I would like to introduce you to my guest blogger today, Michelle Rayburn. Michelle is a sister writer and participant in WordGirls, an online group for writers and speakers to which I belong. Following her blog are answers to questions I asked so we could get to know her better. Feel free to drop her a note.
Savoring the Not-So-Perfect Life
by Michelle Rayburn
(For September 10 – National TV Dinner Day)
When I was young, my mother cooked most meals from scratch, baked six loaves of bread every week and canned enough vegetables to feed the neighborhood if we ever had to retreat to a bomb shelter. But on occasion, we had TV dinners when she worked the evening shift at the hospital and my dad had to feed us three kids.
September 10 is National TV Dinner Day, and it has me reminiscing about those foil-covered aluminum trays with frozen mystery meat and gravy, blobs of mashed potatoes, corn and chocolate pudding—because who doesn’t cook their pudding in the oven, right?
In those pre-microwave days, we peeled back the foil to reveal the ready-to-eat meal when the oven timer buzzed. The actual contents were always somewhat of a surprise compared with the images on the box. For one thing, the portions were more appropriately toddler-sized, and looking back, this explains why my dad chased his meal with a giant bowl of fudge ripple ice cream.
Nothing looked as appetizing as the box, either. The gravy sort of oozed from the mystery meat over to the corn, and pooled in the pudding.
Isn’t life a little like that sometimes? Before it becomes our reality, the idea of growing up, getting married, establishing a career or becoming parents looks magazine-worthy in the images we build in our minds. And after all the anticipation, we peel back the foil and suddenly it looks a lot messier than expected.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learned some lessons to get me through my TV dinner life:
1. Savor every bite of happiness. There is goodness there when we look for it. Turns out, even mystery meat can be delicious!
2. Toss out unrealistic expectations and embrace the imperfection of real life. Accepting what I have instead of longing for a picture on a box has brought me such contentment.
3. Enjoy the fun of the experience. For me, TV dinners weren’t really about the contents of the box. They were about the fun of doing something different with my dad—maybe even actually eating in front of the TV. Too often, I can miss life’s fun if I let complaining take over.
What’s in your TV dinner life? It’s a great day for a perspective change—and maybe a trip to the frozen food aisle, just for fun.
About the Author:
Michelle Rayburn is a writer and speaker who enjoys repurposing thrift sale finds into creative decorations for home and garden. She also loves finding gems in the trashy stuff of life. She is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure. www.michellerayburn.com
Where do you live and at what stage are you celebrating the Christian life?
I live in New Auburn, Wisconsin, in a house that used to be a church and parsonage. Not everyone has a house with a sanctuary attached! My husband is the director of maintenance at a Bible camp nearby, and we have been here more than 11 years. I have been a follower of Christ since I was a young child and have seen God shape and change me over the years. I’m in my late 40s and I think God is working on me more now than ever before. I’m really challenged to think outside of my “safe” circle of friends and to look for people who need hope, grace and truth.
Tell us a bit about your family:
My husband and I met at church in high school and have been married for 27 years. We have two grown sons (23 and 25) who are both teachers and we just gained a daughter-in-law this past summer. Over the years, our boys and our daughter-in-law have all been part of ministry at the Bible camp where my husband works and are they are active in their churches. We are thankful for the way God has put opportunities for growth and discipleship in their paths! As a mom of boys, I’m also thankful for the laughter they bring to my life. A little sarcasm here and there has helped me navigate through raising them. I’ve seen truck stop bathrooms that are cleaner than mine when my boys come out of there. A trip to E.R. after a motorcycle wipeout is apparently the perfect occasion for a selfie while you’re getting stitches. And, I’ve learned that cold cereal is an appropriate meal at any time of the day as long as you leave a thimbleful of milk in the refrigerator for mom to find the next morning.
What do you find is one of the greatest challenges of your stage of life?
My biggest challenge is avoiding the temptation to sit back and enjoy the safety and shelter of contentment. I know that sounds trite, but let me explain. As an empty nester, I am at a place of contentment and peace. I work from home full time and go to a great church. I am married to my best friend and we raised kids who we love to hang out with. I’m an introvert by nature, and I love curling up in the hammock with a good book. So, when God challenges me to reach out to a neighbor, or get more involved in outreach at church, I’m tempted to play it safe and stay in my comfort zone. I say I want to reach the lost and broken people with a message of hope, but when it comes down to action, do I really do it? I have to constantly remind myself that there is no retirement age for being a disciple who makes disciples.
What is one of the greatest blessings?
Besides my family, I am so blessed to have a circle of four friends who I meet with weekly for accountability and fellowship. I have learned so much from them, and we laugh together, cry together and share prayer requests regularly. They can be honest with me and challenge me when I need a friendly boot in the pants. I call them my soul sisters.
What do people find most interesting about you?
People are surprised that I am an introvert, since I love public speaking. I enjoy one-on-one connections and ministering to women when I’m at an event speaking, but in between, I sometimes have to force myself to leave the house. I would prefer a cup of iced coffee, a good dark chocolate and a book or an art project over a party or social event. I also love technology and found it funny that I had a smart phone before my oldest son, AND that I had to show him how to use it when he got one. Yeah, backwards, huh? I geek out on electronic gadgets, musical equipment, computers, website design and layout and anything that involves technology.
Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your heart with us.