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#GivingTuesday – When it’s personal (a must-read no matter when you see this)

Nov

29

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 | 2 comments

rachelandrobin-2

She had no idea what her words were doing to me that night. My heart was growing like the Grinch’s when he finally understood the mystery and beauty of Christmas.

 

Which I realize, as I tell this tale,  is essentially about the same thing: Giving.

Because isn’t Christmas rooted in giving? It’s about how a great, great God extended lavish grace to an undeserving world and gave love in human form, a way back to him. 

The Way back to him.

Love incarnate.

Jesus.

And in our car that night illuminated by freeway lights, she was the most luminous thing of all, her countenance aglow. I didn’t even have to look at her. You could feel her light. His light in her.

We had three hours on our drive home and she filled time and space with stories of her work. They poured out, water from a hydrant, quenching our desire to know more, to better understand.

She was the one on fire.

What my heart doing- growing – was greater joy, John tells me so. I believe him.

She wasn’t talking about what you should do to change the world around you, she was telling us about all she’s done. We know what she likely doesn’t:  She’s changing the world. All of them are, these co-laborers for a cause. There are many on either side of her, arms linked, stepping into hard places and leaving footprints. Sometimes literally.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship working with poverty elimination.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship where she has to raise her own salary, which happens to be as it were, below the poverty level. I did the math and it broke my heart.

But not hers. She hasn’t even noticed. She doesn’t understand how little she makes because as she looks around, she’s just like everyone else in her world. The one she’s changing.

And of course she has parents who can stand in the gap for anything she needs, and she knows better than me, the people she serves don’t have that luxury.

So, if you’re thinking about year-end giving or inspired by this day known as Giving Tuesday, and you haven’t already promised your hard-earned dollars to your own personal cause, I’m asking you to give to Cross Purpose, and I’m bold enough to add, as much as you can.

 

(If you’d like to give specifically to Rachel, be sure to add “To the ministry of Rachel Dance” in the notes section, but however you choose to give WILL make a difference in the lives of those earnestly taking the steps to walk out of poverty.)

Cross Purpose is a non-profit and seeks:

“to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through the power of redemptive relationships. CrossPurpose is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the idea of neighborhoods without poverty.”

The world my daughter is helping to change specifically focuses on nine poor neighborhoods in Denver, CO. The way Cross Purpose is going about poverty elimination is revolutionary, and other organizations around the country are studying their model to learn more. Cross Purpose esteems and empowers the people they’re hoping to help; they do not consider them human projects to pity.

Rachel has just begun the second year of her fellowship and she still needs partners interested in investing in this special ministry. If you’d like to be added to her mailing list, drop me an email (click envelope at top right of page) or add a comment to this post (she will happy dance with every new friend!!). An excerpt from a recent update–

image

“One of the things I love about going to a multi-ethnic church is having the opportunity to meet people from different cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with one family from the Congo by driving them to church and spending time with them in their home. Last week after church, we were invited to their house for lunch and and to watch African music videos; soon, I will help their daughter practice driving. They have blessed me with their kindness, and honored me by making me a beautiful African dress (pictured at left).” 

 

Thank you for taking time to learn more about Cross Purpose. Thank you to infinity and beyond if you give financially. Whatever the amount, it will be stewarded well, and you can trust every gift matters.

One last ask: do you mind sharing this post? You can use the handy dandy share buttons below the post or copy this link:

http://bit.ly/ASpecialCauseforGivingTuesday

to share on Facebook, email to all your contacts, Tweet, Pin…or however you socially share :).

Mother and child will do the happy dance together, miles apart. 

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The unexpected, very welcome, Thanksgiving surprise

Nov

22

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 | 1 comment

IStock_000019118716SmallOne of my favorite things is an extraordinary, everyday miracle.

I'm not speaking of Miracles of Biblical Proportion; rather the simple things that mean little to anyone else and the world to you, and that most people would scoff at and roll their eyes for my diminishing the word "miracle" to something so… w e l l …common.  

Perfect timing is an example.  Sometimes perfect timing is just what you need to get over a hump or to increase your faith or to be encouraged.  Perfect timing can be disguised as a song on the radio or a timely newspaper article or in words of wisdom from a friend.  

Today is my sister's birthday; every so often it happens to fall smack dab on Thanksgiving day.  

