Connecting with Community

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Filled

It is early and I feel the sun warming me through a small opening in the drapes. I dig myself deeper into my bedding, in hopes that the morning will not come so soon. I grasp for the stillness of this moment because I am sure the sky will once again give way to the sun and it’s over powering strength. It won’t be long before the world around me wakes and this moment will quickly be gone. The sun high above exposes the sky and it reaches towards me allowing me a ray of guilt for all those that don’t wake to the comfort of a home.

Just last night I slept outside, on the ground, covered in the night’s debris. This morning I lay here in comfort, struggling to process my three day adventure. This is the third time I have taken part in Mission Waco Mission World Poverty Simulation. It was probably designed to experience once but apparently I am a slow learner and God still has much to teach me. I had the pleasure of assembling what I call Waco Team #3 for this journey. It was made up of two pastors, two community leaders, and two Cal Farley employees.

We met at 8:30 Friday morning in search of a life changing adventure. I know, I know it doesn’t make sense and you are probably thinking, what could these pastors and community leaders possibly learn? What does being homeless for a couple of days, teach you? After all they are already givers and people in the business of serving others. Yes your right, but we are all human and sometimes we forget it’s about people and not programs. We all get caught up with the day to day responsibilities and we get bogged down with life. This journey always allows a way to be emptied and also the opportunity to be filled. It’s hard to put into words, what this experience is like but I will tell you that it is impossible to go through this and not be reminded how to love all people exactly where they are, including yourself.

The first morning we are woken by sprinkles of gentle rain the sky decides to share. I struggle with discomfort from the hard ground and find myself struggling to stand. I head towards the outhouse and moments later I find myself standing by the shopping cart where the water hose is housed. It’s a familiar place and I am not fond of the memories it holds. I am the only one that knows what is ahead of us today and I quickly begin to dread the day before us. At the end of the day we are the only group that could not find food. We are the only ones unworthy of help. We are the only ones that wander around with empty bellies. I am not where I can tell the rest of this story but maybe soon.

Earlier this week, before I left for Waco I gathered food to take to families in need. One day after work I head to a local hotel, where a family of four is staying. I call to let them know I am near and she tells me the room number they are in. I don’t even have to look for the room number because as I turn in the parking lot I notice two small children sitting outside playing on the sidewalk. Everything inside me says this is not OK. It is not ok for this 2 year old and this 5 year old not to have food or a place to call their own. It is not ok that a parking lot is their playground. I am not ok with giving them only what they can cook in a microwave. My heart hurts and I leave wondering if I have done enough. I leave wondering if they have felt my love.

I head to my second stop and it is an elderly couple raising their granddaughter. Grandma has been in the hospital for a couple of weeks and the house is bare. I am thinking this is not Ok. The little girl is happy for pop tarts and cereal even if she has to eat them without milk. Again I’m thinking this is not OK.

That day I was reminded why I will head to Waco and endure another three day weekend. A weekend where people just like me will make me feel unworthy. A weekend where I will struggle with water and food, even with so many people like me all around me. All capable of helping but something holds their hands. I will be given new unwanted labels and I will struggle with not being able to help those I have brought with me. Oh but don’t despair for I am certain that Sundays on its way!

On Sunday we walk a distance to make it to Church Under the Bridge and the moment I step on the curb I am engulfed by the presence of God. Love is abounding and so thick you can fill a jar with it. There is people everywhere. I barely make it to my seat when I notice that my emptiness’s is gone and I am now filled. I stand unaware of those around me and I am grateful for the tears that cleanse my face. I am filled with this precious powerful love. I belong and I am worthy. We all leave with healing from the burdens we have been carrying. We walk back to our meeting place with a much lighter load.

Today my husband calls me outside with great excitement. He has been watching a family of birds for a few days and today they are out and about. He wants to share this beauty with me so I follow him around and together we watch these beautiful creatures. Then he turns to me with such tenderness and says “They are so cute and I just love them so much” and it hits me like a ton of bricks. My heavenly Father says the same about me and since He is not a respecter of persons He says the same about you too.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It started with my frig

So it’s been awhile since I’ve written. I guess I was waiting to write on a day where I wasn’t such a mess. Apparently that isn’t going to happen so please join me as I share my day! It’s late and I’m tired but I can’t go to bed without sharing.

