Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
We’ve been cleaning out the basement over a period of several weeks (though we are beginning to creep into the month category). Our adventure has been unearthing lots of interesting finds; old pictures from our early married days, appliances and trinkets long forgotten, vinyl record albums. But opening one box brought a most enjoyable and unexpected surprise. Cookbooks! Boxed up years ago, acquired probably years before that, these cookbooks go way back. I even found one from the Aldersgate Retirement Community, where my grandmother once lived. She served on the Resident Council in 1992, the year the cookbook was published, and had offered many of her wonderful recipes to the book. I’m glad to have the record.
Some of these cookbooks came to my collection before I was fully grown up, long before I would have imagined that life would see me preaching, cooking or writing. Some followed along in the years since. They are all from another part of my life, and they are now all added to my cookbook project.
Having given this a little thought, these extra cookbooks don’t bother me very much. Yes, they add to my project list and certainly to my project timeline. In fact, they add a lot. At my current rate, this stack of books will keep me going for a decade or so. I admit that their appearance, at first, gave me a bit of stress.
But it’s okay, actually. If it is ten or twenty years down the line before I come to the end of my cookbook project that is something I can live with. I have no deadline. Frankly, the thought that I will still be around and cooking in a decade or two is more than acceptable, so I welcome this addition to the plan.
I don’t always welcome new items creeping onto my schedule, however. I have been struggling lately with the more that has been regularly placed on my To Do list. Serving a new church with familiarity to be gained, and new questions to be understood and addressed, quickly fill many of the hours of the day. Then here comes fall with the beginning of activities and classes. Add to that the ever-guilt-laden topic of being a reasonably good mom and a responsible member of my family. To be honest, I have been feeling rather overwhelmed.
I have also been displaying all the attendant grumpiness and fret that come with feeling so inundated. My guess is that you have felt this, too. I am tempted to lock myself away, to bury my head in the laptop. I stop myself from saying “Leave me alone!” when a friend or parishioner so foolishly wishes me a cheerful “good morning.” When I begin to feel this way, I know it is time to re-evaluate. (BTW, friends and parishioners, please never stop giving me cheerful greetings!)
In order to re-evaluate, I have to go back and consider my foundational beliefs. One of these is that God provides us with enough. Though it may not seem like it, we have enough time, enough resources, enough sanity to carry us through our challenges. I believe this. I preach this. Now I am challenged to live it.
When I think about the fact that God has given me enough, I have to ask myself why I feel like I don’t have it. How would I live differently if I believed I had enough? What could make this reality perception?
This leads me to consider the decisions I make about the use of my time. Do I order my time wisely? Am I careful enough in choosing how much I can and can’t do? Do I re-fuel regularly enough? Am I willing to take in what is nourishing and strengthening?
When I think about it hard, I find that the answer to many of these questions is “No.” And in realizing this, I come to the conclusion that my being or not being overwhelmed is much more within my control than I had realized. Rather than an inevitable drain, this reality is a decision; a choice that I can make to act in my own – and everyone’s – best interest.
Many of the things I have always heard, and even said, are beginning to grow feet and walk. I have always heard that I can’t take care of others unless I take care of myself. What do you know? It’s true. Unless I block off and guard the time and the resources that I need, I’m going to be a grumpy green monster to those who rely on me most. I will become exhausted, disillusioned and angry (and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.) But if I say No at the proper times, I will have a lot more Yeses to spread around. If I allow myself what I need, with no apology or begrudging, then I can be who I need to be for myself and for everyone.
To be honest, it still comes as a surprise to hear the word “No” roll out of my mouth. But I have found, with some surprise, that the universe doesn’t collapse and I am usually able to negotiate a different and happier “OK.” God has given us enough. In fact, God has given us abundance. It is our task to be such stewards of God’s gifts as to benefit everyone.
I am including the recipe below because it is simple and might come in handy if you are feeling overwhelmed and short on time. I have made it on many occasions. It comes from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook, written by a cousin who shares the same disability as my kids. This is what he was able to make so he shared it, and I am grateful.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
4 slices bread 2 T fruit preserves or jelly
2 T peanut butter
Spread one side of each of two slices of bread with preserves or jelly. Spread the other two slices of bread with peanut butter. Form a sandwich with the peanut butter and jelly in the center.