The Ministry of The Happy Chicken

Not long ago, I met with a vivacious young woman who is just entering into vocational ministry. We shared parts of our stories as the ice clinked encouragingly in our lemonade glasses. Towards the end of our time together—which had started out with the awkwardness of strangers but then blended into story-telling and a host of “me too” moments—she seemed to remember herself and why she was here and, squaring her shoulders and getting back into “ministry-mode”, she asked me how I’d seen God at work through me recently.

It wasn’t so much the wording of the question as the timing and the tone of it, but I laughed (I can be rude that way). I told her that it had been a long time since I felt like I needed to give an accounting for my ministry. There was a time when I sat down at a computer and labored over a monthly report back to those who were supporting me financially and in prayer, and while I know none of them expected a graph chart with numbers of students converted and bibles distributed, in truth I did feel that I needed to give an account. Which sometimes might include numbers.

These days, I told her, when it comes to seeing God at work, I’m taking a longer view. Like moving from the narrative arc of a Pixar short movie to epic full-length features. “I have no idea whether what I’m doing is successful or fruitful,” I confessed, “it’s really hard to take an account of that when you’re in the day-in and day-out of it with kids, and when you have no idea who reads your stuff and whether it makes any difference. So I’m aiming for faithfulness. To be kind today. To tell the truth today. To show my neighbor the gospel today, perhaps by taking their trash bin in or watching someone’s kids while they are at the doctor. That’s about all. I really wouldn’t have much to put in a monthly ministry newsletter.”

Friends, even to me this answer sounds a little like a cop-out: should I not be more strategic? intentional? make the most of every opportunity? Maybe. I have certainly trained others in ministry to be strategic in their goals over the years. But then again: I myself have been under the tutelage of the Happy Chicken.the ministry of the

Meet my Happy Chicken.

This hot water bottle was a gift from my sister nearly twenty years ago. I think it was a birthday present, but I can’t be sure. But I remember thinking it was hilarious. My sister and I had joked for years about a Far Side Cartoon in which a forlorn man sits on a bed while a chicken looks on from the window sill. The caption read: “the bluebird of happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the chicken of depression.”

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Of COURSE when my sister saw the hot water bottle chicken, she had to have it. (She’s always been one excellent gift-giver.) And so, the chicken of depression made its way into my home. Within a few years, I was finding my way into ministry, and found an increasing number of people sitting on my couch sharing their stories with me. Some were very, very sad; and armed as I was my newly-minted-theological-education, sometimes I tried to help with comforting explanations. But as we all know, this was almost never the right thing to say or do. For even if the hurting person’s lips are asking why did this happen, their hearts are asking who will be with me in this? And so, slowly, I learned to shut up and listen. It became something of a formula: tears would spring up, and I would offer tea, a pair of socks, and the chicken… because it helps to have something warm to hold, and the kettle was boiled anyway. (It didn’t seem appropriate, somehow to tell people that this was the Chicken of Depression, after all.)serious_chicken_by_sandra_boynton_canvas_print-r1f5f44ee6a7b480d9bf43daad7546afa_wt7_8byvr_324

Over time, friends who got to know my chicken re-named it: the Happy Chicken. And years later, when I discovered the wonder of all things Sandra Boynton and met her happy chicken characters who bore a striking resemblance to mine, the name was formalized.

I think, in some in-my-bones kind of way, the Happy Chicken taught me that the simplicity of listening and welcome offers Christian comfort in a way that even my best theology does not. Jesus did teach many truths about God, and God had been speaking comforting, true words for a long, long time before that. But Jesus came. He sat in the mess. He touched the unlovely. He listened. He ate with people. He ate dinner with the heartbroken and received their tears without needing to fix it right there and then.

