the ministry of funfetti

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I used to read a couple of blogs, just for the fun of getting filled with rage. I can’t be alone in this addiction–the viscious cycles of self-rightousness, anger, and cynicism. All of the blogs that made me feel both superior and strangely sad were ones by women with beautiful houses, chevron typography, gorgeous home-cooked meals, and a belief that most troubles in your life would be solved by trying harder.

A lot of those bloggers and writers would talk about the little things they did in life, and the pleasures to be found therein: creating a safari-themed birthday party and spray-painting tiny giraffes and elephants gold, filling their walls with artfully constructed Scripture references, pictures of their spotless children running through fields of wheat.

I would read, transfixed by the perfect curated-ness of these lives on the screen, both scorning their temporal pursuits (HELLO! PEOPLE ARE DYING IN DARFUR) and yet strangely longing for that assuredness that everything matters. That finding moments of beauty wherever we could get them actually did, in fact, matter to God. the trouble was, I just couldn’t believe it.

//

As many of you know, my little family and I are in a Christian order among the poor. I like saying those words aloud, like the way they trip off my tongue. For I have spent my entire life, even as a little girl, pursuing martrydom. When I was small, I was obsessed with missionary biographies, Bible stories, and Joan of Arc was my patron saint. I created a hierarchy in my mind of who God loves best (those who do big and wild and scary things) and I wanted to be right at the top. Which brings us to today, and joining a Christian order among the poor. I have many of the trappings of my heroes now: a self-sacrificing narrative, exotic locations, strange and terrible and beautiful and miraculous things happening. The trouble is, based on that hierarchy I created long ago, it turns out I am just using my friends and neighbors on the lower ends of the economic spectrum as conduits to make God love me more. Even though I have tried hard to do the oppostie, the people I am supposed to love and serve are still functioning as props in the larger story of me.

Obviously, this is a little devestating to realize, 20+ years into the game.

When I asked God about all this, he told me some hard and true things. Which basically amounted to what I had heard my whole life but didn’t have the wherewithal to actually believe: that God loves everybody, exactly the same. No matter what you do.

If you grew up like me, then you are waiting for the asterik to that sentence. Sure, God loves everybody the same. *But he really likes it when you go to Africa. Or start a food kitchen. Or adopt through foster care. Or buy cool, over-priced shoes that may or may not give an orphan in some nameless country a complimentary pair. Or turn your TV into garden for succulents. Or whatever it is that we believe we must do in order to be fully loved.

God took away my asterik, and now I don’t know how to classify myself anymore. I’m just a sheep of his hand, and it is more lowly and lovely than I could have ever imagined.

//

I am reading a book by Jonathan Martin, and he talks a lot about how Jesus is the example for everything. Yes, of course, I said, as I read along, but at some point I realized Martin wasn’t just talking about Jesus being all about love and social justice, some anti-folk hero who died for our sins. Instead, he focused on how Jesus was beloved by God, how he knew he was, and how that affected his every moment.

Martin also goes on to talk about the difference between King Saul and King David in the Old Testament. From day one, people looked at Saul like he had already arrived: so handsome, so tall, so brave and so fierce. It appeared that God had gifted him, so he was thrust into leadership right from the start. And it absolutely ruined him.

David, on the other hand, was forgotten for many years. Off tending sheep while all of his brothers did the “important” work. But what we in our hubris usually imagine to be a desert or a wilderness is actually the best gift of all: a place of obscurity, where God has us all to himself and tells us how much we are loved. David had this in the fields, years and years of soaking in his belovedness. And even though he went on to do many stupid, terrible, ugly things, David never forgot that he was loved. As Martin writes in Prototype, just go read the Psalms (seriously, go read then right now). That sense of belovedness underlies every single sentence: the joyful, the sorrowful, the angry and the awe.

This is a hard truth for me, a girl who always grew up reading the stories of the Bible and thinking but all those people God uses are so horrid. I’ve always hated David, just because I could never wrap my brain around the fact that this adulturous, murderous, neglectful father-type could really be so loved by God. Because if God could truly delight in a person like that, then why am I trying so damn hard?

Because, you guys, I never believed he loved me after all.

