Sacred Gifts: A Basket, A Chicken Jug and A Simple Bar of Soap

sacred gifts

Over the last three weeks I have received three very unique and very personal gifts. Each of these gifts has meant something to me. They’ve blessed me in my deep places—partly because of the timing, partly because of the person behind the gifts, partly because they demonstrate that I am loved. But mostly because they showed that three times someone thought of me and, oddly enough, it reminded me that God thinks of me too.

Three weeks ago Lowell and I were spontaneously invited out for dinner with friends. We had a grand time. We drank delicious drinks and ate yummy food. There was a lot of laughter at our table. It was a special evening. In the middle of it, adding to the spectacle of a night out, the Kansas State University marching band filed into the restaurant and began to play pep rally tunes. The tubas and trumpets, the flutes and the French horns saturated the space and the music filled in all the gaps. I couldn’t stop laughing. It struck me as hilarious being surrounded by such loud happiness.

When the meal was over and we were leaving the restaurant, my friend Diann said she had something for me in her car. They offered to drive over to where we were parked but Lowell and I walked with them to their car. From out of the back seat Diann pulled a ceramic red basket. It was adorned with ribbons and filled to the brim with autumnal goodies: pumpkin spice chai mix, pumpkin spiced pancake mix, pumpkin biscotti, earrings and a note. I was overwhelmed by the gift. I couldn’t get over it. As I carried it to our car I kept shaking my head. Why would Diann do this? There was no occasion. It seemed too extravagant.

When we got home I set it on the table and tears filled my eyes again. I fingered each gift gently and wondered at it and the woman who had given it to me. The next morning when I saw it I cried again. I texted Diann, “I can’t tell you how much the gift meant to me. It’s completely disarmed me… I keep looking at it and getting tears in my eyes. Thank you for your kindness to me.” Her response was the last straw, “You’re welcome Robynn Joy. You do a lot for others and I know very few come back to thank you. Jesus experienced this too.” And then I cried more tears.

Two days ago, another friend Tanya, dropped in. She had found a gift for me and wanted to drop it by. It was a golden coloured water jug with an orange handle and an orange spout. The whole thing was shaped delightfully and a little ridiculously like a bird. As she pulled it out from where it had been hiding behind her back I caught my first glimpse of it and I burst out laughing. I laughed and laughed with genuine joy! It made me so happy.

Tanya knows my love of birds. She knows it’s the secret language Jesus uses to communicate his care for me and his provision for our family. The jug makes me think of all that. It also demonstrates that Tammy thought of me. It’s a sweet thing to be thought of when I wasn’t there. She saw the goofy jug and she thought of me. That means a lot to me. I used the jug to pour water at suppertime and I couldn’t stop smiling. The bird was graciously spewing up the water on our behalf, filling our cups, satisfying our thirsts. I giggled seeing it work it’s magic!

This morning I went to visit another friend. This is someone I’ve known for over four years. We’ve met monthly for most of that time. Over the years she has let me into some secret places of pain and sadness. This past summer as she was confiding in me some of those agonies associated with a particular place—a location her family insists on visiting two or three times a year—we talked about what it might look like to redeem that space. What joy could she hand carry into that place? How might that spot previously associated with loneliness and isolation be recovered and replaced with hope and contentment. It struck her she might like to try a new hobby there. She thought she might like to make soap!

Today, months after that summer time visit, she handed me the most glorious bar of golden soap you’ve ever seen. The red palm oil naturally dyed it a sunshine yellow colour. The soap is soft and smooth to the touch. It smells of redemption and restored dignity. It smells of hope and a little bit like heaven too. To me the soap represented the cleansing work of the Spirit in our stories. Jesus stepped in and helped sift through some of my friend’s pain. She brought the olive oil, coconut oil, the lye and the essential oils. He brought the healing remedies, the therapeutic components. Together they made soap—all smooth and sunshiny.

There are dark days ahead. Disappointed expectations always seem to pop up during the winter. Sadness and sorrow often drop in around the holiday season. I’m grateful for my three sacred gifts. These presents bring love and cheer and hope all dressed up in a basket, a chicken and a simple bar of soap. They call to mind the Presence of the Giver of all good gifts who lavishes kindness on his children. Three of my friends thought of me and somehow their gifts remind me that the Giver also thinks about me. He unexpectedly and delightfully demonstrated that with a bar of soap, a basket and lovely yellow chicken bird jug!

When They Need a Martha, and You’re a Mary

“You need a Martha!” I declared emphatically “and I? I am a Mary!” I plopped blueberry muffins and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on my mom’s dining table.

I had come to help my parents pack for a major move — Only I was the wrong person for the job!

Disorganized, easily distracted, given to rambling and reminiscing, I was working out of my weak place. How could I help? How could I be the support that they needed? How would we ever get the work done?

There are those life moments when you don’t just feel, you know beyond doubt, that you are not the right person for the job. There are so many others, all so much more qualified that you can’t even list all of them, but you can sure list your flaws, faults, and lack of ability.

But it was me who was there. There was no Martha – just me.

I did what Mary would have done. I began with muffins and coffee, and then I was ready — ready to channel Martha with her no-nonsense organization and “get things done” attitude.

Remarkably it worked. In what could only have been grace I packed and labeled boxes, organized spaces, and threw away trash. I became Martha. I had grace for the job at hand.

There have been many times in life when I’ve been convinced that I am not the right person for the job. Others with their skills and confidence – they are the ones who should do these jobs. Me? I’m at best under qualified, at worst a complete impostor.

Except that to God I’m not. When he brings about the job, he’s got the grace for me to complete it. Qualifications matter not to him – in those moments he transforms our ability and we sit back in amazement. He goes abundantly beyond, and we respond with open-mouthed awe and humility.

If we feel unqualified, we’re in good company. Our Biblical models are quite the folks. We’ve got a prostitute with a past in Rahab; a teenage mom in Mary; a minority queen in Esther; a pregnant woman your grandma’s age in Elizabeth…..they were all completely unsuited for the jobs at hand. And in their unsuitability God’s grace was given to them in mighty measure, poured out, shaken together and running over.

Today I will be filling out paper work that could take me in a different direction career-wise. Everything in me screams “I’m not qualified!” With every word I type I’ll be tempted to hit delete, tempted to shout “I’m a Mary and you need a Martha!” But there’s a compelling voice inside that says move forward and until doors slam shut in my face, I will move – even if it be ever so slowly. I’ll sip my coffee, eat my muffin, and beg for grace.

So when they need a Martha and you’re a Mary; or they need a David and you’re a Jonathan – take a deep breath, step back, and move forward with coffee, muffins, and Grace.