Our Christmas tree. For now it’s piled on boxes. Christmas looks a little different this year, and a lot of people have commented on it,
moving at Christmas,
They think we are a little crazy (or maybe a lot) And it is crazy. But do you know what else is crazy?
Riding a donkey, pregnant, across the country, and birthing in a stable. Or our very Savior, the Son of God, traveling so light in this world, that most days he depended on the kindness of others for a place to lay his head. He could have called forth the very flood gates of Heaven to open and rain down gold. But he didn’t. Because he told us with every step he took, with the story of his very birth, not to store up treasures on earth, because where our things are, there also is our heart. And it’s so very hard for a rich man to enter in to the kingdom of heaven.
And I think I’m learning why.
I think I’m learning what it meant, when Jesus says, to gain our life we must first lose it. I’m learning what he meant when he said to the Rich Young Man, sell everything, and come with me.
Because our things take up so much space. I realize this again and again as I pack up, and move again and again. Every piece of clutter, every stray toy, every loathsome piece of laundry, keeps my heart a little more here, a little more hard, a little more bitter. And a little less in heaven.
And I was bitter. Because I felt the call of God so strongly, so clearly, so profoundly, that we needed to go back to our little rural town in Southern Oregon. Our little poor town. In spirit and in economics. The town we fled because the meth and opioid epidemic was too much. I stopped the certification for fostering, terrified of the very real war all around us. Needles in the parks. Homeless, everywhere.
We scooped up our kids, and we stepped to the other side of the road, and left the people there to hurt.
Isn’t it funny how we always identify with the heroes in the Bible? But we aren’t. We are sinners through and through.
We all want to be the Good Samaritan. We think we are. But when we see the man, broken and bloodied and bruised. When we see the meth teeth and sores, the suffering, the barefoot children in our own backyard. It’s so much easier to leave. And justify ourselves. We want safety! Stability! Our kids!
But growing up in spiritually lukewarm affluence is the greater danger. And we forget, as Gods church, his hands and feet on earth, WE are the stability he is sending. We are the safety he is sending.
The American Dream has taken us. It’s led us down a road that I can’t follow anymore.
A few years ago, I was eating at McDonald’s. My kids were still babies. I saw a homeless woman in a wheelchair. Crying. Something had happened with her tent, and the people around her were trying to comfort her. She was borrowing a cell phone and frantically making calls. In that moment, God told me to give her my scarf. My new, warm beautiful red scarf that I had just purchased at a mothering convention. I felt it, that split second, heart beating, hair sticking up on ends, voice. Give her your scarf. I didn’t have an extra dollar to my name. Someone had already purchased her food. We lived in an expensive mountain town on one income. But it hit me that in this snow, this young woman was living in a tent. But now she was homeless. As if living in a tent before, wasn’t homeless already, especially when it was 8 degrees at night. And God said, or maybe urged, give her your scarf.
I wish I could say I did it. But I choked. I was afraid to get involved, or offend her, or so I told myself. Mostly I think, I just really loved my scarf. I loved it more than another suffering human being. And I kept it. I still have it. I don’t wear it anymore. Because it’s not mine. It’s hers. And it always makes me a little sad when I look at it, that I didn’t listen to my Father, and bless this woman the best way I could in that moment.
Because my heart belonged to my things.
When our move became imminent, and the funds to move on weren’t there, I had an idea. A foolish one. A shameful one. I prayed for wealth. Because I still didn’t get it.
The mega millions was at an all time high. I promised God if I won, all the good I would do. Don’t we all?! God! I’ll buy all the church’s their buildings! I’ll set up foundations! And I’ll live in my meager house! Ill make sure our families have some financial security! I’ll give away all the rest!
Daughter, how can you promise millions, when you can’t even give your scarf.
It didn’t happen. And the move loomed closer. And no quick windfall came. No bail out. And I got bitter.
