Redemption on a Friday

It was a Friday last December when I met Jessica.

My first grader had been telling me about a new girl in her class. She moved to our small Texas town from Ethiopia.

My interest was peeked: What was she doing in Ethiopia? Why was she here? 

My little girl sighed at all my questions. “I’m only six, Mom. You should ask her mother.”

And that’s what I did at the class Christmas party the next week. On a Friday.

Jessica was crocheting a last-minute coffee cozy to go with her teacher’s gift. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that,” I said and I introduced myself.

I learned they were missionaries, moved back home unexpectantly, temporarily living with family. They were in limbo, both feet in two worlds.

I knew exactly how that felt.

A few weeks later, on a Friday, I found myself in a room filled with displaced refugees. I was teaching loom knitting without much of a plan or skill–go ahead and laugh, it’s funny.

I started looking forward to Fridays–not because I knew what I was doing, but because it felt right. I had found a gaping need close to home, a place for me to get my hands dirty, an opportunity to obey. This little class would eventually become The Refugee Project, now led by a friend of mine.

I remembered Jessica crocheting in the corner of the classroom and I had a feeling she had some free time, so I asked her to help me help the refugees on Fridays.

On the long trips back and forth to serve these lovely refugees in our city, we became friends. Our families became friends.

I learned their story, although different than ours, it was still the same, filled with beauty and brokenness. I couldn’t believe how God allowed our paths to cross with this family who worked on the continent we loved to empower widows and single moms, the oppressed with employment in the name of Jesus.

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I don’t remember exactly where or when it happened, but I shared the nagging dream God had given me for a club for women to help women and after seeing the start of a community outreach in Kenya to young mothers, I knew it was time.

 

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And that’s when Fair Trade Friday was born.

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked to missionaries in Costa Rica who work with very poor women in the mountains who will now have a steady income. It leaves me speechless. We are partnering with women who sew in India, and soap makers in Zambia and apron makers in Rwanda to fill our Fair Trade Friday boxes with amazing product.

They have all said the same thing: this is an answer to their prayers.

And I can’t tell you how much this little idea has restored and renewed me. Rather than be constraining and confining, its felt like freedom.

On launch day, with a bulging Club Membership and hundreds on a waiting list, Jessica and I celebrated.

Sometimes you wonder if your yes matters. It always does–through success or failure–it’s not about the result, it’s about the obedience.

But then sometimes, it’s so obvious that God is in charge and you laugh at your doubts and worry and sleepless nights. “I’m amazed,” I told her.

“Yes, it’s crazy–all of it,” she agreed. I knew she was talking about much more than Fair Trade Friday. She was talking about our entwined lives, the common purpose, the opportunity to serve and help so many women.

“This is redemption. This is what God does with brokenness. He repurposes it,” The words caught in my throat.

God doesn’t waste a broken piece of our life. He uses every shattered dream, every hopeless moment for His glory.

And He does it when we least expect it.

Sometimes it gives us another reason to look forward to Friday.

 

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WFMW: Sometimes Yes Doesn’t Make Sense

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Christy for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Sometimes saying “yes” doesn’t make sense.

At 26 years old, I was blessed beyond measure as I walked down the aisle to say “I do” to my high school crush. It had taken almost 10 years after graduation and the Lord orchestrating a lot of events for us to reconnect, but in June 2004, we began on an exciting journey of life and ministry together. We were blessed shortly after with two beautiful children, but then got the scary news no one wants to hear at the beginning of another pregnancy: “Your husband has a cancerous eye tumor.”

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In the midst of radiation, treatment, and checkups in the months that followed, life began looking a lot more precious to us, and the Lord began to prick our hearts for orphaned children. Although we were not able to step forward into an adoption journey ourselves at that point due to health reasons, He brought families into our lives that were in the midst of the adoption process, and we were able to support and encourage them.

Three years later, everything seemed to be healing up nicely for my husband, and his checkups had been consistently good. The Lord made it clear to us that it was finally time for our family to answer our own “yes” to His call to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia. All of our paperwork went smoothly and God kept providing the funds we needed.   Before we knew it, we were on a waitlist, counting down referral numbers and days until we would receive “the” call that would change our family forever.

