When THAT Phone Call Comes {What Do You Do Next?}

The phone rings.  The caller ID makes me smile, and I answer with a loud, “Hello!”  Drawn out for humor…like “HELLLLLOOOOOO!” (This caller knows me well and expects nothing less than the loud, rambunctious, funny gal she knows me to be!)

The voice on the other end is someone I love more than life itself, but her voice is off.  She asks me a series of questions that fill me with dread:  Where are you?  Are you alone?  Where are you headed?

I interrupt…what is it?  I know it’s something bad.  She’s stalling.

I hate to tell you this when you’re in the car (I wasn’t driving).  I just don’t want you to hear it somewhere else.

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Time stands still.  This news is about to forever alter the lives of a family I love.  (I beg you to stand in the gap for them today even though you do not know them or their story.)

Do you know these phone calls?  Have you had one?

Perhaps it forever changed your life…

My mom in 2008:  They were trying to take Dad off the ventilator.  It’s not going to work; His blood is infected and he’s septic.  I’ve decided to unplug him; should I wait on you?

My sister in October 2013:  I’m pregnant.

My doctor in 2010:  You have a pituitary tumor.

From a friend: My husband’s cheating on me. 

Through the grapevine:  He’s cheating/ she lied/ they fired her/ she dropped out of school/ blah, blah, blah.

I could go on.  But, three rings, ten seconds, and BOOM!  Life is never ever the same.

It’s what happens next that matters most.  (I’ve learned this the hard way.)

After the BOOM, what do you do?

Text 10 people? Gloat in their downfall?  Repeat the news to everyone around?  Post your opinion or your tribulation on Facebook?  Tweet it? (Sadly, I am guilty of some of these.)

Friends, if there’s ONE time I pray you’ll stop and pause, it’s THIS time.  

If someone has just died, pray. Can you ask for prayer later on Facebook? Sure, if you have the family’s permission.  If someone is pregnant, pray.  Can you help them spread the news via text and gather others to pray? Of course, with their permission.  If someone has made a HUGE mistake and is about to suffer the consequences, PRAY.  If God leads you to ask for prayer on Facebook, do so if you have his/her permission.  Or say something vague like…please pray for my friends.  Life is hard.  If God leads you to discuss this with your pastor because you’re struggling with the news and its implications, do so.

But, please…pray and check your motive before you post or pass any information.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Remember…

These are HUMANS.  Who make/made human mistakes.  And God is teaching me that we are all just ONE decision from making a mistake that could cause a BOOM phone call.

A split second decision…

To change lanes – when there’s a car already there.

To text the co-worker back and encourage him/her to communicate with you – while you’re married.

To have sex when you know you should not.

To take the money.

To punch the guy.

To share another’s secrets.

To cheat, to lie.

ALL OF US.  One decision away.

If you’re a Jesus follower, I ask you to remember who you are when you hear BOOM news.  You believe in a God that is forgiving. One who is just.  One who loves each and every one of us – all the sinners – equally.  Are their consequences for actions? Of course.  Should you be mad?  Feel betrayed?  Feel let down?  Probably so.

But this God we serve is in the redemption business.  He makes all things new.  His grace is sufficient for you and for me.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  (All straight from His Word.)

And when the hurting refuse to engage the loud mouths? The crucifiers?

Stand with them.  Refuse to join the crowd shouting, “Crucify, crucify.” Instead, pray.

Notice that Jesus didn’t defend himself to the Pharisees – or anyone.  The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

And to the family I love so very much, I think no different of you.  I don’t pretend to understand, but I don’t need to.  KNOW you are LOVED.  Know I am taking you to his feet each and every day in prayer.  Know there’s forgiveness for repentant hearts.  Be still…and KNOW that He is God.

Owen and Victoria {An Unexpected Gift}

Her name is Victoria.  She’s a 20-something gal that works at our local Walmart.  Owen met her as he searched for a school binder.

(He’d seen a classmate with the perfect binder – he’s a very organized guy – and decided this particular binder was the one to make his system happen.)

He goes with a friend to the office supply store then to Walmart, searching aisle after aisle with no luck.  As a last resort, he describes the binder to a Walmart associated named Victoria.

She knows EXACTLY which binder he’s hunting.

No binders like the one he’s describing on the shelf, so Victoria begins opening boxes of stock, looking high and low for Owen’s must-have, back-to-school tool.   To say Victoria is helpful is a huge understatement.  She’s going way above and beyond to help my kiddo.

