I received a generous amount of money for Christmas, from a few different family members. I spent most of it right away, on things like a Goonies t-shirt, a massage, black leggings, a new toilet brush, and a Dr. Who journal.
What can I say? My tastes are varied.
That left me with about $100. For a few weeks now, I've been trying to decide how to spend that money. I went to Old Navy with the intent of buying some new jeans. Since I've lost a bit of weight, my jeans from last year don't fit anymore.
I tried on at least one pair of every style in the store and none of them fit. I left in despair, and harboring a grudge against Old Navy, for having failed me. How dare they not have the right cut to fit my body type! The nerve...
Since then, I've considered dozens of options. Everything from another massage (repetitive.) to laser hair removal (i fear lasers.) to jeans that I swore I would never pay that much for (yep. still can't do it.). I've been waiting for the perfect idea. Some sort of inspiration.
On a (not) entirely different topic, I love to be generous. People I know, people I don't know - I don't care. I just love to give people the money/things/time/help needed to make them smile and bless their day. EXCEPT.
Except that I also have a sinful nature. When I am being generous and I get the impression that the receiver is beginning to expect me to do so... Well, that rubs me the wrong way and I suddenly get very stingy. It's ugly, but it's true.
Lately, I've been feeling rather stingy. I've been thinking that this is our money and certain people need to show that they deserve our help before we give it to them.
(Goodness, that's hard to admit! I feel a little nauseated.)
Well, God has begun working on my heart, as He is wont to do.
At church yesterday, in the course of the sermon, I was reminded that none of what we have is really ours. Money, possessions, and relationships are all gifts from God. It's not my (or our) money. It is God's money. He has given us a lot to be responsible for and it pleases Him to see us bless others.
During our small group last night, the topic of sacrifice came up. We discussed the concept. What does it mean? What does it look like? What does it feel like? If we are able to give cheerfully, then can it really be a sacrifice? (Yes.) If it's a sacrifice, then shouldn't it be painful? (Not necessarily.)
This morning, as I prayed and read my Bible, I wrote this in my journal: Today could be exhausting or it could be fun. Would you help me have fun, Jesus? . . . I am a sinner. Every beautiful thing in my lie is a gift from You.
Later, as I was finishing my workout and preparing to go to the grocery store, I received a text message from Jesus.* It said, "Angela, invite me to participate in everything - projects, attitudes, decisions - so that you represent me well to others."
I prayed right then that Jesus would participate in my shopping trip. I told Him that I really want to represent Him well to others.
While I was merrily browsing the aisles at Whole Foods (a.k.a. My Happy Place), a woman stopped me and asked if I'd be willing to answer a question. She had three little kids in her cart and she was looking over the canned tomatoes.
I expected her to ask for some sort of information or opinion on food choice. That happens to me a lot. I must look like I know something about food. Or maybe people see the blissful stupor that Whole Foods puts me in and figure I'm likely to be friendly.
At any rate, her question was this: How much do you usually spend on food here?
This question made me uncomfortable. Like I said earlier, God has given us a lot to be responsible for. I sometimes feel guilty about being able to shop so freely at a relatively expensive grocery store. At the same time, if I can afford to feed my children the healthiest of meals, then I'm going to.
So I told her, honestly, what I typically spend. She looked a little shocked. She said she was looking for non-GMO foods and confessed that the prices at the store were hard for her to accept. I agreed that the prices were higher for those items than for the typical grocery store fare.
The conversation trailed off, somewhat awkwardly. I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I kept moving down the aisle. Inwardly, my heart was rebelling.
Why shouldn't people who earn an average (or below) income be able to buy the foods that are healthiest for their families? Why is the food that is worst for you, often the cheapest? Why did we ever start putting pesticides and genetic modifications into our food supply in the first place?!?
I pondered as I shopped, my mind now uneasy and distracted. Then I remembered my Christmas money.
I couldn't change the food industry. I couldn't make it possible for this woman to afford to shop at Whole Foods every week. But I could bless one woman and make it possible for her to buy whatever healthy food she wanted for her family, if only for this day.
So, I pulled the $100 bill out of my purse, tucked it into my hand, and circled back. I walked up to this woman, who was now contemplating the pasta, and asked her, "Would you be willing to accept kind of a crazy gift from me?"
She looked a little surprised and said, "Sure!" I handed her that $100 bill. I have no idea what look was on my face, but the look on hers was priceless! She looked at me like I'd just sprouted tentacles from my head.
Once she recovered a bit, she thanked me. I got a little uncomfortable as I sensed that people were beginning to look at me, so put a hand on her back, babbled something about how I just wanted to give her a gift, and then left the aisle.
I caught a glimpse of another woman who seemed to be at the store with the first one. I'm not sure what she was thinking, but judging by the look on her face, it probably involved the phrase "crazy white woman."
To say that it felt good to give that money away would be a massive understatement. I didn't just feel good; I felt relieved! Somehow, I was glad that I was no longer trying to decide what a I most wanted to buy for myself.
When I made the decision to give, I thought I was making a sacrifice. Once it was done, I wasn't so sure. Yes, I gave something up for the sake of someone else. I gave up the chance to buy a pair of jeans that would make my a$$ look good so that a woman could give her family a healthy meal.
Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, doesn't it?
I consider a blessing to be anything that draws you closer to God. That which does not draw you closer to God, is not a blessing. That money was no longer a blessing to me. It led me to think far too much of myself and my own desires.
(disclaimer: i'm not saying i should never think of myself or my own desires, but that should not be my first or most frequent thought.)
Today, God blessed two people with a $100 bill. He blessed the woman who received it and He blessed the woman who gave it away. The state of the world did not change, but my heart did. And maybe hers did too.
"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom."
* I just blew your mind, didn't I? It's a service I signed up for through my church.