Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: Confessions of the Anti-Martha
By Jan Ackerson
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“I don’t care about any of that, Nicky.” Jimmy reassured me often during the first years of our marriage. “I just need you to support me, and pray for my ministry, and love the church people.”
Well, it’s been a pleasure to do those things for Jimmy—and for God. If the Women’s Missionary Guild gasped when I attended meetings in hot pink capris and a tee-shirt that read “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” they soon adjusted. I like to think I won them over with my charm.
Still, there’s a certain amount of work that must be done, and I’ve tried to be a good pastor’s wife—practicing hospitality, for example, when I’d rather be writing another chapter of the Next Great Christian Novel. I’ve developed some shortcuts over the years; just call me the anti-Martha.
Here are some ways that I’ve survived parsonage life:
Housecleaning: Closets are my friends. Happily, I have one in every room. When Mrs. Postlethwaite calls to say that she’ll be by in ten minutes with six boxes of quilt squares for Africa, I open the closet doors and start tossing. (When my children were little, they were very enthusiastic about having visitors if it involved what I called The Closet Game.)
Also, my living room has several small, portable pieces of furniture. I move them often, to cover any new splotches or stains. Jimmy occasionally trips over a newly repositioned end table. He just chuckles. “Did you have company today, dear?”
Ironing: When Jimmy needs a wrinkle-free shirt for the Trustees meeting and his dress shirts have been sitting in the dryer since Tuesday, I don’t panic. I simply run the shirt under the basement faucet until it’s slightly less wet than the sacrifices of the prophets of Baal. Then I run it through the dryer again for twenty minutes.
Sure, I could iron it in five minutes. But that’s five minutes better spent with a cup of coffee and Max Lucado.
Gardening: Isn’t it lovely to have your own fresh produce to can and freeze and preserve?
In short—no. Here are two of my favorite words. Grocery. Store. Yes, I could plant tender young tomato seedlings, and weed them, and pick off those horrid fat green tomato worms. I could spend several afternoons in a sweltering kitchen with a pressure cooker and five dozen Mason jars. Or…I can buy a can of delicious tomatoes for $.79, without all that perspiration.
Furthermore—it happens every year—every family in the church experiences an abundance of garden-grown tomatoes and peppers and, God help me, zucchini. Jimmy likes to say that they try to pay his salary in vegetables every September. Eventually, we have to beg people to stop being so charitable.
Baking: This hasn’t come up often; the Mother-Daughter Banquet Committee knows that Dottie Stouffer makes the best cakes. But the year that Dottie had surgery, the task fell to me, and my creation was a big hit.
I went to the kitchen supply store and bought a platter big enough for two turkeys. Next stop—the supermarket, for an assortment of small snack cakes. Little Debbie, bless her soul, has several varieties of hexagonal cakes with various icing designs. I spent a few minutes artfully arranging the desserts, making lovely patterns with the icing. The resulting cake was as intricate as a parquet floor.
The ladies are still buzzing about that cake.
I could go on and on: hints for gift-wrapping (paper bags), centerpieces (dandelions in a jelly jar), clothing repair (masking tape, safety pins, buy new).
Last night, Jimmy sat beside me on the couch and handed me a bowl of fresh, sliced peaches. I was suddenly aware of the cluttered living room (no Mrs. Postlethwaite that day). “I’m sorry, hon. I guess I didn’t do much work today.”
Jimmy rubbed my neck. “Did you do any kingdom work?”
I thought about the devotional I’d written for the bulletin, and the coffee I’d shared with my lonely neighbor June, and the dozens of prayers I’d launched God-ward.
“Well, yes, Jimmy. I sure did.” We finished the peaches in happy silence.
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