We went to a fun apple orchard today with some friends. The kids loved the corn maze, the hay stack, and the animals.
You would think they would be getting too big for the kiddie train, but no. Thank goodness! Such a beautiful day!
This picture of Ben ready to bat with his caramel apple reminded me of something funny. When he was really little we were over at my sister's house. She fed him a corn dog for lunch, and was pretty surprised he didn't devour it. Instead he was swinging it like a bat, just looking for a ball to hit. Afraid he would starve to death, she asked, "Do you think he'd like a popsicle?"
Bethany had a few days to work out her plans before we returned to civilization. We arrived home on a Tuesday, and on Wednesday she, Ben and some friends were delivering flyers around the neighborhood, asking people to leave a bag of groceries on their step on Friday for the local food shelf. On Friday, they filled the back of our van with food and had it delivered to the food shelf before lunch. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed riding around the neighborhood (EVER SO SLOWLY!!) in the back with the hatch open even more than they enjoyed the satisfaction of what they had accomplished. But hey, helping IS fun!
There was more. Bethany loves it when we go to pack food at Feed My Starving Children, food that is sent many places in the world where hunger is rampant. She wanted to raise money to help pay for some of the food, so she decided to have a lemonade stand.
And since our church was collecting school supplies for kids who couldn't afford them, she decided to split her proceeds between the two. She had her stand out there several days in a row, with temperatures in the 90s. There was no stopping her.
Our minister of missions found out about her creative fundraising and heart for helping, and asked Bethany to make sort of a mock lemonade stand at church to give others ideas of how they could serve people in need just like Jesus would.
She recruited Ben and a friend to help her, and they inspired lots of people with easy ways to make a difference.
After all of this, Bethany still had one more desire. She had raised money for Feed My Starving Children, and she wanted to go pack food so she could deliver it. The problem was that we needed to register ten or more people if we wanted to go, and everyone's schedule was so hectic. A couple of weeks passed, and one evening the phone rang. Our friends had scheduled a group they work with to pack food at FMSC the next day, and they didn't have as many people as they had registered. They wondered if we might be able to join them on short notice. It just so happened, we were free. God was so kind to remember the desire of Bethany's heart, and grant it.
All of my good intentions to guide my children to the heart of God are no substitute for the mighty one himself reaching out and drawing them near. We could only imagine the pleasure God had in watching Bethany's tireless efforts, and Ben's too. What a great reminder to me to back off a little, and give God the space to work directly in their lives.
Thank you Lord, for meeting my kids where they are, and at the same time, for meeting me where I am.
As I was planning our trip to the Boundary Waters this summer, I prayed that God would touch our hearts in new ways in this place that was such a constant reminder of his glory. He had met me in many undeniable ways during the two summers I spent there, and I hoped and prayed he would do the same for all of us once again.
This is the story of how God met Bethany there.
A couple of days into our trip, my brother was sharing how the primitive conditions there in the wilderness reminded him of the villages in West Africa, not far outside the cities where he and his family have spent the better part of the last 20 years. He said the difference was striking, though. We went camping for fun, for a vacation, a place to get away, and would soon happily return to our lives of comfort. The villagers always had little, were far from medical help, and had no choice in the matter. For them, it was just life.
Dave told us of his good friend who lived near their home. This man had moved to the city in hopes of earning a living and sending the money home to the village to support his family. He worked a series of temporary jobs, and could barely get by himself, while sending what little he could to help his aging mother. He told Dave, "You and I are the same age, but you are young and I am old."
Therein my brother found his dilemma. You see, Dave would visit with his friend and think, here I am going home to a house with food and beds and a healthy family. I even have an air conditioner in my bedroom so I can rest well in the heat. Should I take the money I use to cool my bedroom and help my friend?
Ahh, one of life's most difficult questions for the American middle class individual. How is it that I am the one who got to be rich by the world's standards? Why do I have so much when others have so little? And what must I do? can I do? should I do? am I willing to do...to alleviate the suffering of those without?
There are no easy answers. The question leaves some overwhelmed and hopeless. Makes many want to turn away.
My brother concluded that we are blessed to be a blessing. That God puts us where he puts us, and gives us what he gives us, so that we can joyfully pass it along.
Our kids listened intently to this story. Suddenly it was as though someone flipped a switch, and Bethany was a girl with a mission. You should have seen her! She began making plans that exhausted all of us just to listen to them, but she was determined that there were people who needed help, and she would respond. It was absolutely priceless, and so clear to me that God had truly touched her heart with his compassion for people in need.
It's so easy to overthink the dilemma of wealth, but it's really pretty simple. We are not meant to despair because we can't do it all. We are not meant to declare ourselves unworthy to serve because we remain comfortable. In the end, I don't think my brother turned off his A/C. But I'm positive he was a blessing to his friend. We can all choose, every day, to be a blessing in one way or another.