But nothing.

Finally, she asks Owen: Do you like blue?  Of course!  He was hoping for a blue one!

She kindly says…I bought this binder in blue a few weeks ago, and I’ve not used it yet.  You can have it.  I work tomorrow from 8-4.  Stop by anytime, and I’ll have it for you.

Victoria won’t take no for an answer. She insists.  Owen should have the binder.

Owen is overjoyed.  The perfect binder! {Actually, I can’t express how much this binder-giving means to Owen. He tells everyone the story and lights up more each time.}

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He comes home telling and retelling the story of Victoria and the binder.  I suggest he pray for her each time he begins the school day and sees the binder.  My friend, who is heading to Walmart the next day to get the binder, suggests he write a thank you note for her to take.

Owen writes…

Hi, thank you so much for the binder.  I already have a previous binder but it is very torn up. (Stinken kids threw it around the classroom.) I would also like to thank  you for going out of your way just to try and find me the specific binder I wanted.  You really didn’t have to give me this binder but I really do mean it when I say thank you for the binder.  Here is $15 for the binder and your troubles just to try and find that specific binder. Once again, thank you SOOOO much  for this binder and I will treat it well. Sincerely, Owen Farish

He draws himself holding the binder and adds Thank You’s on the cover and back.

I look at the card.  Thankful for Victoria and the lessons about selflessness, kindness, and generosity she taught Owen…and me.

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I don’t know Victoria. But something about her exchange with Owen reminded me of a story found in both Luke and Mark.

Just then he [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!” Luke 21: 1-4

The widow and Victoria…

Are unnoticeable.  (I rarely notice the people working in a store and the rich at the temple paid the widow no mind.)

Gave what they had to give.  (Time, effort, kindness, a binder.)

Gave more than the rich in Jesus’ eyes. (Both were all in, offering what they had to give.)

Gave sacrificially. ( I don’t know how much spare change Victoria may or may not have…but I feel deeply that she gave sacrificially.  That $15 is much to her and that she had plans for the binder.  The two coins is most likely all the widow had.)

Gave freely without hope or expectation of gain. (What’s in it for Victoria? Nothing.  She didn’t expect payment or a note. I pray we all stop asking the question, What’s in it for me? Me included.)

Victoria’s outward actions revealed a generous and kind heart.

I wonder what my actions reveal…at Walmart, in my home, in my classroom, at a restaurant.  Am I making Jesus attractive to others? How do my actions evidence a heart that calls itself generous and loving?

I want to be more like Jesus…like Victoria.  A woman quietly and kindly loving others where she’s been planted.  Giving and serving as best she knows how.  A woman whose name means victory, one who embodies the highest level of beauty.

May our daily lives show we are His.  May serving Him and loving others become who we are. And they will know we are Jesus followers by our love.

Much love,

She Washed My Feet {Literally}

We’d been working all day.  Various projects occurring in various locations.  So, when I realize the evening holds a worship night, I am less than enthusiastic.  (I know.  On a mission trip…there for Jesus…and not wanting to participate in a worship night. Just being honest.)

We eat dinner and enter the room.  Worship stations.

(For those unfamiliar with worship or prayer stations, there are “stations” around the room with prompts designed to help you still and reflect.  Some stations cause you to give praise while others might lead you to repentance. It’s time to quiet yourself and sit at His feet.)

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I am thinking...I have nothing left, Lord.  I’ve been wrestling with you since I arrived in this country.  I am not sure what you could possibly want to hear from me.  Geez.

(And that’s what I get for thinking it’s all about me.)

Eric and Andrew lead us in worship.  Beautiful words.  I close my eyes, thankful for the quiet, the words, the melodies.  My heart rests as each song reminds me of how great He is.  (I am so forgetful most days.)

Our host, Jaclyn, explains each station as the music continues.

What “baggage” did we bring that we’d like to leave in Honduras? How have we seen beauty in (or rise from) ashes this week? Do we know who we are in Christ?  Have we told Jesus how much we love him? Wash a friend’s feet to show love, thankfulness, and humility for his/her service to you and others this week.

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It’s a ton of self-reflection.  And, I am not sure I want to.  Because once I open this floodgate, acknowledging my struggles and asking God what He really thinks, I fear what I might find in my heart.  What He might reveal.  A hot shower or early bedtime seem preferable.

But, my daughter is sitting beside me.  And while I tell her she does not have to stay (she is very tired and unsure of the whole “worship station” thing), I know exiting is not a good example.  Tired or not.

