Real. Crazy. Love.

As Troy and I have been going through the process of packing and moving into our new house, we have spent some time reflecting on the past two years, as one does when a chapter is coming to a close. We both agreed that we have grown and been challenged in countless unexpected ways both emotionally and spiritually. We decided the most important are where we experienced growth was how radical, unconditional love looks like lived out in every day life. Not the kind of love that is transactional or tires easily, but rather love that could only come from one Source. In so many ways in the beginning, we received this love from all those who have been in the ministry before us and were able to then turn and love our Hope House kids so deeply. Then, along the way, the most incredible thing started to happen, we began to get that love back from the kids. At first it was small ways; they would respect us when asked to do something or they would share a precious glimpse into their personal story. Then it became much bigger than that, the love they were giving back to us had a supernatural effect. It started to change how we viewed our relationships and how we responded in conflict. We started to see people differently now because of how our kids loved us and we loved them back. Maybe we saw people with more compassion or understanding, we are still working through much of what we experienced at Hope House. One thing I do know is, the greatest lessons...

“Let the Little Kiddos Come!”

Monday I got to visit Read Around the Block. The kids were playing outside when I arrived and three little girls were searching around in what will be the garden. They were looking for items “with different textures,” they told me. Some of the volunteers were inside preparing nachos for snack and giving input into a project they’re doing with the kids. Once inside, the kids listened to story and did jazz hands whenever they heard a verb. Then the art in the book was pointed out. Later in the day, they would take their different textured items and paint with them, similar to the book illustrations. When it was time to read with an adult reading friend, I noticed that the kids knew the drill, where to go, what to do. They were comfortable in the structure of the program. Little kids who used to be so very quiet had come out of their shells and were enjoying themselves. Kids who used to be disruptive had matured. The third grader I read with kept complimenting the first grader in our group on her reading. Our first grader had read Goldilocks to us. Afterward the third grader suggested that we try it with different voices for the father, mother, and baby bear. So we each took a part. At a child’s suggestion. I watched a little girl who had struggled in every way sitting with an adult and writing a thank you note. And to tell you the truth, it all touches my heart because I know that each little episode of growth and development moves a child (or...

The Harvest

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38 Since stepping into the position of Team Coordinator here at Hope House Detroit, this verse has been on repeat in my mind and heart.  I speak it to other team members to describe my week or how I feel the process of growing our team is going.  I remember it in moments of frustration- when our numbers just don’t seem sufficient for the needs of our programs.  I remember it in moments of confusion- when something happens that calls an awesome team member away from us. I remember it in moments of joy- when I get to see or hear about moments where a team member gets to genuinely connect and know a child’s heart. Scripture is wonderful. It is comforting and has a way of helping us navigate through life.  Sometimes scripture helps us gain perspective, that what we are experiencing is part of a bigger plan that we just might not see yet. But to me, I think the sweetest thing about the Bible, is just how everlasting it is. There will always be work to do towards God’s kingdom and there will never be enough workers. It was a true statement then, it was a true statement 100 years ago, it is a true statement today, and will be tomorrow as well. To me, the most mind-blowing part about it is that Jesus knew that when he spoke those words to His disciples...

Shopping with God

One of the things that drew me to Hope House as a place to live and serve is the premise that God is working and we get to be on the lookout for where He’s working and join Him. The other day I ran into Kroger just to pick up some stamps. I had a few errands I was running that day and needed to pop into the store briefly. While I was standing at the counter, I saw a coworker Rae and her daughter Charlee grabbing a cart. I smiled and said hello, as it had only been a few hours since I last saw them at church. We talked about the Oscar’s Party we were both attending that evening and started to go our separate ways when I heard Charlee ask from her spot pushing the cart, “Do you want to walk with us?” My inner dialogue began. Did I want to walk with them? No, not really. But what was the hurry? And Charlee asked so politely! I only had one more stop on my list. I probably had time to walk with them. Ok why not? I joined them walking through the store, picking up this and that. Average grocery shopping trip. But I must have heard Charlee say at least five times, “I love shopping.” “I’ll go shopping with Daddy later.” “I just looove to shop!” You see, Charlee loves shopping. She loves doing work with her mom or dad. She loves pushing the cart and being a part of the trip. She loves having a role to play, scanning the objects and passing...

Be Humble, and I’ll Provide Power Through Jesus

“Be Humble, and I’ll Provide Power Through Jesus” “The more God uses you the more humble you become.” – Louie Giglio When I first heard that statement I had a hard time believing the truth behind it. Sometimes we lose sight of how God has moved when we are in the shadow of our own pride. The human reality is that we accomplish nothing on our own. Our abilities, gifts, and talents all come from God. God provides resources, strategies, and even opportunities for us to use our abilities every day. I have heard it said like this before, “Our ability is God’s gift to us, but what we do with that ability is our gift to God.” Paul said it this way in 2nd Corinthians 10:17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast only in the Lord.” As God reveals more of what He is doing, we may wonder why He has chosen to use us. We all know where we fall short and where we excel. We are humbled just knowing He has great plans for us. He gives us opportunities daily to allow Him to work through us. For the past few months in Detroit, the Lord has been humbling us by working through us in ministries that seem to be thriving, by leading us and enabling us to literally sort through everything including our values, and by opening doors of opportunity and excitement. Leaves us feeling like, “Who, us?” -Riley Chowning He Let’s Us Participate “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken...

