Give, and Give Abundantly

I have mentioned that I come from a family heritage of generous folk. I am thankful that was instilled in me and I have been able to see the blessing that comes in holding loosely to what God gives you.

I also will openly admit that I really like THINGS and struggle with wanting more things all the time, but I pray to frequently be called to mind that I am blessed beyond measure already and to "give as it has been given to me" (Luke 6:38).

If you are like me, end of year doesn't call to mind "have to give now to help out my taxes" -- end of year calls to mind (like every other end of month) "please let us make it a few more days until the paycheck comes in". But you MAY be thinking of places you would like to give MORE next year. If so, this is a great list of the 10 Most Fiscally Responsible Charities. Several of these hold a very special place in my heart.

Compassion International is a wonderful organization that changes children's lives worldwide. I am pleased to see that they are considered to be fiscally responsible. For the cost of 1 family's meal eating out per month, a child's life could be changed forever. Definitely worth looking into.

International Rescue Committee is an organization that places refugees in safe homes in a new country. I had an opportunity to interview our local office, and my heart really went out to the refugees who are starting completely over. Again, happy to hear that they are fiscally responsible since they do so much good.

World Vision also has opportunities to sponsor children, and does much more beyond that internationally. A great organization to donate to.

Of course, there are many local organizations that deserve your money and may be dearer to your heart. The important thing is to give and give generously!

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38


Sportsmanship of the Decade

Last week I stumbled across this list of acts of sportsmanship over the last decade. Many of them I had heard of when they happened -- and they made me cry the first time and this time, as well. Of course, I had to point these out to my athlete-children, and I hope you will to yours, as well. I don't include all of them, here, only my favorites:

April 26, 2008: In the top of the second inning, Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit a pitch over the left field fence with two runners on against Central Washington, for whom a loss would mean elimination from a possible NCAA Division II playoff berth. But when Tucholsky rounded first base, she accidentally missed the bag. As she doubled back to touch it, her cleats stuck in the ground and she tore the ACL in her right knee.
While Tucholsky writhed on the ground in pain, the umpires consulted the rule book and declared that if any of her teammates aided her around the bases, she would be called out. Central Washington's senior first baseman, Mallory Holtman, her school's career leader in homers who was facing her final collegiate game if her team were to lose, had an idea: She would help her opponent round the bases. Holtman locked eyes with shortstop Liz Wallace and the two of them picked up Tucholsky and carried her, dipping the stricken runner at each base so she could touch the bag and complete the home run that she had rightfully earned.

November 7, 2008: Grapevine Faith, a small Christian school in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, was hosting an unusual opponent: Gainesville State School, a maximum-security correctional facility for teenaged male felons. Gainesville plays all of its games on the road, and its students, who arrive in handcuffs, use old equipment. Grapevine Faith's coach, Kris Hogan, created a welcoming environment by splitting his school's fans and cheerleaders into nearly equal groups. When Gainesville's players got off their bus, they were greeted with a 40-yard spirit line and a "Go Tornadoes" banner for them to run through at the end. Their designated "fans" even cheered them by name. Faith won, 33-14, but Gainesville's players raved about their treatment. In the postgame prayer circle, one said, "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank you, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
Extended article here (amazing).

October 15, 2005:
Mount Gilead High sophomore Van Houten shot 144 over two rounds to win the Ohio Division II golf tournament by six strokes. After signing his scorecard, however, Van Houten double-checked his rounds and realized that he had recorded the 10th hole one stroke better than he had actually scored. For Van Houten, this meant that he had had actually defeated the field by five strokes, rather than the six he was credited for. The stroke in question would have no bearing on the competition, only on Van Houten's conscience, so he reported the error even though he knew that a card signed with an incorrect score disqualifies the player. Thus, Van Houten lost the tournament and his state title.

