This weekend has got to be the busiest weekend I've had a in a long time ... of course next weekend will probably be just as busy or at least pretty close...
Those of you who have read my blogs for awhile now, know how God has taken me by surprise with a heart for the homeless. Not that I've never cared about them - they just haven't been on my "radar" so to speak. Thanks to the guys at work, my heart, mind, and vision have been completely turned around. Yet, while these guys have been the instruments God used to get my attention, in a way they didn't come close to preparing me for this weekend....
Friday night was Steve's company party. We had a very painful conversation with his one and only co-worker, sort of friend who is LDS when the news that we were ex-Mormons came up - thank you Mai Thai. Beyond embarrassing, painful, and one of those moments that legalism completely and entirely captured my heart once again. Eh - can't seem to get a handle on that bad boy. :P So, we headed out hours early and hit the theater - you can read my previous blog for my thoughts on The Golden Compass which we saw. Afterwards, we had two appointments between 10 pm - 12 am to pick up 28 dozen donuts for GP's event the following morning. I was totally pumped and couldn't wait to grab a chocolate covered creme filled donut just for me. Of course, after working three nights a week till midnight and babysitting five kids a day - this was not a very wise choice. Just as my body wanted to crash (as it usually does Friday nights by like 8 maybe 9 pm) I gave it a dose of pure Kripy Kreme deliciousness and had the worst sugar high ever. Complete with a migraine, swirly lights in my vision, and being lightheaded. Thankfully, by time I we finished up at our second location (which I got us lost looking for for half an hour...) I was back to normal. Lesson learned - no eating Krispy Kremes past like six pm for me anymore.
We got home, put the kids to bed, and finally crashed for the night at 1:30 am. Wouldn't be an issue since the next day was Saturday except that that Saturday I was volunteering with GP for an event with our local City Mission (this site is for Ohio - ours of course is the same except here in Vegas). I was meeting with 19 other Grace Point people at 6 am to go serve coffee and donuts and distribute flyers for that day's Christmas meal. And I was out of my favorite cherry flavored Amp drinks. I woke up at 5:15 am and laid in bed, freezing, thinking, "Just one more minute..." of course that's when my phone rang from the coordinator of the event and I realized I had to get out of bed so I could for once be prompt. I skipped my shower and pulled on the warmest clothes I had in layers, pulled a bandanna over my now muffled hair from the night before, and headed out. No time for energy drinks or hot coffee (yes LDS readers, I've begun to drink coffee - NO that's not why I left since for several several months I refused to drink coffee - I don't believe anyone leaves simply to drink coffee.... hmmm eternal salvation or coffee? No...) I had to scoot.
I arrived there promptly but wishing I had stopped at Starbucks or even a gas station for an energy drink. We all gathered around, joking and laughing. I heard a horrible review from Devin about "I am Legend" - of course I still want to go see it. YES I still want to go see it, I am sure I too will be yelling at the screen or whatever at the abrupt ending since I hate those kinds of endings - but I still want to go see it. Yes, anyone who knows me IRL is welcome to say, "I told you so..." after I've seen it and probably hated it. (That'll be next weekend for anyone who wants to join me in spite of Devin's review). We all piled into cars and headed to our final Krispy Kreme to pick up the last bit of donations. May I take a moment here and simply say, never ever leave 28 dozen KK donuts in your car overnight? Sure, I believe they tasted just fine - but who knows how long that overpowering sweet smell is going to linger? Since we stopped there, and with no Energy drinks in site - I buckled and bought a cup of coffee - I asked for as much sugar, cream, and pumps of Carmel and Raspberry as they were willing to give me. I HATE the taste of coffee. Grace Point is awesome for providing Starbucks coffee at their services - but man, I can never get enough creamer and sugar in there to make it not taste like coffee. Steve laughs at me each Sunday I buckle and get a cup and I make these "sour" faces. So, as we drove to Palm Mortuary the sour faces began.
Of course, I ended up in the car with all guys. However, I got to ask a few questions here and there that have been on my mind with the staff's recent trip to Utah for a funeral (LDS readers - we had another ex-Mormon who passed and her request was that our Pastor speak at the funeral and our worship band play, "Mighty to Save" as well - the staff did NOT go to protest anything or anything of the like...) and was curious of not only their impression of SLC but also how a predominately LDS community took to a Christian pastor in jeans and a t-shirt speaking at the funeral followed by a very loud band playing, "Mighty to Save". The loudest song I've ever heard inside any LDS service - regardless of service - was "I believe in Christ" during a General Conference.
