Journey into the unknown

Spaceship parking

Have you ever felt completely out of your wheelhouse? Or thought that you knew something and then it turns out, you actually knew nothing? That is exactly how I felt at my first Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. It was a journey into the unknown, stretching me to new limits.

In 2015 I remember leaving Memphis, where the conference was held, feeling like I had been hit by a truck. So many things bumped up against what I had been taught, against the status quo. It was earth-shattering, mind-blowing and more than I could digest in 3 days.

Yet, I was so moved by Dr. John Perkins and Coach Wayne Gordon’s Bible study every morning, my heart was opening to the possibilities. I was also overwhelmed. What could one person do to turn the tides against hatred, racism, injustice and a host of other wrongs in the world?

This CCDA thing was so much bigger than I realized, so much more personal than I realized. My empathy grew. My heart ached for people to the point of tears. My soul cried out to God, “why does it have to be this way?”  God still hasn’t answered that one, just in case you were wondering. But I keep asking.

I had to accept that as Christians we had gotten much of God’s mission for us wrong. This kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven part of the plan, we had messed it up. I saw too much hate, intolerance, persecution, pain, and injustice in the church as man has made it across the ages, the ON EARTH part of the equation was non-existent. That was a hard pill to swallow. It hurt to know that as a Christian those who look to me, see hate, intolerance, persecution, and pain, they do not see Jesus. They see the hurt that was put on them by me and others like me. I am not very Christ-like, I will never be, but I am trying. I am convicted.

I mean, who hasn’t been hurt by church? More and more people are stating that they are just DONE with religion and organized church. Why? Hurt in one form or another. But does it have to be this way? No. We can help create that Heaven on Earth, be good and loving to one another.

How? I realized this journey is one of love. Love is the key to it ALL, and that love lives within me. I can change the world, one smile at a time. The challenge is to LOVE EVERYONE, even if they don’t love me, even if they don’t look like me, act like me, worship like me, believe like me, even if I don’t agree, even if I am on opposite side of the debate or the aisle, LOVE MATTERS. Love is never insignificant.

Does that mean we will all gather together and sing Kumbaya, My Lord? Not even close. Too many times we think of love as a soft, warm fuzzy. Anyone who has truly loved knows it’s hard. It is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. And you will fail occasionally. Sometimes you have to do it from a distance. The key is to keep trying. To listen, to respect, to try to see the other side and love even when it doesn’t make sense.

Friends, a word of warning, it is impossible to show love when all you can see and feel is judgment. I grew up under constant judgment, spoken and unspoken, and it has a way of wearing you down until you feel completely insignificant. It is hard to love or be loved from that place.

A place of insignificance is where my journey began. I understood it, and I felt comfortable in my insignificance. I felt I could do nothing to change the course of things, so why try, who would listen to me? Insignificance kept me captive. Love set me free.

Do I have the answer to life’s burning questions? That would be a big, fat NO.

I have long believed judgment should never be mine, that is the Lord’s job, and one WAY too big for me. Rather than judge, I choose to love and to smile.

Can you make someone else’s day brighter with a smile? I challenge you to step out into the unknown and share a smile or a laugh with someone new. I know for your introverts, that will be hard.

You will be amazed at how it will improve your life, reduce your stress levels and begin to build bridges to others who are not like you. Your world will expand and their world will be brightened. You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that can not be hidden.

You may not be able to right the wrongs of someone’s past with a smile, but at least they will see something in you that brings them in, makes them feel a bit better and maybe, just maybe, they will see a glimpse of Jesus in you.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Christian Community Development, I encourage you to follow @iamccda on twitter or https://www.facebook.com/iamccda/ on Facebook. CCDA principles can be found in the book Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development
by Wayne Gordon et al.
Link: http://a.co/0O7tjak

Advertisements

Finding my tribe

Hello gentle readers,

It has been a long while since I’ve posted. My introduction into the world of nonprofits has been a learning experience and while I sometimes still feel like a babe in the woods, I also feel like I have found my tribe. The people of Compassion Coalition are not only my coworkers, they are my family. We pray together, talk about what matters and strive daily to make Knoxville a better place for EVERYONE to live.

I knew they were my tribe from the first hour I began working with them. They get me. I’m an odd duck, so that’s amazing in itself. They also help me be the best version of myself and I enjoy going to work EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is a blessing from God. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and sometimes things are tough, we operate on a shoestring budget, fundraising can be hard, foundations and churches close, coalition members lose funding and are unable to give, yet I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, what we do matters.

