Generosity is the Key…

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I have always sorta known that being generous was important. Without realizing it, I saw it growing up in my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.. I understood that they were kind and loving, but I do not think I interpreted their actions as generous at the time because it was just sorta how they were.

Grandparents on both sides of my family were generous with food… Literally feeding everyone who came and went from their house. People in my family seem to be known for taking people in to live with them… and feeding them. They always had things to give them, and lived a life that repeatedly said “people are more important than things” – Sometimes actually repeating this mantra.

Now that I am grown, and trying my best at this adulting thing, I have realized so many of the ways that my parents were generous. My parents never ran out of time for you. Hours upon hours have been spent talking and spending time with people in my house growing up. Sometimes it was me and my siblings that needed the time, other instances it was cousins or other family members, students, co-workers, friends; regardless, my parents have always been generous with their time.

Growing up it would drive me bonkers because we were endlessly late places. – Why? Why could my dad not stop talking and get in the car so we could go?!… Looking back, so many hours were spent in parking lots and at restaurants giving people what only my dad could give, and what people needed most: his time. People are drawn to my parents, to their kindness, to their wisdom, to their knowledge, to their genuine authenticity, and to the joy and love that they spill out to everyone. Whether people realized it or not, they have always been drawn to the way that Jesus exudes from my parents.

Thankfully, I feel like these traits of my parents has been passed on to me and all of my siblings.

I never totally understood growing up what was happening because generosity was just a part of our family… But, because we did not have money, I had separated in my mind that generosity was supposed to mean with your money, everything else was sorta just how my family was.

As an adult, I realize how flawed and totally wrong that perspective was. So totally wrong.

Being generous certainly can include money.. which is why I think tithing and gifting is so important. It helps you separate yourself from the control that money can have on you. But, in reality, generosity is so much more pervasive and multi-dimensional that just currency.

Generosity of any kind changes people’s lives.

Generosity has a rippling effect that impacts people we will never meet face to face.

I find that as I get older, I take note of the generous people in my lives and are drawn to them, respect them, and desire to surround myself with them at an ever-increasing level.

Two of the most generous people I have ever met are my lead pastor Mark Batterson and his wife Lora. I do not really understand how they always find the time, money, and attitudes of generosity, but they do, endlessly. Pastor Mark says all the time that he wants those who know him best to respect him the most; and it is true. The more you get to know him, the more you respect him; I am fascinated by how true this fact plays out, even working at the church that he has been pastoring for 20 years! He and his wife’s giving spirits are so built into their lives that I do not even think they realize some of the ways they are generous. Interactions with them are teeming with graciousness, kindness, and generosity… So much so that it is tangible!

Sometimes, I think my friends get tired of how much I love and respect this next person (who I have only met once); but Josh Garrels is another person whose generosity has made a huge difference in my life. I shared once a while ago about how much his generosity weathered me through a horrible season because he put his albums up on Noisetrade for free. This week I was once again reminded of his double blessing generosity; he put out on Noisetrade an anniversary album that included bonus tracks, and instrumental tracks from his album Home. While the album is free until April 28th, he also included a note that any tips you leave him on Noisetrade will be donated to World Relief and One Million Thumbprints (Check them out, it’s pretty amazing).  – All I could think is of the abundant generosity that exhibits of him and his wife!

Here I am as an adult, finding that the most generous thing I have to offer is my time, my joy, my kindness… and a little food certainly doesn’t hurt. People are more important than things, and letting people become more of “my people” and join my community is one of the most generous things I can do. And, oh how I love it.

I cannot always give money, but I can always give time. – Especially as I become more diligent with my time management.

I think the world can absolutely become a better place with more kindness, more generosity, and more stepping into community that is hard to love people well.

Generosity is the key to changing the world one impactful moment at a time.

Borrowed Hope…

2012 Wrap-Up...I was walking my pups, thanks to the (attempting to improve) weather, and thinking and praying through this season of life that I am trying to escape from vehemently, and it dawned on me, I am so thankful despite the suck.

So much of this season has been trying to cling to hope while feeling mostly pain.

In less than two weeks it will be nine months since I have had a full-time permanent job. It has been 264 days since I have felt financially secure.

You can read more about my journey so far herehere, and here if you are interested. That is where you will get at least a small understanding without me having to rehash the struggle and emotions here today.

