I feel like I have walked through every emotion known to woman – or at least most of them – since becoming a mom, but my very lowest points, when closely examined, all seem to be centered around one common theme:
to be a mom is to be a servant.
You always hear these funny sentiments – probably penned by women whose children are grown and can help with the laundry – about the mom being the “queen of the house” and, while I WILL admit that my children do gaze at me with worshipful eyes some of the time, especially when they are under the age of 6, when I look around our house, I don’t see a throne.
I see a mop and a broom and a line-up of hungry kids who want me to make food out of the ragtag ingredients in our pantry.
Now, I don’t love making the following known, but it’s just a fact: being a servant isn’t something that I came into this world naturally equipped to handle in a gracious and joyful manner.
In fact, I daresay that being a servant goes directly against every fiber of my sin-natured being.
You would quickly figure that out if you could see me on my worst days, in my favorite cry spot on the floor of the master bathroom toilet closet, sobbing my eyes out because…
well, because I spent this entire day doing what I did ALL day yesterday, cleaning up messes I didn’t make, wiping bottoms, changing diapers, making meals and cleaning up the kitchen so we could do it all over again, answering questions, finding lost toys-shoes-socks-pencils-books-notebooks-YOU NAME IT, and what I’ve realized that it all comes down to is not so much the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding, but the deep-down, crushing weight that a lady can feel when she simply doesn’t want to be a servant today.
My ability to handle it all with ease and optimism comes to a screeching halt when I start resenting my calling and pining for that throne.
But that’s one of the most beneficial things about being a wife and a mother…
it pushes you to be something that might have taken you much longer to become.
You see, when you go from being the star of your own story, a person who can go to Starbucks if she wants and stop by the shoe store to try on some new sandals and then come home and watch girly shows on Netflix, to having your life bound up in another’s…and then another’s…and then another’s…until your life is tied directly to, say, five other people, people who need you, people you are called to love and serve, people you are inextricably yoked to, well, it will CHANGE you from the inside out and back again.
Whether you thought you needed changing or not!
And here is one of the most important things I’ve learned about serving, and it continues to surprise me to this day…
the want-to of serving and the JOY of serving come not before you serve, but AS you serve.
This point came up recently, and it was eye-opening for me.
My little girls had been begging me for days to do their nails.
But here’s the thing. I don’t LIKE doing nails. Especially when they are the size of a tiny button. Painting little girls’ miniature toenails is like being the detail artist for the fine china company!
And…I’m busy!! Did you not just read about the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding?!
Therefore, my first internal instinct when they ask me to paint their nails is usually something akin to “I don’t WANNA!”
But late Saturday evening, after they came in from the little swimming pool in the front yard (and after I stain-treated their swimming clothes and towels and put them in the washer and then bathed the kids and then clipped their nails and brushed their hair, but who is keeping track?) I got them sat down with their supper at the kitchen island and…
I just did it.
I sat myself down on the floor, I gathered a foot at a time in my hands, and I applied the nail polish to their tiny, little nails.
Did I really want to do this? Not necessarily. Did I have time to do this? It never feels like it. But how God manages to bring reverence and awe in such a moment is proof of how amazing He is and, as I sat there, bringing such simple happiness to the little hearts that love me so, a sort of resounding joy began to well up inside me.
You see, I didn’t necessarily go into the act of service with joy, but AS I served, joy most certainly followed.
It’s another of those incredible paradoxical principles in the Kingdom of God.
We have these opportunities to push ourselves every day of our lives, chances to serve and to not only meet the basic needs of our family, but to nurture them. To show them sacred dignity. To prefer them over ourselves.
It might be painting toenails.
It might be changing that diaper right away rather than putting it off until it’s about to explode.
It might be brushing the tangles out of a little girl’s bed hair and gathering it into braids at first light.
It might be ironing the wrinkles out of a pretty dress for church.
It might be whipping out a favorite recipe for the boy who is hungrier by the day, a recipe that only he likes.
These are the kind of above-and-beyond things my own mom has built an entire life upon.
The kids and I stayed at her house while Mr. Gore was in Africa last month, and I noticed when I went to tuck the kids in every night that she had turned down each of their covers and put a special book and stuffed animal on their pillow.
Do you know who else noticed this simple little gesture?
My 3-year old.
“A BOOK!!!” he would exclaim, every single night, looking in wonder at his neat little bed with the unexpected treasure at its head.
It sank in deep as I watched this display that our acts of kindness and servitude are not at all lost on the littlest among us and that, yes, the time and the effort are absolutely worth it.
And when you are like my mom and have daily practiced this sort of loving service, it just starts to come naturally.
Her ministry oozes out of her rather than being forced, and oh my goodness, it gives me so much hope. Because it’s exactly who and what I want to be for the Kingdom of God.
And so my prayer today is that I’ll just keep choosing to serve, whether the joy is there at the forefront or whether it comes in the act.
Maybe someday, if I keep practicing…if I keep painting those toenails…I’ll find myself at the beds of my grandchildren with a special book and a stuffed animal to leave on their pillow…
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