Need to lose some extra pounds? Check. Need to spend more time at the gym? Check. Need to use less creamer in my coffee? Check. Travel overseas? Check. I’m right in the thick of making new year’s goals. My hope is to create some practical steps that will lead to 2019 being a happier, healthier year.

But if that’s where my new year’s goals end – as they have often in the past – then then I’ll miss out on so much. 2018 has taught me that truth in spades. As a mom, I’ve got a lot to deal with and think about. An entire week can fly by with me doing little more than keeping my family on schedule and the house clean. It’s really easy not to vary from that routine – and honestly, takes a lot of effort to change things up.

The thing is, this type of scheduled, self-focused week allows me to check a lot off my to-do list, but often leaves me feeling empty. Is life really just about clean bathrooms and chaperoning field trips?

Some of the most fulfilling weeks have been the toughest schedule-wise. When I took time to get to know a struggling neighbor, putting off those chores that needed to be finished up. When I drove out of my way to hang out with a refugee mom and thus had frozen pizza for dinner instead of fixing that low calorie, healthy meal. When my kids had to give up an organized activity that “everybody” else was doing so that we had time to serve teen moms. The trade off of what we set aside in order to serve was more than worth it.

Unfortunately, I’d say we’ve not had enough of those times of service, often because I fight against getting pulled out of my comfort zone or simply just keep putting it off.

It’s important to be balanced. I’m not saying the house shouldn’t be clean or that we don’t need to invest in our kids or that self-care isn’t vital for moms.

It’s just that inaction is easier than action. I know that I regularly run the risk of making my life and my family’s life so, well, us-centered that we never get the awesome blessing of giving of ourselves. Our kids don’t learn how to sacrifice for others. And our perspective stays bound to the American middle class vision of materialism and achievement. We don’t get the opportunity to serve Jesus, who says that when we give to the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, the least of these, we give to Him.

Here’s the thing. In 2019, I want serving Jesus is on the top of my goal list. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.

Matthew 11 40 least of these

So what’s this look like practically? I don’t have the answers. It’s a constant tension in our busy lives. Here’s a few principles that I’m trying to apply:

  • Carve out time for what’s most important. For us, that means we must have time to invest in friendship with a family that’s quite different from us, whether they’re from a different country or from a different socio-economic place. Without a doubt, our family has received WAY more from these friendships than we’ve given. (Here’s a post on the blog about the Lessons learned from refugee moms.)
  • Health & well-being matter. If I’m getting behind on life and we’re all running ragged, take time off to recoup without feeling guilty. Staying healthy and having clean clothes to wear IS important. When my toddler looks like she belongs in an Oliver Twist movie, that’s an issue.
  • Fight against the entitlement mentality. If my kids are showing signs of entitlement and I’m complaining when my coffee shop latte isn’t made right, we need to step out and serve again. Giving up privilege – even if it’s just for a time – helps all of us make attitude adjustments.
  • Listen & learn as a way of life. Keep reading, listening to and discussing the stories and experiences of those on the fringes of society. We don’t want to become complacent about the needs of others.

I’ve got friends already applying this focus on service in ways that work best for them and their families. One friend with older boys has a moving ministry, where they help people move who don’t have the ability to do so by themselves. Another friend in the inner city hosts community dinners in her backyard. A friend that loves to cook regularly makes meals for people who are sick, adoptive parents, etc. A friend who knits volunteers at a knitting club for refugee women. Every family has different strengths and interests. Finding a way to harness those gifts God has given us in order to serve is a beautiful thing!

2019 looms ahead. I know adding this goal to the top of my 2019 priorities isn’t going to be easy. I’m going to fail often. But I hope that at the end of this year, we can look back as a family and see that we’ve invested our time better, that we’ve had opportunity to serve Jesus.

How do you make time for your family to serve? What principles have you learned to create balance?

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