Giving Only What I Can Afford

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow woman who placed two little coins in the offering box in the Temple.  Compared to the much larger amounts they had seen others give earlier, her offering seemed like nothing.  Yet Jesus pointed out that they had given of their abundance while her offering consisted of all she had – a much greater sacrifice and gift.

widow

Jesus explained that the rich people had given “what they can easily afford” while she had given “her whole living.”

This has me thinking – do I only give what I can afford or do I give my all?

When we talk about giving in relationship to God, we usually think of money and in this instance it was money that was being discussed.  And certainly I have to admit when it comes to financial giving, I certainly use a lot of my income on myself.  As I look at my checkbook, I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford to the work of God.

Giving financially to God is more than just giving to my local church, although it does include that.  But there are so many other areas where I need to share my abundance with others:

  • helping teachers and schools with supplies
  • buying shoes for children from families who are struggling financially
  • buying a meal for a homeless person
  • taking food to the local food pantry
  • many non-profit organizations like American Cancer Society, St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the list goes on and on

My first thought is I do not have an abundance financially.  But I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford.  Am I really making any personal sacrifices giving up things I don’t really need, only want, to help others whose finances are much less than mine.

But giving to God is much more than just giving of my finances.  There is my time and my talent.

time

How much of my time do I spend doing things I want to do, things which will help me or my family?  How much of my time do I spend reaching out to others.

This was really brought home to me this past month.  We just moved to a new state.  Just a couple of days after moving in with boxes still everywhere our doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor coming over to say welcome.  My first thought was “how nice!”  I invited her in and we began getting acquainted.  After 30 minutes had passed and she showed no sign of leaving, I must confess I so wanted her to leave.  After all, I had boxes to unpack and a long, long list of things that must be taken care of when you move from one state to another:  new car title and license, new driver’s license, new car insurance,  and my list went on and on.

Finally she left and I told my husband I was worried that she would be a nuisance.  She was elderly and clearly lonely.  She also repeated herself several times.  I dreaded the time she might take up coming over to visit.

Then, I remembered what Jesus said and I felt the Spirit’s conviction as I realized I have an abundance of time.  My husband and I are both retired, we only have one daughter and her family living close by.  We have lots of time to enjoy.

So – will I be willing to give up some of my time – my abundance of time – to spend time with this neighbor – listening to the same story and showing interest as if it was the first time I had heard it?  Do I really need to spend all my time just doing what I like to do, just enjoying myself or do I need to give my all as Jesus would have me do?

So I have determined to visit this woman every week, to take an hour or two to sit and listen to her stories, to make her feel important to me.  To give out of my abundance.

 

 

 

 

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

Remember the fairy tale where the wicked stepmother would ask:

mirror

 

Last Sunday in church the speaker taught from the book of James where James wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As I reflected on these words from James, I thought how often I look in the mirror.  In the morning I look to see that my hair is in place.  I use the mirror to help me as I put on face lotion and makeup.  Depending on what my day brings, I may go back to the mirror to adjust my hair, put on lipstick or, if my husband and I are going on a date, to put on some earrings or other jewelry.

When I view myself in the mirror, if I see some hair sticking out-of-place, I get a comb and correct it.  Or, when putting on makeup if I notice that I have put on too much eye shadow I get a tissue and make corrections.  Fixing a scarf or a piece of jewelry I will use the mirror to make sure I get it just right.

In other words, I use the mirror to make sure I look my best before I venture out in the world – and make any corrections I feel are needed so that I do look my best.  (Of course the older I get, I less I really like to look in the mirror.  Seeing my reflection, I sometimes wonder :

 

mirror 3

James, I believe is telling us that God’s Word should work like a mirror for us in our spiritual life.  As we read God’s Word if we see areas in our life that need a spiritual adjustment, we should make that correction.  Just as we would not look in the mirror, see our hair was a mess and walk away without fixing it, so we need to let God’s Word show us those areas where we need to draw closer to Him.

I think our question should not be:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Rather, it should be:

mirror 4

 

 

 

 

Taking a Last Walk Through My Garden

 

Today we put our house on the market.  It has been  a busy few months as we began the process of downsizing preparing to move from a nine-room house to something much smaller.

