Connecting with Community

Monday, July 2, 2018

Nickels, Dimes and Jesus

I lead a book club titled the Learners. Our second book is titled Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in American by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ms. Ehrenreich is a highly educated middle class journalist. She decides to go undercover to investigate exactly how the working class poor make it on minimum wage. It sounds much like an extra long episode of Undercover Boss. I am thrilled at the opportunity to learn.
This author talks in detail about the plans and hardships on finding economical and suitable housing and then without pause begins the uphill battle of seeking employment near this prized “economical” housing she has discovered. I must say I am touched by her desire to dive right in regardless of the mud and mess she encounters. All in an effort of dispelling the myths, misconceptions and stereo types of the working class poor.
She has me and I am intently hanging on to her every word. Pause. Rewind. Stop. I do not know what happened everything was going so well. Somehow, I have just been sucker punched and my desire to learn more about nickels and dimes is no longer present. The rug has just been pulled out from underneath me and for no reason at all. I do not understand why this paragraph, which does not really fit into this storyline, is here.  Somewhere in this book about poverty, she speaks of one day after work looking for something to do that would not cost money. She happens to notice a church service, taking place across the way so she decides to attend. After this excerpt in the book, all I hear is anger, criticism and judgement. She begins judging another type of human. Which I am baffled by. You cannot or rather you should not honor one human and in the same breath dishonor another merely by how he or she believes.
My heart hurts as she slyly begins to take a dig at Christianity. I continue reading even though I am jabbed from time to time. I think the perception here may be if you have met one Christian, you have met them all. The misconception is if one Christian behaves badly they all behave badly. These misconceptions of Christians are similar to those of people living in poverty. This is as absurd as saying because you have known one person in poverty taking advantage of the system they are all taking advantage of the system. Just not, so on both accounts.
If you know me you probably know I love Jesus. I am a Christian and the very thing that enables me to love my neighbor is the God I serve. I work hard to dispel myths, misconceptions and stereo types about people living in poverty.  Actually, I consider it my life’s work (Isaiah 61) and I do this because I am a Christian. These hostile characterizations and judgmental bigotries people have placed on me because I am a Christian are just not so. Yes, some people misrepresent Christianity but not all people do.
Yes, some Christians sit on the sidelines while some of us are working hard out on the field, others are coaching and calling plays and yet others sit injured in the locker room (sometimes injury caused by their fellow Christians). Some have just been recruited while others are beginning their first day of basic training. What is often excluded is the truth about how so many of these Christians are out there making touchdown after touchdown. Yet more often than not, we are all judged as if we were all that one foul mouthed player waiting to be sentenced for all his unspeakable crimes. The Jesus I serve is perfect not the people that serve him. I do not say this to give a pass to unsavory behavior displayed at times by us Christians in “training”. I say this because no one is perfect Christian or not.
My takeaway from this book has nothing to do with poverty but rather it has affirmed that we as people will judge those we do not understand. I am a Christian and in love I say to those who judge me for being a Christian, your judgments, stereotypes and misconceptions are just not so of me. If you would take the time to get to know me, you would learn that I am not a person that hates this party or that party even though some that call themselves Christians do. If you would take the time to get to know me, you would learn that I am not for children being separated from their mothers even though some of the people in the political party I am affiliated with may be. If you would take the time to get to know me, you would learn that I do not hate nor judge people that believe different than I do even though some that call themselves Christians do. If you would take the time to get to know me, you would learn that I do not hate because the color of your skin maybe different from mine even though some that call themselves Christians do.
I no longer want to learn about nickels or dimes.
I want to teach,
how to love,
with Love,
all people.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Friday-The car and the lost sunflower seed

I wake with my daughter at arms length.  I lovingly watch her sleep and I am mesmerized by her face, attentively I watch as she slowly opens her eyes. She moves slightly and the struggle with soreness is present. There are still signs of glass in her hair but we rejoice that she escaped with no broken bones or internal injuries. I inspect her a little closer as I have been told that the bruising and cuts will be more apparent this morning. I see nothing, there are no visible marks of injury on her body. It is as if this wreck was merely a dream. I am certain prayer has occurred on our behalf. My children are anxious because they are not near but prayer has seemed to sooth them.

