A note from Connie: 3 things cancer has taught me about generosity

by Connie Hougland, VP of Ministry Services

Being a caregiver for my husband, Blaine, as he battles cancer has brought many challenges but also many learnings. Unlike my ministry services role at NCF, I didn’t choose or want the job of caregiver. It’s a job I feel unqualified for and inadequate in. But, it’s a job I humbly, patiently, and willingly serve in as I love this man with all my heart. 

Balancing being a caregiver and a working professional isn’t easy, but I love how God uses both to refine me! With that, I share three lessons in generosity that this cancer journey has reinforced for me:

1. The purest form of generosity is rooted in love. 
I love this quote from Amy Carmichael: “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”

The role of a caregiver is constant giving – hence the name caregiver: you give care. However, I quickly learned the difference between giving as a job or obligation and giving because it’s the man I love who is in need of care.

When I gave out of obligation, I was quick to feel resentful and kept tabs on when it would be my turn to be pampered or taken care of. Not something I’m proud of, but when the giving wasn’t coming from my heart, that’s what it felt like. However, when I stepped back and saw the man I love and not the cancer or the needs it created, that changed everything. When I focused on the love I have for Blaine, the caregiving became easy – not necessarily the weight of it, but the heart of it. It became the thing ‘I can’t not do’. 

Isn’t that a great definition of generosity rooted in love – the thing ‘you can’t not do’ for someone else or others?

2. Giving to causes is a powerful way to have lasting impact.
When it comes to my personal monetary generosity journey, I prefer direct, personal, and immediate impact. In my role at NCF, however, I get to be a part of some really incredible, big picture initiatives that impact a cause. By looking at the cause as a whole, there are opportunities for strategic gifts that can be considered. These opportunities have the potential to move the needle of impact within the overall cause.

Up until now, I never really appreciated cancer research and didn’t understand why all the races and fundraisers for the bigger cause of curing cancer mattered. But I do now. Blaine is benefiting from those that have gone before him, those that understand and value the need for ongoing research and innovation in treating this invasive disease. Those who have given to the cause of curing cancer have paved the way for cutting-edge surgeries and clinical trials like the one Blaine is on now. That’s really cool.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not an either-or learning. This is a both-and learning. We need compassionate hearts offering direct and immediate impact to care for those in need. And, we need hearts that will dare to dream of “no more” and of having lasting impact within a cause. 

3. Being a good receiver blesses the giver.
This last lesson learned comes with a bit of a sting as it’s something God has been working on with me for 20 years. Early on in my time with NCF, I was so inspired by the generous givers we serve that I told God I want to be a generous giver. And while His response to me was gentle, it was also firm. I had to learn to be a good receiver if I wanted to be a generous giver.

The truth is, we have nothing to give without first receiving it from God. Over the years I’ve become better at receiving, but I definitely haven’t mastered it. This current cancer journey makes that glaringly obvious.

We are blessed to have so many people who love on us, pray for us, and want to support us in the battle. But I found that too often my answer was, “I’m fine,” when asked if I needed anything.

Let’s be honest here and call it what it is – pride. I wanted to be the martyr and prove I could do it myself. I didn’t want to be in need and I didn’t want our reality to be our reality. 

But here’s the thing, when I let my guard down and let others love on, pray for, and support us then it blesses them as much as it blesses me. My friend drove that point home recently when I finally said yes to her offer of help. She said “it blesses me so much that you said yes!” 

When we give, we get to experience God’s love and transformation. When we receive, we also get to experience God’s love and transformation!

The generosity journey starts with a giving strategy
I don’t know that these learnings are new or revolutionary per se, but in this new season as a caregiver I see these truths from a different perspective than I have in the past. It reminds me that when it comes to generosity, it’s not a point of arrival but a journey. A journey where we can grow and evolve. Blessings to you in your generosity journey! 

Begin your generosity journey with a well-planned, intentional Giving Strategy. The Heartland team is here to help you create a strategy that’s right for you and your family. Let’s have a conversation.