Meet Connie Hougland: Generous giving starts with humble receiving

Generosity: It’s what my heart beats for. It’s what I wake up every day crazy passionate about. 
Giving: For nearly two decades now it’s literally what I get paid to do. I’m a professional, for goodness sakes. 
Fundraising: I’ve written about it and created curriculum to teach others. 

It’s safe to say this generosity, giving, fundraising thing is kind of my jam. 

A heart for giving
From day one, I’ve been completely captivated by the remarkably generous people I have the honor of serving at National Christian Foundation (NCF). Through their generosity, NCF has been privileged to facilitate more than $11 billion in grants to 65,000 charities across the world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? They embody generosity, and it’s contagious. I can’t help myself. I find myself craving opportunities to be generous; to be a blessing; to make a difference; to have an impact; to build a legacy.

I will never forget the day a hardcore bottom-line business owner, who had a reputation for being a little rough-around-the-edges, came into my office like a kid in a candy shop. He exclaimed, “Connie! We’ve got money to give away!” as if he’d just won the lottery. I remember telling the Lord, “I want some of that.” I want to barely be able to contain myself when it comes to giving. I want to have that heart, that attitude, that joy. I want to be a generous giver.

A new lens on generosity
The Lord nudged me – like He often does – with a gentle but firm reminder: “That’s adorable, Connie. But you know the path to be a generous giver starts with being a good receiver, and you’ve got some work to do there.” 

“Wait,” I thought. “I have to be a good receiver in order to be a generous giver?” Talk about an oxymoron. It wasn’t long before I realized my stumbling block was my pride masquerading as false humility. I want to meet needs, but I don’t want to be in need. I want to serve others, but I don’t want to be served. I want to help others, but I don’t want to need help. Peel back the layers and pride is at the root.

Sounds a bit like Peter in John 13:8 (NIV). “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Or the legend of the man stranded in the ocean who boasted how God would surely save him only to reject the ocean liner, the speed boat, and the helicopter that the Lord sent to rescue him.

Learning to receive
Our capacity to give comes from our ability to receive. We have nothing to give that we haven’t received from the Lord. This truth is something I’ve been working to build muscles in for 20 years. I have taught many times over the years that ‘giving is good for the giver’ and that the journey of generosity is one full of joy and adventure. If I’m not a good receiver then I can inadvertently deny others from experiencing that joy and adventure.

This lesson hits home for me on a much more personal level, even as I write this today. My children surprised my husband and me with a generous gift from friends, family, and others in our community who’ve come together to support us during a hard and trying season. My husband has been on a very complex and somewhat mysterious health journey for the past six months which has included five hospital stays, four ER trips, a whole slew of medical specialists, and, as of this month, a crushing cancer diagnosis. 

In a season we didn’t want, didn’t choose and flat out don’t like, it’s generosity (and humbling ourselves to receive it) that changes everything. The gifts of prayers, encouragement, hugs, counsel, shoulders to cry on, meals, smiles, support and so on. It’s the generosity of others that keeps our heads lifted and our hearts full. So I say, “Take a hike pride. I ain’t got no time for you.”

“And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

John 13:14-15 (NIV)

At NCF we say “Love Gives: Because everything we are and everything we have is His.” 

Lord, may we be beautiful reflections of Your Love as we learn to be good receivers of Your love so that we can be generous givers of Your love in return.