Thursday, December 23, 2010


Ever since the "Greater Things" campaign our church did, God has greatly, richly blessed my life with a renewed heart and perspective on thankfulness. I won't be able to do it justice here, but I'll try my best.

For months - almost a year, really - I felt discontent, mostly materialistically. I'm ashamed to say it, but I had that "bigger is better" mindset for a while, and though I didn't want to feel that way and didn't like it that I did, it still cropped up regularly. Michael and I batted back and forth (I submit and clarify here that it was me doing the batting, and Michael doing the patient listening, wondering what had me on edge this time), talking about plans for the future: more kids? a van? bigger house? On and on, and I had a hard time feeling thankful for what I had (ugly, I know, but I'm keeping it real, here). Somehow, for the first time in my life, I got caught up in the "American Dream" mindset, and it really squashed my contentment in the blessings God has given our family.

God has miraculously changed my heart and renewed my spirit of thankfulness. God really does reward and bless those who give, and those who choose to put Him first. Michael and I recently read a book called The Blessed Life by Robert Morris, and we both highly recommend this book. Awesome perspective on sacrificing and giving to God and the way it can change your life and your perspective.

My refreshed outlook began really simply and subtly, when I was at the grocery store with Jasper one morning. I'd already decided to make a gingerbread house with the boys this year, and when I saw a pre-made kit with everything included, I knew it would be quicker and easier than making it all from scratch and buying our own candy and frosting. So I plunked it down in the basket and off we went to pay for the stuff in our cart. As I went up to the register and started laying out our items on the belt, it struck me harder than ever before: I am blessed. My family is so blessed. On any given day, I can make a trip to the store and buy just about anything and everything we need/want, and not think twice about it, including the gingerbread kit.

This thought process continued as Bennett and I were decorating the Drippy Gingerbread House a day or two later, and I felt even more convicted. Cliche as it may sound, it's absolute truth that there are children around the world who don't have the "luxury" of shoes or food, let alone a closet full of toys and the gift of celebrating Christmas extravagantly.

There are completely different cultures right down the street from my neighborhood and some of my friends' neighborhoods, that are poverty-stricken, or dirty, or uneducated, and I so rarely come into contact with them, and my reality had slowly turned into something that isn't reality at all. A reality where everyone should be able to afford a $200,000+ house, and a beautifully landscaped lawn and a flawlessly decorated interior. Where people should have two nice, newer cars, rooms full of toys and gadgets to keep us entertained, the ability to come and go as we please, perfectly groomed children, and essentially whatever our materialistic hearts desire.

But the truth is, there are people (our neighbors on our street included), whose children wear clothes with holes and stains in them, who don't have the time or energy to even hang Christmas lights (a. because they can't afford them and b. because they work two or three jobs, and the last thing they're thinking about is hanging little lights outside in the cold).

There are families who are split apart by divorce, by the lies of the enemy, by financial ruin, etc. etc., as our own little family thrives and grows.

There are people, like the woman who was in front of me at the check-out line in Target the other day, who have to count up their food stamps or whatever government help they receive, to get food, or presents for their children for Christmas. I watched this woman as she had to return two items to the cashier when several of her stamps didn't work for some reason. She was angry and embarrassed and started yelling at her son to hide the sting of her emotions, and I felt so sad for both of them. I've never known that kind of humiliation and dependence, and I most likely never will.

The truth is, there are people who are hurting because they don't have enough, and also people who have far less than I do and are far more content and happy than I am (and their children, too), because they have learned what it truly means to live with the joy of the Lord, and to live well within their means.

Because of the circumstances God has placed me in recently, and the things He has shown me, I am more thankful and glad for our cozy little home than I have ever been in our six years of living here, where our family of four is closely knit together, where our run-down little neighborhood has turned out to be a gold mine of witnessing for Christ and ministering to children from broken homes, and where we can fill it with the joy and laughter of the Lord because we are living well within our means in a way that honors God with where we are in life.

I am counting my blessings that Michael and I are able to go on dates when the urge strikes, that we can help others when God tells us to, that Bennett can go to the school he is at, that we can buy Christmas presents for our loved ones without stress or worry, and yes, that I can make a spur of the moment gingerbread house purchase at the grocery store.

How blessed our family is. Thank you, God, for your faithfulness and the way you have cared for me and mine. And thank you, thank you, for softening, changing and enlightening my heart about what is truly important, about what really matters, and about what is real and lasting.


Unsinkable Kristen said...

What a beautifully written post!! And quite timely, I might add - I struggle with the exact same thing. I think I'm going to add that book to my book list!

Betsy@Living in the Moment said...

I was blessed by this post. Thank you!

Kristi Petrak said...

I agree, very beautifully written :) I appreciate your kind and open heart. :) Glad you are donig well and have found more contentment!