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Monday, November 28, 2011

Unusual Friends, In Unusual Places

I met a woman the first day I enrolled Isabella in school, and something in my heart told me, number 1, she was hurting, and number 2, she was not going to be easy to get to know! But, if I stayed the course, it would be worth the wait. So I pursued and I'd guess you'd say I forced myself on her, and she turned out to be one of my very best friends I made in North Carolina. One of those you have on a deep emotional level. It's strange we spend no time outside of school or no time chatting over the phone, but, there was just a connection of the heart. Well, I was right on the money, she had been in a marriage for over 17 years and it had been on and off  for the last 10 and had almost killed her, not only emotionally but also financially. When we moved to North Carolina I had brought bins of clothes that, if I wore them daily, it would take me 100 years to ever wear them all, so I loaded them up and took them to this woman, don't ask me why I thought to take them to her, because I don't have an answer. Little did  I know she had recently lost 80lbs, and had no clothes nor the monies to buy any.  Now, you have understand the dynamic of my situation, moving from Florida to the remote Western Carolina mountains is not an easy adjustment for anyone, but it was exceptionally hard for a women with no husband, and, to top it off, a women who  loves to wear high heels to Walmart!! I was not welcomed with open arms, that is, in the beginning. She was thankful for the clothes, but their was no instant bond. No taking me into the fold. I knew all around me were hurting people, just like me, who were experiencing heartache and pain, and one of the best ways to get my mind off of my own grief was to stop looking inward and look outward, isn't that what compassion is? One of the New Testament  books, a letter written to a Roman province by Paul says, to "carry each others burdens". And I felt this so strongly for my friend. And the wall she had put up was a way  to protect herself from being hurt anymore than she was already hurting. So from the beginning I began sharing our story with the staff.  During this same time the secretary of the school, Ms C, had asked me in private if I would be interested in going to her churches food pantry. She just lite up when she spoke of it. I said, of course, we would be grateful! The kids thought it was the coolest things ever, a free grocery store, they didn't have a clue what it was! Now mind you, the kids are receiving state lunches and we still need food for home and this lady's Church, on the side of a mountain 9 miles out of town, was unbelievable, and the ladies and people of the Church treated us with such respect and dignity, as if we were just one of them! The ladies of the school became like family to us as well,  they embraced us. I would go into that office almost daily to visit with them, and give them an update, how's Kenny, when will he be here, how's Emma. No judgement at all. They would guess amongst themselves what I might be wearing that day! It just so amazed me, they genuinely liked me, and all my quirky clothes and shoes! They liked me for the person that I was on the inside, they loved my children and the heart that they had, and it open doors for us. I went in one Friday and Ms. C said, Angie I am so sorry but my church has decided to close the pantry as  tears streamed down her face. It was the saddest moment for us, because so few Churches treat people with dignity when they give them things, even essentials.  Mrs. C and her Church was so uncommon, so different, however, some of the leadership had decided that some of the people coming for food were not being totally honest, maybe had misused their kindness, so they decided it best to shut down the whole program, how very, very sad!!  Of course there are going to be abuses, of course there are going to be posers, but there are also going to be those people who can genuinely redefine their lives by that kind of kindness, and shouldn't that over-ride the risks? So back to my friend and the clothes, I am walking to my truck one day and she runs out and grabs me and embraces me and says, "Thank you for making me feel like a princess every single morning when I get dressed." From that moment on  that wall fell and  to this day I consider her one of my very dearest friends. It wasn't but a few months later she asked to me speak at a conference her church and daycare was having. They only hold this conference once a year. I was so excited, it was my first invite to really tell of the traumas and tragedies of our past year or so, but also to tell of God's subtle and gentle care for us. I began preparing immediately. And what was even more exciting was it was outside of our denomination, I had prayed to be able to speak to women everywhere, at shelters, civic groups, every denomination, not just mine. And it had happened! As the weeks went by my excitement grew. However, it was short lived, because I got a call and she was crying, something had happened at the school (they had a school connected with their Church) with a child and they were going to cancel the conference. I was heartbroke. I just knew I had something to share, something that would encourage someone, but it was done, and nothing I could do about it. My confidence was shot! Over the past year, through living without Kenny God had built my confidence, I had never done anything on my own, Kenny handled everything, including the speaking, and to imagine me speaking would have terrified me, yet I was just 1 week from speaking  to probably 400 people, with ease! That was a confidence that came from God, certainly not me, before I couldn't stand up and teach a Sunday school class! But in one conversation all that confidence was gone. Deflated! Why would this happen like that God, I don't understand, what purpose could this possibly serve? I have been preparing for weeks, what for, for nothing, I felt like I had taken a step forward and been knocked back 2.  Back to Ms C, the school secretary, she tells me the ladies in her church had recognized a few of the families had came to the pantry more than once in a one month period. So the board felt some "people" were taking advantage, so they had voted to close. She was heartbroken. She would meet families on the weekend, on her own time, it was something she really loved. So she said let's go over there and you get anything you want because the rest is being donated to the shelter. I thought, God this is backward, they had a great pantry, but  much of that stuff was now older and not even the good stuff, some of it was the lowest you can buy,  I am certain many of those board members wouldn't eat some of this stuff themselves, and now they're gonna hoard their money like its something of real value. How about having a pantry stocked with the best, the kind of food you would eat yourself, not the kind you clean out to throw away, represent God to people as He really is, giving us, in the most undeserving state, His most precious and noble gift.  We were all liars, cheats, never satisfied, deceivers, and frankly often still are, but He doesn't extend His love toward us because we deserve it, but because it is What His nature is, and He is never stingy and cheap. Should we really be people who hold back the good for ourselves and throw the crumbs to the world. I thought about myself, God had I picked through those clothes and given my friend the old outdated ones, or did I give her the best out of what I had? Was I myself a hypocrite, God we had been given so much in our life, to hold back and not be generous, it would be the most horrid form of shamefulness, and in the back of my mind I knew I had often been the same!  Up to this very day as I drove from that pantry, God had met every single need in our life, WITHOUT  fail. How could I not give him everything. Once again, the snot came, I guess I need to just name my blog the snot returns, because I just cant' find myself,  find us, our family,  in any place of our life that God has not touched. And it weakens my knees and causes the tears to flow. So I went home and got out my winter coats  and gave her the 2 newests ones I had the very next morning. I said God, this is a representation, a small token, of what you have meant in our lives, and I want to represent You to the world, the way You would, and You would give Your all, Your best. My confidence had taken a hit, I felt like I had been shot down before I had been given the chance to even try, but, I remembered, once again, a scripture of my youth in Timothy, "I know Who I have believed in and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day". And I had entrusted God with my life the day we pulled out from Tallahassee to leave for North Carolina, and God doesn't call you to do something He won't show up and give you the ability to do. And when He is in it, and it is His ability not yours, their is a rightness to it, that somehow you just know that it was His hand that orchestrated it. IF God had called me to speak and share my story, nothing could stop that, I have put that desire back into the recesses of my heart and I am convinced that He will guard that desire, because I have entrusted it to Him, and when the time is right, I will be ready. As I knew He would, He not only guarded and nourished and grew what He had planted in my heart, but has planted me in places to allow that day to come. That was almost 2 years ago and I have had the privelege of sharing my stories in many, many, setting, but once again...... why am I surprised.


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