It is the season of harvest, the season of stewardship at many churches, and for many people it is the season of spending. Many people will go wildly in debt to create a lavish Christmas celebration replete with oodles of beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree. Others yet will feel guilty due to their restraint or inability to financially feed the Christmas frenzy.
With this weekend's sermon on "abundance", I was taught a lesson that I hope I remember. Perhaps it came at the right time, or maybe I was just ready to hear the lesson from a different perspective. Whichever the case, an "Ahh Haahhh" moment occurred for me.
This past year, indeed this past 2 or 3 years, has been wonderful for our family on so many levels, but it has also brought about many feelings that have been uncomfortable. The sheer volume of blessings has overwhelmed us, humbled us and made us question "why" more times than I care to count. I am not necessarily talking about the material, but the ethereal. Blessings come in all forms, my friends, and very often the greatest of these have nothing at all to do with packages.
Many is the time when Dominick and I have looked at one another and tried to understand the love that has been shown us. So many people have gone out of their way to nurture our family, to encourage us, to give us their hearts in numerous ways. We, of course, want to be the same kind of blessing in other people's lives and strive to do what we can but somehow the scales don't balance.
Yesterday though, I somehow internalized the message that God is extravagant...that this extravagance is what we are currently experiencing in our lives! We are not meant to live a puny little life, we are meant to live an abundant life, one filled to the brim, overflowing with goodness!!
But one big key to living this abundant life, is how we view it. Many would say that the LaJoy's do not live an abundant life based upon the standards the world uses to measure such things. We don't have the big screen TV or the trips to the Bahama's (Thank goodness, I would be a lobster there!). We live what appears on the outside to be a moderate middle class life. And yet you ask any one of us, from Joshie on up, what our life is like and I am certain the response you would get is that it is awesome! We'd share about the laughter and fun we all have together, about all that we have in our lives in terms of friendships and love, we'd talk about our house that really feels like a home and our cars which fit all of us in them easily. We rarely care about what we don't have, we often express gratitude for what we do have.
Is that thy key to abundance? Viewing what God has given us in whatever measure as "enough" and being grateful for it? Is it so hard today to stop yearning for what you don't have and look around at all you do have with a grateful heart?
Our society does not work that way. We Americans have had so much for so long, our standard of living has steadily increased to the point where we feel we are living in poverty if we don't have a cell phone or cable TV. We are bombarded daily with images in all forms of media of all that we should strive to own, leaving us feeling as if our lives are somehow lacking if we don't "have it all". What we fail to see is the lack of joy that resides behind the grand doors of multi-million dollar mansions, we don't hear the silence that rings in their halls as families who are supposed to be living lives that are intertwined instead find themselves living as tenants in the same house. No amount of great gifts from Santa can make up for a child whose parents don't have time to read to them at night or play yet another round of "Sorry".
For us, abundance is being in bed surrounded with the boys on the ground in their sleeping bags whispering to us about the latest Batman/Moleman story told by Dominick. It is working together to take care of our family in all kinds of ways...from cleaning our house together to helping the boys as they take their first steps into the world of employment and watching as they stand back with pride saying "OK...I think we are done, is the office clean enough?". Abundance is not covered with dollar signs, it is covered with crayon drawn hearts. It is Dominick and I looking sideways at one another as we try not to crack up over some silly thing that was said in the backseat of the van.
Abundance also means recognizing we have more than we need and sharing with others. There is ALWAYS enough food in our house, even if the fridge is a tad low, to feed a friend. Regardless of how busy we are, there is always time to meet with someone and share heart stories and encouragement. Living an abundant life requires giving as well as receiving...even if what you have to offer may seem paltry compared to some. It just might be exactly what is needed by others.
God gives abundantly so we may do the same. But God gives different people different things to share. Not everyone will be wealthy, not everyone will have gifts in certain areas they can share with others, not everyone will have time. But we each have something to offer from our personal place of abundance. As we enter into this season of thankfulness and Black Friday sales, try hard to keep it all in perspective. Try to look for the abundance in your life, thank God for the extravagance you have been blessed with...and then go out and try to give as extravagantly as you have been given to!