It seems, all of my life experience thus far brought me to a place where all of my gifts can be used and appreciated. My people skills, artistic skills, organizational skills but most importantly my spiritual skills. My gift has always been one of encouragement. This position has given me the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, hear their story, share hope and help.

While it has been a busy two years, it has also been a period of growth. Stretching my mind, my heart and soul to care more, love deeper and seek justice. This didn’t happen by chance, this job, these people, they care. They care beyond anything I have ever experienced before, and not just for the people they know, their hearts ache for the hurting and marginalized. They help people. People in churches, people on the street, people in the pews and outside the church walls. They help churches cross denominational lines and break down barriers and work together to find common and sometimes uncommon solutions to problems in the community. They connect social work with church work, like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before, yet they are one of the most underutilized community/church resources in town.

Compassion Coalition Staff
Grant Standefer, Jessica Bocangel, Charmin Foth, Gina Whitmore and Carolyn Hansen

Some days it seems impossible to put all that we do into an ‘elevator pitch,’ “Our mission is to inform, equip, and connect churches to transform lives and communities through the love of Christ.” Yet I say, we love people well. That is what we are called to do, and we do it with all that we are. 

In future posts, you will hear more about my journey into the nonprofit life and Christian Community Development (CCD) and as a newbie, how that process has changed me from the inside out. For now gentle readers, I invite you to learn more about the organization I work for, and if you are touched and led as I am, consider giving.

A quote from Sister Simone Campbell at the Christian Community Development Conference this year, #CCDADetroit, says it perfectly, “Our hearts are broken open by the stories that surround us. It is all about community”

 

 

 

Dancing with Green-Teeth

By Charmin Foth

Flickr: sean-b

As our 20th-anniversary approaches, I am reminded of a skinny cowboy propping up the wall. My dear husband and I met twenty-two years ago on December 9th.

At the time, I didn’t want a relationship. I didn’t want to date, I was pretty much over romance all-together. I had been in an abusive marriage for seven years and couldn’t believe the person I had become in that time.

I had lost my self-esteem and my sense of who I was, or what I wanted out of life. I was burned-out, struggling with my faith and feeling like a failure. Years of being treated badly had led me to believe I deserved such treatment. I was just beginning to figure myself out again, thanks to the help of some great girlfriends, who dragged me out of the house and into the world again. They took me to line dancing classes at the local skating rink and concerts, and weekend trips, keeping me from drowning in a pool of self-pity.

On December 9th, my friend Beth, did exactly that, she drug me out of the house. Living in Nashville, there was always an opportunity for musical entertainment. On that night David Lee Murphy was playing at the Wild Horse Saloon, one of Nashville’s hot, touristy spots on 2nd Avenue, Beth suggested we go and try out our new line-dancing skills. So, rather than sitting at home on a Friday night eating fish sticks and tater tots, I agreed.

When we got there, we found a table and ordered Diet Cokes. Not my usual fare, I’m more a Mountain Dew connoisseur (diet – now that I’m older). I know you thought I was going to say something else, but alcohol was never a vice for me. I preferred to abuse myself with bad relationships.

So, I am truly a wild woman hanging out at a saloon drinking Diet Coke. Beth and I had fun people-watching and dancing. The wonderful thing about line-dancing is it doesn’t require you to have a date, and no one has to be in your personal space. Both of which appealed to me at the time, since I had sworn off relationships with men. I had a strict rule, I never slow danced with anyone. PERIOD. That was WAYtoo close for me.

While Beth and I were people-watching, I had noticed a cowboy in a fringed jacket, Resistol cowboy hat pulled low over his eyes, Wrangler jeans and boots leaning up against the wall. He was cute, in that lone-wolf kind of way.

The place was packed with people and we were lucky to have a table with a good view of everything. They were having a beauty contest before the concert so the dances were spread out between the contest events. The place was crawling with very pretty, scantily-clad girls and all types of guys, trying to get their attention.

When the guys couldn’t get the time of day from the pretty girls, they would begin to look around and ask the rest of us to dance. I wasn’t particularly looking for a dance partner, but this nice looking young man came up to me and asked me to dance. Since it was a “Boot Scoot Boogie” it wasn’t as if I had to get too close to the guy, so I said, “yes.”

