this day a small hope

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Five minutes before we had to leave for school yesterday, I looked out the window.

There was white stuff and not just a little bit. Not unheard of, but definitely not the norm for October in Michigan. I frantically went to the basement and emptied the winter tubs onto the cement floor. No boots for either kid. Check, check, double check.

I frantically ran upstairs and announced they would have to wear their sneakers. I gave them a winter jacket, hat and gloves and shoved them into the car.

When I got to the parking lot I realized that I should at least have put snow pants into their backpacks. They could have also wore their rain boots. I guess I lost my mind somewhere between eat your breakfast bar and there’s an inch of snow on the ground. All the way to school Josiah was upset because Halloween would surely be cancelled.

 

I work at the school, so at lunch recess I got to see Josiah tiptoeing into the masses to play in the snow, and come back inside with wet jeans and soaking shoes. The rest of the afternoon, I though about my kid across the hall with cold, wet feet. I also had another kid in another hallway with cold, wet feet.

 

On the sidewalk, I heard a tearful kid greet his Mom after school, “You are a bad Mom, you forgot my boots and my snow pants.”

“Did all the other kids have their boots and snow pants?” She asked.

“No, they didn’t.”

I wanted to yell out to her, “Your’re OK and I’m Ok! I love you. Don’t think I’m weird.”

 

After school, I drove to Target and bought two pairs of boots for a total of a whopping fifty dollars. The selection was slim. I think eight hundred parents might have bought boots today. By the way, my kids only wanted to try on cheetah print/iron man slippers the whole time because they are super practical and needful.

When we got home, I went back into the basement. No boots. I went upstairs to set out the winter gear for tomorrow. Then, I wrote their names in permanent marker on the new boots, in three places. Yes, three.

Twenty minutes later I went back to the basement to change laundry and there wedged between the winter tubs was a pair of Hello Kitty boots and Spiderman boots.  I went upstairs and traced the permanent marker (times 3 !?1?) with my finger and cried.

 

I am sitting here in the dark, realizing that some kids don’t even have one pair of boots. In reality, I should be thankful mine now have two pairs. But, I confess that I am an imperfect and tired Mom. Sometimes, I don’t want to be good. I want my fifty dollars back, so I can eat at Taco Bell eight times and not cook or get four crisp books from an actual bookstore.

prayAnd the guilt eats away at my heart.

And there is a lot of noise in this world.

So, I leave you with this small hope.

dearI know God is whispering this truth to your heart too.

What will it take for you to hear him? 

Dig Deep and Refuse.

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Rejection.

Rejection is something I do not love and avoid like a plague with my people pleasing ways. Yet, somehow I decided to become a writer.

In writing, you get rejection on a very regular basis. I feel like I get a REJECTED stamp on my forehead every other day.

Last week, I was very excited about something. One week later that something was put on hold. I just talk in ‘somethings’ now, no need to drag everyone else in my life down with my maybes moving to not meant to be’s.

 

That same day I got this comment on one of my posts.

It would be a shame if you did not lose weight when these people accomplish it easily: isabelle

Yes, Isabelle it would be a shame… <insert not nice word>

Isabelle, I think you are a robot. I hate your message on this day. (I like self-effacing jokes. Isabelle is literally a robot and the comment was spam trying to sell diet pills.)

 

Rejection makes me want to lay down and sleep and when I wake up eat a very large bowl of ice cream. I cannot do this anymore, because I would be sleeping and eating ice cream like it was my job.

Now, I have to get back up and keep going almost immediately. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie, I really want to give up sometimes.

I have to dig deep and refuse. You have to dig deep and refuse.

 

Refuse to listen to the doubts you entertain about yourself.

Refuse to listen to the voices that seek to bring down and not lift up.

Refuse to allow rejections press away your hope.

Refuse to let your mood dictate your day and drain your joy.

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What do you need to refuse and dig deep about today? We’ll pray for your strength. 

Disappointment

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Your stomach sinks.

Your shoulders give over the the weight of discouragement.

The kind words meant to keep you going and offer encouragement are wonderful, but they still sting.

You were good, but not good enough.

