To Give Really is To Receive

There are a few Christmas morning memories and cherished Christmas presents that come to my mind every year at Christmas time.  Some of them I sit with for a while, thinking about every detail and remembering every moment.  Some of them I pass by quickly, not sure why I remembered them at all.

This year I was talking with a friend about our plans to reinforce the idea of giving to our children.  As I was talking, a familiar memory of a toy from my distant past floated to the front of my mind.  I say familiar because this toy has come to my mind every year of my adult life.  Each year as I remember it, I briefly think about the circumstances around it, but never give it much more than a few seconds of thought.  This year I told my friend the story of this toy and realized this toy is an important toy in my past and I should be thankful to remember it each year.

When I first saw this toy, it was a few weeks before Christmas.  It sat as one of a few wrapped presents under our Christmas tree with my name on the tag.  I’d shaken them all and turned them top over bottom trying to figure them out.   I still had no clue what was under the wrapping.

My sister and I were military brats, our Mom had enlisted in the Air Force a few years earlier and we were on our second year in Louisiana.  This was the year I learned that a Brownie wasn’t always made out of chocolate – it might just have red hair and brown eyes (thank you, Dana), if your nose is dripping and you keep wiping it with your hand you may be sent home from school (thank you, Mrs. Beaver), and Second graders get to have a Christmas party at school (thank you, Santa!).   That last one got a big “Woohoo”!  Having raised my own children, I’m sure we also had one in the first grade, however it must not have been very memorable because it’s almost as if Christmas did not exist at school before the mention of this party.  The week leading up the party was very exciting.  We were going to have cookies and punch, play games, sing songs – and MOST IMPORTANTLY – exchange gifts.

I’m not sure why, but on the night before that special day at school, I did not have a gift to take to the party.  If you didn’t give a gift, you could not receive a gift.  Our teacher had been very clear on this point.  The gift was the biggest, best part of this day.  I was going to get a Christmas present at school  – IF and only IF I had one to give.  I probably cried and carried on and begged and pleaded and screamed and yelled, but my Mom was not going to take me to buy a gift for this exchange.  What she would do – she would let me choose one of my own wrapped presents under the tree to take to the party, to give to another child.

No hints were provided about the presents I had to choose from, no guarantees were made that I would get an equally great gift from one of my classmates.  I was scared.  I inspected every present as carefully as I could.  I annoyed my mother tremendously (sorry, Mom!).  I chose a gift and she wouldn’t even let me unwrap it to be certain it was the right one to give.  I’m certain I second-guessed myself all night.  I really wanted a present from school – but what was I giving up to get it?

At the school party I dutifully turned in my present, my ticket to the exchange, and then I never let it out of my sight.  I followed it around as best I could all day until the time to open the presents finally came.  A boy got it.  I was even more nervous – what if it was a girl toy? A really great girl toy?  He opened it.  He smiled.  The toy was a Tupperware Pop A lot Ball Popper.  My Mom was the Tupperware queen and I had been a little nervous she’d extend this into Christmas somehow.  This was a toy that looked like fun, I would have been happy to see it Christmas morning.  But, It actually felt super terrific fun to give this toy to this little boy – I’m not sure I even would have minded if it had been the doll that I REALLY wanted (although he might not have been as happy).

Every year I remember this toy.  In the past I’ve only given it a few seconds of consideration; Just enough time to acknowledge that it was obviously very meaningful for me to give something of my own, something that held some importance to me.

I never thought about it long enough to realize – I have no idea what toy I received in this gift exchange. What I did receive is an annual reminder that giving is far more fun and memorable than receiving is.

 

 

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3 Ways to Help Orphans and Trafficked Children for Less than $35 – RIGHT NOW

#1 – Buy a T-Shirt from my favorite blog, My Crazy Adoption.  Kari Gibson is giving away two missions trips to Ethiopia with the Visiting Orphans ministry; One T-shirt = 1 Entry.  The T-shirts are about $30 and they are all very cool.   Think Christmas presents (I did, don’t tell the girls!).  All money raised over the two trips is going to Project 61 in Korah and Visiting Orphans.  Buy one, or two, or three, or – you get the point…..

#2  Call Your Senators today and ask them to support the Child Protection Compact Act (S. 3184) (CPCA).  Go to this link for WorldVision they have a neat little pop-up screen to help you find out who your Senators are and to see a very simple call script.  For the price of a phone call you can make a big difference!

