Number one: Your worth comes from volunteering for multitudes of organizations.
Via AMS Pictures
I’m convinced there are a lot of women sitting in meetings making grocery lists on scratch paper or daydreaming about lazy sandy beach vacations. I also have on good authority that a woman’s schedule can quickly be overrun with countless organizational get-togethers and frenetic activity that revolves around volunteerism. Friends, this can quickly become breeding ground for burn-out and resentment. I’m not sure there’s wisdom in creating a tally sheet of gold stars for oneself simply because the calendar looks like a crossword puzzle. To be honest, I worry about women I know and love when they proudly list off a daily schedule of meeting-to-meeting schlepping, only to stop for a triple tall mochaccino because their tank is completely dry. If a woman’s kitchen island is consistently covered in scraps for to-be-made school art projects while the minivan sits in the driveway stuffed with sports gear for a whole team…there is a desperate need to pause and re-evaluate.
Believe me, I’m not picking on women who volunteer precious time to help in our community. I personally benefit from this selflessness. I see the results of the same select few in my own town and am extremely grateful for their sacrifice. I enjoy the school book fair and library events as much as any mother in my area. I do feel these volunteers frequently for-go their own needs and secret desires because either a) an excessive volunteer schedule has been modeled for them by their own parents or b) they feel their own worth only when they are serving.
Anyone who’s so much as cracked a bible knows that God asks us to serve.
1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace..
As women we naturally take a look around the “camp” and see the needs. We are do-ers and problem solvers . Many of us are first in line when it comes to bringing the chips and dip, chaperoning the annual aquarium fieldtrip, or addressing the gala invitations. We know that such tasks, events, projects and programs won’t just magically appear and run well without people there to create the magic. Yet, I challenge these service-minded women to identify the volunteer opportunities they feel deeply committed to, with a head and heart connection. Now, I might be making the sorting of art supplies in your child’s class sound far more meaningful than it will ever be, but the main idea here is: What matters most to you?
Let me dwell in a sea of honesty and self-deprecation for a moment. I am not first to raise my hand when the PTA comes a-callin’. I discovered years ago that this was not an environment where I would thrive and present my best gifts. I also recognized that internal eye-rolling and nervous nail biting is not something that will help my kids’ school programs. There was some interior battle going on for awhile with those awful snotty mean girls living in my subconscious. They try their best to convince me that “good moms bring cookies to PTA meetings and they stay late”. Prayers and intense one-sided conversations with God led me to the self-realization that I would be better off serving somewhere else.
What did I choose?
Women with breast cancer, dogs who need homes, a small school in middle-of-no-where Kenya, and a group of kids at a local high school who are risk of not graduating. In taking inventory, I found that my superpowers include capturing the spirit of people and animals with my camera, helping to create a fundraising event, writing, and building relationships to support growth. I will not be found alphabetizing novels in my kids’ classroom (much to their relief, I’m sure) or cold calling people for donations. It’s taken me years to recognize my “triangular shape peg-ness” when faced with circular shaped holes in the land of volunteerism. It’s taken even longer to not feel guilty about it. God wants us to serve with joy and an excited heart…I believe this happens when we recognize that the gifts we possess are specific…He pours these diverse abilities and talents into chosen people for a reason.
Yet, I will say that everyone can wash dishes, put away chairs, serve at a shelter, or bring a meal to a neighbor in need. These circumstances pop up all over the place (especially when you’re part of a church community) and such serving is joyful, fulfilling and valuable. Whether a person chooses to wash dishes at every church picnic depends on their burning desire to serve in this area. It’s possible to have a running schedule for a cause you believe in and sprinkle in the occasional Sunday school teaching opportunity. Yet, trouble brews when the list of causes and occasional opportunities overshadow a day-to-day existence in an already packed schedule. Visualize the Sunday school gig being parlayed into a month-long thing because there’s a constant need and someone is not able to say “no”.
Are you that woman?
That selfless, I’m-here-to-help, whatever-you-need, “Oh, it’s no trouble”, “I don’t mind at all” sweetheart who’s volunteer list is rolled out on the floor like a roll of Brawny paper towels? Do you ever ask why this is? Do you kick yourself around the block for over-committing yourself? Is there exhaustion, resentment, complaining…burn-out …loitering in your heart? This is a good time to grab your own lapels (hard to do, but so effective) and ask yourself the tough questions:
-Which of these volunteer opportunities have significant meaning and personal investment in my life?
-Which of these would be the easiest to let go of?
-What will I say when I tell this organization that I’m no longer going to be volunteering?
-How will I keep myself from taking on more opportunities to serve when I’m trying to pare down?
It’s a cycle friends…even (gasp!) an addiction of being available to do what others ask of you 24/7. Own your gifts (maybe that’s the first step—really identifying what those are) and then plugging into a few places that fit into your life. Pray and ask for opportunities to jump in your path that will Lego themselves into your gifts without force. We’re not talking about wedging yet one more commitment into your schedule like stuffing a pro wrestler into a pair of Spanx. It shouldn’t be stressful and a source of moaning and complaining (that’s your first clue). If you’re smiling and humming while driving to volunteer somewhere, that’s a good sign. Go with it…and don’t obsess that you can’t fit in more.
More does not prove your worthiness.
It is understandable that part of the worth you assign yourself comes from the gifts you use to serve others.
Yet it’s important to remember that you are worthy
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Coming Friday in this series…
Myth number two: Scheduling your children in countless extracurricular activities helps them get ahead in life.