Charlie & The Least of These

Earlier I was reading a blog post that was really powerful, but I had such a strong response to that I had to stop and wonder why.  You’ll have to go read it to fully understand, but in essence, Josh Collins reached out to truly see someone that most of us would overlook, a guy named Charlie.

I’ve never been that guy- the one who has so little, is unseen in society, or could disappear with no one noticing.  So why did I connect?  Because, if Austin is alive, he is no doubt one of “the least of these.”  And I realize that Charlie is loved by someone and maybe even missed by someone.

He may be someone’s Austin.

My brother didn’t disappear because he wanted a different life or because he was on the run from criminal activity or afraid for his life.  He didn’t take money and isn’t living the dream on an island in the Caribbean.  Austin disappeared because he was ill, because depression had taken over, and because he’d stopped seeing that it could change.  We believe that.  The only missing piece is what happened after those last moments we know about.  Did he become a Charlie?  Or are we right in focusing our search on a search for remains?  It’s unlikely, very unlikely, that he’s alive today.  But if he is, he’s almost certainly living a life like Charlie.

And maybe someone like Josh Collins is showing him some compassion and seeing him just for a few moments as God does.

Josh wrote that he thought about Charlie’s family, and about where Charlie had been and was going.  I pray that if Austin is out there somewhere today, that he encounters someone like Josh.  Someone who can see him worthy of being acknowledged and spoken to, and even helped.

Sometimes it’s harder to picture Austin out there facing a hard life alone than it is to picture him in the arms of God.  Sometimes for me, hope looks like the opposite of what people expect because of that and I shut out the possibility.

But I thank God that there are people willing to stop and see the Charlie’s of our world.  Not just because that’s what God wants from us, but because in someone else’s story, Charlie may just be named Austin.

 

** Josh, you impacted more than just Charlie.  Thank you.

 

Austin in happier days

Austin in happier days

Kindness Week

You know how you meet people every once in a blue moon that you know God connected you with to be the encouragement you need?  About a month ago, I had that experience, and have been amazed by the words that this new friend shares, but not just with me.  You should get in on this.

This week she is INSPIRING! us to be part of Kindness Week.

Her family {some clearly cool fabulous people} has been thinking up projects to do all week to just plain share kindness with people around them.  They’ve put a lot of prayer, thought, time, and even $ into this.  I’m already excited for the people they meet who get to be the receivers, but even more so to hear how this impacts her {already super cool} family.

I’m doing some brainstorming on my own of what Kindness Week looks like in our home, but it started yesterday with our family helping to serve a lunch to some VIP’s in our life.

Check out her words, and let us both know if you plan to join us, and what Kindness looks like in your home!

 

kindnessweek1

 

 

Defining Beauty

While traveling today I read an article in the U.S. Airways Magazine by Brion O’Connor about a topic I barely remember.  It included the story of an artist, Fritz Drury, who studies and understands beauty better than most.  He spent some time with the author’s brother, and they were discussing what makes something beautiful, which is a concept very hard to define. 

They came to agree upon the one theme for defining beauty:  contrast. 

 

From mountains to oceans, to paintings to performing art, contrast is what awes us and creates the feeling of beauty in so many cases.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the contrast from our daily view, something so different than what we’ve grown accustomed to, that we can’t help but see it as beautiful.  But we might not have seen it’s beauty otherwise. 

Contrast is where we find beauty in life too, where God shows us His wonders. 

Watching an adult walk down the street is no miracle and is hard to see beauty in when you see thousands of the same every day.  But learn that the young man walking down the street in front of you is recovering from a stroke that partially paralyzed him, and that loved ones feared he may never walk again, and you see beauty in those steps. 

 

Hearing a story on the news of a person found deceased is sad and far from beautiful, when you know that someone has lost their loved one.  But learn that the family has been searching for 11 years and celebrates the selfless volunteers who gave their time and talent, and never gave up, and you see beauty in the pain. 

Reading a message from a woman who is getting ready for work seems mundane and ordinary.  But learn that she had been out of work for over a year and desperate, and you see beauty in that every day task.

 

Seeing a mom watch her son play at the park, just like a thousand other moms is forgotten in an instant.  But learn that she has tears in her eyes because her son is playing with other kids, and feels typical for a few minutes despite his disability, and you’ll see beauty. 

 

God’s work is best displayed in the contrasts.

 

Every few months I get upgraded to first class on a flight.  I try to hide my excitement and act like I have that special treatment all the time.  I look around at people who really do fly first class regularly, and realize that they aren’t enjoying it nearly as much as me.  They’re used to it.  It’s only so cool when you’re used to the back of the plane begging for water. 