It wasn’t until he got on the dance floor, and started smiling at me, that I realized he had horrible green teeth. When he got close enough to where I could actually hear what he was trying to say, I realized he had horrible green breath to go along with it. This is exactly the reason I was against dating. UGGH!

Beth and I laughed over the green teeth once I got back to the table, and I marked another notch in the list of THINGS I DON’T WANT. But, I was still keeping an eye on the cowboy holding up the wall across the way. Beth and I may have made a few comments amongst ourselves about him too.

The beauty contest continued for a little while and then they played a slow love song.  Beth and I were talking and minding our own business when I looked up and saw “green teeth” headed straight for our table. The cowboy holding up the wall must have seen the look of sheer terror come across my face, because just before “green teeth” stepped up to ask me to dance, the cowboy stepped in front of “green teeth” and asked me to dance.

In that moment, the cowboy rescued me from certain awkwardness, and left “green teeth” standing there looking dazed and confused.

Much to my surprise, when the cowboy asked me to slow dance, I said, “YES!”

“Green teeth” did not look happy, but I was so relieved the cowboy was taking me in the opposite direction, I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I was on the dance floor I realized I had broken my own rule. Here I was dancing close to a tall cowboy with a buzz cut. Oh, this could be trouble!

Not wanting to waste time I figured I’d find out exactly what was wrong with this guy and then get back to the table and enjoy the rest of my evening. We exchanged names, I told him I didn’t usually slow dance and apologized if I stepped on his feet. He told me if a horse could step on his feet, then me stepping on his feet wasn’t anything to worry about. I had a snarky comment about the horse thing, but I kept it to myself.

As we made small talk I found out he was a soldier at Fort Campbell, looking for a tourist to “date.” We had a lot in common, he was coming out of a bad relationship too.

I asked him at least twenty questions during the dance. I was determined not to repeat the bad relationships of my past. So I had this checklist in my head and on the first wrong answer, this guy was going to be history. The only problem was, he was getting all the answers right, and from the way he answered, he seemed to be pretty honest. That was different. He was different.

I asked him if he did drugs? No. Did he drink a lot? Mountain Dew (Hmm, that’s what I drink). Drugs and alcohol abuse were the big deal breakers, I had been around those guys, and wasn’t going down that road again. He passed the first two big tests. Time to just hit him with the big list of WHAT I DON’T WANT.

I asked him if he knew how to read? What was the name of the last book he read? You name it, I was straightforward, to  the point and more than a little obnoxious. I was sure I had put this guy off. He would never look my way again.

When the song ended, he followed me back to my table. He made me laugh and spent the rest of the evening at the table with Beth and I. He ordered a Coke (they didn’t serve Mountain Dew). I told him he was free to order a beer if he liked, he didn’t have to drink Coke just because we were.

He replied, “I’ve been holding this same beer all night.” One-half of a beer ALL NIGHT, what strange world was this?

He got his soda and we talked until they closed. He still got all the answers right. I was amazed. As he walked me to my car, he asked me out for the next night. The rest is history.

The first date is another story. 🙂

It’s hard to believe I have been with that cowboy all these years and I love him more every passing day. Amazingly, I owe it all to a guy with green teeth.

It’s strange how God works in ways we could never imagine. Be open to the possibilities, but never settle for less than what God has for you.

Thanks for reading.

10 Signs You Might be a Perimenopausal Woman…

A humorous look at getting older

By Charmin Foth ImageCaption: Perimenopause? What!?! Doc says, “Don’t worry, it only lasts 10 years or so!!!”                         Photo: Microsoft Images
 
  1. You can no longer remember the names for persons, places or things; everything becomes a whatcha-dittle, thing-a-ma-bob, or a whozy-whats-it, and you expect people to know what you are talking about.
  2. You want to nap at 4 in the afternoon, but are wide awake at 4 in the morning.
  3. You spend hours in the cosmetic aisle, looking for something that is unmeltable and sweatproof.
  4. You have an overwhelming urge to punch cute, cuddly couples in the face.
  5. Your bladder wakes you up about every 3 hours and every morning at least an hour before the alarm clock goes off.
  6. You cut up all your gym clothes to make a quilt that “wicks away moisture.”
  7. You mix your wrinkle cream with Clearasil.
  8. People who talk or breathe irritate you.
  9. You gain/lose/gain the same 10 pounds at least 50 times.
  10. You wake up at 3 am in a puddle of sweat and stick your head in the freezer to cool off only to wake at 6 am in a puddle of melted icecream with a lump on the back of your head from the freezer door.

