Not Awesome

Everything is not always awesome. If you’ve been a mother for any amount of time you’ve probably experienced your child being hurt. Not physically hurt, although that happens often enough, but hurt emotionally. Recently my teenage daughter texted me and asked to be picked up early from a school event. Once home she asked me for a hug and cried in my arms for a while.

Feelings were hurt. Kids were mean. My heart breaks.

On those less than awesome days I’ve found that the best thing is to just hug, be there for her, and not try to fix. Can I be real honest here? My flesh urges me to tell her to go upstairs, get a bowl of ice cream and relax in front of the TV, as if that would make it all better. But that is the response of my flesh and the ice cream will provide no real comfort. In these moments, a bowl of ice cream teaches my daughter to find her comfort in something other than the True Comforter.

So while we hug, I pray.

God knows, He saw, His heart breaks too.

I was recently reading the passage in Luke 18 where Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him. How many times have I read that, seen it, heard it? Yet on this particular day I understood something new about our Heavenly Father. Honestly, who among us doesn’t melt at the sight of a newborn or enjoy making a nine month old laugh? Whose heart doesn’t fill with joy while watching the freedom a four year old feels to pirouette through a parking lot or at a ten year old’s excitement and anticipation over the one line she gets to say in the school play?

Our hearts swell with love, often for no other reason than because these precious creatures are children. I forget that God looks at our children and that He also experiences that same warmness and joy that we feel in their presence – but He experiences it in perfection – even better. Then, even so, when our hearts break with our children, it is only natural that we turn to the One whose heart is breaking with us. He is the True Comforter, not just for me in my sorrow, but my child’s Comforter in her own sorrow.

Her sadness is not too insignificant for Him to care.

I must constantly remind myself that my children’s faith journeys are their own to traverse and I am here to guide. The God who comforts the downcast is as much their Father as He is mine. And as I have personally experienced His comfort time and time again, the greatest response I can give to my daughter in her own moment of sorrow is to lead her to The Source of all comfort and The Healer of all wounds, so that when the day comes that I am no longer with her, she can find her way to Him.

Then after a little while, when the tears subside, she and I can share another hug, and maybe a bowl of ice cream.

not awesome

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®

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Call Me Homeless

I spent part of my Friday night with the homeless.

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Don’t get me wrong, the purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn, but rather, to toot the horn of the men and women I met on this cold and snowy night who just happen to not know where they will be sleeping in a few hours.

Let me back up; when there have been several severely cold (read: below freezing) nights in a row, a local ministry I volunteer with fills a van with a large thermal dispenser of hot chocolate, packets of peanut butter crackers and some bins of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets and drives to the transportation center downtown.

There were three of us tonight who bundled ourselves up and stepped out of the van into the swirling whiteness of an unforeseen snow storm. While we unloaded the van men and women already covered in a dusting of snow gathered and asked us for gloves, or hats or blankets. Two of us took the hot chocolate a little ways away and offered steaming cups and crackers and conversation to passersby.

The first time someone thought I was homeless, they saw me walking toward the van and got my attention to inform me that there was free hot chocolate behind me. The second time was when I asked our van volunteer for another bulk pack of crackers by saying, “Do you have anymore crackers?” and a man standing in line for some gloves overheard me and immediately reached into his pocket and handed me his very own packet of crackers that he had received with his hot chocolate.

I was stunned into silence.

I am still stunned into silence.

The third time I was mistaken for homeless (sad to say this is not the first time in my life this has happened, surely it won’t be the last) a man standing in line by the van started advocating to the other volunteer on my behalf because he was certain my coat wasn’t warm enough. He insisted I ask for a coat and warm weather clothes and stand in line before him.

Stranger caring for stranger. Friend caring for friend. I’ve heard of the compassion and generosity of the destitute and downtrodden; the gentleness of the hearts of those laying down this very night wrapped in sheets of plastic and newspaper, and covering their tired feet with four pairs of socks that they got from a red van and some random people handing out hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s night.

Call me homeless. I’ll take it as a compliment.

For more follow me on Bloglovin and find more thoughts on this topic here and here.

Thanks for Being Rude…no, really, Thanks.

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On Saturday I had the opportunity to join with friends and strangers to pack and deliver Thanksgiving food items to five families in a very poor city in NJ. I’ve written about it here, Loving with My Eyes Wide Open. This post is not so much a follow up as it is a reflection on one particular aspect of the day’s deliveries.

