A while back, a friend encouraged me to surround myself with meaningful things, objects that would remind me of what God has been speaking to me, as well as reminders of what He had spoken and done in the past. I had resigned from my full-time position at a local church to be home with my babies, stepping into the role that God has been preparing me for who knows how long. (well, He knew)
So I had found myself at home, full-time. Like in my house, a lot.
Kind of part of the package when you’re a SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mama for those of you not up to date with our super cool mom lingo).
And I found myself surrounded by things, just things.
Home decorating and pretty much home anything has never been my strength. And my house reflected that. It pretty much looked like it did when we originally furnished it 7+ years ago, pre-kids, minus a few baby/toddler accessories.
In the past, home was purely for rest. And my rest, I mean sitting on the couch, vegging in front of the TV or sitting on my bed, reading. Or for my husband, sitting in front of the computer, gaming. We were both previously in full-time ministry, and a lot of our time was committed to things outside the home, which included most of our energy as well, physically and mentally. So being at home was not about investing time and energy into my surroundings. It was for rest and survival. And we appreciated that.
But different seasons call for different things. And it was apparently early on after coming home that I was not going to thrive in our current environment.
So back to the conversation with my friend. She knows me. (Aren’t you so thankful for people that know you, like really get you. Not just stuff that you’ve told them, but information that they’ve gathered from time spent with you and piecing together the unspoken exchanges as well.) And she knows that I love meaningful things. And so to be surrounded by things that had just filled our home, because that’s what you do, right, when you buy a home? You fill it with some tables and lamps and a couch, etc. I had never looked at my home for much more than that, let alone really questioned functionality for us.
As I’m typing this, I realize how absurd this is, and I probably fall into a very small percentage of people that will relate to this approach. But for those of you that do, hi! How are you? Make yourselves at home and it’s good to know that there is someone (possibly just one person) out there that gets it personally, too.
Anyways, so my friend challenged me to not just find new things for my mantle, because that’s what you do – put things on your mantle. But to find items that really meant something to me, that whispered personal and maybe even secret reminders to me as my eyes fall on them. And of course, I adored this idea. It was so much like my approach to gift giving (my love language), really studying that person and finding out what would be significant or encouraging or bring joy to them. And now I could do this for myself and my family.
So – the point. I promise I’m getting there.
I’m not going to share each piece and why I chose what I have (most of that isn’t even pictured below since I have my fall goodies out). That is reserved for conversation over coffee on my couch, when you can tell me similiar things in your life that remind you of what God has done in your life, or what brings you joy and recognizing God’s design in that. But there is one piece that I want to share because it represents so much of my personal journey with the Lord over the past several years. A story that needs to be shared, the testimony of God’s grace and pursuit of me. Sometimes God does something in your life and you can’t help but share it, because of the freedom and healing you experience. It compels you to share. That is where the Lord has brought me.
“My soul will sing You have done great things.” –Great Things, Elevation Worship
So the piece is this serving tray. I felt like it was a Holy Spirit inspired idea, a way of the Lord personally reminding me of some really important lessons, and something that could continue to speak to me, and hopefully others.
First, it tells me that the very best I have to offer others is Jesus. So when I hold out my service – whether that is leading a Bible Study, homeschooling my kids, cleaning my home, cooking dinner, getting to know my neighbors, what I am doing is holding out Jesus. Because as the Lord has revealed and started to break the chains of my struggle with perfectionism and legalism, He has started showing me that the very best I have to offer anyone is Him. It’s not about a perfected Jenny that others need, which is what I have believed for so long. That my ‘perfected’ life would be the testimony of what God can do, and signs of weakness or struggle somehow reflected poorly on Him. I’m sure you can guess the weight of deception and shame I lived under for so long, and how exhausting it was to always try so hard to be different, better.
But what the Lord showed me it was really about is an imperfect and dearly loved girl who has a really awesome Savior. That despite my imperfections and weaknesses and tendency towards sin, He still pursues and redeems and restores and loves me. That is hope right there. That we can just be, knowing that we’re never going to fix ourselves, and that we don’t have to. He will, in time, bring all things back to perfection. But in the meantime, I am loved and forgiven and free.
So the tray tells me that I am to offer people Jesus. And as I’m sure you can tell from the picture, it’s a pretty imperfect painting job. (again, not my strength) BUT that is actually one thing I adore about it, because it represents how imperfectly I am going to offer Him, too. Because I still really want my own way, and get distracted, and am really, really selfish. But even if I offer Him imperfectly, His perfection will make up for the gaps in presentation.
So I imperfectly offer a perfect Jesus to others.
And then it also reminds me that He is the one I am serving. Because my other choice of bondage in the past has been to people, desperately wanting to be accepted and approved of and appreciated. And so for a long time, even in my best attempts at pure motives, my service was still muddied with the desire that what I was offering others would somehow guarantee that I got what I wanted in return. Enter unrealistic and awful expectations, selfishness, resentment and bitterness. Because it was looking to others for things God never meant for them to offer me. My service was to be for Him, holding up my hands to offer what I have, emptying them for Him. And in return, He would choose what to put back into my hands – a sense of true identity, grace, rest from my crazy attempts to belong, peace, forgiveness, healthy friendships – things that would truly bless and fulfill me, not ensnare me all the more.
And so I imperfectly offer a perfect Jesus to others and am reminded that He is really the One I am serving.
He is the Portion and the Recipient.
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.“
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” – Psalm 16:5
“I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:24
The Recipient of my service:
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:40
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” – Ephesians 6:7