But still, sitting quietly while people weep and marriages end and children starve and girls are sold and refugees drown in the Mediterranean feels desperately ineffective. And despite the fact that the quiet ministry of neighbors has brought me comfort more times than I can count, I still occasionally panic and think I should be doing more. We should have a plan here. If, after all, I was still writing a hypothetical newsletter updating people on God’s activity in and through my life, what on earth what I say? And if all I had to say was “I made tea and introduced people to the Happy Chicken”, would it make God look bad? Or Christianity insipid?

517SjSiMdxLIt was this taproot of fear that made D.L. Mayfield’s new book Assimilate or Go Home: Notes From a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith such a gift to me. Mayfield has such a writing gift: she crafts simple sentences with simple words—so easy to read—and yet the result is breathtaking. Reading her is like marveling at Leonardo daVinci’s finest work done on an etch-a-sketch.

But more than her beautiful writing, the message of this book spoke to me, and will speak to anyone who’s earnestly wanted to do great and beautiful things for God but then floundered when real life and messy relationships happened, making the monthly newsletter which was meant to sing of all God’s glory seemed so hard to write.

In a series of short, highly readable essays, Mayfield tells of her teenage zeal—holiday clubs! short term missions! seminary!—and her deep love for the displaced refugee communities in North America. And then she writes about what really happened next. She writes about failure: her awkward attempts to Jesus-ify conversations, and the skepticism with which her goodwill was sometimes (rightfully) regarded. She writes about the deep humbling of realizing people don’t change on our timeline or according to our well-intentioned western ways, and of learning that God has made something beautiful in every person and every culture – no matter how different and broken- and she tells of how, after all was said and done, she re-found (is re-finding!) faith in learning to sit and be a witness to all that God is doing, and to just love as she has an opportunity. She writes:

“I used to want to witness to people, to tell them the story of God in digestible pieces, to win them over to my side. But more and more I am hearing the still small voice calling me to be the witness. To live in proximity to pain and suffering and injustice instead of high-tailing it to a more calm and isolated life… To plant myself in a place where I am forced to confront the fact that my reality is not the reality of my neighbors. And to realize that nothing is how it should be, the ultimate true reality of what God’s dream for the world is.

Being a witness is harder than anything I have ever done. And he is asking all of us to do this task, to simultaneously see the realities of our broken world and testify to the truth that all is not well. To be a witness to the tragedy, to be a witness to the beauty. Jesus, the ultimate witness of the love of the Father heart of God, shows us the way…

He is asking us to drop everything and run, run in the direction of the world’s brokenness. And he is asking us to bring cake.”

He is asking us to bring cake. Mayfield’s love language is cake. And I’m thinking mine might be the Happy Chicken. Today I’m facing the broken world with eyes wide open and ears perked up. Who will God send my way today? I’m ready. The Happy Chicken and I are as ready as we can be.

 

I’ll be a Mermaid for Jesus

The cashier was bagging the final groceries before she asked me the question: “So, how come you have glitter all over you? Are you a preschool teacher? Did a craft go wrong?”

MermaidBron

Darling it’s better down where it’s wetter, take it from me…

Nope.

Not a preschool teacher (oh the horror!) Not doing crafts. The real reason for my high state of sparkle this week is that, together with two friends, I am spending this week dressed as a mermaid.

With a tail.

And long, impossibly-bright-colored hair.

And a whole lotta glitter.

My two mermaid friends (who are GORGEOUS, but cropped from the picture because they’re very private sea-people) and I have the task of teaching the Bible story at our church’s annual Vacation Bible Camp, and since the theme is “Deepsea Discovery” and the whole plaice is decked out with underwater decor, we decided to suit up for the task. Fintastic.

[Apologies for the puns, friends, but lame jokes are my coping mechanism and I. am. tired.]

We have 252 kids (and 80 junior and adult kelpers) swimming around campus this week (they’re in school…) learning that God is with them wherever they go. The theme of the days are that God knows us (like he knew Noah!), he hears us (like he heard Jonah in the belly of a big fish), he strengthens us (like he helped Peter walk on water), and he loves and sends us (as he did his disciples). Five days. Five lessons. Five days of brightly colored-themed-and-still-nutritious snacks.

