Surprising joy when you feel you’ve lost your life

My in-home expert on surprising joy

A seed falls, and we do not weep for the death…but rejoice for the promise of life to come.

There’s a beauty and a trust as we witness a dying that brings life. This is, perhaps, one of those sweet hints in nature that points to a deep truth that echoes throughout the earth and reverberates in our very souls. Nature gives way and, each year as the winter chill sets in, the death holds a promise. We wait. We eagerly expect. We anticipate with full confidence that new life will spring forth in due time. And we know that without the death, the life would be cut short, cheapened, lost. As nature sways with the secret winds of the One who made it, we watch and celebrate it’s majestic beauty.

Life from death.

In the same way, I walk in the hope that Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for my sin, but that he rose and is alive. And because he died, I have life. He came to serve and not to be served, and He leaves an example of a life of sacrifice that brings life.

Research has shown time and time again that the happiest people are the ones giving their lives and resources away to serve others.

But if I’m honest, I think I have had an idealized sense of what a life of service looks like. I’ve imagined that the kind of dying to self that makes us feel like we’re really living can only happen in the big things.

I’ve dreamed of missions and living among the poor. I’ve partnered with beautiful organizations doing beautiful world-changing things. I’ve grieved that I don’t have more capacity to serve now that I’m home with young kids. I still deeply treasure these opportunities to serve the poor and needy, and celebrate all those doing this significant work.

But I have thought less of life as a mom. It often feels small and insignificant. I have fought against the way it shrinks and simplifies my life, and I have sometimes been frustrated by the way it fills all of the spaces and leaves no room.  As we fight against it, and wish for bigger better things, we allow seeds of resentment and bitterness to be sown.

But, in the last couple years, the truth of the life I’m living as a mom has slapped me right across the face. Sometimes, quite literally. The truth is that mamas die a million small deaths all day long. Perhaps the life of service and sacrifice that I’ve dreamed about is right in front of my face. Perhaps leaning in and reconciling with the dying that fills my days could be the key to unlock the life I sometimes feel I’m missing.

Friends, we mamas might have all the worldly comforts that make us feel like our days should be easy.  We might enjoy the comforts of beautiful homes, and minivans, and organic meals, and Starbucks stops. But, there is no peace for the mama who won’t die a thousand times, on a thousand days.

As we are willing to die in every corner of ourselves, we open ourselves up to new and better and fuller life.

Perhaps not whipping my body into shape after giving birth is not a failure, but an opportunity to discover life and joy in the death of my vanity. Dying to self is giving your very body to be stretched and scarred and changed. I give my body.

Perhaps I’m not less-than because motherhood has killed brain cells. I have frantically looked for a child who I’m holding on my hip. True story. But perhaps my distraction and preoccupation is not a sign that I’m now less worthy. Dying to self is giving your mind to organize and facilitate seeing that the needs of everyone else in your home are met before your own. I give my mind.

Dying to self is cleaning the messes that threaten your basic human dignity – the ones that leave you looking for the emergency biohazard hotline.  I give my dignity.

A place in me that once cared about some respectable thing now holds the lyrics to the Wild Kratts theme song. Dying to self is giving yourself to care about the little things…the names of all the dinosaurs, the microscopic boo-boos, the math homework. I give my interest.

I can feel embarrassed by my swift tears or sudden panic when it comes to my children. But dying to self is giving your heart to care about the big things…the illnesses and injuries that make our heart stop, the heartbreak and the grief of watching your children suffer or be in danger. It’s the giving of your heart in a way that you can never take back. The giving to a love that makes your heart beat right out of your chest, and makes you feel wildly alive and wildly in danger of being crushed. I give my heart.

The daily grind of chores doesn’t make my life small. Dying to self is giving all of the in-between moments to launder and clean and feed. I give my hands.

Dying to self is letting your family change and shape your goals and dreams, whether you are working tirelessly juggling work and home, or you’ve given up a hard-earned career to stay home.   I give my dreams.

Dying to self is being the rock against which my children can crash the wild waves of growing up. Dying to self is keeping steady for their uninhabited and unfiltered and underdeveloped BIG feelings to find their boundaries in the safety of my arms. I give my comfort.

Dying to self is looking with grace-filled eyes after being slapped across the face by a tiny person. It’s shepherding in love after being yelled at for some horror like offering the wrong lollipop color. I give my pride.

Only as I lean in and give myself away can I find peace and freedom. If God sees me, and I’m within his call to the life of sacrifice, I don’t need to fight to be seen. I don’t need to resent my husband for his freedom to leave the house, or my children for their ingratitude. There is a harmony in the song I’m singing.

And it all feels like worship.

My spirit gives a resounding “Yes!” to overseas missions and living among the poor. But I long to see us mamas shout a similar “Yes!” over the life of sacrifice that lies before us as we simply open our eyes in the morning (or in the night), with a willingness to do another day.

Nature points to this deep truth that we only find our life by giving it up. I long to see us fall each day like the seed, treasuring the promise that our death will bring new life.

As I talk with my mom friends, we still find ourselves feeling like being a mom is supposed to be easy and fun. The words of little old ladies who tell us with screaming toddler in grocery store line to “cherish every minute” echo in our heads. But I’ve watched my friends give up careers, and hobbies, and personal space, and clean shirts, and the last brownie. I’ve seen them die a million deaths. We get dirty with it.

And yet, somehow the world has us convinced that we’re doing it all wrong. Somehow we feel it doesn’t matter. We feel we need to do more, and better. And get out and serve in a way that counts.

Stepping into motherhood is risky in a ultimate sense. We allow the Lord to rip our heart out and give it legs. Ladies, this thing requires faith! I don’t say any of this out of pride, but to proclaim out loud that the devil, the Enemy of our hearts, has no right to steal the joy that comes from motherhood being a service unto the Lord.

If we are willing to lean into the life of self-sacrifice that is laid out before us, mamas, we can spend our lives in the sweetness of those feet-washing moments. You have an opportunity at every moment of the day to give your life away. And sister, your Father in heaven sees you!

The world fights against this motherhood thing with a force of self-indulgence and self- advancement. While some positions come with power, influence, lofty titles, impressive salaries, something to say at a cocktail party. Motherhood comes mostly with messes, failures and invisibleness. I think this is no surprise to God.

So, let’s let the seed fall. Let’s die the million deaths, on purpose. And let’s watch and wait as new life and joy spring up in your days.

My dining room table is under there somewhere

9 thoughts on “Surprising joy when you feel you’ve lost your life

  1. Emily Guinn

    You got me again, Jen. Ministering to me right exactly where I am today! Thank you. Love you!

    On Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 11:09 AM, Raw. Mercy. Mama. wrote:

    > jennymslattery posted: ” A seed falls, and we do not weep for the > death…but rejoice for the promise of life to come. There’s a beauty and a > trust as we witness a dying that brings life. This is, perhaps, one of > those sweet hints in nature that points to a deep truth that echoe” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Ann

    I am so deeply moved by your words, that I find I have to process a bit before I can respond. But what a beautiful gift it would be for children if each adult in their lives could give body, mind, dignity, interest, heart, hands, dreams, comfort, and pride; feeling God’s delight in the precious moments we spend with them. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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