Crazy Great Shirt

I’d thought we were out of the woods.

How quickly one seemingly small glitch nearly turned my son’s health down a disastrous spiral.

John was born with Gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines are formed outside the baby’s body through a large hole in its belly.  Because John’s intestines were also blocked and required additional surgical intervention, the doctors initially gave him only a 15% chance of making it.

Praise God, he made it.

After four-and-a-half months in the hospital, John came home with an NG-feeding tube, which ran through his nose down to his belly.  He detested it and continually yanked it out.  The tube proved necessary because John threw up every time he ate.  The only reason the doctors had let him come home was because, in spite of the vomiting, he still gained weight.

Once we came home, our brilliant pediatrician, Dr. Scott Rice, started John on a motility agent, which solved the vomiting problem.  The tube came out, and we all rejoiced, thrilled to eliminate that source of irritation from his life.  Within the next two years, he dramatically improved and was eventually directed to stop all medication as he was discharged from the outpatient GI service, taking only probiotics for gut health and a standard children’s multivitamin.

So for the past five years, things had been going extremely well.  Until.

I’d lately detected an increasing resistance to his probiotic in the early fall.  His occasional vomiting episodes gradually increased, so much so that I began researching alternatives.  John is picky due to his sensitive gag reflex, and finding a new brand proved not only expensive but also fruitless.  Within a week, I realized how long I’d been out of the nutrition field and that I’d used up all of my dietitian know-how and tricks.

It shook me.

John needed help.  Before his gut stopped working.

It hasn’t happened since his discharge, and I was surprised by how intensely the thought of him regressing threatened to paralyze me with fear.  Even though many moons had passed since he’d had any problems, the nightmare of his hospitalization and ensuing medical crisis flashed back in an instant.  I fought the urge to panic.  As soon as I identified my “peace-snatcher”, I hit my knees.

“Lord, please help me find a permanent solution for John – and fast!”

Enter Aegis Boyer Stuart.

I’ve known Aegis a long time and have followed her from afar on Facebook, noticing her frequent posts about various nutrition products but letting them gloss right over me.

Until I needed something.  Desperately.

As a former Registered Dietitian, I had a bad taste in my mouth for alternative health products because I’d spent years dispelling myths to earnest weight-loss seekers and trying to spare my cancer patients from emptying their pocketbooks on bogus products designed to deceive, not heal.

But I knew I could trust Aegis.

I now considered for the first time what she had to say and clicked on her post about probiotics, now excited to learn about the available products and research how well-made they were.  I reached out to her, and she was extremely helpful, connecting us with a combination multi-vitamin/probiotic for John, praying it would work.

Thank God, it did.

He’s only vomited once since he started taking it, and I think that’s only because he ate candy on an empty stomach.  Amazing!  While I haven’t yet researched the rest of the product line, I’m proud to stand behind her Plexus XFactor Kids combined probiotic and multivitamin.  I ordered four additional bottles today.

As I typed a quick update/thank you message to Aegis this week, I realized that this wasn’t the first time God has used her to bring healing to my life.

I remember the first time I met her at church.

We were at one of the first gatherings of a new 20-30’s age group Bible study.  With eccentric flair, Aegis sported the grunge look and wore a T-shirt that declared, “Body piercing saved my life.”

Images of nose rings and ears laden with studs flooded my mind, and disdain rose within me.

Really?  How in the world could cosmetic body piercing and self-inflicted pain actually save?  

Looking back, I can see the upward turn of my top lip and sneering countenance, not understanding until she turned around and I saw the accompanying image that the pierced One her shirt referenced was her Savior.

My Savior.  God forgive me.

Years ago, I confess I had a profound aversion to non-traditional “church people”, not knowing what to do with them beyond exchanging polite formalities and general well-wishes.  They unnerved me.

I’d grown up in an ultra-conservative environment, one that strived to please God but was often tainted with cynicism and judgment, and when I traversed outside my whitewashed bubble, I found myself unprepared to handle and reconcile difference, somehow feeling like I was compromising if I allowed myself to consider things from a different angle.  I coped by displaying warmth and respect while inwardly harboring prideful contempt.

Hypocrite.

I ended up in her mom’s Bible study.  As I got to know Aegis and her family, I came to the painful realization that I had a serious heart issue, one I didn’t want to have, a poisonous cancer that if not lacerated and extracted would cause serious damage to my spiritual life.

Ouch.  But so worth the process.

Over time, as iron sharpens iron, God has used (and continues to use) people like Aegis to expose what He wants to change in my life.  Shortly after I was married, I asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas.  Totally in the dark about the past mess in my mind, he said, “I’d like one of those ‘Body piercing saved my life’ t-shirts that Aegis wears.”

