A Broke Student’s Guide to Giving

cropped-img_0615.jpg

So you’re broke? But you still want to give back, and not just tithing to the church. When I was a college student I felt perpetually broke. My heart for the poor seemed to be overshadowed by my need for textbooks, food and tuition. Now, ten years later, I am a missionary who still has a tight budget, but has learned about new and creative ways to give not just dollars, but also time and other needed resources.

So here are a handful of practical ways the average student can give back.

Micro-giving

Micro-giving is the future of fundraising. There are many apps that rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and automatically gives the extra change to a non-profit of your choice. You can set limits daily or monthly. His Kingdom Funding is seeing great success in these “round-up” accounts.

When you are already spending, what is an extra 37 cents?

Sign up for shop-to-give services

AmazonSmile is the best example of a shop-to-give service. You sign up, pick the charity of your choice, and then buy your normal stuff- and Amazon gives a percentage of your purchase to the charity you picked. There is no extra money coming out of your pocket. Just know that your items are doing good!

This is the simplest way to give, you literally do nothing different. You shop, they give!

Volunteer your time (and gain experience in your field)

At the organization I work with,World Impact, we have medical clinics and many of our volunteers are in med school. The beauty is they get to work with a physician and learn about high risk communities. The student gets practical experience and the organization gets much needed help.

For the past 3 years I have spent many hours with marketing students from Pepperdine University. They are tasked with aiding me with relevant market research that provides best practices and surveys of millennials that I do not have daily access to. And I hope the students get something out of this, I have seen some of them in their jobs after graduation and we have reminisced and they have thanked me- one even went into nonprofit consulting! Many nonprofits need skilled workers in their offices, schools, clinics and after school programs

Even an hour a week can make a difference.

Shampoo, body wash, tampons and toothpaste

Buy two, donate one. Homeless shelters, street outreach teams, food pantries, churches, homework clubs, camps and even pregnancy centers need every day toiletries. There are always kids, teens and adults that go without, so when you head to Target to grab a bottle of Suave, pick up an extra one. Start a basket on your dorm floor and once a month take it to the donation spot of your choosing. Pray for that ministry and find other ways to connect your floor mates to the outreach they do.

These simple acts can be a game changer.

Get social

So many times we think giving needs to be a huge act, while in reality any amount helps—even using your social media platform to promote a charity you love. If you run, run with a purpose. If you do direct sales, give a portion of the sales one month a year. If you write for your school paper, find ways to tell the stories of alumni who are active in steering change.

Giving also does not need to be a solo effort. Get together with a group of friends and pool funds to sponsor a child, or put together a campus awareness event. Gather monthly and pray for missionaries, nonprofits and those in need. Plan and sponsor creative service events to raise funds, or go together to volunteer at an organization.

Small, creative ideas can make a big difference.

Just give

The bottom line is, if you are willing to look outside the box, there are plenty of ways to give back. The Lord will direct your heart. And in the words of a dear friend of mine, “Where your heart is, there your wallet will be also.”

Shattered Glass at My Feet

cropped-img_0339.jpg

I have spent much of this year on the verge of tears. I have been trying to see the positive, to see God’s hand of provision. I am thankful that my health is intact, but most days I wonder what else can go wrong? I have been struggling with how to respond to the negative, and how to celebrate the positive when it often occurs moments before a hardship.

Now I want to be clear, no one has died, I still have a home, a job, and an amazing community around me. I am not Job or David on the run. I am just having a tough season for me. I know that many of you are going through much pain and loss and hurt. This is just where I am and what I found this morning.

I ran through my normal routine: I got dressed, did my makeup, grabbed my lunch, found my keys, locked up the back door and headed to the car. Then I saw it, I realized my car had been broken into. Surprisingly, nothing was stolen. It still runs. But the shards of broken glass litter my driveway, my front seat, my yard. These fragments are but a reminder of why I live in the neighborhood and why I work with World Impact.