Five AM came quickly for me this morning. I struggled to get out the door and struggled in traffic. I woke up with a swollen eye so I did what any self-absorbed person would do. I caked on the Preparation H underneath my eyes. Yes Preparation H! No worries because today was laid out to be a fabulous day full of leaders, educators, dreamers and visionaries. I have been looking forward to this day for a couple of weeks now. I am ready to take this day by the horns.

Let me go back a few weeks, we will start the day my frig went out. I must have grabbed a little frustration on that day and somehow it must have settled in my heart. This would be the beginning of a long series of unfortunate events. First my frig would quit working but not to worry I have a frig in the barn. But even with this luxury it would be just a couple of days before this became inconvenient and yet I would feel the need to grab just a little more frustration. It was a couple of weeks before we got that fixed and then we would begin to hassle with car issues. Not one car, oh no that would of been way to easy, it would be three different cars that decided to act up. Then, oh yeah it gets better, I would run over a screw and a nail on the same day and that would be the day I forgot my cell phone at home! Yes frustration overload because my car would leave me stranded.

Oh and let’s not forget my dryer, oh yes it would go out days before my day of fabulous leaders, educators, dreamers and visionaries. Yes I know how much more could I possible handle after all it is all about me, right! Well I’ll tell you how much more, today at lunch my honey calls to let me know that my son’s truck broke down, again. His words “I think we are being tested?” my reply Gods got this!

So busy with my goals for the day and all I wish to accomplish that I haven’t stopped to think of others. That is until I walk in to our last place of business. I see a woman going about her business and my spirit begins to leap. I know I have to do everything I can to talk to this woman. I ask a friend about her and I didn’t let her finish talking before I find myself in the hall way looking for this “new friend”. I see her and before you know it I have followed her into the men’s bathroom. I say hello,” I want to know how you are” and she bows her head. She does not seem a bit surprised that we are both awkwardly standing in the men’s bathroom. She gently places her hand over her face and I begin to speak. I tell her one of my dearest friends struggles with addiction and I explain how much I love my friend, despite her bad choices. I explain that I love my friend without conditions but because I am a mess I tend to fail my friend and I drop the ball more often than I care to admit.
This woman is a lovely woman there are no physical signs of drug use. So why I assumed she was on drugs is beyond me.

Why? I don’t know but the following comes out of my mouth. “What kind of drugs do you use? Then I pause, not believing I just asked a perfect stranger what kind of drugs she uses. But then she answers, meth! You have to know I hate drugs but I love people. I tell her “I woke up at five this morning and it is now five in the afternoon and I’m tired”. I call her by her name and say “it’s been such a long day”. But all worth it to be standing right here with you. My whole purpose today is to be right here. I want you to know that “You are beautifully and wonderfully made”! You matter and I want you to know that you are loved! She tells me, “but I’m such a mess up” and I tell her “so am I”. She says “I’m a bad person” and I tell her “no you’re not you have just made some bad choices”. Our conversation is lengthy and I share the love God has allowed me and the grace and mercy He has shown me.

There in the men’s bathroom we stand embracing each other, two strangers, two women, two mothers, two sisters, two friends. I whisper to her in prayer. Johns 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life and I went on to share John 3:17 For God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.
In the stillness of love and the silence of acceptance we ask God for strength to make it through another day.

I am reminded……
Isaiah 61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Tea


Whewww....... its been a tough few weeks. I've worked to much and played to little. I missed a dentist appointment and my pedi appointment as well. In my inbox I had the misfortune of finding a little, not so nice “fan” letter and instead of deleting, which is what I usually do, I replied in an attempt to defend my purpose and my passion.

Its kind of hard to defend Mathew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Ok I've been a little on edge and a bit grumpy. Call me a bear, if you will! But I'm exhausted and emotionally spent. I grieve for our young people and I can't imagine how tough it is to be young in this day and age. I am tired of losing them to drugs and death. I am sick and tired of cancer and everything it brings. My heart hurts for the hungry and those with no place to call home.

To top it off , a couple of weeks ago my little girl started working at our local cancer center. She is like her mom, a servant to others. She was thrilled to make rounds with her doctor, until she heard him tell a patient the treatment was no longer working. It hurt her heart to see defeat face to face. Not something she will soon forget.

