November 19, 2016

Shelter for a King

The past few weeks I have had a couple experiences that have made me realize there are a lot of people in this world who need us.

For a long time I believed that I needed other people . . . to make me feel good about myself, to fix me when I was hurting, to tell me I was of worth so I could feel it inside. I thought life was about waiting around for angels.

For a long time I believed that I had been robbed: of life, of love, of family—of the past, of the future, of worth, of value. Only in those moments I never once realized . . . I had no idea what it was like to have nothing.

A few nights ago I heard a story about a woman who worked at a homeless shelter who noticed a new lady walking in the soup kitchen door with no shoes on. She ran into her office and searched high and low to find the shoeless woman a voucher so she could send her to a store to purchase some shoes. When she walked out to deliver it, she noticed that the woman's feet were now covered. Confused she looked around the room to find that one of the shelters usual dinner guests was now barefoot. She hurried over to the woman walking around with no shoes and questioned what had happened. The hungry, barefoot woman exclaimed, "Well . . . I noticed she didn't have any shoes, and I have two pairs." The very humbled shelter director walked into her office in tears wondering how on earth she had never seen things that way. In her closet at home sat twenty pairs of shoes, but she had never once taken them from off her feet to protect the naked feet of another. 

It is stories like this that motivate us to want to help someone else, but it is moments where we get to help that we gain a testimony of the impact we can have another person's life and the blessings it can bring to our own.

I have been battling impressions for a few weeks on how to share some stories that have changed my life. So today these impressions win. I am going to share some tender moments, not to bring attention to the people in them, but to help bring to light the others in the story who need you. 

Each week our family does some sort of activity together. Some days we watch a few motivational videos; others we play at the park.  Sometimes we read the scriptures and study a bible story, or attend a dance recital or basketball game.

The last few years we have been trying to incorporate situations where the kids can develop empathy and learn to serve someone else—babysitting for a friend; cleaning our church building; or making dinner for a family in need.

This month we decided to try something new. We signed our whole family up to serve dinner at a soup kitchen at a men’s shelter. Honestly, I originally called the shelter because I was looking for an eye opening moment for my children, wake them up to life outside of our bubble. Help them gain some appreciation for all that they had. Help them to be more accepting of each other, and the sacrifices that are made for them every single day.

I knew it was going to be an eye opening experience for our very sheltered children, but I didn’t realize the impact it was going to have on all of us.

We had talked about it for weeks, but once Sunday night came everything seemed to try to keep us from getting there. Determined to carry out our commitment, we loaded our family in the car and headed to the shelter.

We entered the building, unsure of what exactly we had signed up for. To get to the kitchen we had to walk down halls lined with men from all walks of life.  The kids kept their heads down and walked silently in a row. Once we got to the kitchen, we washed up and were given our assignments. The four big kids would be dishing up the food, and Shawn and I were assigned to help the two youngest serve the trays to all the men who had come for dinner.

The meal looked like Thanksgiving—including a giant tray of Jell-O. All of which had come in as donations. The kids each took a job and did their best to get their assigned food onto the tray. Sometimes they spilled gravy all over the rolls, sometimes the turkey fell in the Jello, but each time I went back for another tray they were laughing—grinning from ear to ear. Talking to the other volunteer that had come to serve that day. She was telling them stories of the men she had met there, and about all she had learned from serving them.

Every tray we delivered was greeted with a, “Wow. Thank you so very much.” One gentleman said to Tytus, “I have been coming here a while now . . . and every time I have had to stand in line for a long time to get this tray. What a treat to have a kind little boy serve me. Eating like a king today. ”

My heart stopped for a minute, as I stared into this humble man's eyes. A king? All Tytus had done was say hello and bring him a tray of food. I looked around the room. It was full of kings, grateful for a meal . . . but even more excited to see a smile. 

The workers said that it is rare to have more than two volunteers to help dish up the food every night, let alone be able to serve these men individually.

After the last man was served their food, Kaleeya and Tytus went around taking orders for drinks. We only had two options—water and tea—but the sparkle in their eyes as they pushed the button and filled those cups was that of pure love. 

Those cups were not the only ones being filled in that room. There were eight of us who went to the shelter that night, thinking we were going to fill up trays and cups for hungry men. I think we were the ones there to be filled. 

