The Beautiful Hidden Life

When I learned in fifth grade that Helen Keller had graduated from college summa cum laude, I made it my goal to do the same. As it happened, those little Latin words that mean “with the highest distinction” did actually end up being embossed on the white parchment of my degree, thereby setting me on a course of high expectations for the “distinction” that was somehow going to be my destiny.

It should come, then, as no surprise to anyone that I packed that philosophy of life into the diaper bag I traded my briefcase in for after our first child was born. (Am I the only one who was surprised to discover you can’t get a baby to adhere to a schedule by sheer force of will?) If only Unseen by Sara Hagerty had been written 24 years ago when I embarked upon the ordinary days of unremarkable tasks and (often) mind-numbing routine that go with motherhood.

I am thankful that, somewhere along the way, it became clear to me that there is an unseen and un-celebrated beauty to everyday acts of service, that productivity can not always be measured in the short run, and that there is a chasing after God that happens in the dim light of a rocking chair session with a fussy baby that is completely unavailable in the spotlight of recognition and acclaim.

Unseen is the product of Sara’s collision course with the beautiful “waste” of a poured out life that hides behind hardship, disappointment, challenging circumstances, or the simple routine of an obedient following. We will never know the comfort of God as our “refuge and strength” until we come to a place in our lives in which we need to take refuge.  It’s clear that “our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment,” but rather places in which God intends to teach our hearts to sing. (33)

There are innumerable lessons from Scripture presented in Unseen for living in the secret places with the God who sees, but I have teased out five of my favorite insights to carry forward into these mothering years:

1. Productivity is not a pre-requisite for God’s approval.

He values intimate conversation, faithfulness in the repetitive duties, and humility in performing the unappreciated tasks that maintain life.  Sara found that she had “a harder time trying to imagine what He might be thinking about[her] during the hours of the day when [she] wasn’t doing anything tangible for Him.” (19) The god news is, He’s already on your side, and there’s nothing you can do or produce that will make Him love you more –or less.

2.  We are made by God to be seen and celebrated.

He has called us by name, and we love the sound of approval, but there comes a dissonance  when a “misplaced desire” for recognition puts us on a path in which acclaim and acknowledgement become the focal point, rather than the glorious by-product of a relationship with God.

Note the intimacy of Psalm 139:1-3:

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.”

3. When God hides us, His intention is that we will find Him in the hidden-ness.

Sara’s season of hidden-ness began with a twelve-year journey of infertility. She had never entertained the idea that her life would be anything but fruitful on every front. In her busy ministry years, she saw results with many lives impacted by the gospel. Finding herself in a dead end job with little human contact, she felt “sidetracked,” sidelined, and walked a completely unfamiliar path. As she stumbled along, she heard the voice of God whisper, “This is where you become great — on the inside.”

4.  Pain is a thin place where the glory of God shines through.

Sara’s pain drove her to a place of finding joy only in God. As she suffered and wondered, she lived her way into a deep belief that the love of God is real and valuable. Like the psalmist, she felt His nearness in her broken heart.

5.  What appears to be an absolute waste can translate into a beautiful, extravagant hidden gift to Jesus.

In Matthew 26, Mary of Bethany is criticized for her lavish love gift of scented oil, poured out on Jesus’ feet.

“Why this waste?” they asked, with judgment oozing from every pore.

Little did they know that Jesus was going to view this apparent “waste” as precious, pronouncing that her act would go down in history as the right choice at the right time.

Sara’s mothering heart has found its home with six children, four of whom were adopted from Africa — and two who came to her naturally! Learning to mother children with needs bigger than she can fathom has deepened Sara’s dependency upon God and heightened her realization that the real need of her heart will be met, not by greater discipline, but in friendship with God. She encourages her readers to cultivate a lifestyle of beautiful waste, poured out in love and chasing the only thing worth being concerned about: God’s deep and abiding pleasure in you.

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional resources

Read more of Sara’s journey at her website, where you will also find her blog and resources related to adoption and her books.

