NBC - A Bit More

Last week was such a whirlwind and so much happened that I'm still not sure I've processed through it all. In my previous post I mentioned that I stepped out of the way last week and by that I meant I just did what God wanted me to do. It wasn't about me - not one moment. There was no arguing, no holding back, no wishing I had done something differently.

There are a few stories that have stuck with me and I want to write them down here. Not because I think they'll provide any profound insight into anything but because I don't ever want to forget them.

On Monday, when we arrived at the shelter, we met D, L, C, A and A's mom A. I'll call mom Av just to keep them clear. Monday, NBC went as NBC should go - we did worship, we had Bible (and I had almost all of the supplies I needed for that), we went outside and played a couple of games, came in, they did their craft and had their snack then we sang another song or two and went home. Typical NBC. The only typical NBC day we had.

Tuesday we showed up to find that L & C had gone to their grandmother's house because mom needed a break for a couple of days (that brings up a few opinions which I won't share at this point in time). They would be back on Thursday. Neither D nor A had come down by about 9:45 and just when I thought we were going to give up and go home, A came downstairs and was ready to go (what a cutie that one is - you have no idea how much I wish I could share pictures!) When she showed up, I asked if D was in the house and sure enough - a few minutes later - down the boy trooped. Tuesday's craft was a bit of a doozy, too, so we worshipped for a few minutes, had Bible then craft and snack. We never did get to games because we ran out of time. It turned out to be a blessing because we didn't have enough kids to form teams, anyhow, so we just skipped games for the rest of the week.

Wednesday was the hardest day of all of them. I wanted to cry Wednesday and every day since. It's been almost a week and I still want to cry. Wednesday was the morning we arrived at the shelter to find out that D, his mother and brother had had to move out the night before because mom didn't want to __________. The blank is - we have no idea. A rule she didn't want to follow, a form she didn't want to fill out, a class she didn't want to take... no one knows. All we know is she had a very long conversation with her case manager on Tuesday and the result of that was she chose to take her boys back out on the street.

I'm amazed no one heard my heart break on the east coast when I was given the news. It cracked and splintered into several dozen tiny pieces. The shock of the news - I went cold to my core. In two very short days, that boy (he is 10) had touched my heart in a place I didn't know existed. When I first met him, the thing I noticed - and you couldn't help noticing, either, if you met him - were the huge puffy bags under his eyes. That was Monday. By Tuesday they were the dark circles that scream "I haven't slept in DAYS." He looked so incredibly sad, so incredibly tired I don't have words. His face has haunted me since last Wednesday, I see him in my mind all the time. Even now as I write this, my eyes have welled up with tears because that little boy embodied all of the pain, all of the fear, all of the anguish that these children suffer because of what their parents force into their lives. Picture the sweetest face (and heart) you know and then picture that face drawn, quiet - exhausted beyond words and sad beyond recognition. Picture that heart struggling to stay sweet. You might come close to picturing D.

His heart is so raw. Every time he would see his mom walk by, he'd ask her where she was going. It didn't matter that he could tell she was going out back for a quick smoke or coming back inside from smoking - he wanted to make sure he could find her fast if he needed to. On Monday, one of the questions I had for the kids was if they could give me other names for Jesus. He raised his hand and said he'd heard the name "All" or "Ha" or "Alha" - couldn't remember exactly what it was. It was a bit of a heart-wrench to think he'd been taught to place Jesus and Allah in the same category. He left me speechless for a few seconds trying to figure out how to answer him. I did and we moved on but I wished he wanted to ask more. If I had known he would be gone, I would have left him with his own copy of the Bible that day...

Ah... that is all I can write for now. I am still grieving the loss (as dramatic as that sounds), praying God covers him and protects him, brings him to safety somewhere and reveals Himself to that little one. I pray, too, for his mother - she has her 10 year old and a 2 year old. My prayer for her is she would stop looking at life through that selfish lens of "what it owes me" or "I'm going to do whatever I want to do" and start seeing it through the eyes of a mother who wants what is best for her children. The hurt, the pain and unfortunately, most of these women are so self-absorbed they don't care about their children's needs except as it relates directly to keeping them from what they want...

