Christian Faith, God, wisdom

To Enter into Eternal Life

I love Barclay’s thoughts on The eternality of God:

Now let us take eternal life. It is far better to speak of eternal life than to speak of everlasting life. The main idea behind eternal life is not simply that of duration. It is quite clear that a life which went on for ever could just as easily be hell as heaven. The idea behind eternal life is the idea of a certain quality of life. What kind? There is only one person who can properly be described by this adjective eternal (aionios, Greek #166) and that one person is God. Eternal life is the kind of life that God lives; it is God’s life. To enter into eternal life is to enter into possession of that kind of life which is the life of God. It is to be lifted up above merely human, transient things into that joy and peace which belong only to God. Clearly a man can enter into this close fellowship with God only when he renders to him that love, that reverence, that devotion, that obedience which truly bring him into fellowship with him.

Charity, Christian Faith, kids making a difference, Maggie Lee for Good, Uncategorized

Who Cares?

Each Maggie Lee for Good Day has a rhythm all its own: a cast of colorful characters from various countries, races, religions and ideologies dancing out a good deed in their unique way. The timbre they hear and follow differs but from our perspective they are a beautiful flash-mob of random kindness unleashed on October 29th.

Some reach out just to let me in on their secret, “Hey, don’t post my name anywhere but we’re paying a month of bills for a single mom we know. We had her sister sneak into her house and find out to the penny what her bills for November will be. We’re giving her a wad of cash! Maggie Lee for Good!”

Others like my friends Gina and Colleen sent out fliers for their well-orchestrated events. One lady in Flower Mound, TX who was moved by the MLFG story sent Maggie Lee’s Closet a check for $750.00 and simply told Colleen, “I understand how they feel.” Another friend, Jeff, listed his custom duck call along with the reason why he was selling it on a message board and it brought $450.00. The craftsman who made it was so moved that he is replacing it fee of charge.

Impoverished kids in Tipton, GA, brought cans of food to share with their food bank as well as Caddo Middle Magnet School kids-to the tune of thousands of pounds of cans. Oh, and every single CMM student received a post-it note of encouragement on their locker.

The FBCS student body which had raised over $400.00 already through candy sales came through with generous donations for each of the charities highlighted at the celebration.

Andy donated dog food to a shelter while his wife answered my 911 call for a huge replacement 4 balloon for the donation celebration here. Rodan+Fields rep Elizabeth brought Halloween costumes to MLC and made MLFG the charity for October.

In Fayetteville, NC Jessie’s fifth annual costume fun run raised over $1,000.00 for NC Organ Donation Services. On her 18th birthday trip to New York she represented MLFG and hot great pics with the Today Show hosts Al Roker & Savannah Guthrie.

In New York the cast of Broadway’s Wicked collected kids’ clothing to help little people in need. Some like my mom who knew Maggie Lee well and whose random chin hairs remained untweezed now that she is gone breakfast for three different groups in need.

So who cares? You do. Doing your festive little dance in Senegal flinging loaves of bread in Jesus’ name, reaching out to the homeless in New Orleans, baking cookies in Houston and collecting donations for doggies in Shreveport.

The whimsy of God, the winsome ways of his partners, the wondrous unfolding of the Maggie Lee For Good story. How woven together we truly are.

Kindness takes hands and feet
Kindness takes hands and feet
IMG_5283.JPG

IMG_5282.PNG

IMG_4556.JPG

IMG_4573.JPG

IMG_4590.JPG

IMG_4621.JPG

IMG_4525.JPG

IMG_4910.PNG

IMG_4535.PNG

IMG_4137.JPG

IMG_4231.PNG

Changed for good, Christian Faith, Maggie Lee for Good

These Girls Are on FI-YA

Meredith, Colleen & Kathleen Doucet, Flower Mound, TX
Meredith, Colleen & Kathleen Doucet, Flower Mound, TX

I asked Colleen Gibbs Doucet to share what her family has done for Maggie Lee for Good Day (10/29) These girls have crazy-fun enthusiasm and I LOVE IT!