Just seven months later, in February 2013, our family did change forever… but not in the way any of us had been expecting. My dear husband suddenly went home to be with Jesus. As I tried to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts in the months following his death, and face a new life as a now single mom to my three wonderful children, I was left with so many unanswered questions. I even hid the adoption binder that held all of our important paperwork, as it hurt too much to see it. Not only was I grieving the loss of my husband, but I was also grieving the loss of a child I’d never met but had prayed for and already viewed as our own.

Why did You clearly move us to say “yes” to the adoption process when you knew all of this was ahead, Lord? I prayed in hurt and frustration. Why did You provide everything and keep moving us forward, only to allow us to hit this dead end?

It has only been over time that I’ve been able to see a little more of the bigger picture. Sometimes our “yes” answers may seem like they just lead to a dead end. Maybe they will result in heartache and unanswered questions. But our “yes” is never about us. It’s about acknowledging that our God is greater than us and is writing a much bigger story than the little events of our daily lives.   When we are able to say “yes” to the little things, it strengthens us to say “yes” to the bigger things, less afraid of the outcome. We don’t have to know all of the answers, because we can trust that He does… and that’s enough for us.

I may never know the reason why God wanted us to say “yes” to something that seems now like an unfulfilled dream. I don’t know if I will ever see this desire of my heart come to fruition.   But I can honestly say that it’s ok, because I’ve seen that He just wants my heart to be His, not dependent on circumstances or results. And with my heart held in His hands, I am safe and secure, no matter what life tries to throw my way.

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Christy Davis is a mom of three and blogs at What Hope Looks Like From Here, a blog she prays can bring continual hope and encouragement to women.  You can also find here here on Twitter.


The Deadly Truth About Living Wild Obedience

Two nights ago I stood at a podium in front of a room full of women at the Declare Conference.

I trembled.

I’d spent the day preparing for the final keynote of the conference, but it wasn’t a bad case of nerves that made me quake.

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It was the message.

Wild obedience.

The words were splayed behind me in bold letters. Every session, every message was built around the theme, written on cute cards on the tables, temporary tattoos and across the top of my notes.

I’ve never been wild a day in my life.

I don’t have stories that would shock you.

I’m not a risk-taker.

I’m not brave.

I’ve always been a rule follower.

And safety has been my favorite.

I think that’s why my story is surprising.

Because when you understand how afraid I am, you understand just how far wild obedience can take you. I am not brave. I’m the last person in the world who should be doing what I do.

I always knew I wasn’t wild, but it’s taken me most of my life to discover I wasn’t always obedient either.

When I was 12 years old, I had been in church a decade already. I was raised there. I had every Christian t-shirt, knew every Bible story, attended every Bible study offered. I wore a rhinestone Jesus pin to high school and the campus Bible club.

From there I went to Bible College, married a pastor and attended church staff meetings-all good, but somewhere along the way, I got fat, I was full of faith, comfortable.

I started buying into the American dream and I stopped obeying God.

And the more comfortable I got, the emptier I felt.

I had everything.

I had nothing.

I woke up in a slum in Kenya. I wrote every excruciating broken piece of my journey in Rhinestone Jesus.

And for the last 5 years, I’ve been learning that wild obedience will demand that you leave the safety of the shore and push out into deeper water.

Wild obedience will take you to impossible places. It doesn’t demand experience or education.

Wild obedience will stretch you and make you uncomfortable. It will cost you more than you want to give up, but it will give your more than you’ve ever had.

Wild obedience will point you to your purpose in life and fill you with peace. It will replace your carefully planned life with audacious faith and impossible dreams.

Wild obedience will insist that you Get alone and be with God.

Wild obedience will rescue you from you.

But as I heard my own words, I couldn’t help but think about the images of children reportedly being beheaded in Iraq or recall the headlines screaming “Convert or Die” to believers on the other side of the world.

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While I’m eating chocolate cake at a Christian conference about wild obedience, there is a Christian genocide happening. While I’m worrying about first world problems at home, things that don’t matter–crimes against humanity are going on.

It’s easy to talk about it, write about it, build a conference around the bold statement–but with a gun to my head, could I live it? Would I allow my innocent child to be murdered for my wild obedience?

