Reflections on This “Upcoming” Giving Tuesday

I see you sitting there, firmly on the ground, legs stretched out in front of you. Sitting in a parking space in the back of the autoparts store, as if you have indeed parked yourself for a time.

I drive past in my heated van, sitting comfortably in my pilot seat as I head to the library. My glimpse is short, but my eyes take in all the details.

A larger woman, dressed in blue. Hair braided. A bag next to you. You are sitting in such a way as to announce to the earth that this space, however small, is yours. You exist, and by virtue of existence, you must claim some small corner of this planet. And here it is, the back parking space of the autoparts store.

And I wonder how long the store will let you stay before they shoo you away. Perhaps call the police to come and make you move along. I wonder if you’re cold. Your jacket looks thin. I’m sure that the pavement must be freezing your butt. Your eyes are wide open, observing everything around you in a way that makes me wonder if this a new situation for you.

I see you.

And I keep driving.

I have places to go.

Things to do.

On this giving Tuesday, I’m going to share a link for KARM, Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Though I’m sure they will accept donations on any day of the year.

http://Karm.org

Edit: I got my Tuesdays wrong, so I’ll repost on Dec 2nd, but any day is a good day to give!

😄

Is Prayer Enough?

Have you all ever read Isaiah 58? The other day, I was moving things around in my dining room, and a Bible that had been on a side table was set on the dining room table. I went to eat breakfast and there was the Bible, lying open right where I usually sit and eat. How nice. I sat down and looked to see where it was open. Isaiah 58. I started reading. And it kind of felt like I was suddenly sitting in the Principal’s office being read the riot act. 

I will summarize. Basically, God says, I’m not interested in your fasting and praying if it’s not accompanied by acts of mercy and justice towards the people around you. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot concerning our country. Before the upcoming election, and even throughout this momentous year, I have heard a lot of Christians, from all denominations and political stances, calling for prayer for our nation. I have often heard people quote, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land..” and then we are all called to pray for our country. Except that the verse they are quoting actually says, 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We seem to forget about that “turn from their wicked ways” part. Isaiah 58 gets pretty detailed about what God thinks of as “wicked ways”. 

Isaiah 58:6 -7

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I don’t believe it’s an either/or kind of thing. We’re not supposed to choose between fasting and prayer or social justice. One without the other is empty. I am not trying to put a yoke of condemnation on our shoulders. In this world where we are overwhelmed by all our responsibilities, being told that you should be out feeding the poor and lobbying for social justice, well that just feels heavy and impossible. But, saying, it’s too much, I can’t do it, is also a cop-out. 

Each of us has talents, gifts, and resources. We can use those to help those around us. We can send that extra spending money to a homeless shelter. If we have time to volunteer, there are endless possibilities. We can write letters. We can call our local government offices. We can serve people in our community through one-on-one relationships or through supporting others who have time for that one-on-one. For those moms with young children who are in the trenches and barely hanging on, you can befriend someone at your church who is new. Maybe reach out to another young mom who desperately needs fellowship and encouragement. For those who are housebound, you could write letters to people in prison, start researching the issues in your community, email people with influence. There is SO MUCH we can do! 

We all desire the grace of God on our country. But I am going to say that prayer is not enough. If we want to see changes in our country then we need to follow Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. God’s heart is for the homeless to be fed and sheltered, for the worker to earn a living wage, for people to be treated with love and respect. 

We are saved by grace through faith. Not by works, but when we have faith and grace, it should compel us to do works. 

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I would like to suggest that while we are praying for our country, we also add to that prayer: God show me what I can do to help the homeless, the oppressed, those who are under a yoke. Show me specifically something I can do to help. 

In Jesus Name Amen. 

