The Gifts are Yours for the Taking! {The Grove: Gift}

As overseas workers, we are conditioned to a lifestyle of servanthood.

Perhaps service is your spiritual gift and that’s what led you into cross-cultural work. Maybe you wanted to learn how to be a better servant, and a life abroad seemed like the best way to practice.

Either way, you are likely more than chest-deep in experience of dying to self. You’ve learned another culture’s language. You’ve embraced another people’s customs. You’ve sacrificed your creature comforts. And all of the putting yourself aside has become a part of your DNA.

That’s why – at least for me – it is incredibly awkward when someone wants to give me something.

I get some kind of sick high off of being the person that’s always giving. So when it’s time to receive, I stammer and resist and try my dang best to get out of someone buying my coffee.

Noooooo, I say. I should be buying YOUR coffee! (in America, my home country) 

or

Noooooo! I can’t accept this chicken from you! (in Asia)

This year has put me in a crazy season of helplessness. My family moved straight from SE Asia to Uganda for four months this summer to adopt our 6-year-old daughter. We knew no one, had nothing to offer, and were going through the most stressful transition of our lives.

I had what I could fit in one suitcase and our entire family was sharing one bedroom. There was no money. There was no mode of hospitality. I literally had nothing to share. But God raised up a community to surround us and I felt terrible crying into their shoulders with the emptiest of hands.

We’re now in America and I’m finding myself again completely void of anything to offer anyone. I have no serving platters for nice food. No extra car for meeting or helping anyone. No money for substantial gifts. And it’s driving me crazy. 

But here’s what I’m learning:

My obsession with giving has become a control issue for me. My desire to always be the giver means I want control over a situation making ME the person who is providing the generosity.

And I’m really starting to believe this:

If I can’t be comfortable receiving good gifts from my neighbors, I’ll never be comfortable receiving good gifts from God.

Perhaps the Father dropped me in this season transitioning kids through three countries to teach me that He desperately wants to give me great gifts. That the Christian life is not only about ministering to others, but about allowing others to minister to us.

I’m wondering here at The Grove, can anybody feel me on this? Who has some advice on how to grow into a posture of comfortable receiving?

What have you learned about gracious ways to accept other peoples’ gifts? What good gifts has God given you recently?

I’m learning how to be okay with going into other peoples’ homes instead of always having them in mine. I’m learning how to be okay with having nothing to offer friends except good conversation and a listening ear. But whew, this has been a painful self-discovery of my love for control.

What can you teach me about our Father’s desire to give us good and perfect gifts? I can’t wait to link up with you in the comments!

 

This is The Grove. It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments. Link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.   

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18 Comments

  1. Malia September 22, 2016

    Wow, Lauren, thank you for sharing this with us. I haven’t had to transition my kids out of country yet (their Korea home is all they know), but I know I’ll need this to prepare me for it someday. Like you suspect in yourself, I think my own generosity is tightly linked to my control.

    The hardest times for me to receive were when I was hosting visitors and couldn’t serve them–but needed them to serve me. The first was when I was in my third trimester with my third baby–and the other two were ages 2 and 3. I was determined still to host well, but the visitors that I was supposed to serve actually gave gifts of rest to me. The second was when I had the flu–my husband forbade me (wisely) from cooking for anyone and our guests actually babysat my kids while I lay unable to move. Those were some hard times of receiving! I felt like the worst hostess in history. But, like you mentioned, God had lessons for me to learn in receiving–from others but ultimately from Him.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      Malia,

      Ahh! Thanks for joining me in this. I know those times when I’m hosting guests and I feel like it’s impossible to serve them. What beautiful gifts from your guests, and lessons in receiving! I pray these lessons follow you as you transition your kids out of Korea one day…it’s no joke! 🙂

  2. Michele September 22, 2016

    Years ago, a lady at my church in Southeast Asia included me among those to whom she gave an envelope for New Year’s. It was so strange to me and felt so wrong even. But a couple of weeks later a neighbor came needing money to help with a hospital bill.That’s was normal and a constant part of my life was trying to discern when to give and when giving was not actually helpful. In this case I felt the need was real and I wanted to help but for probably the first time since I had lived there I was actually outof money till the end of the month I was trying to explain that to this neighbor when I remembered the envelope which I had put in a drawer, unsure what to do with it. I ran and got the contents which covered my friend’s need. Later,as I thanked the Lord for that provision, He reminded me of how awkward I’d felt receiving and I heard this sentence: “If you can’t receive what I give you through others people, you won’t have anything to give.” It was so simple, but at the time was way deeper than money. I began then to be more intentional about receiving graciously and always as if it were God Himself giving because it is. As I got better at it, I also realized how much joy most people get from giving and how unfair it is to ruin that by refusing.Still awkward at times,but I’ve definitely grown to be a more gracious receiver through those lessos.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      Michele,

      This story is INCREDIBLE! I got chills reading it. Thank you for sharing it! I love how God grabs ahold of us in such unique ways. Good on you for being sensitive to His leading.

