I‘ve written many times before about the benefits of living within your means. There’s a spirit of contentment that often emerges when you curb your spending habits. Your desires are often tempered as an unexpected byproduct. That brand spankin’ new car doesn’t seem quite as important. You can skip a latte or two and not get the shakes.

But what’s really cool about all this is that you don’t have to wait to be debt-free, or to reach some other magical goal, to reap the benefits now. As soon as you start living within your means, you have more freedom to give. You can give to things that really matter — things that reap a lot of rewards for not much money.

It’s day two of my trip with Compassion in the Philippines, and today, I went to Denise’s house.

I thought I lived in a small house. There are five of us, and currently we share about 1,100 square feet. We’re pretty maxed on space, and we don’t have needless stuff. What we have, we use, and our three kids share a room. We’re looking forward to moving out in a few weeks and hopefully enjoying one extra bedroom.

But we don’t live in ONE. ROOM. total.

Denise does.

Denise lives with her two brothers, her mother, and her father in — literally — one room. And not just any room… this room is about 8×8 feet squared. About the size of a typical American walk-in closet.

They lay out blankets at night. And in the morning, they fold them up next to the sewing machine, where Adalyn makes most of her children’s clothing.

They make breakfast in the hallway, where there waits a shared kitchen for five other adults and nine other children.

There’s another family the same size in the next room — Denise’s aunt, uncle, and cousins. Her grandmother sleeps in the shared kitchen.

There’s also a hole in the wall between their room and another family’s next door. The two families are not related.

I’ve seen a lot in the world. I’ve been blessed to experience a lot of cultures and receive hospitality in many minuscule homes.

But I don’t think I’ve witnessed poverty quite like this.

This precious girl that my family is sponsoring lives at the brink of despair. And not only that, there were throngs of children, emerging from holes and spaces in the corrugated metal walls as we walked by. Scores of little ones sharing with their entire family a room the size many of us store our clothes.

Analyn, Denise’s mom, told me her husband makes about $100 per month as a driver for local government officials. It didn’t take long for me, inapt at math though I am, to calculate how far my additional $38 to her family goes.

And as the rain started misting, Denise’s wrinkled grandmother gathered the laundry with a smile on her face, joyful because there were visitors in her home.

Analyn, holding my hand, apologized that she had nothing to give me to eat.

You and I, we need to budget our money so that we can be good stewards. I believe that God blesses our family’s work so that we can provide for our kid’s needs, and to occasionally, enjoy some wants.

But the mere fact that we have money to steward? The freedom to choose where our money goes? That’s a luxury. Our mere ability to give is opulence.

Denise’s family is renown in her little shanty, rooms on top of rooms full of families just like hers. Her neighbors clamored to glimpse at photos of my children, eager to see children not all that unlike them.

Might I encourage you to see which children in the Philippines, like Denise, aren’t yet sponsored? And would you prayerfully consider signing up to sponsor one?

As a family, we chose Denise simply because she’s a six-year-old girl, and we thought Tate would enjoy that. We plan to sponsor her for years, and these two girls can write each other, pray for each other, and get to know each other as faraway friends.

Today, she got to “meet” Tate and her kitten Pepper.

You might not be able to sponsor a child right now, and that’s okay. You need to provide for your own household, to be sure.

Kiss your children, and love on them as you provide. Thank God that you can. And when you do, remember Denise, her family, and the countless other children worldwide in abject poverty. Encourage your kids to pray for them with you.

If you’d like to hear more about Compassion’s financial integrity, you can read Shaun’s post today (it’s actually a really cool story). If you’re like me, you might want to know that the money you give actually goes where it’s supposed to.

Or would you like to just know what Compassion is? He recently wrote a good post about that, too.

Compassion Bloggers: Philippines 2011

You can also follow along with the other bloggers I’m with, and tell your readers that you’re reading by pasting that button provided. We all experienced some pretty cool stuff today.

I’ll be sharing soon what, exactly, happens when you sponsor kids like Denise.

Do you have any questions about Compassion? The Philippines? I’d love to hear if there’s anything you’d like me to share this week.