Here is Isaiah 58 if you are interested in reading the whole thing:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

    Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

For day after day they seek me out;

    they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

    and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

    ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

11 

The Lord will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 

then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I Am Rich

I love the sounds of my house. A couple minutes ago I was sitting at the piano, trying to sight-read through a fairly simple Chopin piece I had never seen or heard before. It was slow going. Adagio. I wasn’t really focusing on what I was doing. Honestly, I was just killing time, waiting for my kindergartner to finish his workbook. Right now all the kids are waiting for him to finish his workbook. I told him that when he had finished his school work (workbook and read aloud a story) then I would go down to the store and buy our traditional bags of Candy Corn (and for all you haters out there, we happen to think candy corn is awesome!!). Every October I put out some ceramic pumpkins on my mantle, fill them with candy corn and the kids get to grab some after school is done, or chores, or whatever hard task is in front of them. 

Anyway, I was playing the piano, waiting for David to finish his workbook, and I started just listening to all the sounds of our house. 

We started a fire in the wood-burning stove this morning. The stove has a little fan that blows warm air into the room. It is a soothing white noise. We also have a large fish tank in the living room whose water filter sounds like a little waterfall. We need these soothing sounds. They counterbalance the sound of teenagers hurling themselves down our wooden staircase as loud as they can. And the sound of the three year old talking to himself as he plays his little imaginary games. I have one teenager home this week because her school is shut down for Covid. She loves music and carries her phone everywhere with her, sharing her very eclectic music choices with the whole family. 

You can hear our dog barking outside, faithfully protecting us from any random person walking down the sidewalk. The occasional car drives by on the street in front of our house. You can occasionally hear a siren rushing past on the main road which is only a block away from us. 

The kindergartner has a chronic whistling habit and the eleven year old is constantly humming. And Chopin continues to plunk along in the background. 

There is so much life tucked into the walls of this home. 

(Time lapse)

So, I just got back from the store, candy corn has been bought, pumpkin candy dishes are now full. 

When I pulled up to the Family Dollar, I saw two apparently homeless people, a man and a woman, in the alley behind the store. By the time that I left the store and was heading back to my car, they had settled themselves on the back steps of the store’s delivery entrance. They had bags of belongings and some fountain soda cups from a nearby gas station. They looked dirty and the woman looked like she was crying. But they weren’t trying to make eye contact with me, and I had nothing to offer them. No groceries in my bag, just candy corn. No cash in my wallet, just a bankcard. No words to share, my innate shyness balking at starting a conversation. I remembered that I had supported one of our homeless shelters this past weekend by shopping at their thrift store (thank you Ma’am, your purchase has just helped us feed ten people!), and I just hope that this couple will make their way to the shelter by evening and take advantage of this ministry in our city.

I climbed back into my car and drove back home. And once again, I felt like the blinders had been ripped off my eyes. A glimpse at my true reality. My home, a beautiful mansion. My children, costly jewels, unmeasurable treasures. My life, a dream come true.

And the noises in my house sound like a beautiful symphony. The chaos is simply an outpouring of joy. I feel like the richest woman on the planet as I survey this ramshackle house of mine. 

And my prayer becomes, make me a blessing.

God, you have blessed me, show me how to bless others. 

Some People are Not Worthy

Some people are not worthy of our help. Or at least, that’s what we profess with our actions and attitudes. Let me throw out some hard words for you. Registered Sex Offender. Mentally ill. Homeless. Drug addicts.

Registered sex offenders deserve the death penalty. The mentally ill need to be in some kind of institution. Homeless, well, they’re homeless because they won’t work and be productive. Drug addicts? No help for them, they just want a handout so they can get more drugs.

Believe it or not, I am not going to stand on some higher moral ground and point fingers at everyone below me. These are sentiments that I subconsciously hold. Sentiments that stare me in the face every once in a while and challenge me.

I’m going to tell you a story. 

Several years ago my husband’s company moved their workshop into a new location. It happened to be in a rougher part of town. One of the first problems my husband ran into was homeless people camping out behind his shop. Somehow, in the way my husband has, he got to know one of the couples that were camping out there. He was an ex-convict, a registered sex offender, his girlfriend was ex-military and was pregnant with twins. She was somewhere around the age of forty and was having difficulty with her pregnancy. They were sleeping in a tent.

