See (and be) a Helper

While driving on a stretch of interstate recently I saw several cars pulled over onto the median on the other side of the highway. As I drove by I saw a car smashed against a bridge support and people running to the vehicle. Running so fast, to someone they didn’t know, to help.

In a time where divisiveness, being rude and mean is easily recorded and splashed before us, it’s easy to believe we’ve lost our good nature. It might seem that a thin veil covers a deep well of a negativity; that an angry outburst, from even the most mild-mannered among us, could happen given the right topic, time or forum.

As we marked 9/11 a few weeks ago I was reminded of Mr. Rogers. Do your remember his mother’s wise and calming words to him when he was a boy? On that sunny September 11th, in the midst of unspeakable evil that unraveled before our eyes, we were encouraged to tell our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers in the rubble, in the air, on the ground, in the stairwells, on the street, on the phone…they were everywhere.

I heard those very words in my head as I watched several men running toward the highway accident; there they were, the helpers. My heart lifted and my spirit was reminded that it is our very natural nature to be a helper. We instinctively run to our fellow man in need.

There are many helpers all around, we need to look for them…and we need to be one. When have you last seen a helper? Or have you been a helper? Would you share it in a comment? Your story might just lift someone else’s heart and renew a tired spirit.

A Second a Day, Summer 2015

I have the honor of having my daughter, Courtney as guest a writer today…

This past summer was a huge one – I graduated college, spent some much appreciated time with friends and family, watched a baby start to grow into her engaging and hilarious personality, started a CAREER in engineering (that still sounds weird), parted ways with someone I really care about, moved to a new town, helped my family prepare to move out of my childhood home, and a couple days into June, learned how to properly orient phone videos.

A few days after graduation, I realized I wanted to capture this transitional period as a way to remind myself to be present in the moment, instead of worrying about what the next few weeks and months were going to bring. I started taking little clips of videos every day, inspired by those “second every day” videos you see every now and then. It’s not the traditional second-a-day video, although there are representations from each day over the 3 month period I chose to record. Some days have several video segments dedicated to them; each video is approximately 1.5 seconds long. You would be surprised how much more can happen in half a second, and how much more emotion can be captured.
     This project allowed me to both step back and lean into moments with the people I care about, and the moments I had to myself. A lot of the time, taking these clips gave me the same warm feeling you get when you stop for a second in the middle of an evening with friends and quietly watch the people you love enjoy themselves. It also allowed me to actively look for little moments in each day I wanted to record; this was a great exercise in gratefulness. I noticed things about the people around me; how my sister tilts her head back every time she smiles in surprise, how my grandma’s face lights up when she’s speaking to a loved one. Part of the way through the summer, I started editing, and noticed that my dad was in very few videos. My parents spent two years living in separate houses after he got a new job to make things easier on my younger siblings, who were finishing high school and attending a local college, and he was working during the week while I spent a lot of weekends away. Realizing that we spend a small amount of time together made me more appreciate and aware of the time that we do have, for which I am grateful.
     Finally, during the making of this video I noticed two things about time; how quickly it goes, and how much of it I pretend is inconsequential. I almost always have my eyes forward on an event I’m excited about and I’ve often been guilty of having a countdown going to wish away days until it gets here. One example that presented itself this summer were visits to my then-boyfriend, who lived a few hours away, but also came in the form of visits to friends, apartment hunting, and vacations. Watching the videos back, I was surprised at how much time was between those events, and how quickly they went when they did come. It made me realize that counting down until the next big thing has a way of making you cheat yourself out of the time you have right in front of you. Having visible reminders of the in-between days made me realize that they’re not really in-between at all; those days are what make up most of my life. I’m thankful that I liked what I saw in those days. I’m not perfectly reformed yet, but I’m doing my best to consciously enjoy those days now.
     In conclusion, I loved this summer. It was fun, it was exciting, it was scary, it was at times sad and hard. I got to see a lot of the people that mean the most to me. I had to say goodbye to people, places, and entire chapters, and I got to welcome a whole new part of life. I’m glad I have the opportunity to look back upon it, literally.
You can see the video here.