I have been stressing about money for 263 days, and my bank account has even got down to a balance of -.19. Yet, despite it all, I have not had one missed payment. I have had to fix my car three times, and been able to continue to support the missionaries I have supported for years. The very small amount of income I have has allowed me to continue to tithe, feed my dog, pay my car insurance, cell phone bill, and gas money. And, amazingly, my student loan payments have been able to be paid or deferred.

While I was surveying where I am, and where I have been, the thing that sticks out the most is the provision at exactly the right time. Regardless of my feelings, I cannot deny that more often than not, God has used friends and family to show me tangibly that He still loves, cares about me, and knows exactly what and when my needs are. Despite the mounting obstacles, I have been blown away recently by how much things have come together at exactly the right time.

Normally, and naturally, I am not a person who cares much about being told nice or encouraging things… I am really not a words person at all. I am not a gifts person, and I do not particularly notice if you do or don’t do something nice for me.. Yet, during the last nine months, those things have been life lines to my heart. The small gifts, the words of encouragement, the nicest and most humbling ways that people have shown me love have all been tangible things that God has used to infuse hope into my heart little piece by little piece.

I began thinking through the sheer number of people and times where someone has given me money or supported me in some way; it is absolutely ridiculous. Every single day (no joke) people check in to see how I am doing, let me know they are praying for me, offer me financial support, send a job posting, send me an “I love you” gift, or just listen to me while I verbally process the most recent stress in my life and then show an endless amount of patience with me.

Even people I have never met, but connected to through a mutual friend have shared encouragement, prayers, and potential job leads.

Over and over I have struggled through feeling stuck and trying desperately to hold onto hope. Without fail, ever single time, someone has sent me a letter, message, text, or called and infused my heart with borrowed hope and encouragement.

The sheer fact that I have not been told to shut up and suck it up, or entirely left alone proves how much I am loved; I am amazed and totally undeserving. Goodness knows I have not been the easiest or happiest person to be around. I am amazed by the grace extended to me by so many of my friends and family while I try to work through the stress and emotions each day.

As I think about the last nine months (has it really been that long?!), I am in awe of not just the journey, but also the hundreds of people who have come along side me in one way or another to help me get through it all.

Thank you for allowing me to borrow your hope and for sharing so much tangible love with me throughout all of this. I simply could not have made it this far or at all without the help. I am so grateful.

Frustrations About Race Talks…

I have a love hate relationship with the current dialogues about race, discrimination, and racism going on right now in the media and among friends.

What you read below is a random splattering of thoughts on the issue. They are not all connected to each other, and are thoughts based off of discussions I have been a part of, heard, read, watched, and my thoughts in response to them. These thoughts below are in response to every side of the discussion because I have friends from every perspective.

To give some understanding of myself first.. I am from Michigan (grew up in the Metro Flint area), I have lived in Ohio (briefly), the south, the Metro DC area, I have traveled to many areas around the country and several countries in Africa, East Asia, a couple Central American countries, and European countries.

Please note before you get into this post, I am most certainly not intending absolutes in what I say, these are my experiences and perspective alone. I have (a few or a lot of) exceptions to virtually every thought and frustration below. My thoughts are in reflection to the entire discussion as well, not to one or two things said by people.. Please read below with a thoughtful and compassionate voice, not anger or argumentative one.

Good luck reading my rambling!

I find myself so incredibly frustrated at every side of the “discussion” on race, discrimination, and racism.

I am frustrated because (all) people do and say terrible things for a slew of stupid reasons.

Maybe I’m frustrated me because I am a white woman from the north.

Maybe I am frustrated because I have traveled around the world and have seen and experienced what this topic looks like through the eyes of so many people from all walks of life that I find the discussion often frustrating, ignorant, and shallow.

Maybe it frustrates me because I (personally) have seen and experienced more women (of any color) discriminated against than blacks in America. (I am not saying it does not happen, just that this is my personal experience)

Maybe it frustrates me because I have seen Africans (in various countries in Africa) hated and treated horribly, and it’s awful.

Maybe I’m frustrated because people are people, no matter how they look. Individuals all have good and bad and beauty and personality and preferences and understanding and experiences and many times that is all boiled down to what “group” you are supposed to fit with.

Maybe it frustrates me because when I try to engage in a conversation to gain perspective, my thoughts on race are dismissed because I’m on the “white side” of “privilege” and therefore my understanding boils down to my skin color too instead of my experience and knowledge.

