Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Warning... this is rather long so brew a cup of tea or a pot of coffee before sitting down to read. A couple of snacks would be good, too. :)

It is very, very cold outside and a gentle snow is falling. How difficult it was to leave the flannel sheets, find the kitchen, and push the button on the coffee maker. (It was definitely a two Pooh mug morning.) Perfect weather to stay inside where it is warm and cozy.

This afternoon I am making cowboy cookies to fill the cookie jar at home and have plenty for my husband to take to the bookstore. He has been asked to stay one more week. He won't receive a bonus but the income is needed. Thankfully, he has been able to do the work.

I've been pondering the subject of giving and receiving for awhile but reluctant to write about it. First and most important... I didn't want anyone to think I was asking for anything. Stranger things have happened in 2 1/2 years and the need to go to moderated comments proves it.

Also, I want to share how we give in the midst of near poverty income (less than poverty if going by the Federal statistics). Some would find what we do strange or unwise... but I'll just refuse those comments. Ahhh... the power of moderated comments. :)

What made me decide to write about these ponderings today? Something that happened to me yesterday. After dropping my husband off at the bookstore, I stopped by Panera to use a gift card a very sweet friend gave to me. I was all ready to enjoy my special place to read and write while sipping coffee and a bagel when I noticed a man sitting near the window. He obviously didn't fit in this upscale community (as are most college towns).

Very soon, a well dressed young man set a plate of food before him and told him this was not from him but from Jesus and then the young man left through the front doors. Of course I had tears come to my eyes as I watched the homeless man snarf down the food. Then I had one of those inner arguments with God because I knew what He was asking me to do... sigh.

So, I got up from where I was sitting and used the gift card to purchase a coffee in a "to go" container. I picked up the sack on my table which contained a pecan roll for my husband and set the sack and the coffee cup before him. I told him that yes, indeed... Jesus does love him. He looked at me as if asking if He really does but as I sat down again, he arose to fill the cup with coffee. I noticed when he left that he refilled the cup and took the bag with the pecan roll with him.

There's a little more to the story as it led to an interesting discussion with the people at a table near me. However, that can wait for another time. Let's just say I never got to read and write as I had planned but I'm certain I was there at His timing. I'll read and write and sip coffee at another time.

My family and I are big believers in giving, even when times are hard... no, especially when times are hard. If I'm hoarding in the midst of poverty, I'm not trusting God and most of all... I'm not enjoying the joy of giving. The followers of Christ did not understand the widow giving the mite in the offering when that was everything she had. I've never given away everything.

God always gives seed to the sower, whether it is my ability to add coffee and dessert to a homeless man's meal because my dear friend gave me a gift card... or the cookies I'm making this afternoon for my family and the friends at the bookstore. (Which is why I was so upset at the snarky comment by one of the trolls as if I was stupid because I'm a diabetic and I spend time baking... it is using a talent I have so I can be a giver.)

I have been overwhelmingly blessed by generous people who read this blog. I do not underestimate what it has meant, the giving of many has kept me going when I was near despair. Not to mention letting me sip really good coffee from time to time. Always the gifts have been received at just the right time. :)

I've become a good receiver and that was quite difficult... for becoming a good receiver means one must be humble. However, I also know the joy that comes in giving and being the person God uses to fill another's need... even if it is a college student missing their mother's homemade chocolate chip cookies. :)

God is a giving God as we are shown in the Word over and over. It is part of our nature to give... unless fear is keeping us from it. It doesn't take a lot to give... I know in the literature we receive from Feed the Children, they often say just $10.00 given by many people makes a huge difference in the world. So we have given $10.00 from time to time.

With the unexpected check I received at Christmas, I was able to give small gifts to my husband and son as well as using it for living expenses. My husband and I also purchased a gift card to my sister and brother-in-law's favorite buffet and slipped it into a Christmas card. They were overjoyed by the gift of one or two meals out... something they never, ever get to do.

