Patrolling the waters


The Coast Guard has a number of jobs that it does.  The one job we often think of first for them is maritime rescues.  They are the people who are called when something tragic happens on the water.  They are a resource that most will never encounter, but in that moment, when something has gone wrong, the sound of their presence brings great relief to the soul in trouble.

But they operate more often than we think.  One of their many, non-emergent jobs is to patrol the coastline on our big bodies of water.  Their steadfastness to ensure the safety of our waters brings comfort and assurance on even the brightest, calmest days.  The dependability of their routine adds a measure of security to all who visit the waters.

Five years ago, God nudged our hearts with whispers about hungry children taking home back packs of snacks and a few meals to make it over the weekend during the school year. These bags were being sent home in community after community that surrounded South Lyon, and so, we paused to assess whether that need was also in our midst.  We met with our local food pantry.  We spoke with the secretaries at the schools.  We prayed and thought, and suddenly, we realized that while food was important on the weekends…what about the summer when there was no school at all to help with meals?

Realizing that need must exist since there were children in our community on the federal lunch program during the school year, we prayed for guidance on how to help these families.  From there, we began our Summer Lunch Bag program.  Starting with one school, several families registered.  Over the years, we have modified how often we provide and expanded the program to include more schools.

Now our program is not for those looking to lessen their grocery bills.  It is not for those wanting to save up for something else.  We have tailored it specifically for those who are lacking food during each month of the summer.  With that as our threshold, we have been blessed to come alongside those who are struggling in significant ways.

Most of these households have a working parent.  One who is working as much as they can to bring in enough to keep their heads treading above water.  For those with two parents, oftentimes, one parent is battling an illness or has become disabled.  Many during our registration have spoke of how humbling it is to have to ask for help; that it is the last thing they have wanted to do.  More often than not, I tell them that our program was designed to help people just like them.  That the people who help provide the food are everyday people looking to bring aid to those in their community…they want to help when there is a need.

The first delivery can be a bit awkward for those new to the program.  Not in a bad way, but in just meeting, getting down the timing, and the waiting that occurs as we pass along bags to the families.  Not knowing anyone, yet knowing everyone there is struggling in some way.  After handing them the bags, we routinely ask if they have any prayers that can be said on their behalf until we meet again.  For those new and unsure about our program, they often decline.  And we are okay with that.  Asking for food is hard enough; sometimes being vulnerable about your other needs is too much.  But we always ask…patrolling, in way, the potentially deep waters of the hearts that lie before us.

In the midst of something gone wrong, a rescue swimmer is often dropped down into the water or onto the boat to assess the situation and find out what is needed.  Is it something mechanical that is in distress?  Can the vessel be saved?   Or is there a person on board in need of medical help?  Do those on the vessel need to be ferried off?  The rescue swimmer relays the information back to those on board the helicopter and the appropriate decisions of how to help best are made.

And sometimes, the swimmer has to save someone in the water.  Should that be the case, the person in the water must be compliant.  They cannot fight or panic as it can take both the rescuer and the one being rescued down.  An understanding all who want to serve should come to respect.  We try really hard not to obligate people to share their prayers. Sometimes, they can’t think of any.  Other times, the concern, fear or pain is too much to convey.  At the first sign of struggle, we politely step back and continue on…giving space at a safe distance that allows them to process the request without being pressured to do so.

Our second delivery this summer illustrated well this principle.  We had a family register late this spring.  One parent is working but the other has been very ill, battling a significant disease.  Financially the medical bills had taken its toll as well as shortened work weeks in order to accommodate doctors’ appointments and treatment.  When this parent arrived at the first delivery, he was cautious and had little for prayer.  I reassured him that it was totally okay, and gently shared we’d keep the other parent’s health in our prayers.

Now FBF’s primary goal is to build faith in God, but often, we are just blessed to watch as the Master Builder works.  One family has been in our summer food program since its inception.  She is a single mom with three kids and an amazing faith that God is with her and with us.  She knows our routine and gladly shares her prayers with us, and we share our prayer needs with her.  During that first delivery, the new parent, while waiting to pick up the food bags, watched as she gave us her concerns.

