Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's a small (er) world

4 years ago my world was big.  My world of opportunity to do good, to serve, was big. I was an HIV social worker in an inner city hospital. I was seeing the sisters at the Gift of Grace house regularly, helping them in their ministry to the poor and sick. I was active in my church ministries. I had recently traveled to Africa. I had a big desire to do good things and a big platform on which to do them. Every day brought new opportunity to, as the sisters pray, "let them look up and see only Jesus." (It goes without saying that at any given point in a day, anyone could look up and see a very un-Jesus like person, a very selfish and sinful person in me. But the point is, if I had it in me to do some good, there was opportunity everywhere I looked. I considered this a huge blessing.)

Fast forward a few years and my world has gotten smaller in some ways. Particularly since the move, and with a baby who takes two naps a day, I am at home a lot. My heart has grown exponentially, but my opportunities for service, at least in the way I used to view service, are fewer. Ross and I believe so strongly in "to whom much is given, much is expected." We marvel at our blessings, sitting in awe of His goodness to us. And yet, we sometimes feel that we need to pay it forward more fully. But often that feels difficult because, really, who wants me to come volunteer with Thomas the destroyer in tow? Sure, I can help from 11:30-1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm at your service. The requests for my time and talent are not exactly abundant.

Last night, I had a small chance to make a miniscule difference so I jumped on it.  My precious friend Natalie hosted a Noonday party for Paige Knudsen. Noonday sells beautiful jewelry, clothing and accessories crafted by people trying to use entrepreneurship to climb out of their poverty. Like most every woman, I love to shop and this idea of "purchasing with a purpose" is right up my alley. (Ross is now very, very afraid.) It was a wonderful night of adult conversation and knocking out some Christmas list items while not padding the pockets of my beloved, but not so needy, Target.

It was a fun night and I was ready to go home and get cozy. As I walked to my car, something caught my eye. At one point during the party, I complimented a friend's boots. They were from my "when I have absurd amounts of money to play with" store (i.e. I go in once every 3 years), Anthropologie. I teased this friend that we wore the same size shoe and should she grow tired of them...When I walked to my car, the boots were outside my door. This friend took OFF her shoes and after a series of texts, affirmed that yes, she wanted me to have them and she was wanting to simplify. Okay y'all, I will simplify all day- with my stash of target shirts and Goodwill finds. If I buy a pair of boots from Anthro, um, no. I'd probably have them insured.

Awestruck, I came home and talked to Ross about how this affected me. I am around other moms all the time. We are all trying to shed light where we can, when we can, with our gremlins alongside us (or darting away if you are my gremlins). But for me, it's hard. Because I compare the me of today to the me of four years ago. I don't doubt for one minute that the back breaking, heart wrenching, patience testing work I do with these kids is my purpose right now. I know that this world, while smaller, is the one in which I should be putting all my energy. But it does not mean I have any excuse  to walk around with my eyes closed. Last night I was blessed by women like these who, by their quiet and humble example, remind me to stand watch. Where can I help? What small good can I do today? Is there an idea of Courtney's that can help the kids and I bring some joy today?  Does my husband need a word of encouragement? Does the lonely widower in Savannah need a card with pictures of my kids? Does a MOPS mom need a letter telling her she's doing great work?  

I left last night inspired by my friends, in disbelief that these are the people God surrounds me with, whether or not our kids let us ever finish a sentence to each other. I left knowing my world is smaller, but no less full of opportunity to pay it forward. I miss being a social worker. I miss holding the hands of the dying and fighting for the rights of the oppressed. Given the chance, I'll do that any day. But I was on the receiving end of small kindness last night. It wasn't life saving or life changing, but it was a reminder of just how it feels to be a thought in someone else's heart. I doubt I'll ever wear those hand me down boots without a heart full of gratitude for what they represent. I sit here with tears at God's provision of women who remind me to get my behind off my often self-absorbed shoudlers, who encourage me to look beyond these walls I rarely leave, who spur me to see where a very pregnant, very tired mama with very wild children, can bring Christ's love.

Women’s empowerment here in the USA often carries has the connotation of bra burning and male trampling. In India, it means ending child marriage, promoting female literacy, ending female feticide (caused by the dowry system), and enabling women to see their full potential. It means women looking in the mirror God made for them and seeing His image reflecting back.
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