Then quietly God whispers as I sit watching people and wonder about their story. I am pleased that my job is to love and add value to all. I smile as I am reminded of my purpose. You see my purpose is not to please people it is to love people all people.

I am running late this morning and ask God to rescue me from my day. Even my simple pleasure, my morning tea, will not be possible today. I am the last one in and I make my way to an empty seat. It isn't but a few minutes when I notice a young lady making her way across the room. In her hand is a large cup of Chick-fil-A unsweet tea. I bow my head in an attempt to keep tears from rolling. Yes its silly that a cup of tea would heal my heart. You just never know what a small gesture will do for another. It just might rescue them from grief. All day I would visit with this Lifechanger and as she spoke my heart would heal just a little more.

Love each other, be kind to each other and Live Intentionally.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Gold

I sit and look across the field before me, completely covered with young people. From where I sit they all look like ants. Tents set up on the top of each hill all filled with laughter and food. Every color of the rainbow represented and each one of them spread across the field from one goal post to the other. All gathered to compete for the gold. Despite the weather it truly is my favorite time of year. It is nothing to sit in the stands for 12 straight hours, all with one purpose in mind and that is the cheering on of athletes. It doesn’t matter that it is too cold, too windy, and too hot all with in those twelve hours. We will gladly endure it all for the sake of our athlete!

My daughter, Christian runs and I’m thrilled to do everything and anything to help her attain the gold. I watch and support her when she succeeds and support her just the same when she doesn’t. I encourage her when she’s down and I tell her she can when she doesn’t think she can. It’s my job as a mother to always be there for her. She expects it.

I see her in line waiting to give it all she can and then I see her look towards the stands. She is looking for her momma. She is looking for assurance. I give her a slight nod and that is all she needs to add just a little more confidence to her already healthy confident demeanor. She runs and she fights for the lead. She has no idea what it is not to give all she has and more for her teammates. I look down on the track and with great pride I yell like a crazy person in support of my baby girl. At this point no one in the stands behind me, around me and within a two mile radius have doubt as to which one belongs to me.

There is another girl on my daughter’s team her name is Karah. Karah's momma Belinda is just one of many mommas on the team that will do whatever it takes to help her attain the gold. Last year Karah struggled with injury. It was enough to rob her of confidence. She battled to no avail because the gold was captured by someone else. She completed her year ready to forget it and eager to start a new one. Today I watched the results of what encouragement and persistence can do for a human. Her desire and dreams combined with encouragement allowed her to continue working towards the gold.

It's time for Karah to run and I stand not able to sit as she steps on the line. She is eager and ready to run the 2mile. I too am eager to watch her on the track. I see as she bows her head for a moment and then almost in the same movement she slowly lifts her head just long enough to glance at her mother. Belinda smiles at her precious girl with the kind of love and support only a mother can give. The gun goes off and she begins her run, at the start Karah is just shy of first. This great athlete would run by 7 times and with every lap she would receive words of praise spoken by her mother. These words spoke hope into this athletes dream. Her dream of capturing the gold is now in reach. Her momma’s words would be enough to allow confidence to creep in.

Her head rose a little higher each time she heard her momma yell. I watch intently at each time her shoe hits the track. I see it, we all see she is fighting for the win. Then finally the clouds move and a chill hits my face. The place which is filled with hundreds, is now silent to me. I watch as she aggressively takes the lead. Her face is filled with new found confidence ready to show the world how it’s done. The young athlete now in second fights to take the lead back but there is no holding back this marvelous product of encouragement.

Her last lap and she cannot contain the words that her mother has filled her with. She decides to leave it all on the track. My heart stops and I am overwhelmed at the power of words. Silently I watch as the encouraged athlete takes the curb. Second place begins to challenge her but it’s just not enough to dissuade this athlete full of hope. She crosses the finish line and tears roll down my face. Excitement within me that words have carried her to the gold once more. You see yesterday this young girl won the mile and perhaps many thought it had taken everything out of her. I would of been happy with seeing her win second but obviously the words that consume her are to powerful to settle. Words matter and the lack of words matter too.

