Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chocolate Covered Brownies and Purposeful Living

The fact that I found clip art for this means I wasn't the first person to make this mistake.

I do not know what possessed me to volunteer to co-lead IC's brownie troop.  Normally this is exactly the kind of thing that I avoid like the plague.  There is so much about it that seems to scream at me that I should not do it.  First of all, my volunteer application has not yet been approved, and since my background is less than perfect, I'm not sure that it will be.  I had to divulge my deepest secrets to another mom who seems to have it all together, who I'd only just met, and then to a professional employee of the local Girl Scout council, and finally on an online form for complete strangers to read.  I shook while I typed every one of those emails.  Tonight I had to lead a meeting that involved corralling seven girls in an echoing kitchen, and baking. I don't consider myself skillful at leading, working with children, or baking, and a room that echos gets on my nerves when it's quiet, let alone filled with seven and eight year olds.  Next I had to lead the push to promote our fall fundraiser.  Thankfully the head leader was able to talk to the moms about it while I did the baking with the girls, but I am also not good at promoting things or selling things, particularly things that I know people are only really purchasing because they like your cute kid and want to support his or her extracurricular endeavors.  Honestly, I've always wondered why more groups don't consider forgoing organized fundraisers altogether and just sending kids out to beg for money.  It's the same thing, and involves a lot less paperwork.

So thus far I have spilled my guts to complete strangers who I perceive as being better than me and who have the opportunity to judge my statements, I took on a leadership position when I am most definitely not a leader, I volunteered to work with children on a regular basis even though I usually find that raising my own is quite enough for me, I baked even though I have yet to get through a recipe without asking E's opinion on something or other, I worked in a loud room, and I asked people I don't know to spend their time selling stuff that no one wants and acted like it was a great idea.  We just finished our second meeting.  Lord, what have I done?

So we baked brownies.  I will now pause so you can either giggle or roll your eyes at this clever idea.....
It didn't go how I wanted it to go for a number of reasons. I totally underestimated how long it would take these girls to work on a recipe together, in part because our first meeting was attended by four mostly quiet little girls, and this meeting brought seven, a few of whom seemed to bring out the hyper in each other.  To make a long story short, my evening was filled with a lot of echoed screaming and giggling, and in the end each girl went home messy, carrying a hunk of chocolate sludge wrapped in foil, and an hour past her bedtime.  By the end the other moms were begging for it be over, IC was crying in the corner because she hadn't even eaten dinner, and the head leader's cousin/babysitter was pretty ticked off.

In the past five years I have endeavored to live a rhythmic, unhurried life, and to keep my family moving at a pace that gave them space to be truly thoughtful about their choices and day to day activities.  When I write it that way it sounds boring and a little silly, but I made the decision to work this way purposefully.  Keeping open space in our schedule allows us to have more times when we find ourselves at home, together, with no obligations hanging over our heads to pull us apart.  I think that my children are enriched by deliberately having some time when they aren't doing homework, or chores, or extracurricular activities.  Creating blocks of open time allows me to remain purposeful during the busy blocks of time because I can slowly and thoughtfully examine how I spend my time and know that the time investments that I make are fulfilling my ultimate purpose: to love God, and grow closer to Him.  In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Many people interpret this verse to refer specifically to the pursuit of wealth and retail therapy on all of its various levels, and rightfully so.  But I think that most people, when they think about it, would also admit that they treasure their time at least as much as they do their money.  I've always felt that time is of the essence in my life, and for some reason I've always felt hurried, not just in the day to day moments, but also on a larger scale.  Weeks after I started college, I couldn't wait to graduate, weeks after getting married, I couldn't wait to have children, and as soon as I did that I was ready for them to grow up.  A major cause of this is my concerns about my health and genetics, but it's also caused by my acceptance of the common societal ideal that our value is based on how much we can produce.  Yet I know for a fact that that is not how God defines my value, or the value of my children.  I desperately want to teach them that our life's focus should be on our relationship with Jesus Christ, not on how much they can get done, and when I talk to them about how Jesus loves them and how God wants to have a relationship with them, I'm right on target.  But when I get frustrated with them and myself because we simply don't have time to accomplish everything that our schedule is asking of us, I am failing at this.

So I guess the question now is, am I failing to follow this concept of deliberately living at a slow pace and creating space in my life by keeping margins of unscheduled moments in my schedule?  I've struggled with that in these last few weeks, as we run from the bus stop to soccer practice to cub scouts, and then home for dinner and straight to bed.  I struggle with it even on the nights where (praise the Lord) we don't have any extracurricular activities, because even then I have my time filled with preparing fundraiser materials and answering emails and uploading photos and making sure we have parent-teacher conferences scheduled.  My Tuesday morning ladies' Bible study is about to begin reading Breathe by Keri Wyatt Kent, a book that I suggested, and the book that first introduced me to this idea of living slowly and deliberately.  I am very conscious of the fact that as I am about to tell my friends that this is the path I've chosen, my life does not really reflect that.  Yet while I know that the rhythm of my life is running at a frantic tempo right now, and I know that it may be necessary to make some changes to this simply so that I can endure it, I am not outside what God would want for me.  After the brownie meeting tonight I felt frustrated but a friend reminded me that sometimes the moments that seem the most disastrous are in fact the most memorable.  I am co-leading IC's brownie troop because my mom served as my Girl Scout leader for four years, and continued working with other Girl Scout programs for years after that.  While my relationship with my mother has always been complicated, I knew even then that she was doing it for me, and I valued that, even during those early adolescent moments when I wished that she would butt out.  This is an investment in my relationship with IC, and this in particular is something that will create memories for her and I alone.  In this she can know not only that I did this for our family, but that I did this for her.  

Keri talks in her book about living in a rhythm of activity and rest, and that is what I am doing. "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  Right now life is crazy, but I know that it isn't going to last forever.  Soccer season will end in November right in time for IC's birthday, and then Thanksgiving, and then of course Christmas, but a moment will come, probably sometime in the first week of January, when I am going to stop, take a deep breath, and know that nothing right then is more important than resting, being still, and thinking about the goodness and mercy of Christ.  Remind me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Mel, this cracked me up. You are such a good writer. For Pete's sake, please keep. on. writing. My only complaint is that you cover so much it's hard to intelligently comment on everything I want to address.

    One: Those other mothers are not perfect. Nobody is. No one gets through life without a few nicks and bumps. I want my daughter to learn from strong women who work hard, because that's what she is going to have to be.

    Two: Brownies are awesome.

    Three: I think the onslaught of activities is part of modern life.

    Four: Fundraising stinks. I loathe it too. However, I usually buy one of whatever a kid is selling if I know the kid and they take the time to visit.

    Five: Anyone can be a leader. Don't sell yourself short. You are co-leading a household! Yes, you're a leader.