Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Own Advent Conspiracy

For the past two Christmases I've been involved in the Advent Conspiracy, a movement inspiring compassion, not consumption, over the holidays. My church has done a lot to bring inspiration and practicality to this ideal, by providing several ways to donate money to Living Waters International. This organization builds and repairs wells to provide clean water to communities all over the world.

Last year, I felt convicted to spend half what I would normally spend on gifts and donate the other half to Water. This year, I felt like giving a small, set amount to water and being intentional with my gift-giving. I'm a big believer in Second Corinthians 9:7, "Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

So here's what's happened.

Last year, I gave one donation in honor of my office and gave everyone water bottle labels designed by the kids at my church. This year, one of my co-workers donated money for Water in honor of all her cousins.

My mother-in-law to be said she was inspired by the way my fiance and I do Christmas, and has decided to make it a tradition to donate to a different cause in my name each year. Given my heart for empowering women, she chose the Darfur Stoves Project this year, which provides stoves to refugee women that require 75% less fuel. This means they have to venture into the dangerous world outside the refugee camp much less.

My grandmother told me today that she and my grandfather spent their Christmas gift money for each other on a hefty food and supplies donation to Interfaith Ministries. My grandparents also requested that their children give a donation to a charity rather than give them gifts. My parents chose the 1000 Wells Project through Blood Water Mission, which also provides clean water. This was significant because my grandparents attend church with a man who owned a successful contracting business and gave it all up to work for Living Waters. My grandmother had tears in her eyes when she told me all this. They are fairly well off and could have afforded gifts in addition to their donation, but it just wasn't about that.

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping at Ten Thousand Villages this year. It's a fair trade organization that sells the most beautiful, handmade goods from everywhere. I have to admit I was so overwhelmed by the peaceful experience I had shopping there that I got teary more than once. Seeing Nativity scenes from all over the world was truly inspiring, recognizing how the story of God transcends culture.

Some say that giving is like a chain; I think it's more like a spiral. Because it all comes back to me in such miraculous ways. Three women have it a little easier in Darfur refugee camps, some children have the chance at life because of clean water, and a few artisans got a fair wage for the work, all indirectly because of me. This is why I believe in the miracle of Christ, because we are all so connected and so equipped to change and inspire and love.

It is by far the greatest conspiracy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent One/Two

Listening to the Spirit move where I've never seen the Spirit move... It's everywhere and I feel this subtle awakening in all the parts of my soul. Because I remember Your simple entrance into the world and I am changed. It's a wonder that You understand the likes of me when You are so much more. But somehow that makes me everything, it makes me new and redeemed and whole. And it makes You bigger than I can imagine.

Recognizing the painfully simple miracles of my everyday, and I hope.

Savor the color of angels,
Taste the water of Life,
and breathe freely.

Reach deeply into our souls and bring healing into our brokenness.

I will Rejoice, for my Savior has come to change everything.