Do I Have a Servant Heart?

I read a difficult Bible passage this past week that has been stuck in my mind. 

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10

In our culture, reading anything about slaves tends to put my hackles up. Slavery is wrong. All men are created equally. We should be kind and considerate to everyone! I find it rather offensive to think about someone owning a slave, making them work out in a field all day and then making them come inside and have no rest and continue to serve their master. Is Jesus saying I should be a slave? That I am unworthy? 

Other Bible verses come to mind.  

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15: 15-16 

Not a servant. Friends. Chosen. 1 John 3:1 says that God loves us so much that we are called sons of God. Reading these other verses I don’t feel like my status with God is that of a lowly slave. 

As I’ve thought about the passage in Luke I’ve realized that it is a good measure of how much of a servant heart I have. How firmly embedded my pride and sense of entitlement are in my very nature. 

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 43-45

Yes, we are sons of God, Friends of Jesus. Chosen. Loved. But we are called to be like Jesus, and Jesus, despite being King of Kings, God, Creator, Ruler of all, he was a servant. And we’ve been called to be like Jesus and serve others. 

The other night I came home exhausted. Right after school I had to take two of my children to a location out West, thirty minutes away, and then after being there an hour and half, had to drive to another part of town to pick up another child from sports practice. I didn’t get home till 6:30pm and I had been driving in horrible rush hour traffic for over an hour. I had expected that my other family at home would have already eaten the supper I had left prepared for them. I anticipated just grabbing a plate of food for myself and being able to relax for a couple minutes. Instead, I walked in the door and found out that everyone else was waiting for me to get home before they ate. Nothing was set out. The table was littered with homework and toys and papers. Mess. I lost it. Had a total hissy fit. Much to the horror of my poor family who were simply anticipating a family meal together whenever I got home. Later, all I could think about was the passage in Luke and how far I was from having a true servant heart. Cause I had been working hard all day, and I wanted to come home and be served. Have some rest. Get some appreciation for how hard I had been working. And yes, there is a time and a place for rest and appreciation. But sometimes, everyone in the family has been working hard, everyone is exhausted, and what the family needs is someone to come in and patiently continue to serve. 

That is the heart I want to have. And sometimes I fail miserably. But I have to realize, having a servant heart is something I need Jesus to do inside of me. It’s not something I can get on my own. I hold to the promise that says,

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I’m trusting that God will continue to soften my heart and teach me how to serve like Jesus. 

I’m Back!

Hi Everyone. I’m back. I think. I ended up taking an unplanned break from writing. I think the easiest explanation is that my writing is all about telling you what is going on in my life and how I’m dealing with it and this summer the things I was dealing with were not shareable. They were too tangled up with other people’s lives for me to freely tell you what was going on. But, I can testify that God is faithful. I went through a season of healing and forgiveness and I also went through a David and Goliath type trial where God, as always, proved greater than the giant facing me. 

To catch you up a bit on our family news, all of my kids have moved to new schools. That was a miracle in itself as God opened doors for each one of my kids to be able to go to a better situation. It’s been pretty hectic as we’ve been trying to learn new schedules and routines, but I think we are finally over the hump and the kids all feel settled and are very happy in their new schools. 

This is the first year that all of my kids are at school for the whole school day. I’m not homeschooling anyone. My oldest daughter at home is taking college classes so her schedule is a little more loose and I see her occasionally throughout the day, but I’m not actively taking care of anyone at the house. I’ve had a lot of people say, “What are you going to do with yourself?” I am getting more and more excited as I ponder this question. 

Let’s see. I’m going to actually have time to take care of my home. Maybe I’ll do some meal planning and actually start cooking more difficult meals that take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. Maybe I’ll actually dust my house. Organize some spaces that are out of control. Maybe I’ll do some knitting and sew some curtains. Maybe I can take time to take a walk every day again. Maybe I can work through a Bible Study. Maybe I can get some rest so that when I’m with my kids I’m not a stressed out wreck. Maybe I can start meeting my husband for lunch and we can get some couple-time again. Maybe I’ll have time to actually take an interest in what’s happening in my yard and I could actually do a little landscaping. Who knows. 

