three people donating goods
Anxiety, Christian Living, Encouragement, Health, Love Your Neighbor, Mental Health, Relationships

When service has left you empty

The word “serve” can evoke many types of emotions – good and bad.

If I am at a restaurant: I am glad for that waiter who serves.  And I expect good service.

man and woman wearing black and white striped aprons cooking

But if I am doing the third load of laundry of the day and one of my children walks in with mud from toe to teeth – I then serve my family with clean laundry. Oddly enough, that type of service can sometimes rub the wrong way.

We can often find ourselves struggling with the day to day and trying to find joy in the work of the mundane. We often feel unseen. We know we are needed, because often some things don’t get done until we do them. But we wonder if anyone would miss us if we were gone, or they would just wonder where their clean clothes went to. Often those mundane task are also necessary. We are performing a service that is needed and maybe even appreciated, though never put into words.

photo of woman standing inside the laundromat

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she touches on a similar feeling:

Whenever man is made the center of things he becomes the storm-center of trouble.  The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause…When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it’s true, I think I am due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy.  But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks for Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all…the work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) gives us more:

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

This is part of our problem – we are looking for something in return.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Our days will be filled with service in one form or another. And we won’t necessarily get something in return for the work that we do.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Click To Tweet

Sometimes we may even yearn for a simple thank you, but those may be lacking, as well.

But Jesus served.  He loved.  And he didn’t look for anything in return.

I’m reminded of the story in Luke 17 where he healed 10 lepers.

Ten mean were healed … and only one came back to thank him.  It makes one pause to consider how often thank yous were actually said to Jesus.

a man greeting an elderly woman

But as the verse in Ephesians says, love by giving everything.  When we envision a life of serving and giving without expectation, then we will be to a point that at the end of the day we will be empty.

Emptied – so that He can fill us back up.

When we give of ourselves completely, everyday, our life may look like this at the end of the day:

  • worn out body
  • messy living room
  • laundry still needing to be folded
  • dirty dishes stacked by the sink

Your first thought may be that nothing was actually completed. But look at what was accomplished:

  • quality conversations made with the 13-year-old
  • snuggle on the couch with the 3-year-old
  • meaningful time with the husband
  • heart warmed from relationships built just a bit stronger

The world tells us to look out for, and save time for, ourselves. That is a valid point. We can’t serve if we are worn out, empty, and unhealthy.

But to be filled up, our “me time” needs to be more “God time” – time we spend with Him to fill us up when our tank is running on empty. God is the owner of unlimited resources, He has the power to give you the stamina you need to live out the calling He has led you to. When we pull our energy from the true source, instead of what the world tells us we need, we can find the stamina we didn’t think we had.

back view of a person walking on a forest path

When we take this perspective on service and how we use our time, it can soften our hearts towards those we are asked to serve. When some one disrupts our plans, throws off our schedule, or makes us have to redo what we just completed, we can remind ourselves that Jesus’s love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. We can love like that.

Because when we serve others we are ultimately serving God and not man – when we are serving without looking for anything in return.

And that kind of service can make all the difference.

Looking for a short devotional that will help center your heart on the true reason for the season?

Purchase the digital download of Prepare Him Room: an Intentional Advent devotional and also receive the free devotional Intentional Heart.

handwritten thank you on craft paper
Encouragement, Health, Mental Health, Relationships

Rewiring your brain with gratitude

Growing up, my mom made us sit down and write thank you notes to family members for birthday and Christmas gifts. As a young kid, I found it a chore. It seemed silly, writing a thank you note when I had already thanked them for the gift in person! But, I’d do it anyway. 

handwritten thank you on craft paper

And, though I found the exercise tedious, I must admit I felt an uplift in my spirit as I sealed the envelope and dropped the letter in the mailbox. It seemed the act of thinking back on something, and showing gratitude for it, made my heart feel a little lighter.

Though my mom hadn’t read the research, she was on to something. 

A few years back, a study was conducted at U of C, Berkeley. They followed the mental health path of 300 adults as they sought counseling for depression. The group was split up into three parts. The first part, along with counseling, was assigned to write a note of gratitude to a different individual each week for 3 weeks. The second group was asked to list their deepest complaints and grievances. The third attended counseling without either assignment (Brown & Wong, 2017).

It was discovered that the group who expressed gratitude through their writing practice, reported better mental health at 4 and 12 weeks, over the other two groups. So, not only did expressing gratitude help them feel better in the moment, it also had effects long afterwards as well (Brown & Wong, 2017).

They continued the research further and found some more surprising things about gratitude.

To read the full article, visit Kingdom Edge Magazine, who featured my article.

Rewiring your brain with gratitude –> read more here. Click To Tweet
man running in marathon
Encouragement, Health, Intentional

You’re not ready

man running in marathon
Photo by Genaro Servín on Pexels.com

In February 2010 I delivered my third – and final – baby via C-section.

Four months prior to that I had seen my husband train, run, and finish his first marathon.

It left me inspired and wanting to also do some kind of big race. Something that felt way out of my comfort zone.

I had done 5K’s before and had run 3 mile races in high school. But it had been at least a decade since I had run anything more than a few steps to catch up to a toddler. And truthfully, I kind of missed the challenge.

Our daughter was born February 1st. And February 2nd, while still sitting in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery, I signed up to run a half marathon.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t ready. In fact, I was far from it.

Recovering from major surgery, it would be 8 weeks before I was even cleared to do more than walk and lift 10 lbs.

The day the doctor gave me the go-ahead, I went out for that first “run.” I barely made it a quarter of a mile. My heart was racing and I could hardly breathe. The stitch in my side caused me to stop, hands on my knees, trying to recover.

As I walked down the sidewalk the thought constantly running through my head was, “What have I signed up for?!”

I had committed to running a 13.1 mile race in 6 months and I was so far from being ready.

Running 13.1 miles doesn’t just happen. It takes time, planning, and a lot of positive self talk. But it also begins with the choice to start.

That following October, when the gun went off and the crowd of runners surged forward, I felt as ready as I could be. I had trained and planned as best as an amateur could do.

But the big kicker to why I was ready? 

Because I had committed to it BEFORE I was ready. I chose to start.

A lot in life never gets done because we keep waiting until “we are ready.”  Something looks kind of difficult or we know it’s going to make us uncomfortable. We may be afraid that we are going to fail, so we put it off for another day – until we’re ready.

But, if you put off these things until you are ready-  

You. Never. Will. Be.

A lot in life never gets done because we keep waiting until "we are ready."  Something looks kind of difficult or we know it's going to make us uncomfortable. We may be afraid that we are going to fail, so we put it off for another… Click To Tweet

Even the healthiest among us still have things that they’ve been thinking that they need to change.  For each of us, let’s ask the question, “What am I putting off because I don’t think I am ready?”  

What can we choose to change, or start, or stop this week that we can commit to, even if we don’t think we are ready to do it?

It doesn’t have to be physical – though it certainly can be! Maybe it’s committing to meal planning so you get those veggies in your diet (not as bad as you think). Maybe you’ve been contemplating taking a social media break (highly recommended!). Or you’ve been talking about quitting the Hulu-watching-binge and go to bed earlier (worth it).

Living a healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual life doesn’t just happen. You need to be intentional about it. This week let’s choose to be intentional with taking that first step towards health, whether we feel we are ready or not.

Cheering for you, friend.