Thursday, June 20

the least

I'm spending a couple weeks visiting my parents out of state. The time has been lovely, enjoying family, free of chores, loads of help with my kids, sunshine and swimming. Such a fun time. And the entire time, my heart is heavy. So very heavy. Weighed down with thoughts of sidewalks, empty bellies, barefoot children, broken roofs and penniless pockets. I asked God to give me His love, His eyes, His heart for people and He has...and it hurts.

My eyes fill with tears with no warning at all. That silent lump creeps into my throat and I am still.
My mind is frantic at times, always searching for a solution. Before my heart speaks up and reminds me: love. Connection. Jesus. Yes, ah yes. That's it.

And so my heart is heavy, because it is weighed down by this love that God has poured into me and commanded that I pour into others. Most especially the forgotten and weak. The outcasts, the hurt and hungry, the sick and suffering, the poor and underprivileged.

I tried to share my heart with my mom and sister over the last couple weeks. I found myself discouraged because we don't all share the same calling. And not that they should. But in the moment, I felt saddened by the separation. And I wondered for a moment or an afternoon or a day if I was wrong. If I was being dramatic. If I was putting words in God's mouth and writing my own story. And I didn't know how to answer these questions. I asked God. And maybe that is dramatic, but really who else could I ask? I begged Him to tell me if I was wrong. To make things more clear to me. To lead my feet, steer my ship.

I fell asleep, a little sad, a little confused, a lot wondering.

In the morning, we headed out early, rushing to beat the midday temperatures of 109 degrees. We were taking the children to explore some fun and typical sights and activities in the area. I glanced at my tires before I buckled tiny little bellies into their seats and saw that one looked noticeably low. We stopped at a gas station on the way out, you know the kind, at the corner of the Baron's center with the Starbucks and the Panera? A nice gas station. And it was closed... so we headed on to the next closest gas station. You know this kind too... at the corner of the boarded up laundromat and the carniceria? A not so nice gas station.

And I pulled up beside the air pump, shook my head at the one dollar charge as I sipped my three dollar drink and wished that I hadn't worn a dress as I crouched down to check and fill my tires. The pump was finicky and taking longer than usual. A gentleman walked over, in worn jeans with a shirt tucked in, a dingy hat that had been cleaned...well, someone had tried to clean it. He had a fanny pack on and a bicycle. A simple band on his ring finger. His skin was weathered, brown and dry. His hair was combed but dirty. His eyes were deep...those eyes you read about in novels. Those gray eyes that house secrets and stories of the ages. His voice was gruff, but kind. He offered to help and to check the rest of the tires too. He gave me a couple tips about driving long distance. My mom came up and offered to buy him a drink. He thanked us and said it wasn't necessary, he was just wanting to make sure we got our tires filled right. He turned his gray eyes to me and explained that he was homeless. The minute I heard that, I felt overwhelmed. My heart felt it would explode and my eyes were stinging as I fought to hold back tears. Of all the people at this busy gas station, God sent this one man to help me. This man who had empty pockets and no roof at all.

And I know. I know this is it. I know that this burden I feel is real. I know that this love I have is from God. I know that this calling on my heart is His voice calling me to love the least. I just know. Maybe it seems ridiculous or dramatic or it just doesn't make sense to anyone else. But in my heart, nothing has ever made more sense.

Friday, June 14


Shortly after Shane destroyed my complacent, easy going, happy-go-lucky mojo, I decided that I am a glutton for punishment and started to read some of Jen Hatmaker's books. All while reading the entire New Testament. You read that right. I read the entire New Testament in three days, devouring every word (probably subconsciously looking for a passage somewhere that would excuse me from these recent...ummm...convictions, burdens, callings, whatever). The New Testament didn't help my subconscious much, but it sure did get my conscious. Verses like:

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" 1 John 3:17

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said 'it is more blessed to give than to
receive.' " Acts 20:35

"Sell your possessions and give to the needy..." Luke 12:33

"He said also to the man that had invited him, 'When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14:12-14

"And he answered them 'Whoever has two coats is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." Luke 3:11

Friends, I don't know about you, but for some reason these verses have never popped out to me in the way that they are now. I always assumed meeting people's needs meant helping when some poor soul asks for help, or donating to charity here and there. Tithing counts right? I figured He probably wasn't be literal when he suggested to sell everything and to host parties and invite all the poor, sick and homeless. I mean, seriously?

But, now I am starting to think maybe He did. The Bible has hundreds of verses about serving the poor and sick. Yikes.

So between Shane and Jen (her books Interrupted and 7) and God, for crying out loud, I was seriously backed into a wall.

I am so very fortunate. I have so much...all of my needs are met and beyond. It's ridiculous. And when I look around at just my own community, let alone people all over the world, I can't help but feel a pang of guilt. But then, I am overwhelmed, looking around...where do I begin? Should I just call Goodwill and tell them to take everything. Eh, I don't really feel like that's what Jesus is getting at.

