Making the ask…Your love can bring hope

I am making the ask…please donate to Love Runners Cooperative in support of Partners Relief & Development emergency aid in Mosul. Our goal is $10,000 by the end of the week. We are already on our way…

We just need 85 donations of $100 or #giveCooperatively
Work, school, church, book club etc
10 donations of $10
4 donations of $25
2 donations of $50

My very unprofessionally done video…but it will do the job. Would you consider helping or sharing? Please don’t wait. Learn more or donate at Love Runners.

Where violence has brought suffering and despair, your love can bring hope.

#StandWithThem

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This is an extended family catching their collective breath on the outskirts of Mosul today after escaping ISIS. The white flag they take turns holding high in the air? A plea to not be shot. Fathers holding this flag over their infants and wives, over their nieces and small sons: please do not kill us. Partners, our feet on the ground in Mosul, came across them in this dry and weary land, and gave them a few bottles of water they had in the car, and some food. At this small kindness, grown men broke down and wept and our team felt their bone-cold despair.

“I’m not sure how to tell her story. She spoke, I listened. Periods of silence, followed by tears. Memories unpacked and peeled back. An open unhealed wound exposed. It had been just fifteen days since $23,500 was exchanged for her and her 4-year-old daughter. After two years and six months, they walked away from their ISIS captors for the last time. She heard we had come to provide food for her Yazidi community. She wanted to meet us. She wanted us to know about her captivity. She said it was important for us to hear. She said the world needed to know. She wanted to tell it for all the Yazidi women and young girls who couldn’t. She invited us inside where a kerosene heater warmed us from the bitter wind and snow outside. For the next several hours, over hot tea turned cold, I listened completely paralyzed for words as she spoke of rape and unspeakable abuse. This brave 32-year-old mother recounted with resolute determination the events which forever tore her life apart in ways none of us could possibly imagine.” – Partners Relief Team – February 2017. 

For the children and their families who have been living under the almost indescribable desolation and despair of ISIS captivity (also known as Daesh), stories like this are sadly all too common. As cities and villages are liberated from ISIS control, thousands upon thousands of Iraqi and Yadzidi families require urgent help for food, warmth and help to get back on their feet after years of oppression. An estimated 750,000 Iraqis remain trapped inside Mosul City alone and are on the brink of starvation. Half of these are children. Already the UN has suggested that 4,000 people are fleeing Mosul each day and we expect this number to significantly increase this month as ISIS continues to lose its foothold. To respond to these escalating needs, a Partners relief team is on the ground in Mosul and the surrounding area to provide food, care and hope to these displaced families. 

While we sip coffee and scroll through the internet, families in Iraq are walking through the desert with nothing but what they can carry. Families are walking away from their homes and tables they have gathered around and their cozy beds and everything their children have ever known; walking away from all that toward no heat and scarce food and not enough water.

Partners Relief & Development is urgently seeking $200,000 for critical food and essential supplies to be delivered in March 2017 to children and families in Iraq who have fled their homes to escape ISIS. We are embarking on our largest project to date in an effort to help them in providing aid on the front lines. 

Our goal, through our non-profit, Love Runners, is to raise $10,000 by March 31st and we believe this is totally achievable with your help. We are seeking 100 donations of $100. We understand that this may be prohibitive for some people so our challenge to you is this, do you have 3 friends who could join you in donating $25 each or what about 9 other people who would be willing to donate $10?  Can you imagine, turning your $10 into $10,000?! If you can’t donate but your heart is moved by the desperate conditions in Mosul, please help us by sharing the need, spreading the word, and praying for the people and volunteers on the ground in this war zone.

“There are still tens of thousands of people in the liberated areas and hundreds of thousands of people under ISIS control right now who are still living in their homes, and they are calling for us as the aid community to reach into the conflict so that we can serve them where they are,” Jeremy Courtney, CEO of the Preemptive Love Coalition, told ABC News in a voice recording.

The group delivered food to about 12,000 people in western Mosul on Wednesday.

Residents told the organization that Wednesday’s delivery was the first aid they had received. Some children cheered and said “We got it! We got it!” when they saw their father receive a package of food, the group said..

“We’ve got airstrikes and gunshots and helicopters overhead,” Courtney said in a video clip from inside west Mosul during the aid distribution as gunfire and explosions could be heard in the background.

Courtney described the aid distribution as “chaotic” and “representative of the chaos of the neighborhood and the difficulty of reaching people in those places.” People had to haggle with their neighbors to make sure that everyone got the food that they needed, he said.

