We MUST Help

Metro Atlanta has one of the fastest growing poverty rates in the United States, and that is unacceptable. MUST Ministries is an organization created to combat that statistic. They have been around for over 40 years and are now in eight counties.

The Elizabeth Inn shelter is one component MUST offers. When someone needs a place to lay their head, they come here. If they have had a job loss, have an addiction, or have lost everything, MUST restores hope and dignity, as well as provides a roof over their head. People are offered help with employment, education, and recovery meetings. I have had the privilege of volunteering there doing laundry, and the current residents were sweet and very grateful for the small thing I was helping with. They had been through so much, things I can’t even imagine, and MUST was there for them.

MUST has 3 food pantries that give away a ton of food per day, (not just a lot, but a whole ton.) The community kitchen feeds 150 people every day at lunch. Breakfast and dinner are served to 65 residents at the Elizabeth Inn shelter. Keeping up with this amount of need takes the whole community.

Speaking of food, MUST also serves lunch to 6,000 to 7,000 school age children every day in the summer. These are kids who would be getting a free lunch if they were in school, but summer means they go without. Our church helps several of the days each year. We provide sack lunches to deliver to the children’s neighborhoods. I have not delivered lunches, but I have heard about the joy. The kids run out to the vehicle when it pulls up, thrilled for a meal. I even hear about children saving part of their lunch for a sibling who doesn’t get one. Oh, my heart.

Clothes are given out to those in need each year, whether for a job interview or for growing children. There is also a program every Christmas where parents get to shop for gifts for their kids. What a relief a parent must feel when they can give their innocent child a gift at Christmas!

I don’t know about you, but it breaks my heart to think about kids going hungry. And things we take for granted, like clothes and Christmas presents, are not a given for many people. So many of these people are down the street from us or shop at the same grocery store and we don’t even know it.

In our family, we are huge fans of MUST, so I am donating $2 from each sale of my book to them this month. (As well as the other $2 going to our church.) Please help us fight poverty and give families hope and dignity.

To learn more about all MUST does, check out their website here.

If you are interested in a copy of my book, either paperback or Kindle version, it is available on Amazon here.

Whether you help by buying the book, praying for these families, or reaching out to someone you know who needs help, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you be richly blessed!

 

Linking with Holley Gerth.

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My Money Rule

There are times I feel like a little kid. I see something and I want it NOW! No, I don’t want to think about it. It should be mine.

That is why I make myself wait at least a day.

Over the years, I think I am learning more about money and, more specifically, not spending it all. There doesn’t seem to be a point where I can suddenly resist all advertising. A day has not happened where I woke up and decided I will never want again. (Wouldn’t that be fantastic?) I have to work at it. I have to be conscious of my tendencies. I have to be intentional.

So I make myself wait at least one day to see if the desire is passing. I think about it and figure out if I will really use this. Sometimes I question my motives for why I want this item. (Is it because other people have it, I think I am supposed to have it, or do I truly want it?) Look, maybe this is just me, but I can be a little flighty when it comes to purchases. Maybe I am feeling emotional that day. If I am feeling sad, happy, lonely, celebratory, or pretty much any emotion, I can justify that purchase.

In that moment, at least.

The next day, my emotions have most likely changed, and it wasn’t due to that purchase. It is more likely the emotions changed on their own or some other one pushed them out.

No one wants to wake up in the morning with regret. I have heard it said that we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. In financial matters, I think it is the opposite. We are much more likely to regret things we wasted money on than the times we walked away.

If I take the time to ponder it, I will make a better choice. When my head is clear and I still want it, (and it is something we can afford,) I go for it. Without regret.

The truth  here is that too many things are impulse buys that won’t change our lives. The only thing that will happen if we don’t buy that item is that we will have more money. I try to remember the excitement of a purchase is short lived and then my brain will be looking forward to the next buy. I don’t want to live like that.

Say it with me: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Linking with Holley Gerth

The M Word

Money. I know, I said it. Someone had to break the awkward silence.

Last week, I was asked if I would help other people with their finances. Me. I laughed and laughed. My book is about us learning to give more, but that doesn’t mean I know the first thing about money. Once I learned this was a serious request and that maybe God is calling me to this, (and stopped laughing,) I decided to push past my fears and do it.

