22 October 2014

even when I'm judge-y

When I walked out of the DFCS office yesterday, my heart was carrying a heavy load.  As I neared the main entrance of the building, I tried to shake it off.  I saw an itty-bitty baby all squenched up in an umbrella stroller, nearly laying sideways on the seat.  I exclaimed a little too loudly and with too much delight, "awe! so tiny!"  The infant's mother glanced my way with an expression that stated quite plainly, "you have got to be kidding me lady." {I read glances better than I read lips.}

This is not an uncommon occurrence.  For one, small talk is not my thing.  For two, nobody in the government offices is looking for a friendly face while walking in and out.  Honestly, I think I am the only one that is attempting eye contact most days.  And this is only after being a regular in the building for over a year.

This is so far out of my comfort zone.

This encounter with this tiny-baby's-momma though, emphasized an ugly part of myself.  Its the judge-y part.  The part that notes, "I have never seen an infant in an umbrella stroller."  But then just after noting it, goes on to think, "I would never put an infant in an umbrella stroller."

And I hate that this part of me still lurks around. Because the truth is, its really hard to love your neighbor when you are judging her.  This is that kind of judgement we carry around with us and keep quiet.  It spills out in passing and we if we notice it, we brush it aside hastily.  It might be called bias, it might be called prejudice.  Whatever you call it, my tendency is to pretend like its not there.

But yesterday, my heavy heart collided with my judginess and the tears filled my eyes.  How long will I walk these halls before I just love?  How long will I look to make eye contact while chasing away my rush-to-judge-thoughts?

It isn't disapproval behind this prejudice, so much as ignorance.  I cannot relate, so I judge.  Every time we've been in need {or first-world-want} someone has met that need.  We had infant carriers and travel systems and boppies and bouncy chairs and high chairs and play mats and all the bells and whistles.  No one in our circle wanted us {or more accurately - our children} to be without.  What we couldn't afford, someone else gave to us. If it wasn't purchased new, it might have been thrifted or found from a friend whose child had outgrown it.

The idea of strapping an infant into an umbrella stroller is foreign to me because it was never an option for me. My grandmother or my mother or my mother-in-law or my aunt or my sister or my friend or my friend's mom or fill-in-the-blank -- any of these folks would have provided me with another option.  I am privileged to have a wide circle.   I didn't build this wide circle or carve it out or even seek it.  I inherited it. 

But I sense Him calling me more and more to walk the hallways where the inheritance isn't always the same.  The circles are small and the choices are fewer.  I know that is where He would be, for sure.  So that is where I want to be too.

I just wish it were easier.  And isn't that the kicker?  Even in following Him to harder places, I want it easy.  Gross.

But He keeps calling me, and He doesn't condemn me.  He quietly points it out through awkward encounters and He asks me not to brush it aside.  So I look up to Him and my hope grows because I know He is at work, even in my judge-y places.  He is so faithful to cultivate my heart to be more like His.  So I stubbornly follow, believing He will complete this work in me.  And one day the bias and prejudice will no longer clamor up to the surface and I will see with eyes that love His children like He does. 

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6 NASB

21 October 2014

even in the lack

Its been a month since I last went to the emergency clothing closet.  I would prefer it to be every-other-week but with a move and fall break it turned into a month. It happens.

When I walked in to the space today, I was greeted by stacks of backpacks, and they were b-wap - a company Brad had contacted about being a community partner.  Of course, at the time they were not accepting new partnerships.  So it was doubly fun to see that the bags made their way to the children in our local community via another source.  A local church - The Road UMC - must have donated them, because there was a tag attached to each bag.  I didn't count them all, but I think 50 is a low estimate!

 Its always fun to walk in and see some new donations waiting to be sorted.  There wasn't really anywhere to move the bags to, so I got started on doing an inventory of the clothing items.  The fun-feeling faded quickly as I went through the little girls' clothing rack.  Its the time of year where it really matters if an outfit is too summery. There wasn't much left in the smallest sizes, and there were quite a few empty hangers -- an indication that a lot of kiddos have come in to care. 

