Two Bananas And A Smile

There were about a dozen of us facing each other on long bench seats in the back of a big truck. Holding onto the side of the truck while it jostled and jerked up the mountain side on a winding dirt path.

The closer we got to the top the more garbage we began to see on the sides of the road, the more flies we encountered and the worse it smelled.

The Dump. Everything you can imagine and more. Piles upon piles of garbage, waste, spoiled food, sewage. Some piles were smoking – burning below the surface from the heat. This is where the people of the villages come, about 3 times a week, to find something to eat or something to sell to buy food to feed their families. They walk about two miles up the mountain and spend the day foraging. If they can fill a recycle burlap bag with bottles they will carry it down a big hill on the other side to a recycling center at the entrance where they will earn about 5 pesos for the entire bag. That’s about 2 and a half cents…for their whole days’ labor.

Right after we arrived a local man who makes several 5 gallon buckets full of soup every day pulled up behind us. He also brings a tank of water for them to fill whatever jug they may have to drink and carry back home.

I watched a woman pick through a pile of garbage to find a dirty 2 liter soda bottle. She unscrewed the top, sniffed inside it and walked over to fill it up with water. She drank some and filled it up again. I swallowed hard. Our eyes connected over a cup of soup and what I saw surprised me. Resilience. Hope. Life.

Many would not leave their piles to come for the soup. We carried cups of soup out to them throughout the dump. But! When the man went back to the cab of his truck and brought out the bananas….everyone came! They were each allowed TWO bananas. And they waited in lines for them. We spoke English. They spoke Spanish and some Creole…but we all found common ground that day over 2 bananas…and a smile. I’m convinced its the international sign for kindness.

Hot. Tired. Emotionally spent, we loaded up the truck and made the trek down to the bottom of the mountain and back through the town of Sosua. All through the town the locals waved and smiled and hollered ‘Hola’ to us. Their lives are hard. Life is dangerous. It is a struggle to survive every single day. But within the struggle, they have a simple cadence to life. Family is everything and time is told by the rising and the setting of the sun.

That day as we headed back to Sosua, to our air conditioned rooms, to shower and meet back up for an amazing buffet of Dominican food by the beautiful waterside, I heard God whisper these words…‘privilege comes with a price.’  I don’t know why God chose to put me here in America and that beautiful lady, in a little village beside a garbage dump, but I know that God has given each of us gifts, talents, knowledge, time and, yes, wealth to use for His Kingdom.

So when we can give bananas, give bananas. When we can sponsor a child for an education & a hot meal to break the cycle of poverty, we must! When we can go there to serve like Jesus, we must! It will bless them and it will change us…forever!

If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.   Luke 12:48, CEV

Father, help us to see with Your eyes. To hear with Your ears. To love with a heart like Yours that loves without condition or expectation. We are grateful that You love US that way. Help us to be generous in our serving and our loving…just like Jesus. In His name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Competence

‘I can do it!’ she stated. Adamant. Confident. Her little 4 year old stature was determined to do it all by herself! From the minute my beautiful little red-haired princess made her debut in this world it seems she has been determined to be independent. And while it was a challenge at times when she was little – it is one of the things I admire most about her today. As a young adult, Abigail is amazing at just about everything she does. And she still wants to do it. all. by. herself!
This morning I read this verse in the Bible from 2 Corinthians 3:5. Then I opened up a devotional I’ve been reading and that SAME scripture was in today’s reading! Whenever that happens, I take notice. I know its definitely something God wants me to pay attention to!
2 Corinthians 3:5 reads,  “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
Competence is the ability to perform a job properly and effectively; it comes from a combination of personality traits, habits, training and experience…and all of our effort overshadowed and empowered by His Holy Spirit.
On days when you’re feeling competent (you’re wearing your Wonder Woman cape with your hands on your hips, your chin is lifted high and you are shouting confidently, “I can do it!”) remember that it is God that enables us and works it all for His glory.
And especially on the days when you feel more like the little guy in the New Testament who showed up in crowd of hungry people carrying a couple fish and a few loaves of bread…remember the first step is to just show up!
Show up and give Him what you have…God will use it all for His glory.

GraceLaced

I know this is going to give away my age. My early teen years were during the era of sewing lace to the bottom of a dress if it was still age appropriate but shorter than your mama and the pastor of your church deemed acceptable. I seriously remember hearing that in a sermon!

Lace also adds personality & femininity, not just to clothing, but pillows, bedding and curtains. It makes things look softer and warmer – more inviting. When I was learning to sew…I would say lace covered a multitude of my ‘oops’.

This morning I saw this word ‘gracelaced’ in connection with the Proverbs 31 Woman. I don’t even think its a real word. When I googled it I didn’t find it in the dictionary but I found a number of blog posts and products based around it. And I love it!

What an instant word picture I got just imagining my life completely laced with grace! Where patience is lacking => grace. When my heart has been hurt and I struggle with forgiving => grace. Missing sleep, lack of funds, shortness in my schedule, feeling inadequate => grace. Grace for myself, and, grace for others.

I know it has to be applied TO me before it can happen THROUGH me. So receiving the beautiful gift of the grace of God is where it begins. The life laced with grace is inviting, softer and warmer. Grace speaks, sometimes even without words, that though mistakes happen we still have value. We matter. Gracelaced. I want that!

Proverbs 31:25-26 “She is clothed in strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

 

Jumping For Joy

Any chance I get to spend time by the ocean is premium time for me. It is amazing how the warm sun on my face, the smell of salty air and the sound of waves crashing in on the shore is the trifecta of soul-centering for me.  I love it!

