Monday, April 29, 2013

Newtown Outreach

Last week, I wrote about what my purpose is and how knowing that, helps me focus on the opportunities that help me to fulfill that purpose.

With my purpose in mind, I took on the challenge of volunteering to prepare dinner for an outreach that we were having at church.  We had invited the women from a section of Jacksonville called Newtown.  These women live downtown in a poorer section of the city.  Sisterhood at Celebration Church focuses on empowering women to reach their potential and teaches women how to live intentionally and with purpose.  Sisterhood has started to do outreaches throughout the City of Jacksonville and surrounding areas in order to bring it's mission to women all over.  We plan on bringing Sisterhood all over the world as well, to Northern Ireland, Costa Rica, Zimbabwe, and Greece.

Personally, I hadn't been able to attend any of the outreaches so far, so the Newtown Outreach was my first time!  I was given a budget, I made my shopping list, I enlisted the help of some of the women that I serve with, and we set about with the purpose of feeding these women.  I planned on about 50 people (women and children) to feed and I needed a cost effective yet filling meal to feed them.  We decided to make spaghetti and meatballs, a simple, delicious, and filling meal.

I bought some organic beef in bulk plus organic salad, raw veggies, and fresh crusty bread.  We made lots of spaghetti and homemade salad dressings.  We served sweet tea and water to drink.  Now, while I did not bake dessert, we did serve petit fours from Fresh Market after dinner.

The day of the event came and we brought crockpots, my meatballs, and cans of tomato sauce to the church.  We set everything up, chopped up garlic, fresh basil, and fresh oregano for the sauce, and turned on the crockpots to cook everything.  I gave myself enough time for the sauce to cook, before the women were set to arrive at 5:45.  Then, we went shopping for the fresh veggies, bread, and drinks but by the time we got back to the church, the power was out!!

That meant the meatballs weren't cooking and we didn't have any air conditioning, any lights or media and we weren't sure what to do!  We discovered that the other side of the building had power, so we moved the crockpots so the food could continue cooking.  We decided, instead of cancelling the event, we were going to continue setting up and prepping just like the power hadn't gone out.  We prayed for a miracle and waited on God!

The search was on for candles and we opened the blinds to let in the sunshine and we kept on decorating, chopping vegetables, and setting up the tables in the dim light.  We had tea lights set up on the buffet tables, lamps were brought in with 4-5 extension cords attached, and we used carts to carry hot meatballs and sauce from one side of the building to the other.  It was definitely a challenge, but instead of everyone giving up and cancelling the event, we decided that nothing was going to stop us from loving on these women and feeding them and their children.  Someone had live worship music set up on the stage with a singer and a guitarist, and they sang while we worked.

At 5:45, the bus drove up with 21 women and 43 children!  We received them with smiles on our faces and a positive outlook on the situation and explained that the power was out but we were going to go on with the event. We opened in prayer and started serving them by candlelight!  The kids were not afraid but they were definitely hungry!  My heart was bursting with joy seeing the little children enjoying my food and asking for seconds!  I love to cook for people anyway, but this was so much different than anything I had experienced up to this point.  I was so moved by the Holy Spirit in this moment and filled to overflowing with love for this group of people.  When it came time for Charise Orozco to speak, the lights came on in an instant!  Everyone cheered and we were so glad that we didn't give up!  I think that spoke volumes to these women and the love in the room that night was overwhelming and almost brought me to tears.  Chari spoke an awesome message that encouraged the ladies and me as well!  I felt so blessed that night to be able to share in this moment in time with the ladies of Sisterhood and the ladies of Newtown!

We said goodbye with the promise of seeing them again!  I can't wait until June when we do this again!
God is so good and He really showed us His faithfulness that night!

We had a pamper zone set up for the ladies and they were able to get their fingernails painted!  We also had a photo booth for the ladies and the children to remember the night!  Kennon Munger organized the whole thing and Liz Hineman released Kennon and I to do what needed to be done in order to pull off an amazing event!  I wanted to give a shout out to the ladies that helped me cook, set up, and serve the food, you did an amazing job!

"But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever.  Spread your protection over them, that all who love Your name may be filled with joy.  For You bless the godly O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love."  Psalms 5:11-12

Monday, April 22, 2013

What is your purpose?

What is your purpose?

How many of us wonder what our purpose on this Earth is?  How many of us just wander around without purpose, just doing life without focus, going through the motions without a clear destiny?

Last week at Sisterhood, things started to come together for me.  I had been wandering around my life, not really focused, not living with purpose.  I was hoping that things would change but I didn't have a clear plan or path to where I was going.  It was like getting in your car and you know where you want to be but your GPS isn't working and your driving without a map, without a guidance system.  That is pretty much a waste of time and gas, to go somewhere without purpose and a plan!  Why would we live our lives like that?  Life is more than working to pay bills, getting through the school year just to start a new one, getting from one event to another.  We should have dreams, goals, plans, and purpose to guide us through life and to give life meaning.

The theme of Sisterhood Mornings this semester is called, Rhythms of Grace.  We are talking about doing life with a rhythm and setting the pace with the things that matter the most, the things that help us to fulfill our purpose.  Linda Riddle was the speaker last week and she talked about opportunity and purpose.  Different opportunities come our way, doors open, things happen and we have to decide whether to take on those opportunities or to pass on them.  If we don't know what our purpose in life is, how can we know what opportunities to take?  

What are you most passionate about?  What are the things that bring you joy?  What are the things that make your heart soar?  What brings fulfillment and contentment into your life?  

Read this passage from Proverbs 31:16:
"She considers a new field before she buys or accepts it, (expanding prudently and not courting neglect or her present duties by assuming other duties); with her savings of time and strength, she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard."

The Proverbs 31 woman uses wisdom in her planning and opportunities.  She takes the time to consider new opportunities before she agrees to them.  She has to make sure her current responsibilities aren't going to be neglected by taking on this new thing.  She has margin in her life and only takes on things that will be fruitful and further the fulfillment of her purpose.

My purpose in life is found in Proverbs 31 verses 8-9:
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice." New Living Translation

My purpose is directly related to women and how women are objectified in society, treated as less than human and less than/not equal to men, and how those things affect how women perceive themselves.  

My focus is to help women to attain a healthy mind, body, and soul with emphasis on the body.  The most important things to me are healthy eating, positive body image, and combating objectification of women/children.  I believe that in changing societies view of women and shining a light on how objectification degrades females, that will help to break the cycles of abuse in domestic situations, human trafficking, and the sex trade.  If a woman, through taking care of herself produces a positive body image, she will be less likely to fall into the traps and snares set out to destroy her.

My goal is to bring God glory by being a godly woman that loves her body, the body that God gave me, to love the LORD with all my heart and with all my soul, and to champion women's strengths and successes.  God created women to partner with men, not to be tread upon and used for men's pleasure.  Together, men and women are meant to compliment each other's strengths in building family and community.  

With a clear purpose and goal, I can now set a plan in motion to fulfill my purpose!  Focusing on God and His plan for my life will help me to choose the opportunities that arise carefully and with godly wisdom.  

"Good planning and  hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty"  Proverbs 21:5