“No aid has reached any of these people,” he said in the video, adding that thousands of people were fleeing, but that thousands were also choosing to stay in their homes.

The residents who received aid on Wednesday had been living under ISIS control for years until just a few days ago, Courtney said. Some had not had food for about a month while water has been shut off for three months, he said.

We want to start more than a conversation, we want to start a movement. We want to shout to the world that we will not ignore the hurt, that Jesus through us, in love and mercy, will prevail. Ann VosKamp said it best, I have saved and gone back to these words many, many times…

“We aren’t where we are, to just peripherally care about the people on the margins as some superfluous gesture or token nicety. The exact reason why you are where you are — is to risk everything for those being oppressed out there.

You are where you are — to help others where they are. The reason your hands are where they are in this world — is to give other people in this world a hand.

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career. We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose. We’re here to care like a boss.

The world needs people who defy cynical indifference by making a critical difference — and that could be us.

Every single one of us can start changing headlines when we start reaching out our hands.”

Please consider partnering with us as we #StandWithThem. 

Donate Now

A Blind Mile

It was over a month ago that I was sitting on the floor in the back corner of a church in Guatemala City, listening to Sunday morning’s message, translated so that I could understand it.  The message titled, A Mile of Faith, it’s subject, the walk of the blind man in John 9.  It’s this muddy eyed walk that I have been thinking about. Jesus is walking with his disciples and has cause to stop, stoop down, spit into the dirt and make some mud, then smear it on the blind man’s face. He then commands the blind man to go and wash it in a certain pool of water. Unseeing, (and since he didn’t ask to be healed quite possibly thinking “Um ok, what in the world just happened?”) the blind man trusted and with mud smeared on his eyes, he walked to the pool. He didn’t get halfway there and stop deciding it was a fools errand.  He didn’t just turn and wipe the spit and dirt from his eyes, thinking to himself “crazy man.” The blind man trusted and he walked.  He obeyed and he gained miraculous sight.

How hard is to keep walking when we can’t see where we are going?  How difficult is it to be obedient when the path is long? Blind faith…it looks different for all of us.

What a path I have found myself on. Not one part of it makes sense to my orderly, obsessive compulsive mind.

In the last 12 months,

We moved to my “never house”  in an effort to “do more with less.” This was a sacrafice for all involved and required a buy-in from the entire family. Our project house is still in various forms of completion. 

We started a non-profit in an effort to love on others (LoveRunners.org, please check it out if you haven’t yet) and Do Good.

We opened a store (something I said we would never do)  to help fund said non-profit. (And having already been there 6 months have  just agreed to extend our lease another 6 months.  This is for real now…no more “playing store.”) (You can check out our online store at DoGoodStudio.org. Our online inventory is always changing as does our brick and mortar location.)

Through the generosity of others in this venture, we have funded 6 causes – in Columbia and Zambia, Guatemala, South Dakota, and locally in both Sandusky and Norwalk. And I am excited to share that we are well on our way with another 3!

Most recent, and most impactful, was the trip my 14 year old daughter and I took to Guatemala City for a week to serve at an orphanage. 


We had our eyes opened to a heartache that has changed our world.  We had to see it to truly understand it. All the reading, researching, and memorizing of statistics fall short of the reality.  David Platt said “orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names…see their faces…hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.” 


 I believe that the same can be said for the poverty that they have come from. Once you see it, everything changes.   For so many reasons, I keep waiting for my heart to settle back down after this trip, and one very special life-changing encounter, but it hasn’t.  I am not sure it ever will.

None of this is about me though. To God be the glory in all of it. He has made this possible. This is His work.  I am just trying to walk obediently, blindly but trusting. He is using my “nevers” for His purposes – His good. If this had been left up to me, if the past 12 months had followed my plans, this is not what it would have looked like.  Suddenly, a passion and fire have been ignited, fueled, as I begin to see where this path may be leading. But, it is on the horizon still, and until I get closer, until my eyes are opened to seeing the fullness of it, I will just keep walking towards it.

What does your path look like?  What would happen if you had the courage to walk blindly in the direction that God has called you to?  Where would you be standing 12 months from now?

I would encourage you to have the courage to start, and to have the patience and fortitude to keep walking when you can’t see, so that you may experience the exhilaration of first sight as you travel your own path. 
 

And oh yes, Happy Valentine’s Day!