Our daughters were so impacted and inspired by Maggie Lee’s life that for the past 5 years we have done a MLFG project. Several years ago we started a Hot Chocolate Drive Through to raise money for Maggie Lee’s Closet ( a free children’s clothes closet in Shreveport serving the community’s most under-resourced). At one point last year we had 18 children helping us.

Each year it has grown and grown and the neighbors and community members come out to support by driving through our Hot Chocolate drive through. The kids plan an execute the entire effort with posters, flyers, plans all their own. The day of the event, the kids are all here dark early to prepare and to pray. They rotate through serving in different areas (promotion on the corner, taking orders, filling cups and the all important marshmallow station). The children are FULLY engaged and have such joy each year as what we have raised has grown.

This year we are looking for companies to match what we raise. We always stop and pray before and after the event that the children and families who ultimately receive clothing or school uniforms through Maggie Lee’s closet will be blessed. Maggie Lee inspired all of us and our daughters and their young friends are reminded that regardless of their age, they can impact the world through doing good. The Hot Chocolate Stand we do each year IS doing good …. and not just for Maggie Lee’s Closet. It brings neighbors, strangers and families together while helping a charity that is near and dear to us too and we are humbled and honored to be a part of carrying on Maggie Lee’s legacy!

Christian Faith, Overcoming, Perseverance

Beauty from Disappointment; What a Difference Icing Makes

wonky yet beautiful
wonky yet beautiful

A Mother and her platinum blond three-year-old walked on the sidewalk in front of me en route to Starbucks this morning. The little one had sparkly sandals, a gingham sundress and wayward ringlets which bounced in stride. The sight reminded me of my curly-haired toddler who wore enough glitter to make Dolly Pardon blush.

Curly girl peeled off the right while her mom continued walking. Noticing she was suddenly alone, the mom turned, scanned the patio and said, “Violet, we have to get our drinks first, remember?”

Violet clearly did not remember. She averted her eyes in embarrassment and exhaled an, “Oh, yea” with a sheepish grin in a slow-motion, “Whaaa-whaaa” sort of way, dragging to the entrance. I held the door for Violet and told her that her sandals were fabulous. Her mom prompted a “thank you,” which Violet dutifully sighed, likely exhausted by having to hear how adorable she is all day every day. Which I totally get. None of.

As mother and daughter approached the counter I could feel the rising heat flush my face and tears fill my eyes. I was glad to have just enough space between the Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Tower and the Kati Kati display to hang back and gather myself with a deep breath. I mean Oprah is certainly known to bring out my ugly cry but I didn’t think the barista would buy that cover story.

With cleared throat, I ordered and beheld through bleary eyes Starbuck’s line of La Boulange pastries. Boulange being the one word I remember from my trip to Paris. It means bakery. Not to be confused with Crap-erie…that’s where they make crepes… I know, right? (insert joke here) As I stood there admiring the cakes, a redemptive seed-thought was planted in my mind. I’ve found God to be a particularly extravagant sower of such these days.

I creamed my coffee, returned to my car and this time held my tears until safely inside. As I missed Maggie Lee, both her toddler years but would be her senior year of high school this year, the phrase “time heals all wounds” crossed my mind. But that was not the seed and frankly experience tells me that this statement is not entirely accurate. Time obviously softens the blow but healing is different matter altogether. What has proven true is the idea of time not healing all wounds but rather time affording one the opportunity to make friends with disappointment.

What those who have been through these tragedies: divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, rejection, abuse, betrayal and downsizing share in common is the disappointment that life will never again be the same as it was. Obviously this takes quite some time to accept.  Our paradigm is blown and we find ourselves in some surreal, overly-dramatic beginning of a bad Hallmark Channel movie. Not even a good one. Loss is jarring to say the least. Honestly, life hands and God allows some shockingly challenging times on earth; for instance the recent beheading of journalist James Foley. What tremendous grace his parents John and Diane have shown in the face of their graphic loss.

