Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coupon Psycho

Confession time: I am cheap. I routinely shop thrift stores, Goodwill, consignment, and the 75% clearance rack. I love to get a deal! So when all this coupon craziness started happening I wanted to get in on it. Saving $300 on my grocery bill every month? Are you kidding? Sign me up!

And that's what I did. I signed me up with every product out there. It took forever, but hey, I was going to save a dollar with that coupon! I also saved all the coupon circulars; got my mom's extras and subscribed twice to the Sunday paper.

I would then go to my favorite coupon site and find the coupons that matched up with the sales, make my list, pull all the coupons from my file, and print any others. Generally, a decent trip to the grocery store would take me at least four to five hours of preparation. Really.

But I would save sooo much! My savings usually averaged between 50-70 percent. I felt well rewarded for my efforts when that receipt total was $80.00 and my total saved was $92.00.

So when I began to sense that God was asking me to let go of this money saver, I knew I must not be hearing right.

"No, no, that cannot be what You are saying, Lord. You know where we are financially. You know what a challenge it is to make it month to month. How could I possibly justify not saving ever possible penny? Isn't that what good stewardship is all about?"

There never seemed to be a divine response to all my reasoning. God is funny that way.

But the next time I would be trying to balance work, writing, and all the many responsibilities of wife and mom, I would cry out to God, " I am overwhelmed. How can I do all of this? What is it You would have me let go of?" That small, quiet voice would say again, "You need to give up the coupons." And I would again say, "No, no, that can't be what You are saying, Lord."

I'm not sure how many times I went through this cycle, before I finally admitted, "Yes, that is what You are saying, Lord."

What is ironic in all of this is that there was a huge part of me that HATED dealing with coupons. I hated the hours and hours of precious time spent planning, printing, clipping, organizing. I hated going grocery shopping and spending an extra hour at the store as I made sure I had the right product and the right coupons. I hated telling the person behind me, "You might want to go to another line. I have coupons."

Extreme couponing was not my idea of fun nor was it what my God was calling me to do.

When God speaks, nothing else matters. And God was calling me to write. Carving out that time was extremely difficult. It meant uninterrupted time. It meant getting up earlier or staying up later, so that I could have time to myself. Writing took concentration, quiet, and time. Preparing to use coupon at the grocery store took those same things, and then there was nothing left for writing.

God had to show me that in the world of stewardship, He wants me to use my gifts well. Laying aside writing to find hours for coupons was not good stewardship for me. It was throwing away the best thing for something that was good.

There are only twenty-four hours in a day. It's not a BOGO deal. In fact, I can't buy time. I can't make time. I can't find time. I can only use it.

Time is a precious commodity. God's gifts and calling on my life are precious too. Bringing those gifts and the calling under the limits of time and constraints of daily life is wise stewardship. Allowing other things to steal those limited resources is like giving away my life for nothing.

I may be cheap, but that is no deal.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mama Bear

Nineteen years ago I didn't have a clue as to how drastically my life would change when I gave birth to my first born child. And I am not talking about diapers, night feedings, and lack of sleep. I am recalling the way the world seemed to turn completely upside down when that baby girl was placed in my arms. My life was no longer about me. Suddenly it was only about caring for, protecting, and nurturing this little soul.

My change of worldview wasn't a decision on my part as much as it was just a pure emotional/hormonal response. I didn't think to myself, "I'll try really hard to be a good mom." Rather, it was, "This is my baby and I will kill anyone who tries to harm her." Not the most spiritual thought I'd ever had.

Welcome to the world of Mama Bear.

I can remember when Taylor was only 2 years old and was bitten by another child during Sunday School. I thought about biting the child, but realized the mom and dad were the ones who needed the lesson. So I stopped the dad in the hallway, grabbed him  and bit down on his forearm as hard as I could. Unfortunately, I didn't get to bite the mom too; she was taking her husband to the hospital. No, no, no, I am only joking! I never bit anyone! I only relate this story to give you some insight into how a mama bear can think at times.

Over the years there have been moments when I have failed to be the Mama Bear I should have been, and there have been more moments when I have erred on the side of biting a chunk out of those who might mess with my child. It's been a learning curve.

The older Taylor gets the more I have to learn to release her to the Father who loves her even more than I do. She belongs completely to Him whether I "release" her or not, so I am just getting on board with the truth.

Bear cub Taylor is in flight at this moment on her way to do mission work in India. There she will spend a week working among the "untouchables," the lowest caste in Indian society. If you don't know your geography, let me tell you where India is: it is on the other dang side of the world! There can be no Mama Bear rescue unit. She will be beyond my reach.

Even though I am not afraid to let her go to India, my heart felt a strong stab as I hugged her goodbye today. I don't know exactly what it was, . . but my heart hurt. Another break; another letting go; another death of sorts.

Life, however, springs from death. Seeds have to die before they can bear fruit. And Mama Bears have to let go. Bear cubs grow up.

I know she is safe with the Father. She is not doing something foolish; she is following God's call on her life.

"'Come, follow me,' Jesus said. 'At once 
they left their nets and followed Him.'" 
Matthew 4:19-20.

My inner Mama Bear may be dying, but my bear cub is growing strong and has the Lion of Judah on her side. I will rest in that.