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I remember a Sunday morning years ago when my husband and I lived in San Diego. We had arrived early for worship service.  While Charles chatted with a friend, I leafed through the church bulletin.  The headline “Wanted: Kitchen Angels” caught my attention. What’s this about? I wondered.  I read on.  Rita, one of the ladies in our congregation was forming a committee of men and women who were willing to prepare and deliver meals to those in need, such as new mothers, the sick, those who were housebound, and so on.  The notice made it clear that if enough people signed up, a one-meal-a-month commitment was all that was required.

I pulled out my pen and signed up on the spot.  I can do this!  What an easy way to contribute to our church family. When the first call came in, I was ready to serve!  I darned near saluted and clicked my heels as I said ‘yes’ to the assignment.  A young woman had just given birth to twins.  Her husband worked irregular hours in law enforcement and her mother, though helpful with the babies, couldn’t be expected to cook wholesome meals too.  So a group of us were enlisted to take turns providing a nourishing dinner each evening over the next two weeks.

When it was my turn, I outdid myself.  I prepared Italian chicken and mushrooms with all the trimmings–green salad with candied pecans, garlic-stuffed olives, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots, laced with homemade vinegarette dressing.  I prepared a savory garlic-butter mixture to spread on crunchy Italian bread, and made a chocolate cake for dessert with fancy frosting and the words “Welcome Home” across the top.  I put the ingredients into two beautiful baskets with a bottle of chianti for the wine-drinkers, and a bottle of grape juice for the others. I brought my own dishes and tableware so the grandmother would not have to lift a finger.

The meal and the service were a hit.  The family thanked me profusely and I went home flying.  I had found my calling. I was truly a ‘kitchen angel.’

The next month I had a new assignment.  I was rushed when the call came in so I put together a grocery market dinner for that family–barbecued chicken and pasta salad from the deli, a pie and loaf of bread from the bakery. They were on their own for drinks and dishes.  I brought the meal in two large shopping bags.  I had just enough time to drop off the food and say, “Have a nice evening.”

These assignments continued for over a year.  Sometimes I’d turn down an opportunity because I couldn’t fit it into my already packed schedule, and sometimes I simply didn’t want to say yes because it meant driving across the city in rush-hour traffic. I was growing resentful, then felt guilty about feeling that way.  My wings were drooping.  By then, I was anything but a kitchen angel.

The Lord broke through to me, however, when I had a melt-down on the phone with Rita who called to offer me another opportunity. I told her I just couldn’t keep up with the demand–even though it was rarely more than once a month, as promised. I found myself saying ‘no’ more than ‘yes,’ and making lame excuses, as well as avoiding eye contact with other ‘angels’ at church. I was certain my reputation preceded me and the word was out.  Karen was a fallen angel.

“Would you like to retire (read resign) from Kitchen Angels?” Rita asked when I hemmed and hawed in response to her request.

“Oh no. I mean this is a wonderful ministry and I love being part of it,” I lied.  Actually, it is a wonderful ministry, just not wonderful for me.  The truth is that after the first couple of assignments, I hated being a kitchen angel.  I don’t mind cooking for my husband and myself and for company or visiting family, but I’m not the ‘catering’ type. I generally decide what to have for dinner about twenty minutes before we eat.  I don’t like cookbooks and I’m not into elaborate planning—except for very special occasions–such as a presidential or papal visit!

Rita pressed me–gently. “It’s okay, Karen,” she said.  “No shame in letting go of something that no longer works for you–that no longer brings you joy.” There was that word again.  “We’ve appreciated having you on the team for as long as you’ve been able.  What do you say?”

“I agree,” I muttered, trying to hold myself together. I felt like a failure. I envisioned men and women and little children who couldn’t get out, who couldn’t cook for themselves, who needed someone like me to help, at least temporarily.  But I knew I could not pretend any longer.  I was not serving them or myself.  I was trying to turn a lie into a truth–and it wasn’t working. So I did the church a favor, the team a favor, and most of all, myself a favor. I retired and turned in my wings!

Since them I’ve been telling the truth as soon as I know it–about what I really want to do for myself.  I want to write so I’m now part of the women’s ministry blog team at the church in our new location.  I want to hike and camp so I spend at least one week a year in the Sierra Mountains and one or more days a month hiking in the hills near my home.

It’s taken awhile, but now I see that when I do something really good for myself, I’m doing something really good for others at the same time.

