Be bold in asking. Be bold in giving.

I was a very shy, quiet little girl. My favorite place was clinging to the back of my mom’s leg. As I grew and aged, my voice slowly became a little louder, a little bolder. Fast forward to becoming a Sole Hope Ambassador, finding out that we were to organize and run a Walkathon nearly sent me into a panic. I would have to put myself out there and ask people to join us, for donations, to help. But I did, and they came. They lovingly came, and walked and donated.

When I heard about the devastation to the community in Far Rockaway, NY and how Full Gospel Tabernacle was helping the community, I put out a very simple request to friends to help by donating food pantry items, new toys for the kids for Christmas and monetary donations. And again, for some reason, I felt that uneasiness of reaching out and asking people to help. But again, they lovingly and happily donated.

And look at their generosity! Bags overflowed with new toys for the kids, food, paper products, wipes for their food pantry, and donations that will hopefully help Full Gospel Tabernacle buy a refrigerator and help build an indoor food pantry. I know this shouldn’t surprise me, but I’m amazed by the generous and loving hearts of my friends to help strangers in need.

Gifts for Full Gospel Tabernacle, Far Rockaway NYGifts for Full Gospel Tabernacle, Far Rockaway NY

And I’ve learned it’s good to be bold. Be bold in asking. Be bold in giving.

My adopted life verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:19 “Do not quench the Spirit” (or my favorite translation, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire”). I need constant reminder and reassurance of this. When God calls me to do something, even if it means stepping outside of my comfort zone, when the Holy Spirit puts that fire in my belly, I need to listen. I shouldn’t let my fears of failure, my pride, allow me to quench that fire. The Spirit has equipped me so that I can be bold. And when it’s coming from God, it’s not about me, it’s about Him. So why take it personally? This photo below acts as the wallpaper for my phone, so I’m constantly reminded, Be bold. Do not quench the Spirit’s fire.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Help Full Gospel Tabernacle (Far Rockaway, NY) help their community

Remember Hurricane Sandy? Not that long ago, but for many of us, we’ve moved on. Maybe you lost power, maybe you were unaffected. But we’ve had Halloween, The Election, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, etc since the storm. Life has continued for many.

But the devastation is still very real.

In the sermon today, our pastor said that besides food and safety, people need to feel a sense of belonging and significance/love. That reminded me of what Full Gospel Tabernacle in Far Rockaway, NY is providing for their community. They are personifying God’s love and building their sense of community by providing food/goods while loving and caring for the needs of their neighbors.

Step 1: Watch this BET video featuring Rev. Vega from Full Gospel Tabernacle. I could not get the video to embed, but you can watch it here. Here are a few of my less than stellar screenshots…(clicking on each image will also launch the video).

Rev. Jorge Vega

This sweet woman is 95 years old, and has been without power since the Hurricane. Thanks to the generous folks of Full Gospel Tabernacle, she has food and blankets to sustain her. And better yet, she has loving church family to check in on her.

Taking “the church” outside the four walls and loving their neighbors. People have generously given, and the church members are working tirelessly to distribute everything to the rest of the community.

Step 2: Monetary donations are needed! Funds are desperately needed to help get Full Gospel’s food pantry up and running. Right now, they are running the food pantry outside so they need money to buy a new refrigerator, cabinets to store food, stock up on food, etc.

Send checks (made out to Full Gospel Tabernacle) to:

Full Gospel Tabernacle
361 Beach 42nd St
Far Rockaway, NY 11691-1208

(718) 327-2221

Step 3: Host a Holiday Drive for Full Gospel Tabernacle and their community

Items needed:

  • New toys: As you stock up on toys for your own children for Christmas, consider buying a few for kids who lost everything. All ages are needed, boys and girls. Dolls, books, backpacks. Nothing violent. And remember that this is a predominantly African-American community, so please attempt to represent the population, especially with doll purchases. Get your kids involved and make cards to go along with each toy purchased. Let the recipients know how much they are loved!
  • Food & Home supplies: Soups, beans, Canned Fruits and Vegetables, Rice, Diapers, wipes, paper towels, etc

If you live in the Boston area, please email me. I will be collecting items to give to Rev. Vega’s family members who will be delivering everything on December 15. Otherwise, mail service is up and running in Far Rockaway, so feel free to mail checks and packages directly to them.

Please help. Your gifts will directly impact a community that is rebuilding.

Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party with our church family

I have a church crush.

I tell friends (incessantly) and strangers alike about how much I love our church, Grace Chapel. God is alive in this church – in the people, in the worship, in the serving, in the ministries. Want to experience it? Come with me anytime. I’ll save you a seat.

Since Grace is a large church, they encourage deeper relationships through Life Communities. We were able to join one for a few years when the boys were younger, but had to stop when their bedtime changed. So when I heard from our Life Community that they wanted to have a Sole Hope shoe cutting party, I was giddy! Not only do I get to see our church family, but we get to put our hands and hearts to use and create shoes for kids in Uganda!

       

It was at the end of a very long day, but they showed up. They gave of their time. Their energy. Their financial donations so the women who sew the shoes will be fairly compensated. People stayed late just to make sure we had complete pairs!

