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Monday, April 14, 2014

Silverware

I got a text. It was from a friend of mine that works at the church.
“Hey, are you busy?”

The clothes closet was open and it’s always an ebb and flow…

“We are a little busy.” I reply.

She helps put together items for some houses that are used for missionaries that come back to the US. People had donated silverware and there was too much. She wanted to know if I could run up to the church office to get it. We don’t usually accept that type of thing… only clothes, but it was good to know.

I couldn’t go right then, but I tell her we will get it soon.

I put my phone in my back pocket.

The next shopper, with arms full of clothes walks up. She has a scar on her face. 

My heart starts. “She’s been abused.”

She lays her items on the counter and I smile at her and say, “Did you find some things?”

Her eyes get glassy with tears.

“Yes.” That was all she could say. A tear falls.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I ask.

“Well, I am at the battered women’s shelter. You know, when you flee you just go with the clothes on your back? So I am trying to piece it together again.”

Another tear.

“So now I am out trying to get some clothes and other things. I think they are going to help me get into a house but I have nothing. I mean, I have no silverware, no blankets…”

I stop her.

“Wait. What did you say?”

I pull my phone out of my pocket. Of all the things that this lady would mention that she needs she mentions SILVERWARE??

I call my friend who, not five minutes before, had texted me.

I tell her and she just says, “I’ll  meet you. Come get it.”

When I arrive my friend is in the hallway with not only silverware, but a silverware holder, cleaning supplies, a night gown, a laundry basket, some trial sized toiletry items and some blankets.

We just stand there for a second and look at each other.

She laughs. “Do you know this has been in my office for a few weeks? Why did I decide to text you today? I had it under my desk and it fell out on me. I just got aggravated and someone picked on me about having a mess so I decided to text you right then!! Are you kidding me? This woman really said silverware?”

We load it on a cart and I push it down to the clothes closet. When I walk in another helper is praying with her. We walk to the parking lot and the woman sees the cart. She is just overwhelmed.

“Ma’am we see God do this so often. I did not bring one bit of this to the church! You need to know that He knows your EVERY need… even the need of silverware.. and He is going to provide.”

She shakes her head. “Well, I recently rededicated my life to Him. I have not lived like I should. I don’t deserve this.”

I reply, while holding her hand, “None of us deserve His grace. You have to live for Him! He’s pursuing you!!”

She is smiling now. She takes her things to the car that waits for her because she  has ridden to the clothes closet with others that are in the same situation. Relying on each other. Trying to make it through.

I am not sure why this happens, but we all deal with lack of faith in the here and now.

If we know Christ, it’s easy to say that we know that “one day” we will be with Him and “one day” He will fulfill His promises. We know that we have hope for eternity, but what about TODAY? Why do we not trust that TODAY He will provide for our needs? Why do we not see that TODAY is the day of salvation and that TODAY He is the same God that provides for tomorrow or the future? Why do we not pray for the little things that we think are small and insignificant? He is GOD! Nothing is impossible for Him.

Moses prayed and the Red Sea opened up and His people walked right through! Moses didn’t “Pre-pray” for that! He stood at the water and prayed and God did it! THAT day.

It’s almost like we have the faith for our future with God, and we see His hand in our past, but somehow He’s just not able to handle our present.

I think we forget. He’s here. He is the GREAT I AM! Not “I was” or “I will be”.  I AM.

He can provide even the smallest detail. The thing that is essential to make it through today… He can make it happen. That’s why we have a daily walk and a daily (well, lately it’s been hourly and even minute by minute) prayer time. Because He wants to meet us, and provide for our needs in the everyday. While it’s still called today…

Even silverware.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pretty Things

Recently I received a clothes donation from a friend who has lost lots of weight. She has done so well that she cleaned out 7 large bags of clothes and gave them so that others might be helped, blessed and encouraged. What a major blessing to our ministry!!