Maybe it frustrates me because my parents are in an interracial marriage, but because both their skins are white everyone dismisses it.

Maybe I am frustrated ’cause I find darker skin tones more attractive and that instantly puts me in a group to be hated upon.

Maybe I am frustrated because American culture tries so hard to make mixed people choose sides… (ps. They are the prettiest people!)

Maybe it frustrates me because I see so much hate and absurd things said on every side of this issue and I just want to facepalm people who refuse to listen and gain perspective.

Maybe it frustrates me because I have watched more of my “white” friends try to seek out diversity and understanding while some of my “black” friends say “that’s right, you should” instead of also seeking out diversity and understanding.

Maybe I am frustrated because some of my white friends are clueless.

Maybe I am frustrated because I don’t understand the issue at all because some of the people I look up to the most and have learned the most from are not white Americans. They are some of the most well-rounded people I have ever met and I want to be like them.

Maybe it frustrates me because I want true authentic dialogue, not just to be accused of having privilege or being racist or ignorant or for having been born white… I can’t do anything with those accusations, but I can change what I am educated with and so can you.

Maybe I am frustrated because personal experience is belittled and trustworthy news sources are held up as the reliable sources when it comes to the topic of race, discrimination, and racism.

Maybe I am frustrated because in America, the vast majority of people (everyone) are melting pots… even the African-American community is a melting pot… Don’t believe me? Go to any country in Africa or the Islands, they look entirely different, and in some places even kill each other for being from a different tribe.

Maybe I am frustrated because there has been a clear confusion between dislike and hate.

Maybe I am frustrated because I watch “race” being pulled in as a factor more often than it should (from all sides), instead of identifying the hate or actions of people as being just that: Hateful.

Maybe I am frustrated because I get judged for my opinion on race simply due to my skin color too.

Maybe I am frustrated because people on every side love to claim discrimination or a lack there of while they take the media to be accurate and reporting the whole story.

Maybe I am frustrated because racism still exists, but now it is tricky because every side expresses racism.

Maybe I am frustrated because avoidance, dislike, or ignorance is not actually racism at all… doesn’t make those things right or wrong, good or bad (depending on context), but it does not make them racism either.

Maybe I am frustrated because I just don’t understand, why does this need to be an issue? People are people, God made you, beautiful and perfect, and sin ruined us… I wish we could just move on everyone.

Maybe I am frustrated because racism and discrimination won’t entirely go away ever, until after Jesus returns.

And, I’m frustrated cause I am fairly certain there will be freaking out and anger in response to this post… Although, I really hope not, I would love for this to be a time of seeking to understanding and dialogue instead.

Stolen…

Have you ever stopped to think about how much your stuff means to you?

I do, actually on a somewhat regular basis. In fact, if something is worth anything over the change in my pocket (just kidding, I don’t really carry change), I make the habit of deciding if I would be willing to give it away tomorrow. If my heart answers yes, then I green light myself to buy it. If however, my heart says no, or I find a hiccup in my reaction to giving it away, I simply do not buy it.

What would you do if you had thousands of dollars worth of stuff stolen from you? How would you react to having unknown people rummage through your things and take them without asking?

What if they took things that had no sentimental value?.. Would your response be different?
What if they took things of extreme sentimental value?.. Would your response be different?

How attached are you to things?

I have always kinda had the perspective “I don’t own much worth anything…” which is true to an extent. I do not own a lot of the typical expensive things… and, if we are being honest, the only reason I have a real bed instead of the air mattress I slept on for five years was because the bed was given to me…

When forced to stop and look at what I have, I have a lot of things, not necessarily expensive things, but mostly sentimental things. Mainly, I have a lot of jewelry. Not necessarily incredibly expensive to buy jewelry, but I got a lot of it from other countries, as gifts, and let’s be honest here, I have been collecting jewelry without necessarily realizing I was for more than 15 years… Replacing things like that now is way more expensive than it ever was to begin with.

I want to challenge you to look at everything.. and I actually do mean everything you own, and decide right now, this very moment, that it is all “just stuff.” None of it is more important than a person (any person), and if prompted, you would give it away… or maybe just not get angry if it gets taken from you.

My grandma always said, “People are more important than things.” Choose today to make your heart and mind truly believe that no thing is more important than even the most frustrating, messed up, and broken person.

Trust me on this one, you need to decide something this substantial right now.