Men, if you have a lady in your life exhibiting these symptoms, you may want run and hide, or for the brave of heart – arm yourself with chocolate, just don’t get too close!

Remember these are only a few of the warning signs, ladies, you know there are more lurking in the shadows.

The Count…

Count on your surroundings
The Count

There are no children at my house, not that I need any, my hubby, Andy is a big kid himself. Believe me when I tell you, the only difference is the cost of his toys.

We never had children together, I never felt bad about that. I have a beautiful step-daughter I am proud to say I know and love. She is an amazing young woman.

Andy and I love children, and relate to them because we function on their level. 🙂 The kids think we are great fun. I have had tea parties, colored, made friendship bracelets, built forts with sheets, played games, you name it. Andy loves to play video games, play pull my finger and burp letters of the alphabet, great boy stuff. We both watch cartoons. We once had a little boy turn around in the theater at a Disney movie and ask where our kids were? We have never lost our childish nature, and I think that is a good thing.

But, sometimes I think our friends, the parents, worry when we come to visit.

Please don’t, I think I finally have him trained…somewhat, and here’s how I did it.

At times, Andy is the Duke of Inappropriate Conversation. He has gotten better over the years but still sometimes there is no buffer between his brain and his mouth. When you don’t have children around all the time, you get used to saying exactly what’s on your mind at any given moment. That has always been one of my favorite parts of our marriage. We can truly be ourselves around each other. However, once you step into someone else’s world, at the very least you want to appear civilized.

When we were younger there were so many times a parent had to say, “Andy, the kids.” Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect, I can lose my filter too, especially if I feel safe with people.

Several years back we went to visit friends in Virginia. I reminded Andy, two weeks earlier he had offended another of our friends by saying or doing something goofy that was not intended for children’s ears. I did not wish to repeat that event. I told him that when he had a quick comeback to what someone said he needed to stall his quick response. I suggested that when the urge to utter something he thought was witty, that he count to ten slowly and think about who was in the room.

Five minutes after our arrival in Virginia, someone said something and I immediately saw the look on Andy’s face and he began to count out-loud, 1, 2, 3, 4… you get the picture. I couldn’t help but laugh and our friends asked, “what is he doing?”

I told them about my idea to make Andy aware of his surroundings. They began to laugh too.

Well, as the weekend progressed, Andy had to count many, many times, and soon the kids were in on it. As soon as someone would say something, the kids would look at Andy and begin to count. It was priceless. As soon as Andy began to count all the adults could guess the direction his thoughts and would begin to laugh. So he never had to actually say the comment out loud.

My friend said she was going to make it a family rule and apply it to both her brothers and her brothers-in-law. It seems that Andy is not the only “Duke of Inappropriate Conversation” out there.

I think everyone had a great time with the count. If you have a “Duke of Inappropriate Conversation” in your life, don’t get discouraged. Suggest they count. It could be fun. I recommend to ten, but if they are really bad, you may want to consider more. Just be sure you do it with a smile.

Thanks for reading.

Republished from November 2010.

Darkest Days

Photo: Mircosoft Clifpart - a candle burns in the dark
A light unto the darkness

By Charmin Foth

I recently read that experience without sharing leaves no room for growth. Instead, bad experiences turned inward make you bitter and isolated. Wow! Been there, done that, brought home a whole crate of T-shirts. So here I am opening myself up, exposing the dark.

I will be honest, sometimes I have an ungrateful heart. I think at one time or another we tend to want things now, instead of later. We ask, “why me?” or “will this ever end?” I know that I can end up in a big ole’ pity pool, wallowing in it, and never looking to the future. Sometimes I have to look at where I have been to appreciate what I have now.

It is no secret that everyone has to suffer through hard times and dark periods in their lives. I have often heard it said, “It is not the situation, but how you handle the situation that matters.” I suppose that is true to some extent, but what about those situations that you don’t handle with grace?

In those times when you don’t make the best decisions, you end up on the wrong side of things but somehow you make it out alive. Do you hold on to that shame and hurt, hoping no one will ever see the dark that lives inside you? Are you bitterly ashamed of your past and pray no one will ever know the true you?

