Reaching back


This picture.

A trunk full of food and help.

I remember when she registered her family in the summer of 2015. When registering, we ask them one tough question:  Are you experiencing or anticipate experiencing food shortages this summer?  A question I hate to ask, but have to.

You see, it has taken me 10 plus years to grow comfortable (and I still feel hesitant at times) to share that FBF relies solely on prayers and God answering them.  The concept often results in a look of befuddlement on the face of the person listening as if it is entirely crazy!   Imagine the looks on the faces of business leaders and financial planners!!

By nature, I am a planner and an organizer.  In law school, my favorite class was Taxation!  I loved the structure and the challenge of working through its maze.  Those tendencies towards structure and assurance still reside deeply in me.  So, it was difficult, at first, to not have “funding” mapped out in advance for our outreaches.

But almost from the beginning, God has led us to being different from what is out there. Different in structure; different in goals.  If we were to be about growing faith, then we had to work on facing what was inhibiting our own growth.  Could we really see God’s amazing movement if our hands and plans were so busy trying to make the world move the way we wanted?  God’s nudge and direction was to rely on Him for providing what we need, what they need.  Each outreach, to this day, stretches our faith to trust God with what our hands can’t necessarily provide…

I hate asking the question because it feels intrusive.  Yet, over the years and with experience, the question is absolute necessary.  And for two very good reasons.  First, our goal isn’t to just hand out food, but to hand it out where there is a desperate need.  We have to screen because there are often different levels of need.

Second, we want to protect, as best as we can, what goes out by making sure that the need is as real as we can verify.  Part of this stems from the fact that we know that God moves the hearts of every day people, both struggling and not struggling, to come alongside us and help others.  There is no Wal-mart or Target pulling up to our doors with pallets of food.  There are no letters being mailed out asking for donations.  No grant applications being filled out with hopes that taxpayers dollars will come from the State or Federal government to bring our outreaches to life.  Instead, we trust, pray and wait.

Over the years, we’ve watched God build an incredible network, a body of Christ, with many parts working together with what they have and what they are able to give. Sometimes it is a couple of cans; other times, it is a couple of bags of food.  No matter to us, as we have learned to wait and watch as God builds the piles.  Every contribution is one of value whatever the size.

I remember her words as she responded to my question.  “I wish I didn’t have to register.  I am already struggling the last week of the month.” Her voice trailed off as if she was in the grocery store.  “I couldn’t buy milk and bread at the end of last month…and I know people stand there in line and think why I am buying that large jug of juice instead of something healthier.  But when you have only a few dollars left, you have to figure out what goes further to feed everyone…it is not about healthy versus unhealthy.  It is about what will last longer to feed my kids.”

She went on to explain that her husband was disabled and that she was working, trying her best to make ends meet.  I could hear the frustration in her voice as she spoke of wanting things to be different but not finding a way out of where they were.  I reassured her that her family was exactly who we were looking to help.

The summer went well except one delivery her husband didn’t show.  We drove the bags over and dropped them off on the front porch, and she called to thank us.

This summer, last week, the same thing happened.   I remember standing at the place where we deliver and being worried.  I asked the volunteer who was riding with me to remind me to text her when I got to the next delivery, but when we arrived several of the families were already there.  We got swept away in passing out bags, discussions, prayer requests, and hurrying to the next spot.

Once back home, there were additional meetings and an event that evening.  I sat down much later and thought it was probably too late to contact her.  I said a quick prayer asking God to nudge her heart if she needed the groceries.  Early the next morning, a text appeared on my phone.  It was her…

Hi Michelle  it’s ____________.  I’m sure the answer is no…”

The message went on to share that her husband had had a really bad day and she was wondering if the lunch stuff was still available.  I could sense her frustration with the situation in her text.  My heart broke for her.  It is so hard to humble oneself, especially when someone else puts you in the position to have to ask another for help.

I texted back telling her that I did have the bags.  I had had to get rid of the perishables (we passed them along to the other families), but offered to meet with the remaining bags.  She was so happy.  We set up a time and a place, and that I would be meeting her husband.

From her came these words:

Ok thank you so much!  You have no idea how much this helps us, we’ve been very strapped for money and I was so upset we missed yesterday.”

They have one car, and he takes her back and forth to work.  A mom trying her hardest to make her world a better place.  A dad who is struggling with his own health issues.  All sorts of things wrapped up in this situation.

