It's not always the little/simple/small things

Six or so months ago I was sitting in an office chair at my dentist, trying to wrap my head around a really big number. I needed a root canal and we didn't have any dental insurance. Hello expense! My tooth is now fully repaired: tunneled out, filled in, and covered up with a fake. Although my wallet is a lot skinnier, there's- thankfully- still a little money in it. 

I must have seemed pretty terrified as I looked over the projected cost of the canal because the lady helping me was trying extra hard to break the news gently and with a bit of humor. A few times as she went through the dentist's plan of attack she said things like "this part isn't too expensive, but if you don't want it, it is something we can hold off on for now." As I replied, "Yes- let's wait for that part until my wallet recovers," she laughed and said, "It's the little things, right?!"

It's the little things, right?

Saving a couple hundred dollars here and there matters because it all adds up.

Gifts and graces are like that too, aren't they? When we savor the little gifts and graces throughout our days, they add up to a lifetime of small but beautiful things.

little things: chubby baby thighs and that sweet thumb in his mouth
little thing: stealing bites of cookie dough while baking
little things: party balloons :)
There's been a lot of talk about the little things lately. Take Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts on the New York Time's best seller list or the wild popularity of Kelle Hampton's Enjoying the Small Things blog, for example. I really enjoy this emphasis. When we purpose to enjoy the little things in our lives we cultivate a grateful way of living and who can have distain for something that makes us grateful people?

And yet.

And yet I get a little worried that on the pendulum between Big Things and Little Things, we've swung a bit too far.

As someone who just got done with a Big Thing (our adoption), I see it in myself. I find myself wanting to settle into a life where I express my faith through five minute devotionals, gratitude for my daily cup of tea, 45 second prayers with my two-year-old before bed, and an hour of corporate worship on Sunday. It adds up to a staggering two hours each week. Four if I have a volunteer ministry related meeting that week. I have shameful thoughts like I'm really busy with my life right now, so I'll demonstrate my affection for God with these Little Things. I've already done my Big Thing, thankyouverymuch.

It's so unsatisfying though, isn't it? Not quite two years ago I went to a weekend women's retreat where we were challenged to give more of our time, energy, and lives to God (an excellent challenge) and I was astonished to see how many Christian women were deeply dissatisfied with their lives. I will never forget it. I sat on the hard wooden floor of a large cabin with twenty or so other women, most about 10 years older than me, and watched them cry. With tears they talked about carpools and laundry and the trouble of having no time left for God. Fresh out of seminary without any kids I could not yet relate, but it scared and frustrated me. One older, wiser woman in our cabin responded with that magical combination of gentleness and grace and told us- in better words I'm sure- that it's not really an option in life, having time for God, it's a necessity.

And really, I don't think it's even about having time for God as much as it is about having an entire life for God.

We should develop appreciation for the thousand gifts God gives us like the clean warm clothing we pull out of the dryer for our babies.We should enjoy the small things like a watercolor rainbow or the firm, pleasant stoke of a purring cat pushing up against our legs. But we've also got to nurture and feed our appetite for Big Things. The bold things. The lifestyle altering things. The life changing things.

While we're reading all these books and blogs with tips for everyday living, we've got to remember that in the book God left us, he doesn't give us examples of how to do Little Things for him as much as he gave us a book filled with poetry and prose about Big Things. It's a book about people who lived and breathed obedience. People who uprooted and followed him to new lands, who would rather be mulled to death- let alone leave the laundry unfolded- than stop praying to him, who risked their lives and sexuality to save thousands, who prophesied in a wholly wild and unsophisticated way, one who was crucified to save us, and one who spent years wasting in prison for the sake of the gospel. I can't help but speculate that none of these people would be impressed by the minutes I spend in devotion each day or by the small gratitude I feel for my cup of tea.

I want to be a grateful person. I want to be someone who lives with deep appreciation for every good gift that comes from above. What I don't want is to be someone who satiates her call to Big Things with Little Things.

It's a scary thing to want Big Things because people who say Yes to big things don't usually get to live the American dream and all the luxury it promises. They give up wealth in exchange for generosity. They devote their time to study and service instead of consuming hobbies. They loose prestige and gain humility. They count as loss all the things- all the possessions, power, and popularity- they once held dear. They might even be viewed as the scum of the earth for their faith, their decisions, and the way they live. But on the other side of the pendulum: they aren't struggling to find God between the carpool and the laundry either. From what I've noticed about them, they seem to have all of God because God is all they have.

My hands, probably like yours, are open and ready for the Little Things. I'm scared to keep them there, ready for God to call me to the Big Thing, but- in Christ- I want them to be open. Even if they tremble in the anticipation.

After all, it wasn't so long ago that I held my shaking hands open to receive a call to adoption. And now my open hands are holding my son's. In love. In Christ.



  1. Oh Jill. My eyes are brimming. Because yes, this is what I feel right now.

    In the move and all the details I feel like I am more thankful to God for a house than I am for the gift of his son in the Lenten season.

    IE I hear a song about the goodness of God and think... he is good, we finally get to move home. But wait, he was good last month, and a move? What about the freedom in Christ, maybe that should be my comfort more.

    I'm playing around with a post about this... because God shook me with the truth of it this Sunday.

    I love you, here's to play dates and coffee dates and dinner dates soon! (little things... but still.... YES!)

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  3. "What I don't want is to be someone who satiates her call to Big Things with Little Things." AMEN!
    Perhaps we just need to discipline to finish the sentence. Let us not assume that it's the little things... that complete us. That really matter. That distract us from the big things. That are all God intended.
    Rather, it's the little things....
    that make the big things understandable.
    that remind us of all God ordained.
    that focus our attention on the things that matter.
    that remind us daily, hourly, minute by minute of the great love our Creator has for us.
    The bond between me and my children? Overwhelming. But the way their heads fit so perfectly in the nook of my neck? That was on purpose, wasn't it, God? Thank you!
    For me, it really is the little things that make 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 possible.

  4. What timing that I'm reading this! Love your words and how you put it so well! I just returned from Africa, where my husband, 2 year old and I spent a month networking and seeking God's will for our lives. We knew 9 months ago when we were there that he called us to live there 'some day'. Turns out this "someday" might be a mere 4 months from now. This is Big and it's Scary and thank you for this blog. It's a great reminder :)

  5. Anonymous3/22/2013

    I love this post and I whole-heartedly agree. The little things are all well and good, but I want to live a life in which I sacrifice luxury and comfort so that I can ensure that others get THEIR basic needs met. I wrote a blog post on this recently if you want to check it out.



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