It’s a high energy week, and even though I’m an extrovert, this week still leaves me flounder-ing. Working with kids is not my strong suit, but as I’ve written before, I keep signing up because I know what a difference it made in my own life to have adult volunteers tell me about Jesus at VBS and in Sunday School. It changed my life.

And so here I am: standing on campus in a highly-glittered state, wearing a thick wig in triple-digit heat, with a lycra suit outlining EVERY contour of the lower half of my body…. and in this moment I am so grateful for the words the Apostle Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 4:10: We are fools for Christ. We are madmen. (or mermen, as the case may be). And just a few paragraphs later in 1 Corinthians 9:22: To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Or, as the case may be: to the little fish, I become a fish, in order to win the fishies for Christ.

For one week, I’m one of a sea of volunteers who are laying aside our preferences: singing louder than we’re comfortable with, doing dance moves that make the Macarena look choreographed by comparison, playing water games and wearing outfits. Why? Because there are 252 little people here who are DEEPLY loved by Jesus and need to know that. And if I keep my eye on them—rather than the itch of the wig or the sweat of the suit—it makes all the difference. For if they find and keep the treasure this week—the truth that they are known, heard, helped and wildly loved by God—they are rich beyond all counting of it.

Pray with us that they’ll find it 🙂

 

On Lists of Things That Women Cannot Do (The Problem with John Piper… and Me)

file4171276032990I have a post up at the Pass the Saltshaker blog which is really very uncomfortable for me. My friend Adriel Booker asked for my thoughts on John Piper’s latest podcast, in which he answers the question “Can a woman be a police officer?” I REALLY didn’t like his answer…. but in thinking about why, it raises some very disquieting questions.

Click over here to read the post, and keep a lookout for the response posts from the other SaltShaker bloggers in the days to come. I am eagerly awaiting hearing the discussion that follows.

How Much Should You Pay a Speaker at Your Women’s Ministry Event?

Money talks in the form of many large bills and a headset

image courtesy of morguefile.com/edited on picmonkey.com

I have been on both sides of this question: both as the speaker, as well as the organizer of brunches, spring teas and women’s retreats; and it has been my experience that the topic of paying the speaker is often a tricky one. More and more I am realizing that I am not alone in feeling anxious about this.

We often in feel squirrelly and insecure about conversations where the higher good of ministry rubs shoulders with the worldly reality of money. Organizers are concerned about tight budgets and making the event as affordable as possible so that money doesn’t keep women from coming, and speakers are aware that giving a talk is costly to them: it is a sacrifice of time, energy, and in the case of speakers like myself with young children, sometimes money of my own to arrange childcare and find the necessary resources needed to prepare for the topic.

But none of us wants to talk about money.

For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that both the organizers and speakers are women acting in good faith: wanting to serve God, do ministry, and do right. I am assuming that neither are greedy, opportunistic, nor miserly. I am assuming, too, that it is their delight to serve God and His daughters by participating in this way. I am, finally, also assuming that—whether big or small—your ministry event does have a budget. This was the case when I was at a teeny church organizing a college women’s brunch for 15, or at a large church with a retreat for hundreds.

Having said all that, it still doesn’t get us out of talking about the issue of money. God has much to say about stewardship of money, both personally and in ministry, and it is time we talked faithfully and biblically about how to handle this topic in women’s ministry rather than feeling swamped by feelings of guilt and pressure when we feel that the money question is the elephant in the room.

Laying the groundwork

Scripture says that a worker is worth their wages (1 Timothy 5:18), a principle clearly stated in both the Old and New Testaments. This is true in the business world, as an excellent recent article in Christianity Today made clear, and it is true in the church, where we are told that double honor is due to elders who lead well, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17).

