Thursday, November 16, 2017

Things Are A Changing

     Just over 13 years ago, the doctor placed this slimy, wiggly little body in my arms and my life changed.

     Before Benjamin was born I had a job that I mostly loved.  It was exhausting and draining and heartbreaking at times, but I truly loved it.  I was a case manager at a county emergency shelter care facility.  We temporality housed children ages 5-17 who were taken from their homes due to neglect or abuse and also children who were arrested for runaway, battery, truancy, etc.  It was more than a job.  It was a place that I felt like I could sometimes make a difference.

     After having Ben I knew God was calling me to be a stay at home mom.  I fought it for a few months.  Finance wise it just didn't make any sense to quit my job.  But I was in such turmoil about it I couldn't even sit in church.  Week after week I walked out crying midway through service.  I knew I was being disobedient.

     About three months after returning to work, I sat with a very wise man in the sanctuary of our church when service was over.  It was a small back pew by the door.  We both sat straight looking ahead at the cross.  With tears running down my face I told him what I was feeling.  He held my hand and wisely told me that I already knew the answer to my dilemma.  He also told me that if I did what God was asking me to that I might sometimes have to sacrifice, but that I would never regret the decision.  He was right.

     The man passed away several years ago, but I know that now as my life changes again, he would smile, hold my hand and be proud of the new changes in my life.

     I have been filling in for the past six weeks as the cook at the food pantry.  I thought I was cooking this week too, but Tuesday the chef showed up and said he was released and that after that day I was free from cooking.  (Well, except for the week of Thanksgiving.  That week it's all hands on deck.)

     But instead of spending the last two days at home.  I started a new part-time job.  A job that I know is from God.  This job is also at the food pantry.  I am now officially the assistant to the director.  It's flexible so I can still be available for the boys in the case of sickness, field trips or school parties.  I mostly get to set my own hours.  And I get to make a difference to the people who come in to the pantry.  I get to help them get groceries, apply for help with their bills, pick out clothing for their children and generally just love on them and give them a smile.  Of course there is also paperwork and computer work, but even then it's all about helping people.  And already when I'm in the office, five minutes doesn't go by that someone doesn't stop by needing at least a kind word.

     I am sure there will be hard days.  And there are always a few people who are grouchy or who are taking advantage of the system, but I'm looking at it as a ministry.  It's a great way to share the love of Jesus with people who truly need to know that someone cares.  What an opportunity!

   So things are a changing.  But that wise man was right.  If I do what God is asking me to do, I might sometimes have to sacrifice, but I'll never regret the decision.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Veteran's Day

     I'm beginning week six of cooking at the Mishawaka Food Pantry.  My last few posts have explained that I've been filling in there for the chef who had hip replacement surgery.  I'm happy to report that he's doing really well.  He even came in and made most of the meal for our Veteran's Day dinner.  It was wonderful to have him back, but it made him realize he isn't ready to start back this week.

     So I'm cooking this week and then he will be back next week.  He will prepare the meals for the pantry and I will help with our Thanksgiving meal preparation.  Then I think I'm done cooking!  Two weeks.  I think I can.  I think I can.  Ha!

     I have enjoyed it and it's been a great experience, but I'll be happy to go back to just cooking and doing dishes for my guys here at home.

As I mentioned above, I was able to be a part of a Veteran's Day ceremony and dinner.  It was such a honor to play a small part and to serve those that have so humbly served our country.  The Veterans presented the colors, did a 21 gun salute and played Taps.  Students from the Mishawaka High School Band played and Denver started the ceremony with prayer and a short message about how Veteran's Day came into existence.

     He also shared about how we want to teach our boys that true heroes do not wear jersey's with names and numbers on the back, but instead wear dog tags and boots.  Most veterans don't call themselves heroes, but that makes them heroes all the more.  Afterwards, we served them a dinner of brisket, mashed potatoes, veggies, rolls, vegetable soup, and cheesecake.

     One veteran personally shared with four of us a small glimpse into his time in Vietnam.  He told us about these two young boys who saved his life by warning them that someone had placed bombs underneath their vehicle when they got out to help someone else.  He and his men knew these two young boys by name and spoke with them regularly.  Shortly after the boys saved the mens lives, he saw the two boys and their water buffalo blown up by a landmine.  He also shared that when the family was compensated for their loss, they were given 30 some dollars for each of the boys lives, but around $500 for the water buffalo.  The lack of value of the the boys lives is heartbreaking.  With tears in his eyes, this gentleman fondly remembered the two young men that saved his life.

