Posts Tagged ‘raising support’

A Christmas card.

A letter.

Something from the family.

It sounds so happy, but for one of my friends this year…it wasn’t.

See she got a card from her family, yes.

Have you ever gotten scribbles in a card?

Sometimes they are happy and full of love.

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Sometimes they are not.

This one was not.

scribble

This one had the faces of her family scribbled out.

It had words written to remind her of the pain she caused them.

It told her to look at the picture without faces and every time she did to remember their hurt.

My friend is in jail.

She did cause pain to her family.

But that doesn’t make retaliation ok.

Will you pray for my friend?

She loves her family.

She has two young children and she is not sure where they will end up.

She is hopeful to finish her high school education while she’s in jail.

This Christmas wasn’t an easy one for her.

But the jail did let me give out Bible studies for presents.

So she did get one present.

I have hope that by doing the study and reading God’s word she will find His peace in spite of her circumstances.

And I hope for the rest of you, that you stop and take a moment.

Think of someone who hurt you.

Choose to forgive them.

Instead of retaliating.

Love them. Jesus loves you even though you’ve hurt Him. Let’s be the change we want to see.

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Sometimes the world is overwhelming. It seems like there are problems that are too big to solve. Maybe there are. It seems like one voice is too quiet. One attitude is too weak. One belief is not enough.

When I think of Ferguson. Racism. Modern day slavery. Homelessness. Orphans. Inmates. The problems are bigger than what I can solve. That my friends is just a basic fact. You all knew that. I know that. I sadly cannot fix the world.

But when I stop to think, I stand corrected. There are a lot of times when one person made an impact that shook the world. Jesus. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi. Rosa Parks. Other than Jesus, these people weren’t really a big deal. They were individuals who didn’t have much of a voice, but they took the lead. They made a difference. They impacted the world through whatever means they had. I can too. One voice does make a difference.

  • Ferguson: I cannot go there to listen to peoples stories (black and white) and give people hugs, but I can encourage those around me to respond well. I can share the facts and refrain from sharing the negative commentary. I can pray for the families involved (black and white) and for the many families who never made the news but have experienced the same loss, unrest, injustice. One voice does make a difference.
  • Racism: I can love well. Share truth. Encourage people to celebrate diversity instead of pretending it isn’t there. I can refuse to be a part of any racial jokes or derogatory comments. I can find my identity in Christ and not the color of my skin and encourage others to do the same. One voice does make a difference.
  • Modern day slavery: I cannot put an end to it myself, but I can wear a dress everyday for a month to raise awareness that it still exists. I will be participating in “Dressember” (on Moldova’s team!) which raises funds and awareness to stop human trafficking. I personally am not raising funds, as I am not yet fully supported for my own ministry, but I can raise awareness. One voice does make a difference.
  • Homelessness: I don’t have a home to offer to my friends without, but I do have hugs, smiles, encouragement. I have a voice that stands up for them when I hear people make generalized comments and gently remind people that “the homeless” are not just a group, they are wonderful individuals each with their own story. And I have a chance to hear a couple of those stories. One voice does make a difference.
  • Orphans: As much as I would love to, I cannot adopt them all. There’s too many and I don’t have the other half of the family that it would take yet. But I can love my brother. I can babysit kids in the foster system. I can raise awareness and help struggling Mamas to know how to take care of their kiddos. I can support other peoples work with orphans. One voice does make a difference.
  • Inmates: I can’t get them out…nor do I want to try. I can’t give them all hugs (which I seem to think is the answer to everything). But I did just get it ok’d after much begging to buy the 56 women I interact with in jail a Beth Moore Bible study workbook for Christmas (Let me know if you’d like to sponsor an inmate for Christmas by funding one book – about $16 each – don’t buy the book though…I will have to order them all together and ship them to my office in the jail).

Basically, there is a lot I can do. And I’m not just one voice…I am one of many. There are so many who care about these same things. Jesus has the power to bring healing to our broken world, and He choses to work through people. Broken people. In a broken world that He wants to redeem. That’s why He came back to save us. Don’t be overwhelmed…follow Jesus. He has a plan for your life that may not always make sense to you, but it is better than you could imagine!

