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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

Learning to Look Beyond Ourselves

I looked at my husband recently as we were driving down the road and asked him, “Do you ever think that when we get to heaven someday, Jesus is going to look at us say: ‘Meh, you did fine down there. But you could have done SO MUCH MORE…’” I don’t think He would use these actual words (particularly “meh”…I’m sure Jesus is far more articulate), but I do wonder if He might call us out for all the missed opportunities here on earth to do some good.

It’s a thought that’s been on my heart a good bit lately, and I’m truthfully a little intimidated of writing about it because I feel as if I’m just now waking up to the whole notion myself in a new way. So in full disclosure, the things I say here today are pointed just as much to me as they are to anyone else. And truth be told…my intent with this post isn’t to “point” at all, but simply to make us all think a bit, particularly as we enter into a season of intentional gratitude and giving.

The subject of looking beyond myself and thinking about how to give back in a larger way, to make a significant impact in a more meaningful, intentional way, has been put into my path often lately. And if you’ve read my blog before, you might know that when messages show up in front of me repeatedly, I believe that something (or Someone, let’s be clear) is trying to get my attention.

In addition to some recent reading that I’ve been doing (Side note: do yourself a favor and pick up Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honneger. This book has done a number on my perspective, and not just on this topic. If you’re interested in the subjects of making a significant impact with your life and thinking on a more global scale, but also drilling down to how we can embrace paradox in our own lives and learn to build a collaborative culture in our immediate circles, I truly cannot recommend it enough. It will challenge you and encourage you in a wonderful way.), a speaker at church grabbed my attention and my heart a few weeks ago, and I haven’t quite been able to turn loose of her words.

The woman is the director of a local nonprofit organization in my hometown. The organization focuses on feeding the hungry in our community and making not only food, but clothing, furniture and more, accessible in a more affordable way. One of the programs that she oversees is specifically for children – during the school year, food is packed for kids to take home each weekend so they can have meals. Over the summer, the organization enlists volunteers to pack lunches each weekday so these sweet kiddos can have at least one hearty meal per day.

When she spoke to our church recently, she told a story about a little boy who was recently picking up his bag of food to take home over the weekend. When she gave him the bag, he asked for an additional bag – he wanted to double bag his food. She got it for him, but she asked him why he needed the extra bag. The boy answered that when he gets his food home each week, he buries it so that no one can take it from him.

Interestingly, not long before we heard this lady speak, Elliott and I had started having conversations about how we could use our side projects and make a bigger impact through them. AFP and Beautycounter are truly labors of love for us – they are projects that we give our time and effort to because we believe they are so terribly important. But in my quieter moments recently, I have begun to have a hard time reconciling stopping the work there. Yes, the work is important; the subjects of living a healthier lifestyle, making fitness more understandable and affordable for folks, educating people on the potential dangers of the products they use every day…these are good, important things to do. But my heart has felt called lately to bridge the gap between those who want to use safer skin care and those who can’t afford skin care at all. Between those who want to eat healthier foods and those who can’t afford to feed their families. Between my son, who has an abundance of food at his disposal each day, and the sweet boy just down the road who wants to bury his food each week so nobody will take it from him.

And so at the Austin house, we are wrestling with this topic. We are talking through what it might look like to close that gap. The truth is, we currently have two full-time incomes, and the money that we make through our other projects could absolutely be used to help bridge that gap. Maybe not in a huge way. Maybe not on a global scale. But I believe that we don’t have to have a global-scale impact to have a significant impact. You remember the story of the starfish scattered along the beach? It’s one of my favorites. The boy is throwing them back into the ocean one by one, in an effort to save them. A bystander questions him, telling him that there’s no way he can possibly save them all. The boy replies, “I know. But I can save this one.” And he throws it into the ocean.

Our impact can be much the same way. We might not be able to help feed every hungry person in the world, but we can start by feeding someone down the street. But I think if we’re going to do that, if we’re really going to have a heart for looking beyond ourselves and serving others, we’re going to have to deal with our own immunities. I believe that as a society, we have honestly grown immune to the struggles of the world around us. We numbly wrap ourselves in our soft cocoons of monogrammed t-shirts and Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and we tell ourselves that we’re thoughtful people because the bank pulls our automatic church offering out of our account every two weeks. We watch the news and scroll by stories on Facebook and say, “Bless their hearts.” Maybe we even comment with a praying hands emoji if we’re really feeling generous with our time. And then we keep scrolling, sipping, and ultimately forgetting.

Let’s be clear. I’m stepping all over my own toes here, friends. The top two things on my list in one of my recent gratitude journal entries were my hot cup of coffee and my pink fluffy bathrobe. Mother Teresa, I am not. And I don’t think we have to feel guilty about what we have. But I do believe we are called to bridge the gap. Share the rich blessings that have been given to us. If you’re reading this post, you are without a doubt one of the richest people in the entire world. Embrace that truth. I hope you don’t feel guilty about that fact – we have all been so abundantly blessed. But to those who have been given much, much is required. That statement is also one that we have become immune to, because we’ve heard it so often. But let your heart linger there for a minute. What could that mean for your own life?

This season, my family and I will be working to answer that question for ourselves. We will be focusing on deep gratitude for what we have been given, and we will be working intentionally to find new ways to share those blessings with others. Because I can’t stand the idea of a “meh” response one day from the One who set the example for all of us. I hope this season of gratitude and giving pushes you to reach beyond yourself in a new way, too. Happy Monday, friends.


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