An aching heart

At this moment in time I am struggling to make sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours. I am now 37,000 feet in the air, somewhere over the ocean and my heart is aching and my eyes won’t quit leaking. The only thing I know for sure is that God is great and He answers prayer. Often times in the most unexpected ways.
I left the orphanage on Wednesday afternoon to buy an ace bandage and a few random groceries and was thankful for a bit of a reprieve. Quite honestly I was feeling like maybe I wasn’t in the right place. Feeling like maybe this whole thing was not God’s plan for me. I had been praying that in our remaining days He would reveal if in fact I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I expected when we got there to have my world rocked, assumedly by the babies. But truly, being a stranger in a strange land where I was unable to communicate very well, I was out of my comfort zone, feeling in over my head, and even a little homesick. So, when I had the opportunity to go to the grocery store I jumped at it. 

We had been invited to take part in delivering “mail” to one of the boys houses. (“Mail” is when, a few times a year, sponsor gifts are delivered to the kids.) In going to the store I was going to miss this particular delivery but figured I would go to another one. It was Mae who needed the ace bandage for a twisted ankle (graceful is not a word I would normally use to describe her) so she said she would stay and go to the boys house. I told her to take pictures and let me know how it was. 

I got back to find her still there and the Sponsorship Director heading back to the house with a Bible for one of the boys who was struggling. She told me he needed “some love” and invited me to join them. On our way into the house said that Mae had said we would sponsor one of the boys. (We had already decided we would. We just didn’t know who.) The director assumed it would be the little outgoing ball of energy that also lives in this particular house. But Mae had other intentions. The older, quiet boy, that needed “love” was already who Mae had chosen. Unbeknownst to us this Godly young man has spent the last 3 months praying, with the director, for a family. Being 13 she didn’t have a lot of hope for finding someone for him. 

In the moments that followed the offer of sponsorship there were hugs, tears, a few pictures and a translated conversation. He has gained more than just a sponsorship though. He has a family, more I am sure, than he bargained for. I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good!


I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken.
We had the opportunity to make an emergency trip to the store only hours before our flight back this afternoon to make sure that he has everything (and more because Mae and I couldn’t help ourselves) that he will need as he starts his 7th grade year in school next week. Oh, the smiles and the laughter, as he opened everything and immediately began trying on some of his favorite things. I just want to keep that in my heart forever. And I just kept thinking I needed more time, and wished to be fluent in Spanish. 


And so here I sit, in the middle seat, wondering when (and if?) we will be able to see him again. Wondering when my heart will stop hurting and at the same time hoping that it never does. Hoping that people will understand in me something I don’t understand myself. Wondering what in the world God is up to but knowing that He is sovereign and has a plan. 


Oh, sweet boy, who “needed love” my heart is overflowing with love for you in a way that I cannot understand. 

Infinitely More

Today, I get a gold star for bravery. Two nights ago there was a shriek from my daughter’s bedroom and she came flying out the door proclaiming a GIANT spider had just run across her floor. She declared that until it was found and killed she was vacating the premises. Since Dad has been out of town she has been sharing my bed at night and she has been taking her phone calls in her brothers room due to the hazardous conditions of her own. GIANT spiders are serious business.  Today (only because laundry needed done I didn’t really want to find it!) I went on a hunting expedition through the discarded blankets and dirty clothes on the floor.  I picked each piece up gingerly and shook out away from my body so as not to die if touched by the GIANT spider unknowingly.   As I neared the closet I found the GIANT spider at the same time as I knocked into closet door, knocking it off the track and sending it clattering to the wood floor.  Let’s just say I might have jumped and let out a bit of a startled yell…maybe…just a little bit…before slowly backing away, finding a large wooden sign and smashing the GIANT spider. The room has now been declared clear and safe for re-entry and as I said, I get the gold star for bravery.

Seriously though, brave is a really hard thing to be some days (even when spiders aren’t involved.)  Following God in obedience is not for the faint of heart. BUT, I am seeing first hand that this is the place where the “Infinitely More” of Ephesians 3:20 lies.