So I texted:

I had a feeling and thought I should text you but became very busy at the deliveries and other meetings throughout the day.  I am glad you texted.  I’ll add in another set of bags from someone else who missed again.  Hopefully, the bags will be a blessing! Thanks for reaching out!”

She promptly texted me back:

Dear God yes they will be and so are you!  And thank you for reaching back I can’t even express my appreciation!”

Her words “reaching back” stuck out in my mind.  We often have to be tough because there is a fine line in some situations between enabling and helping.  Sometimes it is really hard to tell if there is even such a concern.  Other times, it is more clear. Usually when someone misses, we leave it on them to reach out to us.  And, yes, if they miss twice without contacting us, we do the tough thing and remove them from the program.  Our goal is to provide food when it is lacking and, if it is truly lacking, they are usually there on the distribution day or call quickly to reschedule.

But this situation felt slightly different.  This mom has communicated clearly that they were desperate for food, but she works on our distribution days.  Her ability to pick up is reliant on her husband, who has struggled with being there at times.  I could clearly hear her voice in her text, and I wanted her to know it was okay to reach out again.  To reach forward even though we hadn’t reached back.

So I took a picture after loading the car.  The one above…

I thought it might provide her some relief to actually see what was coming home for her family.  I wanted her to have an idea as to what we were bringing, instead of spending the day at work wondering.

I hit send…

And headed to the car.


You’re the best!  I’m in tears, this helps so much!  Thank you so much again!!”

Arriving in the parking lot, I saw his car.  What a tough spot to be in.  Clearly unsure of what I thought, he got out with his shoulders downward as he looked at the pavement.  I opened the trunk and began handing him the items with a smile.  I asked how he was doing–that I had heard he had had a bad day.  A bit surprised, he began to share a little about his back injury.

As I handed him more, explaining that we had been blessed with lots of goodies, I mentioned that I had hoped the bags helped.  That I was glad his wife had contacted us. Not to my surprise, he shared that his wife had been so upset and was sure that there was no use calling.  She had been beside herself all evening.

I told her to just call.  That they seem like really nice people.  What can it hurt to ask?  Maybe they can still help.”

I looked at him and reassured him that he had given the right advice.  As we finished, I told him that we would be praying for his back and that things–somehow and someway–get better.  I shared that those answers are often not as quick as we would like but we would hold them in prayer until something changed.

A broken soul, a difficult situation.  And as he opened his door, he said,

God bless you guys.  God bless what you are doing.  It really helps.”

At 4:12pm, a text arrived on my phone from her:

I just wanted to tell you the kids were so excited they had to show me all the stuff when I got home!”

A big smiley face punctuated the end.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to ponder whether God used that father’s bad day to bring them what they truly needed?  We would have given them their normal set of bags had he made it.  Because their delivery happened after all of the rest, we had extra.  And it was very clear they needed help.  Remember the kids were absolutely thrilled such that they made their mom look at everything as soon as she got home…a very real need, indeed.

Thanks be to God for a gentle reminder for how much what He designs is needed, and thank You God for growing my faith yet again in allowing us to see and be apart of Your work in this world.   While structure is absolutely necessary, so is kindness, flexibility, grace and trust in Him and His ability to provide!

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  1 Peter 4:8-10







Patrolling the waters


The Coast Guard has a number of jobs that it does.  The one job we often think of first for them is maritime rescues.  They are the people who are called when something tragic happens on the water.  They are a resource that most will never encounter, but in that moment, when something has gone wrong, the sound of their presence brings great relief to the soul in trouble.

But they operate more often than we think.  One of their many, non-emergent jobs is to patrol the coastline on our big bodies of water.  Their steadfastness to ensure the safety of our waters brings comfort and assurance on even the brightest, calmest days.  The dependability of their routine adds a measure of security to all who visit the waters.

Five years ago, God nudged our hearts with whispers about hungry children taking home back packs of snacks and a few meals to make it over the weekend during the school year. These bags were being sent home in community after community that surrounded South Lyon, and so, we paused to assess whether that need was also in our midst.  We met with our local food pantry.  We spoke with the secretaries at the schools.  We prayed and thought, and suddenly, we realized that while food was important on the weekends…what about the summer when there was no school at all to help with meals?

Realizing that need must exist since there were children in our community on the federal lunch program during the school year, we prayed for guidance on how to help these families.  From there, we began our Summer Lunch Bag program.  Starting with one school, several families registered.  Over the years, we have modified how often we provide and expanded the program to include more schools.

