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Celebrating Motherhood Series Humble Life

The Humility of the Given Self

I pushed the damp mop across the kitchen floor, knowing full well that I would be finding sticky spots on cupboard doors and drawer handles for days to come. The transformation of a bushel and a half of apples into smooth, pink applesauce is the work of a couple hours on my own. However, with my grandson’s “help,” the task expanded to fill an afternoon, for while I am well-acquainted with the five-sided miracle of a star hiding in the apple’s cross-cut core, the discovery was stunning to five-year-old eyes.

How many apples sliced in two will verify that the star is there every single time? How many tiny cups of applesauce need to cool for snack breaks? How many salty pretzels are required for dipping and crunching? Apparently quite a few, and so this goal-oriented grandmother presses into the curriculum of self-giving. Productivity can become an idol, and a demanding one at that, requiring regular offerings of to-do lists and checkmarks, all evidence of accomplishment and shortcuts to self-worth.

Slaying the Giant of Selfishness has been a perpetual battle throughout the years of mothering my four sons. Pausing on the way to the laundry room to really look at the Lego structure and to listen attentively to the explanation of all its features or calling a halt to my weeding in the middle of a row of green beans to push a swing required a conscious act of the will. Saying “my life for yours” was an act of service that came hard to this task-oriented and driven mother.

When writer Elisabeth Elliot sensed a rising up of pride or a preoccupation with self in her own walk with God, she resorted to this sifting statement:

“The best way to find out whether or not you really have a servant’s heart is to see what your reaction is when somebody treats you like one.”

So, what does it look like to be a servant to my family, to say “My life for yours”? As a person of faith, I look to Jesus as my example of a servant’s heart. In a letter to his friends living in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Love means sacrifice, so as a wife, a mother, and now as a Grandmother-in-Training, I’m stooping low to pick up five smooth stones to fling hard at the Giant of Selfishness:

Stone Number 1: My time for your needs
When I function as if life is a race, everyone gets left in the dust. Breathing in the clear air of grace, I find that “my time is in His hands,” and He is not keeping score. Pouring juice and applying Band Aids is real spiritual work.

Stone Number 2: My schedule for your priorities
Making the phone calls, running the errands, setting up the appointments, my days are filled with details that keep things running smoothly here on this country hill we call home. Working to accomplish tasks in the “little minutes” of my day frees my husband to do what he needs to do when he comes home from work and liberates moments for family fun when we are all together.

Stone Number 3: My energy for your success
The older our children become, wider runs the circle of our lives. Long days of full schedules are draining. Minivan runs to piano lessons and track practice and hours on the bleachers require stamina but yield huge dividends of self-confidence for our kids. Paul’s reassurance in Galatians 6:9 rings truer every year: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Stone Number 4: My attention for your security
I loved it when my sons routinely scanned the audience before performances and checked the stands before basketball games to ascertain that my husband and I were there. Unfortunately, I’ve learned, too, it’s possible to be physically present with my kids and miles away in my thoughts. If we covet the confidences of our children in their teen years and older, let’s offer our full attention to their little voices today.

Stone Number 5: My prayers for your spiritual growth
A few years ago, I began guarding my time alone in the car as an opportunity for focused prayer for each of my children and grandchildren. Since they are all priceless to me,
my deepest desire is for their greatest good: wise decisions, satisfying relationships, holiness and helpfulness. But time-bound and short of sight, do I really know what’s best?
Saying their names out loud to God in the quiet, listening for his loving instructions, I am learning how to pray for their good–unselfishly, untainted by my own plans and designs.

Prayer is the unsung and unseen spiritual discipline in which we offer up our time, energy, and attention, carrying our loved ones to God in moments that only God sees and hears—and it’s the most important and impactful service we can offer to our families.

***

Lessons imperfectly executed on the first try have a way of circling back around, so I’m cherishing round two of storybooks, catching bugs, and making slow applesauce with my grandchildren. I still look at the clock more than I should, but I offer up the missing check marks on my do-list with more joy this time around.