Yeah, Satan sure doesn’t like us moving forward and especially not helping people. Something bad happened once I decided to go for it, and I heard a voice ask, “What makes you think you can help others with money?” I had fallen for his trap! When something had gone wrong, I was pulled back in time and couldn’t stop thinking about the past.

I have always had what I would call “money anxiety.” Since we started tithing years ago, it has gone down, but it is always there lurking. In my book, there is a title aptly called, “This is Not About Tithing.” For us, tithing was a good place to start, but we realized two years ago that it should never be the end. Giving ten percent back is a wonderful way to get our feet wet, but we are here to give more than ten percent of ourselves. In this chapter I said, “No one wants to talk about money. We talk around it or about the issues it creates, but not about how we should treat it.” These words have come back to me this week in a new way, and I want to keep facing the money issue head on. Until we do, we are letting money control us and not the other way around.

Once I realized Satan was trying to reel me back in with an old lie, I was able to move forward and remember this is not the end of my story. I mentioned above that I am prone to money anxiety. You know what keeps that at bay? Giving even more. When we kept money for ourselves, it gave us the illusion that we were in control of our money and therefore our lives. Giving money away is our way of acknowledging everything is in God’s hands. When we keep giving, it reminds us to keep the focus on Him and His will.

In the end, I was able to silence the voice in my head.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Save Your Finances with Gratitude

What is keeping us from spending less money? Our gratitude is low! It is all too easy to see a nicer version of something we have, (talking to you, iPhone 6,) and wishing we had it. We choose to look at what we want and not at what we have. It is crucial to change our focus to all the ways we are blessed.

How do we do that?

Start a gratitude jar. Think of all you have and write each item on slips of paper. Put the paper in the jar and take one out when you need a boost of thankfulness. Any time you think of something else, add it to the jar. Person, place, thing or idea: it all serves a purpose and has a place in your jar.

Keep a reverse gratitude journal. There are always thing you can be happy about, but what about the ones you see as bad? What about when life throws you a curve and you don’t know how you are going to handle it? Write it down with the date. I bet when you go back and look, you will see the good that came from it and possibly understand why it happened. This could monumentally change the way you see life!

Play the letter game. This is great as a family activity or by yourself. List all the things you are grateful for that all start with the same letter. We started a Youtube channel and just did a video talking about this. (Hopefully our videos will get better and longer with practice!) It is fun to go around and say things and play off each other.

When life gets overwhelming and you feel like everyone around you has more or better stuff than you, take a step back and breathe. Close your eyes and lean back if you can. Take back your gratitude. Without it, your joy is diminished and that is no way to live. Think about the present. Where you are and what surrounds you. The smells, the sounds, the feel of what is around you. If you are outside, is there a breeze? If you are at home, is something being cooked? Focus on being completely there and let everything else go, if only just for a minute.

Think about what you want and ask yourself questions. Will this make your life better? Will you be happier? Does this item enhance your relationships? Would owning this help others? We need to remember what really matters and focus on making those areas better. Our heart. Our family. Our faith. Others. The rest will not be important for longer than a minute, but these areas have eternal significance.

How do YOU keep your gratitude tank full?

Linking with Holley Gerth

An Intentional Christmas

The whole “Christmas is 10 days away” thing doesn’t bring me anxiety. Mainly it is because last year we decided to cut back. When we told the girls we were not giving each other gifts, but instead giving to those who needed it, there was no push back. They got enough from Santa, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

I don’t regret giving more. The only thing I regret is not starting intentional spending sooner. Once we saw that our lives were not any worse for spending less so we could give more, it was like all the pieces fell into place. This is why we are here. The point of life here on earth is not to collect everything and hoard it for ourselves, but to bless others with our time, gifts, and money.

Look back and see what you have bought for yourself. I am not talking in your life, but in the last month. Did that sweater bring you the joy that the same amount of money would bring a child you sponsored? Or will it be worn a few times and then donated and sold for a fraction of what you paid? What about the tech gadget you bought? Will you cherish it like a child from Guatemala would cherish a soccer ball? Most likely, it has become such a part of your normal life that you won’t really appreciate it and will “need” to replace it with the latest model sooner rather than later.

Yes, we all spend our money in different ways and these are just two examples. And there is nothing wrong with enjoying what God has given us. But I believe we have taken things too far and become selfish and hard hearted with our money. (I am included in this too!) Our fists close so tightly around our dollar bills that we have forgotten how to loosen our grasp.

