A Magpie reader pointed me in the direction of this Advent devotional from Melanie Shankle, which I just started working my way through after a late start. On Day 6, Shankle shared a meditation on the story from 2 Kings 4, in which a widow finds her self in dire financial straits and seeks counsel from Elisha. Elisha asks, “What do you have in your house?” The impecunious widow replies, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a little oil.” Elisha directs her to return to her house to extract as much oil as she can. A miracle transpires: she is able to fill enough jugs and jars to pay off her debts.
Shankle stirred something in me when she made the observation that, so often, “we highlight that we have nothing to give and focus more on our weaknesses.” She asks: “What little bit of oil have we not noticed?”
This is true in so many different realms, and distinctly reminded me of a post I wrote earlier this year on comparison. I observed: “There are undoubtedly elements of your current life that you have worked hard to achieve and that you might invite yourself to take a minute to recognize. You probably do not realize this, but there are people in your life who envy those things you are now taking for granted. Maybe you get to travel a ton for work, or you have a super interesting job, or you found a fabulous apartment in a perfect location, or or or.” I know, in short, that there is a lot of oil I’ve not noticed in my own life that other people have.
The devotion also pooled around my thoughts on self-encouragement when we are just at the start of something new. It is rough being a novitiate as an adult. It is more comfortable to point out how bad we are at something than it is to focus on the small things we may be doing right. I am thinking specifically of the frivolous example of golf. I went out to the driving range a handful of times last summer and whiffed, shanked, and, frankly, stunk. On occasion, I’d eke out why my father calls “a worm-burner” — an inelegant error of a ball that basically skips across the top of the grass, nailing ground-dwelling insects on its way. Every fiber of my being wanted to sit in self-deprecation. And to throw all of my clubs away. What’s the point? I huffed, angrily. I’ll never have enough time to really get good at this. But my God, what a ridiculously petulant outlook. Golf is also about spending time with friends, enjoying the outdoors, learning to eat humble pie and get back up on the horse again. Oil, oil, oil.
Bringing this back to the substance of Shankle’s meditation, however, I really had to sit with myself for a minute and unpack the sentence: “We highlight we have nothing to give and focus more on our weaknesses.” I felt spoken to, even rebuked, by those words. I could do more to give more to others. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a volunteer project and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I have been trying to be better about decluttering my weekends, doing “the small thing,” aiming for less, but this was an instance in which I wish I’d added to my plate rather than declined and consoled myself by repeating, “You are setting boundaries, you are saying no to things, these are good,” as though a tap water tonic. Perhaps I could have at least provided something — a donation, words of support, supplies. Shankle, it seemed, saw me at that moment. I’d felt like I had no time to give, but I could have found some way to participate.
Spending some time this morning asking myself, “What’s in my own house? What oil have I missed?”
+Writing this post also left me hopeful and brought to mind a really beautiful message from a sermonist a couple years back: “There’s still time to whitewash the house.”
+Love is…making a salad?
+There are some insanely good deals in J. Crew sale section, which is currently an extra 60% off —
THIS SHERPA SWEATSHIRT (LIKE $40 WITH CODE)
THIS TARTAN TOP — PERFECT FOR ONE OF THE DAYS LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS
+Love these caddies for organizing children’s art supplies. And so inviting to see everything lined up on a playtable in one of these vs. buried in bins!
+Would wear this pouch as a clutch.
+Obsessed with the pattern on these pillows.
+A majorly extra sweater.
+In case you’re going somewhere warm around/after the holiday…this tunic is a dream. Love the colors and pattern!
+Finally! An attractive folding stepstool!
+Perfect winter wreath.
+This looks VERY similar to a Dior product. In my cart to test.