He Sets the Lonely into Families

I stood on the outskirts of the party this time… I saw Grace’s mentors dancing with Grace dancing in the background… there was so much laughter. In the other corner of the room Grace’s bridesmaid stood, she was also an alumnus of our program. Outside was a table full of mentors, alumni, and their friends… as with any wedding, there was so much laughter. But this wedding seemed so different to me.

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As I stood there I thought about how none of those people would have known each other if it hadn’t been for the Little House on Poplar. A bunch of imperfect people gathering together to do life together for the sake of grace… of Grace. I stood and thought about Grace the first week she moved in and the multiple conversations and “Come to Jesus” meetings we had. I remember the day she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior and she proudly texted her people, declaring trust for the first time in her life. I remember the weekend before her wedding when she showed up to our annual Mentor/Mentee Retreat, declaring that it is one of the most important weekends of the year for her.

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I chuckled a little because I had a recent conversation with Grace before her wedding and we talked and chatted about struggling relationships, finances, and jobs. You see… success isn’t that she has it all together, but that she has the access to the skills, resources, and relationships to keep going through the struggles of life. She knows a life of abundance rather than a life of scarcity. Weddings seem to remind me of these simplicities of life… we make all the details so complicated, but at the end of the day, there is a declaration of love and a celebration of joy and togetherness.

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That night as dancers twirled each other around on the floor, Grace reminded us that God redeems stories and he sets the lonely into families (Psalm 68:6). We are so humbled that we get to watch this process in these brave young women who make the choice to do this program. We are so overjoyed to watch this community connect to these stories and these young women, making these stories their own…

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There are so many ways you can join this story, if you already haven’t. We need prayer warriors, mentors, volunteers, and donors… all of which who become part of Grace’s story of generational change by choosing to be the one. Together we can be a light (“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5) to this community and an advocate for every girl seeking to alter her path.

Thank you for linking arms with us as God sets the lonely into families.

We love you and are so grateful for you,

Stephanie

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The Capacity to Dream

“Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them– that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Oh the ambitions of Grace! When Grace first comes to Saving Grace, she sits across from the interview team at Saving Grace and can barely name a dream. As she finds her footing, get nourished, begins to feel supported, and confident, her capacity to dream begins to develop. She dreams of school, of career, of family, of friends, of investing in the community. These dreams increase as each new accomplishment creates hope and glimmers of success. This summer has been full of ambition as we planned trips, goals, and experienced community together. Together, we have watched and celebrated the following ambitions come to life:

  • Grace graduated high school.
  • Grace is paying rent consistently for the first time.
  • Grace continues to live a sober life and is investing in 12-step.
  • Grace gives back to her sisters by welcoming new residents.
  • Grace landed a job!!!
  • Grace had her first snow cone.
  • Grace went kayaking.
  • Grace saved $500.
  • Grace is paying off debt consistently.
  • Grace passed her first online class with a 91%.
  • Grace went to the blueberry patch to find a new form of self care!
  • Grace advanced to Junior phase in our program.
  • Grace is connecting to her community through volunteering.
  • Grace GOT HER DRIVERS LICENSE!

Grace continues to achieve and dream… and we celebrate the big and the little… each is important. And as Anne says, “It does make life so interesting!”

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As summer begins to wrap up (can you believe it?), Grace is beginning to plan for fall ambitions and dreams. Would you pray over her? That she would make healthy connections in the community, to connect with the right jobs, teachers, and support persons to fulfill her dreams? That she would continue to be brave and gutsy?

We are so grateful for you NWA! These are your girls and you are making dreams come true!

So much love,

Stephanie

 

Anchors of Happiness

I sat in the office listening to thunderous laughter coming from down the hall as girls and staff shared stories from what seemed to be a flop of a summer outing. 72 hours earlier, we had been floating down a river, wondering who had this “genius” Summer Bucket List item idea. “The only way through, really is through,” I thought to myself, knowing the trip’s mantra had planted seeds of life lessons.