The Apostle Paul, who wrote the most about money and ministry, did “volunteer” ministry (supporting himself through tent-making), but was also clear that it was appropriate and right for him and others to accept payment for ministry. He writes in 1 Corinthians 9:

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

That we honor—both in esteem and in money—our spiritual teachers is a well-grounded Scriptural principle. It is not a matter of greed or awkwardness: it is a matter of honor and sustainability. Just as no soldier can continue to serve for a long time at their own expense, and no farmer can continue to farm if they never eat; so, too, no-one can continue to give vast amounts of time to the ministry of the Word long-term without being sustained.

Ministry costs: it costs the minister, and it should thus cost the community. To say this plainly is not meant to be crude – but to point out that when we say that ministers are valuable we aren’t just using valuable sentimentally. Their work literally needs to be valued, too.

In as much as we believe that women are able and gifted to teach God’s word well to other women, and that they should do so with skill, attention, faithfulness and prayer—all of the above applies, too. We are, after all, talking about women’s ministry events.

How much?

How much to pay a speaker will obviously depend greatly on circumstances and context. However, both speakers and ministry organizers might gain some helpful guidance on what an appropriate honorarium might be for their context by asking the following questions:

  • What does the men’s ministry (or youth ministry etc) pay their speakers for leading retreats or giving talks? What does the church pay guest preachers? In my experience, I have seldom met a woman who has any idea what the “going rate” for retreats are among other ministries within her same church.
  • Work out how many hours are involved in preparing for, traveling to, and attending the event. Most 40 minute talks take a speaker somewhere between eight and twenty hours to prepare (again, ask your pastors how long it takes them to prepare a sermon). Speaking at a women’s brunch might, for example, take me 10 hours in preparation and 3 hours on the day of the event. Speaking at a retreat where there are three talks takes me about forty hours in preparation, and then I am away from my family for 24-36 hours. Does your honorarium recognize that the speaker has spent a minimum of 15 hours for a short talk? Or 76 hours on your retreat? When you think about the hours involved, a note of thanks and a $20 gift card doesn’t seem quite right.

What if it’s your home church?

Speaking at one’s home church is a little different, particularly since the speaker is part of a whole community of women who are volunteering their hours to make the event happen. Why should the speaker be paid, but not the decorator of tables or the designer of the beautiful invitations for the event?

I want to suggest that even if the speaker is from within one’s home church, the organizers should budget for an honorarium. I say this for the following reasons:

  1. While everyone in the body is to serve in some way, Scripture does set a precedent for paying teachers.

  2. From a practical point of view, budgets for events often carry forward from one year to another. If you have a “cheap retreat” one year because you didn’t pay the speaker, it makes it hard the following year to offer the retreat at the same price if you then want to perhaps invite a guest speaker. Keeping it as a line item sets a precedent that your ministry always values their speakers, no matter where they come from.

  3. It’s theologically important. My pastor used to say “if you want to know what people’s priorities are, take a look at their check book.” There is some truth in this for budgeting for ministry events: if we are willing to set aside money for flowers, craft activities, goody bags, decorations, invitations and other things (which are nice, but dispensable), then we should be willing to set aside money for the ministry of the Word (without which our event would not be ministry but a community tea.)

This distinction between speaking ministry vs. other volunteer ministries becomes a little clearer if you are invited to speak at another church, or if your church is inviting a guest speaker – because while speakers often serve other believing communities, it is a rare thing to volunteer your time to decorate or cook for a church in a neighboring town.

I believe ministries should pay their in-house speakers: it shows honor to them, shows priority to Word ministry, sets a good example to others, and lays a precedent for future generations. If the speaker chooses to donate her time and talents to her home church, she is free to tithe the honorarium back to the church, or even specifically to the women’s ministry. But I don’t believe the organizers of an event should presume on this: it should be the speaker’s decision.

