Story Unfolding, Part Two

(Part One is here, in case you missed it and you're a linear thinker.)

I didn’t post this yesterday, as originally promised, which isn’t even worth mentioning except it makes my point.


Because the baby only napped 20 minutes yesterday, and all of those 20 minutes were spent picking up from lunch and stirring a pot of peach jelly on the stove, I didn’t get to do any daytime writing. Being a stay-at-home mom to three young kids means my schedule is always in flex mode. My life is not my own.

Heck, even my potty breaks are not my own.

Which is why I sometimes wonder how I can have a voice if I can’t even have time to make it heard. I think and write and create all day – in my head. But if you look back through my archives, you’ll see that I don’t consistently get those ideas out into the public eye. (Nor do I get them out into a journal. My blog is my journal these days, for better or worse. I simply don’t have time to do both.)

To be clear, I don’t think my struggle is unique. I know millions of us feel the insignificance of being just a head in the crowd. Our Western culture says that to be significant, we need to do something big, something outstanding. If we aren’t aiming for the top – and getting there – we deserve to be a drone ant on the bottom on the hill, doing mindless work without meaning for the rest of our days.

But. Wait. Stop.

Do you see all the lies in that paragraph?

That is not God’s truth.

Perhaps you know the story of Henri Nouwen. A prominent psychologist and theologian in his native Holland, Nouwen spent the first part of his life achieving. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, wrote prolifically, was a sought-after speaker.

But he came to believe that his success – his bigness – was choking his own spiritual life. For years, he sought a quieter path. Eventually, he settled on L’Arche, a community of homes for the seriously disabled. There, Nouwen lived out the rest of his life, caring for the day-in, day-out needs of people who were barely cognizant of him, much less appreciative.

Philip Yancey, in his book “Soul Survivor,” talks about the time he visited Nouwen at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.
I once visited Nouwen, sharing lunch with him in his small room. It had a single bed, one bookshelf, and a few pieces of Shaker-style furniture. The walls were unadorned except for a print of a Van Gogh painting and a few religious symbols. A Daybreak staff person served us a bowl of Caesar salad and a loaf of bread. No fax machine, no computer, no Daytimer calendar posted on the wall—in this room, at least, Nouwen had found serenity. The church "industry" seemed very far away.

After lunch we celebrated a special Eucharist for Adam, the young man Nouwen looked after. With solemnity, but also a twinkle in his eye, Nouwen led the liturgy in honor of Adam's twenty-sixth birthday. Unable to talk, walk, or dress himself, profoundly retarded, Adam gave no sign of comprehension. He seemed to recognize, at least, that his family had come. He drooled throughout the ceremony and grunted loudly a few times.

Later Nouwen told me it took him nearly two hours to prepare Adam each day. Bathing and shaving him, brushing his teeth, combing his hair, guiding his hand as he tried to eat breakfast-these simple, repetitive acts had become for him almost like an hour of meditation.

I must admit I had a fleeting doubt as to whether this was the best use of the busy priest's time. Could not someone else take over the manual chores? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted him. "I am not giving up anything," he insisted. "It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship."

All day Nouwen kept circling back to my question, bringing up various ways he had benefitted from his relationship with Adam. It had been difficult for him at first, he said. Physical touch, affection, and the messiness of caring for an uncoordinated person did not come easily. But he had learned to love Adam, truly to love him. In the process he had learned what it must be like for God to love us—spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed, working with Adam had taught him the humility and "emptiness" achieved by desert monks only after much discipline.
I have been profoundly impacted by Nouwen’s viewpoint. Here was a man who had a voice and who spoke loudly enough to influence the culture. But he chose to lay it down and live a life similar to that of a stay-at-home mom.

In doing so, he felt he touched God, and he was satisfied. He learned to love well.

I remind myself of this truth whenever I get discouraged by what seems to be my insignificance. The world measures significance by what we do. God measures significance by who we are.

And when I’m learning to rest in what God has called me to today, when I’m learning to love my children and my husband the way Jesus did, when I’m joyfully content to trust that God sees me even when no one else does, I find my voice. My true voice, the one that speaks wisdom and humility and healing and love.

Maybe someday I will have a megaphone for that voice. Maybe my voice will echo loudly through the canyons of culture. Maybe God will infuse it with his power so that people’s lives will be changed.

Or maybe not. Maybe I will live my days covered in peanut butter and Play-Dough and my voice will echo only in the lives of my family and my friends and in the few words I have time to write on the page.

I am content with either option. (And that’s something I couldn’t have said 10 years ago.) My primary concern is that my voice is changing each day to sound more and more like Jesus.

This is my story, unfolding.

