Observations and Oddities

A lesson in obedience

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straightProverbs 3:5

It’s time to dust off the old blog. Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve felt inspired to write much to share with the world (or the 2 dozen or so people that will actually read this). But this week the urge struck once again.

I’m sure folks will wonder if my words are inspired by the tragedy that stuck in Newtown, CT last week, and maybe in some ways they are. While not a direct response to that awful event, there is definitely a correlation as both the tragedy and the lesson I plan to share in this entry are intimately connected to the existence of significant hurt and need in the world around us and how we choose to respond to it.

There will also be friends and acquaintances that will take pause when they notice this entry begins with a Bible verse and not my typical sarcastic banter. It should come to no surprise to anyone who truly knows me that there are spiritual undertones in many of the things that I share, but it’s rare that I am so direct with a tie to my faith. That said, anyone looking for great spiritual teaching laced in deep Biblical knowledge and framed with understanding of the historical context in which this verse was written may want to stop here.  My spiritual “teachings” tend to be more of the variety that can be understood by my four-year old Sunday school students (and myself).

You see, I tend to find God teaches me some of my greatest lessons in the most mundane of circumstances. Maybe it’s simply because I tend to be more open to listening when I’m wrapped up in simple tasks, or maybe it’s because the way I best understand the love and relevance of God is in easily digested tidbits.  I am stubborn and willful and a sometimes wanderer. As such, my moments of learning are often accompanied by debates and arguments with Him and often the feeling that he laughs lovingly at me when I finally do admit he’s right and finally “get it”. I guess my creator does know me pretty well, after all.

This week’s moment is no exception.

It begins with a simple task- giving away toys and clothes my daughter has outgrown. I regularly purge items from our household; and in preparation for the onslaught of Christmas gifts my children are about to receive, I had recently cleaned out bedrooms and closets to rid our home of no longer needed items. My favorite way to remove these items is to offer them on Freecycle. (If you’re not familiar with Freecycle, think of it as a free version of Craigslist. People post items they need and items they have to give away online and exchange for free. I’m pretty certain its genesis was based on efforts to be green and to reduce the amount of goods that are simply thrown away, but it seems to have developed into a great giving community. I encourage you to check out your local Freecycle group online to learn more.)

I enjoy the process of connecting with someone who can benefit from something I have to offer. I sometimes even use it as a bit of a service project, seeking out needs posted to the site by others and doing my best to fill those needs even if it’s not an item I personally have to offer. The blessings I’ve received by giving to people that I meet through the site have far exceeded the value of anything I’ve given away.

So this week I was once again giving a variety of things away on Freecycle, including a set of American Girl bitty baby twin dolls.  I knew these would be a much wanted item and hoped that I would be able to give them to a little girl who would just adore them. Within two hours of the posting I had nearly 30 requests for the dolls- most accompanied by tear evoking stories of job loss, foster children, poverty, and illness. I found myself obsessing over who I should “award” the dolls to. With each potential wish answered I left another unfulfilled.

It’s a small thing, I know- giving away dolls. However, the decision soon became more than I could bear. I decided the best approach for making my selection would be to put all of the names in a hat, pray over it and ask God to help me pick the name of the person who would be most blessed by the receipt. So, I did and when I drew the name it came out “Sharon.”

Sharon was one of my least preferred potential recipients. She had shared no reason for wanting the dolls in her response to my post. She had simply said “I would like to have these. Thanks.” This is where the arguing with God began. “Really?” I thought/said. “What about Elizabeth- the one who said this would just MAKE her daughter’s Christmas? Or Jace,-the one with the brain tumor? There are so many I’d rather pick than Sharon.”

“You asked. I answered.” I could hear God speak to me. “But I guess it doesn’t matter, because you’re not going to listen anyway.” (that last sentence may have been me speaking to myself).  The guilt spread quickly and the verse found at the top of this page came to mind.  I was wanting the selection to be based on my own understanding, rather than trusting that God had a plan that would lead me to the right answer. I was still hesitant to respond to Sharon versus Elizabeth, but chose to obey and sent the email to Sharon letting her know the dolls were hers- doubt still lingered as to whether she was the right choice

Within minutes, I received this email response from Sharon. “Talk about prayers  answered…  Not  to  give  you  a  whole  bunch  of  info  that  you  really  don’t  need  to  know … but  to  show  you  how  good our  God  is …  our  granddaughter  has  come  to  live  with  us  along  with  her  Daddy  our  Son.  Money is tight and  they  have  endured  an  ugly  divorce.  As  a  grandma  that  wants  the  best  for  her  we  are  indeed  thankful  to  have  her  here.  Well  for  the most  part  Christmas  is  bought,  and  wrapped  and  the  wallets  are  empty.  Just  the  other  night  our  girl  said  Nannie  I  really  want  an  American  Girl  baby  for  Christmas.  Not one of  the  characters  but  a  baby.  Up popped your offer.  I  had  no  sooner  sat  down  to  the computer  and  literally  prayed … “Lord  you  can  make  a  way  when  there  seems  there  is  no  way!”  and  just  like  our  abundant  Father …  our  girl  will  have  2  babies …  Our  God  is  so  good.”

Goose bumps. Tears. Admission: “You were right. Why did I ever doubt you? Lesson learned.” The sound of God’s gentle laughter at my resigned acceptance with the feeling of a comforting hand on my back, the kind that you feel when someone tells you “it’s OK, I still love you.” Even when you’ve hurt their feelings, done wrong by them or simply let them down.

Yes, it was a mundane event- I was giving used dolls away, not choosing the recipient of a lifesaving organ donation. However, it was an instrumental lesson. A lesson of obedience. A lesson of submission. A lesson of faith. Presented in 4-year-old simplicity, but incredibly impactful.

May you find truth in simple tasks, too- maybe even when reading a random blog post on Facebook.


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