The lady came in with a smile on her face. This wasn’t the first time she’d visited. The first time was far different.

She’d come in convinced that we could not help her. She didn’t want to register and her tone was a little gruff. Her hair was cut in a man’s cut and she wore men’s clothing. She had been a part of an alternative lifestyle. She took men’s XXL golf shirts and said she wasn’t going anywhere anyway so why did it matter? Her heart was very bruised and her spirit was very low. Her gruffness stemmed from pain and it was so obvious that there was layers of pain.

Little did I know that she was being prayed for. Other ladies at the church had also met her and they were praying for her to come to church and for opportunities to help her see Jesus.

They invited her and they kept praying.

And then one week she came. Then she came, and she came again. She sat through all three of our services on a couple of given Sundays. She heard truth and she saw kindness. She  heard that she was welcome and she was invited to a Bible study. She came to that, too. She had not grown up in church and so her ideas, to say the least.. were very skewed. Her lifestyle had brought some sharp edges and she wasn’t opposed to speaking out…sometimes using those edges with people who were trying to encourage.

People just kept on praying.

SO this week she walked in with a smile. She tried to bypass the check in counter, but I recognized her and I asked her to come check in.

“You won’t have my size! I just wanted to look before I committed.” She said with a grin.

“How do you KNOW? You don’t know what we have been given so remind me of YOUR name so we can get started looking!” I replied, smiling the whole time and feeling my overjoyed heart get bigger by the minute.

“Oh, really now?” she said, grinning still.

I checked her in and she began to look. I walked over and pointed out several of my friend’s pretty things and I suggested that she take them.

“Really? They are so nice! I can have this?” she asked with her eyes sparkling and she laughed with LOUD laughter. So much so that it filled the room!

“You sure can. See? I told you! You just never know what God will do.”

She kept looking and she brought a few things to the counter. “Now, don’t let anybody take these. I am still looking!” she said.

She came back with a few more items and this time she wasn’t smiling.

“I get it, you know? “ she was more serious now.

“You get it?”  I asked, a little confused.

“Yeah. I get it. I have been coming to Bible study and I get it.” She paused. “I am not sure that I totally buy into it, but I do get it.” she continued.

“Yeah? I was like that for a while.” I said.

Her eyes shot up to mine. “YOU?”

“Well, yeah. I mean I grew up in church, but my faith wasn’t my own until college. I knew Jesus loved me, but I didn’t live it until I was in my 20’s,”  I said.

“Yeah!? Well, you aren’t old like me! If I buy into this that means that my WHOLE life, up until this point, was a lie.”

“Yeah? Me, too.” I stood just looking at her.

“No. You mean I am not the only one?” she truly looked surprised.

“No, ma’am. Actually, you are pretty common among those that have asked Jesus into their hearts,” I said with a smile.

“Ok, well… If I take these pretty things it would give me something to wear to church, you know? I could keep coming and this would make me feel so much better if I had some nice things to wear. You remember I got those men’s golf shirts last time? Well, I would rather not wear that if I don’t have to.”

“Yes! I do remember and I agree with you. You can wear these and they will look so nice. They will be perfect for church!” I smile at her.

“Hey, I want to help you. Do you need volunteers? I could sort some stuff or something. I am on disability and can’t work, but I can do something for a few hours. Can I help you?”

She genuinely wants to be there. She is longing to be used and to be productive and she needs to be connected… not only to other Christians, but to God.  Her lifestyle has left her alone and she is beginning to see that God’s plan is a better plan for her life… for every life.

We signed her up to work next week. I am sure there will be little bumps in the road, but I see her taking steps. She’s trying and she’s tired of living a life of emptiness. What would it be for me to deny her the opportunity to see God’s hand at work on a daily basis? This could be THE very thing that causes her to see Him working in the lives of others and it could help her “buy into it” for eternity!

