Eight years ago, a gift catalog appeared in our stack of December mail. This one was unlike any I’d ever seen. It was from Samaritan’s Purse. In it, gifts could be purchased for people all over the world. However, the gifts surprised us. No jewelry, trendy clothes or home decor items. The catalog offered basic needs that much of the world goes without every day. Water, dairy animals, blankets, mosquito nets, medical supplies…you name it. Our family was instantly captivated.
Sitting at the kitchen table after school, I showed our children (then ages 4, 6, and 8) the catalog and told them they could each pick out an item. Their three items equaled $39. Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, Make this a teachable moment.
How? I replied.
He sort of just spilled the words out of my mouth when I asked the kids, How are you going to pay for this?
All three of them pointed their fingers at me and said, You?
Ah! Now I understood the teachable lesson part.
If I pay for these things, then the gifts are from me. Giving a gift has to cost you something – time, energy, or money. So, how are you going to pay for these?
They decided on a lemonade stand. Great! So we mixed 2 pitchers of lemonade and a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies, set up a cardboard table and sat on the corner of our yard and waited for passers by. By the end of the afternoon, our goal of $39 was blown away with a grand total of $370!
Fast forward 7 years.
Each year the bake sale has grown as more people want to be involved. Every year is filled with heartfelt stories, and how I wish I could write forever and tell them all. However, this year was different than any other.
We love hosting this bake sale. And, we are extremely grateful for the whopping 29 bakers that contributed to it this year. We are thankful for Starbucks and Great Harvest Bread Co. who generously donated to the cause.
In the early planning stages, people who visit the sale every year began to show their excitement, asking when it would be and if we needed any help. I was home recovering from foot surgery, so I had much free time to spare while stuck on the couch so plans kept rolling on.
This sale has become such a beautiful event. People bring their children, their dogs, and their donations, and we love serving them with a smile as 100% of their money goes to purchase items from the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog. Even Samaritan’s Purse calls us each year, once they receive the grand total, and chat about how the bake sale went. God’s blessing on this sale is apparent. But, this year there was a problem…
The problem was me.
Here at RealDeepStuff, everything written is real whether it’s deep or just stuff. My problem was real and it is deep.
It is the main sin I struggle with on a daily basis. Everyone has them. Sin that seems nearly impossible to separate from who we are. They are our weaknesses. Chinks in the armor. Achilles’ heel. For me, this major player is the sin of self sufficiency.
It is a daily struggle in my prayer life, personal life, marriage, parenting, relationships with friends, work, etc. This two-headed dragon seems to creep up everywhere. I know the Scriptures about God must be more and we must be less and how we should rely on Him, but honestly the familiar Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, somehow became I can do all things through Christ – period!
This year, I felt pressure to get my foot healed up (which it still isn’t) so I hit the ground running twice as fast. After all, it’s a good event for a good cause to expand the kingdom, help others, glorify God, and teach our children it is better to give than receive. So when the Holy Spirit reminded me that we needed to pray about the bake sale, and seek God’s will for it, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.
I stood in my kitchen at the sink when His words came to me. My sinful response? Eh, it’s not really necessary, and I continued my work.
Whoa. Why did I say that? Easy – because I’ve put this sale together for 7 years. It’s practically on auto-pilot. We tweak it every year with what we learn, but planning it in general is second nature.
I actually found myself wondering what there could be to prayer about other than wanting His desired items being ordered from the catalog.
I had fallen hook, line and sinker for the enemy’s trap of self-reliance. It’s as though I said to God, It’s okay, I got this.
How dare I leave His voice out. It’s like throwing a birthday party and not inviting the guest of honor. I broke His heart in that moment, and He began a teachable lesson for me this time.
Plans continued, but it seemed so flat. Buy the correct permit – check. Arrange for parking signs – check. Notify a friend who is a police officer of the sale – check. Make sure all bakers have what they need – check. Borrow tables, cabanas, and buy cabanas – check. Run a ton of electrical – check. And so on and so on. However, no one else knew this, but preparations were dry to me. Numb. Same ‘ol same ‘ol. And, the bread company didn’t return my 4 calls, 2 personal visits or the 1 flyer we left with them. I just couldn’t understand it. They’ve partnered with us for 3 years. What changed? I found the planning to be frustrating and unfulfilling.