So, I submit to the process.  I surrender my walls, which God promptly tumbles.

Time passes.  I process my baggage (shew, it’s a LOT); God clearly speaks as I ask Him about the beauty that can rise from ashes (if you know my story, you can imagine how pivotal THIS moment was for me); I read each verse about who I am in Christ.  I begin my love note to Jesus.

While writing, I feel a tap on my shoulder.  She speaks words I will NEVER EVER EVER forget…

Mom, when you are done, I would like to wash your feet.  

The child I labored for 27 hours to have.  The child I rocked to sleep…taught the alphabet…bandaged knees – and her heart. The child I watch dance through life…the one who serves me and whom I serve.

My child – now a young woman – wants to wash my feet.  Beyond humbling.

We walk to the foot washing station.  I remove my shoes and sit in awe as she pours warm water, kneels before me, and washes my feet.  I wish I could tell you what I prayed or what my heart felt, but I can’t.  It was like that verse from Romans: The Spirit intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.  

We switch places.  I wash her feet – TRULY an honor.  One of the greatest moments of my life.  And then we pray together.  We pray about all that has been, all that is, and all that we hope will be. We claim His promises for the people we love.  We pray for this day forward – that we walk worthy of our calling as Christ followers.  (Ephesians)

And little does Hannah know that God has just answered a 15 year prayer:  Lord, may Hannah and Owen’s faith be theirs, not mine.  May they own their relationship with you – not because I forced them to attend church or groups – not because I forced my beliefs upon them – but because I have loved them well and you’ve drawn them to you.

As we leave the room God’s sovereignty overwhelms me. The threads he’s pulled, snipped, and tied to weave the tapestry of this moment- this 10 minutes in our lives – possible . Shew.  I wish I could share with you how I traced these moments in awe of God, but it would take pages of words.  But here’s a glimpse…these are the people who made Hannah’s trip possible (and we thank each one from the depths of our beings):

Sue Adams, Rusty and Stephanie Arthur, Diana Bailey, Leah Barbarito, Nicole Barton, Terri Biley, Nick and Samantha Bradley, Janet Brewster, Lakyn Campbell, Angel Carpenter, Pam Childers, Lori Cottrill, Misha Dailey, Kathy Dye, Wendi Farmer, Laura Gardner, Candice Grose, Linda Grubbs, Kristen Johnson, Brian and Heather King, Veronica King-Cunningham, Corinna Lilly, Lisa Matthews, Tim and Kyle McCartney, Danny and Carolyn Mullins, Vince Nedeff, Christy Owen,  Andrew and Emily Prather, Ryan and Brittanie Rimmey, Valerie Roberts,  Randy and Jane Shamblin, Shirley (no last name – gave to Han at a conference where I spoke), the Taviano Family, Jean Todd, Al and Ashley Wanosky, Joe Webb, Jen Wright, Wally and Marilyn Yocum, Chad and Angie Yoho. (I pray I forgot no one.)

Friends, you have to know something INCREDIBLE about this list of people!  If I had missed ANY season of my life…from my days at Poca United Methodist Church to my current season of life…there’s someone on this list I would never have  met.  If I’d made one decision differently – from the place Hannah dances to where I attended church, someone would be missing.

I KNOW!

There’s someone from childhood, from high school, from college, from family, from different churches, from ministry teams, from conferences and retreats, from Hannah’s time as a dancer and Southern Belle/my time as her mom.  Some are closer to my sister or my mom.  One I student taught under.  I even met one family on the Internet when I became a writer.

Think of this…

If I  look back and regret ONE season of life – try to change even ONE thing – one of these people disappears from my story, from Hannah’s story.  One of them no longer plays a part in the foot washing.  

It’s overwhelming to serve a sovereign God, huh?  A God I often do not understand. One I question and squabble with.  One I love more than anything.  Because in each of these seasons (EVERY SINGLE ONE) I wondered…

Why me?  Why Hannah?  Why now? Why not now?  

And the answer?

Because someday your 15-year-old daughter will want to go to Honduras with you (who knew when I felt called there in 2007!). Because someday your little girl will tap you on the shoulder and want to wash your feet.

Because My plan is always better and greater…and today I let you glimpse a little slice of heaven.

Because…

There’s more yet to come.  More life to live and more trials to traverse. More smiles to scatter and more tears to tumble.

