Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Let Your Light Shine

Today I experienced a broken heart.
It wasn't anything from a loved one.  It wasn't anything personal.
I feel strangely moved in a way I never thought possible.

 Mercy & Compassion
Those are my words for Lent 2018.  It's kind of funny because when I shared my excitement over looking at Lent through the lens of mercy & compassion that Jesus showed to us with my oldest daughter she had an interesting reply.  "So momma are you adding your name to the list you plan to show more mercy & compassion to?" I'm not necessarily strong in the area of self compassion, I tend to carry an unnecessary amount of feeling responsible for things not my fault and feeling like I don't do enough for those I love. My compassion for others generally flows freely from my heart and I thought I did pretty good until I went to the Bentonville Homeless gathering and then heard the Ash Wednesday service offered by Rev. Eric Meyer at FUMC.  Both had a similar tone about seeing others from the panhandler at your exit, the lady who is your waitress at your favorite spot, or other regular service provider. Seeing them, acknowledging their existence, a warm smile, a kind word...no one expects you to solve their problems, simply show them the same mercy and compassion that Jesus through his actions and stories strived to teach us!

Today I had a rare opportunity. I accompanied someone on a visit to the OU Medical Center Campus in Oklahoma City.  Specifically the third floor of the G. Rainey Williams Pavillion-this is the area dedicated to psychiatry and behavioral sciences for children and adults. We walked through the heavy door and I immediately felt very uneasy, I felt like I had stepped into a movie setting the walls, floors and ceilings were all white. The check-in ladies were behind glass window across from an expansive desk.  We were directed to a waiting room that was smaller than my living room with a dozen chairs, a table, a water dispenser and a coffee pot. The only decoration was a wooden hutch with glass that had some various old psychiatric medical tools and books. There were none of the comforts of the waiting rooms I have become accustomed to such as essential oils being diffused, comforting music, soothing paintings on the wall or windows with a glimpse of the outdoors. I live a very sheltered life. It was very clinical, I couldn't even find a picture online of a waiting room to compare it with. Just off the waiting room was a room where every patient had their vitals checked so the chairs were a merry go round. 

I quickly realized that I couldn't hold my head up and look at the people coming in, I was afraid I was going to burst into tears.   I kept myself involved with my coloring book and reading my book of the week.  The clients who made up at least 80% of the steady stream revolving through were kids, young kids. Kids accompanied by their parents, kids who looked like they had experienced more difficulties in their short years than I've known in 48 years! The parents were tired, frustrated, and several were short with their kids. These parents were doing their best, getting their children mental health help.  I have no idea what any of their stories were but it was a chilling and humbling experience. I didn't feel worthy to meet their eyes because I can't even comprehend the struggles in their lives. We need to quit stigmatizing those who are seeking mental health as less than or broken.  These parents are struggling, trying to help their children. We need to make mental health readily available and as socially acceptable as the "gentleman's clubs" that seem to be okay with the masses. The help must be accessible, affordable and accepted socially.

Last week I shared with you about kids needing compassion and how much my Wednesday night girls are on my heart for the burdens they carry and the struggles they face. My heart wept today with seeing so many children with struggles as part of their lives.  I beg of you-our children need mercy, they need compassion-desperately! Where you have children in your life smile at them, be patient with them and see them.  If you can volunteer with kids in your community, please do. There are so many opportunities: 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, little league, schools, churches, the list goes on and on.  Reach out and strive to be the spark that ignites a flame. You might just make a difference in a life and prevent....darkness. God has a plan for every life, he desires nothing more than each and every life to be filled with joy and happiness-light.
As a community, let's work together for mental health changes so people whose worlds fall apart can have better things fall together!

“Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.” ~Marilyn Monroe 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Today is my favorite day of the year...Ash Wednesday!  That may seem a bit odd when most would answer with Christmas, birthday, anniversary or other equally momentous day.  I look forward to Ash Wednesday with the anticipation young children have for Christmas. When I was young, this day didn't even register as a blip on my radar so why is it so significant to me? It's not just today, it's what today represents--the beginning of Lent, 40 days which might not seem like much but those 40 days can be transformational.
Last night moments before 11, I drifted off to sleep flat on my back; when I woke at 4:57 a.m. I was in the same position as was the blanket and pillows.  I hadn't moved.  By some miracle, I was wide awake and felt extremely refreshed. I woke with a clarity that surprised me as I was "zapped" with visions (for lack of a better word) of a family who needs a prayer today and a friend who is having surgery today.  I spent some time praying and listening.  Words began to flood through my mind for this blog entry and I felt compelled to begin writing and reading about Ash Wednesday and Lent trying to come up with the perfect words to relay to you why today is so important to me. I came across this word describing the season of Lent: MERCY! I've always felt that Lent was a time of preparation, self denial, self sacrifice, and reflection for Jesus' ultimate death and resurrection-an almost somber time with great celebration at the end!  But mercy...mercy is what it is really about.  God through his Son showing the most incredible act of compassion and forgiveness~mercy~when it was within His almighty power to punish instead.