If you have far more than enough, look around to see if there is a family you can bless this week. Perhaps instead, you will purchase extra for your pantry so you can give to a family in need some day out in the future. I know many ministries are suffering greatly right now... especially from listening to the radio while driving a lot this past week.

What a good thing to send even a small amount... ten or twenty dollars... to your favorite ministry, people who feed the hungry and house the homeless, women's shelter, favorite Bible teacher, etc. Not the people saying if you give to them you will be rich, and famous, and healthy, etc. No... those who rarely bring up financial need... God will lead.

I'm especially fond of the Salvation Army as they have blessed me as a child and my family in past years. Does your church have a food pantry that needs stocked? They may receive food from a central pantry or the government but that rarely includes items such as coffee and tea (of course, I'd think of those) and other luxuries people enjoy.

Do you know someone who is out of work? Never, ever be afraid of offending someone. Slip cash in a card, or a gift card for a grocery store or gas station, or even for a restaurant so they can enjoy a lovely meal away from home with no guilt... and no, I'm not asking for you to get my address and send it to me! :)

Look around... discreetly hand the card to them and tell them God loves them. For sometimes even people in the Church need to hear it in times of crisis, just as much as the homeless man at Panera. I'm convinced God blesses those who are a blessing. The Word says we lend to God when we help the poor and I have seen it in my own life... God's provision at the right time.

Are you in a crisis already? Do you not know where the rent money or house payment is coming from next month? You can be a blessing by making a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies for someone else you know in need. You can bless your family by serving inexpensive food on china plates with candlelight.

God's provision comes in many and varied ways. In our own family, the Buick was given to us so God's provision for a much needed second car came from family. God's provision to pay for the car repairs came through two paychecks (hubby and son both getting start- of- semester work) and a very strange way.

That being the check from the insurance company of the young man who rear ended the Buick and caused a dent. We hadn't put the check in the bank when we found out the cost of the car repair so hubby called that insurance company and asked if we could live with the dent and use it for the transmission repair. They said it was ours to use as we pleased.

Sigh, I warned you this would be long and I'm leaving out a lot from my ponderings. However, this is a blog and not a book. I have dishes soaking and cookies to bake, too. I hope you understand what I am saying as well as what I'm not... giving is a blessing as is receiving... and it is something all of us should be doing even if in a very small way. For that is the good part of humanity. :)


nancyr said...

A good friend's daughter-in-law, the main breadwinner of her family, recently lost her job.
At church, two weeks ago, a stranger came up to her and told her he was sorry she lost her job and handed her and envelope, and walked away.
Inside, were three one-hundred dollar bills. She was overwhelmed and thankful. She discovered he was a relative of a church member, and was visiting that Sunday.
Her family will always remember and be awed by that stranger's kindness.

Nita in South Carolina said...

What a wonderful, wise post! I think that one of the really great things that is going to come out of the current financial crisis is that people are going to start really noticing and responding to the needs of others.

Being aware of, and obedient to, God's promptings to help someone else
is an act of worship.

Anonymous said...

How do you do it? You always seem to speak so gently about those things that are on my own mind and in my own ponderings!

We are "eating through" this year. This means that we are eating through all the food we have in our freezers and cans (I can a huge amount every year; a friend says if the economy fails, she will walk here because she knows she will eat). I have been putting the money saved toward what little debt (one student loan and one credit card with less than $1000) so that I can pay out the house. However, I have neglected those with less. Thank you for reminding me that I need to pay out that debt as well. Years ago, I lived on food stamps and free food as well as picked up firewood in the local parks to warm my home. Now that I am past that, I need to remember those who aren't.

Thanks, again, for a gentle reminder.


Daffodil Hill said...

So true! The widow of Zarephath had only enough supplies to prepare one last meal for her son and herself. When Elijah asked her to prepare a meal for him, she gave willingly though she fully expected to die as a result. In giving freely, her life and her son's life were spared. Had she refused, they both would have died soon. We are never too poor to give, even if all we have is a smile or a hug. A cup of cool water given in the love of Jesus blesses both the giver and the recipient. Isn't God's economy amazing!