I don’t know.

Iraq is far away. It’s easy to turn the news off and even easier to turn away from the truth.

It’s easy to keep living like people aren’t dying.

Our yes to God could lead us into unthinkable situations, even into danger. But we are not called to be safe, we are called to be obedient.

Because obedience is safe. 

Our faith demands we do more than believe and talk about it. We cannot look away or pretend it’s not real.

We must boldly live what others are dying for.

God have mercy on the dying and the living.

That’s the truth about wild obedience.

 

 


The T-Shirt to Prove It {Giveaway}

Updated with winners: Congrats to random commenters: #350 AIMEE, # 151 Naomi, #1 Kate, #83 Emily and #124 Deanna

We live in a size-obsessed culture that boasts just about everything bigger is better.

We can upsize our homes, plump up body parts, supersize our meals, and have it all.

But when we follow God, we serve an upside down Kingdom.

There are no small yeses.

There are no insignificant acts of love towards others.

As a matter of fact, when we combine our little yeses with our God who cannot be contained, miracles happen.

God doesn’t add a condition or size requirement.

He just asks for obedience, small or big.

It may seem unimportant, but you never know what God will do with it.


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Your yes matters.

And now, you can wear the t-shirt to prove it.

Not only will you look amazing in this brand new flowing, gray jersey shirt, your purchase will make a big difference in the endeavor to rescue oppressed girls.

And there’s nothing small about that.

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What are you saying yes to lately?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of FIVE new Mercy House shirts I’m giving away today.

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Will you be at The Declare Conference this weekend? I will be, along with brand new Mercy House shirts!


WFMW: Saying Yes

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Mary for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

I was sitting in my office, eavesdropping on my friends on the couches outside my door. It wasn’t the bad kind of eavesdropping. I mean, my door was open; they knew I was there.

I heard them discussing Praise Parkway, our church’s children’s worship service. Though they had some great kids serving every Sunday morning, the program needed an adult’s oversight and guidance. And they didn’t know anyone who was interested.

I’d recently accepted that there was no way for me to be involved in our worship arts ministry. Even if I’d gotten up the nerve to audition for the praise band, I wouldn’t be able to make the time commitment. Not now, at least.

But now my friends were talking about a team of volunteers who put together a worship service every Sunday. They needed help – and the commitment fit into my schedule.

So I hollered out my door, “I could do it!”

I didn’t really know what I was signing up for, but something compelled me that afternoon – and I said yes.

I said yes to working with older kids to serve younger kids. Every single Sunday morning.

I don’t know why. I don’t really like kids. (I know. That sounds awful. But it’s true and relevant to this story!) And I certainly never desired to work with middle school kids. Middle school kids! Nobody likes those guys! But that’s who I volunteered to serve with. (Every single Sunday morning.)

When I spontaneously said yes to that ministry, I thought I was going to be serving the elementary kids. But it turned out that wasn’t the ministry God was calling me to.

Nope. He was calling me to lead and serve the team of middle school students who work in Praise Parkway. The quirky ones, the occasionally awkward ones, the hyper ones and the ones who are most certainly middle school students. (You know, those kids I didn’t want to hang out with?)

And I love them.

I love serving with them.

I love praying with them.

I love listening to them talk to each other.

I love talking to them about the latest YA novel we’ve all read.

And I really love it when they talk to me about their lives.

If I’d taken time to think about it that day in my office, I probably wouldn’t have said yes. I mean, I didn’t have time for another “thing.” I was having trouble juggling two jobs, and I already served in two other areas at church. I was overwhelmed and conflicted about what was more important in just about every area of my life. (All I knew was that cooking dinner was nowhere near the most important – and yet those people at my house kept expecting me to do it anyway!)

I didn’t really have it together. I wasn’t sure what my future looked like. And I really had no interest in middle school kids. But I said yes anyway.

It has changed my life and has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (And now I have an excuse for all those YA books I love to read, right?)

 

Mary Carver is a writer, church planter, wife and mom. She’s also a recovering perfectionist who loves Jesus, her family and books, watches too much TV, and believes M&Ms are a love language. Mary writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at www.givinguponperfect.com.