This year, we're 5,000 miles from home making it impossible to get together with our extended family.  I'm especially thankful my children are able to be with us; and an added special bonus is having my first cousin living only a few hours away, enabling her to make this a family celebration after all.

So, this morning I woke up to a lengthy kitchen to-do list and a heart full of gratitude for the blessings that filed through my mind.  At the top of my list is my sister, it being her birthday and all; she's a 15-year cancer survivor.  Since our mom died at 38 from breast cancer, we absolutely welcome each birthday we're given, realizing we've both long-surpassed her lifespan.

Lora is my best friend and I cannot imagine life without her.

I absent-mindedly flipped over my (in)courage Day Brightener and before I read the quote for today, I noticed it was one of mine.  ON MY SISSY'S BIRTHDAY!  Every year when I get to November 22, it'll be like we're already celebrating together!! Which probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you, because this is my common, everyday miracle, but it's the kind of thing that sends my whole day spinning happy.

Which is one of my favorite things about myself–the ability to see and celebrate the extras in ordinaries.

Then, when I read today's quote, I just had to share it with you:  

"Today speak life, love, affirmation, truth or forgiveness

into the life of another,

something they're desperate to hear."

 

Sometimes it's what we don't say that often hurts the most; sometimes we hold back when we know there's something that needs saying, encouragement that will make a difference in the life of someone we love.

Don't let that be the case today.  You're likely going to spend time with family or friends and I hope you'll speak life into them.  

And then this little blog post can be an unexpected, very welcome Thanksgiving surprise for you, too.

YOUR TURN:  Are you a celebrator of Everyday, Common Miracles?  Would you share your stories with me?  And would you accept my challenge to speak life, love affirmation, truth or forgiveness to someone who needs a touch of your grace?  That will be their unexpected, very welcome Thanksgiving surprise.  

Happiest of Thanksgiving holidays to you, from me with l v e. 

DaySpring ~ incourage perpetual calendar

(Photo credit:  istockphoto.  Affilliate links used.)

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Natural beauty

Oct

23

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 | 4 comments

One of my favorite things about living in small town Bavaria (among many favorite things)) is riding my bike.  To the store, to a friend's house or just to ride, the places I go are typically accessible by two wheels instead of four.

Even after eight months, I still thrill to the streets of my hometown.  If I go one way, I see a castle; if I travel the other direction, I trail through neighborhoods.  The architecture is strikingly different from home, and my favorite feature is the flowing flower baskets at each window.

Yesterday I was headed to the store by car–we're already flirting with Winter temps over here–when my son and husband shamed me into a bike ride.  Actually, they couldn't believe I reached for keys when they were reaching for jackets and gloves–THAT was the shame!  So, I protested and grumbled, slipped on my coat, slathered on chapstick…and slithered out the door, completely out of sorts.

I peddled quickly past them to warm up (I'm convinced my skin is thinner than theirs and that's why I'm always cold), soon losing site of them behind me (they must have stopped to do something; I'm usually that much slower than them.).  

And THEN I received a spectacular reminder of why I love living here, reward for riding my bike, reason to kiss my husband and son, testimony of God's majesty and creative brilliance.  A perfect dahlia waving me over for a quick visit–

 

Beautiful pink flower
I want this canvased on a wall in my house.  Never mind that I don't have a drop of pink anywhere in the house.

 

 

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(Dis)orientation

Feb

14

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 | 5 comments

“Not necessarily better or worse,
just different.”
~ me

It’s Valentine’s Day.

It’s Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t f e e l like Valentine’s Day, and in fact, little feels like it always has.  Gone is routine.  Familiarity vanished.

DSC_0841

Try to imagine landing in a place where e v e r y t h i n g is new.  You’re seeing people, places and things for the first time ~ all the time ~ so there are no touchstones, no landmarks, to remind you of where you are.

Except you know where you are, but that’s about all you have to hold onto.

Well, that, and GPS, God’s greatest invention for Me-and-My-People who can’t find our way out of a bucket.

The converse side of all that is people are people, places are places, and things are things–not better or worse, just different.  So in that sense, all these new things ARE familiar. 

And, this, my friends, is why my husband would tell you I’m complicated. 

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s snowing...a first for this ol’ Southern gal who still has a few Michael Simon heart-embellished sweaters in her closet.  Back home.

