Since returning to California 19 years ago my mum and I have had a New Year’s tradition. On January first we count our money. Found money, that is.
From 1 January through 31 December of the previous year both my mum and I have a container in our homes that we put in any money we find. Then on New Year’s day we bring our containers to the table in my mum’s sunroom and see how much we each have found. We note how much we both found as well as our combined total. Then every year (so far) my mum relinquishes her pile of coins (it’s rare that we find dollar bills) and I have a tradition of using some of the money to get something for someone in need before I treat myself to a little something.
Having been very actively picking up and putting aside found money for many years I know that both my mum and I will find a variety of coins throughout a given month. So last month when I found almost pennies and dimes exclusively (one day I did find a nickel and a $1.00 bill) I noted how odd that was. Not only finding (almost) only pennies and dimes, it was also unusual that the pattern almost always would be to find one coin then the other (penny, dime, penny, dime, etc). Again, with my mum and I both having been doing this for almost 20 years such a regular, rotating pattern was additionally out of the ordinary.
Around the middle of December, as I started to notice that an unusual pattern was repeating over and over, it got me to thinking about how God works in our lives. For me the found money became an example of God’s grace—freely given. I had done nothing to deserve or earn the money I found any more than I deserve or have in any way earned God’s grace. He simply bestows it out of a sheer act of love and goodness, but we do need to respond (notice) and accept (stoop down and pick up) this gift that is there waiting. How often, I thought, do I not see the gifts our Lord so generously is desiring to bestow on me? Or worse, how often do I not appreciate (reject) the gift He is giving because it seems like nothing, too small to concern myself with—I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most coins my mum and I find are pennies—who wants to bother with a mere penny? But how blessed I am when I see everything, big or small, as gift, and what I am able to do later when, with patience, I let his grace work in me. One penny isn’t much in itself, but as I patiently let them accumulate over the year they can be used in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before.
Seeing God’s grace at work through found money wasn’t all I saw. As I kept finding only pennies and dimes all month it made me reflect how Jesus can be showing us we are on the right path with a new direction being discerned. For me the repetition of the same two coins all month made me really stop and pray over a calling that has been growing in me for some time. The repetition was like Jesus answering me over and over and it gave me the gentle nudge I needed to move into action with this new ministry I had been thinking about for awhile. Where exactly Jesus is leading me, and where it will take me is yet unknown but pausing to think about found money has been a wonderful eye opener to possibilities and to being more attentive to the grace God is so freely offering all around me.
All that because I took the time as I was walking to pick up a penny.