Inspired by Betty Londergan's What Gives 365 and the Bible (not necessarily in that order!), I'm giving away $250 a week in 2011.

This is where I'm recording that journey, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Buzz is Building

It's been an interesting week in my little blogosphere and I thought I'd tell you about it.

1. It turns out that our 'inspiring individual' of March, Rob Hall, was a friend of a friend of another very dear friend of mine. Hadn't made the connection until it was made here, and knowing that God is working in that young man's life has encouraged me as I think about the sadness surrounding Rob's death.

2. I've missed church for the past few weeks and was very glad to get back to Grace on Sunday. Our pastor was finishing up a series on Giving. I had an opportunity to tell the congregation a bit about this blogging journey, but even more importantly I was privileged to hear others' 'defining moments' about giving in their own lives. Such amazing testimonies! I was reminded that giving is an absolute privilege, not least because it sensitizes us to needs. That has certainly been my experience since starting this blog -- I'm on the lookout for ways to bless people, and it's such fun! It's also a privilege because the reason God wants us to give is so that He can give us more and more. That too has been true in our lives, over and over again. Our pastor brought to us the image of a river to depict the Spirit of God -- encouraging us to have the courage to jump in and allow the river to wash us away. This giving journey has been an attempt at that for me, so his message was well timed. So too were the stories shared by others -- I am clearly not alone in this journey! I'm hoping to post a story that was read -- stay tuned for that.

3. JustGivingIt was mentioned in the April 2011 issue of Whole Living magazine, which is the publication that started this whole crazy idea for me. A warm welcome to any new readers who've found us as a result. Feel free to join in the conversation!

Talk to you all on Friday. It's international week and the start of our first five week month.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Building Community in Unexpected Places

In the early days of Just Giving It, I heard from my friend Sarah regarding an upcoming adventure she was excited to be part of. I asked her if she would be willing to write about it here. She sent me the following entry and photos on March 9 -- I've waited to share them with all of you until now since this fourth week of the month is set aside for projects suggested by those of you who read this blog. Here is Sarah's inspiring tale:

"Last month, I was one of a group of 12 disparate people from work  who spent a week in Costa Rica with SOS, helping a group of nine women in a small, remote northwestern village realize their dream. Our task was to help the women’s association of Los Jazmines de Upala create a computer lab in the local school and build a 5m x 8m office on what was, when we arrived, a patch of grass on the brink of a river valley. 

We slept in rows on the floor of the open air community centre. We worked hard. We achieved far more than was expected in the time we had. And, despite the language barrier, we bonded deeply with the women and children of the community.

On the construction front, we earned our stripes with encouragement, in Spanish, from Sergio, the local foreman. With aqui (here), ahi (there) and mas (more), we muddled through. And when we were lacking in the tool department, Sergio had the uncanny ability to fashion almost any implement from a block of wood, three swipes of a machete and two swings of a hammer. 

Today we served up our final SOS lunch – this one free of charge in recognition of the support we received from our fellow Q-mates. And, as more than 60 colleagues gathered, we shared stories, showed slides and gave thanks. We returned to Canada on February 27 but for me, March 9 symbolizes the true end of this journey. We gave our hearts and a week of our time to Los Jazmines and we received many, many gifts in return. But, though we had an inkling of it all along, we had to leave the country to understand that the real gift – the real community we were building – was right here at home."

It is my pleasure to support this exciting initiative. I love the way it uses work and food and students and time together to bridge and build communities. I'm thankful that Sarah is part of mine.

Welcome home to the whole Costa Rica team -- may your global awareness and local camaraderie continue to flourish!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Laying Down their Lives in Zambia

I'm delighted to be inviting a couple of guest bloggers to join us for this week and next. My apologies for getting off-schedule -- technical glitches meant that I couldn't post this past Friday while I was sunning in Gran Turk!

Do you admire people who are 100% invested in something? This is our week to honour an inspiring person. My friend Crystal introduced me to this week’s recipient recently, and his grieving family has been on my mind ever since. Crystal has kindly agreed to write about them here, and it’s an honour to be able to support them even just a little bit through this incredibly difficult time.

"Rob Hall was one of those people I both admire and think crazy all at once. He died suddenly in a construction accident in Zambia last month. He leaves behind his wife and 3 beautiful little children, 6yrs, 3yrs and just one. I didn't know Rob (or his wife, Kate) personally but they feel like friends.

