Courtney Reissig: Glory in the Ordinary
The blessings of working at home can be great and eternal. Author Courtney Reissig explains how it is not only a ministry to those in our homes, but an act of worship to our God.
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On FamilyLife Today, we’ll hear from author Courtney Reissig explain how it is not only a ministry to those in our homes, but an act of worship to our God.
Courtney Reissig: Glory in the Ordinary
Dave: —did you ever feel like what you were doing wasn’t important?
Ann: Especially coming out of ministry, and then deciding to stay at home—I did some stuff part-time—but I just felt like, “Am I really impacting the world for Jesus right now?” I did have that thought.
Dave: Do you feel like a lot of moms feel that way, or even stay-at-home dads?
Ann: Yes, I think so; because it feels so monotonous and mundane. It feels like: “Really? I’ve just cleaned up vomit,” or “I’ve changed 20 poopy diapers.” It feels like: “Is this kingdom work?” We’re going to talk about that a little bit.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
We have Courtney Reissig with us today. You wrote a book sort of about the/you call it Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God.
We’re really glad to have you here with us, Courtney.
Courtney: Thanks for having me!
Ann: I even like the title: Glory in the Ordinary.
Courtney: Yes, I like it too! [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; I mean, you’re an author; you’re a Bible teacher; you work with Risen Motherhood; you have four kids; you’re married to a guy from Findlay, Ohio, our hometown.
Dave: It sounds like you’re not a stay-at-home mom that just does the ordinary thing— you’re doing a lot of different things—but you wrote a book about feeling that. In fact, you open the book with a story about sitting beside a businesswoman on a plane, and she asked you what you do.
Courtney: Yes, when I wrote the book, I was primarily working in the home, and I still do. I work from home. I always joke that my husband and I are like the prairie people; because he works from home, too.
Ann: Prairie people! [Laughter]
Courtney: You know, we’re like the modern prairie people.
Dave: You’re saying you worked from home before COVID?
Courtney: —before COVID; yes.
Dave: Because everybody feels like they work from home, but you did before.
Courtney: Yes, I started my job at Risen Motherhood in the middle of COVID, so I just did freelance writing and just writing books. I would start something, and then I would pull back. I had a lot of flexibility of like: “I don’t want to write a book,” or “…write an article,” or “…do anything,”—I needed a break—my kids were younger, so I didn’t feel right; it didn’t fit for our family.
Before COVID, my husband traveled a lot. Right now, we both work from home;4 so we are primarily in the home all the time.
Dave: Are your kids at home as well? Are they at school?
Courtney: They’re at school.
Courtney: My youngest one only goes to preschool two days a week.
Courtney: But when I wrote this book, I had just had my third son when I got the contract for this book; so I wrote it throughout his whole first year of life.
Ann: So you were in it.
Courtney: I was in it.
Ann: Your oldest are twins.
Courtney: Twins; I had two two-year-olds, and I had a three-week-old baby when I got that contract.
Dave: Now when you say, “I was in it,”—Ann’s over here—like you two know what “in it” means.
Courtney: It’s a language we know; yes.
Ann: Every mom knows that.
Dave: What is it?
Courtney: Well, I had three children, two and under. I had three kids in diapers; I had three kids who were in car seats. There was no such thing as a triple stroller, at the time, that I knew of.
Ann: And there’s no time to yourself.
Ann: You’re watching your kids 24 hours a day, making sure they’re safe. They can’t be alone; they’re not really playing on their own that much yet.
Courtney: Right; right; no.
Ann: So you have no time to yourself. When you’re in the bathroom, the kids are in the bathroom.
Ann: You can barely take a shower.
Courtney: Right. Thankfully, my third son was a very easy baby and slept through the night pretty quickly.
Ann: That’s good.
Courtney: That helped. I felt as rested as you can feel with small children. What was so hard for me is, when I had children, I wanted to stay home with them. But I’ve never been someone who is what I would call a “good housewife.” I always joke that my husband is a better housewife than me. [Laughter] He’d probably be a really good homeschool dad; he’s just really good at those types of managing types of things.
