Learning to Tell a Better Story (Isaiah’s Birthday Giving Challenge)

In my last post, I explained our desire to challenge our “hoarder” son to learn the discipline of giving.  With this birthday coming up, we were praying and talking through how to remind him that’s it’s never a good idea to love our gifts more than the Giver.  Thus, following in the footsteps of my friend, Steph, I issued a birthday giving challenge…but not to my husband…I tried to set one up for my 4 year old.

He memorized Acts 20:35 and learned about those crazy Israelites that loved the stuff God gave them more than they loved Him (Deuteronomy 31:19-22; 32:15).  For each day of the week leading up to his family birthday party, we would read and talk about a different passage of Scripture that talked about our possessions or giving.  Then he would pull down a link from his paper chain that would give him a giving challenge for the day.  These are the results…

Day 1: Make a card to send to someone and share your parade candy. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Isaiah chose to make a card to send to his friend, Brittian, but he surprised me by also wanting to “write a note to Jesus and send it to Heaven” by tying it to the end of a balloon.  (Full explanation is in my last post.)

Day 2: Pick a toy (or 2) to give away to someone. (Luke 12:16-21)

This was probably his least favorite. 😉  I didn’t want to push it or force him to do it, so we let it simmer.  This one wasn’t accomplished until several days after his party.  I’ll fill you in on that later.

Day 3: Share some of your tickets at Chuck E. Cheese. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

On Isaiah’s actual birthday, we took him and 3 friends to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate.  He got to go into the ticket blaster so he gave any tickets he won from playing any other games to his friends for them to get prizes.  He also chose on his own to use some of his tickets to buy a prize for his cousin, Lilly, as well as bringing a card from home to give to Chuck E. Cheese.  We had to take the card back from the mysterious giant rodent, however, after we realized it was one that had his full name and address on it. 😉  It was the thought that counted, though, right?

Day 4: Collect food to take to the food bank. (Matthew 6:19-21)

This was probably Isaiah’s favorite and the one he talked about the most.  We went through our pantry and collected some food and then went to a few other houses to see if they had anything to add.  He did all of the talking himself – explaining that he was collecting food for the food bank for his birthday and asking if they had any to share…topping it off by reciting Acts 20:35.

Day 5: Bake cookies and deliver them to someone. (Matthew 25:36-40)

For this challenge, Isaiah and I baked chocolate chip cookies together, put them in bags, and decorated each one with stickers.

Then Adam took him to a nursing home in town to give them out to residents.

I’m so thankful Adam took pictures…I loved seeing the joy on their precious faces  as Isaiah handed them treats and snuggled up for a hug or two.

Little four year old feet and hands among wrinkles and walkers.  We need to do this more often.

Day 6: Use some of your money to buy a Bible for a child that doesn’t have one and pray for him. 

For $5 at Family Christian Bookstore we were able to purchase a Spanish Bible to send to a child, along with a personal note for him/her to read.  We have a book mark to remind us to pray for the child.

Day 7: Take your tithe from any birthday money  you received, as well as any change you can find around the house, to Vacation Bible School.

We went on a little “treasure hunt” to find change to add to Isaiah’s tithe.  The money at VBS went towards purchasing new bunk beds for the cabins at Camp Mantowagan…one of our favorite places to be!

Last week we had friends visit for a play date so I reminded Isaiah about his challenge to give away 2 of his toys…one to each friend that was coming to play that day.  He dodged it most of the morning, but then decided to pick toys to part with.  He pulled out a random matchbox car…but then surprised me by also grabbing one of his “Mater” tow trucks.  Embarrassingly my initial response was, “Wait, why don’t you pick another one?  Papa got that for you…plus you actually play with that toy.”

Ugh.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit kept my mouth shut and I didn’t say what I was thinking.  Unfortunately, however, my first response showed a little too much of the actual condition of my heart and I didn’t like it.  One of the goals of this giving challenge was supposed to be for my son to learn to give willingly, uninhibitedly, sacrificially, and unselfishly.  After all, isn’t that what true giving, true offering, true worship is?

“…I will not take for the LORD a sacrifice that costs me nothing.”

– 1 Chronicles 21:24

Oh, Father, don’t allow my selfish heart to hinder that.

Isaiah happily gave his toys to his visitors that day…and I felt as proud as the mom of a gold medal winning Olympic athlete.

I thought of Isaiah’s decision several times over the next few days in moments when I was tempted to “build bigger barns” like the rich fool I had taught Isaiah about (Luke 12:13-21) rather than giving until it hurt.

Yet another humbling realization that I have much to learn from my 4 year old.

Isaiah absolutely loves telling stories.  His stories are detailed, imaginative, and usually pretty long.  I really do love listening, but I cringe when he asks ME to tell HIM a story.  I struggle to come up with something on my own and often feel silly trying to do it.  While listening to one of Isaiah’s elaborate stories the other day, I realized that he was using bits and pieces of stories that I had told him when making up his own.  He crafted his “adventure” around story details that he had already heard from me or Adam.

The greatness of his story was dependent upon how I told mine.

You see, I can set up all kinds of creative activities to teach my son…I can share Scripture and teach him lessons…but if it’s not matched by the actual living out in my life, I’m not sure that it will actually stick.  If it isn’t an active part of my story, chances are it won’t make the cut into his either.

And I want him to have an incredible story to tell.

Lesson learned.

Praying it makes it from my head to my heart…and then to the opening of my hands.

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6 responses

  1. That’s such a wonderful idea, Meg….and I love that you were challenged as well. I’m learning that everything I am teaching Charlotte is something I need to deal with as well. The pictures of Isaiah in action are wonderful. I was thinking of him on his birthday- I’ll always remember that day b/c it’s my mom’s birthday too. Such a special day. 🙂

  2. Hi Megan – This is the first chance I’ve had to let you know that this is my favorite post to date. I love all of your posts, but this one in particular has really stayed with me. Not only are you teaching some incredibly valuable lessons to Isaiah, but you are witnessing your own lessons as you both celebrate another year.

    I LOVE how you tie it all together by recognizing the importance of walking your own talk … not just in the stories you tell Isaiah, but in the simple moments that become the words to those stories.

    Another beautiful post, my gifted cousin.

  3. Pingback: Giving Grace: Isaiah’s 2013 Birthday Giving Challenge | Redefining "Good"

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