Of course, the true test of humility is the realization that in this giant-slaying life, I am no David. Even with five smooth stones, my aim is faulty and my execution flawed. Only in Christ am I able to receive God’s mercy for my shortcomings and trust the power of Jesus at work in me to slay the giant of selfishness and free me to live given for my family.


Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She blogs at Living Our Days where she writes about the books she is reading and the grace she is receiving.

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36 COMMENTS
  • Collene
    4 months ago

    I love it. All things that I must work on as well. Especially being mentally present as well as physically present. My mind tends to wander to my to do list instead of focusing on the people in front of me.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      That’s exactly my own struggle, and it’s a continual challenge to live my way into the story I want to be able to tell and that I want my children (and grandchildren) to know and remember about me someday.

  • Kelly
    4 months ago

    Thanks Michelle. I needed this wisdom today and everyday. It is so easy for bitterness to set in when we feel that we are being ‘taken advantage of’ by our loved ones. Sometimes its easier to serve strangers because we do not place our expectations on them to fulfill our needs later on. I really need to re-make my image of service in my own mind and your 5 smooth stones will be so helpful to slay my giants.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Great insight, Kelly, and I think we’ve all fallen into the trap of shifting gears quickly from our “mum” voice to our cheerful “hello” when the phone rings. 🙂

  • Barbara Harper
    4 months ago

    I wrestled with that same giant, Michele. Thanks for this encouragement.

  • Linda Stoll
    4 months ago

    Fabulous, profound, thought provoking … no matter where we find ourselves in the mothering / grandmothering journey, Michele!

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      I’m working hard to approach grandmothering with a much different mindset.
      Thank you, Linda, for kind words–as always!

  • Debbie Wilson
    4 months ago

    Michele, oh how I identify with your struggle. For how many times have I rushed past the important to conquer my list. My son stopped me one night when I grabbed a broom to sweep away a spider who was making a web on my porch. “Stop,” he said. “Sit down and watch it with me.” I did. And we marveled together at her work. Today at Bible study we discussed Mary’s lavish gift of anointing Jesus’ feet with a pint of nard, perhaps worth a year’s wages and a lifetime of savings. Then we moved on to discuss the much more extravagant gift of Jesus becoming sin for us. Unthinkable extravagance. I couldn’t help but think of both as I read you beautiful article. His gift to me motivates me to give of myself.

    • Michele Morin
      2 months ago

      What a terrfic memory, Debbie. I don’t think we ever regret time gifted to our kids, which leads me to wonder why I struggle so to hand it over? So grateful for God’s handed-over love!

  • Michele,
    Apart from Christ, I can do nothing…This truth becomes readily apparent when we become moms. I would have to say that being a mom is the greatest call to sacrifice that I’ve ever heeded, but the dying to my own selfish desires is an everyday battle. So many times I was physically present, but my mind was off running elsewhere. If I had a “do-over” I would definitely work on intentionally being present in each and every moment. Love the quote by Elisabeth Elliot. It certainly cuts to the chase! Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      I’d choose the same do-over, Bev.
      And that quote has followed me throughout my mothering life. It cuts right to the chase!

  • Theresa Boedeker
    4 months ago

    Your five points are spot on. And I love that God gives us a round two. Oh, that selfish dragon is hard to slay, for both serving our children, husbands, and others. Thanks for reminding us that all those small tasks that take up so much of our time and seem insignificant, are so important and are serving more than our families.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      They are soul-stretching exercises, for sure, and an important part of our growth process.
      It’s the little tasks that no one would notice–unless they were left undone!–that function as the glue that holds our homes and families together. I’m really noticing it during this Christmas season.

  • Lois
    4 months ago

    Oh Michele … the mention of your sons scanning the audience to make sure you were there almost brought tears to my eyes. I love seeing my girls do the same thing. So much encouragement in these few paragraphs … especially your thoughts about those “little minutes” that (for me) are so easy to waste if I’m not paying attention.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Yes, that’s a poignant memory for me, and I still see it in my adult kids. They really want to know we’re there for them, and our presence is a huge present to them.

