How a 92-Year-Old Woman Taught Me the Real Value of My Right-Now Work

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From January through May I hustled. I got serious about writing. I wrote a series I loved on living in the tension between our right-now lives and our hoped-for work. I set goals and checked important things off the list.

And then summer came. Summer — with her billowy, welcoming arms.

She showed up. My hustle shut down. It was really the best thing for everyone. I let myself be lazy. I let my kids be lazy. We watched Netflix and went swimming and ate lunch whenever we felt like it. I wrote a little bit but mostly I set down the pen and paper and simply received my own summer life. 

I allowed the thoughts to come to the surface and percolate without feeling the pressure to write them down and make sense of them all. And when I did write, I didn’t feel the need to share my words with the world. I steeped in the realities of my right-now life and reflected on the lives of those who have gone before me.The dearly departed whispered things through the summer air and I listened.

I’m still listening.

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For as long as I can remember I have lived in a tug-of-war between vocation and station. By “vocation” I mean career work — teaching, curating, program development, writing — the work I have trained for and been paid actual money to carry out. By “station” I mean my place in life — my roles as wife, mom, and primary keeper of all things home.

For as long as I can remember I have desperately wanted both — a family and meaningful work.

For as long as I can remember I have worried that I wouldn’t be able to have both, that I would have to choose.

And I have. I have made hard choices and I haven’t made them perfectly.

I am still making hard choices.

Back in May, I lost both of my grandparents, Papa and Gigi. After 73 years of marriage, they left this earth just 5 days apart. I realize I’m lucky to have had them as long as I did. At the age of 43, I still had grandparents!

My three siblings and I were their only grandchildren. The four of us decided that I would be the one to compile the grandkids’ thoughts and stories to share at both services. This is what happens when you’re the big sister and you happen to be a writer.

I wrote my Papa’s remembrance in no time. He was a lifelong leader, a WW2 veteran, a teacher, a pastor, and a stand-in father for the fatherless of his community. His funeral service was TWO HOURS because there was so much to say about his life. His service, his vocation, his many roles — they were all lived so publicly. His life touched countless lives. Most of his contemporaries had already passed so I was shocked to see how many people showed up to honor him. His service was standing room only.

Just five days later, I sat down to write my Gigi’s remembrance. I spent hours on it, sobbing through the whole thing and struggling to get the words just right.

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I was a wreck but not because of the grief.

I was a wreck because it was only after her death that I could see her life for what it was.

And it arrested me. It still is.

Here’s an excerpt from what I shared at her service:

Because of her great love – for her Lord, her husband, and her family – she chose, over and over again, to receive a life that perhaps, sometimes, went against the nature of who she was. It’s the one thing I can’t stop thinking about this week.

We don’t elevate this sort of sacrifice much anymore because it flies against our modern sensibilities. We don’t elevate this unyielding devotion to spouse and children and home because women can do so much more than that. And it’s true. We can. Yet she did not choose the path of personal ambition. Instead, she made her family and her home her life’s work.

And because of all that she did, those in her care were able to do all that they did.

I consider myself a modern woman. I have meaningful work in addition to my roles as wife and mother. And while there’s nothing wrong with my other pursuits, reflecting on my Gigi’s life stopped me dead in my tracks. It reoriented me in ways I didn’t realize I needed. She nourished her family with her food and her care. She made a house a true home. She never stopped pouring herself out for her family.

I regret that so many things about her life crystallized in my own mind and heart only now that she’s gone. God has begun to deeply stir some change within me as I consider this woman who poured herself out as a living sacrifice in daily, ordinary ways. She didn’t see her work as menial.

Because she valued those in her care, she valued the tasks required to care for them.

I find this profoundly beautiful and it’s inspired me to embrace certain things I wouldn’t have chosen, to pour out that which I can offer first to my own family, while I still have the opportunity, and to meet Jesus in the daily-ness of laundry and cooking and repetition.

Her life was its own unique liturgy, one that ministers to me even more now that she’s gone.

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It’s only 9:57 on a Monday morning. Here’s what the day has looked like thus far.

  • Got up at an ungodly hour to run with one child who decided to start running! Before school! While it’s still dark!
  • Came home and cooked breakfast because Mondays are hard and breakfast sandwiches make it better.
  • Cleaned out a gross lunchbox and filled it with fresh food to get my high-schooler through her long day of school and after-school practice.
  • Coached one child through a near panic attack.
  • Carried a too-heavy backpack to the minivan and arranged the various to-go beverages in the cup-holders.
  • Kissed my youngest on the head as my husband whisked him off to the elementary school.
  • Prayed out loud and desperately in the minivan because it felt like an extra Monday-ish Monday.
  • Drove one kid to middle school and the other to high school.
  • Set out the chicken for dinner.
  • Made a grocery list even though I was there yesterday. And also the day before.
  • E-mailed the coaches.
  • Spent an hour on the phone with customer service. They shipped my child’s jeans to the wrong address.
  • Completed some paperwork for my actual job.
  • Hauled the trash and recycling to the curb.
  • Ignored the dishes in the sink and the housework all around me because there is work to be done at my computer.
  • Phoned the pediatrician for a new prescription.

