Celebratory beans

…these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer…” Isaiah 56:7

She was rather quiet. She had come with her older sister, mother and father.  Her sister had visited us multiple times before with her Girl Scout troop.  I quickly greeted them and encouraged the eldest to go ahead and teach her family how to build a basket. I knew she had built them well in the past, and was confident she would do a great job in instructing them.

IMG_8013The rule goes that before candy is placed in a basket, I take a quick look to make sure nothing more is needed.  That way, the candy does not fall to the bottom when, and if, adjustments are made.  And that is when I met her.  She promptly, and rather quickly, appeared with a basket ready to be checked.  Quiet and hesitant she waited for my approval.  I checked a few things and off she went to get the candy.

IMG_8007Hardly saying a word, another basket appeared. Then another. She had gotten the hang of it and was eagerly building at a pace that was quick and steady. Each time I snapped a photo of her finished basket, she would quietly take it back into her hands and smile a little smile. Because she was so quiet, I wasn’t 100% sure how she felt about building. Most kids love to tell me all their thinking that went into the basket’s creation, but this young lady did not. And that was more than okay as each personality is its own.

IMG_7993It was later in the session when I saw the mom and two daughters with their baskets lined up by each other’s.  They were putting their candy in them and admiring each other’s work. All of sudden I saw it. The magic and delight that normally bubbles out of a soul building a basket.

You see, we have the great wall of candy in our basement. It is an awe inspiring thing to see in person, not that the pictures aren’t cool! And though, it is this immense amount of chocolate, sweet and savory bits of delight, it is not for the builders tIMG_7799o eat. In fact, we have a sign made up telling them why it is not okay to eat the candy that is donated. And most don’t. But we know how hard it is to work alongside a bunch of candy and never eat any so we place little bowls of jelly beans on our tables that the builders can munch on.

It was there that I saw a spoon rise in the air in a grand, waving-like gesture and heard her words right out happily, “A celebratory bean for finishing!” She gracefully offered one to her mom and sister with a slight giggle and a bright-eyed smile on her face. They each partook of her offer with more laughter and smiles.

I, too, had to chuckle. Utter delight and brilliant satisfaction at a job well done. Excitement and a beautiful desire to share with those we love all wrapped up in the pleasure of a simple jelly bean. The topping to a wonderful evening that had clearly filled her heart with overflowing joy!

Celebratory beans, indeed!

…for My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7




Reaching back


This picture.

A trunk full of food and help.

I remember when she registered her family in the summer of 2015. When registering, we ask them one tough question:  Are you experiencing or anticipate experiencing food shortages this summer?  A question I hate to ask, but have to.

You see, it has taken me 10 plus years to grow comfortable (and I still feel hesitant at times) to share that FBF relies solely on prayers and God answering them.  The concept often results in a look of befuddlement on the face of the person listening as if it is entirely crazy!   Imagine the looks on the faces of business leaders and financial planners!!

By nature, I am a planner and an organizer.  In law school, my favorite class was Taxation!  I loved the structure and the challenge of working through its maze.  Those tendencies towards structure and assurance still reside deeply in me.  So, it was difficult, at first, to not have “funding” mapped out in advance for our outreaches.

But almost from the beginning, God has led us to being different from what is out there. Different in structure; different in goals.  If we were to be about growing faith, then we had to work on facing what was inhibiting our own growth.  Could we really see God’s amazing movement if our hands and plans were so busy trying to make the world move the way we wanted?  God’s nudge and direction was to rely on Him for providing what we need, what they need.  Each outreach, to this day, stretches our faith to trust God with what our hands can’t necessarily provide…

I hate asking the question because it feels intrusive.  Yet, over the years and with experience, the question is absolute necessary.  And for two very good reasons.  First, our goal isn’t to just hand out food, but to hand it out where there is a desperate need.  We have to screen because there are often different levels of need.

Second, we want to protect, as best as we can, what goes out by making sure that the need is as real as we can verify.  Part of this stems from the fact that we know that God moves the hearts of every day people, both struggling and not struggling, to come alongside us and help others.  There is no Wal-mart or Target pulling up to our doors with pallets of food.  There are no letters being mailed out asking for donations.  No grant applications being filled out with hopes that taxpayers dollars will come from the State or Federal government to bring our outreaches to life.  Instead, we trust, pray and wait.

Over the years, we’ve watched God build an incredible network, a body of Christ, with many parts working together with what they have and what they are able to give. Sometimes it is a couple of cans; other times, it is a couple of bags of food.  No matter to us, as we have learned to wait and watch as God builds the piles.  Every contribution is one of value whatever the size.

I remember her words as she responded to my question.  “I wish I didn’t have to register.  I am already struggling the last week of the month.” Her voice trailed off as if she was in the grocery store.  “I couldn’t buy milk and bread at the end of last month…and I know people stand there in line and think why I am buying that large jug of juice instead of something healthier.  But when you have only a few dollars left, you have to figure out what goes further to feed everyone…it is not about healthy versus unhealthy.  It is about what will last longer to feed my kids.”