This will not be an easy day, as today we are scheduled to see the car and visit the crash site. The broken car is somewhere near, neatly stored because of this day of snow. My mind goes elsewhere and I focus on the fact that it is Easter weekend. Today is Good Friday and I am reminded of my Savior. I bow my head and pause long enough to allow tears to slowly roll down my face. Selfishly I bless God for my child's life. I begin to be thankful that I am not planning to bury my child today but rather making plans to merely bury her car. I think of all the families that have had experiences similar to this but have not had the outcome we have been awarded. Its not fair that I have my daughter and so many others have had to bury theirs. I don't understand it and I don't know that I ever will, at least not on this side of glory. Regardless I am grateful. We are grateful.

Last night when we arrived, Christian began to explain what she experienced. Her most vivid memory was the soil she saw all over her car. She said "I was growing a sunflower. I hope you can find the seed, when you look for my stuff." I smiled at this impossible request.

On the way to deal with the car we dial the sheriffs department in hopes of receiving direction on how and where we must begin this journey. First we travel to where the car is being held. We drive by the business that holds the car and Jacob spots it in the drive. I too see the car and I am paralyzed with fear, unable to move. In the very center of my being I can sweetly feel the prayers that are being sent on our behalf. Once more my head bows and I am no longer able to silently cry. I cry out with thanksgiving in my heart. I sit unable to process and the scene plays over and over in my head. My phone buzzes and again prayer is being offered. I am grateful so grateful as I have seen with my own eyes what the power of prayer can do. Finally I feel peace and muster enough courage to help Jacob empty the car. I glance in the car and I see her pillow,  her blanket, her clothes, her keys all in the midst of the shattered glass. I am beside myself and again unable to put a single thought in place. I reach in the car  to grab her purse and I am pricked by a shard of glass. Jacob stops and careful of this mommies heart speaks sweetly, "baby let me do this". I step back, look inside one last time and there in the center of all the mess I see the sunflower seed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thursday -I climb out.

The phone rings and on the other end I hear Jacobs' voice. He begins"I heard sirens and wanted to make sure you were ok". My heart smiles and I am thankful. Today is Thursday and Good Friday is tomorrow but no worries becasuse Sunday is on its way. It is my favorite time of the year. We are closed on Friday in observation of Good Friday, so that means I have two days of work to finish up by noon.

Finally at the office and before I prepare for my day, I pick up the phone and dial Keila. She answers "Whats up mom".  I explain that dad heard sirens so I was calling to make sure she was safe. Meanwhile, 12 hours away, Christian is on the road headed home for Resurrection Sunday.

It isn't long before my day is in full swing. I have a meeting at 10:00AM so I look at my phone to check the time. My phone is always off during my time at work so imagine my surprise to see my Christians name on the screen. I answer the phone and say "hey baby where are you?".  She replies with "mom I crawled out of the car". I can't process that comment so I ask again "baby where are you?" and again "mom I crawled out of the car". I instantly go into rescue mode which doesn't allow me the emotions I would have if I was operating in mommy mode. I know if I want the best outcome possible I have to accurately assess the situation. I have to get her help. At this point I don't know where she is, I don't know how badly she is hurt and with so much distance between us I know I have to get people to her. Again I hear sobbing and again I ask "where are you baby?". She replies "mom I don't know". I ask "baby what happened". She responds "my car rolled, I'm sorry mom". I respond "baby don't worry its ok, everything is going to be ok". Baby are you in a field? Do you see people or other cars? No response. Then I realize she is in shock so I give orders. Baby I don't know where you are so I need you to hang up with me and dial 911. I need you to get help now. I am on my way baby, I am on my way. I signal for help and ask a colleague to call Jacob, while I am still on the phone with Chris. I know that as soon as she dials 911 I will no longer have contact with her. I am calm and begin to ask Chris, "What do you see around you?" What was the last town you passed. She replies Madison. I said ok baby we are on our way. I hang up and then my body begins to shake. I walk to my office and emotions hit. I am afraid for my girl.

Jacob walks in and he holds me but only for a moment because we both know we have to get on the road. We throw stuff in a suitcase and head to Nebraska. It will be the longest day of our life. It would be 10 hours before we reach our girl. The praying began the moment I shed my first tear.

