God Kisses

bwhite-lips1Some people call it lucky, some call it blessings, I call it God kisses. You know, that moment when you are totally blown away by a smell, sound, something you see or a tangible gift. They can seem random but always come right when I need them. Sometime in droves and sometimes they fall down from the sky as one long embrace.

God kisses, I need God kisses. Mind you, I’m not talking about a “good works,” or “what comes around, goes around” ideology because honestly, there is no reason I deserve these special moments. I believe they just come simply because we’re loved, no matter what. They are pure grace.

This is entry about a day filled with God kisses. This entry is about thanksgiving even in times of trials.

20140715-091818.jpgWe’re in Shawano, WI at the moment, volunteering at Camp Tekakwitha. (I plan to write more about that soon) It’s been a long week physically, my cancer treatment was successful but exhausting. On top of that, we had the added bonus of a few other ailments visit the Holland bus. Craig got himself wrangled up in a bed of Poison Oak and ended up consumed head to toe. We tried to find healing with natural means but couldn’t keep up with the pain and itching. So, he went to  urgent care and is slowly recovering with the help of steroids. At the same time, our son lacerated his left leg while playing a camp game and ended up in the ER with a whooping 17 stitches. So by the weekend, I really needed some TLC.

It was Saturday. I decided to run into town to replenish my ingredients for my nutritional therapy. I had an other treasures I was hoping to find as well, but only a few dollars to spare, along with a TJmaxx $50 gift card from my friend Kim. My first stop was St. Vincent’s thrift store, where I found fabric for our couch, which was totally shredded after 3 years of use. The fabric cost $7.50! Score!! My day was off to a great start. I recognized the little kiss and was so grateful.

Next, I met a friend for lunch. I really wanted to see her but was concerned about my budget. When I arrived I discovered it was “Restaurant Week” and my whole meal, including an appetizer, main and dessert was only $10! So, I was able to experience a rejuvenating lunch with a dear friend and another God kiss!

Plantlife EO'sNext I went to TJmaxx to find sheets for our Queen size bed. We’ve had the same sheets for about 10 years. You know how it goes, there is always something else that is needed, so you just keep making due. But this time, with the gift card in hand, I was ready to take the plunge and by new bedding. So, I went in but before I could get to the back of the store to look at the sheets, I got side tracked. Near the front of the store there was a stand with all sorts of soaps and Essential Oils by Plantlife. Why is that significant you ask? Well, folks began to respond to my blogs about my cancer journey, many of them suggested that I look at adding EO’s to my treatment. I agreed and already had a few basics on hand, however the cost of buying the really good ones was discouraging. So, back to TJmaxx. I approached the display and found a gift set of 8 EO’s by a company that’s mission is to consistently create all-natural body care products using the freshest organic herbs and 100% pure essential oils.  The package which would normally total over a $100 was on sale for $40! The extra few dollars on the gift card I used to buy Craig some of Plantlife’s soap to help with his rash.

The kisses were falling like manna from the sky. My last stop before going to get my nutritional therapy supplies was Goodwill. As I walk through the doors, I just knew I would find bedding. Sure enough! I found a brand new Ikea slat grey bottom sheet for $6.

I ended my day at Woodman’s grocery store where I had just enough left over to purchase all of my ingredients for my favorite green morning smoothie, filled with cancer fighting properties and healing nutrients.

These kisses are beautiful gifts, they come in all shapes and forms. This time they came in the form of treasures but they are all meant to lead us to the same giver. Take note, celebrate with thanksgiving and give a kiss back.

Hey, are you keen to try my Green Smoothie out?

Here’s the recipe:

Green Morning Alkalizing Smoothy

1 cup Frozen Pineapple chunks
1/2 Frozen Banana or 1/2 fresh Avocado  (this creates the smoothy texture)
1-2 TBS fresh chopped Ginger
1/2 cup fresh Spinach leaves
1 TBS fresh Basil
1 TBS fresh Cilantro
1 TBS fresh Parsley
Cayenne pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp.)
1-2 cups Coconut Water
Blend well and drink up!