What in my life is too much? Well, duh, everything. But where do I begin? How do I trim away the excess and at the same time, fill that space with the Spirit and living and loving the way Jesus commands so that I don't fall back into the same trap of excess?

And cue: 7

Such a fabulous book. Such an incredible experiment. I read it in about a day and a half and then spend another day and a half in tears, praying. I know this is a challenge I need. I know God wants me to try this fast, to learn where I have replaced Him with....stuff. So friends, I am embarking on this challenge. To get rid of the excess in my life, learn to live humbly and simply, more in line with the way Jesus taught Christian life in scriptures, and to draw closer to Him. To leave room in my life for Him to speak to me, to move me, to use me.

I'm super nervous.

So how about it? Anyone read 7? Anyone interested? Anyone want to try the 7 fast?

Where it began

I fully blame him.
It all started with a pretty red book with a catchy title.
Guessed it?
Yup, Crazy Love.

If you haven't read it, don't.
That is unless you want to stay awake at night asking yourself the big questions.
Well, I don't know if they're big or not, but it sounded right.
Stay up at night looking around you and wondering why, where and what.
Why do you have so much? Where to begin? And what do you need?

And then on earth do we truly show love for our Savior, the One who shows us a seriously CRAZY LOVE?

So yeah, Francis Chan, this is all on you.

After I read that book, I really started to feel God convicting me about my lifestyle and whether it is a reflection of a loving God and my relationship with Him. I know that it was conviction and not condemnation because the thought of making changes in my life was like a weight lifted. I didn't feel depressed or guilty, although I did kick myself for taking so long to start to see these things.

But it really gave me new eyes, seeing people and the world a tiny bit more the way Jesus must see people. To Him all of my success, wealth, prosperity, it means nothing. In fact, it is rarely ever more than a distraction. How much time have I spent wrapped up in those things when I could have been hanging out with Jesus, showing others His love? Ugh...hopeless I tell you. truly I am hopeless.

So I was on a roll for all of two weeks and then I realized it was just too hard. So I distracted myself with other things. I started getting really into Bible theology and studying different denominations and beliefs, learning the differences and scouring the scriptures for the "Right" answer. I found answers to some things and others remained a mystery. And man oh man, the "right fighter" in me just couldn't stand it. I was pestering pastors and elders with my questions, my arguments, my confusion....something just wasn't fitting. There was still some little piece missing. As many questions as I had answered, I was still not content. I thought I needed to know more. I downloaded about three billion theology books, stayed up reading websites from various seminaries, devoured creeds and confessions. I was learning a lot. My knowledge bank was getting fuller and fuller.

But somehow, I still felt called to more. SOMETHING was missing.

And then by some crazy turn of events, my husband and I moved our family to Colorado to take advantage of a great job opportunity. Even though we were moving for a job, I kept telling myself and friends that God had some big plans for us and I just didn't know what they were yet. I kept having this sneaking feeling that God was taking me there for a very particular reason, other than my husband's job and the gloriously fresh air.

And in just over a month, we were off on our adventure. The first thing I noticed about Colorado was the beauty of it. Everything was just breathtaking. The Rocky Mountains on one side and the Great Plains on the other. The incredible blue skies and giant white clouds. Snow here and there. It was just gorgeous. Then, once we entered the city limits of Colorado Springs, I started to see signs of poor and homeless communities. I've talked a little bit about the demographics here so I won't bore you with that, but within the first week or two of being here I was completely overcome with this burden for the marginalized here in Colorado Springs. It was just so close, impossible to ignore. And I knew, clear as day I heard God tell me, this is why I was brought here. To learn how to live my life serving the least, loving the least as God does, sacrificing my own ridiculous luxuries and giving of myself. I started to see that God may have meant what He said literally, to serve the poor. Hmmm...what an idea.

I shared this tug on my heart with some close friends and they all suggested different books and directions, reaching out to churches, toys for tots, etc. One of the books suggested, I had waiting on my Kindle. Downloaded two years earlier. Literally. Sad, huh? Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution.
Yeah. Thanks a lot Shane. I know you get this a lot, but you seriously messed up my mojo here in my little bubble. I thought that I just needed to learn more, really dissect the Bible and tear up theology. Maybe go to seminary. True story, I really looked into it. But I think I've realized that what has been missing is not knowledge, but actually living Christ's love. Living the Christian life that He showed us in His word. Wha??!!
I know. Tough stuff.

So there it is, there's the beginning. This journey is gonna get crazy, I'm pretty sure. Bear with me, or don't. It's okay.

Here goes nothing....wait, no, that's not right.


Saturday, June 8

Ice Cream and Soap

Oh friends....
Today was such a day. A magnificent day. A humbling day.
Today I was reading during quiet time and praying that God would send me direction. Show me exactly how to serve Him. I'm like that. I need step by step instructions.
I started praying over our excess...the things in our home and life that there is too much of. And oh man, that list is long. But today two things stood out in my mind.
Toiletries: soap, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, etc
And ice cream.

