At the Store Without My List

(This is Where You Live Should Not Decide, Part II)

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, I sure would appreciate you doing so before diving into this one. It will make more sense. If you don’t feel like it, well whatever, at least I warned you.

So while I was in the middle of writing yesterday’s post, last week halfway across SA, a friend of ours wanted to take me to the mall and wanted me to pick out something special for myself for Mother’s Day. I was so freaked out I almost totally froze. Well not really, but seriously, it was the strangest blessing I’ve received in a long time.

You see, I realised that for as long as I can remember, I have carried around a mental shopping list in my head. Please tell me you have done this too and I’m not silly. I would take note of things I felt were lacking from my closet … perhaps a new jean skirt, a black belt (not karate-type, just regular type, of course), a scarf that will turn last season’s sweater into this season’s style, a replacement for a saggy old pocketbook… you get the idea. And whenever I had a chance to shop, I would already know what I was looking for — all the stuff I “needed” on my list. Well suddenly, we’re on the way to the mall and I. Have. No. List.

I cannot describe to you what this felt like because I can’t even describe it to myself. It was just the strangest thing for my brain to go to the file where the continually-updated shopping list is supposed to be stored and suddenly find that the list is blank. I trolled around like a lost sheep for a moment before regaining the clarity to walk through a store and start looking for something I might like.

I finally settled on an adorable pink sweater (Thank you, friend, you know who you are!) and wore it at least three times over the next week and a half because, hey, we were travelling to a new place every couple days and who knew it was a repeat?

The reason I’m telling you all this? I suppose it felt like a victory to discover that I no longer had “the list.” I feel like some of the materialism I’ve grown up with (mind you I am NOT blaming my parents for this — we live in a VERY materialistic society!) is finally breaking. It’s like I’m coming out of some translucent shell for the first time, seeing the possibility of living differently.

Now this you’ve gotta hear. It gets better. While I was in the middle of writing this post, yesterday, Mark went to check the mail. We hadn’t checked it since we’d gotten back to Gordon’s Bay. And in it were two slips of paper, notifying us that two packages were waiting for us at the Post Office.

Might you like to hazard a guess as to what was in said packages? If you guessed clothing, then you’re right! Another dear and sweet friend of mine and her family put together two boxes of clothes for us — lots of ADORABLE stuff for the next sizes the Bear is growing into (pictures to follow) AND some adorable tops for me AND some handsome and manly shirts for Hero Hubby, one that will make his beautiful blue eyes even more blue! I love that.

As I pondered how all this had come together while I was in the middle of discussing this thing that is changing in me, I was reminded of a conversation Hero Hubs and I had several months ago. We were working out our budget for life here in South Africa. Once we were finally settled in, we could see what our expenses were actually going to be like, the health insurance, the rent, the groceries, etc. As we put all the numbers together, though things were tight, we decided to continue giving as before and even increase a little. This meant, however, that there was no room at the inn for a clothing budget. After setting aside funds to travel back to the States, working to pay off Mr. Potato Head as quickly as possible, and covering the costs of living around here, clothes just weren’t in the numbers.

I can remember sitting beside Hero Hubs on the couch as he said, “We are just going to have to trust the Lord for everything else.”

So we did. And I’ve begun to realise we are really trusting Him for everything. All the funds that are coming our way are from Him. And seven months later, we have been repeatedly blessed with clothing for ourselves and for the Bear, without spending anything. (Except for those special shoes I told you about that my friend sent money at just the right time for us to buy!) And I am finding once again a God who is true to His word:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? […] But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6: 25 & 33)

I am not saying I haven’t wanted more over the past several months. I am not saying there weren’t times where I wished I could have some cash to just blow on stuff for myself. But I am suddenly finding that I am desiring stuff less, and I am beginning to take notice of the fact that God will meet my every need if I trust Him and wait on Him.

And though I don’t have all the answers yet, I can see how if we in the West can break free from materialism, we can break others free from poverty. If we are willing to skip going to the movies twice a month, someone halfway around the world can eat that month. If we are willing to wear last year’s fashion this year, we might save enough to build a well for a village that needs clean water.

When I stand before the Lord at the end of my days, I sometimes don’t want to think about the account I will have to give for what I did with what He gave me. I am a debtor to grace every day and so thankful Jesus covers my every shortcoming. But it is good to feel like I’m moving more and more in His direction, working to be fruitful with that which I’ve been called to steward, anxiously awaiting a glorious “Well done.”

One more quote for thought to tie this up:

“Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”
–Dr. Bob Pierce


Every Person Has a Story

It’s an old saying I mentioned yesterday. It has more and more meaning to me all the time.

Every Person Has a Story.

Here’s a bit of one.

I had the privilege of washing this guy’s feet the other day.

He shared with me a little bit about his home life. His Dad gets angry with him sometimes. I have a feeling he was playing it down when he talked about it.

As I prayed for him, I was in tears. You don’t know a person’s story until you ask, and I was really glad I did.

I prayed that the plans God has for his life would come to pass. That he would be able to endure the challenges of this season of his life, that the Lord would be his refuge.

How incredibly fortunate and privileged I have been my entire life — in moments like these I see it most clearly. And yet, I forget thankfulness again and again.

O, to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.

So many stories are taking place all around us.

Seize the opportunity to take a moment and hear someone’s story today. You have no idea how much it might mean to them.

Or to you.


