WFMW: Yes to Being Still

YesWFMW

I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Julie 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.

A couple of years ago, I had a big, ugly argument with a friend from our church. It took the wind out of my sails. I was so angry and sad, I spent several days in prayer. I remember praying to God while running the vacuum and asking Him to let me know if I was wrong. I wanted to do something. Make a phone call. Stomp my foot. Kick. Scream. Something? Anything! Instead, I discussed the situation with my husband. And then, I waited.

The next night, I was awakened from a sound sleep. I can’t describe it, but I can tell you that it had never happened before and it has never happened since. The split second I came out of sleep, it was as if I audibly heard the words: Exodus. And fourteen.

I got out of bed, grabbed my Bible and went into the bathroom, eager to check out this chapter.

As I opened my Bible, I sat down on the toilet lid and wondered if I had lost my mind. I couldn’t remember ever reading the entire book of Exodus, but I remembered that it was in Exodus that Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. What does slavery have to do with my current situation, Lord? I had never experienced “that still small voice” that I had heard about in the small Baptist church that I grew up in, but, I also had no other explanation for the words that I heard as clear as if they had been spoken to me.

And to this day, I still don’t.

Exodus 14.

As I read through the first several verses, nothing really stuck out to me.

But then I came to verse fourteen.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I sat in awe.

So many times over the past few days I had wanted to act.

To react.

To be heard.

To say something.

To spout off.

But now?

I knew better.

It was if the Lord himself had spoken to me and said, “Girl, shut your mouth and listen.”

Do you know how hard it is for me to be still?

I mean, really still?

When you’re as mouthy as me, saying YES to God when he says, “Will you be still?” is tough.

But this time, I knew that being still is exactly what I needed to do because I had asked God to show me His will for my life. He wanted me to be still, so that I could be fully aware of His presence.

I am confident that “the big, ugly argument” was not about me or my friend, rather, this particular situation was simply about me saying YES, I trust You, Lord.

Fast forward several years later.

I received a call from someone very special whom I had spent years praying for. I had prayed that the Lord would soften his heart and that he would be back in my life. On this day, it was his voice that I heard on the other end of the telephone line and he was asking if I would pick him (and his friend) up at the bus station in our town. (He lives three states away). As it turns out, this very special person was in need.

My first reaction was anger.

I mean, who does that?

Who just arrives at a bus station unannounced needing a job, a car and a place to stay?

My next reaction was sadness.

How does one end up in a position of having nothing except a couple of trash bags full of necessities?

And my next reaction was, What the heck do we do, now?

My husband and I had talked at length about purchasing them a return bus ticket home. It would cost us a few hundred dollars, but they’d be out of our home and out of our everyday lives. I had contacted shelters in their area and was stunned to find out that you can’t just show up at a homeless shelter and stay here. There is an application process and even if you get accepted, in many cases, there is also a waiting list. How was I going to fix this?

image1

I am a stay-at-home-mom. I enjoy the peace and quiet in my home while the boys are at school and my husband is at work. When we are all home, I enjoy our band of four being together. Our home is organized and I like everything to run smoothly. In a matter of minutes, the pretty wrapping paper had been ripped wide open on my simple, neat, organized life package. Its contents – now vulnerable and exposed – seemed out of my control.

Out of my control. 

That’s hard for a control freak to grasp.

“But here’s the deal” when God is in it, He doesn’t need us to control a thing.” Rhinestone Jesus.

After three days of having unexpected guests in our home, I pulled into McDonalds for breakfast. Sitting alone at that table, I prayed to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, please show me what we’re supposed to do. I don’t have peace about this situation. I want to feel your presence and know your peace.”

Within five minutes of my prayer, a McDonald’s employee was sweeping the floor just behind me. A customer, on the way to a table, shared this exchange with the employee.

Customer: Hey, how’s it going?

Employee: I’m ok. A lot better than I was doing. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My mother-in-law has been staying with us and we finally kicked her out last night.

Customer: Where did she go?

Employee: I don’t know. She’s homeless. I don’t really care. I just knew she wasn’t staying with us one more day.

Customer: Well, you know the Bible says, “If your enemy is hungry, and you have food, you should feed them. And if he’s thirsty and you have drink, you should give them something to drink.” 

The conversation continued, but I had heard the words the Lord wanted me to hear loud. And clear.

You see, when we seek God and His will for our lives, we should be ready when He answers. It might be messy. It might be hard. But He will meet you there.

In the first situation, I had worked up several scenarios in my head. All of which included me flying off the handle and handling things in my way. And quite honestly, that’s the way I was used to doing things. I have a horrible temper (just being honest!) and it is a chore keeping my crazy reigned in. Had I reacted the way I wanted to, I would have felt good for about forty seconds. And then, I would’ve spent Lord knows how long regretting my words and pleading for forgiveness, both from Christ and from my friend.

In this most recent situation, the easy thing to do would have been to spend a couple hundred dollars on two bus tickets, pack them a lunch and send them packing. And in doing so, I would’ve regained the privacy and peace in my home. But you see, there wouldn’t have been peace in my heart.

