Christmas break has been incredible. Spending time with family is always a win, and seeing Grandpa Bob recovering in the rehab facility was humbling and inspiring at the same time. Aside from spending invaluable time with family, material gifts took center stage this holiday season in the Althoff family – and instigated a whole conglomeration of emotions.
I received too many material gifts than would fit in the family vehicle this year (#blessed!!!), and had to send a shipment back to Chicago with one of my cousins. The day after Christmas, when my dad was headed out to deliver my crate of gifts to my cousin’s car, he stopped in my room to ask if I was sure I wanted to keep the Keurig coffee machine that I had received as a graduation gift from my aunt.
“Are you sure you want to keep that Keurig from Aunt Shawn?” dad asked.
“Well, yeah,” I replied hesitantly. “Why do you ask?”
“You know, you could ask her to give you some money instead if you didn’t want to keep it – you do already have a coffee machine at your apartment,” dad replied.
Immediately, my heart sank and I was slammed with a moral dilemma. Obviously, Keurig coffee makers are not cheap, and I would most likely receive a bundle of cashola for the trade-in, so I was conflicted – who in their right mind WOULDN’T want a bunch of money, especially when I already had a coffee machine at my apartment in Chicago?? But then, how much more convenient would it be to press one button and have a cup of coffee ready in five minutes on my way out the door in Kahlua, Caribou or Starbucks flavors? #firstworldpains #cognitivedissonance
Also, given the materialistic nature of American Christmas in the first place, I also had been looking for a charity to donate some money to this holiday season. We’re called to give back, are we not? So, this comment from my dad was a convicting slam on my conscience for this reason as well – instead of keeping a super cool coffee maker, I could get over $100 to contribute to a charity of my choice. As a graduate student with literally no money to my name (taking loans into consideration – I am currently owned by the government), I knew in my heart of Jesus-following hearts that I probably should have taken the money and given it away, but was captivated by the vision of a steaming cup of store-quality coffee in my hands on the way to the el stop in the frigid environment of Chi-town come mid-January. #ANGST!
So, ultimately, five seconds into the thought process that my brain went through above, I decided to tell my dad that yes, I would like to keep the Keurig coffee machine in hopes that would be okay with Jesus. But, as soon as my dad left, I began to sulk and wonder if I should chase him down to tell him I wanted to take the money instead…who was I to think good-tasting coffee is more important than the homeless on the streets of Chicago?
After walking around cranky for five or so minutes, I decided my bad mood was overrated and immediately decided to start my morning devos with prayers and petitions to God about my bad mood and anxiety. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in my journal that morning:
“Dear Jesus, I’m concerned about money. Can you help me not be anxious about this? I’m afraid that I’m going to run out and not have enough to do everything that I want to do.”
So, I went on into my day and trusted that the Lord would ease my anxiety about keeping the Keurig and give me opportunities to be generous somehow. Needless to say, I went in to see my Grandpa at the rehab facility with my family later that morning and when my aunt came in to see all of us, the first thing she did was write us checks for Christmas. I was floored. Ummm, yeah, I though to myself, this is insane – she just gave me a Keurig and now she’s giving us money for the holidays?? This generosity is completely unnecessary, but how lucky was I to be receiving it?
Then, later that night, Steph and I went out to meet up with one of our friends from Wheaton. We had a ton of laughs and incredibly inspiring conversation at Bar Louie in St. Louis, and the night ended with us attempting to split up the bill. Steph and I obviously were responsible for 2/3 of it, but our friend threw a $20 at us (which accounted for over ¾ of the bill) and would not take it back.
“I work for a non-profit now, y’all – I’m RICH!!!” she joked as she threw the money on the table.
We protested and threw it back at her and didn’t want it, but she would have none of it. We attempted to pay the entire bill with a check card, but our friend would have none of it and grabbed my wallet and shoved the $20 in it.
“I will not take no for an answer – it’s always great to see you two, just take my money as a token of my appreciation for your coming out to see me.”
And we went on our merry ways, me having the money from my aunt AND an extra $20 in my wallet that hadn’t been there before.
When I woke up the next morning and realized God had answered my prayers about money and anxiety almost instantaneously through the actions of my aunt and fellow Wheaton alumni Sarah Moore, I was floored. Looking back, a seemingly selfish prayer about money and materialism was answered immediately. And I knew that if God was willing to answer even selfish and materialistic prayers I offered up about my personal anxieties, how much more was a good and provident and omniscient and omnipresent God willing to help anyone and everyone who came to Him for help?? Therefore, I decided a majority of the holiday money I had received would go directly toward charity – one being the “Breakdance Project Uganda” I had read about in Red Bull’s magazine “The Red Bulletin”last month. BPU is a project that supports at-risk Ugandan youth and society through breakdancing and hip-hop projects and is endorsed by Red Bull and donors worldwide. Because I can do the worm and love hip-hop music a little more than I probably should, my heart is extremely close to this cause and it makes me extremely happy to know I can help God use hoppin’ and poppin’ means to serve those in need. #\/
Like I said in the title of this post, it’s important for me to remember that, even though I received some money in response to my prayer about it, God is NOT a vending machine. It’s not like we can just ask Him for an iPhone and it will appear in our stocking on Christmas morning. Rather, like a preacher said during a church service I attended in Chicago last month, how much good could be done in the world if we put our hope in Jesus and simply took the time to ask Him for help with the mundane tasks of every day? He argued that some of us are too afraid to ask for specific things, or think that God is too busy to listen to us, or think we have to do everything on our own because God has too much other stuff going on to worry about our ‘insignificant’ problems. Instead, the preacher challenged us to think about prayer in a different way – to really believe God cares and can and will take the time to help us out with anything and everything we ask for. If we were to start asking Him for help with our personal struggles and anxieties and worries and needs of the world, we would see miracles happen. And I’m not saying that I’m a perfect prayer, but I believe my receiving that money on December 26th was not a coincidence – it was a modern day MIRACLE and answer to prayer!!! But, I didn’t exactly go to God and tug on His robes and ask for $100 – rather, I asked that He would ease my anxieties about $$$. I recognize that He could have answered that prayer in any way He wanted to, but He chose to bless me with material gain. Therefore, I am going to give back every day while being thankful for His graciousness and generosity shared with me by my family and close friends. I’ll also keep praying like a crazy person that God will continue to change the world for the better because God is soooo good – and the Spirit is moving. Jump on the bandwagon, people – it’s time to BELIEVE!!!
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”