Shoes for the Shoeless

The seed was planted in April 2009. All of us. Me, my husband, my daughter, hovering around a tiny screen, scrolling through pictures of children needing sponsors on the Compassion website. How do you choose one child over another? When each ones eyes burn right through to your heart, and all you want is to scoop them up and bring them all home. Here to our home. Then my daughter speaks it, “she has no shoes. That little girl right there. No shoes.” She’s pointing at the screen. My daughter just 7 years old at the time, her heart breaking for the little one on the other side of the world who has no shoes. She wonders how she walks around in the gravel, in the garbage that she sees lying all around as we read about her country. She decides it right then. She wants us to sponsor those that don’t have shoes. Because in her mind of 7 years old, that would be the worst thing ever.

Fast forward to today. 2014. And this post falls across my screen, Losing My Religion, and Logan’s words paint the reality she is living right now in Uganda. I see it through her eyes, and I cannot NOT unsee it. And how did I not know that in Uganda,  “if one parent dies or leaves and the other parent remarries, it is the new spouse’s prerogative whether or not to keep the prior relationship’s child as their own?” Or this, “Parents can’t afford to care for their children, so they drop them off in baby homes where at least they will be fed?” Me. A momma of a little one that we fought so hard to keep. In all regards an orphan herself, she is now ours, and we are humbled that God would choose us to be our parents. These words they break me. As I just can’t see how someone could abandon their child. I don’t understand why I keep going back and reading the post. But I do.

How do I become so comfortable in my little world that I don’t see the big picture? When just a year ago, I spoke the words, of doing right here from my home, because that is all I can do right now. Why I am not doing? What am I not doing?

Logan she is in Uganda with a team of bloggers on behalf of Sole Hope. “A group of passionate, committed people who are putting closed toed shoes on African children, one pair at a time. We are also holding medical clinics, providing education, and jobs for and with the beautiful souls in Uganda. It all started with an encounter with a YouTube video–a video that broke Asher’s heart, took us WAY out of our comfort zones, and led us to Uganda.”

And I still don’t see the connection. Until I do.

It’s a no brainer. Logan lays it wide open right here. She tells of her holding these children, jiggers being pulled from their tiny feet. The pain is unbearable and she feels right there with them. I feel it too. And its a no brainer how to stop this pain.

Carey is right there with her and she says this “What I absolutely love, love, love about Sole Hope is that they have invented a way for you, right where you are, to make a difference AND create community. It is so very simple.” and this, “You may not be in Africa but your jeans can come. Send them on over.”

Now I see it. The connection. And God is whispering it. And I do it. Right then and there. I order a kit. A kit for 50 people, to cut shoes out of jeans from a pattern. Simple. A no brainer. And I don’t even know 50 people. But this is what God is telling me. My daughter and I we commit to ourselves, to God, to these little children… 100 pairs of shoes. One hundred pairs of shoes by the end of April. How do we make it happen? I am not sure. But God knows.

Maybe you want to participate? Bring your friends? Send your old jeans? Supplies? Maybe? God knows. And I wait on Him to fulfill it. In the meantime, the kit is on it’s way and we are planning a party. A shoe cutting party.  And it will be grand.

And I pray it…

Break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord.

Finding Purpose in the Midst

In March of 2013, I gave this short testimony at our women’s conference at church. And now nearly a year later, I look back and see how much has changed in our lives and I am thankful that I take time to write down moments. These little reminders of how God moves in the little things and the big and finding Him in the details.

The following is what I shared that day…

In preparation of this short testimony, I heard all the reasons why I could not do it. You are sick. You will probably have a migraine, one of those really bad ones that put you in bed for days. And if not the migraine, then a panic attack. The anxiety that comes and shuts you down. You will not be able to do it. You know you cannot make commitments. So just what is the point? Thoughts like these rolled over and over in my head. But the biggest thing I heard, the most threatening was this… there will most likely only be a handful of women that will know who I am, so what will it matter what I have to say. Wow, how that one really stung. Made it difficult to string a thought into a sentence that was comprehensible. But what a lie that is… because it does not matter who knows me. It is not about me. It is all about Him and what He has done. His story being played out through my life. It is all for His glory.

For most of my life I have dealt with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that left untreated wreaks havoc on the body and all of its systems. It can leave you with cancer, diabetes, and other autoimmune disorders. Thankfully, so far I only live with daily migraines, nausea, hormonal imbalances, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, joint and bone pain and anxiety. My 11 year old daughter who has the same disease, also lives with Aspergers‘ syndrome, sensory processing disorder, sleep disorder, digestive problems, numerous allergies and anxiety disorder. My 2 year old has allergies, has few words and a temper. I have twin step daughters that are 21. And then I have my husband. Greg. Who is my best friend, who lays down his life everyday for me. He loves like Jesus. And he is healthy.