Now our program is not for those looking to lessen their grocery bills.  It is not for those wanting to save up for something else.  We have tailored it specifically for those who are lacking food during each month of the summer.  With that as our threshold, we have been blessed to come alongside those who are struggling in significant ways.

Most of these households have a working parent.  One who is working as much as they can to bring in enough to keep their heads treading above water.  For those with two parents, oftentimes, one parent is battling an illness or has become disabled.  Many during our registration have spoke of how humbling it is to have to ask for help; that it is the last thing they have wanted to do.  More often than not, I tell them that our program was designed to help people just like them.  That the people who help provide the food are everyday people looking to bring aid to those in their community…they want to help when there is a need.

The first delivery can be a bit awkward for those new to the program.  Not in a bad way, but in just meeting, getting down the timing, and the waiting that occurs as we pass along bags to the families.  Not knowing anyone, yet knowing everyone there is struggling in some way.  After handing them the bags, we routinely ask if they have any prayers that can be said on their behalf until we meet again.  For those new and unsure about our program, they often decline.  And we are okay with that.  Asking for food is hard enough; sometimes being vulnerable about your other needs is too much.  But we always ask…patrolling, in way, the potentially deep waters of the hearts that lie before us.

In the midst of something gone wrong, a rescue swimmer is often dropped down into the water or onto the boat to assess the situation and find out what is needed.  Is it something mechanical that is in distress?  Can the vessel be saved?   Or is there a person on board in need of medical help?  Do those on the vessel need to be ferried off?  The rescue swimmer relays the information back to those on board the helicopter and the appropriate decisions of how to help best are made.

And sometimes, the swimmer has to save someone in the water.  Should that be the case, the person in the water must be compliant.  They cannot fight or panic as it can take both the rescuer and the one being rescued down.  An understanding all who want to serve should come to respect.  We try really hard not to obligate people to share their prayers. Sometimes, they can’t think of any.  Other times, the concern, fear or pain is too much to convey.  At the first sign of struggle, we politely step back and continue on…giving space at a safe distance that allows them to process the request without being pressured to do so.

Our second delivery this summer illustrated well this principle.  We had a family register late this spring.  One parent is working but the other has been very ill, battling a significant disease.  Financially the medical bills had taken its toll as well as shortened work weeks in order to accommodate doctors’ appointments and treatment.  When this parent arrived at the first delivery, he was cautious and had little for prayer.  I reassured him that it was totally okay, and gently shared we’d keep the other parent’s health in our prayers.

Now FBF’s primary goal is to build faith in God, but often, we are just blessed to watch as the Master Builder works.  One family has been in our summer food program since its inception.  She is a single mom with three kids and an amazing faith that God is with her and with us.  She knows our routine and gladly shares her prayers with us, and we share our prayer needs with her.  During that first delivery, the new parent, while waiting to pick up the food bags, watched as she gave us her concerns.

This time, her family was again one of the first waiting for us, and so when this other parent arrived shortly thereafter, we were still transferring bags and all the goodies that were brought.  As I handed her a package of toilet paper, she became animated with joy. Her apartment had just flooded.  The neighbor’s, above her, air conditioning unit had sprung a leak that pooled into her home and soaked everything.  Now, this gal is a planner but sometimes the best laid plans don’t anticipate such unforeseen trouble.  Sometimes a sunny sky does not share that a dangerous storm is building off to the west…

All of their paper products were destroyed and she was desperate for toilet paper.  Already struggling, this cost was unanticipated with no way to meet the need that had arisen before the end of the month. As we transferred the laundry detergent, she began to praise God out-loud for His knowing exactly what she needed to wash all that had been soaked. The next set of things, feminine products, brought added amazement as those too had been destroyed.  She openly exclaimed her awe of His provision, and we stood there in just as much awe of how God had moved hearts to help such a direct and specific unknown need.

As I turned to take care of the other parent, his eyes sparkled from hearing the testimony of someone who wasn’t trying to testify…someone who was sincerely praising God in that moment where her fear of how had turned into praise for His love and care.  Handing him several of the items and explaining quickly where they had come from and how, I noticed he seemed less reserved.  As we continued to unpack the load for his family, he began to eagerly tell how helpful the stuff had been the prior month and would be this month.  The abundance of items was exciting and overwhelming for all the families, and he was clearly moved.

