Outside the Ministry Zone – When God Leads You Down a Desert Road

Outside the ministry zoneHave you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!

Yeah, me too.

It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)

This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.

Ministry is happening here.

And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to

“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26

Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.

Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.

And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.

“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”

Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.

Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.

Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.

Such is the case with this passage.

This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.

But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.

The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.

And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.

For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.

But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?

Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?

Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?

Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?

Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.

I like that.

What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?

I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.

Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.

Fruit•it•ta•tion

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I turned my back to the class of fifth graders in order to write their responses on the marker board. The chatter continued behind me.

I had placed the students from my midweek church class into groups and had asked each to read from Genesis in their Bibles to discover what God made during each of the six days of creation.

“I have day 3! We know it!” one of the boys shouted.

“Go ahead. What did you find in Genesis chapter one?”

“On the third day, God made land and vegetation.”

I nodded and wrote with the smelly dry-erase marker again.

Day 3 – Land and Vegetation.

“That’s right.” I confirmed. “Now, can you tell me in your own words what vegetation is?”

“Oh sure! Vegetation is what vegetables grow on, and fruititation is what fruit grows on.”

I should have turned my back again, because I laughed out loud – right to his young, eager face. A technique surely not recommended in the teacher handbook.

“You’re right about the vegetation, but fruititation is not a word. Fruit grows on vegetation as well.” I said, bursting his bubble and maybe wounding his pride.

But, I’ve got to admit, I like the word.

Fruititation.

It’s really growing on me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fruit. The kind of fruit that we bear in our lives, and how it’s seasonal, just like the kind of fruit we pick, whether from trees or the produce department.

Recently, I walked through the hallway at church, on a Sunday morning, and was stopped by a friend. She told me she’s in a small group Bible study, and they are currently using my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, as their study guide. I was shocked and humbled.

Really?

She went on to tell me that they’d been having such great conversations within the group and were learning so much. I thanked her and walked away in a daze.

My mind wandered back to the hours I sat in my home office with tight shoulders and an exhausted brain. It took me three years to write that book! I literally spent days in front of a blinking cursor pouring my heart onto the page. I devoted time, tears, and cash preparing for the book launch.

One specific night, I stayed up well past midnight adjusting margins and headers, section by section, in my manuscript. It was tedious, boring, and frustrating work. I did not enjoy it. I remember being tired and annoyed.

I came back to the present and walked up the stairwell in the church that leads to and from the childrens’ classrooms. I had just dropped my own children off, and was now heading back up the steps. I passed two kids carrying their Bibles and curriculum. I wrote the curriculum they carried. The kids had their arms wrapped around it as they walked past me on the steps.

Again, my mind flashed back to the season before that curriculum was finished. I spent months writing the content, years teaching it and fine-tuning it, a solid year giving it a “makeover” and learning graphic design tricks and tools to make that possible. I put a lot of sweat equity into that curriculum.

And now, preteens, whom I don’t even know, are carrying it with them to class on a Sunday morning and unknowingly passing the author on the steps on their way.

Could this be the culmination of fruititation?

Is this the wonderful cycle of bearing fruit?

Those tedious and seemingly wasteful hours of mundane and difficult work are important. In fact, they are more than important.

They are a vital part of the fruititation cycle.

Vital how? Vital because during those tedious tasks, the not-yet fruit was being tended. It wasn’t time for the fruit to be picked, but time for it to be watered, cultivated, lovingly pruned, and painstakingly nurtured.

The fruit wasn’t yet ripe. It was out of season. And being out of season usually means it can’t be seen. It’s not ready.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing.

David, the psalmist, wrote about this in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

David mentions the tree that is planted and prosperous. But, he also mentions that the tree yields its fruit in season.

In season.

Not always. Sometimes the tree does not have visible hanging fruit. But it’s still a fruit tree.

Sometimes my efforts are not publically visible either. They are margin moving, cursor crunching, photo editing, head gripping, tear rendering, heart stirring moments of cultivation.

