Few people would attempt a move of this magnitude just days before Christmas, but that magical morning found her with boxes unpacked and disposed of, a tree decorated in the corner of the living room, a fire in her fireplace and presents in readiness for her young son. Perhaps she saw the house itself as God’s gift to her that day - the fulfillment of a promise He had made to her years before.
Eager to celebrate with Maria this long-awaited answer to prayer, our church family threw a small housewarming party for her. She responded to our gesture of love by welcoming us all into her home for an after-service potluck dinner one Sunday afternoon shortly thereafter.
Never has anybody so quickly transformed a house into a home that reflected their personality so clearly. From her signature “Scrabble” bathroom, to the framed autumn leaves above her cherished fireplace, to the dainty teacups above the window dressings in her dining room, Maria’s passions were put on display.
Each of us who visited with her that day were delighted to find our simple gifts already in use as we wandered from room to room. One friend had given a porcelain clock covered in painted cardinals that now ticked steadily away on a shelf it shared with a book about the birds and a framed picture of the same that Maria’s son had painted for her as a Christmas gift. Another lady smiled to see her scented candle burning brightly in its brilliant red glass jar, perfectly matching the sofa cushions and other scarlet accents in the room. Sliced fruit beckoned to a third from the glass serving platter she’d given that now graced the beautifully decorated table. Again and again there was joy as each of us recognized not just our gifts in Maria’s home but also our own special place in her heart. There was a warmth in the welcome we found there that we were reluctant to leave as we moved at last from our seats at the table to drink coffee and chat in the living room for awhile before eventually heading off to our separate lives and evening activities.
Reflecting back on my enjoyment of that time together I understand more clearly now the psalmist’s words, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…” (Psalm 84:10 NIV). There is no greater joy than to walk into God’s house and find it decorated with the gifts we’ve given Him – gifts He first gave to us in talents and abilities that we work to develop in order to offer them back to Him to use as He sees fit. And use them He does, to draw lost souls into His Kingdom, heal bodies plagued with disease, lighten a heavy load, or encourage a weary heart as we wait for the day when we will be together eternally. Until then it’s a delight to walk into the place where His Glory dwells and find it decorated with the passions of His heart – His love for His people and the love gifts they bring.
It took some of us awhile to decide what gift to bring to Maria’s housewarming. Phone calls were made and discussions held over color choices and personal preferences, but in the end I realized that each person’s gift reflected their own interests and personalities. Those who love to entertain brought dishes for her table. The teacher who loves children brought a gift for Maria’s son. The decorator among us brought an accent item. A friend brought a memento of a memory they shared. Each brought a piece of themselves and it all fit together perfectly in Maria’s home.
Likewise many of us struggle with what we might have to offer God. Perhaps we’ve yet to realize the special gifting He’s placed within us. And yet the Bible states that each of has “a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment” (1 Peter 4:10 AMP) that God wants to use in His Kingdom. In this as in all other things, if we lack wisdom in an area we need only to ask God for it and He surely will answer us. Perhaps in this instance He does so by reminding us that none of us would have needed a gift to bring to Maria’s party if we hadn’t first developed a relationship with her. And likewise the key to finding our place in His Kingdom is to first find our place in His heart.
“For the Father Himself [tenderly] loves you…”
(John 16:27 AMP)