For several Decembers in a row, I read an Advent devotional that traces the heritage of Jesus, starting with creation. Creation. The first sin. Noah. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. and on down the line.
So, the other day, the reading was from Genesis 12:1-7. God promises Abram (aka: Abraham) that He will greatly bless him, multiply his descendants, his influence, and wealth. This was a little funny and extremely unbelievable because Abram and his wife had no children, and she was circa 100 years old.
Last time I checked, not a lot of 100 year old ladies having babies. But Abram believed God’s promises anyway. Perhaps His belief is why he was called God’s friend. (2 Chron. 20:7, Isaiah 41:8). People believe their friends because their friends have a history of telling the truth.
Anyway, as God is making these promises to Abram, He says, “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing to others…all the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Ann Voskamp writes,
“‘I will bless you.’ He will not burden you. He will not break you. He will bless you – the God of invincible reliability, the God who has infinite resources, the God who is insistent love. You can go ahead and breathe – He will bless. You can always breathe when you know all is grace.
That is the order of grace… The personal blessings envelop you first. Then you are a blessing sent to the world.
You will be experienced as a blessing – to the extent you have first experienced yourself as blessed. You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself. ‘It is no use for you to attempt to sow out of an empty basket, for that would be sowing nothing but wind,’ wrote Spurgeon… leave the blur of [your past], and see the promised land of Advent, of Christmas, of His Coming – the blessing of gift upon gift. Only when you first unwrap the gifts of blessings to you can you be wrapped up as a gift of blessing to others. Only when you are overwhelmed with the goodness of God can you overflow with the goodness of God to others.
And that is the blessing God graced Abram with, the blessing He graces you with this Advent, the gift that makes you a gift. The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.”
I just wonder – do you need to unwrap the gifts of blessings? Do you feel empty? Tired? Weary? This side of eternity, we all experience the brokenness that plagues this world. But there is a promised land ahead. And only when you unwrap the gift, can you really receive it. Open it. Experience it… experience grace, His presence.
A couple years ago, we were in a season of need.
Living far from anyone we knew. Ben working gazillions of hours each week, never feeling like he had done enough or was good enough. Me adjusting to being a stay at home mom (read: trapped in a tiny apartment with a baby during a very long winter) and learning how to not be bitter at my husband who got to leave and somehow was stressed by that.
Not to mention, we had no money. We lived in an apartment that cost $2500/month for 11 months and had to pay ~$45,000 in tuition costs. We were “awarded” $60,000 in loans. You do the math. (Hint: it’s not enough.) We begged them for more debt so that we could, um, eat and stuff. All the while somewhat burdened by the thought of paying it all back. And on it goes.
But the Lord blessed us greatly. Often through other people. Gift after gift.
- Our neighbors watched Addie one night a week so we could go to a Bible study together.
- Some moms at church invited me to a play group and the gym.
- A friend drove Addie and me to the grocery store.
- We were just barely close enough (10-12 hours away) to drive and see family for Thanksgiving.
- Family paid for us to fly home for Christmas.
- We found a rental house on Craigslist in Omaha from 1,000 miles away.
- Ben got a really wonderful job the day after we moved back.
- And somehow, the not-enough-money stretched for 13 months.
THE LORD JUST PROVIDED.
He said, “go here, and do this, and I promise to be with you and take care of you.” Grace.
And in the midst of all of it, He gave us himself. “The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.” Grace.
I look back on my journal and blog posts from that hard 18-months and realize – God did provide for all our needs, and so many of our wants. But truly, the greatest gift during that period of time was Himself. He taught us so much. And we grew closer to Him. I used to wake up with pregnancy insomnia and just write and pray. Because for a period of time, God was my only friend nearby, besides Ben.
SO, HERE WE ARE NOW.
That season is a year-and-a-half in the rearview mirror. The personal blessings envelop you first, then you are a blessing sent to the world. That is the order of grace.”
As He has provided every step of the way, I’ve started to overflow with His goodness… like, sometimes I can’t help it. So much so, that when I said, “I hope you have a merry Christmas” to the weary-looking checker at Joann’s today, my eyes may or may not have welled up with tears.
Okay, so there’s the whole pregnancy hormone theory… But there’s also being overwhelmed with His goodness. I suppose I’m just increasingly aware of a lot of need around us.
NOW THAT WE’RE NOT MERELY SURVIVING, I CAN SEE IT EVERYWHERE.
In the normal, mundane day-in-and-day-out-stuff. Weary cashiers who need a smile, and an unhurried customer. Moms who need friends. People who need meals. A college student who needs a dinner invitation. A mom who needs a break. A couple who needs babysitting. We’ve been there, in need. (And we still are sometimes.) But, mostly right now, our pitcher is full. Our basket is overflowing. It’s our turn to give. And, that is the order of grace.
What season are you in? What does giving look like for you right now?