The Heart of Giving

DAAE246B-5DDA-485B-AEE6-B6FCD7A186B5Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about giving and the heart behind why we give. Probably because right now I am in a season where I don’t have very much to give. At least I feel like I don’t. But I desire to give…I would give away every cent I owned, if that weren’t (usually) irresponsible. When I think of generosity and giving I mostly think of time and money (but obviously there are other ways to give). Over the last year with the wedding, moving, and related expenses I felt pretty dry in both areas. Phil and I are both in a place where we have more flexibility with our time, but things are still pretty tight on the financial end. 

When you look around at the world, you can see that there is so much need…I think of orphans in other countries and parents who work hard but can’t even afford to send their kids to school. There is a lack of medicine, food, and clean water in parts of the world. There are churches and missionaries on each continent short of funds and volunteers. There are also many needs and hurting people in the United States. The injustice and corporation in the world seems to be never ending. Personally, I often get overwhelmed by all the need and become upset that I cannot currently do more .

So how does someone who does not have many resources, still have a heart of giving? There are three words (focuses) that come to mind, when I think about giving and those are attitude, priorities, and trust. And with each of those words we need to ask ourselves a question. 

What is your attitude? I would like to say, that every time I consider helping someone and want to give I think of Jesus. But even as a Christian, it is easy to get caught up in a cause or the work that you are doing and forget why you are doing it. I have caught myself having a ‘save the world’ complex and I just want to fix it all. When I have this attitude about giving I am not only setting myself up for failure, but I am also not giving Jesus room to work through me. The foundation of why we give shouldn’t be about us or even about the end results, but about who. When our desire to give comes from what Jesus has done for us and He gave UP for us..then our attitude is shaped upon who He is and Not who we are. 

What are your priorities? We live in a society that is very individualistic and is always striving for MORE or BETTER. However, as Christians we are called to serve and to care for others. While it is not wrong to have nice things, we are also commanded to look out for the needs of others and care for not only the church body, but the widowed, poor, strangers, and orphans of the worlds. When your priority is to to live like Jesus in EVERY area of your life, you begin to see that more money frees up. When you once bought coffee a few times a week or have a closet full of clothing, you now first think of way God would desire you to use the money and then some of those funds begin to help others. But when our priority is ME or what I need, then it will become hard to find satisfaction and giving will always take the back burner. 

And finally, who or what do I put my trust in? In an individualistic society, even as a Christian it is easy to begin depending on ourselves. We try to better ourselves and to lives as better Christians (individually), and sometimes forget that we can’t do it on our own. Do I believe that God loves me? Do I believe that He knows the desires of my heart? If I truly trust Him with my life, then I need to be content with where I am. He knows my desire to serve Him and to give to others…and right now He is allowing me to be in this place in my life. In the same way when we look at our priorities and attitude and see that they are not quite aligned with Christ, we need to once again put our trust in Him and allow Him to change our hearts. 

God desires for us to be able to give. Not only does He desire it, He commands it. Some of us may be in a place where we can only give a little, while others of us may have the capacity to give a lot. It comes down  to our heart of giving…what our attitude is, where our priorities lie, and who we put our trust in. I would like to end with a passage that is often used in regard to giving, but often overlooked because it has almost become cliche. Nonetheless, it is very important and sums up where God desires our hearts to be. 

Mark 12:41-44“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd put their money into the temple treasury. Many people through in large amounts. But a poor widow came in and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put into the treasury more than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” 


An (extra)ordinary Life

A4F20BA7-2A67-48D7-87C5-73A1E7A53BD5Over the past few years, I’ve struggled a lot with the comparison of an ‘ordinary’ lifestyle and living RADICALLY. I have often felt that if I wasn’t in ministry or abroad doing missions (living a radical lifestyle) that I wasn’t living up to my potential as a follower of Christ. Luckily, God has really been working on my heart in that area, or I might be missing out on this wonderful phase of my life and the sweet babies that I get to nanny for each day.

After leaving YWAM and going to university back here in the States, I began to form the idea in my head that my lifestyle had to look radical in order to live more passionately for Jesus. The more radical your lifestyle looked, the more ‘spiritual’ or closer to God you must be. While you might tell me this isn’t true or you’ve read books or heard people speak on ordinary life, most of you have thought about it one time or another. I’ve heard and seen Christians putting missionaries, pastors, and other people in ministry on pedestals…Our Christian cultures sometimes seems to view these people as ‘more spiritual’.

And the reality is that they aren’t…necessarily. They still struggle with sin, emotions, and conflict with others. But what I am learning is that a life that looks seemingly ordinary on the outside, does not mean that a person cannot live radically FOR Jesus. As I was beginning to grapple with this, Phil and I joined a small group that happened to be reading a book called “The Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren. I hope to write about the book more later, but this book goes through the process of an everyday life and how ordinary moments and routines can become sacred moments and habits in our relationship with God.

Right now Phil and I live in an apartment in the suburbs of Philly and both work ‘normal’ day jobs. Two years ago if you would have told me this is where I would be, I would probably scoff and say “Nope…I’ll be on the mission’s field” (I also wouldn’t think I would be married). But God had other plans and since He has been working in my heart, He has made this place so much more enjoyable. Now going to work each day and caring for babies, making dinner, cleaning up the house, going to bed, spending time with friends, and going to church isn’t necessarily radical..

