Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How Do You Choose?

   These last months of winter I have been blessed with the opportunities to be a part of two groups studying together two magnificent, character-building books: "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver, and "The Jesus-Hearted Woman" by Jodi Detrick. As much as they seem different and are by different authors, they have actually gone hand-in-hand for content, building on each other and working together in very applicable ways in my life as I read, week-by-week, through the assigned chapters and study guide questions.
   Joanna Weaver's book has been about the story of Mary and Martha, discussing the greatness of both women in societal context of their time, as well as how it compares to us as women today. Deciphering how and when to stop doing and take time to rest and listen, and what can prevent us from being able to go through that process in our everyday lives.
   Jodi Detrick's book is, as the subtitle says, a book about, "10 leadership qualities for enduring and endearing influence." Each chapter works through various aspects of being a good leader, not just in the church, but in our families, in our communities, and in our jobs, by discussing specific characteristics in depth, what they look like, and how to really genuinely develop those areas of your lives.
   When I first started reading the two it never crossed my mind that they would intermingle to strongly, and maybe for some they wouldn't, but for me, right now, they absolutely do. In a recent post, Being a Nurturer, I confessed some of my brain's inner workings. Much of my Martha-ness, really. My constant, driving desire to help everyone. Have you read Gary Chapman's awesome book, "The 5 Love Languages"? My love language expression is strongest in the area of acts of service(with a side of physical touch because I'm a total hugger). Bet you'd never guess that. In this passion to show my love and care for others in tangible ways, I often find myself getting burned out. Despite loving what I'm choosing and wishing I could do more, I eventually get stretched too thin. So how do you choose? How do you choose who you'll serve and care for? How do you choose where you will put your time and effort? There are some places that are obviously priority: family. Kids, spouse, etc. They're your primary 'mission field,' so to speak, but how do you choose what comes next, who gets the next largest wave of your ripple? Is it whomever or whatever is the loudest, most urgent? Is it whomever you have the closest relationship with? Is it whatever scenario comes into your life when you have the time and energy to give? I'm terrible at deciding. I often try to pour my love, attention, and service EVERYWHERE indescriminately whenever I see a need. Over the past 6 or so months, though, I've encountered several scenarios and seen people very deliberately choose, and I don't know how they do it.
   For example, in my MOPS group, there is the wonderful gift of a meal train given to families when they first have a baby. It's such a practical expression of love to help families at a time of major adjustment. The trend that became very evident in the meal trains was that the people who were more outgoing, had more friends in the group, or were connected to small groups had immediately full meal train lists. Every day was immediately snatched up as people were eager to show this love to those families they cherished. When a new mom was quieter, less connected personally to more friends in the group, either because they were new or possibly a working mom who didn't have the free time to be so connected personally to people had a baby, the meal trains were very slow to fill. Sometimes not ever filling and only a faithful few who bring meals to everyone signing up at all. We're all moms. We've all been there, in that place of adjustment, physical and emotional change and healing, and yet it was clear not everyone wanted to help all the moms, just their friends.
   Another example was more personal. In the fall I received a sweet email from a church leader letting me know some one whom I have quite a bit of contact with, was struggling and could use some extra love. There was not a drip of gossip or any desire to smear a person, just a true desire to say, 'Hey, so-and-so is going through a rough patch and I know you have some influence there. It could be really meaningful to make sure she's feeling connected, loved, and supported.' Not a single detail or stitch of dirty laundry, just a pure desire to make sure a person in need felt loved. I was so happy to receive the email and know where I could pour my love, and felt the genuine care and concern in the email. Then, last month I was struggling. Deeply. For more than a month life was in a serious tailspin and I was barely treading water with no support. The leader who had emailed me approached me about something entirely unrelated, and I just felt overwhelmed and burst into tears. I apologized for my dam breaking on her and expressed, briefly, how really terrible and difficult things had been in so many areas for so long, and she gave me an, 'Oh, that's too bad,' response, and kept going on her agenda without a pause though I was sobbing, then walked away when she was finished. I know she has a beautiful, caring heart for many, so what determines who is worthy of that love, care, and that time?
   How do they choose? Do they just choose to help their friends and pass by the needs of those who they don't feel as emotionally connected with so it doesn't pull at them to serve the same way? I'm musing here, not accusing. Wondering aloud. I truly don't know how it's done or the motivation. I've been through a lot of intense struggles in my life and had no one. I know what it's like to have no one and nothing, and my heart just weeps thinking of anyone else going through that in any way. I know what it's like to have just one person who cared enough to reach out, and that help meant the world. If I can be that one person to anyone at any time in my life it would be such a joy to pay forward.
    The two books I first mentioned have been helping me see more clearly what's in my heart, what's behind my motivation, and how to make better decisions in many areas. What's interesting to me is that they haven't curbed my desire to help and pour that care and service into others. Quite the contrary, they've spurred it on even harder, but with different  motivation, and even possibly with better time management, making sure I and mine are cared for, rested, fed spiritually, emotionally, and physically, and not lacking in any way I can control, while reaching out further in the process. By reorganizing my efforts, so to speak, I have more energy and desire to reach further, help more. I think one quote from Joanna Weaver's book sums it up really well for me:
"When we first spend time in [God's] presence- when we take time to hear His voice- God provides the horsepower we need to pull the heaviest load. He saddles up Grace and invites us to take a ride."
How do you decide who to care about? How to help? Who to pour love onto? Or do you? Is life too overwhelming right now to feel ABLE to pour into someone else? What's your motivation? 

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