She went on to explain that her husband was disabled and that she was working, trying her best to make ends meet.  I could hear the frustration in her voice as she spoke of wanting things to be different but not finding a way out of where they were.  I reassured her that her family was exactly who we were looking to help.

The summer went well except one delivery her husband didn’t show.  We drove the bags over and dropped them off on the front porch, and she called to thank us.

This summer, last week, the same thing happened.   I remember standing at the place where we deliver and being worried.  I asked the volunteer who was riding with me to remind me to text her when I got to the next delivery, but when we arrived several of the families were already there.  We got swept away in passing out bags, discussions, prayer requests, and hurrying to the next spot.

Once back home, there were additional meetings and an event that evening.  I sat down much later and thought it was probably too late to contact her.  I said a quick prayer asking God to nudge her heart if she needed the groceries.  Early the next morning, a text appeared on my phone.  It was her…

Hi Michelle  it’s ____________.  I’m sure the answer is no…”

The message went on to share that her husband had had a really bad day and she was wondering if the lunch stuff was still available.  I could sense her frustration with the situation in her text.  My heart broke for her.  It is so hard to humble oneself, especially when someone else puts you in the position to have to ask another for help.

I texted back telling her that I did have the bags.  I had had to get rid of the perishables (we passed them along to the other families), but offered to meet with the remaining bags.  She was so happy.  We set up a time and a place, and that I would be meeting her husband.

From her came these words:

Ok thank you so much!  You have no idea how much this helps us, we’ve been very strapped for money and I was so upset we missed yesterday.”

They have one car, and he takes her back and forth to work.  A mom trying her hardest to make her world a better place.  A dad who is struggling with his own health issues.  All sorts of things wrapped up in this situation.

So I texted:

I had a feeling and thought I should text you but became very busy at the deliveries and other meetings throughout the day.  I am glad you texted.  I’ll add in another set of bags from someone else who missed again.  Hopefully, the bags will be a blessing! Thanks for reaching out!”

She promptly texted me back:

Dear God yes they will be and so are you!  And thank you for reaching back I can’t even express my appreciation!”

Her words “reaching back” stuck out in my mind.  We often have to be tough because there is a fine line in some situations between enabling and helping.  Sometimes it is really hard to tell if there is even such a concern.  Other times, it is more clear. Usually when someone misses, we leave it on them to reach out to us.  And, yes, if they miss twice without contacting us, we do the tough thing and remove them from the program.  Our goal is to provide food when it is lacking and, if it is truly lacking, they are usually there on the distribution day or call quickly to reschedule.

But this situation felt slightly different.  This mom has communicated clearly that they were desperate for food, but she works on our distribution days.  Her ability to pick up is reliant on her husband, who has struggled with being there at times.  I could clearly hear her voice in her text, and I wanted her to know it was okay to reach out again.  To reach forward even though we hadn’t reached back.

So I took a picture after loading the car.  The one above…

I thought it might provide her some relief to actually see what was coming home for her family.  I wanted her to have an idea as to what we were bringing, instead of spending the day at work wondering.

I hit send…

And headed to the car.


You’re the best!  I’m in tears, this helps so much!  Thank you so much again!!”

Arriving in the parking lot, I saw his car.  What a tough spot to be in.  Clearly unsure of what I thought, he got out with his shoulders downward as he looked at the pavement.  I opened the trunk and began handing him the items with a smile.  I asked how he was doing–that I had heard he had had a bad day.  A bit surprised, he began to share a little about his back injury.

As I handed him more, explaining that we had been blessed with lots of goodies, I mentioned that I had hoped the bags helped.  That I was glad his wife had contacted us. Not to my surprise, he shared that his wife had been so upset and was sure that there was no use calling.  She had been beside herself all evening.

I told her to just call.  That they seem like really nice people.  What can it hurt to ask?  Maybe they can still help.”

I looked at him and reassured him that he had given the right advice.  As we finished, I told him that we would be praying for his back and that things–somehow and someway–get better.  I shared that those answers are often not as quick as we would like but we would hold them in prayer until something changed.

A broken soul, a difficult situation.  And as he opened his door, he said,

God bless you guys.  God bless what you are doing.  It really helps.”

At 4:12pm, a text arrived on my phone from her:

I just wanted to tell you the kids were so excited they had to show me all the stuff when I got home!”

A big smiley face punctuated the end.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to ponder whether God used that father’s bad day to bring them what they truly needed?  We would have given them their normal set of bags had he made it.  Because their delivery happened after all of the rest, we had extra.  And it was very clear they needed help.  Remember the kids were absolutely thrilled such that they made their mom look at everything as soon as she got home…a very real need, indeed.

Thanks be to God for a gentle reminder for how much what He designs is needed, and thank You God for growing my faith yet again in allowing us to see and be apart of Your work in this world.   While structure is absolutely necessary, so is kindness, flexibility, grace and trust in Him and His ability to provide!

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  1 Peter 4:8-10







Why we make Easter baskets…

January 2013 016

As I began to move stuff around in the basement prepping for 2014 Easter Basket Collection, I thought I’d share why we are smitten with this project.  Many wonder what drives us to make Easter baskets…and that, my friends, takes us back to the beginning.

