Living a good story in the mundane

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Ah, Story. It’s still percolating in my mind. Looks like it’s going to be my theme for the summer. As you’re reading this, our family is somewhere between Texas and Oregon, moving to our new home.

The Philippines trip turned me upside-down, and returning to Austin only to box up our possessions into a moving truck flipped me on my side. True to our family’s form, our life has been unpredictable and chaotic the past month.

I’ve talked about living out a good story, and that it’s possible, even with chaos. But what does it look like to live out a good, relevant, gets-me-up-in-the-morning Story when it still just feels like…. regular life?

Because even though it may sound like my life is always adventurous, it really isn’t. We travel a lot, sure, but 90 percent of the time, I’m still mostly about getting dinner on the table by 6 p.m. and making sure my kids don’t watch too much TV. Just like you, I imagine.

Here’s some encouragement that the mundane is still part of a Good Story.

Again, Donald Miller’s A Million Miles has been my inspiration this month. It was a really, really good read (and quick, too). In it, he talks about how some people start off excited, sure that they’re bound for an adventurous, journey-filled life, but that most of us (probably parents) fizzle out after awhile.

“I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger.”

Do you feel like you’re in the middle of a great big lake? You’re heading in a direction, working hard with the oar you’ve been given, and haven’t given up… But it just feels like you’re not going anywhere. The journey is getting long, and it’s a bit mundane.

I hear you. Every time Kyle and I have a baby, we joke that we’re resetting our clock another 18 years. Three more months of sleepiness nights (minimum, for us anyway). Three more years of diapers. Another precious mouth to feed and body to clothe.

We love it, don’t get me wrong. The fact that we have three children continues to astound me. But I’m not going to pretend that parenting and living the day-in, day-out of raising them is all erupting volcanoes and chasing after the bad guy and falling in love Victorian-style.

It’s a lot of daily grind.

What gives me encouragement, then, is that the daily grind is shaping me into a better character for my story. Easy stuff doesn’t make me stronger. It’s the hard, repetitive challenges that build and shape me into a character worth reading.

Most of life is day-to-day survival — everybody’s is, really. I don’t think we’re made to handle action and adventure nonstop. God’s not in any hurry to build the characters and the setting in order to rush to the climax of the story.

Conflict makes a good story line…


Braveheart

We live in a broken world, so our stories full of character-building will have trials. We’d be naive to expect otherwise. My story is better when I choose to find contentment during the conflict, not when it’s gone.

Think about the movies you love. I’ll bet you none of them star a character who has a conflict-free, only-fun-stuff life. William Wallace has the darn English to contend with. Lizzy Bennett must endure ambiguity, her position in Victorian England, and her mother. Harry and Sally continually try on other relationships while we already know they’d be perfect together.

I often find myself wishing my life were more adventurous, but as soon as conflict heads my way, I’d rather have the simple liturgy of laundry. No life is grind-free, whether that grind looks like dirty diapers or tossing a ring back into the fires of Mt. Doom.

…But so does finding contentment in imperfection.

“We all get worked into a frenzy over things that will not happen until Jesus returns. The truth is, we can make things a little better or a little worse, but utopia doesn’t hang in the balance of our vote or of what products to buy.”-A Million Miles

Finding utopia here on earth is impossible, so it’s not my motivation for living out a good story. I’ll be continually discontent if that’s my goal. Living out who we are as a family and walking together to get there… That’s where the peace in our story lies. Not in escaping hard or boring stuff.


Before Sunset

“Who wants to mess with contentment? I might just buy a bottle of wine and listen to a record. I like slower stories these days. I like the simple ones, the ones that play out like art films.” -A Million Miles

Most of the time, my story plays out like an art film, not like a Scottish army wearing blue paint. And that’s okay.

What sort of movie is your life like? How do you find contentment during character-building moments?

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Comments

  1. I really needed to read this tonight. You have a gift of writing and of writing what is relevant to our lives as mothers and women. Hope all is going well on your moving trip.

