I feel like I’m in the middle of my first year of college all over again. Really.
There is just so much that we are learning through our time living in another culture. Hardly a day goes by when I am not presented with some new concept, word, thought, or lesson. Sometimes it’s merely a new Spanish phrase — I just learned how to say I’m so tired I might die: me muero de sueño — but other times it’s a concept that causes me to stop what I’m doing to blindly stare into space while contemplating my response. And when I try to explain it to Wyeth he ends up staring blindly at me in an attempt to figure out how my brain gets from point A to point B without self-destructing. (In case you’re wondering, he hasn’t yet figured that out.)
I remember a few years back when we were preparing a care package to send to some missionaries in Nicaragua, we were asked to send several boxes of brownie mix. Sure, you can find the ingredients to make them from scratch, but having those boxed mixes was a luxury my friend craved. Thankfully, we can now buy one brand of boxed brownie mix here, at Price Smart (which is like Costco). But when your options are limited, and certain favorites are nearly impossible to find, you realize the importance of using every last drop.
I made our family’s favorite boxed muffin mix at least twice a month back home. I’ve tried a few recipes to replicate it here, but haven’t quite hit the money, which is why I felt compelled to squeeze two boxes into our luggage on the way back from Miami last month.
On Sunday morning, I opened the last box.
The instructions say you can get 12 servings, or a dozen muffins, out of each box, but I was never able to get more than nine or ten before without making them all super tiny. I always wanted to write the company and claim false advertising or something… Anyway, I noticed when I prepared the muffins here these last two times, I actually got 12 good-sized muffins.
After the first box, I thought maybe it was just a fluke. Did I add more liquid? Or were the muffin cups smaller? But then after this second box, it hit me. As I added the last dollop into the twelfth cup, I realized what I’d done. Or, more specifically, what I hadn’t done.
How many times had I neglected to scrape every little bit out of the bowl and into the pan? How many times had I left batter on the whisk, the beaters, the spatula, or whatever other tool? Oh how much had I wasted? Probably enough to make several dozen muffins, or brownies, or whatever other treat I was preparing.
Maybe you always scrape every single drop from the bowl (or eat it, no matter the raw eggs, like my friend Erinn), but I must confess I did not. It wasn’t until I bought a really sturdy plastic spatula here in Nicaragua, that I realized just how much I had left uncooked. It wasn’t until I had to go without my favorite boxed mixes that I realized just how much of them I had previously wasted.
And it was at that moment that my brain suddenly went warp-speed down a crazy rabbit hole. I know it may seem like a stretch to pull lessons from boxed muffin mixes, but I swear God uses the most mundane daily activities to present some of my favorite object lessons.
What if those boxed mixes are God’s recipes for what we are capable of accomplishing within a certain time period, event, or situation? If so, then how often do we leave opportunities dangling on the ends of whisks and spatulas? How many times do I say I’m tired, and give up even when deep down I know I had more in me? All those extra muffins might equal more time with God, more love for my husband, more rounds of cards with my daughter, more food for a sick or struggling neighbor, more listening to a friend, and more service for my community.
I know we’ve heard tons of sermons on when to say no (to avoid getting burned out) but I fear saying no isn’t exactly the problem for lots of us. At least, not if the average TV-viewing and Facebook-using statistics are true…
I wonder if my life isn’t more like that tray of muffins than I might like to admit. Sure, I put in a good day’s work and fill nine or ten of the cups, but then I typically check out (in favor of whatever is in my Hulu queue or Facebook feed) for the rest of the tray. What if God has plans for parts of my day, that I end up leaving in the bowl… only to be thrown in the trash or down the drain? I know I need down time in order to refresh and rejuvenate. But when that down time becomes a regular distraction — to the point of being a method of avoidance — instead of a brief reprieve, what am I (or those around me) missing out on?
Being able to say me muero de sueño is great, as long as I’m not just looking for an excuse to check out. Because in the end, it’s not about how many shows I watch (or don’t watch) or meals I prepare or other things I accomplish, but rather the relationships that are built along the way.