I’m all growed up…

So I’ve been working on a little something all week that I am super excited about…

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It’s something I’ve been looking to do for a few years, but the timing never felt right. Then, I came across Squarespace as a host and felt like it was time to make a little leap into something new. You can read more about that decision on the new blog! So come on over to the new and improved Life Meets Grace at http://www.lifemeetsgrace.org.

Yup, .org

No pesky .wordpress.com

And not .com, because that was already taken :)

If you use Bloglovin’, which is awesome, by the way, you can follow the new blog by clicking here.

 

February/March

February’s been over for a week (or more…oops), but it was a big month! Here’s what I read/heard/watched/and did:

I read:

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Scary Close by Donald Miller: I loved this book and read it in one afternoon. It’s the story of how Don came face to face with some intimacy problems and what he learned as he got ready to marry his now-wife. It’s not a “do this” book. It reads more like a friend-telling-you-their-story book, and it really got me thinking about the walls I put up and how to break them down.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams: This is a hilarious, on your toes, quick read. Vivian Schuyler gets a package addressed to a long lost aunt and finds out she murdered her husband and ran off with another man. It’s great historical fiction, heavy and light at the same time.

I heard:

FebIHeard

The Medicine, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors: Fantastic, Ryan Adams-y feel. We’ve been listening to this in the background at dinner.

Just Kids by Mat Kearney: Upbeat, dance around by yourself kinda music. Not my absolutely favorite of his albums, but still good.

“You Are Enough” by Sleeping at Last: I need this reminder every day, multiple times. Love this song.

 

I did:

Volunteer at If: Gathering, which was an exhausting, refreshing, encouraging time with the Lord and other fabulous women

Goals for March:

Cooking: Integrate 1 new veggie every week in our meals

Health: Avoid bread during breakfast and lunch, not just for weight but also because I always feel gross after eating it.

House: Finish decorating our bedroom (buy curtains and throw pillows, paint headboard and bedside tables, hang wall art)

Personal: Plan workouts and outfits for the week on Sunday night to avoid last minute fashion crises or boredom in the gym.

Marriage: Plan a weekend getaway for when Chris passes the Series 66 in 3 weeks!

There you have it! A lot of goals, but all ones I am excited to complete, not that I feel like I have to!

Choosing a Nonprofit 101

So you know you’ve got to do something, but now you’re thinking, okay, so I want to support a charity. The question is, what charity?  There are SO MANY nonprofit organizations out there, over 1.5 million to be exact. So how can you know which one you want to put your voice and money behind?

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There are several things I look at when I discover a new nonprofit:

What are they doing?  Well, this is one is pretty basic, but what is this nonprofit doing in the world? If I’m using my time, my prayers, my money directed at something, I want to know enough about them to tell someone else confidently why this organization is important.

Who are they doing it with?  It is super important to me that organizations I support work with the local community and not for the local community. I heard it best described as this: any community is basically an ecosystem. When you introduce something foreign to that ecosystem, it creates a shock and has consequences. For instance, in America, what happened when packaged food came onto the scene in the 1950s? It changed the way America ate. In a developing country, aid given to a community irresponsibly can actually hurt the community. If an organization is working with local citizens in community development and listening to what locals are saying, it just makes more sense.  It’s also important to make sure in marketing materials that the organization is respecting the dignity of those whom they are serving. For me, that means not having a picture of people crying and sick and not showing any of the joy, intelligence, and love of the people.

Who doesn't wanna love that face?

Who doesn’t wanna love that face?

Why are they doing it?  For me, I want any social justice initiatives to be partnered with the Gospel. Any other form of charity is not going to give anyone what they actually need. Again, check out the pictures in their marketing materials. Are there more pictures of the leader than the people he or she is helping? That might be an indicator of something…

Do they actually need help? Here’s the thing: most nonprofits need money. But checking to see how a nonprofit uses it can tell you a lot about if they need your money to further their mission. A quick check on Charity Navigator or Guidestar can give you a quick summary of how an organization is set up. It can tell you a few things:

  • How much money they take in vs. how much they are spending
  • What percentage of their money goes to administrative and fundraising expenses
  • See if their board members are independent voting members (that means they can hold the organization accountable without a conflict of interest, i.e. the Senior Vice President is not the Board Chair)

Here's a sample Charity Navigator profile of a nonprofit

This is really really important, but I do want to point out something: overhead doesn’t count for everything. Yes, 100% of all money given going to programs is great, but I have seen some great organizations that have 0 money going overhead get to a point where they are so overwhelmed with worry about how they will make a living and how to keep quality employees that they are crippled and eventually hit a wall barring their growth. In the opposite realm, I have seen an organization with a higher overhead percentage be able to provide truly great services to the people they serve.

