About lisavanengen@gmail.com

Posts by lisavanengen@gmail.com:

Proximity

 

A week ago, I submitted my rewrites for Kids Talk Justice. I wrote and edited like a madwoman for the twelve weeks of summer. Everywhere. It was the hardest work of my life. In the late hours of the night, I wrestled with words.

These topics are not easy, made more complicated by the difficulties facing our nation.

I expect the next round of edits to be equally hard. This is my promise and prayer, I will not give up.

Proximity is essential in our lives.

We need it now more than ever. So much has happened.

There is so much hurt and unkindness. So many fractures.

I promise to keep listening. Wrestling. Struggling. I would do it over again because sometimes the most important things are the hardest.

Like this photograph, sometimes the most important things are simple too.

A response.

A drawing close.

A prayer for changed hearts.

A seeking of justice.

A call to never give up.

Summer Talk Justice Events

We are so excited for Summer Talk Justice 2017!

Tuesday, July 25 from 6:30-7:30 pm
at Benjamin’s Hope (located at 15468 Riley St.)

Benjamin’s Hope is a community where everyone belongs. The residents will be welcoming us to learn about the mission of Benjamin’s Hope, play lawn games, show us their garden and barn, and share popsicles.

This is a wonderful way for us to support adults with developmental disabilities and build community.

We can bless Benjamin’s Hope by bringing:
*Paper Products (toilet paper, paper towel, Kleenex)
*Bubbles
*Simple Puzzles (50 pc. less)
*Coloring Books and Crayons

Tuesday, August 1 from 6:30-7:30 pm 
at Kollen Park (area east of the public restrooms) 

Supporting Health Care and Childhood Cancer through
Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan. 

We will read about Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s story, share lemonade, make a community prayer braid and play together!

We can bless these organizations by bringing:
$1.00 per family for Alex’s Lemonade Stand

for Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan
(most needed items)
*paper towels
*Clorox Wipes
*children’s toys

We would be so honored if you would join us! Grab a group and come make a difference!

Keep updated at our Facebook Event Page. 

 

Kids Talk Justice May Edition

Let’s talk justice together as we move into summer! Congratulations to all who conquered another school year, not for the faint of heart!

Hunger: When a Grandmother’s gift multiplies. How does educating others play a role in the success of this business that gives back? 

Clean Water: Have you checked out Use it Wisely with your family? Over 100 ideas to conserve water in your home.

Education: In Pakistan, 88,000 child brick laborers are given access to school. What do you think of that number of children working in harsh conditions?

Refugees: The refugee crisis in Europe is reviving churches. Are those that fear refugees missing an opportunity?

Human Trafficking: Children on the move as unaccompanied refugees are at a heightened risk for being trafficked. #childrenuprooted

Restorative Justice: A modern day Harriet Tubman. A truly extraordinary story of redemption and a call to look at the prison system through new eyes.

Poverty: Check out this photo essay of the women and children of Chad. How does exploring a new place and culture expand our sense of justice?

Homelessness and Sustainability: A refugee makes homes and provides jobs from recycled plastic bottles. What do you think of this creative practice?

Creation Care: Mangroves in Madagascar, what do you think of their ideas to protect the new trees?

Poverty: The real people facing budget cuts to Meals on Wheels, homeless shelters, and rural water development. Everyone has a story.

How did you talk justice this month? 

 

 

Hold Fragile Hope

I love Susie Finkbeiner’s writing, because her stories don’t portray life to be glossy perfection.

The endings do not tie life up with a fancy bow.

Her characters struggle. They navigate difficult times. Answers do not come easily. Faith is tested.

Somehow her words continue to hold fragile hope.

Seemed to me the God who hung the stars and spread the waters over the earth could do something so small as that.”

We live in a time that could be looked back upon as a trying period. I think we can learn so much from the voice of Pearl.

Hers was a song of hope.”

A Trail of Crumbs is the sequel to A Cup of Dust. Narrator Pearl Spence, knows enough loss to fill a lifetime. Her family has lived through the Dust Bowl and now navigates The Great Depression. In the midst of loss they leave Oklahoma for Michigan. As they establish a new home, everything Pearl knew shifts and settles uncertainly.

The storyline follows all the members of her family and how they face grief, transition and change differently.

 

Learn more about her work and previous books at susiefinkbeiner.com. The third book in the series A Song of Home releases February 2018 and takes place during the Swing Era.

If you love book recommendations, follow Susie’s ever-growing bookshelf on Instagram.

Leave a comment to win a copy of A Trail of Crumbs.

How do you hold onto hope during hard times? 

When Facebook Disappears

About three months ago, in a matter of minutes, everything changed. My Facebook account was hacked, a steady stream of messages poured into my inbox. As I went to report the security breach, my account was suddenly disabled. Three months later, I still have no access to my personal or writing page. Despite filing numerous appeals and contacting the Better Business Bureau I am still locked out.

I was in the midst of finishing my manuscript and threw myself into that work. Now, that I have met that deadline I am left considering what I have lost and what I have gained since Facebook disappeared.