And listen to this advice from Mother Teresa: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa

This past weekend I had a little down time. Now, if you know me, you know that’s not too common. Partially, because I don’t love having too much down time, and partially because it’s hard to come by when you are an over committer. But this past weekend I had nothing planned between a Saturday morning meeting that e10432488_781637226574_7217446674140330653_nnded at 10am and dinner before church that started at 5pm. Nothing planned at all. Mind you, I had plans for that time, but I could be flexible, because there was nothing written in the planner. I hadn’t committed to meeting anyone. Or being anywhere. It felt so free. So I did what had to be done…organized a bit in my room and started on the homework. I even went to the library to focus on it for a while. I stayed mostly focused, though stopped to chat with my homeless friends when they walked by to use the computers a few times. I was ready to spend the afternoon there focusing, but I knew the family was at home, and I hadn’t been around much this week, so I decided that while homework needed to be done, reading it right then didn’t have the lasting value that I might be able to have on an adventure with the girls, or even just spending time with the fam. So I went home. The thought process was, I’ll just work on homework from home and at least be around and chat while I do it. And if an adventure comes up I’ll put the books away…(it was cold and rainy, so I was pretty doubtful anything too adventurous would happen). But no sooner did I open those books at home then Lucy came waltzing over to see if we could make cupcakes. Let me tell you, homework was over for the day! Anna helped us decide on vanilla with raspberry frosting and we all measured and mixed, poured and licked and then waited for them to bake so we could end the adventure with a family tea party. I love my family. And I’m so thankful for the joyful reminder that sometimes even good things need to be put on the back burner for a while so that we can focus on other important and valuable things in the moment!

I’ve been reading the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. One quote I stumbled across recently was, “It is easier to get donor money for relief than for development. ‘We fed a thousand people today’ sounds better to donors than ‘We hung out and developed relationships with a dozen people today.'” I think that’s true. It’s easy to get gifts when something big is happening. It’s easy to write blog posts and updates when there’s a good story to tell. Those times are like piles of flowers…you just want to see them and be amazed by them (maybe that’s a girly analogy)

flowers

But what about times like this week? Do we see that there is value in the day to day? Sometimes (like today) it’s hard to remember that Bible study is valuable when there are 4 volunteers and only 3 people coming. But then, as we discuss the question of ‘who is God’ or ‘if we believe God is involved in our lives’ one of our members is suddenly moved to tears. As I hug these sweet friends goodbye, I know that it doesn’t matter if there’s 1, 10, or 100, there is value here.

Or when I have meeting after meeting to plan, prepare and pray for ministry, but it isn’t going yet. I’m a ‘fix it – do it’ kind of a person, and while I have patience in some things other areas I just want to storm the gates. But taking time to plan, prepare and pray is so valuable.

And taking the time out of my day to work on raising support. It’s something I would rather avoid. It’s scary. It’s complicated. It’s awkward. BUT it is necessary. AND it is happening. Just this week I have gotten commitments for $75 a month! Praise the Lord. There is value in taking the time to do that now, so that I can invest more into the ministry in the future.

dandi

Sometimes we don’t have a bouquet. Sometimes we don’t have a field of flowers to frolic in. Sometimes there isn’t a pile of beauty, but there is beauty still. Look for the dandelions in your life. Don’t take them for granted. They are beautiful. They get called a weed by most, get picked often, are unprotected by picket fences. But they stand up tall, shine brightly, and bring a little joy to some people. There is value there. It’s worth it. What are the dandelions in your life?

I see a lot of broken things.
And a lot of broken people.

Growing up in Africa gave me a unique perspective in how to fix things.
Like Duct Tape, if done correctly, can hold almost any two things together.
Or a wire, is a magical tool that you can force into almost any shape and size you need.

This week one of the things on my to-do list was to make a meal for a family in my church. I was working on doing that and I needed to melt something in the microwave, and halfway through the melting process the microwave died. At this point I didn’t want to transfer it from the microwave safe bowl, to a pan I could put on the stove, and it wasn’t melted enough to use, so I went and found my hairdryer (I knew it would come in handy one day!) and finished the melting.

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Unfortunately not all broken things are as easy to find a way around as our microwave. People heal, but it takes a long time. This week I hung out with a boy who is in and out of homelessness as well as jail. He has some very real struggles in his life, and one thing that breaks my heart is that I don’t see him being wanted anywhere. Maybe that’s because he hasn’t been given a chance, maybe it’s because he’s already burned all his bridges… All I know is that Jesus came for the broken. He loved the unlovable. And he offers a new life to all of us. He doesn’t just give us a bandaid, He gives us new life. No one is too far gone. Will you remember that the next time you are around someone you’d rather not be around? Will you remember it when you pass someone who seems like a lost cause? Don’t give up on people, love them well and tell them about Jesus.

Sometimes it’s easy to see God’s hand guiding and directing things. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes good situations make you happy. Sometimes good situations make you sad. Sometimes your emotions get all jumbled up because really happy things and really sad things come in the same package. Does this make sense? Let me explain…

I have a friend who just had a baby. (that’s a happy thing.) But my friend is not in a position where she has the ability to keep and care for her baby. (that’s a sad thing.) The happy and sad things come together in this situation.

