Use Whatcha Got Week 5: Change the World Birthday

I have studied her face even before she was born. My eyes would trace and retrace her profile on the flimsy black and white ultrasound paper I kept in my Bible while my belly grew and grew. Over the months and years after she entered the world on Valentine’s Day, I logged thousands of hours watching her face express a thousand emotions. Two weeks ago I could tell she wanted to share something out of the ordinary with me. Her eyes were bright and her head tilted slightly. She looked both mischievous and triumphant.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking about my birthday.”

I braced myself, ready to talk down some over the top party theme. Birthdays are a big deal for Julia. She starts talking about ideas for her next birthday sometime around August, before school starts, and I repeatedly request we get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year before we talk about her next birthday. I took a deep breath as she went on,

“I was up in my room and looking at all my stuff. I have so much stuff. I think for my birthday this year instead of getting gifts and more stuff, I’d like to ask my friends if they would be willing to donate to kids and families who actually need things. Maybe buy some goats or chickens or something.” 

I swallowed hard.


Was she sure? She smiled and I could see in her eyes her mind was made up.

I prepared myself by thinking, “Now, Viv, don’t get all puffed up and proud. The whole Use Whatcha Got challenge is meant to be something for just you. The fact it spills over and helps others to reduce consumerism is not the point. Humble. Think humble thoughts.”

“Julia, I am so proud of you. This is incredible. I love the idea of you helping others. How did you come up with this idea?”

 “Oh, watching the Disney channel.”

Humbled. No problem with humble thoughts!! :)

So yeah for the Disney channel highlighting a kid who wanted to help other kids. Yeah especially for Julia for wanting to make a difference.

One of my dearest friends from college, Cynci Petersen, began in incredible organization called the Hope Venture.


The Hope Venture is a non-profit organization existing to bring help and hope to people around the world through compassion-based projects.

Cynci’s character, integrity, and heart for changing the world through these compassion based projects makes the decision to donate to this organization a simple one. I trust absolutely in the soundness of Hope Venture. Cynci travels herself to India and Africa regularly to check in on the projects and to look for new opportunities. God has blessed and expanded the reach and influence of the Hope Venture and Julia is excited to be a part of changing the world through Hope Venture.

A few days ago Julia and I finished creating her evite for the birthday party. I added the Hope Venture link and we explained how the kids could bring checks written to Hope Venture. Julia would collect the monies and then decide which projects to support. I watched her face as she began flipping through the Hope Venture catalog. She couldn’t hold back her smile. She looked up with sheer joy filling her face.

“Mom, I think this is going to be my best birthday ever.”

(If you’d like to write Julia a note of encouragement in the comment section I will be sure she gets it)


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13 thoughts on “Use Whatcha Got Week 5: Change the World Birthday

  1. Julia, God definitely blessed this world when He created you. You are such a sweet girl, and you are such an amazing role model and example to not only your friends, but also to grown-ups like me! Thank you for making me smile today. :) The world needs more girls like you.

    Viv, you are an awesome mom to raise such amazing kids! And Darrin is an awesome dad. :) Much love to you and your fam!

    • Thanks for encouraging Julia, Kim! :) Hope you two will have a chance to meet sometime soon! I will introduce you as “The One Who Began the Whole UWG.” Sending hugs to you and the fam… Love you!!

  2. Julia, happy early birthday, and the best one ever at that!

    I love birthdays too. The best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten was one of those wooden hand-crank ice cream makers that look like a big barrel – I was in high school and all my friends had pitched in to get it for me. My birthday’s in August so we had fresh ice cream alllllllllllll summer long, in the heat, making memory after memory together. It was so incredible that they thought of me and pooled their resources to see what they could do.

    I’m amazed as I hear from your mom what you’re doing for people far beyond ice cream. My heart grew several sizes just being the recipient of a thoughtful gift before, and I know these kids will be SO blessed through your generosity for their daily needs.

    God’s heart is so big it consistently turns outward to consider others better than ourselves. Thanks for showing me your heart and how much it looks like his.

    PS. give koa a hug for me!!

  3. Hi Julia,

    I’m so touched by what you’re doing for your birthday this year. I think you’ll find that the joy of giving far surpasses the joy of receiving. It’s admirable that you are willing to give away a part of yourself that you really treasure (your birthday), and it’s inspired me to want to do the same on my birthday this year. (Like you, birthdays are also a really big deal for me ^_^) Thanks Julia!

    Mei of EPICNYC

    • Hi Mei,
      Thanks so much for taking time to write to Julia. Missed seeing you this last time out in Morristown. I walked by the table where we had our talk and thought of you… <3
      Thanks for you encouraging words to Julia! What a great way to start off her day!!
      much love,

      • Hi Vivian,

        I’m actually a different Mei ^_^ I was a newcomer to Morristown this year; I stopped you on Friday night after your session to tell you how much I liked it. I’m the girl who was in the red cardigan and the pink bow. I’m glad that Julia liked my note though!! I really do mean it; this blog post has encouraged me even more to apply for summer project this year. I was hesitant last year because I didn’t want to spend my birthday overseas, but what better way to spend my 21st birthday than doing God’s work? :)

        • Oh Mei,so sorry! I thought you were Meiling when I saw your name!! Thanks for clearing that up! So glad you were able to be at the east coast conference this year! And excited how God is leading you to apply for summer project! Keep me posted!! :)

  4. Hi Julia!

    I know I probably won’t be around to celebrate your birthday with you which makes me really sad, but I would love to help out and be a part of your special day! You encourage me and I love seeing your smiling face every time I’m back in California! :) Summertime, we will have to get together and do a Disneyland trip for sure! Miss you and thinking and praying for you!!

    Love you much! <3

    • Jamie, You are and will always be family to us! Thanks for loving Julia and being one of her favorite aunties!! :) Look forward to seeing you and playing at Disneyland with you!! Thanks for encouraging Julia. We love you!!

  5. Julia, there’s in interesting idea at work here. Your “more than enough” and other people’s “more than enough” are combining to become a actual-concrete-thing-you-can-eat-or-touch blessing to some kids who live under the banner of “not quite enough”. That’s a long way of saying, “dude. that is an awesome way to celebrate the precious life you’ve been given”. I recently mentioned to your older brother that some doors you open are risky. Risky in a good way. You step through them and suddenly the things that you once thought were such a big deal, really aren’t any more. Like how many pairs of Toms you have, and other things that kids at school might be into. Nemesis, my adopted 16 year old likes to say, “Man, my heart just grew three times bigger, like the Grinch’s!” Now imagine how big your heart, which is already swelled up with the love of family and God, will expand to when you open this “dangerous” door to giving and loving the poor. Have fun on your b-day, Julia! Sarah

    • Sarah, I can’t wait to share your encouraging words with Julia!! Thanks for blessing her and taking time to write! We love you!! <3

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