My experience in this process of deciding what to keep and what to sell, give away or throw out has been an interesting one.   Döstädning – Death Cleaning

At times I have felt relief as I began to see the freedom I would have when I did not have to spend so much time cleaning and dusting and moving “stuff” around.  Relief as I look forward to the day my washer and dryer is on the same living level and I do not have to climb up and downstairs to do the laundry.  (Or, in my case, my dear husband does not have to do that.)

Other times I have felt some sorrow as I parted with items I have enjoyed over the years.  But how many Isabel Blooms can one house have?  (For my readers who are not familiar with Isabel Bloom, check out their website at isbloom.com

Perhaps the thing I will miss the most is my garden.  This garden was built by my husband with love for me.  The Garden that Love Built

It has been so much fun to watch this garden grow from a couple of trees and a few hostas plants until now the entire back yard is one beautiful garden.

Downsizing and moving to a smaller place was what we originally had planned.  However, in the middle of these plans our youngest daughter who lives with her family nearby announced they are moving to another state for a job opportunity for her.

Although we have six children (one is deceased), 20 grandchildren (three are deceased) and our ninth great grandchild is on his way, our children are scattered all over the states.  Missouri, West Virginia, Illinois, South Carolina and Michigan.  This daughter was the only child near us.  So – moving to a smaller place suddenly has taken on a harder decision.

Where do we go?  At our age we do not want to live without any family nearby.  Which child gets the blessing (or the curse) of having us live close by?  ♥

As we begin the process of deciding exactly where we will call home it is a stressful time hoping to find a place we will really love.  But it is also an exciting time as we look forward to a new home and making new friends.

I remember the words found in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

I will trust you Lord!

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Lizzie

That time has come!

That time when I realize that I do not want to spend the last years of my life dusting all the “stuff” I have accumulated over the years.

That time when I realize I do not want to spend the last years of my life cleaning floors in rooms I no longer need or use.

That time when I realize I do not want to wash windows in rooms I no longer need or use.

In other words, the time has come to downsize!

downsizing 2

Posting items on local swap sites I have been a little unsure as people purchased my “stuff” and the house has become more empty each day.  But after a few items were gone, my house suddenly felt so much bigger and so much less cluttered.  As each item sells I begin to feel like a weight has been removed from my shoulder.

I have had little trouble parting from the extra furniture, the deep freeze I was no longer using, the extra bedroom furniture I no longer need.

But when it came to looking through my many bookshelves filled with books, I must confess I have had a moment of sorrow.  Over the years I have collected biographies of presidents, first ladies, and people who played a role in our American history such as our founding fathers (and mothers), senators, generals and other famous political persons.  All of them I have read at least once – and most two or three times.  It is like saying goodbye to old, dear friends.

books

But one item I am parting with has little or no resale value.  I would probably have a hard time even giving it to anyone except for someone who knows its history and loves it too.

It is my garden frog, Lizzie.

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Named after my grandmother, Martha Elizabeth, this little cement frog stood guard in my Grandmother’s garden for years.  Grandma loved flowers.  When I was a little girl I loved the plants in her yard  with their big beautiful green leaves that looked like their name “elephant ears.”

elephant ears

Remembering her elephant ears plants perhaps that is why I have loved my hosta garden because of the huge leaves many of these plants have.DSCF0046

Grandma slowly lost her eyesight to glaucoma and had to get rid of her flowers.  That was a sad day for her.

I am not even sure how I came to the be the grandchild that got Grandma’s frog.  But I have treasured it.

One reason is that I inherited her love of flowers and I feel a connection to her through the flower garden and little Lizzie.

But also because Grandma was the only one of my grandparents who I felt loved me.  Grandpa (her husband) had died years before I was born so I never had the chance to know him.  My other grandparents never showed me any sign of affection.  I cannot remember ever getting a hug or hearing them say they loved me.  Going to their house my parents always told me to say hello to them and then go sit down and be very quiet.