Yup. We have quite a bit of both of those things.

And just like that I knew what to do.
Quickly, I gathered plastic cups and spoons, an ice cream scoop and all the toiletries and ice cream.
Called to the kids to put on shoes.
Grabbed my keys and purse and

then I hesitated. I thought this is silly and ridiculous. Ice cream?
Bad idea.

I shrugged the feeling off. Mostly.
And we jumped in the car. The kids asked where we were going and I told them I wasn't sure.
I told them about the ice cream and cups and spoons.
They didn't even ask why. It wasn't a silly idea to them. It made sense to them.
They asked if they could have ice cream too and I told them if we had extra.

We drove just a few miles and we were in down town.
A sprawling grass park was right in front of us and it was crowded. Birthday parties, families enjoying their weekend, people seeking shade under the trees, beggars with signs on the corners, outcasts sitting with their packs in the corners.

The kids spotted a splash pad and all lost their marbles, pleading to go play.
We parked a few blocks down and scooped a few cups of ice cream.

We started walking towards the park and stopped to greet a couple women sitting on the sidewalk. They looked tired, filthy, hopeless.

My two oldest kids ran to them and ever so casually asked, "Want some ice cream?"
The women looked at one another, surprised, maybe startled.
Then they looked at my kids and with big grins showcasing more gums than teeth, they said "Sure!"
We gave them each a cup and then asked if they needed any soap or shampoo. One woman said she had some and the other said she could really use some. We gave the one woman a bag of toiletries and then wished them well.

We walked about five blocks to the park, stopping at benches and under trees, offering ice cream and soap to each person in need that we came across. Steven, Daniel, Maria....and others whose names we didn't get. Each was so kind, so grateful. And most were pretty surprised at what we were offering.
Every few people we'd stop and scoop some more cups.

People offered up high fives and hugs to my kids, prayers for me, and encouragement and advice for all of us.
"Keep going, momma. I know you have a full plate."
"Listen to your momma, guys."
"You kids are all right."
"Starting your lives off right, stay that course."
"Follow your parents, they know what they're doing."
"Keep loving people."

As we approached the park that I had promised playtime at, I noticed we only had two scoops of pretty melty ice cream left. I told the kids they could share it when we got to the park. I divided it up for the kids.
There was a homeless man sitting right by the trash can, hidden by some bushes. He caught my eye and I said hello. I carried on polite chit chat with him for a few moments and then my three year old piped up,
"We don't have any ice cream." he said "Do you want some soap?"
The man glanced at me and I smiled. He looked back at my little boy and answered him.
"Oh darn it, I LOVE ice cream. But that's okay. I'll take some soap, please."
Wayde gave him the soap and then the man asked for a high five. They high fived and then Wayde looked in his ice cream cup. Two bites. That's what he had left from his single scoop of melty ice cream. He scooped up one bite and held it out to the man. The man asked "For me? I can have a bite of your ice cream?" Wayde pushed his spoon toward the man more. And right there, my heart skipped a beat. I literally felt Jesus all around as Wayde spoon fed his last two bites of ice cream to a homeless man named Sky. He didn't hesitate. He didn't think it odd or feel uncomfortable. He didn't even turn to me and boast about sharing. He just gave it to him. Because Sky didn't have any ice cream, he later told me.

My heart exploded with pride and love, adoration and appreciation and at the same time, guilt. If only I had the heart of a child, a heart closer in line with Jesus. To offer up all that I have, truly. To give not because Jesus has told me to, but because others don't have what I do.

It is true: True generosity is not marked by how much you give but by how much you have left. Wayde only gave a couple lousy bites of melted ice cream. But he walked away with nothing. He gave all he had.

Sky hugged my kids and gave everyone a high five and shook my hand. In that hand shake I could feel his gratitude. It was firm, but gentle. I knew that he appreciated what Wayde had done for him that day. Not the things we gave him, oh I'm sure he is grateful for the soap and shampoo and I'm sure it was a pleasant change to have a bit of sweet ice cream on a hot afternoon. But I saw in his eyes that he was grateful that we spent a few minutes with him. We gave him love. Wayde did. Wayde treated him the same way Wayde treats everyone he meets. He walked right up to him, squatted down and started talking away. In that few minutes, Sky was the only person Wayde was thinking of. And I could feel in Sky's handshake that it meant the world to him in that moment.

The homeless and poor are hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Cold. Hot. Sore. Filthy. But even more, they are sad. Lonely. Defeated. Empty. The feel worthless. And society sees them that way too. We scurry by and look the other way, tossing quarters to appease our conscience. But Jesus didn't toss coins and scraps to the poor. No, he went to them. To where they lived. He didn't stand on the stoop of the church food pantry and ring a dinner bell. He went to the streets, the alleys, the corners where the outcasts huddle and he met their needs. They are people. Hurting people like you and I. People made in the likeness of the Creator and King of the universe.

Wayde reminded me today that they are no different than you or I. And he showed me how to love them. The way Jesus loves.


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