Jamie Ivey interviewed Sara on The Happy Hour podcast in which they chatted about the way God built Sara’s family and her fight to believe that God sees her, understands her, knows her, hasn’t forgotten her – and how that truth is better than being seen by anyone else.

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Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

85 thoughts on “The Beautiful Hidden Life”

  1. What powerful truth in Sara’s story! It’s true that we live in a culture that nudges us to excel and we translate that into being seen and recognized appropriately. It can be easy to forget that the Lord doesn’t work that way despite the abundance of scripture that makes that clear. He most often chose the “least of these” that others would never have considered to be a part of His grand plans. Thanks as always for your review.

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  2. This sounds great! It is easy to think that life is all about achievement and being seen, but often God can work in us in those times when we feel unnoticed, and sometimes the things we do which few people seem to notice can make a difference for him.

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  3. This does sound like a great book, and I love how you reviewed it. The message in the church we visited yesterday was on Mary’s offering! I’m so grateful I had that emphasis from various sources, when my kids were young, that those quiet (or often not so quiet) days at home mattered every bit as much as doing something “out there” for God. I’ve needed that reminder again for quiet days at home with my m-i-l.

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    1. Yes, we find it at both end of life, don’t we? And I was tempted to write way more about Mary’s offering because Sara pulls that story in throughout the book. It’s such a great metaphor for how we need to live and love in this following life.

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  4. Michele, That was quite an accomplishment!

    This book looks like a wonderful read, for all seasons of life, but I can see the special place this book would have for young moms, like my daughter.

    The list of your favorite insights look powerfully encouraging.

    Thanks so much for sharing your review of what looks like an excellent book.

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    1. There was so much more that I didn’t include, Karen. Sara’s adoption story is very unique and courageous, and her backstory of getting to where she is now was also fascinating.
      I appreciate your reading and taking time to share what was meaningful to you.

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  5. The title of this book pulled me in when I first heard about it, and how lovely to read your review here, friend. These are lessons for the baby days and the college days as well. I imagine I’ll still be learning them when my nest empties. 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have been reviewing some amazing books. This one sounds like it would go along with all that I am reading and learning right now in life. To know there is beautiful in the unseen is a lesson that I am working on.

    You always create a space for your reviews leaving me with wanting more info about the book. Thank you my friend.

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    1. Sara writes from a completely different stage of life than we are walking right now, but I still found that her experience was relevant to the lessons I’m learning (and reviewing!) in these days of grandmothering, parenting teens and adults, and being a mother-in-law in training.

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  7. Michele,
    I love the thought that we will never know God as our strength and place of refuge unless we come to a place in our lives when we NEED a place of refuge. You can’t know what you don’t need or experience. Had it not been for the trials in my life, I would not have the intimate relationship with God that I treasure. Perspective is everything…
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  8. Michele, this sounds like a wonderful book! I think the point that stood out most to me is this: We are made by God to be seen and celebrated.

    It’s hard for me to think of being someone that God CELEBRATES. What an amazing thought that God made us and celebrates us! Thanks for sharing this review, Michele. It sounds like a book to add to my TBR file.

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    1. Yes, we crave the attention and the love of god, but try to fulfill that longing in all kinds of misguided ways. But if our heart finds its satisfaction in the truth that God sings over us with love and joy, we feel seen and celebrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember feeling so invisible as we moved to a new town with two young kids. I too wish this book had been available. And the cover…gorgeous! Taking joy in the little things is still something I have to make myself slow down for. The practice pays off in peace 🙂 This is definitely a post to help women #GritUp. I’m so glad you shared.

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  10. Michele, this statement really caught my attention…We will never know the comfort of God as our “refuge and strength” until we come to a place in our lives in which we need to take refuge. Like you, I can transport myself to those times I desperately needed the comfort of God’s refuge and strength, and they are such rich testimonies of his deep and present love. Thankful for the truth my own thin places have grown in my heart.

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    1. Yes, and it’s hard to be thankful for them as they are happening, but then, from the vantage point of a number of weeks or months or years, we look back and realize that “hither by Thy help I’m come”!