February 7, 2009: The basketball teams at Milwaukee Madison (Wisc.) and DeKalb (Ill.) high schools were scheduled to meet, but earlier that day Madison's senior captain, Johntel Franklin, lost his mother to cancer. Franklin's coach, Aaron Womack Jr., planned to cancel the game, but Franklin insisted that his team play,and appeared at the gym in the second quarter, directly from the hospital. Womack called timeout so his players could greet their grieving teammate. Franklin asked if he could play, but his name and uniform number had not been entered into the scorer's book. Doing so would cost his team a technical foul. DeKalb asked the referees to overlook the rule, but they insisted on following the book. DeKalb's coach, Dave Rohlman, asked for a volunteer to take the free throws. McNeal shot the ball two feet. His second shot didn't go even that far. Madison's players and the crowd stood and applauded. Once the game resumed, Franklin scored 10 points and helped Madison to a 62-47 win. "I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

Now that we have had to be inundated with Tiger's off-course activities and too many other sports atrocities, it is so nice to see young people in sports acting so honorably on the courts and fields.


Good Things Out There

Why didn't I ever think of this? I've never needed it, but I've heard of so many sad stories of lost cameras at Disney World, on airplanes, etc. This is a great idea to avoid that mishap.

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Christmas, Poppa Max Style

As I consider the upcoming holidays, I would love to write an article about slowing down, enjoying this time of year, and remembering the reason for the season. The reality is that by the time this article is published I will be eating Tums as a regular meal, darting from one activity to another as a crazed woman with her hair aflame, and I will probably be on my way to a party that I resent needing to attend and coughing up money for a gift I didn’t exactly agree to give but am expected to contribute to. The rut is too deep, the habits too engrained, and I know myself too well. This will be a season of running and rushing and spending. So, instead of trying to take some things OUT of the season, I have decided to add TO the season.

As my family gathers this year for Christmas, there will be a very large hole. My grandfather, who we referred to as Poppa Max, finished his 90 years on this earth this year and is celebrating around the throne of Him whose birth we celebrate. My grandfather was a big man, in stature as well as personality. His absence this season will be tangible. So, to honor his memory, I have decided to add some things into my holiday season to make it Christmas, Poppa Max style:
1. I will take an active part in spreading some of the magic of the holidays. Not only was my grandfather a physically large man, he had an enormous bass voice. As our family gathered on Christmas Eve, he would make phone calls to some of our pre-school aged friends as Santa Claus. Many were left in speechless wonder. Maybe I will jingle some of Santa’s bells outside a doubting child’s bedroom window; maybe I will give some of my younger friends reindeer food for them to sprinkle on their lawn on Christmas Eve; maybe I will help Santa respond to some of his mail. I will do something to spread the magic of this season this year.
2. I will remember Christmas for “the least of these”. Under my grandparent’s tree, there was always a gift for a Down’s Syndrome gentleman that is my parents’ age that attends the same church. Sometimes a record, sometimes a new coloring book, it was always a very tiny something to let Mitchell know there was a family that loved him. I will look around and see folks that others may not notice and just let them know that there is someone that loves them.
3. I will give and give some more. Giving was not a holiday exercise for my grandfather, it was his attitude and way of life. I will give in secret throughout the year – just a little secret between my Poppa Max and me.
4. I will laugh and laugh loudly. With his enormous voice, Poppa Max also had a grand laugh that filled the room. During the holiday season, it came quite easily, so tickled was he to be surrounded by family. I will put aside spending concerns and scheduling conundrums at least once a day to laugh with my family. I will let them know that my joy in their presence cannot be contained and I must laugh.

I think we all look back at folks who have made Christmas magical and special for us in the past and are no longer with us to celebrate. May you find something in those memories to share with others, spreading the magic and laughing all the way.
(originally posted 12/18/07)


"He Had in Mind to Divorce Her Quietly"

I am part of a faith that for years ignored Christmas. Yes, ignored Christmas. The reasoning was that we celebrated Jesus' birth every day, so we shouldn't make any day more important than the other. I never got that -- the rest of the world is finally talking about the birth of our Savior and we're going to ignore it? Huh?

I actually grew up in a "liberal" church and had a rebel Christmas tree in the building and everything. But only in the last few years have I really been enjoying the true focus of the season. We have had Christmas services -- no, we still don't have service ON Christmas or Christmas Eve, we have to go elsewhere for that, and my family does -- but we have services centered around that blessed event of the birth of our Savior. I'm so glad.

Since I've been a mother, the part about Mary has really gotten to me, and now that my daughter is approximately the age we think Mary was at the time she gave birth (Ashley is almost 14, we think Mary was 14 or 15) I just am haunted by what that must have been like, and think of Mary and her obedience.

