the reluctant cheerful giver

Well, would you looky here? I promised a Radical Follow-Up post today and SURE ENOUGH! So many times I feel like the dude in the Bible who said he was going to do something and didn’t do it, and Jesus said it’s way better not to say anything at all if you’re not going to follow through. (Boo to being that guy.)

So, my birthday money. Let me say upfront that I’ve already prayed over this post, prayed that my heart is in the right place and that I’m sharing something that I hope will ENCOURAGE you, not toot my own dumb horn in any way.

First of all, WOOHOO for EIGHTY-TWO birthday gifts!! I also got two physical birthday gifts–a Kids Love Ohio book from my friend Jamie and a Vintage Scrabble Jr. game from my friend Ali–and then $85 from three different people who love me. And my mom and dad watched the girls overnight so Gabe and I could have 24 kiddo-free hours together.

I spent $9 on a journal at Target and $3 on (ahem) Scrabble letters at an antique store. Which left $73 and a world of possibilities. I decided to sit on the money in case something really fabulous came up.

And then our van broke down, and whoosh went our Cambodia Fund.

But I still had that delicious $73 in my desk drawer.

And then Panha’s dad’s tuk-tuk got stolen. And as I sent out e-mails and facebook messages imploring people to help, I thought to myself, “This stinks. After that van repair bill, we don’t have a dollar to spare. I wish so badly I had something to give to Panha’s family.”

You do, said a voice. You have your birthday money.

Oh for crying out loud, I thought. My van breaks. My Cambodia Fund is gone. And you want to take the ONE PIECE OF JOY I have left right now? (insert fingers in ears, start loud humming)

Give your birthday money to Panha’s family.

(Big deep sigh.) Please tell me this isn’t your voice I’m hearing, God. It’s just the guilt talking, right? Really? My birthday money??

Give your birthday money to Panha’s family.

Oh my word. Enough of the voices!! Okay, okay, how about 20 bucks? Then I can say I helped, but I’ll still have $53 to spend on something I want.

Give ALL of your birthday money to Panha’s family.

(Stunned silence, stomach churning, not a pretty moment.)

I’m waiting.

And so I cringed and winced and sent $73 via paypal to help buy an $1100 tuk-tuk. For someone who has nothing. While I sit here with virtually everything.

I’ll be honest. IT HURT. I’m ashamed to admit how much it hurt, because come on. If I thought that was painful, what would I do with some real pain? I went up to my bed and begged God to make it not hurt, to turn me into a cheerful giver, to make me into someone who can’t help but give, who wants so desperately to give. Not a stingy birthday-money hoarder.

The hurt didn’t magically disappear. But it did sloooowly fade away. And by the time all the money was raised for the tuk-tuk (and then some), I was so thrilled that I had been able to play a small part in it all. What if I hadn’t given? I wouldn’t have “owned” part of this beautiful story. I can’t even imagine.

And then. THEN. Panha’s dad gave his life to Jesus. And HELLO. Seventy-three stinking dollars is NOTHING to “pay” for someone’s SOUL. There is nothing on earth that would have been worth buying in place of THAT.

And that’s when the true joy came. It came barreling over me and caught me off guard and made me cry. And I realized that God had answered my prayer and made me the cheerful giver I had begged him to make me. It just took a little while.

Fast forward two weeks. Gabe called me from work yesterday with some amazing news. A Christmas bonus. The first one he’s ever gotten in his life. He gave me a chunk of it to put back in the Cambodia Fund, bless his sweet heart. And $40 to go buy a belated birthday gift.

I sit here in awe of the God who loves me very, very much.

31 thoughts on “the reluctant cheerful giver

  1. Pingback: Marla Taviano » money talks

  2. Kelsie

    Thanks for sharing your struggles, Marla. And thanks for sharing what God did in your heart. He is so good! This was a sobering story.

  3. Michele Willis

    Praise the Lord for a new life in the kingdom!!!!! And how awesome to know that you had a part in it (and I believe it was a BIG part and not a small one)!!! I am so amazed at God’s goodness…it frustrates me that I don’t have more faith and have to be amazed when He does what He says He will do though! :-)

  4. meghan @ spicy magnolia

    You ARE loved and have had some amazing stories lately that you HAVE to remember. You will have to watch yourself closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live so that you can teach them to your children and to their children after them! (Deut. 4:9)

  5. sandee

    Speaking of giving and Radical…I just read Ann’s post today…and my oh my….has me thinking….there that tension is again:

    “Maybe that’s always the only choice we have to make every Christmas: feed our own fickle wishes or feed the real hunger of Christ?”

