Giving When You Have Nothing to Give

Approach the giving season with giving in a powerful Jesus-filled way.

Who wants to join me going into this giving season... giving?

I've been toying with the idea of a toy-less Christmas. Essentially replacing indulging my privileged children with giving to underprivileged children. I wouldn't do this without their involvement. I don't want them to look back on this time with longing for things. That would certainly be contradictory to the whole point.

And the point is giving. And teaching that lifestyle to my children.

I'm not sure I can pinpoint when I learned to give. Many times I think I'm still in the trenches learning this essential lifestyle. Sure, I'm on board with giving. But usually after I get. Usually after we're blessed with an income, then we'll give tithe. If we can cover our needs and a couple wants, then we'll donate to a charity. After we receive our tax refund each spring, then we sponsor a little girl in India named Poojitha.

Sadly, we usually only give after we receive.

Maybe that pattern is not entirely a bad thing. The only way we're able to give anything of importance is by receiving the gift of Jesus Christ. The problem comes when we make our giving contingent on material gains. Jesus was not and is not material, so limiting our giving by what we can materially manage is limiting His power to work in our lives.

In Love Skip Jump Shelene Bryan says, "I believe too many Christians have been lulled, pacified, and numbed into the cradle of the modern 'easy life.' The effect of this has been that we don't need God. We don't really need Him to accomplish what we are doing."

That's certainly my problem. Lately we give 10% and not much more, because we don't have much more. We give through ourselves, not Jesus. We live on our limited power and possessions, not His power and provisions from the stores of His entire Kingdom. The result is that we take for ourselves first, and then we don't usually have anything leftover to give to others.

Many times over God has worked miracles with our finances. Lately, I've come to expect starting the month with an unbalanced budget. Unbalanced in the negatives, just to clarify. By the end of the month, He has worked miracles with our budget. Not always in visible ways, either. Even though I closely monitor our budget, I'm not usually able to pinpoint how we pay all our bills, buy our normal amounts of food, and end the month with a balanced budget. But it happens and I know it's by the power of Jesus and His provisions.

It's incredible!

However, I don't believe Jesus blesses us simply for us to be blessed.

Is our balanced budget all He's after? Not really. If that were the case, then He's just buying us time until the new year when our monthly medical bills practically disappear along with His power. I believe He's doing more than just buying us time, because this story isn't really about us, it's about Him. Our budget miracles are for His glory.

And I think He really gets the glory when we give despite having nothing to give.

Giving from Him, not from ourselves.

This weekend a group of us discussed the "Profile of the Lukewarm" from the book Crazy Love. In this chapter, Francis Chan describes what lukewarm so-called Christians might do or what their lives might look like. Here are bits from 7 of the 18 statements that stuck out to me in regards to my sad giving habits.

Lukewarm people...

  • ...give money to charity and to the church if they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give. (1 Chron. 21:24, Luke 21:1-4)
  • ...give Jesus only a section of their time, money, and thoughts. (Luke 9:57-62)
  • others, but typically focus on those who love them in return. (Luke 14:12-14)
  • ...will serve God and others, but have limits to how far they will go. (Luke 18:21-25)
  • ...are thankful for their luxuries and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. (Matt. 25:34, 40; Isa. 58:6-7)
  • ...give/do whatever is necessary to keep from feeling too guilty. (1 Chron. 29:14; Matt. 13:44-46)
  • ...structure their lives to not have to trust God. (Luke 12:16-21; Heb. 11)

This sort of thinking is natural to most of us and even rationalized. The truth of Jesus' call has certainly made me fidget. What about our bills and caring for our children? God doesn't really want me to be irresponsible with my finances, right?

He never called us to be irresponsible, but certainly made it clear we need to not fear and instead trust Him. And that is the goal this giving season and beyond.

Fear and trust Him. With our finances and with our giving.

The first time December was more about giving than what I'd receive for Christmas, was when I was around 10. There were 3 siblings my age and younger that sometimes showed up to church. The youngest not as much, because his heart condition often landed him in the hospital. It was clear that bathing was not a routine occurrence for them. And their toes often peeked through tattered shoes.

The time I knew something needed to be done was when one of the girls came to church during a Midwest winter with no coat and, after accidentally exposing herself, apparently no undergarments. I went home that day and asked my mom if I could give the girl my coat (I had recently upgraded to a Chiefs starter jacket handed down from my brother), and if we could buy them new socks and underwear.

She went with it and got other family involved too. By the time we visited their humble rundown home, we had a good-sized box for each child with coats, packages of undergarments, and even some toys. There was also a box of fresh citrus and other foods for the parents. The kids excitedly opened their packages as the parents looked on and smiled. They were hard to understand when they spoke even though their first language was English, but their gratitude was clear without words.

That is such a good memory to me, but I'm sad that so far it's only a memory.

It hasn't become habit. My own kids haven't experienced this sort of giving. Christmases haven't been more about others and their needs than it has been about us and our wants. Yet.