 

No one told me that motherhood and homekeeping would be this sexy.

I don’t write out that list to be impressive or to elicit sympathy. Many of you are doing the same sort of gig.

By the time last May rolled around, even though I’d written thousands of words about embracing your right-now life even as you pursue your hoped-for work, I was actually knee deep in resenting my right-then life. I just didn’t realize it. I was complaining, quite a lot if you ask my husband, about the dailyness of dinner and the burden of laundry and the relentlessness of errands.

My family had the distinct impression that they were in the way of what I really wanted to be doing.

I cannot even type that sentence without weeping. These realizations and reckonings have been more painful than I can tell you.

Ever so slowly I had become so zeroed in on my big important goals and my unique gifts and my “right” to run hard after the things that make me come alive, I had neglected the ones who I love more than life itself.

And that’s why I could barely type out my Gigi’s remembrance. It was a watershed moment for me. I went to my husband in tears the night before her funeral, asking him to forgive me —

For the ways I had made the everyday all about me.

For the elevation of my own work over my own people. 

For the ways I had communicated resentment for all the menial tasks that make a family go ’round.

For the ways I had tried to outsource motherhood.

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I have much to say on this topic because this “vocation / station” tension has been a steady struggle for decades, since I was a girl actually. I have zero things figured out. Because I do still believe that it’s fruitful to pursue the things that are life-giving to us as individuals — whether it’s work or painting or training for a marathon or, in my case, writing.

Only you {and your people} can know when a good desire has become an over-desire. Only you {and your people} can determine your pursuits in any given season. I don’t believe there’s ever perfect balance; it will always be trial and error and I will forever be begging for wisdom and grace. It looks different for all of us.

I can only speak for myself but I know, without a doubt, that I had trampled over the needs of others in the pursuit of my own goals. This reckoning has been messy. As a deeply aspirational person, it brings me literal pain to let go.

But I had to accept that while you can outsource your housework and meals and carpooling, you cannot outsource relationship.

Something changed inside of me when I wrote my Gigi’s story. The life she lived is still reorienting me in ways I didn’t realize I needed. It’s been painful but I can’t tell you how grateful I am. I go back time and again to those words I wrote down three months ago.

Because she valued those in her care, she valued the tasks required to care for them.

This has become a mantra for me, words on which I meditate as I dump crumbs from lunch boxes and do the glamorous work of thawing chicken.

After a stint of my boys doing their own laundry for months and failing miserably, I reclaimed the task for now and they are feeling ten shades of loved right now.

With my high school daughter’s schedule and stress level, I told her I’ll make her lunch each morning. Not because she can’t but because I can do these things for her. It’s an intense season of her young life and this is an easy way I can love her and lighten her load.

Nothing has changed since my less-than-enthusiastic attitude in May. If anything my responsibilities at home have increased. But I see it all through a difference lens and it can now feel empowering and affirming instead of denigrating.

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Keeping a home, taking care of others, meeting physical and emotional needs ’round the clock — the everyday isn’t fancy or pin-worthy. You may be killing it as a mom one day and stress-eating Swiss Cake Rolls behind a locked bathroom door the next. You don’t do any of it for the money, the hours, the acclaim, or the gratitude.

I began this post three weeks ago. With so many other tasks before me, I struggled to find the time and energy to finish it. But I need these words today more than I needed them when I began.

As I love those around me through mundane tasks, as I supply their needs day after day, I’m trusting that the God who knows me better than I know myself will supply what I need too. It may not come in the form of a book or finished creative work. It may not come in the form of super successful kids whose academic, athletic, or artistic accolades affirm my sacrifice. It may not even come with me getting any better at running this crazy home and caring for the people in it.

I don’t have any guarantees and neither do you.

But I do have right now and the lens through which I choose to see it. This means I’m more shocked than anyone by the contentment that sometimes comes over me now as I wash the dishes. {Emphasis on “sometimes.”}

This reorienting — it feels like a gift from God. A God who turned himself into a human baby, who turned Galilean water into fine wine, who turned a meager lunch into a feast for thousands.

How ironic that my gifts and longings — the ones He gave me — somehow feel out of his jurisdiction. I realize how small I make God and how big I make myself. How I walk by sight instead of by faith when it’s supposed to be the opposite.