Walking Unaware within God’s Plan

Erin came home from school today and shared a little slice of her life. It’s a sweet story of Erin’s heart and God’s hand. It causes me to recall this verse: “…Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16. I asked if she would consider sharing it here to encourage others. Here she is….

Hey everyone! It’s Erin, Sheri’s youngest daughter, and I am guest blogging on my mom’s blog today.

At my high school, I’m involved with a peer tutoring program. In the program, the peer tutors (grades 10-12) are in the freshmen study hall classes simply to be available to the freshmen if they need any help or have any questions. We also receive notes from teachers with specific students and subjects to work with.

There was one student I was given to work with repeatedly on missing assignments. For some reason, I found myself drawn to this student. I really wanted him to succeed and turn in all his work and to raise his grade. I knew he was perfectly capable of this, because he was receiving A’s on all of his tests, but wasn’t turning in any assignments. This at least made my job a little easier, because he at least knew the material, but just wasn’t doing the work.

I continued working with this student, reminding him to do his work, walking him down to his teacher’s room to pick up lost assignments, and sitting down with him to begin working on assignments. I felt like all the work I was doing was not having any affect on him. I wanted him to turn in his work and succeed so badly, but I knew I could only do so much and he had to do the rest. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

After three weeks of constant reminders and working with this student, we finally walked down to his teacher’s room and he turned in one of the missing assignments. This felt like a huge victory for me. Though we had turned in one assignment, there were still quite a few to turn in, so we began working again.

Other things came up in the class, and I didn’t have a chance to sit down and work with this student for a week or two. Finally today, I saw him playing video games on his computer, so I asked him if he had any missing assignments to work on. We checked his grades, and found about five or six missing assignments. He found one assignment in his backpack that was already completed, so we walked it down to his teacher.

On the way there, I asked him how his Thanksgiving was. I intended it to be small talk to fill up the silence as we walked through hallway, but God had a different plan for the question. I soon found out that the student I’ve been working with is a “foster kid” (his description). And it turns out, I know a thing or two about foster care. I told him that I had a foster brother that we ended up adopting. I don’t know what it’s like to be in foster care, but now he can at least know that I’m not completely oblivious to his situation, and I do understand a few things.

I knew that I was drawn to this student for a reason. It took me almost a full semester to figure out part of the reason, but now I’m beginning to understand. I don’t know God’s full plan, but I don’t need to know the whole thing to be a part of it. Maybe I’m just in this student’s life for a semester to help him through this semester and then it’s over. Or maybe, with God, I’ll be able to make a bigger impact on him. I’ll show him that someone else cares and wants him to do his best. And maybe this whole thing isn’t about the student all. Maybe it’s God’s way to show me a piece of his plan for me. I want to major in education and recently I’ve thought about beginning after school programs for struggling students when I’m a teacher someday. This could have been God’s way to introduce me to part of his plan. But once again, I don’t really know, and I really don’t need to know God’s whole plan to be a part of it.

~Erin

25 Years of Making a Difference

The other night our church celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary; twenty-five years of service to our community and the world, 25 years of changing lives. We celebrated, honored and appreciated our founding pastor, Stan Buck and his family. It was an amazing, moving, incredible evening; one I may never forget. I’m sure there will be more posts to follow, but for now I am captivated by those 25 years; what it was, and what it means.

I was sitting in the second row and when I turned around to see all the people behind me, it was a sight to behold. Every chair filled, right to the back of the room, then people standing behind and around the chairs, then people standing in the lobby. So. many. people.
Can you imagine being at the first service? You’ve prayed, made over 19,000 phone calls to the people in the area, you’ve done a mailing, prayed, set up chairs, prepared your message, prayed some more, and then you watch the door and hope people come through it.

In a video message, Stan mentioned, at times, during those early years, wanting to make the phone call that would allow him to walk away from ministry. This surprised me, I only know him to be a very strong, organized, determined man. But I cannot imagine the many frustrations of beginning and leading a church, so many things likely not going the way you imagined.

Ministry = people, and the truth is, people = messy.