Christian said she remembers hitting a patch of ice and she remembers a semi truck. She said there was nothing I could do. I remember being in the air. I closed my eyes and crossed my arms in front of my chest. I felt glass and I felt the car crushing around me. When I finally landed, I slowly open my eyes and I realize I am hanging, being held by my seat belt. I see liquid and I know I have to get out of the car. I grab my hat and I think of my plant because I see soil mixed with glass. I was growing a sunflower she says. My luggage and backpack are in the front of the car. My safety kit is outside of the car and I don't understand how. I notice a small crevasse and I decide to try and squeeze myself through this space. I climb out.

Friday, March 11, 2016

love at first sight

I wake only to visit the bathroom, quickly  I head back to my the comfort of my bed. I snuggle in hopes of nothing, yes nothing, no expectations from me today. The curtains protect me from the rays of the sun. I will not have a productive day. I will doodle, read, sleep, watch TV, sleep, lay in bed, watch TV and well you get the picture. I am scheduled to be far from the comfort of my home today and as luck would have it I get to stay home this morning. This doesn't happen often, come to think of it I cant remember a time when something like this happened. Regardless I will soak in the opportunity. So stay with me as my day unfolds. It takes everything I have not to get up and wash the dishes, I left in the basin last night. Then I am reminded of the clothes piled in the laundry hamper. I think I even noticed a load in the dryer and they are probably ready to be folded. Maybe there is also clothes on the washer that need to be put away. Ok so it only took me a few minutes to get this day on course. As I climb out of bed to get my day going, Jacob leaves to take Josh to school and at the same time our new child leaves to get her morning run.

Lets me take you back a few days and then this new kid of mine might make more sense. I received a surprise on Friday evening. My runner drove in from South Dakota. She came home for spring break and she brought a couple of young ladies with her. Her goal was to expose these classmates of hers to this great state of Texas. A'las our family on a mission to show these young girls that everything is bigger and better in Texas. We have had the pleasure of sharing our home with these young girls for the past 6 days. Chris has taken them to the Canyon, shopping at local shops and they have been blessed to dine at many local eatery's. Their first day here they even had the honor of eating at the finest place in Texas, yes you guessed it, Whataburger!

I've had he opportunity to spend a handful of hours each day with these young girls. Apparently it was love at first sight. This morning one of my new children went on her morning run and two hours later she had not returned. I didn't take much longer before I was in a panic. I began to pace as this lovely was no where in sight. I would send out the troops in search of my girl. Jacob soon joined me in my panic.  He heads home to join the search party. I wait on the porch praying that God would protector. Finally the call comes in that she has been found. I begin to weep in relief that my baby is safe. Shortly she walks in and I embrace her and love her as one of my own. I share only to show that it is possible to love all we encounter. C'mon won't you love someone today our world so desperately needs love.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Give Anyway

So my phone was on pause for a few days and well I kind of feel like I’ve been on pause for a while myself. November and December are months that are typically quite peaceful in my world. This may not be a good thing because it allows me too much time to dream. What do I dream of you ask? Well I’ll tell you, I dream of love, kindness and peace. I continually look at what more I can do and how I can better serve. How can I love without words?

I continually want to leave people in a better place than I find them. Nope I don’t always accomplish that but I sure do try. I get so caught up in all my busyness and it always seems to causes me to be on the go. It keeps my mind racing and I am constantly thinking of what I could do next. Busyness often consumes me so it is quite a task for me to pause and be present when I am face to face with another human. But I assure you being present is my goal.

Today a gentleman walked in and his shame consumed him as he asked for food. Today I met a woman with 5 children that will be homeless on Thursday. Today I spoke with a woman that will not have electricity tomorrow and she will not be able to give her child breathing treatments. Today a woman came in seeking help with her water bill and there was no help to be found. She will not have running water tomorrow. My heart hurts that I cannot always help but I am comforted in the fact that I can always love and it cost me nothing.

I was invited to a Christmas Party and all week I’ve looked forward to the end of the week so I could attend. Finally the day of the party arrives and I get caught up in the busyness of the office. And after all is said and done there will be no time for me to attend this party. Instead I head to deliver some goods. It is late and I worry because I don’t like the surroundings I find myself in. I slowly make my way around this unkept building and finally I spot the numbers I am looking for. Cautiously I park, a little unsure of things and yet I get out of my car anyway. I head towards the door and gently knock. A woman answers and instantly her eyes well up with tears. I explain I brought her some items and she softly speaks, “I am not worth this”. My heart crumbles inside at the thought of another being not seeing worth in themselves. I wonder if the busyness around her has caused people like me not to see her and treat her as significant. How often do we have opportunity to give and yet we choose not to?