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

It is blessed to give and to receive. Thank you for your fine and by no means too long post. So much to think about. I do sometimes think that people who are poor and can empathize more with those who suffer, are often more generous. Thank you for giving me more to think about, Brenda.

Beautiful Pear Tree Lane said...

Brenda, As always you have given us all so much food for thought. Thank you for sharing.

Sharon said...

Wonderful post as always Brenda.You always bless me with your words of wisdom.I appreciate you~Sharon

Linda Nichols said...

Brenda, you've encouraged me with your post, and actually with something that probably wasn't your main point, the idea of moderating comments. I struggle with random thoughts taking on too much meaning and setting me up for indecision and second guessing. The idea of "moderating comments" in my mind, subjecting every thought to Biblical tests and then refusing entry to those that don't meet the criteria was another gentle reminder from the Lord. Thank you for the real life example. And as always, your life, so openly shared, inspired me.


Tammie @ Are You For Real? said...

How I love my frequent visits with you, Brenda! You are a wise teacher, one who uses the humble voice of experience.

I have been deeply moved, in the last year, to invest significantly in the lives of those God has blessed me to know. This has sometimes meant that I should give a little more time and a sympathetic ear to someone with a burden (this is not the same as a 'whiner'). At times it has meant that I should quiet my tongue and overlook a grievance, then serve that person with some act of kindness. And a few times, it meant that I should write a check for more than I ever expected to write.

But in every instance, I was moved to do it with excellence. In my spirit, I heard God say, "If you're going to allow me to love people through you, then allow me to love them lavishly."

WOW! I had never thought of it that way before! Whether it be a widow's mite or something much greater, God knows the exact amount that is needed ... and we are blessed, if He chooses us to be the giver.

Thank you for this encouraging post.

~~Deby said...

You are so right. I have to say this is a way the Lord uses me. My husband will tell you that....I am not tooting my own horn because I am SURE there are MANY times that I don't listen to that still small voice...I just want my own way or my own_____ fill in the blank....silly things that won't mean anything one day.
My sister in law buys McDonald's coupons and keeps them in her purse.
We are missing the mark if we are not givers,we have become so self focused and narcisstic Christians that we forget their is a hurting world out there. It is a matter of the heart.
Great post and reminder, Brenda..

scrappy quilter said...

Your words always minister to me. You have such a sweet spirit. You might want to stop by my blog and read my "thankful Sun" list. I posted it early this morning before we left for church. Just a little thank you for who you are.

gail said...

Good morning Brenda,

Its morning here in Sydney and "Australia Day" as well. All I can say is your post was a wonderful beginning to my day. We live in a very lucky country here and today we will all be thinking about how fortunate we are. Although many are loosing jobs and things are tightening, we live in a land where you can get social security and at least enough to live on. This is indeed the lucky country. We can all learn from this downturn and yes we can all help another and ease anothers burden even if just for a moment. You are a very wise lady and I consider myself fortunate to have found your blog. Thankyou for the gentle reminder to give, whenever and whatever I can.

Take care and many blessings

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful, thought provoking post. Thank you.

Lori in PA

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I think I got "stuck" here for a while... We listened to your playlist without popping it out through our Sunday meal of cabbage soup...very tasty, btw.

It's been some time since I have truly given in the way you describe. I'll be more attentive as a result of having read your thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

Your post has really hit home with us Brenda. The comments are wonderful additions too. I only had time to read maybe half the post before leaving this morning. I pondered it for an houror so then unexpectedly heard from a sister who lives out of state. She had a story similar to yours on an incident that happened this week to her. Her's was a lesson in giving as well as another where she was a receiver. I think God used the both of you to give me a double lesson! :) God has given you talent to give life lessons in a gentle way but that come over strongly. I don't just read a post by you and forget them. They leave me ponderig what God would have me do with it all. I can't thank you enough for letting Him lead you Brenda. Jody

texasdaisey said...

