It’s Monday morning. I wake up without an alarm clock at 6am, refreshed from a weekend of interaction with adults and extra sets of hands to help with the kids. There are plans I want to make, tasks I want to accomplish, books I want to read, and fun things I want to do with my children. I have energy and strength and patience. My heart rate is normal. I’m calm, relaxed and ready to start a new week.
It’s a good feeling. But it won’t last long. I know it won’t. You see, I’m in the throes of parenting young children. And parenting young children is hard. And not always rewarding. I mean, of course it’s rewarding. Sometimes. For crying out loud, every day I get to see my heart walking around outside of my body in two different forms, singing “Jesus Loves Me” and sharing with me the joys of life that they have discovered that day and telling me that “I rock.”
But it’s not always so.
Last week I sent both my sister and my husband a text message saying, “I think this is going to be the day that I figure out just how much incessant whining I can take before I completely snap.” Last week, every minute of every day felt like this:
Mom, I don’t like this. I want something else to eat. Mom, can you get me a drink? Mom, where are my shorts? Mom, I want to go swimming. Mom, will you read to me? Mom, will you play with me? Mom, she won’t let me have a turn! Mom, can you push me on the swing? Mom, will you fix me a snack? Mom, will you get me some milk? Mom, can we go play at Evan’s house? Mom, will you go outside with me? Mom, can you help me draw this? Mom, can you help me build this? Mom, can you help me turn this on? Mom, will you wipe me? Mom, can you come NOW?! Mom, will you…can you…how do you…I want…give me…look at me…
All of these requests and demands and immediate needs were completely surrounding me and flying at my head like tiny arrows from the bows of small, selfish, irrational people all the minutes of all the days. I’m trying to meet every need and fulfill every request while simultaneously attempting to sweep sticky eggs off the dining room floor and put the dishes away and get the laundry out of the washing machine before it starts to smell moldy (again) and take a shower and make the grocery list and cook the dinner, etc, etc, etc…
I ain’t gonna lie to ya. Some days this mama gig completely wears me down. And I get why some moms start drinking alcohol at lunchtime.
Last week, as I was particularly struggling with finding joy in my job, I asked the Lord for strength. “Give me some encouragement, God. I’m about to lose it. Please?” And He kindly obliged. As I was standing in my dining room, sweeping the floor for the third time that day, He offered me this verse:
“Greater love has no mom than this, that she lay down her life for her kids.”
John 15:13 IMV (International Mommy Version).
He said to me,
“You see that egg you’re sweeping off the floor, sweet mama? You’re laying down your life.
You see those little grass-stained shorts that you’re trying to get clean for the fourth time? You’re laying down your life.
You see that copy of Skippyjon Jones that you’re reading for the eighteenth time today? You’re laying down your life.
You see that fight that you just broke up over whose turn it was to have that exact green crayon? You’re laying down your life.
You see how the only time today that you’re going to sit down will be when you’re eating or driving little people somewhere? You’re laying down your life.
“That bathroom break that you take with two other kids joining you asking you questions you’re not ready to answer, that Band-aid you’re putting on the boo-boo that’s not bleeding, that important phone call you’re trying to make that happens to come at the exact same moment your youngest needs a glass of water RIGHT NOW because she’s SO THIRSTY and she CAN’T WAIT, all happening at the same time, and all you really want to do is find a quiet place to sit and read or talk to a friend or have a cup of coffee or just be completely quiet and think about something other than whose turn it is to choose a video? You’re laying down your life.”
I went back and read the passage of scripture from which the above verse came. It says, in part “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends…you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.“
I cannot tell you how much those words nourished my soul as I read them. I have always known this in my head, but sometimes Truth gets lost in translation on its way to my heart. As Jesus is talking to his disciples about himself and about them, I am reminded of my calling. My calling is not to be an accomplished housewife with a museum-quality home. My calling is not to be a well-tanned, well-rested, sweet-tea-in-one-hand, good-book-in-another kind-of mom. My calling is not to be so tired from all the unnecessary projects I create for myself that I don’t have time to read another book to my children. My calling is to lay down my life – my fleshly desires, my selfish ambitions, my unnecessary needs – and to serve my children. And in so doing, the Lord will make my joy complete because His joy will be in me. HIS JOY will be in ME!
And it’s true. When I work as unto the Lord, I do have joy. I LOVE to serve my Father. I can easily get stuck in a rut feeling like I don’t always love serving my children. But when I step back and look at things with fresh eyes through the words of scripture, I’m not just serving my children. I’m serving my Father. And when I think about it from that frame of reference, I hear the words of Isaiah saying, “Here am I!!! Send me!!!” I remember that I have offered those words to God many times throughout the years, and I did so thinking I would be sent to do overseas missions or inner-city ministry or something “special” like that. But I haven’t been sent to do that. Not yet, anyway. Today, I have been chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit…fruit that will last…to my children. If I’m serving them with frustration and resentment and anger and bitterness, they will taste that fruit and want nothing of it, and consequently, nothing of me or this God that I claim to be loving. But if I serve them with kindness and compassion and patience and joy, they will taste that fruit and (hopefully) take great delight in it.
I doubt that this reminder will make my job any less emotionally challenging or physically draining. But it’s a renewed perspective that already fills my heart with joy and encouragement as I begin this new week. And this morning, I look forward to serving my Jesus as I serve my children. And maybe, while I’m at it, we can work on learning at least one new self-help skill. 😉