And sometimes, the fruititation cycle in my life has nothing to do with writing, but with raising kids, cultivating my marriage, planting seeds of deep and meaningful friendships, and tending the soil of my own heart. It looks like difficult, honest conversations that would be easier to avoid, midnight touches of warm foreheads and beeps of the thermometer, tough love and deliberate discipline that wrings your heart into a knot, intentional time set aside for listening and truly seeing the needs of a friend, and daily surrender to selfish desires.

It’s a struggle. A daily toil.

But the cultivation leads to the culmination of fruititation.

The fruit becomes visible. But only for a time. It won’t last forever. It’s just ripe for a bit.

But oh, how fun it is to see others enjoy it!

I am thankful for the moments when the fruit of my life is juicy, and ripe, and ready. But I’m also thankful for the reminder to press on in my daily, mundane, unnoticed, and often frustrating cultivating efforts.

Because they are vital.

Without them, fruititation is just a made-up word.

Math is easier without numbers.

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I don’t have a beautiful mind like the guy in the movie by that title who is a brilliant mathematician. In fact, when it comes to math, my mind is anything but beautiful. Equations go into my mind to scoff and mock.

“Larry, get a load of this mind! She’ll never get us. We’re safe here!” (Yes, math equations are sometimes named Larry.)

I’d say instead of a beautiful mind, I have a busy mind. It sometimes serves me well. Minds need to be busy, right? We have places to go, people to see, things to do.

But there are times my busy mind is not a good addition to life, but a subtraction. (Wait, did I almost make a math problem? Larry, is that you?)

When my mind is busy with the wrong things, things like worry, irrational thoughts, fears, imaginary scenarios, I suffer.

But I have a little equation that helps me pull out of it. (Okay, maybe I really CAN do math- just not with actual numbers.)

Truth + Trust = Peace

When I find my busy mind is focused on questions like,

“What did my friend mean by that comment? Does she hate me now? What did I do to offend her?”

“What if my daughter doesn’t know how to navigate this difficult situation at school today? What if I’ve completely failed as her mom?”

“Is this health symptom weird? Am I dying of some rare disease?”

When those questions haunt me, I go back to my equation.

Truth + Trust = Peace

Truth. What do I KNOW to be true.

Trust. Who do I KNOW to be in control, no matter the circumstance (spoiler alert: it’s God).

Peace. Ahhh. There is it. The wonderful resulting exhale of relief and hope filled inhale of comfort.

When I go back this equation, this simple formula without numbers, my busy mind becomes more beautiful after all.

That’s right, Larry. Deal with it.

 

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This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: TRUTH

Home Base.

When I was 10 years old, my dad took the position of pastor at Emmanuel Community Church. Six weeks later, my mom died suddenly in our kitchen while sitting at the table. She had been reading a book, and drinking a cup of coffee when she began to collapse.

Needless to say, it was a rough beginning of my tenure at Emmanuel Community Church. But our bond became strong, and we stayed together, and for the past 28 years, I’ve grown up at ECC. And come to think of it, the church has grown up with me too.

Last night I began the “speaking tour” for my book Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels. I will be traveling and sharing the messages of the book at various churches and venues across the country over the next several months.  I hit the road on Friday to speak in Erie, PA, and Buffalo, NY.

Last night I was able to start by speaking at ECC.  Home. What a logical place to step into the batter’s box.

As I stood in front of that room of women, many of whom are close personal friends, I marveled at how God had brought me to that moment.

And even that very spot.

You see, the church has grown and changed over the past three decades. The place where I stood and spoke last night is now called “The Commons,” and it’s a large gathering room with round tables for discussion and a little kitchen window in the corner for snacks. But it used to be our sanctuary. And the very spot where I stood last night is where my dad stood for years when he would preach. Now we have a bigger sanctuary (they say it’s called the ‘Worship Center’…) and the building has been remodeled.

But before the room became “The Commons,” as it is now, it went through some other transitions.

While it was still the main sanctuary, my dad got remarried, to the woman I now call “Mom.” I was her maid of honor, and stood up in that wedding – exactly where I stood last night as I spoke.

That room, in its original form, was where I sat through sermons, performed in children’s musicals, attended VBS weeks, and where I learned to love those people who became my church family.

I attended Sunday school classes behind the sanctuary in a little room with ugly red carpet.

