“Give what you have decided in your heart to give.”
What powerful words from Paul in 2 Corinthians that my husband and I took to heart in our early days of parenting.
We loved being parents and loved pouring into our children as well as their friends. “The more the merrier” was our motto when it came to having our daughters’ friends at our house. We wanted those kids at our house. That way we knew what they are watching, doing, eating, drinking and who they were hanging out with.
It wasn’t a conspiracy or a plot to be the cool parents, but rather a calling that we felt when we became parents. It was like 2 Corinthians 9:7 became our north-star verse: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And that giving included lots of gatherings.
Pouring our lives into our children and their friends by being Christian witnesses is the most important thing in this world – showing them Jesus; being the hands and feet of Christ.
And so we began that journey years ago. As most young couples, we didn’t have much extra money, so we looked for ways to do fun things that didn’t cost a lot. We wanted to be the gathering house and by being the gathering house, we knew we would have to spend money on snacks and other things.
We found 2 Corinthians 2:6 was a promise that God kept for us. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
We figured out ways to sacrifice spending on other things so that we could use funds to provide a safe place for kids to gather.
When our girls were younger, we would have parties for about any occasion we could think of: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, summer, back-to-school, Halloween and Christmas. Our snacks usually included homemade cut-out cookies and Kool-Aid® drinks. We would play games like drop the clothes pin in a jar, Duck-Duck- Goose or tag in the front yard. We had a swimming pool that was always a summer favorite activity. And we did crafts. So many crafts!
During those parties, we would decorate valentine cards and take them to the local nursing homes for residents. We would wear green and eat green food, whether naturally green or with a little help from food coloring, for St. Patrick’s Day. We had Easter egg hunts with eggs filled with a dime or a piece of candy.
One year we had a carnival where we let each child decorate their own cupcake which in turn became the party snack. We had sponge throwing at adults and football-through-a tire-swing throwing contests. We set up an obstacle course for kids to ride a tricycle around little orange cones in record time. We played hopscotch on the basketball court and used sidewalk chalk to show our artistic talents.
When the kids got older, we felt a calling to continue to pour into them not only in the ways of the past by creating a safe gathering spot for them, but also to use every opportunity to share with them spiritually.
We made sure our basement was clean and included a TV, a dorm size refrigerator filled with soda and a table full of snacks. We wanted everyone to feel welcome. We hosted the girls’ sports teams for dinners and then left them to enjoy time to themselves in the basement.
We had a basketball goal that was strong enough for those show-off boys trying to dunk the ball and even splurged on a hot tub for the girls’ basketball team to gather after games for team bonding. We made sure to have plenty of soda and snacks on hand.
Before meals, we always prayed and after a few visits to our home, the friends came to expect and respect that. They didn’t eat even one bite until we prayed. They knew we didn’t tolerate illegal activity nor cursing or disrespect.
I kept a Bible out on the table and decorated the house with subtle pictures of scripture and positive messages. We didn’t shove anything down their throats but rather just tried to live out our faith.
I Peter 4:9 says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” We took that verse to heart. We loved to offer hospitality.
We didn’t care if kids wore their shoes in our home and they were always welcome to eat and drink in all rooms with no judgment. Spills were wiped up and stains were covered with a rug. If I needed to sweep up dirt after they left, then out came the sweeper.
When one of our daughter’s friends and teammates was tragically killed their senior year, our house was the house of refuge. We grabbed soda and water bottles and boxes of tissues and placed them in the circle of sobbing teens. Kids, coaches and parents alike came for community support.
Again…we wanted those kids at our house. We wanted to pour the love of Christ into their hurting hearts.
As a parent raising children, we hear Proverbs 22:6 a lot. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” We can’t keep a child from going astray but we can do the best we know how to train them in the ways of the Lord.
We also can’t raise everyone else’s children, but we can offer hospitality and a safe place to gather while pouring the love of Christ into each child. During those years, there may be days you want to be left alone. There may be days you don’t want to make one more batch of chocolate chip cookies. There may be days you can’t hear yourself think because of the noise.
But those days go by quickly and I promise you that you will crave the laughter, the smashed chips in the carpet and the driveway full of cars.
And as you look back, you will know that obeying the command of Jesus to “love one another, as I have loved you” continues to bring joy to your heart and a simple smile to your face.
As I prepare this week for a small gathering of a few young ladies to celebrate Christmas in July at my house, I have found a new set of God’s children to pour into. They are young adults who go to our church. They are similar to the ages of our grown daughters who now live far away from us. These young adults were not in our community when our girls were growing up. But they are now, and I believe God is giving me this opportunity to continue my heart’s passion with a new group of His children.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” And as I put up a Christmas tree and set the table with Christmas dishes in July, I know that my heart has decided to keep on giving.
Time means nothing to God. And therefore, I want to keep giving to His children no matter the age. I hope you, too find your passion for doing God’s calling on your lives right in the walls of your own home.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.