Fresh Fruit – Part 1 of “Divine Serendipity”

Serendipity has been defined as a “happy accident.” It’s been one of my favorite words for years and so aptly describes a number of situations I find myself in. Knowing that God orders my steps and my days, I find it difficult to believe in ‘coincidence.’ However, I am still always in awe when I see His hand on our lives. Divine serendipity is the best description I could think of for the story I’m about to tell you.

It was a Monday afternoon. My friend had called me from the church to let me know they had just received fresh fruit and offered it to me for our Tuesday night Laundry Love friends. I jumped at the chance and went after work to pick it up. When I went out to my car to see if I had an extra box, I saw a couple walking toward me, with a young child in a stroller.

They had walked to the church searching for help, but our church is closed on Mondays. They had gone to the front doors (on the south side) to find them locked. I was parked on the west side of the building.  Had I come out of the side door five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I would not have seen or met them. They explained that they had been living in a hotel, but had to be out by 11:00 a.m. It was almost 2:00 p.m. when our paths crossed. They explained that they were approved for public housing but were waiting for their house to come available. Both have jobs but neither got paid until the following week. They had no money to buy another week at the hotel and no where to go with their nine month old son. They told me they would walk back to the church the following day, but quite honestly, depending on where they would sleep that night, it is a long way to walk for a possible “no.” I took their name and phone number and told them I would call the church for them in the morning then give them a call. I made no promises of what the church or I could do, and said nothing else to get their hopes up.

I went back inside to load up the fruit for Laundry Love and filled a separate bag for them. I had a hunch I would be seeing them again. As I drove away, I knew I was to do something to help but didn’t have the nearly $200 it would cost for another week at the hotel. So I hopped on Facebook and asked if I had 15 friends who were willing to give $10. The response was incredible. I heard from people from 4 different states (one of my daughters happened to be in Wisconsin!) who wanted to contribute. In a couple short hours, I knew that we had enough pledged, and called to tell them I would meet them at the hotel.

Just before 5:00 p.m., I got them checked in, we hugged goodbye and I handed them the bag of fruit. I wasn’t sure it was the end of the story, but at least was assured they would have a roof over their  head for the next week.

For the next 3 days, money was sent to me through Facebook, through the mail, delivered to my home and to my office. I marveled at the response to a simple solution and gave thanks.

There is so much more to this story… so many incredible provisions and details that only God could orchestrate.  If I were to tell it all here, it would read more like a book than a blog. I will break it into pieces and write more again soon. For this portion, here are a few takeaways…

While we think we’re going about our own business, God may just want to interrupt our days or our plans, for a bigger plan. It’s not always convenient, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

Circumstances can seem insurmountable for all of us sometimes. Breaking it into smaller bites, and asking people to come alongside and help, provides more opportunity for solutions. I knew I could not meet their need on my own, but it cost 20 of us very little to make a big difference in their circumstances and help restore hope.

What fruit are you sharing? The truth is, we have been blessed, so that we can be a blessing. It’s good to take inventory every so often of the fruit of our lives, the provisions and luxuries we’ve been granted and share some of the extra.

Abundance is… community responding with compassion.

Savoring the Flavor of Fruit With You,

 

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Learning From Luke

About three weeks ago a gentle-spirited five year old boy told his mom that he wanted to give some of his toys and books to a boy who didn’t have any. His wise mama, responded by allowing him to choose what he wanted to give away. She contacted me, figuring I may know of someone who could use them. They dropped them off the same day. They were truly gently-used. The toys still wore their colors brightly and the books were not torn or dirty. {It was a distinct difference from some of the  items that are donated by adults, who I suppose assume that ‘something’ is better than nothing, which is not necessarily so.}

The next morning, I received a call from a case manager telling me that she had a family with 2 small boys who had no toys or books. She told me she knew I usually didn’t have those things, but also was not surprised, when I told her someone had just given me those things the day before.

This past Friday, the same case manager asked me if I ever come across double strollers. I told her no; I had never had one donated. It seems the double stroller the mom of these two young boys was using had seen its last days. Sunday, on our local “Buy, Sell, Trade” site, was a double stroller being given away by a friend of mine! After my husband picked it up, I texted this case manager to say, “You’e not going to believe this… someone gave me a double stroller today!” She responded, “OMG! And yes, I do believe! You are amazing and so is your God!” Yes, He is!