This scripture really gave me pause this weekend:

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18,19

I don't know how long it was between Joseph making that decision to "divorce" (break the engagement) Mary and the angel showing up, but I would venture a guess that Mary was aware that Joseph wasn't pleased with the situation, and at least had the honor to keep publicly quiet about it.

I wondered how out of control she must have felt, how she must have wondered what crazy road God was dragging her down when nothing was going as she thought it would, and she probably felt very alone.

Of course, all of that is complete speculation. But I do suspect there may be a grain of truth in there somewhere.

And I wonder do we ever feel out of control, wondering what crazy road God is dragging us down, nothing going like we think it should, feeling very alone on this earth -- when the author of creation has The Plan engraved on His palm? When He who loves us more perfectly than we can know has us in His hand?

Yes, I think that must happen all the time. This Christmas, may you know Him and His perfect love for you.


He's a Texas Boy

Waking the kids for a holiday-schedule at church, I pointed out how nice it was that they got to sleep late enough for the sun to be up.

"Isn't that great? The sun is already shining! Riley, you need to wear your long pants."

"What's the weather?"

"It's 32*

"Then the sun isn't shining. It's just for decoration."

I'll take that kind of decoration! If it must be 32*, please let the sun be out! What about you? 32* and cloudy, 32* and sunny, or please don't make me live where it ever gets 32*?


Good Things Out There

This is a very inspiring post about not overindulging during the holidays. Be it food or money issues, this is a great read.

John does a great job of summing up the deal with Facebook and privacy settings. Somewhere along the way, I accidentally got it right. Thanks for this post, John.

If you know me personally just a little bit, you know that I really drag through the winter. I can tell this winter will be rough since it got cold earlier than usual this year here. I came across these tips that I think really hit home. I encourage you to check them out, too.

If you only read one of these, make it this one. Remember that not everyone is having a holly jolly Christmas. And don't forget in our busyness to stop and take a moment to lift up those that are struggling.

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Best quote and summation I've seen in a while:

"Hey Facebook users: stop pretending your data is protected from prying eyes. It’s all in the open. You can try to complain, but you can’t fight city hall. Better just to let it go, and embrace Facebook for what it is: the biggest bathroom wall in the world, and one that anyone can write on and that everyone can see."


More Good Things

I don't know if I'm being supremely lazy or thoughtful lately, but there is much out on the internet that I long to share with you! Too much for yesterday's "Good Things" so it has run over. (I guess if I were smart I would save some for next week, but I'm not)

I have mentioned my friend Jana many times before. Love her. A woman whose inner beauty is perfectly reflected on the outside. She had this to say on facebook to new grads (she teaches college, so some graduated this weekend). Feel free to pass it along because it is golden wisdom that is hard to come by:

Message to new grads: Finding God's will is not geography; it's not some dot that you have to get to & if not, your life will be ruined. It is about who you are & about making decisions informed by what pleases God. Do what pleases God, and you will be in His will. Are you taking the "right" job? Are you marrying the "right" person? Take the job, marry the guy/gal, and please God in those choices. I would have been relieved to know that 20 years ago. I thought there might be one "right" job and years later, one "right" person. Looking back, I know that I could have pursued a number of paths. The point was not geography; God's will was honoring him, no matter where the choices led me. And that, my friends, is the very good news for the newest graduates here, and for all of us, really.


The next good thought is too long to copy and paste here. You must go over and read here. If you have had a thought about money in the last week, go read. No, really. I'm not kidding. I'll even let you enter those free giveaways at Dave Ramsey, but you still need to read this if you have had any thoughts about money. Seriously.

And there is much more. But I will try and actually write something for you to think about. Wow. What if I wrote something that someone ELSE said to "go read". Yeah, it's been known to happen, but not lately. 'Cause, see? You have to do some actual writing first! True that.

Happy Monday to all and to all... the happiest of Mondays!


Good Things Out There

I know I have talked much about Dana and Brian. Humor me one more. Whitney, the talented sister-in-law photographer, wrote beautifully about it from her point of view. Check it out.

This is just like my friend Vann and his wife, Susan. Love this story.

This article talks about something I have really wanted to say FOR YEARS but haven't been brave enough. The linked blog also has a lot of good information.

If you drink bottled water because you think it's cleaner than tap, read this. Yikes.