Nine of us, three adults and six children, piled into a 12 passenger van with our boxes full of frozen turkey and gravy, cans of green beans and boxes of stuffing and miscellaneous other items, and headed to our first address. It was like the weirdest treasure hunt ever.

It seemed best if everyone stayed in the vehicle and I went alone to knock on doors to make sure someone was at home before opening the van and allowing the children out. Sadly, we struck out at Home #1. Not to be deterred, we plugged another address in to the GPS and off we went with high hopes for better results.

After knocking on the door of Home #2 a few times, I heard a man’s voice call through the broken front window, “Who’s out there?!”

“I’m here from Seeds of Hope. I have a turkey and some Thanksgiving food to deliver.” I shouted back.

I heard some shuffling inside and the door was opened to reveal an older woman. When I told her who I was and why I was there, she broke down and said, “Praise Jesus,” and I called in the children.

The six kids happily spilled out of the van like clowns out of a clowncar and grabbed the frozen turkey, roasting pan and the box of goodies from the back. Everyone needed to carry something to the front door, even the four year old. He walked up to the house carrying a bag of mini-marshmallows in the crooks of his elbows like a Wise Man presenting a box of frankincense to Jesus.

How uplifting! What a wonderful experience!

We piled back into the van and rushed back to the home base for another address. This is great!

Home #3, however, was a somewhat different experience. As we pulled up to the row home there was a woman standing on the porch. Maybe she was waiting for us. Maybe she just recognized a large van full of middle class white people driving around town the weekend before Thanksgiving as most likely being Thanksgiving Meal Deliverers. Whatever the reason, I was just happy someone was home and I stepped out of the van to speak with her. I explained who I was and why I was there and she nodded. I called in the kids. Once again they enthusiastically piled out of the van and elbowed each other out of the way to be the first to carry the goods to the lady on the porch.

She never cracked a smile. Her “thank you” was begrudgingly given and her attitude was anything but friendly. Although she didn’t protest about the food, I sort of felt like I was the delivery guy for the supermarket – Hey Lady, here’s your Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for your order.

This second experience was vastly different than the earlier one. Everyone felt it. We sat silently in the car for a moment after loading back in and seven-year-old Asher finally commented, “She had a lot of beer caps in her yard.” 

As the day went on we were blessed to deliver three more meals and received varying responses to the deliveries, some quietly grateful, others exuberant and heart-wrenching (like the one with the little boy with a medical device inserted in his throat.) But none held a candle to the response of the lady at Home #3. Memorable. Extraordinary. Unforgettable.

In hindsight, as I reflected on the day, I have one thing I’d like to say to the woman in Home #3. Thanks for being rude…no, really, Thanks. 

You see, her attitude reminded me of others who were presented with a much more marvelous gift and responded, not with gratitude, but with rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance. Jesus. On the cross. Making a way for sinful, hopeless humanity to once again be with God. Emmanuel, God With Us. And what has been the response to this most excellent gift over the centuries? Gratitude, yes, thankfully, occasionally, yes; but much more often, the response to this gift is rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance.

So, Ms. Home #3, thank you for being rude. I don’t know what was going on in your heart or your life on Saturday and I am not judging you. I was as blessed (maybe more) to deliver to you as to any other and we were seeking no praise or gratitude anyway. Yet your response impressed our children so deeply that it allowed me to organically and practically speak to my children on the drive home about the truth of God’s love for us, even, and especially, when we don’t deserve it. Thank you also for the opportunity to remind them (and me) of the many who view God’s love with anything but a grateful heart. I think they understand a little better now. Happy Thanksgiving.

Loving with My Eyes Wide Open

TGOn the Saturday before Thanksgiving this year I’ll be packing up some frozen turkeys and all the Thanksgiving fixins and delivering them to families in need who live in one of America’s poorest cities. I’ve desired to do this for several years but previous obligations on that day never allowed it.

And at the risk of sounding like a punk, honestly, I’ve often thought of asking the man directing this effort if he thinks the poor that will receive these bagfuls of Thanksgiving provisions have any clue how to defrost and cook a turkey properly. 

TG 2Next week I will be cooking my very first turkey for Thanksgiving. I confess, I’m a little apprehensive, cooking a turkey is no joke, even for an experienced cooker like me with all the accoutrements at my fingertips. I wonder how these individuals or families (who use their stove mainly as an alternative heat source in the winter) will deal with a 17lb frozen turkey.