When the room was remodeled to include a second-story loft, I helped with middle school youth group up there and later taught kids about God’s word using my Grow in His Word for Kids curriculum.

At one point, the room was transformed into a hallway with three classrooms on each side. In that hallway, I first walked past a man name Kraig Cabe. I saw him, but he didn’t see me. We didn’t meet for a few month after that, but eventually, we started teaching a Sunday school class together in one of those rooms – just a few feet from where I stood last night – and we eventually fell in love and got married in that big new sanctuary, er… Worship Center.

That room, that very spot where I stood and spoke last evening, has great significance for me. And I was so blessed to begin my speaking tour right there. It was the perfect launching ground. And as I shared about these things with the ladies and told them some stories from my life (old news to many of them!) they laughed and cried along with me.

And they served brownies. What more could you ask for?

After I finished, these friends of mine lined up to get my autograph in their books. I laughed. “Really?” I said, “It’s just ME!” They hugged me and supported me and got their picture taken with me. And I laughed all the more.

Because who would have thought this dream would become a reality. That God would redeem my life – my story – and use it for His glory through a book with a brownie on the cover and an imperfect girl-turned-woman who is willing to share.

That room, that spot where I stood last night, has been repurposed, reshaped, and put to the best use for each season.

Sounds a lot like me.

And for this season of my life, God has given me the opportunity to share my story. I’m thrilled, and nervous, and excited, and hopeful.

Because God has proven faithful through every season thus far.

And I have no doubt He’ll direct me, around each stop along the way, until I get back home.

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For more about my speaking schedule, or to have me consider speaking at your venue, click on Speaking or Contact in the menu.

So, I released my first book this week.

I’ve carried three babies to term and have given birth to each.

And as of Tuesday, I feel as if another pregnancy has resulted in the birth of a 14.7 ounce 6 x 9 inch baby book. Mother and baby are doing well, although the three year gestation of this one was a doozy.

But she’s here. Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels made her debut on Tuesday, April 25 bright and early in the morning. And what a day it was!

And just like any mother, I’m prepared to fill you in on the details.

I’ll try to summarize and leave out the parts about the epidural needle (oh wait… that’s right, I couldn’t get insurance to cover one this time).

****My book released on Amazon Tuesday morning, and my wonderful launch team (those who I had asked to help me promote the book and to whom I’d given an early digital copy in preparation) did their job of leaving Amazon reviews and sharing about the book on their own social media pages. If you ever release a book, I’d strongly suggest using a launch team. But you can’t have mine. They’re too awesome.

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****My husband, who incidentally was a part of my launch team (did he have a choice, really?), actually posted on social media. This in and of itself is big news. When he left updates about my book on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Homeland Security may have been alerted about unusual activity.

****This same husband knew that I got up at 5:30 launch day morning and therefore went to Starbucks and got me my favorite drink on his way home from taking our son to school. Social media and buying Starbucks on the same morning… unusual activity indeed.

****All three of my children took a copy of my book to school with them. My kindergartner was the “sharing friend” that day and chose my book for her “show-and-tell.” My 2nd grader told the class all about what it’s like to be an author (I’m not sure what she relayed exactly! :)) and talked it up so much her teacher ordered a copy over her lunch break. My middle schooler showed it to some teachers and then kept it to read for one of his “free choice” class assignments. He told me after school today he just finished chapter 2 and as we talked about it a little, I had to choke back tears of gratitude for the moment.

 

****My doorbell rang twice launch day morning. Once it was flowers sent from great friends, and second time it was a different great friend standing there with her children and gifts. She brought flowers, brownie mix, a Starbucks card (do you see a theme here?) and a travel cup that says “Yay!”

 

****I had a launch team, and I had a LUNCH team. That’s right. My parents and my grandparents took me to lunch to celebrate. It was such a special time together.

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****My parents gave me a gift – a travel tote for when I travel and speak, and a pen to sign my books with (will I really be signing books?!) And, my mom even gave me a gift certificate to go get my nails done so that they’ll look good when I sign books. How awesome and thoughtful is that?!

****I got a shipment of books in the mail that I will take with me when I travel and speak. SO WEIRD to open the boxes and see them full of my books!