My friend found an amazing family that wants to adopt her son. They will love him and treasure him. They will raise him knowing Jesus. She couldn’t have picked out a better family to place her son with! (that’s a happy thing.) I sat with her in the hospital as she continued to recover from giving birth. She was across the hall from the nursery, but her baby was not in there. He went home with the new family. (that’s a sad thing.)

Adoption is a fabulous thing. My brother is adopted, and I could not imagine my life without him. But I cannot help remember what he went through before he was my brother. Adoption can’t be all happy. There is a reason kids need to be adopted, and that in itself, no matter the situation, is sad. I think Jody Landers summed it up well in her famous quote…

adoption

I am thankful to have a job where I can go to the hospital and sit with a mother who does not have her child. That I can encourage her to get up and start walking laps around the halls. That when she has people calling her and giving her advice in every direction I can listen. That I can tell her she has a beautiful child and that I am so proud of her desire to give him the best life that she can. I’m thankful to know the family who wants to raise her son. I am praying that all the legal side of things will go through. It is such a huge and exhausting process.

In the next couple of months I am hoping to work full time in this job. It is exciting and adventurous in the sense that I never know what to expect. Some days it’s sitting in a hospital room listening. Some days is driving people from one town to another. Some days it’s writing and responding to tons of emails. Some days it’s coordinating service projects. Some days it’s hanging out at the homeless shelter. Some days it’s sitting at the jail in meetings. Never the same, but always an adventure. Pray with me as I finish raising support in order to switch over to full time work with the church. Pray that God would provide the money that is still lacking through donations. And pray for my friend as she adjusts back to everyday life without her baby. And pray for my other friends as they adjust to life with a baby. Thanks for your prayers! Couldn’t do this alone!

This week I have been really thinking about what I do for a living. I love people. I serve people. I give rides, help clean, supply food, hang out, fight for, coordinate events, and pray for people. When working in outreach I think it can sometimes get overwhelming as my job isn’t 9-5. Sometimes I work those hours, other times I have meetings at night, have to give someone a ride in the middle of my office hours, host movie nights, make phone calls from a homeless shelter. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when I’m “on duty” and when I’m “off duty”. 

As I was pondering this a thought it hit me, should I ever be off duty from outreach? From loving and serving those around me? Who am I reaching out to? I have ‘clients’ I guess you could say who call me when they need help. I have homeless friends I find on the street and invite down to the shelter for a meal. I have elderly I call and chat with so they know they are not alone in the world. I have people in jail who I write letters to. But that’s not all I have.

I have a family I live with (and one that I don’t) and love them with all of my heart and I want to love and serve them well too. I should not be ‘off duty’ when I come home. I have friends who need to be heard just as much as those elderly I call. My coworkers have many things they are a part of that I believe in and want to excel. My international friends are not behind bars, but would probably love mail almost as much a my friends in jail. When I read the verses below I just don’t see them being sectioned off to one group of people. It’s a lifestyle…

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” – Ephesians 6:7

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:13

“…do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13 NIV

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”                 – Mark 10:45

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 4:4 

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10 

So I guess if I were to challenge myself or you I would say this, live every moment the best you can. Make the most of the opportunities put in front of you. Love well – if you’re at work, at home, or at the grocery store. The people around you notice. Share Jesus love through your words, your smile, a hug, a listening ear, your strong muscles moving boxes, sharing a meal, cleaning….just share Jesus.

It’s time for an update, but what should I say? Should I tell you about my day? There was nothing spectacular, but sometimes that’s where we see God do His thing. In the ordinary. The everyday. The little things. So let me look back with fresh eyes.

I started my day memorizing James 1:2. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” That word many gets me. I want to say ‘any kind’, I think just any trial should be enough to prove the authors point, but he chose the word ‘many’. I find that slightly intimidating. But the rest of the chapter brings it into perspective…I’ll get to memorizing that soon.

I mailed a letter to one of my ‘friends’ in jail. To be honest we’re not really friends. I’ve never written him a letter outside of jail. We don’t talk that often. It was a litter hard to come up with something to write about. But eventually I did. I just told him the facts about recently having a conversation about heaven with someone and then asked what he thought about it all. I asked if he believed in God. I told him I’m praying for him and talked about the World Cup too.

I wrote some emails. I reminded people who are preparing food for an event that it’s coming up soon. I wrote to some supporters and some (hopefully) future supporters.

I was available to answer my phone and talk to a friend through a decision making process. I don’t really have great advice, but I can listen. And then we got to catch up on life a little bit. There I saw God working through the little things to encourage me!