However, I'm noticing more and more that while I used to be a bubbly, outgoing person - I'm becoming more and more shy and withdrawn. It's painful for me now to engage with people I'm not comfortable with. Which is surprising for me since I used to be able to ask some of these people tons of questions but engaging them in conversation just isn't something I like. I'm fine to go and talk to people I don't know, but not to people I sort of do know. Make sense?
After we scouted the area for the best place to setup and begin handing out donuts, coffee, and flyers I randomly paired up with a father (Kenny) and his two teenage daughters. Kenny was surprisingly easy to talk to, but soon I found myself wishing I could just go off on my own. I felt like I was holding anyone who walked with me, back because I was in no way prepared for what I encountered on the streets. With the guys back at work, I've slowly gotten to know them and spend personal one on one time with them. I know their names, stories, needs, etc. But these people - I knew nothing about. And there were far more than just 6-10 of them like at work. So, while I attempted to create a more personal feel to my interactions with them, I realized afterwards I was thinking in a limited manner. Trying to become personal is great, but not when the goal is to hand out 600 or more flyers and food. While others were handing out their flyers left and right, I stood with the same people for five or more minutes at a time. I tried to draw from everything I had read, learned, or done myself in the past. Even at one point suggesting prayer with one woman who was concerned about her cat. I recalled stories from a Christian convert who said that it was the willingness and example of Christians who prayed with her that truly helped change her heart. Recall I am terrified in praying in front of others, so I did however, slide this off on the coordinator and Admin Pastor, Derek. I mean, he is a pastor so prayer should be his specialty right? ;)
After a few hours of this and interesting conversations and my usual clumsy self falling down in the middle of a street - we packed back up and headed back. I was exhausted but had signed up for the whole day so as to really experience this on such a large scale and of course, serve those whom God had laid on my heart. Derek and I had some good conversation about witnessing and I found myself in agreement with everything he said - I am so blessed that God lead us to this church with such amazing and spirit filled leaders.
We arrived at the hall where the Christmas meal was taking place and I was just overwhelmed by the line that had already formed a good hour or two before the meal even took place. When we went inside, I was assigned a task and began to volunteer in the stockings line. As I filled each bright red stocking with five toys each, my heart broke inside me. These little girls were receiving pens and markers in plastic bags, pink water bottles, or older McDonald's toys. Some were lucky that they got Play-Dough, a purse, or something else. But these toys were very rare and so very few stockings I stuffed contained these items. When they asked if anyone wanted to go help create the Toy Store for Wednesday night I immediately jumped on board. I didn't know if I could stay and watch poverty torn children walk in here and eat. I already felt so broken at this moment. I had already seen two children on the streets earlier that morning and didn't want to see more. As I drove to the Mission to help create this Toy Store, I called Steve and just cried. I was so humbled by what I had seen, I was so broken over their lack of things and over the lack of what I deemed appropriate donations to these children, and I was so grateful for everything my husband, children, and I had.
When I arrived at the toy store, I was so uplifted and overwhelmed with God's love. There were 2 stores - one for small items, and another for larger ones. Then within these stores were divides for girls, boys, toddlers/babies, and unisex toys (like games or art boxes). As I looked around at the donations for toys, I felt the Lord really uplift my heart. Working amidst these teenagers, Grace Point volunteers, and mission staff - I felt so blessed. We were cheerful as we organized toys, decorated and duct taped Christmas trees, and tied ribbons and bows around the room. However, by 2 pm my exhaustion from the week and that day finally caught up with me, and I was told to go home. Later, I found out Derek (who had been up and going much much longer than me as he had to help prepare and the transport 600 cups worth of coffee...) stayed until past 5 pm. I think I'm going to need an IV on wheels and just alternate Red Bull and Amp for my veins in the future...