Andy gave him some work and he proved to be a decent worker. Housing was a much bigger problem. As a registered sex offender he could not live anywhere near children. There was not any cheap housing that fit into the requirements and so they ended up moving into a hotel room. $200 a week. No stoves allowed.

They got married. She lost the babies in a miscarriage. I met them a couple times. She was not mentally stable and I felt very uncomfortable and unsafe around her. Registered Sex Offender, nope, you can’t come near my family. All outreaches to this couple were through my husband.

The man spent the next couple years going in and out of jail. My husband tried to help Her when he could. Some grocery money. Help with rent on occasion. He would talk to me about their problems and I would commiserate, but I really didn’t feel like there was much I could do. My ministry to people is always done in the context of my family, and this couple was not family-friendly.

While He has been in jail, Her health went downhill. She had a stroke. Had some kind of surgery. She was renting a room in a house with lots of roommates. My husband visited her and said she could hardly get around, he didn’t know how she was going to take care of herself. He had asked and she said she was working with a social worker to get help.

We found out today that at the age of forty-two, she has died. Possibly on Wednesday. People noticed they hadn’t seen her. Called the police. Her body was found on Friday.

The end.

And now I analyze. Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Are there people that you just simply can’t help? Their choices have led them down a path of no return? I possibly could have helped Her, but she had married Him and so I felt like that door was closed. I have to protect my family first.

But she was a fellow human being. Once upon a time she was an adorable little baby, and perhaps people cooed over her and said, how lovely! You’re going to grow up to be a wonderful woman! And perhaps she never had that. Perhaps right now there are people who would mourn if they knew she had died. And perhaps not. What I do know is that no matter what choices she made, God loved her. I don’t know where her relationship with God was, but I do know that he loved her.

I want to share with you all the tiny sliver of her story that I know. I want to say to the world at large, this woman lived. And now she has died. Let us at least give her a moment of contemplation in honor of her life. It is all I can do for her now.

And perhaps I can issue a challenge to myself and my readers to just think about this issue for a moment…how do you help the “unworthy” ?  What can we, as a society, do to help this segment of our population that we are reluctant to interact with? Do we have any responsibility towards them? How do we be responsible and safe but still have charity for those in need?

Fat Fridays: Week 25 Failure

Hey Everyone. Here we are, a new week. I have pondered whether I should even be writing a weight loss “weekly” when there doesn’t seem to be any weight loss happening. I set goals and then the goals get thrown out the window. I feel a bit like a fake at this point. Of course, in one sense, I’m holding true to the purpose of this post, which is to blog about my journey to weight loss. A big part of my journey is failure.

I think when I started this post, I imagined myself sailing along, posting pictures of myself as I lost inches. Writing glowing reports about how disciplined I was, and look how I great I am to finally conquer this weight problem. Everyone can read along and enjoy the show. And it is inspiring to read how people overcome all obstacles and manage to get healthy again. I want to be that person. And I’m not. I seem to be stuck in my same old pattern. I diet. I exercise. Life gets stressful. I stop.

While it might not be enjoyable to read all the ways that I’m messing up, I will say that writing this weekly post is still keeping me accountable. I have not sunk to the very bottom, mostly because I don’t want to have to write about it. And I keep focused on my diet/health/weightlossattempts at least once a week as I write this post.

This past week I did not go grain-free as promised. But I did eat a lot less grain. I did make some better choices. This week I was also dealing with some heavy stress as our situation with the homeless family we are helping escalated. Some hard choices had to be made. But God was merciful and my husband had enough grace and wisdom to come up with a Plan that should get them into housing and a relatively stable life if they stick to the plan. Dealing with this level of crisis is tough on me. This week has been about trying to be purposeful about not letting other people’s drama harmfully affect my own mental health. I have been carving out a private space for myself. Making a routine that involves quiet, devotions, music, doing hobbies I enjoy, and of course, caring for my family. I have been trying to make smart choices for food, but haven’t yet achieved the “super disciplined” level I was at several weeks ago.