Yesterday I went to the zoo and took a long walk. We have a family zoo pass and the zoo is within walking distance of my house. I found myself grinning as I walked. I had time to stop and enjoy seeing the animals and all the beautiful plants and landscaping the zoo has. Usually when I’m at the zoo it’s a full-on marathon as I try to keep my eyes on all the kids and keep everyone happy and safe. As I was walking I felt like I had just been dragged out of the ocean where I had been barely keeping my head above water and now I was on land and just sitting taking in large gulps of air. It felt like I was getting my margins back. I’ve been living full-tilt, giving everything I’ve got for so long. It feels surprising and wonderful to suddenly have some time to myself where I can just be. Where I can do something I enjoy and not have to focus on making sure everyone else is enjoying themselves. 

This does not mean I’m sitting around eating bon bons and watching soap operas. I do have ten people in my home that I’m still taking care of and three adult kids I’m keeping tabs on. It just feels like, instead of having three full-time jobs, now I just have two. Or two and half. 

I’m about to get up and clean my house and wash dishes and fold laundry. But I’m going to put on a podcast that I want to listen to. Maybe blast some Mozart. Play the piano a bit. And I’m going to breathe deep breaths and bask in silence. And just be thankful. 

Fat Fridays: A Day Late

Good morning. I am late. I contemplated skipping and just waiting a week, but it seems more appropriate to write a day late. 

Yesterday my “Give a Damn” broke. It does that every once in a while. I’ve had a hard week. Last Saturday we drove twenty-four hours straight with nine children in the car, driving through the night, to get home from our vacation. My husband did most of the driving but I did Pennsylvania, from 2am to 6am and I did a four hour stretch of Virginia. The kids were amazing. The biggest problem was the three youngest being TOO cheerful and rambunctious as they played in the row right behind our seats. It was while we were driving that my mom called and let me know that she and my dad were sick with covid and headed to the ER. And then this week has been the uncertainty of how my dad was going to pull through. And unpacking. And doing all the Back-To-School shopping, and trying to help my mom long-distance as she recovered at home, and catching up all the errands that stack up when you’ve been gone for a while. 

I started off the week healthy. Went grocery shopping and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. And then, on Tuesday I went to the dentist to have my last appointment to get a crown on my tooth. And then the dentist had an “oops” moment and my tooth got messed up and they ended up having to pull the tooth. And then my jaw got infected and I’ve been in pain all week and couldn’t eat all the fresh veggies cause my mouth hurt. 

Anyway. This Friday I shut down. I tried. I made an effort. I put on exercise clothes. I tried to tackle the giant list of things that needed to be done, but my brain wouldn’t focus. I would decide, Ok, I’m going to go take a walk. Then I would think, well, maybe I should get the kids settled doing this activity first. Or maybe I should go run those errands first. Or maybe we should clean the house first. And I completely froze. Didn’t know what to do. I finally left the house, ran the errands, and then sat in a chair all day, playing word games in an attempt to not have to think about my life. 

I did not exercise. I did not eat vegetables. I did not accomplish much. And I didn’t care. 

So, here we are, the next day. I’m feeling a little more rested. And I’m not feeling guilty. I’m not superwoman. This is something I have to tell myself often. I actually can’t do everything (though in my last Friday post, I did feel like I could!). And sometimes my body and brain just need to check out for a while. And it’s ok. Today is a new day. I’ll try again to make good choices for food. I’ll try to get moving again. The important thing is to keep trying. 

A Time for Quiet

We are on vacation right now. Taking part in a family reunion. Back to the stomping grounds of my husband’s youth. It’s a place that feels like home. Lakes, fields, forests. Small towns. Vast northern skies. It’s been almost twenty-two years since our honeymoon when my husband first brought me to Maine. And since then we’ve made regular pilgrimages. I am very familiar with the over-eleven-hundred-mile drive. 

For me, it’s a place where I can get steeped in nature. Forget about city traffic, polution, people everywhere you turn. It’s a place where you just sit and stare at the water. Watch for loons. See an eagle every once in a while. Laugh at the ducks. Take long walks down dirt roads. 

It’s a place where I can slow down my heartbeat. Slow down my frantic thoughts. Slow down the rhythm of our family. Life simplifies to the lowest common denominator. Play, eat, sleep. 

