Are You a Servant or a Martyr?

I can't believe that the summer is coming to a close in just a few short weeks already. Almost gone are the days of sleeping in until 8am, snuggling and lounging on the couch, late breakfasts, playing outside, swimming in the pool, watching movies, taking drives, walks, parks, picnics, lightning bugs... These leisurely things will soon be replaced by 6:30am wake-up calls, uniforms, hectic mornings, a too-quiet house, routines, errands, schedules, homework and bedtimes. It was a weird summer, vacillating between constant rain to extreme heat, and now it seems that fall has arrived early. While I'm loving this temperate weather these days, I feel a sense of regret that the summer seems to have faded so fast this year. I find myself only 2 weeks shy of the start of school with a summer bucket list that is much too long still to complete in the allotted time.

There's always a part of me that looks forward to the start of school, however, some years more than others. The predictability and routine of the school year adds a sense of peace and harmony to life that is absent during the summer, when all kids are on top of each other, constantly bickering, and bored. As much as I hate to admit it as a mom, there is a small part of me that dreads the summer, if I'm being totally honest. The fighting, the whining, the complaining, the boredom, the running, and the lack of space, time, or moments for me to just be by myself. And being the innately selfish person that I am, I have a tough time transitioning to a greater selflessness that is required by summertime. So yes, that part of me very much looks forward to the start of school so I can take a deep breath, go to the grocery store without an ornery, handsy parade, and pee by myself again {wait, I will still have two kids at home, so scratch that one}. 

Ben was out of town for a few days last week, leaving me by my lonesome with the kids. Normally, knowing he was going to be gone for three days, I would've called in reinforcements and had family scheduled to stop by during the evening hours in order to retain my sanity. But I didn't. I just decided that we would survive and proceeded with life. And things were fine. They were actually better than fine--we had a really good time together! That got me thinking, and I determined two things:

Either the kids were just really, really good for some reason {insert laughter here} or my attitude about the day makes a HUGE difference. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm banking on the later. Hmmm.

God used the above quote {by Jen Hatmaker from Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load} to begin convicting me about my heart attitude towards life, and specifically my children. Although I may not display it outwardly, oftentimes there is this underlying annoyance when they are home for the summer. They are wild and fighting with each other most of the time. I find it very difficult to complete routine tasks because they constantly need something from me. I dread going to the grocery store. If I do take a little time to do something I want to do, like write this article, for example {it's taken me about 4 days to get this far}, I pay a price. Ironically, as I typed that last sentence, the kids went from playing nicely to throwing, hurting, and crying. Clayton has been removed for a time out and Ruby has an ice pack on her forehead. Sidenote: I'm always trying to wrap a little ice pack in a washcloth to sooth welts, but I just stuck it in a clean kid sock from the mountain of laundry I haven't folded. It's a perfect fit, doesn't slip off constantly, and keeps the ice pack from getting too cold on her skin. Score!

Anyways, I noticed a theme: They fight and drive ME crazy. They interfere with MY getting things done at home. They make it difficult for ME at the grocery store. I sigh. I groan. I shake my head. I grit my teeth. I yell. I sound a lot more like a martyr than a servant. 

When I choose martyrdom, I sacrifice joy, I squelch love, and I fail to notice God. I miss out on all the little details that make the day wonderful, that make the children wonderful, because I'm so focused on my needs and expectations not being met the way I wanted. A martyr is focused on themselves.

"Serving with joy in the midst of messes and difficulty can only be done when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we are joyful and see each minute with our children as an opportunity to worship God though our service of Him, our children sense our joy and feel secure and happy." 
~Sally Clarkson

A servant helps and aids others. A servant takes the time to assist, to notice, to pay attention. A servant notices how well the kids helped to clean up the toys today and that they are getting the hang of organizing. A servant looks at her daughter, who will start kindergarten in two weeks, and sees how tall and beautiful she is. She has a sharp mind, strong legs, and a sweet face. A servant tells her how proud she is to be her momma and how much she will miss her. A servant studies the chubby little feet on her baby and notices how well they step along the floor as she cruses the furniture. She will be walking soon. A servant makes time for the dishes and laundry, but not in spite of her children but rather to bless them. Clean dishes make cooking healthy meals a lot easier, as do regular trips to the grocery store. A servant cherishes the moments to help her children when they are young, knowing that all too soon they won't need her help with such things anymore. A servant has a attitude of gratefulness, patience, and love. A servant is focused on others. 

As the summer winds down, ask the Lord to help you choose servant today. There's joy, love, and the Lord to be found there.

What about you? Do you find yourself a servant or martyr most of the time?