Saying “yes” is never about us. It is acknowledging that God’s plan is not our plan. It is trusting that He will turn our big, ugly MESS into a MESSage of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. He is present. He is in control. And He sees the big picture, as messy as it may be.

Saying yes isn’t really about doing it all. It’s about saying yes right where you are. It may seem small or insignificant, but any ime you love someone or care for another person’s needs, you’re changing their world, and yours, too. It’s about looking up from your everyday life and seeing opportunities around you to make a difference. It’s about loving others as we are loved.” – Rhinestone Jesus.

Sometimes, saying YES in our mess is as simple as saying Yes, Lord, I will listen. I will seek. I will follow. I will trust.

 

BIO: Julie McCollam lives in West Virginia with her husband and two young sons, Stevie and Alex.Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom (who rarely stays at home) she spent eight hours a day in jail, counseling inmates. She traded her handcuffs for Nerf guns and serves up a daily dose of crazy at From Inmates To Playdates where she writes about her family, her faith, domestic duties, the daily DVR docket and of course, her time in jail. 

Rich and Poor | The Question That Wrecked Us Both

The last time Maureen, a child of poverty who now leads the organization in Kenya that Mercy House partners with, spent a few weeks in our home, it wrecked me. That’s what happens when you see your first world life through the eyes of someone from the third world.

When she saw five bikes hanging in our garage, she wanted to know if we sold bicycles. Why else would we have so many?

This visit has been different and the same. This time she’s not shocked seeing so many pet stores and pet hospitals. She’s not surprised by the ease of traffic-free roads or convenience of thirty minute meals. She loves America even though she doesn’t always understand it.

IMG_2215

I feel the same.

Driving home the other day, she asked if she could see a mansion. She’d heard about them. We laughed and said, sure.

As Terrell drove slowly thru a multi-million dollar neighborhood with sprawling lawns, massive front porches attached to 7000 square foot homes, Maureen took it all in. She asked a lot of hard questions that were even harder to answer. Only one family lives in this big house? Why?

She suggested we knock on their door and tell them about Mercy House.

We passed an enormous house decorated extravagantly for Halloween with spider webs and skulls and a graveyard complete with headstones. Try to explain that to someone who spent the first decade of her life scrounging for food in a dump.

It was sort of embarrassing seeing it through her eyes. (And it also terrified her, “I could never sleep there.”)

And then she said these words and they rocked me to the core.

“Do you remember when I led you into the slum in Kenya five years ago for the first time and you were angry at God?” Yes, I remember. I will never forget that day.

As I followed the raw sewage coursing its way into the heart of hell, I shook my fist at Heaven and asked: “God, how can you allow this?”

That’s how I feel today, she said. God how can you allow this?

How can you allow so much wealth when there are so many poor?

How do you explain something you don’t understand? How do you explain something you’re guilty of? Maybe this is the answer.

America is a land of opportunity. It’s the place where we can achieve all we want and more. But just because we have everything we want, should we get more? It’s a hard question only we can answer. Because this isn’t really about the size of a home or car or bank account. It’s not about guilt or lifestyle–it’s about the size of our heart.

Because I know people who have a lot and give a lot. I know people who have nothing and give even more.

Last week, I stirred up a lot of comments (and controversy) when I challenged the world to stop giving their crap to the poor. I’ve thought a lot about my own words and the ones that challenged mine.

I’ve come to realize it’s not really about what we choose to give, it’s our motive for giving it. Because if we give with a generous, good heart, we will give our best. And God honors that.

I love the story of the widow’s mite. She was a poor woman giving what she had. She dropped those pennies into the plate and it looked like nothing. Maybe even crap. But it was all she had and it was more than the wealthy man in line behind her. And it pleased God.

I have seen poverty through my eyes and it caused me to ask “How can I allow this? What am I doing about it?”

And now I’ve seen my wealth through the eyes of the poor and I’m asking the same thing.

Today, Maureen leaves the Land of Plenty and I’ve got plenty to think about.

The Question God Wants Us To Ask

“Aren’t you tired?” She asked over pizza while our kids giggled around us in the booth. “I mean, you’re a mom and you have a busy life, you write and have Mercy House and now you’ve added Fair Trade Friday to your plate.”

Good friends ask hard questions.

I think about her question and stifle a yawn before I answer.

“Yes. I am. Tired.”

Good friends give honest answers.

I thought about my hectic day of carlines and deadlines…. I remembered the early morning wardrobe drama and the tears over a lost library book and then the very full day across town serving refugee women in my city.

After a long pause, I answered, “I spent the first 30 –something years of my life wavering between the pain of the past and chasing the American Dream and I was always asking God the same kinds of questions–to help me, to heal me, to give me more of something.

But when I changed the question to  “What can I do for you, God? Instead of what can you do for me? He answered.

