Thursday, October 2, 2008

Joy in serving others

There are a lot of things in life I don't understand. I don't understand why God heals some and not others. I don't know why bad things happen to good people or why bad people seem to have all the good luck. I don't know why some are spared and others are not. I don't know why God chooses who He does, but I am so thankful He chose me to be His daughter.

I was thinking about how we have a tendency to get wrapped up in things that simply don't matter. Wait, I take that back. These things do matter. They do affect our lives, so they do matter, but they don't affect our lives in a positive way. So, more to the point, I was thinking about how we have a tendency to get wrapped up in things that don't strengthen the kingdom of God.

We (as humans) have a tendency to get involved in arguments that pull people down, instead of having conversations that lift and encourage. We have a tendency to veg out in front of the television when there are better things to be doing, like tending to the home God has blesses us with, discipling our children, or spending time with our spouse. We have a tendency to focus on our wants, rather than our needs... and feed our wants, and allow our spiritual needs to starve.

We have backwards thinking, but we don't know it's backwards because the world has told us that God's way is backwards. We have fallen into the trap of thinking happiness is just one step away. We think our happiness will be more permanent if we have a nicer house, another child, a better spouse, a cuter wardrobe, a different car, a change of hair color and style..... or that happiness will be within our reach when we finish college, when we get married, when we have children, when our children are older, when we have more free time, when we're out of debt, when we get a promotion, when we have more this, less that...

It's always one step away, isn't it?

The truth is, we'll be happier when we focus on God, not ourselves. We'll be happier when we stop trying to get what we want and allow God to fill our needs. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? The less is more attitude is not one shared by the world. It's not popular. The thought that serving others instead of ourselves would make us have more joy seems a bit nutty.

That's why so many marriages fail. It can be said that all husbands and wives focus on each other. The kicker is that most of them focus on the wrong things. If each party spent more time focusing on the positives, rather than picking apart and nagging about the negatives, we'd see less unhappy marriages.

Sometimes I find myself inwardly grumbling about what my husband "should" be doing. Sigh. Why can't he do this? Why can't he do that? He should do this. Harumph.

Then I realize there are most definitely things he would love for me to do that I don't do- not because I don't love him, but because it doesn't cross my mind or I don't have time. So often, we take what our spouses don't do as personal insults. As if they didn't do them because they are striking out at us, when most of the time that's not the case.

There are days when I have to calm myself down and realign my thinking. I have to remind myself that my husband works VERY VERY VERY hard outside of the home to provide for us. I have to remind myself that, when he gets home, he is probably going to be cranky because he's hungry, and he will need some time to relax and shrug off his troubles.

I use to (and still do, every now and then....) unload everything on him when he got home from work. I'd lay all the troubles of the day on his shoulders as soon as he got home from work. Then I'd have a list of things he needed to do. This needs to be done, I need you to help me with that, so-n-so called said we have to do this..... It certainly wasn't the welcome home he desires.

I have to stop and consider, from time to time, if I was out working all day and came home weary and worn, what would I like my first moments home to be like? Well, I can tell you, I wouldn't want to be met with a list of demands. I'd most certainly love to smell a delicious warm aroma coming from the kitchen promising something filling for my empty, growling stomach. And, I'd love to have cheerful children greet me with excitement as I opened the door. Oh, and it would be so nice to have my spouse give me an affectionate kiss and hug, inviting me to settle down and relax while dinner was being finished and served up. Then it would be nice to have just a few minutes of quiteness so I could lay the day aside and breathe in the air of home. Home. Hoooooome.

Then I have to think about what it must be like for my husband to come home to a chaotic household- baby crying, children whining and arguing, dog barking, toys scattered all over the floor, and a frazzled wife still considering what dinner is going to consist of as she rants and raves about her day.

Ugh. Yeah, that doesn't sound appealing, does it?
When I first thought about it in that direction, I instantly made changes. I delayed the baby's nap so he would either be asleep, or at least perky, when my husband arrived home. And, I condensed the children's toys so they didn't have thousands scattered all over the place. Plus, I have them clean up at around 4 or 5pm, before Dad (usually) gets home. I asked my husband to call me when he was on his way home, so I would know when to start dinner, and so things could be in the process of "calming down" for his arrival. I even light a candle before he gets home (and it smells like pie) so the place smells good (because sometimes it smells like dirty diapers and spit up, which often becomes my personal perfume).

Then, over dinner, he tells us about his day, the kids tell him about their day, and I throw in a few tidbits. The dinner table is a great place to talk about days, I find. People are more relaxed around food, especially tasty food.

These are little things I can do, along with other things like making his breakfast and ironing his work shirts, that not only make him happy.... but also ME happy because he's more relaxed and at ease! Hmm, funny that focusing on someone else, and not myself, would actually bring me more joy than if I had been selfishly tuned.

So, happiness isn't one step away. It's God's way. When we focus on living for God and bringing praise to Him by serving others (do all things as unto the Lord... and if you can't do it as unto the Lord, then maybe you shouldn't do it, period), we'll find ourselves overcome with unmeasured joy and peace.

Speaking of, my husband just called and said he's on his way. That's my cue!

If you have a bit of joy/peace or marital advice that's helped you, please share it!


Anonymous said...

Mandy - I am a newer reader to your blog. I have really loved reading it! I've also spotted you over at Momy's too! Anyway, thanks for the reminder! Today is my shopping day and I'm off to buy a candle! ;o)

I NEEDED that reminder about not babbling on to your dh when he comes home about how terrible MY day was. I NEED to put him first and remember that he has worked hard ALL day so that I can stay home with the kids!

Thanks for that wonderful post! I love reading how God has changed you! What a wonderful encouragement you have been to me this morning!

~Sue (Fiveboys from Momy's)

Luke said...

Fantastic post. As for my tiny "joy/peace" advice: I can't express how much joy and peace our Party Tithe has brought to my family.


Mother Hen said...

Hi Mandy, just wanted to let ya know, I'm tagging you for a meme on Monday.

Arlene said...

Oh how true, how true. It's foolish to think we must wait until everything in our lives is worked out before we can experience joy. Jesus told us clearly that we would have trouble in this world. Joy doesn't come from stuff. It comes from putting (J)esus first, (O)thers second and (Y)ourself last. That's why I love that our church is doing the ServeOne Challenge this fall. We're being asked to find one person to serve each day. What we begin to do consciously in time we'll do automatically, and experience great joy in the process.

Marital advise: Before your hubby gets home, brush your hair and change your clothes if they look messy or shabby. How would you like to come home and find your spouse looking like he just came out of a rat hole?

Mandy, you are wise beyond your years. This post is an excellent reminder to treat others (and others includes our family) the way we wish to be treated. God bless.

Cheryl said...

Hi there, great blog! I'm blog-hopping looking to find fellow homeschoolers. Congrats on your unassisted births! That's a dream of mine, but Hubby doesn't share my vision. If we have another maybe I can pray for a

Kristin-Homemaker@Heart said...

Our home schedule is sort of backwards to your average bear's schedule because Jesse comes home in the morning when I'm getting ready to leave. So I always make sure there is something for him to eat in the morning when he does get home. I usually whip up something before I goto bed.

My marital advice is to do just want you said. Don't unload everything on your husband as he walks in the door. Guys need that down time from when they walk in the door. And not only when they get home from work, guys need guy time, whether it be a beer with the boys, sitting on the computer or even reading. They need a moment to be alone with their thoughts!