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8am. We packed lunch and too many water bottles in the Big Green Van, awaiting an adventure that we had planned for months. Despite the early departure, there were giggles and conversations the entire way, a sure sign of excitement and child-like joy.

When we got to the river, we ate a snack, and unpacked and repacked and unpacked and repacked… followed by applying layers of sunscreen and comments like, “Yes, you have to wear sunscreen unless you want to sit in the van,” and “No we won’t die, but your arms might be tired.”

We giggled all the way down to the river, trying to anticipate a few rapids and prepare for them. But there was no preparing for the next 4 hours.

5 minutes into the trip, one canoe lost a girl and an oar… another flipped and was filled to capacity with water as the girls prayed a strong fellow-floater would stop to help them… all the canoes and kayaks were separated at one point… one girl lost both shoes… another lost her hat, sunglasses, and hair-tie… another thought her hand was broken… another lost one of our nicely packed snack bags… and I thought one of the staff members was going to walk away from Saving Grace forever as soon as we hit dry land.

We waited for the guys off “Punk’d” to pop out at the next river bend. It’s safe to say we all left a little bit of our pride in the river that day.

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We kind of laughed, but only because we didn’t want to cry. “The only way through is through,” we would say, trying to be patient and empathetic with each other. I quietly wondered if we would ever get the girls on another trip with us again.


Fast forward to the thunderous laughter echoing down the hall.

This summer we launched the Summer Bucket List after reading this article. Point number four inspired us to create more “happiness anchors” with our girls of Grace, something many never got the opportunity to do as little girls. Ask any girl who went about floating and she’ll likely light up with a smile, laughter, and a really long (and slightly over dramatic) story of how we almost died that day. She won’t show you pictures because there are only two, but I promise you won’t leave without belly laughing.

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There is still thunderous laughter reminiscing over that trip. “Good experiences and relationships shape and reshape the brain,” I thought, mentally referencing research I had heard. This “disaster of a trip” created experiences and relationships that continued to build connection and trust long past the event itself. I am in awe… first with these girls, and then at the process that God orchestrates here at Saving Grace.

I am grateful for these moments, knowing that we all built trust, character, and anchors of happiness that day… and that a small part of Gracie’s heart began to heal through positive relationships and experiences. We continue to build anchors of happiness this summer with the Summer Bucket List (and we’re relieved that we haven’t had another experience like that, yet). These items create unity, opportunity, and they allow us all to act like a little girl again, if only for a moment. Healing happens in these moments and we’re grateful for you Northwest Arkansas… through your gifts of time, donations, hearts, prayers, and hope, Grace is changing her life this summer. God is healing her heart and she is finding pure joy.

With so much love,

Stephanie

Would you like to find out more how you can be part of creating anchors of happiness for Grace? Visit our website

 

A Day to Remember

“I know I can go by myself, but usually parents go with their kids,” she said to me as she was asking if I would go to her cap and gown school pictures. She was so desperate to be “normal” and each school event made her feel grief in a different way. So we went together. I fixed her hair and she would trust me to make sure she looked good for the camera. This was the yearbook photo after all… this picture would go down in history.

And, as it turns out, this entire year would go down in her own history book.

Grace came to us a little earlier than most high school students. She came as a junior, so we got to do ALL of the senior things with her. And it was so fun!

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The beautiful thing about this community is that NWA recognizes key events, such as prom, are markers in Grace’s life. With each new and positive experience, she creates a memory that heals a part of her wounded heart. “I never thought this was possible!” Grace exclaimed excitedly as I gave her the budget for her entire prom experience.

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She looked at pictures of dresses for months until it was time to buy one. Then her mentors gathered together, went to She Said Yes Bridal, where Grace got the Princess Experience. They shopped with her, allowing her to try on all her favorite dresses. She found her dream dress and danced around in it like a Princess.