 

We have all been there.

I was last week, I wanted nothing more than to lie down and cover myself up to the world.

Instead I let it simmer on the surface while trying desperately to push the disappointment down.

When I’m with my friends and share something that disappointments me, I always extend a qualifier, but it’s OK. Then they say to me, it’s OK to be disappointed and sad. I forget that sometimes. I feel like I have to be perfect, upbeat and full of faith.

I trust, but that doesn’t mean I always feel that. It doesn’t mean you actually feel it every moment of every day either.

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A couple of weekends ago, I watched the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I immediately grabbed the novel from the library, both were written by Stephen Chbosky.  The characters were so real and broken, but beautiful.

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Sad comes. 

Happy comes.

Hope is always with us though. There is always hope.

For me, that hope comes from my God, I know he’s not leaving me.

Take a Chance on Me

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Today I get to introduce you to Susan May Warren!

I’m learning that you all like fiction and she is a fixture in the world of Christian fiction. Susan has wrote more than thirty novels! Here is the link to her website full of great information. She spent eight years with her husband and four kids as a missionary in Russia. She and her family now live in Northern Minnesota, where she writes full-time.

Take a Chance on Me will be a part of series about the Christiansen family of Northern Minnesota. There are seven adult siblings in the family and this 7-book series will follow each one of them. Take a Chance on Me is the first! So, if you like the book there is more to come.

 

The setting of Deep Haven, Minnesota and the Christiansen resort of Evergreen Lake drew me into the story right away, think rustic summer vacation.

This first story follows the eldest Christiansen son, Darek, a single-father. And wait for it… the story has not one, but two love stories going on simultaneously. I know, it’s enough to make you pass out 🙂

 

I most enjoyed the book because of its theme of forgiveness. The characters in this story have deep frailty. To experience a future of hope they need to forgive the past.

The longing to be more and to let go of past hurts is something we can all relate to… to take a chance on faith and forgiveness.

 

I love these discussion questions:

In what circumstances have you doubted God’s kindness?

Looking back, are there any difficult circumstances in your past that you now see as pruning, shaping you into who you were meant to be? 

 

Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of the book! 

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Anna’s Story Part 4

Read Anna’s Story Part 1 

Anna’s Story Part 2

Anna’s Story Part 3

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[Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Anna’s Story Part 4:

The city streets faded behind Anna. Green stood out against the sides of the road and there were buildings with mountains rising behind. When her feet landed on the dusty road, she paused to take a deep breath. She dared to hope this was a breath of freedom. At this place of fragile hope, a woman gently led her to her space in a dormitory-like room, only her bed was not empty. Sitting tall on the side was Valentina. She stretched her hands out to Anna.

“They found you.” Valentina held her tightly and Anna’s tears fell onto her shoulder. “I was sold, they did not even let me say goodbye. The next place was even harsher, but shortly after I arrived there, a raid occurred. After I was rescued, I worked so hard that they might locate you.”

“I owe you everything,” Anna told her, surprised to be loved.

Valentina shook her head, “No, we can be happy together, we are saved.”

 

Anna slept through a dark night into day, no terrors to disturb her sleep. The sun was shining high when she woke and she sat up, again surprised. She touched her fingers together, pressed her palm against where her heart resided under her chest, alive.

Here in this place: she ate, doctor’s visited and she spoke daily with a quiet woman who helped her understand. When she talked to this woman, shards of ice dislodged from her frozen River Neva and began to float away. The best time of the day was the evening, when they sat in the grass and spoke together. Some girls had written poems, some songs and others were quiet. Anna sat still, quiet and listened. She was not alone. They too had endured and emerged in hope.

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[Image courtesy of Hordur Vihjalmsson /FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

News arrived that she had been cleared of the local legal system. There was a room with a telephone. Her hands trembled when she drew it to her ear, her Matuska’s voice and Pytor, Pavel and Petya jabbering in the background. At first there were too many tears to speak. When words broke through the tears she repeated, I’m sorry over and over again. Her Matushka whispered an invitation to come home. They had a surprise for her.

