This morning started out the same as many others. I woke up and read my devotional Bible, then spent a few minutes reading a book on Christian living, hoping I would glean some deep spiritual wisdom in five minutes or less. All too soon, familiar noises assaulted my brief period of quiet. The sound of feet running upstairs indicated that I better get up and see about breakfast for the family.

I wish I had gotten up and headed to the kitchen with a song in my heart, but I didn’t. An attitude shrouded my thinking. I wanted more — more time, more peace, more quiet. Surrendering to my kids and their needs wasn’t on my agenda at that moment.

As the morning progressed, I went through the motions of a normal day: laundry, dishes, housework, and checking off items on my to-do list. But my attitude towards my kids didn’t get any better. The baby was fussy, the kids begged for snacks just an hour after breakfast, the couch cushions kept getting knocked to the floor, and I remembered I had to trek across town for my daughter’s orthodontist appointment. Not my idea of a great morning! I was grumpy with everyone. “Why can’t you guys be still?” I asked. “Why are you always hungry?” “Can’t you just quietly watch TV?” Inside I pictured myself as the ideal mother, reading great children’s literature out loud to them, followed by a morning of crafts. But on the outside, I was falling far short of this ideal image.

I thought about my planned run, and grumbled in my heart about never having time for things I want to do. I rounded the corner and spotted my running shoes lying uselessly on the floor of my bedroom. Something was in them; the toddler had carried her baggie of Cheerios into my room and proceeded to fill my shoes. Oh well, I sighed, at least someone is using them for something! I made a mental note to shake them out before I wore them again … whenever that might be.

Recently a friend sent me a devotion she had written about motherhood. In it, she wrote that one of the greatest challenges a mother faces are those moments when she simply must put her children ahead of herself. As I read her words, this concept jumped off the page at me. What seems to be simple — maybe even a given to some — is not something that comes naturally to me. Putting my kids and their needs ahead of my own is a struggle. I get so bound up in my own desires and goals that I forget to lay all that down in the name of serving my children. As I look to God to equip me to do this, He points me once again to the model of His Son.

Jesus addressed the issue of serving others when He gave the disciples instructions in Matthew 10. He warned that sometimes following Him means laying down our agenda for His. It means doing the small things with great joy and humility instead of always looking for the big prize. He urged the disciples to start small. He went on to say, “Give a cup of cool water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing” (Matthew 10:42, MSG).

If I truly want to live a life pleasing to God, if I desire to serve Him through ministry, then perhaps the greatest acts I will do all day aren’t the big and noteworthy tasks on my to-do list, but the smallest, most insignificant, most unnoticed items. It might be the things that don’t even make it onto my to-do list — pouring the cereal, fixing a sippy cup of juice, wiping down the fingerprinted windows, hugging my precious children.

Sometimes, serving God and being Jesus’ apprentice might just mean cleaning the Cheerios out of my running shoes with a smile, and being grateful that today I’m not running away from home, I am rejoicing in the midst of it.

Matthew 10:38-39, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” (MSG)

Copyright © 2007 Marybeth Whalen, All rights reserved.

Marybeth Whalen has been married to Curt for 16 years. They are the parents of six children, ranging in age from toddler to teen. Marybeth is a speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries and writes in her “spare” time. To learn more about Marybeth, go to

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