This morning I sat on the porch, watching my kids swim, painting my toenails. After a long time, I finished. Beautiful! I did it! (This is an accomplishment for me to not get nail polish all over the place.) Then my four year old wanted to sit with me and he stepped on my foot. Back to square one. But it’s ok. I’ve got time to fix it. Nothing else is pressing in. 

The kids are reconnecting with cousins. Aunts and Uncles catching up on each other’s news. We break bread together. Pictures are taken. 

I think about the fact that years ago, a family this spread out would never have seen each other again. The distance too far, the cost too high. Now we can jump in our cars, book airline tickets. Set a date. Here we all are. What an amazing time we live in. 

I have hopes for my time here. I hope I can disconnect from the world that is full of human drama and stress. Connect with an older world. The one that is tied to the changing of the seasons, the moving of the sun across the sky. The activity of the clouds, will it rain or not? Tune my ears into the sound of the wind in the trees, the calls of the birds. Smell the damp forest floor. Feel the rain misting on my face. 

I am thankful. Thankful for my husband’s family that has claimed me as one of their own. Thankful for the heritage of this place that we can pass down to our children. Thankful that God provided a way for us to get here. Thankful for rest. 

This is me and my husband, after our wedding, about to get in the car and drive cross-country to Maine for the first time. I had no idea that this was going to become a major theme in our lives. But, I’m really glad that’s the way it’s turned out. 

Weary

My head is fuzzy

Thoughts flit around and disappear

My shoulders, so tired

The world weighs too much

I try to move and bustle around

My legs are heavy

So tired.

Just keep moving, Just keep moving

I whisper to myself

The daily tasks stack up around me

Waiting.

Voices call my name

Everybody needs me.

How much longer? 

How much longer can I just keep moving?

Rest

My soul cries for rest.

God help me please.

And I wait

And I trust

And I just keep moving

Confident Help is on the way. 

Breathe

Sometimes I am shockingly disconnected to my body and what it’s going through. And then my body responds to a situation in a very normal physical way, and I’m like, What’s going on?? What is wrong with you?? 

The past two days I have been so tired, any time I sit down, I start falling asleep.

Crazy.

Am I sick? Vitamin deficient? Coming down with something? 

And then I stop and try to assess the situation.

Ok. I had to surrender my dog to a shelter on Monday. On Monday I also started a new diet/exercise program that I am sure is a shock to my system. On Tuesday I had an important meeting at the kid’s school, had to put myself forward and stand in the gap for a child that needs some special help. Everyone was nice, but any time I have to speak my mind in front of strangers, I get stressed. Last week my teenager was walking home from school and shooting broke out, half a block behind her. Now I am feeling hyper-vigilant as I listen to all the sirens throughout the day. It’s not been a tranquil month for relationships. In short, while I have decided to pump up on vitamins, stay hydrated, etc. I am also just trying to be kind to myself and acknowledge that maybe my body is trying to tell me something. 

Like,

You are Tired. 

The following are the words to the final chorus in the song  Breathe put out by Jonny Diaz.

When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in, fill your lungs

The peace of God that overcomes

Just breathe (just breathe)

let your weary spirit rest

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

Just breathe (just breathe)

Just breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to just breathe

Just breathe

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Jonathan Smith / Jonny Diaz / Tony Wood

Breathe lyrics © Songtrust Ave

And that’s where I’m at right now. Needing to acknowledge my body’s efforts to slow me down. Needing to rest. I’m not up for solving any of life’s mysteries or thinking really deeply, or being anything amazing. I just need to rest at Jesus’ feet and breathe for a while. 

Seeking Emmanuel in the Crazy

We had an amazing Christmas service with our church today. The story of Jesus, starting with creation, told throughout the earth’s history, ending with his resurrection, accompanied by beautiful music. During the service my shoulders lifted from stress that had been weighing them down. My anxious thoughts calmed and focused on this story that never grows old. 

I needed that church service to hit the reset button. 