Never in my life have I wanted to scream, yell, throw things like I did last Wednesday. I have felt inadequate, I have felt helpless, I have felt frustrated but never like I did knowing that in all likelihood the last time I will talk to D this side of heaven was last Tuesday. There is torment in serving the homeless - torment I never imagined or quite understood when I started down this road. It is, however, torment I would not trade for anything. It grows and stretches you in places you didn't know were stagnant. It is the most amazing thing I have ever done outside of raise my children. God does not want our love for Him to be quiet, cozy, picture-perfect. He wants us to dive in and love one another as He loves us - no matter how many times we kick Him in the teeth or spit in His face. My heart will heal, D will remain in my heart and prayers but he'll fade a bit from my mind but I will never, never allow myself to forget that it is despite the possibility of that loss, that hurt that I go into the shelter. They are usually the unlovable, the undesirables but are created in God's image, too. Loved by the Almighty who spoke us into existence. If that power, that fierce Spirit of love loves them then I can, too - because He loves them through me.

As long as I get out of the way...


NBC Re-Visted

Our church, instead of inviting kids from around our community to come and enjoy Vacation Bible School (VBS) in our building, takes VBS out into our neighborhoods - it's called Neighborhood Bible Club (NBC). Various members of our church offer and open their homes to the kids in their neighborhood. The church supplies the curriculum and supplies - you just offer your home.

Last year and again this year, I was honored and blessed to serve as a volunteer for NBC in our local women's shelter for the Everett Gospel Mission. Dawn has been the "host" up there for the last couple of years and was all set to do it again this year. I take on games. How can you go wrong showing up for 2 hours a day for 5 days and your only responsibility encompasses telling the children how to play for about 20 minutes each day? I had SO much fun with it last year - worshipping with the kids, listening to the Bible stories and taking pictures. Oh how I took pictures last year.

This year I took a few pictures but I couldn't take anywhere near as many. Dawn, our wonderful leader (and about the sweetest, gentlest woman I have ever met) had a family emergency and so at 7AM Monday morning I received a phone call saying she wouldn't be there, could I do Bible...

and so it began.

Monday night brought the news that Dawn wasn't going to be able to come up at all this year and would I be willing to take it on (teaching Bible, that is)? Panic. Panic set in like you would not believe. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the Bible. I love the Bible. I try to live my life by the Bible. It wasn't the Bible that scared me. It was the children. I'm not a child-fan. Really. I'm not. I'm not very good with them. I'm not funny, I'm not cute, I'm not... well... children don't flock to me. I often come across as tough, mean just... not a grown-up a kid wants in their corner. I like to say God knows just how terrible I'd be at motherhood, that's why He only entrusted me with one kid at a time to raise.

But when Nancy (the pre-school director for our church) asked me if I was ok doing it I answered the truth - "Nope. I'm not comfortable with it. But am I supposed to be, Nancy?" God doesn't WANT us comfortable. He may leave us there for a time but if we're comfortable, how do we grow? If we're comfortable, how easy is it to turn our eyes from Jesus? If we're comfortable - how are we any different from the folks who don't believe in Jesus?

So...for five days this week, I taught Bible. Marianne (the greatest woman on the planet this week!) was so faithful in being there with me, taking care of crafts and jumping in to take on snacks (snacks were going to be handled by Dawn's daughter and while you're thinking - what could be complicated about snacks? The truth is - there is the making of them, the tying the food with the lesson, sharing the truth of the day and clean-up. Snacks are a LOT of work). We had two teenage helpers, too who both remained faithful in coming - they handled worship and they are the greatest teenagers on the planet this week!

