The Joy of Living Generously


(This post originally appeared on

The value of a (person) resides in what he gives
and not in what he is capable of receiving.
~Albert Einstein

Really, life’s greatest joys come not in the getting, but in the giving. Don’t you agree?

People who live generously—not just with their money, but with their whole person—deserve special admiration. They’re not motivated by fame or fortune, but rather by joyful service. Their qualities of generosity, empathy, compassion, and kindness make them inspiring treasures to us all. And although those values tend to get more press at Christmastime, they are values we should all aspire to live by all year long.

Generosity is a paradox. The culture around us screams materialism and commercialism – Buy, buy, buy. Accumulate. Indulge. On the other hand, there is a whole world out there that desperately needs what we have to offer. It invites us to give, serve, help, and empower. The paradox of generosity is this: the more we give, the more we get! It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. We find our life by losing it. We win by losing. We gain by giving away. And, our greatest memories are of the gifts we gave rather than the ones we received.

This kind of generosity requires sacrifice—not just financial, but personal. Yes, it can be stretching and uncomfortable. But slowly, we begin to realize there’s more to life than what we own and can hold onto.

Have you ever wanted to change the world? This is where it starts. In fact, how you eventually impact the world will be driven not merely by what you have to offer but what you choose to offer. It’s the ultimate generosity test, isn’t it?

What do you uniquely have to offer the world? There are many different avenues that can allow you to allocate your personal resources to serve others. To decide how best to give what you have to benefit others, there are three main questions to consider:

  • What talents, skills, and resources do I have to offer?
  • What groups or community segments (e.g., youth, elderly, homeless) do I feel most called to help?
  • What organizations will allow me to use my time, talents, and treasure to help those I feel most passionately about?

Could your answers to these questions be a New Year’s resolution in the making?
What would happen in our communities if we all cultivated and demonstrated this heart of generosity, of “other-centeredness” as a way of life, embodying the qualities of generosity and compassion in our everyday dealings with people? I think the world would be a more welcoming place!

With that in mind, here are some ideas for living generously this holiday season—and throughout the year:

  • Make a donation to an organization serving people and causes you are passionate about.
  • Look for ways to be creatively generous if you are on a limited budget. How can you give time? Attention? Acts of service? Material possessions? You could sell something you own and give away the proceeds.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your city.
  • Visit a nursing home or hospital. Listen to their stories, or tell some of your own. Just sit with them if that’s what brings comfort.
  • Allow yourself to be interrupted without being irritated—this is a mark of a generous spirit. (Or, put down your mobile device and give the people around you your undivided attention.)
  • Make yourself available to people or organizations, free of charge, for consulting on an area or topic in which you have expertise.

This short list of ideas just scratches the surface—you may even come up with better ones! The bottom line is this: Living generously will bring help and hope to others and immense joy to you in return. You’ll receive far more than what you give. Nothing compares with using all of you to serve and improve the world around you. This is the true spirit of Christmas!

Photo credit: Maggie Smith,


Reflecting: The London Launch of SophisTEAcation

(This post first appeared on

SophisTEAcation, by Desiree Sitompoel, was a delightful project on which I served as editor and content developer.

SophisTEAcation, by Desiree Sitompoel, was a delightful project on which I served as editor and content developer.

It was pretty much a dream come true to attend the London Book Fair in April for the launch of SophisTEAcation: An Anthology of Porcelain Teacup Collecting. When publisher Laura Prinsloo of KeSaint Blanc Publishing in Jakarta, Indonesia asked me to develop the content for a unique coffee table book on the art and collecting of porcelain teacups, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  Really?  You’re going to PAY me for this?

Not really. But close.

You see, I’ve loved teacups since I was a little girl and observed my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s collections, loving the way they clinked the tiny silver spoons against the china cups as they and my mother stirred their tea.  And when I got to drink from my own cup …. oh, bliss!  There was a teacup shower for me when I was a young bride, and then over the years I accumulated my own collection, and my china cabinet is now blessed to be home to some of the very cups, creamers, and sugar bowls that once belonged earlier generations of women in my family.

All that to say, this was a fun project.  So it was icing on the cake when I was invited to fly to London, along with the publishing team from Jakarta, to participate in the launch of SophisTEAcation at the London Book Fair!


Highlights of the book launch

Highlights of the book launch

It was great fun to meet Laura and byline author, artist, and teacup collector Desiree Sitompoel as they are both delightful and SO talented. Desiree owns an impressive porcelain teacup collection and a teacup shop in Jakarta (“Mamitoko”), which were the basis of the book.

I very much enjoyed being a part of the Indonesian exhibit at the book fair. (I did receive quite a few interested stares and quizzical looks when other conference attendees saw my name badge indicating that I was from Indonesia.  I was the only blonde on the team!)

With Laura, Desiree, and our moderator, Sari

With Laura, Desiree, and our moderator, Sari


The Indonesian Ambassador to the UK attended and gave a speech at our launch, and took the whole team out to dinner at a lovely Chinese restaurant in Kensington afterwards.  What a treat.

Right now SophisTEAcation is only available through the Indonesian publisher, KeSaint Blanc in Jakarta, although they are actively selling international rights and they hope to have it soon in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. (Last I heard it had been picked up in England, the Philippines and Poland). You really have to see it to appreciate the stunning photography, exquisite typesetting, vellum pages, and just overall ooh-and-ah factor! It covers the history of the teacup and favorite brands, how to start your own collection, proper tea etiquette, how to care for and display your teacups, and so much more.