Since I’ve gone this far, let me ask THE question that is already on everyone’s minds:

Will these families, in one of the poorest cities in the nation, actually prepare a complete dinner and then sit down together to feast on Thanksgiving Day?

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Isn’t it more likely they will sell the turkey (and boxes of stuffing, mashed potatoes and canned goods) for money to feed their addictions or to head out shopping on Black Friday?

There, I said it. Call me a punk, but isn’t that what a lot of us are thinking? Don’t we view “those people” who choose one holiday a year to serve the poor and pour out food items on them as naïve, foolish or wasteful with their (or our) money? Why join the dozens (hundreds) of others on such a popular service day to give food items to people who will most likely quickly convert the food to cash and then to drugs or drink?

You know what… I’m not naïve (much) and in all honestly, I would be truly surprised if more than 2 families in 50 actually use their Thanksgiving food items for a Thanksgiving Day meal. Most will probably just eat the pies.

And I’m OK with that.

After lunch today we were talking about some loved ones and old friends who are suffering from the affects of Alzheimers and dementia. These dear friends have lost the ability to remember, yet they have not lost the desire to serve. Allowing them to still do some small acts of work or service generally makes a LOT of work for the people around them – but hey, Whoever said love had to be productive?

Love, just, is. It is often not convenient. Not logical. Not fiscally responsible.

On a day where some of us will choose to give of our finances (for food items) and give of our time (to deliver the food,) the blessing is not for the receiver alone, but effective work is being done on our own hearts through the act of loving through service. What value can you place on that?

So I will give of my time and money to feed the poor. I will take my four children along with me (making me even less productive) knowing full well that a large portion of what we give may not be consumed on Thanksgiving Day. A box of mashed potatoes may feed a family on a Monday or a slice of pie may be a teenager’s lunch on a Tuesday. Maybe the food will be sold for illicit purposes. But we will still participate. In this way, on that day, I choose to express the love of my Savior, who loved me when I was unlovable and undeserving, to these precious neighbors who live just six lanes of a highway away from me. For love is not counted by the worthiness of the recipient but by the heart of the giver.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

In Matthew 25, Jesus spoke these words to the ones who expressed love, he made no mention of the responses of the recipients.

So, should we be wise with our finances? Yes. Should we be careful to partner with legitimate groups when serving? Absolutely.

Should the possible negative responses of those we serve be an excuse to stop expressing God’s love?  No.

You may be caught up in the “what ifs” concerning the recipients of a bag of food a few days before Thanksgiving; I, too, am concerned about these things and about the hearts of the recipients.

Still, If there are 50 who are hungry, I will feed them. If there are 20? I will serve. If there are only 2? I will give them a meal.

Even if there is not a single individual from the many who will receive food on Saturday who cooks up a Thanksgiving Dinner the following Thursday, I still choose to love with my eyes wide open.

love quote real

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Good News For Writers

I love to write. Occasionally, I have to force myself to do it, but I’m always glad I did. I even enjoy reading what I’ve written. I’ve been known to “like” my own stuff. Sometimes, I even make myself cry.

So, I was pretty interested when someone introduced me to the following article.

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Find original article here.

The following are quotes from the article:

“No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms.” – Crazy!

“…writing can make physical wounds heal faster” – Are you serious?

“…this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.”  – Totally

I love this article and I’m inclined to believe the science behind it. The fact is, yesterday was my 41st birthday. I don’t love birthdays. I especially don’t love celebrating my own. In fact, I once cried at my own surprise party, but that’s a story for another day. However, using my birthday as a springboard to inspire my writing (like my past two posts, In Days Before– and 29 Forever. Not Hardly.) -well, that’s something I can feel good about. That’s something even I can love.

Orphan, Widow, Single Mother – Still Alive

Forty years ago in South India there was a girl who was born the second of three sisters. When she was very young her father became ill and died. The mother could not bear the thought of raising three girls alone and since she had a history of mental illness, the girl’s mother also took her life. That day the girl became an orphan.

