Last year, I was struggling to choose my Word, and my wise friend Polly told me not to worry – that my Word would chose me – she was right – thank you Polly. I think I probably knew it needed to be Rest, but the Word wasn’t near as appealing to me as others like Success, Achieve, or Accomplish. And, this year is no different – there are words that are much more appealing to my psyche, but the Word that calls to my soul is
I know, it sounds incredibly selfish-right? I mean we all know that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” I have battled with this myself, but the truth is I have nothing to give that I have not first received. Truly, the great givers are first great receivers. I am not proud of what I’m going to share here, in fact, I'm embarrassed by it – but, the truth is the truth, and my hope is that you won’t make the mistakes I’ve made, or – if you have, you know, at the very least, that you are not alone.
Historically, I have been a terrible receiver. Exhibit A: Early in our marriage, McStudly bought me a pair of diamond earrings, and I made him take them back. My reasoning was that the money should be spent on him and the kids – noble right? Wrong. It was wrong on so many levels - I denied myself the opportunity to receive McStudly’s love, and worse, I denied McStudly the blessing and joy of giving. Exhibit B: Compliments make me incredibly uncomfortable, and I often down play them, ignore them, or reject them outright. Exhibit C: I hate to ask for help, and often reject it when it’s offered. Exhibit D: McStudly and I have often joked that “should there be a loss in cabin pressure”, I wouldn’t just put the mask on my kids first, I’d also make sure that McStudly had his mask on, and all of the strangers around me had their masks on too, before I tried to put on my own I died. I could go through to Exhibit Z, but you get the point here.
While my Word has nothing to do with money (it is about receiving love, grace, rest, joy, peace . . .), the most clear example that I can share is from a monetary perspective - so we'll go with that. I wouldn’t think of giving money we didn’t have to charity on a credit card, of borrowing money to give, such that my family had to go without food, shelter, and clothing. No, we give out the cash we have, out of the financial blessings we’ve received. Yet, I have not been so wise emotionally and spiritually. In fact, most of my life I have been giving on what we’ll call my Emotional & Spiritual Credit Card (E&S Credit Card), and I have driven myself deep into emotional and spiritual debt –so deep, that I had to declare E&S Bankruptcy when my midlife crisis hit. Yup, the credit line was shut off, I didn’t have the emotional or spiritual assets to pony up – and so the giving stopped, not by some wise choice on my part – but, by being knocked to my knees in exhaustion and emptiness.
You see I have lived an unconscious lie my entire life. By unconscious, I mean that I was not mentally aware of what was driving all of this E&S Giving until I hit bottom, and really started to reexamine my life. And, the lie is this: If I can just give enough to others, if I can help them enough, heal them enough, care for them enough (out of my emptiness) then somehow, in return, by osmosis or something – they will heal me, fill me up, and mend my soul in return. And we'd all be whole, and live happily ever after.
Last year, having declared E&S Bankruptcy, I had nothing left to do but receive. And, I learned that there are two very different kinds of giving. There is E&S Credit Card giving, that really isn’t authentic giving at all. It is credit giving, giving out of emptiness - giving with no heart/assets to back it up. It is a giving that is thick with need, with desperation to receive in return. Here comes the shame part – it is giving with strings attached. It’s the kind of giving we all hate to receive – the kind that says, "I’ll give you this, but now you owe me." Of course, I would never say that out loud, in fact I didn't ever realize I was doing it until I started resenting people for not living up to their end of this unspoken, unilateral, contractual bargain I had somehow created within. You know, its the kind of giving we respond to with – "well, if I’m gonna owe ya, I’d just rather not have your gift in the first place." It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the receiver to perform, and sadly, pressure to give in return what another human being is incapable of giving to me (healing, wholeness, peace, etc). It is the heavy burden, ill-fitting kind of giving – where you’re praying to God – "um, what is this easy yoke and light burden of which you speak – because I’m not getting it??"
The other kind of giving, I began to discover by accident by grace last year – is what I’ll refer to as Cash Giving. As I was receiving and being filled up, I began to experience a new kind of giving - the kind that came naturally, lightly, freely, joyfully. It is the kind of giving that comes out of the abundance of love, joy, peace, compassion, and kindness that I’ve received from God – and freely share with others. It is what I’d call authentic giving – giving for the sheer joy of giving, giving with no strings attached, because it comes not out of need and desperation, but out of the fullness and joy of what has already been received. There is a simplicity, a warmth, and a genuineness to it that truly is an easy burden, that truly is well-fitting. And, that, my friends is the most beautiful, most blessed thing on earth - and that's the kind of receiving and giving I want to see more of in my life.
But, let me be brutally honest - this is going to be an incredible challenge for me, for a couple of reasons. First, because it requires a constant quieting of the mind, and turning to God to receive his grace (his joy, peace, love, mercy, kindness, freedom, fullness . . .). As D.L. Moody, said: “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it.” And, well, last year, I found that my tendency was to get filled up, and get on my way about giving and living, and before I knew it, I was running on that E&S Credit Card again.
And, secondly, God gives grace to the humble (the dependent, the ones who live in childlike trust). You see, there is a vulnerability and humility in receiving that I find very uncomfortable. As the E&S Giver, I have at least some semblance of dignity and control – when I give, to whom, and how much. As the receiver, well, “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” And, there is humility, too in receiving – the very Word connotes as a precursor to it – need (*gasp*). I often prefer living with the illusion that I don’t need anything, as I rather be the "proud" giver than some “needy” receiver. And, it is that kind of pride (independence) that drove this chick straight into E&S Bankruptcy Court!
Yes, it’s going to be a challenge for me. But, God is Good, and ever and always there to help this truly needy soul. And, I know my Red Flags – that will help, too. Whenever I’m feeling exhausted, empty, lonely, depressed, and frustrated that I’m doing all of this giving, and others aren’t giving in return – well, “There’s your sign, Kelly”, your sign to stop giving on your E&S Credit Card. That’s when I know my phone is ringing – it’s God calling to tell me to rest, to receive – to allow him to fill me up so that I have something authentically beautiful and good - something of Him - to give.
And, in this respect, I find it much more blessed to receive (and to give out of that abundance). So, here’s to cutting up my E&S Credit Card, to Receiving, and Giving with Emotional and Spiritual Cash!
P.S. I’m sorry there are no pretty pictures today. After the busy holiday season, and a very busy week at the shop, I need to do some receiving, and then I’m going to pick up a bag of apples, and enjoy an afternoon hanging out with my daughter, and feeding her horses (they love apples :o) !!