I wish that I could tell you that I have risen above the stress of 2020 and the Christmas season,, and I am peacefully gliding through the crazy, prioritizing, putting people first over TO DO lists, remembering that Jesus is the Reason for the Season etc etc…But I’m actually not doing a very great job, in my own estimation. I have been snappy, irritable, not handling things well. My family is getting irritated at me. I’m getting irritated at me. The church service this morning was good. It restored some peace. But I am shocked at how quickly I step back into my irritable mode. Once a week doses of God’s presence aren’t enough. Once a day isn’t enough. I am needing a constant turning. A constant reminder that God is good. That Christmas is about celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, not about doing all the fun activities and getting all the best presents. 

I am obviously not writing this from a place of achievement or even a place of rest and peace. I am writing this from the perspective of a mom who is frazzled, worn out, wanting to make Christmas great for her kids, but is instead rushing and stressing. And I need Jesus. I need peace. I need a constant reminder that I am not alone, that loving my family is more important than making Christmas cookies just-so, or having the house clean at all times. I need a heavy dose of patience and perspective. 

I am writing some reminders on my hands. Emmanuel. Jesus is here with us, I am saved, never alone. Peace. Christmas traditions are not as important as loving your family. Everyone would prefer a calm mom rather than a mom who has done all the stuff. 

I am hoping that over the next week I will see the words on my hands often. I will stop yelling. I’ll take a deep breath. Walk away for a minute. Reset. Start again. 

We’ll see how it goes as I seek Emmanuel and his peace.

Lots of Stuff Happening

It’s been quite a week. I keep thinking, surely it’s Friday. Nope, still Wednesday. 

Yesterday we went to court and got custody of our foster daughter. 

I just learned today of the death from covid of a cousin in my father’s family. I did not know him, but I have become Facebook friends with his sister over the years, and my heart is grieving for them. His wife is still in the hospital with covid and another of their family just died of covid as well. Please keep them in your prayers. 

I just got news this afternoon that our schools will be going virtual for our final week before Christmas break. I’m very thankful that our elementary school has managed to stay open all semester, but I know this next week will be challenging. 

Two other things happened that I won’t go into, but which also caused me a lot of stress. 

And it’s only Wednesday. 

Today, I have been searching for rest. My brain is at that point where it is now shutting down different areas to conserve energy. My son brought me his math work today to get some help. It was percentages. Seventh grade math. I watched the video to relearn the concept and then struggled through a couple word problems with him. I felt like my brain was moving in slow motion while I tried to apply the formula to each problem, and I finally said, you know what, let’s do this tomorrow. We’re done. 

I had a DCS worker in my home today. She needed a private place to talk to one of the kids, so I showed her into my cluttered, kinda messy bedroom. Here. This is the only private place in the house. I threw my blankets onto my bed, told her, just pretend like this bed is made, and walked out. And I felt no shame or anxiety. Those parts of my brain had apparently already shut down. 

I’ve moved the tv back to the house. (We’ve been tv-free since July.) I wanted to be able to watch Christmas movies, and I was also trying to be kind to myself, anticipating needing some tv-babysitting over the Christmas break. So, today, I let my little boys watch some tv shows while I took a short nap. 

Tonight I am writing and then I’m going to watch silly videos on Facebook and maybe look for a new book to read. But, I’ll probably crash into bed by 9 pm since my inner clock has been waking me up at 5:30 am lately.

Despite all the stress, I am feeling peace. God is on his throne. My problems aren’t too big for him. He has given me small moments of grace, like the purple sunrise I got to snap a pic of this morning. It’s Christmas time, my house is cozy. And, as people always like to point out, my life certainly isn’t boring. 

Plans Change, Thank God

This weekend did not go as planned. 

The plan was to have a ton of different activities happening all weekend. Different people going in different directions. Every minute crammed with busyness. 

I was not looking forward to it. I don’t do well with really busy schedules. They stress me. But it seemed unavoidable. 

Then Saturday morning, in the middle of the morning, I got a humongous headache. The kind where you just have to lay down. I had been dragging for a couple days and suddenly felt horrible, achy, nauseous. I got on the phone and started cancelling things. A lot of things. The headache and fatigue fit with the chart of covid symptoms, and a friend of mine, who actually is positive for covid, had told me those were her main symptoms. I decided I better get tested and cancel everything else till I was certain. (Which makes me feel weird. Like, in normal times, I would just be sick and get over it, now I’m freaked out about being contagious, especially since this family has so many moving parts.) 

