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why give?

(my brother Chris 7, me almost 6 and lil bro Greg 2)

Last month in March I  had an anonymous comment which I never posted. It read something like this:
"why are you always donating? Why do you have pieces in your shop that are donation pieces with 100% of the proceeds going to certain causes or organizations? Why not just give a portion? Why are you even doing it? Is it for marketing yourself or something you just feel like doing?"

at first I was offended.
Marketing myself?!!
are you kidding me?!!

I was on my high horse talking at the computer screen saying things like 
"who do you think you are Mr. anonymous?"
"who even asks something like that?"
"you have no idea what I've been through in my life!"

"and besides I don't need a reason to want to help out people if my heart feels called to help out"

There were many more rants and raves until I realized that this person didn't know what I'd been through and maybe just maybe they weren't attacking me and were genuinely interested in why I support causes so freely
I calmed down to stop and pray, because I had been feeling a tug on my heart to share on my blog about part of my story but then decided not to months back.
After receiving this comment I needed to collect my thoughts and ask if this was something God wanted me to truly share, because though painfully real and a part of my life I had hid this from so many and never really shared this with anyone.
not everyone understands or knows my heart and how much it desires to give, especially to those in need.

So I have decided to share something with you all.
A piece of my life very few actually know about

A few months back on The Shine Project's blog I read this post
I instantly wept because I personally related to this family in need, how this single mom was crammed in this apartment with her five children.
I knew in the instant after reading that I wanted needed to be part of this. I wrote miss Ashley letting her know I wanted to help in any way with the Shine Scholarship Project which is a non-profit organization helping inner city kids go to college.

below is a portion of that email I sent
Dear Ashley-
...Due to circumstances out of my control as a young girl of age 12, I was taken from my beautiful comfortable home that I grew up in since infancy, in a nice neighborhood with pool and all. Within what seemed to be a blink of an eye we went from living there to having to live in the "ghetto."(a street deemed a project area filled with lower income apartments and town homes)  

Unbeknownst to my family and I, my dad had been living a lie. He was a successful mechanic running his own shop for as long as I was alive but what we didn't know was that he was running an illegal business on the side.

I remember the FBI and swat team busting into our home. There were trucks, vans, news and patrol copters overhead.Upon entering our clean and family filled house the law enforcement stopped dead in their tracks realizing that this family had no idea nor were we involved with his illegal mess. 

We were scared and didn't understand what was going on. Words they were using didn't make sense. They couldn't be talking about our daddy. The man we loved and adored. Our tickle buddy, swimming monster, fort building, hide and seek playing daddy.