As I packed up her bag I asked if she’d like a little cosmetic bag that we’d been giving away. “I am not sure why I’d use it.,”she started, but then she said, “Oh! I could use it to bring my markers and pencils to church! I could wear my new things and bring my new bag with my markers. I would be ready to learn!”

Oh, Lord! Why do you bless us so?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just in Time

There had been talk of calling Pedro. We had discussed calling him because we had bags that we thought he might use in the food pantry that works in conjunction with the Clothes Closet. I was in a back room with ladies who were sorting clothes and they were showing me things… asking questions. I never had a chance to call Pedro.

I heard the door open and so I went to the front. Several people had entered and I began to help them register to shop. While I stood there the door opened again. This time there was a look of dread on the lady’s face as she entered.

“Hi!” I say. Trying to sound welcoming.

She smiles a small smile, but her eyes are so sad.

“Is this your first visit with us?” I ask, trying to keep the conversation light and encouraging.

She shakes her head. Yes.

I give her the paper work and tell her that she’s welcome to shop. She begins to walk around, but it’s more like a wandering. A lonely gait that’s weighted down with the worries of this world.

Finally I ask, “Are you looking for something specific?” Hoping to strike up conversation and share a little hope.

“Well, see…” she pauses. “I lost my job.” She starts to cry. “My 12 year old daughter needs some shorts and I have already visited Goodwill. I just don’t know what to do.”

I walk towards her. She’s wiping tears and she doesn’t want to look at me. I walk up beside her and put my arm around her shoulders.

“Listen, there’s no shame here,” I offer.

“YES! THERE IS! I don’t want to do this! Walking in that door was the hardest thing!” she shoots back.

“Ok. Well, the way that WE see it is that we are here to help those who have gotten to a bump in the road and they just need a little push to get over it! We see your situation over and over again, but we know that God has a plan and that He will work your situation for your good. It may be hard to see it now, but He will use this!”

She softens. “I know so many people who have lots of money! I never imagined I would be here shopping for free clothes.”

“Yes, but are you realizing that money isn’t everything?” I ask, gently. “You know those friends that have money? The money definitely helps, but are all of them really happy? Are they really satisfied? Only God REALLY fills us. He has a plan in this. You watch and see.”

She continues shopping. It’s hard, but she finds some things for herself and her daughter. She brings her things to me to “Check out” and she hands me her credit card. I giggle and I say, “Ma’am. I don’t need this!” and we both laugh. She’s a little lighter now.

I look at her form to be sure that she had found something for everyone on her list. Sure enough it’s just the two of them. The “Spouse” line says “Widow.”

“Oh God!” I pray. “She lost her husband and she’s probably my age! She has a daughter that’s the same age as my daughter and now she’s lost her job. It’s no wonder she’s so sad and overwhelmed. Please God! Show me what to say!”

He whispers. “Pray.Point her to Me. I will carry her.”

I get her hands and I say, “You are probably going to cry, and that’s ok, but I need to pray with you.”

She sighs, and big tears well up in  her eyes, but she bows her head and we pray. We ask God to carry her and for Him to continue to draw her to Him. We ask Him to provide and that she would sense His direction as she looks for a job.

About that time the door opens. It’s Pedro.

He’s carrying hats that someone had left at the food pantry. He looks at me and then at the lady. He says hello and introduces himself. Then he says, “Ma’am, why are you crying!?”

She can’t answer and so I whisper, “She lost her job. It’s a little hard right now.”

His words could not have been more perfect. It was as if God had him eaves drop on our conversation and he had had time to practice what would come next.

“Ma’am, we ALL are in need. Every one of us.  Even the richest people have needs. Everyone of us needs something! Right now you need a job, and God will provide it! He will! Did you get some clothes? Did they help you here?”

She’s crying, but she nods her head and she’s looking straight at him.

“Ok! You need food? We’ve closed the food pantry, but I have a key. Will it help you? I will open it and we can get you some things. :You need a few things now, but you wait. God is going to carry you.”

