~reflections~musings~inspirations~insights~and life lessons learned by one who is
whole-heartedly, steadfastly, firmly in HIS grip~

Romans 1:6 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..."

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Sacrifice At All

It took me two years to actually make the decision to give up my job to stay home. The money was great; I especially loved those quarterly bonuses! Could I really give it up and all it represented? Then there was the personal fulfillment…as draining as it could be, I thrived on the mental challenge. I loved the creativity of marketing campaigns. I came alive as I talked someone into bringing a busload of people to visit "my" city. Oh, and the thrill when the itinerary was planned and the tour finally materialized! I reveled in the accolades. I prided myself on being the best in the country when other cities representatives would call me and ask for advice and training. As I served on local and national boards, sat on panel discussions and spoke at seminars, I felt accomplished. I would go from the national spotlight…to no spotlight and I would give it all up in one conversation over supper.

I had gone over the budget to make sure we could pay the bills on Jimmy's salary. I knew I would have to make cuts and I was ready. As I prepared to bring my case before my husband, I thought of all the things I would no longer need…expensive suits, shoes and matching purses, panty hose, (about $312 yearly!) lunches out, the ever rising cost of gasoline, and money for the occasional housekeeper. I wouldn't even use as much make up and perfume saving even more money! These things I could easily give up. After all, they were necessary for the type of job I had…but it wasn't enough. What else could I cut? The twice a month manicures and pedicures ($2340 yearly) the hair salon, ($1080 yearly) and satellite TV. It was a little tougher to give these up. A woman heading into middle age definitely needs to "keep herself up," right? And the TV, what would I do with all that time on my hands after the house work was finished by 10 a.m.? The TV, I decided was not so hard to give up…most of it was just junk anyway…distracting, worldly, damaging junk…Still not enough. What else could go…eating out? Really, wasn't there something else? It had been a long time since I really cooked with any regularity. The demands of my career and the time constraints were not really conducive to much more than grabbing something on the fly or meeting somewhere for dinner before the restaurants closed. Could I give up eating out? Still I figured the cost opposed to the price of groceries and I just could not make it come out better than eating at home. So…out it goes!!

Then, my closing…the most important part of any sale! No longer would I have to sacrifice time with my family to entertain clients, no longer would I have to call in the middle of the day to say my boss wanted me to have dinner with someone, or that I had to fly across country to take care of an issue. No longer would January, February, and March be spent in hotel room after hotel room in cities that blended together as daylight turned to night and dawned again as I drummed up new business and maintained current customers. No longer would Valentine's Day, birthdays and anniversaries have to be celebrated on alternative dates because I was out of town. It meant I wouldn't travel as much – something I used to love. So I threw that love of travel in as one of my sacrifices for the betterment of our marriage and family.

I would sacrifice that barracuda, sales and marketing rep (for that truly is who I was.) for domestic bliss. I would be here for good, old-fashioned home cooked meals. I'd have more energy. I could garden, can, and freeze therefore cutting out more expenses at the grocery store. The laundry would always be fresh, clean, folded and put away. And less wear and tear on the car was a good thing, right? It was an easy "sale"…I'll never forget the words, "Don't worry, don't stay if you are not happy, we'll make it." Could I really make these sacrifices of money and self and be happy about it? Should I be happy? Sacrifices are supposed to hurt, aren't they?

It has been a couple months now, and I don't seem to be bothered by those so-called sacrifices. Don't' get me wrong, I would love to call Cheri up, jump in the car, head out and spend my entire bonus in an all day shopping extravaganza! But, our relationship is still there…better than ever. I hate the fact that I can not buy my teenager or my grandsons everything they see and think they want, but they still love me. So was that really a sacrifice?

I love planning and preparing the meal for my family and having dinner ready when my husband comes home. We still eat out on occasion so was that really a sacrifice? I am learning to give my own manicures and pedicures and only once did I mess my hair up so bad I had to have professional intervention. Thank the Lord, my sister, Barbie, used to teach at a cosmetology school! But if I can still "maintain the beauty regiment" of this old girl, is that a sacrifice? Of course, I am having a bit of difficulty getting my eyebrows to match…they might actually become a sacrifice.

So, I sit here thinking about sacrifices…by definition it means the giving up of something valued, the giving up of something or somebody for advantage. One of the definitions listed under both noun and verb was an offering to God.

That "offering to God" thing automatically brings to mind tithing. Tithing was something I had to grow into. In the beginning, I would tithe occasionally, if I had extra money or money I had not intended to spend. I never understood the importance or the reality that is was something God expected. I thought of it as a sacrifice and always made excuses for holding on to it, and those shopping trips and the relationship it was developing between me and my new daughter-in-law was a chief example. But it was that same young woman of God who years ago told me of her commitment and the commitment of her husband to tithe. Not just on the net, but on the gross. Time and again, I heard and saw how God blessed them in their faithfulness. I decided, I just had to step out on faith and do it, and I realized that by doing what God expects us to do results in a blessing and is not a sacrifice at all.

We recently had our Faith Pledge Drive at church. It is where, we as individuals in our local congregation, pledge to give over and above our tithes to support the worldwide church of the Nazarene, our missionaries, our pastors, our colleges, etc. I am always amazed at the dollar figure pledged for our small church and we usually make it! Some would call that sacrificial giving, but is it?

In our humanness, we tend to think about sacrifices, and sacrificial giving in terms of dollars and cents. If we are already honoring God with our money then we think of our Faith Pledge offering, or giving to the building fund or other program more as sacrificial giving than an offering.

But what about us? What do we give of who we are? Our time? An hour for Sunday School, an hour for worship service, maybe an hour for mid-week service? Do we honestly think that is giving our time to the Lord? What little time we actually spend reading the Bible, praying? Is that how we sacrifice our time for God? Surely NOT!

Some of us give a little more, we teach a class, we prepare a meal, we clean the church, we sing a song…is that even sacrificial giving of our selves, our time, our talent or is that just the tithe of our selves?

What is our attitude if we are asked to pitch in and help out in the nursery, come out on a church work day? If we are content to just sit on the side lines, pay our tithes and give a little extra monetary offering from time to time, consider this: is a physical gift to a spiritual God enough? When we give of ourselves, give until we don't think there is any more to give…that is when the blessings begin to flow, that is when God fills us up, that is when we begin to grow, that is when we begin to move.

When I quit my job I thought the money, and the extras that money purchased would be a tough sacrifice. I thought the accolades, the sense of accomplishment, the success on a big level would be the biggest sacrifice, after all it defined who I was in eyes of others, but I was wrong…so very wrong. What I have gained from my so called sacrifices far exceeds what I gave up. It is the investment of my time, my energy, my focus that has made a difference in our lives, in my life.

If you would give up who you are for the Lord, just as I gave up who I was in the corporate world for my family, you too would reap benefits beyond your belief and realize…it is no sacrifice at all.

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