In a Nutshell: Thoughts for Organizers of Events

  • When you working out all the needs and costs for your event, consider what you are asking in terms of time and preparation from your speaker, and allocate an amount for your speaker.
  • If you’re on a shoestring budget (which, in truth, is most of us), don’t just nix the speaker fees. Keep it a line item, commensurate with money you are spending on other things like decor and food. No matter how big or little your budget is, let it reflect that you value good teaching at least as much as you value the place looking pretty.
  • When you invite your speaker, tell them you have budgeted for an honorarium. Be upfront and ask them what they charge. If they say nothing, give them the honorarium anyway, because it sets an example of honoring those who teach faithfully.
  • If the speaker charges more than you have allocated for, tell them what your budget is. In my experience, every women’s ministry speaker I know desires first and foremost to honor God and serve His people. They will be able to tell you whether they can make it work for you.

In a Nutshell: Thoughts for Speakers

  • Work out how much time it takes you to prepare and teach for an event. Write that time down and prayerfully consider its value.
  • Ask some trusted people (other speakers, or pastors) if they’d be willing to share how long preparation takes them, and what a reasonable scale of fees is. I strongly encourage women to ask some men in ministry these questions, since men are often far more practical in their application of theology here, and far less guilt-ridden.
  • Come up with a list of fees for different types of events (a MOPS talk, a once-off Spring or Christmas event, a mini-retreat, a full-weekend retreat). Put this into a document which you keep on file so that you don’t feel you have to “invent” a number any time somebody asks.
  • The best examples I have seen of this are where speakers say they have an “honorarium policy upon request.” On asking, they send the document with their schedule of fees, but include something like this:

“It is my great joy and honor to spend time with women in God’s word. My heart is to encourage women in their faith and wholeness. As a speaker for ten years, and as a contributor to supporting my family, I have landed on these honorarium for various types of events: 

  • MOPS: $xxx
  • One-talk women’s event: $xxx
  • Weekend women’s retreat: $xxx

As a former Women’s Ministry Coordinator and as a woman with a heart to minister as much as God allows, I vowed to myself years ago that I would never pass on a speaking engagement request because of budget constraints. So if my rates are out of reach, please let me know what you are able to offer and we’ll see what we can do.”

  • If you are an author and have books to take to the event, DON’T offer your books for free. Research confirm that people value what they buy more than what they are given. Offer them your author discount, if you’d like.
  • If you are asked to speak at an event, ask them if they have a budget for a speaker. If you are talking about expectations and planning for how many talks and how long they might be, and what the topic might be – it is also the appropriate time to ask what the expectations and planning for their budget is. I know it’s awkward, but it gets more awkward with time rather than less so. 
  • If this remains a very emotionally-laden topic for you, spend some time in prayer and talking with trusted confidantes about valuing your time. This has become a little easier for me over the years because now I see that speaking at an event is not just costing me my time, but also takes a toll on my husband and children. Your time and skills are valuable. They are given by God, and need to be stewarded with as much diligence as money is.

I hope this post is helpful to those who feel squirmy about this topic. I believe that God would have us talk about money and ministry in an honest and shame-free way: it is my hope to have offered some practical pointers to help us walk that path.

Got any helpful thoughts to add for speakers or organizers? What have you appreciated in dealing with this topic? Join the conversation in the comments section.

 

The Thing I’d Rather Be Doing

When I joined Google + last year, it asked me about my occupation. I paused for a moment, and with tongue-in-cheek I wrote Domestic Opposer of Entropy.

For that is what I do: I hold back the chaos. As a stay-at-home mom, I pick up the strewn, I wash the dirty, I tidy the messed, I soothe the hurt and I untangle the knotted. All day. I expend all my effort into resisting the chaos that comes with three short people running about the house expressing their creativity. Domestic Opposer of Entropy put it nicely, I thought. Accurate, with a touch of comedy.

When I joined LinkedIn a few weeks ago, it asked the same question. I paused for a moment, and wrote Writer.

And then I paused some more.