The toddler boys' rack was more promising.  Although it fell apart as I pushed the clothes aside to do my inventory.  It took a hot minute to clean that mess up. 

It is always a little overwhelming to do the clothing inventory. I begin with the smallest sizes and work my way through to the biggest.  After that, I move on to shoes.  As I write down what is "in stock," I can't help but start a mental tally of what we lack.  By the time I get to the school age clothing, it feels staggering.  There is such a great need. 

Earlier, I had spoken with one caseworker in the hallway while I was waiting for the room to be unlocked {they don't want those donations walking off!}  She said there are about 380 kids in care right now.  That number blows me away. 

It is a battle to keep myself hopeful as I make my notes on the inventory.  As I finish up with the bigger sizes, things get a bit messy.  Truthfully, we could have kids that wear adult sizes come in to care.  I sort of stop tracking after kids' XL because it gets complicated.  I just look it over so I have an idea in my head of what is there.  Under one rack are boxes and bags of "excess items."  I remember last spring tucking away some Christmas shirts and pj's - I didn't have time to dig them out this morning.  I feel it press in a bit, this sense of lack.  That not only do we need a lot of stuff, but that this space needs help too - and more than I can give it.   You can see that the place is a bit of a shambles.

Before I leave, I bag up a few items that shouldn't have been donated and label the bag "trash" before setting it out in the hallway. 

This one part, this standing between the donated trash and the precious kiddos, this exhilarates me.  And reminds me, it is no mistake that I am in that closet on some Tuesday mornings.  God will provide in one way or another, and likely in a way that surprises me. So I do the best with the time I have there, then I tell you the story.  He takes my time + my words and somehow provides for these beloved kiddos. 

I know He will do it again.  Even when I feel like I am lacking.  It is this stubborn hope that keeps drawing me back to that closet. 

So here is the list of current needs:

We also need diapers, especially size 3 and up.  And pull-ups in all sizes. Underwear (including bras) and socks are also always welcome. 

I added a lot of pictures this time, mostly because I am hoping that someone sees it and thinks, "oh my word that place is a wreck, I wonder if I could help her use that space better!"  The answer is "yes, please!"

20 October 2014

Ragamuffin + stubborn hope

Sometime in the last week or so, we watched "Ragamuffin" on netflix with Wilson.  It was a movie about Rich Mullins.  I liked the movie, Wilson and Brad, not so much.  There was something intriguing about it, this man that wrote these songs that I have sung so often.  He wrestled with the darkness and hard times throughout his life, but he kept coming back to Jesus.  I can't know for sure how accurate the movie was, but the transparency of it was compelling to me.

Of course, the next day we had to jam out to some, "Awesome God."  And of course, "Sing your Praise to the Lord," and "Hold Me, Jesus," and even some "Screen Door [on a Submarine]."  I ended up keeping Rich Mullins cued up on my phone for most of the week and listened to his songs off and on throughout the days.
One lyric from the song, "If I Stand" reminds me of stubborn hope more than any other.  I'll give it to you in context:

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That You will pull me through
And if I can't let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
If I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
But if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

"If I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home."  I think it stands out to me because I have wept as a man longing for home.  Have you?  When all is broken and lost and a mess and you just want to be home with Jesus?  I love a lyric that can capture a moment so succinctly.  You might know that about me already though.

One more thing, that is kind of fun. Even though Wilson hated the movie, he has been singing the songs around the house.  While I was making dinner tonight, he came in to tell me that he had downloaded 4 of Rich Mullins' songs.  Then while we were cleaning up dinner, he brought in his nexxus to play them for me.  When "Hold Me, Jesus" came on, he said, "I feel like I knew this song even before I knew it."  I told him it was probably because it was on my deployment playlist and I played it all-the-time while his daddy was gone for 15 months. 

19 October 2014

when it's all good

Every once in awhile, everything just feels right.  Or even better than what you imagined right could be.