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Then Prom Day came… Grace’s mentors once again rallied around, taking turns going to hair, make up, and nail appointments. They were there when Grace had a (small) freakout and helped make sure the eyeliner didn’t run with the tears. They took pictures and sent Grace off to dance the night away.

The next week Grace shared all of her favorite moments of the night. To this day, if you ask her about prom, her eyes will light up and she’ll show you her pictures and tell you about her friends and dinner. On the outside she was simply a girl going to the prom… on the inside, she was getting to live out a dream she didn’t think was possible before the NWA community adopted her as their own. This event helped her to reclaim childhood and create positive experiences in her life.

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NWA, thank you for you supporting Grace… for allowing her to dream big from life goals to things like prom. Thank you for believing in generational change and cheering her on every step of the way. We couldn’t do this without you and we are so grateful that you allow this to be your story too!

 

With so much love and praise to the God who heals hearts,

Stephanie

A Family Affair by Cherri Rodriguez

Every person who steps in to be an advocate for “Grace”
becomes a member of the Saving Grace family,
but I have to admit, there’s something extra heartwarming about
a personal friend or family member of mine reaching out to get involved here.
About 6 months after I came on staff as the office manager at Saving Grace,
my cousin Michele did just that.

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Michele in the kitchen at Saving Grace

A lifelong resident of Northwest Arkansas, Michele Fields and her husband, Jimmy, have been together since they were 15. The couple raised two daughters and recently became grandparents with the addition of a brown eyed baby boy, named Noah.

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Michele and grandson, Noah

Michele grew up as an only child raised by a single mom, and says that watching her mother consistently do the right thing and work hard to provide for the family kept her from a lot of the risky behaviors that could’ve made life much more complicated for her. “I grew up living practically around the corner from my dad, but we’ve just never had a relationship,” Michele recalls, “It’s a bad feeling as a kid to think that you’ve done something wrong and that’s why someone doesn’t love you. You beat yourself up. I think as women, we beat ourselves up for enough stuff without having to deal with that too.
I have always told people, the only reason I am not a complete mess is because I had a mom who decided to keep it together and raise me in church.”

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Michele’s mother, Candy with Michele and her oldest daughter Brianna, along with her grandmother, Lillian

When I asked her why she chose to volunteer with Saving Grace, she says “I didn’t know places like this existed until I saw [Cherri] posting about it on Facebook. I had a desire to get involved with the kids in shelters or in foster care but you’re so limited with what you can do there because of the nature of that situation. So Saving Grace gave me an opportunity to serve more in-depth and to my own strengths. I’ve raised two girls, so I understand the complicated dynamics there.”

In truth, Michele has had even more hands-on experience with girls, having been a hairdresser in the NWA community for over 30 years. She now writes curriculum and worship for the children’s ministry at Fellowship Church in Rogers, and once a month you’ll find her in the kitchen at Saving Grace, cooking up a delicious meal for our residents. “It’s been fun to slowly build relationships with the girls in the house.” Michele says. “Not all of them will come to dinner, and that’s okay. They don’t all wanna say hi, but that’s just girls.” she laughs. “It doesn’t hurt my feelings because I’ve raised girls. But when they see you come in time after time and they start to recognize you and expect you to be there, slowly those walls are broken down.” she says.

Getting off on the right foot seems like it’d be easy as pie when your food is scrumptious and you’re easy to approach, but Michele says that wasn’t necessarily the case when she showed up here for the first time to cook dinner for the girls.
“I realize that they saw me as this woman who was put together and always happy, and the assumption may be that my life has been all sunshine, so when I’ve shared with a few of them that it’s been far from perfect –my childhood has been far from perfect, my marriage has been far from perfect –I’ve seen them look at me in a different light. What I want them to know from watching me is that happiness is a choice. No, it’s not easy to choose happiness. These are girls who are guarded. They’ve been through something. –I lived that.” she says. “It’s very hard to trust. To this day I still have trouble letting my husband take care of me. I’d rather do it myself. It’s easier to have that wall up than to be vulnerable, so I can identify with them in that way.”