“We aren’t having a store.  A store doesn’t make sense. We just can’t do it.” I can’t tell you how many times in the short span of the life of Do Good Studio that I said these words to my sister.  Man plans…God laughs.  do-good-coming-soon

Guess what is opening in less than two weeks? Yes. The Do Good Studio in their very own storefront and God could not be more in this. I just simply said “Yes” and moved out of the way for Him to work.  I didn’t make a spreadsheet and calculate the risk and hedge my bets.  I prayed, “God if you are in this work this out.” Since then, I have discovered the Infinitely More and it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.  In just the last week alone He has used the store to answer the prayers of two different families.  Each with the same thread of obedience behind their prayers of wanting to use their gifts of furniture making for His glory, each seeking Him for an outlet for their inventory, and us, needing help to fill an entire store.  He had woven us together long before we even knew what was happening and man, do we have some really amazing pieces to compliment the rest of the Do Good inventory.

Today, on the day I signed the lease for the store, my phone rang and I said “Yes!” to speaking to a group of 250 high school students from around the state at a Teen Leadership conference the same week that the store will open.  They wanted me to share our story of turning “What if?” into “We can.” and “We have.” They want us to tell our story and show these kids how service can just look like loving on people. This group wants to know how THEY can come along side us and help US with volunteers, with collecting items for donation, with the potential for a Love Runners/teen mission trip on the horizon. I just can’t even…INFINITELY MORE.

I am humbled by a God who is so good and so big.  A God who cares so much for our hearts and our dreams.  A God who, when we get brave and follow His call, introduces us to the Infinitely More.

What is God asking you to do? What have you said “No. Never.” to? What would happen if you said yes? Can I encourage you to pray about it and if God continues to stir your heart over it put your Grown-Up-Spider-Crushing-Bravery-Pants and go for it! It’s scary but…

“All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

He just needs you to say Yes.

If you want to come visit us please do! I would love to have a cup of coffee and introduce you to the Studio.  Get all the details at our website or like us on facebook to keep up to date on all of the happenings.

Just Whatever.

Hey mom, are my socks still in your purse?

Yes.  Yes they are along with your “summer reading” book.  Maybe you would like to read some of that?

No? Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought.

summer reading
Yep.  That is page 2, 2 days before school starts.

Doesn’t every mom need an extra pair of their children’s athletic socks in their purse? I am also carrying 18 or so football discount cards that need sold/delivered, school supply lists, a bag of trail mix, coupons I never remember to use, and a fistful of receipts that you never know if you might need. But, not one writing utensil. My purse has become the equivalent of a new mother’s diaper bag except for teenagers. I have been a mom for almost 17 years.  Where does time go? We just seem to morph from one stage to the next and they keep coming faster and faster and it’s hard to keep your feet underneath you.

Today is our 12th first day of school and this morning the only back to school tears belong to me. Maybe it is because the dog has explosive diarrhea (sorry if this is oversharing) or maybe it’s because of this.

2016 back to school

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Hoods up because jeep hair doesn’t work for school.

This is the first year that I am not the one do the back to school driving.  I am so over this. And before the day has even begun I received a text about a forgotten book from one kid and another with a question about the proper homeroom from the other.  We are batting 1000 already.

Maybe it’s because I am masochistic (like my love for the movies Steel Magnolias and Beaches) but I have watched this video year after year (multiple times already this morning) and every time it makes my heart hurt a little more…I just need to feel all the feels today. And eat more double chocolate butter braid.  Yes, definitely more butter braid.

I want more first days, a lot more. I know they are mine for just a moment, but they are yours for eternity. Keep them safe God, and if you would, just fill in the gaps with the things I forgot to say because I was too busy or too distracted. That would be great. That would be really, really, great.

Wishing you all a wonderful day no matter where this back to school season finds you.

 

Brushfires

  I am a firefighter. This was not what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. But for the last 3 weeks I have been busy putting out pop-up brushfires that just will not die. And I was not wrong in not choosing this profession.

Living on the fly and adjusting plans at the last moment to accommodate my new firefighting profession has left my pantry empty and my brain an addled mess.

Indulge me while I paint you a picture. Last Friday night we did an amazing thing. The Low Country Boil hosted by Love Runners, Do Good Studio, and Captain Montague’s Bed and Breakfast was a rousing success for the children of Casa Bernabe. (In fact, we had to put a waiting list together for people who want to be first in line to buy tickets to our Black Tie for Black Shoes Christmas event the first weekend of December. More on all of this later.)  IMG_7177IMG_7133

