To Slow Down

desk

This summer I read two books, hoping for perspective for something I struggle with.

Lysa TerKeurst is a writer, speaker, and the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. The Best Yes helps readers make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands. Sometimes no is very hard for me. I feel so sick and guilty when I have to say no to something. The chapters of the book draw you into the process of saying yes and no wisely. Chapter three sums up what so many of us feel, an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul. Seeking God and letting go of unrealistic expectations can help us wisely give our best yes and humbly offer our best no.

Jessica Turner of Mom Creative, writes The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. The Fringe Hours encourages busy parents to take time for themselves. Do you ever feel guilty when you lie down for a nap, read a book, or try a new craft and your house is a mess? We are encouraged to give ourselves permission to invest in the things we love and the relationships that are important for us, while letting go of the guilt of self-imposed pressures.

 

I truly struggle with both of these things.

 

I’m so thankful for all of you. I want to encourage you all to know its all right to not be perfect. We don’t have to always say yes. We don’t have to give away our fringe hours continually for others. Part of the way we make a difference and give back is to take care of ourselves too.

Since reading these books I have:

  • Made a secret Pinterest board with things I want to dream about.
  • Before school starts again I am trying to take a little nap every afternoon while the kids do their screen time.
  • I got little white lights to hang above my writing desk. I wish I could drape the world with little white lights 🙂
  • I’m going to make time to exercise and take care of myself.
  • I practiced saying no, which brought me to a yes that I could offer and feel so excited about.
  • I’m slowing down, so I can hear.

 

What do you all love to do in your fringe hours? I want to know what you LOVE to do when you make time for it! These are very well the things God will use most deeply in your life to make a difference.

I also want to give away my copies of these two books! Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered! Giveaway1

 

Summer Serve Play Groups

playgroup dates

About Proximity is so excited to host Summer Service Play Groups in Holland, Michigan!

Let’s come out to make a difference as a community with our families.

 

Here is our Facebook Event Page. 

 

Printable PDFs to share with others. Included are the service opportunities for each week and all the activities we have planned! 

Summer Serve Play Group Schedule Summer 2015

June16: If the World Were a Village

iftheworldwereavillage

June 23: One Hen

OneHenHungerJune 30: The Red Bicycle

TheRedBicyclePlayGroup

July 7: Mimi’s Village

Mimi's Village Play Group

July 14: Planet Ark 

PlanetArkPlayGroup

Serve Projects: 

Bringing donations is completely optional! Even if you are unable to participate in the donation part of the service project, still come out to the play group! We’ll learn together and have fun. We want everyone to feel welcome. Click on the printable PDFs to see what we are gathering for each week.

A few ideas:

  • When shopping for donations for Holland Rescue Mission and Community Action House involve your kids. It’s a great opportunity to talk to them about needs families might have and what items can be a support and encouragement.
  • When bringing $1.00 donation for Shot@Life, World Vision, and World Renew encourage your kids to earn the money by doing a small job around the house, helping will feel even more meaningful to them.

 

Want to learn more about the organizations we are supporting? 

Holland Rescue Mission

Community Action House

Shot@Life

World Vision

World Renew 

All our stories are donated by Citizen Kid Books.  

 

We can’t wait to see you this summer! 

Questions? 

Email: Lisa Van Engen at aboutproximity@gmail.com 

 

 

 

Invisible to Visible.

path appears

Tonight at 10:00 pm on PBS the three- part series of A Path Appears premieres. The film is based on the book by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book was wonderful, I have no doubt the documentary will be the same.

Another married duo changing the world through their advocacy is Bill and Melinda Gates. They released their annual letter last week. As a member of the Global Team of 200, I have the privilege of sharing it with you through images.

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GatesLetter-Quotes-Twitter-16

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We live in an unprecedented time. What will our role be? Can we be global citizens that shift to place ourselves in proximity, so the invisible are visible?

 

36 Hope Expands: Hiddenness

36hopeexpands(36 Hope Expands. A series of 36 ways to expand compassion in our daily lives.)

The largest part of Jesus’ life was hidden. Henri J.M. Nouwen

If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.

 

Our ordinary moments can be so hard. They outweigh the spectacular, by ALOT.

We live hidden lives, our best moments are often not witnessed… except they are. He sees every one, especially those done out of love in hiddenness. Ever feel unnoticed, unappreciated, unknown? It is painful. I promise you He knows. He sees. He loves you for your simple, unspectacular, ordinary, hidden. That makes my hope expand.

colorful chairs

I want to fill my ordinary with God.

Four little, applicable steps I took this week:

1. I downloaded the free CharityMiles App. You can walk, run, or bike. You can also do it with the kids and have them help pick the organization you give to.

