Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ministry of Availability

My best friend Kaye is a master at "the ministry of availability". She "positions" herself in all kinds of settings to just be available - for listening, for fun, for reaching out....whatever the situation calls for.

I recently had the opportunity to observe her in action. Kaye stood alone outside a room filled with hundreds of women who were standing and singing. In a matter of seconds the lady in the blue joined her and just stood beside her. Kaye smiled at her and after a few seconds of silence the woman glanced at Kaye and said something. Leaning against the doorway they had an intermittent conversation that involved compassionate eyes, whispers and a few tears. They both stood there with a comfort as if they were long time friends.

I stood there and marveled at Kaye’s heart. I snapped these pics on my phone as I watched her look at, listen, lean in and love this complete stranger. When the encounter was over, I knew from watching first hand that this woman felt that she had been seen, heard and understood. What an incredible gift Kaye had given her.

Since then I’ve begun to process what I saw and take note of how I might incorporate even a smidgeon (is that a real word, and if so, how do you spell it?) of "the ministry of availability" in my life.

I am always busy. I've had times in my life where circumstances demanded a fiercer level of busyness but I've never had a season where I would have said I was not busy.

Where does all this busyness come from? That's a good question. Finding an answer could be key to finding freedom in this area of our lives.

If we tell the truth we would have to say that some busyness is pressed on us by others needs, some of it is demanded in order to live life and some of it is just plain self-inflicted. There are always enough things to say yes to. And many times our culture continues to scream at us about the necessity of all kinds of activities from exercising to shopping.

Where does the madness stop? Unless we consciously make a new choice it probably won't. We will remain intoxicated on the drug of busyness.

That's the first thing I’ve learned by watching Kaye. She never seems in a hurry. It's not because she doesn't have things to do. She's got a lot of things to do. It seems she just makes deliberate choices. It's relaxing to be around people who don't seem hurried. Well, to be honest it drives me a little crazy on an average day. I keep the pace of a clipper and slow people get run over in my path. But once I ratchet it back a bit - it's kind of refreshing. And even rejuvenating.

To be honest, I'm learning it's possible to be very, very busy but not necessarily appear to be in hurry. It's an art. It can be done. It creates an environment around you that is inviting to people. It makes you appear available – the first step to being truly available.

Here are some other things I've thought about in my quest to choose to be available to people. I have to translate ideas into practical or they seem pretty useless. Let me suggest them to you.

First, evaluate your current level of busyness. For you, is it normal, excessive, manageable, out of control? You have to decide what's doable and appropriate for this season of your life. You have to decide what stays and what goes. Sometimes some hard decisions have big pay offs.

Second, learn to build in margin by the day. Not the year, not the month - but by the day. You have your schedule and to do list but consider ahead of time that it is highly likely something will have to go in order to be available. Start each day with a mental asterisk by the activity(s) that could wait if it had to. Guard against over-scheduling by being realistic and reasonable about what can be accomplished in a day's time. Most of us overshoot both of those things.

Third, be okay with a revolving to do list. Most of you are probably way past this but it's worth a strong reminder to keep your sanity. You have two options. Be grateful you have a to-do list and the physical and mental capabilities to manage it. Or, let it eat you alive by constantly being frustrated at the size, content, or endlessness of it.

Fourth, learn to give what you want. You have heard before that, as humans, we almost always give to others what we want or need from people. We all have a need to feel that we are valued and we most often feel that supremely when someone gives us their time. It's a precious commodity - limited and scarce. Be available to give time when you don't have it, want to, or feel like it. It's important.

Lastly, let your motto be PEOPLE before projects. If you are a type A individual, like me, this is going to require your constant attention. Like a car that leaks oil or it will blow up – let this point be your leaking oil. Check it regularly. I’m learning to.

Okay, so here’s a little reality check for all of us. We all have demands on our lives. Families, work, ministry, friends, health, personal needs – we could go on and on.

As women, some of us in leadership, we don’t have the luxury of being too busy for people. We can endure it or we can turn it into an art. My choice is the latter.


  1. Wow....this one is going to be taped on my mirrors and in other places. Great reminder! I've heard it said in response to the comment "I don't have time" that we all have the same amount of time, 24 hours a day, it is what we do with it. And thanks to you I am reminded it is also "how we look at it." Thank you friend. Great word. Missy K., Denver

  2. I saw a link to your blog post in facebook. I am blessed to have taken the time to click and read. Thank you for the message that your were inspired to write, share and spread! What a beautiful "art" form for us women!