Ha!

I think of her every time I launder it.  I owe much to this loving wife and homeschooling mother of two, this gifted entrepreneur and devoted follower of Christ.

Thank you, Aegis, for not only talking the talk but also walking the walk.  Thank you for spending much of yourself to help others find health and healing.  Thank you for wearing that crazy great shirt.

I rejoice with you for all the good God has wrought in your life and pray He continues to richly bless you and your precious family both today – and beyond.

Boo Boo Bear

I must tell you a story.

Friday night, my 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, brought her fuzzy friend, Tashi, to the Tim Tebow Foundation‘s Night to Shine event at Riverbend Community Church in Allentown, PA.  Both Hannah and I volunteered as makeup artists at this amazing prom for people with special needs, but I had no idea how deeply and in what ways the evening would impact her.

I would drive the 200 miles again.  In a heartbeat.

Nine years ago, my sister, Krissie, had given a huggable, lovable Winnie-the-Pooh to Hannah on her second birthday.  She had fallen in love with it instantly.

“Oh, Aunt KiKi, I just love her!  I’m naming her Tashi.”

From that moment on, Tashi ate at our table and shared Hannah’s bed, rode in the backseat and sat alongside the bathtub.  They were inseparable, these two.

Until one dreadful evening.

We’d gone to my in-laws’ for Chicken Scampi when, lo and behold, sweet Tashi slipped under the table and fell prey to their frisky Labrador Retriever named Bodi.  Papa came to her rescue, but not before she lost her right arm from the shoulder down.  Try as he may, Papa couldn’t repair the severed appendage.  Sweet Hannah had to settle for a simple seam in place of the arm that once was.

And it was hard.

Hannah grieved the loss for her friend.  No more dancing in the fall leaves like princesses do at a ball.  No more patty-cake.  No more two-armed hugs.

She asked for a new bear, one that could do all of those things.  Aunt KiKi complied as did my mother-in-law.  One of those new animals got lost on a grocery trip, so the remaining bear assumed the role of “Tashi” in Hannah’s life.

During our next basement spring cleaning as we thinned out all the toys and stuffed animals, Hannah found herself unable to part with her disabled friend and decided to rename the original Tashi “Boo Boo Bear”.  It was a great segway into talking about how upset Hannah been when Boo Boo had gotten hurt.  Hannah realized how much she’d missed Boo Boo and that she was still a really good friend because her heart mattered more than her arms ever did.

“I want to keep her forever, Mommy.  I love her.”

Years passed with few ups and several drastic downs in Hannah’s life.  One of the worst was when Aunt Ki Ki was in a terrible accident.

She lost her right arm above the shoulder.  Just like Boo Boo Bear.

I’ll never forget telling Hannah and her siblings about Aunt KiKi’s arm.  After everyone cried together, I brought out Boo Boo Bear.  Hannah’s small smile spread through her tears.

“See how much we love Boo Boo Bear?” I asked.  Everyone nodded.  “Aunt Ki Ki is still the same wonderful amazing person inside.  A missing arm can’t change that, right, Hannah?”

She nodded gently and reached for Boo Boo, hugging her fiercely.

Five years later, Hannah has remained sensitive to her aunt’s disabilities and asked to volunteer with me at Night to Shine.  Right before we left for PA, she got the dreadful news that Tashi, the Second, who’d been MIA since a beachside hotel stay, had been discarded the previous month.  We’d had trouble tracking her down, so by the time we connected with the person in-the-know, it was too late.  The staff had held onto Tashi for a while, realizing she was special to someone, hoping she would be claimed but had finally given up.

Hannah’s heart broke.

She was inconsolable, and I ached for her.  Dear God, what can I do?

He put it in my heart to go down to the bin in the basement and resurrect Boo Boo Bear, the original Tashi.  I complied and then made my cautious approach.

“I thought you might like to hold her – Boo Boo Bear.”  I held out the fluffy golden animal. Hannah refused to touch it.

“But, Mom,” she said, “I still miss the other Tashi!”  Hannah’s defenses rose, and I felt the drawbridge of her heart begin its creaky rise above the moat.

“Of course you do,” I said, intentionally pausing long, hugging her close.  “Tashi was and will always be a special friend.”  I felt Hannah relax against me as I sat next to her.

After she cried a little, I reached over and placed Boo Boo Bear on her lap.  Hannah gingerly grasped her torso and then carefully fingered the seam on the bear’s right shoulder.

“I think it’s amazing you still have this one,” I said.  “She was your first friend, you know.”