While I handed him the last remaining items, another family pulled up. Understanding better the routine of our visits, I gently asked if there were any prayers until next time?  He nodded, much to my surprise. Upon finishing our brief conversation, he leaned in to give a big hug.  A common occurrence when people share what is on their hearts.  Those requests are so important…to them, to us and to God.  They know that we do not have the answers for why or even how, but the kindness that comes from being willing to intercede on their behalf can mean a lot. Common among many of them is that life was going well in their stretch of the sea before they became overwhelmed by something…a storm, a wave, a malfunction, an unexpected flood…

You see, prayer and hugs often feel like a life preserver of sorts that helps them tread the waters beneath them with more assurance that there is truly One who is able to command those waters…to rescue, if needed.

Such moments, my friends, are exactly why FBF patrols the waters that lie before us…


“The ships of Tarshish were carriers of your merchandise.  You were filled and very glorious in the midst of the seas.  Your oarsmen brought you into many waters, but the east wind broke you in the midst of the seas.”  Ezekiel 27:25-26





Changing Seasons


“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

Many times, standing in the assemblies during FBF’s Easter outreach, I have heard people ask excitedly, “What’s next!?!”  In kindness, I smile and share with them what we have coming up over the summer months.  Quite frequently, I see their shoulders drop a little and a confused look pass over their eyes.  They are so overwhelmed by what they are seeing–what God is doing through making Easter baskets–that they long to see more.   To build off of the momentum, if you will…

But many years ago, I found that by the end of this marathon of an outreach if we didn’t step back, rest and withdraw, it became more work than it needed to be.  And not just physically,  but emotionally.  At some point, another Easter basket makes us want to cringe!  More grass, more plastic eggs, toys, stuffed animals…are no longer a welcome sight as they have no where to go, especially with limited space to store and almost another 12 months before beginning to build again.  Thankfully, early on, God taught us to rely solely on Him and to turn away from collecting year round.  That was (and is, as we are still learning) one of the many lessons over the years.

Another crucial one was finding moments of down time, having the ability to walk away and trust God that what needs to be done can be done in a specific time slot.  It is a part of a greater message of trusting Him.  It is not magic nor wishful thinking.  Hard work is absolutely necessary, but it is coupled with a strong belief–faith, if you will–that God wants us to live lives to the fullest containing both seasons of work and rest.  Sometimes, it is just short rest in between lots of work, and sometimes it is more rest with work sprinkled in between.

And so, I found out years ago that it was okay to walk away from the basement after Easter. To respect that my body and my mind, my family and their grace, our volunteers and their lives, all needed to rest after giving such loving dedication and time to building baskets.  The lights go off after our last delivery and we often don’t return to the basement until early June to sift through what is left.

But this year was different.  You see, I suffered a head injury back in November.  It has been a slow, slow recovery of symptoms that are hard for anyone to see, and even harder for me to respect–until they knock me down.  Both Christmas and Easter, in regards to FBF’s outreaches, left me feeling quite vulnerable by those hedges the concussion has surrounded me with.  And so, I vowed to myself that the basement was going to be cleaned up as soon as Easter was done.  I wouldn’t be caught unprepared for tomorrow!  Order would prevail and then I could truly rest!!

Best laid plans, right?  I can chuckle now at how my fear had won the moment in that grand plan.  I even fashioned “Clean Up Days” in our signups.  I scheduled for spring break as frequently tweens, teens and their families come to help on those off days.  Friends shared how they wanted to come wash shelves, vacuum up those ever spreading pieces of Easter grass, and help me “deep clean”.   “Ah,” said my mind.  Then I could truly rest…with all that accomplished.

Yet, God’s word is steadfast and true.  We are told in Psalm 119:152: “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”  Nothing had changed in what God had been teaching me about needed rest.  In fact, I had opened to multiple Scriptures in the end of March where Jesus had gone off on His own to pray and rest…illustrated by an early morning escape to a hillside or boat at the water’s edge.  It was as if He was gently preparing me for what was needed most.

And so, the days of cleaning came and went.  No volunteers.  Moreover, I had no energy.  I was so relieved that no one had signed up!  We had finished up the deliveries and the week after Easter, I spent writing…a taxing endeavor with my concussion.  By the end of that week, all my pizzazz for being prepared was gone.  I joked with people that coming off of FBF’s Easter outreach was much like jet lag after a very long flight.  A dead weight that really kind of takes over.  It took me about a week of trying to fight through it to realize it wasn’t meant to be.  Through His word, and most of the devotionals I looked at, the message was consistently rest.

