Every Time You Give, a Story Begins

This summer, the Sunset youth ministry team is teaching a class based on the book I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. It’s not a super deep book. It’s made up mostly of stories and random thoughts on giving, and I LOVE IT. Reading the book and preparing lessons has made me so excited about all the possibilities that come with a lifestyle of giving. Often we think of giving as a compartmentalized part of our lives, and we do it in the most routine and boring ways, setting aside a percentage of our income and thinking that the check we write is the gift.

But what happens when we start to see our lives as a gift to other people? Then we open our eyes for opportunities to give in all kinds of different ways, and creative giving simply becomes an expression of who we are.

There’s a line towards the end of the book that I have made my theme for this summer:

Every time you give, a story begins.

And it’s true. Most of the time, you never know the ripple effect that begins when you give. You can change someone’s life and not even know it. Even the smallest gifts become a story that both giver and receiver remember for years to come.

Over the last few weeks of teaching this class, I’ve been reminded of all the times people have given to me in creative ways, and as I think about them, I can’t help but smile. There are too many to list, but here are a few that have been on my mind.

I Like Pumpkins

One fun fact about me is that I love seasonal decorations. I’m not a fan of roses on Valentine’s Day, but pumpkins and chrysanthemums in the fall and poinsettias in the winter just make me happy. This past fall I had just moved into my first off-campus house, and when September came, I couldn’t wait to get a pumpkin to grace my front steps. My first pumpkin was big and round and absolutely perfect, and every time I came home and saw it on the porch, my heart was all aflutter with autumn happiness.

But one morning I opened the door and my pumpkin was gone. Someone had come and stolen it in the night. (Side note: who does that?!) At first I thought maybe it was a joke, but my pumpkin never came back. Every time I came home, I just felt sad and missed my beautiful pumpkin. In a depressed heap of pumpkin-less misery, I posted a pitiful status on facebook about my missing pumpkin.

The next night, I was out all evening and came home at about 11pm. As I walked up the sidewalk, something round and orange caught my eye. There was a pumpkin on my front steps!! I was absolutely elated. I couldn’t believe someone had been thoughtful enough to go out and buy me a new pumpkin, but there was no note and no one to thank. I posted on facebook, “To whoever bought me a new pumpkin and left it on my porch for me to come home to tonight — you are wonderful. There is good in the world. THANK YOU!!!” I hoped that whoever bought the pumpkin would see it. Turns out he did — and he took a screenshot of it. And he later became my boyfriend.

I Like Scotland

In March of 2013, I went on a mission trip to Scotland for the first time. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go, and I had 3 weeks in which to raise $1400. A couple days into my fundraising campaign, I had this dream that someone financed my entire trip. I woke up thinking, “Well man, I thought that dream was real. This is super disappointing.”

I opened my computer to check facebook, and I had a message from a guy I hadn’t seen or talked to since I was about 13 years old. He asked how the fundraising was going and how much I still lacked. I told him I had just started, so, like…all of it. He responded, “Good, because after paying my bills this month that was exactly the amount that I had left in my account, and I felt like God was telling me to give it to you.”

It was one of those moments where it’s such an extravagant gift that you feel almost embarrassed. I tried to tell him no, I could write him a check back for whatever amount I raised over $1400, but he would have none it, saying that if I raised more than that, it could go to other people on the trip. Talk about a humbling experience — I hadn’t even planned on paying that much for my own mission trip! His gift taught me more about faith and giving than any book or sermon.

And Scotland was amazing.

I Like Cookie Monster

A couple of years ago, I worked as a summer camp counselor.  At the beginning of one week, I met this little guy with a cookie monster T-shirt that said “Keep calm and eat cookies.” I nearly choked on my excitement as I told him how amazing it was. Later that week, I was in charge of extended care for the afternoon, so I was sitting by the volleyball court watching a couple of kids make sand angels when the Cookie Monster guy’s mom came up and sat with me. We talked about faith and about relationships and she asked me what my plans were for the future, and I remember telling her how much I had needed some good adult conversation.

That week of camp ended on Friday afternoon. I was standing around holding a blue flag and a clipboard and trying to keep 9 kids together until their parents came to pick them up, when Cookie Monster guy’s mom came up to me and handed me a gift bag. Inside was a sweet note along with the same Cookie Monster t-shirt her son had. I’m not sure where the card is, and I’ve forgotten her name, but I always wear that soft blue shirt to sleep in, and I will never forget it.