I know it’d be easier for you if I just gave you a number, but this is where research becomes really important! If you see a nonprofit you really like but see a weird overhead number, just call and ask. Really. I’ve done this before, and, yes, it kind of throws people off, but it also gives me the opportunity to get to know the heart of an organization better than what a black and white number can do.

Are there opportunities to go deeper? Can I go and visit the work I am investing in? Can I write a letter to the child? Can I talk to someone at the charity when I have a question? Can I learn more about the issue or volunteer with the organization?

 A nonprofit that doesn’t provide you chances to grow deeper isn’t interested in you—only your money. They may not have that quote up on the wall in their office or anything, but think about it. Don’t you want to be more than just a check? Don’t you want to truly invest both your money but also a piece of your heart into bettering the world?

(Shoutout to Compassion International, who does an INCREDIBLE job of grabbing supporters and pulling them to go deeper with letter writing, volunteer opportunities, gift guides, and sponsor trips)

If you can’t find the answers to these questions on the website, CALL AND ASK. Really. It’s important to know these things and know where your time and money is going. You aren’t being a bother, you are being a wise co-laborer.

I love learning about faith-based nonprofits and what they are doing in the world, but to cross the threshold from general interest to fellow Kingdom investor, these are the things I look for first in a nonprofit.

What are things you look for when you research to be generous with your time and money?

Forget It

I feel like a lot of the most life changing experiences you just stumbled into.

Three years ago someone told me to wear a shirt on Easter instead of going out and buying a new dress. The catch was the shirt should come from an organization where the money is used to help take care of orphans. $20 on a shirt instead of $40+ dollars on a dress. It even had a cute name—Forget the Frock. (If you don’t know, a frock is a southern word for an extra frilly dress you wear to church on Sundays). So you ditch the dress to feed an orphan on Easter Sunday.

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I bought the shirt, I wore the shirt, and I kinda realized something: that the little everyday things are what’s going to change the orphan crisis. It seems backwards, it seems mixed up. You’d think you’d need a BIG voice and a BIG action to change the fact that 147 MILLION kids are without a mother or father. But what if all that starts with something teeny tiny? What if it starts with buying and wearing a shirt?

It’s like the If You Give A Mouse a Cookie book. You start with a shirt that looks pretty cool. You’re excited to wear it and match all your friends. (You’re also excited to not be wearing a suit on Easter, let’s be honest.) People ask you a question about your shirt, such as…what does “Forget the Frock” mean? You answer and realize you are using your clothes and your voice to say something more than, “I bought this on mega sale at JCPenny.” You are using your voice to speak out for someone who may never be heard. And it feels right.

You start hearing and seeing things that God said, like “Bring justice to the fatherless” and “Defend the rights of the poor and needy” and “Give justice to the weak and fatherless.” You start seeing Jesus as the original justice seeker with statements like “Feed my sheep.” You realize that if you really want to follow Jesus and live like He did you might need to get a little outside your comfort zone.

So you have a garage sale benefitting children in need. Maybe you invite the single mother across the road over for dinner. Maybe you visit a foreign country. Maybe you look at sponsoring a child.  Maybe you look into respite or foster care. Or maybe one day you even adopt.

And it all started with a little shirt you just stumbled into buying.

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Today, Forget the Frock is launching their annual campaign to encourage people to ditch the dress and feed an orphan. Instead of buying new clothes this Easter, or wearing the same old same old, what if you bought a shirt that benefits an orphan? Find out more about FTF and find out what organizations are participating this year!

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To walk into work every day and feel God’s presence in the details, the everyday, the ordinary.

It’s not the place, it’s not that it’s a ministry. It’s where your talents and gifts meet God’s passion. It’s a community of people loving each other and doing everything they can to serve others and lift Jesus high.

Sorry to get all introspective, but you’ve gotta know that this is possible! That God’s dreams in your heart aren’t going to lead to a dead end. That He’s going to use your Type A socially awkward self to connect people to His work around the world.

God led Chris and I to turn down a job at a place we loved with a paycheck that was super generous and comfortable. We had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. I had no idea why He was stirring a passion in my heart for missions and volunteer appreciation and event planning that seemed to go nowhere.

But then…well, He knew. And He knows for you, too. He’s got your dreams, your skills, your experience and passion. He’s going to walk you through jobs and places you feel like are dead ends until you turn a corner and see the beauty He has laid before you.

Okay, this got preachy and long fast. But I’ve just got to praise my God for this road He’s led me down and thank Him for His all knowing guidance and power.