But there is always the rest of the story; so now to the seed part. Like a pastry left in La Boulange’s oven too long (nothing is actually baked at Starbucks, mind you) at times life is like a burnt cake. We begin with such great expectations of how our cakes will turn out. The picture in our minds is so pretty and the icing-waves so perfect. We measure, sift and and follow directions perfectly yet the burning occurs. Or maybe someone intentionally adjusts the temperature when we are not looking. Or, perhaps we ignore the directions, set the oven on 450 and get a drive-through daiquiri. (All hail Shreveport!) Through either no fault of our own,  our complete doing or somewhere in-between, we have a burned cake.

Left with what remains, we have choices to make. We can memorialize the cake, shellac it and pipe the words, “This crap cake is not AT ALL what I expected.” That way each time we pass we can be freshly disappointed, our pain vindicated. That’s one way to go. Or, we can throw the cake away and completely disappear because it is just too much to face and no one has ever pulled such a horrible specimen out of their oven. But still there is another way; we can do what people have been doing with their disappointment for centuries: simply make the most of what we have been given. Breathe deeply, trim the edges and gracefully coat it with colossal amounts of icing.

Isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together perfectly? I love that. When we can bring the fat-laden comfort casseroles to someone else and send rather than receive the sympathy cards. We love our comfort, the beauty of a life following our script and moist cakes browned to perfection. But unfortunately at times life hands us a volcanic doozy in a smouldering bunt pan.

So I proudly share membership with you in the charred cake club. My cajun masterpiece is slathered with icing and leaning with gusto. It looks like something Cindy Lou-Who would whip out for the Christmas feast rather than a $4.00 cupcake you’d pair with your tall coffee of the day.  I have a feeling yours may have crispy edges under the fondant as well if you’ve lived long enough. The great news? We get points for even our wonky cakes. It’s called the life we get to live: one more day with endless possibility. Every day you persevere, trim and slather. It may be a far cry from the picture on the box but its yours and its beautiful. 

Christian Faith, friendship, kids making a difference, Maggie Lee for Good, Sharing God's Love, Uncategorized

Kids Making a Difference

Kids Making a Difference

There is so much truly bad news in the headlines today. On Monday a student at Sparks Middle School in Nevada armed with a semi-automatic weapon killed a teacher and wounded two others. Between tragedies like that and rediculousness like Miley Cyrus’ dance moves its easy to be discouraged about this generation of kids. But there are so many more quietly living impactful lives, doing good for others in need and living lives of character. Here are a few who have made a difference.

Shreveport 8th Grade Cheerleaders have raised over $1,500.00 for pediatric brain injury support groups on MLfG Day through their snack stands. They met  Live! hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan and shared their MLfG story in New York last year.
Contact: Petra Barber:
Davidandpetra@comcast.net

Sixth-grader Kathleen and fourth-grader Meredith Doucet of Flower Mound, TX held a hot chocolate stand on MLfG Day in 2012. They raised $400.00 for Maggie Lee’s Closet. They will again be selling hot chocolate for good on November 2nd.
Contact: Colleen Doucet:
colleen.doucet@icloud.com
video of hot chocolate stand:

Every year High School Sophomore Jessie Keener sponsors the Maggie Lee for Good Costume fun run to benefit North Carolina Organ Donation services. The athletic beauty queen will again have a fun run on October 27th at Fayetteville Christian Academy. This year’s event is MLFG 4 EJB- dedicated to another young girl Emmi Barbaro (pictured above) who passed away this year who embodied the one day, one deed, one difference spirit.
Contact: Millie Keener:
keenerfay5@aol.com

The Ponder boys of Shreve Island Elementary are holding a book drive for Maggie Lee’s Closet and recruited Eden Gardens and South Highlands to join them.  Benjamin Ponder did 10 good deeds on his 10th birthday: one of them was working in Maggie Lee’s Closet.

