A Full Heart

Saturday morning my car was full.

Among its contents were 100 pouches of Kool-Aid,  8 dozen eggs, a plastic tote full of Easter baskets and serving bowls, an Easter Bunny costume, a dresser (and 2 packs of Depends for the man I’m a guardian for). I wish I would have thought to have taken a picture.  It’s a typical snapshot that pretty much reflects my life these days.  The kool-aid and 8 dozen eggs had been donated by different people for our “Play in the Park”  on Saturday.  The Easter baskets and bunny costume were on loan from another friend for Saturday. As for the dresser, I had been to garage sales and was delighted to find it for my friends!

The truth is, Saturday morning my heart was also full!

A friend of mine and I ventured out toward the park that we’ll play in this Saturday with our community.  We attached invitations to water bottles filled with candy and tied them from the trees and playground equipment at the park.

 

#2Bottle in TreePacific Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These young girls came to the park while we were there.  They excitedly discovered the bottles and wore them as necklaces.  They asked if they could help us.  We were about done but told them the best way they could help was to tell all their friends that there would be an Easter Party for them next Saturday. In just a few minutes other kids were running down the street toward the park.

GirlsAlso while we were there a man from the “tucked away” community that I wrote about last year came walking through the park. We started talking and he asked if we were setting up for a birthday party. I told him, no, that actually we were getting ready to have an Easter party for everybody in the neighborhood next Saturday. “For real?” he said. He looked happy and thanked me. I gave him a handful of invitations and he told us he would be sure to tell the kids so that they could come get some of the candy from the bottles.

 

We continued on up and down some of the streets where we have gotten to know people and one particular block that we know is full of children.

Invitation

We saw a family sitting out on their front porch.  I pulled over and my friend jumped out to run an invitation to them.  They remembered us from the past (we call each of our times together, “Play in the Park”), were excited to come and asked us if they could bring anything.  As my friend told me about their conversation I took a deep breath, got goose bumps and a bit teary-eyed.

That is, after all, what friends and neighbors do.  My heart was encouraged. I have never wanted it to be perceived as us doing a good deed for them.  I have always wanted it to be about coming together as one community.

As for providing for a community, well, I am learning, that is not my job.  My job is to step out and do what I’m supposed to. We set the date, gather the people and the pieces of things that we do have and show up. That is all we’re ever really asked to do in life. Show up, give what we have, when we can, with grateful hearts. Show up and let the extra stuff, as well as the extra love, joy, peace, forgiveness, hope (etc.) that God gives us, be the provision for those who need what we have to give away.

I continue to take the pieces of what I have been given and give thanks for it, offering it to Him. God  is ever faithful and does an incredible job providing…through people! I have not made a public request for anything and yesterday came home to this…

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76 cups of fruit, multiple packages of cookies and crackers…and 48 bottles of bubbles!

I am so thankful for the amazing circle of friends that have kindred spirits and vision. I am grateful for their generous hearts that continually give both sacrificially and of their extra,  mindful that there are always those with less.

Next Saturday, children will leave with toys, books, treats and eggs that they decorated themselves. They will have enjoyed music and games, and heard the Easter Story. I pray that the park becomes a place of good memories for those children and families. Most of all, I pray that everyone who comes leaves with a full heart!

Gratefully Amazed At This Process With You,

DebbieSignature

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plans, Purposes and Prayers

I started to draft this blog weeks ago. For over a month, little has gone as planned.

I’m beginning to rethink planning.

This coming from someone who would prefer everything being thought through, executed with ease and ending with fruitful results.

I work for a tour company that plans tours for groups. We arrange a lot of details. We reserve the hotels, schedule the restaurants and sites, even plan where we’ll take  breaks. It’s practically perfect on paper.  Then the travels begin. We cannot plan for weather conditions, mechanical difficulties with buses, flight delays or cancellations, illnesses or accidents. It is all part of the big picture that we have no control over.

There is always a bigger picture.

There will always be times we do not control the plan.

It seems the things that upset us the most are when things don’t go according to our plans. We get sad, confused, disappointed, or even hopeless when our plans don’t work out.

What if we pursue our purpose and not our plan?

The tour company that I work for has a byline on all their literature: “Travel the World With Friends Creating Enriching Experiences.” That is their true purpose. So when weather conditions, delays, or unexpected circumstances arise while on tour, we continue to nurture relationships and create enriching and lasting memories – even if it is Plan B!