This time, her family was again one of the first waiting for us, and so when this other parent arrived shortly thereafter, we were still transferring bags and all the goodies that were brought.  As I handed her a package of toilet paper, she became animated with joy. Her apartment had just flooded.  The neighbor’s, above her, air conditioning unit had sprung a leak that pooled into her home and soaked everything.  Now, this gal is a planner but sometimes the best laid plans don’t anticipate such unforeseen trouble.  Sometimes a sunny sky does not share that a dangerous storm is building off to the west…

All of their paper products were destroyed and she was desperate for toilet paper.  Already struggling, this cost was unanticipated with no way to meet the need that had arisen before the end of the month. As we transferred the laundry detergent, she began to praise God out-loud for His knowing exactly what she needed to wash all that had been soaked. The next set of things, feminine products, brought added amazement as those too had been destroyed.  She openly exclaimed her awe of His provision, and we stood there in just as much awe of how God had moved hearts to help such a direct and specific unknown need.

As I turned to take care of the other parent, his eyes sparkled from hearing the testimony of someone who wasn’t trying to testify…someone who was sincerely praising God in that moment where her fear of how had turned into praise for His love and care.  Handing him several of the items and explaining quickly where they had come from and how, I noticed he seemed less reserved.  As we continued to unpack the load for his family, he began to eagerly tell how helpful the stuff had been the prior month and would be this month.  The abundance of items was exciting and overwhelming for all the families, and he was clearly moved.

While I handed him the last remaining items, another family pulled up. Understanding better the routine of our visits, I gently asked if there were any prayers until next time?  He nodded, much to my surprise. Upon finishing our brief conversation, he leaned in to give a big hug.  A common occurrence when people share what is on their hearts.  Those requests are so important…to them, to us and to God.  They know that we do not have the answers for why or even how, but the kindness that comes from being willing to intercede on their behalf can mean a lot. Common among many of them is that life was going well in their stretch of the sea before they became overwhelmed by something…a storm, a wave, a malfunction, an unexpected flood…

You see, prayer and hugs often feel like a life preserver of sorts that helps them tread the waters beneath them with more assurance that there is truly One who is able to command those waters…to rescue, if needed.

Such moments, my friends, are exactly why FBF patrols the waters that lie before us…


“The ships of Tarshish were carriers of your merchandise.  You were filled and very glorious in the midst of the seas.  Your oarsmen brought you into many waters, but the east wind broke you in the midst of the seas.”  Ezekiel 27:25-26





Changing Seasons


“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

Many times, standing in the assemblies during FBF’s Easter outreach, I have heard people ask excitedly, “What’s next!?!”  In kindness, I smile and share with them what we have coming up over the summer months.  Quite frequently, I see their shoulders drop a little and a confused look pass over their eyes.  They are so overwhelmed by what they are seeing–what God is doing through making Easter baskets–that they long to see more.   To build off of the momentum, if you will…

But many years ago, I found that by the end of this marathon of an outreach if we didn’t step back, rest and withdraw, it became more work than it needed to be.  And not just physically,  but emotionally.  At some point, another Easter basket makes us want to cringe!  More grass, more plastic eggs, toys, stuffed animals…are no longer a welcome sight as they have no where to go, especially with limited space to store and almost another 12 months before beginning to build again.  Thankfully, early on, God taught us to rely solely on Him and to turn away from collecting year round.  That was (and is, as we are still learning) one of the many lessons over the years.

Another crucial one was finding moments of down time, having the ability to walk away and trust God that what needs to be done can be done in a specific time slot.  It is a part of a greater message of trusting Him.  It is not magic nor wishful thinking.  Hard work is absolutely necessary, but it is coupled with a strong belief–faith, if you will–that God wants us to live lives to the fullest containing both seasons of work and rest.  Sometimes, it is just short rest in between lots of work, and sometimes it is more rest with work sprinkled in between.

And so, I found out years ago that it was okay to walk away from the basement after Easter. To respect that my body and my mind, my family and their grace, our volunteers and their lives, all needed to rest after giving such loving dedication and time to building baskets.  The lights go off after our last delivery and we often don’t return to the basement until early June to sift through what is left.