Our God is a God of design and also redesign. I trust him with the “ways I’m wired” but do I trust him with the ways He may want to re-wire me?

I trust him with the divinely inspired work but do I trust him with the divinely interrupted work?

I love these words by Emily Freeman:

Our specific offerings reveal the unique version of our worship, not for the glory of us, but to the glory of God and for the benefit of others.  

From A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

 

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Yes, our specific offerings do reveal the unique version of our worship. And this is beginning to feel more like art and less like drudgery.

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So to all the weary parents struggling with the dailyness of, well, everything —

To the ones desperately searching for work / life balance —

To those who are changing diapers or running carpool when you’d rather be teaching a class or writing a book —

Know that when you’re feeding and clothing bodies, you’re also caring for souls.

Know that when you pour out your life in thankless ways every day, you are making those around you rich. 

Know that seasons are meant to be received, not rejected.

Know that if you need to set aside some of your own aspirations for a time, you’re creating a spacious place for the souls around you to flourish.

Don’t lose heart or lose hope. This, my friends, is good and sacred work.

In the same way that others trust you to meet their needs, you can trust that the God who created you, who loves you, and who cares for you will also meet yours.

 


I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

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Overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids? Curious about the most important questions to ask? I have a FREE resource created just for you.

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P.S. Let’s hang out on Instagram!

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What I Learned This Summer

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When I can, I love to dish about what I’ve learned at the end of each month. The Let’s Share What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.” I haven’t done this since way back in October and I’ve missed it.

This month we’re invited to share what we learned over the whole Summer. Don’t worry, mine isn’t an exhaustive list. That’s because the heat of the southern summer and having all my people in the house 24/ 7 makes me dumb and I can barely remember what I’ve learned. To be honest, I am barely coherent by August 15th, but the kids go back to school tomorrow hashtag praise hands.

If you’d like to join in, just head over to Emily’s and link up.

In no particular order, here are 6 things I’ve learned this summer.

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1. A change of scenery is good for the soul.

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We didn’t do any fancy vacations, just our typical treks to the beach with my family and to my husband’s home-place in Michigan. We did, however, drive a different route through the midwest to Iowa, where we attended a my husband’s grandmother’s funeral and spent a couple of days with family we rarely see.

I couldn’t stop staring out the window and snapping photos of corn fields. Though we logged 2,300 miles in 8 days, getting out of my little town and inhaling a different part of the country was like a reset button for my soul. I forget how much this homebody craves a change of place.

 

2. The space bar on my computer works as a pause button when I’m watching Netflix.

My 15 year old showed me this, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. {More on the “Ministry of Netflix” in a later post.}

 

3. I DO have a “book type.”

I didn’t do tons of reading this summer like I’d hoped. But I’ve done lots of thinking about books and wrote this post on my 5 favorite literary novels of all time.

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Writing about my favorite literary novels showed me a pattern I’d never seen before and now I’m curious to know if my other favorite categories of books will have a pattern too.

 

4. We didn’t all have spectacular, enviable summers. Even though social media seems to convince us otherwise.

Way back in June I wrote about how to receive your own summer life. That’s because summer can sure mess with my inner peace. Even though our family’s summer is coming to an end, it’s easy to look back and see all of the things we didn’t do, all of the good intentions that gathered dust on a shelf, all of the awesomeness other families enjoyed while my kids partook of too much screen time.

Even at summer’s end, I’m still wrestling a little bit. And judging from the comments and e-mails from that post, I learned that I’m not the only one who struggles.

Here’s what I’m still learning the hard way. You can spend your seconds turned minutes turned years wishing for a life that isn’t yours, making yourself and everyone else miserable in the process. Or you can choose to receive the beauty, provision, and even heartache of your actual life. I have a million things to be grateful for. I simply forget. And so do you.

 

5. What happens in August, stays in August.

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Yesterday I sent all of my kids to eat lunch on the porch because, even though I love them with all my heart, I just couldn’t handle the noise of them being people. And this was after I had already been to church and my heart was full of Jesus.

I texted with a friend last week and she confessed that she’d made her kids eat cereal on the deck that morning because she couldn’t deal with the noise of their spoons scraping against the bowls. She also visited the grocery store bakery three days in a row and ate cookie sandwiches in the parking lot just to get some peace and alone time.

This was the first summer in a long time that I wasn’t ready for school to start. I enjoyed my kids and our lazy schedules more than any summer ever. And then August showed up. August turns easy, laid-back, summer-loving Marian into Crazy-Person Marian. All of a sudden, I am smothered by the humans who live in my home and dreaming of ways to escape. I become the worst version of myself.

