57: Just One Loaf

57: Just One Loaf

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Just One Loaf

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

~Winston Churchill

I was on the run again. It was Sunday morning, the busiest of my workweek. Mrs. Johnson needed some green yarn, Mrs. Craven needed a whole list of supplies. The nursery worker hadn’t shown up yet, and several classes of adults would be upset if the coffee didn’t get made! On top of that, I had two prayer requests to give the pastor before service began, and the pastor was nowhere to be found.

It was just an average Sunday in the life of a Children’s Ministry Director. By the time the morning ended, I felt like I’d had a morning at the gym, instead of at the church. I wondered if my dry cleaning bill would be higher than my salary. The truth was, I loved every minute of it — all the details, all the running around to get what everyone needed, encouraging the volunteers, and, of course, working with the children. To see those “ah ha” moments when the kids understood a new Bible truth, to see them praising God in song, to pray with them to ask Jesus into their heart — those were the moments that made it all worthwhile, the reasons I didn’t mind all the extra hours, nighttime meetings, or even doing menial work like cleaning up after events. In short, I loved my job.

Once a year, however, there was a not-so-happy event in the life of the church for me, a time when I felt disappointed, unappreciated, and ashamed for feeling that way. It rolled around every year in October — Pastor Appreciation. Each year the church would celebrate and thank the Senior Pastor, the Associate Pastor, even the Youth Pastor, but would not recognize me at all. They sent the pastors off on paid vacations, purchased symbolic gifts for them such as paintings or plaques, had receptions, and gave them gift certificates. Many members of the congregation sent cards or brought in small gifts or baked goods, or just came by the office to give them a hug.

I was glad for the pastors. I worked with them throughout the year and knew they were good, strong Christian workers, deserving of recognition. Yet I knew I worked just as hard as they, giving all I had to bring the good news to the children and families in my ministry. I didn’t do the job for recognition or praise, and yet I couldn’t help feeling slighted each time another year rolled around and I saw the huge piles of baked goods and cards on the pastors’ desks. I prayed fervently for God to take away the need for human praise. I asked God to remind me constantly of the only praise I really needed, those wonderful words I hoped to hear on the day I would meet my maker, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

This particular year on Pastor Appreciation Sunday, I was guarding my heart against yet another disappointment, and trying to be happy for all the gifts the pastors were receiving. Out of the blue, one of the older ladies in the congregation came up to me with a brown paper bag in hand. She smiled sweetly and said, “I have something for you.” My mind quickly thought of the possibilities. This lady was known for her cooking abilities. Maybe it was some delicious treat, or some fresh fruit from her garden. It didn’t really matter, though, I was so happy to get anything at all in recognition of my hard work. All this went through my mind in a fraction of a second, and I said a quick prayer of thanks as I took the bag from the lady’s outstretched hand.

“Thanks so much!” I said, smiling from ear to ear.

“I’m glad to do it,” the lady said. “I know you’ve been collecting them.”

Suddenly I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I walked slowly into my office and opened the bag. Sure enough, it was full of toilet paper tubes. I had placed an announcement in the bulletin asking people to save them for an upcoming project. I sat down at my desk and shed a few tears, then poured out my heart to God, asking Him again to take away the desire for recognition, asking Him to help me be content knowing that my work was contributing to the salvation and spiritual growth of my students.

A peace came over me right then and there. I realized God had given me a job I loved, and even if I never received a single word of thanks, I was doing something of eternal value. As I stared at the bag of toilet paper rolls in my lap, it began to seem funny. Soon I started to laugh at myself, wondering how many more bags of empty rolls I would receive that day. God had taken away my sorrow and replaced it with laughter. The more I thought about it, the funnier it seemed and the more I laughed, and that is just how Delores found me.

Delores was a supporter of children’s ministry, even though she had no children of her own. She had some health concerns, and teaching was not her gift, yet she supported the ministry in other ways, providing baked goods for special events, substituting in the nursery, and covering the ministry in prayer. Delores stuck her head in my office, and asked if she was interrupting. I pulled myself together and readied myself for whatever Delores needed.

“Come on in,” I said.

Delores stepped into the office and pulled something from behind her back. It was a loaf of Delores’s homemade cinnamon bread! It had a card attached. Delores said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you do for the kids.” She put the bread on my desk and made a quick exit. I sat staring at the loaf of bread with my mouth hanging open. Just when God had given me peace and contentment without human praise, He sent some to me anyway!

Now I anticipate Pastor Appreciation each October, making sure all the pastors are properly thanked, and thanking God for allowing me to be His tool. I thank Him, too, for one very special lady named Delores, and one loaf of bread, which, though eaten long ago, leaves a sweet taste in my mouth every October.

~Sarah Bergman

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