I love my day job, I really do. By working at My Father’s House, I get the amazing opportunity to directly impact the lives of homeless families by loving and encouraging them on a daily basis. I hear their heartbreaking stories of sleeping in cars or horrible domestic violence and get to see the relief and gratitude in their eyes when they walk into their beautiful room at our shelter for the first time. I get to celebrate each small step in personal growth, successful job interview, or approved apartment application with these well-worn strangers who quickly become like family. I see families who were once crushed, move out into their own homes with new found confidence and strength, and most importantly, hope.
But as lovely as those stories of success are, working with people can be really messy. Lately, it’s been just down-right ugly at times. No matter how much we try to love people, we are going to get those who lash out because of their previous life experience. They have their fists up because that’s what they have always had to do to survive. They live through their hurt so they lie; they call us names; they run back to bad choices and darkness and addiction.
It’s enough to crush you at times.
So I’m sitting there looking at yet another dirty UA, and I can feel my heart start to harden. I’m frustrated. I’m sad. I’m worried that I’m not cut out for this work of pressing into the souls of people and digging for that sliver of hope. Lately, those dark moments have been happening so much…is helping people really worth all this pain?
And so I start thinking about cake.
I think about how much easier it is to not do soul digging, but slather on some frosting and make people smile. To pull something chocolatey out of the oven and know it’s going to become something creative and lovely. To have your biggest worry be that your gumpaste flowers aren’t done, not that a child is going to be homeless again because of their parent’s addiction. The choice seems so easy sometimes…to just slip out of the ministry and into the kitchen.
But in reality, the choice isn’t really easy and I’m not really going to walk away from the hard work I’ve been given just because we are in a difficult season. I’m confident God has me there with a purpose and I’m committed to seeing this through until He tells me otherwise.
But it doesn’t mean that I can’t do a little caking on the side too….
So in an effort to do both things I love, I was just hired at Bella Cupcake, a little local bakery, for a very part-time job as a cupcake/cake decorator. I’ll work every other Saturday morning and get to help out with some basic cupcakes and display cakes. I’m hoping it will be a good little distraction for me, without pulling me away from home and the kids too often. It will be my first experience working in a professional bakery, and though I do have the skills I’ve developed at home, I’m so excited to learn, learn, learn.
I’ve known the owner, Debbie, for years, starting when she became a volunteer at MFH. I’ll never forget when I went out to lunch with her and she slipped me the most incredible cupcake, casually mentioning that she was trying to start her own little business. Now she has a wonderful location on the corner of Main Street in downtown Gresham and I’m thrilled to be a part of her team.
But going to work at a bakery isn’t truly an escape from ministry. Hurting people will always be everywhere, whether I’m in homeless shelter or baking cupcakes. My calling to be in ministry is fluid- it makes no difference where or how I’m serving. It’s simply that: I’m called to serve. I was really inspired by Ann Voskamp’s blog this week as I struggled through my guilt of wanting to run away from the hard stuff:
“The thing is, our juggling becomes a form of God-art, when we live a One-piece Life. You know — a one-piece life, like a one-piece quilt — no piecing together, no seams, no tearing, no fragmenting, no guilt. Just one cloth. It’s all ministry. It’s all calling. It’s all holy. Mothering a mess of kids is a ministry as much as preaching to a stadium for a month of Sundays. The size of your ministry isn’t proof of the success of your ministry. The very Son of God had a ministry to 12. And even one of them abandoned Him. Forget the numbers in your work. Focus on the net value of your work.When you let all the fabric of your life weave fluid together — the kids, the serving, the going, the giving — your life becomes this seamless tapestry. Live into the kind of ministry that lets you bring your life with you. Live into the kind of vocation that lets you live a full life.”
This week I had the opportunity to wrap my arms around my oldest daughter when she was discouraged, give birthday presents to a homeless child, help a friend who was moving, do my husband’s laundry, and bake lemon bars. As Ann says, “It’s all ministry. It’s all calling. It’s all holy.”
I’d call that a full life. Now it just might be a little sweeter.