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Michele with her mother, Candy, and daughters, Rene and Brianna

This past March, Michele celebrated the big 5-0 by donating her birthday to Saving Grace with a food drive. Throughout the month, her friends brought in piles of food and grocery gift cards as they celebrated her.

I asked, why donate your birthday, and why Saving Grace?
She said, “You know, it’s never been about the gifts for me. It’s always been about the celebration. I’ve seen other people donate their birthdays, so that appealed to me, and since a lot of people have come to know my role as a cooking volunteer at Saving Grace, a lot of them had already approached me asking how they could help support me in that [by providing food], so that was an easy ask.”
She adds. “Women often times have trouble celebrating themselves. That’s part of why birthdays are so big to me and why I celebrated so big with my daughters when they were little.” Michele tells me. “You know, this is the day that God chose for you to be born. He celebrates you and you should be celebrated on that day by the people that love you.”

Michele says that her big-picture dream is to start a local non-profit that throws parties to celebrate the birthdays of foster kids, similar to one program in Dallas. (read more about the birthday project, here)

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Michele’s family celebrating her 50th birthday at a local restaurant

We are so grateful for the many different ways that the NWA community supports the mission of Saving Grace through the gift of time.
Michele is one of many B.R.A.V.E women who show up day after day to help write the stories of generational change in the lives of the young women we serve.
If YOU would like more information on volunteering with Saving Grace,
email our Volunteer Coordinator at jaclyn@savinggracenwa.org

 

A note from Grace ♥

A couple of weeks ago, some of the girls, mentors, and staff got together had dinner, and went to a concert. Normally concerts are just a fun way of seeing your favorite artists, spending money you really don’t have, and hearing favorite songs.
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Zach Williams, We Are Messengers, and Big Daddy Weave sang the songs they are known for, but they also added a small twist. They all got together on stage and sang a bunch of popular covers of songs from other artists. I’ve been to a lot of Christian concerts, and I don’t think anyone else has ever done that. 3 bands playing as one to bring everyone together.
For me worship is a big part in my relationship with God, it’s my way to express myself and connect. The excitement raced through my body as I anxiously waited for them to sing some of my favorite songs. During one song I took a minute and I paused. I looked around as we were all gathered in the pews at the church. I saw hands raised, tears flowing down faces of strangers, and children singing along to songs.
The lead singer from We Are Messengers, Darren Mulligan, had every woman in the crowd raise their hand. He prayed. He said “sometimes women feel like they aren’t good enough. I know that because my wife feels that way sometimes.” That’s 100% true to me. I sometimes feel like I’m not good enough. I feel self conscious, sometimes I feel like I’m not doing as good as I can.
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As I raised my hands I started to feel a bit overwhelmed at first. By the end of his prayer I felt like I had more confidence in myself. Then after he prayed he began to sing “take it all, take it all away. Magnify no other name. Open up, open up my eyes to you”, over and over again. He wanted us to give it all to Jesus, to take away our views on our self worth, our body images. At the end of the concert the bands prayed a blessing over all of us.
They prayed for a fire to ignite in us to love our community like never before, so Northwest Arkansas can be recognized for more than Walmart being located here.
It’s incredible to see the amount of love Jesus pours into these artists hearts. I’m so thankful for the generous people who donated gift cards for dinner and the couple who donated the tickets for us to attend.
It was nice to get away from the house for a bit and spend some quality time with my friends, who’ve turned into family.
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Brittney Temples
Welcomed Home September 10, 2015
Currently an SG Sophomore

That’s the Beauty of Grace

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God’s handwriting.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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This weekend was our annual photo shoot with Main Street Studios. We are blown away at this mans heart and generosity. He has the ability to generate outbursts of laughter and silliness, as our girls begin to relax and settle in to have their picture taken.

