Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Will I Serve Him This Day?

"The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”-Mother Teresa 

After Peyton and I got married and I got pregnant with Annie and I knew I wouldn't be teaching for awhile (or really doing too much of anything else outside of our home), I struggled to find my calling in anything apart from mothering. Honestly, I think those first four years, that was the Lord's grace. I'm not sure I had the wherewithal mentally, emotionally or physically to pour myself into anything else. But, we're at a point now where I could think about that kind of thing more and this year I really started thinking and praying about it. 

Back before Christmas a dear friend of mine who was newly married messaged me on Facebook. She was using a day off work to do laundry, clean house, cook things- to serve her little family. And she messaged me to say that in doing those things she thought of me, because she felt like I do them well. Of course my first reaction was audible laughter. But my second was tears of deep gratitude for a friend who loves so well. It was incredibly meaningful first of all because these things oft go unappreciated (I mean that in no way to shame Peyton, his diligence and hard work oft goes unappreciated, too) but also because they are areas I sometimes feel pretty inadequate and it helped to have that affirmation. But it was significant for another reason, too. It helped point me toward something I knew the Lord was placing on my heart. I thought about my friend's words for days and every time I'd pray "Use me this way, Lord". I wasn't sure how, but I desperately wanted to speak into other people's lives that way. 

It became increasingly important for me to use this space well and I've felt a burden for my blog and the words I share with y'all. I also started treating people in the service industry more the way my husband does- going out of my way to try to serve them well and be vocally appreciative of their service. [Sidenote: I was telling Peyton how surprised one of the guys who works at Kroger was to see me the other day without the kiddos and he listed about eight or so employees by their first name and asked me who it was. I've still go a ways to go.]

But I also realized there was more to this. After a couple of interactions with some old friends from high school who were in the trenches with little ones and after reading and sharing countless blog posts written by others that affirmed and encouraged mommas but were also delightfully transparent and honest I realized I was on to something. I knew I wanted to speak this love and truth into others and I knew it would be easiest for me through the shared experience of raising children. So that's when I asked one of the women I love most in world, my dear friend and mentor, Darlene, if she'd help me start something like this at our church. 

 I read something a few days ago about how there was some research done recently about factors contributing to stress. Among them were poverty, chronic illness, trauma, and the list goes on and on. But one big thing that stood out in the research was a powerful tool for combating stress: community. I felt like that was so on point and it perfectly solidified what I wanted our group to be. I'm not saying parenting is the same as coping with a lifelong illness or living below the poverty line. But it *is* hella stressful at times. Am I wrong? 

 We had our first meeting last night. It was so free of pretensions. There was so much laughter. I know I left with a little bit lighter burden and I can only pray the same for the rest of my friends. I was so nervous this would fall flat on its face. I know it doesn't sound like much of a big deal, but it's the first time in a long time that I've been confident enough to dream something up and then say "Let's try it" in more than a whisper. 

A week or so ago, I was having a really hard day. It was one of the first times (lately) that I've let myself really feel the weight of this NYC thing and how much will realistically change for our family with the move. It's a lot to process and there was just a heaviness in the day. I talked to a close friend about it and his words were balm. He really didn't say all that much- things along the lines of "You're awesome wife and mother and you're strong enough for this. I love you and I will pray my guts out for you"- that was the gist of it.  I sort of dissolved and told him that few people are fortunate enough to have friends who feel that way, let alone say it. Sometimes I think I'm scared to be that vulnerable in my affirmation of people- "What if I say those things and they just look at me like I'm crazy?" Well, WHAT IF THEY DO? So, last week I wrote cards to many of the women I hoped would come to our group. I made them personal. I focused on their unique personalities. I praised their gifts and affirmed the ways they are allowing God to work through them. I took a risk because it seemed like a silly thing and frankly, sort of dorky. 

Every single one of them has told me that they appreciated it or that my words meant something to them. 

 I realized something after that talk with Ellis the other day. I used to really want to be a counselor- like a family therapist. Mainly, I think I just wanted to do something intensely relational. Peyton quietly discouraged it. And he was right to do so, I believe. I don't know that my anxiety could have taken it or even that I would have been necessarily good at it. Here's the thing, though. In my life now, in my real life, with whoever I have real, authentic relationships with, I get to do some of that. I don't have the burden of needing to help them figure out a solution. But I do get to be the person who listens and the person who affirms. 

 I want to be a person who, in my little sphere, helps rid the West of the horrible disease of loneliness and isolation. Who helps rid it with love. 

And that's how I will serve Him this day.  


Jennifer said...

I love this SD! What a wonderful way of connecting and building community. I have been thinking about this too lately. Maybe it's something about the 2 year mark. I am thinking of finding ways to show appreciation to others and provide help for others. You have given me the push that I needed!

Kodi said...

I could not love this post, or your heart, more.

Mallory Pickering said...

Great post. I didn't know you had thought about becoming a counselor. That's my dream job and what I will pursue, Lord willing, one day. But yeah, I share that same passion. There's a time to stop navel-gazing and just look out. Look at people, listen, emphasize their best qualities, brighten their lives. Love it.