Oh No You Didn’t, Lord!

What does it mean to sacrifice? Dictionary.com says:

 verb (used with object)
  • to make a sacrifice or offering of.
  • to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else. 
  • to dispose of (goods, property, etc.) regardless of profit
As I think about people who have made big sacrifices, my grandmother comes to mind. Grandma Smith. Giving up things she wanted to take care of her family and help her mother keep food on the table. You can read about one of her sacrifices HERE.
I think about missionaries who risk their lives every day to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of them give up a life like we live in the US to live in huts with dirt floors in temperatures that would make our measely 90 degrees look like winter. I’ve been to Thailand, I know. Yet I still whine about the heat index.
Last weekend, I was in one of those sterilize the kitchen moods. You ever get in those? I bleached my counters and sink. Pulled the eyes off the stove and scrubbed. I opened my oven…and closed it. I wasn’t going that far.
I could hear my son laughing at super hero shows or Mad TV, whatever it was had him in stitches in his bedroom. My daughter was packing for her summer trip to Mimi’s and my husband was in the bedroom with his guitar. I love to hear him play, to sing…to worship. It’s what he’s called to do. One day he’ll get his opportunity full time.
When he shuts the bedroom door and begins to play, something happens. His soft voice gets louder, and louder, until the whole house rings with a tenor melody. I know at that moment, God is speaking to him. I know they’re in a private moment, not even I can get in on. The atmosphere in the house changes like a tide. Peace settles over our home. Even the children quiet down.
On this Saturday, after an hour, maybe two, hubby came out of the room. I always expect his face to shine like Moses’s after he came down from the mountain. It never does, but his eyes sparkle. I swear they do. But this day, his eyes seemed hesitant. He leaned against the counter and watched me scrub a crockpot. I didn’t say anything.  A whisper in my heart told me to be still.
“Jess, I feel like I’m supposed to go back to Thailand.”

We’d briefly chatted about this before. We had an amazing experience a few years ago, but I hadn’t been feeling the urge for myself. There’ s a difference in wanting to do something and just saying, “I’m going!” and having the Lord impress on you to go.  Not that I don’t want to go back again. I do.

My husband had been mentioning over the last few months how it would be nice to return. He missed the kids. Now for him to say these things, I knew it was God–even if hubby knew it or not. He’s not one to go gung-ho on something. He considers it, analyzes it, waits. Leans toward no.
Before he could even utter the next sentence, the Lord spoke to me so clearly, I thought if I looked to my right, he’d be visible. “Jessica, when have you ever sacrificed for him?”
I didn’t need any further instructions. I knew exactly what He was saying. My heart squeezed inside my chest.
“Tell me again how much the–“
“I don’t need to go to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference this year.”
“You didn’t let me finish.”
“I know. Because I know you’re trying to drum up a way for us both to go.”

Because that’s what he does. He sacrifices for me and the kids all the time. He does it because he loves us. He gives his birthday money to my daughter to buy a pair of TOMS, when truth is, she doesn’t even need them. He never asks for anything. Buying him gifts is like being pulled behind a truck through gravel, naked.
But he loves buying us gifts. Bends over backwards to do so. I open my door to the van and in my seat…a kindle! Why? Because he loves to give good gifts and he doesn’t mind going without so we can have.
I didn’t need to let him finish. I looked him in the eye, talking to God in my heart–“God, I really want to go to this conference. I’ve already signed up to help with registration. I’ve booked my room. I’m so excited to meet my blogging buddies and favorite authors. Yet I knew that going across the world to touch lives for Jesus was more important at this moment.

I won’t lie. It hurt a little.  I also know God loves a cheerful giver. I put the crockpot down. “I know what you’re going to say. Go to Thailand. I don’t want the added stress of you trying to figure out how to send us both. I mean it.” And I did.

