How to pursue creativity in motherhood

Nothing is wasted

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An excerpt from Create Anyway: The Joy of Pursuing Creativity in the Margins of Motherhood

In the Gospel of John, there’s a story about a large crowd following Jesus that becomes hungry (hey moms, sound familiar?). A boy appears with two fish and five loaves of bread, and after giving thanks for it, Jesus feeds 5,000 people.

I’ve always loved this story because it reminds me of what God can do with our scraps, our meager efforts, our humble offerings. But I recently read this account again, and one verse in particular caught my eye.

John 6:12 says, And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

At the very least, you’d assume figuring out what to do with the leftovers would be someone else’s job. Philip? Andrew? Hello? Jesus handled catering, the least you can do is be in charge of cleanup.

But no. Jesus is the one who tells them to gather the fragments.

Because with him, nothing is ever wasted.

Three kids in, I’ll confess: I often struggle to see the value in the everyday, mundane minutes. When my kids stroll lazily to the car pick-up line after school, sometimes I want to scream out the window, “YOU’RE WASTING MY TIME!” When I read a chapter book aloud before bed and my boys cannot answer a single question about the story, it feels like I wasted 15 minutes of my evening. Do not even get me started on how many times I have vacuumed under the kitchen table only to find a hodgepodge of fruit snacks and cracker crumbs mere minutes later. Constantly, I fight the temptation to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Why do I bother with any of this?!”

Why do I bother cleaning my house when my children wreck it minutes later?

Why do I bother making this food nobody wants to eat?

Why do I bother reading to my boys when they don’t appear to be listening?

A while back, we were all in the car and somehow the topic of superheroes came up. I tried to listen to the dialogue between Everett and Carson, giving the occasional mm-hmm of pretend interest. I asked who the “best” hero was, fully prepared to fake enthusiasm at the audio dissertation of Marvel characters which would surely come next. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, Everett said, “Jesus. Jesus is the biggest hero.”

We hadn’t been talking about Jesus. We had been talking about Spiderman and Captain America. But in that moment, Everett made a connection to something we’ve said countless times, something we’ve read in the Jesus Storybook Bible over and over again: Jesus is always the hero. He’s the hero of every story, every time.

Pretty soon they were back to Marvel characters, debating the merits of Thor and someone else I can’t remember. But that simple answer reminded me of every prayer we’ve prayed, every Bible story we’ve read, every church service we’ve managed to attend. It reminded me of how many times I’ve wondered if anything we say is sinking in.

That day in the car, in a simple conversation about superheroes, God reminded me nothing is wasted.

Those water bottles you’re filling up a dozen times a day? They matter. The diapers you’re changing, the math homework you’re supervising at the kitchen table—those matter, too. The minutes you spend rocking your baby in the middle of the night, comforting your child after a rejection at school, whispering prayers before bed. These daily acts of love, of faith, of sacrifice, of mothering—with him, not one ounce of this holy work is wasted.

Because our God is not a God of waste. Scripture tells us, In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). He takes every situation in our lives and knows exactly what to do with it, like a chef preparing a grand meal where every single ingredient is used to its full potential. Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost. God doesn’t waste mediocre moments. God doesn’t waste pain or failure. He doesn’t waste joy or delight. He doesn’t waste time, or chances, or opportunities to refine our hearts.

Our heavenly Father is going to use up every last drop of us, every last second of our life on this earth, every last word in the story he’s already written, for a good and glorious purpose, one we might not ever know or see this side of heaven.

We can rest in knowing all these acts of obscurity matter to the One who sees them. Applying Band-Aids to scraped knees. Tying little shoes. Wiping spilled yogurt off the floor, again.

The same is true of our creativity.

Most of our creative process will forever remain unseen. Someone can read a polished essay in six minutes flat, but they’ll never know it took the author 16 hours to write and revise those words. Someone can slip on a handmade dress in a flash, without ever thinking about the hours of labor that went into creating the pattern, choosing the fabric, sewing the stitches.

When it comes to our creative work, no one will ever fully know or appreciate all that goes on behind the scenes: all the pondering, tinkering, experimenting. No one will ever see all the mistakes, all the various attempts and drafts, all the broken pieces along the way.

Here’s the good news: our Creator invented behind-the-scenes. We are never alone in this work. Every time we set out to create a speck of beauty in this world, our Maker is going to use every last second of the process to refine our hearts.

We can rest in knowing that the unseen hours we spend creating, just like the unseen hours we spend mothering, are never, ever wasted.

Provided from Create Anyway by Ashlee Gadd published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2023. Used by permission.

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