Family Christian, Giving Back

For almost two years now, I have been writing reviews for Family Christian.  It may be books, movies, music, etc… and I really enjoy it.  BUT, my most favorite thing to participate in are their giving back campaigns.  In a nutshell, when a giving back campaign is launched, the bloggers submit who they would want to give a gift to and why.  Then a few of us are selected.  This is my second time giving back.  The first time, I was able to bless Una Esperanza with Bibles to take with them on their last mission trip.

This time, it is a little bit closer to home.

A few months ago my middle school aged daughter called me to pick her up from school early, she was feeling sick.  Bible study was just ending, and I headed straight to her school.  I was wearing a tshirt with a bible verse on it, and had thrown my wallet into my tote bag for the study.  Since the school needed my ID, I just grabbed the tote on my way in.  As I was waiting for my daughter to get to the office from the clinic, the school secretary read the verse on my shirt aloud.  The Dean’s assistant was standing next to her, and made a comment about it.  I responded that I had just come from our weekly bible study meeting.  To which they looked at each other, and the secretary said “Isn’t that nice.”

It was a tone I recognized all to well, the sound of voice we have when someone else is getting to do something we would enjoy but don’t have time for.  When Family Christian wanted to do a holiday giving back campaign, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I nominated these two women, who work tirelessly for our school.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to study together during their lunch break at the school.  I shared the story of the encounter and what I would give them.  And, I was selected to participate.

Family Christian sent me a $50 gift certificate to purchase items from their site.

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I selected Jen Wilken’s “Women of the Word”, some multi-colored bible study markers, and journals they could write notes in through their study.

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At our local dollar tree I was able to purchase some pretty paper, ribbon, and snowflakes to wrap the gifts in.  I wanted the gifts to look like something special, so they knew that extra effort was put into their gift.  (Usually, I am a gift bag kind of gal for gifts to teachers).

I stacked each package, putting the journal on the bottom since it was the longest.  The book landed in the middle and the markers on top.  It was perfect!  I wrapped a ribbon around the length of the package, and topped with the snowflake.  I used elmer’s school glue to ensure the snowflake would stay put.

On the day I delivered the packages to the middle school, I was surprised to be honest.  In the elementary school my youngest attends, I saw parents dropping off gifts to the office staff each morning leading toward the last day before break.  In the middle school office, there was nothing.  Ms. S, was at her desk as Christamsy as she could be.  Santa hat on her head, and a Christmas Light necklace adorned her school tshirt.  Yet, there were no gift bags from parents to be seen.  Apparently something happens when kids enter middle school and high school.  Less parents are giving teachers gifts, and even less (and in our case apparently none) were including the front office staff.

The Principal was standing near by, as I let her know I was dropping of a gift to her and Ms. Jones (the Dean’s assistant).  The look on her face, could not have been more shocked.   The Principal started showering her with accolades, acknowledging all that she did for the school.  All the while she was hustling her way around the counter to give me a hug.  As she approached there were tears in her eyes.  She was so grateful that someone appreciated her, that someone was acknowledging her, that she was remembered.  I don’t know much about Ms. S.  Is she married?  Does she have children?  Was she alone for Christmas?  What I do know is that I made her day, and I wouldn’t have done it without Family Christian giving me the nudge.

Ms. Jones was already out of the office for the day, but I left the gift for her. I received a card a few days later.

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The funny thing about all of this is that I thought Family Christian was allowing me an opportunity to give a gift that would encourage two women to study together when they can.  In reality the gift was more than that.  I was the one who received the greatest gift, because it opened my eyes to those who work tirelessly for our children… and often go unrecognized.

Whether it is Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Day, the end of the school year… or just a random Wednesday… take the opportunity to recognize the people in the schools working behind the scenes.  Especially so for our middle and high school support staff and administration.  Secretaries, Cafeteria Workers, Custodians/Janitors, etc are all people who are making an impact on the school your children attend.

A few days ago, my high school daughter shared that she wished the Cafeteria cashier a Merry Christmas… she replied:

“You are the first person to say that to me all week.”

This year is almost over, but the school year still has a few months ahead.  I challenge anyone who reads this (even if you kids do not attend school), what can you do in the coming months as a way to show appreciation to the people in your life that may be working behind the scenes… unnoticed, unrecognized?  People like:

The cleaning crew that comes in to the office after hours.

The teller at the bank who always serves you.

The grocery store cashier, the one you make a point of getting into his or her line because they do a good job.

The high school janitor.

The golf course grounds keepers.

The local police department or fire house.

School Crossing Guards, office security guards, the neighbor who always brings up your trash can, church secretaries, the mechanic who saved you a ton of money this year, etc.  If you are unsure who to recognize, pray that God will reveal the person to you.  Or, that He will provide the funds or means to recognize all of the people you desire to acknowledge.

Official Family Christian Blogger

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Gut Instinct = Discernment

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Going back, about four months ago, an interesting string of events happened.  Someone I hadn’t talked to, in quite some time, popped back on the radar.  It didn’t sit well with me, there was a lot of unresolved stuff in that relationship.  I didn’t think sweeping things under the carpet, or pretending like nothing happened was the right way to go.  But, in the end, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I dropped my guard, a bit.

