April 9, 2018
The sermon yesterday was a reminder that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is a blessing inherent in the giving. The blessing is much more than just the possibility of that blessing being regifted back to me. The deep blessing of giving is the joy of a deep communion with the God who loves me enough to give it all to me. When I give, whatever I give, I experience the taste of Heaven. This is the joy my Father in Heaven felt when He assured me eternal life. It’s the joy of knowing THIS is the perfect gift, chosen just for me, by the gift-giver who gives me the desires of my heart. I know this stuff already, but I should sit and listen. That way, I can repreach it to someone else who needs to hear it. So today, I am preaching to myself.
The transmission in Grace’s car went out, so the Mauks have been limping on just 2 cars instead of 3. It’s hard to complain about only 2 cars, but it’s a little easier when I remember that this is the 3rd transmission the Mauks have blown in two and a half years. Grace worked last night, so she spent the night at home. I drove Lauren, Zoey, and Sara to Middle School, then took Grace back to her college dorm. She will need a car a few times this week, and we will manage like we did last week, until her car is fixed. Then I went to the grocery, came home and the fun started. Cooking.
Lauren’s and Emily’s preschool teacher texted me the other day to ask if I would bake a peanut butter poundcake for her grandson’s fund raiser. Of course I will. And one of Emily’s teachers had a death in the family, so I offered to take her 2 meals and a cake. My family feels the blessing when I give food to others because I always make extra for us, so we will have a yummy french toast casserole and lasagna this week.
Within an hour of coming home from the grocery, my kitchen looked like Thanksgiving morning. The table was covered with with foodstuff. There was cake flour on most everything. I had already used 22 eggs between the 2 french toasts and one of the cakes. The jar of mayo fell on the floor and splashed up onto the floor and refrigerator because SOMEBODY forgot to tighten the lid yesterday (oh snap, that was me when I made chicken salad yesterday). Back to the grocery because I forgot a main ingredient for lasagna. Then my phone pinged with a text from a cousin. One text turned into many texts about swapping recipes and feeding large groups. Then Grace texted me asking for her birthweight and length for a project. Random. Then I finally got the 2 lasagnas in the oven, and Mommie needs to relax with a cup of hot tea before starting the other cake.
Pastor Alan made an interesting point about the world trying to highjack the word “blessed.” That word, by its nature, acknowledges there is a blesser, a giver. God. But how often do we use “blessed” to humble-brag about how good our lives are going? Good fortune and good luck, the right connections, right place at the right time, I deserve this because I worked so hard. Do we throw around the #BLESSED to convince ourselves that the blessing is only when things are going smoothly? Guilty. I’m preaching to somebody who needs to hear it.
I don’t think I have ever hash tagged. If I have, I guess it’s out there somewhere; there’s a digital record of everything. But I can’t think of a hashtag I have used. I’ve had my share of easy times when life goes swimmingly. I’ve had times when I looked in the rearview mirror and counted my blessings for that near miss. I’ve had times when life really is coming up Sandie and it’s good to be me. I am so blessed. Period. I am. We have 2 cars to get us around and a 3rd that just needs some medical attention. I have enough food in my kitchen to feed a small army of friends. I have an old friend who will text me for help, and a new friend who will let me help her. I have a cousin 3 states away who texts me every single morning with a scripture lesson and to remind me that I have been prayed for each day. Hallelujah!
But my kitchen does look like Thanksgiving morning. And I am thankful to be giving. It’s a mess, and I have to believe that there is a joy and blessing in the giving, not just because I am able to give or because it might come back to me someday. But I have known times when I could not give. Y’all know what I’m talking about. I know you do, because y’all gave to me. Paul and I have had all 3 girls in the hospital at different times. There is no rearview mirror so blessed as the one that sees a loved one in the backseat driving HOME from the hospital after a near miss. But Paul and I know what it is like to come close to losing Lauren and Grace, and we were blessed by God in the pain. And if the pain had been unto death, He would have held us and blessed us in that as well. Hallelujah!
We have all felt the joy of giving that perfect gift and seeing the smile. And we have felt the gratitude of receiving the perfect gift. Christmas is so perfect when we give and receive all at the same time with the same people, and the joy abounds. Years ago, I was working on a patient that I really didn’t know at all. I had maybe seen her once or twice before. Lots of small talk just to avoid the awkward silences. Her neck was sunburned and I commented about it. She said she had been doing an outside project to accommodate a frightening, dangerous medical issue her husband was dealing with. Epilepsy. I’m pretty sure this was before I was even pregnant with Emily, so years before we knew our lives would be touched by her epilepsy. I asked this lady if I could take a meal to her so she wouldn’t have to cook for her family just one night. Asking felt a little more awkward than the silences, but she accepted. So I took her a meal. She lives about a half hour away, so with drive-time and the niceties of conversation, the delivery took well over an hour. She is the only person I know who lives in Walkertown. From dental visit to dental visit though the years, we’ve become friends. We don’t go hang out, but if I saw her in a store, I would hug her neck and chat awhile. About 10 years after I blessed her by giving, Grace was in the hospital. I got a card at work and the envelope didn’t have a return address, but the postmark said Walkertown. I knew who had sent it before I opened it. In that moment, I remembered the joy I had in giving her a meal 10 years earlier when her family was hurting, and I had joy that she wanted to bless me in the midst of my family pain. And I had joy in understanding that it meant so much to my friend to be able to give back to me. I never gave to her thinking she would ever need to give to me, but she did give to me. Do you see what God the Blesser did right there? He took my joy and my friend’s joy from 10 years ago, recycled it, repurposed it, returned it, rewrapped, regifted it, and reblessed us both by multiplying it. And it never erased the pain her family had felt or the pain my family was feeling, but there was joy. Hallelujah!
So what then is my response to the blessing? If the only joy I get from the giving is in just getting credit for the giving, then what have I gained? If the only blessing in baking a cake for a friend is just in licking the beaters, then my joy is complete when I wash the dishes. But if my response to the giving and the getting is “Hallelujah,” then the joy goes on. Hallelujah is a spiritual response and spiritual posture of gratitude. Hallelujah is the understanding that the gift means more than just words on a card or meal on a table. I can say Hallelujah even though my first cake fell flat and the edges of the lasagna noodles got burned, because my gift is in helping one friend and lightening the load for another. The food is just the way to show that I care.
So I am claiming my first hashtag. #HALLELUJAH! I’m feeling the hallelujah today not because my life is going swimmingly or because we survived the near misses or because it is good to be me. All that is true. Certainly. But today I claim the hallelujah to acknowledge all the ways my messy life has been shown grace and mercy beyond what I could be lucky enough to stumble across or what I could deserve through my hard work. Today is #HALLELUJAH! because my joy comes from the one who blesses me.