Here is just a glimpse into what an average day looks like in our home…

It’s a race from the moment eyes are startled open with the words “Mom. Stuff. Up. Throat.” No time for a yawn or stretch. The gun has gone off, the race has begun and the finish line is no where in sight.

Through blurry eyes you try to read it. The level of threat that holds the day hostage. The fear. The pain. The sadness. Will they subside? Will this be a good day? Or will it turn to panic? Every second of your time running. Moving swiftly trying to find the solution that will bring relief. Words lifted up. Please. Let. It. End. In between the pace, you decipher the gestures of the little one with no words. You try to hold on to patience as she screams in frustration.

Please. Let. It. End.

A nibble of food here. A sip of water there. Because there is just not time. You have these two that need you. And you beg for the doorbell to ring. Someone to ask, “how are you? No, really how are you?” You pray long and hard for someone that gets it. That really gets it. Because really? You can’t get it unless you live it. Every. Single. Day.

You search for strength to make it to the finish line. The few hours of sleep, the stress and the lack of food just doesn’t cut it in a body that is already beaten. This is one day. They all blend together now, and there are times I just want to throw in the towel. Wave the white flag.

But I don’t. I would not change a thing. Because right in the middle of all of this I found God. Sure He lived in this heart since I was young, but I never really knew Him. I never heard His whispers. Never felt the brush of His hand across my cheek when the tears fell. His arms wrapped tight when there was nothing left to hold onto. Never felt Him walking right there with me. I never knew it was possible to know Him this way.

I was not good enough to be in His presence. Yes, He is my God, my savior, my ticket to heaven. But I was not good enough, and I never would be, it is just not humanly possible… now just learn to follow the rules and most importantly get out there and tell others about Him. This is what they taught me in church.

And I did my best. I was there for every service straight through high school. I followed the rules. I was a good girl. I went out door to door telling about Jesus. Read my bible. Memorized scriptures. And it was never enough.

Nearly 25 years later, having a diagnosis and the healing beginning, when friends and family were going on mission trips, teaching classes, starting programs, volunteering… I wanted to be right there along side them. I begged God to make us better, to fully heal us. Because didn’t He know what I could do for Him if only I wasn’t stuck in this bed? In these four walls?

Instead of healing, I received something so much greater, so precious to me that it is hard to speak of it and not spill tears. It catches right there in the throat, because there really are no words to describe the joy of this gift, the blessing of knowing who God truly is; how He loves me and how His plans are so much bigger and better than mine. How lying in that bed, staring out a window where treetops touch sky. Where sunlight trickles through leaves in its setting and dances across my room. Where bible stories are told and worship music plays loud. And church services stream through screens. That’s when it happened. The connect. Heart with mind. Me to Him. Simple. Complicated. How did it happen? Brokenness. Gratitude. Surrender. Connection. The knowing. Knowing there is not one answer to the how. Each one comes in his own way, His way, for His purpose. The how… individual, unique to all, but still the same.

He showed me that in this home, with all this chaos, there are hearts for me to nurture. Hearts to teach about His love and grace. That each time I hit send on a letter with words of love and encouragement to those little children around the world, I step out on a missions trip. And with every publish of a blog post, I share a bit of my story, His story. It reaches through tiny screens across the world. It answers prayers of that woman crying out just like me, “Send me someone who gets it. Someone who really gets it.”

His plan for me is clear. Growing hearts. In this house and across the world. He tells me I am right where He wants me, and He gives me purpose.

As crazy as it seems, it all works. This crazy house. Each of us with all our own needs. With illnesses, and sleepless nights, running when there is nothing left of us. Even with statistics stacked us against us, it works. Not only does this family work. It flourishes.

Because we are a cord that cannot easily be broken, because “He is wrapped between us, wrapped within us and wrapped around us.”*

And it’s all Him. Right there in every crazy minute of it. In every detail. He gives us a peace and joy in the midst. Heart bursting joy that you just cannot contain.

And on those days when the race has run out of control, when my legs have grown weary and I stumble, I hear Him whisper it…

I’m here. I am right here.

I am learning to be content in all things. ALL things. I press on toward the goal. And I pray it…

Jesus come quickly.

*quote from Jennifer of studiojru

The Tree.