The girl and her older sister were sent to live with an Aunt in Mumbai and there they were treated slightly better than household servants. When they were old enough, they traveled to Rajasthan to attend Bible College. The middle sister was sickly and worry-prone from childhood so she was soon married to a relative of her older sister’s husband to relieve her family of the burden of caring for her. Unbeknownst to her, her new husband was also sickly and on top of that, terribly unkind to the girl. Nevertheless, she soon became pregnant and bore a daughter of her own. Not long after, her terrible husband died. That day the girl, who was now a woman, became a widow.

While I lived in India the woman and her child came to live near her older sister who was married to a member of my staff. The woman, who was a true orphan and a true widow and a true single mother was also one of the most annoying people I have ever met. That sounds mean, doesn’t it? But it’s true. The crazy part is, I loved her. I loved her in spite of her annoying and pushy ways. I loved her through all her (many) physical ailments and doctor’s appointments when the doctor would scold her for not taking her medicine or doing what she was told to get well. For some reason, God had given me an abundance of grace and love toward her, it surely was not from myself.

Over three years ago I left India and have not returned. I have not seen or heard from the woman, my friend, since then. She has no access to computers and would not be able to type even if she did.

Last night I saw I had a Facebook message from an old staff member in India – the brother-in-law of my friend. When I opened Messenger there were five words: Hi from Princy and Justy.”

My first thought was, Wow, she’s still alive.

justyc

5minutefridayThis post was written for Five Minute Fridays where many many lovely people link up to write for just five minutes inspired by a single word. Today’s word: Messenger. Find link here.

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Depression, Family and the Healing Nature of Fishing Shows

Years ago my mother suffered from depression. I was a sophomore in college at the time and living on campus in another State. I knew she was struggling and I would call home and worry about her from afar. I felt helpless to do much more, but we kept on as a family; living, loving, moving forward.

After a time my mother emerged from the grip of depression and she wrote a letter to her four children describing the ways each one of us helped her through her dark days. I’ve never forgotten what she wrote to me, in fact, I may still have the letter somewhere. But for some reason, I’ve also never forgotten what she wrote to my younger brother.

He was the youngest in our family and the only child still living at home during the days of mom’s depression. She wrote in the letter that my brother helped her by making her sit with him and watch episode after episode of fishing shows. In some strange way, Bassmaster with her son was instrumental in drawing her back to the land of the living.

It’s no wonder that I can still remember the contents of the letter after twenty years, who knew that reality fishing programming could help open a door to the world beyond depression?

Last night, while I was watching a favorite fishing show myself, the memory of that time and mom’s letter came to mind. I’m not suffering from depression, but it was 10PM and I still had much to do before bed. Yet there I was, utterly mesmerized as I watched a man describe which fishing line worked best in various conditions and what types of bait he found most useful to catch illusive kinds of fish. As he held up lure after lure, I was hooked.

Maybe there is something healing or magical in watching a man fish?

Maybe Animal Planet or the WFN hold some sort of key to the cure for all kinds of ailments?

Maybe I’m just a little bit in love with Jeremy Wade.

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sigh.

 

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Me & You: Friend

There is something utterly sad about someone without a friend. My dad told us yesterday that the reason my neighbor Bill’s family (father & daughter) did not have a service for him after he passed away a few weeks ago was because they could not think of a single person to invite.

I cannot find a word to express how sad that is.

However, I am a FIRM believer that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. You have to put yourself out there and make it happen.

Initiate a conversation

Invite someone over or out to eat

Follow up with what you said you would do (like get together some time)

I am blessed to have a BFFF. (Best Friend for Freakin’ Forever, pardon my French)

When I was broken and alone, she pursued a relationship with me. She made it happen. Had me over. Opened up her life and her heart to me. I’m so glad she did.

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She also goes with me to the tattoo parlor, takes me in when my heart is broken (twice), celebrates random holidays with me so we won’t be alone, remembers all those special events that no one else does, the list goes on…

Nothing Beats a Best Friend.

5minutefriday

This post was written for 5 minute Fridays. Find link here.

Top 10 Things Spoken in Our Home (by me)

top ten

  • Stop being weird.

  • You need to be patient.

  • Settle down.

  • Stop shouting at me.

  • I’m pooping. You need to wait. (shouted from the bathroom)

  • (add anything here about moving faster) …or the Zombies will get you.

  • Stop touching/hitting/looking at/imitating/irritating/licking/laying on/laughing at your sister.

  • What did you say? I wasn’t listening.

  • Go tell Grammy.

  • I love you, little girl.