I mentioned at the beginning of Lent that I would be reading the book, “Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa” by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.
The book is a devotional that carries you through each day of Lent. Each day consists of a quote from Mother Teresa, a reflection for parents, a family prayer (my kids are still too little, so I just do this by myself), a story from Mother Teresa’s life, a suggestion for fasting and almsgiving (that are geared toward older kids, but are easily adaptable for adults), a final prayer, and a thought to carry you through the day.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s really a quick read. I have been reading it alone, but my sister has been reading it with her kids ages 13, 11, and 6. We’ve all benefited greatly from this book.
While it is a quick read, it is far from “easy.” If you know even a tiny bit about Mother Teresa, you know what a humble, generous, loving, devout person she was. This book challenges us to be like her.
I have found this book at once fascinating (I LOVE Mother Teresa) and terrifying. It has really turned my faith and my life upside down.
And though my kids are too young to read this book with me, I’ve been astounded by all the ways I’ve been able to take what I learned and teach it to them.
The first Tuesday of Lent, the quote from Mother Teresa was this:
“We must give until it hurts. For love to be true it has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us; it hurt God to love us because He had to give. He gave His Son. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.”
The story from her life talked about how it bothered her that too often people only gave out of their extra or what they had leftover. They didn’t feel any sense of sacrifice when they gave. She told the story of meeting a beggar who wanted to donate money to the poor. He gave her a small amount of change that didn’t amount to anything, but it was all he had. Mother Teresa was torn because she didn’t want to take the only money he had for food, but she decided to accept it anyway. The man was overjoyed at being able to give. Even though he didn’t give very much at all, it was worth so much more because he gave out of love and sacrifice.
When I read that story, I immediately thought of the widow from the Gospel:
Jesus looked around and saw rich people dropping their gifts in the Temple treasury, and he also saw a very poor widow dropping in two little copper coins. He said, “I tell you that this poor widow put in more than all the others. For the others offered their gifts from what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, gave all she had to live on.” -Luke 21: 1-4.
Obviously, this gave me a great deal to ponder. My family has most certainly been blessed. While we strive to be generous, we are often guilty of giving out of our surplus. This day’s devotion challenged me to be generous out of love and sacrifice, not out of duty or guilt.
I didn’t realize that very day I’d have the opportunity to teach Lucas a very difficult, but relevant lesson.
We are also doing “40 Days of Food” during Lent. We have a designated box and each day, Lucas and I place a non-perishable food item in it. I let Lucas pick (with some help) a food item out of our pantry to put in the box.
This particular day, I gave him three boxes of macaroni and cheese (each different flavors) to choose from. He looked at his choices and immediately burst into tears. He didn’t want to give any of them away.
It took me awhile to realize the source of his tears. You see, we’ve been slowly eliminating processed foods from our diet and our pantry. I hadn’t made a box of mac and cheese in weeks (maybe months). These boxes were Annie’s Organic brand, which are still processed, but not quite as much as the regular kinds. I usually reserve this mac and cheese for special occasions or nights when I’m totally wiped out.
Lucas didn’t want to give away any of these precious boxes of macaroni and cheese. He loved them too much. It hurt him deeply that I even suggest we give one of the boxes away.
As I hugged and consoled him, I knew this teachable moment was a gift from God. Once he calmed down, I explained to him that somewhere out there is a little boy who is very hungry. He isn’t as lucky as we are to have a whole pantry filled with food. He doesn’t have any food at all.
We could give him some green beans or a can of soup, but wouldn’t it be so nice to give this little boy one of our boxes of macaroni and cheese? That way he could fill his belly up with something yummy that he would really love, too?
At first, this didn’t satisfy Lucas. In fact, he clung to those boxes of mac and cheese even tighter.
I continued by telling him that God really loves it when we are kind to others by giving them food when they don’t have any (which he already knew). I added that God loves it even more when we give something that we really like to someone who needs it more than we do. Sometimes it hurts to give and be kind to others, but that’s how we show God we love Him.
Lucas pondered it for a moment more, but he finally placed one of the boxes of mac and cheese in our collection box. I wiped his tears and told him how proud I was of him.
I watched a tiny smile cross his face. He said, “I know someone else who is proud of me.”
“Who?” I asked.
He ran off to play. When he wasn’t looking, I wiped away my own tears. My 4 year old had simultaneously made my heart ache as I watched him learn a tough lesson and filled my heart with pride as he handled the situation with more grace than I often do. The macaroni and cheese was never mentioned again, but I think about it every time we place a new item in the box.
And I may have made him macaroni and cheese that same week.
Whether we’ve been blessed with a lot or we struggle to make ends meet, we are called to be generous to others. There is always someone less fortunate. There is always someone who needs something more than we do- be it money, food, or clothes. There is always someone who would be blessed so much more by something we have.
When you find yourself giving from your surplus or reluctant to give at all, think of the beggar that Mother Teresa encountered who was so joyful as he gave away all his food money. Think of the woman from the Gospel who gave everything she had. And think about my little 4 year old who gave his beloved macaroni and cheese.
Be more generous than you planned. Give away that item you aren’t quite ready to part with. Give deeply. Give more. Give with all you have.
Life happens when we give until it hurts.
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