Archives for July 2015

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.

backback contents

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.

group convo

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.

people part 2

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.

dreams come true

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.

she speaks poster

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

verse

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!

people in neighborhood

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.

hond woman

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.