Friday, March 20, 2009

Affliction may be too strong of a word

One of my favorite parts of Scripture is when Paul shares his heart about the churches in Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3...
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord...
That's what came to mind when the girls gave us their gift. They were so thrilled to do it...truly bouncing with happiness. And it wasn't just at that moment. They asked us at the beginning of January to see if there was a weekend we could block out this semester and not have any plans those days. Why? we asked. We're not telling, just block it out, okay? Well, we agreed, but have wondered for weeks what the deal was.

Then came the secret meetings in Cassie's room...followed by huge grins as they came out. The almost daily giggles as they'd whisper to each other. But what really touched my heart about all this happened over the weeks of preparation. To give us this gift took hundreds of dollars...from three girls with no real money. Cassie has a job at the church which pays her for about 3 hours a week at minimum wage and babysits when she can. Aisley and Brennan both babysit sporadically. But it's not like they just gave a little off the top. Every time they got money...any money...they'd rush to Cassie's room...laughing, grinning, happy as could be they they could contribute to whatever it was they were planning.

I can't tell you how that blessed me week after week. And to say that it was a "severe test of affliction" is probably overstating it just a bit. But I promise you that it wasn't easy. They don't get allowances...never have. They have lots of wants, mostly aimed at tech stuff which is very expensive. And because we live off of a single paycheck from a public school, there's lots of daily stuff that they live without that a lot of their friends have or places they can't go because there's just no money for it. Which means that every dollar they make is usually pre-spent in their minds. But they gave it all up for bless us. And they didn't do it begrudgingly. They did it with joy...with generosity...with blessing.

What a lesson for me tonight. What am I hoarding for myself because I have no greater vision than how I can throw it away on myself? Isn't there anyone out there that I love more than myself...for whom I would count it a joy...a give to them instead of keeping it for me? Isn't there any gratitude in me that would serve to fuel giving? Can't I be like my girls? It's a good, challenging word for me.

Because that overflow didn't come out of their good, little if they've got that little something extra. Notice how Paul put it when he wanted to spread the news of what happened in Macedonia. When giving like this occurs, it's because God got involved and poured out grace to them. And He did much more besides give to us...they told me that one of the amazing things about doing this was that they still have money left over. Somehow...some way...and they're not really sure how...God gave them abundantly more than they could have asked for...or even imagined. What a God we serve! I love that in giving this to us, He also gave them a really good lesson in how generous He can be when we pour out our lives for others. They all spoke in wonder that it happened the way it did.

How I praise Him tonight for His care of us all as Wayne and I make plans. I love that He put this in their hearts. I love that I'll be getting away with Wayne for the first time since our honeymoon almost 20 years ago! (The girls thought that was pretty pathetic...funny moment...I think they're resolved to do a couple of things differently in their own marriages!) I love that through it all, He reminded me that He owns everything and can move everything...we need only obey with joy. I love that He loves my girls enough to give them this message this early. I pray for this good seed to bear much fruit for them in their lives. What a difference three women who love to give away their lives can make on this world for the Kingdom. And if they'd like to do it by sending their Mom and Dad on vacation every now and then? Icing. Really, really sweet icing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A grateful mama

Brennan, Cassie and Aisley with little Emma Kate

I love my girls. They make me laugh. They tell great stories. When they all start laughing together at the dinner table? There's nowhere in the world I'd rather be. They also love others well. I hear so often from others how helpful one of them has been. How joyous they were in serving. How quick they were to jump in. It is music to my ears to hear that they are showing off Christ so well in their world.

But if you're a mom, you know how it can be. You get more of the laughter than anyone else hears. But you also tend to see more of them when they are really tired...or really ticked off...or really...well...sinful. We're not different as parents (which explains why we can be snapping their heads off one minute and then answer the phone with a cheerful hello the next, right?). They may get our best, but too often what we say to our kids, we'd never say to someone least not in that tone! There's something about being at home that tends to make us feel like we can just let loose. We're so careful with others...but not those who live closest to us.

No wonder that sometimes the home can be the place where service in the name of Christ is found least. Wayne and I have wanted that to be different and have had lots of conversations about it over the years. But we're no better at it than anyone else, but we long to have hearts to serve our girls with the same intentionality that we serve those boys in Wayne's life or the women in mine.

But today I learned this lesson in a way we don't usually think of...from my girls. Today they gave us the gift of a weekend away...on them. Hotel room...envelopes with money for meals and gas and an extra envelope we've never had in our house..."Fun!" It came with instructions that said if we bring home any money, they'll lock us out of the house. Hilarious.

They wrote a note to explain. It's not for Christmas or anniversary or either of our birthdays they said...
...we're thankful for the representation of Christ in the home we have grown up in...You've both blessed us in countless ways and we'd like to try and show you a little blessing of our own! You work so hard to make sure that we are raised in the best and most God-like way and for that we know we are blessed! We love you so much!
Yes. I cried and cried. But I say this to you not only just to publicly thank them for thinking of us and showering us with love...but also to encourage you that God gives two unbelievable graces in our kids...really short memories and the ability to forgive their parents' sins. There have been countless times where we have needed both. But aren't little ones a model to us of this? We turn on them in frustration and five minutes later have them run to us with joy to show us something they've just discovered. Or you're whole attitude just screams when is bedtime! But instead of walking away harmed, they just lean in a little closer to snuggle...or even sweeter, wrap their arms around you and say Sorry, Mama. And I'm cut to the bone from the conviction of the Lord.

God gives us an amazing gift when He gives us kids...time for us to grow up as they grow. Your toddlers will remember almost nothing of our day to day activities...only big moments. It's not until they're much older that they will be able to remember whole conversations. So, those moments when you felt such guilt for your words, attitude, actions which fell so far short of what you know you could have given the Savior? There's such grace waiting for you. Turn around. Just say you're sorry and stand once more for Him. He will do such a good work in both you and your kids.

I've got a little more gratitude within me, but I'll start another post for that one.