What I have lost:

Facebook has become such a huge part of our lives, there is a pervading space of disconnection I feel. I wonder what announcement I have missed and what I don’t know. I miss encouraging others. I like affirming others and caring for them through struggles. I can still do this, but I am missing a large group of loved ones and friends that I don’t get to see on a daily basis.

I have lost a number of sweet friends that have supported me in my writing journey through my writing page. Something so valuable I fear it’s forever lost. How will I find them back? For a writer, that page is essential and mine is gone.

So many groups find their home on Facebook. We communicate through the group feature and that connection has been lost as well. The learning, supporting, and communication is very missed.

What I have gained:

A great deal of headspace. I feel open. A steady stream of information is not constantly entering my mind. I’ve had freedom to focus on things intentionally. Something that can be a great distraction has been completely removed.

I have been spared a great deal of heartache. Watching people argue makes my heart hurt. I hate conflict and watching it play out online makes me terribly unsettled. After the election, I had been feeling a great deal of sadness. There was so much unkindness emerging in new and surprising ways. Largely, I was able to miss much of that.

Facebook is perhaps like so many other things in our lives good in moderation and when used to affirm, uplift and connect. In the days ahead I have to decide whether to begin a new account, essentially starting over. Or I can continue waiting, praying and hoping what was taken will be restored. I pray that no matter what happens, God will protect what has already been build with About Proximity and our important work with Kids Talk Justice.

Know that I miss so many of you that I primarily interacted with in that space.

I would never abandon you, I just don’t quite know how to find my way back yet.

Kids Talk Justice April Edition

How can you talk justice together this month?

Hunger: Take the Waste It or Take It Quiz with your family. For every quiz taken a meal it donated through Feeding America.

Education: Scroll through pictures of girls attending school all around the world. Access = Hope.

Innovation: In Lagos, Nigeria tricycles provide a vehicle for recycling and income for wecyclers.

Literacy: Explore photographs of readers around the world because literacy opens up doors.

Conflict and Refugees: The pebble artwork of Nizar Ali Badr depicting the war in Syria and the journey of refugees. What makes these images so moving? What do they teach us about war and displacement? 

Creation Care: Practice the art of enough. Read the article together and pick one of the challenges to try as a family.

Elderly: Sign a petition to save funding for Meals on Wheels fighting hunger for the elderly. Talk about why the elderly are a vulnerable people group.

Health Care and Recycling: Unused hotel soap bars are recycled into new soap used by NGOs and organizations like the Red Cross to promote health care globally. What do you think? 

Conflict: Photographs out of Syria continue to break out hearts. Consider the work of The White Helmets and The Preemptive Love Coalition.

Restorative Justice and Everyday Heroes: An everyday hero fighting for hope and justice that restores.

When You Are Not Superwoman

When you are not superwoman it is very difficult to keep your life together. In normal life I can’t do Pinterest perfect, but life while working full time and writing a book, and being a Mom looked pretty ugly.

I have always known I have limitations, but they were greatly amplified through this process. I’d love to share some things I learned.

We Can Do Hard Things! 

The learning curve for this first one was steep, but I figured it out. It was messy and ugly. There were times I wanted to pull my hair out or crawl into bed and never get out. We can do hard things! I think what eventually emerges will not be messy!

Small Steps

Some days I didn’t think I would make it. Working at school all day, driving kids to activities, trying to balance everything else. Every day I tried to accomplish one thing no matter how small. Some days that looked like one sentence. Other days it was thinking through one of the topics in my head. That forward momentum kept me going.

Seasons of No 

I also had to say no… a lot. This was not comfortable to me. I’m a people pleaser and saying no makes my stomach hurt. I learned people understand when you have seasons where no needs to come more frequently. People have been gentle and understanding.

God Works Through Us to Uplift Each Other 

Friends mean so much. I have received such needful support at the very moments I needed it most. God works through us to uplift each other. It doesn’t go unnoticed by me to be thankful for those God has placed in my path. Also… even when you are thirty-eight you still need your parents. I also missed my first family trip to Iowa at Thanksgiving to stay home and write. Everyone survived.

Imperfection

I stayed up very, very late at night to get my writing done. I should learn to drink coffee… (it is more fun to eat junior mints though). I did not watch television. Therefore, I have no idea about This is Us, except Milo and Mandy would be enough to make me a fan. I wrote and did little else for the last six months. My house is so messy, it is taking us all spring break to clean it back up. Other people might have faired better, but I was not one of these women. I tried to embrace my limitations, dig in and do what I needed to do.

Kids Talk Justice

Kids are brilliant. Every time I wanted to give up. I’d read their survey’s and quotes. Beautiful. Brilliant. Needful. It helped me realized that this work is important. We need to champion them to be all they can be in the work of justice. They are specially equipped.

Kneeling

I needed God very much. I kept repeating… please be the author of this book God. Give me the right words. He listens. I will commit to keep praying this prayer. It has been a humbling experience. I have so much to still learn about writing, justice and being who God want me to be.

A week ago I got to hit send!

