Good Gifts

(via Pinterest)
I'm not gonna lie - I was anticipating this Sunday thinking that I was gonna be a huge day-maker. Really, it was a valid expectation. I was taking a bag stuffed with presents for people who I knew would not expect them, or have prepared something to give to me in return. In a sense, this was selfish of me, because gifts are one of the main ways I show love, and I get a very real happy high when I have a lot of them to give. So the thought of handing my friends various teas, treats, cards, packages, and ornaments ... it just about made my heart split with happiness. And knowing that these sweet women would all be surprised? Even better. That's just one of the many quirks of me.
So Sunday finally came. Ask anyone and they'll tell you: what you expect and what actually happens ... they're two very different things. I woke up thinking, "I've got this." I got ready without a hitch, had breakfast, and waited ... and waited. Soon I was informed that we weren't going to be able to make it to Sunday school class, and thus, didn't have to leave for service for an hour. I could feel the remnants of my picture perfect day crumbling around me. I used my extra time to sink into the Word ... because in my "super productive" morning perspective ... I'd postponed the most crucial and important part of my preparation, choosing to clothe myself in more rouge instead of righteousness. So, a very humbled version of myself quietly approached the throne room, and found myself slipping fast into a pit of anxiety. All those expectations I had placed on my day turned out to just be burdens on my back. I started wondering things like, "What if so-and-so doesn't come? I don't know how long that fudge is supposed to last." "What if I forgot someone?" "What if they don't like them?" "What if someone has a peanut allergy?"
What if I had asked God what His plans were for my day, before making my own stipulations?
What if I had placed my trust in Him, instead of trying to do all of it by myself? Let's face it. One of us is omniscient ... the other is not. One of us is all-powerful, omnipresent, unfailing ... the other is a mere mortal misfit.
At this point, I tend to remain in my stupid thought-process, despite His whispers. I decided to be self-conscious instead of anxious. Great plan (picture this in a really sarcastic font). I mean, really, the best way to start a Sunday is by telling yourself what a loser, screw-up, and lost cause you are. (Warning: do not attempt this at home. Or in public. Or ever.)
So I went to church in my pretty festive outfit, with my ugly destructive thoughts. I sat in a pew. I worshiped Him for all His goodness, because that wasn't the problem - I knew how perfectly good He was ... I just forgot that this perfectly good God loves even the mere mortal misfits. Forgot that in His eyes, I was worth it.
In His place, I would have given me a spanking. A slap on the back of the head. "Haven't you gotten it yet?" "Really? Aren't you supposedly celebrating Me sending my Son to die because I so loved you?" It's a valid point, you'll surely agree ... but He didn't yell at me.
I sat down in that pew, and that sweet, real woman said it loud and clear, "He wants to whisper to us, 'I am with you!'" And it penetrated me to the core. I sat speechless. He could have yelled in frustration ... but He whispered in love. And my God ... my beautiful God, He didn't stop there. Each person I talked to after service, He used them to speak value into my heart. I soon stopped expecting to be the one doing all of the blessing as I approached my friends. My gifts seem like nothing when compared to the words and love I received.
One woman saw my passions and called them gifts. One gave higher value to a work of my hands, then held me tight and gave me value, saying words that nearly made me cry. Another had visited this wee corner of the blogospere, and encouraged me until I was left flabbergasted and praising God. And one showed me how the smallest things, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have radical impact. I was left stunned, and almost too blessed to function; the very image of a cup overflowing. And now this song plays, and I remain undone. And my day didn't end there!
Today I was reminded of the beautiful reality of a Father who delights in giving His children good gifts. Sweet tea for the car ride home. The luxury of a two-hour nap to cure a piercing headache. Being able to participate in a surprise birthday party for a friend. Crying laughing between a twenty-something and an eighty-something; us all  feeling quite young, and blissfully silly. The unexpected gift of a feast from my brother and his sweet wife. Sharing it with friends and family. And then babbling about grace to my dear friend who can thankfully understand me when I text that happy.

And at the end of the day, I could still hear Him whispering, "I am with you." Even on the bad days, the 'meh' days, the crazy days ... He is Emmanuel, God With Us.

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