(Don't be turned off by the LAME Jimmy Buffett referenced title! :) Grab a cup of joe, this is a long one!)
In the past few weeks as I look at my "sweet" boys I have been stunned to see the lack of gratitude they are exhibiting. While at an Easter Egg hunt with my dad I was mortified when my oldest son began to weep because he got a chocolate bunny instead of a WHITE chocolate bunny (yeah, he didn't get that from me) I pulled him aside and reminded him that some children never get a chocolate bunny and that he needed to be thankful for what he was given.
Last week I tried to catch my breath as my Benjamin, balked at his dinner because the macaroni and cheese was shell shaped and not dinosaur shaped. REALLY?! We had a talk about how there are many kids who go to bed hungry most nights and that he should be thankful that there is food on the table, I then wrapped his dinner up and each time he told me he was hungry, I offered to warm up his plate. I was prepared to serve it for breakfast even, but then at about 8 pm, he decided that his belly was finally hungry enough to eat.
I am ashamed to admit that these are just a few of the scenarios like this that played out in our home over the past month. One afternoon, I was so frustrated I was ready to scream, so at naptime (which was an ACT OF GOD in and of itself as naptime is not a regular occurrence here) I found some time with God, and as I searched through his Word for answers I took a look inward and found that perhaps, their attitude that was lacking gratitude came from me.
Having kids is a humbling experience isn't it? I mean I am the one who is constantly whining as we eat our dinner in our too small car about how I hate eating in the car, (though it seems necessary some nights) and that I hate our tiny car. It is just too small for five people! GASP! HELLO!? Should I not just be thankful that we have food for dinner and a car at all? OR How about when Howard gets home to his wife whining that she got NOTHING done in the house all day because the kids were climbing the walls quite literally. YIKES! How about being thankful that I have a home to clean and healthy kids to chase after? If I want my kids to act grateful, perhaps I should be a better model of gratitude myself.
I mean, I would be the first to tell you that we are by no means wealthy. We are a family who lives paycheck to paycheck. We have a tiny home, one working vehicle and most all of our children's clothes are second hand. Bills sometimes get paid late and we have had to humble ourselves and ask for help with the debt we have gathered after the death of our sons.
Howard and I just finished reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love. If you have not read it, you should. Seriously. You should. It has given me the wake up call that my heart was desperately needing. In his book he talks about how filthy rich we all are, how over half of the world's population lives on less that TWO DOLLARS a day! As I read the words of that book, and the scripture that went along with it, and did a personal inventory, I was ashamed. By America's standards, we are by no means wealthy, but in all actuality we are very rich. I began to become convicted as I read about giving. I mean we have always been givers, but I was kind of more the...oh, we are supposed to give ten percent...oh okay, if we have to kind of giver.
This has changed my perspective and gotten me fired up for God again, and it feels GREAT. We are making some big changes in the Bolte household and my complacent heart hasn't felt this jazzed about anything in a LONG time!
In Chan's book he talks about how worried we all are with being self sufficient and independent, how we are all taught that we should save save save and invest so that we never have to depend on anyone in a time of need. He talks about how this is really wrong thinking. We save up for our just in case, but some body's just in case is happening today. I can't help but wonder what would happen if we all actually lived like Acts 2 talks about!
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2 42-47
If everyone was happy to help meet the needs of one another. Chan goes on to say that he wonders what would happen if everyone lived on 46,000 dollars a year (the average income of an American) and gave the rest away. (I know some of you are hitting the socialism panic button) I am not talking about government mandated giving, I am talking about from the heart giving.
Anyway, our family lives on less that 46,000 anyway, but we have decided to make some changes in our household to promote gratitude and to give more. Not giving because we have to, but giving because we WANT to, giving because we are overwhelmed with gratitude with all The Lord has blessed us with.
My grocery budget for each week is 50 dollars. We have decided to cut that by ten dollars and eat beans and rice a little more so that we can pay off our debt just a little faster so that we then will be freed up to give more freely. Howard does have to pay into his retirement and it is mandatory, but for now we have decided to take the little extra we are paying in for our "some day" and invest it each pay period into someone else's need right now.
We are going "simplistic". We have too much "stuff" and we are planning to sell as much as we can and give the money away! We spent the past weekend going through things and really thinking about what is necessary and what is not. We have too much.
We also bought a globe for the kids for Easter and each week we are letting them choose a place on the globe. Howard is a geography teacher, so he then gives them a little lesson on the area they chose and we look up pictures to show them what life is like in that area. Then each night at dinner we pray for that country and are going to try and find a way to send donations to some of these places.
Sunday, on our way to Home Depot for seeds for our garden, we saw a homeless man standing at the side of the road. At first we just kind of looked away like we typically do, and then I felt the Lord prompt me to get out of my comfort zone and DO something. Howard looked at me and knew what I was thinking, so he crossed traffic and pulled over next to the man. I got into my purse and gave the man all the cash I had on me, which wasn't a lot, but enough for food and bus fare for the day perhaps. As I reached my hand out for the man to take the money, he grabbed my hand and got teary. He thanked us and began praising God. As we offered to pray for him and told him we loved him, I began to cry. We pulled away and I felt a JOY in my heart I had been missing for quite some time.
The boys asked why we had pulled over and given the man our money when we didn't have extra money (which they are used to hearing). I explained to them that God was calling us to give more and love everyone. Luke said, what if he just goes and wastes the money anyway, to which I replied, "then that is his choice, God didn't call us to give and judge, just to give freely and with a joyful heart". Luke then said "well, I bet that just made his day mom." and I replied "then we did what we were supposed to do"
I often find myself so bogged down with bills and debt that I forget that we are called to give, even when and especially when it is least comfortable. God wants us to trust HIM for everything. He wants us to pour out what we have onto others and hold nothing back. We are taught that we are not wise if we have not saved up enough to live well when we retire, but I think we are missing the point. God says that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. We are all rich. In my recent financial worries I have missed the point. I have become stingy with what we DO have and have displayed an embarrassing amount of ungratefulness. MORE than leaving my kids money, I want to leave them with an attitude of gratitude and giving.
We are looking for more ways to increase our giving, we are even debating some pretty radical changes. What do YOU do to increase giving? I would love to hear your ideas!