She looks at me. He eyes are teary, but she’s somehow smiling a little. It was as if God had told both me and Pedro to say almost the exact same words.  “Some food would help a little. Are you sure it’s ok?” she asks.

I smile at her. “Oh, well, if Pedro says that he will take you and open the pantry just for you I think I would follow him!”

She hugs me. “Thank you.”

It’s a wonder, sometimes, that when everything is going well… we have a job, food for our families and clothes on our backs, families that love us, a good education… that we even see God at all. I wonder how many times He has had to strip us bare before we realize that HE IS GOD!?

There are times that we go through, hard times, and we decide that we are going to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and DO THIS THING!

At some point, however, as one preacher put it, we come to the realization that we don’t even have boots.

All we have is a true and living God that longs to have a relationship with us. He wants to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we can see that His ways are higher. Better. Richer and stronger than any way that we could ever choose. He will take us to any length to make us see that He is pursuing us and that the things of this world truly do not hold a candle in comparison to the Light of His glory and the hope that He brings.

And for those of us who have seen that glory.. are we willing to stop our lives that are going so well to tell someone else about it?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Invitation

I never know what she will say. She’s never met a stranger in her life. She is easily intrigued and questions come quickly, and they are easily voiced.

Every person is just that. A person. They are not strangers. They have no color differences and they all must be kind. In her mind they are all very much the same and there are just no boundaries that she can’t cross.

While shoe shopping last weekend we decided on black paten leather. Shoes she’d wear to church. We went to pay and while we were standing at the register…

“You can wear these this Sunday,” I say, smiling at her.

“Yes.” She agrees while watching the lady behind the counter. She hears me but she’s not paying attention to me. I know it’s coming.

“Do you have a church home?” she immediately blurts out to the lady ringing up shoes and checking sizes.

The lady realizes she’s talking to her. “Me? Oh, um. Well, I do have a place that I attend sometimes. It’s on the West side. A Methodist church.”

“Well, we go to Hickory Grove. Right mom? Tell her!” I am suddenly on the spot in the middle of a discussion with a complete stranger about church. I was buying shoes, for the love of Pete!

“Um, yes! She’s right! We do attend Hickory Grove. It’s on this side of town and we’d love to have you sometime.”

It doesn’t stop. “Yeah! We have a clothes closet! Do you need clothes? You could come!”

The girl smiles, but her eyes are on the computer screen. She’s putting shoes in a bag now and getting my receipt. You can tell this talk about church is making her very uncomfortable.

“Wow! Really? A clothes closet!” she says not sure what to say next.

I realize that this conversation must need to happen and yet I am almost as uncomfortable as she is. WHY!? If this twelve year old isn’t in the least bit concerned about what she may say or think in response then why am I?

I continue. “Yes, we are open on Tuesday and Thursday each week.It’s on the church campus. Do you know where we are located? ”

The lady runs some extra paper off of the roll from the register and hands me a pen. “I may know someone who could really use that. Thank you so much for mentioning it. Could you write it down for me? The information about the clothes, I mean.”

It’s true that most of us have trouble even starting a conversation with a stranger about God, church or anything of the like. We can talk about shopping and how things look. We can talk about the prices of groceries being overwhelming in the grocery store and we can talk about sports all day long. When it comes to God, however, we are frightened that we might offend or cause someone to feel uncomfortable.

As we walked to the car I said, “Hey, why did you do that?”

“Well, mom. She might not have had a church. We need to invite everybody, right?”

Yes, honey. We do. We sure do.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just a Pair Of Jeans

“Hey, you remember me?”

He was standing in front of me with a navy toboggan and a jacket. He was smiling, and he was carrying food from the food pantry in plastic bags.

“Can I sit this here?” he asked as he sat the bags on the floor.