Today, while trying to arrange a time to deliver the stroller, I found out that this young mom left her house at 10:30 a.m. to walk with her one and two year old sons for a 1:45 appointment at the Health Department. She was almost out of diapers and had no food to take with them for the long haul miles across town. I was able to pick them up at the Health Dept., share the diapers, juice, food and snacks we have for our granddaughter, gave her a gift card to the local grocery store and deliver them (with the stroller) to their door.

I thought back to young Luke who sensed the need to give weeks before. Sensitive and obedient to the spirit to give generously to someone he may never meet. Aware, long before I was, of  a need, and more than willing to be a part of the plan. Today, I have names and faces to put with those boys and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity to be a small part of the story.

Recently, I have had a number of requests from another family in a fairly desperate situation. We have met them each time, but I was growing a bit ‘weary in well-doing’. They are now settling into  better conditions. Last week I was scheduled to deliver something to their home. I dropped by the store on my way to her house. As I left the grocery store parking lot, I heard the simple phrase, “Give her the grapes.” The only thing other than school supplies I had purchased at that store were the grapes they had on sale.

I knew I was to give her the grapes. There was no argument or discussion in my head. There was no sense of sacrifice; no glory in selfless giving, however small the gift. There was no rejoicing when I handed her the grapes, asking if her children would like them. There was no jumping up and down. No enthusiastic thank yous. I still knew, however,  that it was what I was supposed to do. The obedience on my part was more important for the work He is doing in me than the response I received as I handed over the grapes.

I’ve seen it over and over. It’s not about the grapes. Or the laundry. Or the backpacks. It has little to do with the stuff and much to do with the trust. Trusting that God will always provide, trusting that we have enough, trusting that when we’re willing to let loose, God can get people and things exactly where they need to go.

I encourage you to exercise that childlike faith and pay attention to the gentle nudging. The request or instruction may make no sense. It may just be part of the picture, the rest of which, you may never know. Luke’s mom didn’t ask too many questions. Instead, she nurtured her son’s generous intentions and trusted God to get those items to the place they belonged. We can follow their example and do the same.

Abundance is…understanding that we have enough to share.

Learning Obedience With You,

 

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The Power of “We”

This week, I had a young woman contact me who was on the verge of homelessness. She was desperately calling every agency in town to find any available resources to keep her and her children (ages 4, 3 and 1) from living in their van beginning that night. There was some relief, albeit temporary, as different people heard her story and offered to help. I tangibly felt the power of “we,” when a friend of mine showed up, not only to help financially, but went to buy milk, and carried the one year old up two flights of stairs.

Last week  I had a volunteer at Laundry Love tell me that he wasn’t too good at communicating with others in settings like that. He said he was better with construction and working with his hands. I understood what he was saying but clearly he underestimated his presence there. That same man stayed two-thirds of the evening, serving pizza with a smile and encouraging greeting for everyone he came in contact with. I also saw him holding an almost one year old boy and singing “Jesus Loves Me” to him. When it came time for that little one and his mom to walk home, he asked me if he could give them a ride. Mama had walked with her baby and their laundry in a shopping cart. I assured him that it was fine, if it was ok with the mother. Needless to say, she happily accepted the ride. Love in action most clearly demonstrates the power of “we.”

Sometimes I think we undervalue the act of lending our presence and our time, indeed, our very life’s strength, to be with someone else. There is power in sitting in silence, or lending a listening ear; of holding a hand, of weeping with one another and rejoicing with one another. We hear a lot  about being “present” in any given particular moment. It truly is a gift.

Recently, my sister visited from California. I’m a little embarrassed at how little we “did” that seemed special. But I am also thankful for how she quietly comes alongside to love and support me in my sometimes complicated  life. She sat with my daughter for pictures in a nearby Swedish town, with my granddaughter on the front porch looking for fireflies, with me in a courtroom, and with my friends as they visited. She is quiet and unassuming but communicates love and acceptance in a powerful way.