I am certainly no stranger to dark times. As a matter of fact, if you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be now, my answer would have been, “Dead.” After the death of my young husband when I was 19, I descended down a dark and treacherous path.

You see, I had convinced myself that it was my fault, and I felt like those closest to me blamed me and hated me for his death. Beyond that, I convinced myself I didn’t deserve anything or anyone good in my life. I sought out dangerous people and compromising situations. I dated all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. I just couldn’t buy into the premise that I was worth it, so I treated nice guys horribly and kicked them to the curb. Being abused, became my normal because I thought I deserved it.

I battled with my worth and my past for ten years. It haunted me. More than once, it almost killed me. I felt alone, isolated and scared of the person I had become.

I didn’t have the strength to walk away from the things that had beaten me down. It took a series of unfortunate circumstances (isn’t that always the case) for me to seek a counselor. Many see counseling as a sign of weakness. I see it as the strongest moment of my life. It’s where I began to see past the darkness.

I had spent so much time railing at God. Screaming. Crying. Why? Why? Why? For me, coming back to a faith I had lost, saved me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Everyone wants the quick fix. There isn’t one; there is no pill, no magic bean, no physical interaction that can take away the pain you try to hide, medicate, or abuse out of view. Counseling takes time and work, hard work. Faith takes believing. God never said life would be easy. He never said bad things wouldn’t happen. By surviving your worst situation, you can encourage someone else. But God can’t use your story unless you are willing to tell it.

To look back on my past now, I am grateful, not only for where I am now, but that I made it through. I may not have the nicest house, or drive a new car, but I have riches beyond gold and silver. He told me that I am beautifully and wonderfully made and that He loves me in spite of myself.

Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) says this:
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.

God gave me beauty from the ashes of my life and gave me joy for my mourning. I exchanged my heavy heart for a garment of praise.

I am no expert and I can’t wave a magic wand and fix problems. If you are hurting, I strongly suggest finding a Christian counselor, someone who won’t try to fix you with a pill. Find someone who will listen and lead you on the right path. Know that you are NEVER alone, God always walks with you, even in the dark times.

Now you know a little about one my darkest times and how it has made me grateful for the light. So, will my journey into dark places help you? I hope it does.

If not, that’s ok too. I’ve given you a bit of my story, I pray God will now use it.

Republished from June of 2013.

A Goat in a Coat

a goat in a coat

A true tale of life on the Farm

By Charmin Foth

On a blustery winter morn
a wee baby goat was born

The new mama stepped away
leaving baby in the hay
but so cold was the storm
it wouldn’t keep wee baby goat warm

In the early morning light
Farmer Foth saw the wee goat’s plight
He rushed to her side
and prayed he could turn the tide
to warm the wee goat’s little hide.

Afraid and so cold
she didn’t need to be told
the farmer was there to soothe
even though she could barely move

Carefully now

Farmer Foth bowed
and placed the wee goat
into his warm red coat

All through the day
as the farmer made hay
the wee little goat
stayed in the warm red coat.

Next to Farmer Foth’s chest
did wee goat rest
starting to warm
but still not to the norm
Farmer Foth kept the wee goat close
she needed to get as warm as toast

So on errands Farmer Foth ran
to places where even goats were banned
To the butcher, the baker
and the candlestick maker

Lastly to the pharmacy he went
keeping the wee goat in his arm bent
hidden in warm red coat
no one knew about the goat

As workers looked on
they thought something was wrong
it caused some alarm,
was Farmer Foth there to do harm?

The farmer only grinned
knowing he had not sinned
he said, “do not fear
I only have a wee baby goat in here”

The workers couldn’t see
the wee goat’s glee
at being so warm
away from the farm

But as Farmer Foth unzipped
and the wee goat tipped
her little head
out of her warm makeshift warm bed

“Neeehhhhh,” she said,
“put me back to bed!”
And the workers all sighed
as Farmer Foth tried
to explain how a wee baby goat
ended up in his coat.

Among the ooohs
and the ahhhs
the wee baby goat
snuggled back in the warm red coat.

The moral of the story:
Be careful where you tote a goat.

tote a goat
This is the true story of my husband Andy and a goat he saved by keeping it warm all day in his coat. Excuse my attempt at poetry, but this story just begged to be written in a “Seussical” fashion.
Photos rendered in Photoshop by Charmin Foth
Reposted from 2013.