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XII: My radically generous family

Generosity is a mindset fueled by confidence in a God who is more than enough. My mother beautifully modeled a generous heart to me. Besides adopting many children and tirelessly teaching people to eat healthier, mother held little attachment to money. It’s all God’s anyways, she would proclaim while passing piles of cash along. My father would nod, nervously agreeing, in principle.

Maybe it helped that money couldn’t buy you much in East Germany. Stores never had enough desirable goods. The good stuff required more than cash. You’d need connections. People in need learned to depend on each other. Perhaps generosity has space to breathe in resource deficient communities.

Mother’s faith was rooted in abundance. Her God seemed radically generous. And she invited the rest of us into that space. Sometimes dad would shake his head. “It’s time to be a little more realistic. Let’s not open every window and throw out our money with both hands.”

Meanwhile, mother’s hands unlocked her storehouse:

Want to learn how to bake homemade bread? I’ll teach you.

Need someone to watch your kids? Sure- just send them over.

I’ll give you a ride to the doctor, it’s on my way anyways.

We have extra apples. Want some?

You’re injured/sick/tired/ broken? I can help/show/teach/listen.

You need a car? You can use mine.

Need a place for a few nights? We’d be happy to host you.

You’re missionary? Here is a check.

You want us to be your parents? Sure, we’ll adopt you. (And 5 more)

You’re 16 want to spend a year abroad? Sure. We’ll support you. 

Most weeks after church at least 10 guests came over for lunch. It wasn’t a potluck. Just a normal day around our table. We never ran out of food. One year someone gave us a guestbook. I was around 10 and curious how many guests we entertained per year. I started recording people’s names. If you stayed for more than one hour and had something to eat you name was recorded. That year we had over 350 guests. In our 700 square foot apartment.

Mother’s generosity wasn’t about resources. Generosity was a mindset of believing there is enough. Nothing felt radical nor particularly generous about our open door home. We met people where they were, shared slices of life. We prayed and ate, washed dishes and told stories. Radical generosity connected us to each other. It breathed life into our lonely places. We encountered a big God who promised to be more than enough.

My soul was formed amidst 1000 acts of radical generosity. And my radical act today is to remember the gifts. Even tell about them.

I live in a much different culture now. If I need something, I can acquire it myself. If I have a question, I’ll ask google before knocking on a neighbors door. Visitors call before they come over or chose to stay in hotels. I have nearly forgotten my radically generous roots. I am independent and self sufficient. Perhaps I’ve read too many books on boundaries. I take self care seriously. Does my life even have room for radical generosity? Because my God is radically abundant still.

This is part XII  “Behind the Wall & Under the Steeple”, a collection of personal essays and reflections of growing up Christian in former East Germany. Subscribe via email to my blog or bookmark this page. If you are receiving this post by email, any reply goes straight to my inbox.  Thanks for reading! 

my [radically generous] family:


me (4) copy

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15 Replies

  1. Well, Astrid, in a short time this evening I’ve become fascinated by your childhood behind the curtain and under the steeple. So glad you *are* writing what you know. Keep at it as I look forward to seeing the next and next installments. So happy to find and visit you today from #livefreeThursday

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks for reading. Yes- I have heard you should write about what you know- it’s easier that way. I’ve fought some resistance writing about the past but it’s getting easier and I appreciate your comment and interest!

  2. ASTRID!!!! I am left speechless… almost dumbfounded… by these beautiful words. WOW. Your very first words caught me, “Generosity is a mindset fueled by confidence in a God who is more than enough.” And then, I wanted to copy and highlight the ENTIRE POST. What a beautiful legacy your family has given you to follow. I love reading about the differences in cultures, and how you grew up in something so completely different than I. It’s absolutely beautiful, and sheds light on new perspective. Thank you for this beauty today, sweet friend! Blessings! #livefreeThursday

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks, Crystal. I vote you most generous with words of encouragement. You have a gift, my friend. Thanks for blessing me today!

  3. What beautiful memories and lessons. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks, Michelle.

  4. Your post had me mesmerized, Astrid! The oven timer went off signaling my brownies were done and I didn’t want to stop reading! What an inspirational story you have to tell! I love the idea of generosity not being about resources. Great post!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks. I keep thinking about this inverse relationship between resources/ generosity. I have often experienced more radical generosity with people who have less. Something to ponder for sure.

  5. Susanne P

    I was one of those 360 (you maybe counted me more than ones , since I spent almost every week after church at your house ) , I asked myself often during that time , how come the Lord showers me with so much love , He knew I would feed from it for the rest of my life . Astrid, without the generous love of your mom , I’m not sure whether I would be in Christ . And my mom found to the Lord literally on her deathbed , because after I left, your mom visited her everyday until I had to come back home to see her one last time. I’m forever greatful for your moms big heart . I love her more than words can say.

    1. Astrid Melton

      I think I counted you family. ❤️

  6. Tara

    🙂 This. This is why you’re on this journey. This process of self examination and expression. Because it’s bringing everything full circle. The redemption here in this piece. Yes.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Sweet. Thanks!

  7. Debbie

    Dear Astrid, Thanks for sharing this. I am doubly blessed by your writing: firstly by reading it for myself then by translating your stories for your parents who keenly hang onto every word on the phone. Its been great to join your parents on their path. Your mom especially has reflected a lot. Her core remains generous as she explores the new path of self care. ‘So glad that I got to know you and your family. God bless!!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks for translating! My parents are eager to know what’s happening on the “block”.

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