I knew I had failed.
This past Sunday 15 minutes into the church service Hannah squirmed, she fussed, then she screamed. Every churchgoing parent has experienced this struggle: when pew-sitting replaces nap time.
Once outside Hannah was content. She quickly became the unofficial church greeter, shouting “Hi!” and running up to shake hands with each late comer.
I, however, lacked her enthusiasm. I was tired. I was frustrated that Hannah couldn’t sit through more of the service. I was embarrassed by the painfully slow exchanges with the other mamas that my novice Swahili allows.
At home, after putting Hannah down for an over-due nap, I opened a book a friend recently lent me. As I read about glorifying God by serving excellently wherever He’s placed you, my heart twisted.
I had failed to love Clark. I had failed to love Hannah. I had failed to love our church. I had failed to love our neighbors. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet.
And now I was holed up alone in our house having a pity party.
Then, a knock on the door reminded me I had invited my friend Jaqueline over that afternoon.
Her arrival was God’s gift to me.
After sharing some chai she invited me to come visit her home. She proposed I come now. Clark was at our church’s men’s fellowship meeting, so Hannah and I departed.
About two-thirds of the way up the mountain we stopped to chat with some older ladies. Suddenly, I had the overwhelming sensation that I was going to pass out. Or throw up. Or both.
I’m not sure if it was the hour long uphill climb at a rate that put my mother-in-law’s greyhound-like “walking” pace to shame, the 30 pound toddler on my back, the baby carrier strapped very securely around my waist, or the lunch I had skipped, but something was not right.
As we walked, Jaqueline had suggested several times we get a bodaboda (motorcycle) driver to give us a ride. I had kept repeating, “Niko sawa. Napenda sana kutembea!” (“I’m fine. I love walking!”).
The latter is true. The former was becoming less so.
Fortunately, we arrived at her home with my consciousness and dignity intact.
Jaqueline lives in a lovely, neat home composed of three very small rooms without running water or electricity, which she shares with her husband and four children. As her family ate a dinner of margarine sandwiches, Hannah and I feasted on rice, goat stew, and fruit salad. As always in Kenya, our meal concluded with mugs full of sweet, milky chai.
As Hannah and I walked home—blessedly downhill while a light, cool rain fell—I was overwhelmed by Jaqueline’s graciousness.
That morning, I had been unable to muster the energy to sit outside church in the shade and watch Hannah play. Jaqueline had walked hours, given me the best seat in the house, fed me her family’s meat and rice, thanking me all the while.
Our call is to glorify God by being faithful to the things He’s given us. My work is to love and serve my family and neighbors. I’m called to read “Moo, Baa, Lalala” 6 times in a row to Hannah. To make Clark’s favorite toast with avocado and tomato for breakfast. To spend an hour drinking liters of chai with our neighbors struggling through conversations in fledgling Swahili.
Jaqueline’s example is a challenge to me to love God by serving others well. How will you serve today?
Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
I Samuel 12:24