I really did. Because if good people like me can’t afford to “care” for their own families, while the wealthiest in this country can buy entire city blocks, and mile high towers and private islands and still get rich and wealthy on intsagram ads and 30 second commercial endorsements, well what about us?!
Why are the jerk people rich and the good people struggling. What about the middle class? What about me?!
But nothing happened. And I was reminded that God is not Santa. Or a genie. I remembered that he would withhold no good thing. I read that I shouldn’t limit my prayers by my imagination, so I begrudgingly stopped offering God suggestions.
I changed my strategy. And I just prayed for help. Please get us from point A to point B. But I had some caveats, some time frame suggestions. I wanted a little extra money and a nice house in a safe neighborhood in my preferred school district, with a sizable relocation bonus. Well before Christmas. Or well after. Either works. I’m breezy God.
And I love God. I love him because he didn’t strike me down dead with lightening right there for my selfishness. He could have. I also love him for not laughing me away from the throne for my childishness. He is so patient and slow to anger when I only deserve wrath.
Because nothing happened.
Well some things happened. We realized only hard work would get us there. So my husband started working more than 60 hours a week. I realized quickly the luxury of 40 hour work weeks and 4 day weekends his nursing schedule typically allows. I sold my crappy van. I prayed. I prayed for a whale this time. Because like Jonah I was stuck in a storm of my own making and it was threatening to drown everyone with us.
I prayed for humility. I prayed it would work out somehow. I prayed for God. Just him.
It quickly became clear this move would happen at Christmas. It became clear this move would leave us without a home for nearly 3 weeks as we wait for our new house to close escrow. Our new house, a massive blessing. That is downtown. Surrounded with low income apartments, and in a completely new school district for my kids. The terror I was running from is now becoming my literal neighborhood. And there was no bonus. No windfall to get us there. Just hard work and prayers that the math worked as each bill came due. God slowly worked out the details his way, as I learned to give up control, and stop strategizing. He was painting a wonderful new picture of us, that didn’t look like anything we had prayed for.
But God did make me rich. And he gave me peace. And so much joy. Joy that this move was happening at Christmas.
Because he began to open my eyes to some things when I prayed for his will, whatever it was.
I opened my eyes and realized that if we made “only” $25,000 this year, much, much less than what we actually take home, we would still be in the wealthiest 99% of the world.
He showed me, that while I bitched about the lottery and the rich people, and the fairness of it all, 25,000 people died of hunger.
Women, children, husbands, brothers, grandparents.
A town almost the size of the one I’m moving to’s worth of people dead. Each night I close my eyes in my comfy bed.
And I had the audacity to ask my King for more.
And the gravity of that hit me today when I stood in my small by American standards home that I own, frustrated at all of the stuff around me, not knowing what to do with it, or where it came from.
How will I pack all of this crap.
Maybe the house will burn down and we will get to start over.
Who hasn’t felt that in the prison of American clutter?!
But we forget the people who are forced to flee their homes and leave it all behind because of violence, injustice, or catastrophe, everyday. Who can take only want they can carry. Who shiver in tents without scarves.
I was rich. I am rich.
And I’ve waisted my wealth on junk, while thousands died a death of agonizing hunger.
I threw my money away, and dared to ask for more because it wasn’t enough.
And this is a blessing.
Moving at Christmas is a blessing.
Because while the rest of my neighbors decorate and shop and anticipate Christmas, God is showing me how little the world has outside of my sphere. And how little we need to be happy.
As I sort and donate and throw things away, God is reminding me of my immense wealth. Immeasurably more than what 99 percent of the world can imagine.
But we are so jaded. Our eyes are sewn shut. And we keep consuming. We let them tell us our needs. We are lulled into complacency while the world suffers.
We’ve turned our backs.
And I’m so ashamed at how I’ve stewarded what God has given me, because none of it is my own.
Not a single piece of clutter, or even my red scarf.
So I count my family privileged that we will experience Christmas this year as travelers. As strangers. As transients. Because it’s Christmas for those people too.