It has been eleven years of this urban living, each day new and exciting, the unexpected always lingering in the background. I have never grown tired of the lifestyle or this place. There have been moments of soaring joy and intense pain—and yet I have never thought about about leaving. This morning’s driveway findings do not change a thing. The odd pain and struggle of this year do not change a thing. These events have not made me rethink my calling, and much worse could have happened. This event, while annoying and costly, did not actually hurt anyone. In fact, the broken glass made me more committed than ever to incarnational living and the life transforming work of the Gospel.

Today might not go down in history as an important day, nothing about this day is that special, but today I choose to recommit to following Jesus in the city. To see people as He sees them. Christ, while on earth, was all about the potential of the broken, the inner workings of the shattered, and the worth in the damaged. I need to be about that also. When the sun hits the glass splayed across my backseat, the sparkle is like that of diamonds. I want to see the worth in the broken.

So, as I see the shattered glass at my feet, I think of how Christ would have reacted, with love and forgiveness overflowing. My heart breaks for the pain the person who caused this damage must be in. I want for them to find peace, I want for them to be creative not destructive, I want for them to build community instead of destroy, and I want them to know life and not desperation. So, while I clean up, I will pray for my neighborhood. While I sweep the glass into the dustpan and pick up the pieces of my splintered year, I will choose joy for myself and hope for my community.

Advice

cropped-img_6719.jpg

I am turning 36. I am officially entering my late thirties. It seems impossible—I was just 22, beginning my somewhat “adult life,” but alas I have been adulting for a well over a decade. With that in mind, I thought I would impart ten pieces of advice I default to. None of these are groundbreaking, they are pretty simple and quick. So, here are Candy’s wisdom, advice, and life lessons.

What you do not post online is just as important as what you do post. Your social media is a digital record of your life. Just because it happened does not mean you need to archive it; some memories can just be for you and some poor decisions do not need to be shared.

“Make space for someone if that is what you want.” -Sumi Flanagan. Sumi is a dear woman who led a mission trip I went on in high school. We recently reconnected and she imparted wisdom and encouragement. She has been in full time ministry for decades and I have always admired her life, and she encouraged me to be more open and to intentionally make space.

Bloom where you are planted. The Lord may lead you to unexpected places, and when He does, grow healthy roots and produce beauty. In the chaos, in the pain, and in the mundane seek the Lord and create beauty.

Obedience is rarely easy, but always worth it. We all know hindsight is 20/20, but trusting in a God who has proved Himself faithful for 4,000+ years of recorded history is just plain smart. He is faithful when we are not. He is good when we are not. He is forever when we are not. Obey and trust that He knows what He is doing.

“You’re an everybodyist.” -my mom. Be an everybodyist. Be inclusive. Love people. Never intentionally leave someone on the outside. Jesus was an everybodyist, the Church should be, and I try to be this way daily.

“I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man.” -Lady Mary. I might struggle with my singleness, but Lady Mary hit a homerun with this piece of dialog. Nothing could be more true; I will always prefer singleness to being in the wrong relationship. I am not saying that marriage is easy, but it might seem easier if you are with the right person (although, I have no experiential evidence to back that up).

“Community should refine us, not consume us.” -Erin Lane. I read this maybe a year ago and it has taken about that long for me to lean into it. Find, make and keep friends who sharpen you, encourage you, pray with you, all while allowing you to be who Christ has called you to be. Good friends are hard to find, so when you do hold tight.

“Clothing should skim not cling.” -Oprah. LOL, she said this over 20 years ago and whenever I get dressed I still think of it. Dress however you want, this is just my go-to rule.

Love what you do. There will be seasons of life when this might not be true, when you gotta pay the bills. But if it can be true, make it so. I have had the honor of working for World Impact for eleven years. I love what I do (most days). There have been tasks within the ministry I have not loved, but I saw how it added to the vision and empowerment of others, so I did it. But for 80% of my time with WI I have loved every second of it.