//

This first year in the MidWest was supposed to be our Year of Jubilee, the Year of the Lord’s Favor. And it was, oh yes indeed, it just looked so different from how I thought it should.

But here, at the end of the apprenticeship year, I feel a bit like I had my own time in the wilderness. I found myself in situations of no importance, of little power. Nobody was throwing us parades, if you can believe that. And by the end of it, the hierarchy I had created in my mind about God and his love had started to crack. Because even if you sell all that you have and give the money to the poor (or move in next door) and have not love–well, I think you know the rest.

There came a point a few weeks ago where I noticed that I was yet again baking a Funfetti cake for one of my neighbors. If I had to count it up, I would say that I have made hundreds of these cakes for people over the years. I just really like doing it. There is someting about the sprinkles, the colors, the pleasures and joys of teaching people the elements of baking. I know it is horribly uncool (preservatives! peak oil!), and I should be making seasonal fruit galletes and all that (which I do, occasionally), but I just can’t quit the Funfetti. I love making these cakes, just like my own mom made for me.

I was making this particular one for a neighbor who is moving far away, to a situation that is likely very bad. My heart was sorrowful as I baked and frosted, as I did the only things I knew how to do. And as I did this I wondered “what will I do with the next person who moves in? Won’t they probably end up moving away and breaking my heart? How do we keep doing that most radical thing of all–keeping room in our hearts to love–when we are constantly, lamentably wounded?”

And I feel like God said: you keep baking cakes.

//

Some of the most unrecognized ministries are my favorites.

Like, the ministry of playing yu-gi-oh cards with awkward adolescent boys. The ministry of bringing white styrofoam containers of Pad Thai to people whose baby is very very sick. The ministry of picking up empty chip wrappers at the park. The ministry of sending postcards. The ministry of sitting in silence with someone in the psych ward. The ministry of gardening flowers. The ministry of listening to teenagers talk about their relational crises, and not laughing hysterically. The ministry of making an excellent cup of coffee. The ministry of noticing beauty everywhere–in fabrics, in people, in art–and in the wilderness.

The older I get, I realize now that the ministries I once thought so trivial I know think are the most radical. I spent the last year being stripped of anything that would make me feel lovely to God and I came out a different person. Because I discovered that he always loved me anyways.

I’m not Joan of Arc, it turns out. I’m just somebody who likes to bake cakes.

If I had said that at the beginning of this post, it would mean almost nothing. But because I am writing out of a place where I know that God loves me, my ministry of Funfetti is different. It’s radical. Anything that asks us to walk in our belovedness and extend that to other people is the best kind of madness there is.

I think about those blogs I used to read, and all the feelings they would bring up. And now I just want to sit down, over a good direct-trade cup of coffee, and say to those writers: spray all the things gold. Bake all the tarts. Make all the lemonade’s you want. And take all those little lovelies and run, run in the direction of the world’s brokenness.

In my world, there is a lot of pain. People in abusive situations. Addictions. Mental Illness. Sickness. Poverty. Demons. It’s like the New Testament, come to life! And God is asking me to run, not walk, into all of those contexts. Because I know God loves them more than I do, and the gospel of Jesus is one of freedom. I am being asked to start living like I believe in that love, like I believe another world is possible. I am being asked to bake cakes and knock on doors and believe in healing and deliverance and transformation because that is what our God does. I don’t always know what it looks like, but I can tell you from personal experience: He loves.

Because every year is the year of the Lord’s favor. I just needed the eyes to see it.

//

 

 

 

My friend Kelley is doing an online book club and this month we are reading Prototype by Jonathan Martin. I highly encourage you to read it. Plus, today you can head on over and ask him some questions.

 

 

Also, my family and I are trying to be a bit more open about the work we are doing in our neighborhood and the miracles we are experiencing, and asking for support along the way. It’s hard to write about on the internet, which is a good sign. If you are interested in learning more about our organization, our ministry, or just want to process the places God is calling you to run into, we would love to hear from you. Send me an e-mail at dlmmcsweeneys@gmail.com.