  6. Lisa Basner

    I have tears in my eyes; God always provides for those that love Him! Even when we don’t need anything, He gives us those little perks that we weren’t expecting. Miss you!!

  7. Sheree

    You always allow me to cry! This was just further assurance that God will complete the process He has me walking through. Thank you for your honesty and your obedience!!

  8. Nina

    This story made me cry, particularly when about Panha’s dad–what a TINY price to pay!

    I hope you enjoy “Kids Love Ohio.” The guy who wrote it was a high-school buddy of my husband’s!

  9. Missy June

    I’m so glad you shared. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a drawer stash of cash, and that letting go of it is so worth it! I appreciated the description of how the joy/cheer slowly crept upon you then surprised your heart with impact! Beautiful!

  10. Natalie

    This was a wonderful encouragement to me, Marla! I think and talk all the time about how I want to be able to give radically but the idea of a lifestyle cap or radical changes to our lifestyles well that’s just HARD! But it’s about obedience, isn’t it? And isn’t He just so good to bless us when we do obey. I love Him!

  11. Shay T.

    Marla, Thank you for sharing this story. I find it interesting how many times God asks me to give something right when I truly feel I have nothing to spare. He has been faithful to meet my needs (and then some) every single time. It so encourages me to here that others struggle at times with it too.
    Thank you for being so honest with your struggle over this money. I think more than anything it shows how awesome God is. I recently told a friend, “I know in theory we have free will but it often does’t feel like a choice” LOL God will push and push until I do what he asks and then he blesses me for it! If that isn’t grace I don’t know what is…

  12. Jennifer Eaby

    Beautiful, Marla. It’s through “suffering” that we come to “smell” more like Jesus. It isn’t fun, but you smell so good in the end! 😉

  13. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    “And I realized that God had answered my prayer and made me the cheerful giver I had begged him to make me. It just took a little while.”

    As someone who knows that $72 to spend on herself is a small FORTUNE, I could feel the gut-wrenching pain in your decision. I also feel the ecstatic joy in knowing the part you played in this Kingdom moment.

    Thanks for sharing so openly with us, friend. Such powerful encouragement to all of us in our reluctant giving!

  14. Marla Taviano

    You guys are the BEST!! Thanks for loving on me. And I’m laughing, because I originally wrote “winced and sent $72 via paypal” when it was actually $73. Didn’t mean to make it sound like I kept back one lone dollar for spite. :)

  15. Melanie Miller

    Thanks for sharing this, Marla. It was very real and honest and gives glory to Him who gives all good things. This will definitely make it easier to give next time, won’t it? Awesome.

  16. Gabe Taviano

    Proud of you for being transparent. If there’s one thing God has taught us over and over, it’s to hold on loosely to the things of this world. Amazing to see the things you’re able to hold on loosely to be used in eternal ways that multiply the pain into happiness.

    Letting God use a Christmas bonus is something I would have laughed at 10 years ago. He knows what to do with His money.

  17. Amy Sorrells

    No wonder you wept while writing it! It’s so hard to obey God when it seems He’s asking us to give so much. But oh the joy of the return when we see what He does with our gifts, and how He molds our heart closer to the shape of Him! Blessings to you (while I go google “tuk-tuk”).

  18. ali

    Oh, for goodness sakes Marla. It’s 7a, and I’m crying and darn it, I have to mother my two kids and I’m a mess.

    This is an incredible story of you obeying and God blessing. Of course God’s blessings don’t always look like that, but sometimes they do, and it never ceases to amaze me how He stretches us and challenges us – all so that we lean in closer to Him, and then He loves on us in a way that can only produce one response – huge, huge, huge praise.

    And that sentence just ran on and on and on, and I don’t care one bit because remember? I’m still teary-eyed from your amazing post and trying to make sense just isn’t in the cards for me right now.

  19. niki hughes

    Marla, I love reading posts where this smile starts to come across my face & then stays there while I read the rest of it. This was one of those posts! I nodded at a few things you said, b/c I so get some of those same things (good intentions, birthday money, the aha! of the bigger picture later, after the fact). Thank you for writing this. I am encouraged. “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all…”Gal. 6:9 You are doing good! I am so enjoying you, my sister! Enjoy the birthday $! Niki

  20. janelle

    Incarnation…Word becomes flesh ( you lived out JESUS CHRIST…suffering…giving…etc. )
    Transformation ….Grace…who you are = who you WILL be that others will see Him in you.
    Crucifixion = death to self
    Resurrection = Father’s restoration
    Glorification = Father’s Reward !

    You could see each phase in your cheerful giver travels…and you made it to the end ! He will do it every time, if we each will become ” Christ like ” enough to exalt Him alone ! How cool is GOD ?

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