  • Rebecca
    4 months ago

    Thank you for writing this it has encouraged my heart! My round 2 will begin next year!

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Oh, congratulations and every blessing to you in this new chapter!

  • Mary Geisen
    4 months ago

    This is so good, Michele! I am trying to do better this round with my grandson than I know I did with my sons. I can take on the persona of selfishness without hesitation and find even in retirement I believe my time is more valuable. I am working on breaking free. Hoping I slay this Goliath in my lifetime.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      We’re working on it together!
      We have so much to be grateful for.

  • Lisa notes
    4 months ago

    The Elisabeth Elliot quote is such a stunner. Ouch. I’ve been mistaken for a servant before and my first instinct is to say, no, I’m not the help. But in reality I am here to be the help. Those five stones are good ones to knock selfishness down a rung or two.

    • Michele
      4 months ago

      Oh, ouch here as well!
      We’re pretty careful to let people know of our pedigree and qualifications, when our highest calling is to serve.
      So thankful for God’s upside down kingdom.

  • Rebecca Hastings
    4 months ago

    This is the content my heart needs. It really is that simple. There are things I think I know, but this lights up the areas of my heart that have been content to linger in shadows of discontent and frustration. Thank you for shining that light!

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Well, as you know, I write about the things that I’m working on, and sometimes it cuts close to the bone.
      Isn’t it crazy how we can re-frame selfish tendencies as positive traits given half a chance?

  • Bethany McIlrath
    4 months ago

    I’m thanking God for this piece today, Michele. Not as a mom, but as a wife who unexpectedly has a lot of extra time with her husband for weeks- and who hasn’t been so willing to sacrifice checks on the to-do list to cherish the fellowship. Thank you for the beautiful, thought-provoking wisdom you share (as usual!)

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Thank you for bringing this up, because I think as wives we can really take time with our husbands for granted and even view them as (gulp) an interruption to our lives and schedules. Joining you, Bethany, in the quest to cherish the time with my good husband whether it’s scheduled or unscheduled.

  • Carol
    4 months ago

    It is a continual battle, this” slaying of the giant of selfishness”. I like your five stones–and the acknowledgement of our need for God’s help. I will be musing on this. My three your old grandson’s favorite Bible story is David and Goliath.

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      That’s so sweet that he already has a favorite. May you blaze a trail of giant slaying for him to learn from and be blessed by!

  • Mimi
    4 months ago

    this is one of the most meaningful blog posts I have read in a long time- thank you for this , wish I had this insight when I was a young mother. Now will wait for the grands to keep this spirit

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      Thank you, Mimi, for kind words about the post and for reading.
      Our kids are blessed when we take THEIR children into our hearts and our homes–and our schedules! You’ll be great!

  • Richella J Parham
    4 months ago

    Wow, Michele, you have a way of hitting home with your words! Thank you for sharing that quotation from Elisabeth Elliott–I’ve not heard it before. I’ll join you with your five smooth stones; for sure I’ll need to depend on God to be a true servant!

    • Michele Morin
      4 months ago

      This is a lesson that has circles around for me, and I keep having to relearn, reaffirm, recommit myself to the priority of selflessness. So often, Elisabeth’s words have served as wake up calls to me!

  • Dea
    3 months ago

    Thank you for reminding me what the beautiful, true and good life requires. I’ll be looking for stones today.

    • Michele Morin
      3 months ago

      Can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me.
      I’m keeping an eye out for them as well.

  • Lyn
    3 months ago

    Michele, I’m also a mother of four and grandmother of three, but I’m applying this wisdom in a different direction – toward my wonderful parents who are in their late eighties and still live in their own home in the same city as me. My mom, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my dad, her caregiver, have been very independent but now need much more of my time and assistance. Your five stones will be my guiding principles as I give back to them a small fraction of the love they poured into me and apply Galations 6:9 to my life.

    • Michele Morin
      2 months ago

      Lyn, this is heartwarming to me. My own mum lived with us for five years, and it was a challenging time to be sure, and yet it was the right thing to do, and we knew that she was safe. Thank you for blazing a trail of faithful service to your family.

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