Needless to say my dad was served 20 years which ultimately was reduced to twelve and well my entire life had been turned upside down and inside out to say the least.
(our new standard  family portrait during those years of visitation)
My mom who only helped with my dads mechanic bookkeeping was a stay at home mom and now had to find a job. We were evicted from our home and my three brothers, my mom and I were crammed into a two bedroom project area apartment. I shared a room with my mom for FIVE years. Though we had furniture, we had lost everything we once owned and were now on welfare. 
During that time I felt hopeless. I didn't understand why this was happening and why I had to start working at age fifteen to help pay rent. Why I couldn't participate in different sport or school activities because I had to watch my younger brothers and then go to work after that. My priority wasn't about being popular, getting good grades,having a boyfriend. It was for survival for my family. I wanted those things but were made difficult to obtain while trying to hide the secret of my messed up life. 
I remember my brothers needing haircuts one week but we also needed bread and milk. It was like this often. Having to make decisions about normal practical things that we just couldn't afford. We decided the boys should get haircuts so we didn't look like a trash family (which we never did) But in return were unable to buy milk and bread that week.
I was angry about it. Life shouldn't have to be like this I thought. 
Only a few days after this event of stressing about not having milk or bread that week, a couple from church said we were on their hearts and brought us milk and bread. Not just a loaf and a gallon but the family size of both from Costco. I remember standing there, staring at them blankly as I reached out to take the food from them at my door.
They didn't know, how could they know. No one ever knew how hard or how bad we had it.
No they didn't know that weeks events and how we couldn't afford those items they just bought us. But God knew. This kind of awesomeness happened often.
We were always provided for. Always. 
I remember wanting to go to college but that it wasn't in the cards for me. I convinced myself that I already had a good paying job and that I didn't need it and tried taking community college courses in between working two jobs to help make ends meet. 
College didn't work out, but God is so incredibly good and understood what the true desires of my heart were. Though society made me feel less than for not going, God knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom one day when I started a family of my own. So though my heart ached during those years of trying to help my family financially and not go to college, God was just paving my life's path and I didn't know it. I'm so blessed to be able to say I have been married to my God fearing, loving and incredible husband for almost nine years in which we have two beautiful babies together. 
(I hated the fact that this is what my weekends consisted of)
During those depressing times throughout junior high,high school and even some of my young adulthood I knew we were cared and provided for but I was still so angry and felt like life wasn't fair. I always focused on what I couldn't have, what I missed out on, how my dad wasn't present for any of my graduations, wasn't there for teaching me to drive, or even there to walk me down the aisle to the man of my dreams.
It was so hard when nothing ever seemed to work out, or so I thought while in the midst of the storm. Looking back it did work out. My senior year of high school my mom found a job that afforded us to move into a clean and safe area and into a house no less. I still had to help with rent but things were different. God was more present than ever that time in my life and only a year later when I was nineteen met my Micah who is now my husband. My dad has been out of prison going on seven years and now has a relationship with Jesus. My parents are still together and are going to be celebrating 32 years of marriage in September. Another constant reminder of God's grace and mercy.
I have no idea why I'm telling you all this. I haven't thought about not going to college or that dark time in my life for years because I have been restored and have a new found faith in the Lord but reading your blog reminded me of the hard times and how miserable and hopeless I felt.  I am so grateful to have gone through so much because my heart is beyond softened for people and their circumstances, just like the teens you are trying to help go to college.
And that, my sweet friend is why I would LOVE to help.

Take care,

This note to Ashley just scratched the surface of what me and my family had to go through during those hard eleven years. It took the same amount plus some for the Lord to heal my broken heart and all the things I felt entitled to or that I deserved
(in 2006 less than a year after his release our family photos began to resume normalcy)

Though many of those years are a hazy fog one thing was as clear as day the importance of giving. Though we had near to nothing, my mom always gave of what little time she had to serve at church. She made meals for the sick and recovering with the little food we had for ourselves. She made sweet homemade gifts for her friends for any occasion. She made sure to tithe weekly to our church and always was helping out neighbors who had even less than us by buying them groceries with our welfare food stamps.

Some times this made me angry, very angry. Did she forget how much we were struggling? How much my brothers and I were sacrificing and how we were working at young ages just to help her pay rent.

why give I always thought?

My mom held my hand and stared into my eyes one day after I screamed at her for giving our food stamps to a single mom who was in desperate need and I didn't understand why she gave what I felt was ours. What we needed. She told me this.
"honey, God will always provide for us. He always has. Nothing we have is our own, He loves us and will always take care of us"

And that my friends is why I give

was life really hard and sucky all those years?
you betcha
do I wish things could've been different
of course

But God is the orchestrator of our lives. He brought me to a place where we were in constant need of his loving Mercy and Grace
(my dad did  get to walk me down the aisle at our five year anniversary vowel renewal)
God softened my heart and taught me to trust fully on Him when it came to finances. He showed me to love others in need, in pain and in suffering.
I give not only because we find it all over scripture to do so but because I want to. My heart has been there. Broken and weary. Poor and needy. Yet I never went without, and I can't count one time that I wasn't more blessed by giving than I was receiving.
(he is truly one of the best Grandpa's out there)