This Christmas is a perfect time for a fresh start. We can become the giving and compassionate people we were created to be. We can free our souls from the entanglement of what the world says we should do.

If this is resonating with you, I encourage you to buy the book I wrote about our family’s experience with spending less so we can give more. It makes a great gift! Two dollars from every sale goes to our church, so it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Together, we can put a dent in the over commercialization of Christmas. None us need most of what we receive, but someone in our communities or around the world does. Let’s give them some of the bounty that God has given to us. Let’s honor Him by blessing others.

It will be a merrier Christmas than we have ever had.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Give More, More Freely

“I need that sweater.”

“I deserve a new car.”

Do you think we have misunderstood these words? I think that, unless we have no other shirts, maybe we don’t need that sweater. And, quite possibly, the car (or cars) we own still run. Working hard does not give us carte blanche to whatever we want.

Yes, we are all guilty of this entitlement behavior. (If you are shaking your head at me, let’s add lying to that list.) We may try to avoid it, but the attitude is so pervasive in our culture, it can be subtle and appear harmless.

I have really grown to dislike hearing people say they deserve something, yet I catch myself thinking it. It can be easy to justify a want and disguise it as a need. When I started my job in August, I bought myself a new water bottle despite the fact that we already own several. (But this one keeps the water ice cold and doesn’t sweat.) And I told my husband I need some new makeup for his work Christmas dinner. Good thing I sell it! I find myself so steeped in the “deserve” mentality, it takes constant work to break free from it.

You know what is helping me? Giving more, more freely. At first, this takes effort and intentionality. I don’t naturally want to give money away, but the more often I do this, the easier it becomes. It is so true that where your money goes, your heart will follow. The more I learn about struggles around the world, the clearer I see how much I already have. The more pain and suffering I see, the more I want to help.

When I put my money where my heart tells me, I begin to want it more. If I give to someone who has far less than me, the desire to keep helping begins to take over the desire to buy new things for myself. I find myself satisfied with what I have. Of course, I still want things, but giving keeps that in check.

Finding causes that break our hearts and bring out our passion is integral to coming out of the spending comas we are in. Some people have a heart for orphans, and that is so noble and admirable. I think my desire is to keep families together. So many fair trade companies employ women, which in turn allows them to keep their family intact. What a blessing I am given that I can be a part of that! I can help women have a paycheck and to keep their self-worth. I can help keep their kids fed, clothed, and safe.

That is my need. That is what I deserve. How about you?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Give Until It Feels Good

Spending used to be different in this house. Sure, we tithed and gave a little extra, but there was no burning desire to help people other than ourselves. We didn’t have a passion for hungry children or the mamas who couldn’t provide for them. God had to ignite that in us and then fan the flame into existence.

It wasn’t overnight.

We started by spending less on ourselves and giving a little more. We picked a child to sponsor in Africa. We became a little more free with our offering at church. Little by little, our money had less and less control over our family. Y’all, when that happens, it is the most exciting thing!

When your kids get into the idea of giving someone else their money, others are inspired. When you see a need and joyfully hand someone a five dollar bill, the person is blessed. When you know you already have what that person needs and give it to them without thinking, you may be changing their life.

When your life looks different, people notice.

Once you get on a roll, it becomes easier to keep giving. You know how good it is going to feel and how that little amount or that item or that service can change someone’s life. You begin to realize how much better it is to give and help someone than to buy something for yourself that you don’t need.

There is an expression, “give until it hurts.”  It sounds good, but that is a terrible way to think! We should give of what God has given us happily, because that is what we are here for. Thinking of giving in a negative, painful way only makes it worse. We should think of it in a positive way, such as, “Look at what I get to give! I have more than I need and want to bless someone else.” Framing it as “getting to” instead of “should” emphasizes the great power God has given us to use wisely.

Our family has been so blessed by giving more this past year! I wrote a book about our experiences with this, called Intentional Spending: Spending Less So Others Have More, and it is available on Amazon. Two dollars from every sale go to our church, NorthStar Church in GA. If you are feeling led to look at giving in a different way, I hope reading it will inspire you. If not, maybe you should buy it as a gift for someone you know who should give more. 😉

Giving may not come easily or naturally, but the rewards that come from it are so incredible, you will wonder why you didn’t start this sooner!

Linking with Faith Along the Way and Holley Gerth