Friday, September 22, 2017

Provision: Ziploc bags, Panera Pastries and Tally Marks

The number was 125 and my word is PROVISION. I was so struck by God's exacting provision I took a picture of tally marks and a box of sweets just to capture the point. I didn't want to forget how perfectly He answers prayers even in the little things.

Now that I may have lost you I will fill you in on the details. Chris and I pick up Panera Bread twice a week for our church. This bread goes to local food banks, a homeless shelter, school staff, a home for single moms and lately for children living in hotels in our community. I found out that a man in our church wanted to feed kids that live in the hotels in town. He set an ambitious goal of  feeding at about 125 kids 2 times a week for the whole summer. I offered to share the bread and sweets we get to support this ministry.

 As one of our VBS directors I was a little busy gearing up for that and was just delivery the bread to him. In the midst of this we end up with tons of kids at VBS, several with special needs we were not equipped to meet. I prayed. And I prayed and I prayed. It is all I know how to do other than stress when in great need. I have found praying a better and healthier alternative. Day after day of VBS volunteers walked through the door, not too many, not enough to make us comfortable, but just enough to meet the need. It was a beautiful thing to witness God's provision first hand.

Original abstract art by Ruth E. Robbins "Morning Dew"
VBS and all the cleanup that comes in the aftermath was winding down and Rex, the man with the plan and a food truck left to go out of town for a couple weeks. I offered to continue bringing bread for his group of volunteers who would pack lunch bags rather than cook meals while he was away. You can see where this is going right? God put in on my heart to stay, to play a bigger role. I had the time and I love being in the kitchen cooking and of course I like kids! It was a well suited match. So for the next 2 weeks I brought bread and sweets and helped to lead the folks who came to help. I enjoyed it so much and still had the time because I had not started school back up that I asked Rex now that he was back if he wanted any help. Who would turn down help? This guy didn't and me along with other volunteers came twice a week to prepare food.

Help wasn't the only thing we needed. It is not cheap to feed that many people twice a week all summer. So I asked Rex if it would be alright to ask for help on social media. The morning I made the post I got a call from an old friend that wanted the address to the church so she could send in a donation. I knew from that call God was showing He would provide what we needed. And He did. Within a week we had just over $900 to finish out the summer and have some leftover to feed these kids during the upcoming school holiday breaks.

As if this were not enough God continued to meet exact needs I think just to say to me, "Ruth I care. I am here to meet your needs and the needs of others. Ruth I am your Provision." I heard this loud and clear one morning when my oldest son and I were bagging pastries before taking them to church. Remember the magic number we shoot for is 125. Well that morning as we are bagging, keeping track with tally marks and almost running out of bags, we end up with just enough and exactly 125 pastries.

I stopped what I was doing and almost cried. I prayed a prayer of thanks and went to my computer to start making a list of all the prayers God had answered over the summer.

  • the $900 God provided
  • the exact number needed provided
  • the helpers for VBS
  • renters for our house
  • answers to my health questions
  • a reliable car
  • a consistent word in my prayer life
  • a consistent answer in my life
  • eyes to see it
  • worry turned to praising
  • doubt turned to faith
  • need turned to blessing
So you see even though this list is more than a month old, it is fresh in my mind. I want to remember. God is working on transforming my heart so that what I long for is Him, not simply a need met or a worry eased. It is Him I long for. It is Him I need. It is He that is the answer to my prayer. I just didn't know it at first.

The number was 125 and my word is PROVISION.

With love,

Weaker Is Better

 "On the contrary, those parts of the body 
that seem to be weaker are indispensable." 2Cor. 12:22

Original acrylic abstract by Ruth E. Robbins "His Masterpiece"
I scratched my head a little when I read this verse this morning. Indispensable. REALLY? I am quick to admit that I tend to see weakness first both in myself and others. I tend to see it as such, as weakness. After reading it I knew why God had lead me to it. I don't know how much I have shared about my relationship with Toby, but it is a huge challenge. He had finally started to show some progress right before VBS this summer and since then has been back downhill. I struggle to show him love. I struggle to find the motivation to keep caring. He mumbles when he speaks to me, but clearly speaks to others. He lies and disrespects me and is sweet to others. He is disconnected and distant and it hurts my heart and yet God wants me to value and care for him. Life in an orphanage and a life rejected and devalued by others has brought him to this point, but I know that God values him and desires us as his family to reflect that. It is hard for me to see how the weaker parts of the body of Christ are indispensable as Paul wrote, at least at first glance, but then I see how God has used a kid like Toby to teach me. I would never say that I have enjoyed going through this, but I would never trade who I am today and what God has taught me through this for a more comfortable life. I am more patient. I love more deeply and with purpose. I give of myself more freely. I see value in weakness. I can even see value in my weakness. I appreciate more fully my adoption as a child of God and what lengths He went through for me even in the face of rejection. Like Toby I am a work in progress and whether weak or strong a integral part of the Body of Christ. So I will gladly boast like Paul did after praying for God to remove his struggle.

"He [God] said to me, 
"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."
 So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2Cor. 12:9

With love,

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Opportunies

Original graffiti for youth room
As our kids grow and we age we develop new skills and the time in which to foster them.  It is rather a strange place to be with neither really little ones and kiddos not yet in high school either.  I guess it is the middle years for us.  To be honest I really enjoy it! 

With our oldest being almost a teenager he is finally old enough to participate in youth group at our church.  This has of course propelled us from working with the little children of the church to serving in Youth Ministry.  A shift that has at many times found me stumbling and humbled.  It is not easy or comfortable, but I find that at this time in my life, no longer being a young adult and certainly not a kid I am in a position to mentor those of that age.  They are at a time in their lives when they need adults that can be real and available.  Now that my kids are no longer in diapers and a little more autonomous I have the time to venture out.

Last summer I was privileged to chaperone our middle school youth to summer camp in Pennsylvania.  Between my husband and a wonderful friend the five kids I left at home survived without me.  Though many of our students had never been away from home like that before I was the only one that got teary eyed and homesick!  Being able to connect with these teens and begin to form relationships beyond small group time or Sunday night youth group confirmed to me that God was indeed leading me in a new direction of serving.

Not only have our kids grown, the look of the family has changed as well.  In November our foster sons returned home to their parents.  It was an incredibly painful change that has eased into a place of peace as we settle into a new norm.  God has been faithful to tend to our hearts and help us to heal.  Even when He says no to us and changes our trajectory His love, care and character remain constant.

I had shared in my last posts that I was also dabbling more and more into art.  This is in large part thanks to my mother-in-law and her encouragement and gift of art classes at a local studio.  It is a gift I cannot repay and one I will be grateful for for many, many years!  Art has been an incredible outlet and even a gift I have been privileged to share with my church family.  Two of my most recent and largest works are currently being displayed at church.  One of them was used as a promotion for serving within the church to encourage our members to use their own gifts and resources to both serve others and to honor God.  Again like working with our youth it is both challenging and humbling.

Original art for Hope Church

Don't be afraid to step out in the new seasons you find yourself.  Each of these new places is a new opportunity to see where it is God is shaping, pruning and leading.  We each have something unique to offer to those around us and don't let the fear of not knowing where it will go keep you from taking that first step.  And remember above all everything we do is for the glory of God, soli Deo gloria!

With love,