Wintertime

It is the end of February as I write this blog article.  It has been gray, cold and damp for many days.  This is the time of year when I feel like Spring will never come.  I used to complain bitterly all winter long, bemoaning the lack of life, color, and warmth during this season, questioning why I even choose to live in Michigan.  No longer. One winter, a friend told me that I was like a flower waiting for the spring, enduring a long dormant period, after which I would open my petals and display my potential.  She said, “What does a flower do as it’s waiting for spring?  It rests, and drinks in all the water from the winter snows.”  Now I view winter as a time for waiting inside, and drinking in God’s presence, instruction, and word.  My winters are dull and lifeless no more, now that I have God’s perspective on what winter is for. The brightest sunshine in my winter is my work at Hope House with Read Around the Block.  Our theme this semester is “Speak Life: the Power of Words.” This theme serves a dual purpose.  We teach kids about the heard, spoken, and written word and weave in God’s word to the kids at the same time.  We share testimonies and kids tell about the most important words that they have ever heard and spoken.  We write thank you notes to our volunteers and talk about how a kind word can cheer someone up who’s feeling down.  We have talked about how words have the power to build up or destroy. ...

Let Us

As the leaves continue to change color and fall, and the days become shorter and colder, it is the time of year we try to remember all of our many blessings and practice being grateful.  It would be easy to list off a bunch of reasons I am thankful for Hope House Detroit – for the many relationships I have with the volunteers, staff, and kids, for all the joy and community I have experienced there, for the opportunity to watch the youth in my neighborhood grow up – but that is not what is on my heart as I write this.   The more I age and mature, the more sensitive I seem to become to the many nuances and tensions that exist in the reality of our lives here on Earth.  Thanksgiving is a perfect Holiday example of this.  I gather with loved ones to remember my blessings and to share a large meal, in honor of a group of early American settlers and their Native neighbors who likewise shared resources & food with one another.  But we all know the history of the relationship between the settlers and the people already here was not typically such a warm, rosy picture; violence, diseases, broken treaties, and stolen land was more often the harsh reality.   The former picture is nicer to remember, but it is not the whole truth.  As Americans today, we have to come to grips with the reality that many of our cities are built on land that those who were here before us were forced to leave.  That our early economy was only...

Rooted

Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? Job 11:7 How many times do we try to understand God? It seems like a daily occurrence for me. He gives us the world around us filled with so much beauty and I seem to zero in on the things I cannot know; the mystery. Often, I find beauty in the unknowing but other times I just end up frustrated. A metaphor that has helped me to better understand our relationship to God and one another came up during a late-night discussion with my husband. It has to do with the largest organism on earth: Pando. Pando is a Quaking Aspen grove covering 106 acres of land, and connected by one massive root system. We talked of each individual person as a leaf on one of the millions of branches on Pando’s 40,000 trunks. Each trunk or branch is a faith community, that could be a church or network of believers. Underneath the soil, the Spirit, spreading out in all different directions, connects the trunks together to form one being. This is like how the Spirit connects different faith communities together in one Body. As a leaf, I have no concept of what is happening underground where the Spirit moves. It is totally beyond my leafness! As part of a faith community an individual may glimpse a piece of the larger plan through those relationships. At the same time, while we are all connected at the trunk, each leaf experiences it’s environment from a different perspective. One leaf could not judge another because sprouted...

To Be Known

I love it when I meet someone who listens.  Not the polite smile and the taught tension that result from someone who is merely enduring your speech while they are thinking about what they are going to say next in the conversation.  Not the horrific manners of the person who cuts you off mid-sentence without a qualm of conscience.  A true listener seeks to understand.  A true listener patiently treasures a person by digging with questions.  A true listener loves. Every child who skips through the doors of Hope House wants us to listen to them.  Each one  is a new and beautiful mystery.  What will they turn out to be?  Their upturned and smiling faces are expectant.  They want us to listen to their stories and comment on their day, their birthday, their school, their friendships.  If we wait, build trust, and affirm how special they are, we will witness surprises and miracles. Such a surprise was mine last Thursday, when one of our long time students at Read Around the Block leaped up the stairs and rushed me.  His face was lit with a huge grin, and even better, a PROUD grin.  “Ms. Joy, Ms. Joy,” he panted, “I wrote a story and I want to read it to everyone!”  I nearly crowed with pride myself.   I was so happy because all of us have been pouring into this child, and have wished him joy for so long, and now we see his joy, and it gives me a giddy and quivery feeling in my stomach.  These are some reasons for my happiness: He wrote the story...

Let’s Get to Work

We were created to work. Not just because we live in America and that’s how we pay our bills but because I believe that’s how God intended us to live. When God created Adam and Eve He gave them roles and responsibilities to tend to and manage (Gen 2:15). Everyone’s work may look different but any way you put it, there’s something you were placed here to do. As a part of my own job this summer, I got to introduce teens in the neighborhood to the working world that lies ahead of them. At Hope House we partnered with a job training program throughout the city of Detroit that hired eight thousand teens and young adults from all around the city. Here at Hope House the six teen girls we employed had roles to play as waitresses and cooks and responsibilities to clean up and be here on time. Many of them worked with me in the café and we learned together how to run a small business, managing money, inventory, and customers. I’ve had the chance to get feedback from the girls about what they learned from the summer as the café comes to a close for the fall. I’m encourage by their responses included below: “When it comes to customer service I learned to not let your attitude reflect how you work or treat others.” “I improved in my leadership skills of enforcing rules and getting people to listen, and patience and communication skills.” “I learned to be more organized and how to work well with others.” These comments mean so much to me because they...