     Being there for the ceremony and for the dinner and for the sharing of stories is something I hope to never forget.  I thank God for men like that man that shared a small part of his story with us.  They have sacrificed more than I will even be able to understand.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's A Wrap!

My first week serving at the Food Pantry is in the books.   We served 456 meals this week, but now the kitchen is clean and the lights are off.

This is how I feel...

  • I'm exhausted.
  • My feet hurt.
  • I'm excited.
  • My heart is full.
  • I'm sad.
  • My arms are like jello.
  • I'm exhausted.
  • I'm happy.
  • I'm thankful.
  • I'm in awe.
  • I'm heartbroken.
  • I'm happy to have a long weekend break.
  • I can't wait until next week.
  • Did I mention that I'm exhausted?

This last three days have been a roller coaster of emotion.  I'm so thankful and blown away by the help that I have received from those that I know and even strangers.  On Tuesday and Thursday I had four different family and friends show up to help me.  On Wednesday I had four ladies from church that serve the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.  Everyone was willing to help out in anyway possible.  Some did dishes, mopped floors, served food, wiped tables, cleaned up spills, made food, etc.  The list could go on and on.  Then some of the ladies went above and beyond and just went to work cleaning around the kitchen.  The toaster, microwave, sink and counters have never looked so good.

I've also had a couple people donate some money so that I could purchase some needed items.  Some just put it in my hand and others have had a message waiting for me upon waking up in the morning to let me know that they've put a check in the mail.

I've also had strangers come into the pantry and volunteer.  It's pretty typical to have people that come every once in awhile, but one person today was definitely a gift from God.  He came in this morning, introduced himself, said that he volunteered occasional Thursdays and asked me to put him to work.  Some volunteers are more skilled in the kitchen than others, so I asked him what he was comfortable doing.  He said anything.  I asked him if he could cut salad fixings.  He said he was a chef at a local restaurant so he was sure he could handle salad.  Hallelujah!  My next question was "Have you ever made macaroni and cheese with yogurt?" as I'm standing over a pot looking confused.  He laughed and then he asked me how I normally made macaroni and cheese.  I admitted that I opened a box labeled Stouffer's.

His next question was "How did you get this job?"  Ha!  He gave me suggestions, helped, made a great salad and stayed to help us serve.  He's even planning to try to come back next week to help me make pork belly.  That will be another new one for me. (By the way...the yogurt mac and cheese went over well.)

I've also had heartbreaking moments.  I've seen people come in to eat carrying all of their belongings on their back.  I've seen people come to tears over a simple glass of milk or cup of coffee.  I've seen teenagers come in filthy and starving with no place to go.  Most heartbreaking is hearing the story of a gentleman who volunteers five days a week and sorts donations that are given to the pantry.  He's diabetic and also disabled.  Many years ago his first wife died.  He turned to alcohol.  He attempted suicide.  He got the help he needed and has been sober for 25 years.  He got married again.  Again his wife died.  Again he attempted suicide.  He sleeps in a van that he borrows for the night.  He has been sleeping in the van for several years.  He has no hope.  He feels he has no reason to live anymore.  He volunteers at the pantry because he has no place else to go.

This week has been exhausting.  I'm tired.  But I wouldn't change it for the world.  It's life changing to hand a plate of food to a dirty starving teen.  It humbling when I help a homeless person find a place for their backpack of items in the corner while they eat.  It makes me count my blessings when I see someone tear up over a cup of milk.  And each time I pass the gentleman with no hope I am reminded why God has me here.  Serving food is good and necessary, but more than anything this man and so many others need to know that they can have hope and eternal life with Jesus.  I pray that each time I pass him in the hall, speak to him in the warehouse, smile at him as I hand him food...that he will see Jesus in me. 

So thank you for all of your prayers.  Thank you to those that have volunteered their time or given money.  You too are all apart of those hope giving moments.  Thank you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Grand Terrifying Adventure

Today I started a Grand Adventure.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.  Mostly I want to call it a Terrifying Endeavor.  Maybe I should combine the two and call it a Grand Terrifying Adventure.  Yep.  That sounds about right.  Today I started a Grand Terrifying Adventure.

For several years now I have been a part of a group of ladies that prepares and serves food at the Mishawaka Food Pantry twice a month.  The pantry already serves free lunch every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week.  We just cover a couple of Wednesdays for them so that it helps their budget, chef and volunteers.  It's been an amazing experience and I love how God has been working to help us build relationships with the people there.  I have story after story about how God has touched lives through this ministry.  These two days of the month are days I look forward to and most of the time I believe I walk away more blessed than the people that I've served.