Follow your calling. The Lord will call you to do some crazy things and you have His authority to get it done. When He gives you a vision, a dream, a task, He will provide the way to accomplish it. At thirteen I heard God call me—a suburban kid with no city experience— to Urban Ministry and I believed it. My parents prayed for it, and now I am living into it because Christ made it happen. He will part the Red Sea for you, and if needed He will decimate the opposition like He did with Pharaoh’s army. So we have no excuses; we can move forward and not look back.

So this is the advice I have for you, this is the wisdom of the old being handed over to the young, take it or leave it.

A Checklist for the Selfish Single

cropped-img_6595-e1498753964486.jpg

Dear Christian Single Ladies-

Today I forgot to bring my headphones to the coffee shop (the worst!). But my forgetfulness instead plugged me into conversations and eavesdropping. I have been thinking about all the blogs and articles I have read that tell single people what we should do with our free time, like we have all the “free time” in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely have enough time to write this blog, let alone partake in a list that mostly benefits others. But today, I encourage you to unplug, listen to the world around you, read a book, engage, and be selfish. I even took some of my time to put together a selfish checklist—something to do with our eternal amounts of free time—let’s check some of these off.

Selfcare. Be selfish with time for yourself. Put on a face mask, maybe paint your toenails, watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek, and laugh. Carve out thirty minutes a week to focus on yourself. Take a yoga class, go to the pool, seek space for you. Be intentional about setting aside this time, don’t just do it when other plans fall through. You are worth the time to pause.

Read for Fun. Be selfish, pick a book that isn’t all about work or school. Shift into a different gear and give your brain a rest. Just read a book for fun! I just read The Animators, The Hate U Give,  and Sleeping Giants. They were so different from my life that they gave me an escape, while also challenging my mindset. Books are friends, too.

Read for Growth. Be selfish with your beliefs. Pick a topic and grow in it. A few years ago I wanted to define my theological position on women in ministry; so I read and read and read some more, until I came to a conclusion—a biblically sound conclusion. Last year I wanted to understand more about Christian discernment, so I read and learned so much! Figure out your beliefs.

Explore. Be selfish with the place you’re planted. Love where you live! Learn all the ins and outs of your community, become an expert. Find the best coffee, best tacos, favorite food truck, most epic music venue, local bands, artists, and bookstores. Be adventurous in your hood.

Build. Be selfish with your friends. Build into people, whether it is mentoring tweens or being mentored by an older woman. Seek out healthy singles and couples who speak truth into your life and who you can bless with childcare, spontaneity, and vicarious living. My married mama friends are some of the most loving, sacrificial people I know, and they always have awesome snacks! Relationships are worth the time.

Boundaries. Be selfish with the lines you drawn in your life. Set your boundaries and keep them, with men, with friends, at work and in ministry. Define things and let go of ambiguity. Learn when to say no and when to say yes, because both matter deeply.

Do Nothing. Be selfish with your mind. Literally do nothing. Once a week I will just lay in my hammock in the back yard, sometimes with headphones, sometimes without, and I will just sway and pray. I listen to my neighborhood, dogs barking, cars driving too fast, sirens in the distance—the whispers of my community. While doing this I find myself praying for those who live around me. When music is playing I drift in and out of praise, looking through the leaves to the stars. That hammock has been a place of peace. Take some time and do nothing.

So single ladies, use your free time to be selfish 😉

*This blog was written while listening to GoodBye Party playlist

Let’s Dance

cropped-img_6449.jpg

Dear Christian Single Ladies,

Long, long, long ago there was a night in college that I danced with freedom and utter abandon. It was one of those nights that you can never forget, the nights that feel like a dream but for a brief time they were your reality. The sun was setting on a warm Chicago night, I was on the roof of a parking garage, and a great band was playing a small show for a group of us. We danced. I remember everything about this night, the colors in the sky, the slight hint of chocolate in the air, the hand drums beating the sun down and the light breeze that kept our bodies cool as we danced and danced. I want to dance like that again.