About 7 years ago, our family went through a crisis. It did not make the prayer chain, or the newspapers, but it ravaged our lives and left permanent damage. It is easy to let an experience like that isolate us. To this day, very few people even know it happened. However, there was one couple who came over and cried with us and prayed with us. She explained that of the few people who knew about the situation, not one person knew what to say or do. That’s why they were there. To let us know we were not alone. They had no answers or solutions, but it didn’t matter. That is one of the many times I learned from that particular friend, the power of “we.” It can be as simple as showing up.

My friend is no longer with us. Her absence has left a huge void in my life and in many other people’s lives because she understood the power of truly being there for somebody. I am grateful for the strength she lent to me and all that I learned from her about loving people.

I am reminded of how the disciples lamented when Jesus said he would no longer be with them. He reassured them by telling them that He would send His spirit to be with them. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, who daily comes alongside to lead, guide, comfort and encourage me.

Do you know of someone who is walking through the death of a loved one, a divorce, the arrest or addiction of a loved one? Is there someone in your circle suffering a financial or health crisis? A private crisis? You may have kept your distance because you have no words, no solutions, nothing that can “fix” their situation. I’d like to encourage you today to dare to draw near. By showing up, you are not going to remind them of something they are not thinking of. They are ever mindful of the hurt or the loss. The only thing that may help in the moment, is knowing you are there for them; that they are not alone.  I encourage you to make the phone call. Spend the time.

Abundance is… showing up for one another.

Learning More About Lending My Presence with You,

 

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A Tribute

There are a variety of circumstances that make it difficult to write. Other times, the most difficult circumstances inspire a writer to process life’s twists and turns by writing.  My best friend passed away this week and my world is literally, spinning. The only thing I have written this week is the obituary and part of the eulogy. Thankfully, my daughter and my “daughter-ish”  friend have both written tributes to my dear friend, Eileen. Today, I am posting the one written by my daughter, Jenna…

“As a girl I was always so excited for a night that began with the attire of white collared shirt, a black skirt, and the garnish of a blue rosette. That was a night I would do my best to make my music teacher proud! All our hard work was to be shown that night, and the power of testimony we spoke because of her vision was incredible! Mrs. Baerg introduced me to music and more importantly, worship, the thing that years later would get me through my darkest days.

I have yet to meet anyone who has more joy and enthusiasm for life! I always admired your sense of adventure and genuine appreciation for life. Everything was elevated; the thrills were more thrilling and the laughter… well, there was just more of it! And the best part, you still knew how to tell it like it was. When I picture you now, I can only see it one way, with a smile on your face basking in the glorious rays of light GLOWING brighter than was ever fathomable on our Earth. You were ALWAYS  a supporter of ALL people. Anyone you came in contact with, you would lift them up!

The most prominent memory I have of you is “Come!”

“Oh, COME, Jenna COME!” You would motion your hand and raise your eyebrows with excitement. Inviting me to come with you, taking my hand – from the time I was a little girl to the present, a young woman of 24.

The taking of the hand, that’s so important, so Christ-like.

Not only are you willing to help people get where they need to go, you literally will lead them by the hand. They can be blind, broken, limping or lost, but you see it as no hindrance. Your enthusiasm promises light to their destination, walking with them, step by step.

I can only imagine the day we reunite…

“COME!” and behold the beauty of Heaven!

“COME!” and smell the flowers!

“COME!” and run with me through the greenest grass!

“COME!” and slide down the streets of gold!

“COME!” and sing with me!

“COME!” and dance with me!

“COME!” and sit at the throne of God!

“COME!” and praise Him all the days of our eternity!

AND THERE WILL BE NO DARKNESS, ONLY LIGHT!

And I know I will get to see the greatest parts of Heaven FIRST because you have found them already.

So, to you, Mrs. Baerg, to say RIP would not be in the least bit fitting, so I will say RIL, for I know that you are Rejoicing in the Light!”

