Category Archives: Alton Mission

Visitors

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Yesterday we had such a delightful surprise in our home. It really was quite small and didn’t cost a penny, but delightful nonetheless.

We had a couple from our church who had just purchased ice cream down the street from our house decide that instead of just sitting in a parking lot eating their ice cream…they would come down and see what we were up to, just drop in and say hi.

We ended up visiting for at least an hour around our sunroom table and it was honestly quite a God moment in my family’s life. They had no way of knowing that but I recognized it and so did my kids.

My girls had been kind of struggling this week in various ways with feeling like they don’t belong. That might be a homeschooling issue…but honestly, I think it’s more a high school/teenager issue. They are really good listeners but often in a group don’t actually talk. They’re content to listen to other people have conversation, except that then once it’s done they feel like they were on the edges the whole time…because, they were, and it’s not very satisfying.

None of this is unusual, I remember feeling the same way at their age. Not wanting the pressure to have to come up with something of interest to say and yet wanting to be seen as an interesting person to be with. It’s a common feeling for many people.

So…when this couple just stopped in and we sat down and visited it was a really lovely thing to have conversation together that was unscripted, unplanned, and just see where the conversation would lead. It started out with me doing a lot of the talking from my family, but over the visit, the girls started to warm up and share some of their story, what’s been going on in their lives lately. It was kind of like watching a flower bloom all within the space of an hour or two.

This couple had no way of knowing that was going on…they just decided it was worth the effort and far more interesting to go say hi to someone they know rather than just sitting by themselves in a parking lot or a car.

Such a small thing. I often read how we’re losing face to face contact with each other because of social media, email, etc. Sometimes I discount the issue, as in, well at least I’m staying in touch with people over distance that I normally wouldn’t have any contact with. But…last night I realized that face to face contact is so, so important. It’s not the same as a quick status post and a clicked like.

We got to know so much more about this couple as we sat at the table, we talked about their high school experiences, vacations we’ve taken, house remodeling projects, youth group experiences, teeth, church, parenting, future hopes, etc. Lauren showed the fashions that she’s been putting together on Polyvore, a computer program that she likes to use. My girls and I felt like we mattered and that this couple would want to get to know us and would want us to know them better. Isn’t that a big part of what love is? Knowing and being known…I think so.

Later, I realized that Lydia could’ve spent the night with friends at the local high school football game and I apologized for not being aware of it. She said…”But mom, then I would’ve missed out on the visit from the couple that stopped in to see us.” The visit that was just meant to say hello meant that much to her that she would’ve rather been there for it than go with friends to a football game.

My conclusion is this. We have no idea the power that we hold in loving one another well. We have no idea what happens when we just drop in on people, or make some small effort to get to know them better. I know this couple had no idea that it would be a big deal to us…but it was. Most of us are fairly lonely people. The idea of hospitality has gotten thrown out the window. Most of us don’t go to each other’s houses much these days. And I could’ve freaked out because my house wasn’t really neat and clean when they came. But I didn’t even care. It was just so good to visit with people.

Most of us struggle feeling like we belong. Or that anybody notices us or cares about our life. We have this strange mix of wanting to keep to ourselves and protect ourselves and at the same time we really want somebody to care enough to ask or express concern. We want somebody to take notice of us. We’ve become so used to not being known that it’s rare when we feel known, even with people who we are around on a weekly basis for years. How well do you know people at your church? Really…

Our church has been focused this summer on forming deeper community. I’m preaching on it tomorrow. I have to say, I think the message is more relevant than ever. I don’t think it’s just teenage girls who struggle feeling connected and noticed…I think regardless of age, many of us in a group still feel lonely.

I told the girls after our visitors left…we need to do more of that kind of thing, just popping in on people, taking the risk to say hello and just seeing what might happen. We need to share not only the gospel…but our lives.

Yesterday it was ice cream and a visit in our sunroom at the table. Nothing special and yet very sacred.

Broadening my horizons

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This week I decided to make myself available to the people who attend my church. I just put out a Facebook message to all of them (It’s easy…because we’re in a “group”) letting them know that I would be available this week to help them out if they needed it.

I have a to do list as usual for any given week…but I knew most of the stuff I’m doing is not life and death stuff.  I thought an offer to babysit, or do yard work or help someone clean, etc. might be something that was a real encouragement to the people I am trying to live in community with at my church.