So I am thinking now, it will be June before the basement has recovered from Easter :o)

And that’s okay.  In fact, He’s right…always is.  Rest is fundamental.  It changes everything–your physical ability, your mindset, your attitudes, your ability to see, and your ability to share.  If we ran head long into the next event, if we just continued on, there would be no time to savor all that He has done, which is also a part of rest.  It is called reflection…

My friends, I humbly share that by His grace and provision–His inspiration, movement, and mercy through so many–FBF was able to build and provide over 3,000 children baskets to families in need.  Several hundred more were created and shared with teens and adults.  Numbers I have yet to be able to wrap my head around.  Another lesson to be learned, in season where I felt less than capable, He had more than provided…exceedingly greater than anything I could have imagined.  He accomplished so much more than I had hoped or planned. So, must I really worry so much about for tomorrow when He is with me today?

This time of rest will pass as we return to the shore and begin to reach out again.  Lots of stories to share, and the beginnings of other smaller outreaches that will quietly dot our summer (but not overtake).  Small, necessary preparations while trusting Him that He will be with us in our tomorrows more than we can see today.

Steady prayers, my friends, for us and you until then.

“Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.”  Psalm 119:159


Touching lives

Have you ever thought much about the wind?

It really is quite an amazing thing.  In its most endearing state, this invisible force wraps around your shoulders and gently caresses your face before it is gone.  Sometimes it tussles your hair or brushes against your legs.  It can literally swirl around you as if engaging and inviting you to dance…

At other times, the wind can be fierce, blowing hard against you and knocking you off your path.  It can most assuredly usher you inside as you seek shelter away from it.  It can rattle your house and make you long for it to stop.  On a mildly cold day, a sharp wind can cut right through you and quite literally take your breath away.  An invisible force that barrels down the road whipping up little tornadoes of leaves or snow or dirt.  What it moves, is often its only record…

It was many years ago when I was looking at Genesis that I felt this little nudge to look deeper into the words that described God in the garden.  It is goes something like this:

“When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze…”  Genesis 3:8 (The Message)

Notice that it doesn’t say that Adam and Eve saw God.  Instead, it says that they heard Him strolling in the evening breeze.  It seems as if His Presence in the wind alerted them to His coming near.  The Hebrew word, “ruwach”, is most associated with wind.  The definition describes it almost as an exhalation.  In the King James, it is often cited as “air, anger, blast, breath, cool, courage, mind, quarter, side, spirit(ual), tempest, vain, whirl wind.”

It was there that I realized God and His Presence, in how He moves in our lives, is often like the wind and how it works.  It is almost impossible to capture, and without some sort of debris or something caught up in it–the very movement of an object–we are unable to see it coming or going.  Most of the time, we can only hear or feel its effects as it touches us directly.  And as the Hebrew word describes so well, there is nothing quite like the gentle breeze on a warm day to cool your skin.  With just the right touch, a breeze can delight and relieve the soul alleviating it from the heat that may be pressing upon it…or it can cut right through and challenge the very life of the flesh and the soul.

When I started Families Building Faith, it was with a distinct vision.  It is nice to congregate together and friendships are important to develop, but what I felt was crucial was time together in His word for those who longed for it.  Not in judgment or in competitiveness and comparison or in a rigid outline that leaves little room to explore, but in pondering, thinking on, and mulling over. Time together spent challenging each other to go deeper and see how the word might be speaking to our very lives…yes, often, in the need for change, repentance, courage, and truth.

And I was well aware of how easy it is to look at His truth, as James says, giving it a quick glance in the mirror and then forgetting it.  How easy it is to apply it to everyone else and not ourselves.  So God laid it on my heart that as wonderful and life-changing as being in His word is, His word has to be put into practice in our lives.  Truly, Bible study serves ourselves.  His word is a gift to the health of the soul.  Fellowship gatherings serve to knit us together and grow community…again, something we all need.  Both things are useful and important, but serving others, that is where we get to be a part of God’s gentle movement in the lives outside of our own.  Time and time again, over the last ten years, I have had my breath taken away as I have caught a blessed glimpse of God moving in the life of another…

It is there as He does a little dance with the soul of another–often bringing them hope to the moment that they feel so desperately without.  It is there that I see His Presence in a way that mesmerizes and builds my faith.  But not just my faith alone.

