The past week I've seen my little Dayton community come together over some homemade jam. God uses the most random tools to call our attention to him. He sometimes saves us from fiery furnaces. Once he flooded the earth. Once he used hair as a prime foot cleansing product.
And this week, he used strawberry jam.
It all started when my sister invited me to "jam" with her. She's been getting into this canning thing and when she jumped, I said sure! My sister and I have not always had the easiest of relationships. We are the first to admit it. Once, when I was a little girl, I sang a song about how I loved, "Jenny and Jonny and Mommy and Daddy. I love everyone! Except Jessica!" Apparently my little melody was heard by my family and embarrassingly, they all still like to bring this up to me every available chance they get. In any case, my sister is now one of my dearest friends, and I love when we find things in common to share together. So this is our new "jam."
If this were not reason alone to praise the Lord. His redemptive work in our relationship as evidenced by hours over a Ball water bath canner. Yet God's goodness begins before we even started.
When looking for our strawberries, I asked my friend Andria, who makes a mission out of farming abandoned lots in our neighborhood. She is Jesus to our world by turning the forsaken into beauty. And let me tell you, these strawberries were BEAUTIFUL. These gems had never been sprayed, organic, juicy, and delcious. They could stand alone as God's incredible creation to just admire and pop into our mouths. And don't worry, we did that aplenty.
After we spent the better part of two days cleaning, hulling, sugaring, processing, and waiting, Jessica and I had 27 jars of blush red jam contrasted atop on my white granite countertop.
The night Jessica left was a house church night. I stuffed a bag full of all my jams feeling a little selfish and torn. I considered keeping some behind for my pantry. But I thought of Andria growing strawberries for our community and I realized these jams were never mine to begin with. They were the Lords given to us as a tool to give away. At house church, we had three new guests. Somehow, I had enough to give all our regulars and to welcome these guests. My heart was so happy. It's cliche, but it truly is better to give than to receive.
On a jam high, I texted Andria again the next day. "Any more strawberries? I want to make some more jam for my neighbors." A house church friend helped Andria pick them, yet another helped me clean them. Eight more jars to give away.
Yesterday, Titus and I packed up the jogging stroller and began our delivery service. Our first stop was our 90 something old neighbor, a widow that lives behind bushes that cover her entire front porch. Inside her house are a treasury of antiques that all have a story. But everytime I talk with her, I realize her heart is also a treasury of stories. I worry about her. She lives alone and has no family close by. She takes care of herself tremendously and is extremely "with it," but she did have a small stroke last year that we only found out about much after the fact. How can we live so close to someone and not know they had a stroke? I was so ashamed and felt I wasn't loving her well. Many times I've been racked by guilt that I am not being Jesus to her because I don't have, no, I don't make the time for her.
The last conversation we had was about the new library. It is my new favorite place, but I know she is grieved. She spent much of her childhood at our tiny old, charming library. She misses it since its closure. When I knocked on her door yesterday, she invited us in, per usual. Almost immediately, she invited me to attend a historical program starting two hours later on the Navy and the War of 1812. So, she decided to be brave and try the new library. She loves history and books. So do I. And so, without blinking, I said yes to the first neighbor date we have ever done together in six years of living next door to each other. I didn't get to stay the whole time, because Titus wouldn't last that long, but I've never had such a good time at the library. Mostly, I loved spending time with my beautiful neighbor who was forgiving time for changing things by embracing a simple program that brought her so much joy.
I can't help but think about how God equipped me with jam, and time, to love my neighbor well yesterday and to be loved in return.
In the year and some change since becoming a mother, God has given me new clarity regarding the gift of the time he has given me. I've saught margin in my life by learning to say yes and no in my life. I've read really helpful books like the Best Yes and Breaking Busy to help me clarify my yeses, but Jen Hatmaker sums it up best with this quote my friend sent me not long ago:
"As you move into 2016 hoping for a saner schedule that prioritizes your actual life and keeps you focused on the things that matter the most, let me share the decision-making filter my agent Curtis always gives me:
"If it's not a HELL YES, then it's a no."
So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn't-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes?
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I've already committed my time and energy this year. I've loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we've agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won't be able to do more right now.
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong...the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY."
I love that. So much. I've said a lot of nos the past few years, but the exhilarating fact is that I've also been able to say some HELL YESES! To my family, to my house church, to Dayton Women in the Word, to blogging, and to making margin for jam and historical adventures to the library with my 90 year old neighbor.
The beauty of being a stay at home mom is the necessary amount of margin we have to have to raise littles. I have a lot of time and I don't have a lot of time, all at the same time. I have time to do what works for Titus and Bambino, but that looks vastly different than what my margin of time looked like before kids. I like to do things that include, not exclude them, if possible. And I think long and hard about the things I do without them. I have to weigh if it is truly worth it. I've fought the battle of contentment in times where God gives me lulls to rest in him, or fight the thought that just because it seems that I am doing nothing, that I am worth nothing. Pushing my child on a swing in the back yard is not unproductive, but just the right thing in the moment to worship the Lord. I know things will change very soon. I will have two littles under two and my margin will once again change. But for now, I'm so grateful for the ways God is leading me each day to use my time well.
Are you struggling managing time? Wondering if you are making the best use of it? You are not alone! The Lord will answer your prayers, give you discernment, and lead you down a sometimes unpredictable road of worthwhile margin in your life. He will give you the exact amount of time you need to serve Him in exactly the right way.
And mamas, can I encourage you? Your time with your child is time well spent. Your time resting is time well spent. Your time with Jesus is time well spent. Use the gift of your children to narrow down what really matters in your life, and then give those your Hell Yes.