I would read books to my kids all day if I could, but I don’t like cleaning. I love cooking— so that’s easier for me to get my mind around of why that matters—but the cleaning and organizing [not so much]. I understood why children matter/why taking care of your children matters; I love them deeply.
Ann: Right; when you say, “the ordinary,” you’re really talking about taking care of the home.
Courtney: Right; the housework. It just was hard for me to wrap my mind around why it mattered.
The impetus behind the book was that my husband had transitioned out of thinking he would go into full-time vocational ministry and continued working as a businessman, and has continued all this time in doing it. We had to come to terms with: “Why does work in general matter?” “Why is work,—that’s not just paid vocational ministry work— why does other work matter to the Lord?”
Both of us were on this journey of figuring out: “Why does it matter? Why does it matter that you are a businessman, and how is that honoring to God?” and “How can you honor the Lord?” We had to come to terms with what it means to be an image-bearer of God, and then, because we’re image-bearers of God, we’re also called to work. We see that in Genesis.
Ann: You’re not even talking about just stay-at-home moms. You’re talking about all of our work, that seems so ordinary, and how we can bring glory to it.
Courtney: Yes; right.
Dave: At the same time, though—as you get on that airplane, and she asks you what you do—how did it make you feel when you’re trying to tell her, “I stay at home”?
Courtney: Right; I would often struggle with—because I had written a book already prior to that point—
Ann: Yes; you can say, “I’m an author!”
Courtney: I’m an author; yes. But then you also have to deal with: “What kind of author are you?” “I’m a Christian author.” It’s like: “I don’t want to talk about Jesus right now.”
Honestly, everyone struggles with that; right? You’re on an airplane, and it’s like, “Do I want to just put my earbuds in and watch a show?” or “Do I want to talk about the gospel?” True confession: that’s hard.
For me, I always have to struggle with there’s no easy answer. I either say, “I’m in some form of Christian ministry,” “I write a book,” or “I stay home with my children primarily.” But neither of those are respected by a woman in a business suit, sitting next to me.
I did struggle with it: “How do I explain what I do all day?” And then the woman looks at me—
Dave: You say, “I write books about finding glory—
Courtney: —in the ordinary.”
Dave: She’d be like, “What is that?!”
Ann: She’d love it, actually.
Courtney: Yes! What I struggled with is she then came back to me and said, “I couldn’t do that; I would get bored all day.” I was like [speaking softly to herself], “Well, I kind of get bored too.” [Laughter] I kind of get a little bored sometimes.
It was a good reminder to me that the reason why we do work—I sometimes call this “hidden work”—the work that nobody sees, but the work that upholds the society. The reason why we do this hidden work is not because maybe we all aspire to it—some people love it; some people love organizing and cleaning—and I’m so glad I’m friends with them. But we do this work because it brings glory to the Lord, and He created us, as image bearers.
As image bearers of God, we are called to bring order out of chaos and to exercise dominion over the world that He has made. So if you don’t take the sheets off the bed after the kid throws up on them or pees the bed on them, and wash them, then illness spreads throughout the house. You think, prior to us learning what hygiene was in the modern world, people routinely died from things that could have been prevented, just because someone didn’t clean it. These things that we do every day are actually, not only imaging God, but are sustaining life and caring for people.
When I make mac and cheese for my boys—when they ask me, “Will you make mac and cheese for lunch?”—and I’d rather do peanut butter and jelly because it’s way easier—[Laughter]—and they ask for that, I’m filling a hungry belly. I’m not only filling hungry bellies; I’m an image-bearer, who’s showing them what God is like and that God gives good things. God gives us good things like mac and cheese, because I like mac and cheese.
Ann: Who doesn’t?
Courtney: I know! I really sometimes wish I didn’t like the mac and cheese. I’m like, “I’ll just eat mac and cheese with you; it’s fine.” [Laughter]
Ann: You take us back to Genesis 3, about how God gives us work.
Courtney: Yes; yes.
Ann: Talk about that.
