I'm just a little bit behind.....
Shopping is not usually my favorite activity. Somehow it usually makes me feel incapable, inept and awkward. It makes me wish I had a daughter. I almost always find myself wishing that I could magically make my niece Melanie appear by my side to help me (she is magic when it comes to shopping!). Especially if I am shopping for clothing.
Shopping for others is better; there is great joy in finding something that will put a smile on someone's face. Yet I struggle to think of ideas for folks who are over the age of about 8.
I went shopping on Friday. I called my sister on my way to the first store, and she just happened to be in the general vicinity, so we met for a cup of coffee before I got started. Sister-time to start that kind of expedition is tremendously helpful and encouraging. Especially with any of my sisters, in-law or otherwise!
After we finished coffee and she made her way back to work to grade that last exam, I looked over my plan and got to work. Head down, focus on what matters and get the job done, right?
So what is it that really matters? God has given this season to remind me of the great gift He has given me. Not only have I been redeemed; before He went back to heaven, Jesus promised to give me a helper. He tells me that the result of this helper being with me includes joy.
As I think about that walking through the stores, my expedition becomes less about finding the "perfect" gift for a list of people (whom I love dearly). That gift is important because it helps me express to them how very much I love them, but it is also an opportunity to reflect and share my joy with the people around me. Not the fake, look-at-me-I'm-so-joyful kind of thing, but genuine joy.
It means being willing to take the time if necessary to interact with someone I don't know. It might mean offering to return a cart into the store for a young mother struggling to get packages and children into the car. It might mean nothing more than a smile to the down-cast older man. It might mean a cheerful, "Merry Christmas!" to the woman trying to get through the line at the Dollar Tree.
It means listening to someone who starts talking. Listening and realizing that they have a story they really need to tell to someone. Like the young lady in the gas station who was talking about decorating her register....because her mother did not want to decorate the house. It meant taking a moment (even though I was in a rush to be DONE with the whole shopping experience), to ask her how her mother was doing and what made her mother feel that way. When you do that, you discover things like the fact that this was the family's first Christmas without Dad, who died back in June. And you find that this may be the last Christmas with Mom, who is thought to have a particularly nasty and lethal cancer. You connect. You pull out the book that you "just happened" to decide to put in your purse that morning before you left the house, that favorite Christmas book, Triumph Over Tragedy. You take just a moment to encourage. You promise to pray for this family (and if you promise, you pray!!). Perhaps in the busy-ness of the next week, you take the time to check back in and remind her that you are indeed praying.
So look around you this week as you are out and about. Pray and ask God to give you the eyes of Jesus; eyes to see folks as Jesus sees them and to reach out with compassion. It may only be a 30 second interaction to just say "Merry Christmas!" It may be a 30 minute interaction to listen. And maybe, just maybe, if you are willing to put self aside for a little while, you will have the privilege of attending another kind of birth. Maybe God will allow you the honor of being present when someone is re-born spiritually.
May His wisdom, His discernment, His joy and His love overwhelm you this week.
And may you share that generously with everyone you meet.