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****My husband and kids took me out to our favorite Mexican place for dinner to celebrate (I wasn’t even very hungry- but that didn’t stop us!) They each gave me a sweet card they’d made or signed.

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****I started to actually SIGN a few of the books that I was giving as gifts. I actually autographed a book. CRAZY!

****The first of three podcasts that I’ve been interviewed on was posted on Tuesday. Two more will air later.

****I checked Amazon and saw MY BOOK in the bestseller list for the Spiritual Growth category. It was amongst the names of Ann Voskamp, Tim Tebow, Mark Batterson, and Lysa Terkeurst. I about fell off of my chair.

 

****And today I’ve been getting texts and seeing posts from friends who ordered the book on Tuesday and who have received their shipment already! What a fun and strange thing for me to see! 🙂

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The three year gestation of this book baby was a lot to bear. I’m not gonna lie. But, as a friend teased me yesterday, “It will be just like when you forget how painful labor was after you hold your baby for the first time and then you end up going through it all again to have another child.”

Yes, maybe it will be like that.

But all I know for now is that I’m happy to be able to hold this one in my hands.

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And I pray that all who read it will be encouraged to savor life — and given a little dose of hope, joy, and love along the way!

Thanks for sharing in the journey!

Christy

To see the book on Amazon, click HERE

All the feels.

There’s this phrase that young and cool people say now-a-days.

When someone is feeling really emotional, good or bad, they say they have “all the feels.”

Because I am not a cool person (and my young-ness is debatable, at a week shy of 39), I don’t often (ever) use this phrase. I tend to be pretty traditional. So if something is giving me really strong feelings, I will most likely say, “Wow. I am feeling emotional today.”

But today…

I HAVE ALL THE FEELS!

Deep breath. 

Here’s why.

First off, today is the anniversary of my mom’s death. She passed away 28 years ago when I was a week shy of eleven. Her death was sudden and shocking and has obviously impacted my life.

Feels.

Secondly, after three years of working on writing a book (and doing all that the process of having it ready for release entails- which is A LOT) I sent the Advanced Reader Copies of my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, to my book launch team this morning (digitally). That means that my launch team, which is comprised of friends and family, is potentially reading my book now. It’s out there! It is a vulnerable and honest telling of my story and it encourages the reader to savor life through heartache, joy, and the moments in between. And, I was able to time its early release with the anniversary of my mom’s death- which is such a special way to honor her life and memory.

Feels. 

Third, I unveiled my book cover and the release date to the general public on Wednesday of this week. I posted the details on social media and asked my launch team to help me share it before the book releases (which they have already started to do!). The book releases in just over a month, on April 25th, and will be available on Amazon, both in paperback and for the Kindle. In the weeks to come, more will be shared on this website and on social media, including a book trailer (a short video teaser about the book) and endorsements.

Feels.

Fourth, our family has been asked to share our son, Karson’s, cancer journey at two fundraising events for the children’s hospital which diagnosed and treated him, Riley Hospital for Children. We share Friday evening at a university, and Saturday evening at a high school. My husband, Kraig, Karson, and I will all speak together and our girls will be with us.

Feels.

So, you can hopefully see why I have given my uncool self permission to use this young and cool phrase. All the feels, man. I think it is merited in this situation. I will try to limit my use of it to this weekend, and then go back to my “I am feeling very emotional” verbiage. Thanks for understanding.

Here’s a glimpse at the book cover. More to come!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Cover Reveal!-2

One of those days.

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Yesterday, before the sunrise, my oldest child stood in front of his middle school peers and shared his story. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) group meets once a week in the cafeteria before the first bell of the school day. One Wednesday each month they combine with another middle school FCA in town. They join their groups together for fellowship, fun, and free breakfast.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Karson was asked to share about his cancer. How he fought leukemia from the age of two to the age of five and-a-half. How before his peers met him in their Kindergarten classrooms and the elementary playground, he’d spent most of his days too sick to play with other kids.

How he’d received over three years of chemotherapy. How he was given steroids that made him crazy with hunger and then how he was required to fast for spinal tap procedures. How he ate more in one day as a toddler than most teenage boys do in two. How his medicine made him feel itchy, and yucky, and isolated. How he not only survived it all, but now is tall, and happy, and healthy.