2. We also tried Donate a Photo. Another great family activity… you simply take a picture and Johnson and Johnson donates daily to a cause of your choice.

3. I also started using RecycleBank. You can earn points to redeem. What I love about it is that you learn green tips and information.

4. In those ugly moments of feeling completely exhausted of my ordinary… I am trying to remember that showing up is an act of faith. Read this article about just that by Amy Sullivan

 

I pray for you and encourage you. We can do a million acts of justice, kindness, and good… but the most obedient and beautiful is probably the simplest.

Showing up for God in hiddenness.

What little things do you do to give back, that take just a moment in your day? How do you feel about obedience in the ordinary?  

 

Bloom and Daughters of Cambodia

Bloom1

By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth Australia

It’s amazing what word-of-mouth can do. We were only supposed to be checking out two projects, but when my friend Lynda found out we were in Cambodia she said I had to check out Bloom. My new friend Trish was on the trip with me and she was told by another lady at church about the work of Daughters. We set out to squeeze them both in if we could.

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“Bloom is a cake art gallery and not-for-profit organisation that empowers and skills Cambodian women while providing you with a chic oasis in the city.” They have a high quality vocational training program AND the cakes are beautiful and yummy! Double yay!! The Cambodian website is here. There is not much publicity on there about the work that they do but further information about Bloom can be found at here. I suspect that they are guarded about publicizing their work to protect the women, and to let the work speak for itself.

bloom3

The second place we went to visit was called Daughters. Its mission is a lot more explicit. “Daughters of Cambodia is a faith-based non-Government organization reaching out to victims of sex-trafficking and sex-exploitation in Cambodia. We work to eradicate enslavement in the sex industry by offering to those trapped in it, opportunities to walk free and start a new life.”

We took a tuk tuk to the Visitor Centre in Phnom Penh which enables the public to learn about Daughters and support their work. I was able to browse in the craft store (sorry I don’t have pics!), enjoy deep fried cookie dough and a “Snickers” thickshake in the cafe, and get a head/face/shoulder massage in the spa. Three shops in one location! The work they are doing is explained everywhere you turn: in artwork on the walls, on the back of the products, and in a dvd looped in the mezzanine. You can check out their website at here. It’s pretty fascinating!

We all care about the exploitation of women. I am thankful for the work these businesses are doing, but I think it is genius the way they make it accessible for an affluent white westerner like myself to come alongside, engage and find out further ways to support.

Bloom4

All of the pictures are from Bloom except the picture of me holding up an ice coffee. That was a regular cupcake place that I dragged everyone along to, knowing that Bloom sold cupcakes. I had spied it from our river cruise, thinking that this was surely it – before I took the time to find out the actual name and address of Bloom!

Light of Hope

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By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth, Australia

I had the opportunity to go to Cambodia in a team of six from Perth, Australia. We went to visit two projects, which are supported by Baptist World Aid Australia. Lisa has allowed me to write three posts for you. This one will be about PNKS, the second will be about Peace Bridges and the last one will be about two other organisations doing great work that I found while I was there.

I really didn’t know what we were going into. This was my first trip to a third-world country. I shouldn’t have worried. My team leader and the partner organisations did a great job of planning the itinerary and showing us around.

It was called an “Exposure Tour”. We weren’t there to do anything as such, just to observe, listen, learn and ask questions. It wasn’t all hard work either. We did some sightseeing on tuk-tuks, took a ton of photos and were able to Skype the kids at home every night from the Wi-Fi in our comfortable hotel room.

PNKS2The first organisation we visited was called PNKS (light of hope). They are a Cambodian Christian NGO working in community building, agriculture and livelihoods training and health. We were out in the rural areas, guests to their community meetings and got to observe some things that PNKS have introduced to help build the communities.

Climate change is a big issue in these communities. Rainfall used to be predictable and the rice harvest as a result used to be predictable, but now late rains could mean poor crops. PNKS is working with the locals to teach/share farming practices, skills and techniques, work towards diversification of crops, so families might plant vegetables and have a fish pond as well as just the rice field.

Communities were also taught in monthly meetings about various topics such as health care, civil rights, domestic violence, and other things. The communities also had the opportunity to have a shared savings account, which had lower interest than what was offered by the microfinance institutions. We heard one example of this being used when the community needed funds for a funeral.

PNKS4You’ll see in two of my photos that there is plastic sheeting and plastic bottles being used in agriculture. This is to avoid evaporation during the drought. The locals have to endure both droughts and floods in a year and often lose everything they have gained during the drought. We heard that there isn’t enough water for their animals to survive the drought. Fish, however can be kept in plastic bags.