Courtney: Right; yes. In the garden, God created Adam and Eve, and then He gave them a job to do. It says: “God created male and female in His own image; in the image of God He created them,” and then it goes on to explain the creation mandate, which is, “Be fruitful and multiply, exercise dominion, and bring order out of chaos, and fill the earth.” [Genesis 1:27-28, Paraphrased]
Sometimes we see this only in the form of marriage and having children; which is a good explanation of that. But also, God gave them jobs to do. Then you see throughout Scripture elsewhere—in creation, God created out of nothing—and we don’t do that. We always are creating with raw materials that God created. But as His image-bearers/as the ones who are telling a story of what He is like, we take the things of this world that He has created and then go make more things to bring glory to Him but then, also, to love the world that He has made.
I love the story in—I think it’s in Exodus, where Oholiab and there’s another guy—I can’t say his name; it starts with a “B” [Bezalel]—they are the ones who are creating the things to go in the Tabernacle. It says that the Lord gave them skill and then gave them joy in their work. [Exodus 35-36]
Ann: It says he anointed them with the Holy Spirit.
Courtney: He anointed them; yes—and with skill to create things that—they were artisans.
Courtney: There’s so much in our work that brings glory and honor to Him. Whether you’re in the home, doing laundry; or you’re mowing the grass; or you’re cleaning out the refrigerator/the mold that grows in the refrigerator—because again, people could get sick—you’re loving other image-bearers.
Or you’re like my husband—who works in the medical industry of selling operating room equipment/selling life-saving equipment so that people’s lives can be sustained—this work brings glory and honor to the Lord and tells the world what He is like. As Christians, who are in whatever sphere that they find themselves in, it’s good work, even if it’s hidden work.
My work looks a little different now that I work part-time. Most of my kids are in school, and our life just looks so different. I’m not in the trenches with little children at home. It’s weird now that I sometimes have the opposite effect now, where I’m like, “But I mostly stay home, and I am deeply invested in my home, and I am deeply invested in my kids.”
Ann: Courtney, you are still in the trenches.
Courtney: I know. [Laughter]
Ann: I’m thinking of the age of your kids; and I’m like, “Oh no; those are still hard years.”
Courtney: They are hard years; they just feel so less hard. You know when they’re like a herd; they move into new seasons together, because they’re all so close in age.
Ann: Yes. I remember my mom was a stay-at-home mom—four of us—and she loved being at home. She loved cooking; she loved cleaning. She always had this attitude of: “I get to do this.”
I remember thinking, “Are you kidding?! This seems like it’s doing nothing.” Yet, she would sing; she was so happy. She would make dinner; and she’d say, “Come and help me; this is going to be so fun.” I remember her teaching me how to clean and dust. She goes, “You’re going to be the best little duster ever.” She had me cleaning the bathroom when I was four.
Dave: She’s still amazing.
Courtney: That’s a good motivation for me to have my kids do that. [Laughter]
Ann: I mean, it was just her attitude:—
Ann: —“Look what we get to do today!” It wasn’t that I grew up in a Christian home, but her attitude about work—my dad had it, too—“We get to do this. We get to learn how to work hard.”
Now, when you put a biblical context to that, this brings glory to God.
Ann: When our kids were little, with three boys growing up, our bathrooms—I’m just saying—they were gross.
Courtney: Yes, it’s very gross.
Ann: It’s gross. I can remember cleaning around the toilet, thinking, “This is the grossest thing ever.”
Courtney: It’s so gross; yes. [Laughter]
Dave: —or the wall. [Laughter]
Courtney: The wall—yes, yes, the wall! [Laughter]
Ann: It’s awful!
Courtney: Every time I clean the bathroom, I’m like, “I have to get the wall and the floor.”
Ann: I know! I remember, as I’m cleaning and I have this bad attitude; like, “This is just gross,” and “I can’t wait for them to get older, that they’re going to be cleaning this.” And then I had this thought; like, “This is worship.” I remember having that thought, like, “Wait, where did that…? That’s not even true.” Yet, when we do it unto the Lord, our mundane acts can bring glory to Him; because we can do it for Him as an act of worship, especially when no one sees.
Courtney: Right, right.
Ann: We’re doing it for Him; like, “Lord, this seems like monotonous and dumb and horrible; and yet, I’m doing it for You.” Then it has a different meaning to it. I felt like He’s cheering me; like, “You go, girl. Look at you cleaning those toilets!” [Laughter]
Courtney: Yes, yes! Everyone has different standards of cleanliness and desires, but my husband feels deeply loved when things are really clean.