Joining in with hundreds of others for Five Minute Friday over at LisaJoBaker.com. Here you write for Five minutes with one word as your prompt. No Editing. Just write and publish.  This is the first I have written here for over a year. Feels a little strange to visit, but at the same time feels like home. So here goes…

 

The tree. A gift in memory of my daddy. It’s roots buried in the dirt the day we celebrated his life here on earth, and the joy of his life now walking with Jesus. That little tree stood but 5 feet tall. It stood there firmly planted through the winds and frosts and freezing temperatures of that winter.

As spring approached the buds broke free and pink blossoms sprung forth. Vibrant. As the one pink cloud that appeared in the blinding white fog that day we drove to the hospital. The pink that appears in sunsets. Never so vibrant as the fall sunsets. Sunsets my favorite time of day. My heart stops each time I see it. Just for a moment. The memory of that morning. The pink. Then the smile comes. How great a gift, the promise of hope of things to come, brought to mind each day as the sun sets low.

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The tree. Sits in a pot as I sit looking out into our new backyard. As I watch the leaves slowly fall as the temperatures drop, I notice it. In the barren, the trees arms stretched high, reaching toward the sky. Straight toward heaven. Always worshipping. Always.

And God whispers, I’m here.
I right here.

Easter 2012

The sadness overwhelms. Tears well. And I swallow down hard. Images swirl in my mind. Thrashing skin. Thorns entwined. Broken body. Nailed to a broken tree. The words “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me.”

He didn’t take the cup, instead Jesus drunk it down. He took it and swallowed down all the pain and suffering. Took the punishment. And breathed His last breath.

His Father watching close. Watching His Son beaten and bruised. Mocked. Nailed to that tree. I imagine hot tears poured from His eyes, burning as they fell. He felt the grief. I wonder if He thought for a moment to put an end to this. The suffering and just bring Him home. But He didn’t. Instead He turned away and let the ugly darkness be put to death once and for all. And in all His glory He overcame this world.

Jesus’ body lay in rest. His soul tormented. The punishment. My punishment. He suffered it.

The one so perfect and pure suffered, bled and died. Then lived in torment for me. Three days spent in hell. For me. This undeserving wretch. He did it out of His love for me.

And it is all glory.

For God so loves the world that He gave his only begotten Son,, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

And on that third day… He rose again.

Learning my Place in this World

October 31, came and went and so did the 31 days series right along with it. I know I missed 1, 2, 3 maybe more days before the end. I am not counting. At least not officially. There is a little voice in the back of my head that plays on… 31 posts in 31 days on the same subject. If you don’t finish, you are a quitter. A failure. It plays on like a broken record.

I hear it, but I am not listening. God’s voice is drowning it out. His words overpowering the lies. Its a hard lesson for me to listen for His voice. All too often I allow my own voice of condemnation to take over and push His aside. He is teaching me this… to listen. Simply listen for His calling.

He reminds me of my mission field. He reminds of the hearts placed in my care. The ones to nurture and build. He is teaching me grace. How to live it. Not just for others, but for me. Grace for me. He shows me my purpose. My place.

And this week with trips to the ER. Little girls wanting to sing big. Facing fears. Silly holidays and wanting to fit in. I am listening. I know where I need to be. I know my purpose. My place.

So the writing waits as I live in my place and tend to the hearts placed in my care. And I am good with that.

And God whispers, I’m here.
I am right here.

Thirty-one days Walking Through Darkness Day Twenty-five :: Moving Forward

I was clinging to the pain and sorrow. Because it was familiar. Because my thought was… if I let go of the pain, it meant letting go of my daddy and I was not going to do that. So I clung. But God could not let me stay there. He promises that over and over in His word. He was not going to leave me there.

On March 10, 2012, I saw this post by Jennifer of studiojru.com

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Photo courtesy of Studiojru.com

It wrecked me. It was if my daddy was talking straight through this photo. Reminding me of what he left behind for me. Those three songs. The words. That I needed to listen to them. Take them to heart and move forward. And that does not mean leaving him behind. Because he is always with me. Because Jesus took the nail. Because He redeemed us. Because eternity awaits. And this time here is just a blink.

This picture now sits among glass. Colored glass. Bottles. Vases. Some from my daddy, others I have found. A reminder of collecting glass when I was little. Walking the woods with my daddy. A reminder to keep moving. Pressing on toward the goal. And I am moving forward.

And God whispers, I’m here.
I am right here.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.

Isaiah 43:2

Thirty-One Days Walking Through Darkness Day Twenty-four :: The Day My Daddy Died

20121025-232029.jpgI see the world in colors and song. I write of it often. But today. This day. As we begin the drive. All’s white. White so thick it’s smothering. The music. I know it’s there. The piano… the drums… I don’t hear them. My ears have fallen deaf.

