Stepping into Christmas-induced, year-end reflections, I’ve shared in two posts about some of the lessons learned during one of the most challenging of years. (See: A Look Back and A Lesson on True Wealth.) This last post in the series was to be all about faith.
I’ve written several drafts, composing many more in my head. All of them not quite right. Writing about faith turned into a treatise requiring exegesis of nearly the whole spectrum of systemic theology. Neither theologian nor apologist, I wanted to write a simple story about what it means to live by faith, completely dependent upon God for the least little thing, an essay more comprehensive than The Unbearable, Unexpected, and Unimaginable Adventure of George Mueller and Me.
I believe writing about trusting God for life’s essentials day after day, month after month, is best captured in a single experience, forever to be remembered as the year of the miracle, the Great Christmas of Magazines for All.
This year there isn’t a single cent with which to cover even the basics, much less anything extra for the holidays. I knew people on my gift list would understand if there wasn’t a gift from me. Yet, this exemption didn’t alleviate the pain of being cutoff from participating in the joy of gift giving; it only exacerbated it.
I’ve felt out of sync with the world for the past six months. The off-kilter feeling only increased since Thanksgiving. I’ve learned to offer up every need to God. Nothing is too prosaic. Besides food, gas, a place to stay, or money needed to pay expenses, I’ve even prayed for God to provide kitty litter. Throughout December, I lifted up the need for a good Christmas, no matter how modest.
I am amazed nearly every day at God’s creativity. It’s impossible not to smile when I think about the clever answer that came in response to my need to give gifts this year.
It started with just a brief news piece on a local TV station about policies for changing air travel plans with video footage of a Delta Air Lines jet taking off. In a quick mental flash, I was reminded that about 20 years ago I’d enjoyed elite status on Delta. I moved; life changed. I didn’t use Delta when I traveled and then needed to use-or-lose frequent flier miles. The few miles left in my account didn’t cover a trip, but there were enough for a magazine subscription.
While relaxing into sleep the same night of the news program, that clip and the related memory came back. The answer to gift-giving emerged in full. I had a chunk of unused miles with Continental and United but not enough for a free flight. Did the airlines offer non-travel options for using miles? I got out of bed, turned on the computer, and logged into my frequent flier accounts. They did! They did!
No matter the limited choices or the unusual means of “paying,” I completed all of my shopping in short order. Everyone on my list got a magazine subscription. A young friend who loves horses and the West? She received Western Horseman. Long-time friends who enjoy food, wine and Colorado’s active lifestyle? Wine Spectator and Outside. A young couple who love to travel? Afar. An entrepreneurial couple? Fast Company. One friend received Time, another Money.
The happy spree that allowed me to give magazine subscriptions is important because no gifts given have ever meant so much. In permitting me to give to others, God gave me an even better gift, that of yet another lesson in faith.
I think about the scene in Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase’s character, Clark Griswold, opens up the long-awaited envelope bearing his bonus. Instead of a sizable check with which to build the backyard pool, he is given a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. Cousin Eddie (the hilarious Randy Quaid), overwhelmed at the gift, nearly chokes on his eggnog as he offers his take on the gift: “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year.”
Like Jelly of the Month Club members, every name on my abbreviated gift list got a gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year. So did I.