  2. The hard part IS the good part. If it gets “too hard” then it’s the wrong thing you’re doing.

    I love CharismaticKid no matter if we are doing horrible or doing great.
    Anthony from CharismaticKid´s latest post: ADHD Medication- How it’s Ruining Your Child’s Future

  3. Oregon?! yay! Does that mean you’ll be up for any speaking engagements in the NW neck of the woods?! ;) Maybe you need a little time to settle in up here? You can have a cup of tea with your feet up anytime here!
    Krystal´s latest post: a tribute to my Abba Father

  4. I too have discovered this as time goes by. It’s the thousands of little choices every day, to do the things that need doing that build my character and that make me the kind of person who has the strength to handle the conflict when it comes because I have built it little by little, day after day, tiny choice by tiny choice. It’s not unlike the unseen parts of epics. Stories rarely tell us the part where the hero ran drills every day and practiced the same moves over and over and over again so that when the moment came and he /she finds them self in the climax of the story they can pull that one awesome move that kills the dragon. But that one awesome move was repeated, over, and over, and over again, for years until it became instinct, graceful, flawless.

    The grind is the testing ground, the place where we repeat, fail, try again until we become this kind of person who can rise to any occasion, the hero of our own story.

  5. “Most of life is day-to-day survival — everybody’s is, really. I don’t think we’re made to handle action and adventure nonstop. God’s not in any hurry to build the characters and the setting in order to rush to the climax of the story.”

    This made me happy today. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for this thoughtful and heartfelt post. It was a wonderful addition to my morning devotional. I think about the mundane moments often. Those are the times when you see a child’s personality blossom or feel the real connection in a relationship. Sometimes they are just downright funny observations that are worth a laugh. Better than the “big things” so often.

    We’ve moved. In fact we’ve moved five times in our marriage. I will warn you that the last three moves resulted in an added child in each location – Hawaii, Maryland, and Georgia!
    Ann´s latest post: “Here- Home- Hope” Book Review

  7. i think i am constantly searching for contentment. i get caught up in the search. if only this…then….
    you know the drill. so right now i am seeking to be content in my current circumstances. being constantly reminded that THIS is my story- i can tell a great one of how i made the most of the moments i had or i can tell one of how i wasted moments wishing things were a bit different here and there.
    great reminder! thanks so much.
    melissa´s latest post: -have you joined the hoop art craze-

  8. Here’s what I love about this post:

    “Every time Kyle and I have a baby, we joke that we’re resetting our clock another 18 years.”

    That is the grind that goes through my head and is in my conversations when we contemplate, Lord willing, another baby. Restarting the clock. Being that much further away from really having freedom (from night wakings, diapers, etc).

    I want to move closer to living in my own story now, and not waiting for it to begin once… (fill in the blank)… the kids are older…we make more money…we have more space…

    Great thoughts!
    Katherine´s latest post: Cutting Corners

  9. Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! was the advice that was trendy to give when I was younger. But i have to agree Tsh, “I don’t think we’re made to handle action and adventure nonstop”. Having a life that’s on a slower pace and isn’t “seizing every moment as if it’s your last” has taken me a long time to come to terms with as a happy and normal life.
    Angie B´s latest post: compassion

  10. This is a great post, thank you. Great encouragement to find contentment in the conflict and in the mundane. It’s true, not matter how exciting or glamorous our calling or job, much of life is about getting the laundry done and dinner on the table, so I might as well try to find enjoyment in those things too.
    Betsy C.´s latest post: How to Handle Goodbyes with Grace

  11. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    I needed to read this! Since having our child I’ve felt like all the excitement and adventure in my life is gone and I’ve been just trying to keep my head above water in a journey I never expected to take. I need to remember that this is one part of my life and I can still pursue other dreams too, but that I need to enjoy the moment we’re living in.

  12. Perhaps you’ve already seen this post on “motherhood as a mission field”: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/motherhood-as-a-mission-field?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DGBlog+%28DG+Blog%29&utm_content=Bloglines

    Your post comes at the same theme from another angle – a theme that I’ve been contemplating for a little while now. I’m definitely going to incorporate the word “Story” to my musings.

    For example, in this story of mine I am trying to see relationship moments as significant accomplishments throughout my days and weeks. These are the things that cannot be checked off of a list, that are seemingly invisible from day to day, but which will be the theme of our story as my children become adults. Whether the dinner dishes were done right after eating or the next morning after breakfast is not an essential part of the story.