It is in the little boy or girl who builds a basket and is utterly overwhelmed by the beauty they created with all of the different items God has brought.  It is in the eyes of the adults as they stand in awe of what they are seeing, hearing me say: “This really is not us.  We play a small role, and if you don’t believe me, trust me that I cannot move the hearts, hands and feet of the people who repeatedly come.  You know how comfortable the couch is, and it is not me making them get up.”

It is in the souls that we have come to know that have been told they are too young or too old or too sickly or too unable where we have seen God gently breathe new life into them, showing them that what they have to offer is important in what He is doing…

It is in the faces of those who go with us to deliver and see the burned out houses, the rundown areas, and then understand more deeply why the wind is so very much needed there.  It is in the twinkling smiles of the children and the tender downcast faces of the adults that brighten as we watch God’s Spirit refresh in only ways that He can.

It is in the words: “It was as if you knew everything about me when you built this basket!”,  “This is my favorite color!”, or “I have been wanting one of these so badly!”   Those statements that humble our souls and make us drop to our knees understanding that He is moving in ways that we cannot control, anticipate or even know…much like the wind.

I stood in the basement the other day encouraging a small group to continue to do outreach together, explaining to them that while I wholeheartedly love the discussion of His word with others…it is in selfless serving that I see faith grow the most. And isn’t that what we should be striving for?  To grow our faith and the faith of others…

You see, there is truly nothing quite like watching God move in your life and in the life of another, briefly intertwining the two, often to the benefit of each other.  That is what outreach should be all about…the breath of God moving through lives for the world to see.  That we may perceive and know that God is connecting all of these dots in amazing ways that you couldn’t fully see beforehand, and then, in His timing, you begin to understand the coolness that has just touched another’s cheek. You feel the breeze and, for a moment, you see it…the smile, the relief, the tears, the awe, the truth that somehow a need or desire has been met in a way that only God can do.

And it as if you are standing in His garden watching faith grow…

Where you feel, hear and catch a glimpse of His power and majesty strolling through the life of another in the gentle, refreshing Presence of an evening breeze…

“The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

Working together…

Josh and I's basket 2014 005It’s been many years since this Easter Basket Collection outreach started.  And much time has past since God gave me the vision to start Families Building Faith.  At that time, my son was four years old going on five.

The vision that He had given me had sprung in part from my own situation.  Longing to know Him better and desiring to walk daily (in the sense of more than just on Sundays) with others who had the same heart for Him, He laid before me the idea of a network of believers who would come together to strengthen faith.  In the breadth of that view was also those we live life with…it was never meant to be solely about our individual experiences.  That somehow by growing, stretching and building our own faith, God’s light and love would spill over into their hearts and lives.  Kind of like a pebble being dropped into a pond, the ripples keep expanding as the waves move outward from the entry point of the rock impacting the water.  As we walk closer with God, was it possible that light, faith and hope would be the ripple effects touching those around us?

So my four year old went in tow with me on this journey to build and grow faith.  He rode in the car as we delivered food, blankets, baskets, clothes, toys and so many other things.  He played at Bible studies and as he grew older, he entertained himself when I needed to work on something.  He listened to me talk with others and listened to them share their stories with me.  He helped carry items up and down stairs, loaded cars, and gracefully and kindly spoke to those who passed through our lives.  As he grew and became more of a young man, there were the inevitable moments of deep sighs, “Do I have to?”s, and frustration-filled comments when he tired of what God has asked our family to do.  Yet, more times than not, he is there faithfully alongside my husband and I.

Josh and I's basket 2014 001It is funny how each session of serving often brings me something new to learn.  Honestly, there are many lessons each season.  For years, I have been emphasizing to parents that their children truly love to serve with them.  Their eyes, their hands and the enthusiasm in their voices share how much they want their parents to see and believe in what they are doing for another.  Rarely does an Easter assembly happen that the child isn’t bouncing off of the walls to show their parents what they have created.  They don’t want to be just dropped off and picked up.  Nor does being present in the same room but talking with another adult for the majority of the time necessarily convey to them that the parent really cares.  Nor does being hovered over or continually questioned as they build their baskets.  Instead, what we see is this strong desire to build and work with their parent or caretaker…for their parent to actively engage and share in their excitement through thoughtful and sincere encouragement, kind instruction, and lots of joyful affirmations.  I find myself deeply committed to the idea that this outreach truly offers families of all ages a chance to not only serve together, but to grow together…

