Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pennies from Heaven

Pennies are everywhere, right? I mean, they're on the ground, at the cash register at Starbucks, they're probably in your sofa cushions.

A few weeks ago, I began to notice random pennies on the ground when I was about town, running errands, and fueling the car. And it wasn't just one day, they started appearing repeatedly -- it became every day, after every errand, to the point that I began to wonder what was going on. I couldn't ignore them. But, "It's just a penny. Why stop to pick it up? What can it do for me?"

Maybe I was going about this all wrong.
This jar will be full very soon.

After a week or two, it began to bother me not picking up that single penny. It's as if God was saying, "I will provide for you but you have to take it," every time I saw one in the dirt, on the street, underneath a counter.

And I was intentionally ignoring it. 

By not picking them up, I was saying, "This blessing is too small. This is insignificant. This is not really taking care of me."

The issue wasn't the smallness of the blessing, but the smallness of my heart. Was my heart losing its capacity to be grateful for not just the small but for that which could give me nothing in return?

I'm a treasure hunter by nature. I've secretly and not-so-secretly told some that if I could have been anything, it would've been an archaeologist (particularly Egyptology). But, that wasn't a career to take care of a family with now, was it. So, I chose writing. Because starving artists is really where it's at. Ha. I digress...

I sell vintage clothing these days, too, which really is just like archaeology. Only instead of unearthing a mummy, it's 1950s dresses or vintage denim. Different and yet the same. Both require slow searching, then excavation, and finally revelation. But, it's still treasure.

The blessing is there. We just have to look for it.  

Pennies, though relatively worthless, are still something.  And they're in plain sight. Every day. Everywhere you go. God is saying, "Hi! I'm right here, even down at your feet, and I'm thinking about you and I will provide for you and give you what your heart desires even if it takes time, and even if you don't think the answer I'm giving you is what you need right now."

I finally said to my kids, "If I picked up a penny every day, how long do you think I could go finding them?" I mean, this is money. Small money, but it's money. And there is something spectacular in valuing something that so few people value.

My friend Brian says this ↑. He's right, you know.
It's been a few weeks. Some days I find a penny, some days five cents or a quarter (jackpot!) Other days, I find nothing. But so far, I've averaged a penny a day. Like manna to the Israelites, whether or not they appreciated it or realized how miraculous it truly was to get fresh manna everyday, their job was to perceive the miracle and take the blessing.

God gave it, but they had to take it.

I know it's silly. Pennies are small change. But, when you put them together, little by little, they become something much greater. " ... whoever gathers little by little makes it grow (Prov 13:1, NIV).

Timing is everything, my friends. And over time, small because large. Less becomes more. Lack becomes abundance.

I'm choosing to tell myself (literally, saying it out loud) with every penny I pick up that I'm blessed beyond belief, that I have more than I need, more than enough -- food, time, talent, gifts, love -- to give myself and everyone around me. It's just up to me to take it.

So, I am blessed. Everyday. With a penny in my pocket or not, the point is I have so much.

Did I wake up this morning? Blessing.
Did I swallow my coffee? Blessing
Did my car start? Blessing
Did I have a job or work to do? Blessing.
Did I have food to eat? Blessing.

These are pennies from heaven. These are our daily manna. Out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouth speaks. I want to speak into my life that all in it is beautiful and intentional, regardless of it's magnitude.

If I am grateful with little, I am grateful with much. 

And isn't that a place we all want to be?


-HJS


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Morning Through the Shadows

I came across a quote written by J.R.R. Tolkien the other day. He said:

"You can only come to the morning
 through the shadows."

Now, I've read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy a few decades ago. So, I don't recall who said these words (they may not even be from a work, but spoken by himself, though I think not) but they ring true.

Similar to "it's always darkest before the dawn" and "...though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23), they essentially say the same thing.

Tolkien's phrase caught my attention because of the word "shadows." These are the things we think we see, or presuppose, or assume, or pretend are there, or any innumerable things we can substitute for the words shadows. Shadows imply something that is there, but the very thing is unclear. Do we see what we actually think we see?

After going to bed thinking about these words, and how they apply to us -- all of us in all circumstances and walks of life -- I woke up in the middle of the night bewildered and half asleep.

I tend to wake up like this, startled, half-awake and bleary-eyed, only a handful of times a year. But, they almost always occur after my husband has been home with us (or on vacation) for an extended amount of time and then goes back to work, for 48-72 hours at a time. He had been home for days and last night was the first time I was alone again in nearly two weeks.

Well, sure enough, I woke up with a start, wide awake in the middle of the night. And my head was cloudy. The room was dark, but there was just enough light from our digital clocks for me to see the pile of pillows on the bed where my husband would have been.

Now, I knew my husband was gone. But, the way the pillows were situated and the way the blankets lay, it looked like someone was next to me! And again, I wasn't really awake, so I was a little bonkers.

I sneaked a peak at the shape next to me, scared out of my mind. My heart raced, "Who was with me?"

It took me minutes to convince my brain that no one was there, that it was only the "shape" of a person, the shadows of a person. And after finally reaching out to touch the pillows, I realized it was just me seeing things through the shadows, that weren't really there.

Then, I woke up.

I think often we fear what exists in the shadows, because in the shadows things aren't what they seem. Most of the time, our fears never materialize.  They're based on judging what we can see with our physical and often imperfect eyes without looking at it from an objective, neurological point of view.

It takes temerity to actually think that we know what we're seeing, half- awake and bleary-eyed, when the shadows engulf us and dawn hasn't yet emerged. It's foolishness, really. Because, by morning we see things for what they truly are and disparage ourselves for being idiots in the shadows.

It takes light to shed truth onto the dark. It takes boldness to hang on to faith when everything around us seems as shifting as the shadows that loom before us.

Coincidentally, my oldest son is reading the trilogy right now as some summer reading, before his junior year begins of high school. To even think about my son being a junior scares me because it means college in two short years. The shadows of uncertainty and the unreal "what -ifs" appear throughout my mind daily: Where will he go? What will he learn? Can I even handle the fact that he will no longer be my little boy that I can keep track of?

It's the morning we need to zero in on, not the shadows. Ground yourself in the light. The lamp that guides our path. I must dwell on this and ignore the pile of pillows and blankets that seem like an evil lurking, because it's all a false image of reality.

Shadows create misguided trust. Don't focus on the shadows.

Instead, remember that all light -- even the smallest amount-- destroys darkness at its core.

-HJS