The house is empty this morning. A silent sanctuary for my thoughts. I am blessed enough to be able to stand barefoot in my kitchen and bake. Toes freeze against the cold, tile floor. Etta James provides a melody to which my hips sway. I am reflecting on a period of my life that has come and gone. It is in the quiet of the dawn–in the silence of this empty house–that I begin to be reminded of how I came to be the way I am. As I sip my coffee and stir my batter, I am reminded that muffins, to me, are ministry.
Being a chaplain for a residence hall of over one hundred and fifty college aged women is daunting. I first began serving in this role after God literally fought with me and dropped the position in my lap. Never fight God. You’ll lose one hundred percent of the time. Going into my Junior year at Lee, I was full of anxious anticipation at the thought of this new ministry role. Everyone told me that I didn’t have to meet every resident. Everyone told me not to worry if they all didn’t come to SmallGroup (our weekly small group ministry). No one told me, however, how many late nights I’d spend lying in bed, praying or worrying over the burdens of “my girls.” No one told me how many hours I’d spend sitting with residents, crying with them, listening to them–being angry with them. No one told me that I’d have to report boys sneaking into rooms or find girls having supposed seizures in the hallways. Fire drills, Tornado drills, fundraisers, late night Chaplain team meetings, late night Res-life team meetings, communion with donuts, midnight breakfast nights, and worship nights–these are the things that encompass the life of a Chaplain at Lee University. Believe it or not, we did more than just sit and pray. You see, the role of a Chaplain is vague. Jason, my boss, mentor, and friend, does not tell you how to conduct your ministry. Our only objective was to love, form community, disciple our floor leaders, and develop a small group program in our dorm. Awesome. Where was my check list? Where was the manuel that told me how to actually build community?
After several weeks of doing everything I could to be exactly like my former Livingston Hall chaplain, I broke down crying on a friend’s couch. A mixture of tears and snot running down my face, I told a friend (and ironically, former Chaplain) that I was failing at my ministry. I was reaching no one. “Audrey, has anyone told you that you don’t have to be exactly like Shawna? You have to do things your way.” Her words hit me hard and cut me deep. She was right. I was trying to be something I was not.
Thus, I did the only thing I knew to do. I baked. I began my muffin ministry. You see, as I began to engage a core group of girls in Smallgroup, I began to realize one thing about college-aged women. We all think we don’t have time to sit and talk–unless, of course, we are sitting and talking over food. Don’t ask me why, but throwing food in the mix always meant a bigger turn out than those times I invited girls over for coffee or tea. So, I baked and baked and baked and soon began to be known for my muffin parties. Posts on Facebook went out. “Come get freshly baked muffins.” Sweet, vivacious Erica from across the hall would, in a matter of seconds, respond to my post. “I’M COMING! ARE THEY PUMPKIN AND CHOCOLATE CHIP?” The door would swing open, and in a matter of minutes, I’d be sitting with my girls, talking about life and God. Like a silly little girl, I’d twirl around in my apron, flour all over my face, and throw my head back in laughter. We were living life together—fun, silly, hard, and painful life.
Muffins, while, uniting my unknowing residents, also caused me a lot of hassle. It was my own fault, really. It usually is. No one in their right mind would invite forty people from across campus over for a “Facebook official” lobby party. Forty invitees at two muffins a piece…well, I’m no math genius, but I was able to calculate that I needed more muffins than I had time to make. It was also during this period of time that I invented the “Muffin ball.” Why waste two batches of severely burnt muffins when you can merely peel off the hard outside and be left with a soft, delicious ball of a muffin. It was almost as genius as the donut hole.
This post holds no real significance. It is merely my reflection upon a sweet time in my life. Some days, like today, I would do anything to be sitting back in my tiny little kitchen with my girls. I would take the papers, the stress, the tears, the heart-aches of ministering to hurting people, and the sleepless nights to merely be able to hear Emma walk through my door, or wrap up a muffin for Leia and John for the road.
Such is ministry. It leaves a mark on you, and you are reminded of it by the smallest of things.