it's friday night and i'm half asleep. laptop on knees, fire in the hearth and my feet snug in fur boots. (i live in minnesota now, i.e., a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do). so,if this piece begins to ramble or the words tilt to one side or another, just know the writer is officially gone -- snoring like a large man on the sofa. it has been that kind of week.
neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet...
well, we had all of that yesterday. all at once, in fact. i guess it's what's called a "wintery-mix." and it was just in time for my first field trip with connor's fourth grade class from chapel hill academy. the 4th graders, teachers and some chaperone parents walked from the school building to a place called Feed My Starving Children. FMSC has locations all over the united states and one happens to be less than two miles from our school. it is a favorite service project where the kids work together to assemble bags of food for other children all over the world. more on that in a moment.
anyway, there we were in this wild wintery-mix -- some great cacophony of mittens, hats, rain boots, umbrellas and winter parkas. a parade of color walking the wet streets of chanhassen. in my past few months here, i have learned that minnesotans pride themselves on good gear...on their absolute preparedness. i mean it, i have heard more helpful hints and secrets of survival in the past 90 days than in my entire life (all of which i am quite thankful for and taking careful note of). but i am pretty much to the point of packing up my fancy high heeled shoes and just chucking them all in the first snowbank i see. this is not high-heeled country, my friends. here in the northland, we go for form and function. practicality and preparedness. sensibility and utility -- ubetcha! it is a serious business...a matter of survival. not that these minnesotans don't look cute doing it...oh no...they can and they do. winter wear has taken on a whole new level of forward fashion since my own school days of wet, wool mittens and saggy, thin thermal underwear.
but yesterday on our way to FMSC, i simply had to laugh at the crazy clothing combos we all came up with. there was just no way to battle that kind of weather. umbrellas were yanked inside out by the whipping wind, tennis-shoed children were sloshing through puddles, snowflakes were dancing across hoods and hats and a few bare heads. it was a sight to behold. at one point, when we seemed to pause a second too long in the middle of our mile, i thought to myself, "oh, for heavens sake, let's hurry these freezing children so we can feed my starving children!" but truly, it was fun. the kids laughed and skipped and shouted. the group of moms i walked with did their own share of laughing and joking as well. we were all about speed, but all of it, even the snowflakes and puddles, was fun.
but this piece isn't about the weather. and it's really not about those freezing children either. once we were set in the warehouse with our hairnets and our work stations, the real fun began. these amazing 4th graders were all about the business of working hard to create incredible bags of super food. they worked without let up. no one complained. each student had a specific job and they carried it out with nothing short of elementary school passion -- singing, dancing and cheering each other on. the music played loud the energy played louder. bag after bag. box after box. these kids were rocking it big time.
they were serving. they were doing something for someone in need and it was a beautiful thing.
at the end of our two hours, the team leader announced we had packed 51 boxes. each box held 216 packages of food ...that's 11,016 meals. he then divided it by 365 days in a year and came up with the number 30. 30 children would be fed by what these kids had accomplished in one small afternoon of work. the CHA 4th graders cheered and clapped in enthusiasm. this felt good. this felt great. the leader gathered us all together in the back of the warehouse to pray over the large crates of food which would be shipped out to haiti at week's end. i wonder if i'll ever be able to take part in something like this and not feel the urge to weep. i could barely hold back the tears as we watched a video before leaving. story after story, of children and families and villages touched by these bags of food. by this manna. i thought of the excess oatmeal i had pitched this very morning and of the untouched sandwich i found last night while emptying out one of my kids' lunch bags...
that was thursday.
on friday, it was another day of service. somehow, completely unbeknownst to me, i had scheduled myself the very next day at the high school for their service project, as well. honestly, i wasn't trying to win the volunteer-mother-of-the-year award. the truth is, i scheduled them back to back by accident. probably because i am terrible at consulting my calendar. calendar? what calendar?
so friday morning i had the chance to accompany emily's junior discipleship group on their fall service project. the snowflakes and rain were gone, but the cold had settled in deep and we were scheduled to spend the entire day outside raking leaves. i woke friday morning again, wondering just what clothing combination to put on for such an event -- you'll be happy to know, i ruled out the high heels immediately. (see... minnesota is definitely rubbing off on me). i'm going to be perfectly honest here: even though i had been excited earlier in the week about going on this project, by the time friday morning came, i had kind of lost my steam. i had been gone all day wednesday, all day thursday (feed my starving children) and by friday, i kind of wanted to stay put and clean my own home...work in my own yard...bake something for my own (non) starving children. completely lame, i know.
