Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designated [just-for-me] Gifts

After last week’s negative post, let me admit today that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE designated gifts! If only everything we need or want would be provided through tangible or designated gifts, we wouldn’t have to worry about how we spend our money, or more accurately, God’s money.

For example, a dear friend (df) blessed me with a gift card to a swanky spa before my son’s wedding last summer. I never would have splurged on a manicure and pedicure at California prices without someone giving me a tangible nudge. Another df designated a gift for use on something personal for the wedding. I bought some underclothing that will last a lot longer than anything Walmart has to offer.

The best haircut I have ever gotten in my life (the one in my profile picture) was a free cut and color (ahem) by a df/supporter in Ohio. Some of my favorite clothes came directly from a df’s closet. There’s nothing like looking good free of guilt.

Maybe we could delve into the “why do I always feel guilty spending money on something personal that I want or need?” issue, but that’s no fun. Feel free to leave comments on this topic if you want. For now I just want to admit that I am a chicken when it comes to buying things, and I am thankful for friends who give me a prod when I need it.

Early in my career, I started to play that dangerous game of comparing myself to the other missionary women, and trying to make adjustments to fit the “image.” Consequently I grew my hair longer, feeling it was a waste to spend money on frequent haircuts. After a couple of years of trying to not appear excessively frumpy, I changed to a short style again. My dmil, bless her heart, advised me never to grow it out again. According to her, long hair wasn’t a good look for me with my non-prominent facial features.

Likewise I went through a phase of minimalizing cosmetics, trying to do without make-up like so many of my colleagues. My mom started discretely giving me Clinique for Christmas, and my dmil offered me Mary Kay cosmetics along with this nugget of wisdom: “Honey, some people can afford to go without make-up… but you are not one of them!”

(I’m not making this up. She honestly verbalized that. Don’t you wish you had a sweet dmil to speak the truth in love when you need it?)

So now I get my hair cut regularly and splurge on make-up to keep from embarrassing the family, but I still agonize over non-thrift store purchases, and greatly prefer when someone gives me a designated “personal” gift so I don’t have to mentally calculate how many audio Bibles that amount of money could have purchased.

Anyone else struggle with the old “Should I - or shouldn’t I?” question when it comes to spending money? Maybe all Christians have an acute sense of stewardship and responsibility, but for missionaries on a limited budget, it’s always an added challenge to spend wisely and to be accountable—without the guilt.

IRL* Clothes, toes and hair aside, all of life is a designated gift when you get right down to it.


  1. Oh my goodness... I could have written this post!! (well, okay, maybe not so well) but, none-the-less you were speakin' my language, my experience! I can show you each item in my closet that was "bought for me" by kind friends/supporters that took pity on this "should-I"/"shouldn't-I" girl who just "needed" (their words) that dress!! I can't say I am ever too sad when they do that--- but man, this is an issue for me too. In fact had my toes done two summers ago at California prices because of a designated gift. (haven't had them done since... and they seriously NEED it!)
    Get out of my head, Jamie Jo!!? ;)

  2. I hear you! I am caught between worker women, who often do look plain, and national women, who look like they just walked out of the beauty salon! And it is SO HARD to justify buying things for myself. I can buy clothing for the kids, my husband, but not myself without feeling guilty.

    Last summer before returning from a furlough, I FORCED myself to throw away an 11 year old dress that I wore to formal occassions. It was dated, and I figured it was the only way I'd be forced to buy a new one! It's pretty funny, but every picture taken at a wedding of me in the last 10 years features that same dress! Yikes! Throwing it out was one of the best moves I ever made.

  3. Thanks for the honesty... I'm one of those grow it out and get a trim every 9 months girls... but found a new style last month and now I'm torn... do I get it trimmed already or just grow it back out??

    Have a son graduating on Friday night and I think I'm going for the trim this time. Gotta look gorgeous for the memories. :)


  4. This is me, too! I struggle with wanting to look good in a culture where women wear high heels to go shopping in town and to the doctor and always look good! I decided this term to do better and just go for it on some small ME kind of things. I'm getting my nails done regularly (it's cheap, cheap here) and getting my hair done more often. I still struggle to buy nice clothes because of money, but I am on the look out more for a good buy. Besides, I am trying to fit into my culture, right! :)

    Good post, JJ! Keep them coming! You speak to my heart every time!

    Michele in Brazil

  5. Looks like I got behind reading the comments here. Thanks for posting your encouragement and viewpoints. Personally I think it would be harder to minister in an area where the women dress up in high heels (ugh!) than an area where it really doesn't matter so much. Even harder when the difference between workers and nationals is rather extreme.

    It tickles me when y'all think I'm peeking in your windows or "inside your head" as Stephanie said. :)


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