Andy got home from his morning activity, found me sick, heard all the news, and agreed to shut things down. He took the kids out for an afternoon of socially-distanced, outside, bike riding. I slept. And then sat around in a stupor, trying to find a book to read, but too zoned out to focus on anything. I also tried to deal with an online grocery order that went completely haywire. That was fun. 

This morning I got up early still feeling sick, left at 7:30am and went to get tested. It took a long time, I didn’t get home till 12:30pm, but the good part was I got the results immediately, and I tested negative! Yay! But, I still felt bad, so I came home and went back to bed for several hours while Andy took the kids to his shop for an afternoon of Dad time. 

So, this weekend did not go as planned. 

And it was great. It was exactly what I needed. An entire weekend of rest and no expectations. 

And once again I’m reminded that it often works that way. We make plans, something bad happens, plans get ruined, but it all turns out for the best. 

I think that is part of living a life of faith. We can get rid of a lot of stress if we cling to the promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Not that God makes bad things happen, but that he can turn each bad thing into something good. 

So, I’m thanking God for being sick this weekend, and thanking him for a negative Covid test, and thanking him that I can head into this next week a little more rested and peaceful. 

(I’m feeling better, not perfect, but hopefully by tomorrow whatever this is should be gone.)

“The Peace of Wild Things”

I am sitting by the lake, I’ve been watching my kids swim, but they have now moved on to playing prince and princess and are concocting some elaborate make-believe game. I only have the three youngest with me. My husband and five of our kids left at 4am this morning to go hike a mountain. I don’t expect them home till late tonight. My other two daughters are at their grandparent’s house, in town, a short distance away. It has now been twelve days since we left Knoxville on our vacation, and it has taken about ten of those days for me to finally be able to just relax. We still have a couple more days before we head home and I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful feeling of doing nothing except some light household chores and watching my children swim in the lake. 

 

It’s been a different kind of vacation. State mandates mean that we can’t go shopping or go out and be around a lot of people. We have seen basically just a few family members and had them do our grocery shopping for us. Aside from a day trip to the beach, we have just stayed in our little cabin and enjoyed the lake and the woods. And it has been wonderful. 

 

My restless husband has been able to help his Uncle and Aunt with a remodel project, my teen girls have hung out with their grandparents and the little ones have practiced their swimming. 

 

My brain has had time to process. Relive, rethink, reassess. And finally, it has just quieted down. I’ve read some good books, done “adult” coloring where there is an inspiring scripture and then a ton of elaborate details to color in. Not something I do often, but I find when I am coloring, the analyzing part of my brain shuts off, and I’m just thinking about staying in the lines, and what color should I use next? It has the same effect for me as playing scales on the piano, or re-reading a favorite book. Occasionally, I will stop coloring and just think about the verse. Meditate. 

 

We don’t get to do this every year. More like every two or three years. But I am glad for these times. 

 

As my brain has quieted and I have rested, I find myself getting ideas again. Getting excited about projects. I am even starting to feel excited about homeschooling some of my kids. I am plotting out schedules, and thinking about books to read and papers we will write and discussions we will have. Spelling charts for the second grader. Homemade calendars.

 

And this is the difference between stressed-out me and healthy me. The ability to dream and be excited about the future. 

 

I remember in the flurry of having lots of babies, I went for years without having any dreams. I was too exhausted. Too overwhelmed. The future was too far away. I was just surviving today. This moment. This minute. This second. 

 

The past months have been that for me. Survival. 

 

And it’s good to feel that quieting down. To feel like the ability to dream is coming back. 

I even told my husband that one day, when all the kids are grown, I want to get a giant fluffy dog. Like a St. Bernard. Or something like that. He immediately pointed out that big dogs are expensive. And I pointed back that all the kids will be gone and I will have money to spend on a dog. 🙂 He’s not over-excited about that dream….yet. I’ve got some time to talk him around. 🙂 

 

Here is a poem I found.

 

“The Peace of Wild Things”

Wendell Berry

Listen

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Today, I am thankful for nature. For God’s creation. For the beauty he created that provides rest to all people, believer or not. It is one of his gifts to humankind. 

 

And I’m thankful for the time he has given me to just rest.