1. You shared how your view of serving as “hard” and “sacrificial” has changed as you’ve embraced serving in ways that fit your personality. How else has your view of serving changed in the last 10 or 15 years?
Without a doubt, my experience as a mother has significantly changed my view on serving. Looking back over the past eleven years of parenthood, I almost feel like I knew nothing about what it meant to truly serve others until the 24/7 work of nurturing one, then two, then three little people stripped away the selfishness that I didn’t even realize my heart harbored.
So the mission field of motherhood has proven the most valuable for showing me what a servant’s heart really looks like. I found Sally Clarkson’s work profoundly helpful as I navigated the process of laying down my life for my kids without losing myself along the way.
2. How has serving changed you as a person? Do you think change is inevitable when you’re serving others?
The concept of devoting my life to others has ended up defining my life. Not that I consider myself some kind of “super-server.” (Far, far from it!) But somehow, even from an early age, I felt strongly that my life wasn’t just about me. This goes back to the “mission-minded” concept I spoke of in one of my earlier posts, and it’s something that Steve and I definitely work to pass on to our own children.
They’ve known since they’ve been in diapers that they have a mission–and now that they’re a bit older (at 10, 11, and 12) we regularly talk about what that might be and how God has uniquely gifted them to bless others. So yes, I do think that serving inevitably changes us and sets us on a different life trajectory.
3. Because of your family’s work with Love146, you probably face the issue of child trafficking and the heartbreak of those victims more than most of us. Do you ever find yourself burnt out or feeling like you’re not making much of a difference (individually) at all? How do you combat that?
It’s true that the issue we deal with is dark and evil. In his role as CEO of the organization, Steve especially shoulders a heavy emotional burden for children in desperate need, and I know he only shares a tiny fraction of the horrendous stories that come across his desk with me.
But when you boil it down, our response to the issue isn’t completely unlike what parents are called to do. After all, it’s far too easy to burn out and feel as though you’re not making much of a difference in the day to day busyness of caring for your kids. And when that type of overwhelm hits me as a mom, what usually helps is a good nap, then asking the obvious: What is God calling me to do right this minute?
As Mother Teresa said, “God does not require us to be successful, only to be faithful.” And that’s true whether our work is the raising of little souls through parenting or the work of righting global injustices.
4. What are some of your favorite ways to serve as a family?
We’re less of a “sign up to serve” family and more of a “look for ways to serve” family. By that I mean that instead of signing up for structured opportunities through our church or other organization, we tend to look for the natural ways to serve that arise in life and relationships. That may change as our kids get older, but thus far it has worked well for us.
Aside from meeting the needs of neighbors, friends, and serving each other, one thing we’ve loved is to “adopt” an elderly person at a nursing home. I can’t recommend this highly enough! Call a nearby nursing home and explain that you’d like to begin visiting a resident who doesn’t have family in the area.
Older people tend to love little children, and for us this was a mutual blessing since we also didn’t have grandparents nearby. It’s true that the first few visits can be awkward as you get to know a stranger. But after a while it starts to feel like visiting family.
5. What do you most hope your children will gain from the experience of serving as a family?
I hope that thinking of others will become their default thought pattern, one that continues with them as they make their way in the world. I hope an attitude of service permeates their lives, no matter what kind of work they go on to do.
Anytime we notice something we’re thankful for as a family, we try to encourage this way of thinking by asking the question, “And why has God blessed us?” Then we answer: “So we can be a blessing to others.”
6. While I know you know that the quiet ways we serve matter just as much as the big, audacious things, your family has done some pretty cool things, like traveling to the Philippines and raising money for a brand new library for Love146’s safehome there. Do you have any more plans for work like that?
Like most worthwhile things in life, that trip in summer 2013 was beautiful, life-changing, and hard all rolled into one. Plus it came out of nowhere–it was only about a month before it happened that we knew we’d be going. So while we don’t have any similar plans right now, we always try to stay open to the opportunities God brings our way.
Steve travels regularly as part of his work, but he tries to make short trips so they don’t interfere drastically with our family life. If the need arises for him to stay in one location for a longer period, we’d try to tag along if possible. And as our kids enter their teen years, we definitely want to partner with long-term missionary friends around the world so they can have the experience of serving in that capacity as well.