I thought I remembered his face, but wasn’t certain until he said, “My ID was stolen and I am getting it back  Monday. I just need a pair of jeans. I was here a little while ago. I got a little job doing a little construction work and the man is real nice. He’s paying me a little until I can get things all set up. I just need a pair of jeans.”

I looked his name up in the system. When he was in last he’d been staying in a hotel.

“You still at the hotel?” I asked.

“Well,” he smiled, “I, I had to sleep on the street last night. It’s ok though. I am alright.”

I remind him that he can have more than a pair of jeans. As he walks away I notice  his jeans, the only pair he owns, has mud all over them from the construction site.

He had slept in those on the street and in his mind he just needed another pair to get him through. Maybe to help him feel clean and to know that he had more to his name than just a dirty pair of jeans.

I remember a blanket that someone had given us and a sweatshirt that was surely too big, but I take it and I offer it. “Oh, really? This is nice! You gonna let me have this, too? Ma’am what a blessing!'”

He found 2 pair of jeans in his size and he is smiling from ear to ear.

“You have socks? Just a couple of pair will do. I just need a couple of things to get me by is all.”

“Do you need a Bible?” I ask.

His eyes light up. “NO! Oh no ma’am! When I was here last you gave me one and I still have that Bible. Thank you.”

I ask him to remind me of his name and he tells me.

I say, “Well, you know what sir? I think we need to pray! We need to pray for that ID to come like it should and for that job to be a continuous thing so that you don’t have to sleep on the street anymore. You see, God is providing these things for you. I didn’t bring that blanket here, and that sweatshirt wasn’t mine. God has provided and we need to thank Him and ask Him to continue to provide.”

“Oh yes ma’am! I know that God looks after me! I trust Him and He is going to see me through this rough patch. He already is! What a blessing this is!”  His grin just lights up the room!

I hold his rough, strong hand. He squeezes it as I pray for him and ask the Lord to continue to speak to his heart as He provides along the way.

We say amen and the man looks at me square in the eyes. “Thank you. I know somebody has prayed for me today.”

I give him information about our church. “Please come to worship with us.”

“OH! I would LOVE to!” he said with his smile even bigger now.

I can only imagine how it would thrill him to know that he could worship, dirty jeans and all, in a place where he’d be accepted.

What would it be to have faith that God is going to do what He said He would even if I lived on the street? Would I have joy? Would I have peace in my heart and would it show on my face?

Would I treasure God’s Word and see it as a special possession if that were all I truly owned?

Would I value the prayer of a stranger and view it as a blessing that someone had prayed for me that day because I was uncertain if any other day someone had?

 

“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Connection

I don’t know about you, but when I am not feeling well I really LOVE to be home by myself. Today is one of those days. Once I got everyone off to their destinations I just needed to lie down and rest. I slept a while, got showered, and went to lie down again.

My problem is, that while I know that this is a good thing, I miss people. I mean I love to be home by myself because I can sleep and be quiet and sleep some more. But then when I am awake I wonder what my husband is doing or where my friends are or what I am missing out on. Anyone relate?

Well, another benefit of the quiet is that I can begin to sense God’s nearness. I picked up my Bible and started to read and over and over again His Word is just a wealth of encouragement and reminders of His faithfulness. I also love His instruction about how to live and so I have started journaling in my Bible so that I can give it to my daughter one day.

134

I love this picture of her and my mom.

The past couple of years have been great reminders to me that we won’t always have the chance to have an influence on our kids. Two of my dearest friends lost their moms and I know that they treasure every ounce of the heritage that they left behind.

So often my words come across like, “Because I’m your mom and I said so!” But God’s Word? Oh just look…

“The sum of your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

“The Words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6

Seven is the number of perfection and completion. His Word is purified to perfection and completion. What mom would NOT want to give her child perfection and completion, and God’s Word?