We made a goal to complete 10 pairs of shoes in the hour. (Everyone needs a goal, right?) But God is good. We completed 15 pairs! Fifteen children will be protected from jiggers. Women will have jobs and an income to feed and care for their families.

All this in about an hour.

Thank you Sole Hope for delivering these shoe pieces to Uganda. It gives me such great joy to know these shoes will protect children and provide jobs.

Thank you friends for your incredible generosity and hard work.

Want to host a Shoe Cutting Party? Email me (givetodayblog@gmail.com) and I can help get your started!

Dear Mom in Target with the Screaming Little Boy

Dear Mom in Target with the Screaming Little Boy,

You’re awesome. You deserve a medal for making it out the door with your 3 young boys. I’m sure you had many battles this morning before you even left the house. I can imagine the pit in your stomach when you had to hunt for one of the very few shopping carts that had three seats. (Seriously Target, you should really have more of these. If a parent is willing to leave the house with 3 young kids, we choose where we are going based on who has carts that can fit all of our kids. The thought of getting your kids from the car to store, and realize you have to turnaround and hunt one of these carts down in the busy parking lot – with kids – will bring a mother to tears. But I digress…)

Your son had clearly lost it. I heard him screaming from the other side of the store as I checked out. Every time I thought he was going to let up, he screamed and kicked even harder. But you held it together. You spoke calmly to him. You didn’t waver.

Parents throw around the phrase “We’ve all been there”. It often comes off patronizing. But I want you to know that when I looked at you, it was not in a judgmental way. I looked to see how I could help. My eyes darted around, maybe a People Magazine would cheer her up? Maybe I can help put her bags in her car? I wanted to say something encouraging, but I know when the tables are turned, if someone spoke to me in that same situation, I wouldn’t have the energy to be polite. Or I probably would lose it and start crying along with my child.

I wanted to tell you that you’re amazing. No one was judging you. There is no reason to be embarrassed. There is no reason to worry about what anyone else around you is thinking. What your child is communicating right now has nothing to do with your parenting skills. How YOU are reacting to it shows just how great a parent you are.

And as I write this to you, Mom-I-don’t-know, I also write this to myself. To remember the next time one of my 3 loses it in public.

Do not grow weary and lose heart.

Love,

Stranger at Checkout 8

(source)

The day I yelled at God

I went to bed discouraged, hurt, upset. I’ll spare you the details of why, which is best since it’s not important and I’ll soon forget. Although it was late, I was looking forward to waking up before the rest of the house, to take a walk and have it out with God.

The alarm went off and it was still dark. But off I went down our road, yelling at God.

Turn on a busy road, and I notice how much busier it is at 6am during the week than on the weekend. I felt thankful I was out in the fresh air and not on my way to work. But I quickly shoved that thankfulness away and went back to yelling.

Then I came up on our town cemetery and saw this…

…and was quickly reminded at how awesome God is. Awe-some. And then a song from our last church service popped into my head. “Our God is bigger, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.”

God was so much bigger than my little problems. If he can make the sky look like this, if he can raise the sun every morning, He can heal my heart.

But the anger and hurt wasn’t fully gone. I kept walking. I switched from yelling to pouring out my heart. Then He told me “it’s not about you, it’s about me”. My prayer has been that God will use me to reach others, to help others. It’s why I started this blog. But I needed that reminder that’s it’s not about me. It’s about Him.

And then I turned a corner, literally and figuratively. And saw this…

Down a long, broken road, there was God. I was walking through my day, looking down at my feet and the cracks below them. So focused on the little things, the things that weren’t going the way I wanted them to. But the whole time I needed to lift my eyes and see this majesty.

From that moment of the walk, my heart was filled with gratitude.

I came back by the cemetery I passed an hour prior, and all was clear. And crisp. No more darkness.

And I felt peace.

The last mile home, my life verse came to mind. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Amen.

How America Gives (hint, Massachusetts needs to step it up)

Yesterday, my friend* passed along the article New England: The Least Charitable Part of the Entire Country (by Dave Eisenberg), based on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s How America Gives Report.

New England: The Least Charitable Part of the Country

(Image source BostInno.com.

But check out Chronicle of Philanthropy, How America Gives for the interactive version.)

Massachusetts residents give 2.8% of their income, ranking 48th! Not even 3%. Whereas folks in Utah lead the way by giving away an average of 10.6% of their income.

This makes me so sad. Massachusetts is in my blood. I was born here. Raised here. And after a few adventures across the country, now live here again.

But 2.8%?? Really?

Why do we give such a small percentage of our income? The Chronicle of Philanthropy reviewed their data to try to uncover factors that contribute to giving. I highly recommend the article (read it here). A few of their findings: the rich aren’t always the most generous, red states give more than blue, take advantage of a tax incentive, and (my favorite) religion has a huge impact on giving generously.

Religion has a big influence on giving patterns. Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.

America’s Generosity Divide

My favorite biblical lesson about why it is more important to give a large percentage rather than a large amount of your money is the Widow’s Offering.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

What I love about this is that the amount given is not what is important, it is the percentage. It is the widow’s intention. It is her generous heart to give all that she had because she wanted to. She was a cheerful giver that was not required to give, she was not reluctant to give, but gave freely.

So how do we change our hearts so we desire to give to help others?

*thanks Carl!