I followed up with some people that I had invited to a dinner this week. One woman told me that she was so thankful for the timing of my call. That this dinner I was inviting her to gave her a reason to keep going. That right now was a really hard time for her. I asked if I could pray for anything specifically, and she told me about losing her daughter. I wanted to weep with her, but tried to be encouraging. I look forward to a chance to give her a hug at the event.

I held a precious little and rubbed her back when she woke up from a bad dream and prayed over her.

I had a ‘tea party’ with the girls, made dinner, and cleaned up the house.

I went to foster parent training class.

Today wasn’t a day where I could check much off my ‘to-do list’ and say it was fully accomplished, but looking back I think the ordinary, everyday, little things really do add up. God is always present and He doesn’t change. So whether it’s big things or little things do them all to bring Him glory! 

Sometimes I Inspire Myself

Let me just start by saying it doesn’t happen all that often, but recently I did inspire myself! See, I wrote myself a letter over a year ago, and I just received it this past weekend. The letter was an assignment at the Bible School I went to. The requirement was that it had to be a 2 page letter to yourself. The instructions reminded us that moving away from Bible School would be challenging. We knew we would face tough things, even if we didn’t know the specifics of them. So go ahead and encourage yourself, remind yourself you belong to God, etc. So I did.

Some of the good points I wrote to me were:
* You memorized Scripture. Do you still remember it? Are you learning more?
* Remember your spot by the fire for devotions? Where’s your spot now?
* You sought an adventure everyday…even if you never left the house. I hope you still do.
* Mentor. Do you have one? Are you mentoring? It can be hard, but it’s worth it.
* Sit at the kids table once in a while.
* Pray often.
* Give hugs.
* Call friends.
* Write letters (and send them).
* Love well Shelby. You know how…just stop and let Jesus.

I ended my letter by reminding myself, “You are nothing and everything. A bit of dust filled with the breath of God. A beautiful, adopted daughter of the King”. There was much more in my letter. Precious memories. Reminders to pray for specific friends. More challenges. I think I should start writing myself letters more often.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what God has gotten you through in the past and you can begin to dwell on the challenges you’re facing right now. (At least that’s true for me). When I see friends going back to jail I find it exhausting. When I think of raising hundreds of dollars of monthly support it’s overwhelming. Sometimes even planning the little things can lead to fatigue. But the reality is that God’s got this! He’s done it before. I’ve seen it. He can do it again! Many of my personal challenges are so minor compared to what I’ve seen Him do in other people’s lives already.

So today I focus on the ending from my letter and I challenge you to believe it about yourself… You are nothing and everything. A bit of dust filled with the breath of God. A beautiful, adopted child of the King.

I often hear people say, “When it rains it pours”, but I feel like in my life I can say something like, “When God speaks, He yells”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that God is scary. And this isn’t to say that God yells at me. Just that He knows how to make sure He is heard and gets His point across – even through my thick skull. Here’s the latest…

I was able to take a Saturday morning off and attend a prayer retreat at my church. During the prayer retreat there is a time of worship through music, a speaker, time to go off by yourself and reflect, and then time to come back as a group and discuss things. 

During the alone time I went to weed the common garden that we have (because why not multitask if I was going to sit outside anyway) and as I was weeding the onions I noticed that the thing I was pulling the most of was grass. Then I started thinking about how much time, money, and energy people put into having nice grass. We are willing to work to keep it nice and we want grass for kids to play on. Grass is a really good thing. BUT when it is growing in the onion bed, it is a really bad thing that is draining the nutrients from the soil and making it harder for our onions to grow. This stated a little more clearly is that good things in the wrong place or time are not good.

Then I started reflecting on my life. There are a lot of good things in it. I have a lot of good ideas of things to work on and get started in my ministry. But I need to be willing to let go of good things, if it is not the time and place that God has for them. So I began praying that God would be very clear about what good things to pursue and which good things to wait for the proper time and place on. 

That same day I had a conversation with someone who is already involved in prison ministry. She is willing to share some advice with me. 

A couple days later in a meeting someone referred to Hebrews 13:3 “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

The next day I got an email from the jail inviting me to a meeting and to develop a partnership working on re-entry stuff to help people who get out of jail to stay out. 

Today 5 of my local friends who had been to jail before are back in jail. Clearly, we need a better re-entry plan.

I would say in the garden of my life, this is the area to be focusing on right now. I will keep trusting God to lead the way He always does! I appreciate all of your prayers and support! I am hopeful to be able to work full time in this ministry by the fall and still need to raise several hundred dollars of monthly support before that dream becomes a reality. I would love for you to consider joining my team of financial supporters! I will gladly give you the information needed to get started with that if you’re interested! Just let me know!