However, it doesn’t mean it can’t be. I happen to have one of those important jobs in the world (in my opinion). Caring for the lives of two beautiful little human beings that will someday grow up to be a part of this crazy world. I not only get to teach kindness, encourage play, and give lots of snuggles, but in the midst of the diaper changes, feedings, and clean up I have the opportunity to pray over those sweet little smiles…over their development, relationships with God, and their future jobs and lives. (Side Note: Thank you to the working Mama’s who have given us nannies the privilege of helping to raise your precious children).

Not only do I have the time to pray for them, but I can spend my days in prayer for their parents, for my own family, for my church, and for my friends. I also have the opportunity to do other cleaning around the house and get to be a blessing to their parents. And with the flexibility of nannying, during some of my free moments, I am able to work on writing and have extra time to spend with God. Outside of work, with both of our (Phil and I) job flexibility we have the opportunities to start getting involved with Young life, mentoring college students, and we are able to be involved with things like mission’s board and the worship team.

Phil and I are praying about going overseas in the future…but in the moment I know I am exactly where God wants me. And not only that, but I can live each moment purposefully. My life can be mundane if I allow it to be, however I’ve come to understand a new foundation behind “radical living”. Jesus is what makes my lifestyle radical. It isn’t about where your house is located or the people that you work with, so much as that it is about seeking after Jesus in every little moment. The more we grow to love Jesus the more passionate we become. And as we transform, that is when our lives begin to be truly radical.  

Be Kind to Yourself

FB3A0124There are days when I see myself in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. I don’t like how my hair looks or I wish that my ears didn’t stick out as much, or that my stomach was flatter. I wish that my thoughts and words were kinder and that I was better at living for Jesus. I worry that people don’t like me and that my words are frustrating or annoying to them. I’ll be honest…there have been times in my life where I relive every little conversation, look, comment in my head over and over, overthinking how I could have done better or been kinder or wondered if I did something to irritated or bother the person. 
Sometimes I feel like everyone around me is confident in who they are and doesn’t struggle with self-esteem issues or putting themselves down. But I know that just isn’t true…we often go to pretty far lengths to hide our insecurities from the rest of the world. I don’t think that hiding those struggles is what is best for us though. Especially in this world of social media, it is so easy to compare ourselves to what others let us see….thinking that other people seem to have it so together, from their looks to relationships, to overall lifestyle. But that isn’t realistic.
And I know that. I know that what I see isn’t always the whole story. I know there are other people out there that struggle. I know that while I feel so alone, there are probably way more people than I realize that deal with the same thoughts and struggles as I do. But while I know this in my head…it doesn’t always help. Sometimes it doesn’t even help in the least. I still don’t feel good enough. I still feel like I will never measure up or be good enough. My hubby can tell me a million times that I’m beautiful and wonderful and sometimes it doesn’t seem true to me. 
And that’s because I am my own biggest enemy. My mother-in-law recently shared a song with me, “Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson. And every time I have heard it since, I have been in tears by the end of the song. “You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean and you’re drowning in a deep, dark well. I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice…you would rather be anyone else.”I think there are moments that all of us would rather be someone different. “How does it end when the war that you’re in is just you against you against you. Gotta learn to love, learn to love, learn to love your enemies too.” 
And sometimes it’s harder to love myself then anybody else..I feel so broken so inadequate. But…“You can’t expect to be perfect, it’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit. You belong to me whatever you do. So lay down your weapon, darling. Take a deep breath and believe that I love you.”As a daughter of God, you would think I would know this. You think that I would always be good at accepting myself, since I know my Father loves me no matter what. Sometimes knowing it in my head doesn’t mean I allow it to reach my heart. 
The picture of me in the mirror, on my wedding day, is a picture that I actually really like of myself. When I see this picture I remind myself that God sees me as even more beautiful than that (both on the outside and the inside). And yes I am imperfect and broken, but God loves me exactly the way I am so much that He is willing to spend the rest of my human life fighting with me to help me become more like Him. So please, if you struggle with your looks, or personality, or anything about yourself…Be Kind to Yourself. You look down on yourself more than anybody else around you does. Remember, that even if you don’t see it everyone else has their struggles too. And most of all that God loves you and wants you to love yourself. 
“I love you just the way that you are. I love the way He made your precious heart.”
“Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to yourself.” 

Our First Camping Trip

This weekend we went camping at French Creek State Park in Elverson, PA. It was our first camping trip together and it didn’t disappoint. I had been eagerly waiting camping since we recieved our tent as a wedding present. We borrowed some other camping gear from my parents and headed out to meet with four of our other friends.
Camping is a pretty inexpensive way to vacation…especially for people on an extremely tight budget (like Phil and I). Obviously it can get pricey if you do things like buying a camper and other gear…but if you don’t mind a tent and cooking over the fire there are many places you can camp for less than $30 a night. 
I grew up camping multiple times a year, but we always had a camper and more recently used a cabin. I was super excited to use our tent and to go camping for the first time as our own little family (with some pretty awesome friends). And I couldn’t wait to make mountain pies for the first time in years!
The weather was pretty perfect this weekend…not too hot perfect for sitting around by the campfire and walking around with out getting to hot. We spent most of our time hanging out by the campfire, playing card games, and making food. I forgot how messy mountain pies were, but they were delicious! We also had pancakes, s’mores, and hotdogs and hamburgers. It was the perfect weekend-long triple date, and I can’t wait to do it again.