But this year was different.  You see, I suffered a head injury back in November.  It has been a slow, slow recovery of symptoms that are hard for anyone to see, and even harder for me to respect–until they knock me down.  Both Christmas and Easter, in regards to FBF’s outreaches, left me feeling quite vulnerable by those hedges the concussion has surrounded me with.  And so, I vowed to myself that the basement was going to be cleaned up as soon as Easter was done.  I wouldn’t be caught unprepared for tomorrow!  Order would prevail and then I could truly rest!!

Best laid plans, right?  I can chuckle now at how my fear had won the moment in that grand plan.  I even fashioned “Clean Up Days” in our signups.  I scheduled for spring break as frequently tweens, teens and their families come to help on those off days.  Friends shared how they wanted to come wash shelves, vacuum up those ever spreading pieces of Easter grass, and help me “deep clean”.   “Ah,” said my mind.  Then I could truly rest…with all that accomplished.

Yet, God’s word is steadfast and true.  We are told in Psalm 119:152: “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”  Nothing had changed in what God had been teaching me about needed rest.  In fact, I had opened to multiple Scriptures in the end of March where Jesus had gone off on His own to pray and rest…illustrated by an early morning escape to a hillside or boat at the water’s edge.  It was as if He was gently preparing me for what was needed most.

And so, the days of cleaning came and went.  No volunteers.  Moreover, I had no energy.  I was so relieved that no one had signed up!  We had finished up the deliveries and the week after Easter, I spent writing…a taxing endeavor with my concussion.  By the end of that week, all my pizzazz for being prepared was gone.  I joked with people that coming off of FBF’s Easter outreach was much like jet lag after a very long flight.  A dead weight that really kind of takes over.  It took me about a week of trying to fight through it to realize it wasn’t meant to be.  Through His word, and most of the devotionals I looked at, the message was consistently rest.

So I am thinking now, it will be June before the basement has recovered from Easter :o)

And that’s okay.  In fact, He’s right…always is.  Rest is fundamental.  It changes everything–your physical ability, your mindset, your attitudes, your ability to see, and your ability to share.  If we ran head long into the next event, if we just continued on, there would be no time to savor all that He has done, which is also a part of rest.  It is called reflection…

My friends, I humbly share that by His grace and provision–His inspiration, movement, and mercy through so many–FBF was able to build and provide over 3,000 children baskets to families in need.  Several hundred more were created and shared with teens and adults.  Numbers I have yet to be able to wrap my head around.  Another lesson to be learned, in season where I felt less than capable, He had more than provided…exceedingly greater than anything I could have imagined.  He accomplished so much more than I had hoped or planned. So, must I really worry so much about for tomorrow when He is with me today?

This time of rest will pass as we return to the shore and begin to reach out again.  Lots of stories to share, and the beginnings of other smaller outreaches that will quietly dot our summer (but not overtake).  Small, necessary preparations while trusting Him that He will be with us in our tomorrows more than we can see today.

Steady prayers, my friends, for us and you until then.

“Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.”  Psalm 119:159


Touching lives

Have you ever thought much about the wind?

It really is quite an amazing thing.  In its most endearing state, this invisible force wraps around your shoulders and gently caresses your face before it is gone.  Sometimes it tussles your hair or brushes against your legs.  It can literally swirl around you as if engaging and inviting you to dance…

At other times, the wind can be fierce, blowing hard against you and knocking you off your path.  It can most assuredly usher you inside as you seek shelter away from it.  It can rattle your house and make you long for it to stop.  On a mildly cold day, a sharp wind can cut right through you and quite literally take your breath away.  An invisible force that barrels down the road whipping up little tornadoes of leaves or snow or dirt.  What it moves, is often its only record…

It was many years ago when I was looking at Genesis that I felt this little nudge to look deeper into the words that described God in the garden.  It is goes something like this:

“When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze…”  Genesis 3:8 (The Message)

Notice that it doesn’t say that Adam and Eve saw God.  Instead, it says that they heard Him strolling in the evening breeze.  It seems as if His Presence in the wind alerted them to His coming near.  The Hebrew word, “ruwach”, is most associated with wind.  The definition describes it almost as an exhalation.  In the King James, it is often cited as “air, anger, blast, breath, cool, courage, mind, quarter, side, spirit(ual), tempest, vain, whirl wind.”