The next time I see that puppy, it will be bleeding red. That will help shape it into something infinitely better. Something that used to be so scary to me, is welcomed now. I can hardly wait to share the finished product with you all!

I can’t wait to share the voices of kids concerning justice. Their words will inspire and challenge us all more than anything else. I can’t thank you all enough for your love and support. We have a long way to go, but the hardest part has passed.

And I do love writing so much. My friend Julie at work asked if I would want to do it again. Yes, I answered without even thinking. Writing my heart is so much easier for me than talking it out.

Clearly, I am not superwoman. I’m thankful God still uses me in a small way to make a difference.

I’m looking forward to being back here more to share all I can about justice issues in the world, engaging our kids and offering all the encouragement I can find. We need it right now, so very much.

Greatly Loved

Happy New Year!

I’m getting closer and closer to my first big deadline over here- less than three months and counting. Everyday it’s prayer first, second, last and a hundred times in between. I surely would never be doing this on my own. Even then, I’m constantly fighting away the not good enough feeling that follows me wherever I go. I keep pushing forward and I am on my knees.

I am so thankful for all your encouragement and also for the surveys so many kids filled out! (I am still accepting them, if anyone else is interested!) Kids are the best and they are brilliant.

I want to encourage you in this new year. I am giving away three books I have recently read.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

Wild an Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan 

 

“God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live . . . loved.” Lysa TerKeurst

I am praying you can dwell in that space of being loved greatly.

Set apart to do what God specifically has designed YOU to do.

What are looking forward to in this year of 2017? Leave a comment here and I’ll enter you for the books!

don’t look away

My friend Amy Sullivan just released her third book in the Gutsy Girls series Fanny Crosby.

You might know that she wrote over 1,000 hymns, many under pseudonym, all without her sight. What you might not know about this extraordinary woman was her servant’s heart. Among the endless lists of ways she served, including giving away most of her money, she choose to live in one of the poorest tenements in New York City. My favorite part of the book is the picture of the crowded building she called home. She lived in proximity to those in need.

In Amy’s books she shares the definition of gutsy: showing determination when your heart beats fast, your hands grow sweaty, and you fear failure. Brave. Courageous. Daring.

Right now it feels a little hard to be festive for the Christmas season when the hearts of children and families in Syria are so threatened right now. The images shred at your heart. You think, they are so far away. There is no proximity. This is the time to put yourself in proximity to their suffering. The death, destruction, displacement.

There was a video earlier this fall of a little boy put in the seat of the ambulance, his head bleeding. He reaches up and touches his forehead, looks at the blood and tries to wipe it off on the seat. It makes my Dad cry anytime someone mentions it. Another video in the hallway of a medical center after a bombing, it’s inhabitants covered in dust, a teenager cradling the dead body of his baby brother, a women with no children left, two siblings looking for their mother. A group of orphaned children implore help to escape. The days are growing cold as winter settles into Syria and families are desperately trying to escape.

We can’t travel there and scoop them up and rescue, but we get up as close as we can in proximity. We can cry out for them to be rescued and we can help.

  1. Preemptive Love Coalition
  2. Welcome refugees- make way for their families. They are a Blessing not a Burden to our country and our lives.
  3. World Renew Response to Syria
  4. International Rescue Committee
  5. The White Helmets– 2,900 volunteers from all walks of life saving lives in Syria.

Say a prayer with your family this evening… every evening.

Dear Jesus, we pray for families in Syria.

We pray they can stay together. 

We pray they can stay warm and have shelter. 

We pray they can have the food and water they need to survive. 

We pray they can get to places that are safe. 

We pray they can know that we love them. 

We pray we can help and not forgot. Amen

 

Be Gutsy. Be in proximity like Fanny Crosby. Have courage to not look away.

Pray A-Z

unnamed

Meet the talented Amelia Rhodes, a speaker and author from West Michigan! Check out her free resources on prayer. Her new release is Pray A-Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community.

A verse, ideas, and a prayer accompany each topic A through Z on topics that help us uplift those in our communities. I love the range of topics: abundance, emergency responders, homeless, justice, refugees, teachers, zero prejudice.

a-zpray

How many of your meal time prayers sound like this, “Thank you God for our food. Amen.” Or you say that you’ll pray for a certain person, but in the busyness of life completely forget. Sometimes it’s just easy to have prayer block and not even know where to start when you want to talk to God.

This guide is perfect for families to use together.

  • help your kids learn about issues that affect families and people in your community
  • think of people you know that might need prayers for a specific topic
  • learn about praise, petition, and listening to God’s answers
  • consider who God is through prayers of praise
  • pray together as a family

As we pray for our communities’ deepest needs, we bring God’s light into the darkest corners. As we praise Him, we come to appreciate the glory and beauty of His creation.

We know prayer is powerful.

God hears us and longs for us to talk to him about everything.

Our communities, families and friends need to be uplifted and that is something we can give.

 

Comment below to be entered to win a copy of the book. How do you pray as a family? 

(I received a copy of Pray A-Z as a part of Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour.)