The Space Between

Have you ever had to wait for something? I don’t know about you, but for me waiting is hard.

We are not creatures of change, we like to stay in our comfortable space of knowing what’s next. Especially if you are a planner, you know the steps that will lead you from this to that, but what about when you have no control over those steps? Someone else has to make the decision to take those steps and you have to wait on them, on the process. The space between what we know and what comes next is uncomfortable, at times unbearably so. Uncertainty has a way of filling our hearts with things that are not warm and fuzzy. Things like worry, anxiety, and fear can paralyze us if we let those feelings run rampant. But there is hope.

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That’s where I feel the rubber hits the road. God does some of His best work right there, in that space between this and that. Of course, it is hard to see it while you are in between, when the emotions run away with every possible scenario and your mind is trying to make sense of the chaos your emotions are churning around like butter.

In this in-between space, faith is tested and God does incredible things. My husband will tell you I am terrible at waiting, patience is an area where God is constantly at work with me. When I look back and see how I have struggled in those spaces between this and that, the times when I didn’t rely on my faith, on God, I clearly see how I made things much worse than the times when I opened myself to the possibilities of God had in store for me.

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I know God is at work right now, I am in the space between, even as I type this message.  Sometimes when you hear something, it strikes a cord that wakes up your Spirit and compels you to act, to read, to pray, to listen, to write. Today my pastor said, “my hope is alive in the midst of the storm.” Immediately the verse below came to mind.

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Look at the Israelites, Moses brought them out of captivity, God told them where to go, they were in the process of going and spent 40 years between this and that because they weren’t obedient and open to what God had in store for them. I don’t want to be out of God’s will for me, I want to be obedient. My prayer right now is, “Thank you Lord for this gentle prompting in my Spirit to stay calm, lead me, show me Your path, I am here waiting in the between and I am at peace, help me to keep that peace no matter where the path goes.

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My mantra for the last month has been ” I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future.” God is doing a new thing, and while I don’t know what that may be, I know I am to be content no matter how long the between lasts.

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What is Community to You?

Dictionary.com defines Community as: 
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2.  a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists(usually preceded by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
These were the top 3 definitions, as you can see, a community can look different depending on your vantage point. Consider your community, is it a neighborhood, sports team, church, school, work? The list could go on and on.
Recently my church moved into a new community. We have been there a few months and are not familiar with the neighborhood. This move has me pondering how to engage with those around us? I find myself going back to a book we read as a staff at work last year. This little book called The Art of Neighboring really had some practical insights and I highly recommend it.  Why study a book on neighbors? Shouldn’t we love our neighbor as ourselves?
The Art of Neighboring Book

Ask yourself, how often do you intentionally reach out to your actual neighbors? Do you care about what goes on in your neighbors’ lives? Most of us don’t even know our neighbors anymore. So maybe we need this book more than we realize. We come home, through the garage, close the door, retire to our dens or backyard without even seeing those around us. No kind words or even happy waves happen. We are in and we are out.

I believe so many times we alienate ourselves from our neighbors because they don’t look, act, or talk like we do. We are afraid to step out and introduce ourselves or afraid to make a social faux pas because we don’t know the person. But how can you get to know someone unless you step out on faith?
When we were stationed overseas, no matter the country we visited, I always tried to learn, at the very least, how to say “please” and “thank you.” Americans are notorious for expecting you to speak English no matter what, but the ones who at least try to speak the language are blessed with helpful people and forgiveness for butchering their language. My point is, most people are more forgiving if they know you are trying.
I am a strong believer in the power of diversity. As a child, I colored with every crayon in the box. Too often in this world, we tend to gravitate toward sameness,  what we know and where we are comfortable. There is a wealth of richness and beauty in relationships with people who are not the same as you.  You don’t have to agree with someone to care about them. Genuine, loving, long-term relationships with our neighbors requires us to be present, get to know someone by listening to their story. Stories bring us together and allow us to relate on a level we might miss if we don’t have time to listen.
Too often we feel we need to fix people’s problems or tell them what they should do. Most of the time, people just want to be heard, to feel like someone really cares and is there if they need to share.
Matthew 5:43-45
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; 
So my thought for the day is…What is “community” to you?  How do you live that out? How do you connect with those around you? What can you do differently to truly be a good neighbor?

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”

 

 

 

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.

