When I think about giving, one word always comes to mind – gratitude. Gratitude for God’s love – for the life I’ve been given – for this church.
I’ve attended various churches – and given – throughout my life. But these days, church and giving have taken on a more profound meaning. I have to go a little deep now to explain why this is so.
When I was pregnant with both my children, I was seriously ill, in and out of the hospital throughout, doctors shaking their heads as to what was wrong. Toward the end of my second pregnancy, things took a turn for the worse. Margaret had to be delivered eight weeks early, and I required multiple surgeries and a long hospital stay that stretched out over months.
You would think that I may have turned away from God in anger, saying How could you do this to me? I had been ripped away from my family, living in near solitary confinement in a hospital bed, unable to see my children – what was there to be thankful for? In fact, what happened was quite the opposite. God showed His love for me in a way I never could have imagined. If someone told me something like this would happen to me, I would have said “you’re crazy.” But here it is.
During that awful time, I actually felt God holding me in his hands and comforting me. I can close my eyes today and still feel the profound sense of peace I felt, that feeling of being so near to God. I knew in that moment that I was protected by God’s love, and whether I lived or died, I would be okay.
And that sense of peace – and gratitude – is what carried me through those long days of recovery. It is what carries me still, because even now, as I continue to wrestle with health issues, I know that God is still holding me.
And my gratitude for this church? Well, it’s all about my children.
From the moment we got here a decade ago or so, my children were welcomed into this church. The very first time they attended Church School, Ellen went to the cooking rotation and got to make – of all things – Laffy Taffy. WELL, she came running out of the kitchen over to me, holding her taffy on a paper plate, and yelled to me, “Look at what we made! I want to come to church every week!”
As they got older, we had the incredible good fortune of being at the right place and time as the church began to revive its youth program. It was during their middle school years, a time which I think most parents would agree is pretty bleak. Uncertain of who they were and where they fit in, anxious about school and friends, sometimes to the point of wanting it all to just go away. Yet here, at church, they always felt loved and safe. They could be themselves, valued for who they were as individuals, not for what clique they belonged to. They saw in this church a place where everyone cares, where everyone is KIND. And they learned that you can grow up to be a caring and kind person and succeed. That being nasty and cutthroat is not the only way, despite our society’s glorification of those qualities. They know that real life isn’t “Shark Tank” – it’s this church.
And the proof is in their words; you don’t just have to take it from me. Ellen once said to me, “You know, church taught me about community service and giving back.” Margaret, while contemplating her life once she moves on to college, commented, “I think one of the things I’ll miss most is our church.”
My children are grateful for what the church has given them, and I am grateful for the beautiful young people that this church has helped them to become. There is no price tag you could possibly put on that. So, at the end of the day, for me giving is not a dollar and cents equation – and yes, this is coming from a CPA – it’s about gratitude. It’s giving thanks every day for the riches – of all kinds, not just monetary – that the Lord has blessed us with.