It helps that our preacher has been preaching about community and doing life together. That’s where the idea got planted.

It also helps that right now I’m putting together a sermon from 1 Thess 2: 1-10 and one of the verses in that section says “We not only shared the gospel with you but our very lives.” Got me to thinking…I share a lot of gospel time with these people…but not much of my “very life” time.

This is what happened.

A couple who doesn’t have transportation needed a ride to their doctor appointment and to the local Wic office. I had just met this couple on Sunday. So…today we road around together and got to know each other a bit. It was fascinating because they are from a different culture. India. To hear their story of coming to American and about their family and plans for the future was really a great way to get to know them better. In one afternoon I became friends with them in what would’ve taken me easily several weeks if not months to acquire with church alone.

I learned about arranged marriages and about U.S. citizenship and other various issues.

Real people. Cute baby. Me given an opportunity to help. It cost me nothing. But today I shared my very life with them.

It occurred to me on Sunday when our Pastor spoke that I need to listen to the Holy Spirit guide me each week when we gather and see if He is bringing any need to my attention that I might be able to help fill. A great perk of being on sabbatical is the freedom I have to help someone else. I’m not feeling like I’ve got to wring every moment out of this summer and an afternoon given to someone else is a major inconvenience. Instead…it was very interesting/rewarding.

I have to wonder how many weeks/months/years have gone by when I would’ve never dreamed of putting out my time and services without first seeing a need. When I would’ve felt that kind of freedom to give with no strings attached, just a desire to be a blessing.

I don’t want to make more of it than it was. It was a car ride, some time, some conversation. Nothing huge. But today I blessed a couple from India and made them feel loved and cared for. Living in a town this far from home is a big deal. They commented to me how much their family and friends are amazed at the kindness of “strangers” here in our church and town. Just yesterday their neighbor gave them a stroller.

If I was in a foreign place with a new little baby I would see God as people gave me practical help. I believe that’s what they’re seeing. And they even told me how lovely of a singer I am 🙂

I hope this freedom to bless others will continue. Not a forced thing or through a program…just through flexibility and availability.

What love looks like.

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I think love looks like people showing up on a Wednesday to an apartment building and walking up and down the stairs to the apartment on the top floor (3rd, I believe) to carry stuff down box by box, kitty litter and all, beds, chairs, food, books, golf clubs, clothes, tv, etc. on a hot and sweaty day to move a young family with a newborn baby to their new house.

Moving is such a job. It really is. All of us have far too much stuff. Even when we don’t think we have a lot we do.

I love it when a person can put out a call to the church body for help…all hands on deck to show up and put love in action and people of all ages actually come out and help.

This is how good it was. They couple had rented a truck to move the stuff…but unexpectedly to them, people showed up with trucks and trailers and other various large vehicles and they were able to cancel their order on the moving truck! That’s impressive!

Many hands make light work. I’m not going to lie…it was hot and there was some major sweat going on…but even the children pitched in and carried stuff. Truly remarkable.

I took my daughter, Lydia, and we helped out together for a couple of hours. Great news…it gave us extra points for our weight watchers plan for today 🙂 So we enjoyed a lunch out afterwards.

I was so reassured today of what’s happening at my church. Not in the walls. Not even in the services…but what’s happening in the streets and neighborhoods we are a part of.

I was so impressed that families with small children could’ve easily not come and had a valid excuse and yet, they came and worked and their kids worked right alongside them! What a beautiful experience for those children to be a part of.

I think love should get a little sweaty. I think it should involve some dirt and some heaviness to it. I think it should involve all ages and genders. I think it’s amazing what we can all do when we come together and are there for each other in our time of need.

If the couple had tried to do it alone…OH MY WORD it would’ve been overwhelming!!!

I left before lunch but I know others showed up in the afternoon and beds were already set up and I’m sure that tonight they have some form of home to sleep in. Which is pretty awesome since they have a one month old baby!

In this day and age where we often hear complaints about churches and christians and their lack of caring for needs…I’m happy to be a part of a church that really does care and shows it.

Today was a home run for my church. Today God smiled on us, I felt it. Today reminded me once again of what it means to love one another.

Does your church show up for people in need? If not…I would encourage you to start the trend. Make it a movement…a party…an event that you wouldn’t want to miss because of the connections that will be made. Today I deepened friendships while riding in a pick up truck from an apartment to a house. I’m grateful that I went. Took all of 2 hours of my time.