You’ll Never Regret Showing Up

I sat beside his hospital bed and held his hand; his voice was barely audible over the sound of the ventilator. He kept his eyes closed most of the time but, every so often, his hand would grip mine a little tighter as if to make sure I was still there.

I drove nine hours to be there but, I have to be honest, I’ve not always been the best at showing up. I always worried about saying the wrong thing, appearing awkward, and a host of other self-centered concerns. I went back and forth on whether I should make this particular trip. But, as I drove that entire day, I felt God whispering, “You’ll never regret showing up for someone.”

Fence

At one point, he asked for me. Though we had interacted on Facebook, I hadn’t seen my uncle in ten years. Yet, as I waited outside of his room while others visited, he asked for me and said that he loved me.

I was in the room when the nurse commented on what a wonderful family he had and my uncle replied, “Hmph, they’re okay.” Then, he winked at me.

I was present when the nurse came in to remove the ventilator and he whispered, “I’m going to die, today.”

Then, as he lay unconscious, I ran my fingers through his hair, caressed his face and held his hands. It was, by far, the saddest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, as I drove home 72 hours later having never left the hospital and still wearing the same clothes I showed up in, I knew those moments were all gifts from the Lord.

You’ll never regret showing up for someone.

rainy day

Do the hard thing.

Show up.

Get your hands dirty.

Love people well.

Enter into someone else’s grief.

Be uncomfortable.

You won’t regret it.

You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

 

Advertisements

At the Eleventh Hour

There is a parable about the master of a great vineyard. Early in the morning, he goes out seeking laborers to work for him. He finds some workers in the marketplace, they agree on a wage and head off to begin their work. It’s easy to focus on this first group; they bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat (Matthew 20:12.) We tend to highlight these individuals; the early bird gets the worm.

As the day wore on, the master continued to go to the marketplace to seek laborers. At the third, sixth and ninth hour, he added more workers. Only, with these workers, he sent them into the field without an agreed upon wage. They were simply promised that they would be given “what is right.” A person would certainly have to view the master as someone they could trust or else their labor may be in vain.

Finally, at the eleventh hour, the master returns to the marketplace. With only an hour left in the work day, there are still people roaming around. When asked why they had spent the entire day idle, their answer is heart-wrenching. “Because no one hired us,” they say. No one wanted them. They had stood unwanted and overlooked hour after hour.

I’ve often sympathized with the first ones hired. They were the ones in the vineyard bright and early. They worked the entire day in the heat of summer. Or, sometimes, I would admire the faith of those next few groups. The master chose them and they set to work without knowing how they would be compensated. They trusted him to be just in his dealings with them.

Yet, this time, as I read the passage (Matthew 20:1-16,) my heart was stirred for the last group – those chosen at the eleventh hour. I began to brainstorm all of the reasons that someone would be not chosen hour after hour.

Had they proven untrustworthy in the past? Were they too old, too young, too small? Was their strength, endurance or work ethic being judged based on their appearance? Did they show up late to the marketplace? Were they withdrawn and quiet? Did they fail to sell themselves properly? Perhaps, they didn’t know the right people.

And then I began to think about those who, today, may feel like they’re at the eleventh hour. They’ve watched as others seem to have been chosen to work in the vineyard – to serve the Master. The clock keeps ticking, others keep getting chosen and, still, they wait.

They wonder if they’re too bad or too broken to be used by God. Perhaps, they fear they’ve wasted too many years and it’s simply too late. Maybe others have come, given them the once over and deemed them unworthy. It could be that, at one time, they were the ones in the field at first light. Now, they find themselves in a different season and wonder if their usefulness is over.

In Philippians, Paul is weighing the pros and cons of remaining in the flesh or going to be with Christ. To be with Christ, he says, is far better. To remain in the flesh, however, means fruitful labor (Philippians 1:22.) If there is, at any point, no longer work for us to do, God will call us home. None of us remain here to simply stand idle in the marketplace and pass the time. If we are still breathing then there is, not just labor, but fruitful labor for us to do.

God has work for you to do. You are not too damaged, too old, or too far gone for Him to use. You are not too late to the party, too awkward or too much for Him. If you have ever wondered if God can use you, then let Matthew 20:7 encourage your heart.

He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.”

