When we were in California, we attended a church service where the kids sermon was simple and effective. The children's ministry leader taught a lesson about living with a heart that is focused towards thinking about abundance rather than lack. Normally, I tend to think that is a place I live in more often than not, but the illustration was so perfect and I have found the image they used coming back to me over and over again lately. She held up a donut and shared a little saying: "As you go through life, make this your goal: Keep your eye on the donut and not the hole!"
Sometimes that can be easier said than done. One reason I have such a deep appreciation for being part of a vibrant faith community is that it helps me keep focused on the donut. Prior to joining our congregation, I was very "hole" oriented. I saw what was missing, I obsessed over it at times, and I was never content. It can be quite easy to see only the holes in our lives, the lack of all the things we think we need, or the relationships we wish we had. Our culture tells us over and over again that what we have will simply never be enough...we will never be beautiful enough, our holidays will never be cheerful enough, our love lives will never be romantic enough, and our "stuff" will never be expensive enough. We are bombarded with messages countless times a day that remind us of the "hole".
I am really ashamed to admit that I have fallen prey to that lately, and I need to re-focus and find my donut.
As I have often said, I am not Pollyanna. I am not perpetually and unrealistically positive, but I do think I am usually balanced and lean towards "donut" gratitude rather than "hole" thanklessness. As I find myself slipping into old ways of thinking, God has used others this past week to nudge me out of sitting smack dab in the middle of the "hole".
I had a joking conversation today after church, and it was about the kids. Our church tends to attract people with amazing gifts...talented, creative, well educated folks who have talented, creative, well educated kids. I am not exaggerating, as three of the 7 kids in our tiny youth group I led a couple years back were 4.0 students with one a Valedictorian...and yet another on track with 4.0. Yes, you read that right...3 out of 7 were 4.0 students. Amazing within graduating classes of 200+ students. As I look at Josh's best buddy who goes to our church, he is incredibly gifted...highly verbal and imaginative, writing his own plays that are acted out in class, a gifted reader and a younger sister who at 3 is obviously incredibly bright and going to be reading before she even starts school. Can you tell I am a bit proud of our dear little friends??? :-) There is another little guy who attends church who is the most natural athlete you'll ever see at his young age, his grandma who is someone I greatly admire shares his exploits on the soccer field and I can picture him in my mind, for I have seen his talent and this is no mere typical bragging...this kid totally rocks when doing anything athletically oriented.
How ashamed I am of myself. How could I let myself for even a single moment not see the enormous donut right in front of me? In the day to day moments, we are blessed with the presence of children whose generous hearts and spirits make each day a complete pleasure to experience. Kenny, who came in from clearing ice off the patio this afternoon without being asked saying "Mommy, don't worry about slipping out there, I got most of the patio cleaned for you so you will be safe.". Angela telling me "Go take a nap this afternoon, I will clean up the dishes.". Matthew building with dominoes with a little guy at church quietly this morning, as they talked about "boy" things and he encouraged him in the way only an older boy can do for a younger one. Olesya, who has the stomach flu offering to clean the van out as Josh chimes in "No, it's my turn, I haven't done it in awhile and that's not fair."
Thinking about the hole instead of the donut can cause us to miss what is really, truly important. When the kids are 35 years old, will I be concerned with test scores or performance on the football field? Or will I be viewing success as taking good care of their families and living lives that are productive and Spirit filled? Keeping my eye off the hole is my biggest task, for it is easy and seductive to be drawn back to look at it. It will be a measuring stick that will never, ever really work for our family...and some days it is easier than others to ignore it.
But being in community with others who care and encourage keeps my head on straight, it helps me drive right through that hole with barely a glance and turn around to look at the enormous donut before me. Being reminded continually of what Jesus would have valued, of what God sees as success, is something I cling to at the worst, most challenging moments. When my kid is on the volleyball court and once again shrinks away from the ball, or when my child looks at me and asks "Why can't I do math?" with tears in her eyes, or when my son is told that his physical condition is such that dreams may never come true, I HAVE to see the donut, for I have to help them see it too. It would be too easy to be sucked into the hole and never come out.
It is only in a place where there are Donut People that children can try their hardest, fail in the world's eyes, and yet be loved for exactly who they are and have others work hard at finding ways to help them see themselves as successful..."You went up there with such confidence and played, I could never do that!"..."You sang with such gusto, we loved hearing you!"..."You were so helpful afterwards, we really appreciated your assistance!"..."It's hard to believe you have been here only a year and a half, it feels like you have been part of our church family forever and we are SO proud of all you have accomplished!"
The Donut People in my life help keep me from falling into the hole. They set an example for me that is priceless. This week I am going to work hard at seeing only the donut, the hole will always be there if I really find it necessary to revisit.