That evening, in the group, she stood up from her quiet. Into the night she recited the story of The Firebird and The Grey Wolf, the story she whispered at bedtime to her brothers in a forever ago time, the story that she whispered into the dark, until hope drained away. Now, when she spoke there were stars above her in an open sky.

…And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

“He regained all he had lost. I have regained all I have lost. You have regained all you have lost.” She walked around the circle touching the top of each girl’s head like the child’s game of duck, duck, goose and whispered you have regained all you have lost.

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Now, she and Valentina counted the days passing in happiness. Two months passed, and they were cleared by the government to travel home, home. They whispered the word to one another, unbelieving, surprised.

“I have nowhere to return,” Valentina announced to the NGO volunteer who would accompany them on the flight.

“She does, she is my sister,” answered Anna. “We go together.”

The miles they had traveled were below them, moving away, out of their vision.

 

They were waiting for them, her Matuska, her brothers and Mrs. Belikor. They held hands all the way home. Only home was no longer the little apartment without light, without heat. Their home was now behind the bakery that was once Mr. Belikor’s. He leaned over one morning explained her Matushka and left the world, and with Mrs. Belikor’s help the bakery would become Anna’s. The 1,000 USD stipend she was given, would pay for business school.

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[Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Four years later:

Anna stood at the edge of the River Neva. Spring had arrived, melting the frozen layers, the water ran clear and forward. She turned and stole a glance at her bakery. Valentina swept the front walk and raised her hand to wave toward Anna. They would employ another girl today to knead bread, another girl that might had followed the sign she had years ago. She would add to their number and draw them up safety, to hope.

Where rescue resides there is hope.

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Anna’s Story has been part of a realistic fiction series for the Exodus Road. Please consider following and supporting their work. Anna’s story has been one of the most meaningful things I’ve written on About Proximity. She touched my heart because I know her story is one that girls all over the world are actually living right now. We can fight for rescue and offer hope. 

There is Nothing More

PicMonkey Collage

Supplies. Check

Homemade Perfume. Check

A closer look: water, plops of lotion, and shards of cheese. Check.

 

A special cup of perfume all my own to slather over my body. Check.

“Satisfactibility Guaranteed” Made with love by my daughter Ellie.

 

“Jesus stooped down and with his finger, He wrote on the ground.” John 8:6

Whatever Jesus wrote, stopped the Pharisees, they scattered. The woman caught in adultery stood saved, surprised to be loved.

 

It was silence it was music
It was art it was absurd
He stooped and shouted volumes 
Without saying a single word

Scribbling in the Sand, Micheal Card 

 

Leave space in your life to create.

Open up space for God to make something new.

 

Kneel and ask God to use what you create to love others.

To encourage. To offer hope.

How do you leave creative space in your life? How do you best like to create? 

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Anna’s Story, Part 1

anna's story

A 4-part realistic fiction series for The Exodus Road about human trafficking. 

The journey of Anna: 

He pushed a pile of rubles across the counter toward her.  Anna laid them one-by-one in the palm of her hand, rough from kneading layers of black bread since dawn.

“This is only half of my pay.” She stared down toward the concrete floor. Anna wished for her scarf to hide behind, but she had left it for Petya whose cough had worsened throughout the night.

Mr. Belikor shook his head and perspiration seeped through his linen shirt. The air in the bakery hung thick with the warmth of the ovens. “Your Matushka, came again and borrowed against your salary. The rent was past due.” He drew his eyebrows together attempting to appear stern.

Moisture filled her eyes. He was unbending.

Mrs. Belikor sweep around the counter. “Anna, we can’t. Here take these breads that will help.” The old woman adjusted the flaps of her hat and patted her cheek. “It’s so frozen outside today.”

Leaving the warmth of the little bread shop shocked reality out her every time. The River Neva stood ice-covered and the streets winter drab.  She tucked the bag under her arm and hurried down the walkway. Across the back alley, Anna caught sight of a group of teenagers sharing a few cigarettes. On the edge of the crowd stood Lukiia, Anna had sat beside her before she left school two years ago. Lukiia raised her hand and waved. Anna waved back but kept pace because her brothers would be home from school soon. She turned the corner on the straightaway to their third floor, one-room apartment. A sign on a storefront caused her to pause.