Permission

permission

It’s not a, “That’s a bad idea.” It’s not a “Maybe this will go better if you…” It’s a statement that seeking glory from people and believing God are two mutually exclusive things. They absolutely cannot coexist. Continue reading

Let’s Get it Right

Yesterday I sat down in reflective prayer with my new agenda book and began writing down my resolutions for the year. I began with categories: professional, physical, relational, and spiritual. An hour later, satisfied, I finished my list, confident in the list of things I wanted to accomplished. When I looked back over what I had written, I realized my extensive goals and steps for reaching them looked a little like this:

DO EVERYTHING BETTER
END UP BEING PERFECT.

For real. My goals were to fix every little thing I don’t currently like about myself (spoiler alert: that list isn’t very short).

I was a little shocked, to be honest. This year has been a fight with the good ole’ Lord as he has pried every single finger of mine off the grand idea of Perfection. I thought we were mostly over it. I put up a good fight with all I had in me, but He won all three knock down drag out rounds, like He tends to do. But there it was again, disguised under the premise of yearly tradition. I stared right at it and saw that my deepest desire isn’t to know God better, to be a good wife, to even eradicate poverty. My deep dark desire is much less noble—I just wanna have it all together because somehow I think I’ll then be immune to sadness and discontent.

Today, I opened my SheReadsTruth app to find this:

“This year, instead of resolving to finally get it right, let’s resolve to walk with Him as He makes it right.

Instead of determining to get better, let’s determine to get closer to Him through His word.

Instead of making a list of all that we will do on our own, let’s notice all that He is already doing.”

Um, yeah, that sounds much better than my plans. The beauty of Jesus is that HE CAME TO DO THE WORK. So, yeah, I want to get things done this year. I want to lose the weight, write the book, get it right. But that’s not my focus. Instead, I’m resolving to walk with Him as He makes it right.

(And, yup, you better believe that quote is written in my shiny new planner.)

Freedom to Fly

This month, Show Hope is asking, What does it mean to be adopted by God? As I asked myself this question, I kept thinking about the things my parents are to me–a support, encouragement, protectors. I have been able to dream big because I know I have a safe place to fail. I think about the kids around the world who don’t have a safety net–they’re just trying to get through today on their own.

I am really blessed to have a daddy who has always believed in me. My dad has always pushed me and encouraged me. He has been a champion of women in ministry, fiercely protective of my calling to serve the Lord (When Chris asked my dad for his blessing to marry me, my dad’s first question was, “Are you going to be okay with Anna being in ministry?” That’s commitment). I think my dad always knew I was called to ministry, but he never, not once, pushed me that direction. My dad always told me, “You can be anything you want to be. You are so smart and talented. You can be anything.” I went to journalism camp, I took education classes, I had voice lessons. He let me explore other avenues, and was proud in each one. But I think he always knew I would end up serving vocationally in ministry, but quietly waited for God to call my heart loud enough where I couldn’t say no.

In high school, I made a series of dumb decisions that led me to a situation where I was over my head. My parents quietly warned me from the first warning sign, but they let me make the mistake. When I think back on that time, a time they saw very clearly when my vision was blurred, I can still feel the grace they showed me. When I realized I had been wrong, they held me as I cried and tried to put things back together. They never once said, “I knew it.” The embodiment of grace.

Having parents for me has meant having not only a safety net, but a diving board. I have a safe place where I can jump and spread my wings. I can try things, and I can fail. My heavenly father is the same way. He sometimes waits quietly in the background, waiting patiently for us to accept our calling. He is there when we fall apart to put us back together. He isn’t a father who says, “I TOLD you NOT to do THAT.” I’ve found the times in my life I felt I couldn’t get on my feet were the times I forgot God isn’t only a powerful, awe-inspiring being worthy of worship, but He is also the perfect Father, full of grace, never condescending.

Being adopted into God’s family means we have the freedom to try something and completely bomb. We have forgiveness when we go our own way. We have the chance to fly because we aren’t so scared of making a decision that we stay on the ground, clipping our own wings. We have the Father of Grace, who only gives good things, even when we’ve really messed up. We have grace, and abundantly, because that is our Father’s favorite gift to give.

Show Hope is an organization that cares for orphans around the world, bringing awareness to the specific issues orphans face and encouraging families to adopt by supplying grants. This month, they’re asking, What Does it Mean to be Adopted by God? Most orphans don’t have the same safety net that I did, and thus they aren’t free to try and fail…they are just trying to get the things they need to make it! Show Hope’s sponsorships allow for children’s needs to be met so they can dream big! Check them out here for more information.