 

Despite that, I still want first class all the time.  Despite the beauty of the contrast from struggles to overcoming, I still want no struggles.  But God’s work is best seen in the contrasts, I remind myself time and time again. 

 

Our two big valleys for God to use are Michael’s health and everything that comes with that (financial challenges, emotional challenges, logistical challenges), and our ongoing search for Austin. 

 

Right now, the only real contrasts in our life is the difficulty of circumstances vs. the attitude to persevere and find Hope no matter what.   But I keep believing that one day, the contrast God shows in our life will be that much greater and show His work that much more. 

 

I will keep believing.   

 

  

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

In the Storm

We’re in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except that in this very minute, it’s calm and there is no rain.  But when I look at the sky, I know it’s just a momentary lapse, and the worst of the storm is yet to come. Okay, truth is that I can’t see that from the sky.  But the Weather Channel, along with my local news give us the warnings to heed- there may be flooding, tornadoes, downed limbs and power outages.  Thankfully they stand in the gap to share how to stay safe instead of us relying on our own instincts which so often fail.

See?  We're under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

See? We’re under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

It’s really not a big deal though.  I’ve sat through more Hurricanes and Tropical Storms than I can recall, from before I can recall.  I’ve lived in Florida all of my life but two years, and those two years were on the coast of Mississippi where we rode out a few as well.  It’s just part of life.  And in the summer when we have a break from the storms?  Wildfires my friends, wildfires.  So many that your nostrils burn from the smoke, your eyes water just by opening a window, and you pray that a Tropical Storm will come along to drench us again.

No matter where you live, there are natural forces to be reckoned with though.  I can’t imagine being startled by the shrill of a unexpected tornado siren in the Midwest.  Or being woken by a violent shaking that rattles the walls and leaves you hoping that the earth doesn’t open up and swallow you on the West Coast.

I like the storms I’m used to.  I know where to turn for information, how to prepare, and how to keep my family safe.

In life I feel the same.  I like the trouble I know and fear the unknown.  But the really cool thing is that we also have a guide, someone who stands in the gap and helps us and comforts us.

No matter what type of storm we face, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or instincts.  In fact, when we do is when we get into the real danger.  It’s such a comfort to know that God is more reliable and knowledgeable than the Weather Channel, and more prepared to deal with disaster than the Red Cross.

In Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, or the storms of life, He is our help.

There’s no need to have all the answers, just to know where to get them.

~  Anita ~

 

Cracked Eggs

I have calculated that I need 82 more vacation days to successfully organize my house.  And that would not even count the garage, which I won’t touch if my life depends on it.

This drives me nuts.  As in, certifiably, would prefer to run away, nuts.

So why don’t I work on it piece by piece in the hour or two I have here and there?  Because in the hour or two I have here and there, I prefer to enjoy our life.  And because I require sleep (and oddly enough, massive hours of sleep, and always have).  And because I do, but a house full of people and dogs and birds and hermit crabs (yes, there are technically 8 animals in our home) undoes it.  So my life house stays unorganized and cluttered and not at all like a Pottery Barn catalog, which is exactly how I picture it will be one day- you know, when I somehow have the ability to take 82 days of vacation that I dedicate solely to the house.  That day.

But life is messy, and out of control and will likely never be the storybook picture.  So much of our life is completely out of my control, that it doesn’t take a psychologist to see that I try to grasp it where I can (though some suggest I still need to see one regularly, but I’m sure they’re wrong and nuts themselves!).  And while I do  try to accept the lack of control and give everything up to God about the big things, I keep grasping at the smaller ones. 

Saturday night while we were coloring Easter eggs, I looked down at an egg that had not turned out at all like we planned.  It wasn’t the color we thought (I may have mixed a few three tablets in one bowl), and I didn’t think it particularly pretty.  But the boys thought it was one of the coolest.

I would really prefer them all to be crafted beautifully, you know, Pinterest worthy.  I’d like to show off our creations, and have you jealous.  Have you ask us to show you how we could have possibly made these amazing pieces of art. 

But instead, we had fun.  We laughed.  We cracked them.  We got our fingers stained.

We ended up with eggs just like life- not what you expect, not what you’d design, but beautiful and messy, and what you wouldn’t trade for the world.

I think God sees us like that too.  We are cracked and stained, and not exactly perfect.  But He loves us and accepts us, and even celebrates us. He holds us up to the world and claims us as His own.  I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Guest Post- Anonymous

You know those days when you question everything you do?  It’s been one of those weeks.  But a friend, one I don’t know well, but look forward to learning more about soon, reached out today.  She encouraged me so much with her words about my writing, and for that I’m grateful.  But I’m more grateful that she allowed me to share her heart here, as I think you’ll find a woman with a heart after God, even in the midst of pain.  When I hear people who have it all together (or seem to), I’m sometimes discouraged that I’ll never be them.  But then I remember that most of us are struggling in some ways, and when we share, we can lift each other up. 

