What a box of Quaker Oat Squares can teach you…

I came to a frightening realization recently. I have always thought of myself as a generous person. I have been known for freely giving of what I have. There was a brief time in my life when I made more than enough money to live on and it was with great ease that I gave what I had to those in need around me.

Something has changed.

Perhaps it is simply this: living with need. Just plain not having enough to buy and pay for basic provisions.

We recently had the blessing of dear friends and family sharing our home with us for the weekend of Aaron’s baptism. I went to the grocery store in preparation, WIC checks in hand, and loaded up on food to have around. There are a few key grocery items that WIC covers for us, like cereal (for Doug, Mercy and me) and peanut butter. There are specific cereal brands we can buy, and one of them in particular serves as both a breakfast food as well as a snack on the run for our little girl. The monthly allocation is just enough to usually get us through each month.

The first night that our loved ones were here, Doug’s mom asked me if she could take some of the cereal I had over to my sister’s house where they were staying so she could have it to snack on in the evening. Of course I said yes and I encouraged her to take the whole box. As she left that evening, cereal box in hand, I realized that I was filled with anxiety over giving up that cereal. How ridiculous, I told myself! Yet I could not shake this deep desire I had NOT to share what we had, as I was haunted by the awareness that I had blown all my WIC checks for their visit and the month ahead stretched out before us yet.

Two of our big grocery expenses NOT covered by WIC are water (the non-rocket fuel laced variety) and soy milk (due to Mercy’s milk allergy). We go through a LOT of both of these items, due to Mercy’s love for her milk and my neverending need for hydration, which any nursing mom can identify with! The entire weekend, my heart would sink as I would watch our guests go through glass after glass of water, or opt for the soy milk instead of the regular (which CAN be purchased with WIC).

Needless to say, by the end of the weekend I was exhausted by this new and very ugly miserly side of myself I had not before encountered. I don’t want to be this way. I don’t think I realized before how hard it is for those accustomed to comfort to be generous when they find themselves suddenly without. I do not seem to encounter this behavior among those used to having little–they are usually the MOST generous, the most free to give of what they do have. My neighbors next door who continue to amaze me with their thoughtful gifts are an excellent example of this.

I have so much to learn, so much to die to, when it comes to trusting God and truly placing the needs of others above my own. Will I ever know Christ in me to the point of freely loving my neighbor as myself, in times of want as well as times of plenty?

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