    Best wishes on your travels!!
    Carole´s latest post: chocolate popsicle

    • i LOVED that motherhood as a mission field post! wow! thank you!!!!

      “Giving up what you cannot keep does not mean giving up your home, or your job so you can go serve somewhere else. It is giving up yourself. Lay yourself down. Sacrifice yourself here, now. Cheerfully wipe the nose for the fiftieth time today. Make dinner again for the people who don’t like the green beans. Laugh when your plans are thwarted by a vomiting child. Lay yourself down for the people here with you…”
      Ginny´s latest post: Revelation is About Jesus- Not Numbers

  13. oh we are in the midst of a huge challenging time right now. i try to stay grounded by appreciating the mundane and being appreciative for the simple pleasures.

  14. I have realized my life is a story written by God and His plans are so different than mine. I have found that His plan is the best, and I have every reason to trust Him because He has proven Himself time and time again to me. The story I am writing is my journey of the past two years of how I chose to obey God and accept the His plan for my life, the plan to simplify so that I can have time for what is most important.
    Simple Life Journey´s latest post: Pools- Swim Lessons- and Logs

  15. This resonated with me. I would take the mundane over the conflict any day. Life is busy enough with a full time job, a husband and 3 boys.

  16. Speaking of living out the mundane and enjoying the moments . . . here is a lovely video produced by my church anyone could appreciate. And it might make you feel better about reveling in ‘getting dinner on the table by 6′ and shutting the laptop long enough to jump in the rain with your kids :)

    http://lds.org/pages/moments?lang=eng

  17. Not sure what type of movie I’m living. (Although my brother and I used to joke we should have a reality TV show…) But I always try and remind myself (and others) that during those character-building moments, God is just doing some refinement work in our hearts and we need to be open to it and learn from them.

  18. Thank you for this wonderful post! Just this morning I was journaling from Donald Miller’s “Million Miles” book (it’s due back at the library) and I hate to sound cliched, but the book changed me. I am already striving to evolve into a happier, more holier person… or to put it in Miller’s terms, to live more congruent with my Writer! Now, I have a great metaphor to guide me, both, as you have written, in the chaos and mundane. I can try to make memorable scenes in the mundane (folding laundry can be a sport!)! I struggle with contentment but today am trying to remember what Miller says about Job – to keep in mind that the story isn’t really about me, and to care more about the big story than my own circumstances.
    Eve´s latest post: Happiness Infusion

  19. I also LOVED this Donald Miller book and it turned my life into weeks of thinking through “story”. Such an amazing way to think of our lives, such a biblical way to think of our lives. We are all little stories in the middle of THE big story! Thank you for sharing this, this post sounded like my life!

  20. Really enjoyed this post. Thanks you! We have three children also, and my husband makes a point of videotaping them doing the everyday, mundane things, bc this is the bulk of our lives, not the “big” memory types of moments, and we know we won’t be able to remember the nuances of the daily stuff… how our baby gobbles food he really likes, how our 3 year old refuses to sit straight in her booster seat at the table, how our 5 year old expresses herself with her cute grammar fumbles….

    As for a movie, hmmmm. Love Actually shows how relationships intersect, so we like that. But it’s missing a bit of our current chaos! If it were TV, Parenthood comes close (or close to what we wish we were. A script helps,ha)

  21. …while I wouldn’t want to lose my arm…I really wish I could be as articulate and hard-working as Mattie in True Grit (just saw it last night- I recommend it)

  22. Spot on, as always. I haven’t read Donald Miller’s book (yet) but I’m really enjoying your take on “Story.” It does make the mundane more exciting when you think of it as a story that you are living, and that many daily tasks are character building. Getting ready for the adventure, so to speak. Thanks for your perspective.
    Courtney´s latest post: Bright Blessing Card Pack Giveaway!