Our family just wrapped up a family vacation at Ormond Beach in Florida and it was extra special to have both my kiddos, who are now young adults, join us for the week. In several ways, this trip brought healing to me. I felt like it was a gift from God to remind me that He restores what the enemy has taken. He is the great healer and the One who restores my soul. And that trip was a wonderful gift for me.

One morning, my son, Cody, and I were looking out toward the ocean watching a shrimp boat off shore. We were enjoying a few quiet moments together when all of a sudden a dolphin jumped completely out of the water. He splashed back into the water and came right back up again. We watched him do that about a half dozen times and then he was gone.

That one moment made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning! Grinning. Excited. Cheering.  It was exhilarating to watch him leave the natural habitat he calls home and launch himself into the air over and over as if he were almost ‘jumping for joy’. What made him do that? Was he celebrating a good meal? Maybe he had his eye on a ‘lady’ dolphin and he was showing off a little?! Maybe he was just doing that special something that God created him to do? Whatever the trigger the sight was magnificent to behold. And I felt like I was witness to something almost magical.

I would have missed that moment if I’d been in a rush. If I’d been busy on my phone or rehearsing my to-do list. But I was looking. Waiting. Enjoying the moment. And I got a reward!

How often do we miss simple moments that bring us joy? Reminders that God has created a beautiful world for us to enjoy? We are part of that beautiful world. He’s gifted each of us uniquely to live and love and serve. Sometimes it feels natural…and sometimes it feels like we are propelling ourselves out of our natural habitat like that dolphin!

This year I don’t want to miss a single moment that He has planned for me to live and love and serve. And I hope the same for you. And one day when I’m watching and waiting and enjoying the moment and I get to see you doing that something special He created you to do, like that moment with the dolphin, it will be magnificent to behold. I’ll feel like I’m witnessing something almost magical again. And I’ll be cheering you on!

 

 

Silence and Quietness Are Not The Same

My word for this year has been ‘Quiet’. What a beautiful year of discovery I’ve had this year with a word that I tried to ‘give back’ and exchange for a different one because…well, me….quiet??!!  What was He thinking?!

One day, I found myself considering the differences between silence and quietness.

Silence feels cold, disconnected, self-reflective (which isn’t all bad), empty, deafening, anxious and, at times, hope-less.

Quietness feels warm, like I’m leaning in, expectant, waiting, anticipating something ‘more’, like a home for peace or where peace dwells, hope-full.

While silence and quietness may sound the same to the untrained ear, the soul recognizes the difference within the environment our spirit finds itself. In silence, it chooses to give in to anxiety and worry that chokes out hope.

When we choose to wait in quietness we find ourselves actually leaning in to hear our Father’s voice. Our soul can hear and respond to Deep calling deep. It’s in that environment of quietness that peace and hope are fostered. We can find rest for our soul, even when things are chaotic and especially when life is hard. Our soul longs for quietness where we wait, expectant and anticipating His voice.

In the quietness, it’s where we can finally breathe. And it’s where we find a little taste of home.

Coffee Dates & Losing Weight

A couple of weeks ago a beautiful couple stopped by the radio station to say hello, get a tour of the facility and meet the staff. From the moment I met Mike & Jamie I felt a connection. I mentioned to Jamie that I’d love to have coffee with her one day and get to know her better. Before the sun had set that day we had a coffee date on the calendar!

We met yesterday. I’m thankful Starbucks doesn’t charge by the hour! But I’m convinced some of the best conversations happen over the rims of mugs! And so that is one of my favorite places to chat with friends. Just as I suspected, Jamie is a beautiful person with an amazing story of grace. We talked about our families, about life and things that we may have carried around in the past that weighed us down, and what we are passionate about seeing God do through us.

As I was driving home I thought about a verse in Hebrews 10:24-25 that reads “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  There’s a principle in that instruction that brings great benefits. Encouraging someone else encourages us! Think about how we can stir each other up to love more and do more. And spend time together! I like to think if coffee shops were a hangout back in Hebrew times….that verse might’ve even said…’not neglecting to meet together at (insert favorite coffee shop here!)‘!

Feeling a little down? Heavy things weighing on your heart? Call up a friend, or make a new friend!, and grab a cup of coffee or hot tea with them. Encourage someone and you may find that it encourages you too.  I drove away feeling lighter. Chances are good – you will too!

 

I Can’t Wait For You To Read This

When my beautiful granddaughter, Macey Leigh, was born I bought a Bible that I wanted to study through with the specific intention to write margin notes especially for her.  Messages from my heart. Truths I want to her to know. Passages I picked especially for her to read. Promises I want her to know that I have prayed specifically for her.

This week during a Bible study as we landed in Hebrews 7 my eyes fell on a note I’d written in the margin. The verses 24 and 25 were underlined and read, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

As I turned my Bible to read the note I’d written months ago in the margin, I saw these words, ‘Macey ~ Jesus is ALWAYS praying over you! Forever.’ A smile broke out on my face and a delightful warmth came over me just imagining the moment she turns the pages of this precious book and sees my personal note to her. And I said, “I can’t wait for you to read this!”

I thought about this book. The Bible. God’s Word. It was physically written by men under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. It is not just a historical recollection of stories, genealogies and sermons. The Bible is God’s heart…written for us to find direction, be encouraged, get wisdom, and know His heart for us. It IS personal. Its the one book in all the world, in all of history, where the Author is in love with the reader. I think when His written word was completed, He joyfully smiled, thinking about the moments we would discover His heart of love for us in these pages. I can almost hear His whisper. “I can’t wait for you to read this!”