He chooses you, too. If no one else in the entire world chooses you. If everyone else only sees your flaws. When others don’t even give you a second glance. When you look in the mirror and don’t see anything desirable. God chooses you, too.

Now, get out there and be fruitful.

You are loved. ❤

Stacy

How to Claim Your Community for Christ

It doesn’t matter what your community looks like. Perhaps you live in a gated community. Maybe it’s a farming community. You could have been born and raised there or you could be new in town. It could be that you love where you live or not.  None of that really matters.

When the children of Israel were in exile, God had a word for them on how they were to conduct themselves. Keep in mind that this was definitely not home for them and they didn’t want to be there.

Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7 HCSB)

We are to love our communities. We are to seek the welfare of the places God has placed us. Here are three ways we can claim our communities for Christ.

A – Accept that unbelievers are going to act like unbelievers.

Seriously, friends, can we stop acting appalled and clutching our pearls when those who don’t know Christ act unChristlike? It is not our job to play the Holy Spirit. We will never guilt someone into accepting God’s grace.

I live in a community filled to overflowing with people struggling with brokenness. Many of them cling to the very thing that brings them pain, not because it’s fun, but because it’s familiar. They are afraid to pursue something different because what if, in the end, this really is all that life has to offer? Let’s be honest; that’s a real possibility.

Claiming our communities for Christ may just mean engaging someone who uses language we wouldn’t use. It most likely means getting to know someone who looks, thinks or acts quite differently from us. We have to get to know them so that they can get to know Him.

B – Be present in your community.

Let me be clear. I am an introvert’s introvert. I could, quite happily, spend the vast majority of my time in my home. Crowds make me nervous and, quite honestly, strangers make me anxious. So, when we moved to a small community about a year ago, I was nervous. New people. New places. New opportunities for rejection.

I am surrounded by poverty, addiction and a multitude of things I can’t fix. It has caused a lot of frustration for me. I don’t always understand what I’m doing here. Then, a couple weeks ago, I felt the Lord calm my spirit and say, “You’re over thinking this. I just want you to be present.”

I had to ask myself, “If I were to leave this community tomorrow, will my presence have made a difference?” I’m choosing to be present. I have scheduled checking my mailbox around when I knew a certain person walked by my house so that I could meet her. I made chocolate covered strawberries and delivered them to some ladies in town. I plan my walks around the neighborhood to pass by those folks I know will be sitting on their porches or in their yards. I’ve had neighborhood children into my home and baked birthday cakes for their mamas.

They’re small things, but not really.

C – Casseroles, Cakes, and Cookies, oh my!

Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. I’m here to tell you that so does cream of chicken soup. You take love and a good casserole and you have an opening into almost anyone’s life.

Look around your community. Who haven’t you met? Who, ahem, have you purposely not met? There isn’t any judgment here, friends. I have a list of people and a list of recipes. I’m setting a goal to meet some of them and I’m bringing food with me. A chocolate chip cookie never offended anyone. If you don’t believe me, you need to make these.

 

They’re divine; don’t forget to take some to that person on your list. I’m convinced that food, fellowship, and friendship are essential to claiming our communities for Christ.

***

What have you done in your community?

***

You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

The Call of Community

I used to be very intimidated by other moms. I would feel great shame when I would show up at a play date and see that other moms had packed coolers filled with healthy snacks and cold bottles of water. Meanwhile, I would have a ziploc bag filled with random whatevers from the pantry and a desperate hope for a fairly sanitary water fountain.

These days, I don’t worry about it as much – partly, because I pack somewhat better snacks but, mainly, because I have friends who know me well enough to pack extra snacks and drinks for my kids. That is what moms need to do. We need to fill in the gaps for each other. booth

We all have strengths. For instance, if you get in a bind and need someone to watch your kid, I’m your girl. Seriously, when you have five kids, another bowl of macaroni at lunchtime ain’t no thang. Some of you are fabulous at planning birthday parties. I see the things y’all pull off and am so grateful that my kids are not on Facebook to see it.

Motherhood is a community. It is our duty to rise up and help one another. This is a difficult age to raise babies. We need to worry about things that our mothers never did. For instance, were you aware that there is an app designed to hide photos and videos? The sole purpose of it is to deceive! I had no clue until another mother mentioned it to me. We need to have each other’s backs, y’all. The infighting and insecurities need to stop. There is too much at stake.