A few weeks later, it was painfully obvious to me that there was an agenda for this sudden revival.   I really didn’t want to think that to be true.  I really wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I even tried to convince myself that this was the enemy, whispering lies in my ear, trying to stop reconciliation from happening.  Scripture tells us that God wants his people to restore and reconcile with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  I convinced myself this was the case, and I wasn’t going to let the enemy win.  I dropped my guard, a bit more.

Several more weeks would pass of little quips of conversation, but I could still feel a nagging at my soul … this was not genuine.  I decided to put that thought to bed, I could deal with a little bit of skepticism.  I wanted our families to be reunited, I continued to drop my guard, and ultimately her family walked through my front door.  Awkward at first, but as time passed, it got more relaxed.  It wasn’t “like it used to be”, but it was familiar.  The evening ended, everyone survived, and seemed like it went well.

After some time passed, the truth of that evening started to reveal itself.  The younger kids were in the back of the house playing, the older kids just hanging out and talking.  My daughter left the room to get a drink.  When she was supposed to be out of earshot, their kids started talking about my daughter behind her back.  In her own room, in our own home… I was broken-hearted.  I had put my own feelings and skepticism aside, so they could rekindle their friendship.  I invited this pain into my daughter’s life.

To her face, her friend was beaming about how she wanted to go to college here in Florida & basking in some crazy notion about moving into our house for this time period…. plotting and planning out how the bedroom could be redecorated to fit them both.  But, the very moment my daughter left the room, the act was dropped… and the criticism began.  At that point, I flashed back to my original thoughts (which I had been trying so hard to dismiss).  We were being used.

And, the more I thought about it, and sorted through the catalog of the past… I realized how often that happened.  Now, I want to point out, that doesn’t mean there were not moments of reciprocity where we helped one another out.  I’m not trying to paint a picture of a person who is solely interested in using people until they have nothing left.  I don’t think that is the case.  I’m not even entirely sure I’d call my suspicions INTENTIONAL.

But, as I looked over some past instances, a pattern had been developing.  Not just between myself and my friend, but between our daughters.  Even more so, with them.

Sleepovers bad become less about them being together, and more about her getting freedoms she wouldn’t normally be allowed at home.  In fact, there was a sleepover planned & my daughter cancelled it when she found out there were ulterior motives behind it.  What was being sold to me as a “window shopping trip to the mall”, was actually a well thought out plan for her friend to meet up with some guy she met via a phone chat app.  When my daughter found out the real reason she wanted to go to the mall, thankfully, she knew better & cancelled the plans.  I was grateful my daughter had the wits about her, and didn’t enable her friends scheme.

Our “gut instincts” about something, are not usually wrong.

We know when we are in the wrong place, or about to do the wrong thing.

We get a vibe about a person that says:  this person is not safe, is not trustworthy.

Our spirit isn’t settled, we don’t have peace… and we can’t ignore that.

God gives us the gift of discernment to protect ourselves.  I should have known from the beginning this was discernment from God.  I should have listened to that unsettled spirit, and kept the boundaries up.  I could have protected my daughter’s heart from being wounded by someone who has been so important in her life, for so long.  I was trying to talk myself out of doubt, when good reason was sitting right in front of me.

When my friend wasn’t willing to reconcile, which is what God calls us to, I should have known.  Reconciliation and restoration doesn’t come from just “moving on”.  It comes when we are willing to face each other, honestly, and admit to where we messed up.  When we take accountability for our actions.  When we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness.  It comes in that moment, when we look at another person and say “our relationship is too important for this to go on like this”.  It comes when we own that we are sinning before God by holding anger and resentment in our hearts towards someone in our family of believers.  Sure, it may have boundaries; reconciliation may take time and healing… but it starts out of a spirit of LOVE for the other person & GRIEF over the death of the relationship.

I have repeatedly told my children that truth always reveals itself.  It can’t stay hidden.  Sometimes, it just takes longer for it to show itself.  The sad thing, for me, is that is seems the longer it takes for the truth to reveal itself… the more it hurts.  Especially, when you invited the pain back in.  You opened the door, and let it walk right inside.  And, in doing so, not only exposed your heart to it… but you exposed your family to it as well.

Had I heeded those initial warnings, I could have saved my daughter from learning the truth about her “friend”.  They would have moved, and her memories of that friendship would be GOOD.  Now, it’s broken.

God gives us discernment, but we have to have wisdom to recognize it and understand it.  We also have to be courageous enough to act upon that wisdom.  In my personal situation, I never prayed over it.  I never went to God, seeking His guidance.  I never went to my mentor, to seek godly counsel.  I allowed my fleshly desires (for myself, or family) to let me think I could figure this out on my own.

If you find yourself in a space, like me, where you are wondering if this is discernment or just the enemy attempting to undermine…. PRAY!  SEEK GOD, SEEK COUNSEL.