I rarely share my soapboxes. But I think this morning I will.
Our family. We have 5 precious little ones ages 2, 4, 5, almost 8 and 9. We are in the middle of birthday parties every Saturday, dance classes, Nutcracker practices, music lessons and with 4 boys–soccer games every Saturday. Our days and our hearts are full–and Rico Suave and I–oh we love it! These are the golden years. Tired years. Sweet years. Years we will miss and talk about for the rest of our lives. We’ve been in diapers for 9 full years–and rarely had a full nights sleep. And we would not change a bit of it–for anything in this world.
When you choose to have a big family AND be very involved in each of your children’s lives–it is 24-7…no sitting it seems…tiring–but totally and completely our choice. And wonderful. With 5 active kids–there ARE even some games that double or triple up–so there are games or performances we some times as parents are forced to miss. But for our children–we see these few and far between unfortunate scheduling overlaps as blessings instead of a curse–giving our children the opportunity to see the world doesn’t completely revolve around them–and their audience should always be for One…to please their Lord in heaven with their attitude, sportsmanship and effort. He is enough for them–and this is a gift that comes naturally with a big family. We will not always be there for you son and daughter–but our Father in heaven will. A good and real truth.
And really–with all this crazy goodness–most would say that we shouldn’t say yes to much–but our hearts…they do. They do say yes to opportunities that we feel led to. And He gives us strength and equips us–and we do the best we can…and some how God uses it.
My Rico Suave. He is an amazing man. He makes me laugh how he wants so badly to be a part of every moment of these 5 little loves lives. My favorite is watching him sit through Nutcracker rehearsals and shows every year with that swooning look of joy and pride on his face. Never thought I’d see the day;). He signs up to coach sports every year–every season also…strategically rotating which child’s turn it is to have daddy coach. He coaches soccer in the fall. Basketball in the winter. And baseball in the spring–so not a year goes by where each child doesn’t have daddy coaching at least one of his sports. (And I know he’s secretly thankful the ballet studio won’t allow him help there too;). Every year he says he will take a break to help me chase the other 4 spectators. BUT every season, they call him–and being short of volunteers to serve–they ask him to coach. So he gladly signs up. And deep down–he is tickled to serve again. It is a joy. Pouring into these kids. Loving them. Cheering them on.
And every season. Without fail. At some point in the season. Grace, love and service–leave the field. And it reminds me–what a broken world we live in.
He walks through door several times every season–sighs deeply–and says, “I did it again.” His lacking in service–wasn’t perfect. Yet-he keeps running and tries harder–and I stand there…proud that he is an example to me–to keep running, to keep serving and to keep loving. Mother Teresa–she was a wise one–and she challenged us as followers of Jesus to love until it hurts. Good and hard advice. And it never gets easier–the hearing of the imperfection…whether you are serving in a church, in a ministry, in your work, in your child’s school or on your child’s team–it’s easy to let the weeds overshadow the beautiful harvest. And it’s no wonder–in the Christian world–when we choose to complain instead of encourage or step up to serve when we aren’t happy–why we are raising men and women who have unrealistic expectations, who expect things to be done without their service and who complain when they have unmet expectations or needs. I grieve on the couch–in my flesh immediately slip–and say how we should stop serving. But that is my flesh. And the risk for giving up is just too great. Because when you stop serving–grace and love tag along out the window with it…and these I need…these I cannot compromise…these I will fight for.
There is a reason we, as believers, are called to serve. On so many aspects it is hard–because it isn’t natural to WANT to serve. But Jesus. He was different. Anything BUT natural. And He–He came to be a ransom for many–to serve and not be served. If we want to live as He lived-then in the big and small we will rise. When we are needed and when we are able–we will rise no matter how small or big the task is as parents and bring service, grace and love the best we can with us offering to ourselves and to others–whether it’s coaching a pee wee league or leading a girls Bible study or taking a group of kids across the world. And we will fail. Because we aren’t perfect. But we open our hands and do what we can–and will choose to give grace, love and service even to believers who criticize and complain…because in all honesty–don’t they need grace, love and service too?
When we are serving unbelievers–then I think our expectations of being appreciated must be very, very different. There is another blog article for that–and for that…I have absolutely NO soapbox about. When you do not have the Holy Spirit in your heart–then it is unfair to expect someone to be Spirit led or to follow Philippians 2:14-16 or James 5:9. In fact–when someone is constantly complaining or dissatisfied it should be a clear indicator that they are not being Spirit led–and they need our love right now in their lives most of all. Yet–every church, team, school or job you find yourself in–you will also find the believer who has forgotten…and for many reasons–this makes our hearts even more heavy in service.
