I know I've neglected the blog a bit lately, but to be honest I just couldn't write yet. I wanted to give The Generosity Project the breathing space it needed. As much as I've missed this little blog, God has been showing me so much and I knew it wasn't a process to be rushed. I want to share a couple of stories with you that came from that day. Because each person who came to help and shop has a unique story and because respecting their privacy is important for different reasons, you should know that their names have been changed and some of the details of their life are being kept intentionally vague. Don't worry, I'll leave in all the important stuff. So without further delay...Here's Ashely's story.
At every moment she carried tiny tears in her eyes. With each word, she became more fragile.
One of the girls "working" at the sale caught my attention and motioned for me to come over and told me that someone wanted to thank me. I felt silly stepping up to take praise, but God had far greater plans for that moment. I don't remember the first words that were exchanged. I know that she thanked me and explained that she heard about this because a woman who received help from the same organization that she did brought her along. I mainly remember that she was crying and so I hugged her. She was so overwhelmed. As I hugged her, her tiny frame shifted and all her weight fell against me and there while I held her in the midst of busy shoppers and gusts of autumn wind I knew that this women needed far more than anything that could be folded, sorted and displayed. She came for stuff, but she was looking for hope. I told her that we were doing all this because God loved us so much and was so generous that in his love for us he gave his Son, Jesus, so that we could have hope, life, and a future with him. She nodded and then looked down at the VCR in her arms. She was practically hugging it. Then, through her tears she explained that her mom died about a year ago and they found a bunch of videos, but they thought they would never get to watch their old, unseen, home movies of her because they didn't have a VCR. Then she gently patted the silver VCR and said "and now we'll be able to see her again."
It was beautiful, we never dreamed anything beyond meeting some needs and getting to know people-- we never dreamed it would go so deep.
We talked more, mainly I talked though because she was crying. She told me that one of her kids had been going to a program for youth aged kids (that I knew was from our church) and how she had asked if it was just for kids or if grown-ups could come too. Her child told her that it was just for kids, and you could see the disappointment on her face. I told her that at the same place on Sunday mornings there were church services for anyone. I began to tell her over and over that God loves her and that He knows her, even the deepest parts of her, and cares about her. I told her that the reason we were doing all this wasn't because any of us was rich- it was because God was so generous that he sent His son, Jesus to save us and if we have a personal relationship with Jesus then we have life and hope. I told her that Jesus came for her because he loves her. I asked if I could pray for her and I held her in a hug as another friend stood with us in prayer. I thanked God for Ashley and I thanked Him that he knew Ashley's heart so perfectly that he even provided a VCR for her and that how much more he would take care of her beyond that. I prayed about his love for us and the hope Jesus brings. I prayed that over and over. I'm so confident the Holy Spirit gave me those prayers and words to minister to her.
And what was amazing was that as I took the risk and jumped off the cultural cliff to say those things boldly-- I was SO FILLED with hope and joy and love. I was overwhelmed with God's sacrificially generous love for me and for Ashley. After we prayed she said that her kid had been given a bible, but that she didn't have one. I left my friend with Ashley while I ran inside and grabbed some paperback ESV bibles we had gotten for free at an event a long time ago and a pink leather bound copy of The Message. She recognized the paperback as the same one her son had been given. Then I showed her The Message and tried to explain the difference. Thankfully my friend stepped in and explained that The Message was more like the story form of the Bible to help you understand. Ashley was concerned about which one she would need for church. So we told her to take them both. Then my friend asked her what kind of things they needed and we started helping her look for what she needed for herself and her children.
We felt so connected to her, it didn't feel like a huge, multi-family, garage sale giveaway event for strangers. It felt like we were rummaging through our closets and our friends' closets to help a friend in need. It felt like showing her a tiny morsel of the endless hope of Jesus, like pouring a small glass of living water and praying that she would drink it and never thirst again. In that moment I felt completely and utterly small and humble and grateful for the hope that leads each day in my life, for the gift of grace and Jesus and the nearness of God. I still pray for Ashley that she would turn to Jesus for her hope, and I thank God for her because I saw myself in her. I saw my own inability to save myself and my own desperation for Jesus.
To tell you that The Generosity Project was a success or that it was amazing...it just can't even touch the stories and impact that came from that day. I hope you will check in here as I post new stories and share my heart. God did great things. If you were a part of The Generosity Project in any way please share your stories or what you took from it or the emotional roller coaster that several of us recount being on-- in the comment section below. I am sure that there was so much more that I never even knew about that day.
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20