Pay It Forward & Save!

“Our savings in this world are not what we have today, but what we give to others” Sam Vonumu, Uplift A Child International.

The quote stops me in my tracks. I read it again. And again. I take out my phone and snap a photo of it. I think about it as My Honey and I are herded toward lunch with hundreds of other Christians from around the world who are attending the same conference.

The convention center cafeteria is freezing cold. We stand in line next to a couple from Australia and My Honey, as usual, begins a conversation. A Haitian gentleman serves rice onto his plastic plate in front of us and I overhear a quiet exchange in what sounds like Korean from the next line over.

“God, You have people who love You on every continent, in every country. What are we all doing to show the world Your love?” I question as I wait my turn for the salad dressing. “Does the world see Jesus in the people who call themselves Christians? Does the world see Jesus in me?”

We find two empty chairs in the dining hall and settle in next to a rainbow of skin tones. The folks to our left are from Brazil. The couple across from us are Kenyans. We smile and introduce ourselves. English on the Brazilian side is limited. Our Portuguese is nonexistent. We spend the meal conversing about Africa as my Dutch-skinned South African husband jokes that he is “African American.” Mr. and Mrs. Kenya laugh and inform us that our President is from their same tribe.

Several minutes into the conversation, we learn that the Kenyan pastor we are speaking with serves 2,000 Christians in several churches and many of his people do not worship in a building, but under the trees as they await funds to build a church. His wife is a high school teacher. They have saved for years to be able to travel to America and represent their country in this convention. This is their first (possibly only) trip to the United States. They are overwhelmed, but they “love it!”

Give them some money.

I recognize the Holy Spirit’s prompt.

Lord, that would be awkward. They are not asking for anything. It might embarrass them. They are both professionals.” I argue.

I don’t hear God again as I finish my meal.

Then Honey asks them how much their plane tickets cost. They have a discussion about “Shillings” and “Rands” and “Dollars.” The man says, “I have some American money, but I don’t know how much it is worth.” He digs in his pocket and produces several coins. My husband touches each one and explains its value.coins in hand

The wife asks, “What can you buy with one penny?”

“Maybe a piece of bubble gum,” I reply smiling.

I take a photo of the man’s hand as he holds out his coins. God prompts again.

Ask them if they need anything.

I say nothing.

We all smile and shake hands as we end our conversation. They stand to leave. We wave as they melt into the crowd heading for the convention hall.

“I wish we could give them something,” Honey says as the couple disappears.

“I think God told me to give them money,” I reply. “But, I felt it would be uncomfortable.”

“What?! How much do you have? Give it to me. I’ll go find them.”

I frantically dig through my purse and produce some cash. My husband grabs it and chases through the crowd

“Why don’t I just listen to You in the first place, Lord? I’m sorry. You were right.”

Honey comes back smiling. “Mission accomplished! They were thrilled. It wasn’t awkward at all.”

I am humbled. Again. By the goodness of God. By the fact that He communicates with us. By the opportunity to be His hands to bless another.

Later, I receive an email from one of the postal workers mentioned in Chapter 12 of my memoir, Same Dress, Different Day. It was a thank you for the copy of my book I’d given as a token of appreciation for kindness shown years before. Way back then, without knowing the details of my situation, this insightful postal worker in my town had offered compassion and had prayed for me, a customer. How wonderful to be the recipient of God’s mercy through another human being who listened to Him!

Part of my response to that email reads, “May God continue to bless you on your own journey and as you impact people in your circle of influence. You never know what a difference you are making. Perhaps only in heaven you will find out the rest of the stories.”

Last night, one of the front desk managers in our hotel asked for prayer for a coworker’s daughter. After a few brief encounters, Honey and I were trusted enough to be confided in and invited to pray for someone we’d never met. What a privilege!men praying

These three incidents were sloshing around in my brain today as I sat down to write a blog post for someone suffering the effects of addiction. How does what I’ve written apply to codependence and addiction? How does it fit into the theme of my blog, that God redeems the dreams we thought were lost?

Here’s the connection. It goes back to Sam Vonumu’s quote at the beginning: “Our savings in this world are not what we have today, but what we give to others.”

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we miss opportunities for God to bless us through others. We can easily become mired in shame and fear and uncertainty when a loved one is acting out his/her addiction. We often miss the opportunity to give to others by allowing them to help us.

Here’s what I mean: The Kenyan couple gave us the opportunity to bless them because they did not respond to My Honey’s offer with pride or embarrassment. They happily took the cash and said, “Thank you.” No awkwardness at all.