In Acts 6, the church was growing quickly and some things began to slip through the cracks. Due to a large number of people and a language barrier, the Greek-speaking Jews were upset that their widows were being neglected. They wanted the apostles to fix the problem.

The solution the apostles came up with was for people within that community to rise up and take on that responsibility. That is the beauty of community. We know the needs of our people and we know how to help.

churchbuildingYou and I are a community. We know the signs of a mama who is on the edge because we have been there. We recognize the desperation in her eyes because we have seen it in the mirror.

Listen, sweet friends. Motherhood is glorious. I would not trade this time with my babies for anything. This is not a woe-is-us message – not by a long shot. We are a blessed bunch of women. My point is that, sometimes, we stink at community.

Oh, we are great at moms nights out and small talk in the halls at school and church. We sip our coffee and smile as we sit on the bleachers at our children’s sporting events. Yet, when it comes to true community, we are missing the boat big time.

It is wrong that so many women would slip emails into my box saying, “I am all alone.” A complete stranger sent me a message asking if we could be prayer buddies because she did not have anyone. That should break our hearts because I believe it breaks God’s heart.

We are called to live in community. Let’s rise up and meet the needs of our sisters.

*******

Also, if you are not able to physically join a group of ladies to study God’s Word. You are more than welcome to virtually join me. 😉 I am currently reading through the book of Acts with a couple friends. You are welcome to join us. Just join our Facebook group and jump right in. We just read a chapter each day and share our thoughts. I would love to have anyone join who needs a little daily affirmation or accountability. There is no need to play catch up. Seriously, just jump right in with us. ❤

When You Get Lost in the Lonely

IMG_0156

I’m lonely.

The words echo around the room. How is it even possible that, amid the kids and chaos, there could be loneliness? But, it is there and it can be overwhelming. A girl can lose herself in the lonely.

There are feelings and there are facts. They are both real, but they are not the same. It’s important to remember. I feel lonely. I am not alone. If we try to view our world through our feelings, everything becomes distorted. Suddenly, everything seems wrong and even God seems far away.  I love what Eugene Peterson says about feelings in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

My feelings are important for many things.  They are essential and valuable.  They keep me aware of much that is true and real.  But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God.  My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. 

When we feel ourselves getting lost in the lonely, we must speak truth to ourselves. Our feeling of loneliness is not an indication that God is far away. Also – loneliness is not the same as ungratefulness or discontentment. Sometimes, we are afraid to confess our loneliness for fear people think we are not grateful for where we are or what we have been given.

There are some questions we can ask ourselves when we are feeling lonely.

Have I isolated myself? This question came to mind as I studied Genesis 1-2. Think of all that Adam had: a beautiful (perfect!) home, work which gave purpose and pleasure, fellowship with the Lord, and a drama-free, stress-free existence. Yet, God looked at this seemingly perfect existence and declared it “not good.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. – Genesis 2:18

IMG_0140Even if we have beautiful homes and good jobs, it is not good for us to be alone. It is not the way we were created to live. As difficult as it can be for {ahem} some of us, that means we have to seek out fellowship. For an introverted homebody like me, it is easier to stay home. Easy, however, sometimes breeds lonely. 

Where is my focus? Paul wrote some of the most beautiful pieces of Scripture while sitting in a prison cell awaiting his death. He had to have fought feelings of loneliness. How did he do it? His love of Christ was greater than the lonely. Do not hear me say that, if you love Christ, you will never be lonely. My point is we must make a conscious decision to focus on Him and not ourselves.

I don’t have all of the answers. Here are just a few things I have found to help – from one (sometimes) lonely girl to another. 🙂

  • Keep a proper perspective. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we are always lonely. When we do that, everything suddenly seems wrong with our lives. A praise journal goes a long way in correcting this.
  • Get out of the house! Seriously, a trip to Target will do you wonders. Take the kids to the park and soak in the sunshine. A change of scenery will do you good.
  • Spend time in the Word. This is not my attempt to be churchy or spiritual. It’s truth. When we neglect God’s Word, we are asking for Satan to plant seeds of discontentment or loneliness.
  • Reach out. There are women in your neighborhood, in your church, at your workplace, etc. who are also lost in the lonely. If we all sit around waiting for someone to reach out to us, it will not work. Someone has to be the first to step out. Quit looking around trying to determine who could be your next best friend. Instead, look around you and see who needs a friend. Then, be one.