A few days after this conversation, my husband found out that they’re putting on a sports camp this year! Isn’t that just like God? Send in a 12 year long little league coach and sports fanatic to help teach the Thai children athletics. I know he’s in the heart of God’s will. 
And so am I. 
It feels good to give back. I’ll miss everyone of course. 
As wonderful as my hub is, the greatest sacrifice came from a King in heaven.  When he laid down his brilliant royal robes and replaced them with flesh. When he came as a baby, crying in a lowly manger. A King who had to be taught to talk, walk, work a common job. He hurt when a hammer missed it’s mark and pounded his thumb. He wasn’t loved by many. His brothers didn’t understand him and thought he was crazy. His followers betrayed him, doubted him, and scattered from him.
He knew his death would gruesome. Worse than any other before. Worse than any other to come. But it was his joy, to sacrifice so that we could have good things.
He died a criminal’s death. An unfair death.

And then he folded the linens of death and placed them neatly in the tomb to signify the work was done. He took his place, back into royal courts. I wonder if he folded his robes as neatly as he did his linen garments at burial, or if they were still flung on the floor where he threw them off to get to us, to make us his bride.

I suppose giving up a conference compared to that seems trivial. I also know God cares about even small things. Anything we care about, he cares too. He really does.
Question for you: Who’s the last person to make a sacrifice for you? (on earth–no Jesus on earth isn’t a loop hole)

Love in Winter

The young girl bundled up and went out into the cold bitter wind, like she did everyday.  It was a long walk to the shoe factory where she toiled hard each day in order to make a few dollars a week to help her mama raise four other little girls.  She wasn’t much older than thirteen.
Each morning she would walk by a hat shop.  In the window were many beautiful hats displayed in every color and design.  She loved hats.  Every Friday afternoon as she would pass by that shop she would sigh and dream of owning just one of them.  She would wonder what it would feel like resting on her head of dark hair.  A crown maybe? She would put her hands deep into her old tattered wool coat pockets and feel the little bit of money she had labored all week for, close her eyes and wish just once she could use that money to buy something she desired.
Instead she would come home to four little sisters.  She would do laundry, feed the horses, get supper ready, bathe the girls and get them to bed, and then tidy the house before mama would come home from working her job all day long.  She wondered where her daddy might be, he had been gone so long… and then she would dream of the hats.
Her mama dreamed as well.  She dreamed life wouldn’t be difficult and unfair, that she wouldn’t have to raise five little girls alone, that her husband would have never left and that he would have loved her. She dreamed that her oldest daughter wouldn’t have had to grow up so quickly and work in a shoe factory she hated and that those few dollars she carefully placed into her palm each week could be spent on hats—but they were only dreams. If only…
Late one afternoon the little girl came home and on the table was a box.  A round box.  Her heart began to skip a beat.  She had seen the boxes before…in the hat shop by the shoe factory. 
Her mama came into the room and smiled.  “Open the box, Dorothy.” 
The little girl opened up the box and inside was the most beautiful hat.  She hurried and put it on and danced around the room.  Suddenly she stopped and looked at her mama with wide green eyes.  “How,” she asked in a concerned whisper.
Her mama’s smile was tired as she replied, “It doesn’t matter how, let me worry ‘bout that… it’s a gift”.
This little girl was my late grandmother, Dorothy, and I’m writing a memory of hers to share with you this holiday season.  Giving the sweetest gifts comes with sacrifice.  I don’t know how my great grandmother saved the money to buy that hat or what the cost, but I know it was a great sacrifice.  I know as she watched my grandmother dance about in the beautiful hat, she was receiving as great a gift– making it all worth the while.
Jesus gave the greatest, sweetest gift…salvation…which came at a great sacrifice–Himself. When we accept His beautiful gift, He sees us dance with freedom. Like my grandmother’s hat. A helmet of salvation.
I believe, just like my great grandmother, He smiles and says, “Don’t worry about the cost, let Me…it’s a gift.”
May this Holiday season remind you of the greatest gift given to us and the sacrifice that was involved. May you dance with grateful hearts full of joy around the room and may you have a very blessed Christmas season!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15