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57 thoughts on “the ministry of funfetti

  1. Holey moley, woman, THIS IS THE BEST POST YET. Thank you, thank you, thank you. When I was pastoring, one of the ministries that became mine by default was sending birthday cards to everyone in the congregation. I bought stickers – yes, I did! And I began to personalize those cards, instead of sending the generic one with the picture of the church on it. Then I started making my own photo cards. When our senior pastor left for a denominational position, I had a couple of months of being in charge before the interim was found. Our superintendent came to visit and looked at my sticky-note ‘list’ of tasks that were mine, tasks that were his, etc. and I said, “I’m assuming this one (the birthday card one) has to go for this time period.” Immediately, she said, “Absolutely not. That is high touch – and you need that more than ever right now.” Just last week, someone said to me, “You know, Diana, I saved every one of those cards you sent me over the years. I love them. They speak to me of God’s love like little else in my life.” Uh. . . say what? NOT the hours I spent in sermon prep, NOT the trips to the hospital, NOT the funeral services, the weddings, the leading in worship, the hours that were sacrificial. . . but the dang BIRTHDAY CARDS??? YES. This is gold, Danielle. GOLD. Thank you so much.

  2. hisfirefly says:

    so glad that Diana pointed me here – so m7uch to chew on and written with beauty and grace

  3. Christie says:

    We are loved. It’s really the only thing.
    Thank you and Amen.

  4. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart so openly. I see the love of Christ in this.
    I have been trying to take hold of that truth too, that God loves me, really truly loves me regardless of how I feel or what I do or what I have experienced or even how others have responded to me.
    You are so right that we can never truly love any one truly until we let his love in.

    Thank you so much.
    I tried to do some writing on this, perhaps it may bless you also.
    http://christslovetoyou.blogspot.com/Daddy-loves-me

    Bless you,
    Susan

  5. I just so happen to have a box of Funfetti in my pantry. Hmmm …

  6. Amy says:

    Wait- you can turn a tv into a garden for succulents?

    Good words.

  7. annie says:

    so, so great. bookmarking this to read over and over again.

  8. Andrea Laurita says:

    Hi Danielle,

    This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read, anywhere. Thank you. I, too, am in a season of stripping. Nothing looks as I’d thought or hoped it would. It’s painful. I’m ugly. And I question love, (which is something I’ve wrestled with throughout life, but certainly in this season). I feel angry a lot. Not righteously angry in the way injustice flares up the soul. Just hurt, angry. And disappointed, angry. And afraid, angry. And I want to run away. Not run into… but away from, all that feels like love is a lie. So the Lord and I have had these conversations lately. And it’s clear I’m still at kindergarten level of this love schooling. I just struggle to accept it. Because the world is shit sometimes. A lot of the time. And after nearly two years in this place – in this city, in this job, in this disappointment, I’m just feeling naked and weak and vulnerable – and hard. Right where I need to be to see that I don’t get it at all.

    This morning you sent your post about funfetti. My head started to slowly nod and my eyes got a little damp as I read it. Thank you for your honesty, and for your raw encouragement through it. THAT is a ministry. I’m glad you find joy in the little things of cakes and such.

    Peace. Andrea

    Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2013 15:37:37 +0000 To: andrealaurita21@hotmail.com

  9. J.R. Goudeau says:

    I love this and I love you. I’m going to quote from this when I teach our adult Bible class this Sunday about poverty. So proud of you and your words.

  10. I just absolutely love this and the funny thing is, I was attracted by the funfetti, its the first thing I noticed. I too, bake cake for people. For years I sent them by mail and everyone lied (I think) and said they weren’t smashed at all. The reason I loved this post so much is because I could sense God smiling on it because basically, He loves us all. In all of our fumbling attempts to love Him and each other we fail miserably and He knows it. And He loves us anyway!

  11. So lovely. So true. (And you write phenomenally. )

  12. Leigh Kramer says:

    All The Thoughts, Danielle. I relate to so much of this, even though our lives look very different. So many sentences leaped out and nailed me. In the best of ways. I’ll be mulling it over for some time to come.

  13. Dawna says:

    Sharing this with my women’s life group. Our church body is in a sweet place of transition from inward to outward focus, program-driven behavior to Jesus-driven behavior. These words encourage me and require a re-read. At least one. Thank you.

