Learning to be a Selfless mama and basking in the reward (Desperate–Chapter 7)


Everyone home for Thanksgiving and celebrating life together with Christmas around the corner.

Desperate, Chapter 7, Sacrifice in the mundane–on selfishness!

“Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15: 13

“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

John 13: 13-15

Everyone was expected home any time. Seven of us at every meal plus the 4-10 others of the kids’ friends who would just drop in and want something “wondy” to eat, after all, they said, “This is our holiday–our time off!”

Funny how mamas don’t get time off on holidays! But, putting one foot in front of the other, willing my tired self,  was familiar and a habit that had served me well. (I had company over the weekend, a dinner for 10 women, and written to a deadline until midnight the night before everyone was due home–not to mention all the cooking and baking.)  The joy set before me–my beloveds, my dearest friends, my children, were all here to celebrate in the love we had created over the years–and this gave me the impetus to keep going a little longer, but with a light  and expectant heart.

Finally the hustle and bustle of everyone arriving home. Eating, movie, desert, dishes, messes, staying up late and talking, followed by the Thanksgiving meal, 17 in the house, cooking and cleaning up again, and finally I fell into bed almost asleep before I hit the pillow at midnight, after having cleaned up the messes again.

Two hours later, I felt a tapping, tapping, tapping on my arm. “Mama, wake up. Please wake up.”

I was so deeply asleep, I had trouble figuring out where I was! I opened my thick eyelids, still groggy, and there was Joy’s sweet face, eyebrows furrowed and looking intently.

“Mama, would you please get up with me. I hate to wake you up but I need you.”

My mind told my body to get out of bed, that this is what I was supposed to do.

By the time I got followed her to her bedroom, I was finally waking up.

“I threw up because I can’t breathe very well. I think I just have asthma from a respiratory infection, and if I was at school, I would have just sweat it out, but since I am home, I wanted my “mama” to be with me and comfort me.”

And so, for the next two hours, I pampered her as best as possible. Bubbly drink, with straw, puffed up pillows, soft blanket on the couch, soft music, fire in the fireplace, asthma treatment, and endless times of rubbing her head, stroking her brow as when she was a little child.

“Mama, I wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t have handled it, but I have missed you so much and I just wanted you. Do you mind?


I realized when I was away at college that I always had an expectation that if I needed you in any way, you would always come. And I didn’t just need you to take care of me tonight, I wanted to talk to you and just be with you to tell you everything that has been on my hear the last few months. Thanks for letting me know deep inside that I could ask you and know you would comfort me and that you would be willing to be with me–even in the middle of the night. I love you, mama!”

And finally, as the sun was peaking through our windows in soft pinks and purples, her breathing eased, her voice stopped the chatter of a heart shared, and my sweet one, now a young adult, once again fell asleep on my lap, and this time, I relished every minute.


One of my biggest adjustments to motherhood was the constant giving, giving, giving. I had been the only girl in my family, and the youngest and truly had never been trained or prepared to be a mama. I did not even know I was selfish because I had lived my life pretty selfishly all of my life and had never really been accountable to anyone. But then when I had my children and they were always always always there, I did not have anything in me that knew how to handle the burdens.

When they were very young, I sort of blamed them and became frustrated with them and sometimes felt deep anger–as though it was somehow their faults for being children and needing me. Or even just that they were alive and needy seemed too much. I had never faced my own selfishness until I had children.

Now as an adult, I can see that my children have been my training grounds for building godly character in my own life. Jesus wanted me to learn to be like Him so He gave me children.

When I was so very helpless and overwhelmed and wanted answers, I turned to Him and to the Bible. How did He influence His disciples? How did he lead them in such a way that they all gave their lives to His cause?

Oh, how I wish the answer had been an easier one–Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.

And then, He, the God of the universe, knelt down on the dirty floor and washed 120 dirty toes of men feet, the night He was going to sacrifice His life for these very same men!

Oh, Jesus, I never knew this is what it would take to be a true Christian–a believer with integrity. But, if giving up your life is what you did–as you said, for an example for me to follow, then it must become my own standard-the way to reach my own children–to lay down my life….

My time

My body

My energy

My emotions

My things

My dreams

Myself–greater love has no one than this

But, as I look back now, many years and many mistakes later,

Yet many moments of practicing what I knew was right

no sleep, washing one more dish, making one more meal, laughing at jokes, correcting attitudes, hugging, giving words of life, playing, and doing it all over again,

I now have my very own disciples who have given up their lives for His cause.

But now, they are my dearest and best friends and favorite people.

Selflessness, not a popular or contemporary value–Yet, it is what He is like. He only requires from us what He has first given–all of ourselves.

Fellowship with Him through this journey of motherhood, the deep places where our lives finally begin to understand what it took Him to redeem our own lives–the giving up, totally offering up His rights and time for ourselves, His very own children.


“When I finished reading this book, I immediately told Aileen that she would find it rich and encouraging. I want her to read it, because I know it will bless her…I very much enjoyed reading Desperate and am convinced that it will bless and encourage any mother who reads it.” -From a review by Tim Challies, Challies.com

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 Past Book Study Posts:

Tantrums in Barnes & Noble, The Motherhood Nod, and Being Rocked (Desperate Book Club – Introduction)

Desperate Online Book study, Chapter 1: Ideals and Going Under

Chapter 2: Not a Loner!

Chapter 3: Will We Live By Formula or Faith?