By the end of the night our kids didn’t want to leave. They asked if we could stay just a few more hours.
Up on the ceiling above us was a sign, “You can’t save a man by telling him of his sins. He knows them already. Tell him there is a pardon and love waiting for him . . . Make him understand you believe in him, and never give up.” Fanny J. Crosby

Sometimes it is easy to forget that we are all children of God. We almost get entitled—thinking maybe because of our faith we are loved just a little bit more. But if we really study the books that our faiths are built on, we will find that God loves the sinners, the hypocrites, and the imperfect—so all of us.

I always pictured that I would need to go over seas to feed the world and teach my children how to serve them, but turns out there are many who are poor—in body and in spirit—right in our own back yard. The simple act of seeing someone sitting alone at a table, and brining them food can help them feel remembered—like they are eating like a King.

On the way out I took a picture of another sign. It was small and taped on the wall in the back kitchen, “Go make the invisible God visible.”

My heart has been full thinking of that shelter these past few weeks. Remembering times in my life when I was the poor being helped.  Knocks at my own door with trays of food, arms to hold babies, and hearts to bring peace. 

I wish I could go back and spend a little more time in appreciation for all that was done for me. I wish I would have known that many of those hands holding my babies were probably hurting too. 

Sometimes God sends others to help save us—from pain, from fear, from starvation. And other times we get to share our love—and be saved in a different way. We don't have to have it all figured out to be able to help another. In both experiences I have felt closer to God, because it is Him who is blessing us with the light. 

Even the broken, can comfort the lonely. Even the imperfect can show perfect love. 

I am so grateful we live in a world that still has people who care—for every mouth and every heart is numbered in heaven.

We can #lighttheworld. It doesn’t cost anything to bring light to another, and we don’t have to give it up to share it. It multiplies inside the more we give it away.

This holiday season . . . let us remember the One. The one who washed the feet of those who served Him, and let them do the same for Him.

We are all in this together—children of God.

I have the goal to travel around this country sharing hope . . . with victims, with the broken, with the hurting. I always thought that maybe words were my only mission to do that. And then I saw there are some people who don't even have food to eat and shoes on their feet. So these communities that I visit. I want to do more than tell stories and share hope . . . I want to give it. 

Every single person you meet has a story. For some, life has failed them . . . others have failed at life. But we are all God's children and it is up to us to help them find Him. It is amazing to see that in those moments . . . so do we.

These experiences have made me ask some questions to myself. How many pairs of shoes do you have? How many meals do you take for granted? How many times do you withhold a smile, to someone looking for a sign their life is worth living?

I know individually we can't save the world—that is like thinking we can fill the ocean all on our own—but we can put in our two drops to try. We can make a difference. I need your help. Get out in your community. Send money to organizations who are seeking to save. It is our job alone to share our light with everyone we meet. 

Someday we will all stand before God. He won't be proud of how many shoes we collected at the end of our life . . . but how many we took off of our feet to give to one of His children.

Be the light. This holiday season, and forever. 

December 2016:
I am going to be teaming up with some local organizations and for their #lighttheworld campaign. Please join us. If you have any way you can help, us or others, just find a way to bring light the world. No matter your religion, your skin color, your socioeconomic status, your faith—or lack of faithyou can make a difference. 

We are going to be collecting donations for the local shelters and families in need and having a little Christmas devotional. Please stop by and come say hello. I will announce the location next week along with all the details. If you know of a family who could use anything specific please contact me directly so I can get that organized. If your family wants to sponsor a family or if you want to make a donation and will not be able to come meet up with us please feel free to contact me. 

Thank you all in advance. We have all been blessed with so much. As we clean out our closets this week, and make purchases through the next month for strangers in need I know we will have angels assist us to direct us where to go, who to feed, and what feet to cover. Those shoes taking up dust in your closets . . . could change someone's life. 

Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you. 


Aubrey said...

Thank you so much Ashlee for this beautiful reminder of what is most important this Thanksgiving and Christmas season!!!🎄❤️ I get so caught up focusing on what gifts need to be purchased....The greatest gifts I could give my kids is the opportunity to focus on others and feel Christlike love. I needed this reminder. Thank You!!!

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