BUT, the days leading up to this event began the outbreak of fires, Dehydration, Faulty Alarms, and Tomorrow’s Celebration. It didn’t stop there though. On the morning of our low country boil my daughter and I ended up in a ditch with only 3 of our 4 car wheels touching the ground. After getting the tents, tables, and decorations set up for dinner a thunderstorm blew through, taking everything (tents included) and throwing them around and drenching them. The day after the dinner we were back in the ER for more blood tests after another post-football health episode. Monday afternoon got lit up when we had to abort our school and grocery shopping because we learned of a moved volleyball practice 10 minutes before it was to start when we were over an hour away (and sitting in the stylists’ chair for a haircut.) The grocery trip that isn’t to be was again thwarted Tuesday by another doctors appointment. Today holds blood tests and tomorrow two more appointments (my funny skin kid, not to be outdone by her brother, has developed a funny skin thing prompting an additional specialist to add to the week’s list.) We’ve had two check engine lights, (one on a rental car!) a leaky tire, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Even now I am forced to type this on my phone because it continues to fail to load on my computer.

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As I was making an effort to tidy the piles I have on the counters I picked up a book my two-year old niece wanted me to read to her when she visited two weeks ago, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. (I probably need to dig out some of the kids old books.) As I absently flipped through it my highlighted passages began jumping out at me and I gained a much needed reminder of how I need to be battling these blazes.

This is war. The fight of your life. A very real enemy has been strategizing and scheming against you, assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, your man, your child, your future. But I say his reign of terror stops here. Stops now. He might keep coming, but he won’t have victory anymore. Because it all starts failing when we start praying.

Success, to him, means stirring up discord in your home, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood, and doing it in such a way that no one’s even aware he’s been in the building. He knows our natural, physical response is to start coming after each other instead of him – attacking, counterattacking, pointing fingers, assigning blame-while he sits out in the driveway monitoring the clamor inside, fiendishly rubbing his hands together, admiring just how adept he is…and what easy targets we are.

If all we’re doing is whacking at the nearest, most visible symptoms every time they pop their head up, we’re doing two things: (1) wasting precious time and energy that ought to be reserved and refocused on the real enemy, and (2) trying to fight ferocious spiritual forces by using weapons that don’t faze them in the least – weapons that aren’t even designed to hurt them.  So the hits just keep on coming.

He wants you to focus on the things that are physical and visible instead of where the action really is. The enemy who’s intent on disrupting the peace in your home doesn’t flinch when you try to force your own fixes upon it, but he does start worrying when a wife, a mother, a daughter, or a sister starts avoiding the noise at the periphery and starts making some noise of her own, right outside the door to the devil’s workshop.

Last Saturday when we came out of the emergency room there was a full double rainbow stretched over the parking lot.  It was a little reminder to me that we weren’t alone in this. God hasn’t forgotten us or the periphery brushfires that keep alighting.  It was also a reminder to me that while I am busy trying to put out the fires  I need to remember Him and not get lost in it all

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Tomorrow We Celebrate

Ok. Seriously. Enough is enough. I am crying Uncle. I am done. Exhausted. Disjointed as it may be here goes…

  
My plans for this week: Prepare for the Do Good Marketplace event that was supposed to be today.  

My reality: doctors appointments, multiple rounds/days of tests capped off by another trip to the hospital. The dehydration from last week had come back to bite us. 

First thing this morning, after staying up deep into the night getting everything ready for The Studio sale which was not to be we got a call from Ty’s doctor. He asked that we take Ty to the ER ASAP as the test results from yesterday were marginally worse with declining kidney function and off the chart protein numbers indicating muscle breakdown. He needed to be seen and soon! The doctor prepared us for the reality that he would probably be admitted. Long story short, by the grace of God Ty is home this afternoon without any restrictions. I can’t even tell you the swing of emotion that has taken place in the span of 12 hours. 

This has been a week of halting stops and starts, highs and lows.  (In the midst of all of this today I got notification that Love Runners 501(c)(3) was approved. We are officially an operating non-profit!)  I was attacked this week at one of my most vulnerable spots, my kids, and I am feeling the after effects of that strain this afternoon like a bad hangover. 

Yet there is so much to celebrate and be thankful for this evening. The celebrations will have to wait until I am a little more energetic though. (As will the cleaning of the extreme mess I made of our family room last night. It looks like the Do Good goods exploded all over it-which they kind of did.) 

I feel like every obstacle has taken a piece of me this week. And the trusting in waiting is so hard when you want answers and action. Watchman Lee nailed this for what it is. 