Volunteer Ministry Center – A Place of Refuge

The Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC) was established in 1987 and offers specialized services to the homeless and those within our community who are in crisis.  VMC’s programs support its two-fold mission of facilitating permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless and providing services to prevent homelessness.  In this interview, we learn about VMC’s Refuge Center and how they work to prevent homelessness. For more information about VMC and their programs visit http://www.vmcinc.org. This video was produced by Charmin Foth and the North Knoxville Business & Professional Association. If you would like information on the NKBPA visit http://www.northknoxvillebpa.org

Motivational Stepping Stones

Stepping stones
Stepping stone photo courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

Stepping stones keep you out of the mire and the muck. They lift you up and give you direction. 
I have used events in my life as motivational stepping stones to give my life direction and keep me out things that could otherwise muck things up.
I love to learn new things. I have always been the type of person that sees something of interest in everything. I often see things, and think I could do that. If offered the opportunity, I would try, just to see if I could accomplish the task. 
My success rate has varied in degrees between great success and failing miserably. Yet, even when I failed, I learned something new, something about myself I didn’t know before. Each success and each failure I used as a motivational stepping stone to guide my next step. 
Does that mean I do everything well? Definitely not, but hopefully by gaining new knowledge about myself and the world around me I gain an appreciation for those who can do things I can’t. That appreciation helps me build great relationships with people who have different talents. In life you need people who can do the jobs you can’t. 
You have heard the phrase, “No man is an island.” That is very true.
For example, I know I will never be an accountant. Numbers hate me. I could however, become a ceramic tile layer. While numbers may hate me, angles love me. In my mind, accounting tends to be more statistical, numbers in rows and rows, while the geometry of measurements and angles are alive, more relational. I love relationships. You would think, math is math, but it’s very different. 
If I had listened to those who said, you’ve never done that, or you can’t do that, I would have missed out on learning a very satisfying hobby. By the same token, I know I have to be very careful when I balance my checkbook. Lucky for me, I have a relationship with someone who is great with numbers to help me. Just because you have learned how to do a task, does not mean it comes easy to you, or it is something you should pursue. But now I know that is a direction I don’t want to go.
Sometimes the events placed in your path change your direction. Many people would allow that change to stop them, but I propose that you use your negative to create a positive. Sometimes negative motivation can lead you in a positive direction.
You would think, as someone who loves to learn new things, I would have attended a multitude of accredited colleges or universities. Alas, I have not. I have an ongoing education in LIFE. I have to say, I’m a survivor and I’m very proud of that.
When I was 19, life crashed in and I had no choice but to learn how to take care of myself. I was in design school, with a promising future ahead and a new husband. Life was perfect until he became very ill. 
As a new wife, I did what needed to be done, I left school and spent the next year with my husband in and out of the hospital as he fought severe complications from juvenile diabetes. Just before my 20th birthday, the unthinkable happened, he passed away. 
On my own, I had to work just to survive and keep a roof above my head, a car to drive, basic survival; there was no time to go back to school. I had BILLS. 
There were so many people in my life, telling me I would never get a job that amounted to anything because I didn’t finish school. If I had listened to them, I’d still be at Burger Queen today. 

As it turned out, I kept applying and my persistence and talent got me in the door to my first design job at age 20, before most of my peers were even out of school. I worked diligently to learn everything I could about the business I was in. That is a habit I have retained even now. 

My philosophy, and it’s served me very well, never be afraid to try something above your pay grade. My first “real” design job was is screen printing. I designed wearable art for colleges all across the US. I was very good at my job, I took instruction well, paid attention to the details and had a way with customers. My art director saw something in me and encouraged it, he relied on me to get things done and help in areas he where he was overwhelmed. 
Because I was able to bridge a gap between creative and sales/customer service our parent company in Nashville promoted me to train other artists in screen printing techniques and be a liaison between the sales staff and the art department. I was also offered the opportunity to learn computer graphics, which I immediately jumped on. 

My desire to learn served as a stepping stone to my first promotion, and my next, and then to my next position and my next.
Every job I have ever had was there to teach me something valuable. Never discount experience, good or bad. Good shows you are making progress, bad teaches you to go in another direction. Each job offers opportunities to learn great things and expand your skill set. 
My point is, by being willing to try something new, I gained potential for greater things. A motivational stepping stone, that launched me into my next career phase. I’m not knocking a good degree, I believe education is very important, but sometimes experience and willingness speak volumes more. 
Never let anyone knock you down because of education, or lack of it. The world is a very diverse place, don’t limit yourself to negative view of it.
There are employers out there who think outside of the box and are willing to see the potential in others. Don’t be afraid to try for something better. When an opportunity arises, work hard and show your capacity and willingness to learn and excel. A good work ethic can be priceless in business.
Look for those motivational stepping stones, step out and learn something new. Who knows, you might find a gift you never knew you had.