What if? What if we spoke these powerful words of encouragement to all? I can’t help but wonder about the athletes that have no one there to cheer them on. I can’t help but wonder of all those parents that can’t be there to watch their child run. Those that don’t have the luxury of taking off of work. Those without the funds to travel to cheer on their child. What if we cheered in love even for those that "don’t belong"? What if we encouraged those so "unworthy" of our words? Would they too not settle?

Watch a YouTube video called "A Football Game Gives Hope". It is a great example of what happens when hope by words is given to those "unworthy" of kind words.

All is well in my soul. 1 Corinthians 9:24

Windows

My vanity, at times, keeps me from being humble. This week I struggled with keeping my hair, well let's just say, "controlled". Monday I stopped by a salon that is open later than most. I am scheduled to speak at a women's conference this evening. My thought is, a trim would help control the mess I have allowed to consume my head. I have visited this place before and I have never left with the outcome I have desired, so why did I think today would be different? My daughter, Keila has told me never to get my hair done at the same place I buy bananas. Obviously, I'm not a good listener. When the cosmetologist is finished trying to control my hair the left side is 3 inches shorter than the right side. I leave thinking, "well its better than what I came in with". My thought as I leave "well maybe a shower will fix the unevenness". Well guess what, it doesn't!

I have two hours before I go on stage and I am prepared to speak out of Isaiah 61 and Matthew 25:31. I am thankful that the focus will be on Gods heart and not on my hair but for right now the focus is 100% on my hair and the concern I have is on my appearance. I use about 100 bobby pins to fix my hair just so. For the moment I am thankful that I will not have to go through a metal detector. As I drive to the church I take longer than normal at every stop sign, just so I can pull down my visor and make another attempt at fixing my hair. I park at the church and yes one last attempt at fixing my do. Finally, I find myself on stage ready to share Gods heart. I open my mouth and the first thing out of my mouth is my "hair-do mishap". Apparently God seems to offer many opportunities to keep me humble.

So stress isn't something I play with often but in the days to follow it would consume me. I would go back to the same salon to fix my hair (I know what your thinking but time is not something I have extra of) and each time I would leave wearing a more defined mullet. Yes, a mullet and yes I have pictures.

For three days I stressed so much about my appearance that I went to bed with headaches and lost sleep over this mullet hair do. In my mind my need was much greater than anyone I encountered. I had speaking engagements on each of my mullet hair do days. Grateful that my mullet hair do would only last 4 days but they were the longest 4 days of my life. Honestly, my looks took over every other priority that week. My hair is all I could think of. It was an awful feeling and it's something I didn't even notice was consuming me until I went in for my third haircut. My "crisis" totally consumed me. It stressed me in so many ways and I even changed my name to "Joe Dirt".

So now the lesson because there is always a lesson within the chaos. What if I put as much emphasis on helping people in crisis with as much urgency as I dedicated to fixing my hair? Would we win this war on poverty? I sit in the passenger seat looking out my car window but all I see is my reflection. I do not see the world but rather my "Joe Dirt" hair-do. So lets focus on looking out the window rather than on our physical appearance and we might just do away with some of this unwanted vanity. This week I was reminded that vanity has a way of hindering you from seeing what's important. If we don't make it a point to look out the window we wont see the need, we won't see the hurt, and we won't see the hopelessness in the world.

While in Borger this week consumed with my self a friend of mine put things into perspective for me. As a man he couldn't of known that I was battling with my vanity. So I took it as a word directly from God. This man doesn't go through life self consumed. He spends his time looking out the window. When I look at people I want to see them and not just the package they are in. I don't want to ever focus on the car they drive or the house they live in. I want to focus on the person. It doesn't matter how perfect ones life may seem I know perfection is not attainable on this earth. I understand that we all have need in one way or another regardless of how much money we have or may not have.

