It was great to be able to e-interview Jen about her new book and delve a bit deeper into her wisdom and insight. I was particularly interested in how Jen sees her role as a serving mom and on her thoughts when it comes to the spiritual walk of older kids:
--about seeing your role as a mother/servant--in that concept, how do you instill in your kiddos that you are modeling servanthood and not just 'being' the servant who picks up, cleans up, deals with everyone's stuff? It seems a challenge for moms to serve without becoming servile, if you will...
By definition, a servant does the menial, excruciating, exhausting, behind-the-scenes work no one else has the energy for. Hello, motherhood. Something about being covered in the urine and vomit of little people while scrubbing toilets and singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the seventeenth time that day reminds me that yes, indeed, I am a servant.
But Jesus transformed my concept of servanthood after a lovely season of young motherhood when, ahem, I didn’t feel like I was getting enough credit for running the marathon of parenting babies and toddlers everyday (hold your response, please and thank you). I wrote this in Out of the Spin Cycle:
I am one parenting stage ahead of most of you, dear hearts. I’m past naptimes, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, and preschool waiting lists (“Please, please, please, please…someone get kicked out for biting!”) But the constant need meeting, the incessant talking, the relentless managing all comes back to me…every summer.
Here’s a slice of my life yesterday (add to the Kid Equation my three plus four or five extra neighbor kids at all times, everyday, starting at 8:30 a.m.):
“Can you tie my bow? Will you make me a smoothie? Caleb keeps pressing pause! I have nothing to do. I’m bleeding! Can I watch Weird Al on YouTube? Gavin locked me in the bathroom! I’m starving, Mom! We’re all starving, Mrs. Hatmaker! Will you change these batteries? Sydney won’t get out of my room! Where’s the flashlight? How old do I have to be to legally change my name? No other kids have to do chores! I don’t like to read anymore. When’s lunch? Watch, Mom! Are you watching?”
I have not had an uninterrupted thought in twelve straight days. I am in the kitchen morning, noon, and night feeding all the children of Garlic Creek. By 9:45 a.m., I’d already broken up three fights. When I refused to make a third round of smoothies, Caleb replied, “This is the worst day of my life.” So when hubs got home at 5:30 and said, “You seem a little tense,” I seriously considered getting in his car (because it doesn’t appear an army of filthy badgers live in it) and driving to Canada.
If there is a more thankless, unglamorous job than motherhood, I haven’t seen it. I know you get it, girls. Something about being covered in other people’s urine and vomit while scrubbing toilets and hearing your precious cherub say “NO!” to you twelve hundred times a day makes moms bat-poop crazy sometimes. On super bad days, you might even say, “Is this really my life?” Some of you were in a boardroom or office just a couple of years ago, talking grown-up talk and wearing clean clothes. Motherhood comes with no status, no paycheck, no recognition, and very little credit.
“When Jesus was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” (Busted.) “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be the first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (Mark 9: 33-35).
When I became a mom, “servant-hood” took on a whole new meaning. In our home, we decided I would be the one to change my daily life and stay at home with the babies. But when I took that as my identity I developed a sense of entitlement and did a lot of waiting around for credit. I held the emotional position that I was doing everyone a favor. This top-down perspective tainted everything, because if I wasn’t perfectly appreciated, adequately recognized, or verbally praised (and what mom is??), then I became the wounded martyr who was always disgruntled.
Jesus transformed my idea of “being the greatest.” It’s not about receiving credit or being popular. It has nothing to do with position or power or getting our just due. Greatness does not come from recognition or the praises of others.
True greatness comes to us through the back door of servant-hood.
As mothers, this requires an emotional shift. We are not doing our husbands and children a favor. We are intentional servants; consciously deferring to the needs of those God entrusted to us. We make the near constant decision to cast off selfishness and resist entitlement. We deliberately choose ‘servant’ with all our faculties in place, exactly as Jesus did in all His strength and glory.
With His knack for perfect illustrations, Jesus elaborated like this:
“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’” (Vs. 36-37).
When I choose servant instead of martyr, my children enjoy the security that they are welcomed in our home. They are not a thorn in my flesh, cutting into my personal time. They aren’t a nuisance, making me sigh with irritation all day. They are welcomed members of this family, loved and purposed. And when my children are welcomed, I have opened the very doors of heaven and invited God Himself into the laughter, chaos, and life of our home.
Now that is greatness.
However, to be fair, I did tell my kids yesterday that the reason we had children was so that we’d never have to pick up dog poop or unload the dishwasher again. So I’m still technically working on that servant thingy.
What do you have to saw to moms who are not seeing spiritual fruit in their late-teens/early adult children? Since I'm mothering a passel of kids ages 19 years to 3 years old, some of my friends with older kids are struggling as their older kids are not presently walking with the Lord. What words of encouragement do you have for them when evidence of fruit is missing?
As you know, we have the strongest spiritual voice to our kids when they are under 14. (About 85% of all Christians become a believer before that age.) After that, it's much harder to affect their trajectory. This, of course, is why discipling our kids while they are young and preteen is so crucial. However, the teenage years are also the years kids are trying to decide if their parents faith is also theirs. We should expect some push back, some skepticism, even some spiritual disappointment during that phase. That is not necessarily indicative of how they will enter young adulthood.
So our best bet is to consistently model a transformed life to our teenagers - not just church attendance and tithing. I mean living a transformed Christian life in front of them that includes sacrifice, justice, mission...the things that inspire the young generation. Most church youth groups (and parents) expect to see wonderful fruit in their kids lives, but all they've ever inspired them with are putt-putt outings and youth pizza parties. It isn't enough. Teens need something monstrous, something larger than themselves, something grand and exciting to believe it, or they'll leave. They can get putt-putt and pizza parties anywhere. Parents need to live a fearless, adventurous spiritual life in front of their children. The gospel is inspiring and marvelous; it is enough. Live on mission with your kids and leave the work of the Holy Spirit up to him. At that point, you've done everything you were asked to do as a mom.
Jen, many, many thanks for your transparency, humor and heart. Best wishes on the new book! And fearless Octamom Readers, be sure and pick up Jen's latest tome, Out of the Spin Cycle, for a spiritual boost in the mothering glute!