26 comments:

  1. You made me cry! Your voice inspires, megaphone or not, I hear it and am moved.

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  2. This is a timely reminder for me today. Thank you.

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  3. "And when I’m learning to rest in what God has called me to today, when I’m learning to love my children and my husband the way Jesus did, when I’m joyfully content to trust that God sees me even when no one else does, I find my voice. My true voice, the one that speaks wisdom and humility and healing and love."

    sorry to throw your words right back at ya like that, but this paragraph is what i tell myself all the time when i feel like i'm not doing enough for the lord. this is my call right now. you said it so well.

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  4. Thanking God for your voice. So encouraging, during these difficult toddler years.

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  5. I was wondering what would come to fruition out of this (after you mentioned it birthing in your mind the other night). I really loved reading it.

    I was voted "most likely to succeed" by my high school class. For years, I struggled with what that meant and felt it was some sort of standard I must live up to. Just in the last few years, I have realized that success is so relative that not one person in my class would define it the same as another, and really, my "success" depends primarily on God (thank GOODNESS!).

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  6. You know, I think the loudest voice I have is a lawn chair, not a microphone.

    I couldn't agree with you more. Great post!

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  7. This is all kinds of beautiful. Tears-stinging-my-eyes gorgeous.

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  8. Beautiful post, friend. Way to shout truth from the mountaintops. Your voice - albeit funny-sounding with that peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth - is echoing through my heart each time I read your blog. Thanks for your insight, spoken with wisdom and humor, and always, always love.

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  9. "Maybe someday I will have a megaphone for that voice....Maybe God will infuse it with his power so that people’s lives will be changed."

    Speaking as one who has had the honor of knowing you for.......well, we both know how many years :) I have two responses. First, the adage "to the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world" applies here. I'm not going to gush (too much) but you have impacted my life for good more profoundly than almost any other human. Your voice has echoed throughout MY life, and I've got a hunch many others could say the same.--I'm not just typing a "pick-me-up" here, think of this and an "Encourangement Sheet" from days of yore. I love you, and your impact (which is so much more significant than you know). These thinkgs your pondering are such great God things...thanks for letting us all tag along.

    My second thing (since I've TOTALLY taken over your comments) is this:
    My Utmost For His Highest
    Oswald Chambers
    September 6th
    (check it out)

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  10. You articulated so beautifully exactly what God has been speaking into my spirit. I feel such a need to choose to live for Him, giving rather than seeking for myself. For me it is almost a new revealation- stop seeking more or better, and instead just seek him through giving.

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  11. Yes. I think this is why I love "we can do no great things...just small things with great love." - Mother Teresa.

    LOVE this post, Kelly. It resonates with me.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your heart, Kelly. I needed it.

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  13. Oh Kelly. If only I could have read this earlier. But I am so glad I read it now. Thank you.

    Steph

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  14. This is wonderful. I found your site from Stephanie. Thanks for being a voice- your own. :)

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  15. I found you through Steph and I am so glad I did. This post really spoke to me. You said, "Maybe God will infuse it with his power so that people’s lives will be changed." Your children, their children and so on and so on will all be influenced by your voice.

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  16. Beautiful indeed. I think a great many of us needed this one :)

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  17. Though provoking, convicting and encouraging.
    Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I'm here from Adventures in Babywearing. THank you so much for this post. Last night I was overwhelmed and said to my husband, "I'm not sure I can keep going like this." I've been making a lot more work for myself lately here at home, and I was beginning to wonder if it's worth it. BUt it is. Thanks for the reminder. And I love the title and tagline of your blog. I'm going to make that my mantra whenever I get tired of the mundane chores of motherhood. :-)

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  19. This post made me sob. I NEEDED to read it.

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  20. Came here from Musings of a Housewife - beautiful.

    Thanks.

    Hugs.

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  21. Visiting from Musings of a Housewife.

    Very well said. Very touching. Love it!

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  22. Kelly if I had the energy right now I'd be sobbing in gratitude and empathy. What a beautiful story and what an incredibly apt parallel you've discovered. I struggle just as you do with those feelings of insignificance and WHAT A SHAME we feel that way, ever, for even a second. I can look at you, your life as a mother, a writer, a friend, and know that you are a without a doubt a huge blessing to everyone you touch and that you are gifted and unique and amazing beyond measure. That you don't see it is astounding to me, but also? Totally relatable. Thank you for writing and sharing this viewpoint - this perspective - with us. I am so thankful to know you and to benefit from your articulate insights!

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  23. Beautiful. Powerful. Inspiring.

    Loved this post. Found you through Melissa over at A Familiar Path. I'm following now.

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