Why would I jump to claim the title of “writer” rather than the snappy, happy title of “domestic opposer of entropy”? It is true that LinkedIn was meant to serve a more professional purpose than G+ and Facebook, which for me remain social media. But I think there’s more to it than that. The truth is, that day after day, while I go about the work of momming,  opposing entropy, resisting chaos and restoring order and all that goes along with the stay-at-home raising of my kids – often, I’d rather be writing.

I’ve been asking myself why. Why would I rather be writing than parenting? For you it may not be writing, but the question is still there: what would you rather be doing? And why would you rather be (sewing/surfing the internet/playing games/fill in the blank) than (whatever you ought to be doing)?

To show myself a little grace here, I need to concede that:

* for me, writing is fun. I like it. It feels like talking to adults after a full day of reasoning with preschoolers, and my brain feels like it is indulging in a leisurely stretch after being confined into a red, plastic toy bin all day. Fun is good. Fun is healthy. It is good to set aside time for fun hobbies.

* for me, writing is ministry. I do have a sense of calling to it. I spent years mentoring and teaching the bible and talking about life to women and college students, and I loved it. I loved sharing life with people, being able to compare notes against the Bible as we walked the road together, being able to laugh and cry and process it all in community. I grieved being able to do that so much less after my children were born, and treasured the opportunities I still had to mentor and teach when they arose – even if those were far fewer. But then, quite unexpectedly last year, a little anecdote I wrote about on my personal blog got a lot of traction, and Tim asked if he could publish it on his, and then I decided to create a different blog (this one) for my “public” thoughts… and then within weeks hundreds of people were reading it – and I recognized the feeling. The feeling of being useful in service in ministry. Being able to say something helpful, to be available, and all without having to get out of my pajamas? It was as if God opened the door wide open and shouted at me: “Walk through it!” I walked. I’m walking. I’m not sure where I’m walking to, but I’m walking.

But there’s a niggle in this for me, because sometimes I would rather let my children watch an extra hour of Netflix so I can write, rather than read to them and wait until they are in bed. Sometimes I ignore their requests for help because I’m checking comments on a post I’ve written, or posting links on Twitter. Throughout the day, I want to write, and I have to parent – and the tension bothers me.

ipad dishwasherDigging a little deeper, I need to confess:

* for me, writing is affirming in a way that parenting is not. My children show me my limitations and weakness by the hour. The list of things I don’t know, don’t understand, can’t fix and can’t control the outcomes of is huge and overwhelming. The to-do list seems to multiply overnight, and almost never add the “-ne” at the end to make them “done”. Stay-at-home momming requires all of my energy, and it often feels like even if I do a brilliant job, the best possible result I can hope for is that things won’t be worse or messier than they were yesterday. I work hard to prepare meals, and still the children complain. I do laundry multiple times a week, and still there are no socks to wear. I just finished unpacking the last load of groceries, and I immediately find something we are out of and have to start a new one.

Writing, on the other hand, does not get undone. When I hit “publish” on a post, it goes up onto the shiny surface of the internet, and no-one smears jam on it. If people have complaints, they keep them to themselves; but for the most part I get positive feedback on my writing – and after a day of hearing whining from my kids it feels good to have someone say “that helped me” or “thank you” or “you are good at this”. When people ‘like’ or ‘share’ something I wrote, it feels like being awarded gold stars. After hearing a lot about Enneagram profiles, I got curious and took a quick online quiz yesterday. Turns out, I am a 3: the one who likes to achieve and be well thought of by others. I thought motherhood had changed, or at least tamed, that in me – but online quizzes don’t lie (ha!). Deep down, I still want gold stars.

We all have a thing we’d rather be doing, and if we’re honest, the reason we say we’re doing it is not always the full reason. Often, there’s a deeper thing going on, and from time to time it’s worth pausing to take a good, hard look at the deeper motives and see how much they’re driving our behavior. A little soul-mirror is needed, a little truth-telling to the inner me. Where there is misplaced identity, I need to address it. I am acceptable not because I achieve, but because I am accepted by God and that is enough. Where there is misplaced ambition, I need to address it. I write wanting to honor God, not myself. Where there are misspent hours, I need to confess those. Where there are misaligned priorities, I need to re-calibrate my calendar and my character in obedience to Christ.