And still… He is the great I am.  The Alpha and Omega.  The beginning and the end.  The one who is and who was and who is to come. (Revelation 1:8)  And I trust knowing that He is sovereign and He is good.  All the time. For me  and for you, friend.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked,“Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13: 12-17

Let’s trust in His sovereignty – even when we don’t see or understand.  And let’s wash feet today.  None is greater than any other. Let’s be examples to follow – full of grace, love, and humility toward all mankind.

Much love,

Reina and Her Umbrella {An Unexpected Encounter with Jesus}

Driving “home” today, my friend and I notice the sun setting over the mountains.  We are in (literally) the middle of nowhere Honduras on a road that could be mistaken for a path – at best.  When the road forks, she chooses the “wrong” way purposefully in hopes of photographing the beautiful mountains.

Nothing prepares me for what I see next.

Smoke.  Trash.  A dump.

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And a family.

We decide to turn around because (honestly) we are alone and not quite sure what to expect. As we turn, I look closely at the family and realize…it’s our family.  It’s the family we’ve spent almost two days with as we built their widowed mother a home.

It’s Ritzy – the little gal Hannah has hugged and fed and played with. It’s Maria.  And her sons.  And Reina.  Hannah has been to their home.  We’ve loved them – worshipped with them – served alongside them – shared a meal with them.

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We suddenly understand: It is not the “wrong” – but His way.

We pull up to the dump. They see us and come RUNNING.  Smiles. Jumping. Waving.  So excited!

We get out of the truck – met with hugs and holas and buenos dias.

My friend has sawdust on her pants; Ritzy bends down and begins to clean her pants (no, the irony is not lost on either of us that she’s in a dump and worried about the dirt on our pants).

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My friend begins to ask the mom, Maria, about the dump and how they make a living there. My Spanish is iffy at best, so I begin to share snacks and hugs and high fives with Ritzy and Reina.  They know I have a phone with a camera, so they motion for me to take their picture and let them see it.  (They LOVE looking at pictures of themselves and their family.)

I get my phone out and give it to Ritzy so she can scroll through the images.  Then, Reina asks me to take her photo with her  “sombrilla”- her umbrella.  I frame her in my phone screen and suck in tears and a sob.

Reina with her umbrella.  With the smoke from burning trash.  With trash at her feet.  With the beautiful mountain view.  It’s overwhelming.

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I take sweet Reina’s picture, and she wants to see it. Muy bonita! (Very pretty!) I tell her. She smiles, and I see contentment and joy that I may never understand.

My friend prays over them.  We hug each of them tightly and head toward the truck…

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And I know…Jesus turned us the “wrong” way.  He used His creation – His splendor – to draw us toward His people.  He wanted us to know this family more deeply.  To step outside our comfort zone and walk into their lives more fully.

He wanted us to see their smiles and pride as they showed us their “territory” – the part of the dump they’ve claimed as their own.  He wanted to tell  me…

Sarah, I do NOT live in a box.  Your ideas about what it takes to be joyful and content are NOT my ideas.  Your ideas about the “good life” are yours alone influenced by culture.  Your ideas about “good’ and “bad” aren’t necessarily mine either.  

Because here’s the truth, friends.  I wanted to pick all of them up, drive them out of that dump, find them a new home, and try to make to their lives better.  But, as I drove…I considered my definition of “better” – they were smiling and laughing and working.  They were together as a family.

Do I wish they didn’t have to live and work in a dump? Yes.  Are my ideas and my way of life better than theirs?  No.

They know joy that I do not know.  And they thank Jesus for each and every gift, depending on Him in ways I have never ever had to.  I am in awe of all I learned from them.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me yourself today.  In the most unexpected way.  In the least expected place.  May I never forget Reina – or her sweet umbrella posing proudly in the dump. And may I never forget, Lord, that You discern my and Reina’s going out and our lying down; You see Reina and me when we sit and when we rise; You are behind and before us, hemming us in; the darkness is as light to you – whether in a Honduran dump or in a house in West Virginia.  (Psalm 139)

Beyond grateful,

Contents of a Backpack {Hannah in Honduras}

My Hannah is at the end of the hall getting a pedicure and manicure.  It’s pampering – but it’s really practice for a gal learning in Mi Esperanza’s Beauty School. There’s a bilingual gal named Marcela, and they’re chatting as if they’ve known each other for years.  Hannah’s smile is big, and I know she’s found her happy place.

Han and Marcella

In her rush, she’s left her backpack on the seat along with a half-crocheted baby hat – and some fudge round cookies.