She says….

“This has been the longest year of my life.  I spent much of it in prayer asking for God’s will to overpower my life and dedicated all my time to Him and the word.  Initially I hoped His will was to reunite my marriage into a healthy and loving unity. Withholding many details out of respect for my family, I will only say it was a very unhealthy situation, physically and emotionally and the separation was a must. I had to bear an extreme amount of guilt for demanding such, but made it clear it was only to hold him accountable to his responsibility to make changes that were necessary to maintain a safe home. I had stood by his side for 15 years waiting and praying for the changes he promised to become our reality.

He’s dated pretty much the entire separation but just lied about it.  I still continued to pray for God’s will.  I was willing to give forgiveness and honor our vows of marital commitment to each other and God.  I also knew though the “changes” must be visible and that words I had heard so many times before were not going to enough for me to ensure we “broke the cycle.”  I realized at some point his free will was not going in the same direction as mine and I had no choice but to begin to rebuild myself, my life with my children and focus solely on growing my intimate relationship with the one man who will always love me unconditionally without leaving me side, Jesus Christ.  Yet, I still did not pursue divorce. I am sure there were many reason but one major one was simply avoiding the inevitable.  Without us being able to agree on the conditions of the divorce, my children would be forced to see facts and traits in their father I had protected them from for so long. I still pray they are able to have a positive relationship with him in the future. I only want to keep the burden on their hearts to a minimum and still keep them safe.

Well, he is no longer willing to lie about his life choices.  He did work to rebuild, not much change but rebuild, it just wasn’t in the direction of our family but for himself.   He is ready for his new found joy (relationship w/ other children involved) to be not only in the open but introduced to our children. I can now only pray they know God is with them when I can not be.  I hope they understand I consult God in all my decisions and am truly making every effort to show Grace to what I call my Judas.
I am more than ready to close this miserable chapter of my journey but that forces me to look to the future.  What is in store.  Is my faith strong enough to continue to work to be the person I am looking for is looking for.  Can I keep my hands off the wheel long enough to let God bring someone into my life that will honor Him with me?  If I do feel care for someone, is putting myself out there even a good idea.. While I worry about all these things, scared I could miss an opportunity… I try to remember it is not for me to figure out.

I can not see the big picture God has for for his people, not just me. My role may be minute. What I do know though is God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me and only He knows the plans He has.  I will continue to try to rest in those facts along and not allow negative thoughts nor my desire to influence the outcome to take away the peace he promises.”

I’m thankful that even in the storm of her life, this woman is waiting and relying on Him.  What an encouragement to me today, and a reminder that He is always there.  Pray with me for this friend today, that she feels His love always.   

~Anita

25 Minutes

I recently realized that my blog had a few visitors who had come in *unusual* ways- for example, there is a porn site that has directed two visitors recently.  My first reaction was horror, then I realized that however they came, they needed Hope and God’s love as much as, or possibly more than anyone else here.

But it did get me thinking about how I can reach out more beyond my circle and reach more people who might need that love.  So, I started searching for various topics that I hope one day my blog will turn up in results for.  After searching for ‘inspirational women bloggers’ I found a blog that spoke to my heart so strongly that I knew I had to share it with you.  Karen Owens is a mother and wife who shares about her families journey from the loss of their sweet boy through the adoption of two beautiful children.  She writes about so much more than just how their day was.  She describes glimpses into the very character of God Himself, as seen in these children.

This amazing family did more than just survive a terrible loss- they have trusted in God so much that they chose to adopt more children who might bring them that same heartbreak over again- but they chose to love anyway.  Karen says, “We wanted to love a child that was deemed unlovable and be that family God destined them to have.”  There are many of us who have faced painful things and are strong and loving and make it through.  But there are very few people like Karen and her family who then turn to God and ask for more, because they see His plan.

Settle in, read a few posts and bookmark this one.  I know I have.

(And I’d start with these:  Minute 25, My Unanswered Prayer)

White Out, Erasers and Delete

My favorite key on the keyboard is delete.  It is my friend, the one that keeps the secrets of the dumb things I wrote, my errors and miscalculations.  It let’s me remove what I need, and start fresh.  And if I really didn’t want to delete that (you know, need to delete my delete), there is even the Undo option.  It’s lovely.

