Sunday, October 15, 2017

Goodness, Mercy and Coming Home

Life is like a puzzle - each piece fitting together perfectly to form a beautiful picture. And when we trust God with our journey through life, He fits each piece of the puzzle together to form something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.
The problem, though, is that each piece of the puzzle in itself does not make sense. Some pieces are blank - just a solid color (representing seasons of emptiness and loneliness - wondering where God is); some pieces are full of beautiful colors (representing seasons of experiencing the blessing of God, joy, and fruitfulness); some pieces are ugly (representing seasons of chaos, questioning, and confusion). But each piece is necessary, though, to make the puzzle complete.
And when it comes to the puzzle of life, we need to have faith that the God who created us will sustain us. He is good, all the time, and His mercy is with us continually - helping us and guiding us through each stage. Even when it's confusing, He can be trusted. 
Today, I'd like to share with you some of the puzzle pieces in my life's journey. Trust me, it has definitely been a faith walk. Hang with me.
For the first 15 years of my adult life, I was a stay-at-home mom. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of loving, caring for, and teaching my 5 children (4 sons and a daughter). Then, 24 years ago, my world crumbled and I found myself as a single mama needing to provide for children ranging in age from 15 years old to a baby girl. I needed a job. 
I knew that I would enjoy retail, so I went to work for Foley's (later to become Macy's) in Arlington, TX. I worked there for 3 years.
This was my first job outside of the home, and I worked for minimum wage. The days were long and exhausting, but I enjoyed it. This is where I learned how to provide exceptional customer service. And even though my heart longed to be home with my children, God helped me. His goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
One day a customer recognized my heart and compassion for people. (God gave her insight into my soul that day, and I believe He sent her into the store to encourage me in my next career steps.) She suggested that I go to nursing school. My heart leapt as that had been a heart desire from childhood. I knew that with 5 children at home, though, going to school for 4 years was impossible. But becoming a medical assistant was not.
So I enrolled in Bryan Institute as a full time student to make the dream come true and continued working at Foley's part time.
I truly loved going to school. And I knew that God could not only use my heart in the medical field, but working a job in the medical field would help provide a better income to take care of my family. I was 38 years old with 5 children at home, and I was in class with 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I asked God to help me graduate as valedictorian, and He honored that request. What a miracle! Between being a mom, working, going to school, and studying, I slept about 2-3 hours a night. But God helped me, and His goodness and mercy sustained me.
This is a picture of what my children looked like when I graduated.

Danny-18; Jason-15; David-12; Chris-6; Heidi-3. Adorable, right?

After graduating, I worked in a family practice clinic with both front and back office responsibilities as well as working part time in an ob/gyn office. During that time, I also learned medical transcription as I thought doing so would help provide additional income working from home. I worked in both clinics for 2 years. Although I loved working in the medical field, I still longed to be with my children, especially my 2 youngest.
So, I birthed a lower elementary school under the umbrella of Gateway Institute, an advanced school of grades 7-12. (It seems that I've been a dreamer and a visionary for quite some time!)

