The Call Of Love

” According to your faith let it be to you.” ~Matthew  9:29

It’s been a stressful week. We’re moving the RMA store to a bigger location. You may not understand what I mean. I mean a 3X bigger location. Every muscle in my body aches, my back hurts, 12-14 hour days, and yet there is an excitement I can’t contain as my artistic skills are put to the test in the decorating department. Everyone is working so hard.

We have two rescue cats in the store. I went to the local shelter to rescue an adult cat when we found a mouse in the store. I’m scared of mice and not ashamed to admit it. When I got to the shelter, there was only one adult cat. Of course there was a catch because there always is in my life. The adult cat came with a kitten attached, literally! So, Fiona, affectionately known as Mama Kitty, and Anya came to live at the RMA store.

They have lived with us for almost two years now and knowing cats hate change, I had them moved last. They came to the new location yesterday. Mama Kitty meowed some, but Mama Kitty knows what’s up. She looked around, milked some treats out of us, and realized any place is better than the shelter, so she went exploring. When she’d get scared she’d come to me and I’d lift her up and snuggle.

Anya, on the other hand, was freaked out with a capital F. She cried out, she ran from every hand including mine. I put her in a room with her food and litter and thought a little quiet would do her good. Nope an hour later, I could not find her. At first, I thought she was hiding. Then I thought maybe she had made a run for it as the door had been left open. I began to walk around the building paying special attention the bushes. My poor Anya had never been outside. She’s a store cat, it’s all she knows. She has never been away from her mom, except for the time she was spayed.

My friend Vikki said, “I hope she turns up or you won’t be able to relax at all.” She knows me. I could not find Anya. I had to go to the office to wait for the payroll and process it. Where could she be? I left the store at 4 p.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m. Where was Anya? I can’t let her sleep outside. I can’t lose her. I am responsible for her.

“Father, I need your help. I can’t find Anya. She’s scared. It’s not her fault we’re moving. I know you see all and you know where she is. Give me your vision in this moment and help me find her. I know you know where she’s at and I know you know my heart towards her. You care about the birds so I know you care about Anya. Help me Lord, direct me, show me where she is. I trust you. I have faith in you. I know you’ll show me. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.”

I drove around the back of the building in the dark with my brights on. “Show me where she is Lord.” Dogs were barking furiously in the residential area behind the shopping center. “Lord, protect her.” I parked the car and walked into the building. It was dark and the only light was from the parking lot. I was met by Mama Kitty. “Meow, meow, meow!” She’s weaving in and out of my legs with urgency. I said, “I know sweety. Where’s the baby kitty? Where’s Anya? Help me find her sweet girl.” “Meow, meow!” She moves with urgency as she seems to be saying, “Come with me.”

I follow her and she leads me straight to a muffled cry. “meow, meow”, they are both crying now. “Anya, I hear you baby girl, where are you?” “meow, meow”, her response is so muffled. I move a dresser and there she is. I snatch her up as she shivers. “Thank you Jesus!” “It’s okay baby girl. It’s okay.”

Lord, that you leave the 99 to take me by the hand to show me the desire of my heart. That you would use a cat as your call of love, to lead me to the spot. That you would care about me in the midst of famine, wars, heartache, and trouble.

I watched Anya as she would rub on her mother and rub on me, hair standing up on her back, scared but safe. I am reminded that this is what kingdom life is. “Where are we going Lord?” “Just follow me and have faith.” “I don’t know what is required of me in this journey I’m scared.” “Just trust and follow.”

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The tree is decorated.

The presents are wrapped.

The stockings are filled.

The food is planned and ready to go into the oven.

Now it’s time to gather for the most important part of the day. Jesus. I mean that’s why we do this thing right? Because God gave the best he had as ransom for many? Yes, that’s why we celebrate.

May you have abundant joy, plentiful peace, good food, lots of family and friends and above all an awareness that the blessings we’ve been given must be shared!

On behalf of TLC4Women and myself we’re wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Blessing Bags

There is a really great woman in our city who is so community minded. Her name is Rhonda and she’s one involved chick! I saw her post this on her facebook page and wanted to share it with all of you. If we all pass this idea on in our own communities we could really make a big difference!

Have you ever come across a homeless individual and felt totally uncomfortable?

You see them and you know they are in need, but you are not sure what to do. You know that handing them money is not the best thing. But, you also see that they clearly have some needs. Their lips are chapped. They are hungry. They are thirsty. They are asking for help.

How can you help?

Here is a simple idea – blessing bags.

This was such an easy project. We are now going to keep a few “Blessing Bags” in our car so that when we do happen to see someone on the streets who is homeless, we can hand them a Blessing Bag. I first learned of these bags from my friend, Julie. I am using the picture of her bags (see above) because the ones we took were taken in horrible lighting and turned out really grainy and hard to see what is inside of them.

If you’d like to make your own Blessing Bags, this is what you would need:

Gallon size Ziplock bags
items to go in the bags, such as:
chap stick
packages of tissues
toothbrush and toothpaste
trail mix
granola bars
pack of gum
band aids
coins (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
hand wipes
you could also put in a warm pair of socks, and maybe a Starbucks gift card

Assemble all the items in the bags, and maybe throw in a note of encouragement. Seal the bags and stow in your car for a moment of providence.