For 16 years, I’ve co-hosted a Valentine Tea Party with my mother-in-law, Sarah, and daughter.  What began as a timid suggestion by Sarah has flourished into cherished tradition for the women in my family and a few close friends. 

Five thousand miles Almost eight thousand kilometers between us makes this year’s Valentine Tea an ImpossibiliTea.  And this, this of all things, is my first taste of homesick.  Bitter on tongue’s tip.  Ache in my heart.

Distance between Chattanooga and Burghausen, Bavaria (Germany)
For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t roses and romance (though we usually go out for or cook a candlelight dinner); instead, it’s a day to candy and treat my children, and to celebrate the women in our family…three generations strong

We brunch.  We eat off my mother-in-law’s delicate fine china, pink Depression glass and gorgeous sterling silver.  We tell stories.  We laugh.  We listen.  We hear.  We “please” and “thank you” and restrain ourselves from licking our plates clean, because manners matter no matter how good the raspberry mousse is this year.  I mean that year.  We’d exchange surcie’s ~ little love gifts ~ and some of us have been known to clap approval and squeal with delight.  ~smile~

S i g h.

I can’t seem to crack time’s code.  Monday, Tuesday, Friday–does it matter?  Not really.  My laptop clock remains set on Eastern Standard Time; it orients me to what my children might be doing without having mentally to calculate the difference.  The wall clock strikes Bavarian time, orienting me here

Because here is where I am.

So, today no Valentine Tea tradition.  Instead, we’ll practice hospitaliTy to strangers–we’ve invited three young work associates of Tad’s for dinner; translators from America and Great Britain and a German intern. 

People around a table, talking, listening, and hopefully laughing.

See?  Not necessarily better or worse than my 16-year Valentine’s tradition.  Just different.

I’m beyond thankful to be able to say I love being here; Skype, Facebook, emails and Twitter keep me connected to family and friends back home and allow me to SEE and talk to my babies.  I even like the challenge of living outside my comfort zone.  But, still, my steps have an uneasy traction, sliding on ice instead of skating on steel blades.  And the language barrier–I feel like I’m living in the shadow of Babel’s half-built tower(Though I should add many Germans speak at least a little English and everyone I’ve met has been gracious to extend kindness not condemnation when I shyly stumble over my words.)

It’s 14:00 CET (Central European Time) on Valentine’s Day and snow has been falling for almost seven hours; I think the highest temperature we’ve seen since arriving two weeks ago is -4°C (25°F), and the snow hadn’t yet melted from last week!  In less than three hours my husband will ride his bike home from work.

Believe it or not, he’ll likely say about that, “It’s different but better.”

blink blink.

* * * * *

In April, I’ll head back to the States; in May we’ll have a mother-daughter tea with our family’s newest addition, Miss Abigail.  Our Valentine tradition will move into Spring (at least this year), and again we’ll circle around a table with everything that’s necessary.

Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

Which I’m beginning to see is more than fine.

 

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Hunger pangs

Oct

18

Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 | 8 comments

DSC_0359She is full and hungry when she arrives. 

And ready. 

I didn't like that part, though.  Ready made me wait.

But Ready made a heart grow impossibly fonder, love smothering complaint like snow blanketing barren ground.   

I'm full and hungry, too.

Stories wait their turn to be emptied, peace offerings

to fill silence's void,

to quench curiosity,

to satisfy a need to know.  A want to know?  No…a need.

One after another spills, and we listen, captive, hostages to her next word.  And the next.  Tell us more I think, grateful for morsels and crumbs.

Light and laughter, shimmering halo, become her.  Eyes smile.  Lips dance.  Voice sparkles.  Life finds her rhythm in places unexpected. 

Shadows lurk, too.  Dark spots that bend perfection to reality.  But she is wise beyond years to bow them to her service, to see the victory that lies within defeat.  Silver linings.

I hold my breath.  I snap mental pictures, begging them to last longer. 

I'm a voyeur – I can't not watch them, sister and brothers.  Do they sense my study?  They have changed, all, and they see that in each other, but can they see it among themselves?  Or is that show just for me, a consolation prize for the mother?  I think it is, so I count it treasure found.

Full and hungry demand relief.

There is nothing more delicious than the taste of satisfaction.

* * *

Grateful to be inspired by Heather of the the extratraordinary ordinary; click to read a host of brilliant writers.