“Satan has, in fact, a plan against the saints of the Most High, which is to wear them out. What is meant by this phrase, “wear out?” It has in it the idea of reducing a little this minute, then reducing a little further the next minute. Reduce a little today, reduce a little tomorrow. Thus the wearing out is almost imperceptible; nevertheless, it is a reducing. The wearing down is scarcely an activity of which one is conscious, yet the end result is that there is nothing left. He will take away your prayer life little by little and cause you to trust God less and less and yourself more and more, a little at a time. He will make you feel somewhat cleverer than before. Step by step, you are misled to rely more on your own gift, and step by step, your heart is enticed away from The Lord. Now, were Satan to strike the children of a God with great force at one time, they would know exactly how to resist the enemy since they would immediately recognize his work. He uses the method of gradualism to wear down the people of God.”
Today I am going to allow myself the day off (maybe even take a nap, gasp!) and allow God to begin fortifying the areas that Satan has been wearing thin.  

Tomorrow we celebrate!

When The Alarm Does (or Doesn’t) Go Off

packyourbagsA door downstairs flew open, jarring me from my peaceful sleep. “Oh NO! What time is it?!” Fumbling for my phone to check the time I see that we had already overslept an hour. I was tumbling out of bed, down the stairs, asking “What do you need?” while gathering socks, Gatorade, and miscellaneous lunch items.  This poor grown child looked at me with terrified, sleep filled eyes and said “This has to be a nightmare!”

Football two-a-days.  This is a taboo phrase in our house.  Not to be spoken aloud, basically like a four-letter word times four (so you know it’s really, really bad!) If you have had any part in them ever, the memory will stay with you eternally. So, when the alarm didn’t go off at 4:55 for the first time or 5:05 for the second time, we slept until the 10th phone call woke my blissfully unaware son at 6:00.  Thus inducing the Fear Of Coach panic that flooded each of us.  He was out the door in record time and I collapsed into a chair after and remember these words from two years ago during the same season of life …

We had spent the day at the ballpark watching a double header and our friends’ son in his Major League pitching debut.  However, with all of the poster-making, jumbo-tron dancing, hot dog eating excitement of the afternoon it wasn’t until we were on our way home (at 10:30 pm) that I realized I still had two pair of football pants that needed to be washed (spray the Shout, scrub the stains, wash, rinse, repeat if necessary) and more importantly dry by the wee hours of the morning.  Fun has a price.  So, while I waited on the washing machine to do it’s thing, I thought, “You should pack Ty’s lunch.  You will thank yourself in the morning when all you have to do is roll out of bed, grab a coffee, and head out the door.”  I also searched out socks (why does this always seem to be the one missing item?) and had his football bag otherwise packed and ready to go because I knew neither of us would be functional this morning.  And I was right.  And I did thank myself.  On my drive back home from the football field as the coffee began to work and my brain began to wake up I had a thought. I remembered something I had heard a very long time ago and thought it was a great reminder for all of us.  I was as true then as it is now!

You have to live ready.

Tomorrow may be a good day or tomorrow may be a nightmare.  Will you be ready?  Is your faith something you are building and strengthening everyday?  Is your relationship with Jesus something you are nurturing?  Or, are these just things that get dusted off, possibly on Sunday, and otherwise left alone only to be unpacked In Case Of Emergency.  Are you waiting for “tomorrow” to explore this Jesus-thing a little bit deeper? If this is where you find yourself, please, wake up!

When the alarm goes off (hopefully when it is supposed to) at 5am after too few hours of sleep, is your bag packed?  Do you have clean matching socks and a lunch or are you scrambling to pull it together? We have to live ready because we don’t know when the crisis alarm is going to go off.  We don’t get a notification in the mail that says, next month you will be diagnosed with a life-altering disease, please plan accordingly.  We don’t receive a call that says, please make sure you have appropriate clothing you will be attending a funeral next week. (Maybe yours?  I am sorry.  That is harsh but it is also reality.)  Ready or not, here it comes, with no warning.

We have to live ready!  We need to use and strengthen our “faith muscles” every day because if we wait until crisis strikes they will be sluggish and sleepy when we need them most. We will have to dust our faith off and hope that we remember how to work it.  It is so very easy to let our faith and relationship with Jesus rest in hibernation, only to be awakened in crisis.

This is a slippery slope.  I know.  I have been there.  I grew up in a solid Christian home, was involved in church.  We were bringing our children up to love and fear the Lord.  I thought I got it.  Then God let me really have it! Oh, foolish proud heart.  I have realized that I had nothing without Him. I am nothing without Him.