I did have something happen this week that was at first annoying and then I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I’m signed up with this health-food-shake-supplements-etc company. I buy shakes from them every once in a while. They have this annoying system where you are automatically signed up for “autoship”. They automatically charge your bank and ship you products unless you sign in and change it. I’m presuming there is a way to change this, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I had been simply logging in once a month and changing the dates so at to postpone the order. Well, I forgot this month. This week I received not only a box of shakes, but a bottle of Cleanse which had been on my wishlist. Yikes. My bank account could not really afford that. I was complaining to my husband about it and he surprised me by saying, “It’s good! Drink your shakes!” Oh. Ok. Well… that makes sense. So, this morning I drank my Cleanse stuff and had a shake for breakfast. A much healthier breakfast than I’ve had in a while. Hurray for mistakes.

So, I feel like I’m a bit of a disappointment because I am not being Superwoman with this weight loss thing. But, I’m going to keep on persevering.

I’ll see you all next week.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 23 In Which I Climb Up On My Soapbox

I have been a bit at a loss at to what to write for this Friday. Since I’m trying to make an honest journal of this weight loss journey, I finally decided I would just have to stick to honesty. I promise that the following really does have to do with my weight loss journey!

 

I have always had a hard time when people make disparaging remarks about poor people. People on welfare. People on food stamps. People on government assistance. Homeless people. Everyone seems to know some lady on welfare who’s got a boatload of children and is just racking in the bucks, fancy phone, nails done perfectly, designer clothing. She is the person people always bring up when they are explaining why all this government assistance is actually just a big swindle. The poor people are living off our tax dollars and laughing behind our backs at our gullibility. For each one of you that has mentioned this woman before on your Face Book pages or blogs, or in conversation…What’s her name? Have you actually met this woman? Do you know her story? Or is she simply someone that is a friend of a friend of someone you met the other day who happened to mention knowing her. Maybe one of you actually does know her name, knows her story personally, and is disgusted at the way she has manipulated the system…but I’m going to guess that most of you don’t actually know this woman personally. I do not disagree with the notion that people take advantage of the system. It’s true. People are sinful and there is always going to be someone trying to get something for nothing. But these welfare systems are a lot more than those occasional individuals. It has been my experience that people who speak harshly against a group of people usually have no personal contact with that group and get all of their information second hand. It’s been my experience that when I get to know people personally, get to know their problems, their background, I have a lot more sympathy and compassion. So, today I want to share a story with you.

Over the last fifteen years we have had quite a few families and individuals that we have reached out to and tried to help. Many times we have had people living with us as they tried to get their feet under themselves. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’ve gotten to know these people pretty well as we have done life together.  One woman in particular has been involved with our family for at least eight years now. She and her children have lived with our family on a couple different occasions. I haven’t seen a lot of her lately, as the last four years has been pretty stable for her. Then, about a month ago I got a call from her. She had been evicted. She was in the process of applying for government housing, but in the mean time she had nowhere else to go. Could I help?

I feel like middle class America does not understand how difficult it is to be poor. There is a pervading attitude that poor people just walk up to a building and are instantly handed food stamps, assistance with childcare, housing, and anything else their hearts desire. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, there is government assistance, but it is not easy to get. It involves getting to appointments and usually transportation is very difficult. It involves filling out endless amounts of paperwork and providing papers like birth certificates and social security cards. And when you live in a state of homelessness, or are trying to escape abusive situations, it’s really hard to keep track of those important documents. And getting them replaced is quite a hassle.

So why don’t they just go get a job?? I hear that a lot. Are they too proud to work at McDonalds? No. Actually, the people I have gotten to know are not too proud to work at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant. But did you know that most of these fast food restaurants will not hire full time? It’s all part time. And it is usually not a set schedule, you get moved around to what suits them best, not what suits you best. So. Part time hours at low wages. Not enough to live on. Yet, they are mocked for getting on food stamps. I am curious as to how many middle class people could sustain their lifestyle at $9 an hour? And you are only given 20 to 24 hours a week. My friend would really like to get into a family assistance program that could help with childcare, but they require that she works at least 25 hours, and her job at a well-known pizza franchise will only give her up to 24 hours of work a week. So, she needs another job. But she has three children. Someone has to watch them. School just got out, she can’t afford any kind of childcare. What should she do?