I have seen this written by Mike Cope. He recorded it not too long ago. It still touches my heart. We may have quarters in stockings this year -- for several reasons...

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The GiveAways! The Bloggy Giveaways!!

For. The. Love! These bloggy folks are outdoing themselves in the giveaways here at the end of the year and I will confess that I am spending no small amount of time frolicking to and fro flitting from blog to blog entering some contests.

First, I started here to enter to win an HP TouchSmart computer thingy-joober. If I win it, I will be sure to know what the official name is, but it is just WAY COOL!! Check it out!

Also, Dave Ramsey, financial guru extraordinaire, is having various daily giveaways all through the month of December. I feel certain I just missed my phone call that I won the $3,000 cash. But that means I can still enter! You know you want to enter, too!

As I mentioned, I'm having a hard time finding some holiday spirit. I think today may be the day. Maybe. I MIGHT buy a Christmas present today. But I just saw that the UT head coach got his salary bumped from $3 million to $5 million. Maybe I'll just ask him to buy Christmas for my family.

We had a funny discussion at the table this week: worst Christmas gift ever received, and you couldn't mention any given by anyone sitting at the table! :-) I couldn't think of one, honestly, and I can't out the others because, virtually, you are all now sitting at the table...

What about you -- worst Christmas gift ever received? Spill it!


Prayers for the Day

(sighing as I begin...)

Some of you may want to know "how was the funeral" -- it was awful and it was beautiful. It was lovely and amazing and painful and heartwrenching. All that you would expect. If you were there, you know. If you weren't, my apologies, but my words can't do it justice.

I can sum up -- over 700 people attended in a room designed for about 500. Dana, Brian's very brave and beautiful wife, felt called to speak, and did so eloquently and with grace. Most people's reaction is, "...HOW???" The only answer I have to that is, "By the grace of God." The same way she will put one foot in front of the other for many years to come. Dana spoke beautifully of their love for each other and their love for the Lord. She thanked both sets of parents for how much they had helped in their time of need. She didn't say this outright, but alluded to it and made me think -- don't wait until it's too late to honor and appreciate your spouse. Tell them now what s/he means to you.

Pray for Dana, and Rian, and Rhea, and Reid and all of us that are struggling through the pain of losing a dear and precious man.

In my Immanuel book, I came across a prayer that many of you may already be familiar with, that I love dearly. She refers to it as "The Breastplate of St. Patrick". You will find that in many different forms on the internet, but this small portion is a beautiful prayer to pray:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, light of my life.

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Then, Vann posted another beautiful prayer on his blog. I think if you pray the one above frequently, it will make the one below easier to pray.

Deliver me, Jesus, from the desire to be praised,
honored, glorified, preferred, consulted, or approved.
Deliver me, Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated,
criticized, forgotten, ridiculed, maltreated, and
from the fear of what others will think.
O Jesus give me the grace to desire: that others
would be loved and esteemed ahead of me,
that in the eyes of the world they would increase
while I decrease, and praised while I pass by
unnoticed; that others would be preferred in all
situations; that others would become more than
myself -- in order that I would be as holy as You
want me to be. -- Charles de Foucauld

And, today, praying that you are blessed beyond measure.

Tomorrow, I promise to LIGHTEN UP around here! I do have some fun things to take care of on the old blog, and some other fun things to talk about. But, I honestly need you to help me find my holiday spirit. What can I do to find some holiday spirit?


Good Things Out There

Leigh is the most fun ever. She is also a precious woman of God. I love this blog. It challenged me on many levels. Thanks, Leigh.

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Thank You For Asking!

Needing to get out of town for Brian's funeral, but the kids wanting to stay here for church activities, I started calling around getting my kids squared away with church folks who are neighbors and have kids our kids' ages.

Thankfully, I didn't have to make too many calls -- people were very willing to help. But the second call I made totally blew me away. I told her what I needed: my child to spend the night at her house on a school night, some transportation for both of my children the night before, and some transportation for one of my children on a school morning. A Monday morning, at that.

This precious saint, like the other, said, "Oh, absolutely, I would be happy to help you out." But what she said after that really blew me away. "I'm honored that you would ask me. Thank you so much for asking me."

Um, seriously? Well, you are so welcome to be asked to be inconvenienced.

