Designed to Work: The Dirty Work of Motherhood

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About 10 years ago, I had the most amazing job. I was the Director of Adult Ministries at a large suburban church in the Kansas City area. I spent my days training and equipping others for ministry. I planned women’s retreats, wrote a Sunday school curriculum and in my free time, served as the coordinator of our church’s outreach to an orphanage in Russia.

It was hard work but it was awesome, life-changing work. It was Jesus work. And I was grateful to be a small part of it.

Then our family’s circumstances changed. We adopted our oldest daughter from Russia and life got complicated. She needed more time and attention than I could give working a full-time job. We also had two younger children at home who were getting less and less mommy-time as I ran fourteen different directions in any given day. My husband and I decided that the best thing for our family was for me to resign from my job.

So I gave up my position in ministry and traded it in for the title of stay-at-home wife and mother.

My days were suddenly filled with all the usual mom stuff and, if you’re a mother or a grandmother, you know that mom stuff isn’t always pretty. There’s a lot of dirty work involved.

Have you ever cleaned up vomit from every crack and crevice of your mini-van with a toothbrush?

Or opened a lunchbox that was left at school for two weeks … with food still in it? Scrubbed a toilet? Scratched mystery goo off your ceilings?

Yes, there’s a lot of dirty work that comes with being a mom. But in between all the smelly gym socks and never ending piles of laundry, there’s so much love.

For the past ten years, I’ve been blessed to be at home with my children. Their hearts are intertwined with mine in ways I never imagined. We’ve played and laughed and cried from the preschool years all the way to our oldest daughter’s high school graduation.

As much as I’ve loved being home, at every turn I was asking God:

Is there something else you want me to be doing with my life? I miss being in ministry. Will you ever have awesome, life-changing Jesus work for me to do again?

I was mulling this over a few nights ago as I knelt on the tile floor in my children’s bathroom—wiping up all manner of grossness—doing the dirty work of motherhood.

Then it hit me, and tears started rolling down my cheeks.

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end … Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet… (John 13: 1-5)

Jesus humbled himself to do the job of a servant—a dirty job. Why? Because He loved His disciples.

Because He loves us.

Right there, on the cold hard tile of the bathroom floor, I felt closer to God than I’d ever felt. I was doing the dirty work … which as it turns out is awesome, life-changing Jesus work.

And I’ve been doing it all along.


Tarissa Helms is an introvert who chose to dive headfirst into the messy, noisy, beautiful waters of motherhood. Tarissa submitted this story as a part of our community linkup, Designed to Work. This article first appeared on her blog.