Sometimes, in those moments, fear creeps in to steal away that settled feeling of contentment.  It plants a lie, "this won't last."  Or worse, "you don't deserve this."  It hisses it right into the middle of your happy moment and with a heavy-kind-of-false-authority that almost comes off as legit.  Have you felt this?  That feeling of dread sinking into the joyful occasions?

As you know we just moved.  I haven't told you too much about our new house, mostly because it feels like bragging.  It is seriously that nice.  And beyond what we imagined we would find in our price range.  I was almost giddy, although tired, the day the movers brought all our big stuff over.  I decided to take a bath in our big bathtub - by far the biggest we have ever had in a home.  I poured in some sweet pea body wash in hopes it would suds up enough for a bubble bath.

As I slipped into the water, for a split second I nearly heard a lie.  It's too good.  Something bad is going to happen.  The weight of it threatened to settle in.  But then I heard a True voice, the One that knows all the details.  And He whispered, "this is for you, enjoy it."

And the truth is, I don't deserve it, and it might not last -- but I won't let that keep me from savoring these good moments in this place for this time.  Sometimes, stubborn hope grows in the good places.

18 October 2014

silver stars will shine

The lyrics to this song have been floating through my brain all month long.  Truthfully, longer than that.  They have lodged themselves deeply into my thoughts.  And I don't mind one bit.  There is an especially lovely part that I keep on repeat.

Even through the night
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory's light
That will wake us once again

Those silver stars?  That is stubborn hope, right there.  If you have 3 minutes and 24 seconds today, I know you won't waste them listening to this song.  Maybe you'll get lucky and the lyrics will get lodged into your brain too. 

You can read Ellie's words about this song by clicking here. 

17 October 2014

light in the dark

When the darkness is heavy and the Light is a faint glimmer

you squint to find hope in your midst.

You are so tired, your eyes worn out from tears

even so, you continue to blink hard against the darkness

searching, searching for the Light you've always believed to be with you

the darkness weighs in heavier still.

Breathing is hard and your hands feel weak

still you know the Light is there

the flicker is faint, but it is there.

Just a spark in the night is enough for today.

It reminds you that it is always enough to beat away the darkness.

16 October 2014

when the ground is dry + dusty

No matter what the circumstances say, we press on.

There are times when we just have no idea what to think.  Nothing seems clear and nobody seems to have any idea what to say to you about it.

We just recently walked through this when Brad transitioned out of the Army.  Your timeline is sketchy at best, planning seems out of the question.  Every one wants to know what you are doing next.  Then they stare at you with a mixture of sympathy and disdain when you tell them you haven't a clue.

Everything is changing, yet you have no idea what the new will look like.  You just know it will be so very different.  For starters, your husband will need a whole new wardrobe.  And this is the easy part.

Of course, these transitions happen in the civilian world too. I just relate more readily right now with that big jump from camo to business casual. The truth is, though, we all face these moments.

With our feet standing in the present we have no clue what the future is going to look like.  Nothing is certain.  Our circumstances are murky and our conversations about them tend to feel even more questionable than the circumstances themselves.  Utterly void of any evidence that things are going to evolve into something better, we do what we must.

We grasp for hope.  And, friends, this is a brave move.  There is nothing more enjoyable than hearing someone say, "I have no idea how this thing is gonna shake out, but I know God has got this."  To hear someone say it, to know they believe it, it is electrifying.  My own faith grows when I stand in the presence of a hope-grasper.

This is the fertile soil for stubborn hope.  When the ground is barren and there is no sign of rain clouds on the horizon and not a sprinkler system for miles.  We kick the dirt and watch the air around turn brown.  But we believe that if we stand here long enough.  If we wait, we will see the soil break forth with new life.  Not because of what is evident in our physical world, but because of what we believe to be true about our God.  He will make it happen.  He always does.  He always will.

If your toes are covered in dust and your throat is parched from breathing the stale and dusty air.  Reach bravely for hope, friend, because God is doing a work even now, under your feet.  He will bring it to pass.  I know it.  My faith grows from watching you stand firm.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  1 Corinthians 15:58 {NIV}