Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Giving, Oh the Blessings You'll Receive

Part of the experience of giving is learning to receive and appreciate your own blessings. In fact, by giving more, whether it be purchased gifts, service to a sister or brother, or even a random act of kindness, it opens your eyes to what you have and are able to share. It gives you more appreciation for the special things in life.

Before you roll your eyes and say “not again,” I want to share one more thought on the 29-day giving challenge that I signed up for and have been writing about on this blog the last few posts.

Throughout the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker, Cami kept saying that her life turned around and that she was receiving more blessings. I presumed she was already being blessed, but that through her giving she was able to more clearly see and appreciate those blessings. But now it’s happening with me too; I’m receiving more blessings. So could it be true? That you are actually blessed more abundantly when you give more?

I have been the recipient of some amazing gifts since starting this challenge.

  • Shortly after beginning the challenge, I was able to get a new computer for an amazingly incredibly small amount of money.  Not the type of gift that falls into your lap every day. 
  • A friend brought me some delicious homemade Thai curry chicken puffs that were out of this world delicious.
  • Kingwood Garden Center blessed me with the gift of plants and supplies needed for a Girl Scout troop beautification project, of which I’m the troop leader.
  • And there’s many more, like dinner and a Kingwood Pops concert with my Dad, and a "many hugs" mother’s day spent in the park with family.

I’ve always felt blessed and very fortunate, and it does feel like lately it is even more so. I guess it just takes one look to the Bible at Luke 6:38 to know it's true.

But the biggest joy I receive is to see a smile light someone’s face, or happiness sparkle in their eyes, and know that somehow I am partly responsible.  Today is my last day of the 29-day giving challenge, but I don’t plan to stop. Rather, I hope to make this more and more a part of my life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learning to Give

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that I recently posted a review on the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker (read that review here), and that I subsequently signed up for the 29 gifts challenge myself. I am now 2 weeks into that challenge and I’d like to share some observations and thoughts.

First off, the challenge hasn’t proven to be life changing or anything drastic like that. At least not so far. But what it has done is helped me to realize two things. First, I discovered that I already was a giver (albeit small gifts typically). It didn’t take long into the challenge to realize my gifts tend to be things I do for people, rather than items purchased and gifted. Like preparing or sharing a special dinner, or doing things for people (typing, giving small change when needed, taking time to spend with loved ones, etc.).

Secondly, it has helped me open my eyes and to look more for opportunities to gift and give. While I still need help in this area and sometimes I swear I have on blinders, this challenge has helped simply by getting me in the habit of thinking about giving on a daily basis.

There hasn’t been a gift that stands out above the others. In fact, one of my most recent gifting highlights is prior to my taking this challenge. We were leaving church one Sunday, and on the corner stood a man, begging. Now so often, I’m embarrassed to admit this, I drive by, wondering if that person has a true need or if they are using the money they receive for drugs or alcohol. I mean, how does one know?

But that Sunday we stopped. We gave the man $3, and a baggy of cookies and brownies we had with us in the car. Not much. But his smile and gratitude was immeasurable. I figure it would buy the man a hamburger at the nearby McDonald’s and give him a sweet treat. And whether his need was legitimate or not, it felt good to help and offer something. And really, who am I to judge his need?

While I don’t often have cash on me (or cookies and brownies), I do typically have spare change, and I hope to become a more giving and less judging person. And I think daily practice and looking for opportunities to give will help. The 29 gifts challenge is really a great movement, and I invite and encourage everyone interested to read the book and sign up for the challenge. I can’t imagine anyone would be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reaching 20 Years in Marriage

Recently my husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage (I’ll call him JT). What a milestone, and what a blessing! JT isn’t perfect, and neither am I, but somehow together we are better, and I love him with all my heart.

After a number of failed attempts at relationships in the past, I’m certainly no expert. At least now though, I am more experienced, and I know some of the things that are important to make a marriage work.

First off, I pray for my marriage. Always have, and always will. Those vows we took before God made God a part of this relationship. And that’s important. They say “the family that prays together, stays together.” I believe that’s true. God is love, so include God in your relationship.

Secondly, JT has so many wonderful qualities that make him special, and since day 1, I’ve prayed I never lose sight of those attributes. It’s easy for differences and disagreements to take center stage. When that happens, the focus becomes the disparity. But truthfully, what I fell in love with is always still there, and is a much better place to put my focus. His kindness, compassion, his love of family and friends and his willingness to extend himself to help others, are just some of the traits that make JT a remarkable guy. It’s important to remember and appreciate the person you love.

Finally, it’s easy to take one another for granted, which is a good thing and a bad. Good, in that it’s really nice to have someone you can count on so much that you don’t ever doubt their support. Bad, in that oftentimes by taking someone for granted, you forget that they still deserve your best consideration, civility, and respect. You can’t kick the dog and expect him to be wagging his tail when you come home. Common sense, treat each other well.

So now I’m knocking on wood that I haven’t upset the karma in my marriage by writing this post. I’m blessed and very much in love, but I also know that even the best marriages go through rocky times. I just pray JT and I never give up, and that I can write another post attesting my love in 20 more years.

Me and JT on our Wedding Day - still in love 20 years later
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1st of the Month Book Review – 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life was recommended by my pastor, and I’m so glad I read it. It’s full of wisdom and insight, including advice from the author’s mother on the secret to a long-lasting marriage, who said “’It’s very simple. We never break up. No matter what.’”

The story is written by Cami Walker who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) shortly after her wedding. Seeking relief from her resulting depression and her suffering from the disease, a “medicine woman” named Mbali prescribes that Cami give away 29 gifts in 29 days. This book recounts how that prescription changed Cami’s life and began a gift-giving movement.

Through 29 days of giving, Cami redirects her focus from inward thinking and preoccupation of her disease to outward generosity. She moves from self-centeredness to selflessness, and the positive results on her body and mind are amazing. She is happier and healthier, more capable of accepting assistance for herself, and is more “engaged in life.” Her attitude shifted from one focused on what she lacked, to one of altruism and gratitude, seeking opportunities and new paths.

I enjoyed reading about the various gifts Cami gave, both large and small, and how each one impacted her. And as I post this review, I just signed up for the challenge myself on the 29 Gifts website, http://www.29gifts.org. Before signing up, I highly recommend you read the book first, even if just to get a feel for what constitutes a “gift.”

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life is inspiring at the least. Through her book and website, Cami is trying to ignite a global goodwill movement and renewal of the giving spirit. Just imagine our world if everyone took the challenge!