Thoughts On Cultivating A Servant’s Heart Without Becoming My Kids’ Slave

Lately I’ve struggled with cultivating a servant’s heart.  I know that the way I’m called to serve God right now, primarily, is by serving my family.

At the same time, I’m convinced, 100%, without-a-doubt, that I must disabuse my children of the notion that I am their slave.  It is my

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith via Thoughts and Turtle Doves

duty to teach them to be considerate, to be polite, to be reasonable in their requests, to wait patiently, not to expect instant gratification, to be self-sufficient.  This is crucial for their success in this life and for their happiness in the life hereafter . . . and it begins with their exercising these character qualities in their dealings with me.   I attend to their needs and–sometimes–provide a few of their wants.   But I do them no good to let them think they have a right to a servant waiting  at their beck and call (and scream!) to cater to their every whim.

At a theoretical level, I know that the serving part lies in being firm yet loving, over and over and over again.  It’s hard, really hard, to be consistent, to correct the rude demands patiently, to punish the disobedience gently.  The instinctual, easy response is to yell . . . and then when that doesn’t work, to stuff junk food in their faces, give them whatever it is they’re fussing for . . . just to make it stop.  (Oh God!  Please, make it stop.)

So I do my best to stand firm against the whining and shrieking and incessant demands. . . . But I do it with clenched teeth.

It helps to think that God must have clenched his teeth in dealing with his own chosen people.  It wasn’t enough, was it, that he freed them from Egypt, parted the Red Sea, gave them manna in the desert, water from a rock?  Oh no: they wanted a Golden Calf too.  He provided for their needs, but still they whined.  I can imagine, later, when they wanted a king, God saying, “You want a king?  Sure, fine, swell, I’ll give you what you want.  Here’s your king.  Come back in a few generations and tell me how that’s working out for you.”

So I contemplate how God dealt with the Israelites.  Can I can take any tips from Him in dealing with my own stiff-necked little people?  Serpents?  Mmm, no.  Making the ground open to swallow them up?  Not feasible.  Allowing them to be vanquished by enemy tribes?  Hard to find  in these parts.

Making them wander in the desert for 40 years?  Now there’s a thought.  Maybe when their demands bring me to a breaking point I can stick them in the (fenced) backyard for 40 . . . well . . . 40 minutes anyway.   I’ll find some ear plugs to block out the murmuring and complaining and crying and shrieking that inevitably will follow after 53 seconds when they want to be let back in.

But then, God didn’t have to worry about anyone calling CPS on Him.

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What I Wore Sunday: Confessions of a Vain Mommy?

This is what I wore to Mass today.

New red coat (clearance find!) from Anne Klein.  Chutzpah to wear purple tights with nude heels from Martha.

New red coat (clearance find!) from Anne Klein. Chutzpah to wear purple tights with nude heels from Martha.

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Scarf close-up

Scarf close-up

The girls wore matching gold sparkly dresses and pink sparkly cardigans.   Have I mentioned how much I love having little girls?

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What I really want to write about, though, is last week.  Last Sunday, I spent over an hour (okay, almost two), getting myself showered and dressed, working on hair, trying out an eyeshadow technique I saw on Pinterest, etc.   Pat got himself and both girls ready.  We then gathered up the girls and their accoutrements into the van in our typical rush.

Before we left, Pat snapped a pictures of me.

IMG_1326[1]Ugh.  Well. . . . That was a waste of time.  (I truly truly am not fishing for compliments here.  A lot of you left sweet, encouraging comments last week, which made me feel much better and which I appreciate.  Still, subjectively, I was not happy with how I looked.)

We got to our pew and I looked down to see that Girl 1’s tights were on backwards, so the dingy part that is supposed to be on the bottom of her foot was instead on the top.  Her shoes were on backwards and . . .

My own fingernails were dirty.  With eyeshadow, I think.

I don’t believe our God is one to play “gotcha” with us.  But, man, I sure felt I was being taught a lesson.

Somehow, the hours before Mass have become “me” time, and that just doesn’t seem right.

Is God glorified when we put on nice clothes for Mass, when we wash and nicely arrange our hair, when we put on a bit of makeup?  Sure. Is He glorified when I perfect the latest eyeshadow technique from Pinterest and spend long (futile!) hours with a round brush trying to get my hair to look like Kate Middleton’s?

Hmmm.

I’ve  never been a high maintenance kind of girl (at least not as far as the externals go, emotional maintenance is another story).  So, I’ve always felt silly, vain, when I spend a lot of time on my appearance.

And yet, after having two kids and turning 30, I’m convinced it’s not a bad thing to have a nice two-hour stretch once a week to take care of myself: to take a long shower, to take whatever depilatory measures are necessary, to “do” my hair nicely, to play around with makeup.  It’s not a bad thing.  It might even be a good thing.  It’s not just vanity.  (But yes, I realize it is a luxury I am extremely blessed to have.)

At the same time, it doesn’t feel right to do it on Sunday morning.

So this is where I was going to write about how I’ve started making Saturday evening my “me” time: taking a nice long shower, putting my hair in Velcro rollers overnight, picking out my outfit, maybe doing my nails, so that I can get ready quickly in the morning.

But then real life intervened.  We stayed out late at a lovely gathering of dear, old friends.  Once we got home and got the girls to bed, my tired mommy bones weren’t up to anything more than going to sleep.  Then this morning, my Saintly Husband let me sleep in, and I had about half an hour to get ready.

Somehow, though, like the way I turned out a bit better this week:

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I’m not really sure what the moral of the story is here.  Spend time with good friends whenever you can, and get as much sleep as you can, I suppose.  All the same, next weekend I will try to implement my new Saturday night routine.

My hair looks better when I do the Velcro rollers anyway.  😉

Fireman’s wife with curlers in her hair, ca. 1955. Photograph by Honoré Desmond Sharrer. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

As usual, I’m linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday.  Check there for lots of Sunday finery!