  3. Christina September 23, 2016

    As many of you may know already, if you who serve in honor-shame contexts….(which to some degree I think that’s a majority of the world) the mutual give-and-take is extremely important. If someone you interact with (or a people group) is always the receiver…or a position of “indebtedness” the honor-shame balance is tipped in your favor, and it only builds shame if they are not allowed to reciprocate. For many people, you bring honor to them by allowing them to give. This is something really important if we are sharing the love of Christ and want to build bridges in our communities. Thank you so much for your post!

    1. Lydia September 23, 2016

      I was thinking about that too, Christina!

      My husband and I are church planting in an honor-shame culture where the word for “relationship” literally means “give and take”. We recently had a baby and there is a tradition here that people come see the baby and bring a gift, and also give the baby something the first time you visit their house with the baby. My husband didn’t know about the second tradition and it was really hard for him to accept the equivalent of a day’s wage from someone we know isn’t in a good financial position when we went to visit them (after they invited us). But to refuse would be to shame them. It would be like saying we were too good for them.

      I remember a woman on our ministry team saying to the women’s Bible study group that a healthy relationship has to have both give and take. She is from here and was able to express something that I would feel like I was shaming people if I said — that people here often approach the church with a take-take-take mentality. It is such a joy to see people in the church growing and contributing!

      It’s still hard for me to accept things from people, but I try to keep in mind that if I come with a savior-complex they know it and it doesn’t encourage true relationship. Relationship happens when both parties give and both take.

      1. Hadassah September 23, 2016

        I also live in an honor-shame culture. I work at a school and often struggle with this take-take-take approach from some of our constituents. Just today I had to deal with an irate parent who was insisting our administration was not being very Christ-like for not giving her what she needs, irregardless of her obligations to us. I’m glad that some of your members recognize the need for give and take. Can you think of any examples in the Bible that directly speak to how Jesus dealt with people who only take? Kindly, I’m sure;). Thanks for sharing!

        1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

          I’m trying to think, Hadassah…there’s of course the verse penned by Paul in Acts about how it’s better to give than receive. I’m reminded of the story in Luke 17:11-19, where Jesus healed 10 leapers and only one returned to thank him. Not exactly what you’re looking for, but Jesus definitely praised that Samaritan for his appreciation of his gift!

      2. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

        Yes ma’am, Lydia! And what a shame if our inability to receive taught new churches that it was better to receive than to give. Great comments!

    2. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      Such a great connection. Thanks for reminding us of this!

  4. Karen Dawson September 23, 2016

    Our Lord taught me many years ago to use the talents He has given me to bless others. I love to sew and can always find a project to do for someone when I want to give a gift or just do something helpful. I have made many breast feeding covers and “boppy” pillows for new mothers, hemmed jeans for young men, sewed chair covers for a wedding and sewn many curtains. Food gifts have also been a fairly inexpensive gift – salad dressing mixes that just need oil/vinegar added are a favorite I can have ready in my cupboard 🙂 A shared meal of “American” food has become a favorite of our friends here – something I have adapted to make from local ingredients & then a simple recipe card so they can make it at home also. Anything made with love is a blessing to others!

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      Karen, I would LOVE to see the recipes for your salad dressing mixes! Great ideas here. We can all use what the Lord has gifted us in to give to others!

  5. Amy Gerst September 23, 2016

    Wow. This literally hit my square in the face this morning. We have been unexpectedly displaced back to the USA because of turmoil in our country where we reside. It’s for an unknown length of time and we came back with almost nothing. I have been continually humbled by people who share so much with us and I feel like I can repay them nothing. It’s been so HARD.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      Clearly you’re not alone. I have felt continually uncomfortable for the last 5 months. I am so glad you’ve had a supportive community, and you can take this awkward time of ‘homelessness’ to allow God to care for your soul and really recharge you for when it’s time to move back overseas. It sounds like the people of your host country are really going to need you to be able to pour out for them when you return!

  6. Spring September 23, 2016

    My husband once reminded me that if I am refusing a gift sometimes I am robbing someone of their blessing. I am learning to accept graciously. Right now the gift God has given me is living with my parents. Two years ago before we left for missions, we thought we would live with my parents for 3 months max. It actually went into 13 months. Coming back to my parents has made me so thankful.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 23, 2016

      So great you have that relationship with your parents! We need their love and support so much when we’re away. And SO great to have their love and support when we’re home! Happy for you!

  7. Monica F September 26, 2016

    I absolutely love this post! Several years ago when we were living in a village in East Africa, my husband and I both came down with malaria at the same time. Our village neighbors all took turns taking care of us, feeding us, doing our laundry and going to the market for us. They had nothing, so they must have come together to bless us in ways that we could never have imagined. This experience stayed with me, and taught me no matter where I was in the world, to receive with joy, because it’s a blessing for the giver… I don’t want to steal that from them. So many times I have resisted the ‘blessing’ because I’M the one who is supposed to give and serve, but the Lord has a way of reminding us to humble ourselves and receive. Thanks for this sweet reminder:)

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 27, 2016

      What a cool story, Monica! I can only imagine how tangible this lesson was for you, and how it must have stuck with you! Thanks for sharing!

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