I mentioned in my first post of this series that as part of my fast, I’m limiting my purchases at the grocery store for 7 weeks to just seven items/categories. In addition to those items, I’ll be able to use whatever I have stockpiled in my pantry(s) – yes, I turned the closet under the stairs into a second pantry. We also have a freezer in the garage that is probably older than I am, and has so many gaps in the seal that I keep the ice scraper from the car nearby to whack the icicles off every time I open the door. But like a good little squirrel, the shelves of my pantries/food compound and freezers are stuffed. I am always ready for the emergency that has never come in 17 years of marriage. Whew!
I decided that I should probably inventory the garage freezer this week, so I will know what I have to work with and how to plan meals. Otherwise, I will go into rationing mode and refuse to let the family eat anything because we might need it someday (3 years after its expiration date). I probably qualify as a hoarder of groceries and other bizarre items (like my stationery collection, which I never use because who writes letters anymore?), but I have never watched the show, Hoarders. To me, a hoarder watching that show is like a backslider attending a revival service. Don’t go there if you don’t want to feel convicted.
Anyway, I got out my clipboard and dangled it in front of my daughter, who lives for organizational-type stuff. She frequently gets out her purple clipboard and inventories her stuffed animal menagerie, or checks off the progress of her doll “students,” so I figured this mother/daughter bonding activity would be the highlight of her summer. (By the way, I take full responsibility for her bossypants genes, so I ought to be able to exploit them from time to time.) I wrote down the types of meat and other items I guessed were in there (because I put things in more than I take things out, so who really knows what’s buried in the frost), and told her to write down the number of each item as we counted them. Sounds easy, right?
Me: (Using ice scraper to dig bags of chicken out of the mound of frost on the top shelf) “Can you please put the bags of chicken in the cooler and count them?”
Daughter: “Hey look, snow!”
Me: “I know, I’m scraping it out of the freezer so we can count this stuff. It’s 90 degrees out, so we need to work fast, and I need you to count the bags of meat.”
Daughter: (Riding scooter)
Me: (Standing in a puddle of melted “snow”) “Okay, I counted the bags. Can you write down 7 bags of chicken?”
Daughter: “I need a drink. It’s hot outside.” (Disappears into the house while mystery meat begins to thaw in the cooler.)
Obviously, this was not the bonding experience I envisioned. I did manage to finish my inventory, and even discovered 6 bags of frozen peaches hidden beneath a layer of frost in a box. Score! My results:
- 66 bags/portions of meat that feed a family of 4
- 2 beef pot roasts
- 3 lbs. London broil
- 2 lbs. pork roast
- 4 whole chickens
<insert husband yelling, “What?!!” upon hearing this list, which immediately conjures up images of Ricky Ricardo yelling, “You’ve got some ‘splaining to do!”>
I also have a whole turkey I’m storing in my parents’ freezer, plus a stockpile of cooked meat in the freezer portion of our fridge. This total does not include the 4 packages of chicken or the 3 lb. chub of hamburger I bought at the beginning of the week ($1.69/lb. – you can’t pass that up!). And that’s just the meat. Obviously, we will not starve. And obviously, I have a hard time telling when enough is enough. Hence, the spending fast.
So what’s the big deal? I’ve mentioned in other posts that my strategy of stockpiling stuff that’s on sale is how we eat well on a gluten free diet with a small grocery budget. It was absolutely essential during our years of unemployment (3 years total, divided into 2 bookends around my husband’s previous job). Yet something (or some One) has been bothering me on my last several attempts to add to my stockpile. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I needed to fast from this activity for some reason. I didn’t really know why until I went out to pick raspberries this week.
We planted a tiny raspberry bush 7 years ago, and raspberries have now taken over our backyard – even creeping under the fence into the neighbor’s yard. (You’re welcome.) My kids love the idea of free berries, but picking them? Not so much. So I went out to harvest our bulging bushes for the second time this week to add to the 2 containers in the fridge that I’d picked earlier. As I began mining my organic gold, God began to speak to me (not audibly, but to my spirit). Essentially, he said:
When will you rest from your gathering and decide that you have enough? Do you not trust me to continue to provide for you? I sent manna to the children of Israel in the desert, and provided an extra portion for the Sabbath so they could rest. Any other time they tried to collect more, it rotted. They tried to gather extra because they didn’t trust me to continually provide. When you hoard what I have freely given you, it shows me that you don’t trust me. You didn’t survive those years of unemployment because you stockpiled; it was because I provided for you and kept you from disaster.
Look at the raspberries you’re picking. The canes you planted finished producing years ago and are gone. Everything you now pick is a gift from me as you harvest where you did not plant. What are you going to do with this gift?
Immediately, I determined to say, “Thank you,” for each raspberry I picked. One by one, I thanked God for each little blessing I’d taken for granted as I piled them on pancakes and stuffed them in the nooks and crannies of my freezer. After about the eighth berry, I decided that I didn’t need any more raspberries. In fact, I still have some in the freezer from last year’s bounty. So I decided to take them to the Care House our church operates that provides food for needy families in our community. Church members are encouraged to share the overflow of their gardens to give the patrons fresh fruit and vegetables.
Suddenly, my outlook changed. The amount that was left on our bush didn’t seem nearly enough to take to the Care House. When I went inside, I pulled out the berries I’d picked earlier and combed through them for berries that weren’t too ripe or mushy, continuing to say, “Thank you,” for each one. But this time I was saying thank you for providing me with something to give. My daughter and I hopped in the car and dropped off our little bags of berries. Only 5 families will be blessed because I held onto my manna too long, and many of the berries were too squishy to give.
Lesson learned. (Just in time for blackberry season…)
One other lesson I learned from the raspberry bush is that when you’re looking for these little red treasures, you need to kneel down and look up to find them because they’re often underneath the leaves. I needed to kneel down and assume a position of humility, with gratitude for my blessings, and look up to see the One who provides – not just for me, but through me. Yes, God will meet my needs, but not so that I can sit back and inventory my blessings on a clipboard. It’s time to stop storing up my treasures on earth and turn my attention toward storing up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust (and mold) do not destroy. Gratitude is the first step on the road to recovery from self-absorption, followed by humility, which paves the way for generosity.
Thank you for my berries, Lord. I know they’re not mine, but Yours. Make me a blessing, as I commit myself to a life of gratitude, humility before You, and generosity that spills over from Your generosity toward me.
To follow my journey over the next several weeks, check out the posts under the category “My Fast” on the right.