For a few months now I've been meeting at FUMC Bentonville on Wednesday evenings with a group of dynamic young ladies.  I've always said I "don't like kids" but these ladies are different.  They talk, share, eagerly listen and seem to absorb information (and text their grandma's) every week!!  While I may be their adult leader it is really they who have taught me.  As they allow me glimpses into their daily lives, friendships and families I have the opportunity to realize just how different life really is for teenagers today. As adults we tend to minimize the struggles teens face and suggest our own teenage years were far more trying.  Until you sit in a room with kids every week and listen to their stories you have no idea!  These kids need Ash Wednesday and Lent!!!!  They need mercy!!! The weight that rests upon these sweet shoulders is more than many adults could carry.  As parents, teachers, leaders and mentors we need to strive to show compassion to the teens in our lives.  When the teens are short with us, tired, frustrated, withdrawn, acting out, etc. maybe instead of punishing them we need to look deeper and look for the real answer.  Grades, bullying, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, making the team-choir-orchestra, being the best and even living up to OUR expectations are all creating a huge amount of stress on our kids. I know I am guilty.  If God/Jesus/Holy Spirit could show compassion to all of humanity then surely we can show mercy to those we love.
This isn't the first year I've been compelled to blog on Ash Wednesday or about Lent. (You can read them here or here.) My young ladies have no idea how much they are on my heart every day.  We have been learning each week about influential woman from the bible-Deborah and her STRENGTH, Puah & Shiphrah with their BRAVERY, Martha & Mary reminding us while WORK is important it is also vital that we LISTEN & LEARN, Esther who was very QUICK WITTED to save her people, Priscilla who shows us that TACT is an important means of communication, and RUTH-oh sweet Ruth with her LOVE and DEVOTION.  This week we are going to do something just a little bit different, I am writing letters to my young ladies because I am honored each week to be influenced by a modern day Deborah, Puah/Shiphrah, Mary, Martha, Esther, Ruth and Priscilla!  In their honor my Lenten goal for transformation is to be more merciful-to my Handsome husband, my beautiful Angel girls, my parents, my siblings, my extended family, friends and even strangers.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Your assignment...

"When I look at who I am, I have to look at who you are.   
If you are hurting, I am hurting.  
We are community."
~D. Martin

Facebook sometimes a faithful friend, sometimes a nemesis.  A few weeks ago I saw a post when it was bitterly cold showing pictures of a homeless camp right here in Bentonville! This is the text accompanying the pictures:

Today I am feeling disgust , anger, sadness and fed up. Friends in Bentonville we must demand a change in our community! We have an awesome Salvation Army on I st. Did you know that it must be below 29 degrees for the shelter to open during the day?! Did you know it must be below 34 degrees for the shelter to open the overflow for anyone to stay?! Did you know WE don't have a day shelter in BENTONVILLE?! Did you know the closest bus stop to the shelter is 1.3 miles?! Did you know I have an awesome 78 yr old MOM ?! My mom has two homeless boys she has devoted her life to over the past couple of years. My mom can hardly access our mental health system to get what these boys need. My mom has the flu but took in one of her boys for a few days while he got over a chest cold. She had 4 meetings scheduled for them this week trying to fight for disability, housing and mental health. One lived with her for a year and she fought to get the system to assist him during that time. Craziness!!! Bentonville friends we need a day shelter with mental health and housing social workers. We are a community that is ignoring what people need if they are to be productive! I have attached photos of a BENTONVILLE homeless camp. 

It quickly went viral and soon there was a group wanting to know what they could do.  The woman who posted and a few of her friends set up an event to better inform and collect some supplies for the homeless. I was one of the horrified community members who eagerly attended and listened.  I was shocked to learn that so far in this school year over 500 Bentonville kids have experienced homelessness at some point.  I heard stories about actual families who have gone from having homes to being homeless.  I learned about kids and families who "couch hop" sleeping in homes of friends and acquaintances to get by. I was almost overwhelmed thinking there was nothing I could do to help these people and feeling a bit guilty that I didn't feel a huge tug to get in there and work to conquer the homeless situation.  

Debbie, from Havenwood spoke first and last, in her closing she shared a saying she'd heard, "God gives you two things that are unique to you and that no one can take from you.  He gives you your name and your assignment.  Each one is different and unique and no one can do the assignment the way it was designed but you."  She closed by encouraging us to find our assignment regardless of where it is and do it to the best of our ability.

Finding my assignment, well here I am at 48 and other than being a wife and mom I'm not really sure what my assignment is yet.  I took a course on becoming a death doula, while it was great and I'm very encouraged by the work they do, at this point in my life I'm not emotionally capable. I've volunteered in a variety of areas in our community and felt fulfilled but not really passionate.  What is wrong with me?

Before Christmas I ran across something, again in my Facebook newsfeed, I saw this ad:
I went to the site and read about it and promptly went on about my day.  Later it was there in my newsfeed again.  I visited Google and Amazon reading reviews and felt led to buy a copy for me and one for my oldest daughter.  A few weeks ago, I set out to begin the adventure of finding my Wonder Life and I couldn't do it alone.  I noticed that they have online support communities and strongly encourage in person groups so I searched for one here in my town because I really wanted a personal connection.

For some reason I felt led to share a link to this book with a friend.  You know what?  She BOUGHT a copy!  She's going to share it with the ladies at our church so we can have our own little "wonder group!"  I'm really excited and looking forward to finding my crazy blessed assignment!!

"If we all gave people access to our excess, together we could make a huge difference in the world." J. Bachmayer