But on a small scale I know what she means. I hate to hear sometimes that someone needed help and I wasn't aware of it to help. So, indeed, I'm thankful to know when people are willing to let me help -- but to go so far as thanking them for asking me? Well, why wouldn't I?

I will certainly do that from now on. Have YOU ever thanked someone for asking you for help?

I also need your help -- Good Things Out There for tomorrow. Lay it on me. What's the best of the internet this week? Preferably blogs, but any good writing, thinking, or inspiration you can find. What do you think?


Grieving, As One With Hope, Is Still Painful...

These are my friends Brian and Dana. How cute are they?Here is Brian with their three kids. Also precious.
These beautiful pictures were taken by Dana's sister-in-law, Whitney, who has this photography business that captures life stories that make you want to squeeze your family. Thank you, David (Dana's brother/ Whitney's husband), for letting me steal these off of your facebook page without your permission or knowledge. :-)

Brian lost his valiant fight with cancer this morning. I have so much to say about it that I will say very little. Brian was tough as nails and gentle with those babies.

Troy grew up with Dana. I've known her since she was in college and Troy and I first got married. Almost 20 years, I guess. She and Brian were dating then, I think. We all wondered if it would last -- young love, you know. Troy was supposed to sing at their wedding, but came down with the flu, so Riley was my date. Riley was about 5 weeks old, a little butterball of a date that drooled on me through the night.

Dana is my friend that we can not talk for months and when we see each other cut right to the core and talk about real things. When Brian was first diagnosed with cancer and had gone through horrific treatment and was in remission, I was in town for a day or two and Dana came to where I was after she got off work (nurse).

It was late -- 8 or 9 p.m. before she got there. We talked long and hard about what our lives had been like recently -- Brian initially battled cancer the same year Troy and I fought to put our marriage back together. When she finally went to leave, we weren't even all the way talked out, but we both had children to be nice to at some point. She was out on the driveway leaving -- and threw the newspaper back to me. It was 4:30 in the morning and the next day's paper had already come. That's how caught up we were getting. It still makes me smile.

I am so thrilled for where Brian is now, but I have hurt so much to know what life has been like for Dana -- and what it will be like for her from now on.

1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 says:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

No, I do not grieve as one with no hope, but I do indeed grieve. My heart hurts and I am very sad. Holding onto hope and praying peace for Dana and all of the family.


Money Saving

Just a quick stop in today to tell you how to save some dollars! Heaven knows we could all use some dollar-saving here at Christmas time!

I have been into couponing out of necessity, as have some of you.

I do subscribe to Grocery Game. It's a pay service and can save you at least as much as your subscription cost. There are pros and cons, and I would be happy to answer any questions about it.

I happened across Couponing 101, which is free and has almost as much information as the pay site. Big thumbs up.

Keeping the Kingdom First is another good blog about living frugally.

If you want to do much online shopping for Christmas, you will want to know about Want Not. Lots of good deals. Updated ... hourly it seems. Crazy deals, she has.

That's all I've got for now. What about you? Julie is over there finding crafty blogs. Are you finding good blogs? Are you finding ways to be frugal? What are you up to these days?


Advent Season/ Conspiracy

Um, well, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry December to you.


I have been a bit absentee. Have you noticed? No, probably not.

I will tell you -- I am heavy hearted. Much going on that is just too much for my heart to carry. So glad that sweet little baby was born over 2,000 years ago and promised he could carry it for me, 'cause I simply can't.

One precious daddy we know is at death's door -- the oldest of his 3 children in first grade. I cannot make it make sense, though I have begged God to do it (I can stand anything, go through anything, as long as it is logical to me). God refuses to have it make sense to me, but he has assured me He is in it -- there with that family holding them close. Please pray for the White and Scott families.

Other situations swirl my head and weigh my heart down, but I am happy to hand them over to the Lord.

As we enter into a time of Advent-- that the dictionary defines as "an arrival or coming, especially one which is awaited" -- I have been studying this book by Ann Spangler. Immanuel: Praying the Names of God Through the Christmas Season. I went through it once a few years ago and simply loved it. It is a precious reminder of what this time of year is for and the One who we worship through it all. I highly recommend it.

And, thanks to our youth minister, I have been reminded of the Advent Conspiracy campaign.
Spend less. Give more. Worship fully. Love all. Now I could get into that.
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