This would be a great activity to do with some other families. Each family could bring one of the items going into the bags (ex: toothbrushes). Set up all the items around a table and walk around it with the ziplocks and fill the bags.

If You’re Poor You Can’t Be Choosy

We run a thrift store. Out of that thrift store, we are able to help people in our community with essential items. Some of our customers come in to shop for bargains. Others come in to shop for free due to a hardship. Thank God our community has responded so well to this. They donate items all the time and they keep us running. They are truly the blessing in this story.

As with anything else, there are a few bad apples to spoil any bunch. We have people who come by to donate a couch, let’s say. The couch has been out on the back porch for a while. The dogs have laid and peed on it, it’s been rained on, it’s got huge gashes of fabric missing and the cushions are pretty much flat as a pancake. Like the picture above it is passed it’s expiration date. The conversation goes something like this:

US: “We’re sorry we won’t be able to take your couch as a donation. It has to be a usable item. It has to be ready for someone to use. Unfortunately we don’t have people who can repair it.”

THEM: “Well, isn’t it going to poor people?”

US: “Yes it is, however this couch isn’t usable in its condition.”

THEM: “I just think if you’re poor, and you need something, you take what you can get.”

US: “Yeah, sorry, no, we can’t take it. It isn’t usable. If you’d like us to dump it for you the dump fee is $20 since they charge us to dispose of it. If you want to pay the $20 we’ll dump it for you.”

This is when the conversation either gets weird or good. Sometimes it’s met with relief. They understand the problem, they just don’t know what to do with the item. They gladly pay the fee and leave it with us. Other times, they become angry. They say things like, “I’ll just go dump it by the homeless people stay.” Or they wait until we’re closed and leave it for us anyway, thus sticking us with the dump fee and therefore taking away $20 from the community help coffer.

Just because a person is having a difficult time, don’t they still deserve dignity? If you were the person struggling to make ends meet, would you want something that is not usable? How would that help you? How would that add quality to your life? We need to think beyond ourselves.

My prayer for the New Year is that we see that poverty in America is not always a sign of laziness. I know families who were on top of the world. Cars, kids in private school, living large and now, due to a reduction in the availability of work, they are having to ask for assistance. Yes, I see abuses of a system. We will always see that. Unfortunately just like the person wanting to save $20 from their pocket and stick it to the church, there are those who want to scam the church out of $20 too. Humanity dictates to us that we treat each other with dignity. Let’s try it. This year, let’s realize that everyone deserves a measure of respect. You never know when you’ll need that kindness reciprocated.

It’s A Lie

Most weeks, two or three come in. For the most part, they’re filled out by women. Primarily they’re checked single with children. I’m talking about benevolence forms. These are forms asking the church for assistance.

We have a team of volunteers that works to get these forms processed. I’m not involved with the process itself, but I see how carefully the team works to choose who qualifies for assistance.

Society tells us that men are unnecessary. We can do this parenting thing alone. We don’t need a man. They’re a nice accessory. After all, they only want one thing right? They cheat, they lie, they don’t work hard enough. Yet, could it be that our expectations are so low when choosing whom to father our children, that we choose a man who is ill equipped? That choice leaves us vulnerable. We can blame the down economy but single women with children have always ranked highest amongst those living below the poverty level.

I read these forms with great sadness. Generally speaking the average seems to be three children, two fathers, never married, no one pays child support, and she has never worked or barely worked because someone had to take care of those babies. There is a hardness and a sadness about her story and when I see her, she’s lost the sparkle in her eye. Yet, society tells her she can do it all by herself.

Could it be that God designed sex within the context of marriage to alleviate this pain? Could it be that in his infinite wisdom and compassion he was looking to save us and our children from this struggle, this life of poverty?

It seems judgmental, even to my own eyes, when I read what I have written here today, and yet, life takes some planning. We, as the church, help with what we can, in terms of goods and services, but it’s a band-aid on a more critical wound. We all make mistakes and we all have to live out those consequences. How do we educate the next generation that just because he says, I love you in the backseat of his mom’s car, doesn’t mean that it’s the right time to awaken love? How do we change the lie, and it is a lie, that life will go on as planned? How do we change the story? Even among my Christian friends, they say sex before marriage is unreasonable and unattainable. A nice thought in theory, but not practical in life. We all stand in freakish awe when someone publicly declares that they are going to wait until they get married to have sex. Surely there is something wrong with them, because we are too smart to fall for a lie.

Women suffer, children suffer even more so, yet we plow forward thinking this time it will be different for her. It’s a lie. There is an enemy of your soul who desires to destroy your dream. There is a Dream Giver who is calling you to take more care. Who will you believe and what has to change within you? Within us?

The Sacrifice

In a mad rush to finish my shopping this year I kept getting this feeling I was missing something. I didn’t have the same zeal to buy things this year. I kept stalling. Usually I shop all year through. Gathering gifts I know will be thoughtful. This year I didn’t plan, I didn’t take the time. Then I read this story and my heart resonated with its words.

As I was being asked what I wanted for Christmas I kept saying sincerely, “You know what? I am good. I don’t really need or want anything this year.” The statement was met with stares and protests. This year has been about simplifying. I was getting rid of stuff, not adding. I was donating, not dragging things home.

I pray you touched by this blog as much as I was! Click Here to read.