Living in SUB-mission, as a Mom

This post is written by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

As contemporary Christian women, there’s a deep or perhaps quiet desire inside of us that longs to fulfill a noble purpose. Somehow, we want our simple lives to make a godly difference in our hurting world. We know there are many international needs; and as women of compassion and love, we hope and pray that God’s mission and plan for our lives will somehow make an impact.

Yet at the same time . . . many of us are moms.

With little ones, or bigger ones, continually needing our motherly attention, we sometimes wonder about our world-impacting ideas. How do we stay in submission to God’s calling on our lives as mothers, and as wives, and as homemakers . . . while at the same time, never forgetting that there’s a lost and dying world out there?

As a longtime homeschooling mother of seven, with a huge heart for world missions, this has been my constant prayer; and over the years, He has shown me a word that has helped.

Have you ever stopped to realize that the only difference between “submission” and “mission” is that little prefix, “SUB.”

SUB: This simple little prefix means “under, beneath, or below,” but the ramifications of these three humble letters are huge.

As mothers, our daily submission to God, and our willingness to surrender to what He desires to accomplish “under the surface” directly corresponds to how (and to what extent) we will eventually fulfill God’s overall purpose for our lives.

In his classic devotional, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence states, “Trust in God and surrender totally to Him. He will not deceive us. Never tire of doing even the smallest things for Him because He isn’t impressed with the dimension of our work as with the love in which it is done.”

It may sound more important to dream about boarding an internationally-bound 747, or to imagine doing something benevolent or “big” in some prestigious foreign city; but right now, that might not be the most strategic decision for God’s long-term plan for your family, or for the world. As Christians, we’re all called to participate in God’s global and eternal purposes (through our continual giving and praying for world missions); yet God’s specific call for your family to fully obey and to completely surrender, at this moment in time, could be far-simpler than your “big” idea, yet possibly more-challenging to follow.

God’s mission-for-the-moment could be to get everybody together after dinner to read a chapter in the Bible; or maybe it’s to collectively tackle that horrible-looking laundry pile; or perhaps it’s for a slightly-stressed mommy to put a “pause” on a far-too-busy afternoon, just to snuggle on the couch with our precious kiddos and a fun storybook.

Imagine a naval submarine advancing silently beneath the ocean’s surface. Without sonar or satellite detection, its underwater movement is practically unseen and unheard; yet all the while, this battle-ready vessel is moving toward its future destination and assignment. In the same way, our families can focus on submitting our hearts toward God, and moving steadily and progressively toward His purposes. Even if no one else notices the little things we do as mommies, and the little changes in our development and character, God sees. And He knows exactly where we are.

God has not forgotten you, and He will not forget your family, or the dreams He has given to you, not only as a mother, but as a woman, and as a servant of God.

SUB-mission to God’s purposes involves every area of our family life: the individual development of each family member (spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially), our marriage and our unity as a husband and wife, our callings as moms and dads and sons and daughters, our daily disciplines in home-management, as well as our growth in church ministries and servanthood, and our co-operative “mission” and eternal purposes as a family.

As we allow God to refine those secret and hidden places in our hearts, we can trust that He will fulfill all of His promises to us as family, and to each of us as individuals . . . in His timing.

A Prayer for SUB-mission:

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to surrender to the plans that you have for my life today, and the purposes that you have for our family. Forgive me for those times when I’ve tried to impress others, by having our family “look good” or to be noticed (for my sake). Lord, deep in my heart, I know that glorifying You is all that matters. By your grace, I want to be willing to do anything, and willing to go anywhere; but help me to keep a joyful heart when all you desire is simple obedience in the little things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and your labor of love which you have sown towards His name . . .” (Hebrews 6:10).

Ann Dunagan is a longtime homeschooling mother of 7 (ages 9 to 23, with 3 graduates), an international speaker with Harvest Ministry, co-founder of two orphanages in East Africa (caring for over 700 children), and author of several books including The Mission-Minded Family. With a passion for the Lord and the lost, Ann motivates families for world missions.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

35 Responses to Living in SUB-mission, as a Mom

  1. Jodi July 21, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    Wow! Thank you so much for writing this,post and living life this way. Tonight I came across this site, while seeking out how to soak grains! God had more in mind, I guess. Currently our family is going on our fourth year in rural, Northeastern, Thailand. We have 4 precious children, and today was “one of those days”! I am homeschooling the oldest two, 6 and 5, while caring for a 2 year old and a 4 month old. It’s definitely not easy, and sometimes I feel the pressure to perform, as others on our team are single and so gifted for ministry here. I feel the tension between my passion for getting out and doing great things in this land (I mean, I’m actually living a dream, being here and serving the Lord in another country) and staying home and loving my family the way God has called me to. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work of homemaking, and recently I’ve read a book, which has inspired me to be a good steward of our home and all God has placed within my care. I’ve been growing so much in this area. I trust that this season is a gift for me, to learn and grow. I also believe that God will use all of this for His glory for years to come! Thanks again for this post, and the reminder that the tension I feel is both is normal and healthy. God is faithful to complete all that He’s begun, and the dreams within me are from Him; all for Him!

