The 40 Day Giving Challenge has concluded. Long ago, actually. I have had so much to say to you, but so little time to put my thoughts into writing. As you scroll down, I hope you are not overwhelmed at the length. This post is more like a seventeen-chapter novel than a catch-up blog. Forgive me. I just want to tell you so much and do not know how to be brief about it.
Life is back to its ordinary undertakings. Ordinary? Well, not so much. The word ordinary has been redefined in my world. It used to be a daily grind of ‘let’s see how many things I can do that benefit me.’ Before the challenge, “the daily grind” meant sleep as late as possible, make a mad dash out the back door to arrive at work within seconds of being on time, consume my day with me-centered activities, make decisions that positively affect only me and my close circle and go to bed, only to sleep as late as possible the next morning and cycle through again.
That has changed. “Ordinary” has taken on a new meaning. Don’t be mistaken, however; I do still have some SERIOUS trouble waking up when I should in the morning. Aside from that little tendency to hit snooze one or twelve more times, my day is much less about me and much MORE about Jesus and others. My prayer has consistently been, as John 3:30 says, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” This life is not about me. Christ should shine through so much that a mere shadow of us remains. The motive for the 40 Day Giving Challenge has always been Christ-centered, God-honoring and people-serving LOVE. This love showed itself through unexpected and sometimes unusual tasks that have trained my eyes, my ears, and my heart to take note of others’ needs and put them before my own.
I have learned much in this 40 Day Giving Challenge. Through this post, I hope to express to you all that I have taken from the experience of such intense focus on the needs of others.
So, where did this idea came from, you ask? On October 26th, the Young Women’s Bible Study of which I am a member, met at Mariah’s home for Prayer Night. It was our first time to convene for the sole purpose of community development and prayer. As my time for requests came around, I debated revealing my thoughts. The thoughts of selfishness and shame. Of a prideful heart that truly wanted to see passed myself, but was uncertain of just quite how to accomplish that. I had been studying Todd Phillips’ “Get Uncomfortable” and had been utterly rocked to the core at how much I lacked compassion for others. The bible study had given me a desire to help others. When I shared these thoughts with my core group of Sisters, our fearless leader did what she does best. Jenifer gave great advice and suggested a challenge that she had recently heard of: The 30 Day Giving Challenge.
So, why did you choose 40 days, Rebecca? I’m glad you ask. From the beginning, the concept originated as a habit-building routine. You know, 40 days makes or breaks a habit? Or so they say. Before I was aware of the specifics to the Giving Challenge that Jenifer suggested, I decided 40 would be my plan. I told Jessie, my fellow blogger and “Get Uncomfortable” study buddy, and she jumped onboard immediately. She was committed and we could not wait for November 1st to roll around. We shared ideas of how we might serve others, help others, love others and, ultimately, share Jesus with others. Her enthusiasm ignited a fire in me.
Though some days were more difficult than others, the passion stayed burning. The fire stayed lit and the enthusiasm remained high because of my dear friend, JRM. Jessie, you have been such a wonderful blessing in the last year and a half that we have built this friendship. You are an incredible woman of God and I so enjoy learning more and more about you and where you came from and how your mind works. You have been a beautiful encouragement to me in my walk with Christ. When times are tough, you make me laugh. When I get frustrated, you bring me back to what is important. And when I find myself out of my element, you remind that it should always be that way. Thank you for continuing on this journey with me and for putting up with all of my unconventional antics in the meantime.
Now that you know the birth of the challenge, what on earth have I taken from the 40 Day Giving Challenge? MUCH. That’s all there is to it. I could write, write and write but I think you would get bored with too much to read, read and read. Haha. (Input Stupid Sarcasm Here.) Although, I do hope to share with you just a snippet of my lessons learned.
#1 - I have been made aware that charitable prospects are everywhere. I mean, every way your head can swivel, at all hours of the day, to whoever you see and with whatever you have to give. While going through “Get Uncomfortable”, my prayer was that the Lord would open my eyes, let me see the world as He sees it and have a heart for the lost souls of the world. And He has come through. I have been made aware of circumstances and opportunities to give that have been right under my nose all along. Beforehand, I was shut off to them and now my heart seeks them out. I am struck by circumstances where people are without or saddened or abandoned.
My heart aches for those less fortunate, those who have no clean water to drink, without shelter in the blistering winter that is upon us, in impoverished countries who are oppressed and beaten down. And my heart aches for us. For Americans who put more value in the final score of a NFL Football game than we have the desire to help our neighbor in a time of need. For those of us who spend money incessantly, without regard to how the money might be better used to serve a food bank, a humanitarian organization or the single mom at the gas pump who’s pocketbook situation only allows her enough gas to get home for the night.
The ability to serve another is everywhere and always present, universally and in your own home. How will YOU take advantage of every day’s power to give? They are always there. You must be aware and be willing to act.
#2 – The impact of bestowing blessings upon others is huge, even immeasurable in many situations. Through this journey, I learned just how important it is to serve for the sake of loving people, not out of hopeful expectation for reward or recognition. As Galatians 5:13-15 says, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But do not use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” The blessings that others receive is far more immeasurable than the heap of joy I feel by being able to love others in that way. What is really neat about the whole experience is being able to in some small way bring a smile to another’s face. And without a doubt, more important than that smile, is that they see Jesus through me. Let me share lyrics to “Do They See Jesus In Me?” by Joy Williams. They are the perfect words I want to convey.
Do I show in the way that I walk in my life the love that you’ve given to me?
My heart’s desire is to be like you in all that I do, all I am
Do they see Jesus in me?
Do they recognize your face?
Do I communicate your love and your grace?
Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be?
Do they see Jesus, Jesus in me?