I begin gathering her stuff to make room for others.  I glance down in her backpack, and I have a moment…

This is the girl – the woman – she’s becoming.

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A small, hot pink Bible (I look later – it’s bookmarked to Proverbs).

I Am Malala, a book she’s already read, so I wonder if she’s reading it again.

Magnetic, a book I purchased for her last weekend at She Speaks.  She told me last night as she read – this book is so good.

A Mi Esperanza passport holder along with the boarding passes from yesterday’s flight to Honduras.

Knowing what’s in her heart isn’t difficult to discern.  It’s what’s in her backpack.

God’s word; stories of social justice; an ethically-made passport cover created by women rising out of poverty in Honduras; a book about “becoming the girl God wants”; yarn and hooks to crochet hats for babies.

I look on as she makes a friend; I love watching as they share about their lives.  She loves dancing as Hannah does.  Two girls from two different worlds – literally and figuratively – who have found common ground…just being teen girls.

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This reminds me we are so much more alike than we are different.  I don’t know why I forget that.  Why we forget that.

So this week I am praying and watching…and learning from my Hannah.

Lesson One:  The language of love needs no translation.  Listen to others’ hearts.

Marcella

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? {Part 2}

What’s your name?  Stephanie.  Do you have babies at home? Oh, yes, ma’am.  Four.  She tells me the name and ages.  We share mom talk.  I thanked her for the way she’s served us.  She tells me that’s her ministry: serving. I’ve watched her refill drinks and clear tables for hours with a smile and kindness.  I also watched her sing along to the praise and worship music as she cleaned after the last session.  I understand joy better because of Stephanie.

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We’re taking turns sharing our book topics.  Our stories.  Sandy from Wisconsin has a “word” to share with me.  Two things.  One: It is what it is, but it’ll become what you make it. Two: Do not allow your children to be victims, but victors. Such a gift from this “stranger.”  Sandy teaches me boldness.  To share your wisdom with others.

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She’s 68 and came to the conference alone.  She desires to help others through her story:  How Jesus took an orphaned girl and made her a beautiful daughter of the king.  I learn you’re never too old to answer His calling.

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Three years old. My prayer partner lost her only daughter to cancer when she was only three.  Then divorced and now a widow…and only 40.  Such courage and boldness to come and share her story.  To use her pain for purpose.  This mom teaches me courage and obedience.

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I meet Brandon in the hotel coffee shop.  We chat while I add cream. He tells me the hotel was unprepared for the large number of ladies needing coffee and lunch, resulting in very long lines.  He ran out of most everything quickly.  I ask him, “Have we been kind to you?  The ladies at this conference?  Because you know it’s a Christian writer’s conference, right?” And he says, “Oh, yes. Everyone has been wonderful.”  Brandon reminds me that when others “know we are Christians,” they’re always watching to see if our actions match our words.

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Kathi adopts older children. (Most people want younger kiddos.) Her family of seven includes two Ethiopian children.  She feels called to help others understand adoption.  As I listen to Kathi, I know I need to trust Him more.  He is strong when I am weak.

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She’s a published author and sought after speaker.  She sees on my Instagram that I’m in Charlotte and comments, “I live five minutes away!”  I ask if I can come over for coffee or dinner (I’ve always wanted to meet her in person.)  She messages me and says she’s moving this weekend and time is tight, but she really wants to hug my neck.  She makes time for me this morning.  Forty minutes in the local Starbucks. And she’s just what I thought…exactly who she says she is.  Humble. Kind. Encouraging.  Genuine.  Wanting God more than any thing. Taking time to meet me and share blows me away.  It’s a privilege. A highlight in my year.  She reminds me the “famous” are truly just moms with to-do lists, trying their best to be obedient to a call that comes with TONS of responsibility.

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the “people in my neighborhood, the people that I meet each day.”  God’s nudge to be intentional about really seeing people has taught me so much lately.

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And these words still apply…

Every single person has a story and is carrying a burden you can’t see unless you want to. (ALL people…not just the ones who look like you and not just the ones who are kind.  ALL people – all of those made in God’s image.)

Notice people.  It matters.

We just want someone to genuinely listen our their hearts. To hear a piece of our pain and to acknowledge it – not to fix it, but to simply say…I hear you.

I am not in “my neighborhood” this week.  But, aren’t we all neighbors?  Don’t we all need to love our neighbor – where ever we are – as ourselves?  So, I am still noticing.  And in the noticing, God is teaching me about himself and his children – one by one.