Maybe she will go through many times of uncertainties but God’s Word tells us that “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 17

Being alone and quiet gives me a chance to be reminded of these promises myself. I can journal about things that I am going through so that she sees that my life is far from perfect! I need God and His Word at every turn so that I can just make it through those times that I’m angry, hurt or feel alone.

Recently God has been very clear that He wants me to be silent in an area where I have been very vocal for several years. A sanguine like me struggles greatly in the area of silence, and especially when I am use to opening my big trap!

And then He reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

I sometimes wonder if He doesn’t allow days like this to make me see that I TRULY CAN be still and quiet. Maybe He’s letting me practice. Isn’t God funny like that? Oh, He just makes me laugh out loud sometimes at His goodness.

For a very long time I thought that relationships that were healthy were only relationships where we were just talking all the time! (I still struggle with thinking something’s wrong between me and someone if we haven’t spoken in a while! I hate being insecure!) My husband, the engineer type on the other hand, thinks the opposite. (Imagine that!) He always says, “Well, someone HAS to listen!”

Our God is a true gentleman. He will not speak while we are speaking. And we can’t listen while we are speaking! I know it pleases Him when I come and spill my guts about everything that’s troubling me, when I am happy and praising Him or when I just need to ask Him to show me His Will, but THEN I need to SHUT IT! I need to have a day like today where I reconnect with His Word and see that He has so much to say to me!!

His Word is perfect and without it our lives have no direction and this sanguine girl could use all the direction I can get!

Monday, March 10, 2014

He Knew

He knew that I would face feelings of awkwardness… unworthiness…  when I walked into His house yesterday and so He met me there, and He spoke, like I was the only one there on the pew, in His presence, at His feet.

He drew me to worship in complete surrender. In His unrelenting love He reminded me to let everyone just fade away. Let every feeling and thought just meld into Him, and He would provide for my every need. My every awkward and insecure need.

He knew that I would face a trial that left me feeling lonely and like no one would understand. He placed the right person, at the right time, with the right words in my path to make me realize that He is already there.

The trial is only for a moment, but He is eternal and He knew that all I needed was a reminder. He used an unsuspecting and gentle soul to bring comfort as I walk this road with Him. Such peace. Unwavering peace.

He knew that I would feel inadequate to do what He has asked of me. Another step of obedience that scares me to death? He knew my questions before I asked and He waited for me to come to Him, in desperation, no less, seeking answers that only He could give.

He knew I could not do it on my own, and He knew that I would eventually come with tears after I attempted to do just that. He never flinched. He heard my cries and reminded me that in HIS strength, and His alone, would I ever be able to accomplish His tasks.

Today He knew, from the time that I woke up,  that I would struggle with feeling less than secure and so He met me at our usual spot to remind me that it is all going to be ok.

He knew that I would need to hear that He is enough for today, and that my insecurities and are nothing when He takes this day into His mighty hands and molds it into what it needs to be for His glory.

Having a relationship with God does not mean that we never struggle with less than pretty feelings. What it DOES mean is that we have a place to take those feelings… in all of their ugliness… and we can hand them to the KING OF KINGS and the LORD OF LORDS and we don’t have to hold them by ourselves.

How will we ever teach our children that He is who He says He is if we don’t believe it ourselves? Every teen I’ve ever known has struggled with every feeling that I have recently felt, and unless I live it how will my OWN teen-to-be learn it?

If I have a breakdown at every turn of the page and every disappointment, how will my child ever learn that HE is WHO HE says HE IS!?  How will she ever trust God if I don’t show her how? How will every situation not be an emergency and how will she know that He TRULY holds all things together if I am not living it?

How will the world know that He’s alive in us if we don’t show them that we are real people with real struggles who loves a real God who really loves them back?

He knew from the beginning of time that we’d struggle even in this, and yet in His infinite wisdom He allowed us to live this life anyway.

He knew we couldn’t do it on our own.

He knows we can’t face tomorrow, and what it holds, without Him.

He knew we’d be desperate.

He knew He’d die for all of it.