I want to show all the world that You are the reason I live and breathe
So You’ll be the one that they see when they see me.
I pray that others see Jesus in my actions and in my giving. I pray they see passed the visible exterior and see into a heart that loves the Lord and wants to be His ambassador. Not only wants to be, but IS.
Persisting onward, it is my hope that the 40 Day Giving brings comfort to those who are given to. I have learned that giving rarely ends in a solitary action. Many times, one act leads to a chain reaction. It may take the form of “paying it forward” with another act of kindness or sharing with others a story of being blessed. So, yes, the impact of giving is huge. I am only one in a battalion of thousands of women nationwide. But the ripple effects of each person’s kindness are felt in communities across the country. I hope that ongoing effect is still present in Bowling Green, where a handful of my closest comrades committed to The 30 Day Giving Challenge.
While here, it is worth mentioning my gals: Mariah Yates, Jenifer Lewis, Crystal and Alexis Strautman, Sara Lee Lohman, Sarah Howell and Jessie Mathieu. I want to say a special HUGE thank you to each of you who made this challenge such a joy. I have been so touched by each one of your influences in my life and I am a better person having known all of you. Thank you for being as wonderful as you are. And I cannot wait to see where God takes us on this race, whether separate or in ministry together. You are each a blessing and I love you.
#3 – A more heart-wrenching and valuable lesson which I have taken from the last 40 days is that I should be more aware of global needs that are yet to be met. Through the challenge, I have learned of the heartache and misfortune in countries around the world; from plagues of oppression and malnutrition to health crises, sexual exploitation and horrid government infrastructure. After completing one chapter of “Get Uncomfortable”, my eyes have been more open to the injustice and the many needs around the globe. Phillips asked his readers to watch a little new television or read the national newspaper for a week and be open to sharing with others the worldwide injustices that exist. This activity softened my heart to the terrible circumstances that others live in.
We are so blessed in the United States. I am not martyred for my love of Jesus Christ. I have a monthly paycheck that far exceeds what some make in a year’s time. I have a loving and healthy family to come home to. I have a clean bill of health, with no fear of a deadly virus or untreated illness. My home keeps me warm at night, while others are left to shiver in the cold of a dark night. With no effort or thought, I turn a knob for pure water, while 1,300 people die every 45 minutes because of a lack of clean water. My heart breaks for the injustice and oppression that exists, but mostly I am broken for the world’s need for a Savior. You need to know this Jesus and the love He has for you.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:1-10
While becoming more aware of the world’s condition, I was overjoyed to find ways to give of my time and resources to people who I may never meet in places I may never visit. Through the challenge, between Jessie and myself, we were able to reach out to Lilian and her family in Kenya, a less fortunate child who will have a happier Christmas through an Operation Christmas Child gift box, an Ethiopian woman named Mulu, people across the globe who are without pure water, those who profit through the World Food Programme’s rice donation and even US soldiers who are serving our country overseas. Even though the Challenge has concluded, the fabulous news is that many of these organizations and ways of contributing to others can continue on. My monthly WorldVision sponsorship of Lilian will remain in effect. Any time I want to grab a scarf at the local shop, I will go to Live FashionABLE instead. If I find myself without much of an agenda, I’ll slide over to World Food Programme to quiz myself and provide grains of rice.
After learning about the misfortunes of the world in a much more personal way, I have become empathetic, sympathetic and compassionate toward people in situations that are outside my bubble called comfort. Just because I do not see the problems with my own two eyes, up close and personal, does not mean the problems do not exist. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not true when God opens your eyes to these misfortunes. He has given me a heart to help meet the needs of people in far-off lands who are in much worse conditions than I can fathom.
#4 – I have also found the importance of community. Through the challenge, I was encouraged by so many people. Much came from women across the country who posted their ideas for service online, tweeted about their acts of kindness and just by committing to the challenge, knowing we were all serving and loving others together. Moreso, it was an incredible encouragement to have my Bowling Green and Hillvue Heights peers to share our stories of giving and to spur each other to more generosity and creativity in serving.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
Through the challenge, we spurred each other on toward love and good deeds in the name of Christ Jesus. Jenifer created a Facebook group that allowed us all to share our ideas, to partner together to make a greater impact on the community and to keep each other accountable for giving with a pure and Godly heart. In my happiest and my most distressed times, the community at Hillvue Heights Church has rejoiced with me, cried with me and most importantly, prayed with me. I have relied on my brothers and sisters at Hillvue to help me through some of the hardest times I have faced in my 24 years. They are much more than Sunday acquaintances; they are my sanity, comic relief, shoulder when I need to have a sad moment, dance partners through three recent weddings, poke-pins when I need to be brought back to reality, alter buddies and my fellow Puerto Vallarta regulars, tailgaters, hockey lovers, concert fiends and camping fuzzies. Need I continue on? They are family. Each of us brings something different and dysfunctional to the perfectly arranged puzzle called community.
I have learned to appreciate how meaningful and great it is to have friends as dear as they are to me. It is so important to serve alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ, to bear each others’ burdens and to rejoice in times of happiness. They have made this journey through life much more enjoyable and much easier.
I have taken the last 40 days to grasp and appreciate how blessed I am. As I reflect, I hope you do the same. Think to how you can be a powerful force for the Kingdom of God. Pray for the availability and passion to be used by Him for His good works. I hope you have been somehow impacted or encouraged by the kindness of others and through mine and Jessie’s transparency in blogging. It is amazing what God can reveal to you when you are open to seek and listen.
Big, big thanks to my faithful readers and those visiting for the first time. To my posse of women who travel this journey alongside me. And for all the prayers and the amazing encouragement you all have been to me from the beginning.
“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:28
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:9-10
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