 

 

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Glory and The Pink Lady

We were asked by a friend, how God gets the glory in our lives and service. This is a friend who is serious about his faith and… very wealthy. He’s a thinker, a debater and has watched us from the beginning of our process but there was always a question from our friend, regarding our motives. He knew of our marriage issues and reconciliation, we shared our parenting woes, as well as the amazing ways that we saw God working in, through and, around us. We recently send out a letter to friends and family asking for support and his question was asked in the context of potentially partnering with us financially.  

Now, this whole fundraising thing is a little foreign to us and we long for our friends to care for us whether they can support us financially or not. However, we’ll admit that, we do have some systemic issues with the perceived manipulative nature of it all. We don’t have any trouble asking for help but struggle with the expected corporate way supporters  are catered to, pulled on and adorned just so they share their wealth.  

For instance, the reason we were able to meet our friends for lunch, was because they were flown in and put up as guests at a lovely conference center for a “Presidents” weekend in Scottsdale, AZ. Apparently, they were scouted out by large ministry, and brought in to be lavished on and ministered to, in hopes that they would feel a connection and give. It sort of reminded me of those deals that the fancy hotels in Vegas send out, for free stay at their casino. They know if they can get you there, that you will probably spend your money on their slot machines. 

We also know of an organization that does research for some of the richest Christians in the country. They look at a ministry and analyze it in a quantifying way, assessing whether or not the ministry is kingdom worthy. I can see a need for this type of research, as most of the ministries that they are looking at are large organizations. However, it all just seems so distant from where God is really moving. And, can you imagine the hoops those ministries have to jump through, to prove they are worthy of those funds. Good grief.

Here’s the thing… about the Glory of the Lord. We know that humility and poverty has something to do with it. 

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28

…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 2 Cor 6:10

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!  Phil 2:68

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:3

And then there is the story of the widow and the copper pennies. We see Jesus make note of what folks were giving and compares the gifts of the those who give out of their abundance. These were people who great wealth, and though they give much, they could easily spare it, and had enough remaining: but she, the widow, in her”penury”, gives all that she had, her whole substance, all that she had in the world; what was to have bought her food, for that day; she left herself nothing, and trusted to providence for immediate supply.

And then we read about the Corinthians who gave out of their poverty to Paul and Timothy. “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”

And so, we throw our hands up and we say, take our lives that we might really live. Take it all, that we might see you’re glory. 

20131104-124550.jpgWe arrived in Phoenix ten days ago, on our last financial leg, we had zero dollars. Our host, Kineo Community and our family have been gracious in caring for us. When we arrived we made note of things that might be helpful in our service at Kineo church and we put a shout out on our Facebook group ‘Tillers and Travelers” for art supplies, food and building supplies. Within a few days of voicing that request we had art supplies and a large box of fresh veggies show up. And then, yesterday, our friends The Huff family asked us to join them for lunch. 

We met Niqee at Camp Nebowa in Iowa three summers ago. We were in the process of getting our bus and heading out. She stayed in touch and two summers ago she invited us to join her family, Daniel, and two darling children, at an outreach in Shannandoah, IA. And, later at their home in Omaha, NE. we shared in community with this humble family. A few months later we heard that they had sold everything and hit the road, to serve. They travel in a minivan and similar to us, stay with host families and ministries, offering helps, encouragement and healing prayer. We watched them from afar and then two weeks ago they let us know that we were going to be in Phoenix together. We were excited to hear how things were going for them, to love on them and encourage them to keep rolling and serving. Little did we know that they were actually going to be the ones to pour into us. 

We sat at In and Out burger, enjoying our meal and sharing stories of God’s amazing tapestry in putting the body together. Then they pulled out a big yellow envelope and handed it to us. They spoke healing words over us, words of affirmation, letting us know that this gift was an act of obedience for them, that God recognized our faithfulness and wanted to bless us. In the package was a substantial gift for each of us. They wanted our children to know that God see’s how they care for others, and how He wants to care for them.  They wanted us to know that God gave them this blessing to bless us.  Mind you, these are kinfolk who live day to day, aka… in poverty. My eyes filled with tears, as I felt the presence of the Lord wrap his arms around us. 

We had but a moment to sigh and thank them when an elderly woman approached us. She was a tall woman with silver shoulder length hair pulled back into a pony tale. She had on a hot pink tank top and light pink shorts, pink socks and white tennis shoes. She had two bags with her, both pink. Her name was Debby.  She sat down at the table next to our families and said “hi.” A few polite words were shared and then she asked us, with all seriousness, if we had $10 dollars to spare.