Windows

I look at windows differently now.
When I was a child I used to look out of the backseat window at the starched houses with the manicured lawns and ornamental fences and think to myself “I wish I could live in a house like that; I wish I could have that person’s life.” The passing silhouettes that sometimes stopped to pose in those shutter-framed windows seemed more like the subjects of a Rockwell painting than real people, with real lives, and real issues. Other people’s lives look great when viewed from a passing car at 50 miles an hour.
I look at windows differently now.
One day my family’s situation was transformed from poverty to plenty and I found myself living in one of “those” houses. Money may change everything, but be wary of the change. In our house: sobriety was transformed into alcoholism, faithfulness was abandoned for infidelity, trust was replaced by betrayal, whispers were magnified into shouts, kindness was turned into rage, sanity was twisted into madness, and a loving family became just some inhabitants who happened to have the same address. I remember looking out of my bedroom window at the passengers in the cars passing by and thinking to myself “I wish I could go somewhere else... anywhere else... like them... with them; I wish I could have that person’s life.”
I look at windows differently now.
Now that I’m grown, I know that sometimes staring out from behind the fa├žades of starched houses with manicured lawns and ornamental fences are shattered people just trying to pick up the pieces of their lives while somewhere a passerby makes a wish.
C. H. Winters

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jeremiah 29:11



So I’m struggling to get out of bed this morning and somehow I defeat my blankets. I quickly get ready for my day. I head out the door and the world smiles at me with many white sparkling hellos. The snow glistens as it silently sits on the ground. The crisp morning breeze welcomes me as I head to my car. I smile inside knowing I will have the pleasure of dropping my kids off at school. I love nothing more than building my kids up right before they set out to face the world. I speak words of encouragement and give them the tools they will need in order to conquer the day before them. My son receives his “I love you, you rock and God bless you speech”. He smiles and giggles a little before he heads towards the door. My heart is happy and I sit proudly as I have equipped him with confidence in all he dreams of.



My daughter, well she is a little different I guess everyone at the age of 17 is a little different. I take her to her morning workout, which usually consist of about 6 miles. That alone should speak confidence. She has struggled with confidence this past semester and I have struggled in feeding her confidence. It seems so much more challenging than it used to be when she was 10. We’ve talked about her greatness and all her God given talent. Sometimes she speaks a little unsure of her abilities. She doubts her dreams and hesitates to speak of all she wishes to accomplish. One day last week, while I worked on building her up she said “mom it’s just not my time”.



I’ve thought about that for a little bit and I am going to have to call bull on that. Please excuse my language but I believe that our young people need mentors and advocates that allow them avenues in which to dream. They need people around them that speak words of encouragement. They need people around them telling them “yes regardless of the circumstances that engulf you it is possible to go to college”. Yes regardless of what you see before you it is possible to win. Yes regardless of the situation you are an over comer. Remember we "walk by faith and not by sight". They sure don’t need people convincing them that “it is not their time”. There is enough discouragement and unkind words spoken to these kids they sure don’t need more. Who are you and who am I to think that we have the right to take someone’s dreams?



Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I’m just saying….



I tell Christian remember you are a child of the most high God. That means its always your time. She gets out of the car with all her gear and I whisper “I love you!”, then I ask “When is it your time?” She replies, “All the time”.

Not everyone has the luxury of having their momma feed them encouragement. That is why God made you!



My day continues and Jeremiah 29:11 is still with me. Today I met a baby raising babies, she has an 18 month old and a 4 month old. She has not completed her education and struggles with just having her basic needs met. When is it her time? I was created to encourage so I do. I add to her rather than take from her. I am reminded that Jeremiah 29:11 applies to her too. Her dream is to be a nurse, dare I take that from her because some may think “it is not her time”.



At the office I speak with a momma raising a one and a half year old. She has placed her new born up for adoption in hopes of allowing him a better way of life. She struggles to pay rent and to put food on the table yet she still dreams of an education. It will be such a battle for her to succeed. Would it be easier if I just told her that it may just not be her time? Or does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to her too?



Finally I work with a 19 year old that is about to be homeless. She is alone as she has aged out of foster care. What will become of her? What if we got a clue and added value rather than removed it. She is frustrated that she cannot get help because she is not good at working the system. Everything is working against her and if we truly want her to succeed we are going to have to make a way for her to continue dreaming. We have to begin telling her that it is her time. Regardless of what she looks like and where she lives Jeremiah 29:11 applies to her too.



I don’t know, I am just a simple person and I don’t know as much as some but I am certain that the verses below apply to all people. Imagine how we would impact this world if we actually believed the following.



Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Isaiah 44:24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;



Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.