  2. Tasha June 27, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I am certain that God directed me to it tonight. He has been working these lessons into my heart ever since I became a mother a year and a half ago, and they are not easy things for an ambitious young woman to learn. I am even just now figuring out this week that this is what He wants me to learn! I just want to say thanks. :-)

  3. michelle c May 25, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Ann…I’m certain the Lord directed me to this post tonight because this evening I’ve been praying (again) for the Lord to use me for His will. I want nothing more than to do what He would have me do. I am very willing, and after what’s been a period of about three years of healing in my marriage and the most waiting I’ve ever done, I have the desire to pursue a very specific specialty in my nursing career. My family is 110% supportive, but even though I know the steps to take to get there, the doors aren’t opening very quickly.

    I find myself questioning my motives, questioning the plan, questioning if this is the way to go…if only it were more clear! It feels as if the timing to move forward is right, but here I am…(impatiently) waiting.

    Like many other women who’ve commented, I think your post is quite timely. It seems as if the Lord is using your writing to whisper a bit to me, so thank you for that. I do trust that God’s timing is perfect, but certainly my humanness is evident in my worry. Thanks for allowing God to use you to provide encouragement and direction to those of us you don’t even know! I’m so appreciative!

    • Ann Dunagan May 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm #


      There’s a running “joke” in many Christian circles, that you’d better not pray for patience . . . or God will “get you!”; however, I want to encourage you that patience is a good thing! It’s a fruit of the spirit, and a GOOD GIFT, like love and joy and peace. And when God is developing patience in our lives, it’s for our best and HIS KINGDOM purposes to simply embrace it and seek all that He has for us during this “waiting without complaining” time.

      In times of huge transition in our lives, and inward “stirring” that a new season is coming, it’s always good to utilize this time to go back to your foundations, to question your motives, your plan, and make sure you’re in the center of the road for God’s perfect way, and to surrender everything to God.

      You’re definitely right that worry isn’t from God . . . and He certainly doesn’t RUSH things either. But as He begins to open new doors for you, and as you are led by His peace and by the counsel of your husband (along with perhaps cautious pre-set guide-railings to help keep your priorities, like family/marriage/home-life/meals etc., in balance as you embark into a new adventure), He will help you know how to go forward. Do remember that it’s not just what we do “FOR” God that really matters, but being “WITH” God, and allowing His Holy Spirit to guide our steps.

      Blessings to you as you seek His wisdom.

  4. Amy May 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Thank you so much. Every mother needs to get this reminder frequently and I so needed it today. Blessings to you for taking the time to tell us again what the Lord would say to us about His joy in our investment in our families.

    • Ann Dunagan May 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

      Amy, I totally agree that we all need to be frequently reminded; that’s what fellowship is all about (whether that’s being reminded through fellowship with good friends, mentors, or evn through books and blogs!!!

      I love how you refer to God’s JOY and about how as mothers we are choosing to make a (very wise and very prudent) INVESTMENT in our families!

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Kristy Howard May 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Thank you for this, Anna! I am a pastor’s wife, a homeschooling mama to 3 small children, and 7 months pregnant with baby #4. I can’t deny that sometimes my “call” to “ministry” seems pretty dim these days… I’m often so overwhelmed with mothering and caring for our household that I have very little energy left for “Church” stuff!

    A lot of what I’ve read in books, magazines, and online regarding this subject (mothers and ministry) has left me discouraged. I appreciate your practical, personal, and Biblical perspective. While our HOME is our first calling as wives and mothers, I believe God blesses our desires and efforts to reach out beyond our own realm.

    Kristy @ Homemaker’s Cottage

    • Ann Dunagan May 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

      Bless you dear Kristy!!!!

      Never forget that simply by loving your husband and children, and worshiping the Lord, you’re modeling to your congregation what godly womanhood is all about. You can get others to help hold up your arms with all the busy ministry stuff.

      May you be encouraged.
      I love the verse about “His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

  6. Rachel May 20, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks for the great post! My husband and I are missioanries in S. America. We came here when I was 6 months pregnant with our son. If you would have asked me before we got here what my “ministry” would look like, I would have told you something very different from what my real ministry is today.