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Her father had always called her his impulsive rybka (fish). She wished she could recall the contours of his face, but she only saw him blurry now. She imagined a sweet country house for her Matushka. Her brothers could continue their studies all the way to tertiary school and might have a try at futbol. Her hands moved to crack the door open and she peered into the dim interior of the store front.

 

Anna pressed a cup of warm tea into her Matushka’s hands.

“Bread and eggs again?” Pyotr flopped onto the boy’s mattress in the corner of the room.

“It will make you strong,” encouraged Anna, ruffling his long hair.

Pavel lit the oil-lamp. “When will the switches work again?”

Matushka looked up at Anna, too weary to spin the reality of their situation.

“This is more fun. We will cuddle up tonight and tell stories after Matushka leaves for work. I thought of a new adventure for the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf.”

Anna smeared bright red over her Matushka’s lips. She smoothed color over her high cheek bones, and the dark marks that permanently resided under her blue eyes. Every evening she left, only to return at dawn, in time for Anna to leave for the bakery. They lay in a row in the moonlight, her brothers. They would never need to know where she went and what she did.

 

Anna touched her hand to the bus window, filled with fingerprints and watermarks. A single suitcase lay on her lap. Passing behind her stood her brother’s and her Matushka, fading into distance. The bus curved around the River Neva. Sometimes beside the ovens, kneading the dough, she had thought about how miraculous it was that life continued and water moved under the layers of the frozen river. She wished the driver had not collected their passports. Without it in her pocket, she felt nameless. Two girls sat together in the very back, their heads pressed together, giggling.

Across from her sat another girl, no older than herself, fifteen. They drove for what seemed hours when the girl moved across the aisle beside her. “I’m Valentina. The International Airport is not so far, should it be? Pulkovo is not so far, in St. Petersburg.”

Anna peered out the frosty windows to the stretching Siberian cold, the rising of mountains. “I am hungry. Do you think we might stop soon?”

Valentina unwrapped a brown parcel and offered her a tea cake. “I stole them,” she whispered. “But, you needn’t worry. I’ve been sleeping beside the railroad tracks. The nighttime is so cold. Perhaps, we need to fly out of another airport.”

Eventually sleep found her and she woke to Valentina pressing up against her slumped form. “Something is very wrong. This is the border to China.” Valentina gathered Anna’s hand into her own.

A middle-aged man entered the bus and spoke to the driver. They watched as the driver handed him the envelope he had placed their passports in, the man held out a wad of paper bills in return. During the exchange Anna’s heart seeped from warm to frozen. Like a breath of condensed air in the cold, everything around her turned to a fog…

 

We need to fight to end human trafficking for all the Anna’s. 

Follow the Exodus Road Blog to keep your thoughts in proximity to the need. 

Last week Harvard Student Lea Parker who attended Passion 2013 talked about filling the void. We, God’s people, need to be present.  Read her post here.  

Reach Deep

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January stands gray and cold. The days stretch long in Michigan with darkness falling in late afternoon.

Sometimes my mood travels right along with the pattern of the seasons.

 

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. 

Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried about long months of drought. 

Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

I want to be one of these trees.

In the heat of difficultly, challenges,  and the gray discouragement of life… I don’t want to be bothered.

In the long of months of dry, sad, lonely, worry… I don’t want to be bothered.

 

I want to remember God is my Hope and my Confidence.

That hope is an anchor that tethers me to life through the cold and gray days.

 

When I sit in a room, I usually pick one object to focus on. It grounds me to that place in time. I feel more secure in the moment I am in and this stills some of my anxiety. (I know I am so weird.) When I write at home, I always make sure to be close to a window. I focus on whatever tree I can see, they are secure because their roots run deep. I am drawn to their strength. What holds them upright are the roots that you cannot even see.

 

The roots grow where you can’t see them…

Those are those quiet moments in our own lives, were we do things purely out of love and obedience to Christ that no one else will ever see or know. These are the moments we get up from the ground and choose to live in hope and confidence, not in the dark and gray.

Reach Deep.