Ok, so wait a minute… In a 24 hour period, I was sitting with my friend releasing him from any financial expectations, blessed by a significant gift from the unexpected and then asked for help.

Debby begins to explain her story about needing rent money. I tell her she doesn’t have to justify it to us, we’re happy to give. Craig pulls out $10 dollars, then Daniel follows. She is now holding twenty dollars. There is a small tear in her eye as she begins to share how that just impacted her. She tells us of a life that is filled with violence, poor health and constant rebuke from those with whom she asks for help. Daniel asks her if she would like us to pray for her. She says absolutely. We move to her table. He begins to talk with her about her heart, and God’s longing for her to move towards him. That God wants more of her. She is in agreement. We pray, Niqee puts a gift card in her hand and Debby whispers, “how much?” Niqee answers “$50 and to get whatever she desires with it.” Debby begins to weep and we all hug her. 

We say our goodbyes to Debby and to each other.

My heart is overwhelmed…. Love, Mercy, and Grace flowing from above. 

And so, to answer my friends original question: God gets the glory because he knows our every need and he uses unexpected means to care for us, and in caring for us, we are able to care for others. The glory is his because he orchestras it.   

 

 

The Skinny on Finances

20130515-183702.jpgFolks often ask how we make our way.  In 2010 we started off with ideals that involved becoming self-sustainable, working on ways to market and expand our trade. The simple explanation is that we book shows that offer payment for our performance. Of course, through our travels we have found greater purpose in connecting with and serving communities, involvement in social justice and helps organizations and encouraging kinfolk to live their dream; all the while, still performing.  And, although our original business model only generates about 70% of what we really need to be sustainable we’ve experienced something bigger than us. We’ve experienced the gift of faith and generosity.

On our journey, when troubles have come, there always seemed to be someone who without knowledge or very little knowledge of our situation, that would bless us with just enough to keep us on our way. These moments are beyond our comprehension and we don’t take any credit for them. We didn’t market or try to convince anyone that we were worth it, they were unconditional gifts. Through these experiences we have learned that there is another economy that we can be apart of. It’s not capitalism, socialism, communism, utopianism, prosperity gospel, or even karma.. We call it the divine economy. We think the crux of it is listening, openness and to be genuinely others focused, not in a “pay it forward” sort of way, which says if you give, you’ll receive, but it’s an “even if there is no return, I will give, even my life for another.”

We aren’t taught to operate this way in the business world. Even in vocational ministry, we are taught to have flashy marketing and newsletters proclaiming our mission statement and worth in order to receive tax-deductible donations. And so, two months ago we began a quiet relationship with Modern Day, which allows kinfolk to give to us through their site. They keep a record and at the end of the month they process the tax-free donations, deposit it into our bank account, minus a very small %, and send us a statement. At the end of the year, they send out all of the tax paperwork to both us and our donors. We had planned on introducing our partnership with Modern Day in a smooth, thought out way. However, that graceful introduction was muddled when our bus broke down in Chattanooga a few weeks ago.

Already a difficult month, traveling a new territory with very little income coming in, we were beyond our means and struggling to find community or hope. We were also wrestling with the little things that start to pop up in nomadic life. Things like the discomfort of four people living in 300 sq ft, not having hot water, or the ability to have power without being plugged in, and we were trying to finish up the last month of school.  So when the bus broke down, our hearts sank. There was a moment where doubt crept in and we wondered if we made the right decision to link up with an organization, taking us in a more traditional route of fund raising. We wondered if we had stepped out of that divine economy. We were significantly in the red and we needed a miracle.

A miracle is exactly what we got! What we found was that through the traditional system of giving, the divine economy superseded and yesterday Modern Day sent us a statement with a $2200 in donations.  We had no idea that kinfolk had given to our need until they sent the statement. And, the exciting thing is that the amount donated covers almost all of the bus repair!  We are so absolutely humbled and grateful for that support!

The process of trying to communicate needs doesn’t come natural for us but at the end of the day, whether we have flashy marketing or don’t say a word, it doesn’t really matter. The divine economy is active and incorrupt despite all of us. Palms open, hearts soft, and to God be the glory!