The postal workers in my town gave me the opportunity to feel God’s presence and watch care over every detail of my life when they allowed God to use them to help and encourage me. I was humble enough at one point to confide in them because I needed help. I gave them my trust and they were able to bless me.

The hotel front desk manager became vulnerable enough to reach out to two Christian guests and ask for prayer. We would not have known the need if he did not ask. He GAVE us the opportunity to ask God for a miracle.

Sometimes we just need to give people the opportunity to help us. By doing so, we not only help ourselves, we also help them. If you love an addicted person, don’t live your life alone. Find a safe place to heal and grow. Find a place to talk and pray about your circumstance. Find a place to give others the opportunity to bless you. One day you may be the one who pays it forward.

Unlocking Forgiveness

Rusty Lock

In 1989 I was nineteen and heartbroken because of another betrayal by my “forever yours faithfully ” boyfriend. I listened to The Eagles cranked up LOUD in my muffler-less hand-me-down car. They knew a lot about heartbreak. And a little bit about forgiveness. Don Henley sang it this way:

“The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again                                                      I’ve been tryin’ to get down
To the heart of the matter but my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore”

“Heart Of The Matter” was written by Henley, Don/campbell, Michael W./souther, John David. Read more: Don Henley – Heart Of The Matter Lyrics | MetroLyrics

That part about all the things I thought I knew… I know what he’s talking about. At the age of 43 I’m learning them again. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s a process. It’s a decision that is made with or without the warm fuzzy feelings that can be a wonderful side dish to a heaping helping of forgiveness. God keeps showing me how multifaceted and ugly bitterness is. I don’t want any root of it in my life. I choose forgiveness. I choose to release the feelings of hurt and abandonment that even now…after all these years, can crop up as I write about things already buried. No, I’m not talking about the teenage angst of a boyfriend’s wanderings. I’m talking about the deepest ache of a spouse’s betrayal.

I keep thinking I’m okay as I journey back in time to painful places in order to write this memoir. And by God’s mercy and amazing grace, I am okay. My life is not what it was. God has abundantly redeemed the things I thought were lost. I have spent my time in the pits of despair and my dollars in the therapist’s chair. I’ve revealed, released, healed and moved forward. But when I write certain bits, I can still feel a jab from somewhere on the inside and once more I am faced with life’s perpetual decision: do I choose forgiveness or allow just a tiny bit of justified bitterness to have access to my soul?

Yesterday I crafted the following paragraph for Chapter 12 at a writer’s workshop hosted by environmentalist author Dale Slongwhite. As I prepared to read it aloud to a group of strangers-turned-friends-through-shared-writing, once again I was offered the menu. Once again, I chose forgiveness. What worked for Don Henley back in 1989 was actually set in place by our loving Heavenly Father before the first sin created the need for such an institution as forgiveness. Here are the instructions from the One who best knows that the fastest way to freedom is forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” Ephesians 4:31-32. NIV  First we choose to unlock our hardened hearts. Then He gives us the grace to follow through with that choice. Here’s a glimpse into Chapter 12:

“Forgiveness is the sharpest tool for severing soul ties with someone from our past. It is bitterness that binds. Why have I so often seen it the other way around? My thoughts clarified as the round wall clock counted down our last hour of couple’s therapy. I heard the second hand ticking like a time bomb. Side by side we sat on the same grey sofa where week after week for the better part of a year Dr. Fox had witnessed the unraveling of our marriage. The dim lamp on the side table could not dispel the darkness hanging over us as we solemnly shared the memories and regrets of twelve married years. My mouth was dry and my eyes moist as I recounted a few of my favorite times with Jon and expressed my choice to forgive him for searing my heart with betrayal. As we hugged goodbye, I breathed in his familiar scent, a concoction of Acqua di Gio, sweat, and Marlboros. I released him. He released me. I was free.”

Thank you, Dale Slongwhite, for creating a space and a writing prompt that brought this memory out of the depths and put some meat on it. I loved what happened in your workshop yesterday and I left feeling energized and inspired to write!  (If you are an aspiring writer of any age, you, too may be interested in Dale’s website and other workshops: https://writelines.net/.  Dale’s most recent book, Mucked Up, is her passionate exploration of the lives of Lake Apopka farm workers as she tackles the personal side of environmental and political issues surrounding the growing and harvesting of much of Central Florida’s food. You can learn more about that project here: http://www.muckedup.net/.)

Thanks to those who are praying me through this journey. Birthing a memoir is both beautiful and exhausting. I pray the labor pains are worth it and that hearts are touched in a way that brings hope to those who feel alone in their suffering.