Saturday, December 31, 2011

Heartfelt Gratitude

I'm speechless...if that's possible.

This has been a year of thankfulness.

Even though I'd like to think I know myself pretty well, it's amazing how God continues to reveal aspects of inner thinking continually.  Just when I think I have most things figured out...I realize I don't.  One area I've realized He may be working on is the ability to receive graciously.

A few night's ago, as I was driving home from a friend's house, I was thinking on this last year and the generosity of family and friends.  I was overcome with overwhelming gratitude, but also a sense of overwhelming indebtedness!  Tears streamed down my face as I thought on recent gifts we've received.  Christmas may have brought on more emotions than normal, but I realized although I'm so grateful for the gifts, I also have a hard time receiving them.

I spent the last few days since the tearful drive trying to unpack the reservations I have with receiving.  Why is it so hard?  Why do I feel indebtedness along with gratitude?

Here's some of what I came up with:

1)  Receiving is difficult when I feel I didn't earn it.  I have a strong work ethic and value earning what is received.  If I didn't work for it, I have a hard time accepting it.

2)  I love giving. If you're familiar with the 5 Love Languages, giving is one of the ways I show love to others.  I love pouring out on others, but having others pour out on me is difficult.  I honestly feel bad for those giving.  Maybe there's a sense I don't feel worth the gift.  There are a number of stories of times I'm sure my parents could share of loser boyfriends taking advantage of an extravagantly giving girlfriend.  I think I've tried to justify this over the years, but deep down I think I internalized, I wasn't worth giving to.

3)  Keeping it even.  Like most people and family members I tend to keep it even. By keeping the giving even, no one feels left out.  I spend $25, you spend $25. Even! This type of giving allows all recipients to leave on balanced terms.  But, when I give a $25 gift yet receive a $100 gift, I feel awkward, and unbalanced.  The $25 gift, although nice, pales in light of the $100 gift.  When this happens to me I feel like a loser, baby!  Now, if I gave the $100 gift and received the $25 gift, no problem.  This practice is okay in my world.

4)  Payback.  When receiving an extravagant gift I feel like I need to write up an I.O.U.  When my hub and I purchased our first home two family members loaned us some money to complete the purchase.  We both felt so indebted, within the first year we had paid back both parties.  One family member said, in all their years of giving/lending we were the only ones to pay back.  I loved that.  I never want to take advantage of an extravagant giver.

5)  Remember when... Lastly, I think I have a hard time receiving because I never want to have a gift held over my head.  In tough times, I never want someone to say, "Remember when I gave you ____?"  In a sense I don't want to feel owned by someone's giving.  Maybe it's pride?  Who knows?

This whole experience has caused me to once again reflect on salvation- the most amazing, free, no strings attached GIFT of all! When I was 8-years old I accepted Christ.  My world was full of faith and I wanted to have a relationship with Christ, although I did not understand what this meant. Through my teen years and early 20's I ditched much of my faith for the world.  The result was a BIG, tangled mess of a life.

In my mid-twenties my relationship with Christ got back on track.  I recommitted my life and began the slow journey back.  I strongly believe God allows growth at a rate which you can handle.  I had a lot of learning to do and a lot of dealing with my "stuff."

I think the hardest thing I dealt with accepting was grace.  I didn't allow myself much grace and could not imagine a Holy God pouring out grace on such a wretch as me.

A memory from about 20 years ago that is etched in my mind was the night I REALLY understood and embraced this salvation Christ was offering with no strings attached; no expectations in return; nothing to be earned; just a free gift!  I had just finished an evening class at Bible Study Fellowship.  I don't remember what we were studying or what the lecture was even about.  All I remember was going to my car; sitting in the driver's seat; and being hit with the enormity of the gift Christ poured out on me.

I had this vision of Him saying, "Bring it;  all your heartache; all you sin; all your stuff you don't want the world to see or know about;  Bring it!  I will take it.  I willingly take your sin and shortcomings so you can be clean.  I have made the sacrifice.  Release it."

Up to this point, I don't think I truly understood the sacrifice Christ made for me. Yet, in my car I sensed Perfect Jesus so lovingly letting me know He died for my sin so I could be free from the heaviness and the burden of it.  I couldn't imagine how he voluntarily would take on my yucky sins when he was without sin, but He promises to do so.  There was nothing more I could do to earn freedom from this sin.  I could not work my way out of it.  I just needed to receive it!

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads,"For by grace you have been saved through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast."

The Bible tells us salvation is a free gift; not a gift through works.

For a gift giver; who does not receive well; who thinks all gifts must be earned; this is a concept that is really hard to embrace.

Over the years I've accepted God's gift and embraced it with gratitude, but this Christmas I feel like he's wanting me to learn to accept gifts from others.  It's a strange thing and really difficult.

A dear friend, who has been so generous, recently said to me something like, "This is your time to receive the gift."

Although difficult, I am trying.  Breaking the faulty thought processes attached to receiving is hard.

I'm hoping 2012 brings new lessons to learn, but for today I will be filled with gratitude!

Thank you Mikey, Mom, Dad, Gommer P., Gommer Wally, Grandpa Wallace, Jama, Suzie, Denise, Jennifer and John, and my three amazingly giving children!

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