People ask, why doesn’t she get a better job? Get some higher education? Surely there are programs that would help her? Well, she is a product of the foster care system herself. She was living in a group home and got pregnant at sixteen. Since then she has devoted herself to taking care of her child, now children. She didn’t finish high school. In order to get her GED she would need to do some serious studying. She has tried off and on to pursue that, but you see, she still has to live. She still has children to take care of and house and feed and clothe. She has no family support system (remember: foster care, group home). Her short marriage to the father of her children was a disaster and while she now has a long-term boyfriend, he comes with baggage of his own: child support that he pays from a past marriage, bills and debts he has to pay on.

Well, she should get into public housing. Ok. She’s trying. She had an interview, she’s waiting to hear. But you see, there’s this little problem of her past utilities bill. She still has a big bill that hasn’t been paid. She can’t turn on new utilities until she takes care of this past bill. She has asked around at many different agencies who say they will help with this kind of thing. But, she doesn’t fit into any of their narrow parameters of assistance that they can offer. Her recent eviction was the final step in a financial downhill slide that was connected to a necessary job change (with a pay cut) and unexpected events coming up with her children that made her miss work. This family’s tenuous existence quickly snowballed into a crisis which left them homeless.

And here we are. Her family of five moved into my bedroom about two and half weeks ago. My husband and I moved upstairs and are sleeping on the floor of our little boy’s bedroom (which they think is awesome, mom and dad right there, available all night long!). I hung a sheet around my bed so I can have at least the semblance of privacy.

It’s been good and bad. We’ve lived together before. She was a nanny for my kids one summer when I was bedridden with morning sickness. She helped potty train one of my boys. She has been the one person I have no embarrassment hiring to help me clean my house because she’s lived with me. She knows how messy things can get, and she’s always been willing to pitch in and help. Neither of us have any qualms about parenting each other’s children. The negative side is mostly just a lack of privacy. And the tightrope walk of setting boundaries and sticking to them. Trying to know when to be compassionate and when to be hard-nosed.

What does this have to do with Fat Fridays? Well, you all. My diet has gone on hold. Pause. I’m the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. This particular ball kind of knocked a bunch of the other ones out of pattern. I’m back to sticking to the basics. God, husband, children… everything else is shifting around. I’ve felt quite a bit of guilt and condemnation about it. Way to go Esther, soon as things get tough you just quit. Mess up. Fail. But, I’m trying to stop listening to that voice and be realistic. This is hard. I’ve taken on a lot and I’m not superwoman. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to wallow in my lack of discipline. I’m still fighting to get back on track. But, I’m going to give myself grace as I figure this out.

For those of you wondering why on earth we did this, it kind of falls into Love your neighbor as yourself… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me… And once upon a time, my husband and I were homeless and we knocked on a friend’s door and they let us in.

Goals: do some journaling and thinking…Why do I always revert to bad eating habits when life gets crazy stressful? Especially since bad eating habits just make it harder to deal with the stress????

See you all next week.

 

Sacred Moments at the Annual Work Christmas Party

The Annual Work Christmas Party. Most people are familiar with this tradition. I do not actually have a “workplace”, but every year I dutifully trot out with my husband to his work party. For me, it is a foray into a strange world that I rarely interact with. Honestly, I’m usually a bit tense when I go. I am pretty sure that I am the only stay-at-home mom who attends these things and I admit to feeling a bit insecure. Especially the time, 2 years ago, when I attended and was 9 months pregnant. I endured all kinds of comments (because everyone knows that we have a large family). OH MY GOD! ….YOU ARE SO BIG!… I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GOT PREGNANT AGAIN!… WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP?? ..It was so much fun…Not. That, combined with the fact that they set up the party space with stand up tables and a dance floor and no chairs in sight, made it a rather long evening.

