Friday, December 21, 2007

The Truth about Joy

I guess I've always known that true Joy comes from within, but it doesn't always play out that way in real life. I mean, sometimes circumstances give you a literal run for your money. I have had unwanted reminders for the last 30 days at least - that you have to bring joy, and not rely on it from external sources. Easier said than done I would say.

So, let's get our baggage out in the open. I'm a Jesus girl - which means I have no excuse for not having joy. Even when the world looks dim and cold, I know that the greatest gift of all was giving when Christ died on the cross. I know that - but when you look at me, I want people to KNOW that. I'm not a "smiley girl" - I'm a Jesus girl. Which means I have known God and accepted him as my Savior for nearly my entire lifetime . But, I'm sensitive to life - I mean, I don't have some amazing gift of rolling with the punches. Actually, I have to "think" about joy, to remind myself to take the scowl off. I'm serious by nature. I have been that way by all accounts since I came out the womb. But the pursuit of joy is a good one - I'm headed in the right direction.

When you see things in black and white, the gray area can be especially challenging. I like stuff to be "in a certain type of way" and that can be a challenge in general, for personal accountability standards. No, I'm not talking about what I hold other people to, I'm talking about the standards I hold for myself. I'm working on it. Uh... the title of the blog is " A work in progress." Isn't it obvious. I don't have it all together - but hey, I have episodes of sheer brilliance.

One of those not so brilliant moments came when I offered to be the "Room Mom" for the Thanksgiving experience of 20 3rd Graders. I love kids, I love food, I love Thanksgiving, I love volunteerism.....hey, a Win/Win waiting to happen. NOT!

At our private school the Thanksgiving experience was scripted, as in, Dear Room Mom, here's what you need to do to cook the things we have identified, and for this end result. I'm a believer in following the rules - but this was quickly shaping up to be a not so good test of my strengths. I do love kids, my kids. I do love my cooking - Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey and Dressing with Oyster gravy, Greens - but, that wasn't what we were charged to cook. Oh, and by the way - all of your items must be donated from the other folks in the room - coordination of other people's interest in making said prescribed Thanksgiving dinner - to include succotash and marshmallow salad. (Two items I promise I have never had in nearly 40 years of life.)

What is a joy-challenged overachiever to do - cry. Cry a lot. The children are dressing up as Native American's for this, and we don't know the first bit of how to deal with diversity in this school environment. I mean, there are challenges abounding. I need more than joy, I need HELP.

And for this season, HELP cometh in the most unlikely of places. A mother that I don't know has offered to help with the "Gooey Rolls." This calorie enriched, carb filled treat - which basically is the equivalent of sugar, butter and bread. how can you go wrong, right?

Well, first of all - you must have a certain type of yeast rolls - and the ingredients for 2 recipes are coming from multiple people - and you have to let this stuff sit overnight before you bake it. Simple, huh? No, why would I write about joy and this experience, unless I really, really needed it. So, unknown mommy, has much in store for me. While I'm standing waiting for the items to arrive for the group cooking experience, I see that many of the commitments have not yet showed up. First lesson, secure all contributions in advance. No need to worry about the Gooey Rolls however, the mommy had brought ALL of her supplies, and extra! Joy is starting to rise up in me - but she's already got it.

In the classroom, we are by all measures, winging it. We are trying our best to address lack of preparation issues, and I have moved on to think about what I will do the next day to truly prepare for feast. I am in denial about the mistakes for day 1 and I'm already thinking about day 2. The entire class is actively engaged in the cooking experience - and in the corner, Gooey roll lady is simply smiling as a multitude of fingers are dipped in butter and butterscotch in pursuit of sweet heaven. She is seemingly unnerved by the madness. I have, in the meantime, written a five page mental manual about how to better do this in the future. Joy would be enjoying the situation as is.

When I come home late that evening, I have a somewhat odd voicemail and email, as I have not provided the Gooey roll mommy with baking instructions. The stuff is really swelling beyond the bundt pan - in part because I have given incomplete instructions, in part because the Gooey lady has put more stuff in the pans than any recipe calls for. It's 10p.m., the night before the feast, and I'm laughing hysterically. Mania over a 3rd grade cooking experience. And...I can hear the joy over the phone - I'm pressed. She's baking. A smart woman uses google, finds 3 recipes, and creates her own set of instructions. Mothers are smart. Who has time for all of this?

That's the joy I'm talking about. the deep in your body, little stuff isn't going to shake me, isn't life grand (even if its a bit of a pill for the moment), joy. My angels are really rejoicing because in the midst of this, I have had an ah ha moment. Who cares?

That's right. Who cares? In the bigger scheme of life, with the things that drive me crazy on a daily basis, who cares. We live a blessed life. For all that heartache, mistakes, bad decisions, mother nature and all the other ills of the world bring - we can still have joy. The rolls are delivered the next day, and they are an instant hit. The lines for repeat customers are growing every moment - sugar and rolls. And I take this opportunity to have a life altering moment.

What if - Gooey roll mommy had been a bit of a perfectionistic witch? (Like said writer.) What if we chalked good sense for following someone else's rules? What if, we waited for life to have joy? Danger Will Robinson, we all know better. So I decided that God had a higher calling than my desire to have things in black and white . I'm believing He wants, expects us, to not only have joy, but to bring joy. And further, the testimony of our life is not built on how well we planned each and every aspect of our world, but what we were able to accomplish with the ingredients we encountered. True Joy.

I think I'll get to baking.

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