Shopping is my comfort food. Spending money to treat myself or those I love says you’re special. Growing up, I envied friends who wore designer brands and enjoyed an abundance of the latest and greatest. I equated what I perceived as lack of the right stuff with a lack of love. A lack of worth. Somehow, I was less than because I had different or less, or because I didn’t have the same experiences.
To this day, I have a severe aversion to packing a lunch. My sad paper sack filled with whatever I could come up with never measured up to the beautifully wrapped sandwiches and cool pre-packaged foods, drinks, and love notes other moms daily delivered to their schoolchildren.
I brought this money-defines-me mindset into marriage and motherhood. Early on, when James and I determined to obey God with our finances – tithing and getting out of debt – we stopped spending and went without a lot of extras. I would look around at others who had more, especially the women who didn’t have to work and still had all they wanted, and I was jealous. In my mind, they were better than me. I was inadequate.
As the Lord has totally transformed our financial situation, He has shown me that spending excessively just because I can is just as wrong for me as spending what I don’t have in order to have whatever I want. In order to measure up or make something impressive.
Special occasions are the worst. One might expect extravagance at Christmas or on a birthday, but God used Valentine’s Day several years ago to expose how extreme I had become with spending to make something exceptional. Once again, based on what I remembered as lack of treats growing up, I was determined to make this celebratory occasion memorable for my children. The most obvious way to do that? Buy them gifts! When everyone decided they wanted to buy everyone else a gift, however, it spiraled into a second Christmas. It was absolutely ridiculous, and I got one of “those looks” from my husband. You know the one. And he gently but firmly insisted, “I think that’s enough.”
And he was right.
This may sound cliché, but I’m learning that giving is so much more than a wrapped present. Love isn’t measured by belongings. Worth isn’t calculated by possessions.
While I still overdo Christmas and birthdays (God is working with me on that!), and I still really like to shop (He’s still working with me on that, too!), with God’s help, special occasions have become opportunities to love my family and friends through time, pampering and presentation versus possessions.
Family ways now trump family assets.
This weekend, our family had what I think is one of our best ever times together, not because we went somewhere exotic. It was a road trip for a few days in the Hill Country of Texas. Not because we engaged in any spectacular adventures. What was incredible about it was the fact that we were all together. And we all wanted to be together. Loved to be together. And we did something out of the ordinary for us.
We wandered through the booths at a small town festival.
Hunting our own rocks, the guys constructed a fire pit.
Gathering our own sticks, they built a fire, and we roasted hot dogs for dinner.
We made fools of ourselves utilizing the self-timer for a family photo in the bluebonnets.
We hiked. We relaxed. We talked. We laughed. We watched the sunset and feasted on s’mores under the stars.
It was a gift of time. Togetherness. Memories.
There might be a few amazing possessions my kids will always remember receiving, but what they talk about most are the times we have shared.
Not the presents under the tree, but gathering around the fireplace on Christmas Eve sharing the gift we’re putting in Jesus’ stocking, the part of ourselves we want to more fully surrender to Him for the coming year.
Or the eggs Benedict brunch served every Christmas morning (or afternoon as the kids get older and sleep a little later).
Not the heart candies on February 15, but the heart-shaped bacon, waffles, and eggs enjoyed as a family that morning.
Not the brand or design of their Easter outfits or volume of eggs unearthed in the yard, but the Good Friday dinner carefully crafted and arranged to tell the crucifixion story (thank you Jessica at www.showerofroses.blogspot.com for the idea!).
Not the gifts unwrapped on a birthday, but the people gathered for the occasion or the birthday morning breakfast feast or fancy home-cooked dinner.
I still want to make things special. It’s hard not to when my husband’s favorite closer when requesting something is, “but you have to make it special.”
It’s just that I no longer measure how special something is by brand, volume or expense. I’m learning to measure by a currency of caring, creatively making someone else feel important.
Makes me want to pack my kids a lunch the next time the opportunity presents itself.
I might even throw in a note.
Lord, thank you for the ways you lavish us with Your love. May the world know we are Yours by the way we love and care for our families and others. Please continually transform our mindsets as we become more wholly Yours.