Chapter 4: Light a Candle, Don’t Curse the Darkness (Battling Depression)

Chapter 5: We See the Holes but God Sees the Holy

Chapter 6: Oxen, “Five-sies”, and a Foundation of Love


Related posts:


  1. says

    I never knew that motherhood would be such a great training in selflessness! I had a hunch :) but knowing it and doing it at 3am are very different, I’ve learned. So encouraging to see the fruits of your labor in the relationships you have with your grown children!

  2. says

    “When they were very young, I sort of blamed them and became frustrated with them and sometimes felt deep anger–as though it was somehow their faults for being children and needing me. Or even just that they were alive and needy seemed too much. I had never faced my own selfishness until I had children.”

    Thank you, as always, for your straight-forward honesty. I’m in the thick of this stage of motherhood right now, and I woke up this morning feeling oh-so-guilty for my son’s two-year-old birthday having passed with us being cooped up at home (he has a cold) and then we were up in the middle of the night cleaning throw-up … I’m in the trenches right now, but oh, it is so good to hear voices from the other side, reminding us that this is God’s work, work serving our littles, but work in US.

  3. says

    This comes at a beautiful time! The last two mornings I have woken up irritated with my children for no good reason. The very sound of their breathing was getting on my nerves! I hate feeling that way and this chapter served as a reminder to me that it is my choice to be joyful or to be irritated.

  4. ElliejoyIMobussell says

    God has used you so much in my life. Your blogs are always so timely. Last night I had a tap tap after only a few hours of sleep ( im scared, pleaese snuggle with me ) but didn’t respond quite as well to my sweet sweet five year old.thanks for this reminder. And thank god for his mercies that are new every morning and another chance to make it better. I did apologize this morning for not being very nice, and explained to her that her mommy was very very tired she forgave, I pray I can be more comforting in the process of getting little one back to bed next time.

  5. Alexis says

    This chapter really is exactly what I needed to read this week. Cabin fever as knocked this momma who loves change and adventure flat on my face. I’ve seen more selfishness and frustration in me that I’m scared to admit it. As I rock my 13 mo old because he won’t sleep in his bed for some reason I struggle with being frustrated that I can’t get anything done! But reading your stories and making the ‘adventure’ happen and knowing what ‘I’ need to do to be my best has challenged me to make the changes, to get out of this blaaa state I’m in and be what my baby needs, his selfless mommy.

  6. says

    Oh how I needed to read this. We live in the mountians of Canada and the long haul of winter has kicked in with snow that seems to keep falling, I’m tired and bored. I am a mother of 7 children please tell me how on earth I am bored?!?!

    This encouragment was ust what I needed.

  7. Michelle Clinton says

    Sweet tears slid down my cheeks as I felt the love you and Joy share. Father, please help me to grow in selflessness.

    • Michelle Clinton says

      As I was typing my own little asthmatic came and said, “Mommy I can’t breath.” Perfect timing on this post.

  8. Shelley Payton says

    I feel like crying as I read this! It’s such a relief to hear I’m not alone with my feelings. Each chapter of Desperate and each blog post following makes me want to get down on my knees and thank God that someone understands me and can put words to the feelings and frustrations I can’t even articulate, and then to hear it really can get better is so healing. It’s a balm to my heart that there is no formula, that the difficulties are not because I spank too much or not enough, or because if I just can’t do this perfectly. It’s okay that I’m unique? It’s okay to mess up and rely on God’s grace? My children are little sinners who show me my own sin? All of these things and more I’ve needed to hear for so long. I am not an eloquent person. I don’t think I could express here just how much the Desperate book and this blog really mean to me. The words above don’t really get to the heart of it but they’re all I have. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  9. says

    Oh my. I was just reading a few posts that I missed and boy, did I need this one! I told my husband last night that I felt like laughing/weeping, when I was carrying my infant up the stairs after changing her diaper to nurse and ALL four of my other children chimed in with, “Mom, come and rub my feet. Mom, please look at these toys I set up!” , “Mom, are you going to cover me up with my blankie?” and so on and so forth….and lo and behold, my hubby wanted me to rub is back! LOL! You are SOOO right that motherhood (and wifehood ;) I would add) are major “classrooms of the Spirit”!!! Thanks for this!

  10. Kristy says

    A friend suggested I read your book, and I stumbled upon your blog last week. I’ve been so encouraged and felt so reassured by your amazing words. We just got a bad report for our infant son (our second child) and have to see a specialist this week. I’ve never needed encouragement more than now. Thank you so much for being so honest and uplifting in what you say.

  11. says

    “I had never faced my own selfishness until I had children. Now as an adult, I can see that my children have been my training grounds for building godly character in my own life. Jesus wanted me to learn to be like Him so He gave me children.”

    I cannot tell you how these words have blessed me. The tears sliding down my face right now as I realize he has given me these sweet babies because He wants me to be more like Him…selfless…holy….loving. I am truly humbled by your words, Sally. God is using you in such a powerful way to reach mama’s hearts everyone! Thank you for being his instrument.

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  1. [...] We join Sally in discussion of Desperate chapter 7:  Sacrifice in the Mundane.  Ready for the subtitle?  The chapter on selfishness.  Oh man!  Let’s mutually decide to skip over this one.  No way.  This is the chapter we need to sit and talk about as a group of women.  The reality that parenting and keeping a home will push every single little selfish button you have in your heart. [...]

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