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Picture day isn’t always fun, mostly because we all don’t feel as pretty as we truly are. Right? But we are ALL beautiful! We are beautiful even on the days we don’t feel like it. That’s the beauty of grace. It’s the ugly/beautiful moments that make us shine.

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It’s the moments when girls with the most broken stories you can imagine, begin to celebrate each other. It’s words through laughter and tears, and shouting “you look so pretty” and “oh girl, you look gorgeous”. It’s when truth spoken louder than the lies listen to more often than not…  saying “we aren’t good enough, smart enough or pretty enough”.  It’s hearing and believe, “I am enough”.  It’s the beautiful moment when you realize your sister saved you a seat or ordered french-fries so you can eat them off her plate…. That’s the beauty of grace.

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These are the days we celebrate and embrace the ugly/beautiful as we witness first hand, God rewriting the story of Grace.

God’s grateful girl,
Becky Shaffer

A Liberated Soul

When I took on the role of the first Director of Development for Saving Grace, I knew that this would not be any ordinary fundraising position. I knew this because, above all else, Saving Grace is in the business of “soul-care.” For over 7 years now, our staff, tribe of mentors, volunteers, and countless members of this generous community have linked arms with one another as we press forward in fulfilling our mission of empowering the aged-out and homeless women of Northwest Arkansas.

The “soul-care” philosophy seeps into every fiber of what we do at Saving Grace. We see it in the fiercely brave soul of “Grace” who is working tirelessly each day to change her life, as well as the patient and committed souls of the mentors who are walking alongside her. These mentors walk with Grace while she is in our program, and even after she leaves.  Another area that we see “soul-work” taking place every day is in the lives of the many faithful donors who choose to give generously to support the work that God is doing at Saving Grace.

Maya Angelou once said, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” I think this perfectly sums up the many generous souls who make up the community of supporters for Saving Grace. Year after year, they have stepped up and made it clear why Northwest Arkansas is becoming a shining example for how a community can come alongside its homeless and “aged-out” youth population.

As we reflect on the past year at Saving Grace, the generosity of this community stands out as a bright spot. Our Year End Sharing (Y.E.S) Campaign this Christmas raised over $153,000 that will directly support the life-changing work taking place at Saving Grace in the coming year. Whether it is providing for educational supports, sponsoring professional counseling services, or making Grace feel warmly welcomed by providing a basket full of goodies and basic living supplies when she first arrives, every dollar will be invested with care.

Because of YOU, our faithful donors, we can go deeper and wider in the services we provide to this community in 2017. At Saving Grace, we look toward the future with HOPE as we see the endless possibilities that can occur when a community comes together, and commits to empowering its sons and daughters towards generational change. Lives are changing every day, and together, we are making Northwest Arkansas a place filled with liberated souls.

For more information on becoming a supporter of Saving Grace NWA, visit our website at www.savinggracenwa.org/donate or contact Director of Development, Ashlyn Gagnon by email at Ashlyn@savinggracenwa.org or by phone at 479-636-1133.

Having Vs. Getting: A Lesson in Kindness

Before moving to Saving Grace, I hadn’t seen a dentist in years. My last experience with a dentist was not great, to put it mildly. He put a bright, shiny, silver crown in my mouth that was unappealing. That crown popped off three different times and every time I came back he wrestled to get it to stay. It bothered me so much because it didn’t look good, feel good, and I knew I wasn’t getting the best dental care. I’ve lived at Saving Grace a little over two months now and one of the expectations when we first move in is that each of us takes care of our physical health.

Each of us comes here to learn or achieve different things but I’m learning that it is a lot easier to accomplish these things when I’m healthy. One of the things that is superb about Saving Grace is that they provide us the resources for a clean bill of health, and because of God’s sweet grace it’s of no charge to see our eye doctor and dentist. So, I made an appointment to go see the dentist, and expected just a routine check up and cleaning. I was stoked; my smile is so important to me and taking care of my health feels great.

