4 Ways Serving Others Turned My Home Right Side Up

My day started long before my kids awoke.

When they stumbled down the stairs in search of breakfast, I was meeting with someone at the kitchen table, notepads out, laptops open. I asked my kiddos if they slept well and then pointed them towards a do-it-yourself breakfast.

I returned to my meeting for the next hour and they got ready for the day and entertained themselves upstairs.

The rest of the day looked much the same–a Skype session in Kenya, and a Fair Trade Friday planning meeting. I was busy and they kept themselves busy with library books, Legos, laundry and Minecraft.

Thankfully, I have a flexible schedule. This isn’t my everyday, but it’s often because I work from home.

At one point, I had a pang of guilt at my busy day, even though most of it was built around serving others. I remembered the countless summer days in the past where we spent most days doing something fun–either crafting or at the local pool with snow cone breaks and day trips in-between.

Of course, we still have those days.

But something amazing happened when we transitioned from a child-centered home to an others-centered one with Jesus as our focus: my kids stopped demanding that every day, every moment, be about them, for them.

I did, too.

My husband led Bible Study a couple of weeks ago for families in our weekly House Church. I cringed when he described how we spent the first 15 years to ourselves. We rarely invited people over to our house. We rarely reached out to others. Everything was about us. It wasn’t all bad either–we did devotions with our kids, attended church regularly, led a safe and comfortable life. But it was missing something.

We served only ourselves.

But when we refocused our home and made Christ the center, it changed everything.

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A normal day now might include rolling yarn balls during movie time that we will pass out to the refugee class we serve at on Fridays. That’s not to say we don’t have idle hours and leisure days–we do. They are a must!

But I don’t think we realized how often we served ourselves until we began serving others. It’s hard to do both–put yourself or even your family first when you’re putting someone else’s needs before your own.

Serving has changed our family. It has turned us right -side up.

We are still a messy family. But I’m learning everyday that “God wants us right in the middle of our mess because it’s the perfect place for Him to shine through our imperfections.” Rhinestone Jesus.

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4 Things Serving Will Do For Your Family:

  1. Serving will reveal our family’s ingratitude- Yeah, yikes, huh? Nothing has exposed our humanity and self-centered ways more than serving others. There have been many instances when we just didn’t want to put others before ourselves. There has been grumbling and complaining in the midst of serving. It’s revealed selfishness in my family. But we can’t improve without realizing first how hard serving actually is.
  2. Serving will get our eyes off ourselves- It’s harder to be selfish and only think about ourselves when we are exposed to those who have less and need more, it’s changes our perspective. A change of perspective is one of the best gifts we can offer our families.
  3. Serving will ignite compassion for others- Even if we don’t see it immediately, serving changes our family. We can’t always see growth, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. When we make serving a part of our regular lives, it can’t help but change us.
  4. Serving will renew our family’s gratitude- Just as serving brings out our ingratitude at times, it also give us an opportunity for gratitude. It feels good to give to others and reminds us of the blessings in our lives.

 


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WFMW: Yes Right In the Middle of Your Mess

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Monica for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

When I was a senior in college I thought I had this thing called life all figured out. I laugh a little at even typing those words out right now.

I said “YES” to what I thought was a calling to international missions after a weeklong missions conference at my church.

At the same time that I was saying “YES” to follow God onto the mission field, God was bringing a very special person into my life…my future husband.

You see, God’s plans are always so much bigger than our own. They’re also often very different from our own.

God’s plan for my life, at least at that time, did not include foreign missions.

But it did include saying YES to following Him in obedience wherever He would eventually lead me.

My husband is a Chaplain in the United States Army. He provides for the religious freedom for the soldiers who fight for our freedoms. He is able to minister to them in times of great need.

In saying YES to follow God in obedience wherever He leads over fifteen years ago, I am now living out my calling as a Chaplain’s Wife and homeschooling mom to four children.

I never envisioned this as my calling.

I never envisioned myself as the wife of an Army Chaplain, moving every couple of years to wherever the Army sends us.

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I never envisioned myself as a mom, doing the seeming mundane work of caring for children, endless laundry, and homes that we don’t own.

I never envisioned myself as a homeschooling mom, pouring my life into the four children God has so richly blessed our family with and spending hours teaching them to read, to count numbers, and to love Jesus.

My vision for my life would have had me on a mission field in the middle of nowhere sharing Christ with the unreached peoples of the world.

God’s vision for my life has me serving my husband, my children and my community.

I have spent countless time struggling to reconcile my vision for my life that seemed so much more sacrificial and meaningful with God’s vision for my life that I am living out from day to day.

I have come to learn that God desires for us to say YES to HIS YES for our lives and then live out that YES in obedience right in the middle of the mess that He has called us to.

His YES for our lives may be sharing the gospel with unreached peoples of the world.

Or it may be sharing the gospel with the unreached in our own community.

His YES for our lives may call us to travel across the world.

Or it may call us to travel across the room.

Whatever it is, He only asks that our response is a faithful and obedient YES.

 profile-pic-nov13Bio: With Philippians 4:8 as her guide, Monica is seeking to dwell on whatever is true, honorable, right, lovely, of good repute, any excellence, and anything worthy of praise as she serves her husband, an Army Chaplain, and homeschools their four children. Monica also enjoys capturing and documenting their everyday memories through digital scrapbooking. She shares all this at her blog, DailyDwelling.


What I Want My Daughters To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

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The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

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There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular summer Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom


You Are Where You Are For a Reason

We sat on the lush green lawn next to the sprawling manor and let the sun warm us.

July in Kenya is cold.

The Mercy House babies toddled and giggled offering us flowers from the nearby bushes, while their teen moms finished lunch.

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It looked like just another Thursday in Africa. But it was more. It was miraculous.

The wind whipped through the willow trees and blew petals from the flowering plants and it was as if nature itself bowed down at the holiness of what God had done.

A houseful of transformed residents. Six new pregnant girls. New babies coming in the fall. Two beautiful homes paid for by a bunch of mothers. Glorious. For His Glory.

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The task still seems more daunting than ever–our first HIV case, 12, 13 and 14 year old pregnant girls, reaching beyond our walls into the neighboring slum to help a dozen more teen mothers. But God can do anything, even the impossible. And He is.

I looked up from the baby in my lap and saw my own teen daughter talking intently to one of the older Mercy House residents.

The wind carried words and I caught bits and pieces of their conversation.

“Why do you think I was born here in Kenya and you were born in America?” Violet, 17, mother to 2 year old Maureen asked my daughter.

“I don’t know,” my daughter said after a long pause. I could tell she was thinking.

It’s a hard question.

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These Kenyan girls only know of America from the news and movies. We are mostly the only Americans they interact with once or twice a year. And while they’ve never visited and probably never will, they long to. Because they understand how much we have. They know how much we’ve been given.

And then I heard my 14 year old daughter whisper to her African-born friend, “Maybe we were born in America so we could help you in Kenya.”

They grabbed each other’s hands and held on. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

Because yes, this is it. The honesty and purity of one child’s words to another, were holy.

Because maybe this is why we have so much. Maybe this is why we were born where we were born.

Maybe this is why we are where we are today.

I don’t know where you are right now. You might be in any country in the the world. You might be in the middle of your house, in the middle of suburbia folding laundry. You might be reading this on your shift break at your job in the hospital on floor 2. You might be standing in line at the pharmacy, waiting on medicine for your mother who is very sick. You might be in the lowest season of your life or the best. I don’t know. But it matters.

Because you are where you are for a reason.

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