Friday, January 16, 2015

Because Jesus.

Today, we have a resident heading home.  She came to us exactly a year ago.  It was early January, and we placed her, and then I took off for National House of Hope training in Orlando, Florida.  She was a hurting, sad, scared little girl.  She wore labels of depressed, suicidal, damaged, unloved, worthless.  She marked up her body when these labels filled her mind.  She knew who Jesus was, but she didn't believe He would, or could, ever love her.

I'm heading down to Orlando early next week for training at National House of Hope again.  And I'm doing so knowing the entire world changed in a year, at least for one person.  The girl who is going home today stands tall, confident in who she is in Christ Jesus.  She carries herself with the poise of a young woman who fears nothing, because she fears the Lord.  She smiles knowingly, lovingly, and assuredly at her peers, because she's been there, and she gets it, and she tried that and knew it was nothing, so she surrendered it all and found it all.

This girl laughs all the time, and I miss hearing her laugh already.
This girl hugs and smiles every chance she gets, and she does it like no one else can.
This girl sees others in pain and jumps to go pray for them, and it melts my heart.
When this girl is quiet, it's because the Lord is working something incredible inside her heart and she's listening to what He's saying.
When this girl speaks, you better listen, because she was.

As believers, it's our stock answer to say, "God has a plan for you!"  And it's true, don't get me wrong.  I see it and live it every day.  But I think we fall back on that "plan" phrase, as if we don't need to think about anything else.  We just toss it around to each other like it's our duty to remind, not to live.

When I take a second to think past, "God's got a plan for you!" with this girl and I actually consider what that plan is, I'm telling you, He's got things happening!  For her, for the rest of the girls here, and for those to come.  For our staff, for our supporters, for you reading this.  It's okay that we don't always realize that.  I think if we did, we probably wouldn't move, we'd freak out and stand still anyway.

People are going to tell her how proud they are of her in the days, weeks, months to come.  And that's cool, but I hope it doesn't become so common a phrase that the gravity of the message gets lost.  Only we, inside ourselves, can know how proud to be, because we, inside ourselves, walked it.

I know pride is a sticky word for believers, but we can use pride the right way, and be okay. Accomplishment matters, and we can't negate His work in our life because we fear the word "pride."

So we are proud, and we send her off saying:
Keep your eyes on Jesus, but you know that.
He's got you, but you know that.
Love others, as He loves you, but you know that.
Give it all to Him, but you know that.
He will never leave you or forsake you, but you know that.

We keep our door open at House of Hope Minnesota for graduates to call, text, write, message, and visit.  We want to be a resource for them when things are tough, but also when things are good.  Because both will happen.

I've seen enough girls come and go in my years here that I know at these graduations, we emphasis to families to be prepared because it's not easy and it's not perfect.  Stuff happens.  Tough stuff, even bad stuff.  We don't want anyone to walk away expecting that they've finished the race, only to find it's barely just begun.  And I think it's important that we do prepare them for reality...


...It will be GOOD too.  It will be BEAUTIFUL too.  It will be JOYFUL and SWEET and FUNNY.  It will be AMAZING and INSPIRING.  Some days will bigger and better.  Some days won't.  But many will...


"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

(In case you missed it: it will be good, because JESUS).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Service Day: Esther's Kitchen

This week for Service Day, the girls and I went to Esther's Kitchen (which offers a free meal three times a week to those in the community who need it) to help prepare, serve, and clean up the meal. It's always fun to see them step outside their comfort zones and going around to the guests serving plates or using an old-fashioned mop for the first time.

I asked the girls to comment on the trip to Esther's, and this is what three of them said:

"It was meaningful to be able to connect with a whole new group of people and it meant a lot to me and brought me great joy to be capable of providing something to someone to just brighten their day. :)"

"I love being able to help people who maybe don't have as much as we do. I can't explain the joy it brings to see their smiles and how thankful they are. It makes me appreciate a lot."

"To love others is a trait I wish our generation would spend more time spreading to others. Esther's Kitchen showed me that caring and loving others, even if it is just a friendly smile, can change lives."

Although the girls sometimes complain about doing chores around the House of Hope or do a mediocre job on the mundane tasks, it's neat to see how those attitudes change when they are doing the same things for others; on Tuesday night, two of the girls peeled the burnt tops off of baked chicken while two others cleaned out containers of old food from the fridge, and I didn't hear a word of protest. I think it's so important for the girls to learn about and experience the opportunities to serve even in a small community like Marshall, and to keep in mind the question in 1 John 3:17: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" I'm looking forward to seeing the girls' heart for serving others continue to grow during their time at HOHM!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Operation Christmas Child

One sunny afternoon in October, the girls from the House of Hope, a volunteer, and I stormed the Dollar Tree, buying toys, hats, and other "objects of joy" (as one of the girls called them) to send to children in other countries for Christmas. Honestly, while we were at the Dollar Tree, I expected the girls to ask to also buy things for themselves, but it was as if the thought never crossed their minds. We then headed back to the House to pack the items in boxes to send off to the organization Samaritan's Purse. It was wonderful to see the girls filled with joy at just the thought of the kids who would be getting the boxes. As one of the girls reflected,

"When I found out we were doing Operation Christmas Child, I was excited because it's an opportunity to bless kids in other countries; even though it doesn't seem like a lot to us, it means the world to them and may be the only Christmas present they ever get."

A few weeks later, some of the girls and I ended up going to a church that was the Marshall collection point for the boxes the day that they were shipping them out, and I was moved by the girls' passionate prayers as they and the rest of the congregation laid hands on the crates of shoeboxes and prayed for the children who would receive them. A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail saying that the boxes we packed were sent to kids in India (click here to see a short video of OCC's work in India), and the girls' enthusiasm for the project was reignited as they reminisced about choosing gifts for the boxes. It was a blessing to give the girls an opportunity to realize how much they have to share and how much fun it is to share it.

"This was a very amazing experience that I have never done before. I was so excited when we were putting the boxes together knowing that someone out there needs it. I would do this again just to show how much Jesus loves and cares about them."