With all that help, how tough could it be, right? It's not about the work. I'm not adverse to working hard and taking on extra (although I have noticed an inability I never had before - Aaron & I REALLY have to work on that weight issue!) - never have been. It was the expectations I set for myself. These children were going to be listening to ME to share the LIVING Word of God with them. Seriously. The God who spoke the universe into existence. The God who saves men, commands angels and punishes demons. The God who sent His ONLY begotten Son to the world to die for our horrible sins.

That was the God I was teaching this week.

To children - the oldest 10 - who have seen more sorrow, heartache and people they can't trust in their short lives than I and 20 people I know together have seen in all of ours.

Good thing I got out of the way...mostly.


Thankful Thursdays - My Husband

Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. Five years ago today, I met my husband for the first time. That was exactly one week after walking on the beach, chatting with God and making peace with the idea that I might be single for the rest of my life. I had spent a very long time believing I had been married once, I didn't get a second chance with that. After several conversations and many, many nights on my knees, I finally gave it all up and just handed it over to God. My prayer that windy day in Westport went something like "Lord, I confess that I have been lying to myself for years. I would like to be married but only if that is what You want for me. Please keep me away from men who would not be honoring to You. If I am meant to be single, please know that I am ok with that idea, too." My prayer wrapped up with my asking God that if He WAS going to bring a man into my life, could he have brown hair, blue eyes, be about 6 ft. 3" and own a beach house (but I was flexible on the last two...).

One week. One week later, Aaron literally came to my front door. He came with his best friend, who was part of my singles' group at church but... he came. He'd tell you our first meeting wasn't all that grand. I kept turning my back on him. We laugh about it now because it's true but not for the reasons he likes to toss out there. June 18th we met, by Labor Day weekend we were practically inseparable. The first time he told me he was going to marry me was October. He officially asked in February and we were married one year to the day we met.

It has been the best five years of my life.

My husband is an amazing, wonderful, loving, gentle, generous man of God. He is the best father I have ever seen - he teaches C with amazing patience. I sit in absolute awe whenever I watch the two of them. Nothing our 9 year old says is unimportant or wastes his time. He laughs at the simplest, most wonderful things and allows his little boy to be a little boy - with all the wonder that comes from new discovery. Aaron may have learned it all years ago but as he listens to how things look through C's eyes, he might as well be learning it for the first time.

He loves to go to garage sales, can't function without his morning latte and talks with me in the funkiest of accents - just for fun. I have never laughed as hard or as much as I have since I met him (although my older son does bring me pretty close sometimes).

It has been five years and I am not bored with him or of him. He makes me smile every time I think of him (even when he has made me so angry I don't have words). He melts my heart with barely a touch and has me looking forward to every moment I get to be with him, missing him immensely when he is gone.

I love you, Aaron, more than words can say. I am most grateful to God for hearing my prayer on my beach that day and for bringing you, literally to my front door.

Happy Anniversary, my love.



April Rose

Over the weekend I read the post on Bring the Rain about the recent discoveries regarding the littleaprilrose blog. I've been thinking about it off and on ever since, probably because tonight is the first baby shower I'm hosting at EGM.

When I consider the fact that every one of us is a "hurting people," it is easy to get discouraged or worse - angry at those who take advantage or appear to be taking advantage of the good in people. Whatever circumstances start people down a road of lies and deception, we have all been there. Perhaps our road was shorter and smaller and less public but we have all been there.

My prayer, since reading the post, has been for a few things. First and foremost my prayers go to the woman who perpetuated the story - Beccah. I wonder - how many cruel people are going to say things to or about her, hell-bent on tearing her down? How many won't extend compassion or grace? My prayer is they are drowned out by the voices of those who do.

Then, I pray for those who were involved by recommending her, promoting her to others, those who stood by her from the beginning. I pray they find their place in how to stand by her now as she deals with all of the consequences of her lie. I also pray they don't shy away from helping the next Beccah who comes along because they are afraid she may be a fake.

C.S. Lewis once said "It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been "had for a sucker"by any number of imposters; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need."