I can’t say I know the grand purpose for my life. I do know, however, that part of it is to be a blessing.  Another part of it is to encourage others. So the byline at the top of each of my List of Things to Do says, “Live Simply, Love Lavishly.” It is something I have purposed in my heart to be a criteria for my daily life.

On the days where I don’t cross any of the things off my list of things to do, I still check to see if there were times in my day where I simplified my life, or someone else’s. I ponder whether I took the opportunities to love others lavishly.

Even then… there’s a higher plan, that we don’t always see.

Can I just confess, that today, even as I finally try to finish this post after a month of trying, I am in the midst of nearly overwhelming circumstances, none of which I would have imagined a month ago? There is little I can ‘do’ about any of them. And because much involves my family, I have to yield to God’s plan for them and let go of my plan for them.

What if we pursue prayer and not our plan?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  Isaiah 55:8

The truth is, His thoughts and His plans are not ours. His purposes – that “big picture” is not always in our view. Our plans can not trump His plan. Our prayers do not change His heart.

I have learned, however,  that my prayers change my heart.  He gently transforms my will, my emotions, my desires, and helps me to accept His plan, seen or unseen, as good. We can not  change people or circumstances, but in prayer we can move from people wrestling for control to people resting in His plan.

Years ago, when our oldest daughter was a baby, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with her. We had established a daily routine.  One day, anticipating that she would awaken from her nap any time, I began preparing her bottle. While I was in the kitchen, she began crying in the other room. I knew she was hungry and was in fact, already preparing to meet that need. That was of no comfort to her as she waited impatiently to see my face at her door. She could not comprehend that I had a plan set in motion to meet her need before she even made it known.

I’d like to think I’m further along in my Christian walk, but I still stress, cry,  fuss and whine when things don’t go my way or I don’t see the plan set in motion to meet my needs.

I should know by now that His plan is already set in motion. I just need to trust.

So today, in the midst of the fear and uncertainty and all the problems that have presented themselves, I choose to believe that His bigger plan is the best and that He who has begun a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

Still Learning to Trust With You,

DebbieSignature

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Inspired and Influenced

There is a woman at church who stands through all of worship whether or not anyone else is standing. Because she can. She speaks slowly and deliberately, with strong opinions and deep compassion.  Words do not come easy but all the thoughts are there. She can’t remember her address but can show you the way to take her home. Our pastor told me that she told him he needs to be more patient. He smiled, agreed and says he knows that is true.

She was in a horrific car accident a few years ago. Her baby died in that accident. She lost part of her motor skills and part of her ear. Her husband divorced her. They told her she would never walk or even stand again. But she can. And she does.

She stands in the front row at church every week, with her crooked, shy and beautiful smile and gives Him praise for who He is.

Just down the row from her is a developmentally delayed man who sings loud and long. He may be a verse  behind the rest of us with each song, but I have a feeling that his spirit has most of us beat by leaps and bounds.  He points one finger up to the sky, as if to remind God he is singing to Him. He reminds us  all  who we are singing to.

Last week for whatever reason, there were not enough communion servers in our Saturday night  service.  Seeing this, a man with a withered hand and a severe limp, made his way to the front to help serve communion. Every year, he goes on our church missions trips, overlooking the obstacles – instead, always ready to help however he can. I have always heard he is one of the hardest working team members.

Last weekend we attended the funeral of a 50 year old teacher and coach who looked the picture of health. He was an inspiration to so many students, athletes, parents and peers. No one could have imagined that his life would be cut so short. He was strong. He was determined. He was fit.

Every one of these people have inspired me. Every one of them reminds me that we can not look at another’s outward appearance to know the depth of their character or the level of their influence. My two friends who sit on the front row and worship with abandon, not caring what anybody else thinks? They have powerfully influenced me. The man who stepped forward to help serve communion? I had him in a class I facilitated at church. He is humble, teachable and deeply thoughtful. He is quick to listen and slow to speak.

The funeral last weekend? A vivid reminder that we are to live each day to the fullest; that we are to love each other as best we can, and that there is no excuse not to.

We know God does not look at our outward appearance but looks at our hearts. I can clearly see why.

Abundance is: the ability to give thanks, despite the circumstances and regardless of our limitations.  Because we can!

Doing What I Can With You,

DebbieSignature

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Snow Day

Tuesday we received a foot of snow.

