Almost 10 years ago I wrote a blog.
I guess it was a blog, maybe it was really just more of a long post on Facebook. My hometown had just gone through a devastating tornado that killed 153 people, and I sat half a world away watching it unfold. I couldn’t sift through debris with my friends who had lost everything. I couldn’t give blood or volunteer at the hospital. I couldn’t even house someone who found themselves suddenly homeless. But what I could do was write.
So I did. That little blog somehow became the name of a movement in my hometown and to this day a mural is painted on a wall along Main Street with its title, “I Am Joplin”. The truth is, not very many people know that the “I Am Joplin” programs and t-shirts had anything to do with the words that originated on the other side of the world in the heart of a Joplin girl who was giving what she could give. Sometimes I still have people come up to me and say, “I wish people knew you wrote those words”. And I wrestle with, “Do I wish people knew that?”.
Giving comes in many forms. Giving is a part of the image of God that is sewn into the fabric of our souls. No matter what language we speak, the warmth that spreads from our chest when we can give of ourselves to meet a need for those we love or care deeply about is universal, and placed there by our creator.
I love the stories I hear of the evidence of the image of God in people who don’t even realize that it is part of Him showing itself in their lives.
Like the single man, just divorced, spending his first big holiday alone. Standing in line to pick up his pre-ordered Holiday Meal, size small, to eat alone as he navigates this new tradition. You know the kind, one small turkey with all of the fixings. The perfect scenario for his day. As he stands to the side of the counter after paying, he hears the young couple behind him place their order: “One small Holiday dinner please.” It was their first as a married couple. When they were told the only size dinners left were size large – that feed 6, he also heard them say “Oh…we can’t afford that”, as they turned to walk away.
The next words were spoken by him as he approached them with a bag full of ‘one size small dinner’ extended. “Would you guys do me a favor? I just realized I am going to need a lot more food than this. Would you mind taking this dinner so I can grab the large Turkey dinner?” As he sat at his small table for one, the kitchen counter weighed down with more food than he could eat in a week, his heart was still warm from the image of God’s presence that was near, although unrecognized.
At Velvet Ashes, women all over the world are seeking to reveal this image of God, so near and so unrecognized, to people in some of the most challenging places to call home. Motivated by a man whose life was so radically generous that we spend our lives pressing into what it means to live and give like that. Giving of our resources, our comfort, our stability, our holidays with family, our children’s time with grandparents, our Dr Pepper addiction, we wrap ourselves in what it means to give like he did. He gave his place near his Father, his home – the likes of which I can’t even imagine, wrapping himself in limitations and then laying down the only thing he had left to give…his life. It’s this generosity, generosity so overwhelming I’m drowning trying to get to the top of it, that prompted me to put on long skirts, and create “what if” scenarios for black mambas and rebel invasions.
And on this Giving Tuesday we ask for those that understand his generosity to give. Give so those who are living out a life of sacrifice can find community and courage to keep going. Give so Velvet Ashes can keep giving to them.
So, if we go back to the question I so artfully dodged earlier: “Do I wish that more people knew that?” Do I wish that more people knew about what I wrote? No… I wish that more people knew about what He did. What He gave up. What He is still giving.
And that is why we Velvet Ash. If you don’t know what it means to Velvet Ash…join us. And maybe start with giving. It’s a great place to start.