Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If I Have Gingham But Have Not Love

If you happen to subscribe to my Super Scoop newsletter (basically a top-secret blog post I write once a month) you received a post in your inbox the day before I left for Ecuador detailing what I packed for the trip.

Tucked into my "curated" (think comfy and grime-friendly) mix was a gingham shirt.

You know the one.
Except you actually don't.


I need to back up.

A week or so before the trip, I was going about my usual business. Writing. Mothering. Trying my best to be an engaged wife and a committed neighbor in the mix of the daily grind, which had temporarily slid off the rails it into even grindier territory.

In the midst of a whole string of those days, I unexpectedly found a bit of extra cash in the budget.

What I mean is, after already having every single thing I needed for the month, after buying (among hundreds of dollars of other things) containers of feta crumbles, organic bananas, a case of chicken stock, a jar of pitted olives, fig jam, unsalted pistachios, Honeycrisp apples and two bouquets of Kroger flowers, after accidentally letting a package of chicken breasts rot in the fridge, after a few meals out because "I needed a night off", after ensuring our gas tanks stayed filled, the lights stayed on, and our family had the chance to go ice skating (again,) there was still more left.

I didn't want to see it go to waste, so I paid a visit to my old flame, J Crew. After scrolling absentmindedly through the clearance section long enough to make the whole thing look casual, I went in for the kill.

A brand new navy gingham button-down, bought without a single percentage of discount, because I could.

No worries, I deserved it. I'd worn the old one, bought from the outlet store, for over five years. Almost daily. It was starting to get that funky smell.


I needed this new gingham shirt with its mystifying "Boy Fit". The fact that it came in a Tall - sleeves that would actually cover my wrists! - was but the final link in the chain. It was meant to be. I'd earned it, and I would not feel guilty.

The honest truth is, I still don't feel guilty.

I packed it in my bag and lived one of the most significant days of my life with its easy weight on my skin, the collar half-popped. Though it didn't make me a better dancer, it somehow made me a braver one.

The problem is, I can't stop thinking about that dang gingham shirt. It niggled into my thoughts before I even arrived and keeps chasing me down. It's causing me some tension, and crinkle cotton is sort of supposed to be the opposite of that.

The point is obviously not that gingham is bad. Not even overpriced gingham. 
I love my new-and-improved gingham bestie.

But I can't outrun the reality that my impulse purchase which brings negligible improvement to my quality of life, would translate into a monthly sponsorship of two (almost three!) of the children I played with today.

The money I spent on longer sleeved-version of a shirt I already owned would dramatically alter the course of these young lives.

It sounds dramatic. Before this week I might have given a comment like that the low-grade side-eye myself. (Reeeeally??)

Today, I'm telling a different story.

Today, I sat in a one-room, bamboo home and watched a young mother tear up as she told us how her twelve-year old son's Compassion sponsorship has changed the entire course of their family's future. Their local church, which partners with Compassion to release these kiddos from poverty, has become a tremendous source of hope for them, offering counseling, healthcare, and above all, the life-giving hope of simply being known and loved, by neighbors (near and global) and God.

The shirt was never the thing.  The thing is this: if I come to a place where I value my want over someone else's need, I've become a clanging symbol dressed in rags.

God loves us too much to watch us go down this way. He wrote the end, and knows what we stand to gain by laying ourselves down for the sake of another.

He wants our hearts, our service, our willingness to throw our tchotchkes and dreams on the altar of much better things, things that might look to us like less.

But then we stop. We look harder.
The universe flips in the favor of our Rescuer.

And we're all a little more free.


If I could pull you through my laptop screen and into Manta, Ecuador, not a single one of my words would be necessary. Since I can't, I humbly ask that you take my word for it and sponsor a child through Compassion. Lives are being changed, including mine.

Read more from:
Our fearless trip leader, Bri, as she writes about her cutie-pie friend Marcela at A Holy Experience. "Marcela, today you reminded me that my life is worth losing so that Jesus can save so many others."

Ashley Ann at Under the Sycamore. "When we consider how we want to raise our kids – the characteristics we want to cultivate in them, the type of influences we want in their lives, the kind of faith that demonstrates a dance between faith, love and action – we can’t afford not to expose them to hard realities."

Ruth at Gracelaced. "It's just that Jesus gives us eyes to see when we let Him show us how Gospel-living is upside down in this fleeting world."