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Blame it on the reign…

Sep

01

Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 | 6 comments

It is raining.

There has never been a dryer month in Chattanooga than August 2011, and yet it pours.

umbrella reflection in the rain
Growl and hiss, snarl and bite, it’s raining cats and dogs, the dangerous kind.  Black lips curl over porcelain daggers, ready to sink in to flesh, to spill blood. 

To rob faith and joy and love.  To try to, anyway.

This is l i f e and it’s raining sideways and for now, I’m under an umbrella watching others get wet.

Sara is the first one.  She’s beautiful.  Almost seventeen and a volume of pages unwritten, she’s dancing to life’s song when black clouds descend and thunder stops her mid-pirouette. 

Cancer.

Her familiar-but-foreign-when-it-touches-you diagnosis sends me pounding my keyboard to understand; but even with all the information, I don’t really.  I’m mad for her, sad for her, for her mama and her daddy, and though I know God–and she knows him, too–that doesn’t stop the mad and the sad.

And the fear. 

What would have killed her ten years ago is now 90% curable.  But cancer is cancer, and it’s scary even if the odds are in your favor and you love Jesus and Jesus loves you…

because Jesus loves the other 10%, too, the one in ten. 

Jessi gives her permission to be scared and I'm so glad.  Who needs guilt heaped on top of cancer? "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave." Mark Twain is a permission giver, too. 

So Sara cuts her hair, a brave thumbing-her-nose and first kick at the monster who's invaded her body, and I admire her plucky "I have cancer but cancer doesn't have me" attitude.  I see her faith well up inside and spill over to those around her.  And what is faith?  Substance and evidence….

She makes a sign, a bold proclamation–

God = Hope = Joy

and I watch this child become a missionary in a field that has chosen her. 

* * *

Then it rains some more.

There's another family in our church who suddenly, tragically lose their 20-year-old daughter, and this with no warning?  Their baby girl says "I don't feel well," and within hours she's gone. 

Just…like…that.

I'm bewildered and my heart aches with the pain of this family's loss, someone I don't know but that doesn't seem to matter because we share the blood of Christ and the thread of parenthood. 

It's a shock to their sensibilities–this mystery is too great!–and I find myself humming a line from "Rock of Ages," Simply to the cross I cling, because in spite of the absurdity of circumstance, I believe God is good, and even in this, he is accomplishing a work for the good of his people, to bring glory to his name, and to advance the sake of the gospel.

It all feels hollow but I've rarely been one to trust feelings

And then I discover brilliance and wisdom from Henry Ward Beecher–

Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones,
and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.

Rain has cut this family, powerfully so; it's chiseling away at who they were to shape them into who'll they'll be.  Grand?  Isn't that hard to imagine, to believe?

I'm hungering for truth, no, for Truth, and Ancient Words, familiar words, feed me–

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

All joy in the midst of suffering?  ReallySeriously??

And I think Yes, really…seriously

The only thing that allows me to believe is what informs this belief:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

I don't know the whole story

and

The whole story is shrouded in faith, hope and love.

God is love and he gives hope and he enables joy…and I can either fight with the tarbaby of trying to make sense of it all or I can press in and hold fast.

So I pray for strangers who'll never know I care.

* * *

Years ago I saw the countenance fall of a precious teenage girl.  She was outgoing and friendly and a whole lot of fun, but before she was fully developed, I saw her change.  Eyes lined in black, tees and shorts practically painted on, even her walk all slink and allure. 

Her parents were as involved as they could be, but she lived a masquerade.  Sometimes, compliance on the outside, but interior rebel always to the well acquainted.

It made me so sad to watch her from a distance.

She graduated high school this year and I just found out she's pregnant and getting married.

* * *

Recently one of my kids confessed a "laptop dies after Powerade spills" incident, and my initial response was fury.  HOW COULD THEY BE SO CARELESS?  THEY DON'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO BUY A NEW ONE!  A blast of knee-jerk responses, and thankfully, since I found out through a phone message, the response was only in my head. 

I would have been unnecessarily vicious and fang-baring had I answered that call.

But before I had chance to respond, the rain-in-the-midst-of-a-Chattanooga-drought started–one…two…three–and my ugly thoughts transformed into gratitude… It's not cancer…or worse…or an unintended, teenage pregnancy.

It's raining but God is reigning….

and then I saw a rainbow.

 

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