But the weekend still wasn't over. After I crashed without even eating the lunch I was starving for, I woke up and had to go grocery shopping with two toddlers... Fun. :0) Then, came back and finished a Christmas craft present - which I had to wrap. Anyone who knows me I despise wrapping because it always looks bad. This wrapping came out okay though. :)
Went to bed late again. Really, how do people do this on a regular basis?
Steve's on the Crew at GP - he sets up every other series with the rest of the "B" team. So he has to be at GP by 6 am those Sundays. Which of course, was this past Sunday. Normally, serving on the crew has been an inspiration and blessing for Steve. Combined with our already busy weekend, not so much... And we both now serve First Service in GP Kidz which we are excited about! So we both had to be at church by 8:30... which with just one car is a bit hard to do. We ended up about 10 minutes late (see we're never prompt....) but on the way there we had a breakthrough idea for games (what Steve leads) and how to make it a group game vs a two person game. I went to my Nursery assignment and then together we went to Second Service. Which was awesome! I picked up two series - Wrecked and Antomyn - which I'm excited to listen to and then we headed out.
Still not done.
The Vine was last night as well. Steve and I signed up to serve in the first hour so we had to get there at least half an hour early - remember we're not prompt. They should have told us an hour so we would arrive on time... but they didn't know... ;) When we came home that day, we ate lunch and then everyone took naps - except Paul. Who broke out of his room and colored on his face with a blue highlighter. Thank goodness he didn't take it to the walls like he did two weeks ago. We woke up - it was 4:17 pm, and we were supposed to be there at 4:30. No time for fixing hair, changing outfits, or reapplying makeup - it was go time.
I love GP so I hesitate to say anything that could be perceived as bad - so I'm going to tread lightly here. The sanctuary (aka the cafeteria) was beautiful, GP Kidz was - I hear - great, and the ideas for Nursery were good. However, the execution I don't think went as planned. From what I understand, Nursery was going to get volunteers outside GP so that those who attend GP could attend the Vine. However, last minute this didn't work out and a mass email was sent asking for volunteers for hour shifts in Nursery. Not nearly as many people as needed actually volunteered. I was in Nursery with the Babies (0-2 yrs) and with nine screaming children, I thought we were overwhelmed (initially there were just two of us). Then later, towards the end of the night when Steve poked his head into the Toddlers area - he said it was utter choas. From my understanding and perception, GP people always show up and volunteer and serve unmatched by almost every group and church I've ever seen or experienced. So this seemed to be the rare exception.
I felt horrible for the volunteers in the Toddler room, ashamed that I asked for more help in the baby room, and more ashamed that Steve and I didn't stay the entire time to help out but left after our "shift" was over. The people who sacrificed their whole Vine experience are true servants, amazing, and I'm so grateful for them.
I don't know if it was the long weekend, or that Paul burnt his hand during the party, or what - but by time Steve and I were ready to go, we were separated and snapping at one another. We realized that we were both wrong, and quickly apologized to one another, but also realized we could put off cleaning the house, picking up toys, or wrapping presents for a night. We put the kids to bed and snuggled together in the light of the Survivor finale.
And this is just the start of things. This week I still have to figure out my Christmas tree (which I assembled almost a week ago..), wrap all the presents, clean the house since the in-laws will be here bright and early Saturday morning, and prepare for this weekend - where GP will have four services total. I am incredibly excited that my friend Pamela has expressed an interest in coming to our Christmas services. Pamela and I used to be super close best friends, but as life went on, we drifted apart. I'd love for her to come and meet my friends at GP, and see this part of my life that she hasn't really seen yet. It's a chance to share life together and I'm so excited.
I'll also be stepping into my new role as a worship leader during the first service for GP Kidz. I do expect it will be awkward at first, but music is a passion of mine, so I know being it'll pass soon.
I've also contacted the City Mission and plan on working with them outside of the scope set (so far) by Grace Point. I hated feeling so broken on Saturday, but loved the way the Lord has used that and shaped it inside me. Jesus told us that how we serve the broken, the homeless, the least - is how we've served Him directly.
My plate seems overly full - yet even though I'm tired just looking ahead - I am so excited to be actively engaged in forwarding the kingdom, in serving those who need it, and in being involved at GP. It does take some juggling, but it's very rewarding. Even in the aftermath of a house neglected for a weekend - I would do it all over again and not change a thing. This weekend was awesome and I can't wait for all things ahead.