I know, sometimes, even if it’s just for a moment we get to a place where we get tired of serving. Sometimes we even tire of giving. So let’s get a little crazy and change the way we serve, let’s change the way we give. Let’s give a little simpler maybe not so extravagant. Close your pocket book and open your heart. What if we paused our materialistic giving and gave dignity instead? What if we gave a little honor to those that have served this beautiful country we live in? What if we extended peace to those that are often forgotten? What if we loved those that don’t know how to love us back? What if we gave a single mother respect instead of judgment?

I know, you are right, it’s easier to give money than it is to give of your heart. Give anyway.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shall we dance?

I do not think anyone should have to get out of bed when there is snow on the ground. That is why I woke up 45 minutes late. So I am dancing through the house trying to find the shower and my little runner beats me to it. Not fun! So I had to do what I haven’t done in months… Use the boy’s bathroom. Ok so it’s a little tidier than ours but still.

We are all in panic mode trying to get out of the house and the silly thing is no one can leave the house without a shower, not even the four year old. No, washing our face and brushing our teeth is not enough. We all require a shower, even if we had one the night before. Maybe not a bad habit?! Finally we make it out the door and that’s when the mishaps begin. Tristan tangles with an ice patch and the ice patch is victorious.

Yes, and meanwhile in the car my windshield is covered with ice. Not fun! I sit in the car talking to it as if that were going to hurry the ice along. Finally we drive to town and I drop off Josh, maybe a tad bit late. Now we fly on over to Tristan’s school and today I won’t even try and sneak him in. I will park right up front, march in like a champ and confess that I am late. He seems happy to be taking this adventure of a new door way. I however am not. I stand in line for his slip of shame and walk down the hall in hopes to still catch a breakfast plate. In the door way stand two Life Changers helping a child that seems to be having a meltdown. While another teacher sits on the floor with this child. Makes my heart warm.

We walk into the cafeteria and the cafeteria lady says, “there he is Tristan is here.” They happily fix him a place while his teacher goes to the lunch line and assists him in deciding on white or chocolate milk. While he, happily dances while he waits for his goods. Yes he dances at 4 he doesn’t understand that grandma has failed and brought him late to school. He dances, yes he dances that they celebrate his arrival. What if we all celebrated people regardless of their failures?

I depart with a mission. I think of my son, JD and he loves him some breakfast burritos. So much in fact that he believes he keeps this breakfast joint in business. Well I don’t want it to shut down because he is out for 8 months so I go and buy a burrito to pay tribute to my son. Okay I am not a fan of the taste really or the price to be honest. But I do it anyway. It allows me to dance even if he is not with me.  As I arrive and peer through the window.  I notice the lady preparing my food has a slight dance in her step as she works. Hmmm.

Now I am really late and I don’t have time to stop for my tea. Or do I? I head in that direction and low and behold I look to my right and there is a woman dancing at a bus stop. Yes she is dancing. It is probably about 15 degrees and I have a choice to make. I can look away and go get my tea or I can stop and ask if she trust me for a ride. I turn in and pull up to her. She looks at me a little crooked and maybe a little embarrassed as she has been caught dancing. She tells me she’s dancing to keep warm. No need to explain, as at this point in my day I get why we should all dance.

She is in need of a ride to the AISD administration building. She just got a job at one of the schools and she is needing to get some paper work turned in. She is happy to have a second job now. She is also happy to announce that she has been married for two years and just as proud to announce that they have two dogs. I hear her dancing as she speaks.

Half the population in our country is receiving government assistance. Just a thought but what if the other half behaved as humans and helped one person. Yes just one. Wow maybe we would eradicate poverty in our lifetime. Ok so no a ride maybe won’t eradicate poverty but adding value to someone in a way that removes shame will allow hope to creep in. And maybe just maybe that will eradicate poverty. Because you know when Hope is present nothing is impossible. Go out there and love. Go out there and dance. If you don’t have a reason to dance, do something for someone else. It may just allow you and them the opportunity to dance.   Live people live.