Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Tender Mercies: Service Edition

My Grandma Wallace is the most service oriented people I know.  Some of her life mottos are, "If you want to love somebody, serve them."  "It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are helping someone else." "A little bit of love goes a long way, especially when it is given to someone else."  "The best way to show gratitude for your blessings is to serve others." These little catch phrases oft quoted by her pretty much define her entire existence.   She is always in the service of her fellow man in one way or another.  I love her, and I love this part of her, and when I say that I hope to be like her one day, it is this part of her that I most hope to emulate.

Around Thanksgiving time, when things with this pregnancy started to get really rough and painful, I spent a very teary, lonely day feeling really sorry for myself.  I was guilt ridden for the tasks I couldn't complete and frustrated with my physical limitations.  I hated having to lean on Ross so much and felt like I was failing him and my kids in some way.  I was (and still am) in almost constant pain, and felt dizzy a lot of the time (perpetual internal bleeding + pregnancy will do that to a body!).  There were people in my life that I was less than fond of, and I was just all in all miserable.  Guess how good of a wife and mother I am when I am miserable... 

Finally, I did what I should have done from the onset of this touch of depression, and I prayed.  I prayed for comfort and guidance, and then I just complained a bunch.  His response to me when I was done blubbering about how sad and pathetic my existence was, were those little service reminders listed above, all in the voice of my sweet grandmother. 

"If you want to love somebody, serve them."
"It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are helping someone else."
"A little bit of love goes a long way, especially when it is given to someone else."
"The best way to show gratitude for your blessings is to serve others."
And then finally, "If ye are in the service of your fellowman, ye are only in the service of your God."

So, when I was done with my shower (the best place for me to receive inspiration), I decided to really take the Lord at his word this time and I made some goals to throw myself into the service of my fellow man.  I knew that my physical problems would keep me from laborious service tasks, but I also knew there were many other ways for me to help others.  Now, I hesitate to write this because I don't want it to sound like I am tooting my own horn- so please don't take this as a way for me to praise myself publicly.  This is simply something very cool that has happened for me in my life, and I wanted there to be a record of it.

Anyway, I made a goal to never let a day pass where I didn't go out of my way to help someone outside of my household.  Chance occurrences didn't count.  These had to be deliberate and planned acts of service.  I made the decision to take time out of my already full schedule to seek out daily someone I could help.  Some days I was/am able to help many more than one person, and other days I don't feel up to doing anything more than making a phone call to someone in need, or writing a heart-felt thank you note.  I have been busy every day making dinners, babysitting, substituting for classes in church, lending out needed items of clothing or recipe elements, organizing, baking cookies, picking kids up from school, and other such simple acts of service. 

It has been amazing.

I have felt such a different feeling wash over me, and by extension, my home.  I feel happier and more loving to people in the area (most of whom I already loved very much!), and I have been blessed with added energy and patience with my own trials.  The network of support that we have been so grateful for since moving here has become stronger. 

I think that is one of the most interesting byproducts of this life of service I have been trying to live.  I have been served more as I have made it a point to serve others more.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that as I have extended my efforts in helping others and have seen the blessings that come into my life from it, I realized that very few of those opportunities would have been possible had those people not expressed at one point a need for that service.  Their humility and willingness to ask for help made it possible for me to get those blessings of peace and love in my home, and to battle the depression that sometimes sets in with pregnancy for me.  I wanted to do that for others as well.  I decided to swallow some of my pride (it is too big a pill for me to take ALL at once) and start allowing myself to rely a bit on others.

When I couldn't find my cream of chicken soup stash because it was hidden somewhere in the garage while the basement was being finished, I didn't change my dinner plan, but asked to borrow some from a neighbor instead.  When I couldn't get my car out of the garage while the builder was framing in our basement, I didn't bundle everyone up and walk to school (which would have landed me on the couch in pain for the rest of the day), I asked someone to take her to and from school for me.  When I was frustrated with the way Sara was acting about something, I didn't get angry and punish her and then blame myself for the problem, I asked some friends for advice.

These were all such simple things, but I was surprised at how grateful my friends around here were for me allowing them to serve me.  I was also surprised at just how big of a difference those tiny things made for me.  Not only did they help me in those situations, but they gave me the assurance that I have people I can call on for help who will not judge me for having needs, but are actually happy to lend a hand.  That is a big comfort to me.  That is a big lesson for me to have learned.  I tend to be very independent and I don't like to admit weaknesses.  I generally prefer to plod along by my own strength however minimal my stamina may be at the time.  This experience is changing that, and I am grateful for it.

Another amazing thing I have seen from this goal is that it is spreading to my children.  They like to be a part of the service I am doing, and I see them searching for ways to serve their own friends.  Emma came home the other day and said one of her friends hadn't been to school in 2 days because she was sick.  She wanted to know if we could take dinner to her.  I loved that.  Unfortunately, I didn't know who the friend was or where her family lived, and since Emma didn't know her last name, I couldn't track her down.  We made some "I missed you" cards instead for her to take when she came back.  Every time I make a dessert for our family, Sara wants to take some to kids in her pre-school and primary classes.  I don't always have enough extra, but I have now learned to make a bit extra just for those situations. 

I'm not sure how to wrap up this post in a poetic or meaningful way.  Basically, service is cool, and I like it.  I should have been doing it more before now, but I am grateful that the Lord reminded me of a sure fire way to feel more love and comfort in my home while distracting me from my own troubles all at the same time.  My life is changing for the better each day I stick to this goal.

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