  23. There are days where I actually welcome the mundane. It grounds me in the present, of which I otherwise lose sight.

  24. A movie that best describes my life might have to be Pleasanville. The day-to-day grind can be described as mundane/dull/grey. But as I notice God working throughout the day in little ways, it starts to color parts of my life bit by bit (just as color is brought into the movie in Pleasantville). Some days are colored like a brilliant rainbow, even if it’s merely following a big storm.
    Heart and Haven´s latest post: Turtles- Christmas- and Cards…All In One Weekend

  25. I got this book from the library at your suggestion a few days ago and I LOVE it! I am 1/2 way into it and have so many thoughts running through my mind. Thank you for suggesting it. It has helped me re-evaluate our goals and how soon we want to take baby steps toward them despite the fact that many of our kids are still young.
    Heather´s latest post: Homemade Earache Oil Recipe

  26. The plot to my life’s movie seems a little undefined at this point. Don’t get me wrong, we have a current course that we seem to be on. We are approaching our 30′s, live and work overseas, and welcomed our first baby into the world about 7 months ago. But let’s just say we still have many conversations about what we want to be when we grow up.

    Thanks for the post. Encouraging and good food for thought.
    Rachel @ The Travel Pen´s latest post: How to Make and stick to a Travel Budget

  27. I finally had to buy the book Million Miles…. I can’t wait to read it. I loved this post because when my children were younger I thought I would have a more exciting life once they were raise and on their own. Well they are now… and I’m still me, gray hair, more wrinkles and reading glasses…but still me.
    Your post made me think about some of my comfort reads over the years—Miss Read, the Village School and Jan Karon and her Father Tim books… and others like them that have a low key story line with lots of mundane daily stuff.
    Plus one of my favorite films is Lars and the Real Girl. (you have to check it out!)
    But my thoughts this morning are that I have a rich life… day by simple day.

  28. Great words Tsh, and goes along with some posts I have had on my blog as well, about living where we are vs always striving for something more. I am so excited to read Donald Miller’s book, cannot wait til it gets here!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Contented vs Driven

  29. This is a beautiful post. It’s the way we should all aspire to live: to find contentment in imperfection, as you say, and to live out a good story even in the midst of chaos and even when our daily lives seem to be all about the banal and the mundane! I love it. It’s really the only route to true happiness.
    Kim Foster MD´s latest post: The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Carbs

  30. I like my mundane life with my babies. I worry that sometimes I like it too much, and don’t push myself to do the things that will make my story more interesting. To knock on the doors that will open up to places I dreamt of before the babies came along and rocked my world (for the better). Gotta find the balance, I guess.

  31. As you make it up here, I am getting ready to move down south. My mind is chaotic but my heart secretly longs for adventure. Seems like I am leading the life of just enough chaos to call it an adventure. Balancing that and myself while keeping is all together is quite a test indeed – all exciting though.
    I love this style of writing :) In the end it is all about the stories – stories we read, tell and live ….
    I wish you the very best Tsh!

  32. Great post. It was really refreshing for me, thank you. And I love that you included a picture from Before Sunset!
    Ally Lynn´s latest post: Versatile Blogger Award- Take 2!

  33. we’re just finishing up a move that has had several smaller moves along the way. it’s been a long year. we added a baby in there, too.
    my story these days? city girl learning how to be a farm girl. so now i milk goats, chase chickens and seek the beauty in the small moments of each day.
    not action-adventure, well, except for the chasing of chickens, but it’s a good life.
    kimberly´s latest post: links 2 enjoy

  34. Such a great reminder! I really needed that encouragement during this season of my life!
    Thanks! :)

  35. My husband and I went to Don Miller’s Storyline conference last fall. It was a really great time for us to think about life and what kind of story we wanted to live, especially since we went just a month after our wedding. I’d definitely recommend it!

  36. This is so NOT the point of your article, which I thought was lovely. But as an English and History buff I feel the inexplicable need to point out that Pride and Prejudice takes place in the Regency period of England as opposed to the Victorian period, which started about 40 years later. Regency social mores were strict, but probably not as strict as the Victorian era. Carry on with the on topic conversation. :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] through simplifying my possessions is an appreciation for the mundane aspects of my life. SimpleMom wrote about living a good story, even when your story includes a lot of diapers, dishes and a like clockwork tantrum before dinner. [...]

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