What a wonderful post. Just found you & hope you don't mind me stopping by. You have it right. We definitely can not out give God & that is one of the things I absolutely love about Him.

Heather said...

I enjoyed this post Brenda - you have so much practical wisdom to share!
We went to a 'health wealth and prosperity gospel' church this morning - which is a long story, that I won't get into, but the whole morning just reminded me that God calls us to faith in times of need as well and times of overflow, and that most often the need is the blessing, not the overflow. I tried to take one thing from the message - combing out the gnats of the power of positive thinking left me with a sure reminder - sharing the love of God with others, in any season, but especially in times of uncertainty, is just what Jesus would have us do. Even if it is just a small gesture of kindness, when it is done in Christ's name, it means much.

Cheryl (Copper's Wife) said...

In these uncertain times, when many of us are stretching those dollars just as far as they will possibly stretch, there are others who go without on a regular basis. Thanks for the gentle reminder to look outside ourselves and notice those who are hungry, cold, homeless or down trodden. I remember the times that I have reached out to those in need and how the Lord has so encouraged my heart in so doing.

Abounding Treasures said...

Amen ~ what an encouraging and thought provoking post Brenda!

I am thankful to the Lord for opening my eyes to this kind of giving over the last year or so.

He opened my eyes to something just over a week ago and my conscience and heart was so pricked because I had been so comfortable in my own warm home that I hadn't even considered it myself.

Blessings to you as you share from life experiences :o)

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Thanks for the reminder to give even when I feel I can't afford it. I can't afford NOT to. Blessings, V.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Great post.

freetobeme - Anita said...

Excellent post. Long, yes, but you warned us! I love the way you are so down to earth. God bless...

Kelley said...

What a wonderful post!
It made me think this morning of who I could do something for to cheer their day!
Thank you for this post, I really needed to hear this!

Tracey McBride said...

Hello Dear Brenda, what a lovely story and post today(as always). Isn't it amazing how contagious those small acts of charity can become once they're witnessed. So many of us need a reminder to do those small (or large) gestures of giving when we get caught up in the tasks of living. Bless you for the gentle reminder and the wise words.
Much love and friendship from...
P.S. BTW, I am in agreement with you. There is a HUGE difference between hoarding and stocking a pantry. Taking advantage of well priced goods when you are given the opportunity is any sense...hoarding. I believe it is being a good steward of the gifts we are given during seasons of abundance. Didn't Jacob advise the Pharoah (regarding his dream) to stock up during the fat years as seven years of lean years were coming? We all know how that story turned out :).

lady jane said...

I know of what you speak, Brenda. :o)

Bless you dearly,

Char said...

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your life and thoughts with us. Many times I have been discouraged and have come here and left encouraged. God bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

As always, a great post. My husband and I were talking last night about what we could do to help others during these tough economic times. We are a couple who lives on one income also - a story much like yours. My husband has not worked for over 10 years now. He suffers from bipolar disorder too. God has been so good to us though. In spite of the fact that he was unable to get disability, God has seen to it that after downsizing, we have been able to live off my income. There have been tough times but God is ever faithful. We have learned much and our hearts are soft towards others who struggle. I'm chasing rabbits so....back to my beginning of this post. We decided we could raise a larger garden this year and donate some of our abundance to the local food pantry. My husband loves to garden - it is therapy for his soul. We all have the power to help or harm others. What a blessing it is to build up rather than tear down. God Bless you.

Nita in South Carolina said...

I see that you have the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in your bookpile.

Make sure when you start it, that you will have enough time to finish it . . . because you won't be able to stop reading!

Heather L. said...

What a wonderful and challenging post. Thankyou for this reminder. I need to be thinking about how the Lord wants me to encourage someone. We have several in our church who are out of work, etc.

Lady Katherine said...

What a wonderful reminder to us all! Both of my son-in-law's have lost their jobs, we are helping all we can. But you gave me something in this article, to bake something for someone else that maybe in need.