There is good being done in the world. Despite the sensationalism of the bad, rest assured that this generation has those looking beyond themselves and their phones to make a difference.

Christian Faith, friendship, Maggie Lee for Good

Drive Thru Hot Chocolate MLFG Project

Drive Thru Hot Chocolate MLFG Project *click here for video

This is a video of Meredith & Colleen Doucet’s drive-thru hot chocolate stand they convinced their whole neighborhood to attend. The donations purchased uniforms for under resourced kids through Maggie Lee’s Closet. These girls make a difference and have a blast doing it.

 Your fifth Maggie Lee for Good Day is happening in just two weeks. I say yours because God keeps inspiring you and you keep listening to His still, small creative voice to do good on purpose on October 29th. You touch the world with His passionate pizazz and color greyed-out faces with your blush brush of kindness. You love in brilliant, fun & festive ways and that your expressions of kindness are done with Maggie Lee in mind is like the greatest, biggest chevron bow on top.

Today I got the most knowing, loving smile. An elderly African American lady walked past my car today as I waited for Jack and 3 other football players to come out. His school is in an older part of town and there are always lots of pedestrians on the sidewalk.  This lady wore the clothes of a housekeeper with her silvery hair needly pinned in a bun at the nape of her neck. She glanced over her left shoulder, caught my glance and gave me the most genuine smile I have ever received. Love practically shot out of this woman’s wrinkles and on to me as I sat mindlessly waiting in the carpool line.

Why was I given such a gift today? Why was this nonverbal sign of love and affirmation shown to me by a stranger? After considering all of the possible motivations behind her familiar, loving grin I instantly realized that her smile had nothing to do with me and everything to do with HER. She reached out with to me with her beautiful, kind smile not because we are friends or even acquaintances. No, she was just filled with so much love that she had to share it. I’m telling you it arrested me and made me feel amazing.

On Maggie Lee for Good Day you may not be able to organize a food drive, give blood or mow your neighbor’s grass which is so unruly that toddlers get lost up in there. You may not crank out an awesome hot chocolate stand and catch the UPS guy’s attention. You may not find the white shoe polish to write “Happy Birthday Maggie Lee,” on your mini van with like you planned. And that’s ok. But you do have a face and if you’re not using it for The November cover of Vogue perhaps you could give a heart felt smile to someone…and here’s where it gets crazy…you don’t even know.

It costs so little to be kind. A few nano seconds to hold the door for someone, yield the right of way for a fellow motorist or look up directions on your phone for a confused person (I thank you in advance.) These tiny things are monumental because in doing them you demonstrate the belief that others have dignity not because of what they’ve made of themselves but merely because God made them. They breathe. That’s enough reason for me to be kind to them.

Your fifth Maggie Lee for Good Day. How will you use it…for good?

Christian Faith, Sharing God's Love

I am Rich in Fabulous Women Friends. Like Fortune 500 and Forbes List have a Baby Named Oprah who Marries Bill Gates Rich

photo 8I am rich in fabulous women friends. Filthy rich. Like Fortune 500 and Forbes List have a baby named Oprah who marries Bill Gates kinda rich. Re-Itch. Today God sent a barrage of love notes to me in the form of these women.

During last night’s thunderstorm I raised the blinds, got a pillow, shucked my bra and watched the storms roll in. The lightening and rain were a glorious sight. The show reminded me of my Senior year in college when Jen, Gina, Stork and I would hear thunder, drop our homework, light taper candles in Clearly Canadian bottles and experience the storm.  It didn’t take much to pull us away from the books and after a few moments of silence into deep discussions. Common themes covered were which one of us had the best shot at a Nantucket wedding with the Waspy  J.Crew model and how Christie Brinkley could still look 18.

