The Joy of Giving Back

The front of my 2017 Christmas card. 

I am so excited to "do Christmas" this year, and I am already plotting and planning. Normally, I am a royal procrastinator, and if I get any cards out, they are New Year's cards. But this year, I am ahead of the game. The Christmas cards I ordered arrived in the mail today. I have gift ideas for the significant people in my life, and I am starting to pre-shop. With a little bit of luck and some planning (not my strong suit), I will be prepared for Christmas.

I think this is happiness, this is joy. The idea of giving back excites me. I have been given so much and I want to give out of the fullness that I have. Perhaps this is what Matthew 13:12 means when it says, "Whoever has will be given more." That verse probably speaks to wisdom, but there also is a circle of giving. You open your heart, so you are able to receive. You give, so more is given to you.

This past week, I volunteered for my church, selling parking on Halloween near a popular haunted street for $5 a car. We made $470 for our Honduras mission -- wow! This Sunday, we volunteers will have the opportunity to present the money to the leader of the mission. Yes, it was dark and it was cold on Halloween, but I also had a good time with my fellow volunteers. There was a camaraderie there. I was more than rewarded for my time and effort.

This little volunteer effort of mine astonished me. I used to be such an inward-looking person, so depressed that I couldn't see beyond my own pain. I still am inward-looking to a degree. But slowly, slowly, God is changing my perspective. He is putting people and work in my life that is getting me to focus outward.

The work of transformation is slow, painstaking. God doesn't change hearts overnight. But over time, he offers real change. We are asked to take risks and be courageous in giving and receiving. We are asked to be open to possibility. For a person like me, who deals with anxiety, there is a lot to overcome on the way to being courageous in giving and receiving. Starting to attend a new church, even one as friendly as the church I attend now, required a hurdle. Volunteering at my church requires that I silence the inner critic: "Do you really think you can handle that?"

But God is good. I continue to overcome hurdles. And each hurdle that I overcome gives me courage that I can overcome the next. At this point, my life is full. Of course, it always could get deeper and richer, and I hope it does -- I have so many hopes and dreams for the future. I also believe that God has a future planned for me that I have not even dreamed of yet.

In "Breathing Under Water," Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest, writes, "God's totally positive and lasting way of removing our shortcomings is to fill up the hole with something much better, more luminous, and more satisfying. Then your old shortcomings are not driven away, or pushed underground, as much as they are exposed and starved for the false program for happiness that they are."

As the holidays approach, I am filled with joy, and I want to give back out of the fullness that I have. God has blessed me abundantly. He is filling up the hole in me with things so much better than I ever could have imagined.

So bring it on, Thanksgiving and Christmas! I am going to be ready for you this year. The cards are already here, the gift ideas are stewing... I am ready to celebrate!         

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