God had not left the bake sale. This is His baby! He was definitely in it, but He was silent. When I ignored praying to Him because I had the audacity to think we could do this on our own, but for His glory, He said, So be it. And let me be.
His silence was deafening.
One day, while running errands, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The guilt The shame. The sin. Tears welled in my eyes as He let me experience His broken heart. My heart nearly burst from the overwhelming sadness He allowed me to feel.
Oh God, I am so sorry. I left You out of the plans because I thought I can handle it. But You want to be a part of this. This event thrills Your heart, and I’ve denied Your voice, opinions and direction out of relying on myself. I am so sorry. I can see now what it’s like to serve You without You, and I don’t want to do it this way anymore. Will You forgive me, God? Will You be the focus of this bake sale in guiding, directing and planning every part of it? I need You and can feel how much You want to be in this. God…I’m really sorry.
In an instant He forgave me, faithful to Himself and His covenant to us, even when we are unfaithful to Him. It’s like He rolled up his sleeves with a wide grin and said, Alright then. Let’s get to work!
From that moment on, this bake sale was unlike any we’ve ever had. He breathed life into the sale and into me. He was all over it, and the joy He ignited in my heart was uncontainable. Such enthusiasm I have not felt in a long time. He blessed this day with so much love, compassion and excitement it was all I could do to stand and soak it in. I can still barely talk about it without emotion. Perhaps in my flesh I could have prepared a bake sale. But, by God’s power, people’s lives were changed. His Spirit was so present, I could barely find words to speak throughout the entire 8 hour sale.
In my next post, I will share some of the stories of the people who were a part of the sale. I invite you back here to read them, and know you, too, will be changed.
For now, I will once again offer the prayer that I’ve said a thousand times, but at first neglected to do this year – and my sin nearly made me miss the blessing of this bake sale. Whatever ministry you are a part of, whether it be personal toward family and friends, in your job or in volunteering, don’t make the mistake I made thinking I could do it on my own. It is a sin that America has believed for far too long.
May we never be found guilty of refusing God’s help because of self-reliance, pride, ignorance, callousness or indifference to what He wants. May what He wants be what we pursue.
In the words of Moses, we pray… Then Moses said to (the LORD), “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:15-17
Would you like to know how He made these verses real to me? Tangibly real? Two days before the bake sale, in a last-ditch effort, I called the bread company again – just to see. The manager ever-so-casually told me that they indeed had been preparing for our sale and I could come pick everything up. I was shocked! But not really. I believe with all my heart that God intentionally let me sweat it out. A good parent appropriately disciplines his child, and God is a good Father. I think He allowed the silence to draw me to Him, but in the moment I was too tangled up in the details and missed His cue.
However, I was totally unprepared for what met me at the store when I went to pick up their donations. There they were…bags and bags and bags and bags of delicious treats. My breathe caught in my chest as I stood utterly speechless, fighting a tear trickling down my cheek. It took 2 trips to the store to collect it all. They had, all along, been in communication with the other store location, and had agreed to combine their efforts and gave us a massive amount of beautiful baked goods.
I…I don’t know what to say, I stuttered to the owner.
It’s just so much more than I ever thought, I said, staring at the counters full of bags.
The owner simply smiled and gave me a hug and wished our bake sale well.
I got in the van and rested my hands on the steering wheel. Pausing before I turned on the ignition, I said to God with a tearful smile, You did this. You had this planned all along. I was so worried. So stressed out. So anxious. And here You are. You delivered and You delivered big. Thank You, Lord. And God, I get Your point.
Ephesians 3:20-21 immediately came to mind, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
It was a great day that God just blew the doors off of. I can’t wait to share with you in my next post the fingerprints He left on this bake sale and on the hearts who were touched by His vision…