We get so caught up in manufacturing a feeling based on thousands of dollars of spending that we are blind to our brothers and sisters, who always have a small Christmas. Out of necessity. Who never have a home. Or a tree. Or lights. Or cookies. Let alone food, and safety, or even knowing Jesus Christ.
We spend it all on ourselves and throw a few pennies in the bucket, and let Operation Christmas Child spread the gospel for us.
Meanwhile Jesus asks us to take the very shoes from our feet, and the coat from our back to clothe the hurting. The sick. The destitute. The drug addicted. The homeless. The marginalized.
How can we answer if we don’t even know these people? If we don’t live among them. If there is no relationship?
Jesus said, “Go.”
But we stay.
He said, “Give.”
And we store up for ourselves.
We shut ourselves up in suburbs and million dollar churches and never venture into the thick of things where life is messy and gritty and dirty and unmanicured.
And we pray for more. Selfishly.
When God has given us a surplus already.
But we’ve squandered it on full garages and rented storage rooms. On playrooms full of toys. While children sleep elsewhere without heat, on dirt floors. Or in cars.
And we pray for God to bless our finances because things are tight.
But they have never been so tight that I have had to go hungry. Or cold. Or without in any tangible way.
And 25,000 more people die. Each day. Some without ever knowing Jesus, because we couldn’t stop the cycle of spending on ourselves long enough, to even see their need.
A mama ODs in front of her baby. A dad gets another dui. A trans teenager freezes on the street.
And we whine and complain about our clutter.
Because our hearts are not in heaven. And our treasure is in the target dollar section.
So yes, it’s absolutely crazy that we are moving, and that our tree is small, and that we plan to take it with us in our truck with our 3 kids, 2 dogs, bunny rabbit and all our earthly goods. It’s crazy that we are forgoing a traditional holiday to move to a place where we are needed.
But friends. My heart is not longer in my moving POD.
And to borrow a line from the Grinch, Christmas doesn’t come from a store anyway.
It’s Jesus. Who had nothing to his name when he died. By choice.
I think I did actually win the lottery when I prayed for it. The moment God opened my eyes, and hitched me a ride in a whale back to Southern Oregon.
Im wealthier than most could ever dream. And I intend to let that wealth pass through, and bless others as the hands and feet of God.
This time, I won’t keep my scarf.
Because that’s why he gave it to us. And instead of spending it on crap to sort and organize and Kon Mari later, I intend to start investing it into the kingdom of God. His people.
Our Christmas won’t be small. It will be bigger than 99% of the world’s. My children will have gifts and a tree and a brand new house. They will have family and lights. A mom and a dad, and church. They will have warm clothes and pets, and books.
And if we are really lucky, they will also have an appreciation for how the rest of the world does it. When all you have is just what you can carry with you. Thankfulness for what we usually have. And for what we always take for granted.
Remember the year we traveled for Christmas, like Mary and Joseph did to Bethlehem?
Remember the year we had the privilege of seeing how the poorest among us celebrate.
I don’t know where we are staying yet or for how long. I don’t know what day our new home will close or if it will be in time for Christmas, or what great adventures lay ahead. Some may call it poor planning, but I call it Gods Providence. It’s my mission now to go to the people. And bless them all along the way. As we call hotels home for the month of December.
Because we are meant for more than endless cycles of acquiring crap, and sorting it in bigger and bigger homes until we are dead.
We are meant to feed the hungry. Clothe the cold, and heal the sick. To love others more than we love our things. Which means sacrificing the things first.
We are not meant sort endless piles of laundry because we have too much stored for ourselves.
My gift this year is God inviting me into sharing in this small sacrifice of our holiday.
Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if it means doing it on Christmas. Even if it means letting go of the stuff.
So Merry Christmas! Go and love the people in the name of Jesus. Give someone your scarf or your hat. Buy the smaller gift, and donate the surplus. Live a smaller simpler life and give the rest away. You have more than you know. We are rich my friend. See you in Oregon. ❤️