When I was a kid, my Dad, who was absolutely the final word on all things--did not ask much of me. I had very few chores. I was mostly expected to work hard at school, read as often as possible and offer my parents patience when they were focused on my brother's special needs. But there were two very non-negotiable things:
1. Pray every single night. Pray before traveling. Pray at every meal. Pray before you yell at your brother. Pray for your enemies. Pray after you lost your temper on your well-meaning teacher. In other words: spend at least 1/2 your day praying, even if it is just an "Dear God, Sorry. Amen," muttered quickly after you lost your temper.
2. Give offering every Sunday.
Every Sunday, when I was a kid, my Dad would make me use my own money to fill my tiny pink offering envelope. I had to give something, preferably something that I'd notice--so in other words, I was not allowed to be cheap. My gift needed to hurt my piggy bank balance a bit.
Pray and give--those are the two things I knew were expected of me. When I look back, I know I did these things because I was told to do them and I know I also sometimes faked it--like when I was a teenager and spent all my money on clothes the day before and had to "borrow" some change from my Dad's top drawer for my offering or when I simply stopped making praying my default because I was more interested in taking my problems to the phone, instead of the throne.
As I get older, I've started to notice just how important the giving part is--and in so many ways giving is the answer to so many of my prayers. I pray endlessly for children battling cancer, I pray for the survivors--like my friend Taylor who survived cancer twice and now is weeks away from delivering her first baby. I pray for my daughter--the brain tumor survivor--who has been forced to navigate this world with knowledge no child should have. I pray for my friends who have lost their children to cancer--that they always feel loved, despite the ache I know will never leave. I pray for the doctors and the researchers and the people who advocate for cures and safer treatments.
And then, I give to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
I discovered ALSF when I was broken and angry. I hadn't stopped talking to God or praying then, even though the tone of my prayers was impatient and angry and scared. God did not seem to mind the yelling because I landed in the hospital atrium and heard Liz Scott, the mom of Alex, speaking not about about hope and science. I was hooked and a bit less angry with God, because He showed me a way forward.
My prayers led me to the gift of giving. And for nearly 15 years, our family has been giving to ALSF. We give donations and we give time. We are teaching our kids to give, too. Giving donations to ALSF answers my prayers in ways I never imagined:
I pray for cures--and my donations are funding research.
I pray for survivors--and through that funded research children are getting cures.
I pray for my grieving friends--and though no prayer can erase their pain, I am blessed to walk with them and love them and help them when I can. I am also blessed to witness incredible parents rise up in the face of indescribable loss. I get to see hope amidst the rumble.
I pray for my own daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at just 14 months old--and I see her thriving and growing and believing in herself, because she has grown up knowing that everyone can make a difference in this world.
Pray and give, friends. Pray and give.
PS Today just happens to be Giving Tuesday. Your friends might be posting Facebook fundraisers--give to them all. Even if it just a few bucks--your donations will answer someone's prayer and maybe your own prayers, too. If you are not sure where to give, give to ALSF. My Facebook fundraiser is here. And thank you.