I returned home the Saturday after Thanksgiving, tired and a little overwrought. Don’t get me wrong – it was a wonderful holiday and even somewhat restful, what with all the naps I took. But as an introvert, three straight days of traveling and visiting with people leaves me feeling drained. And that was a shame because I was coming home to a whole lot of to-dos. I looked at my list and felt overwhelmed. I started picking up a house left in disarray before Thanksgiving and started picking at my husband. He took the bait and tensions rose. Our oldest son scolded us for fighting and we tried, somewhat insincerely, to apologize and move on. I sat down to write out a menu plan for the week and just couldn’t wrap my head around it. As I wept into my laptop, a lightbulb appeared above my husband’s head and, as delicately as a man can ask such a thing, he asked where exactly I was on my “calendar.” I did the math and after we both laughed with relief that I wasn’t actually losing my mind, he quickly helped me pare my list down to the essentials. While I ran out for just enough groceries to get us through the weekend, he vacuumed, hauled in all of the Christmas boxes, set up the tree, and cleaned the bathroom (well, the bathtub anyway). When I got home and finished exclaiming at all he had accomplished, he sent me off to soak in the tub while he took the kids to church and left me with a blessedly silent house. I seriously married up, people.
It felt good to receive his love and his compassion for my crazy, though I confess receiving is often a struggle for me. My gratitude is mixed with guilt for needing all that care to begin with! Receiving prettily wrapped presents is no easier. Did I show appropriately enthusiastic appreciation? Does the gift I give in return measure up? And did I mention the immediate guilt over the thank you card that will probably never happen?!? But I digress...this post is about giving. Hopefully someone else has encouraging things to say about receiving!
The next day was tree trimming day and the first day of Advent and we had all kinds of things planned. The kids were beyond excited – up at 4:30 a.m. seeking out our friendly Elf on the Shelf, and later (at a slightly more reasonable hour!) hauling decorations out of the Christmas boxes with reckless abandon. I strove to appreciate their enthusiasm and to grasp the magic, but it just wasn’t happening. I scolded and lectured and begged them to calm down, use their inside voices, and for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy, not break my treasured ornaments! I was cranky and immune to all things magical.
Monday came and it was time for the return to routine. Ugh. I woke up full of “I can’t.” Still stuck in the hormonal death spiral, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t homeschool. I couldn’t enjoy my children. I couldn’t finish the grocery shopping. But what I really couldn’t do was stay in bed, so I got up and got going. As I opened my Bible for the day’s chapter, I said a quick prayer for God to speak to where I was in that moment. Then I read Mark 12 which is mostly about how the Pharisees were refusing God’s gift in Jesus. But at the end, there’s this bit:
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Mark 12: 41-44
And I thought, “I feel empty. I feel emotionally poor…but I can still give of what I have.”
I didn’t have it in me to pull out the school books, but I pulled out our snuggly blankets and cozied up on the sofa with the kids and we watched cartoons while they pressed close and chattered at me. I gave them my time, my presence, and my loving touch.
I didn’t have it in me to get out of the house and deal with errands, but when the kids ran off to play, I did some online Christmas shopping and delighted in the Cyber Monday deals that allowed me to get a couple of items I hadn’t thought were in the budget. I also dug into the freezer and came up with one more filling meal to get us through until I was ready to face the shopping. I gave (or will give) incredible gifts that will light up their little faces and keep the Santa magic alive another year. I gave sustenance and family time around the dinner table.
I didn’t have it in me to plan any activities for the day, but when we found ourselves with time in the afternoon, our church’s Advent workbook was conveniently nearby to pull out for some fun. And that led to making our annual paper chain countdown, and the discussion of what gifts the boys would like to make and give. My middle guy wanted to get to work on his immediately so we pulled out the Perler beads and sat side by side for hours working on his gifts and then on our own fun creations. I gave them the gift of the truth of this Holiday season, and some precious one-on-one time for my quiet and oft-overlooked monkey in the middle.
By the end of the day, the funk was lifted. The magic had crept in with each simple act of giving. I hadn’t thought I had anything to give. I was absolutely sure that I couldn’t, and yet I did. Like that poor widow, I did my best to give what little I had that day and God took my little and made it much. He does that. When we give, He multiplies our giving and we end up blessing not only our recipients, but ourselves as well.
Whatever you have to give – time, presence, or presents – give willingly and with as much cheer as you can muster, even when what you have to offer feels too little. He can make it big. He can make five loaves feed five thousand. He can make snuggles and playtime into a game changer. He can make your little offering so much more than you could ever dream. Give and watch Him work!
Jenn is a book-reading, quietly nerdy introvert who has, one choice at a time, managed to completely surround herself with chaos. Wife to one incredible man, and homeschooling-mama to three crazy-awesome boys, life is almost never quiet...but in each day there are moments - brief pauses in the crazy - and it is there that she finds God. He is in a quiet breeze through the trees, in a one-on-one conversation, in a lingering glance at a sleeping child's face. It is enough.