And there the lesson stood toe-to-toe with me last night looking me right in the eye.  I was working in the basement sorting through donations that had come in.  My son, now many years older, was upstairs relaxing.  A bit later, down the stairs, I heard his steps.  Within short order, he was at my side chattering about his latest adventure, what he hopes to learn to improve his game, and his latest set of goals.  He spoke for quite awhile as I listened and sorted.  A couple of times, he mentioned that he took a break specifically because he wanted to come downstairs and help, and then his conversation would turn back to what it was before.  Now and then, I would hand him something to help with.  As my tasks came to an end, he stated he would like to build a basket.

Now,  he builds lots of amazing baskets.  We don’t force him to build each session as we don’t want him to hate Easter nor this outreach.  We also don’t force him to always carry items up nor necessarily engage in all that we do as teens battle enough things in life that offer opportunities for resentment and bitterness; we surely don’t want to add to that.  But many times, he will come downstairs during an assembly and make a couple before heading back upstairs again.  A long time ago, he graduated to making them all on his own.  He is truly very good at it.  As he brought up making a basket again, I told him, “Sure, go ahead.  I’ve got just a few more things to do.”

No mom, I don’t want to build one by myself.  I want to build one with you.  You and me together.”

Josh and I's basket 2014 004There it was.  What I had grown aware of in other children, I now saw in my own son.  That longing to work together on a project that benefits someone else.  To be engaged together as a single team that produces something by both of our hands working towards the same goal:  making someone feel extra special.  While we can often do things alone, there’s something to be said for why God calls us together, to function together as His body…

I smiled, not lost to the lesson at hand.  As we began to assemble a boy basket, I wondered how many times he, too, longed to have my instruction, my affirmation and my time in this outreach as I have seen so many other children long for their parents’ attention and help?  He has always had my encouragement and approval to build, but my time…it is often spent with others…helping them learn, grow and build.  So as we worked through the system, I gave him the same that I give and hope for with any other child…my passion, my excitement, my instruction, my patience and my time.  And what I saw was what I see so many parents seemingly miss…the opportunity to truly understand just how thoughtful, caring and creative that young person is who God has graced us with in our lives.  As we got done, I was deeply impressed by his heart, his hands and his mind, and so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work together.

Thank You God for the reminders that this outreach has much to teach, offers so much to love, and reaches so much farther into the hearts of more than just those who are in physical and financial need…

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Romans 12:4-5

Josh and I's basket 2014 006

Why we make Easter baskets…

January 2013 016

As I began to move stuff around in the basement prepping for 2014 Easter Basket Collection, I thought I’d share why we are smitten with this project.  Many wonder what drives us to make Easter baskets…and that, my friends, takes us back to the beginning.

It was late February of 2005 and we were contemplating what our next service project would be.  FBF was founded on the idea of believers coming together from all denominations to discuss and study His Word, to fellowship, and to put their faith into action by helping others.  Our first outreach had really surprised us, and we were eager to reach out and help again.

As we thought and prayed, the next holiday popped into our mind–Easter.  Ah, yes, we wanted to do something to honor Christ with our hands, feet and hearts because Easter is what believing is truly all about!

Looking around our homes, we realized that each of us had extra Easter baskets in our basements.  We began to wonder if maybe there was a need for Easter baskets for families struggling financially.  Realizing that there had to be other moms like us out there who would love to send their child’s extra stuffed animals, toys and books off to another, we contacted South Lyon’s local food pantry, Active Faith, to ask about making baskets for those in need in our community.

As I spoke to the director at that time, Carol, I asked if anyone–churches or businesses–helped their clients with Easter baskets at Easter time.  It turned out that no one had ever thought to, but she was sure they would be thrilled to have the help.  I asked her to look over their files and see how many kids they might serve.  A few days she called me back.  “Michelle, you are not going to believe this, but we could see potentially 400 children this Easter!”

Well, honestly, that was a tad bit overwhelming!  Our little group had imagined 35-40 baskets (and thought that would be a lot!), but 400…the first words out of my mouth were “Carol, I can’t promise anything…” followed by a bit of a pause…”but we can pray and you can pray, and we will see what God does.”  From there, we began to pray harder.  And thinking of the potential number,  we realized we might need some help.  So we put a little blurp in the community calendar section of the Herald and shared information about what we were doing with other organizations and churches.

