Encouragement

have deep compassion for the people.

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I have been reading a collection of Mother Teresa’s teachings. Where there is love there is God. 

 

The Christian community can be divided about participation in Halloween. I was encouraged moving through the rainy streets last Thursday with Captain America, Lucy of Narnia, and Leah the black cat. To me it was community, people extending love and children receiving the gift.

Every year there are under the breath grumblings, of teenagers, hooded and un-costumed, filling backpacks and pillowcases with candy. It happened where I grew up and it happens where I live now.

I say in every way, in every opportunity extend love.

That to me, is every time there is something that is perceived to be ‘unfair’, including assistance of every kind.

 

This week households will feel the first effects of budget cuts to the food assistance program SNAP. Most of these households include children, seniors, single parents, and those with disabilities. Over 1/2 of those that use SNAP have jobs, but can’t make ends meet because of minimum wage {Center for Budget and Policy Priorities}.

Non-profits and churches will find it difficult to fill such an enormous gap. People will find themselves in a vulnerable space of hunger.  Try taking the SNAP challenge through Feeding America.

Thinking about the issue in abstract it is easy to perceive ‘unfair’. Put yourself in the proximity of those that are vulnerable and everything changes; stand in the Feeding America line in your church parking lot, hold up a grocery store line trying to use your dwindling SNAP benefits, choose between a meal for yourself or your child, hand your child a cup of watered down milk to stretch what is left.

Instead of saying ten words say one ~ Mother Teresa

compassion

I love your voice and your thoughts. 

seeking thanksgiving

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About Proximity is seeking thanksgiving for the week of Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for so much, even the tough stuff. One of my favorite thanksgivings is young people. I love their honesty and their trusting faith in God and each other.

These were last year’s submissions:

Students Speak Thanksgiving- here, here, here, and here.

 

My heart was encouraged by the kids that contributed last year. I would love to fill up the week of thanksgiving with even more this time! How can you contribute?

  • Take a photograph of your kids holding up a sign of what they are thankful for! {I love their honesty my kids said super heros and stuffed animals.}
  • Send the photograph as an attachment to aboutproximity@gmail.com 
  • Include their names, ages and what they are thankful for. I will just use first names for privacy.

Questions? Just drop me note!

mt

 

 

 

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? 

this is winter coming

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Indian summer fades away and leaves cold.

The dark of night moves further into the early evening.

 

This is winter coming.

 

Let us bring light and love to those who are feeling the layers of desperation extended winter seasons bring.

 

Sometimes a life just needs someone to kneel with them.

To respect them enough to hear their story.

To be assured they too are God’s child.

 

Winter can be hope if you offer it to another.

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there is no hierarchy in brokenness

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They are watching.

They repeat the bad word you didn’t mean to say aloud.

 

We hope that they find a love for reading, so we read in their presence.

We take them to the baseball field, the soccer arena, the dance studio, gymnastics class.

We drive them to piano lessons, guitar, play rehearsals, art classes.

We craft seasonal experiences like apple picking, a Christmas light tour, Easter egg hunts.

 

Are we as intentional about showing them how to walk in the compassionate footsteps of Christ?

He was there, in the messiest, hardest, most broken places of people’s life.

 

My parents taught me this with their work. My Mom’s here. My Dad’s here. The broken showed up on our doorstep. They became a part of my story. I realized we are all broken.

IMG_2147My friend Mickie gave voice to immigration reform.

 As a farming family we pay well above minimum wage and give an end of the year bonus to workers that show up everyday and we still have difficulties finding workers. We hire anyone willing to work but unfortunately the vast majority of Americans do not want to perform theses jobs. If we could find enough American workers to perform these jobs than we would not have to depend on migrant workers but this is not the reality! And it’s not the reality that we pay poor wages so we cannot attract American workers. It’s a short season with long hours. Our workers work rain or shine, it’s dirty, often wet, it’s hot, it’s physically exhausting. I am so thankful for the workers that are willing to do this hard work whether they are Americans or migrant workers!

 

They are watching.

We want them to know…

There is no hierarchy in brokenness.

God sees us the same.

There is a story within each person we come into contact with, a story that deserves to be given voice.

Each person deserves compassion, an extended hand, an invitation to know hope regardless of what they have done or what they are currently doing.

We want them to see us showing up.

We want them to see us erasing dividing lines, so they no longer are visible.

We want them to know broken is all of us, all of us the same.

We want them to see us kneel.

Kris was in Washington DC this past week. He witnessed a peaceful demonstration on immigration reform. People… willing to stand with their immigrant neighbors, even to arrest. They stood together to give voice.

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I would love to hear your voice on what moves you. I know you are all world-changers. I would love to work with you to guest post about what you are passionate about too. 

Do not lose heart.

IMG_0568 (2)This one and this one.

IMG_0106 (2)How many nights do I look at them sleeping and think I should be more.

Guilt seeps into my waking moments… I should have, I could have, why wasn’t I more patient?

 

Grace.

It is a never-ending, never-stopping job.

 

We do not lose heart.

The unseen things are eternal.

 

You are doing a good work, those that love.

Do not lose heart.

You Established

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ALL that we have accomplished.

YOU have done for us.

 

That gratitude opens up space for peace.

A depth of peace that is only established by the compassionate hand of Christ.

It’s not what I do, it’s what he does.

 

Sometimes I need this peace so very much.

Simple, little, but enough to keep breathing. To live for Him.

 

I think of my kids. I fed them cereal on dinner plates Saturday morning, because there were no clean bowls. Then, I gave them beach towels to dry off with after their showers, because there were no clean towels.

