Generosity and Christmastime

I’ve always thought that I’m a generous person.

I believed that I could freely give up my time and money without any complaint or struggle and for the most part that’s true.

It wasn’t until earlier today when I realized that sometimes I lie to myself.

I think we all like to make ourselves out as a good person. We never want to see the evil in ourselves because we want to feel good and that would make us feel awful.

Recognizing the bad parts of ourselves makes us feel uncomfortable and inadequate and sad. Unfortunately, as I realized today, this is something we must do in order to love others well.

I’ve been tight on money this year. The reason for this probably being because I’m a college student with no job. I’ve watched the money in my bank account slowly deplete over the past four months.

I’m going back to Peru tomorrow to visit my family for two weeks so this morning I was out buying last minute things that I needed to pack.

I pulled in the Walmart parking lot and was going through my mental list of everything that I needed to buy while in the store when I realized that while I had bought things for my immediate family, I hadn’t bought anything for the kids and other people who are living with us.

I got this sick feeling of guilt in my stomach.

I think giving people gifts is a really good way to show them that you love them. It shows them that you’re thinking about them and that you care enough to go out and buy them something.

I want to show the kids that live in our home that they are deeply and fully loved. I want them to know that there are so many people who love them and that even though they may feel abandoned or wronged or unwanted that there are people who will never leave them and that there are people who desperately want them.

So through that sick feeling of guilt, I decided I would get them all something for Christmas but immediately after, the evil part of me kicked in.

It’s so awful to admit but as soon as I decided I was going to buy them something, I started thinking about how I don’t have a lot of money and how I didn’t want to spend my money on that. I became selfish and thought maybe I could get away without getting them something.

Whenever the evil parts of me threaten to take over, it’s so easy to want to give into them, it’s much easier to just give in than use my limited strength to push through those evil thoughts.

But I didn’t want to give in today.

Be generous, I said quietly in my head.

Be generous, I whispered to myself.

Be generous, I said firmly and aloud.

I kept repeating it over and over again until I won and I walked into the store and went Christmas shopping.

I’m learning that it’s not easy to love others. It takes effort and humility and strength that I don’t have.

It takes the supernatural strength of a divine begin who is better than I could ever be. And that’s why I’m so thankful that Jesus has my heart and that it’s not me who directs my paths and decisions but that it’s Him.

Keep teaching me, Jesus, keep teaching me.

Struggling

I should be studying right now, I should be reading the countless pages of textbooks that are due in a matter of days but instead I’m struggling with the idea of love.

It seems that this is something I always struggle with. Maybe it’s because my goal in life is to love people, maybe it’s because so often I fail at that goal, maybe it’s because I’m still learning how to love people and maybe it’s a mix of all three.

I started at Bible College in September. I’m studying theology and missions and while my brain is continuously filling with new knowledge and facts, the greatest thing I’ve learned about missions is that we need to love people.

I’ve learnt that lesson time and time again and not only in class. I learn it in living in community, in living far away from friends and family and having to make an effort and I learn it in the relationships in my life that are constantly growing and developing.

I know I need to love people, I just don’t know how to and I know I don’t do it properly most of the time.

I think love and selflessness are the same thing. I think love demands selflessness. I think of my parents, giving up their time, sleep and money just so they could raise me. That’s selflessness, that’s love.

Being selfless is the hard part of loving people. I think we are so naturally inclined to think of ourselves first that we have to force ourselves to be selfless. It’s on the days when I’m sick or tired or angry that this is hardest but it’s also on the good days where I’m really happy, I don’t want to give that up to show someone love.

But then I think of my Jesus. The perfect, spotless, righteous King. He gave up His throne in the heavenly realms to come a seek me out. That’s love.

He endured the worst death so that I would never die. That’s love.

He gave up everything just to show me He loves me, so why shouldn’t I do the same for the people He loves?

We love because he first loved us.

“If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life and live in the pattern of gracious love.” ~ 1 John 3:17-18

So This Is Love

Love.

Love used to be a hard thing for me to understand.

I thought I knew love when I fell head over heels for a boy when I was 12. I thought it was love because I liked the way he looked and because I wanted to hang out with him all the time, but that’s not love.

I thought it was love when I got new clothes or gadgets because I wanted to take care of it and use it all the time, but that wasn’t love either.

I thought it was love when I saw a commercial of a poverty-stricken place and my heart broke, but that wasn’t love because after the commercial ended or the picture passed, I’d go right back to my normal life.

This year, for me, is about grace but I’m learning that love and grace go hand in hand. You can’t have love without grace and you can’t have grace without love, it’s just not possible.

As of Monday, we have 6 kids in our home,

G, an 11-year-old girl,

L a 15-year-old girl,

R, a 9-year-old girl,

A, a 3-year-old boy,

K, a 17-year-old girl

And S, a 2-week-old baby.

We’ve been open since April 5th when G arrived and in this short month, I have learned so much about love and grace.

When I was young, I only knew how to show selfish love, or in other words, show love when you can get something out of it and I think it’s apart of our sinful nature to think this way.

When I met Jesus, I learned about selfless love, love that gives everything up just to make sure others are all right. Since then, I’ve been trying to learn it and practice it.

I’ve seen it in my parents who work tirelessly for my well-being.

In my brothers who defend me and protect me.

In my friends who stay up late just listening to me vent or cry when I’ve had a rough day.

In my Jesus who gave his very own life just to save mine.

But this past month has been wild and it’s shown me, more than ever, what selfless love really looks like in myself and in others.

Selfless love is treating lice and spending hours upon hours picking it out. (Not just once either, over and over and over again.)

Selfless love is washing the sore, covered feet of a child.

Selfless love is waking up in the middle of the night because the kids still aren’t sleeping.

Selfless love is waiting until they fall asleep because the jungle is a scary place if you’re not used to the noises.

Selfless love is still choosing to love even when they do wrong and hurt you.

That’s what love is, it isn’t an emotion like my naïve, young self thought. Love is a verb. It demands action be taken. It requires that something be done or said or practiced. Love is choosing to love every single day, even if you don’t feel like it, if you’re tired or if you just plain angry. True love is fierce and wild and has no restrictions or limits, it just keeps going.

This kind of love is so amazing to me because it doesn’t mean that your life will be sunshine and rainbows, it means quite the opposite really. This kind of love means risking your health, safety, even life but still doing it anyway just because you so desperately want that person to know that they are loved and valued beyond belief.

Selfless love.

I’m still selfish, I’m still failing but I’m also still learning. It may take me my whole life, but for right now I want these kids to know that with every little nit I pull out of their hair, with every foot I wash, with every ridiculous story I listen to that I am doing it because I desperately love them and because I want to show them that Jesus loves them even better than I ever could.