Here, I taught reading, writing and basic skills to children in grades K-3. I had a heart for children and had also desired to be a teacher since childhood. (Yes, I wanted to be both a nurse AND a teacher!)
I was privileged to spend the next 3 years with these babies (especially my 2 youngest children, Chris and Heidi). While teaching at Gateway, I continued doing medical transcription from home every night. (And yes, I still slept only about 2-3 hours a night.) And even though it was hard, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. God's goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
And then the biggest surprise of my life happened.
In August, 2000, I was given the opportunity to work at the Assemblies of God National Offices in an administrative role in the National Youth Department. What an incredible dream come true, even though it was completely unexpected.
So, we packed up and left everything we had ever known as a family to follow after God's plan for us and moved from Dallas, TX to Springfield, MO.
Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC), Springfield, MO
While I had never served in an administrative capacity up to that point, God gave me an incredible supervisor who believed in me and allowed me to learn and grow - professionally, personally and spiritually. I spent 17 years working in 3 different offices. Those years were amazing. I met and served people from all over the world, and my time there was wonderful.
And, because I still needed to provide for the needs of my children, I worked part time at Macy's for 12 years after moving to Springfield.
Once again, even though the days were long and it was hard, God's goodness and mercy helped me.
And then we arrive at my journey of the past 4 months - leaving the safety and security of life as I had known it working in Springfield and moving to Chicago to be near my children and grandchildren - and then the move back to Springfield just a few short weeks later. It all seemed so crazy and confusing, but I was happy to be home. And many of you have asked what I am doing now.
I am happy to tell you that I began working for Mercy Hospital back in August.
What an incredible blessing and gift from God! God has placed me in a clinic where my compassion for people is used fully every day.  
It seems that God has taken me on a 24-year journey and has brought me full-circle. God has taken everything I've learned - customer service skills from working retail at Macy's, medical assisting skills learned from the degree earned as well as working in clinics, teaching skills learned while working at Gateway Institute, and administrative skills learned while working at the Assemblies of God National Offices - and has married those skills with my personality and heart for people into a job, a ministry, for me in this season of life. And to top it off, I've always tried to extend mercy to everyone I meet, and now I'm working for MERCY. How cool is that?
And to top it off, last weekend I shared my vision for Hearts and Pearls Ministries as I entered the contest with Chip Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper." Goodness, Mercy, and Coming Home! 
While I was not selected as a finalist in the competition, I am not discouraged at all. I did the hard part of gathering up my courage, doing the video, writing it down and getting it out there for the world to see. Someone (or "someone's") will catch the vision and potential of this ministry and will latch on to it. I believe that God will provide for the birthing of this dream to become a reality. Many hearts across our world need to be mended, families healed, physical needs met, and freedom and dignity restored. I am the dreamer, the voice of the wounded - God will get the glory. God wants to show his goodness and mercy to all hurting families, especially single mamas and their children - and He wants to turn hearts toward home.
In the same way that God has healed me and my family and has done mighty miracles for us, He can do the same for multiplied hundreds of other families. I would love for you to join me in praying for, investing in, and reaching those hurting families.
In spite of all the questions that were going on in me for the past several months/years, I believe that each experience has been a piece of the puzzle for my life - for a beautiful life full of grace, hope, goodness and mercy. And even though life has zigged and zagged, has been messy and hasn't looked very beautiful, when God fits all the pieces together it looks something like this:
God's plans are to prosper us and not harm us - he wants to give us a hope and a future; to show us His love now until we are home with Him in Heaven.
And so, friends, thank you for letting me share some of the pieces of the puzzle of my life with you today. Whether we are young or old, it's encouraging to know that God truly is fitting every experience - every puzzle piece, no matter how confusing - together to make a beautiful life. I'm so thankful that in each season, God's Goodness and Mercy follows us all the days of our life until He takes us Home. If you also are in a season of confusion, wondering how all the pieces of your life are going to fit together and make sense, just hold on and trust that God who knows you best and loves you most is at work behind the scenes desiring to give you a prosperous life. He is the Master Puzzle Solver.
Thank you for your love, prayers, support and encouragement; your friendship means the world to me. And thank you for continuing to pray for Hearts and Pearls Ministries. The best is yet to come!
With a heart of love and gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

Hearts and Pearls Ministries - Serving families with hope and love.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hearts and Pearls

