On servanthood

I love to serve. It’s in my blood. I feel so much joy and purpose when I am intentionally serving other people.

What does intentional serving look like? Here are some examples:

  • Making a meal for someone in need
  • Babysitting a friend’s kids so she can go to an appointment
  • Picking up some extra groceries for someone
  • Performing random acts of kindness around your community

As women and mothers I think many of us have servanthood in our bones. Perfectly fitting that God has called us to a job that, to it’s very core, is serving. Three meals a day. Wash out the wazoo. Grocery shopping and errand running. Tucking in and cleaning up. And then cleaning up some more.

And while our families aren’t the only ones we serve, they are a large part of those who are blessed by our service.

For a long time, I’ve operated under the guise of availability. A few years back I heard it said that someone held a grudge against homeschooling families at their church because they were too busy to serve in church ministries. Though not directly aimed at me, you can imagine that I was saddened to hear this. Saddened, one, to hear that homeschooling families were viewed this way and then, two, saddened that more people didn’t acknowledge the fact that family ministries like homeschooling are church ministries.

From there forward, I vowed to be available, to never be viewed as “too busy” to serve. I also became overly sensitive, offended even, if I wasn’t asked to be involved in some project or need because “ohh, you’re too busy” or “you have your hands full already.”

While it is still one or our family’s goals to be available– because we are blessed with the flexibility of homeschooling– this homeschool season has had me tiptoeing a few steps back, saying no just a little more often.

And– ya know what?– I’m okay with that. This season is one of hardcore serving my family. I’ve been giving and giving and giving and I’m learning there really is a threshold of how much I can give. I’m learning to choose how quickly I dole out yeses, holding onto them a bit more tightly and reserving them for best opportunities– the ones that allow my family to serve alongside me or ones that don’t wear me so thin that I can’t carry out my first calling.

Lately I’ve also been leaving a lot more of what I like to call “white space” in my days. I’ve been looking at my planner as less of a fill-every-void-of-time challenge and as more of a place to block off the essentials and intentionally leave room for lazy afternoons on the porch and slow evenings playing Yahtzee in the living room.

For far too long I’ve viewed the service I render in motherhood and wifehood as less than [when compared to the other service I could be doing]. Less enjoyable. Less fulfilling. And I’m beginning to realize that part of the reason for my skewed viewpoint is because serving my family has not been intentional service. Instead its been obligatory and mundane.

In order to be more fulfilled in serving at home we must treat our services as unique and carry them out intentionally. As in, with purpose and clarity and conviction.

This is, inevitably, going to look different in each home. In our home it looks like Saturday Special Breakfast with my kids on Saturday mornings. It looks like fresh-brewed iced tea waiting for my husband when he gets home from a long day at work. It looks like supervising longer than necessary bubble baths with essential oils and a space heater and play dinosaurs. Lots of play dinosaurs.

Serving my family intentionally allows me to think– really think– about my work here on this Earth, leaves lots of room for gratitude and fosters contentment in my ever-exhausted, yet super blessed mama heart.

So even if you are serving hundreds at a soup kitchen or singing praises on the church music team, be sure you are leaving enough white space, enough energy and mental capacity to also love and serve your precious family. Your family will reap wonderful benefits from your selflessness and you, too, will be abundantly blessed in doing so.

Consider this

Sometimes we get so busy just trying to keep our heads above water that we don’t take to just stop and consider.

Consider a simpler way of doing things

Consider our gifts
Consider why a child might be cranky
Consider how to do make something work better

Consider where we want to be in 5 years

I am an answers kind of girl. Nothing grates me more than being told “that’s just how things are” or “you’re a mom, you’re supposed to be tired” or better yet “you have children, your house is going to be messy”. I’ve always refused to accept being stuck in a less-than-ideal situation because of any of those excuses. Offer me some advice! Make a helpful suggestion! Tell me how you do things! Pray for me! Something! Anything!

This summer has been a very enjoyable one for me personally. I’ve been taking a good bit of time aside to read, pray and consider how things are going in my life. I’ve been journaling my thoughts and challenging my old ways of doing things.

My first revelations have come through reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The book encourages us to take a closer look at all the things we fill our lives with. Not just worldly possessions (but those too!) but also the ways we fill our time, the things we say yes to.  McKeown argues that we can’t do everything and give everything our full attention at one time. We can either attempt to do too many things and do them not-so-well or we can pick and choose our “greatest contribution” and do those few things exceptionally. This totally makes sense to me and has me questioning just about everything.