How profound (which seems an oxymoron to say - it is C.S. Lewis, after all) and so incredibly true. What difference will it make as I leave this world behind and step into the next one what people did to hurt me? I do not answer for what they do but how I respond to it. If people ask for my help, I should help and if it turns out someone makes a fool out of me, I should respond with the love of Christ - forgive and pray. Upon rising from the dead, did Jesus make His way back to the Pharisees to say "ha ha...told you I would, told you who I am. Are you sorry now, fools?"

There is always the argument that it takes from people who are genuinely in need and that is true. Or is it? Doesn't God promise to take care of our every need? Are we not more important to Him than the sparrows He so lovingly cares for? So - when I think those who con me take from those who are truly in need, do I not close the door on the idea of God doing something simply miraculous in that regard?

Then there is the discussion of being a good steward. There is never a time when I am not to help the poor, the widow and the fatherless. Never. If someone tricks me into believing they are something they are not, it goes back to - that is on them - not me.

The Bible also states (2 Thessalonians 3) that a person who does not work, does not eat. I'm not super-theological but reading that it (1) looks like it is talking about fellow believers and (2) does not state how/when that person works. If I see someone standing on a street corner holding a sign, do I know for an absolute certainty they do not get done with their day holding the sign, head back to the shelter and work there - in the kitchen, sweeping floors, doing laundry, etc.?

Back to Beccah and April Rose - ultimately, I often make assumptions about other people based upon my own personal experience. I may never know or understand what sent this young woman and her story spiraling out of control. I may never completely understand the pit-of-despair grief, the confused mental difficulties, the hunger for attention or the simple jealously of what others have or any one of 100 other motives that created that blog - I may never even know the reason or reasons, let alone understand them.

Instead - what I know: Forgive seven times seventy times, love your neighbor as yourself and show mercy and compassion to one another. (Matthew 18:21-23, Luke 10:27, Zechariah 7:9) Whatever happened, however it happened - the article I read shows she seems to be expressing remorse for it all. That is all it would seem God tells me I need to know - the rest is up to Him. My job is to forgive her, love her and pray for her. That's it. That's all. No judgment, no condemnation, no recrimination. Love. End of story.


Ideas Anyone?

So...I've had a new opportunity handed to me and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas as to how to carry this off without spending a ton of money. See - I'm not very creative, not in the decorative sense. So much of what I do to decorate my home is a variation on an idea of something I've seen somewhere else.

This new opportunity came to me out of the blue and I know it wasn't my idea. Now - I love parties. I love to throw them, I love to go to them - I even love cleaning up after one. Cleaning up - its my chance to reminisce about the party and really cement some memories.

The opportunity involves throwing parties on a somewhat regular basis. At the area shelter where I've been volunteering with devotions/chapel. I found out Monday night that the ladies there do baby showers for their expectant moms themselves.

We're all struggling in this economy. Can you imagine how the poor are managing? There are plenty of "unexpected expenses" in their lives. When I suggested I start doing the baby showers for them, you can't imagine the looks on their faces. Every one of them in the room Monday night looked at each other with the big eyes of "can she really be serious?" The relief was almost visible.

So...that's my opportunity. I'm going to start hosting baby showers at our local shelter. My mom is volunteering to help and I've sent out a note to friends asking for their prayer and if they want to help out in any way, say the word.

Why am I posting this on my blog? Because every once in a while, someone blesses me by stopping by and reading my posts. (Trust me - I consider it a huge blessing because I'm so inconsistent with posting and I am often quite boring, I can't imagine how I'd be interesting enough to check up on every once in a while but there are a few of you who do.) When you stop and read my posts, if you have ANY idea on how to make a baby shower sweeter for the mom-to-be and it can be done inexpensively, please let me know. I may not use your idea for a few showers but if I can figure out a way to work it in, I will.