But my flower grandma always made me feel not only loved, but special.  Like her I was a redhead and she was proud of that.  As she began to lose her eyesight she would have me stand in the doorway where the sun would shine on my hair so she could see the red hair.  She also had me played the piano for her when I came over.  Just learning how to play, I am not sure how good it really was but Grandma always praised me.

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But in downsizing to a smaller home with a smaller yard, I will no longer have a place for Lizzie.

So what to do with Lizzie?

Perfect answer:  my daughter, Rebekah.  She, like Grandma and like me, loves flowers and gardens.  While I will miss Lizzie, I am content knowing she will be loved and treasured by the fourth generation.

Enjoy your new home, Lizzie!

 

 

God’s Promises for the “Old Folks”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, turning 70 was an emotional time for me.

I’m “Officially” Old!

getting old 1

In sharing with one of my good friends, who recently also turned 70, we came up with some quotes about being old.  (Can’t claim these as originals.)

You know you are getting old when:

  • You used to do the shuffle; now you just shuffle along with the lost.
  • The twinkle in your eye is only the reflection of the sun on your bifocals.
  • You remember when you could refer to your knees as left and right instead of good and bad.
  • You can remember getting through a day without taking a picture of anything.
  • Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.
  • Most of the names in your address book start with “Dr.”

And the one thing I really love about growing old:

getting old

I had to laugh at this one.  My granddaughter recently had a sleepover at our house.  When she comes over, she comes prepared for Grandma to do nothing but play with her.  I try to keep up with her but often find I need to excuse myself to use the bathroom.  At one point she asked so innocently,

Grandma, why do you go to the bathroom so much?

I just thought,

Someday you will know little one.

But in reading God’s Word I found some wonderful thoughts on how God views the older generation.  I love these.

Gray hair is a mark of distinction; the award for a God-loyal life.  Proverbs 16:31

That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house.  They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  Psalm 92:14-14

I will be your God throughout your lifetime until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.  Isaiah 46:4

Not that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.  Psalm 71:18

All my life I have been active working for the Lord in my church. You name it, I have probably done it. Worked in nursery, played the piano for worship, led the women’s ministry, organized kids klubs, taught Bible classes and even cleaned the toilet.  Now my age and energy have limited how much of that I can do.

Yet I have many more years and I want to still be of service to the Lord.  As I have sought the Lord for what He would have me do in this “last stage” of life, I found a new purpose – to be an encourager for the younger women who are now doing the work I used to do.

To pray for them and speak words of encouragement. To be there to offer advice (only if asked); otherwise to just let them know someone is in their corner cheering them on.

So I have discovered:

Sometimes you get to what you thought was the end….and you find it’s a whole new beginning.

beginning

 

 

I’m “Officially” Old!

It has happened!  Today I am “officially” old!

Today I am 70 years old.

70 2

How did that happen?  How did I become my mother?  Where did that thick head of red hair go?  What is that sagging thing under my chin?  That can’t be bags under my eyes?

Many of my friends have become very upset at turning 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 and I have always asked them:

What’s the big deal?  It is just another birthday!

But I have been dreading this day.  Somehow it has seemed to me until I hit 70 I could still consider myself – well maybe not middle aged – but certainly not old.

But 70 – I realize the days ahead of me are way, way fewer than those behind me.  I find myself looking back at my life and wondering:

Have I done anything of real value?  Is anyone’s life better because I have been a part of their life?  Have I done all I could do, all I should have done to be a good mother, wife, friend?

Over the years ministering with my pastor husband to the elderly both in our churches and in the nursing homes where we visited I have seen many different responses to old age.

There is the the old crank who complains about everything and constantly puts the younger generation down.

growing old 6

And the one who wants to tell you all about her aches and pains.

aches and pain

But there are also those who are a joy to know.  Those who still have a zest for life and a gratitude for the blessings they have.

growing old 2.jpg

So as I move forward into this “old” time of my life I pray that:

I still see the glass as half full, not half empty.  I appreciate the health I have and not complain about what my weak knees, bad back and poor hearing.  Others still enjoy being with me and not dreading to see me walk in the door,

So – here’s a little “old folks” humor.  Laugh with me.

aches and pain 2.jpg

 

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If you do see me coming, just remember this:

old