Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why I don't want the Easy Life

I'm headed to Swaziland in three days! Last Sunday, a week before my travel date, I knew I was headed into a crazy week. In addition to the normal preparations that go along with leaving the country (packing, figuring out stuff for the kids, etc), the weather forecast was calling for dangerously low temps. Since I help out with our local crisis shelter when the temps drop, I just knew this week would be over-the-top busy.

So Sunday night, I posted this on Facebook, mostly to remind myself:

Life is easier when you don't do things. It's easier not to volunteer, it's easier not to step out of your comfort zone, it's easier just to swim along. It's easier not to try to love the hard people. But you know what? I think there's less joy that way. So for me, I'll choose the harder path, the inconvenient one. Life is amazing and truly think the secret is to serve others. When life isn't all about me, I find joy so much more easily.

Because my life sure would be easier if I didn't do half the stuff I do. Or if I didn't care about half the stuff I care about.  I'm not saying that life would be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy if I didn't spend time volunteering. Let's be honest here: I have three kids. Life is hectic on our best days

But if I didn't volunteer with our homeless folks, if I didn't travel to Swaziland to work with Heart for Africa, if I didn't care about poverty and oppression and social justice issues and giving a voice to the overlooked and if I said NO when opportunities arose to be a part of those things... what would my life look like?

Maybe we'd have more money and could have nicer things. My house would be cleaner, I'm sure of that. 

But I can tell you some things that wouldn't happen:

My oldest child wouldn't have (entirely unprompted) used his own money to buy warm coats for some of the homeless folks we know. My heart about exploded as I watched him at the cash register.

My middle kiddo wouldn't have written an essay for school about patience: about how hard it was for gay couples to be patient while waiting to be treated equally under the law. (and, because she's 6, about how hard it was for HER to be patient when we were standing outside the Register of Deeds waiting for a decision. ha).

I wouldn't have had the opportunity to search through a pile of donated gloves, looking for the warmest, biggest, toughest-looking ones for a homeless man who requested to be woken up this morning before 5 am so that he could get to work on time. He works outside and didn't have a pair of gloves. Talk about a lesson in work ethic.

I wouldn't have had a night filled with hugs, with "thank you ma'am"s, with jokes about air mattresses last night. Let me tell you, I would not have slept as well last night if I wasn't part of the Crisis Shelter team.

I wouldn't have a suitcase packed with clothes and things to bring to kids in Swaziland and a hard-earned plane ticket (many many hours of sewing and crafting bought me that ticket!) and an opportunity to be part of what God is doing in Swaziland.

I wouldn't know some of the most amazing people on this planet. Did you know I have a homeless friend who routinely gives away coats that I give him when he finds someone who has less than he does? And the more I serve, the more I am surrounded by people who blow me away.  Here I am, this mostly-stay-at-home, normal-person mama, surrounded by amazing people. I have a friend moving to Swaziland in two days, walking away from everything comfortable and known because she sees a need and said YES. I have a friend who is an amazingly successful, educated career woman who is changing her trajectory and going back to school again so that she can have the medical expertise she needs to work with the underserved populations in her city because she sees a need and says YES. I get to know people who look at what God is doing around them and jump in with both feet. They inspire me daily.

Friends, life is messy. It's hectic. We have more on our plates sometimes than we think we can handle. But I'll tell you something: adding something to your plate that benefits someone other than you is always a worthwhile addition. I am absolutely convinced that the secret to having an amazing life is find as many ways to serve others as you can. Let's say YES. God is doing big things all around us. Look around out and find out what it is. And jump in.

Love wins. And it flows in both directions. My life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Yesterday was beyond hectic and stressful. But my joy isn't shaken by stress or grief or frustration. The more I love others, the more I am filled up with love. Sappy? Maybe. But it's proving to be true time and time again.

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