How about you? What are you now doing that you no longer feel excited about or interested in?  Perhaps you’re chair of a committee you don’t enjoy or you signed up to bake cookies for a dessert buffet and you hate to bake!  Or you’ve lassoed yourself into learning how to quilt because you’re friend said it would be fun.  But now you dread the classes.  Maybe it’s time to rethink what you do and don’t want to do, and then make plans to step out of the activities that are sapping your energy and enthusiasm so there will be time and space in your life to take on what you love and care about. Let me know what you decide to do.

Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20-21 the Bible)

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Kitchen Angel — 21 Comments

  1. Wow, I can relate to this. I think we all bite of more than we can chew. I know I have. My heart is to big sometimes. The three guilt. I also have felt like a failure before God.I mean, this wasn’t just a friend I let down, but the creator of the Universe. After I got back from that trip, I snapped out of it and, like you, found something to help the body and that made me happy and not a failure. Good blog Karen.

    • Thanks, James. No worries about the typo. Glad you can relate to my experience.

  2. Thanks for your entertaining and uplifting authenticity, Karen. This one “hit the spot” for both. I love your blog!!!

    • Thanks, Carolyn. I love knowing you’re reading my blog and that this one hit the spot!

  3. yes Karen, if God didn’t call you to this type of ministry, then it couldn’t work out. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re correct, Mary. I probably did not check in with the Lord first–just plowed ahead thinking if there was a need I was supposed to fill it!

  4. Hi Karen, I loved this topic and have signed up in the past for things that really didn’t fit me. Your honesty is so refreshing. I really appreciate you. xxoo

    • Pam, thanks for relating. I appreciate you too. We’re soul sisters.

  5. Dear Karen,

    I love this blog. So pleasent to read, just the clean-cut, right-to-the-point writing style is my textbook learning material as a new writer.

    Your brutal honesty with solutions provided is like the guiding lamp post for real life issues we so often encounter, me included. Philosophical wisdom of it!

    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Jing

    • Jing, nice to hear from you. I’m humbled to think my writing is helping you as a new writer. God bless you on your path.

  6. Thanks you for this article- it is a very important lesson that women really need to hear. Of course we all have to do things we don’t love sometimes, but our regular ministry or ministries should flow from our giftedness, time commitments and passions! Thanks Karen for helping me and others let go of the guilt and serve the Lord from our sweet spots!

    • Angela, thanks for commenting. I especially like your last few words about serving from our sweet spots! I’m going to remember that.

  7. I love your transparency, Karen. We can’t be everything to everybody, but we sure try to be! Thank you for this reminder that God has a place for us to serve uniquely fitted to the gifts and talents He has given us. A place where using that skill for others will energize us and fill us with joy. God bless you for using your gift of writing so we can be blessed by it.

    • Thanks, Michele. I feel blessed by your writing gift so it is nice to know you are blessed by mine too.

  8. I also thank you, Karen, for sharing honestly. I can sure relate. I always thought if I heard of a need, God intended me to do it. Then I realized that an opportunity is not necessarily God’s open door. What freedom. I’m proud of you and all of us who stop doing something midstream when we realize it’s not God’s will for us. But it sure is hard to say no sometimes. Thank you!

    • Kathy, great to hear from you. Thanks for validating my point that not every need is a call on our lives. God will make clear when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’–if we ask him.

  9. Karen this article really hit home for me. It’s beautiful how authentic and honest you are about your feelings and your needs. It’s a gift of freedom when we release something that no longer serves us without guilt. Your writing is a healing balm upon my heart. I recently let go of tremendous responsibility that I had in a world wide organization. My health was deteriorating and I knew that it wasn’t God’s will for me to be going down the path of a workaholic. Thank you again for writing such an inspiring article. Bless you dear friend.

    • Thanks so much, Sandy. You are a very encouraging person yourself. 🙂

  10. Best one I’ve read by you. Loved it! Especially this:

    “But I knew I could not pretend any longer. I was not serving them or myself. I was trying to turn a lie into a truth–and it wasn’t working.”

    Turning a lie into a truth is such a habit when we want so much to be “good people.” I love that you recognized your resentment growing. I have made the same mistake, remember the averted eyes, the unwillingness to recognize my passive-aggressiveness.

    Great writing and post. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Julie. I appreciate knowing other people get into the same predicaments as I do. I resigned from another post yesterday–a commitment I made based on a friend’s enthusiasm. When the ‘dread’ overtook me, I politely declined and the awful feeling disappeared. The other party was gracious, as well, which helped. I’m learning . . .

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