Today, I am speaking at the Hephzibah House Christmas Tea in Manhattan. I am blessed to be in New York City with my husband and connecting with many wonderful women of God. Since ya’ll can’t be with me I decided to share part of my presentation with you via this blog post. God bless you and thank you for the time you spend at My Daily Bread Body and Soul!
This blog post is dedicated to my friends Dinah Agnew, Nancy Reak and my sous-chef dish-washing mom! Dinah is the one who first told me about the gift she almost left unopened. From the moment she told me about it I’ve wanted to write this story because I feel the same way about the gift I almost left unopened. Nancy, another friend who walks closely with God, as you will read has played an integral part in the story of the gift I nearly left unopened. And last but certainly not least, I would not have started down this path if my mom hadn’t been willing to come along. Love to all of you! Thank you, dear Lord, for Dinah, Nancy and Mom, all tremendous women of faith, strong and mighty Prayer Warriors and women who truly live out their faith every day.
Can we all agree it is the gift-giving season? I mean who hasn’t bought a gift recently? The last few days? Last week? Anytime this month? And then there are the TV ads, radio jingles, internet pictures of gifts, gifts, and more gifts!
I am writing to tell you I am the world’s worst gift giver. I can feel my husband and sous-chef dish-washing mom rolling their eyes right now. However … read on.
My gift-giving wows started a long, long time ago. I started babysitting when I was 12 years old and from there I worked in fast food, waitressing and finally a radio station – all before I was out of high school. I always had a little money from working and I was probably around 16 years old when this misadventure took place.
My mom had a very sweet yellow teacup and saucer sitting in a prominent place in our home. One day I decided to surprise her and have that little teacup delivered to her filled with baby’s breath and petite yellow roses.
I slipped the teacup and saucer out of the house and took off to the local florist. Yes, they would make a beautiful little bouquet and deliver it the next day, on Saturday, when I knew my mom would be home. Such a good idea. What a good daughter I am.
That evening when we gathered for dinner my mom promptly lined my brothers and I up and said: “who broke my teacup and saucer?” Well, my brothers quickly denied knowing anything about a broken cup and that was true. I, however, wasn’t about to spoil the big surprise coming and so I quickly said: “I didn’t break it.” All of this was true. Mom was mad. And to make matters worse, somehow, somewhere she found a sliver of glass on the floor and that was PROOF one of us broke her precious teacup and saucer. AND if that wasn’t enough, now we were lying about it!
We all maintained our innocence and it was a long, awful night. But I knew the surprise would be worth it. The next day the doorbell rang, I could hardly breathe as mom opened the door. There it was … that beautiful teacup filled with the most gorgeous little arrangement. Immediately my mother started crying. What? Crying? What is that about? She sobbed and sobbed. She couldn’t have said “thank you” no matter how hard she tried. Boy, that didn’t work out.
Fast forward a few decades. I actually gave these exact same sandals to my husband — two Christmas’ in a row. No, really I did.
And then there was the birthday gift … My husband’s birthday was approaching and I noticed he had searched out Black Walnut Crackers on Amazon. We live in the country with a few black walnut trees and cracking those little nuts is challenging at best and impossible at worst. I determined that a black walnut cracker was exactly what he wanted and no doubt needed for his birthday.
I placed the order and lo’ and behold I was not home the day it was delivered. But he was home and took the package and placed it in the hallway. He never said a word to me when I got home but as I walked in the house there it was. Since when did Amazon start marking the contents of the box on the side IN BIG RED LETTERS?
Okay, are you getting the idea? I have gift-giving issues! However, my worst gift-giving catastrophe was still to come!
To date, my worst gifting situation arrived just in time for our 20th wedding anniversary. My sweet and thoughtful husband had planned a cruise (which we had never been on) to celebrate our anniversary. As we made the plans he said, “this can be our anniversary gift to each other.” I probably nodded or said “okay” but in my heart, I knew I wanted to reciprocate with a lovely gift just for him. A watch — a gold watch.
My sous-chef dish-washing mom and I had appointments in a city about an hour from us and I knew that would be the right time to do a little gift shopping. At lunch that day I called my hard-working gardener husband who was spending the day mowing grass and weeding our flower beds. It was June and he was happy to be outside! I just called him to say “hi” and let him know we had arrived in town.
After lunch, I said to mom, “Hey, there is a Jared’s! Let’s go look for a watch for Lee.” So we did just that. The gentlemen who helped us showed us an array of beautiful watches. After some time and discussion, I chose just the right one, all the time telling him about my husband and how this was going to be a surprise 20th Anniversary wedding gift.
That evening as we sat down to dinner my husband-of-almost-20 -years said, “you know we agreed the cruise is our anniversary gift to each other, right?” Gulp. Then he went on to say, “besides you know I sure don’t need a new tie!” I choked and laughed at the same time while trying to say “you don’t even wear ties much anymore.”
