Reading and Hope

There’s a little girl who comes to Thursday Night Lights who has captured my heart. 

We’ve talked about Joan before (I’ve changed her name) but seeing her this week gave me an idea…

She’s out of school for the summer, so I know Joan spends most of her time alone. 

Several weeks ago, I was given some books by a friend who moved back to Shreveport, Louisiana. Many of them were young adult fiction books. 

I asked Joan if she likes to read and she does! Next Thursday I’m bringing her a few books. 

Joan’s 11, which is around the time my own love of reading took off. I bet Joan will have the same experience. 

No matter how bleak the circumstances, the settings of a good book draw you in.

 I’m not recommending reading as a method of escapism, but more as a method of seeing that there’s a world beyond your circumstances. 

Imagination is a powerful force. 

My hope for Joan is that she doesn’t look at her circumstances and think, “This is it.”

Obviously, a relationship with Jesus is what Joan really needs. And I plan on talking with her more about that. 

I just remember how much reading impacted my life as a child. 

If you live in the Tulsa area and have some books you’d like to see go to a good cause, I have some friends who would greatly appreciate your generosity. 

A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.

Memorial Day 2016

This Memorial Day was awesome.

Here are the highlights:

  • Slept in
  • Hung out with 2 of my friends at the mall and their house 
  • Ate Chick-fil-A
  • Had my first visitor over at my new place
  • Watched a movie 
  • Ate pizza 
  • Laughed a lot
  • Finished a book

The day was quite restful. 

I’m so thankful for servicemen–the fallen heroes, the veterans, and those who are active duty–because the life I enjoy wouldn’t be possible without their sacrifices. 

Did I mention my sister Sofia turned 12?

Wow…

I’m thankful for Sofia’s sweet spirit and for how she so willingly embraced me as her big sister 5 years ago. 

Her friendship and love mean a lot to me. 

She even laughs at my jokes sometimes! (Wink, wink)

Happy Birthday, Sof! 

Saturday Birthday Fun

It’s been an awesome day!

I was invited to a birthday party, so I’ve spent the day surrounded by kids. 

My friend Evie (Nina’s daughter) turned 6. 

Sophia (Evie’s older sister) and I filled up water balloons and then we helped Evie with her birthday presents. 

Now all the kids are playing while the grown ups talk (and grill hot dogs).

It feels good to spend the day outside and with friends. 

Office antics rock

Office antics crack me up. 

My coworker left a note on my apple–the one that’s been sitting on my desk for the past week–and it caused me to belly laugh.

I was simply shocked to see my normally stoic coworker do something so silly. Of course, you’re talking to the girl who: 

  • Recorded her coworker trying a nori (seaweed) chip for the first time
  • Shot the same coworker with a Nerf gun daily
  • Hid behind doors and scared the same coworker
  • Included a joke in almost every email that I sent out

If I had to be super serious all the time…I’m just not sure that’s sustainable for me. 

I guess it’s good that every boss I’ve ever had thinks I’m kinda funny. In fact, many of them looked to me to be the resident funny person.

Humor is the key to job satisfaction. 

Forget all that stuff about having a good work ethic and all the right college degrees. None of that matters.

Okay, okay it matters a little bit. Though, having halfway decent people skills and a sense of humor are the true keys to success.

At least, it’s always worked for me…

Maybe I shouldn’t say it’s the law just because it’s working for me. (I’m not one of those annoying bloggers that claim to have all the answers.) 

 

Finding the Way

Sometimes you just have to drive around until you find what you’re looking for. 

I set out to eat lunch with my homeless friends downtown but I didn’t quite find their lunch spot on time. 

But what I did find was every homeless shelter in town. 

I almost just hung out with them there–if it wasn’t for the fact I told Debbie and Paul I was coming to help. 

It was kind of cool, though, to get my bearings in downtown Tulsa. Getting turned around has its advantages, I guess. 

This is how most of my homeless friends ended up on the streets. They just got turned around, but couldn’t get their bearings. 

All they need is a guide, a friend with a GPS who can help them figure out how to get out of the mess they’re in. 

Jesus said, “I am the way.”

He asks His followers to point others in the right direction. 

The Journey of Transformation

 

Check out these pictures: 

netherlands and belgium

PARAISÓPOLIS

The picture on the left shows the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. The picture on the right shows the divide between a rich neighborhood and a poor neighborhood in Brazil. 

Not much of a difference is there?

It got me to thinking about how fast the transformation happens in our Christian lives. The moment someone decides to follow Jesus, the change is instant:  

  • Orphan to son or daughter
  • Darkness to light
  • Unrighteous to Righteous
  • Hell to Heaven

The change is instant, but walking it out takes time. This is the reason so many of us stay stuck in a rut. 