Snow Day

My husband, who is a Principal, had a “snow day,” as did one of our daughters, who works in a school.  She was at our house by 8:00 a.m.

By 2:00 p.m. restaurants and businesses were closing their doors.  By 3:00 all four of us were “home.” Though our daughters live in separate places in the same town, they somehow always seem to migrate to our house in the snow. I love having them near, knowing they are safe and warm.

Truth be told, one of our daughters was distraught from the moment she arrived. She went straight upstairs to the bedroom that was hers through all her growing up years. The few questions I asked were answered with one word.  We left her alone and later, invited her back downstairs to join us for dinner.  She spent a few minutes with us as a family and returned to her room. She spent the night.

As I turned into bed, I couldn’t help but think of my hurting girl in the next room. I thought about how she clearly must not understand how much we love her, how we wish we could help her through these times. We would have been happy to listen, to wrap our arms around her,  to troubleshoot problems with her, to pray.

I told God  I was thankful for the foot of snow and bitter cold that brings my girls close. I  prayed that ours would be a home where  they sense peace and love and maybe even a good dose of joy and hope. Though not entirely with us, this daughter had drawn near.

I thought of my own walk with the Lord. How often do I go near and yet, not actually enjoy His presence? How often do I try to figure it out myself, when He is as near as the mention of His name? How many times have I felt alone when He Himself has said that He will never leave me or forsake me? Do I really know how much He loves me?

It’s true that the messy and the bitter and the inconvenient circumstances of life are disheartening.  Even in those times, we can close the door behind us, draw near to people who love us, and be safe.  As I pray it for my daughters, I realize, I need to do the same.  Come in out of the cold, draw near to the one who loves me more than I can fathom, rest and be nourished, gain health and strength and hope for another day. Repeat as needed.

Seeing New Value in Snow Days,

DebbieSignature

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Out of Season

Every time I back out of our driveway, I see the “Joy to the World” sign above my front door and think to myself, I must take that down.

Joy to the World

Not far from it, on a little wooden bench on our front porch,  is another  sign, a remnant from another bygone holiday that says “Be Grateful.”

Partial Be Grateful

I sigh at my life that I cram way too full.  It might take a full three minutes to pull a stepstool out and take both signs in the house. I don’t mind the messages, in fact, I live by them.

Which may be why they are still being displayed. It’s just that it’s January 31. The calendar makes me feel out of sync.

I keep finding  out about families with little food, little furniture and grateful hearts. Or no food, no furniture and an admirable sense of optimism. I want to be a courier of faith, hope and love…and food…and furniture.

So I race in and out of my front door, right past the gratitude and joy signs, collecting things from my cupboards and loading them in my car.  I pick up and deliver furniture and make runs to my favorite thrift store that has good clothing for great prices.  With each delivery I make, the timing is incredible and I am encouraged that this is just what I should be doing.

Last weekend I needed to find clothes for a girl – size 7.  I had met her once. She had just arrived from out of town - reunited with her mom, but in dire need of winter clothes. I ran to my favorite thrift store and came home with a bag full of mostly name brand clothes for her. She took them out, piece by piece and loved everything I chose. Among them was a soft, cozy bright pink robe.  She took it in her arms, hugged it and said, “I’ve always wanted a robe!”  I couldn’t have known that, but I am sure God did. In that moment, I felt right in sync.

I’m searching the clearance aisles trying to prepare for community needs and Christmas 2014.  The best values are found out of season. I bought Christmas merchandise in January, coats in February and summer toys this past September.  It may look odd from the outside, but it truly is the best way to buy.

So, I go back to my signage. “Joy to the World” (the Lord has come!) and “Be Grateful.” They do, indeed, look odd from the outside. They are, however, timeless messages. Could it be that they are even more effective out of season? Is the message more valuable; do more people take note –  because it does not seem to belong? Of course, Joy to the World in December, but in February? Yes! Naturally, Be Grateful in November, but every day? Absolutely!

It  gives me pause to think. What are we busy with? What messages are we living? Are we willing to look out of place in order to live in sync?

Figuring It Out Right Along With You,

DebbieSignature

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Subject to Change Without Notice

Last Saturday, fifteen of us gathered at the local Greyhound Bus Stop to offer kindness, water, snacks, encouragement, warm clothing, magazines  and misc. toiletries to weary travelers.

Fifteen minutes after the first bus should have arrived, we ventured inside to double-check the schedule.  The woman behind the counter explained that all the busses were late. She scribbled out specifics for us on this piece of paper.