Before computers, I loved erasers- the scented ones and fun shaped ones, or when there was a lot to erase, the jumbo pink ones.  But as every kid knows, if you erase a mistake, you can still tell it was there.  Your paper turns a bit gray in that spot, and you may even end up with a tear. 

White Out was always a favorite through high school, when I was still typing a lot of papers on a typewriter, or handwriting them, and could cover mistakes without the messy eraser.  It was still obvious that there was a perfectly white smear on not exactly white paper, but at least it was clean. 

I’ve often thought that it would be nice to have a delete key in my life.  For when I’ve opened my mouth and out spilled words I’d like to delete, or days that didn’t go as planned and I’d like to do over.

Thankfully there are apologies, and forgiveness, and tomorrows. But they’re less like a delete key and more like an eraser.

The mistake is gone, but erasing it made even a bigger mess.  Sometimes that’s what happens with our own lives, where we cover mistakes with lies, or add excuses to apologies, or try to forget painful things that have happened. We may have covered up the mistake, but sometimes we make it even more messy than before. 

But sometimes God gives us White Out- He’s forgiven us, or He’s brought us through the storm, sometimes both.  He doesn’t want to leave us messy, but He also doesn’t want to take us back to where we began.  He covers us, leaving a reminder of what we faced, but yet leaving us even whiter and stronger than before.  When others look at us, they can see we’ve faced times that we’d like to delete, but they also see what we’ve become.  

Whatever it is you’d like a delete key for today, instead seek the White Out that means we’re loved and forgiven, and stronger than before.  And then take that new white spot, and start writing a fresh story. 

Prayer Today

Emerson said “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.”

This is a quote I really wanted to share today because it’s a prayer I must say a lot.  I still find myself praying for safety from danger sometimes, but more and more I pray for deliverance from fear, and find that when I do that, the danger is rarely as great as I’d feared.

This is a short post today as I think Emerson speaks all that must be said.  Consider praying for deliverance of fear in whatever situation you’re in today.  I’d love to pray for you too, so feel free to leave a comment if you’re comfortable leaving if public, post as anonymous, or send me an email.  

Wishes and Prayers

blowing out his birthday candle

Over the weekend we celebrated my youngest one’s third birthday.  It was a festive day, with friends and family, and exactly as it should be.  I am not overly sentimental, but on occasions like this, I can’t help but think back to the excitement of bringing that sweet new life into the world, magic of introducing brothers for the first time, and anticipation of learning who he was.

He’s a study in opposites.  He is routinely covered in anything he can get into, yet asks for napkins and won’t keep the same clothes on for more than a few hours because “they’re dirty.’  He loves to fight but lavishes hugs and kisses.  He yells at his brother, but mimics everything he does.  He climbs higher than I prefer, but is scared of sleeping in his own bed.  He’s sweet and sour and full of so much life I hardly believe it when he falls asleep, though crashes may be a more accurate description. 

I am so thankful for the privilege of guiding him and teaching him, heavy with the weight of that responsibility, and the excitement of what is to come.  But this weekend it was ever more poignant as we all thought of the sweet faces who weren’t home, parents who had fulfilled their time of guiding and teaching much too early.

Like so many, I struggled with what to tell my older son, who had gone off to his elementary school that morning just as those children had.  While we all hugged our ‘babies’ a little bit more, we also all handle it a bit differently.  I didn’t want to cause fear, or bring sadness, but I knew he would hear about it if he hadn’t already.  The answer was obvious to me.

Let the story and the impact of today or any day, be of those who are brave and selfless and give us hope.  Let the story be that there was more love shown that day than hate.  Let the story be that no matter where you are, you are in God’s hands and He puts people in place to hold us.

As parents, our ‘job’ is not to protect our children, as much as our hearts tell us to.  As parents, our job is to teach them to love and to trust and to be brave and selfless.  Our job is to send them into the world to be the hands and feet of God, though they’ll each do it in different ways.  Our job is to love them so much, that they have so much love to give.

As I kissed my oldest goodbye and wished him a good day at school this morning, I wanted to turn around and grab him and have us both stay at home in safety and comfort, knowing that any day could end like Friday had for the families in Connecticut.  But I didn’t.  My God is not a God of fear.  He is not a God of safety zones and comfort, but the exact opposite.  There have always been, and always will be, people and circumstances that cause pain and suffering.  I thank God daily that there have also always been and will always be, people that bring even more hope and courage, when they could instead stay safe.

I pray that our answers don’t come in only more protection and more fear, but of more confidence in the One who protects us.  I pray that we do hold our babies closer, but to ensure they feel our love and know their worth, so that they can go on with courage and strength. I pray for the families who hurt so much, and thank God for those who were so brave and selfless that they are the real story.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.