There is still time to change. And this season is as good a time as any.

I've got to be honest and tell you I don't exactly know where to start. I have a vision of where I want my life and our family to be in terms of giving, but the path there is a little unclear.

Here are some ideas I'm considering to take those first steps in giving...

1 | Donate on #GivingTuesday.

This is a good follow-up to the "gimmes" of Black Friday and Cyber Monday; a reminder and opportunity to give. Learn more about Giving Tuesday >> here. We'll donate to a favorite charity (like Tiny Hands International) or a local shelter and make this season about more than ourselves.

2 | Limit internal giving.

For the last couple years we've given the kids something to wear, something to read, and something to play with. Our budget for this is super low, and what we get usually fits pretty close to the "need" category. This year I'm wondering if we can skip the "something to play with" for a better 'cause like #3 below.

3 | Increase external giving.

I'd like the kids to choose an underprivileged child of the same gender to buy a present for. We don't really have extra funds for this, so I feel this is more a priority than buying for ourselves (see #2 above). There are usually trees around town that have papers with a child's info and wish list. Shelters and such likely have a wish list, too.

4 | Buy from companies that give.

Jen Hatmaker recently shared a list of such places. For instance, we buy our glasses from Warby Parker because they're designer quality for only $95 total, but they also donate a pair for each pair they sell. Check out Jen's list >> here for other companies that give back.

5 | Support fundraisers for a good cause.

My daughter's first grade class is selling Krispy Kreme donuts to buy presents for children at our local shelter. We will definitely be buying a dozen (or two ;) of donuts to share with others, and help support this good cause.

6 | Donate all money earned December 1-25.

We could certainly use the little bit of money earned here. For 25 days, however, we're going beyond the usual small giving and dedicating all of those earnings to the lives of others. For any sales of Simplicity vs., or any commissions earned from Warber Parker and PicMonkey affiliate links these 25 days, 100% of proceeds will go to Tiny Hands International. They rescue girls in danger of being trafficked in Nepal and surrounding areas. I wear my One Girl bracelet often, and appreciate the reminder to take these serious scenarios and the name of a specific girl to Jesus in prayer.

There is so much more that could be done, and so much more I'd like to do. This is a small start that I hope ripples into a year-round giving habit. Most of all, I hope to pass on a heritage of selfless giving to my children.

Not as the world gives, but as only Jesus can give through us.

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Friday Update | Living Simply in November

an update on living simply where we are

Here are some things I've been wearing, reading, buying, ditching, and creating this month. Be sure to check out #5 and sign-up below to receive it free ;)

1 | WEARING...

Jeggings. Several years ago I made fun of these As Seen On TV "pajama jeans." Now, I'm practically living in the No nonsense brand I got from Wal-mart last month. They're super thick, fit inside my boots, have real pockets, and mold to my ever-changing postpartum body. Maybe I'll regret this fashion trend when I look back on it in a few years. For now, I'm just thankful to afford something warm that fits.

Warby Parker. Still loving my Sims frames in striped sassafras. My main man is choosing his pair, and I'm feeling the itch to try a new frame :)

Leg Warmers. Another fashion trend I quietly swore I'd never return to, but am loving. I hate socks, even in winter and instead use wool inserts in the bottom of my boots. Leg warmers don't bother my toes, keep me surprisingly warm, and add a cute accent peeking out of the top of my boots.

2 | READING...

Love Skip Jump by Shelene Bryan. My first post on this blog was titled "Journey to Yes." And this book about "living the adventure of yes" really brings it all around full circle for me. This book is about loving God and others, skipping a luxury (a.k.a. living simply) on behalf of someone else, and jumping in to a life with/for God and His Kingdom. That's a way of living I'm on board with!

Authentic Hospitality by Alysa Passage. So perfect for the holiday season. Alysa is a fellowship genius and really helps bring us back to the heart of hosting with lots of practical ideas to maneuver around the kitchen with ease.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This is a second read-through for me. A small group of us is reading a chapter each week for Sabbath School. We take turns reading, then stop and discuss whenever we feel so moved. This feels like a step forward after my "Quitting Church" post.

Simplicity vs. by Yours Truly. I know, a little strange that I'd read my own book. I'm actually currently in the middle of the workbook and improving our home post-move and pre-holidays. Slow progress built on the work I've done in our home before is really bringing it all together.

Do Nice. Be Kind. Spread Happy. by Bernadette Russell. This is one we're reading with the kids a little each evening. November is kindness month and this book is full of fun ideas for "ninja niceness." I also bought several other awesome books that I can't wait to give the kids for their birthdays and Christmas! (All within 2 weeks of each other :)

3 | BUYING...