“The Child Protection Compact Act (S. 3184) would help enforce anti-trafficking laws by providing technical assistance and training to several countries that have shown the political will to fight human trafficking and exploitation but lack the resources, know-how, and capacity to follow up with survivors and prosecute traffickers.

The CPCA is now on the brink of getting a vote in the U.S. Senate.  We need to let our elected leaders know this issue is a big deal to us, the voters.”

These children are being sold in the US and abroad – it IS our problem!

#3 Pray for the children who are vulnerable and at risk for being trafficked, for the children that are currently forced into prostitution or labor as prisoners and slaves, for the traffickers and for the people buying the children, for the people fighting for the freedom of these children.

Pray for freedom, wisdom, awareness, resources, protection, miracles, healing, understanding, compassion, and love.

Pray for the U.S., Cambodia, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, Moldova, the World.

You can do all three in less than 15 minutes for less than $35.  You can do the second and third for almost no cost in less than 10 minutes.  It will make a difference.

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Welcome to Clouds of Mercy

I desperately want to be a person that makes a real difference in other people’s  lives – on purpose and everyday.  Initially, I was struggling to understand how this would work or what it should look like. I believe Jesus provided some pretty good instructions when he said I should  “love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul and with all my mind…..and love my neighbor as I love myself.” (Matthew 22:37–38).  But who do I really consider my neighbors and what does real love look like in action?

The idea of this blog was somehow all mixed up with my need to love others and make a difference.  I was sure that I was supposed to start a blog, but I was extremely hesitant to actually do it.  I was sure I was (and am) supposed to be loving others more, but no idea where to even start.  I was praying about it – praying a lot!  It seemed like God kept bringing me to the clouds. I would find myself searching for the clouds and staring at them anytime I could see the sky.  I’d never really noticed the clouds before, even though they are always there.  Always beautiful, always different, and always meeting some purpose; although, at the time, I really didn’t know for sure what the purpose of a cloud was.

It felt like God was trying to make some kind of point in bringing my attention to the clouds daily.  So, I thought I should at least understand why he made clouds, what is their purpose? Clearly, I could have paid more attention in school.  But, thankfully, now we have Google – According to this article from NASA, the clouds “play a primary role in how life-giving water circulates around our planet” and shield us from the Sun while trapping some heat on the Earth. “This delicate balance helps to create a comfortable climate, where life flourishes.”   So, clouds not only keep us alive, they also help us to flourish (I love that word!) and bring us comfort. Hmmmm.

I looked further and  was more than a little  surprised to find out that clouds are mentioned quite often and in very special ways all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.

  • God appears as a cloud to lead people (Exodus from Egypt) and speaks from a cloud in the Old and New Testament (Exodus and Jesus on the mountain top with the disciples, Moses and Elijah in Matthew)
  • Clouds are used to increase faith (Elijah) and show promise (Rainbow in clouds)
  • Jesus is transported by the clouds (ascended on a cloud and will return on a cloud)

There are lots more times that clouds are mentioned in the Bible, just click here if you want to see them all.

Well, this was all becoming really cool.  The clouds are special to God; useful and important and another way to show us ultimate love by giving us flourishing life and comfort.  Maybe God was trying to lead me or talking to me from those clouds. In writing all of this out, I came to see a clear definition of love for my neighbors that I can use daily.  Love is: to bring real comfort (sympathy, support, cheer) and to help all life flourish (thrive, blossom, expand, bear fruit) and My Neighbors are: everyone under the clouds.  What a bonus, the clouds are there everyday as an actual reminder of my purpose.  As I find real ways to walk this out, I’ll talk about it all here, on this blog.

Giveaway

I may be the only one that reads this blog. But, if not, if you randomly landed here, leave me a comment.   How do you think we can be Clouds of Mercy for each other and for all those that have no cover?  Who is your neighbor?  How much do you love yourself and are you willing to turn that toward someone else?

I love  blogs that give stuff away – it seems like so much fun.  So, if you leave a comment, you may win an awesome t-shirt from the Call and Response website. You can learn more about this Human Trafficking documentary (I’ll be talking about Human Trafficking and other social injustices alot) and pick your favorite t-shirt by clicking on the link above.  My favorite is below:

Love you all,

Toshua

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