Loaves + Fishes
The account of the boy with 5 barley loaves + 2 fishes (yes, we have to say fish”es” when talking about this) is one of my favs from childhood and still today. Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way. Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.
In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fishes into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work. And mirroring the loaves + fishes, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits, and each year we have been able to increase them.
One of my “won’t-ever-forget-that-feeling” life lessons came about twelve years ago, living in Chicago, and my teenage baby sister came for a visit. During a city stroll one night she gave some money to a homeless man and chatted briefly. I quickly scolded her (in that annoying big sister way) about how he could have had a knife, he could have grabbed her, you don’t know what he’s going to do with the money, the best to do in the city is to donate and serve at shelters and soup kitchens, etc etc… and she had some things to say back (you can imagine). I laid in bed that night and cried. HOW QUICKLY have I lost sight of angels unaware? Have I become calloused to the needs of people around me? Who am I to worry about what someone does with what I give them. That’s between them and God. Who am I to question (or scold) how someone else is sharing what they have. It still makes my heart hurt when I think of that night – but I’m blessed by my sister’s grace (it probably helps that she’s had a lifetime of dealing with my over-protectiveness).
My parents have been an example of this – sharing what little they had with those that had less. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s, my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton and heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. Fast forward to years later that night in the city, my teenage baby sister was just doing what was modeled at home. “Even though I only have two dollars in my pocket, this guy has zero, so he can have mine.”
Now, as an adult, whose career was ultimately in investments, God has changed my heart from the world’s economy to His. Rainy day funds and worrying about tomorrow really is silly. His eye is on the sparrow. He clothes the flowers. He will provide for me. He has proved that over and over and over.
Awhile back, I began praying for people to come into my path that I can serve. And I’m praying for doors to open to serve people that aren’t in my normal path. And guess what? Opportunities to share my “loaves and fishes” pop up pretty regularly – and the old saying “it takes a village” really is true. And it’s a beautiful way to live. I love God’s economy, where friends can swap child care services for homemade treats, or newborn photography for organic pumpkins, or digital design services for coaching. This month, I had a friend who needed a medical device for her child that she couldn’t get thru insurance. I also happened to have a friend who worked in that medical field and could get free samples of that device. I made him some pickle dip and gave his kids rides to swim and the little girl got what she needed. He would have gotten the devices regardless, and I would have given his kids rides regardless. But these things are little lessons of the abundance we have and how we can share and serve one another. Even in small things. One day I took coffee to teachers…the barista that helped me did a great job sorting thru all the orders and getting it all straight. Lots of smiles (and a tip), and then not too long after I was at the library where said barista also works. Guess who received free movie rentals that day? And yes, watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids with my fam wasn’t a NEED, and I could have paid for them, but little things like that are God’s voice telling me – I’ve got this. Helping a friend’s business that is slammed with orders and she gives me some clothes. We let some friends’ dogs out one weekend and they brought us a massive amount of strawberries they picked…unnecessary, but so kind (will work for food – always!). A complete stranger recently helped me with this blog design for free! All of these are just every day examples of community living, and while they aren’t miracles of feeding 5000, they’re small ways we can give and serve others. I believe that if I can have faith in these small things, God will always provide the means. I love thinking about entertaining angels unaware.
Every year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe. Every year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue. An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.
Whether it’s sharing + serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fishes do you have? Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? Do you have a storage room full of items that could be used by someone else right now? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. I believe that when our hands are fully open, sharing what we have, then our hands are also fully open to receive God’s blessings (Prov 19:17, 22:9).
I continue to be both encouraged and challenged in giving. I share this for so many reasons, from recognizing all that has been given to me, to having accountability and saying out loud that I want to be an awesome steward in God’s kingdom, and to maybe be an encouragement to someone who thinks they don’t have much to give. You do! Do you think the boy thought his little lunch would make a dent in the crowds of the hungry? God blessed + multiplied what the boy had and used it for good. How will He multiply what we are willing to share? Trust Him to be more than enough and believe in the miraculous! I felt more led to share this after our Pastor Mike Baker recently shared some examples about their personal giving – from a place of encouragement, not pride or bragging, and that others in the Bible were also doing this. So as a Pastor Mike said, please receive this from a place of good and not a place of pride. Any good in me in Jesus and not my own. My heart is to walk beside people and learn and share and grow together. Thanks to everyone in my life that has done that and still does that today.