but, i pulled up my practical boot straps (literally) and we raced out of the house for a third day in a row (yes, i realize some of you do this every day -- and, by the way, i'm [always] absolutely amazed). but because i am terrible at rushing out of the house early in the morning with all these children in tow, we left breakfast dishes on the table and pajamas in the kitchen (long story) and probably the back door wide open. but off we went. as i backed down the driveway the car thermometer read 35 degrees.
after dropping the younger ones at their various schools, i arrived late to the high school. i arrived late, but just in time to hear their principal, dan beckering, address the student body with these words, "if we consider ourselves followers of Jesus, then we will serve like He served. we cannot follow Him and not serve others." wow. those words punched right through me. that's it. that's exactly it. we are called to serve others. it is intrinsically connected to our following Jesus. not that we do it perfectly. not that we always want to do it. but, nonetheless, it is our calling as Christians. "if you love me, feed my sheep." (john 21:17) now, i am not at all suggesting our good works secure our position in His kingdom, but God's word is crystal clear: "feed my sheep" [people]..."feed my sheep!"
and there i was again, barely thawed from thursday, but back out in the cold on another day of service. this time watching 6 girls and their sweet leader, candace, on the driveway of someone in need. mr. workman hobbled painfully on arthritic knees and showed us around his leaf-covered yard. "i used to do this all myself," he mentioned at least three times. before beginning, we gathered with him and each girl prayed out loud asking for God's blessing on our project, on our day, and on mr. workman's life. i'm not sure mr. workman is a believer, but i know today he was blessed by these girls who believe -- these girls who follow Christ.
from there we went to 89 year old mrs. keefer's yard. more leaves, more raking, more cold. the girls worked and worked and the leaves slowly disappeared. another yard down. another person served. we all agreed, though our shoulders and arms ached, it felt good. really good.
and finally, with some time left over, we headed to one of our own dear one's yards. in an earlier post or two, i've mentioned my minnesota friend, heidi. heidi, who has held this past year the sharp grief of losing her oldest son, josh. at the end of our day, we showed up at her house with our rakes and our eagerness. we stood in her foyer and i watched my friend at a loss for words. perhaps a little overwhelmed at the willingness of these girls ready to work. perhaps a little overwhelmed to know she is loved completely. i don't know, but i do know it was a tender moment praying together just inside her front door. these acts of service can change much more than the state of a backyard...they can change these young girls who serve...they can change those who are served...they can change me.
it is impossible to be part of something like this and not (again) feel the urge to weep. as i blew out the leaves from heidi's flower beds and lawn, i wiped away my own tears. pretending it was the cold, but knowing better. i wanted to blow off and rake out the heartache from this home. if only we could put the pain of loss into neat little piles like these leaves and cart it all far, far away. i texted heidi those thoughts later in the day. heidi gets this service thing. it is what she, and her family, do naturally themselves. sometimes we serve and sometimes we are served. there's blessing both ways.
we can't be followers of Christ and not serve others. we just can't. believe me, i've tried. in fact, just lately i've kind of buried my head in the messiness of our move and i've attended to my own little wounds. curled up somedays on the couch and licking my own small cuts and bumps. kind of like our cat, charlie. (my kids will think it incredibly strange that i just compared myself to the cat, but i'm going to leave it, because i am really tired and right now that seems sort of funny). but, seriously, that's kind of how it's been since the big move to minnesota.
and then, bam! i (accidentally) sign up to serve on two days, back to back. i walk through the freezing slush, i wear sensible boots and (oh-my-heavens!) a hairnet, i hold a splintery rake under a winter's bleak sky. i am sore. i use muscles i haven't touched in a while. serving muscles. muscles which serve. muscles which have been curled up on the couch (like the cat).
we can't be followers of Christ and not serve others.
it's friday night (almost saturday now)...the fire dwindles, the woman has clearly rambled, the boots, still fabulous, and the necessary lesson learned.
as followers of Christ. we serve.
"for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ mark 10:45
(and, no, you will NOT see a picture of me in a hairnet!)