Ann: Oh, really?
Dave: So does this husband.
Ann: Do you?
Dave: Oh, yes!
Courtney: He feels really loved, and he can relax when it’s clean.
Ann: Is that pressure?
Courtney: No, because he likes to clean, too. It’s been a little bit of a process in our marriage of me being like, “Are you judging me right now that you’re cleaning and I’m not, or are you…?” He’s like, “No, I just like it; I just want to do it.” It’s been helpful; he likes to clean.
It has helped me, especially when he would travel a lot, to think in terms of: “He’ll be able to rest if he comes home if it’s clean.” I can live with a little bit more mess than he can/clutter than he can.
It’s funny, as we’ve morphed/as we’ve been married long enough, we’ve started to morph into the same person. I’ve wanted more cleanliness, being married to him, than I used to prefer.
Dave: I know that one of my favorite passages in Scripture—it’s just a simple passage—and I think it’s so powerful to me because when I came to Christ in college—I was a college athlete/a football player—and the guy who led me to Christ, one of the first things he did, when he discipled me is, he said, “Let me give you a perspective on how you play football.”
I remember thinking, “What do you…?” This guy wasn’t an athlete, so I was looking at Bill, like, “What do you…” He goes to Colossians 3:23. I memorized it years ago; it’s like: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive a reward.” I remember Bill teaching me, “What you do on a football field matters from a glory standpoint.”
Courtney: Yes; right.
Dave: Your title, Glory in the Ordinary—it’s like: “Oh, no; it matters to people, who like sports and maybe this college, and it does pay for my education,”—no, no. He’s saying to the Lord. It wasn’t how many touchdowns you throw or score; it was how you do what He’s given you to do. It elevated—it got rid of the secular/spiritual dichotomy—it was like:“Everything’s spiritual.”
Courtney: Right; yes.
Dave: If you understand the Lord has given you gifts, and He’s put you in this role—do it for the Lord, not for men—you’re not even playing for this university. I used to teach the Detroit Lions, whoever were followers of Christ: “You’re not playing for an owner; you’re not playing for the fans of Detroit. You’re actually playing for the Lord. Whether you’re watching film, whether it’s Monday and you’re practicing, or it’s Sunday and you’re playing”—because we elevate the game to its most important; no— “Everything you do actually really, really matters.”
When you have that perspective—whether it’s a stay-at-home mom, a plumber, a medical salesman, a teacher; you name it—that changes your perspective. It’s like: “Oh, I do this unto the Lord, and it’s a gift from God to be able to work.”
Courtney: Yes; right.
Dave: Work’s not a curse; it’s a blessing.
Courtney: No; it’s a blessing; right.
Ann: I love what you say, Courtney. You say, “Everyone wants a revolution; nobody wants to do the dishes.” [Laughter] It’s what you’re saying, Dave—you want the game day—it’s the practice that feels mundane and ordinary.
Courtney: Right; it’s that faithfulness in the ordinary that actually eventually leads to greatness—not, maybe, in the world’s eyes—God’s after our faithfulness, and He’s after our obedience. Whether that’s writing a book, or disciplining my kids and having a hard conversation about an attitude or something: those things are honoring to Him, because people matter to Him—
Courtney: —because they’re created in His image. Whether it’s one person or 5,000 people, they all matter to Him. I love that. It makes me think of the Eric Liddell quote, where he says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Courtney: I just finished reading his biography to my boys. I read them a biography on
Sundays; we just go through Christian biographies.
Ann: That’s fun.
Courtney: Yes; whether he was on the mission field or whether he was on a track, his heart was always to honor the Lord and to be faithful to the Lord. That’s what I hope my boys would learn, and that’s what I want to model for them is that my work is valuable.
We are trying to instill that in them with cleaning now. Because one of the things I talk about in the book, too, is that we’re all contributors/that we are all contributors to the work of the home. Whether or not you’re three, or you’re almost forty, everyone has a job to do: “You’re a part of this home. As a member of this home, sometimes you don’t like it, and sometimes work just feels really boring and hard.”