  14. I can so relate to that Joan-of-Arc-ette mentality. Moving back to my little hometown instead off to [insert glamorously unglamorous location here] undid me, and brought me back to this fundamental thing of living loved, abiding, dwelling. Loved this so much.

  15. Dena G says:

    I. Get. This. Big-time. And I needed to read it. I’m in one of those “I THOUGHT it was this, but it’s actually THIS” periods in my life…seeing with new eyes what’s important and what’s genuine “ministry” and what real life really looks like for me. Thank you for putting it into words.

  16. chris says:

    Just wanted to add that I loved this, thank you so much for taking the time to write it! -Chris (Becca D’s husband)

  17. […] 1.  D.L. Mayfield, The Ministry of Funfetti.  […]

  18. Thank you. This helped me today—helped me remember why I do what I’m doing. Bless you!

  19. Kit says:

    Thanks for writing this. I need to read over and over and process the ways this touches on what we are doing in our ministry. This last year has been a year of stripping for us as well. Bless you.

  20. Stina KC says:

    This is my new favorite piece you’ve written Danielle.

  21. terrichurchill says:

    So lovely. Let’s do coffee soon.

  22. Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) says:

    I love this! Thank you.

  23. […] And especially this post. […]

  24. Tanya Marlow says:

    Oh yes. I love this.
    Mostly, this has spoken to me (in a slightly good-disturbing way) about how my frustration with HOW PEOPLE DON’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT INJUSTICE (always in capitals) arises from my suspicion that God does not love me.

    How often does much of what drives us arise from that same murky place? There is a lot in here. There is a lot in your brain, and I do so like it. 🙂 Thanks.

  25. Michaela. says:

    The ministry of bring white styrofoam…yes we received lots of these, even pad Thai when we were in the hospital with our very sick baby. I wish it would still continue as we are at home. Because it is ministry and we still need it. Thanks for writing this. Excellent post.

  26. Kristen says:

    “The ministry of sitting in silence with someone in the psych ward.” That one hit me. Not being a big talker, I often feel slightly inferior to those who talk well, and put words into amazing sentences. But reading that sentence made me realize that there are times when words aren’t needed. Just being there is what counts.

  27. […] The Ministry of Funfetti by D.L. Mayfield […]

  28. I’ve been reading Prototype as well. Good stuff. Thanks for this and thanks to Sarah Bessey for the linkup! 🙂

  29. […] The Ministry of Funfetti by D.L. Mayfield. Beautiful truth for me this week. […]

  30. Misty says:

    I am finding it difficult to articulate what this post has meant to me but I don’t want to stop me from saying a word of thanks and appreciation. So thank you for writing hard things and speaking truth.

  31. […] The Ministry of Funfetti – D.L Mayfield […]

  32. Grayson says:

    Really beautiful writing, DL. It made me think a lot about how we see our calling or purpose. Many times, we wish it were differet or bigger or sexier (if that’s the right word), instead of seeing it as a direct gifting from God. If our calling’s are all bestowerd by God, then they are all of God-size proportions, no matter how “small” a ministry may seem.

    Thank you for the honesty you displayed here. I haven’t read something that moved me this way in quite some time.

  33. BEAUTIFUL post. such wisdom. absolutely love it.

  34. Sarah says:

    While I’m a little late to the game on this post, I wanted to tell you how much it meant to me. I can’t begin to tell you how much I look up to you and how tremendously I respect you, Danielle. From hip youth group leader to strong, brave writer, I hold you in such high regard, and try to let the thoughts you stir up come to fruition in my life. Your writing has challenged me and pushed me to examine assumptions I’ve made about how I live, and I’m grateful.

    And yet, to be honest, sometimes I feel like a fraud when I read your posts about downward mobility and then head over to pin some fancy houses on Pinterest or post something trendy-looking on Instagram. I’ve had this sneaking feeling that because I am not moving into low-income housing or cooking beans in a suitcase or celebrating Ramadan with my Muslim neighbors, this makes me not legit, not a true Kingdom-bringer. There are things I LIKE about those pictures of families running through fields. I care about the clothes I wear. And I had been feeling guilty about all of it, constantly, trying to make efforts to simplify my life but never feeling like it was enough.