Who are the people in YOUR neighborhood? Would you take the time to notice someone today and share the story in the comments?  I’d love to hear how God is leading you and who you are meeting!

Much love,

Dreams Do Come True {To My Little Self}

I remember parts of my childhood vividly.  The creek.  Our trailer.  My room. My white desk.  Family dinners.  My Barbies. Grandpa’s barn.  Camping. My new pink carpet.  Bo and Luke on my closet door. Getting a hardback copy of Little Women. Going to the Union Mission to get books.

And best of all…

My imaginary world.

I played with Barbies, but only because I wanted them to dialogue.  I’d create “scenes” with them and write them down – just in case As the World Turns or The Young and the Restless ever needed a new writer.

I played in the creeks behind and beside my house.  Small ditches became canyons.  The occasional crawdad  – a great and mighty lobster. The patch of woods across the creek  – Robin Hood’s domain.  The tunnel under the road – a cave holding dragons or hieroglyphic writings.  My bedroom – a school house.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t create story or record my life with pen and paper.  It was and is deep within me; this need to write and create…

Story.

When God knit me in my mom’s womb, He knit a storyteller.  A dreamer.  One who would love her home, but want to fly.

And I keep thinking of that little girl. Sitting at her white desk in her room in Poca, West Virginia, in Bishop’s Trailer Park. Penning story after story in little journals and on notebook paper. Dreaming that one day she’d see the world.  One day she’d write stories and tell of her adventures. One day she’d speak for those who had no voice.

Tonight that little girl is almost 40 and is sitting in a hotel room in Concord, North Carolina.  The desk isn’t white.  The journals and stories long forgotten and trashed.  The hotel different from the trailer.

But, the dream?

It’s still in her heart. She’s still a storyteller.

And this weekend a piece of her dream – my dream – is coming true.

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A friend gifted me with a trip to Proverbs 31’s She Speaks conference for writers and speakers.  And here I am.

{Deep breath.}

I’ll meet with two publishers this weekend – one from Bethany House and another from Harper Collins (y’all can pray about that if you’re willing).  I’ll sit and learn from some of the best storytellers. Women who not only tell stories well, but also love Jesus big.

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And I may never be published.  I may never tell the stories created for my Barbies.  I may never tell my own stories.

But.

I will have tried. I will have answered His call and stepped forward.  I will have done all I could to carry out the dreams of the little storyteller sitting at her white desk.

I know I am making her proud.

So, fellow dreamers…parents of dreamers… Keep dreaming! Let them dream!

Dreams do come true. Maybe not exactly as we think, but exactly as they should.

And this girl is beyond thankful for a Savior who NEVER gave up on her. Oh, He should have.  So. Many. Times.  But, He didn’t. He kept the seeds He planted alive.  And He’s redeeming a life that has been hard, especially over the past eight years.

And He will do that for you.  Keep dreaming. Stay faithful.  He loves you – I promise.

This verse in the hall at the conference sums up my heart:  Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead. 1 Peter 1:6

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So thankful.

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? {Really SEE Them}

He walks up to the table to pay.  I smile and say hello.  No smile in return.  He’s a tough-looking gentleman with “worn” eyes.  I can tell life has not been easy.  His tattoos and t-shirt speak to some of his likes and dislikes.

We exchange money for sparklers, and he says, “These are to keep the grandkids busy. To get their attention on something else.  We buried my step-son today.”

His eyes fill, but no tears drop.  He says thank you, and I connect some dots to the local news.  I know his step-son was very young and left behind young children.

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A dad and a daughter. She’s not more than 10. Dad looks like he’s worked hard today. The daughter talks on and on about everything she sees.  Dad patiently listens and responds. Most people are in a hurry. This dad has all day to listen and respond kindly.  As it turns out, the girl lives with her mom and this time with his daughter is weekly. Dad makes $8.75 an hour doing manual labor and can’t spend much, but his little girl wanted some fireworks.

When they leave, he opens her her door for her – a gesture that brings a tear to my eye.

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She asks how loud each firework is.  She selects an assortment with careful consideration.  As she leaves, she explains that her son is autistic and can only stand certain noises. He won’t go to the larger fireworks shows, so she puts on a show for him the backyard – tailored to his needs.

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The woman and man seem to buy a LOT of fireworks. The husband looks at his wife and says anything else? And she says, “Oh, you know me and fireworks.  You better just check out before I see anything else.”  He smiles and pays.  And she explains…

My son died at age 3 of heart disease.  There’s something about fireworks. They make me feel close to him.  I feel as if he sees me letting them off – that he sees the fireworks and we are together again in those moments.

