Gary & Patti Gardner
Gabrielle (16) & Garrett (14)
Article used by permission
of the author
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I Left My Joy Behind
By Patti Gardner
In early 1993, I heard the Gospel for the first time, and I responded with joy, receiving Christ as my Savior. My life was wonderful. I had a wonderful hard-working husband, two sweet children, a beautiful home, and the joy of the Lord bubbling up from within. I was a happy, stay-at-home mom, supremely content and totally in love with life.
My heart was in my home. I loved keeping a home for my husband, making nice meals for him, washing and ironing his clothes. I loved playing with and reading to my children, taking long walks with them, singing songs, baking in my kitchen, and a myriad of other home-centered things.
But, things changed. The message I kept hearing-in the church, in Christian books, and, of course, from Christian friends-was that I needed to be more involved in church ministries. I needed to have a "ministry". I fell prey to this philosophy and jumped on board. I began attending the ladies' Bible studies (sometimes two at a time, resulting in 20+ pages of homework a week), teaching Sunday School, overseeing the four-year-old nursery, joining the prayer chain, the nursing home visitation committee, the secret sisters, and several other "ministries" at the church.
Although I had been very happy serving my family, I was taught that it was really not "ministry", that "real" ministry had to be outside the home. It wasn't considered "God's work" if it didn't involve church programs and activities. I packed my children into their car seats and headed off to the Bible studies or this or that committee meeting. I left myjoy at home-and it would remain there for nearly 12 years!
As I grew more involved in church activities, I had less and less time for my precious family. What had once been a source of joy for me, I now looked at as an intrusion on my "work for God." I didn't have time to clean my house any, more. The dust piled up, and, as a result, allergies, and eventually asthma kicked in for me (and my children as well). This led to chronic bronchitis, even pneumonia, and many months of antibiotics.
I didn't have time to cook healthy meals. We ate mostly junky, packaged stuff or fast food. I didn't have time to do the laundry, unless, of course, my husband mentioned he needed socks or underwear. Angrily, I would get a load done. I rarely folded it, and he learned to get what he needed out of the dryer each morning. (I am weeping as I write this, because it is very painful to relive these years).
I no longer read or played much with my children. I simply didn't have the time, and being brutally honest, I would have said that I had "more important things" to do. It was not only churchactivities that kept me busy and out of the house. I was heavily involved in social outings, lessons of different kinds for my children, and homeschool activities.
My health began to deteriorate. During the past twelve years, I suffered from migraines, digestive issues, constipation, skin rashes, joint pains, muscle pains, autoimmune issues, visual disturbances, secondary infertility, allergies, dizzy spells, sinus problems, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, and horrible depression. I know now that my body was SCREAMING at me to come back home. My joy was totally gone. I was a shell of the person I had once been. I could not understand what was wrong. Why was I so wretchedly unhappy? Why wasn't I fulfilled? Why did I feel as though I had lost something I could not get back?
Finally, a little over a year ago, the Lord spoke to my heart through many passages in the Bible. One was Proverbs 7:11 which talks about the adulterous woman and her feet never staying at home. Another passage was Proverbs 19:3 where it says that a person ruins his life through his own folly and then is angry at the Lord. Another was Psalm 77 where David laments the good old days when his nights were filled with joyful songs.
As I pondered my "good old days when my nights were filled with joyful songs", the Lord brought me to Titus 2:3-5. At that point, I saw CLEARLY why I had lost my joy (and my health). I had ceased doing what God had put on my heart to do. I was looking for fulfillment in church ministry, when he had given me a ministry right in my own home. I had a husband to minister to, encourage, and love. I had children to train and disciple for the Lord. I had been neglecting this in order to do what I thought was "more important."
Now, my heart has come home, and I am supremely joyful again. I am content with loving my husband and my children and being a keeper of the home. My health is better than it has been in years.
It is a ministry to serve your family. The Lord does not intend for you to do dozens of church ministries. His will is that you love your husband, your children and homemaking. (Titus 2:3-5 NIV). The older women weren't told to train the younger women to attend all the Bible studies or do all the church activities, but to "love their husbands and children and be busy at home." (Titus 2:3-5).
Actually, you do not even have to go out of your house for Bible study. I am currently working through Nancy Campbell's The Power of Motherhood. It is excellent, eye-opening, and I highly recommend it. Waiting for me after I finish it is The Family Meal Table and Hospitality.
I believe that many women today are joyless, stressed, discouraged, sick, and exhausted because they are seeking to do that which God has not called them to do. Their spirits and their bodies are crying out to slow down their frantic pace and to put their whole heart into serving their families. Sadly, like me, they have been deceived into thinking that it is not ministry.
Motherhood is a ministry. There is nothing more important you could be doing.
Nampa, Idaho, USA