I am now reading through Lara Casey’s book Make It Happen. Practical title, huh? But, all joking aside, it’s what I need to learn. I need to discover how to think things through, re-evaluate, set realistic expectations for myself and then… make it happen.

Something Casey wrote about was the unhealthy aspect of going to extremes in life. While her intent was to discourage us from doing so– or at least make us aware of our tendency to be extreme– something clicked with me. I actually think I do really well if I can focus on one thing for a shorter period of time than if I try to do too many things for a long period of time. (I more struggle with consistency… but that’s for later improvement!) For instance, today, I decided to focus on laundry. I spent the entire day– in between my other motherly duties and a little work time– catching up on laundry. I used to do this but got away from it. I thought it made “more sense” to just do one load a day. But considering how I am bent and my tendency to be all or nothing, Monday as laundry day actually makes a whole lot of sense for me. And I think Casey would be okay with this sort of extreme. 😉

So, my point here being, instead of just staying stuck and saying, “I’ll never have this laundry thing figured out,” I can stop and evaluate the unique way that God made me and how I might be able to set myself up for success in this area. And, of course, other areas as well.

Though I hadn’t realize it, I am already applying similar principles in our homeschooling. When we start a subject or begin learning about a certain topic, we do best when we are all in– no interruptions! We’d rather blow through our entire History book in three months than stretch it out the entire school year. We’d rather learn all we can about the ocean than just study fish for a chapter in our Science book. This is what works for us. And when learning begins to just work and become sort of effortless, beautiful things happen.

It’s that same effortless approach that I am now trying to apply to other areas of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent far too long stammering around trying to get a handle on things that are fairly simple– cooking, cleaning, laundry. I’m ready for these things to be second-nature so that I can better focus my attention on other very important things that God has called me to.

What about you? Have you taken some time to just quiet yourself, remove the distractions around you, remove the preconceived ideas in your head and consider how to better your life? Stop fighting against the tide and go with the flow. Stop making things harder on yourself than they have to be. It’s liberating and I can’t wait for you experience it!

On this journey with you,

Jenny
for Eco-friendly Destinations

Living life with a smile: in memory of Justin

May 1 holds a lot of precious memories for me. Mostly good ones but some sad too. It’s the day one of my childhood best friends, Justin, passed away from a hard-fought battle with Cystic Fibrosis.IMG_8801

Although my memory tends to be pretty poor, I remember the day very vividily and even the week leading up to the day. I remember a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to go spend time with him the day before, and the tear-filled night that followed as my heart was heavy and the Lord was preparing me for his passing. And then the next day, and that same strong gut feeling telling me I needed to go to the hospital at the first chance I got.

And how when I arrived there, I stood outside the room waiting to get the okay from the family to go inside to see him. The nurses’ eyes told me that Justin, body and soul, was no longer there but in heaven. Still I prayed as I waited.

When I walked inside those heavy doors, many relatives stood around and his sweet mom sat at his side. I had the chance to touch his cheek and pray over him and offer my condolences to the family.

The passing of a 16-year-old is emotional and it is never easy but through Justin’s passing the Lord taught me so much. And, little did I know, was preparing my heart for another loss– the passing of my dad– that would happen only 3 short years later.

But I write this post not to bring tears of sadness or pain flooding back but to bring memories of joy and happiness to the forefront.

Justin was a special soul. Anyone who knew him, knew him for his cheeky grin (which usually meant he was up to no good), his signature CF rosy cheeks and his laughter. His life, of course, was littered with the difficulties of managing a terminal illness but it was just as peppered with happiness and optimism.

His life and death taught me to not only make every day count but to not hold back and to act now. In some of the last moments I spent with him, I gave him an early birthday gift that I had been holding onto for a few weeks. I didn’t know that he would be gone before his birthday but I did know that the gift would bring a smile to his face and I wanted he and I to enjoy that moment now and not later. In those last moments he also showed me a card covered with signatures and messages from our classmates. The time friends took to pen a short message to a sick (dying) friend mattered. And rewind all the way back to our elementary school days, when I made the decision to befriend this little, blonde haired boy who was different than everyone else mattered… not only to him but to me.

So, on May 1, I try not to think about what might have been, because truly nothing might have been. His being born and his dying, that was all planned out ahead of time by Our Father. He gave Justin just the exact number of days that were intended for him and I believe Justin used them to be a vibrant, shining example of life-to-the-full even– especially—  through the suffering he endured.

May Justin’s life be a reminder to us all that life is short, that God is good and that joy is possible.

With a heart full of fond memories,
Jenny