Hello, my dear friends. I am alive and well!
Usually when I am quiet, it means things are not going well and I've gone into hibernation as I process through whatever is going on. That is not the case, though, this time. I have been adjusting to a new job while also quietly working on a project that I'd like to tell you about today. (I promise, within the next week or so I'll update you on the events of the past several weeks. It's all good.)
Today, I entered a contest. A contest that could potentially launch my dream - my vision to help single mamas in a way that is greater than anything I could ever possibly do on my own.
Chip Gaines of Fixer Upper is sponsoring a contest where he is asking for people to share their dreams - however big or small. Video submissions as well as written plans about the dreams are to be submitted for Chip's review. He will pick the semifinalists this Tuesday, October 10, and will fly them to Waco, TX next weekend where he will choose two winners. He will make a one-time investment in the dreams of the two finalists. Just as people believed in him in his early years of goals and dreams, Chip is now passionate about believing in and investing in the dreams of others.
So today I took another bold leap of faith, completely left my comfort zone, and submitted my dream. I want to launch Hearts and Pearls Ministries - Serving families with hope and love. My prayer is that we will turn our hearts to hurting families and serve them in tangible ways by meeting their physical needs, and watch as beautiful pearls are formed as God heals the pain of broken hearts and lives.
I have hinted about this throughout my blog posts, but today I am making my vision public. Hearts and Pearls Ministries will be the parent foundation for other branches of ministry to be formed and grow. My heartbeat for this entire vision is to help single mamas and their children, especially those who are fleeing abusive relationships.
Pearls from a Mom's Heart is the blog segment of Hearts and Pearls - a place where faith stories, both past and present, can be shared to help inspire faith in God as well as encourage hurting hearts.
Hearts and Pearls Homes will help provide homes for single mamas. This has been a burning desire of mine now for many years. Initially, I'd like to provide a home for a single mama who has limited means of paying a mortgage or rent. I dream of purchasing and/or building homes scattered throughout cities across America that have been funded through Hearts and Pearls Ministries. I plan to partner with local churches, individuals and businesses in fundraising efforts, and Hearts and Pearls will have no boundaries. The long range goal is to build small communities of affordable, energy-efficient homes where single mamas will feel safe and can live lives of freedom and dignity.
While my heart is very tender toward single mamas, I also recognize the tremendous blessing we have with older individuals who may be lonely - grandparents and empty-nesters. I'd like to partner young single mamas and their children with older families who can help love and mentor these young families. The wisdom gained from experience (pearls) can be an invaluable source of healing to the hearts of families who are hurting and broken. God puts the lonely in families - what a beautiful picture this could be of pairing two generations together in communities where individual families as well as shared space could be developed. Community gardens could be planned as well as ultimately developing retail space (such as a restaurant or day care) that would provide family bonding as well as income.   
Hearts and Pearls Meals will help provide food to families, especially those who are most desperate.
Hearts and Pearls Counseling will help provide Bible-based counseling to help bring health and freedom to those suffering from the trauma of broken and abusive relationships.
And with all of these plans, the most important focus of Hearts and Pearls Ministries is to understand and recognize that relationship with Jesus is the foundation of everything we will do. God is the Healer of broken hearts and lives, and He is the Restorer of families. While my intention is to help serve physical needs, the true miracle is a life saved and changed by God.
Why is my burden so great, and why is my vision so expansive? Because I am the recipient of this kind of love and ministry. 
24 years ago as a single mama with 5 children ranging in ages from 15 yrs to a young infant, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to make it in any way - physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I was a mess, and it was all so overwhelming. I didn't know where to start except to simply trust that Jesus was in control. I will get into the details of my story in the coming weeks, but for now I just want to say that God did a miracle! He healed me; he healed my children. We are a walking testimony of His grace and His healing power.
But God also used people who reached out in love to help us. No matter how much I worked, especially in those early years, there was never enough money to cover all of our household expenses. But God always came through with miraculous provision! Over and over, year after year, need after need, families in my church reached out and helped us in tangible ways. They helped pay the mortgage; they remodeled our home in desperate need of repair; they brought us food; they invited us over for meals and fun; they helped provide clothing for children who outgrew their clothes continually; they listened, prayed, laughed, cried, comforted, and counseled us as often as was needed. This went on for years - until we could stand on our own. And although I could never repay these families for everything they did for us, I did make them a promise. I promised that I would help other single mamas in the same way that they helped me.
And so, it's my turn. You can view the link below to see my video submission to Chip Gaines. Please pray that God will use whatever means He chooses to launch Hearts and Pearls Ministries. May history be rewritten and the lives of multiplied hundreds of families be eternally changed forever - for generations to come.
Thank you once again for your love, support and encouragement. I don't know where my life would be without friends like you. You are my heart!
With a heart full of love and gratitude,

May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.