Just for fun, you can see the Indonesian TV coverage of the launch of SophisTEACation here. I hope you get the chance to obtain a copy someday!

Available March 24th – “Facing the Blitz” by Jeff Kemp

It was a joy and a privilege for me to serve as developmental editor with Jeff Kemp (Family Life Vice President and former NFL Quarterback) in the writing of his book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, which will be released March 24th by Bethany House Publishers. It is available at your local bookstore, or by calling 1-800-877-2665. Click the link below the book image to go to my InspiraLit site to read more!

Facing the Blitz by Jeff Kemp

Available March 24th – “Facing the Blitz” by Jeff Kemp.

What’s Happening in My Garden – February


I’m pretty excited that, despite what’s going on in the rest of country weather-wise, spring is already in the air in the NW and I can think about my garden. We are in a new house this year with a little over an acre to start filling with color and nummy edibles.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed … this property is pretty much a blank canvas and there are SO MANY blackberry bushes to contend with! Basically the previous owner sculpted out a lawn (thank you very much on that part at least), but did very little in the way of thinning out the perimeter bushes and brambles or planting anything with color.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pouring over gardening books, making plans, thinking about what plants and flowers I want, where to put the veggies, where to put the roses, etc. That’s a great way to pass the final grey, rainy, dreary days of NW winter and hurry on the arrival of spring. But the past several days of sunny weather (hooray!) have enabled me to get out there and get my hands dirty and really start figuring out what I want to do. My regular daily work often tends to be kind of cerebral and I’m behind a computer a lot, so gardening is my therapy … it gets me into the fresh air, working with my hands, and thinking about color and flower and plants instead of words and ideas and books. I really need that.

I think if I create a series of small gardens instead of thinking about the whole yard at once, it will be less overwhelming. So at this point I’m going to focus on three areas and go from there. Below is a BEFORE pic of the one I’m starting on first; it will be exciting to see how it looks come summer!


Oh, and here’s something cool (at least I thought it was). I just learned you can test your soil ph with a simple home test.  Scoop out soil from several spots around the yard and put a few tablespoons of it in bowls (test one section at a time because you may have different ph levels in different parts of your yard). To one bowl of dirt, add 1/2 cup of vinegar.  If it foams, your soil is alkaline. If nothing happens, add a little water to the second bowl, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If it foams, your soil is acidic.  If nothing happens to either, your soil is neutral!  Of course this doesn’t give you a specific number, but for my purposes this was good enough to tell me what I need to add to the soil or what plants will do well in that spot (or not).



Here’s the promise of things to come … really looking forward to spring. I am thankful the previous owners at least planted one daffodil and some pink hyacinths to greet me this month! :-)



Journey to the Cross — A Lenten Devotional

StainedGlassWindow You can follow this link below to the first installment of a daily Lenten Devotional from my friend Cynthia Bezek. It’s poignant, inspirational, and timely. I definitely think giving up being served is much more impactful (to myself and others) than giving up coffee or chocolate! I am looking forward to following along with Cynthia’s devotionals this Lent. Maybe you will want to, too. Journey to the Cross–February 18. Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix and

Parenting Is a Team Sport

This is a blog I posted last Valentine’s Day; thought I’d take it out of the recycle bin.🙂 ~Arlyn

Arlyn Lawrence


Last Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the two of them, and a third friend, out to a fancy restaurant. The dad gave the girls pretty rings and a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves. He had contacted Doug and me earlier to ask our permission and we happily consented.  After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for Hillary to hear it from more than just us.

Doug and I joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport”—and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five—that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life that will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:

  • their grandparents and other…

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Bring on the Cookies!


“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.” ~Anonymous

Despite the business of life and particularly this season, one of my hands down favorite Christmas activities is baking. Creating delicious treats in the kitchen together is something that always brings our family together.

I think it’s important to not just make DELICIOUS foods on holidays, but to make them with MEANINGFUL recipes. The kind that evoke memories of special people and special times–or that make you feel connected to whom and where you came from. For our family, that means the Lawrence family’s ubiquitous Chocolate Crinkles and Snickerdoodles. Muddy Buddy’s a la Auntie Deanna.  Grandma Magner’s Nuts ‘n Bolts. And for Christmas dinner, Great-great Aunt Ethel’s Cranberry Christmas pudding (simmered on the stove top in a coffee can to be especially authentic and true to its roots)—with caramel sauce.  Num!

Family traditions are important. Family is important, period. Whom and where you came from is an important part of who you are, whether you like it (or them) or not. It keeps you connected to the bigger picture in life.

I am grateful for a family who loves God, loves each other, loves me, and loves Christmas cookies. 🙂

How to make the cookies pictured above:

Whipped Shortbread: 1 c soft butter, 1-3/4 c flour, 1/2 c icing sugar, maraschino cherries. Cream butter thoroughly. Combine and add dry ingredients at low speed on blender. Roll in small balls, press in a piece of maraschino to the top of each. Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

This shortbread recipe has been in my family since who knows when and is my earliest memory of a FAVORITE Christmas cookie. Unfortunately the dough is as good as the cookies so it’s always debatable how much dough is actually going to make it to cookie form!