While it is 100% true that I am here to share the story of Paradiem’s Employee Giving Fund (I promise, we are getting there!!), it is important to understand that this is not just the story of Paradiem, but the story of Eric and I. It is the story of our upbringings; it is the story of our struggles; it is the story of our joys. In order to understand the giving fund, you need to know a little about us.
When I was a little girl, on Sunday nights at church people would come to share their testimonies—the stories of their lives. Sometimes the people that shared were people from our church. But other times—my favorite times—the speakers were people I did not know. People who told of amazing transformations in their lives. I found these before and after, cause and effect scenarios fascinating.
I felt my own testimony wasn’t nearly as interesting! I was raised in a Christian home, to parents who were way ahead of their time in terms of intentional parenting. I had grandparents of tremendous faith. I had experienced very little adversity. I shared with God that I was a little disappointed in my testimony. It just wasn’t very good, or maybe it was too good; I wasn’t sure.
(As an aside, y’all, don’t say this to God unless you REALLY are ready for what He has planned for you. Like, really, really ready. Just so you know, I wasn’t!)
My life (and my testimony!) got more interesting when I met Eric. For every smooth path I had experienced, he had tremendous pain and misfortune. For all the trust that I had in God, Eric had only trust in himself, because in his mind, everyone else had forsaken him. Eric’s story is his own to tell, but it is no secret that he buried his mother the day before he began his freshman year of high school. I can only imagine his pain and loneliness.
Eric earnestly sought the “perfect” family and thought he found it in mine. It was a whole other set of lessons in life that allowed each of us to discover that perfection is elusive and truly a completely worthless pursuit.
But as far as generosity, that began when we were young and married. We went to a Sunday School class in Lubbock, Texas, and heard a couple mention that they always wrote their tithe check first each month (you know, back when you wrote checks!!) and each time wrote, “Thank you, God” in the “For” line on the check. That sounded great to us! Each month we did the same. Eric later said that he always wrote that check first, because he was afraid of what I would do if he didn’t! I had absolutely no idea I was keeping us on track.
Joy in generosity came a bit later, as we were searching for a church home in Mesa, Arizona. Each month, we still needed to write out that meager little check, but who to give it to? We hadn’t found a church. And while we considered just giving that check wherever we happened to be attending that week, that still didn’t feel right. We came up with a plan. We would look for opportunities to give that money away. It became a game to us. One time, we would buy a door for Habitat because they had sent a request in the mail. Another time we would buy diapers for the crisis pregnancy center in town. One time we gave it to a man on the side of the road (and prayed earnestly he would use if for good). This was incredibly exciting. For the first time, we were inextricably connected to our giving and our gifts.
Even after we found a church home where we could tithe, we continued to give additional gifts in this way. We were just hooked on giving and the blessings we felt when we were connected to our giving. And even more than that, we wanted to share this joy with others.
It is not our desire to tell others to whom or what we have given; it is our desire to share the connectedness and joy that we feel in giving. Even more than that, we felt that if God gave us the idea of a gift, that we were able to know that in giving that gift, the returns were greater than anything we might possibly be forsaking. Our experience taught us this, but the Bible said it plainly, as well. In Malachi 3, God plainly says, “Test Me now in this […] if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” This is the one and only place in the Bible where God says, “Test me.” The one and only God of the universe who is incapable of lying lets us know that He means what He says. Each time I imagine Him saying this, He is stamping His foot.
The blessings we receive when giving are not necessarily financial and I certainly do not want to indicate that they are. But the blessings are plentiful and worth the gifts given. We tested God as He asked and saw the benefits. Eric and I continued to share our joy and the many blessings of giving over the years—with our friends, our children, while teaching financial courses, and later, through our business.
I came up with a phrase a while back. Just so you know, it is not approved by the marketing gurus we hired. And I do understand why. Consider it mine and Eric’s own personal phrase and not the slogan of Paradiem, please. But it is our desire to live “recklessly faithful” lives. We feel that if God puts the thought of a gift in our heads, we should follow through to the very best of our ability.
Living this rather wild, recklessly faithful life is a journey for myself and Eric. Each day is an adventure and while we are not praying for every meal as George Mueller did (I crazy love his story), we have chosen to have open hands at times when the world would say to hold on tight to each dollar. I have never regretted one moment of this recklessly faithful adventure.