He’s here.

And he’s willing to share at an FCA meeting on a cold, dark, Wednesday morning.

And my husband, who helps lead FCA and heard our son share, told me later that Karson’s message had two main points.

1- God loves you no matter what you’re going through – even if you don’t have it figured out.

2- We can have hope and joy because Jesus made it possible to spend eternity in Heaven.

And I can’t see straight as I type this because of the tears in my eyes.

Because I remember the days of being up before the crack of dawn too. Not for FCA groups, but for loading into the car with a very sick little bald boy who needed to go the hospital to get chemo to help keep him alive. How some days my knees could barely hold my own weight as I watched those spinal tap procedures and blood transfusions. How we didn’t know if he would live. How we didn’t know what the long term effects of his treatment would be even if he did. How we were told he would likely have stunted growth, learning disabilities, and coordination issues. And how we fought, and loved, and prayed.

And now I hear of him standing there; tall, and smart, and smiling. Telling his peers of the true hope they can cling to in this life.

And the tears run down my cheeks as I take it all in.

He’s here.

Yesterday was one of those days.

One of those days when you feel like you see the light pierce through the darkness.

When you remember that the sun will rise again.

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

I stood frozen, unblinking and holding my breath. I felt anxious, unsettled and nervous. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. …and it did. It was a size 5 boys black dress shoe to be exact and it fell from our second-story landing onto ceramic tile below.

You see, I had heard what I surmised to be the first shoe dropping.

tthhhhhhhhhHHUUMPPPPPP!!

And in that super-speed Mommy brain mode that can think faster than the Road Runner can get away from Wile E. Coyote, I knew what had happened. It was a Sunday morning and our seven-year-old son was getting dressed for church. I knew I had laid out his black dress shoes. I also knew that since recently moving into this home, with an open second-story landing, that our son has a new found interest in gravity. I thought I had made it clear that no “hard objects” were to be dropped below, but apparently with seven-year-old boys you need to be a bit more specific.

So I waited. I waited for the other shoe to drop. And as I said, it did. It thumped as loud as the first and the sound reverberated off the tile floor. Yes, I caught up to my poor son in about as much time as it took for the shoe to fall and we reviewed the “landing rule.” Dropping hard objects is not good for the walls, floor, objects being dropped, or little sisters who happen to be standing below. Lesson learned, and so we moved on with our Sunday morning.

We moved on, but as I was blow-drying my hair I thought about it some more. I had literally just waited for the other shoe to drop. I do it figuratively so often that it was interesting to actually experience it for real!

Yes, I sometimes use that phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” when trying to explain to my hubby or a friend how I deal with fear of the unknown. I’ve told them that sometimes I struggle. I struggle with fearing what big, hard trial will happen next in my life.

I’ve had some whoppers of a shoe drop in my past and I’ve faced some difficult situations. I’m thankful that my God has been so faithful and now things are looking up and moving forward. But when that’s the case, when things are going well, I sometimes find myself standing there…frozen, unblinking and holding my breath. I feel anxious, unsettled and nervous. I’m waiting for that figurative other shoe to drop. Oh, I wish I wouldn’t!

So here’s what I’ve tried to do about it. I’ve had to remind myself of two things.

1. The other shoe IS going to drop.

I know, it’s a bummer, but we all know it’s true. This life is full of disappointment, hardships and trial. No one is exempt. Wow, aren’t I Susie Sunshine! 🙂

But, the second point helps:

2. I believe in and serve an Almighty God who never allows a “shoe to drop” without it passing through his Sovereign, Merciful hands.

Wheh! When I remember point number two and when I look back at God’s faithfulness, provision, unconditional love, mercy, grace and hope during my difficult times I can start to move and blink again. I can even take a deep breath knowing that no matter what shoe drops, HE is in control.

Fact is, I don’t know what or when the next shoe will be. I hope it’s a flip-flop or something light if one has to drop at all, but I don’t get to make that choice. I do, however, get to choose how I’ll live in the meantime.