The white it’s enveloping us now. It’s been just an hour since the call. An eternity could have passed and I would not have noticed. All sense of space and time is gone. I am just floating. Numb.

The white so luminous now, it’s blinding. There in the sky, in the midst of this white is one cloud. One. The most vibrant shade of pink. A pink so brilliant I have no words to describe. In that instant I knew. I knew this drive, one taken many times. This time will be the last. I know this. It’s tearing me wide open. I feel him leaving. Going home. He is halfway there. My head is telling me not to believe it. He will pull through… he always pulls through. But my heart knows this time… this time is different.

The fog succumbing to the rising sun. The surroundings coming into focus. My senses returning and I hear the piano, the notes slowly plunked out key by key. Rhythmic. The words. They echo in my ear. You alone can rescue. You alone can save. You alone can lift us from the grave. You came down to find us. Let us out of death. The time is drawing near.

It’s not my life leaving. It’s his. Suddenly the images of my life. My life with him. They flood… digging up potatoes in the garden, bow hunting, snowmobiling, building houses, peanut butter on date nut bread, peanut butter and crackers at midnight watching war movies on a school night, peanut butter english muffins, Charlie pride, creature feature and dr. Paul Berra, Barry Mannilow and wood shavings piled high in the basement, standing under a tree in the rain, home fries and bananas with sugar, exploring the woods and collecting glass, daddy’s little girl and dancing on feet, making dinners from Betty Crocker, fishing from the shore, sunsets and sunburns, walking the mile back to the car in thunderstorms, opening presents at 5 am Christmas morning because he could not wait another minute, birthday banners and pink 10 speeds, the words “I am so very proud of you.”

We are here now. I think I would rather stay here. In this car. I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t know if he is ready. There is so much more I want to do. To say. I cannot say goodbye.

It will only take a miracle now. And I know He can do this. God. This miracle. Is it fair to ask Him? To even think it? My daddy. He has suffered long. For us. For me. I watched him stripped him of everything he was. Then I see him. He’s leaving. He’s going home.

Nearly three years ago he asked me to find three songs. He was adamant that I do not forget. He knew then. He was making the preparations. This Easter. Just six months ago. He gave each of us a cd. Told us to listen to them. These three songs. I knew the songs. The words. He was ready.

My dad was not a man of many words. He kept himself guarded. His feelings and emotions. But he was not leaving this earth without telling us, giving us what he always wanted to give. These songs tell the story. The lesson. The hope.

He did not want us to live in regret or bound by circumstance. Never to doubt our worth, the deserving of the love of God. Not to waste a single moment here.

The lyrics of Johnny Cash
“Why me Lord, what have I ever done… to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known. Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do that was worth loving you or the kindness you’ve shown… Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so… Help me Jesus, I know what I am… Now that I know that I’ve needed you so help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.

He wanted us to know the truth. That God was. That God is. That God will always be. His promises are true.

The lyrics of Brooks and Dunn
“I raise my hands, bow my head. I am finding more and more truth in the words written in red. They tell me that there’s more to life that just what I can see. Oh. I believe.”

He wanted us to know the hope. Hope of a future. Hope of the freedom from the pain and struggles of this life. The burdens we carry. Hope in the knowing that He is now walking with Jesus.

The lyrics of Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton
“When I get where I’m going, there’ll be only happy tears. I will shed the sins and struggles, I have carried all these years. And I’ll leave my heart wide open, I will love and have no fear. Yeah, when I get where I’m going… don’t cry for me down here.”

Today I stand here as we celebrate the life of my daddy, the joy of him being finally home. I am overwhelmed with sadness. I miss him so much. I wear the customary black. It’s tradition. Etiquette. Black by definition is the complete absence of light, darkness. It represents finality. Sadness. The end. I wear it for my sadness.

But that day. His last day. I was given a gift. The one solitary pink cloud floating in the luminous white. Pink. The universal color of love. A symbol of hope. The embodiment of perfection of something. A single pink carnation says, “I will not forget you.” That cloud. Symbolic. Of my daddy’s love for me. The father’s love for me and my dad. The perfecting of my dad’s soul as he passed from this life into glory.

This scarf. It may offend some. It breaks tradition. But this pink. The pink in the cloud. The gift of his love. And God’s love.. The hope of a future spent in eternity. The knowing that my dad is walking in a new body. Waiting for us to join him. I wear it for him.

I love you daddy. Always.