    I have learned that my real ministry is here in the home. Of course, we all know that as wives and mothers this is true. However, for a while I really struggled with being content with this. I thought, here I am “doing something big” for God and all I am doing is taking care of my family. The Lord showed me the error in that thinking and I am happy to say that I have found a real joy in this ministry.

    The great thing about being a wife and mother is that you can do it anywhere! No matter where you live, you are impacting the world if you are being faithful to what God has called you to do, which is be the best wife and mother you can be.

    • Ann Dunagan May 20, 2010 at 11:03 am #

      Rachel, your feedback is SOOOO awesome.

      I really appreciate your perspective, and even sharing how you, even as a full-time overseas missionary living in South America, STILL need to focus in SUB-mission to God’s calling on your life as a mother. It doesn’t necessary matter where we live (as long as we are living in the exact place where God has called us, and that we’re willing to go anywhere); as mothers and as Christ-followers, the dual calling to minister to our own families AND to reach out to people who need Jesus, is for all of us.

      Thank you so much for sharing, and for relaying the truth about the JOY that comes from being in the center of God’s will, even when that’s doing the simple little things.

    • Jodi July 21, 2010 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Rachel. I was excited to read the post by another ‘M’. I feel like I’ve recently come into this place of finding joy in my ministry within the home. For the past four years we’ve been S.E. Asia. During our first four years here I gave in to the pressure to perform and was out a lot more. Lately, I’ve been growing a lot in understanding my role as a homemaker, and I truly love learning how to steward well. Now we have 4 little ones, and I am homeschooling; the work within the home has increased, and I don’t know how to maintain ministry outside the home. My question is this… “Should I have a change in perspective and view the work within the home as my only ministry, or should I set aside time for ministry outside of the home also?”

      Right now I find myself struggling with this tension, mostly because of the expectations I feel. We work with a team of others here, the leader of which is a single, very driven woman. Even though others try to understand the life of a wife/mother of 4, and the work and energy it entails, there is no way for anyone to truly understand, unless they are experience it day in and day out.

      There are so many dynamics of my own situation that are probably very different from yours, but it would be great to hear your input on this!

  7. Mindy May 20, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Thanks so much for this today…….I have really been battling this in my life. That we should go! And maybe that’s God’s plan for us~~~someday. Today though, I am called to be here. To train my children up in the way of the Lord. He will NEVER forget the calling He has on my heart.

    • Ann Dunagan May 20, 2010 at 11:31 am #

      Mindy, isn’t it interesting that you consider this a “battle”? Could it be that the enemy sometimes comes in such a sneaky enticing way — playing off our own pride and selfish desires to be appreciated, even when our heart is that we want to “do big stuff” for God. I think that’s definitely so; and I know that I have struggled over the years.

      The tricky part is realizing and living in a godly balance; and I can tell, Mindy, that you are crying out for God’s best. We can’t neglect our families, but we also can’t forget, even as mothers, that we’re called to obey God’s Great Commission.

      This inward struggle can be a divine tug-of-war, and I believe it can be good. Imagine your family as a bow, with a string attached on two sides. But don’t imagine a wimpy, toy-like bow with a loosely tied string. Instead, as mission-minded families, imagine your family as a strong, warrior-like compound bow, in perfect “tight” divine-alignment with a strategic balance). We can be assured that God’s callings on our life and future (both for our home and for the world) are mutually compatible.

      As our children are raised in a home with a deep (as well as practical and active) love for God, for each others, AND for the world and for the lost, they will grow up with those same passions. And by God’s grace, our precious arrows will shoot with divine accuracy toward God’s purpose and bulls-eye target.

      • Mindy May 21, 2010 at 8:53 am #

        Thank you Ann! Such a great perspective……: )

  8. Brandi May 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Perfect timing. Thank you for offering these words of wisdom, you are in inspiration!

    • Ann Dunagan May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm #


      Perfect timing, wisdom, & inspiration???
      I can’t take credit for any of that.

      YAY, GOD!!!! To HIM be the GLORY!!!!

  9. christy May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    That was such a timely and wonderful reminder. Honestly, sometimes the every day tasks can seem redundant and unimportant. But God does see all that we do and I am so thankful for this reminder from you! :)

    • Ann Dunagan May 23, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

      Dear Christy,

      One thing that’s been an encouragement to me is knowing that EVERY job has tasks that can seem mundane. Our son is in the Marines, and even that high-intensity job has months and seasons of redundant tasks. Even on an intense overseas mission outreach, there are days of boring travel and hours-and-hours of endless “unimportant” stuff. The wonderful thing though is that “our” mommy routines are filled with LOVE and LITTLE ONES!!! What an honor it is to be a mother!!!! And YES, Christy, God sees everything you do.