Ann: I remember writing in my journal one day—and I share this/I think I read this at the Weekend to Remember®—how it was just one of those days with [three] boys under five—one had an ear infection; somebody had a cold—it’s just you’re grinding it out, and the day feels like it goes on for a million years—I wrote in there, “I’m so tired of the mundane days.”
Then, a few days later, I was reading; and all of a sudden, I write this: “C.J. said, ‘Can we keep praying for Austin?’ who was only three. I said, ‘What do you want to pray?’ He said, ‘I just want to pray that he gets into heaven.’” Because we had explained the gospel; we had explained the need for a Savior, and sin and separation. He said, “I just don’t want Austin to be an old man, and to die, and not have Jesus in his life. So we need to pray, Mom, so we can all get to heaven.”
I just wrote in my journal that day, “Among the mundane comes the miraculous.”
Dave: When you can step back and get God’s heart on it, that there’s really glory in this.
I have to tell you this story—I’ve never forgotten—a preacher preached this. A buddy of his was a contractor on his house, so they’re building his house. He said he talked to his buddy—I think his name was Bob—and he said, “Dude, I’m sitting on your front slab. It’s going terrible, and things aren’t showing up.” He goes, “I’m literally having a pity party. I’m sitting on the front slab, and I’m hating my job, and guys are inside, trying to get things done. But it’s just a bad day. I’m not enjoying this, and I’m really upset.”
He [Bob] goes, “All of a sudden, this pickup truck rolls right up in front of your house,”— you know, there’s no yard yet; it’s just dirt—he [Bob] goes, “This loud music’s playing, and this dude gets out of this pickup truck.” He’s [Bob’s] like, “Who is this guy?” He starts walking right toward him, sitting on the front—
Ann: —and he’s super happy.
Dave: Yes, he’s happy. He’s singing to loud music; he had tattoos on his arm. He [Bob] goes, “Who is this guy? We don’t expect anybody to show up and help us today.”
He walks up, and he goes, “Hey, where’s your Port-a-john?” He [Bob] goes, “It’s in the back.” He goes, “I’m the Port-a-john cleaner; I’ll see you in a minute!”
He [Bob] goes, “Okay.” The guy goes back there; and all the workers watch this guy, because he was full of this joy. He goes in there, and he’s banging around; and he’s in there longer than anybody’s ever done it. He comes out and he [Bob] goes, “He looks at me and he goes, ‘Dude, whoever used to clean that port-a-potty did a really bad job! Let me tell you: I’m going to take care of you from now on. It’s going to be perfect!’”
Bob said, “I looked at him and said, ‘Okay, sounds good.’ He [cleaner] turned to go to his truck, and he turned around and he goes, ‘Because I work for the Lord!’”
Courtney: Oh, that’s amazing.
Dave: He gets in his truck and he says, as he blares away, he hears worship music blaring out of his truck. Bob said he told this preacher, “Dude, there I am, sitting there, complaining about my life; because I’m a contractor and things aren’t showing up. And there’s that guy, who’s a Port-a-john cleaner, who probably at his high school graduation, did not think, ‘I’m going to be a…’ But there he is; and he saw glory in the…”—you talk about the ordinary; that’s below ordinary.
Courtney: Yes; that’s just gross! [Laughter]
Dave: Why do I tell that story? I’ve never forgotten that illustration; I’m like, “Oh man, I complain every day.” Whether it’s diapers or—
Dave: —God has given us an opportunity; it’s right in front of us. It’s very ordinary; it may be very hard. And He says, “Whatever you do, do your work for Me, not for men. I can bring something into the middle of your mess.”
Dave: Thanks for your book: it’s a reminder, and I think something to challenge us all, to say, “What we do matters.”
Courtney: Exactly; thanks for having me.
Shelby: The next time you’re opening a box of mac and cheese, or waiting in the carpool line, or going through the mundane of keeping a family together, just keep in mind that what you’re doing has an eternal purpose. God is using those moments to shape, not only your life, but the lives of your children as well. There is Glory in the Ordinary; that’s the name of Courtney Reissig’s book. It’s a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It helps remind us of the value of all that we do—that God is present in those moments—He’s at work in all of life.
You can get a copy of Courtney’s book. Order it from our website—you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and order there—or you could call and order at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.”
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