After my emotional burnout (complete with tears and a vicious cleaning of my kitchen while Paul hustled the kids off to another part of the house), I made a cup of coffee and sat down to think.
Paul has told me that a good way to measure the worth of an activity is to think of it in light of the judgment seat (2 Cor 5:9-10)—where God rewards and praises us (I Peter 1:7) for the good we have done through his grace. Not light sounding advice, I know, but really helpful once you begin to use it. When I stand before my loving God and together we review the actions of my life that pleased him, will making these particular Christmas cookies be included? After examining my motives and actions, will making them be part of his commendation of “well done, good and faithful servant? (Matt 25:23)” Or will my Christmas cookies be conspicuously absent?
(As an aside: I think that there is certainly a sliding scale when it comes to motive because really, no human is every going to have 100% godly motives for anything. In the end, I’d give those cookies a 20% good, 80% bad rating).
So in light of the judgment seat question, here are the conclusions that I reached.
First, engaging in holiday activities is not wrong.
I think there has been a back-lash against women who enjoy crafting, baking, decorating, and other pinterest-worthy activities. We need to make sure we aren’t judging each other by any standard other than the one that God gave us in scripture. God has made each of us with unique abilities and areas of enjoyment that he wants us to use to his glory (Eph 2:10). If you are gifted at baking, then bake! If you enjoy decorating, I’ll give you my Michael’s coupons! If you like coming up with creative ways to hide the Elf on the Shelf, then post pictures because doing that every night takes talent : ). The point is, our creative outlets should be governed by God’s foundational expectations first, and our personal gifts and talents second. Wouldn’t it be great if we as women could honestly rejoice in the abilities of our friends without feeling threatened? If we could see pictures of crafts, art, food, clothes etc. without having that subtle and conniving sense of inferiority sneak into our thoughts? How freeing that would be! Pinterest would no longer be a means of measuring my own inability (honestly, Martha Stewart accomplished that little task years ago : ) but rather just a cool site that gives me lots of ideas for free! Even after looking at cookies like these, I could chuckle (bahahahah) and go make my awesomely normal chocolate chip cookies, take them to my neighbors and friends and not once feel somehow delinquent as a women!
Second, engaging in holiday activities at the expense of other priorities is wrong.
My reason for making cookies wasn’t entirely bad. We have new neighbors and I wanted to follow a time-honored tradition of bringing cookies to those who live around us. It would have been a way to meet them and become engaged in their lives. Also, I really did want to spend some quality time with the boys. Both motives were good. The problem arrived when I let those good motives slip away at the expense of creating cookies that met my own personal standard (aka, perfection as defined in a random food blog). I let irritation and anger slither in when I should have been loving my boys more than I loved those darn meringues. I let a desire to create something perfect overshadow my desire to use my time wisely (four hours is a boat-load of time during the month of December). I finished my day tired, overwhelmed and with a worse relationship with my husband and children then when I started. A task that I began as a ministry had changed into an idol. (So sneaky!!) After the first disastrous egg whipping fiasco, I should have stepped back and evaluated my heart and mind. Once I saw the seeds of anger and perfectionism I should have made myself stop (Phil 4:8). Made myself put the ingredients for those super-impressive cookies away and pulled out the tried and true chocolate-chip cookie recipe. If I had done that, I could have reinstated my biblical priorities, ministered to my neighbors with yummy (though maybe not super festive) cookies, had a kitchen that didn’t resemble a disaster zone when finished and had children who didn’t want to rise up and call me evil and mean : ).
As silly as it sounds, I really should have remembered the judgment seat. Remembered that God is not partial to any particular cookie. That rather, he will be pleased with a woman who values his promises and commands more than her own personal expectations.
So friends, go enjoy the holiday season. But remember to keep your heart focused on what is true, and not some sneaky lie that tricks us into concentrating on those things that really don’t matter.
And if you are particularly good at baking oatmeal raisin cookies, then Paul would encourage you to use your gifts and abilities and bring him a plate or two : )