I'm also not above asking for you to add me to your prayers. This is a sweet, sweet idea given to me from God and how do I know? Because no one is doing it now and no one has ever offered to do it (at this shelter, that is) and original ideas are not my thing (remember that lack of creativity?). I'm not knocking myself - I just know myself. This is something He wants me to do and now I just pray that I am His hands and feet the way He wants me to be. I'm stepping out in faith that we won't be filing for bankruptcy because I really do love shopping for other people and babies are at the top of my list. I'm stepping out in faith that the women will show up and enjoy themselves. I'm stepping out in faith that there will always be someone to go with me and help me set up and clean up. I'm stepping out in faith that while I have no idea if there will be 2 women or 30 women, I will always have "enough" of everything.

Above all - I'm stepping out in faith that God is going to show His love to these women, especially the moms-to-be because if I try to share it without Him it can seem...well... these women are tough. They don't trust so easily. Without Him shining through me, I'm just me and without Him I'm not at all impressive.

The first shower is July 13th. Stay tuned...I hope to share a lot of pictures and stories. hmmmm.... maybe I will start having interesting things to share. In the meantime? Ideas? Resources? Send 'em my way. I have some Moms to shower and babies to celebrate!!!!


Seriously? Giving this away???

I have stumbled across one of the most amazing giveaways I've had the pleasure of learning about yet. Blissfully Domestic - Style is giving away a new HP Mini - Vivienne Tam Edition from Intel.

Yes... you read that right. A new HP Mini. Vivienne Tam edition. Giving it away. You have to click on that Blissfully Domestic link in the first paragraph, read the post for the instructions and then enter this giveaway.

Oh...and then pray I win. :) However, if you win? Please leave me a little note telling me you did because if I don't win, I hope to at least be able to do a little happy dance for someone I know who did!


Thankful Thursdays - Spiritual Sweet Tooth

Laurie at Women Taking A Stand is hosting Thankful Thursdays for the month of June and for today's topic she chose "having a spiritual sweet tooth." What a wonderful analogy. You need to head over and read her post.

She references Psalm 19:9-10 ~ "The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than
honey, even honey dripping from the comb."

Let that roll around in your mind for a while. While I was reading Laurie's post, I thought of how many substitute sweeteners are used in our foods - high fructose corn syrup, saccharin, sucralose (known as Splenda), aspartame and others (I didn't get a lot of time to dig into this so please excuse the lack of thoroughness in research) and how often do we deviate away from the simple, natural perfect sweetener - honey.

How much do we see and hear that "looks" like the truth but is really just the truth with some refinements (like Splenda starts with sugar...) so we can feel comfortable enough with it to trust it and use it? Sooner or later, though, we find it has its own problems and it isn't quite right. No matter how we try to cover it, decorate it or change its name - we do not process sugar well in any form. At some point there is a good probability we are going to have an issue with our substitute.

The same is true for God's Word. So many people have written book upon book, commentary upon commentary about the Word of God that we can become easily confused as to what the Word of God really says. Without matching it to the infallible Word of God, soooner or later we're going to have an issue with our substitute...

*Please don't misunderstand me here - there are a LOT of great minds who have put pen to paper interpreting the Bible. There are wonderful books written by wonderful people out there who come alongside Christians in their walk. I do not under any circumstance believe any book that isn't the Bible is hawking a lie.*

My thankfulness today runs deep and wide that the Word of God, the Bible, has been provided to us. I am thankful I have been taught how to read so I can see for myself what the Bible has to say. My Bible is written in English which means at some point someone had to translate it from its original languages. I am thankful that God has made that possible. I am also so amazed and overwhelmed by the fact that each time someone tries to prove the Bible wrong, God has a way of bringing us back to the fact that the Bible contains truth and only truth.

I've been thinking a lot about how I treat my Bibles (Yes - I have more than one. How many people out there have to worry about being arrested if found with even a page from the Bible and my biggest struggle is which version to use....?), how I read and study it. This isn't a fun story written by the latest craze writer. This is the living Word of God. All Scripture is God-breathed...

God breathed. How thankful should I be? How reverently should I treat this book? How much honey should I savor? More than I am... today, though, is a good day to start.

Have a blessed Thankful Thursday and head over to Laurie's to read more TT posts. Blessings!