I enjoy writing. For me, it is fun and it is ministry. But I am also on my guard that it is a dangerous affection and idolatrous threat if I let my identity wrap around the words “writer”, or indeed the words “mom” or “opposer of entropy” too tightly. I am, first and foremost, a child of God, and he has called me to live with eternity in my heart and relationships as my priority. The perplexing parable of the unrighteous steward comes to mind: he knew he was going to lose his job for being dishonest, and so in his last hours on the job he called in his masters’ debtors and offered to write off some of their debt. By doing so, he hoped to muster up some new friends to mooch off when he became unemployed. Astonishingly, Jesus commended the man in the story, because he had “acted shrewdly” by using unrighteous money to make friends for himself in the future. Say what, Jesus?

This is what I understand Jesus to be saying in this mind-bending parable: the man was shrewd because he knew how to use the means he had in the present to cultivate relationships which would last in the future. He invested in people, and given that people are eternal – that was a wise investment. The parable helps me in two ways. Firstly, as a writer, it reminds me to keep praying that the writing is about investing in people, in you, and not about finding affirmation. Secondly, as a Mom, is puts my daily time-spending into perspective. For as much as writing may be a calling and a help to others, the truth is that blog posts have a fleeting impact. Even if this post goes viral and attracts tens of thousands of viewers, it will be forgotten in a month. Distant history in a year. That kind of post would no doubt feel deeply significant and admirable at the time, but it would be what the author of Ecclesiastes says all such accomplishments are: fleeting, a mere breath, a chasing after the wind. On the other hand, the choice I make to be with my children, hour after hour – that’s an investment in eternal people which will remembered next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and after that, and after that. . .

A little soul-searching reminds me to keep things in perspective. To keep on writing, but not to wrap my worth up in it. And to keep parenting, but to change my focus: off the laundry, and onto the precious bodies that fill those clothes, off the dishes and on to the children we are nourishing, off the to-do list and on to the souls of the ones we are raising. For I am doing more than opposing chaos in my home, I am shaping character in their hearts.

When the next big social media platform arises, and it asks me my occupation, I’m not sure what I’ll write yet. Maybe “relationship investor”. Maybe “ice cream connoisseur”. Maybe “beloved disciple”, or “amateur juggler”. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Pride in sacrifice

There are many things I could have done differently. I could have lived elsewhere. I could have pursued a far more pretigious legal career. I could have taken the big-money job. I could have married the first person who asked. I could be far more well-groomed (and therefore ‘beautiful’ by glossy mag standards). I could have travelled more. Seen more. Done more.

But I didn’t. Many of these choices have been shaped by the fact that I am convinced that I am called to be in full-time Christian ministry – spending my life and gifts and time with others, reasoning from the Scriptures why a life following Jesus is the best choice. I have chosen this path, and when I sit and think about it – I am content that this is far better than the lower-glamour, less-travel, smaller-budget, less-sacrifice life.

But I am convicted that I also harbor some “pride” in that sacrifice, and this breeds discontentment. Can I really say that I am fully satisfied with the life I have chosen, if I socially ‘reserve the right’ to complain about it? Even if it’s in a joking “see what I’ve given up” kind of way? I don’t think I can: to sacrifice things for God and retain some pride in what I’ve given up, or reserve the right to complain or criticize, means that the sacrifice isn’t yet complete. I am still learning what it means to “consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Phil 3:8). He lost His life for me – really, how does my sacrifice even begin to compare? It couldn’t possibly.

So why am I writing this? Not so that people will congratulate me on the sacrifice, but to hold me accountable. Please don’t let me moan about “what could have been”. If I do that I’m still not “considering everything loss”. I’m learning to surrender the right to complain.