As I thought about then…and now, this thought has come to me over and over…our culture today is very instant. We aren’t used to waiting very long, if at all, for feedback, results, change and more. We lose our focus, and we want the next thing. When discouraged, it’s easy for us to move to the next thing – as there are many next things screaming for our attention and time. But when you’re in the business of people, well…people need time. We’re set in our ways, we don’t want to change, we’re confident in our beliefs, or non-beliefs, or simply comfortable in our questioning. We want to know what the church will do for us, we sometimes show up with our consumerism attitude. We church-hop if we don’t get, hear or experience what we like.  But....we’re also giving and generous. We are hungry for a change in our lives, we want to know God, or know him more. We’re a mix of all of that…which I imagine can be exhausting at times for pastors.

I saw so many of our young leaders at this celebration and I wondered what they were thinking. Here’s what I was thinking, Look at all these people! Young leaders, know that 700 people did not walk through the doors that first service, or the 100th service, or the 500th service. Life change did not take place after each and every service. (Be encouraged young leaders.) But after 25 years of sacrifice, leading, hardship and heartache, after hundreds of good decisions and probably a few not so good decisions, of having babies, sending those babies to college and then walking those babies down the aisle, our founding, and senior pastor had the honor of sitting and watching people POUR through the doors one Sunday evening.

Perseverance, commitment, passion, faith, obedience and so much more, poured over 25 years, sprinkled upon thousands of people, passed on to countless more. Our founding and senior pastor is sick, which makes this more than just a celebratory piece – it’ a challenging piece to other leaders, and it’s a reflective piece. The time for him to add to his legacy is nearing an end but the impact of his legacy will endure because he invested, cared, nurtured, made wise decisions and hard decisions, and the truth is, he likely screwed some things up too – he isn’t perfect. But he is good, and he is faithful. He loves his wife, adores his girls, cares for his congregation – and dare I say, the world. Congratulations to you, Stan Buck, on 25 years of service to the church. You have been a good and faithful servant, and when you enter into the presence of the King, I believe you will hear, “Well done.”

 Keepsake Portraits & Designs.
To read more of what I have written on Stan Buck since his illness, click here.
His CaringBridge is here.

Cross Country Meets Make Me Cry

Seriously, they do. It’s always at the end of the meets, and it’s always the kids in last place that make me cry. And the coaches…the coaches contribute to my tears too.

Erin is in her second year of running cross country for our high school, but in her first season that girl came in last place for her team. every. single. race. Not last in the race, but last for her team. (But here’s the thing, she also “won” every single time. That girl set a personal record each and every race – the whole season – I’ll write more about her later.) Here’s the other thing, her coach was always on the course – urging her on. I would have expected her to be off with the varsity runners, congratulating them on their races, but no – she was always waiting for Erin – her last place runner.

That got me every time. But what makes me choke up at each and every race is the runners that literally come in last in the race. And…well, their coaches.

Let me set the scene…

The first runners sprint to the finish, you wonder how they have anything left in them, but suddenly they do and it’s amazing. Then the middle runners come in and that’s exciting as you see them jostle for position right to the finish line. Then you wait….and wait…and wait…several (or most) people wander away, anxious to find and congratulate their runners, but of course a few parents still have kids on the course…somewhere.

The first race of this year really got me. Our school had a runner still on the course, so Kevin, Courtney and I waited for him, along with one other family waiting for their runner from a different school. Finally, here comes a runner, and I realize one of the people waiting off by himself wasn’t family, it was his coach. And then he is running alongside his runner – off the course – but running, yelling encouragement to him, telling him to lift those legs and use those arms, and we see the runner respond. I’m chocked up. Then our runner comes around the corner, and there are our two coaches whom I hadn’t seen before – yelling encouragement to him. (Tears spring to my eyes.)

I am convinced this is the stuff that matters in life, and I get to watch it each week of the cross country season.

A few weeks later at another race, we again waited for that last runner  – along with lots of other people – finally he came to that last stretch before the finish line and the crowd that is left erupts…clapping and yelling to him. Tears spring to my eyes again.

I don’t usually know the last runner, it doesn’t matter who they are, or what school they are from, what matters is they stuck with it, they persevered, they didn’t give up, they finished the race.

