A Better Question: What Do You Do For Love?

Sunday afternoon, now that Mike is home, we had some family fun time. We went fishing and then took the boys to Bass Pro Shop. Both Woodrow and Garfield love that place: climbing on the 4-wheelers, talking about which boat they like the most, ogling all the fishing lures.

Bass Pro Shop near Christmastime runs a free mini-carnival, with a carousel and craft table and bow and arrow range (rubber arrows and miniature bows). Included in the festivities today was a face painter, who did a beautiful job creating art on the faces of children. As we passed her, for some reason I thought–“There’s a skill that I really don’t have.” And I guess because balloon artists usually appear at events where there are face painters, I also thought about people who can create animals out of balloons. I know a person who did this as a part-time job for years. So I thought, while walking past rows of camouflage clothes in Bass Pro,“Balloon animals–another skill I don’t have.” 

Then I thought back to a week ago, when I picked up two of our family’s bikes from the shop where they were getting a tune-up. We had to wait awhile there, and I watched several of the men working, expertly fixing and tinkering and getting those bikes in order. I came home telling Mike what a great skill that was, that a person could use that anywhere–people all over the world ride bikes–that it could be a ministry to people in need. And I also thought, “Wow, that’s surely a skill I don’t have.”

It seems silly now, after returning from Bass Pro Shop, to gaze back on those thoughts and the sense of inadequacy they sparked. But they did foster that feeling, one that prompted me to think, “What skills DO I have, anyway?” 


Then I began to take stock. Here’s what I came up with:  I’m great at typing. Seriously, I’m a good typist. Fast, accurate…one of the most useful things I took away from high school.

I’m also great at reading aloud (though I say it myself). In fact, for quite a few years, I volunteered for a ministry to the visually impaired, reading books and Bible study materials onto cassette tapes–remember those?

For C.A.R.E Ministries, I read aloud books by Beth Moore and Amy Carmichael, booklets about dealing with depression and divorce, biographies of heroes and heroines of the faith such as William and Catherine Booth (founders of the Salvation Army). I’m also aces at reading aloud to my boys. Years ago, I gave a voice to a ventriloquist’s puppet in a kid’s book that my boys sometimes still want me to do. “Say that in your dummy voice,” they ask.

And I’m good with kids.

So, that’s what I’ve got–typing, reading aloud, good with kids. A decent writer. Oh, and I made my own sourdough starter about 3 years ago. Yep, that’s about the extent of my marketable skills.

At least that is how I’m profoundly feeling about myself right now. I believe it comes with the territory:  stay-at-home mom for almost 11 years, home-schooling mother for 6 years now (with 10 more to go, Lord willing). I plan and organize and research curriculum; create math lessons; teach my boys everything from how to skip to how to tie their shoes to how to read. I plan meals and grocery lists, cook, make homemade yogurt and homemade dishwasher detergent and homemade toothpaste. I can do some STUFF, y’all. But essentially, I’m “just” a stay-at-home mama. (P.S. I don’t believe anybody is “just” anything. I just know that’s sometimes how I’m seen.)

Our society values that to which we can attach a paycheck, and little of what I do makes the cut. (I do edit stories on a part-time basis for Cru, the interdenominational ministry with which I’ve been a part for almost 20 years–it’s a small role, and I’m more or less taking other people’s stories and just polishing them up.)

I have my hands full. Volunteering with Cub Scouts, editing those Cru stories, leading the Women of Vision group, raising and educating my boys, making use of that sourdough starter…

It’s hard, y’all, to be that straight-A kid, the college graduate with a major that makes people say “wow” when they hear what you studied, and yet feel that I don’t have much to offer in terms of something useful.

“Oh, nice to meet you. What do you do?” We hear that question, and we know people don’t mean “What are your hobbies?” or “What do you do for fun?” They don’t want to hear that you’re an avid collector of Beanie Babies or that you lovingly care for bonsai trees. They want to know–what do you do for a paycheck? 

I can write a resume of volunteer work that is wildly impressive. But a resume of “related job experience” that could earn me a paycheck? It would be slim. And part of me canNOT figure out why I even care. I’ve never wanted a “career” path. I will never regret the choices I’ve made for children and family. Ever. I think I just want to feel some assurance that I’ve got something to offer.

wedding sign 1

What I’ve discovered? Sometimes that “something to offer” is a Band-Aid to a child at a Cub Scout event who skins his knee. Or an extra grocery bag to a person at the store with her arms full of cans. Or a phone conversation with a dear friend who just needs to talk. In these moments, I think, “God picked ME to be the one to do something good here! Wow, even me!”

Maybe the right question, the better question, is not “What do you do?” but “What do you do for love?” And THAT wouldn’t even fit on a resume, anyway.


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