Saturday, June 4, 2016

Let Them Eat Cake

Not long ago, my husband asked me a question:
"Now that we've been here a while, have you thought about what ministry you want to get involved in?"
He didn't know what hit him. Not literally, of course, but almost.

You see, when we moved here, I had all these grandiose ideas of what my life would be like.

I'd have a dozen neighborhood kids coming to play in my yard in the afternoons. And we'd sit on the front porch and sip lemonade and eat assembly-line-made  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I'd volunteer to read aloud at the devastatingly underperforming local elementary school. (Not the school my kids go to, mind you. So I'd totally be doing this out of the goodness of my heart.) And I would get companies and bookstores to donate books so that every child I read to would go home with a copy of his very own.

I'd mentor girls at the enrichment center around the corner where my boys often go after school.

I'd volunteer at the library down the street and start some sort of kids' program.

But we've been here for a year. And none of that has happened.

So when my husband asked me "What ministry do you want to get involved in?" I lost it. Because in his question I heard a veiled accusation that what I had done this year wasn't ministry. And therefore wasn't important. It wasn't what he meant, of course. But it's what I heard.

You see, what I did do was very plain.

I was a mom to my two tween boys who were struggling with some very serious issues, only some of which could be tied back to the move.

I tried to parent my 18 year-old long-distance through a memorable football season and an academic year that made me cuss like a sailor, through enlisting in the Army and finally high school graduation.

I tried to be a decent stepmom to an adult son in college who's never seemed to need me.

I drove and drove and drove. For friends whose car died and couldn't be replaced for months and for a classmate's mom whose car was chronically ill. And random pickups and dropoffs for a friend with six children, including special needs foster kids and a husband who travels.

I was room mom for Joshua's class. I helped out with reading groups in Jordan's.

I handed out granola bars to panhandlers from my stash in the car glove box and groceries for a homeless man sleeping in a doorway.

I walked through my neighborhood day after day and prayed for friends and strangers, for rundown houses and for restoration.

I quietly researched bed bugs and how to get rid of them because a friend was too embarrassed to ask anyone else to help.

I went to the grocery store for and with neighbors who didn't have transportation.

But most of all I cooked. Multiple dishes for Sunday night pot lucks at our house church. Banana pudding after banana pudding after banana pudding. Meals for friends and neighbors.

And cakes ... oh the cakes! Cupcakes with red and green sprinkles for the Christmas outreach. And each time there is a birthday to celebrate the enrichment center in our neighborhood, I bake a cake. Chocolate or chocolate chip or lemon ... whatever the birthday child desires. After all, it may well be the only birthday cake they get.

Just out of school for the summer, Jordan wanted to bake a cake too. So he started looking up recipes in my cookbooks, and a few hours later, we had a banana cake with caramel frosting. Between dinner and dessert, we went for a walk up to the construction site to check on the house we are building. On the way, we met up with half a dozen neighbor kids who wanted to come too.

When we told them we had cake at home, their eyes lit up. Could they come home with us? Two minutes and a quick trip back to ask their mama for permission and we were on our way. They had never ventured as far as our house, so this was extra-special.

As we all sat around the table eating cake and laughing, I thought, "This is a ministry, isn't it?"

Later that night as we welcomed two young people who had just moved into the neighborhood into the house to chat and have a beer and eat more cake, I thought, "And this is too, right?"

So, while I had all sorts of fancy plans about what I can do as "ministry," for now, I'm going to stick to baking cakes. And if my child's interest in baking tuns out to be more than fleeting ... if he turns around and bakes a birthday cake for a friend or a neighbor or a pot luck, isn't that ministry too?

 I sure hope so.

Because right now, cake is what I know.

So let them eat cake.

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