I think it probably takes more mental energy and even emotional strength to stay in the race when you know you are the last runner. I know I am as proud of the kid who comes in last as impressed as I am by the kid who comes in first.

Last year Erin told me the cool thing about running in the back part of the pack is that everyone helps everyone. You run together and if someone breaks away you tell them “Good job”, encouraging them as they go on ahead of you – even if you don’t know their name, even if they don’t go to your school. Oh, that we could all be like the runners at the back of the pack.
There are just so many lessons to be captured in cross country.

My Favorite Devotion Book

Oswald Chambers has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. Although born in 1874, he speaks into the struggles of my heart and my life in 2012. I need to daily read My Utmost for His Highest to remind me of my part in my relationship with the Lord.

If Oswald Chambers were alive today, he would be 138 years old, yet his writings remind me that the struggles of the human heart, mind and culture are timeless. Back in 1915 they were also self-centered, concerned about material things, and trying to win the battlefield of the mind.

Sometimes I need a soft encouraging nudge from a friend, and sometimes I just need the truth laid out before me. I like the Classic Edition because it’s the language he spoke in, it isn’t translated into the more relaxed language of our culture. (Although I see the advantage of that as well.)

I have to admit I am woken up just about every time I read an entry. The words are convicting and challenging and yet also remind me that I have everything I need when I am “rightly related to the Lord.” God is faithful, I am the one who is not.

If you are interested in this devotional, contact me through the Contact Me page here. Send me a message about why you are interested in receiving this book and I will send a copy of My Utmost for His Highest to the first five people from which I hear. (Please include your address.) When I have received five responses, I will come back here and comment.

Messages on Monday

I have listened to two great messages on parenting recently and have decided to share those links here on my blog. Sometimes I will listen to a message from another church when I am working in the kitchen, sitting on the porch or driving in the car. It’s a great and easy way for me to learn and grow!

One of the messages was from Newspring Church in Wichita, Kansas, (this is my sister Jamie’s church) titled It’s Apparent: You Can’t Do That. A few takeaways for me from that message were:

  • …bring them UP in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
  • We as parents can be so bold and confident in some areas of our lives and yet sometimes have a hard time talking to our kids about crucial matters.
  • We need to discipline our kids while we still have a chance. Indulging them destroys them. Proverbs 19:18
  • No discipline is enjoyable while it’s happening – it’s painful…heavy…sad. Hebrews 12:11 When we are off track, God is heavy in his heart, but we may not be…so God will bring us discipline to bring that heaviness to our hearts. The pastor does a nice job talking about this.
  • Many of the guardrails of previous cultural norms are down today. We get almost no help from the culture today, in fact it can almost feel like the enemy. (I believe this is true.)
  • We need to ask ourselves this question ~ What do we really want as we discipline our kids? Ultimately, it is an ordered life – not a chaotic life. Peace comes from being in right order. We want our children to have peace…peace with God, us, their siblings, future mate, peace within themselves.
  • It’s never too late to parent.
  • Ephesians 6:1~ We gain a peaceful heart from right living.This was a really really good, insightful message. I definitely recommend it. You can listen to it here. (May 20, 2012 It’s Apparent, You Can’t Do That)

The other message was from my pastor, Stan Buck, at Sonrise Church. His message on parenting is titled Imagine the End. (Interestingly, it was also given on May 20, 2012!) Here are a few bullets I wrote down from that one:

  • Fight for the heart.
  • Focus on what matters
  • We sometimes make the mistake of putting our kids first…the order actually is God, marriage, kids.
  • We are here to serve God…not you.
  • Our goal is not to make our kids happy, our goal is to make our kids holy and complete. (Good, good stuff.)
  • It really doesn’t matter what our kids know if they don’t really know what matters.
  • LOVE this one: What I give to my children and do for my children is not as important as what I leave in my children. (That needs to be splattered all over our mirrors and calendars, and should be texted to us daily!)
  • Train a child in the way that they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6Stan also gave several very practical parenting tips that they used while raising their daughters…I really recommend listening to this – especially if you have older children. You can listen to that message here. (May 20, 2012 Imagine the End)

I really appreciate hearing from different pastors – if you have a message you have listened to that you want to share, you can leave a comment below or send me a message using the Contact Me page. Thanks!

