By Anna Hicks
Have you ever had one of those moments where a priest gives a homily, or a speaker delivers a talk, and you feel like the speaker is talking directly to you? I attended a conference last year where Christine Simpson spoke, and something she said spoke to my heart—no, it penetrated my soul.
Ordinary—she spoke about being ordinary.
At the time I was newly pregnant with two other children ages three and under. I was tired, to say the least. Something about the season of staying home, growing and rearing young children, makes one feel very ordinary. It’s an extraordinary responsibility and gift, but let’s be honest and say that housework and changing poopy diapers feels a little tedious at times.
Simpson referenced her own mother and how she was a simple woman. She reminisced about how her mother didn’t wear much makeup or trendy clothes. She wore a smile and served her family selflessly. And her hands smelled of dish soap.
This stuck out to me. Her daughter, now a grown woman, remembers the scent of a champion dishwasher. The smell still brings her comfort and triggers caring memories of her mother.
The way Simpson spoke of her mother made me tear up. As I was trying to wipe my tears, I searched my purse for tissues. Pushing aside wipes and diapers, I found my three-year-old’s “My Little Pony” tissues. I smiled thinking of her and wiped my eyes. Then it hit me. Could my daughter feel the same way about me?
To be a mother is to be pretty ordinary. Like Simpson’s mother, I’m not much of a trend setter. I feel exhausted keeping up with new styles, and I have never been fond of makeup. It’s not that I’m without vanity; it’s just that I value sleeping in. I find baking and eating sweets a much more rewarding hobby.
Naturally, that lends itself to dirty dishes, which makes me an experienced dishwasher as well. The idea struck me that I could be described with the same detail as Simpson’s mother.
I returned home pondering Simpson’s talk for months, but there was more mentioned at the conference that stayed in my memory. I also learned about Jesus choosing the apostles. According to Jewish tradition, rabbis would choose apprentices by selecting educated and focused Jewish boys of the highest caliber. However, Jesus did things differently. Instead of looking for the elite in the synagogue, he chose simple fishermen—arguably poorly skilled fishermen at that! (see John 21)
Naturally, many of the talks that day touched on Our Lady, and I began to think of Mary’s “ordinary” state with more depth. Her parents, Joachim and Anne, were not of noble status. The man she married, Joseph, was a simple carpenter. Scripture does not have a lengthy description of her as someone who stands out in the world. Yet the angel Gabriel appeared to this simple young woman to tell her that she would carry and rear the Son of God.
This idea of being ordinary and chosen to do holy work resonated with me. In prayer I asked myself how this translated to my own life. As I did this, I felt God showing me my importance in my seemingly ordinary vocation as wife and mother. Our Lady’s vocation must have led her to do many of the tedious tasks similar to mine. Her child-rearing and housework may not be detailed in scripture, but my heart told me those things were intentional and meaningful.
I’m a constant work in progress, and my attitude changed. I was no longer “just a wife and mom.” I’ve known this all along, but now my heart knew I was chosen to do holy work. As I washed dishes, made meals, and laundered piles of dirty clothes, I offered up my service. I started to nurse toddler boo-boos and listen to my husband with more heartfelt, intentional love. Poopy diaper changes and folding laundry have never been the same.
Anna Hicks is the wife of one handsome redhead and mother of three energetic young children. She resides in California and is currently serving in women’s ministry. A teacher turned domestic engineer (aka stay-at-home wife and mother), Anna enjoys a good book, great conversation, baking, and travel.