IKEA home goods. It's one of my favorite sources for home ideas with lots of affordable items to satisfy my wish list. We visited one that opened near our friends a couple hours away, and I was thrilled to make a post-birthday stop last weekend. Yellow pillow covers for our living room, a soap dispenser for the kitchen, outdoor welcome mats for the front and back doors, woven cubes for our bookshelf, and a table desk to start creating a little artist nook in Brylee's room. All of it, of course, was first written on the Simplicity vs. Home Wish List to be sure I needed it ;)

Jamberry nail wraps. They're super cute, look neater than my sloppy nail polish, and last longer too. They take a little longer to apply, but not unreasonable. And I can stop in the middle if I need to attend to a crying baby, which I simply can't do with nail polish. I am pleased.


Complicated Cooking. I've never been much of a cook, but I was definitely more into it when I had only one child and nothin' but time. (I also used to clean a little deeper each week back in those days.) Lately, I'm sticking with a simple weekly meal-plan and I feel we're all better for it.

Over-Blogging. Waking up with baby every couple hours at night and limited writing time means I'm transitioning back into less posting. You can count on a minimum of end-of-the-month updates on the blog (last Friday of the month), monthly e-mails (first Wednesday of the month, sign-up below), and updates on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter throughout the week (follow at bottom of post). Plus another product coming your way in December; keep reading for more info.


Epic Beginner + 2015 Calendar Pack. Most of us are beginners in something we care about. Not just average beginners—epic beginners. Because we sort of learn to own it. To get good at it. The trying and starting. The failing and good-enough succeeding. The eternal process of it all.

And I hope it never changes.

Through this process of embracing epic beginnings we learn so much... we are humbled... we are free to experience more and try new things... and we even enjoy more success when our beginnings are epic.

I'm making a guided journal and 2015 calendar pack for all of us epic beginners. To help us:
» get past our excuses and fears,
» just start already,
» overcome our challenges,
» fail with grace,
» acknowledge our successes, and
» find rest.

Sign-up to receive Epic Beginner free December 22:

keep in touch...

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Simplifying Holiday Cards (and 4 Free Overlays)

simplifying holiday cards

Don't holiday cards just feel like one more obligation getting in the way of a peace-filled holiday season? I can't be the only that feels felt that way. Until a couple years ago, that's exactly what I thought about holiday cards.

Then, I wrote this >> post on how to make your own holiday cards and sent out some of our first. I may have been converted. Here are some ideas to keep it simple with more joy and less obligation...

1 | Skip the holiday photo shoot.

Who says you need a holiday photo shoot, anyway? Seriously, I'm sure you've taken at least one snapshot of your family this year. Cut the photo shoot chaos just this once (save it for the warmer weather), and use a photo you already have. It may not be perfect and it may not be the most up-to-date (that's what Facebook is for, right?). It can still be edited into a fun representation of your family. Or, skip the photo altogether and just buy some adorable cards in Target's $1 section.

2 | Less you, more them.

The art of the yearly holiday-time update letter is being replaced with online year-round in-the-moment updates. I'm actually thankful for that. Now, instead of the awkward "pay attention to us" letter, the holiday card can simply be "we are thankful for you." On the back of the photo or in the card, write a more specific reason you're thankful or a specific reason you cherish the people you're sending it to.

3 | Holiday your way.

Decorative tape on the photo, card, or envelope; a cute card with your photo inside; an e-version instead of mailed; a handwritten Bible text; fun colorful pens; stickers and artwork by the kids... The ways to personalize are endless. Don't worry about Pinterest-ing this one. Just go with what you like and what comes natural to you. Giving a little piece of yourself is as simple and special as it gets.

free holiday card overlays

Your Free Holiday Card Overlays

clockwise from top left // click to download

for you we are thankful
winter wishes for a blessed 2015
love. joy. peace.
happy holidays from our family to yours

How-to Use Your Holiday Overlays in PicMonkey

the simple steps to add a holiday overlay to your family photo(s)

how to add holiday card overlays in picmonkey
*PicMonkey affiliate links used // see full note below

1 | Download overlay.

Click on and download your favorite holiday card overlay(s) from above to your computer. Save only as a .png file (NOT .jpg) in order to keep the background transparent for placing over your photo.

2 | Edit family photo.

Go to and open your family photo. Crop and edit. I use the 4x6 crop since that's the size I print our photos for holiday cards. When cropping, be sure to leave space without people at top, bottom, OR one of the sides of your photo.

3 | Add saved overlay.

Click "Overlays" from the left sidebar, and select the "Your Own" box at the top. Select your saved overlay image and add. (Overlay must remain a .png file in order to have a transparent background.)

4 | Place + adjust overlay.

Adjust overlay's size and placement over your photo. Be sure not to cover anyone's face. If you wish, you can even add your own text with your family's name or other details that you wish to add. (I filled in the Winter Wishes photo with extra snowflakes.) Or, just leave it plain and simple.

5 | Save + share holiday card.

Save your new photo image. (You can save it as a .jpg at this point.) Print or share online.

Happy holidays!


more simple holidays:

small space tree ideas
advent calendar round-up
simplifying gifts
holiday date night

*Note: PicMonkey affiliate links used in this post. Any purchases made through one of these links can earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

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