Am I going to waste my time worrying about the future and being frozen with fear… or am I going to live joyfully and fully while trusting in my Sovereign Lord?

Who knew a boy’s dress shoe could have a profound impact on my thinking? …Come to think of it, I hope that’s the only place it makes impact in the future!

34.

23 years ago today my Mom, Mary Miller, died suddenly of a heart arrhythmia. She was 34 years old.

This Friday is my birthday. I will be turning 34.

I’m going to be very honest here and admit that I’m struggling with turning 34.  It has nothing to do with aging and I’m not one bit superstitious so the number itself doesn’t bother me. I guess what bothers me is the realization of how young my Mom was when she passed away. This realization sits with me differently at age 34 than it did at age 10.

I always knew she died young. I heard that comment from grown-ups over and over in the months after her death. I also knew it was such a sad thing that she left my Dad with two little children, ages 10 (6 days shy of 11) and 6. I was sad because I’d lost my Mom. My Dad, brother, and I grieved her loss and I could perceive, even as a young girl, that many people were brokenhearted for us. But now that I’m turning 34 I see her death through a different lens. The glass was never rosy, but it was somewhat tinted with the eyes of a child looking through it. Now I’m not a child….I have children of my own. I see the loss of my Mom through my own Mommy eyes. And it has changed my perception.

My Mommy eyes see things around my house now, like rubber darts stuck to light switches and Barbies in the refrigerator, and I realize that my own Mom missed seeing a lot of things. She missed my middle-school years, my AAU basketball games, shopping for my prom dress and planning my wedding. She didn’t get to see my Dad walk me down the aisle toward the most wonderful man. Boy, she would have loved my husband! And it’s so sad that her grandchildren will never meet her this side of Heaven. It makes these Mommy eyes cry at times…

But, as I’ve become one of those grown-ups who realizes how young 34 really is, I’ve wiped my eyes and often recalled a story my Dad told me once about my Mom. He told me that his beloved church secretary, who was like a mother to him, had passed away while my Mom was still living. I was aware, but oblivious at the time. My Dad, however, had been sad to lose this mentor and he had gone to visit her grave, depressed and grieving. He was having trouble moving past the grief. But he told me that my Mom looked at him and asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” She was quoting Scripture. Luke 24:5 to be exact. It’s the passage where after Christ’s death and burial the women go to Jesus’ tomb and when they arrive angels greet them and remind them that Christ said he would rise again! It reads:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

I like how it says in the last verse that then they remembered his words. Before that they had been so caught up in their grief that they didn’t remember Jesus’ promises. The angels helped give them perspective and helped them look for a living God.

I know my Mom is no longer living on this earth and she never will again. However, when I allow Christ to change my perspective I can remember that she is living in Heaven. She is happy and whole. She didn’t want my Dad to be overcome with grief and lose perspective on life when he lost his secretary. And I know that she most certainly wouldn’t want me to sit and mope often for her.

Yes, I do sometimes mope and there is no way to get around the fact that it’s heartbreaking. She missed so much. Yet I try to focus on what she did see and more importantly… WHO she is seeing now.

It makes my Mommy eyes sparkle along with the tears. It makes me want to embrace every day with my children and direct their eyes toward our loving and living Heavenly Father. I try to live by the motto: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I don’t know what my own future holds or what will come in my life but I want to enjoy this moment. Now. Today.

And when thinking about the future I want to be like the woman described in Proverbs 31:25 who is clothed with strength and dignity;” and  “can laugh at the days to come.” I say I want to because I certainly haven’t mastered it yet. You’d think that after having such a hands-on education about God’s provision and love in a worst-case scenario that I’d have graduated from this lesson already. But unfortunately I have to go over the notes again and again. God is living, active and unchanging. He has proven faithful in the worst and He’ll be faithful no matter what is to come. I study these thoughts often and feebly try to teach my own children these truths.

I miss my Mom. I wish I could talk to her now. Mom to Mom. Woman to Woman. But I don’t have the luxury. Instead I hear her echo the angels words in my mind. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Live life today, Christy. Yes, do remember the sorrow-because God uses all things for the good of His people and in sorrow we grow so much in our faith… but don’t stop there. Look to the Living God today… and live.