I love you more than you could ever know… Jenna

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Moments We Merge

She came to me, took a letter from an envelope and asked if I would read it to her. It was a page full of detailed instructions of how to prepare for a colonoscopy. As I continued to read, I felt myself filled with compassion for this woman who in past months, often challenged me to practice my patience. She asked questions throughout. I began to worry about how in the world she could remember all of this information, who could read it to her again, and how she would read the instructions on the actual “potion” she would have to drink the day before her procedure.

I met her and her husband when she was pregnant. Now, her adorable, easy going, big brown eyed boy, is 6 months old. She asks me if I can watch him while she goes through a couple tubs of clothing to see if there’s anything she can use. (Ok, twisted my arm.) I just love this boy who is alert and happy and who smiles when you say his name. We have all delighted in watching him grow.

The first time I met him, he could hardly stay in the room. Too many people. Too crowded. Too much noise. He speaks softly but if you move forward to listen closer or to understand what he said, he moves back. He has a complicated story but it is best explained in part by telling you he has PTSD. Tonight, however, he’s back. He’s inside the room more than he’s outside and even he cannot resist the temptation to talk to and smile at the sweet baby I am holding. He teases that the baby has a mohawk and walks away smiling. In that moment, I just want to cry. If only for a moment, the lives of this wounded man and this little one so fresh from God merge.

I hadn’t seen her in a while. I remembered her face but not her name. She told me she’s been gone because she had a stroke. At home, alone, her dog’s continual barking alerted a neighbor who finally called for help. After five weeks of physical therapy, she has just been out of the hospital for three weeks but is walking and talking and grateful. One arm and hand is weak so I helped her throughout the evening and learned even more of her story.

I see her most every month. She lives in a hotel and has no car. She relies on the kindness of friends and allies to give her rides where she needs to go. I had a box of saltines left over from dinner and offered it to her. She was more excited than I would have ever expected. She had been to the Food Bank today and told me she got everything she needs to make chili… and now she has the crackers to go with it!

He is a cute young man who loves being around people and delights in communicating. Unfortunately, he is non-verbal. He signs and gives us clues and when we’re all at a total loss of what he’s trying to tell us, he’ll write down a word to give us a hint. He “tells” us that a girl broke his heart three times. He wanted us to know he wants to run in an upcoming 5K but only has boots. He needs tennis shoes. He holds up one finger from each hand. Size 11? Yes, he nods,  size 11. I am quietly excited because I am almost positive I have a brand new pair of size 11 tennis shoes for him at home.

They live together but she tells me they are really more just friends than anything else. Young and struggling and trying to figure it all out, they tell me about how they missed the last Laundry Love by just a few minutes and have been doing laundry in their bathtub for the last 3 weeks.

These are a few of the neighbors we spent time with during just three hours of Laundry Love last night. When most of us think of Laundry Love we picture washers and dryers, laundry supplies, and quarters. I have learned these are just a small part of the picture of what really happens at Laundry Love. Washing clothes brings us together at laundromats. The time that it takes for clothes to wash, dry and be folded gives us time to talk, listen, empathize, laugh, read, play with babies, and tonight, even share a meal together. All of us are in the same place for the same reason. That’s how it happens…

Eyes opening. Hearts listening. Lives merging.

Touched by those Moments we Merge,

DebbieSignature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changing the Criteria

We’re conditioned to think in absolutes… rich or poor, empty or full, light or dark, black or white, success or failure. The truth is, most of life happens in all the in-between areas.

Here’s the dictionary definition of “Success”:  favorable result or conclusion; attainment of a desired end. Attainment or acquisition of wealth, status, or other desirable condition.

If I’m honest, I would tell you that I tend to measure goals, check things off the list, align myself with the highest standard in view, and compare myself to others and their collective efforts to determine whether or not I “feel” successful. For me, that’s just a dark rabbit hole to topple through.  It’s why I have a large sign in my home to remind me that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

So, I’m coming up with other criteria.

Am I able to breathe life into a situation? If only for a moment, am I able to change the complexion of someone’s day, or bring a bit of light or life to an otherwise discouraging situation? Did the experience touch my heart, or the heart of another? Is it something I want or need to do again? If I can answer yes to any or all of those questions, then I can personally deem it a success.

