It is 5:00 am and I am awake. This is due in large part to the 38 week old child with a case of the hiccups that I happen to be carrying at this particular time, but is aided by the general discomfort that this condition gives me. I would rather be asleep right now, but instead of fighting it I decided to take advantage of it and do a little writing.
The past few months have been a bit of a haze, filled with getting ready to move, house sitting, moving, settling in, birthdays, and the day to day raising of two little girls all covered over with the impending birth of this child and all that this brings. It's a crazy, busy, exciting, exhausting time (which, for the past few years, seems to just repeat itself and never really end) but I am trying to enjoy it.
I have an incredible support system of friends and family around me and am ever reminded of the amazing community the Lord has placed me in. These past few weeks as the waiting game has really begun and my discomfort has become ever more apparent I have felt it even more. I am in the midst of some amazing people and I know it.
As I face life day by day I often feel like I'm simply treading water. Not in the I'm going to drown kind of sense, but more in the I'm not really going anywhere or doing anything of significance on a day to day basis. For example, yesterday was taken up almost entirely by washing, drying, folding, sorting and putting away laundry. The. entire. day. Until 11 pm. No kidding. Interspersed with meal prep, clean up, the care of the my children and husband, random errands and a lovely visit from a friend of mine and her three little boys. This is not uncommon. The thing is, other than a cranky 21 month old who didn't sleep during her afternoon nap, it wasn't a bad day. It was just an ordinary day where I focused on me, my family and my home the whole day. The problem I am finding however is that being so inner focused (something our society actually encourages many times, putting yourself and your family above all others) is not something that is very fulfilling to me. It causes me to feel like my time is wasted and, if it's a bad day and things didn't go well, that I am failing in most of my life (since this IS my life right now.) Now whether you're a stay at home mom, a working parent, a student, or have no family but just work (or whatever stage of life you're in) I think it's common to feel this way. That we just keep going through the same motions and end up feeling a little futile.
As Christians, I believe that we are called to live for more than just ourselves. I believe that we are called to serve others and to daily love those around us selflessly. Easier said than done. But we have one great example of this, Jesus. Sometimes when I look at the life of Jesus and think about following him I only see the last three years of his life (because that's mostly what the bible covers) and how every day all day he was traveling around on a 24/7 ministry, which looks very different from my life. However, I must remember that for the first 30 years he was an (almost, but not quite) normal person living life in the daily grind, just like you and I. He was a carpenter, and yet because of his steadfastness and unchanging character I have a feeling that he was all of the serving, loving, compassionate person who lived beyond himself and focused on others even before his ministry officially began. This is what I need to remember. I am not waiting for my life to begin to start focusing more on the people around me than I do on myself.
The question remains however, how do I do this? As I have been pondering this lately the answer (as pointed out by a good friend of mine) is actually quite simple. You start with where you are and look for the people in front of you, and then simply ask the Lord what he would have you to do. (I said it was simple, I didn't say it was easy.) The past few weeks I have really tried to do this, and have been incredibly encouraged. What does this look like for me? Well, it looks much the same as my life did before. Waking up, feeding my children. Checking facebook and noticing a friend needs a babysitter for a few hours and volunteering to meet that need. Cleaning my house and getting ready to run to the store, talking to a neighbor as I leave who happens to be sick and offering to pick up groceries. At the store making eye contact with the cashier and sincerely asking about them (without being on the phone, completely distracted by my children, or too focused on the things I have to do that day to hear what they have to say in response, and to care.) Now many of these things I have been doing for years, off and on that is. I am a fairly thoughtful person (or try to be) and these things can come naturally to me, when I am in the mood. The difference is that when things aren't going well or I feel overwhelmed they are usually the first to go, leaving me feeling even more self focused and overwhelmed by the everyday than normal. (I am not someone struggling with depression, nor do I feel my life is pointless, so please don't take this the wrong way, I am simply a normal person who has a tendency to get overwhelmed by the everyday and feel as though I am always waiting for "life" to begin.) The past few weeks have really been changing how I feel about this because of one big change. Intentionality. Instead of just letting this awareness of others happen when it feels convenient I have simply started looking for the person/situation in front of me and asking the Lord what I should do about it. The most encouraging thing of this whole "experiment" for me has been that I don't have to take on more things in my already busy life, I simply have to look for the opportunities that are already there. This is something every single one of us can do, no matter where we're at or what state of life we're in. That is something I find very empowering and effective. It is also something I continually benefit by as the people around me do the same. So whether I'm folding laundry and receive a phone call from a friend in need of some advice or even just empathy, or whether I'm in the hospital holding my new son and am interacting with a nurse having a rough shift I will try to focus more on what the Lord has for me to do in that situation than what that situation has for me.