Shedding Light on Unseen Work: My Hope for the Book

It’s book launch week for Glory in the Ordinary! One of the primary reasons I wrote the book is because I believe that all work (paid and unpaid) brings glory to God. God made us to work. He works and we image him in our work in the world that he has made. But I also know that I’m a product of a culture that places value on certain types of work, namely paid or higher paid work. I don’t do a lot of paid work in a given day. Maybe you are like me. Your days consist of just as much work as your husband or friend who work in the marketplace, but for the most part people don’t see what you are doing. The impact of your work is long-term, so it’s hard to quantify how it contributes anything good to society (unless you measure in years, not days and weeks).

My hope for the book is to not only encourage the one who works in the home, but to also unify all of us around the good work that the home brings to society. It’s important work. It’s needed work. Because it is hidden work, I hope the book sheds some light on all the unseen joys, struggles, and complexities that encompass the work of the home.

Hidden work often needs to be brought into plain sight, and I’m not the only one who sees this need. Because of our society’s premium on work that yields results quickly, work that is deemed “important”, and work that is paid well, we miss that we are all served by hidden and unseen work. We are all the beneficiaries of caregiving and domestic work.

In reflecting on the death of her parents, author Caitlin Flanagan was brought back to remember the work her mother did on behalf of their family. While seemingly unremarkable in comparison to her father’s work as a writer (and whose work was archived upon his death), her work still left an impact on many:

A team of archivists was not flying from Massachusetts to find out why she was so often the first person called when there was a disaster (when a friend’s son killed himself; when a suspicious lump proved malignant), and also the first to be notified—often by several different friends on the same morning—when Lucky’s ran a special on baby asparagus. No one was coming to catalog her recipes or take careful note of the way she organized her spatulas and slotted spoons (all shoved into a glazed pot, not pretty, but close to hand; useful). The people in charge of dismantling the kitchen were her two daughters: my sister, who had patiently learned all the old lessons, and me, who had spent a childhood planning to be exactly like me mother, but who had somehow failed to pick up the gist of the material.

She goes on to say:

I liked being with my mother. To me, she never seemed diminished or unimportant because of those endless domestic errands. On the contrary, the work she did was wholly connected to the life were living. The notes my father took on the flyleaf of Howards End apparently got translated into words spoken in a lecture hall I could hardly imagine; but the steak my mother spent five minutes choosing showed up on my plate that night

For the women of an earlier generation, however, motherhood brought a clear and compelling awareness of human vulnerability, and a sense of having somehow been charged with the care of others.

For Flanagan, her mother’s impact may never be known by anyone but her sister and herself, but her work left a legacy. It left a legacy of caring for a family, caring for a community, and caring for others in hidden, yet glorious ways.

But there is also another aspect of this caregiving, domestic work that goes unnoticed, that others are now trying to bring awareness to. In an article on NPR, painter Ramiro Gomez is featured for his commitment to painting not just the beauty of the Los Angeles luxury landscapes, but also the workers who make it all possible:

Ramiro Gomez paints modernist houses in Beverly Hills, perfectly appointed kitchens and exclusive shops on Melrose Avenue. His pictures have nothing, and everything, to do with his background. Gomez's mother is a janitor, and his father works the graveyard shift driving a truck. Workers like his Mexican immigrant parents show up in his paintings — part of the invisible landscape of luxury LA.

"Someone will always be working to keep it nice," Gomez says. "Whether it's a home in the Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills or the Paramount Studios."

What Gomez and Flanagan are getting at is the fact that society is served by this hidden work. We marvel at a delicious meal, a beautiful landscape, a sparkling floor, or well-decorated home and sometimes forget that hard-working image bearers worked to make it all possible. We are bathed, chauffeured, fed, comforted, and cared for by fellow image bearers from infancy to death and it’s beautiful in God’s eyes. It’s loving his world.

This is my hope for the book: that whether you are the primary one in the home or the one who does the work of the home part-time, you would honor the work as vital contribution to the world that God has made. We were made to work. And in the Lord, there is no ordinary work that is ever done in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

***I'll be on Facebook Live all week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 CST) talking about the book and doing some giveaways! I hope you will join me!