I began a personal challenge this month and it is proving to be the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. Let me provide a little background: For the last few years I have been working full time, finishing my dissertation, starting a counseling/coaching/speaking ministry, and writing my soon to be best -selling book (tongue in cheek.) I have been doing, or should I say attempting, all of this while trying to be a wife and mother and find my place within the ministry of my church. I have failed miserably on most accounts.
As I looked at myself and my life, I discovered something important. I was desperately unhappy. The necessity t work gave me less time to devote to my ministry, dissertation and writing, the things that feed my soul and energize me. The demands of maintaining a home, marriage and children seemed impossible to fulfill in a manner that satisfied those in my life and accomplished the goal of making them feel like a priority, rather than an interruption to my schedule. How do I balance meeting the needs of others with meeting my own needs?
Everything came to a head one afternoon after many attempts to work on a writing project and my dissertation, I had cleaned house to not only my satisfaction, but to the stringent standards of my more discriminating husband, I thought I had covered everything and would finally address my own list of "to-dos." It was at that moment, when I sat down at the computer, that my husband asked if I would "like," to help with the yard work. I voiced my honest opinion. "No." I would not like to help with the yard work. I would rather not leave my just warmed up seat to work in the yard. I had things I wanted to do, things that I had put off for many days. My poor husband innocently voiced that he always did the yard work and he would like me to help; "But," he said, "I want you to want to help." Well that wasn't going to happen. How could I make myself want to help? When would it ever be my turn to do what I wanted? When would my dreams be fulfilled and my needs be satisfied? I begrudgingly closed the laptop, resentment oozing from every pore. I plastered a fake smile on and went outside where I spent the rest of the day pulling weeds, until all of my inspiration for writing had boiled over and dried up and it was time to start making dinner, I cried self-pitying tears that night, bemoaning the fact that there is never anytime to achieve my goals, my dreams, my hopes. I had no control over my time--over my life.
I decided that night that was no room for me in my life. I would just have to put what I wanted aside, even if I felt it was God's plan for me to be in ministry,. What I actually did was trip and fall into servant-hood with a big chip on my shoulder. It started off as a cynical surrender of myself. (Think of Cinderella with an attitude.) I woke up the next day and immediately started laundry and the dishwasher while I got myself and my children ready for school/work. I defrosted dinner while I packed lunches and washed the dishes before my husband could have a chance to. When I came home from work, when I wanted to sit and stare at the wall, I picked up other's belongings, folded laundry and cleaned toilets. When the house was clean, I drove to the hardware store and purchased a refill for the "weed wacker," and wacked my heart out in our backyard. "I'll show them," I thought, with all of the drama of Katherine Hepburn. "I'll only do for others." "I'll demonstrate what I believe is true; I just don't matter." I cleaned out my teenager's closet, made my elementary age son's bed and restrung my junior higher's guitar (ok so I didn't go that far.) But I did everything that I could think of that would prove to whomever was watching, (as if someone was) that I was going to be a selfless martyr. I didn't just do these and other duties, I did them instantly. If I was in the middle of a project, television show, or book, I instantly stopped what I was doing to do for another. If I just finished one chore and was asked to do something else, I jumped up with as much energy and joy as I could muster and tackled the next request. I also made a conscious decision to not ask anyone to do for me what I could do for myself. (more on this exhausting experience next time.)
A funny thing happened somewhere around week two. My heart changed. Instead of an "I'll show them," attitude, I developed a "How can I show them," attitude. How can I show my husband that he us loved? Acts of service. How can I show my boys they are loved? Notes on the mirrors and homemade chocolate chip cookies (husband likes those too.) Week three cane and went and the oddest thing happened, My anger subsided. I had deep conversations with my sons and my husband asked me on a date. Well as least as close as you come after 19 years, three kids and two dogs. Coffee at Peet's and a nice talk.
I have decided that when I have exhausted every possibility to serve those in my life and I have prayed to see those opportunities that I don't naturally see, and performed those tasks, I will pull out that laptop and write and dream. For this season in my life I need to learn the sacred steps of servant-hood. I'll keep you posted on how my journey continues; but what I have discovered as of now is this: When I lay my plans, hopes and dreams down at the foot of the cross and search, really search for opportunities to serve my family, I am being more Christ-like than I ever was when I tried to "do" ministry.
Please post your thoughts directly to the blog and let's talk.