“Do everything without finding fault or arguing. Then you will be pure and without blame. You will be children of God without fault in a sinful and evil world. Among the people of the world you shine like stars in the heavens. You shine as you hold out to them the word of life. So I can brag about you on the day Christ returns. I can be happy that I didn’t run or work for nothing.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
“Brothers and sisters, don’t find fault with one another. If you do, you will be judged. And the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)
What happens when grace, love and service has left the tables of brothers and sisters in Christ is even more detrimental to the complainer. The stakes are high and it’s important to step back and realize the legacy we are really leaving our children and others who are influenced by us…
When grace, love and service leave the field–when we choose to criticize others for not performing to our expectations YET do nothing to be a part of the solution–we teach our children that when something isn’t to our standards you should complain instead of being a servant or a problem solver.
When grace, love and service leave the field–we tell our spouse we are going to have a different teacher/team/program/whatever next time instead of seeing the heart of others and wanting to join them in service–we teach our kids that if you aren’t satisfied with something and they are not meeting your needs–you leave…you leave the church, you leave the school, you leave the job…you church hop, school hop, job hop until your needs are met…however long that might be…instead of rising to the occasion and filling a gap that just maybe the Lord has set you a part to fill.
When grace, love and service leave the the field–we choose to complain about losing, complain about the teacher, school, pastor, coach, about the friends, players, or group–instead of enjoying the moment, seeing the good in each person and looking for God to show up and for the sweet treasure He just might want to teach us in this imperfect world.
When grace, love and service leave the field–we slowly become a drain–one that others will need to pour into it instead of being a life-source that is a magnet of fresh air–that others are challenged and blessed by.
And how do you know–when and if–grace, love and service as left your table? When you have complained, criticized or let yourself become frustrated with the team, the church, the family, the job, the friend, the ministry–yet you have not poured yourself out to the brim and back to be used and a part of the solution for the problem that the Lord has so evidently opened your eyes to–yet you have chosen complaining instead. But. But. This is the good stuff. It is NEVER too late. Thank you Jesus! The grace we have failed to give–is freely given back to us in return. Grace. Grace we give our believing brothers and sister. Grace Jesus gives us. Grace–grace–and more grace!
Grace is never too late.
Invite grace back to the table. Ask how you can love big. Ask how you can serve big.
Choose to encourage instead of criticize.
Choose to serve instead of be served.
Choose to encouarge instead of complain.
Choose to leave a legacy of grace, love and service—a legacy that tells your children you do not leave, quit or give up when things get hard–but rather pour in and make a difference.
I will never forget 4 years ago when Rico Suave and I began to feel like the church wasn’t meeting our needs–our ideals for what “we wanted” in a church. We picked it apart–how we felt. We started looking around…visiting other churches—yet the one we had been at was full of Biblical teaching and good worship. We just wanted more. More community. More this. More that. We had become whiney spiritual, needy brats who thought the church was supposed to serve us rather than be a place to heal the sick…a place to worship on our knees…a place to find strangers who looked lonesome in the halls to befriend…a place where the Holy Spirit would show us unmet needs–and just might use US to fill it. It had become about us–instead of about Him. And grace, love and service had left our field.
I’m so thankful we didn’t leave. I’m so thankful we asked how to fill the gaps. I’m so thankful we opened our hands and chose to make our selfishness a battle that we were determined to win rather than using it to lead us in potentially the wrong direction. Some times God places us in circumstances where we see lacking and gaps–not for us to because weary, discouraged or complain–but so we may be a part of the body of Christ and fill it. This sense–this feeling of a gap–is in reality often the prompting of the Holy Spirit to show us where we can possibly be the hands and feet of Jesus and be used.
But unfortunately–some times we don’t see it for what it is–and we complain instead…get our panties all in a wad and stomp our feet if you will;). We voice to our family or even worse our children–that we are frustrated instead of voicing we see a fun way to serve.
You see–if you do this with your kid on the field–you most likely do this in other areas of your life too. If you model this for your child in something small, without realizing it–we are modeling this in a much bigger picture too. But everything changes–the minute we choose to invite grace, love and service back to our table. Everything changes, when we sit down with our kids–and say, “We see some gaps here at _______, and we want to pray as a family just maybe how God might use us to be grace, love and service–and be used to fill this gap.” We are teaching our kids something tremendously big when we choose this road–when we invite these three things back to the field.
For all of us–or at least I know for me–this will be a life long challenge. I pray this will be my perspective always…and although this perspective may make our hands full–it’s perfectly okay because this life isn’t supposed to be about us any way–but about Him. I don’t know about you–but I want to run this race well and shine like starts in the universe for His glory. And I can’t do it without running the race of service, pouring out lots of love and extending grace upon grace on the way.
Praying and hoping we run well!
Love to be real must cost; it must hurt; it must empty us of self. — Mother Teresa