I 'met' Rob and Kate through their dining room table. The Halls are very close friends of my friends. My friends were storing this table in their basement for Rob and Kate. It was only being stored as at the time they were leaving for Zambia, no one needed to borrow it. They wanted it used, lent out, while they were away. 

This table is beautiful, a harvest table that had been beautifully crafted by Rob himself. This would have been something that I would have been very tempted to store, to wrap up, to protect and keep safe until I returned to Canada and use for myself. It is a work of art and I've no doubt it took much time and skill to craft. I wouldn't have wanted just anyone using it, especially a stranger, like myself, with two little boys. The risks to such a beautiful piece of furniture are many when that table is being lent to a family with two little boys who love to play "construction" and could decide it needed 'fixing'. Leaving this table to the care of strangers symbolizes how Rob and Kate lived their life together. They weren't bogged down by things and by being practical. They felt God was calling them to work in Zambia so they stepped out in faith, trusting God to provide. They didn't see their possessions, their children, their limited finances as preventing them from acting when they felt God was calling them.

They abandoned what many of us, I at least, would call common sense.At first I felt judgemental about their decision to go to Africa without a back up plan if something happened and things didn't work out. I'll admit I was judgemental, an "Are you crazy? You have kids to think of? How could you put them at risk this way?" Then I was stopped in my common sense tracks. How many times do I not risk, not step out, not trust more in God's provision or in the goodness of  people He's put in my life to support me if I fall. I am humbled by their story, by the man and woman who risked all when they felt God's call to do something different.  Why God allowed Rob to die is a question for God alone but to not risk, is not to live fully.  Rob's family motto is vive us Vivas or in english, "Live, that you might live."  If you want to learn more about Rob, his wife Kate and their family you can visit here."

Again, it is my privilege to help provide for people who laid everything on the line for the God they serve. Thanks for your honest blog entry, Crystal, and for bringing this precious family to our attention.

I'll be back on track this Friday with another guest blogger who suggested another inspiring recipient -- stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where it's Cool to Go to Church

I love to sing. I don’t do it nearly enough. I also love being sung over. (“Huh?” you ask…) And I love it when both of those things involve people I treasure and have known for most of their lives.

That’s what happened to me last Sunday. My girls were at a dance rehearsal in the same building as our former church, and they had to be dropped off just in time for me to enjoy the Sunday morning service. What a treat to worship with dear friends that I miss!

The best part for me was noticing how many of the kids that I knew from their youth group days are still there. There’s a whole pack of 18-25-year-olds. They show up early to help set up chairs and test the sound equipment. They chase toddlers around. They make announcements about youth events that they are now organizing. They lead worship. And this past Sunday, it felt like they were singing for me and to me and over me.

It’s hard to think of anything that would put a bigger smile on my face than having my own kids, when they’re big,  comfortably embedded in a solid community of friends who know how to serve, who love God, who attend church by choice and who love to sing. So this week, our local blog donation goes to support the young adults at EVAC. Thank you Emma, Rachel, Casey, Amy, Christine, Bre…and so many others who have set an excellent example for my kids, and for me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moving from Bling in Erin to Learning in China

I am in in the world's best Book Club. The 9 of us have been together for more than 5 years. It's not mostly because of the food (which is fabulous), or the books (which are mostly fabulous) or even the company (always fabulous) -- it's the loot bags. Shelley's company makes promotional gift items -- mostly cosmetics, funky purses and things. Her contribution to our monthly potlucks is presents! For a girl who uses the same blush brush I splurged on in university, this opens up a whole new world.

Shelley's generosity extends far beyond gifts to her girlfriends. With many of her company's products coming from China, Shelley and her family and employees found a way to give back to some of the people in that country. So this week, international week here at Just Giving It, I'm going to join her in supporting Hope School in Guiyang. The donation will help to provide things like a hot lunch program, warm clothing and school supplies at the school Shelley was instrumental in starting. You can read more about it here.

I'm sorry you can't join our Book Club -- there's a waiting list and spaces rarely open up. You can read what we're reading though! This month it's Terry Fallis' Best Laid Plans, courtesy of the recommendation from Canada Reads (I'm a huge Jian Ghomeshi fan, what can I say?). You can download it free as a podcast from iTunes. You can also join us in other ways, by figuring out how you are going to give back, with style and creativity and generosity like Shelley does at Orchard International. Thanks for the suggestion, Shelley!