I try to do the dishes and wash the laundry. The days it doesn’t quite come together, my love is enough.

 

Our love and desire to give God our best, is enough.

It’s not what we do. It’s our heart.

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sometimes real is this.

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What do you do when discouragement seeps in? When melancholy presses down and cuts off joy?

There are times when we have to be kind to ourselves. Does anyone else struggle with this?

 

Instead of being kind to myself…

I worry that I am a terrible Mom and wife and daughter.

I obsess over the pile of laundry, the sink of dishes, the toys covering the floors.

I look at my to-do list angrily, upset that nothing has been crossed off for two days.

And then I worry a big lot of worry that cuts off all access to hope.

And I dream that I am at a potluck and eat ten brownies. When the brownie plate gets passed around everyone asks what happened to all the brownies, and I hide under the table. {True dream}

 

This is real. This is life.

Life is not the beautiful images on Pinterest, sometimes, but not always.

Life is not the Facebook statues of idyllic windows into our lives. These are momentary moments, not the always.

Life is not the always put-together, always on time, always joy.

 

When those moments are not ours, we need to redefine our expectations and be kind to ourselves.

Sometimes I have to go to sleep at 8:30.

Sometimes I have to be good with wearing the same pants two days in a row.

Sometimes I have to apologize and then get over the fact that the field trip money was late.

Sometimes I have to be still and cover up the to-do list for the day.

Sometimes I have to cuddle up and watch a movie with my kids, instead of play with them.

Sometimes I have to dream that I ate ten brownies, or we all know I can actually eat ten brownies in real life.

 

There are two other sometimes, that are actually always.

 

Always I remember…

There are others out there fighting harder battles. Everyone is fighting battles. To them I must extend kindness. Kindness and love always comes first. Even if I am deep in discouragement. Often, that is the very thing I need to lift the darkness. I need to extend my hand in understanding, the joy snakes through the discouragement.

I also have to return to what I know. Jesus has us. We are his. He is not letting us go. He loves us, even when we mess up the day, or week.  We long to be all that we can be. He knows this.

This background is the brick of my growing up home. Steadfast that is our God.

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When sometimes real is this for you… 

how do you practice being kind to yourself? 

An Invitation for Renewal

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A Guest Post by: James McLemore. 

{What a gift to receive a note from a new friend of About Proximity all the way from Alabama. James has a sweet and powerful reflection to share with us. I’m so thankful he took the time to offer it to us, it spoke to my heart.} 

 

Fifteen years teaching the 6th grade church confirmation class has made me weary. My own three sons passed through here long ago and are now grown. Is there anyone to take this baton? I gave the rector of our Episcopal parish a year’s notice – this would be my final term.

 

On kick-off Sunday, a record number of students appeared in our room. Expecting chaos, I found, instead, a community of engaged and intellectually curious children. Their large number generated a sustained energy which they seemed to surf.

I addressed them as usual. We would journey to their infant baptism where their parents had vouched for their commitment to our Lord. We would revisit those vows and claim them for their own. We would renew baptism.

Their faces reflected excitement which I was unused to. “We’re going to be baptized again?” The “we” part of their question included me. Why not, I thought. Renewal for everyone.

The beginning of everything involved water, so says Genesis. So does baptism, and so will our renewal.

 

In May of this year I made a quick personal trip to Holland, Michigan. It is a distant and different land from my home in the Deep South. Before rushing back, I rose early to visit the shore of Lake Michigan. The enormous lake was at rest, the sky cloudless and the sun brilliant. All seemed to have paused, inviting me into its natural, original – maybe primitive – state. Were the waters of the Jordan as welcoming at Jesus’ baptism?

I stood still for the longest time, gazing at water too big to see. We become our memories and I wanted this one to be in front.  My mind cleared and I wanted to stay much longer. But nothing waits forever and I had to get on the road and into traffic. Even the lake would be a tempest by mid afternoon.

As my class invited me to join them on their journey of renewal, they reminded me of Lake Michigan. Here was their invitation to return to water, to be refreshed and renewed. It promises to wash away weariness and join us all in the exciting embrace of the holy. We cannot do this alone, and for me, children show the way.

 

My notice to the rector is on hold.

 

McLemore-James-H_-2012-308x463I am a sixth-generation resident of Montgomery, Alabama and my wife Laura and I have three sons. I am an attorney in private practice. I am a lifelong member of St John’s Episcopal Church and teach the youth confirmation class here, in addition to many other roles in the church.

This is Why We Love

this is why

The things my heart love, have a way of humbling me.

I don’t know why that is the case, maybe it is the way God designed me to breath.

 

I pick things that are humbling. I don’t mean to do this, it just happens. When I think I can’t be humbled any more, the next facet of my journey arrives and I’m down on my knees again.

Kneel. I had no idea how appropriate my one word for this year would be.

I can get really discouraged and worried. This humbling has a way of softening my heart back up again. It quiets my raging fears, and brings me back to what is important. It must be a way that God speaks to me.

 

And then this passage from The Message in the twelfth chapter of Corinthians:

The body {of Christ} is not made up of one part but many… 

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If anything you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher.

PicMonkey Collage (1)This is why we place ourselves in the proximity of renewal…

To see ourselves as significant, but also a part of the bigger picture,

A bigger picture, where we are linked to every other part.

 

This is why we kneel.

This is why we love everyone, the people that society wants us to see and those it does not.

 

What do you think? You know I LOVE your comments 🙂