It was there that I realized God and His Presence, in how He moves in our lives, is often like the wind and how it works.  It is almost impossible to capture, and without some sort of debris or something caught up in it–the very movement of an object–we are unable to see it coming or going.  Most of the time, we can only hear or feel its effects as it touches us directly.  And as the Hebrew word describes so well, there is nothing quite like the gentle breeze on a warm day to cool your skin.  With just the right touch, a breeze can delight and relieve the soul alleviating it from the heat that may be pressing upon it…or it can cut right through and challenge the very life of the flesh and the soul.

When I started Families Building Faith, it was with a distinct vision.  It is nice to congregate together and friendships are important to develop, but what I felt was crucial was time together in His word for those who longed for it.  Not in judgment or in competitiveness and comparison or in a rigid outline that leaves little room to explore, but in pondering, thinking on, and mulling over. Time together spent challenging each other to go deeper and see how the word might be speaking to our very lives…yes, often, in the need for change, repentance, courage, and truth.

And I was well aware of how easy it is to look at His truth, as James says, giving it a quick glance in the mirror and then forgetting it.  How easy it is to apply it to everyone else and not ourselves.  So God laid it on my heart that as wonderful and life-changing as being in His word is, His word has to be put into practice in our lives.  Truly, Bible study serves ourselves.  His word is a gift to the health of the soul.  Fellowship gatherings serve to knit us together and grow community…again, something we all need.  Both things are useful and important, but serving others, that is where we get to be a part of God’s gentle movement in the lives outside of our own.  Time and time again, over the last ten years, I have had my breath taken away as I have caught a blessed glimpse of God moving in the life of another…

It is there as He does a little dance with the soul of another–often bringing them hope to the moment that they feel so desperately without.  It is there that I see His Presence in a way that mesmerizes and builds my faith.  But not just my faith alone.

It is in the little boy or girl who builds a basket and is utterly overwhelmed by the beauty they created with all of the different items God has brought.  It is in the eyes of the adults as they stand in awe of what they are seeing, hearing me say: “This really is not us.  We play a small role, and if you don’t believe me, trust me that I cannot move the hearts, hands and feet of the people who repeatedly come.  You know how comfortable the couch is, and it is not me making them get up.”

It is in the souls that we have come to know that have been told they are too young or too old or too sickly or too unable where we have seen God gently breathe new life into them, showing them that what they have to offer is important in what He is doing…

It is in the faces of those who go with us to deliver and see the burned out houses, the rundown areas, and then understand more deeply why the wind is so very much needed there.  It is in the twinkling smiles of the children and the tender downcast faces of the adults that brighten as we watch God’s Spirit refresh in only ways that He can.

It is in the words: “It was as if you knew everything about me when you built this basket!”,  “This is my favorite color!”, or “I have been wanting one of these so badly!”   Those statements that humble our souls and make us drop to our knees understanding that He is moving in ways that we cannot control, anticipate or even know…much like the wind.

I stood in the basement the other day encouraging a small group to continue to do outreach together, explaining to them that while I wholeheartedly love the discussion of His word with others…it is in selfless serving that I see faith grow the most. And isn’t that what we should be striving for?  To grow our faith and the faith of others…

You see, there is truly nothing quite like watching God move in your life and in the life of another, briefly intertwining the two, often to the benefit of each other.  That is what outreach should be all about…the breath of God moving through lives for the world to see.  That we may perceive and know that God is connecting all of these dots in amazing ways that you couldn’t fully see beforehand, and then, in His timing, you begin to understand the coolness that has just touched another’s cheek. You feel the breeze and, for a moment, you see it…the smile, the relief, the tears, the awe, the truth that somehow a need or desire has been met in a way that only God can do.

And it as if you are standing in His garden watching faith grow…

Where you feel, hear and catch a glimpse of His power and majesty strolling through the life of another in the gentle, refreshing Presence of an evening breeze…

“The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

Working together…

Josh and I's basket 2014 005It’s been many years since this Easter Basket Collection outreach started.  And much time has past since God gave me the vision to start Families Building Faith.  At that time, my son was four years old going on five.

The vision that He had given me had sprung in part from my own situation.  Longing to know Him better and desiring to walk daily (in the sense of more than just on Sundays) with others who had the same heart for Him, He laid before me the idea of a network of believers who would come together to strengthen faith.  In the breadth of that view was also those we live life with…it was never meant to be solely about our individual experiences.  That somehow by growing, stretching and building our own faith, God’s light and love would spill over into their hearts and lives.  Kind of like a pebble being dropped into a pond, the ripples keep expanding as the waves move outward from the entry point of the rock impacting the water.  As we walk closer with God, was it possible that light, faith and hope would be the ripple effects touching those around us?