I walked in Dr. King’s office for my appointment and the atmosphere was welcoming and friendly. The receptionist was kind and upbeat. It was refreshing. The dental hygienist that pulled me back and did my cleaning was dazzling. She explained everything she was doing and for the first time, I felt comfortable. She complimented the health of my teeth as she cleaned them. I was excited to see the finished product. She did a great job. Dr. King came in and introduced himself. He took a glance at my teeth. The hygienist and the dentist were talking in codes about my teeth, the things I can never understand. He lifted my chair up and he told me how he truly believes in Saving Grace and what they do. Then, he told me that he was going to take out that silver crown and put in a porcelain crown. I was caught off guard by his kindness. Again, this is of no charge. It didn’t seem real until he wrestled with the silver crown to get it out of my mouth.

A couple of weeks later, I got that pretty porcelain crown and I felt empowered and confident. Because of his kindness, I was influenced to share kindness with others. I might not have money or might not be a dentist but I do have kindness. Since being at Saving Grace, I volunteer ten hours a week at the Samaritan Shoppe, a little non-profit store that serves the needy. Because of my experience at Dr. King’s my time at Samaritan is changing. Instead of having to volunteer, I get to volunteer. A few weeks ago on my way back from volunteering the Lord prompted me to pick up trash on the side of Walnut Street!

This experience has also given me a new perspective on my community. There are good people in this world, people who actually care deeply, and appreciate the Lord. I’m seeing people who are doing the work of the Lord and His grace is flowing through them. These people inspire me and they are helping me along my journey. They remind me of His sweet grace. I wanted this atrocious silver crown out of my mouth years ago, but the Lord did it at such a time as this. I wouldn’t of learned this valuable lesson if it would have happened four years ago when I first wanted that tooth out. I didn’t know how to accept grace or kindness then; I was self-righteous and entitled. But because of what Christ has done my life, I can now see how He works through his people, and how important it is to be kind. I see how influential it is. The Lord is a God of order; His timing is always perfect.

-Alex


 

A Note From Bri: Alex is one of our newer residents at Saving Grace and our first graduate of our Pink Shirt Phase, which makes her a trailblazer here! Part of my rhythm as a life coach here is meeting weekly with the girls to connect and make sure they have everything they need to succeed for both their long-term and short-term goals. Alex and I meet bright and early every Wednesday morning. When she came back from her appointment few weeks ago I could tell something clicked for her in a profound way, in a way that quite honestly challenged my own joy and gratitude. At our next meeting I went out on a limb and asked if she would be interested in sharing her experience. A huge thank you to Alex for her courage and authenticity, to Dr. King for his faithful kindness and service to our girls over the years, and to all the wonderful people that he represents who love our city and our home so well. We praise God for each of you. Ephesians 1:15-16 says (paraphrased), “Because we have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love that you show towards all of God’s people, we have not stopped thanking God for you.”

 Alex is currently a freshman in our program, loves coffee, and is a pretty great first-time blogger. (Feel free to leave her any words of encouragement!)

Love Your City NWA

Mark 12:30-31New International Version (NIV)
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

On February 1st we challenged you to #randomactsofkindness and to #LoveYourCityNWA and also invited our girls to do the same!

This was from one of our residents at SG:

Last night as insomnia took over and I couldn’t sleep, I decided to pray. I prayed for my community, my kids at work, family, friends, mentors, and my sisters through Christ. Each one by name. As I prayed I suddenly had the need to write a note to one specific girl in the house. I knew it’s been tough for her lately. It may not be something fancy, but it’s the thought that counts. I have a challenge for you. Do a random act of kindness today. Spread kindness around your community. Take 10 minutes and write a note to someone. Give it to a lady shopping at Walmart. A small act of kindness can go a long way! 

