But I still wanted us to experience all the wonderful family traditions surrounding Christmas morning. We'd have to exclaim over Santa's deliveries, rifle through the stockings, and sit down to our annual breakfast of bacon, eggs, and, most importantly, monkey bread.
That's where everything fell apart.
Somewhere between oohing and aahing over the Santa loot and sitting down to breakfast, the house filled with smoke. Filled. With. Smoke.
I had overloaded the bunt pan with buttery, sugary dough balls, and as they rose in the hot oven, the buttery, sugary goo dripped to the bottom of the oven and smoke ensued.
And I came unglued.
We had to open the windows to the freezing outside air, our dog Benji hid under the Christmas tree and refused to come out, and I...wept.
We sat down to eat the monkey bread--blackened on top, doughy in the middle--and Daniel, the one who looks forward to the cinnamon bread the most each year, refused to eat any. I wept. But I couldn't blame him. Indeed, it was a mess.
Do you ever go to great measures to bless only to wind up with a mess instead? Do you ever pour out to others only to find yourself sitting in the puddles of your misguided efforts? Do you ever serve, love, give, or minister only to find that someone has misinterpreted your actions and rejected your offering?
Or maybe you've worked hard, served diligently, given graciously, and bent...over..backwards...to no avail. Nothing came of it. Or so it seemed.
Maybe you've spent precious hours on your knees in prayer and you've yet to see any answers, any action.
Maybe you feel like all of your efforts have been wasted. Whether the recipients of your deeds were ungrateful, unaware, unaffected, or simply unresponsive, you feel you got the shaft.
Just after Christmas, as I continued to wallow in self-pity over a well-planned Christmas morning gone terribly wrong, the Lord graciously gave me a Word. I just love it when He does that. I'd like to share it with you. Maybe it will encourage and re-energize you, too.
And He said to me,
"You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified."
Then I said, "I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for
nothing and in vain;
Yet surely my just reward
is with the Lord,
And my work with my God."
Friend, your good deeds have not gone unnoticed. Your efforts have not been wasted. And your good intentions have merit even if the results were not those for which you hoped.
You may not have been thanked. You may have even been misunderstood, rejected, or ignored. But your God has your reward stored up. And He holds your hard work like a precious possession in His gracious hand. You may feel like you've labored in vain and spent your strength for nothing, but that simply isn't true.
When we serve, truly serve, so that others may be blessed and God may be honored, He is pleased. And He counts our efforts as worthy of reward.
I wrote this scripture in my memory and meditation book for 2012. It will feed my soul as I persevere in serving my family, ministering to the women in my church, writing devotionals and articles, and teaching in the places where God has graciously opened doors for me this year. I hope these ancient words encourage and feed your heart as well. Remember, things are not always as they seem. Some times our efforts may seem to have no return. But God works in the unseen and He can do much with even a little effort on our part.
Persevere, dear friend.