When I stopped trying to fix my problems and tried to help others fix theirs, God helped me. He healed me. He gave me something deeper and more fulfilling than I could have dreamed. I’m overwhelmed and tired, but I don’t want to live any other way.”

If I had to name a regret in my life—it would be this: That I didn’t discover the breathtaking beauty of serving others sooner.

there is only one love language

It’s not only helped other people; it’s helped me.

Continue reading at (in)courage….

 

WFMW: The Two Words That Changed My Life {Giveaway}

YesWFMW

Today, we are taking a break from our Yes Works For Me stories, so I can share with you two words that have changed my life and give away a beautiful word to one of you. Make sure you leave a comment as your entry!

[Updated with Winner: Congrats to Hannah, random commenter #311]

We had just finished speaking, Maureen and I, tag-teaming, sharing the Mercy House story over and over the past few weeks. We not only wanted to bring awareness to the countless impoverished women in the world, we also wanted to inspire people hearing our words to join the story.

The lady waited her turn and pulled me aside afterwards, “What really changed your life? What woke you up? What was it?”

It’s a hard question. But the answer came easily.

Two words, I whisper.

I love words.  I love reading them. I love writing them.

But mostly, I love living them.

They are powerful. They speak death or give life.

Words guide us.

For nearly 5 years, two words have led my feet on a hard, beautiful journey. I’ve gone deeper than I ever wanted, stretched further than I thought possible and been more fulfilled than I ever dreamed.

IMG_2846-600x400

Love. Mercy.

I love these two words… I understand love. I long for mercy. I can give both to others.

These two words have changed my life.

lovemercy

And the lives of others.

SBP_2373small

Don’t think for a moment that your words aren’t important.

Your words matters.

What you say with your lips, write on a screen, scribble in a book, jot in a thank you note, they are powerful.

When we start with The Word. Our words can change the world.

———————————————

image001

Dayspring’s new (in)Courage Words Matter Letterpress Blocks are stunning. They chose the two words for me that are now hanging over my bed for me. I cried when I opened the mail.

Today, they are giving away $50 to one of you because your words matter. 

Click below to look at the awesome variety of letters:

Leave a comment with “your word” as your entry.

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor

I was getting ready to leave for a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago, when a church emailed and asked if Mercy House had any specific needs. I quickly responded and told them I wanted to give Maureen, our Kenyan Director, an iPhone, so we could communicate during (almost weekly) power outages. I told them if they would buy one instead, we could use the money for other needed items.

On the church’s Facebook feed a few days later, I saw an appeal that said something like, “We want to support a ministry with a used iPhone. If you have an old one you can donate, please let us know.”

I was given an older iPhone a week later. On the ground in Kenya, I realized it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. The phone was junk.

So, when I left Kenya, I gave Maureen my used one that worked.

The church contacted me after the trip and asked how Maureen liked her new phone? I told them it was useless and said, “Don’t worry about it. I gave her mine.”

“Oh, we feel badly, please let us replace your phone! We want to buy you a brand new one, an upgrade. You deserve it,” I told them I used my husband’s upgrade and already had a replacement phone. “Ok. Instead we would like to write you a $500 check for the inconvenience.”

Give it to Maureen, I said.

And they did.

Dear World Lets Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor

While the church tried to make it right, I was bothered by the fact they were more than willing to buy me a new phone I didn’t need. I have noticed this mentality permeates the Church as a whole: The poor will be happy with our leftovers. They don’t know any better. They live in Africa or Honduras, they don’t need the latest technology or the best brands like we do.  They will appreciate anything we give because something is more than nothing.

Why do we give others-often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves-something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?

Somehow collecting clothes for immigrants has become the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff we don’t want and gathering baby items for new moms is the perfect excuse to toss out stained and worn clothing we wouldn’t dare use again. I’ve packed suitcases with beautiful donations, but mostly I’ve pilfered through piles of junk donated in the name of Jesus.

It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.

There’s nothing wrong with used or second-hand. It’s often my first and favorite choice. Many organizations and ministries depend on used gifts. But if we give used, it should be our best.  I’m not saying when we clean out older clothes or toys or things we don’t use any longer and donate them–that this is wrong. I am saying if we give it away, it should be something we would use ourselves.

The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

I’ll never forget meeting a woman in Africa who supported her large family by reselling used clothes from America. But when she held up clothes to show me what was for sale– clothes Americans had donated in clothing drives–they were tattered and stained. I was embarrassed.

Her best depended on our worst.

MG_11631

Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” -Ann Voskamp

There have been times over the years, I’ve gasped and grinned at the beautiful items I’ve sorted and packed  for the impoverished. When we give our best, we are living our best. We are saying with our donation, you are valuable. We are whispering with our gift, you are worthy of the best. We have the opportunity to speak self worth when we give generously.

It’s a promise for them.

It’s a promise for us.

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”- Proverbs 19:17

The next time we have the opportunity to share what we have with someone who is in need. let’s give from the pile we want to keep, not from the one we want to throw out.

photo credit