Unleash Generosity: How to be Generous Even When it Doesn’t Come Naturally

Unleash Generosity: How to be Generous Even When it Doesn’t Come Naturally

Unleash Generosity: How to be Generous Even When it Doesn’t Come Naturally

I have been so tight-fisted my whole life. I worked throughout high school and I saved almost every penny for college. If I was given birthday money as a kid, it went straight to the bank. I would never spend it. In my mind, money was to be saved and not spent. I held onto every penny for a rainy day. I was so busy saving that the thought of being generous with my money never crossed my mind.

I grew up in a family that didn’t live like everyone else. We rarely talked about money. My parents didn’t buy a new car when my dad got a raise. He actually drove a Chevy Nova that was consistently covered in bird poop. He parked underneath a tree at work and his car was the pooping target.  I remember being so embarrassed when he would pick me up from high school in his baby blue eighteen-year-old ‘poop mobile.’ Needless to say, my family didn’t spend extravagantly which was a blessing in disguise. My family modeled to me that we didn’t have to keep up with the Joneses (whoever that elusive couple may be).

 

It wasn’t until I was in college that I actually started practicing generosity and it was scary. I started to tithe at a local campus ministry group I was active in.  Then eventually I started supporting a child in Africa. I didn’t have a lot of money to be generous, but I felt like I needed to take that giant leap of faith. God was really working on my heart and the way I was thinking about money.

I remember one day when I was a sophomore in college, I felt God was saying that I needed to give everything I had out of my wallet. At the time, I had no idea how much was in my wallet, but I opened it up and gave every last penny. And boy did it hurt.

I needed to own up to the fact that money isn’t a security blanket. God provides for the sparrows and the flowers, how much more will God provide for me (Matthew 6:25-34)? Reading that passage is one thing, but living it out is another.

Instead of worrying about money, God was giving me opportunities to give and trust in Him. And God has a sense of humor because He gave me my husband, who is one of the most generous people I know. I needed to be with someone who is generous, so I could catch and experience that generosity first-hand.

 

The Mindset Shift

When my husband and I were dating, I remember hearing someone ask him if they could borrow his car.  I was shocked by his response. He said, “it isn’t my car, it’s God’s.” And he let them borrow it.

I was blown away with his perspective that everything he has is not his own, it is God’s. This truth wasn’t something new to me, but I had never seen someone live it out like my husband.  If I was asked the same question, my response would have been no.  I wasn’t open-handed with what I had and I sure didn’t live out the same belief that everything is God’s. I was the one who needed to change.

Having the mental shift to accept that what I own isn’t mine, it’s God’s, has helped me embrace giving in a new way.  It cuts out my selfishness and pride.  I have a new lens to look at other’s needs.  I’m still in the refinement process of becoming a generous person, and I’m ok with that.  I’m a work in progress.  

Giving has become a little easier over time, especially when we are able to meet someone else’s need. Those experiences help motivate me to continue practicing generosity. My husband’s generous nature has encouraged our whole family to embrace giving.  In our family mission statement, being generous is one of our Rich family traits.  We want our kids to be transformed by giving just as much as we are. Kids watch what we do.  If we are generous, that will be our children’s normal. I want my kids to start practicing generosity now, not when they go off to college like I did. 

It is easy to slip back into being busy and not noticing the needs of others around us, especially when we are feeling financially strapped.  When I start to notice that I am worrying about money more, I know it is time for me to be generous. Generosity isn’t a logical response to worrying about money, it is counterintuitive. But time after time, I have experienced how letting go and giving has helped me be less dependent on money, and more dependent on God.  There is even scientific proof that “generosity has both altruism boosting and anxiety decreasing effects.” according to recent studies.

The Benefits of Generosity

If you struggle with generosity like me, don’t be overwhelmed.  Every little act of giving counts, even if it is buying the person behind you in the drive thru’s order. We all know that giving to others feels good.  Giving shouldn’t be focused on increasing our own happiness, but it is a good side effect. Another study discovered that “planning to give away just a little bit of money had the same effects on happiness as giving away a lot.”  Start giving, because it will help others and be an amazing example to your kids, all while bringing you more happiness.  That my friend is a win, win, win situation!

If you don’t know where to start, I would recommend first tithing to your church.  If you don’t belong to a church, there are so many amazing charities out there to choose from. Beyond that, maybe set a certain amount of cash aside each month to bless others- it could be as little or as big as you want. 

In the meantime, I hope I can get to the point where I am generous by nature. Nevertheless, I will practice being generous because I serve the most generous God.