Our Senior year was all about cookie parties where we invited 50 guys and no girls and Scott Phegley’s guitar on the roof outside the storm-watching window. “Wow-this screen pops right out!” was my discovery the day I moved in and the screen wasn’t returned to its rightful place until the day I moved out after graduation.  It took no time for us to designate the roof as the premiere hang out for us and 10 of our closest friends. We felt like such avant garde, naughty little hippie Baptists sitting on the roof of our condo drinking Purple Saurus Rex sugar free kool aid, singing and all. (and what I mean by kool aid is actual kool aid embarrassingly enough and not code for trash can punch. ) Our harmonizing at times warranted the broom banging from our first floor neighbors, a non-verbal request to ratchet our kum ba yah down a notch. There was a fleeting, unique texture to those days. Perhaps the texture of composite roofing particles embedded in our Umbro shorts.

I group-texted my three room mates last night as I remembered our roof times. Though once scattered half-way round the world, we now live within just 4 1/2 hours of each other. Last night’s message spilled over into today’s ongoing conversation: true status updates and prayer requests too personal to ever launch out there on Facebook. The disentangling of a relationships, concerns for our kids and the need for God’s specific intervention in medical conditions of friends we know. What began as a throw-away “I’m missing you women! I totally realized that I have a roof here and I want you to come sit on it with me when John isn’t looking” expanded into a deeper level of communication wrapped in echoes of encouragement.

I emailed my faithful 7th grade friend Colleen when sleep escaped me. I knew she would sew my concerns in the soil of God’s keeping and not leave them fallow in her Gmail account. Four years ago when tragedy struck, Colleen and each of my dear friends rallied around us in Jackson, Mississippi. When Colleen eventually returned home to Texas and we remained in Mississipppi, she stayed up praying for us all night long while I watched a ventilator breathe for my first born. She texted me Bible verse after Bible verse after Bible verse of hope. She said she was committed to go through this with me and she certainly did. Likewise just three years later I had the privilege of being with her in Houston the day her Mother died. I told Mary Grace that she looked sexy in her night-gown which evoked one of her last smiles on Earth. Colleen and I have walked down the intimate thoroughfare of loss with each other. We are sisters born for joy as well as adversity.

My friends are sweet enough to share their daughters with me. They encourage the girls to friend me on Instagram and engage in other potentially embarrassing-to-them behavior. They allow me to help with paint colors, encourage rainbow loom bracelet production and ask for my help with humorous monologues for acting competitions. One asked for prayer coverage for her daughter’s brain surgery and believed me when I said that God knows I can’t walk through this again so I’m sure she’ll be fine.  And thankfully Kathryn has been.

As if this bumper crop of true friends slogging through the joys and pitfalls of life weren’t blessing enough,  a brand-new friend came to help in Maggie Lee’s Closet today. Petite yet strong she hauled her weight in bags upstairs to Joe Cooper’s van. We get credit for the bags of pajama bottoms and leisure suits which kids cannot use but Goodwill can.  This is a program my friend Tina made us aware of.  Amy and I did the heavy lifting and then rewarded ourselves with a trip to Starbucks. She had my respect when she decisively picked a table outside while I aimlessly fiddled with my straw wrapper. I left feeling like I had been in the presence of an honest, caring woman the likes of which fill my life.

While we sipped passion fruit tea and solved the world’s problems, my phone was on silent. It so happened that during that hour I had missed calls from not one but two women asking if I still needed help with hauling Goodwill bags. Upstairs. Both of these women called between other obligations and told me that they could help on their lunch hour if I still needed them.  These are women whose full plates do not outstrip their desire to serve the least of these.  Both Peyton and Michelle stood ready to give of the little free time they had.