Sitting right there at the dinner table I just could not look at my sous-chef dish-washing mom. I knew if I looked up and saw her face it would be all over but the shoutin’! And then he said, “And the very last thing I need is a new watch.”
That was it. I put down my fork, look at my mom and her eyes were as big as saucers. She was spitting and sputtering trying to say something but nothing was making sense. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Okay, what is going on.”
He had such a twinkle in his eye I knew he was enjoying every minute of this. I, on the other hand, was not. Then he said, “While you were shopping for my new watch I think your purse called me. I heard the whole thing!” Sure enough, he was the last call I made before going into Jared’s. I must have bumped my phone as I was shopping and redial kicked in and indeed called him.
However, for all the gift-giving troubles I have had, I am a really good gift receiver! We all love to receive gifts, don’t we? But today I want to tell you about a gift I almost left unopened.
Beginning in 2005 my friend Nancy asked me every year for 6 years to join Community Bible Study. CBS is a worldwide ministry with local Bible studies for men, women, and children in communities throughout the world – AND Shelbyville, Tennesee has a class! The commitment is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Thursday morning, during the school year – 30 weeks out of the year with about 15 to 20 minutes of study and devotion time each day.
What do you suppose I told her year after year? I am too busy – I couldn’t possibly spend 15 minutes every day reading and answering Bible study questions AND THEN spend 2 hours every Thursday morning too! I just couldn’t.
After all, I had a bed and breakfast to run. I had other obligations. A short-term Bible study maybe — but ongoing for 9 months there was just no way!
We sold our Bed and Breakfast in 2007 but I still couldn’t find the time. I did take part in short Bible studies here and there but no big commitments for me!
In July 2011 Nancy and her husband Dick invited us over to dinner. We had a lovely evening and as we were getting ready to leave Nancy handed me two Community Bible Study applications. One for me and one for my mother.
I said, “Nancy, what has possessed you to ask me every year for 6 years to join Community Bible Study?”
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “The Holy Spirit puts it on my heart every summer and I am sure it is YOU He is prompting me to talk to.”
Ah, well – the Holy Spirit – hmmm that’s a different matter.
In 1965 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, confessing all the sins a 9-year-old could possibly think of. And now many years later standing before Nancy hearing that the Holy Spirit had put it on her heart to get me to Community Bible Study – I felt a quickening and said to Nancy – “I’ll get these back to you tomorrow.” And I did.
The journey of in-depth Bible Study I have been on since August 2011 has been life-changing. I am a transformed woman because my friend Nancy would not stop when the Holy Spirit prompted her to offer me the gift of a lifetime!
This is a gift I almost left unopened.
God has known all along the plans He had for me, but I wasn’t cooperating. He had plans to bless me – to give me hope and a future – plans to fulfill my hearts desire to share the good news of the Gospel. But I wasn’t cooperating. Thank God for the Nancy’s of the world who do not give up when the Holy Spirit prompts them to act!
From the CBS website, “There’s something breathtakingly beautiful that happens when God gets ahold of our hearts and minds and invites us on a journey of discovery. The big questions of “who we are” and “why we’re here” are no longer hopeless wonderings.”
“Instead, these questions are replaced with a deep knowing that God is alive and speaks with love, mercy, and grace.” Through in-depth study, it’s been my experience that as I grow to know God and love God, the most beautiful stories emerge: stories of healing and friendship, of restoration, of growth and perseverance, of joy in the face of adversity, of triumph.
The study of God’s Word is the essential discipline for spiritual formation. God never intended for us to stay where we are at the moment of saving Grace! According to the dictionary — Grace itself is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. According to the transformed life – Grace is the free gift God gives us that we do not deserve but He gives us out of His love for us.
Timothy had the privilege of reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word from infancy. He learned firsthand how the Scriptures transform us.
Paul says that God’s Word is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. It is a guide that helps us live according to God’s will for us!
— Teaching focuses our mind and shapes our thinking.
— Rebuking steers our conscience so that we don’t travel the wrong direction.
— Correction directs our will so that we see the wisdom of God’s plans
And Training in righteousness shows us how to act more like Christ!
Through the gift of God’s Word and His freely given Grace, there is nowhere I’d rather be than in the Word!
Through the study of God’s Word doors have been opened and God has been so gracious to allow me to participate in furthering His Kingdom on earth.
What gift is it that you have left on the table?
Is God calling you deeper into His Word and into a personal, daily walk with Him?
Is God nudging you to bring home your prodigal son or daughter?
Is the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation still lying unopened on a tear-stained pillow at night?
Do you know that God want’s the absolute very best for your relationships with your children, your friends — for your marriage – he wants ABUNDANCE for all of us in every part of our life. Work – love – relationships – all of it covered in His grace with abundance.
“I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
What is the gift God is calling you to open today? Please, don’t let another day go by without opening the gift He has for you.
~ Blessings, Catherine