#loveyourcitynwa #wereallinthistogether #scatterkindness#loveoneanother #14daysofkindness 

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It’s been such a joy watching the community love this city of NWA!  Here are a few more ways that many of you scattered kindness and loved on others!

  • Making breakfast for a housemate
  • SHOWING UP to celebrate the big and little achievements for girls who are working hard to break the cycle
  • 
Telling someone how much you love and appreciate them
  • 
Leaving a Starbucks card for the next Barnes and Noble customer
  • Looking a stranger in the eye and smiling
  • Paying for the car behind you at the drive thru
  • 
Serving a meal you’ve made to a friend and leaning in for a good visit
  • Giving a gift just because you want to encourage
  • Passing on a shopping cart to someone at Aldi’s and saving them the quarter
  • Making a cup of tea for a sick housemate
  • Walking with a sister so she doesn’t have to walk alone
  • Volunteering at Samaritan Community Center
  • Doing someone else’s dishes
  • Looking a stranger in the eye and smiling
  • Helping someone with their workload who’s having a hard day

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Something really beautiful happened in the midst of all of this love.  I came across a young mother on Facebook who was looking for inexpensive items to furnish her little family’s apartment, as they had recently fell on hard times and lost everything.  They’d saved and put together enough money for their deposits, but not a single piece of furniture….not to mention her kitchen was completely empty, including the fridge.

Hold on a sec…I’m getting ahead of myself!  Y’all, this community not only showed up to love, but they did so in such an incredibly generous and kind way.  It started with a couple giving them an almost new bed and bedding, table and chairs and ended with a gift card to buy all new dishes and other small kitchen items needed for a small family!  This all happened within a four day period!! I mean HOLY WOW! ♥ This is outrageous LOVE for your neighbor!

There were several things that needed to be delivered to the family and I decided I’d just drop in and see if there was anything else they needed.  I walked in and saw a very clean apartment, with very simple decor.  The young mother welcomed me in with a heart full of gratitude.  In a lot of ways, she too was loving me as much as I was her.  Gratitude is love in the most authentic form.

I asked if I could help her put some things away in her kitchen and she humbly allowed me to do so….it was then I realized this little family had so much less than I realized.  The cabinets were missing something vital to their day to day survival….food.  There wasn’t even salt and pepper.  I opened the refrigerator, mostly out of a desperate reaction and it too was empty.  Then the freezer.  Empty.

poverty

Food insecurity is the most broadly-used measure of food deprivation in the United States.  The USDA defines food insecurity as meaning “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.”

I shop for groceries for my family each week, and usually only after we were out of eggs, milk, bread and the fridge is empty except for pickles and mayo.  I make a list (ok…if I can be honest here, I rarely make a list…just sounded good), go to Walmart and fill my cart, check out and come home and fill the fridge back up for a week. When I was a little girl, there would be days I would go without eating…I would go to the fridge every day and open it wide, hoping for something to eat, only to find bare shelves.

This family needed a lot more than furniture and small appliances…they were hungry.  It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts as I choked back tears.  I asked if I could take her to buy some groceries.  She cried and hugged me.

At the end of the evening, there was so much love and gratitude, not only from her heart, but mine as well.  I walked down the steps of her apartment to leave and she thanked me one more time.  She thanked me for all of the ways this community came together to help, but also that we cared enough to give the best and that we took the time to stop by and meet her.

NWA y’all are awesome at this whole kindness and loving your neighbor thing.  YOU love well!  You give of your best, those first fruits as mentioned in II Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT) -it says, “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.'”  Can I just say y’all are HAPPY givers?  YOU show up and give with all your heart.  Thank you for being a part of our 14 days of random acts of kindness and for LOVING this city in such a joyful way!!  WE are ALL in this TOGETHER!! We are so thankful we are in this with YOU!!

We love you!!

God’s grateful girl,

♥ Becky