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  11. Those are such seemingly hard lessons when we’re going through them, but in the end, so much for valuable than anything this world with it’s hollow trophies could ever offer! Thanks for reviewing Sara’s book for us.

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    1. Absolutely true. No one could have convinced me when I had four kids ages 8 and under that I would ever look back on those exhausting days with fondness. But I do. All the time. Thankful for every one of them.

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  12. This sounds like another winner of a book. It’s an issue that many of us at-home moms struggle with through the years.
    You state this SO beautifully, Michele:
    “I am thankful that, somewhere along the way, it became clear to me that there is an unseen and un-celebrated beauty to everyday acts of service, that productivity can not always be measured in the short run, and that there is a chasing after God that happens in the dim light of a rocking chair session with a fussy baby that is completely unavailable in the spotlight of recognition and acclaim.”
    Amen!

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    1. And I imagine that you can hardly wait to take to the rocking chair with that new grand girl! I got to hold my tiny granddaughter for the entire morning service last Sunday and it was bliss. So, I guess if anyone asks me for a job description/title as a stay at home mum/grandmum, I’ll just have to say “rocking chair specialist.”

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  13. This book sounds like something I would get so much from. I would sometimes question after reaching great heights with my university degree why I gave up a career I worked so hard for to stay how with my children. But being here for them has been humbling and the biggest blessing. #mg

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  14. This sounds like a good book as I find myself feeling as if I’m in a hidden place so often. God keeps making it very clear to me that this is where I am supposed to be but it can be lonely. I’m going over to listen to the Podcast now. Thank you my friend

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  15. “…Cultivate a lifestyle of beautiful waste, poured out in love and chasing the only thing worth being concerned about: God’s deep and abiding pleasure in you.” — How beautiful. Friendship with God is the most precious of graces. Thanks for sharing about Sara’s book and story, Michele. I have a podcast in my queue featuring her and this book. Even more looking forward to listening now. 🙂 xoxo

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    1. Aren’t podcasts wonderful?? I have a pile of laundry as big as my couch waiting to be folded, but I don’t even dread it because I”ll either listen to podcasts — or crank up Handel’s Messiah . . .

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  16. “I am thankful that, somewhere along the way, it became clear to me that there is an unseen and un-celebrated beauty to everyday acts of service, that productivity can not always be measured in the short run, and that there is a chasing after God that happens in the dim light of a rocking chair session with a fussy baby that is completely unavailable in the spotlight of recognition and acclaim.” LOVE this paragraph. What a lovely way of describing how our work can be precious to God, no matter who sees it or the outward appeal it has.

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  17. “‘our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment,’ but rather places in which God intends to teach our hearts to sing.” – Words that speak right to my heart, Michele. Thank you! Beautiful closing line!

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  18. Great review! I too wish I’d had a book like this when I was a young mother. It sounds though like it goes beyond motherhood, based on the five insights you listed. Plus, with two adult daughters, this sounds like a must-read. Thanks!

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    1. I agree. The need to know that we are not forgotten during our “hidden” moments transcends all seasons of life.
      Blessings to you — and to your daughters. Sounds as if they are very fortunate to have you in their corner.

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  19. Michele, I cannot WAIT to get my hands on this book! I can so relate!
    I have always identified well with Hagar, (the one whom first gave God the name, “the One who sees”). We all long to be seen. Oh but to know that we are seen, loved, adored by the Lord Almighty! Now, THAT’s an awesome thought!
    Thank you for sharing this review!

    -Rachel (your friend @ dance w/Jesus link up) 😉

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    1. I appreciate your enthusiasm! And Hagar is such a beautiful example of God meeting us in our deserts. I love the story of how Hagar got to name God based on her experience of Him.
      So great to hear from you!

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  20. Another beautiful book review, Michele. And definitely another book that resonates with my soul. As a Mama to a little one with needs bigger than I rarely feel capable of handling, meeting God in the hidden moments is what has kept me going. My relationship with Him has significantly deepened through every step of being our sweet girl’s Mama.

    Many blessings to you ♥
    Lori

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