friend from church as a guest this evening.
I’m not thinking about the book I haven’t released in a year. I’m not wondering which show I’ll watch tonight, the books and articles I’d like to read, or even how other mothers are certainly doing it better than I am. I’m not thinking about me at all. I’m thinking about Him. I’m thinking about them.
My family, mine to disciple through Jesus, who has discipled to me through countless others during my thirty-two years as a hopeful believer.
I’m grateful for Paige, who loves to worship. Throws her arms and body into every song, and sometimes lays face-down in the middle of the sanctuary in prayer. “I’m praying,” she whispers when I ask if she’s okay.
I’m thinking about Quinn, willing to pray aloud—something still horrifying for his own mother. God’s given him the gift of voice and a heart for prayer, and I need to nurture that any chance I get so the rest of the world can benefit from this beloved treasure.
Aiden, the tender trust-er. Wide-eyed, bared soul, timid but trusting of those he loves. God included.
The teenager. My observations will remain private for the time being, as this blog is not. But she has a light around her heart—that much I will say.
And, my beloved. The “alternative” college student crawling back to Christ after two-decade game of hide-and-seek. The most powerful testimony in my everyday life.
I turn on my heels and take him in with a small sigh—one meant to remain undetected.
When the alarm goes off during the week, we stumble down the stairs, shaking sleep from our eyes well over an hour before the first child tends to wake in an effort to have coffee in silence. Most mornings we have oatmeal that I prepare while he goes over class notes, edits his most recent book, or catches up on politics—this one hurts my head so early in the morning. It’s far to easy to hate people at five in the morning, so I try to stick to oatmeal, the bible, and safe places on the internet. But I really do mean to cut the internet out of as much of the morning as possible.
Then, in the fluid motion of an orchestra changing pages, I prepare lunches for the disciples here, then start on breakfasts for the littlest ones a they begin to pad down the stairs. Rarely all at once, which is fine by me because it allows me time to love on them individually, if even for only a minute a piece before someone else greets me.
Within the next couple of hours, my beloved is off to work and all four kids stagger off to school on three different buses. Sometimes I work outside of the home, but my hours at that retail store are very lean, leaving most of my waking hours at the home. To write, of course.
Or so was my plan when looking forward to the twins heading off to Kindergarten.
The fact is that, as of write now, writing has taken up far less of my time than I’d hoped when staring longingly at the prospect during the summer months. I’m doing it, albeit sporadically, and I miss it the way best friends separated by states play phone tag for weeks at a time: I know it’s there. It’s okay, I’m okay, we’re all okay. We’ll be notified if anything horrible happens, but more likely than not, we’ll pick up where we last left off as soon as possible.
This is my life.
I never intended to be a missionary. I know many mothers who don’t. But in saying so we’ve missed the essential point: We are in the mission field. We are missionaries. It’s a mission. It’s a ministry. It’s huge.
There will be time for all of the desires I mentioned earlier, if God so wills. But right now, I’m aligning my will with His. Not just in rubbing my olive-oiled hands over the skin of a small roasting chicken, but in the depth of his calling for me.
To minister to those in my home and community. Through hugs, kisses, band-aids, prayer, mini pizza-pockets, contentment, and Grace. I’m raising adults today. Disciples of Christ who will follow their own rocky, broken path to the cross if they’re anything like their mother. I am to teach them that what we do to the least of us, we do to Jesus. So, always hug, always give whatever you have– because we have more than most of the world, and above all else, love as though your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Photo Credit: eran chesnutt