Somehow my story has gotten around and many of you have asked me to share it more publicly. So, I bite my lip and paste it here…hope you enjoy! I wrote this in December of 2010.
Christmas, what a blessed season. A season of giving. A time to show how much we care. We get so excited when we find the perfect gift for the person we love. We look forward to seeing their surprise and joy over the incredible gift we selected for them. We are taught, that it is “better to give then to receive”. Acts 20:35. We are taught that we should always think of others before ourselves. Christmas is the time of year when we see these values acted out more than any other time.
Every year in the past, my 3 children and I were sure to wrap a toy for a needy child, carol for the elderly and always we put our spare change in the red bucket outside of the store. Every year we went shopping for the special gifts to put under our tree for each other. We had a budget and usually blew it with the excitement of giving that perfect gift.
I never really gave a thought to the child who would get that toy we wrapped or what exactly happened to the spare change we threw into the red bucket. I never really stopped to consider how lonely and stressful it would be to not be able to give during this special time of year. I never thought about it until I was the one who had nothing to give and everything to receive. I was the one who gave and I was so happy to share. Then unexpectedly I had nothing to give even my own young children. I was sad and worried as we moved from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, but I had no idea what lessons God had in store for me.
Suddenly, as the season began there were so many “giving” demands that I was expected to meat. My daughter needed $2 so that she could make an ornament at school. Shoeboxes for needy children needed to be filled with fun and exciting toys at church. New coats for children were being collected and we could even go to special concerts if we brought a new unwrapped toy as a donation. Then, there was the gift exchange at the church Christmas party and of course the children wanted to drop their pennies and dimes into the red money-box outside the store.
To me, the “giving” season was no longer feeling so blessed or so giving. I needed to keep the $2 to put gas in the car so my daughter could even get to school. My children were picking out clothes from the donation center. Our family could certainly benefit with a shoebox under the tree for gifts for my children. There would be no special concerts for us because we could not afford to buy any toys much less an extra toy. When we went to the store and passed the red money bucket, I would duck my head and rush on past with tears flowing quietly down my cheeks.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. But what if I have nothing to give?
I refused to complain. As a mom I am determined to give thanks in all things as well as teach my children to give thanks. I long for us to have a joyful spirit in all things. I want to teach my children that Jesus is looking after us, every moment of everyday and our needs are being met by Him. These are the things that matter the most. My children didn’t always see it that way. I comforted myself with the notion that this would be a good character building opportunity for them. Soon, however, and unknown to us, word got out about our situation.
One day, someone dropped a small fake Christmas tree, plus bright white lights and sparkly ornaments off at our apartment. We had spend the previous weekend decorating our fake Ficas tree in the living room with paper and popcorn. That tree caused a lot of excitement for my little family!
Then, someone slipped a much-needed gas card into my wallet at church. An overflowing food basket showed up at our doorstep and one special morning we found Christmas stockings filled with delightful goodies for each of us to open! We felt so happy and so blessed!
Blessed? That started me thinking. Isn’t it more blessed to give? The Bible tells us about the woman who gave her last coins to the church. What about the widow who shared her last flour and oil to save a stranger? They were blessed beyond measure for their willingness to give.
I sat down to think hard to remember any stories I had been told that focus on receiving. Soon those stories started to come to me. Mary sat at Jesus feet and received his love and wisdom. The blind man received the gift of sight. The woman at the well received forgiveness and a new life. In fact, there seems to be many more stories of people who were blessed by receiving then by giving! Christ is our example in all things. He is the ultimate gift giver…this year, I began to think of him as the ultimate gift receiver too. Without question Jesus accepts our gifts of broken, crushed, humiliated and devastated lives. He smiles and laughs in complete joy when we offer up to Him our sin as a gift. He takes that gift with total Love for us. He unconditionally empties out the rusty pennies from our buckets and in His mercy he gives us His gifts of Love, of forgiveness, of companionship, of acceptance and of eternal life. He teaches us to give but He also teaches us to receive. It is indeed blessed to give, but I have learned that I am also very blessed to receive. He wants you and me to accept this gift, His gift, the ability to receive.