Bus Schedule

Just a few minutes later we were reprimanded by another employee for being on their property. She went to get her manager, who actually was much kinder and gentler.

The reality is… sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

This crew that gathers with me has a sense of adventure and smiles to spare. They are a creative and resourceful group! As we packed up our give-aways, we brainstormed where we could share the kind of things we had.  We proceeded to the intersection where our City Go buses gather.  There was just one problem. It was Saturday and the routes ended early. There was not one bus there. We just had to laugh.

We talked about other possibilities. By now it was nearly dark and much colder. The things that we had did not match up with the dwindling options of where we could go. So we hugged each other, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

I’ve done a bit of thinking about the whole experience.  I’ve been wondering what our take-away should be.  Is there anything in particular we should have learned from that? Is it okay to not have a Plan B?  Is it okay to not accomplish anything?

Here’s my conclusion:  I love who I am doing life with these days.

Here’s the thing: Life is filled with things that don’t go as planned… with ‘hiccups’ and valleys and downright devastating times. Life is always subject to change without notice. I have learned that what really matters during those times is who we have beside us.

That group that gathered on Saturday? We are friends. We walk through life’s ups and downs with each other. We celebrate and cry with one another. We share with each other, pray for one another and laugh together. Not one of them blamed me for not asking permission or for not having a Plan B. Everyone agreed that most of our supplies would keep until the next outing. The fresh fruit and homemade goodies were taken to a church that feeds the homeless.

One of the things I have loved about these Acts of Kindness Adventures is that they have not been subject to the measuring sticks that we so often use in other areas of our life. They are not performance driven. We do not have to declare them a success or a failure.  We have not had to keep statistics.  We have not had to chart or gauge  responses. We do not have to account for our giving. The central questions have been, were we kind, were we able to brighten a day and were we able to offer hope?

I always want to learn the lesson that I’m supposed to.  So, if I learned anything from this particular adventure it would be (1) ‘Let it go’ and (2) Appreciate the people that do life with you even when it doesn’t go as planned!

Happily Grateful With You,

DebbieSignature

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Boundless

I was talking to a friend the other day whose son is traveling the world. When he sets out on his adventures, usually all he has is an airline ticket.  He loves to travel that way.  For others, it would create a multitude of anxieties not knowing where they would stay, or how they would get from one place to another.

The same scenario that excites one person, can ignite fear in another.

My boss joked with me one day that he’s scared that I’m going to become a famous author and quit my day job.  We laughed together when I said, “That would be GREAT!”

Those two scenarios got me to thinking.  About possibilities. How one possibility seems awesome to one  and not-so-awesome, or even frightening, to another.

There’s something about a new year that motivates us to think about new possibilities. The truth is, new possibilities mean there will have to be some changes.  Changes can be difficult. I would prefer not to think about difficulties when I’m pondering possibilities.  I’m learning, however, that something new always requires something extra from me. Extra finances, extra boldness, extra love, extra mercy, extra time.

So which do I want more? To be comfortable or to experience new possibilities?

So, I’ve been pondering my word for 2014.  I’m a play-by-the-rules kind of gal.  Compliant. Submissive to authority. I’m not known to fight for much. I back down. I take ‘no’ for an answer. I don’t spend much time troubleshooting how to open doors.  I accept closed doors and look elsewhere for an opening. So, when the word ‘boundless’ resonated with me as my possible word for this year, I wondered why.  I respect boundaries. More than that, I can be pretty fearful about stepping outside of them.

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The dictionary definition of boundless is this:  “having no bounds, infinite or vast, unlimited.”  It just about took my breath away. It sounds like God to me.

The truth is, I would love to partner with Him, to be more like Him, and to walk closer with Him.  It may be just that simple… stick with Him and ignore the confines of my own inadequacies, thoughts, plans, and fears. Put that way, it sounds more exciting than frightening to me.

“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2

So that’s it… for this year, I will dare to be boundless and endeavor to remove the limitations that I place upon myself.  What about you?  There are many things we can be! I displayed some other words that may apply to your life for this coming year.  It is just a sampling of a satchel full of words that my sister gave me to fit in my “Be…”  I encourage you to think and pray and dream of what word you would like to characterize your year. It’s amazing the focus it can bring to your days when you have something in particular  you want to be!

Willing to Be Boundless With Him,

DebbieSignature

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