It was late February of 2005 and we were contemplating what our next service project would be.  FBF was founded on the idea of believers coming together from all denominations to discuss and study His Word, to fellowship, and to put their faith into action by helping others.  Our first outreach had really surprised us, and we were eager to reach out and help again.

As we thought and prayed, the next holiday popped into our mind–Easter.  Ah, yes, we wanted to do something to honor Christ with our hands, feet and hearts because Easter is what believing is truly all about!

Looking around our homes, we realized that each of us had extra Easter baskets in our basements.  We began to wonder if maybe there was a need for Easter baskets for families struggling financially.  Realizing that there had to be other moms like us out there who would love to send their child’s extra stuffed animals, toys and books off to another, we contacted South Lyon’s local food pantry, Active Faith, to ask about making baskets for those in need in our community.

As I spoke to the director at that time, Carol, I asked if anyone–churches or businesses–helped their clients with Easter baskets at Easter time.  It turned out that no one had ever thought to, but she was sure they would be thrilled to have the help.  I asked her to look over their files and see how many kids they might serve.  A few days she called me back.  “Michelle, you are not going to believe this, but we could see potentially 400 children this Easter!”

Well, honestly, that was a tad bit overwhelming!  Our little group had imagined 35-40 baskets (and thought that would be a lot!), but 400…the first words out of my mouth were “Carol, I can’t promise anything…” followed by a bit of a pause…”but we can pray and you can pray, and we will see what God does.”  From there, we began to pray harder.  And thinking of the potential number,  we realized we might need some help.  So we put a little blurp in the community calendar section of the Herald and shared information about what we were doing with other organizations and churches.

St. Joe's March 11th 2013 042Sure enough, come distribution day, we had more than enough to cover their needs.  The excess is what led us out of South Lyon…needing to find homes for what wasn’t needed locally.  And while all those answers to our prayers were invigorating and exciting, it is not what drives us today.

It was an answer to a prayer that still humbles us…

And so, as we stood in the food pantry that evening passing out Easter baskets, there was a lull.  It was close to closing time, and a young mom, with two small children in tow, came through the doors.  To help you see a visual, the food pantry was laid out like a course where a volunteer helped the recipient pick out their food choices.  At the end, after they had shopped, stood our Easter baskets.  We were blessed to be asked to help give them out.  From where we stood, we could see the whole process.

There she stood, at the beginning, with her eyes transfixed on the baskets.  The volunteer could barely keep her attention.  Because it was a small place, we could see and hear the whole process.  Her two children had been shuffled off to a reading room not too far away, and eventually, she arrived at our first volunteer who had been instructed to ask her if she needed baskets and for what ages and gender.  As she gave the information, she interrupted with the question, “Who has done this?”  Because it was and is a community effort, our volunteer was instructed to say just that…not identifying FBF or any one group.

That wasn’t a sufficient answer for her and she became determined to know who had done this.  Beleaguered, the volunteer finally sent her to me as I stood at the end of the baskets.  I politely and kindly explained again that it was a community-wide effort and was there something I could help her with?  She shared that she really wanted to express her gratitude in a thank you card and needed that information.  I directed her to send it to Active Faith and that they would pass it along.  While this seemed to satisfy her, she asked me and the volunteer next to me if we could watch her cart of food while she hid the baskets in the trunk of her car so that her kids would not see them.  We smiled broadly and answered, “Absolutely!  Take your time; we understand!”

A few minutes later she returned.  Instead of getting her cart, she approached the two of us and what she said has driven this outreach ever since…you see, we thought we were honoring Him with what we were doing, but humbly we found out He was honoring us in allowing us to be a part of He was doing…

March 8th 2013 023It was the first time she had ever been to a food pantry in her life.  It was the worst year in their life.  She had been struggling for months to make ends meet, and about 6 weeks before that moment, she had started to realize that they would not likely be able to afford Easter baskets for their kids.  She tried to scrimp and save but no matter how hard she tried, there was just no money.  About two weeks before that night, she had to accept–after looking at her check book–that there was no way they would have baskets, and she prayed asking God to somehow, some way help with Easter baskets.  Nightly, she laid awake fretting over the sight of her two children on Easter morning with nothing for them to open or find.  Then her mind raced to the first day back to school after Easter vacation when their kids would hear other children talking of what the Easter bunny had brought them.  She feared and agonized over the shame and disappointment that would fall upon their hearts realizing they had somehow been left out.

From the depth of her soul, she just wanted to say thank you.  “Thank you for being an answer to a prayer!”

And I stood there, we stood there, with tears brimming in our eyes trying to stay composed but utterly touched to the core by her story.  While we had hoped to help others, never once did I imagine that we would actually see God move in such a powerful way…answering prayers through this outreach.  Her words, her awe that she had walked into that room–that food pantry for the first time–and there sat Easter baskets for her children…

that He had answered her prayers…

…and ours…

Those memories are what drive us onward, understanding and trusting that God is often doing something so much more amazing than we can comprehend…

Please join us in praying that His will be done through FBF and willing hands, feet and hearts this Easter 2014.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Galatians 6:9-10