A few weeks ago, I blogged about wishing to be more joyful. (You can read about that here.) I am happy to report that overall, although far from being easy, and despite many slip-ups, it's going well. I believe my attitude, my outlook, and my focus are changing for the better as a result of this new disciplined approach to everything. And I find that I am noticing joy in others more often than I did previously. It's really been refreshing.
Every Halloween, our church hosts a "Trunk-or-Treat" event for the children of surrounding communities. Maybe you have something similar in your area? Volunteers park their cars in rows, "fill" their trunks with candy, and provide a safe and concentrated location where children can trick-or-treat. We always have such a great time dressing up and tailgating with friends beforehand, as well. I included pictures here.
This year was especially fun because Kayden and Cameron were old enough to help out. I was a proud Momma, watching them pass out candy. They were so excited, and they hadn't even eaten any of the candy. They were pure and simply filled with joy to be giving. It occurred to me: many times when we make our offerings of our time, talents, finances, and resources to God, we do so begrudgingly. As adults, we sometimes have a hard time giving without focusing on what we are losing. Very young children really aren't even aware of that sort of thinking. I don't think it even occurred to Kayden and Cameron that because they were giving away candy, it meant they weren't the ones running around filling up their own bags of the sweet stuff. If it did occur to them, they didn't care, which is even more wonderful.
7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give,
not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV
Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a blog about tithing. It's related, but I desire this to be more about the joyful aspect, rather than simply the giving aspect.
In my experience, when we give joyfully, we are blessed abundantly. Blessings don't always come in the way we expect, and usually not in a "tit-for-tat" sort of way ("I gave $20 last week, and received an unexpected $20 today," etc.) For me, it's been more like a "when I least expect it" or "when I didn't even know I needed it" sort of thing. For example, Kyler and I once received a $50 bill in the mail just when we needed to pay some bills. Addressed specifically to us, no return address, postmarked from somewhere we didn't know anyone. We had told no one that we were struggling financially. Miraculous timing. Not our timing. Not a coincidence timing. I could give more examples, but maybe that's something for another blog.
I want to make joyful giving something that permeates my family's thinking. Kyler and I started a family tradition the Christmas after Kayden was born. We fill a basket or gift bag with goodies (baked treats, a gift card or two, snacks, etc.) and take them by and surprise the folks who are out having to work on Christmas Day. So far, we've stopped at gas stations two years and a nursing home last year. That first year, someone from our church was scheduled to work and was completely bummed out about it. It was worth every penny we spent, and so much more, to see the joy on his face when he realized we were there to make his Christmas a little brighter. We were blessed purely by the thought that his Christmas was happier because of something simple we did.
My prayer and desire is that I would become a joyful giver in all of my offerings to God: time, talents, finances, and resources. It's definitely not something that's always as easy as sacrificing a few hours to give candy to children. Oftentimes, it requires much more of me. But then, the giving isn't really about me, is it? It isn't about what I am losing, what I am sacrificing, or what I am relinquishing. It's about who is receiving, who is being blessed by my offering, and Who is being glorified through my giving.
And it all comes back to the joy.