So my four year old went in tow with me on this journey to build and grow faith.  He rode in the car as we delivered food, blankets, baskets, clothes, toys and so many other things.  He played at Bible studies and as he grew older, he entertained himself when I needed to work on something.  He listened to me talk with others and listened to them share their stories with me.  He helped carry items up and down stairs, loaded cars, and gracefully and kindly spoke to those who passed through our lives.  As he grew and became more of a young man, there were the inevitable moments of deep sighs, “Do I have to?”s, and frustration-filled comments when he tired of what God has asked our family to do.  Yet, more times than not, he is there faithfully alongside my husband and I.

Josh and I's basket 2014 001It is funny how each session of serving often brings me something new to learn.  Honestly, there are many lessons each season.  For years, I have been emphasizing to parents that their children truly love to serve with them.  Their eyes, their hands and the enthusiasm in their voices share how much they want their parents to see and believe in what they are doing for another.  Rarely does an Easter assembly happen that the child isn’t bouncing off of the walls to show their parents what they have created.  They don’t want to be just dropped off and picked up.  Nor does being present in the same room but talking with another adult for the majority of the time necessarily convey to them that the parent really cares.  Nor does being hovered over or continually questioned as they build their baskets.  Instead, what we see is this strong desire to build and work with their parent or caretaker…for their parent to actively engage and share in their excitement through thoughtful and sincere encouragement, kind instruction, and lots of joyful affirmations.  I find myself deeply committed to the idea that this outreach truly offers families of all ages a chance to not only serve together, but to grow together…

And there the lesson stood toe-to-toe with me last night looking me right in the eye.  I was working in the basement sorting through donations that had come in.  My son, now many years older, was upstairs relaxing.  A bit later, down the stairs, I heard his steps.  Within short order, he was at my side chattering about his latest adventure, what he hopes to learn to improve his game, and his latest set of goals.  He spoke for quite awhile as I listened and sorted.  A couple of times, he mentioned that he took a break specifically because he wanted to come downstairs and help, and then his conversation would turn back to what it was before.  Now and then, I would hand him something to help with.  As my tasks came to an end, he stated he would like to build a basket.

Now,  he builds lots of amazing baskets.  We don’t force him to build each session as we don’t want him to hate Easter nor this outreach.  We also don’t force him to always carry items up nor necessarily engage in all that we do as teens battle enough things in life that offer opportunities for resentment and bitterness; we surely don’t want to add to that.  But many times, he will come downstairs during an assembly and make a couple before heading back upstairs again.  A long time ago, he graduated to making them all on his own.  He is truly very good at it.  As he brought up making a basket again, I told him, “Sure, go ahead.  I’ve got just a few more things to do.”

No mom, I don’t want to build one by myself.  I want to build one with you.  You and me together.”

Josh and I's basket 2014 004There it was.  What I had grown aware of in other children, I now saw in my own son.  That longing to work together on a project that benefits someone else.  To be engaged together as a single team that produces something by both of our hands working towards the same goal:  making someone feel extra special.  While we can often do things alone, there’s something to be said for why God calls us together, to function together as His body…

I smiled, not lost to the lesson at hand.  As we began to assemble a boy basket, I wondered how many times he, too, longed to have my instruction, my affirmation and my time in this outreach as I have seen so many other children long for their parents’ attention and help?  He has always had my encouragement and approval to build, but my time…it is often spent with others…helping them learn, grow and build.  So as we worked through the system, I gave him the same that I give and hope for with any other child…my passion, my excitement, my instruction, my patience and my time.  And what I saw was what I see so many parents seemingly miss…the opportunity to truly understand just how thoughtful, caring and creative that young person is who God has graced us with in our lives.  As we got done, I was deeply impressed by his heart, his hands and his mind, and so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work together.

Thank You God for the reminders that this outreach has much to teach, offers so much to love, and reaches so much farther into the hearts of more than just those who are in physical and financial need…

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Romans 12:4-5

Josh and I's basket 2014 006