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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)