I am trying to look all around with those Mommy eyes. I see pigtails and peanut butter stained fingers. I see toys and shoes and crumbs on the floor. I see smiles and innocent sweet little eyes on my children’s faces. I see grace and blessings heaped upon the sorrow. I see now. And now I’m turning 34.

Delivering Hope

As wonderful as it was to be a part of the assembly process of the 7,000 Super Baskets of Hope on Monday, it’s been just as special to help deliver a few of them. Although most of the 7,000 baskets were shipped across the nation to the 32 NFL cities, Indiana got to keep a share of them for some of the hospitals here in our own state. In Fort Wayne, deliveries are being made this week at Lutheran and Parkview hospitals. We’ve personally had the privilege of accompanying some local celebrities as baskets and tote bags were delivered to children admitted to Lutheran Hospital.

We certainly aren’t celebrities or even anybody important, but I do have a nice camera and I’m not afraid to use it and so we tagged along to take pictures of the deliveries. We also took our children on Tuesday evening so that they could be a small part of the process and see what it means to love other people.

Tuesday night the celebrities were Jason Fabini (who played in the NFL, mostly for the NY Jets) and Tory Jackson, who is a current guard on the Mad Ant’s basketball team. We also had the Mad Ant Mascot himself… who has now traumatized our one-year-old for life by standing right next to us in the crowded hospital elevator and daring to give her a high-five. Thankfully after she finally took a breath after her lung piercing scream, Grandma was able to whisk her away to safety! Also thankfully, the other children on the pediatric unit of the hospital reacted in a much more positive manner to Mr. Mad Ant!

Mr. Fabini, Mr. Jackson and our team were able to deliver about 17 baskets and totes on Tuesday evening. It struck me that night that the smiles I saw on the children’s faces were reflected in the faces of the macho athletes. They seemed to be enjoying giving hope just as much as the children enjoyed receiving it. We also noticed the eyes of several fathers light up as they saw athletes they recognized and who gave them a few minutes reprieve from thinking about their suffering child. And as an added bonus, the Moms seemed pleased about receiving a Vera Bradley tote bag and U Designs Hope necklace. Smiles all around.

Thursday evening I charged my camera battery and met the next group for deliveries. This time it was current Pittsburg Steeler, Trai Essex, as well as some women’s basketball players from IPFW. Although we live in “Colt’s Country,” Mr. Essex was still quite the popular guest! First of all, he’s an offensive lineman and he’s sort of hard to miss! Secondly, his smile is as big as his jersey-size and he’s an all around nice guy. The kids, and especially some parents, really enjoyed meeting this guy. I have a feeling if a few Terrible Towels would have been laying around we would have seen some parents waving them enthusiastically… with the giddy nurses right behind them!

It was wonderful seeing those baskets and totes go from huge piles on the assembly floor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse on Monday to the actual hands of children and parents this week. For me personally, as the Mom of a cancer survivor, I loved seeing those tote bags full of books and a Bible go into the parent’s hands. Although our visit in each room was brief, we were leaving ultimate Hope in the form of God’s Word. To me… that’s the best part of this whole thing!

That, and getting to watch the reactions of joy and hope… and hear the hilarious requests asked of these athletes. Like the Mom Thursday night who chased Mr. Essex down in the hall so that she could get a picture of him for “Uncle Chunky!” I’m still chuckling to myself about that one. It was fun to be a part of bringing a smile and some pictures for boasting to the Uncle Chunkies of this world!

What a week it has been! The full circle has been completed and hope is being delivered. I’m so thankful that I’ve had a front row seat. I’m also thankful that you’ve all been a part of the process by following me on Facebook and reading this blog. Thank you for the comments, prayers and encouragement. This has not been about us. It’s not even been about Tony Dungy, Kurt Warner or a giant Mad Ant. It’s been about bringing hope to families who are hurting. And most of all, it’s been about bringing glory and honor to the God of all Hope! …and Uncle Chunky is even going to get a picture!

NOTE: A 90 second special about Super Baskets of Hope will air as a part of the Super Bowl pre game show this Sunday, February 5th at 1:20 EST. Don’t miss it!