Tuesday, July 31, 2007

London Lesson Number Two: It's Not All About Me!

This week I'm working on a series of posts that reflect on what I've learned during our time here. Go here for London Lesson Number One. But now, it's time for London Lesson Number Two:

It's Not All About Me!

Now, you might be surprised that as a mom to three young children that this was a new lesson to me. Well, to be honest, it's not a new lesson. It's one that God has been teaching me for around six years now, ever since I brought home my first little person, but I've not seemed to learn it well. So, for this particular lesson, apparently I needed the hands-on field trip experience! And hopefully after this experience I will not only have learned it, but I will live it.

One of the things I realized quickly after arriving here was that I was going to have no help with the children, at least for a while. I was used to having help with them once a week with a babysitter and then at least once a week for a date night when one of the grandparents took over. In fact, one of the things that I prayed the most about before coming here, and even had friends praying for, was a great person to watch the children for me on occasion so that I could get away. I thought perhaps that after we moved away from Central London, and into a less transient and more family friendly area of London, it would be easier to find someone. My line of thinking at the time went something like this: "As soon as we find a neighborhood and know our neighbors, I'll find someone." Or, "As soon as we get into a church, God will make clear the person He's chosen to help me out during this time." Then there was, "Perhaps there is a way to find a college girl by posting an ad at the University of East London (which is not far from us)." My most desperate attempt came when I asked a girl from the pharmacy where I might meet a girl similar in age to hers who might want to babysit. She was no help whatsoever. Desperate, I called a phone number that I had found in the library for a service that was supposed to match caregivers with families in the area. She was quite helpful and told me that what I was looking for was a (very part-time) nanny.

You might be wondering why a woman like me would need a babysitter. I don't have a "job" after all. I am a stay-at-home mom. To be honest, it's just a time when I know that I can have time away from the screaming masses. A time to recharge my mom-batteries. A time to focus on something other than changing the next diaper, refereeing the inevitible argument, and making yet one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also do ministry work during this time, very often meeting with other ladies who lead in our Bible study to encourage and sharpen each other, etc. So, this time is valuable to me. One of my favorite hangouts on "my day" is Panera. Just me, my Bible, my journal and some warm broccoli cheese soup. Or many times, I end up at Barnes and Noble, pouring over the latest Leadership or Creating Keepsakes magazine, while sipping a mocha from Starbucks. And I don't have to share my mocha with anyone else! When our time here began to become a reality and not just a "what if", what I began to be most concerned about was not having any time away. Ever. No grandmas to watch children. No babysitter. Nada. What about all those places that I might want to visit without children? I dreamed of seeing great art, lunching in cafes, and people watching at Trafalger Square, while writing lots and lots of earth-shattering, life-transforming stuff that the Christian masses, or at least the Bible study girls, would praise me for.

Well, long story short, the babysitter never happened. I tried. I even considered calling the lady back about the part time nanny. But, there were some problems with that. One of which being, "Who in the world am I leaving my children with?" was a question that kept echoing in my mind. Back home, I am lucky to live around lots of family and friends, many of whom I trust implicitly with my children. All of the babysitters I've had on "my day" are friends from church. I know them. I trust them. My children love them. When faced with the prospect of leaving my children in the care of someone that I knew very little about, with the exception of references, I was more than a bit concerned. Besides, I was learning to do without, and to take them places I would rarely or never take all three of them if we were at home. Places like the grocery store. Every. Single. Day.

Yep. London Lesson Number Two for me became, "It's Not All About You." Sometimes, (okay often), I whined to God about it, especially early on. And, my husband heard more whining than any man should Have to about how very difficult it was to be around the children all. the. time. without a break. I sang him quite the martyr-song. And sometimes, I still do. I have gotten out of the house a few times. And those times have been so wonderful. I have been truly thankful for them. I certainly can't take them for granted here!

Way back before I was a mother, my own mother gave me a little book that would forever become one of my favorites. It was one of those little gifty-type books that you see in all the Christian bookstores. To be honest, on the outside, it looked like pure feel-good fluff, the kind of book that I would usually turn my nose up to! But, oh, the treasures within its pages! It was actually the text of a very old sermon by an English preacher named Henry Drummond. And it is an exposition on the love chapter in 1 Corinthians. What challenges lay in each and every sentence of this little gem. I encourage you to go here and read it through in its entirety, because recently I was reading it again and I think it applies to parenting above any other human relationship. Consider this quote mined from its riches: "What was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practicing. Though perfect we read that he learned obedience. He increased in favor with God and man. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of it's never ceasing cares, it's petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sorid souls you have to live and work with. Above all do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more and ceases not for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is the practice which God appoints you; and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind and courteous. Do not grudge the hand that is moulding the still too shapeless image within you. It is growing more beautiful though you see it not. And every touch of temptation may add to its perfection. Therefore keep in the midst of life."

I've learned what it means to "wash feet" here, to be in the "carpenter's shop", so to speak. I've often been reminded here that Jesus was a servant. What most amazes me about his servanthood is that Jesus never complained. Even when he was being crushed by the masses. Even when a woman touched him on his way to heal someone else. Even when the masses needed food. Again. He never complained but instead, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross." (Phillipians 2:6-8)

No, this experience has not been all about me. It's been about my husband and his job. It's been about my children. It's been about molding me. It's been all about Him.


Stacy said...

Great post, Joni. And a great quote, too.
"It is growing more beautiful though you see it not."
Oh, I do hope so. Isn't it funny how you can see the beauty in others long before you are able to see growth and beauty in yourself? Or maybe that's just me....
Love you, girl!

Annette said...

Beautiful word, Joni! It sure isn't all about us, is it? But, I confess, that sometimes I wish it were! Love you and looking forward to some "me" time with "you".

Andrea said...

I moved to NY 8 years ago...being brought up a Southern girl. No family around, very different lifestyle here. I've had to adjust, but by golly I have learned OVER AND OVER it's NOT ABOUT ME! :)

Anonymous said...

You inspire me, really. This post really hit home with me. Sometimes I can be so selfish. And yet, it's not about us. Thank you for that reminder, my friend.