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The man’s hat proudly proclaims his service in Vietnam.  He’s the only customer in the tent.  We are eating dinner, laughing and joking.  My son throws a Pop It (a tiny paper that pops or snaps when it hits the ground – no flame necessary), and the man jumps.

After all these years, the sound still startles him.

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I remember watching Sesame Street when I was young.  I loved the segment…

Who are the people in your neighborhood?  in your neighbrohood? in your neighborhood? Yes, who are the people in your neighborhood – the people that you meet each day!

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The postman, the teacher, the doctor, the grocery clerk – we’d get to meet them – SEE them.

And this week, I’ve been seeing people.  Really seeing them.

I’ve been selling fireworks at a tent located in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  The proceeds benefit our team’s mission trip to Honduras this month.  I have to admit…some days, I do not want to show  up.  I am not much of a salesperson, and I have so many things I’d rather be doing.

But, the face of a woman who will get a house  – the faces of those who will visit the feeding center we will help to build.  Those who will gain skills  and those who might just feel unconditionally loved in the moment. These faces come to mind, and I know where I should be and why.

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What I didn’t expect this week was the people that I would meet – just briefly.  Each of the above exchanges lasted a minute or two. Long enough for the woman or man to be heard.  To share a piece of his or her pain.  And long enough for me or my friends to offer a heartfelt “I am sorry.  I will pray for you.”

I can’t begin to detail the “takeaways” from the week; the lessons God taught; the reminders He gave…but here’s a few…

Every single person has a story and is carrying a burden you can’t see unless you want to. (ALL people…did you catch that? Not just the ones who look like you and not just the ones who are kind.  ALL people – all of those made in God’s image.)

Notice people.  It matters.

So many people just want someone to genuinely listen to their hearts. To hear a piece of their pain and to acknowledge it – not to fix it, but to simply say…I hear you.

A lot of people are angry and overwhelmed, and it pours out on their children and others around them.  Be aware of your words. You can’t unsay them.  (I pray most for the mom of three who talked so hatefully to her kiddos.  I wanted to hug her tightly.  She looked on the verge of breaking at any moment.)

There are so many kind, good people in this world.  Sweeping statements about God’s people – those living in this world, those HE MADE – are unkind and unnecessary.

And in light of the shootings in Charleston, confederate flags, and Supreme Court decisions…As God mixed each of these with the people that I met each day, He reminded me…

Each of us just wants to be loved and accepted. Truly.  We want to be who God has made us to be and not have to apologize or justify it. And for those who follow Christ and identify themselves as Jesus followers – Christians – I pray that what we desire above all else is to become more and more like the Jesus of the Bible. The Middle Eastern man, who was a Jew and poor (in the material wealth sense that our world so highly values).  The one who made black people, white people, brown people – all people.  The one who told us…

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13: 34-35

Today, on this day as we celebrate the United States of America and her history, I pray you notice and take time for the people that you meet along the way, especially those closest to you. Look in their eyes.  Hear their hearts.  Love them.

Celebrating a Miracle {Chloe Turns One}

Yesterday she sat on my lap, pulling my glasses off my face. Kissing me on the cheek.  Saying “ma, ma, ma” and “no, no, no.”  Showing me her index finger when I asked, “How old are you?” and clapping for herself when I said, “Yes, you are!”

And at one point, I looked in her big blue eyes and simply said, “Thank you, Jesus”   for this healthy and lively one year old, sitting on my lap in the flesh.  I can hardly remember that day one year ago when I took up residence in the hospital waiting room.  On the labor and delivery floor.  Praying…

Please, Lord, this is it. We are soooo close.  Please protect Dawnna and her baby. I am begging.  

That day Dawnna’s nurse was a high school friend, Shawna. (What are the chances?)  And it was Shawna who burst through the door – still clad in scrubs – at a little after three in the afternoon, proclaiming, “She’s here and healthy!”

And she is.

Happy.  Healthy.  Here with us.

A miracle.

celebrating a miracle

And God reminds me of the Israelites who so quickly forgot how God parted a sea for them as the Egyptians followed closely behind.  In fact, they’d continue to “forget” and wander for 40 years as a result.  One flip through God’s word, and we see it again and again….

We forget so easily.  But God remains – always there – never forgetting us.