I have forgotten how to be unencumbered, life has caught up with me. I was talking with one of you lovely ladies and we were chatting about shame—the shame we feel being single, the shame we feel about not being moms, or in one case not even wanting to be a mom. The shame has weighed us down. This shame is something we have accepted, we have allowed the opinion of others to overwhelm our freedom in Christ.

I will start with me: I let the church’s preconceived notions of femininity and mile markers win. We, single Christian women, let American Christianity set the standard, but it is time we look to the actual standard maker—well, the standard breaker—Jesus. Jesus asks us to follow him, Paul tells us to be unashamed, and we often feel shame in our obedience because it does not look like the current norm. Well ladies, screw the norm.

We must live counter-cultural lives, and that can be especially tough in our faith communities. Every time I go home, people ask if there is a “special someone” in my life. I used to boldly say no and move the conversation to another topic, but recently I have noticed that I feel bad when I have no one to tell them about. I kind of imagined, after years of no man in my life, people would stop asking and talk to me about the rest of my life. But maybe my life on its own is not impressive, maybe my life by itself is not important. These are the moments when shame rears its ugly head, and I have to choose joy and praise for the position the Lord has placed me. I like my life, and like many of you I want to be part of setting a new standard within my circle of influence.

Ladies, we can begin to reframe the conversations that are harmful. We can introduce new questions to the singles in our community of believers, we can dig deeper than a “special someone” and ask about calling, travel, obedience, struggle and joy. We can work together to erase the stigma and shame of singleness.

We are meant to dance unhindered by shame, disconnected from societal pressures and be fully filled with the Spirit, who will lead. We have to help set new standards for the next generation of women, we have to be present, so they can see representation of single, Godly women who lead, serve, and obey.

So tonight, turn the music up and let go. Throw off the shame list you hold on to, put on garments of righteousness and dance in the knowledge that you are seeking the Lord, being obedient, and you are representing Christ in your actions. Hold your head high when you enter church on Sunday morning. Your singleness is not for others to comment on, it is not your identity—Christ is.

Love ya ladies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To all the Christian single ladies

cropped-img_6187.jpg

Recently I read a random article about sexual desires and the single Christian woman. I was hoping this article would be helpful, with spring fever alive and well, but it was not. It was full of “advice” for humans, either married or single, not just for singles. Many of the articles written for my demographic miss the mark, do not apply to me, are far too general, and they are not at all vulnerable.

As someone who struggles with vulnerability because of the pain it can bring, I challenged myself to begin writing what I would want to hear. And as I chatted with other single friends about blogs, posts and articles for us, they too expressed a longing for something more real. So here it goes:

To all the single Christian ladies,

Sunday I went to church and heard a sermon that had very little to do with my life. It was good, it was full of truth, but it was about running from the Lord when you know His will. That is such a deep and rich topic, and many in the room where connecting with it. I have been working on my heart of disobedience and wondered: what happens when you are being obedient and the Lord’s promises still go unanswered? That is how I, a single woman in her mid-thirties, feel. Sometimes I think God forgets about me, and I know some of you feel that way too.

After Sunday’s sermon I talked with my pastor friend, who had no idea how I am feeling or what I am going through, and he said the Lord had a word for me—and I think this word could be for you, too. “You are not missing anything.” After he had spoken, I took a deep breath (and in all honesty, held back tears) because I knew that the Lord had met me. As I meditated on the word given to me, I heard two things. First, I am not missing out on anything by not being in a relationship. Second, the reason I am single is not because I am incomplete as a person. I am not missing anything. I know it feels like the world is hooking up and disobedience will lead to desires met, but God has not disappeared and He has something for you.

I often think there must be something wrong with my desire for a husband because it has yet to be met. But I know there is nothing wrong with this desire; and whether you desire a companion, a husband, an encounter, or to simply to be wanted—all of this is valid. And when these desires are not met, it is not because there is something wrong with you, it is not because you are in sin, it is not because “you are trying too hard.” Unfortunately, it is probably just God’s will, and He is Sovereign. I know this sounds trite, but it is also an encouragement. You are enough and He is faithful. You are not missing anything.