So, here we go again. It’s the one time of the year when I have to find something dressier than blue jeans and a sweater. I actually think I would enjoy the party a lot more if it was just my husband’s construction company. But, Andy’s boss, a well-to-do Englishman who develops property for the fun of it, as he is well past retirement age, is married to an equally successful business woman, Ms Patricia Nash, and the two of them decided some time back to combine their businesses Christmas Parties into one Big Party. So, we have a bunch of construction guys and then we have a bunch of fashion designers. It makes for an interesting party. Mostly the construction guys all hang out on one side of the room while the fashion designers hang out on the other side of the room and the bosses and managers try to circulate among everyone and break the ice.

The bosses are actually very nice people, very down to earth. Mr. Nash has no problem chatting it up  with Ronnie, a homeless guy my husband employed 5 years ago who has managed to keep his job and achieve some stability all this time, and Ms Patricia walks around dispensing hugs and air kisses to all and sundry. There is an open bar, a raffle, good food, and lots of dancing. Mr and Mrs Nash always make a point to get out on the dance floor, looking very cute together, and then try their best to entice the wallflowers to come join them. I try to make the wives and dates of the construction guys feel welcome and we stand and talk about kids, and teens, and work, and getting ready for Christmas.

So, last night proceeded as usual. Several people got amazingly drunk very early on in the party. As I watched the secretary being dragged out on the dance floor by her friends, and watched as the combination of drunkenness, spike heels, and attempting to dance, made her fall not once but twice, I couldn’t help thinking that she might do with some better friends. I watched as the young couples from the fashion design section got out and danced, some of them really good dancers, and then watched as the younger ones would video themselves dancing and then stand off to the side to watch a rerun of their dance, and then quickly upload it to social media. The music was so loud that the only way you could have a conversation was if you were speaking into someone’s ear.

Frankly I felt very out of place and wondered how long we had to stay. Andy and I had found one little bench pushed off to the side and we were sitting there watching the dancing when Ms. Nash came and sat down beside us. She started saying how much she admired me and the fact that I was raising 10 kids and how amazing it was that Andy and I were able to have a good marriage and work together in raising our family. And then she asked if we would share why we had decided to have so many kids. So I told her about how we had decided to let God be in charge of our family size and how, as we had more kids, we realized that we really enjoyed having a large family. It was a bizarre conversation to be having in this setting, shouting over the music. The Nashes finally took their leave of us, expressing genuine fondness for my husband and I. One of Andy’s coworkers finally persuaded us to take the dance floor for a while. We eventually checked the time and decided we had done our duty and could leave.

As we drove home I thought about the party. Definitely not my style. Not my comfort zone either. But it had been a good party. Even now, I am trying to pinpoint what made it good? A bunch of people who had very little in common all got together in one space and made an effort to be friendly to each other. People from a very wide range of social and economic statuses all joined together in one room to celebrate together. In this crazy world where we, as Christians, tend to compartmentalize our lives into “sacred” and “secular”, I can’t help thinking that sacred seems to have a way of showing up in the most secular settings. I think about my husband’s crew. Ronnie who got a second chance and has been succeeding. Then there’s the young man who somehow managed to get through a court-appointed rehab program and not only stuck it out, but has managed to stay clean for 3 plus years. He and his wife won the raffle and walked away with a nice Christmas bonus and I was so happy they won, knowing it was going to make their Christmas a lot more cheerful for them and their kids. Then there was the young couple who moved down to Knoxville together. She’s working, he’s in law school. They were talking about how they would be traveling around trying to see all their extended families for the holidays. There was my husband’s assistant showing pictures of his newest grandbaby on his phone. And the wife of one of the crew leaders telling me about her challenges with her teenage boy, same age as my boy. People. It was an evening of seeing people, getting glimpses into their lives. “Who is my neighbor?” These people. They are my neighbor. For some reason God said that loving him and then loving these people, that was the most important thing. And really, any time we have an opportunity to get a peek into someone’s life, it’s a sacred moment. Because as we peek into their lives, they become more real to us, less strangers, more neighbors, and it becomes easier to care about them, to feel an interest in their life. To pray for them, reach out to them. Share love. Yes. The Annual Work Christmas Party, a sacred moment.