      Blessings to you and your family!

  10. Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm #


    You are the most wonderful wife any man could ever ask for! You get an “atta girl” for writing this article and another “atta girl” for 25 years of an awesome marriage!

    In His Love,

    Jon (your husband)

  11. Lindsey May 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    I’m sitting here writing with tears streaming down my cheeks. My dream was always to do something “big” & “important” for the Lord and gradually my heart became alive with the thought of missions. Many years have past, and though my husband shares that dream we sit in our little home in the States with our three beautiful children. I would not give up my family for anything in the world, and I know this is what He has for me right now…how I can make much of His name in the season I am in. But my heart hasn’t stopped dreaming…thank you for the reminder that our Lord is the God who sees and that He was the one who gave me the dream to begin with.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

      Wow, Lindsey!!! Those kind of tears and dreams are so precious, especially when totally surrendered to the Lord. May every DREAM that God has truly planted in your heart, totally come true!!!

  12. Keri @ This Season of Life May 19, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Loved this. I have been reading Radical, by David Platt, and have been inspired to live my life for God’s greater purpose…..wondering how to do that while homeschooling 4 children under the age of 7. What a great reminder that my mission starts at home. Thank you for this!

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 10:23 am #

      Thanks Keri, and blessings to you and your husband and your 4 little kiddos!!! Do remember that the WORLD is also SO desperately in need of loving mommies, happy marriages, and godly kids and teenagers. You’re very welcome!!!

  13. Cori May 19, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Just what I needed this morning. Last night my husband and I went to bed in frustration, crying out to God for a change in our lives. We have so many desires for our family, and let feel like God has forgotten us. Thanks for reminding me that He has not forgotten! I need to keep pressing on in the things He has given me for now.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 9:49 am #

      Oh, Cori!!! Your amazing and all-knowing heavenly Father has NOT forgotten you and your husband. Be at peace knowing that the true desires that God has given you, He will help you to fulfill, in His timing. Yes, continue to “press on,” and to “lean in” to Him. God isn’t rushed, and His ways are the ways of longterm fruitfulness, for His Kingdom-purposes. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I’m so happy that these thoughts (that God worked in my heart through years of “crying” on my bed at night), ministered to you this morning. He’s so good!!!

  14. Shannon Hazleton May 19, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    I feel like this was written for us. My husband and I were overseas missionaries before becoming “normal” homeschooling parents of our 3 littles (and hopefully more to come.) Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 10:01 am #

      Awesome Shannon!!! I so appreciate your comment, but want to reassure you that you and your husband are definitely not just your “normal” homeschooling parents. By God’s grace, you both have a perspective and passion that is unique and vital (by the way, WHERE overseas did you serve as missionaries?). There is a HUGE need in the homeschooling community to think “outside-the-walls-of-our-homes” to remember our lost and hurting world, and to be willing to release our families and our children to God’s purposes, whether that’s being willing to GO, or to STAY STILL. Right now, as you’re obeying God by staying home, remember that He’s still at work; and be assured that you’ll never regret taking the time to invest in laying a strong foundation for your 3 little ones (and BLESS you for your heart for more!!!). As you and your husband instill your heart for world missions into your own children, and into your church, and into your homeschooling community . . . and as you live as a LIGHT for JESUS right in your neighborhood and city . . . only God knows how that FIRE in your heart will spread and multiply, even to other nations and to multitudes of people that you could never reach on your own!!!

  15. Tonya May 19, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks for sharing…. they are words of wisdom. Loved hearing you share on Family Life Today! I’ve decided to listen to it again today.

  16. Amber Cullum May 19, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing. It is a great reminder that our daily lives do not go unseen, as the LORD is paying attention to our obedience in the small things. I often want the “big” task, but am reminded that I must be faithful and obedient in the small tasks first.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 10:26 am #

      Amber, yes, God sees it all, and like it says in Ecclesiastes 12:14, God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing . . . and that includes all those secret GOOD mommy-things that nobody else sees, but Him!!!

  17. Country Girl in the City May 19, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    This was a very encouraging post for me. Thanks for the reminder that even the simple little things are important to God.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      Country Girl in the City, We all need to be reminded. God doesn’t see as man sees. He sees the heart. I’m so glad that you were encouraged!!! Blessings to you!!!

  18. Lani Q May 19, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    This is such an awesome encouragement. Thank you so much.

    • Ann Dunagan May 19, 2010 at 10:29 am #

      You’re welcome, Lani. Thanks for taking the time to jot an encouraging word!!!