Recently I told a man I had feelings for him, but it did not go as I thought it would, and I had to be intentional about not letting lies creep in. I felt rejection and loneliness, but I know that although my situation is momentarily painful, Christ will show up. Single friend, when this happens to you, He will comfort you, He will understand your tears, and He does hear your prayers, they matter to Him. Singleness is a long road in Evangelical America. But know that you are important to the Body of Christ and the Lord will bring seasons of peace. Because you are not missing a thing.

Now onto sex. It is OK to want sex, to have chemistry with someone and to desire physicality. And if you are walking in obedience, things might not be simple, and you might have to walk away from something that you want in the moment. It is hard, and it sucks. But on this journey of holiness, give yourself grace—lots and lots of grace. Clearly you should be intentional with healthy boundaries, but when mistakes happen and sin creeps in, trust in the Lord and His grace will cover it all. His grace will cover shame and you can walk boldly as His daughter. Everything around you is telling you that you are missing something, but you are not. You are not missing a thing.

Single ladies, your struggles are valid and while memorizing scripture and working out are good, they will not change your God-given desires for a husband, for a physical relationship, or for someone to want you. In this season, it might feel like you are missing out or that your desires are misplaced, but as I have been learning that is not true. ‘Cause girls, we are in this together, and we are not missing a thing.

With love,

Candy

Mother’s Day

cropped-img_6014.jpg

Originally posted on May 4th 2016, updated and revised

I have sat through 35 years of Mother’s Day sermons. I have sat next to barren friends with tears in their eyes, I have sat next to content single women who serve in the children’s ministry, I have sat holding a friends child so that she could worship freely, and I have sat alone and lonely.

Motherhood has always alluded me, as an adult single, never married Christ follower, Mother’s day has just been another Sunday I call my mom. My Sunday routine is the same, go to church, go get coffee, go home, call my mom- nothing is different- except on this Sunday Moms are recognized, women who have bore children are exalted.

I have often felt that my child-free life screams from the pew on this day. As the women around me are gifted with a rose or some other flower, I sat happily in my childlessness but sad that mothering is being viewed so narrowly in the church. I am not a mom, but I do love kids. I am grateful for a church that gives all women flowers on this day. It was not to belittle the sacrifice of being a mom, but to be inclusive of those who may want to mother, but because of circumstance, singleness, infertility, timing, can not. Motherhood should not be viewed as purely biological.

I once read that there are two types of moms: the ones who are mothers by circumstance and those who are called to mothering. Either type can actually have children, but neither have to want them. There are single, barren, married, and waiting women who are called to mothering – they staff our nurseries, they hold babies, they mentor young people, they help in homework clubs, they take in orphans and they fill our mission fields. They love nurturing and caring for children. There are others who love their own kids and have no desire to deal with other people’s kids; but they are gifted and called to other things.

So Pastors and guest speakers, as you prepare your sermons for Mother’s Day, be inclusive of those that mother yet have no children. Be gracious in the language around the “sanctifying” act of childbirth; God uses many things to sanctify His children. Celebrate the women of your congregation, what they contribute, and the mothering spirit many of them bring to the sanctuary. And maybe ask a mom to fill your pulpit.

Running From the Lord

cropped-img_6008.jpg

Sometimes I get so impatient for the Lord. I am tempted to be like many of the folks of the Bible and take matters into my own hands. Instead of waiting on His timing, I push for mine.

I remember one time when I was living in Pennsylvania, and I was spending time with this guy. He was a good man, a godly man, but not the man for me. I did not want to admit this to myself; I wanted so badly for the relationship to work. I just wanted something to work. So I spent time working on this relationship that was not right, and I was miserable. For weeks I was a mess, and one Sunday a friend of mine asked me what was going on. I lost it, I just broke down crying. I was trying so hard to be what this guy wanted, and even though there was nothing wrong with him, there was something wrong with us.