St. Joe's March 11th 2013 042Sure enough, come distribution day, we had more than enough to cover their needs.  The excess is what led us out of South Lyon…needing to find homes for what wasn’t needed locally.  And while all those answers to our prayers were invigorating and exciting, it is not what drives us today.

It was an answer to a prayer that still humbles us…

And so, as we stood in the food pantry that evening passing out Easter baskets, there was a lull.  It was close to closing time, and a young mom, with two small children in tow, came through the doors.  To help you see a visual, the food pantry was laid out like a course where a volunteer helped the recipient pick out their food choices.  At the end, after they had shopped, stood our Easter baskets.  We were blessed to be asked to help give them out.  From where we stood, we could see the whole process.

There she stood, at the beginning, with her eyes transfixed on the baskets.  The volunteer could barely keep her attention.  Because it was a small place, we could see and hear the whole process.  Her two children had been shuffled off to a reading room not too far away, and eventually, she arrived at our first volunteer who had been instructed to ask her if she needed baskets and for what ages and gender.  As she gave the information, she interrupted with the question, “Who has done this?”  Because it was and is a community effort, our volunteer was instructed to say just that…not identifying FBF or any one group.

That wasn’t a sufficient answer for her and she became determined to know who had done this.  Beleaguered, the volunteer finally sent her to me as I stood at the end of the baskets.  I politely and kindly explained again that it was a community-wide effort and was there something I could help her with?  She shared that she really wanted to express her gratitude in a thank you card and needed that information.  I directed her to send it to Active Faith and that they would pass it along.  While this seemed to satisfy her, she asked me and the volunteer next to me if we could watch her cart of food while she hid the baskets in the trunk of her car so that her kids would not see them.  We smiled broadly and answered, “Absolutely!  Take your time; we understand!”

A few minutes later she returned.  Instead of getting her cart, she approached the two of us and what she said has driven this outreach ever since…you see, we thought we were honoring Him with what we were doing, but humbly we found out He was honoring us in allowing us to be a part of He was doing…

March 8th 2013 023It was the first time she had ever been to a food pantry in her life.  It was the worst year in their life.  She had been struggling for months to make ends meet, and about 6 weeks before that moment, she had started to realize that they would not likely be able to afford Easter baskets for their kids.  She tried to scrimp and save but no matter how hard she tried, there was just no money.  About two weeks before that night, she had to accept–after looking at her check book–that there was no way they would have baskets, and she prayed asking God to somehow, some way help with Easter baskets.  Nightly, she laid awake fretting over the sight of her two children on Easter morning with nothing for them to open or find.  Then her mind raced to the first day back to school after Easter vacation when their kids would hear other children talking of what the Easter bunny had brought them.  She feared and agonized over the shame and disappointment that would fall upon their hearts realizing they had somehow been left out.

From the depth of her soul, she just wanted to say thank you.  “Thank you for being an answer to a prayer!”

And I stood there, we stood there, with tears brimming in our eyes trying to stay composed but utterly touched to the core by her story.  While we had hoped to help others, never once did I imagine that we would actually see God move in such a powerful way…answering prayers through this outreach.  Her words, her awe that she had walked into that room–that food pantry for the first time–and there sat Easter baskets for her children…

that He had answered her prayers…

…and ours…

Those memories are what drive us onward, understanding and trusting that God is often doing something so much more amazing than we can comprehend…

Please join us in praying that His will be done through FBF and willing hands, feet and hearts this Easter 2014.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Galatians 6:9-10

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As we quickly move into January, we are excited about our upcoming Easter Basket Collection.  This is an annual outreach for us dating back to FBF’s first year (hard to believe that was so long ago!).  Now it might sound a little early to be speaking of Easter as it falls on Sunday, April 20th, but what we do takes a lot of prep, time and effort so that area children and adults-in-need can receive an Easter basket come that wonderful morning!

While we do plan on taking a break from the Christmas rush, by mid-January, we hope to have up some of our on-line databases that will house the dates and times you can help volunteer.  The dates for January and February are already listed in our January newsletter, which you can find here:  January 2014   We hope to have more details posted soon.  But until then, we pray that you will hold this outreach in your prayers.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 13:14