How do I go from living in the  Netherlands to living in Belgium?

How do I go from living in the slums to living in the richest side of town?

Talk about information overload! 

The answer to me is quite clear: One step at a time.

Most of us didn’t hear about Jesus one minute and decide to follow Him the next. We made a decision after a lot of talking to our Christian friends and reading the Bible to see if there was any truth to our friends claims. 

Here’s a pet peeve of mine:

Don’t walk your friends and family through the whole process of coming to know Jesus and then ditch them on the side of the road saying, “Well, have fun figuring out this new life!” 

When I think of discipleship now, I think of going for the longest hike of my life. Sure, I can go by myself, but having a buddy will make it so much easier to navigate and so much more enjoyable as well.

The reason community is essential to the Christian life is because renewing our minds to catch up with the radical change that took place in our spirits cannot be done alone. 

 

 

Closer to the Light

How many times have we talked about how Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted? 

Probably enough times that you’re sick of hearing about it….

But it’s true. One of Jesus’ primary purposes in coming to earth was to mend broken hearts. 

I bet you and I could each fill a notebook with the names of friends and families who fall into the brokenhearted category.

In my dream the other night a young homeless girl just needed to be comforted. The weight of the world was crushing her and she found herself all alone. 

Do you know where she was?

At the school library! (See, libraries and librarians are awesome!) 

The librarian knew something was off with the girl and reached out to her. When she did, the girl started to sob. The messy, uncontrollable kind of sobbing that comes from knowing you’re finally safe, someone will help you.

And that’s all the librarian said as she wiped away the girl’s tears: “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now.”

How many times a day do I pass up an opportunity to comfort someone?

If Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, that means it’s my job to help the brokenhearted. 

This is where following Jesus gets real…

It’s also why the Lord gave me this dream. He only shows me stuff that paints a clear picture of where I’m headed in life. 

Friend, my heart is changing.

I think I finally understand why Jesus said lights aren’t meant to be hidden. 

Following Jesus will always take you straight into the darkest places, places where most people are afraid to go.

You will find the brokenhearted, the poor, the sick, and the oppressed in these dark places. 

Picture a light in the distance getting closer and closer to where you are. Bringing hope and light to the darkness is why Jesus came in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Shifting my perspective

I can’t imagine receiving manna from heaven and complaining.

Lord, we’ve been eating manna FOREVER! Can we have some lunch meat, please? And send down a jar of mayo while you’re at it…this bread is so dry! 

Okay, so I’m paraphrasing the children of Israel, but you see the point. 

My thoughts go to impoverished countries where they literally eat the same thing every day and are thankful. Variety is not important to them; having food at all, no matter if it is the same thing, is what’s important.

A little bit of perspective goes a long way in our consumerist society.

Last night I ate a dinner that was entirely provided–minus the butter and onions–by friends who blessed me with fresh eggs, cheese, bread, and herbs.

Wow. Talk about being spoiled…

Each bite was a sweet reminder that God’s given me some great friends and friends who are generous at that.

It also reminded me of our brothers and sisters around the world who don’t have access to food as readily as I do. Some of those brothers and sisters live in my backyard.

They are the chronically homeless.

They are the families who live paycheck to paycheck.

They are recovering drug addicts.

They are down on their luck war veterans.

They are the disabled who just need some help.

I am hanging out with my neighbors each Thursday and my perspective changes as I see what true struggle looks like.

My friend, you and I are blessed.

And it’s not about having all the coolest toys or the latest and greatest clothes. It’s not even about making the most money. 

My perspective on what it means to be blessed is changing.

 

 

Loving the Cantankerous

One of the lady’s at the nursing home was being feisty today. 

Who’s the boss lady?!? 

What’s a woman gotta do to eat around here? 

She came walking through the cafeteria and wanted to address the group. 

One of our more outgoing chapel goers tried to get her to quiet down and join us. Her loud reply was:

Listen here, lady, I own this place!

At this point, I stifled my urge to laugh and stepped into the situation. 

All I did was walk over to my new friend, stretch out my hand, and ask her to take a walk with me. 

We strolled to the nurses station where my friend was given a banana to snack on until dinner time.

 She walked happily back towards her room, greeting (very loudly) everyone she met. 

Obviously my boisterous new friend has a touch of dementia, but what I saw the most was her loneliness and desire to be understood. 

She smiled at me the whole time we were walking and she did not want to let go of my hand. 

Most of my friends at the nursing home never have visitors, yet they ask for prayer for their family members. 

Whenever I get an opportunity to pray with my friends, I make it a point to ask the Father to show them how much He loves them that week. I ask Him to whisper in their ear, “You’re never alone.”

I am glad my friend interrupted chapel today. 

It was a good reminder to me that my job is to help others–no matter how cantankerous they’re acting.