Whenever I begin to feel myself pushing for my timing, I think about this very defining event. I think about crying in the back row at church, about the beautiful handkerchief my friend gave me, about the freedom I felt when I walked away from my misplaced desire in order to be obedient. It was hard, but it was also so liberating. All of those memories make my will seem empty. I wonder if Jonah ever felt this way. He ran and things got terrible. He preached repentance and his enemies surrendered to the Lord—he sulked and his shade withered. Going to Joppa was not a sin, but running from the Lord was.

Lately I have been really convicted about my pride, like Jonah I often think I know better than the Lord. Like Jonah I often run away until the Lord captures me and puts me in the middle of His plan. But unlike Jonah’s known story, while dealing with my pride, God has been gracious to gift me with a growing acknowledgement and confidence in His promises and truths. While He is breaking down my earthly pride, He is also building my eternal confidence. While I am being stripped of self, He is clothing me with His worth and delight.

The last week has been significantly rough—deadlines unmet, phone calls unanswered, water finding a way to my tear ducts and into the cracks in the basement, and yet there has been great peace. The peace makes no earthly sense. I should be reacting like Jonah, searching for a tree in the wilderness away from happy people, a place to be bitter and salty. But God is doing something new in me. He is awakening me to my worth in Him, not worth in my job, not worth in my status, not worth in my home. My worth in Him. And with this very basic understanding of my worth has come peace.

I Craved Community

cropped-img_5795.jpg

Recently I was at my favorite eavesdropping location—which also happens to be the best coffee shop in Wichita—and I heard a young man talking about his loneliness since moving to the Midwest. He spoke about how he longs for community, but the church the Lord has placed him in is lacking in his age bracket. He serves there and is spiritually fed but lacks life-giving community. I sat there in total understanding; when I moved back to the Midwest three years ago, I was so lonely. I knew I was where I supposed to be, and I knew this was where the Lord had planted me, but I craved community more than the coffee I actively pursue.

Three years ago I was struggling to find my place, but I knew God would be faithful and the loneliness was only for a season. And that is the truth—it really did only last for a season. God came through with an amazing community of people who I love. We eat together, play games, goof off, paint basements, and talk about life. I want so badly for those who are lonely to have a community, a family to be tied to.

The other day my friend’s son, Marky, had a conversation with his mom, that was wise beyond his five years . Marky has aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpas, but his parents have also collected a group of single friends. We are a strange family he has grown to love. Marky asked his mom if I was a part of their family, and when she said yes, he went on to ask about the others who hang out there. After this conversation he bounded back into the room and hugged me. This little man had integrated me, a single adult, into his life with no apprehension or hesitation.

I need this family, this rag tag community. We do not go to church together, in fact we are all from different congregations. But much like a moth to a flame, we all find ourselves drawn to Nick and Dana’s; gathering in their livingroom, fixing cars in their garage, and goofing off with their kids.

I keep thinking about the guy at the coffee shop and Marky. This young man needs a Nick and Dana in his life like Marky needs single Godly grown-ups in his life. How is it that a five-year-old who is trying to understand what family and friendship means can so easily simplify the relationship? His mom says I am family, so I am. What if we all treated strangers in this way? What if we took the Word of the Lord the way Marky takes the word of his mom? “When I was a stranger you welcomed me in.” What if Matthew 25 was the definitive Word for us at this moment? I want to be like Nick and Dana with an open home, and I want to be like Marky with an open mind and an obedient spirit (he’s in preschool, so that might be a stretch).

I also firmly believe that the Lord places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). As usual, my tendency to eavesdrop turned into a real conversation, and I hope the young man from the coffee shop accepts an invitation to hang out. Because when I said yes to a dinner invite three years ago, I discovered an unlikely family, an unexpected community I love. That “yes” took me from lonely to home.