 

 

Love of Leah

This is my friend Barb. She’s with her friend Leah.
At some point Leah kind of became a 4th daughter to Barb.

When Barb and her family moved into their home several years ago, they had no idea that Leah was a part of the deal. But she was…an integral part of the deal. I’m not really sure if Barb adopted Leah, or if Leah adopted Barb, but what I do know is that they did become as intimate as family. Not neighbors, family.

Barb called last night almost unable to speak through the sobs. After a brief sickness, Leah suddenly passed away; Leah was thirty-three years old. My heart dropped to the bottom of my chest and tears formed in my eyes as I listened to my friend grieve the loss of her friend other daughter, as I sometimes referred to Leah.

Leah had Down’s Syndrome. Her speech was sometimes hard to understand. She called on the phone a lot, and she stopped over at the house even more. She ate dinners, helped sweep the floors and played games with the Freeman’s. She got in the car and went to track meets, choir concerts, volleyball games and more. She spent birthdays and holidays with her other family for years.

I hold Barb in such high esteem for so many reasons, and as I have seen her love Leah over the last several years, there has been even more cause for this esteem. Barb just loved Leah so easily. She welcomed her into her life as if she had been waiting for her. She didn’t seem to have to make room for Leah, there just was room. She had time and patience and eyes and ears and words and heart for Leah. I was almost envious of this relationship ~ in this way ~ I wondered if I would have room in my life for a Leah.

Barb’s daughter is getting married this summer and Barb told me Leah was so excited for the wedding! Leah couldn’t wait to dance at the wedding and Barb had promised her they would tear up the dance floor together. Last night Barb said in her mind’s eye she didn’t picture much this summer, but she did picture her and Leah dancing at the wedding. See what I mean? Barb loved Leah so much, so generously. I always thought Leah was so blessed to have Barb in her life, but as my friend sobbed and sobbed last night I realized just how profoundly blessed Barb has been to have Leah in her’s.

Rest in peace, Leah. You made a pretty big impact here, dear one. I know you are not waiting for the wedding to dance, I  believe you are before the King and the party has already started. Dance on…..

Blessed to be a Blessing

Zach came home a few weeks ago and said Chris, one of the younger guys on the football team, (that he had been driving to and from practice all summer because his mom works) was selling candy bars to help raise money for a mission trip he was taking. Zach wondered out loud how many he could buy. When I asked why, he said something about wanting to help this kid (it was a mission trip after all) and he wanted to blow him away through generosity.

So Zach asked all of us how much we would each contribute; everyone in our family put money in the pot. It was neat to watch that happen. Then he texted his friend.

“How many candy bars do you have left?”
“46.”
“I’ll take all of them.”
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Nope, I’ll take all of them!”
“Awesome!!!!!”

Zach said Chris was really blown away when he picked up the candy bars the next day.

I just love this.

Blessed to be a blessing
is something our pastor, Stan Buck, has spoken about often. Kevin and I really took this to heart this past year when he challenged all of the church body to tip generously when we go out to eat. He wondered what that could look like across our community if everyone did that. Stan has challenged us before on this, but it really landed on us this most recent time. I have to say, we have had a blast tipping generously these past several months. Its funny, because we never see the staff get their tip, but we imagine what they must think when they see what we have left. (As a former waitress, I don’t have a problem imagining this.)

This generosity we saw in Zach wasn’t the first time we had seen something like that. Earlier in the summer Courtney’s boyfriend had taken her out to lunch and she asked to leave the tip. She left a gigantic tip and she told us how fun it was to leave it and walk away! Again, I love this.

I write this not to boast of our generosity, I write it this for these reasons:

  • To point out the impact one person had by issuing a challenge. One person influenced much giving.
  • Our kids are watching what we are doing – this can be good news or scary news – I guess it depends on what we are doing!
  • We are influencing our kids through our actions. We are. They see what we do and they do it too. What are we doing?

All good things to ponder.