I’ve noticed that in this world when we “get what we desire” or when life “finally seems to work out,” we forget what He has done.  When in the midst of suffering and dire circumstances, when there is no where else to turn, we ask for prayers and seek our Creator.  But, the moment life appears “good” again – the moment we see the light at the end of the tunnel – our hearts seek him less and less.

Those who are healthy. Who have food on the table. Who have cars to drive and clean water to drink.  Who have healthy children.  Who have good jobs and plenty of clothing.

That is…me.  And most likely you.

We don’t have to fall on our faces every morning and beg God for the day’s provision. To give us a child or to provide a day’s wages.

In fact, we are more likely to be complaining about the child’s behavior or neediness.  To be wishing for a day off or a “better” quality food. To want bottled not tap water.  A newer car, not our older one.

And while these are human and “normal,” my prayer today to my Father was and is…may I never forget.  No, I never want to dwell in my past.  In the moments of hurt.  In the circumstances.  I don’t want to daily remember my dad’s last breath or my sister’s devastating news.  I do not want to dwell in divorce court either.

But.

I want to remember. Not the circumstances, but my Father’s hand in my life. I don’t want to turn back and want what was lost, living in the past.  But to look forward, equipped with lessons learned, remembering that I serve a God who is able.

I serve a God who goes before me, walks alongside me, and stands behind me.

He is in all and knows all.

May we never forget the Lord has brought us this far (1 Samuel 7:12).  And have faith in knowing that He will bring us home.  To completion.

So, today I reread my words from one year ago.  May I never forget how I felt and how much trust I placed in my Savior when I wrote this

Tomorrow as I sit beside my mom again in the WAITING room, waiting to meet Chloe, praying for a safe and easy birth for my sister, thanking God for the gift of a child…

I will silently be giving Chloe back to the one who gave her to us.

As you grow, Chloe, I pray we say of you:  But Chloe, though she was only a girl, served the Lord.  She grew up in God’s presence and grew in favor with the Lord and people.  Yes, Chloe served the Lord. (1 Samuel)

Because as we each walk on this earth, searching for meaning and purpose.  As we each wait for what will be and let go of what was not.  As we wait upon the Lord to heal or take us home.  As we wait on Him to open our womb or change our hearts.

As we wait.

There is only one thing…one thing that matters in the waiting and in the end.  For Dawnna and Casey.  For Chloe.

They served the Lord.

Lord, may we serve you as we wait.  May we serve you as we look back and look forward.  May we truly understand that  you placed us – placed Chloe – upon this earth for ONE purpose:  To love and glorify you.

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May be grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 3:18).

Hannah Goes to Honduras

In 2013 Hannah went to Honduras for the first time.  She’d taught herself to crochet via YouTube, and she had made hats for Honduran children going through chemo.  On that trip she also taught a group of young moms how to crochet, so they could make items to sell and support their children.  Since then, those moms have expanded their skills and sales, and Hannah’s heart for Honduras and her people has grown.  Each time I plan a trip or board a plane, she says, “I want to go, Mom.”

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And I say…”Why, Hannah?”

And she says, “To teach more girls to crochet so they can escape poverty by selling what they make.  To give people hope.  To love on people.  To build houses.  To give little girls the dresses we’ve sewn.”

As I talk with Hannah about her decision to take a mission trip (not just go along with her mom), I am struck by how deeply she feels.  How much she wants to go into the all the world and share Jesus in the ways he’s gifted her to share.  How sure she is that God is calling her to love and serve others.  How much she realizes her own life is a gift as she has been given much.

“I taught some girls to crochet two years ago.  I just taught them the basics, which was only enough to make a hat and a washcloth.  In the two years since, they have made hats for their children, purses to sell, and more.  They’ve helped to sustain themselves as well as their children with the things they’ve crocheted.  They even sent me a purse they made. I’m very proud of them, and I hope to teach more girls and women to crochet.”

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Hannah hopes to travel with a team (and me) to Yamaranguila, Honduras this summer and teach mothers in a rural area, who have come to the hospital early in anticipation of their babies’ arrivals, how to crochet.  She will also be part of other team activities, including the distribution of dresses that Hannah has been sewing with a group of ladies at City Souls Ministries.

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Hannah needs to raise about $2000 for her trip, which will include airfare, lodging, supplies (yarn, etc), food, etc.  Any amount – small or large – will help.

If you’d be willing to contribute, you can find Hannah’s Go Fund Me page here:  http://www.gofundme.com/hannahinhonduras

I can promise you that she will steward each penny well.