Something Better Than Your Blackberry

There is a special quote that has a special place in my heart for lots of reasons, and every time it comes to mind it seems that I gain some new insight from it:

Earth is crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
{Elizabeth Barrett Browning}

I was thinking about this quote just last night in reference to a friend of mine who is very dear to me. She would be utterly and completely embarrassed if I told you her name, so I will instead just refer to her as a dear friend, and leave it at that.

My dear friend has these really special qualities. She is incredibly humble, incredibly gentle. She is thoughtful and very careful with her words. She is very tender, too, and because of that, she bruises easily, so to speak.

I realised in a way, when I was speaking with her recently, that she is a lot like the bush spoken of in the Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote above. People miss out on the deepness, the specialness, and the unique godliness that is in her, because she carries herself so humbly you won’t see it unless you take the time to look for it. She hungers and thirsts for righteousness like few people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. But if you don’t get to know her, you’re just going to miss it. If you don’t look, you just won’t see the beauty that is in this special woman after God’s own heart.

In Exodus 3, Moses turned aside to see the burning bush, perhaps to understand why it was burning but didn’t burn up. He responded to the holiness of God, as God directed him, by taking off his shoes. His respect for God’s holiness made way for him to receive the words and revelation God had for him.

The thing is, I think a lot of people are like my dear friend. There is something special worth celebrating. Now don’t be afraid that I might be going New Age on you — the thing that there is that is inherently good in each of us is the thing that has to do with us being created in the image of a good and loving God. And I believe there is something of our loving and good God built into who we are, because created things bear the mark of their creators. Van Goghs are different from Monets and Picassos. Apples are different from Toshibas and Dells. There is something of the creator in the created thing, but sometimes we have to look for it.

If we aren’t looking for the Imago Dei (as this theological concept is often referred to in Latin) in the people around us, if we aren’t looking for the things that are worth celebrating, then we are likely to just sit around and pluck blackberries. We’ll miss opportunities to praise the things that are praiseworthy. We aren’t gonna take off our shoes and witness the holiness — let me reiterate it’s not our own holiness, but the holiness of the God in whose image we are created. If only we could remember that every person who comes across our path is someone for whom Christ gave His life on the cross.

It is a worthwhile old saying, that every person has a story. There are lots of stories I’m hoping to tell you in the days ahead, because I think they will be good for you and me both to hear and remember and take off our shoes and receive. But I think we’ll also be changed for the better if we receive each other, and look for and celebrate the Imago Dei — that beautiful part of us that is somewhere in there, because of Whose we are.

Have you seen any reasons to take off your shoes lately?


Travelling Tuesday: Overcome Heights, South Africa

Once again this Travelling Tuesday is filled with a gift I’ve been eager to unwrap. The gift of giving, and finding again and again, that you cannot out-give God. Even in giving, you find that you receive more in return — and my cup is overflowing.

As I shared last week, we visited an area called Overcome Heights on Thursday. We had the awesome privilege of teaming up with a ministry there called Living Hope, and we put shoes on the feet of close to 70 children. Many of those children arrived with bare feet and left with perhaps their first pair of shoes.

I’ll try not to wax on too long about this special moment since Travelling Tuesdays are about photos, but I have to say that it was just such a wonderful gift to give away shoes in Overcome Heights. When you come face to face with the reality of poverty, you find yourself newly aware of how very, very much you have to be thankful for. How very, very little cause you have for complaint. How very, very privileged you are if you have a roof over your head… a few changes of clothes… more than one or two pairs of shoes for your feet.

It is a gift to come face to face with the reality of poverty, to let it become more than just pictures on TV and in magazines, to let it become the faces of children that you pick up, touch, hold, talk to — it becomes more than just an idea. It becomes real. And if you let it, it will change you for the better. You can’t have the same outlook you had yesterday. Contentment, and joy, should be easier to grasp.

I hope that as I take a moment to share these realities with you, that you’ll receive this gift, too. That you’ll unwrap it, think about it, hold it in your heart for a while, and maybe even let it change the way you look at life.

As always, saving my favourites for last, check out this awesome wagon!!! These boys were having a blast.

The little one going for a ride received a new pair of shoes, but I think he took them home and kept wearing his old worn-through ones because he didn’t want to mess up his new shoes.

These boys were looking at each others’ shoes for ages. So sweet.

My prayer is that Overcome Heights will be a prophetic name. That these children, who are being ministered to by the awesome volunteers at Living Hope, will overcome heights, and will grow up to change the world for the better.

This is what it’s all about.

I hope you were encouraged this Travelling Tuesday! May you enjoy your journey today, and out of all that you’ve received, find ways to give!


Would you like to join in the Travelling Tuesday fun? Just create your own Travelling Tuesday post on your blog or site, and enter the link to your Travelling Tuesday Post below. Your photos can be from a trip around the world a year ago, or from your backyard yesterday. Just be sure to put a link back here on your site, so others can join in the adventure!

This post was linked up to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky.

Beautiful, and More to Come

We visited another township this morning, and I am wiped! I had the privilege of washing some beautiful feet, some tiny ones and some big ones, and praying for God’s plans to come to pass in the lives of some precious children. Another sixty-some kids received a message of hope and a new pair of shoes. (Some Crocs and some trainers.)

My heart is swimming in circles from all this, and there’s so much more I’d like to say than I think I can communicate effectively at the moment. I look forward to sharing more with you soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a couple more pictures from Thursday’s distribution. A picture is worth a thousand words anyway, right?

To me, Africa has never been more beautiful.