I really loved visiting the rural communities and having the chance to talk to some people who were happy to show us the improvements that PNKS had brought to their communities. In one community meeting I asked what was their greatest need, and they said that they needed consistent rain for the remainder of October for their rice crops. You can imagine our collective joy when it started to pour down!

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This photo is of me talking to the community ladies. I am wearing a blue blouse and the translator is on my left.

The other photo is of the savings group. If you would like more information on PNKS, there is a good article here.

 

He gave you the goods

breathe(Kristine, me, Amelia, Amy)

This weekend I attended Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids.

My dear Amy Sullivan (newly published!) trekked all the way from North Carolina. I met the talented Amelia Rhodes (the mastermind behind Praying A-Z) in person finally! I also met a writer that I have followed for a long time Chad Allen in person. He is truly just as encouraging and genuine in real life. I grew to know other talented women from the area like Melanie, Kristine, Catie and Jenna. I love that in a crowded and enormously competitive field, I have only met generous and encouraging people.

Amy stayed up until 1 am with me, getting me on track and brainstorming. God is so good to give us special friends to journey with us in our lives. I think He knew I would need someone to kick my butt, but love me all the same. Also nachos can come with waffle fries instead of chips?! Who knew.

 

The key note speaker was Julie Cantrell. I can’t wait to read her books. She has a beautiful story of faith despite enormous loss. She could not be humbler (hello, New York Times Bestselling Author.) Check her out.

 

This is what I want to share with you. Whenever I go anywhere or do anything, I feel so inadequate… like I so do not belong at a writing conference. Why in the world are these people friends with me? I am the worst. I have imaginary conversations constantly.

 

Another presenter Tracy Groot shared this:

God is the ultimate gift giver. 

The gifts God gave you are not broken. 

The anti-thesus of creation (satan) wants us to believe we drive a gutted car. 

 

I waste way too much time buying into this lie. I think I have some major stock in it.

 

So, this day I want to extend this encouragement. He gave you the goods. Beautiful, unique, utterly you gifts. He poured them out with generosity like no other. Own them, they are yours and yours alone to live out for him.

I think that covers our ordinary days with a layer of joy and bright and purpose, for that I am thankful. I am thankful for all of you and the way you reflect that gift giver.

What lie do you buy into? What are your gifts? Share what you do best! 

 

You Don’t Really Know Us

I read a few books, did little computer, little television, no writing.

Instead, we were present. The kids and I did cousins and family. And it was very good.

I love that these unplanned cousin journey pictures in Michigan and Minnesota so mimic each other. Summer and cousins are like peanut butter and jelly.

cousinsI love them.

cousins4On Saturday we rode the Amtrak home from Iowa. Fourteen hours. By then what had been uncomfortable quiet, had settled peacefully, and I people watched instead of doing.

 

There in one train car:

An amish family in traditional clothing, the little girls in bonnets.

A kindly gentleman on the way to babysit five grandkids who shared his seat with me.

Two young men one with black skin, one caucasian discussing zen buddhism philosophy.

… and the one I struggle to describe. Purple hair, engaged but in an open relationship (on the train, I guess), and recovering from a hangover. She ripped a color page of an intricate patterned elephant from an expensive drawing book, and poured brand new markers into a container before handing them to Ellie.

She asked what I did, and went on to share how she made a difference for close to an hour. She helps people with illness have a better life by dispensing medical marijuana. ‘I ease their pain, and there is nothing better.’ ‘Kind of like God easing the pain of our messed-up choices by forgiving.’

 

And I was reminded how much I love people.

His best creations. Everyone of us.

 

When we got home there was this:

You Don’t Really Know Us. An op-ed for the Chicago Tribune by students at Bradwell School of Excellence.

Listen to the the interview on Weekend Edition here. Read the whole article here.

 

They defend their neighborhood…

We want you to know us. We aren’t afraid. We know that man on the corner. He works at the store and gives us free Lemonheads…When the sun shines here, it’s not God saying he wants to burn us; he sees us all with bright futures…. This is home… this is us.

 

You don’t really know a person’s story, until you know.

And when you know, you love.

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Fourteen days of silence and I think I’m right back where I belong.

quiet

quiet

I am heading out for a couple weeks of computer quiet this summer.

This is Ellie, Josiah and my brother’s boys. The adventures are endless when you’re a kid during the summer. I love witnessing it all.

I am praying we all get a few moments of quiet this season. (Or winter season in Australia). Much love to you all. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Send me a note about how I can pray for you. I really, really love hearing from you all.

What have been your best summer adventures?