    So, in the midst of a season of general disillusionment about the church (how typically twenty-something of me), I realized I had started to assume that the writers in your Downward Mobility series were the only ones who got it, and everyone around me (and including me) were just–not as good. Not as impressive. Not as close to the heart of God. You are teaching ESL classes and praying for your neighborhood, and we are over here going to happy hour and yes, spray painting figurines in gold paint.

    I needed to hear, from someone who challenges and inspires me as much as you do, that pursuing downward mobility will not make Jesus love me any more than he loves me now. Maybe it will make me more obedient, depending on what God is calling me to do within the specific context of my life–but it won’t make me any more or less lovable to God.

    The funny thing is, when I relax a little, and trust that I am loved, it seems easier to make those changes in my life. They feel more joyful and less frantic and frenzied, because I’m not trying to convince Jesus I’m worthy–I’m just responding to him.

    • jbd says:

      This exchange (DL’s excellent essay [because let’s give it the credit it deserves; her writing doubts more sincerely than the typical “blog post”] and Sarah’s honest response) beautifully captures my (felt) experience of the blogging world.* I generally never reply, though, so I genuinely appreciate that both of you are gracefully responding.

      I identify strongly both with DL’s interaction with the blogs she reads/loves to rage against (and to feel superior to) as well as Sarah’s interaction with the blogs (or persons) that make her feel guilty, or (worse?) hypocritical. Less deserving of God’s love. [is this the way I read blogs? to measure myself against the writer, to feel either condemned or morally superior? Ugh. i think this is why i generally prefer essays (essay=attempt to craft structure/meaning out of our doubt and uncertainty) to blogs (blog=here are my conclusions, i’ve put them in a 5 step easy-to-follow format for you). also why i don’t have a website of my own. The comparing/competitive complex is strong in me : ) ]

      Thank you, DL. Thank you, Sarah.

      *How glad I am that the truth isn’t contingent on my feelings. How freeing is the truth of God’s unconditional love.

      • jbd says:

        forgot to gush about how the original piece, “The Ministry of Funfetti,” was so spot-on/encouraging/challenging/convicting-without-being-preachy, and about how I was blessed by it this morning. Consider this my gushing : )

  35. […] I go, I’m still comfortably perched. No matter what I do, it isn’t enough. Yes, yes, Funfetti and all that. I know that God loves me no matter what I do. But he also loves the people being […]

  36. […] “The Ministry of Funfetti”, and this: […]

  37. […] poignantly about her experiences, joining myriad topics. One of my favorite posts by her is: the Ministry of Funfetti. A must-read.  Today, I’m posting about a subject very close to my heart: growing up as a […]

  38. This is the most profound and beautiful thing I’ve read in yonks. Grateful to have stumbled into it today. I’m hoping the sweet smell of funfetti and Jesus’ love stick to me today. Thank you for this.

  39. […] I read an essay by one of my very favorite writers – D.L. Mayfield. It’s called the ministry of funfetti, and I am here to tell you it changed my life. If you have a few minutes, go give it a read. She […]

  40. Blogs don’t make me cry. I am used to feeling that 1/2 inspired, 1/2 self-loathing feeling when I finish reading. “Yeay for her. I’ll never be that witty/mindful/planful/home-schoolie.” But this blog made me cry. It made me cry in a sneaky (dare I say Holy Spirit) way like standing in a darkened church at right around the 3rd worship song when suddenly the ice melts, I stop swiveling my head to see who’s here, and I feel the enormity of how much I am loved. And I remember that loves context: how much pain there is in the world that needs healing. And then the screwed up mouth sets in trying to keep the tears tucked in. But they always spill out in praise of Him. Thank you for this! #YourBlogMadeMeCry

  41. ryankrg says:

    Thank you so much for this inspired sharing. It really spoke to my heart and soul.

  42. Michaela. says:

    I haven’t read many posts these days…this year, but this one, this one is so good. Having been on the receiving end of many of these ministries, I can certainly say that sweaty styrofoam noodles go a long, long way. xo

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