You will enjoy this inspiring story by my friend and today’s guest-poster, Christa Sterken. Christa writes vulnerable words about a time in her life when she was blessed by the intentional kindnesses of people around her. You can find more of her words on her blog.
This post is part of the Walking Alive series on the blog this year. Remember? …we’re talking about going out and doing stuff.
We hear about “Random Acts of Kindness” in magazines, every holiday we see it on TV news as the obligatory feel good stories. There are even books devoted to teaching us how to live giving surprising gifts to strangers.
This is indeed a beautiful thing; sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do this myself. Homeless and hungry hold tight to a reserved corner of my heart, the piece that knew how close we were to being there ourselves.
It had been a rough 4 years financially, and emotionally. Those years started with crazy risks to follow a dream and punishing events that left us with fear. The kind of fear where you wonder how you’ll pay the electric bill and clothe your children and keep the creditors from calling all hours of the day.
Our 4th house in 4 years. Not ideal for a family, and when my husband’s company offered to move us back to the town we had moved from a year before, offered was a very generous word. There wasn’t a choice. We left our pretty new house and moved into a rented duplex from a couple at our old church.
If you had asked, we would have said we were grateful. Indeed, we believed that we were. Mostly. Until the fear and longing and anger and helplessness crept back in. We felt God’s presence was something just out of grasp. WE didn’t say that out loud, not even to each other, but we deeply were shaken.
Six months after this generous move, Monday morning arrived. 9 am, my husband answered his work phone for the first conference call of the day. Except it wasn’t. It was his last. They let him go. It has a catchy acronym, RIF. Reduction in Force. We were officially RIFFED.
No savings, no notice, no home of our own, no control.
Right where God wanted us.
Crazy things started to happen. God things, played out through the hands and hearts of his people. No Random Acts here…Intentional, Relational Kindness, and if blew our minds.
I should tell you now that we were a proud couple, raised to take no help nor handouts. That was our role. We liked to give secret gifts, generous gifts. Let me say this – receiving takes a startling shift in attitude. We felt guilty, as though people who were “in need” deserved this, not us! Truth is, people who saw our struggle knew that we were “in need” and stepped in.
We learned quickly to swallow our pride and be transformed with humble gratitude. Let me share some of those amazing things:
- The girls’ piano teacher, not wanting them to lose music, insisted they keep coming for free
- A stranger from church left us a gift card for the grocery store
- Our church brought us a box of preparations for a Thanksgiving feast
- Another mystery family from church sent us $300
- Church paid me $100 extra for my job “for Christmas”
- My husband’s work paid him for a week of unused vacation time, not the norm
- A friend gave us a $325 gift card
- Our landlords and friends, let us pay no rent for a month while my husband did light maintenance in exchange
- We visited family and my dad let my husband work for a crazy wage for a week
- A speeding ticket I had received a month prior sent me a partial reimbursement
- More gift cards from friends
- A couponing friend filled our counters with special finds and groceries she shared
- A friend from a catering business brought a box of the finest meats and sides
- My parents paid for my prescription pain medicines so I wouldn’t go without
- There was unexplained, never figured out money in checking account
- Our kids were happy, and healthy, and unaffected
- Even with no insurance, we didn’t need medical care for the three months without work
And, our daughters youth group…they pooled their money and went to buy us groceries and toilet paper and things they thought we’d need. They managed to get a key to our place, while were gone snuck in, and when we got home our table was full.
Oh yes, God got our attention. It is more blessed to give than receive the Proverb tells us, but oh…when we receive God’s providence it is awe-inspiring.
These examples are just a few I could share with you. Even in our doubt, when our faith was half the size of a mustard seed, friends intentionally stepped in and believed for us. Then, they acted.
Catch that? So often we are inclined to feel badly for someone in need, we pray for a friend who is suffering. And for every time we feel that loving intent, how many more times do we let the thoughts go without action?
Yes, I keep often my eye out to help strangers. Even more, God taught us to keep our eye out also for those we know. Who we intimately understand their needs, things they’d never ask for.
We have a gift, an opportunity to partner with the one who sees all. Who will provide not answers but perhaps, the spark of an idea to provide a piece. The tiny part it was designed for us to play.
Proverbs 3:27 Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help
This year, let us go crazy with intentionality. Giving generously wherever we see the need. It doesn’t have to be money or gift cards. Our time and availability is the greatest gift perhaps that God allows us to bestow. This year can be different…
Christa Sterken is on a journey of discovering who she was made to be. A recovering perfectionist, she delights in family, home, photography and other artistic pursuits. Fascinated by everyday moments, seeking God’s hand in the ordinary. Visit her at www.christasterken.com