I’d love to hear your insights on generosity. Is generosity difficult for you? What has helped you be more generous? Please leave a comment below…

This Christmas Tradition Turns Your Kids into Santa and Teaches Generosity

This Christmas Tradition Turns Your Kids into Santa and Teaches Generosity

This Christmas Tradition Turns Your Kids into Santa and Teaches Generosity

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Santa is kinda controversial. We all know that most Christmas traditions include Santa, but every parent has to make that decision for their own family. We all want our kids to have a magical Christmas, but should Santa be in the mix?

I grew up without having Santa because my parents felt like they would be lying to me and my siblings. They wanted us to focus on the true reason for Christmas- Jesus. When I was growing up, I never felt like I was missing out without having Santa. 

My husband, on the other hand, grew up with Santa and enjoyed the whimsy of it all. He even sports a red t-shirt with Santa on it that says, “I Believe.” Ah yes, this is a recipe for a disagreement in the making. We had quite a few discussions before we landed on some middle ground, and honestly, I love how we ‘do’ Santa in our house.

So how did we reconcile our polar views (no pun intended)?  

My husband, who grew up with Santa, views him as a fun make-believe tradition that helps children exercise creativity. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I go along pretending that Santa is real, I’d be setting my kids up for disappointment.  What will happen when our kids eventually find out the truth? Will they start doubting other things we say that are real, like Jesus? 

So instead of the classic Santa approach of focusing on being good so you get presents, we are teaching our kids to BE Santa.

In reality, Santa is a modern-day parable of Jesus (if you tweak it right). Jesus is so generous to us and doesn’t expect or need anything in return. He meets our wants and desires even if we don’t say them out loud.  

We want our kids to practice BEING Santa to others. When our kids give to others, without expecting anything in return, they BECOME Santa. So instead of our kids getting tons of toys from Santa on Christmas morning, they are given the opportunity to give.

Let me put it plain and simple, this is how we DO Santa:

ONE

The Gift

Our kids get a little stocking from Santa with a few pieces of fruit in them, plus a card with a $5 bill. We didn’t do this with our son last year since he was only one, but we did it with our three-year-old daughter. The card tells our kids that they get to BECOME Santa.

The money they were given can’t be spent on themselves. They need to buy something for someone else (preferably someone in need) with that money.

TWO

Be Santa

Last year, we talked to our daughter about who she would like to BE Santa to.

At the time, one of the ladies in my weekly Bible Study had just passed away from breast cancer. My daughter would play every week with her children, while all the moms met up and shared life with each other.

My sweet girl wanted to be Santa to her four children and her husband. Let me tell you, it was a proud mom moment, and it was totally her idea.

THREE

Buy the Gifts

As you can guess, five dollars doesn’t go very far to help a family of five (you could use any amount), so we pretty much had two choices: The Dollar Store or Goodwill on their Monday $1 day. She chose Goodwill.

My daughter took her $5 and went up and down the aisles looking for the right color tags and what our wonderful friends’ kids would love.

She found a Little People princess castle, a big dump truck toy, a pretty dress, and BSU football shirts for the oldest boy and dad, all for a whopping grand total of $5. Our girl was so proud when she handed over her $5 bill (I paid the tax) to the Goodwill clerk.

FOUR

Preparing the Gifts

We came home and washed everything up and my sweet daughter chose to add some of her own Little People to go with the princess castle.

She ended up wrapping the presents as best she could on her own. Martha Stewart would cringe at the masking tape she used, but it’s the thought and effort that counts.

She colored them a card and everything. We made a meal and brought that over with the gifts ‘Santa’ (our daughter) wanted to give them.

FIVE

Giving the Gifts

Let me tell you, tears flowed by pretty much every adult there. My husband and I told the family the whole backstory. My sweet daughter was able to see their kids open the presents she worked so hard on. The kids loved their gifts. It was such a blessing to see the pure generosity from the heart of a child, even a three-year-old.

 

My kids will remember BEING Santa, and my hope is that this kind of generosity becomes their DNA. In our family mission statement, one of the Rich family traits is generosity, and BEING Santa gives our children the opportunity to practice giving.

For children, the classic way of doing Santa isn’t focused on generosity. Santa detracts from the real reason we celebrate Christmas, but BEING Santa aligns with the character of our Savior, and I’m all for that!!

We still read the occasional book about Santa, but our kids know that Rudolf and the whole gang is pretend. Our kids sat on Santa’s lap for pictures with our kids’ cousins, and we’re totally fine with that. But on our way to see Santa, I overheard my daughter telling her grandma that she IS Santa. Yes, my sweet child, you ARE Santa, and all of us should be.

Does your family do Santa? What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments below…

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