I have been blessed beyond measure with my little family. God is providing so I am able to live out my dream being a stay at home mama to my littles
And since opening my shop, God has always provided and made it possible for me to be able to give back. 
When opening my shop earlier this year I knew it would be primarily to bless others rather than to make an income. My embroidery started as an outlet for me during a very difficult season in my life this past year. It is something I thoroughly enjoy and God used this skill to help me to be still and to take my thoughts captive during a time when my thoughts were filled with lies instead of his truths. I talked a little about that here
Whether through our finances, our time, our prayers or even my hoop art; wherever I'm able I pray I will always desire to give.
And that my friends is just a little part of my story.


everydaymomma said...

Your post has left me in tears, I am so honored you chose to share it with us and open your heart to being vulnerable. I'm so touched by your story and by your beautiful loving heart. You are an amazing gift from god and I and so greatful I found you on this bloggysphere;)

Sarah Hull said...

so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your touching story. God is so good. So grateful for His power.

Ali said...

Natalie, thanks for posting this and opening up about yourself. I know that's not always easy. I lost my dad at 14 to a drug overdose. As a result, my mom, sister, and I were tossed into a crazy world of stress, change, and struggles. I can relate to so much of this. I think my childhood experiences have really shaped me too and make me want to help others in need. I am now thankful for the way I've been shaped and molded by these hard times. Keep on giving and loving people. You are a great example!!

shannon said...

I've known your story for 7 years and I still get choked up reading it.

Jen and Jasmine said...

really beautiful.thank you so much for sharing this with us! <3

Tracy said...

Nat I love you girl, and am so thankful for you and your family. I truly saw Gods faithfulness through all you guys went through. It was a blessing for me because of that time I got to know you and your family, ( not that we wouldn't of met another way) and become very close to your momma and family. I love you all and miss you terribly.

Haute Mama said...

Wow. This put me right back into place...a place where I need to be grateful for what we have been given. Bless you and your family and praise God for his faithfulness.

Haute Mama said...

Wow, this put me right back into place...a place where I need to be grateful for what we have been given! Praise God for his faithfulness and blessings on your family!

Kory and Meg said...

You have an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful example your mom was/ is to you on being joyful to serve and give. And now you have that gift! Awesome!
Love my embroidery- thank you!

Kerrie said...

wow. what an incredible journey you've had. God is so good and so able to bring us through the most difficult situation. I love the ending. I love that Jesus is all up in it. And I love that you are giving the way that you are.

Lotus Blossom Design said...

Nat, I know what I strong woman of God you are and He brought you through some FIRES mama. But there is no scent of it on you b/c He was in there with you!

Unknown said...

What a powerful testimony Nat! I was in tears reading this post and inspired by it at the same time. He gives hope to the hopeless and is faithful to meet us where we are at.

Love you my friend!

Sarah @ Becoming Martha said...

You have such an amazing story and I think God is really going to use you through all of this. He will give you your voice back and the strength to tell your story and you will be His voice :)

My Dad left my mama with five children, and she was in the same spot as your mom. Thankfully, we owned our house, but it fell in disrepair from the lack of money. My mama always said the same thing yours did - God will always provide for us, He always has.

Thank you for linking up to our CHQ blog hop - I am so glad I found you, and I am going to follow you now to see all of the amazing ways God is going to use you!

the hollie rogue said...

that's it...i'm you so much and love how God has redeemed your story and your relationship with your dad--purely miraculous! please stop living so far away from me :)

Alia Joy said...

Nat, I am so glad you felt prompted to share this bit of your story. It is a work of God through you and in you and I love to see how he wove beauty and depth in the midst of those truly terrible times. And the redemption of you father, your family, and your future! Truly blessed to hear and see what God has done. Thank you.

Natalie @ NS Pottery said...

What an AMAZING story of God's grace, provision, and healing. Thank you for sharing! You shine with the love of Christ.

Lauren said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your story - I know this takes courage! Your mom sounds like an amazing woman who taught you so much about faith.