So if you too find yourself banishing your offspring because their breathing is too loud, I won’t tell. It’s just August coming around again and turning us into lunatics. Repeat this mantra, “What happens in August, stays in August.” Your self-esteem, sanity, and goodwill toward men will return in October.

 

6. Y’all are stressed about how to educate your kids.

I recently unveiled this little gift I’d been working on for a while.

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I got some of the sweetest e-mails from parents who are overwhelmed by the decision, parents who are switching from homeschool to public school, parents who know that their particular decision is for the best right now but it’s not what they’d planned or hoped for. So many of you are struggling with a low-grade grief or overwhelm over this issue of school.

Maybe this describes you. For years it definitely described me.

If you need a pep talk so that you can walk with more freedom and peace along whatever educational path your family has chosen {either by design or default}, this little resource is for you.

Click here to get yours! 


 

I’m curious, what did you learn this summer?

You can find me in the comments section, on the blog’s Facebook page, or on Twitter. We can also hang out on Instagram!

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Are you stressed about how to educate your kids? Let me help.

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It’s the first week of August and Target has me all heart-eye emoji over back-to-school supplies. Is it just me or do school supplies get cuter every year?

Getting everything in order for a new school year ushers in its own sort of angst for me as a parent. But that’s the easy stuff compared to the deeper fears, dilemmas, and second-guessing about getting school “right” for our kids. It’s the sort of dilemma that most of our parents didn’t struggle with and that probably wasn’t even on our grandparents’ radar.

Why?

Because in this land of opportunity, we have more educational options than ever before. And while the vast majority of families still send their kids to the local public school, we all know families who are choosing to do things differently, whether it’s homeschool, charter school, private school, or online school.

Our motivations for doing it “differently” are as varied as our families:

  • Your kids having the best education possible so that they have access to the best opportunities possible. 
  • Choosing a more personal path for a child who has learning disabilities or who may be exceptionally gifted.
  • A passion to be involved in the public schools for the sake of a better community. 
  • The best sports program or a charter school geared toward the creative arts.
  • Providing a faith-based foundation for learning.
  • Protection from unsavory peer influences. 

 

And that’s just the beginning.

I’ve been thinking and writing about this topic of finding freedom in our educational decisions for several years now because I’ve been living through the ups and downs of this dilemma since I had my first child 15+ years ago.

Our overwhelm as parents has only intensified because our options are more abundant than ever.

If you’re stressed and uncertain about how to educate your kids, I wish we could sit down on my screen porch and visit. I’d listen to your worry and tell you it’s going to be okay. But my screen porch isn’t big enough for all of you so I’m offering something else.

“Is it like the Sorting Hat from Hogwarts?” you may ask.

I wish.

“You’re to be homeschooled! You’re perfect for your local public school! You were destined for the early college charter school!”

Alas, we’re not as lucky as Harry, Ron, and Hermione and I don’t have any magic.

But I have created a free resource that’s all yours — to download, to print, to share with your spouse.

It’s called “School Made Simple: FIVE Essential Questions to Help Your Family Walk the Path of Educational Freedom”

Why the 5 questions? Why not just give you answers and expertise and best practices.

Because we’re not robots.

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I’ve walked the hard road of my own story and I’d like to be a gentle guide who helps you walk yours with freedom and grace.

“How do I receive this free resource?”

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I’m glad you asked.

All you have to do is subscribe in the box at the bottom of this post and you’ll receive a link to download “School Made Simple.”

And if you’re already a subscriber, don’t worry. You’ll automatically receive a separate e-mail {later today} with your link to the download. It’s my way of saying thank you for being part of this space.

As a subscriber, you’ll receive posts no more than twice a week that are all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life — whether it’s the ongoing dilemma over school, real talk about faith, the struggle of pursuing your hoped-for work in the midst of your right-now life, encouragement for realistic parenting, and even the challenges of prettying up a room {or your tired outfits} on a minimal budget. Plus you’ll be the first to know about new freebies, resources, and other insider scoop!

Don’t worry, this isn’t a lifetime commitment. Feel free to unsubscribe anytime you like. You can always hop back in if it works for you down the road.

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I’d love to have your feedback over this issue of school.

  • What are your personal fears, dilemmas, questions?
  • What has made the decision difficult {or easy} for you?

 

Knowing your struggles and concerns helps me create fresh content that meets you right where you are. You can chime in on the Facebook page, via Instagram, in the blog’s comment section, or by sending an email to marianvischer at gmail dot com.

I can’t thank you enough for your continued support and community here. It’s been nine years since I began writing online and I’m more grateful than ever for the gift of kindred spirits and for this place to unwrap possibility together.

Love, Marian

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P.S. Let’s hang out on Instagram!

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