Anyway, the regular chef at the pantry had to have surgery and will be out about 8 weeks.  The pantry had this covered, but about a week and a half before the surgery, the person who was going to fill in had to back out.  So long story short ... I am filling in for the chef at the food pantry.  I've never done anything like this before.  I cook for five.  Like I said, I started a Grand Terrifying Adventure.

Let me tell you, serving twice a month with a handful of ladies is totally different than being the full time chef.  When we serve with the church, we make a menu, shop, each cook part of the meal and then show up and put it together and serve it.

That isn't quite the same when you are the full time chef.  This is how it works.  Basically, people donate to the pantry, or we pick up whatever items we can from the food bank.  All of these items go into cooler or freezer.  Then I walk into the cooler or freezer, see all of these random items and then figure out how to make something out of them for between 125 and 200 meals.

And while I'm at it, I have to try really hard not to let anything go to waste because everything is valuable. You know, like the yogurt that was donated yesterday but was out of date today.  We can't just serve it because of the date ... even though the yogurt really is still good for a few days.  It has to be cooked.  What do I make out of yogurt?  Google has been my friend.  On Thursday this week I think we are having mac and cheese made with yogurt.  I didn't even know that existed. I' ll let you know how it turns out.

Last week I trained.  Today was my first day.  Oh my goodness it was a doozy!  We served 192 meals.  Let me just say that that was more dishes than I've ever seen at once!  I'm so thankful for my mom and for another lady from my church that came and helped with dishes and clean up today.  They saved me hours of work.  I also had some amazing volunteers from the pantry that were a lot of help.

For the last week I've been repeating in my head "when I am weak, he is strong."  ("But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - 2 Corinthians 12:9). I keep telling people at the pantry that "I'm nervous, but God's got this."

I've asked a few prayer warriors I know if they would pray for me this week.  One was by text message.  I explained the situation and told her that there were random things at the pantry to cook from and that I really wanted some simple things to go with them ... like chicken broth or potatoes.  Her response back was "Dear Marcia, God definitely has a plan and you are a part of that.  AND.  He can provide potatoes."  That was Wednesday
morning last week.  Wednesday afternoon I walked into the cooler and what do you think had suddenly appeared?  That's right, potatoes!

Tomorrow is day two.

So ready or not ... one Grand Terrifying Adventure coming up.  But God's got this.

Friday, March 31, 2017

This time last year

This morning when I was looking at Facebook, I clicked on "See your memories".  This is one of my posts from this day last year:

"My grandmother passed away today.  I was blessed to be able to hold her hand as she took her last breath.  My childhood is full of memories of time spent with her.  My heart hurts, but like my grandpa said when he heard the news "Praise the Lord!"  There's no more pain and suffering and she's in the presence of Jesus."

That was a tough day.  There has been a lot of tough days this past year.  There are days that I miss her so much it brings me to tears.  There are so many days that I want to call her and share with her things that are happening in our lives.  There are days when I drive by her home or the nursing home and I want to stop in to visit and see the smile on her face when I walk in the room.  I want to hear her tell me that she loves me.  

I spent this past week with a friend.  During that time we talked about my grandparents.  During the conversation my friend said, "It's such a precious legacy they left for you."  I looked up the word legacy.  One definition is:  anything handed down from the past.  

My grandma definitely left me a legacy.

My grandma could not leave me the gift of salvation.  Salvation is something personal between Jesus and me.  I am not saved because my grandma was saved.  But my grandma did lead me to the foot of the Jesus.  My grandma faithfully took me to church starting at the age of two.  She taught my Junior Church class.  She helped me with my memory verses.  She showed me what it meant to serve.  She prayed for me.  She prayed with me.  She read her Bible faithfully and in front of me.  The list goes on and on.

It's all a part of her legacy.

Last Sunday we baptized five people at church.  My grandma loved baptisms.  She loved that people who had accepted Jesus were following Him in baptism.  Grandma knew that baptisms don't save people, but that it is only a picture or symbol of what someone has already done in their heart.  But she saw it as such a time of celebration.  I remember being small and helping her gather towels and robes in preparation of a baptism and afterwards gathering those same towels and robes to take home to wash.  It was never a burden to her.  It was time of joy.  Last week as I stood in her place handing out towels I couldn't help but think about how excited she would be about the baptisms.  Later I cried because I wanted to pick up the phone and share the excitement with her.

It's another part of her legacy.

I miss her.  Occasionally the tears still come and my heart still hurts, but I am so thankful for  her legacy.

On another note...just to leave you with a laugh...

My other Facebook memory from this day last year says:

"I just heard from downstairs 'Hold him!  Hold him!  I can get his nipples'"