In a stairwell, after a high school Christmas concert, a group of young people decide to sing ‘Hallelujah’ once more because the acoustics are so good right in that spot. What you will hear is incredible. No stage. Away from the audience, (with the exception of a few parents and friends).No applause. No need. Their vocals and harmonies resound in power and all of us who have watched the viral version are in awe.

Our two year-old granddaughter always wants to make pancakes. Morning. Afternoon. Evening.  Here’s the problem… she rarely eats them. Even after adorning them with butter and syrup, generally, she only eats a few bites.

Oh, but wait. Here’s what I’ve learned.  She loves to make pancakes. She likes me to sit her on the counter, perched by the bowl. She loves to tell me all the ingredients we need and watch as I get each one out. She digs the proper measuring cup into the mix, and I let her poor the milk and the vanilla and any ‘extras’ in.  Everything except the egg. She even takes the whisk and stirs.

It’s the process she loves. The time with me, the control, feeling like a ‘big girl,’ the delight in knowing she helped make something. No matter how the pancakes turn out,  success or failure are not even words that come into play. The experience is the valuable part.

That’s how I feel about my writing. Most of the time I just love the process. I love choosing the proper words, evoking certain feelings, communicating and encouraging others through words. This is fun for me.

So I will move forward, mindful of  being more like Kinsley… enjoying the moments… oblivious to outcomes… glad I got to do my part… happy with what is… happier that tomorrow I can do it all over again.

What is it that brings you joy; that helps you breathe? What speaks quietly to your soul, reminding you that it is part of the very core of who you are? I encourage you to pursue and embrace it. Make no apologies if it doesn’t align with what everybody else is doing. I am learning that our biggest success is staying true to who we are and how we’re created.

Abundance is…enjoying the moments.

DebbieSignature

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Without a Stage

Sometimes I think that “gifts” or “giftings” are overrated. Whether on the big screen, a public stage or in a small country church, those who are on stage still tend to be the ones revered above others. Our culture esteems the public gifts – those of song or dance, athletics or acting or a  variety of other performances that require a stage.

In a world of social media and talent ‘going viral,’ posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are often closely monitored to see how many likes, shares, comments or retweets they receive.

Well aware, I am here to contend for, esteem and brag on all those people whose gifts are quietly offered  behind the scenes, away from the lights and without an audience. For the record, it is not because there is not an audience. More often than not, it is because they would rather remain unseen and/or anonymous.

This summer, I learned of a paid position with the title “Center of Influence.” I asked about what that job entailed and have to say, I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by numerous people who are the center of influence in their families, jobs, churches and communities who go above and beyond that job description. They have no title and receive no pay. This year, they surrounded me at every turn as I faced extremely full days that turned into weeks and months. As I write, the year is over and we are about to journey into 2017.

We just completed our third full year of Laundry Love in Salina. A growing number of people quietly show up to hang out in a laundromat for a few hours each month in order to meet and help their neighbors. Here, individuals become community. It can be downright inspirational.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.

This summer, Salina Shares hosted “Summer Fun”  in a small park in a neighborhood that we have grown to love. It was instigated by a young business owner, who, together with his wife, decided they wanted to give back to our community. He asked that I draft a letter that he could take to other businesses to try and get donations. I emailed him the letter and he called back with changes. First change: take his name and his company’s name out of the letter. This will be a Salina Shares event, he said. I was surprised and impressed.

The day of Summer Fun, nearly 40 people showed up to volunteer their time, doing whatever needed to be done. Volunteers consisted of business owners, social workers, teachers and many other capable, professional, and more importantly, kind people. They are all influential in their own corner of the world, yet I don’t know of many who have ever received applause from their customers or students. Another 10 people who were not able to be there, helped however they could ahead of time. One made homemade, natural bug spray and bought small spray bottles to give to others to keep mosquitoes at bay. This one kind act would never make it to a stage but is the epitome of generosity and empathy. All are worthy of the applause reserved for athletes and entertainers.

 

St. Augustine said, “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” Many of us are in the process of doing this. I have not yet found a way to thank those people who have surrounded me this year, willing to give up part of their portion, in order to meet the needs of others. I am, however, very grateful to each one who does their part, without a stage and with a smile.

Happily Grateful,

DebbieSignature

 

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