Someone who overhears a comment like that and thinks to act on it for a complete stranger — that is someone who sees their life as a gift.

To each of these special people — thank you!! You gave, and a story began, and the world became a bit brighter.

Take the time to remember your own stories. Write them down and share them. Be inspired. Then keep your eyes open for opportunities and start a story for someone else.

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Forever Changed

I was sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville, hearing the pleasant chatter of others and the clink of dishes in the background, smelling the rich aroma of coffee and cookies.  The last 10 minutes of one-on-one conversation had given me a far deeper respect for the man across from me than I could have imagined, and as the clock ticked away the minutes, I felt a desperate need to gain as much wisdom from him as I could before our time ran out. I leaned forward with my elbows on the table, looking at him with tears starting to glisten in my eyes as I asked quietly, “What happens when things go back to normal?”

He smiled at me with the understanding of age and experience. “Things will never go back to normal,” he answered simply. “I’m changed because I’ve met you.  You’re changed because of what you experienced and the people you met in Scotland.  There’s a new normal that incorporates all of those experiences and how they’ve shaped the way you look at life.”

In that moment, he had perfectly put into words everything that had been tearing me apart over the past couple of weeks.  I hadn’t been able to put the puzzle pieces together into a new, reshaped version of myself because the trip was so short and my thoughts so scattered.  This wasn’t like camp, where I was there long enough to see myself change and track my progress through journaling.  Instead, all I’ve been able to do is cry and feel lost.  But suddenly I could breathe again, realizing that things don’t have to go back to normal.  They can’t go back to normal.  I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to, so I may as well accept the fact that I’m changed and embrace the new normal.  I won’t see these people again for a very long time, but I don’t have to let it hurt, because their footprints will always be on my heart.  They’ve changed me; and most importantly, God has changed me.

There’s a line from the Casting Crowns song The Well that I always return to after an experience like this: “Now that you’re full of love beyond measure, your joy’s gonna flow like a stream in the desert.  Soon all the world will see living water is found in Me, because you’ve come to the Well.”

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that this conversation took place at The Well.  And maybe…maybe there’s no such thing as “normal” after all.  Life isn’t static.  Life is a journey full of ups and downs and experiences that change the course of our lives.  Maybe we just have to let go of control and change with it, letting every moment define us in a unique way.

Scotland collage

Published in: on April 2, 2013 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I’m Going to Scotland!

Dearest readers,

I just took a big step of faith and committed to going on a mission trip to Dundee, Scotland, over spring break, where I will be sharing my faith with students at a high school. As many of you know, I’m studying youth ministry here at Lipscomb, so this trip is perfectly in line with my calling, and it was totally a God thing how it was unexpectedly handed to me. I would love your prayers for this trip, but I’m also going to be real and say that I need financial support. I need to raise $1600 in the next 4 weeks, and I believe that God can do that and more. If you have a heart for service but are unable to go yourself, you can participate in this trip in a very real way by offering your spiritual and financial support. HOWEVER there is no pressure to give if you have other obligations. I will not think less of you, and we will still be friends. If you would like to, however, there are 2 ways to give.By check:
Make check out to Lipscomb University. On the “for” line, write Lauren Calvin — Dundee. Mail the check to:
Missions
Lipscomb University
1 University Park Dr.
Nashville, TN 37204

Online:
Go to http://www.lipscomb.edu/Missions/ and click on the second box, “give”. For “type of gift”, select donation. For “team name” select “UK — Dundee.” After filling out your personal information, click “next step,” which will take you to a page where you can fill in your credit card information.

Whether you have the opportunity to give or not, please keep me and the rest of the team in your thoughts and prayers as we seek to make God known in the UK and invite these precious students to participate in His beautiful story.

I do want to share with you an amazing way that God has already answered prayers. Yesterday, right after I made an appointment to apply for my passport and committed to going, I received this message:

scotland

In Joshua 3, God parted the waters of the Jordan River for his people to pass…but not until their feet touched the edge of the water during flood stage. I took the step of faith, and God started building the bridge. Can’t wait to see what will happen in the next few weeks!

If you would like to join the facebook event and receive updates and prayer requests, you can access it here.

Published in: on February 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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