My day also included Lee carpooling Jack to football, a task which Stephanie, Ashley and I share. Mostly to eavesdrop, I’m not gonna lie. This freed me up to spend time with The Lighthouse Kids. Even though Jeremiah asked me disgustedly why I was wearing the same t-shirt I wore last week, I felt the love.  After that I had an exchange of text messages with my wonderful Mom who is more tech savvy than I ever imagined. Let’s just say she’s got the selfie down pat and we rejoice that the era of the throw-away camera is a distant memory for Mimi.  A second new player in my life, Emily, brought her two little girls to work in Maggie Lee’s Closet as well.  Though her kids are only in second grade and pre-K, she wants them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A virtue present in all of the significant women in my life.

I am ridiculously blessed with a group of secure and loving women, confident in who they are, faithfully living out the imperfect life which God has given each one of them. They voluntarily link arms with the likes of me down this yellow brick road which is sometimes flying-monkey-infested. They love me, correct me, believe in me and inspire me. And somehow, ridiculously enough, I do the same for them. Though life is not at all what I thought it would be on that roof 20 years ago, even still I am richly blessed with friends excited to watch the storms of life pass with me.

Christian Faith, Maggie Lee for Good, Sharing God's Love

The Rest of the Story

In my last post, I wrote about the profound impact your donations to Maggie Lee’s Closet have had on children in our community.

I mentioned one girl who was on the brink of expulsion for removing her undies at school. This “discipline problem,” you will recall was the result of ill-fitting undergarments, not a disrespectful temperament.

Ms. Linda, the social worker who came to the closet seeking clothing, delivered the bag of undies, clothes & uniforms a week ago Saturday.

Our precious little friend was hysterically happy. She excitedly gathered the bag as if it contained the holy grail, asked Ms. Linda to stay in her home and bolted down the street to show the nearest neighbor her miracle.

The look on the precious faces of these children who receive a new uniform and a beautiful outfit is that of your child when they are chosen for All-Stars, win the talent show or are celebrated with a huge birthday blowout.

To those kids who do without on a perpetual basis, the simple gift of a new outfit is a miraculous thing. And I get to see this unfold every week.

How blessed am I?

Christian Faith

The Magic Closet

The frenzied magic of Maggie Lee's Closet...where kindness is always in fashion
The frenzied magic of Maggie Lee’s Closet…where kindness is always in fashion

Maggie Lee’s Closet is a magical place. Last night Linda who is school counselor and committee member for MLC shared a heart-rending story which beautifully illustrates why this is true.

Linda was called to an area elementary school to work with a troubled student. In Linda’s words,

“The student was recently taken away from her parents and placed with the only kin who agreed to take her, an older cousin who just became a mother herself. The child is a big girl and every day she would take off her panties. The teacher became aware of this and told her that she needed to stay completely dressed during the day. The little girl continued to disobey her teacher and was set to be suspended unless she changed.”

Linda witnessed the shocking behavior as she observed the girl in her classroom. Linda escorted the child to the restroom with another adult and told her to put her panties back on. The girl showed Linda the red gashes in her upper thigh where her underwear had cut into her. A size 12, she started out the day wearing the size 8’s but sooner or later it was too much for her to take and she had to get free from them.

That is an unbelievable reality for me. Even in the salad years we had Grandmothers buying Easter dresses and supplying a constant stream of tiny cowboy boots. We had the safety net of awesome hand-me-downs and filled in with Gymboree Blowout sale items. I had a husband, a job, diaper money, a car, gas and food on my table. I was and am still so incredibly blessed.

Hundreds of friends and strangers have worked to make Maggie Lee’s Closet a reality because they feel blessed as well and want to continue God’s flow of goodness to those around them. Perhaps we cannot solve the world’s problems but as I meet the young bearers of poverty’s brunt, I know that we can do something.

Linda bagged up the solution to this young girl’s behavior issue in the simple form of donated Hanes panties, a new uniform, jacket and a note of love on Maggie Lee’s Closet stationary. A simple reminder to a displaced child that she is precious and not forgotten.

And that is magic.