The problem with crisis is that we don’t know when the alarm is going to go off.  When crisis strikes, your brain tends to go into default mode. So what is your default?  You want live ready?  Nurture your relationship with God.  If you don’t have one, start one!  If you don’t know how, ask me, I would love to help you figure this out.  Dig into His Word for nourishment, spend time in prayer, communicating with our Father.  Listen for His voice instead of just talking at Him. I don’t have all the answers.  There is not an Easy 5 Step Plan For Readiness but we can stumble and bumble through this together. There are some things you will never be ready for but with faith you can survive them with hope for a better day ahead.  The point is, don’t wait.

I can remember playing Parcheesi with my son and mom, 8 years ago at least.  In the spirit of competition there was a little smack-talk going on and my son looked at my mom and told her, “Pack your bags your going home!”  This my friends, is great advice, pack your bags.  Live ready.  You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Dehydration – The Word of the Week

 Fraternities and sororities have a version of it, the Navy SEALS have their version, in our house Monday morning ushered in our own version of Hell Week.  Football and volleyball conditioning began, effectively ending summer and ushering in the fall sports seasons where our lives and schedules no longer belong to us.  Gatorade has been flowing like the Nile River this week and our too often evening trips for Tofts Ice Cream and a walk to the beach have been curbed. Bodies that have been on summer vacation were pushed to their limits.  The very first workout of the week ended up in a trip to the ER for a cocktail of IV fluids, a little something for nausea, and a blue popsicle for good measure. Since then the week has passed quietly, albeit painfully (and with too little ice cream.)  
As we all push through these last few moments of summer it is easy to feel the effects of soul dehydration.  Summer starts out lazily enough with a bucket list of fun to be had and a string of unplanned days stretching out ahead of us.  But, come August we’re exhausted because we have been so busy checking it off, packing it in, and “vacationing” which for us was camping this year, a week’s worth of fun spawned at least 2 weeks of clean-up and we still have a pile of stuff in the garage to be sorted through and put back into it’s designed place. The pace we have been trying to keep to make sure that we pack in as much fun as we can is taking it’s toll.  As moms we have been pouring ourselves out all summer in an effort to meet everyone’s needs and our responsibilities.  And now there’s the whole “back-to-school” thing with list after list staring us in the face demanding more of our time and finances.  

Max Lucado writes, “Dehydrated hearts send desperate messages. Snarling tempers. Waves of worry. Growling mastodons of guilt and fear. You think God wants you to live with these? Hopelessness. Sleeplessness. Loneliness. Resentment. Irritability. Insecurity.

These are warnings. Symptoms of a dryness deep within. Perhaps you’ve never seen them as such. You’ve thought they, like speed bumps, are a necessary part of the journey. Anxiety, you assume, runs in your genes like eye color. Some people have bad ankles; others, high cholesterol or receding hairlines. And you? You fret. And moodiness? Everyone has gloomy days, sad Saturdays. Aren’t such emotions inevitable? Absolutely. But unquenchable? No way.

View the pains of your heart, not as struggles to endure, but as an inner thirst to slake-proof that something within you is starting to shrivel. Treat your soul as you treat your thirst. Take a gulp. Imbibe moisture. Flood your heart with a good swallow of water.”

Here is where the meaning lies in “Run and Be Still.” Run (literally or metaphorically,) be busy if you must, be crazy, but find some time, even (especially) “in the midst” to quiet your mind in the chaos. You don’t have to cease moving to “be still.” Drink deep from the Living Water.

  
Invite God into the crazy, into the chaos, into the summer fun. This is where something beautiful begins to happen…not just God with us…us with God. Include Him, weave Him into the fabric of your everyday life. I have found that with God’s calming presence, the overbooked and overstretched doesn’t have to result in a “snap.” Life becomes a little more fluid. 

Sometimes in our family we do get wound a little too tight which means we get to practice forgiveness (both giving and receiving.) We can use our failures as teachable moments for grace and mercy and humility. This is where faith intersects with life, where God gets taken off His Sunday shelf, and invited into the present. God with us…us with God. Here you will find refreshment, renewal. He does for your soul what water does for your body. 

Summer’s finish line is in sight. In our house it’s going to be an all out sprint to the finish. We are not going to let summer go gently into that good night! But after the way this week began we will be sure to stay hydrated while we do it! 

Stay thirsty (and hydrated) my friends!

Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!