Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Monday, August 31, 2009

"It's My Pleasure"

My oldest daughter began working this summer at a fast-food company that is known for being a Christian company. The experience has been a really great introduction to the working world and she has learned a lot of very valuable lessons. Her boss is a dedicated Christian man who sees his ownership of this restaurant as his mission to help teenagers learn to work in a safe and wholesome environment. The people who work at this place have strict rules to follow: no tattoos, no weird piercings, no outrageous hairstyles or colors. They wear a very particular uniform and their earning free food each shift depends on arriving on time, and on being tidy with shirts tucked in and fingernails clean. There is also a huge emphasis placed on their manner toward the customers. They are taught to greet each customer a certain way, to smile and be respectful always, and that the customer is always right and they are to humbly apologize for even an imagined slight. Molly has learned how to run a cash register, make change, interact with customers and many other assorted tasks. My favorite thing by far, however, is a certain trademark phrase that all employees of this restaurant use. If an employee does something for you (such as open the door or hand you your food) and you say “thank you”, they do not respond with “you’re welcome”. Their unusual reply is this—“It’s my pleasure!”

In a world where service is almost a lost art and cranky fast-food employees thrust food at you without a single word, this place stands out. From the employee who stands in the rain to walk you to the door with an umbrella, to the hard-working table cleaners and the friendly cashiers, a noticeable difference is felt. Upbeat Christian music plays on the speaker system, fresh food is prepared as you order it, and it is served with a smile. Another employee comes around offering to refill your drinks, and seeing if you need anything else. Service is offered with a willing spirit and a friendly smile. The best part of my daughter working at this place is the attitude of willing service that she brings home with her. “It’s my pleasure” has become her standard reply when I ask her to do something. Now, this is not the world’s standard for a typical 15-year-old! She has learned the valuable art of serving with a truly willing heart. It lifts my spirits and warms my heart every time I hear these precious words come out of her smiling face. Every so often, they come out with a bit of effort, but even then, I know she has learned a hard lesson…giving service when you don’t feel like it.

How would our world be different if we taught our children this art of serving? Instead of being the “Me” generation, we’d be raising a generation of kids who can truly be salt and light in this world—a true portrait of Jesus. Just like this particular restaurant stands out in a crowd of other fast-food restaurants (where the food is barely passable and the attitudes of the servers barely civil), children who know how to serve others would be an amazing beacon of God’s love. How do we teach our children this long-lost art? First of all, look in the mirror. Do our children see us serving others begrudgingly, because we know we should, or do they see us serving joyfully, because it brings glory to God? This is so hard sometimes…we are so caught up in the busyness of our own lives, that the idea of doing something for someone else is almost more than we can cope with. Yet some of the best servants I know are the ones who have the busiest lives. I know young moms who care for another young mom’s children to give them a break, even though they are barely making it themselves. I see people with very little money who are the most generous when they see someone else with a need. I know people who take meals to someone at the drop of a hat, when it may be very inconvenient for their own schedule. To me, these people know a secret… they are choosing what is more valuable over what may seem more urgent.

I am trying to work on this in myself. I want to serve without complaining, to be more aware of the needs around me and to do what I can do to help fill them. I want my children to see a willing spirit in me, so they, too, will learn to serve with willing hearts. What an amazing change it would be if more people responded with “It’s my pleasure” instead of “Yeah, whatever.” Thanks to my daughter’s employer, there is now one more family inspired to give of ourselves more willingly. Surely, if they can take pleasure in supplying fast food, we can take pleasure in supplying people with Jesus’ love.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Aroma or Stench?

Recently, I had an experience that impacted me profoundly. My two younger children had been participating in some music videos for a Christian publishing company. On the first day of our shoot, a mother and her four young daughters caught our attention. Two of the daughters were involved in the videos, and they were accompanied by their younger siblings. In the car on the way home, my son asked me if I had noticed them. Several things about this family set them apart from some of the other families present. The way they interacted with each other was noticeably different. The girls were very obedient to their mother, even though they had plenty of energy. They were skipping around the rooftop where we were filming, and when the mother told them it was time to be still and quiet (when the camera was rolling), they immediately came and sat quietly by her side. The girls looked at books and played quietly with small toys and never were a distraction or caused a disturbance. Even the baby (less than a year old) was quiet and happy throughout the morning. The oldest daughter also impressed us with her friendly nature and how she made a point to compliment everyone else on their efforts.

A few days later, at the next video session, we ran into this family again. I had thought about them several times, and determined that if we were together again, I would make the effort to meet this mother and her children. My son had also mentioned that he hoped we would see them again and have the opportunity to get to know them. We ended up meeting this family right away, as soon as we walked into the park where we were filming. We were able to spend the entire morning and most of the afternoon together and a friendship was born. Being around this family was a breath of the freshest air. The way the siblings treated each other and treated me and my children was so appealing. Their sweet, open natures drew us to them and made us want to see these girls again. In a world where children are almost expected to be cutting and cruel, and where bullying is a serious problem in schools, resulting even in tragic shootings, these girls were delightful. The older girls treated the younger ones with kindness and compassion, not with mean spirits and impatience. They patiently helped their little siblings and didn’t try to exclude them or mistreat them. Were they perfect? Of course not, yet they showed an understanding of Jesus’ love that is rare to see even in adults today.

It was a good reminder for me. When my children were small, I was diligent about training them to treat each other kindly. Harsh words were dealt with, bad attitudes were corrected. Now that they are older, I fear that sometimes I let these things slide in the busyness of life. Being around another family who shared our vision for family unity and honor reminded me that this is something I treasure and that God still expects me to train my children in these things, and that we aren’t finished yet. I realized anew that children who treat others with respect and honor are a powerful witness to others, both Christians and non-Christians alike. These beautiful children were the “aroma of Christ” to us, and we found it pleasing indeed. As my children and I discussed how much fun it was to be around this family, we were inspired afresh to watch how we treated each other and the people we came into contact with.

My prayer is that my children will be such an influence on others around them and that I will be diligent in training them in these matters. I earnestly desire for my family to be such a blessing to others as this sweet family has been to me. So I encourage you to ask yourself, “Are my children the sweet aroma of Christ to those around them (including their siblings!) or do they reek of worldliness in how they treat others?”