Thursday, December 31, 2015

too poor to afford a lamb

So Christmas day came, and Christmas is still here, and there has been much celebrating, lots of wine, and a whole lot of cheese that is sitting like a brick in my stomach as I write.  Santa was good to us, and friends and family were even better to us, and despite all of the stress and the chaos that this secular world turns our Christmas into, Christ was born.  Our God, our help, has come to save us.  All of that worry, all of that anxiety, all of the shopping and planning and cleaning and wrapping.  It changes nothing.  It means nothing.  It is a moment-a fleeting moment- and it comes and it goes and the scraps of red and gold paper are thrown in the trash and the kids run off to their rooms with their various gifts and there we are left, under the tree, wondering if the world is truly aware of the gift we have been given?  Wondering if our own family knows the true meaning of Christmas? I truly understand?

I realized this Christmas what a horrible slave to money I am.
Funny, I know, because you would think that to be a slave to money, one must have money.
But that is not the case.
My mind is constantly preoccupied with the worry and fear that I will not have enough.
That I will lose my home.
That we will have no food.
That the kids will suffer the most.
And even when gifted with a substantial amount of money, a gift card, or check, or a stack of bills, even that does not put my mind to rest, because then I panic at what the best use of such a gift is.
Does it go to gifts, or bills? Food or gas? Should I buy boots for myself, or coats for the kids? Do I put it towards rent, or finally get the Dentist off my back? Do we throw it towards state tax, or pay down the electric bill?
And so you see, with or without, I have come to learn...or rather, I have come to wonder, is it ever enough?
With, our without it, I am a slave.

And do you want to know what has been bothering me the most?
Not once, when gifted and helped, did I ever think, "Who can I share this with? Who can use help more than me?"
I held on to it tight, afraid to let it go.
Like a slave to the things of this world, I stored it for myself.
And what a tragic thing to recognize about your own self, that not once when freely given, did I even consider how I could freely give to someone else.
God gave me such an awesome opportunity to spread joy, to spread light, to be His hands and feet...but I was too busy looking at myself to see anyone else.

I read something a few days ago that has stuck with me.
Luke, chapter 2 verses 22-40.
The story of when Mary presents her baby Jesus.
Every first-born male was to be consecrated to the Lord, as well as an offer of sacrifice.
Mary offered two pigeons.
Not a very glamorous bird, to say the very least.
You would think that when presenting the Savior of the world, you might have a better sacrifice than a couple of pigeons.
The truth is, the normal combination of a sacrifice was a lamb and a pigeon.
However, for those too poor to afford a lamb, two pigeons were accepted.

Mary was too poor to afford a lamb.

And I can not even read that, or as I have just discovered, even write that, without crying.
The Mother of God was too poor to afford a lamb.

I scroll through Instagram and I see what our children see...I see what this world wants us to see...the sparkle, the glamour, the sex, the clothes, the beautiful the expensive, the rich and full life.  And then my eyes turn to John 2:14-17, "Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever."

I may be a slave, and I may be enticed by what I see, but I know that deep down in my heart, a heart made by and for God, I want to be like Mary.  I am not impressed by the Kardashians, or Hollywood, or how many cars and homes anyone owns.  And if I am...because I am human and weak and yes, I do see what you have and at times I do covet your things...but even so, if I am ever longing for things of this world, that desire is so fleeting.  I know that things do not last.  I know that what I have and hold onto and hoard for myself is only a sparkly empty road block to where I truly long to be; to where my restless anxious heart desires to find rest.  Rest does not happen in anything comfortable that is given to us from this world.  In fact, I have discovered that when you seek out rest in things, you quickly become even more restless than when you first started.  The truth is, we will only find rest when we seek out God- when we detach ourselves from the comforts of the world and embrace the comfort of that hard wooden manger inside of a stable.

Mary was too poor to afford a lamb, and yet, God chose her.
Mary was simple and humble, and yet, God chose her.
Mary was an ordinary young woman, and yet, she was to become the Mother of God.

This is the last day of the year, and the time when social media blows up with women announcing their "word" of the year.  (OK, so mabe there are some men out there that do this too, but for the most part, I think this is a chick thing) They choose a word of inspiration and decide to focus on and live by that word through out the new year.  If you are struggling to find that word for yourself, perhaps I can offer some suggestions.  How about simplicity, mercy, or humility?  Or what about ordinary, poverty, or sacrifice? 

I pray that this is the year the world recognizes God (John 1:1-18).
I pray that this is the year we get out of ourselves, and give all we have to others.
I pray that this is the year we break down the road blocks this world sets before us, and we set out on a path that leads us to holiness, everlasting joy, and that in our own personal struggle and journey, we lead others to Him as well.
I pray that this is the year we can detach ourselves from all things, and open our hearts in a profound way to the love and mercy of Christ Jesus.
I pray that this is the year we value life, every single life in all its forms, and respect and cherish this invaluable gift that God gives to each of us.
I pray for each and every one of us; may God bless you this New Year, may you embrace and accept whatever comes your way, and may you trust that He holds a beautiful and good plan designed just for you.
And for myself, I pray that I embrace an ordinary, normal, and poor life well enough to see the extraordinary way that God will work in and through me, and that it is with an overflowing cup of Thanksgiving that I can offer my two pigeons of sacrifice, and know that it is well.