Hannah stared for a long moment.  Then, ever-so-slowly, she nodded as the corners of her mouth turned up.  “That is neat.”  She gave Boo Boo a warm embrace and spun around the room.  “I’m going to call her Tashi again.”  Hannah glanced at me.

“I think that’s a a wonderful idea, Sweetheart.”

“Can she come with us to Night to Shine?”

“Absolutely!”  I smiled, elated and relieved.  I checked my watch.  “You’d better hustle upstairs and get Tashi ready – we need to leave soon.”

“That’s right!”  Hannah beamed, staring with love at her dear friend.  “Come on, Tashi!  I’ve got just the dress for you.  And wait until you see my new JoJo Siwa bows I got for my birthday!”  The pair disappeared down the hallway.

My heart sang the rest of the night to see how my daughter had blossomed and grown through painful loss and challenging times.  How she delighted to volunteer and be blessed by Night to Shine.  How she was moved to tears many times throughout the night.  She had been given the opportunity to not only apply the guests’ eye shadow and lip gloss but also experience the importance of making people with special needs feel valued, honored, and beautiful.

Because they are.

How fitting, how touching, how amazing, the timing of it all, these three precious ladies sharing this evening together, dancing the night away.

Aunt KiKi, Hannah, and Tashi.

Shining.

 

Night to Shine

I want to remember last night forever.

My sister, Krissie, was absolutely stunning in her lacy black gown, her makeup and curls, but I’ll never forget how she “looked”.

Full of sheer joy, glowing and radiant, wearing a wide, full smile that lingered, resting across her pretty, glittered face all evening long.  She practically floated around the dance floor with her wonderful Buddy, Leah, at the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine event in Allentown, PA, sighing dreamily.

Utter bliss.

Krissie wasn’t the only one.  Continual displays of delight from guests at this prom for people with special needs made the night.  These precious souls hit the limelight running, posing for the paparazzi, waving from the limo, strolling the red carpet, cutting super-slick moves – the dance floor was packed, especially during the crowning ceremony at the end of the night.  Kings and Queens of the Prom, royal in their right, children of the King, displaying the splendor of His love as they basked in it.

I’ve been to proms and parties in rooms filled with glitter and gowns, tuxes and roses, DJs and treats.  The element that sets Night to Shine apart?

Love.  Unbridled, ardent, beautiful love in its purest form.

Years ago, I’d volunteered at Krissie’s Special Olympics swimming practice, and I’d noticed a new volunteer standing off to the side.  I walked over, shook his hand, and introduced myself, asking how he’d gotten involved.  After glancing downward for several seconds, he raised his eyes to mine.

“I want to find God – I thought maybe I’d find Him here.”

God’s presence was undeniable at last night’s event.  He has deep affection for people with special needs, and the many who served at Night to Shine passed His love onto guests in a way they could see, touch, hug, and feel, allowing them to experience Him through the heart of another, a person not bound to them by blood or by paycheck, a person who wanted to give of their time and attention because their King/Queen was worth it.

And so much more.

From the radiant guests strolling the red carpet in fancy attire to the volunteers steadfastly serving and smiling, all present were blessed by each other.  Every person, young or old, small or tall, needs to feel loved and valued for who they are. Last night, that need was fully met in an arena that was safe, loving, and celebratory of each person as a unique and beautiful child of God.

Tears and tissues were everywhere.

Parents oscillated between beaming and tearing up.  That night meant the world to their children, who longed for a place outside of their home where they could be free to be themselves and be fully loved, appreciated, and celebrated for who they are.  Throughout the evening, parents enjoyed the opportunity to gaze from afar as others buddied up with their son/daughter.

Krissie hadn’t wanted me to be her Buddy.  At first, I was a little disappointed, but I soon realized why.  She wanted somebody new to love her that didn’t “have to” – she wanted the chance to be loved solely for the person that she is, the chance to receive love from another because they want to give it as she gives her love to others.

Completely.  Unreservedly.  Wholeheartedly.

Buddy slots for the event filled to capacity as volunteers came out in droves from all over the Valley – and beyond – to love on their honored guests.  So organized, so united in their mission to make every guest feel like the royalty the are.  It was evident that the event impacted every person involved, from the parking lot attendants to the photographers, the hairstylists to the foodservice workers.

It impacted me.  Deeply.  To see my sweet sister, this one I love so much, beautified and honored in countless, thoughtful ways.

I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

Thank you, Riverbend Church and Pastor Joe Velarde, for opening your doors and hosting this incredible event.  Thank you, to the Tim Tebow Foundation, for having the vision and heart to make every person feel loved and valued.  Thank you to every volunteer who made my sister feel like the Queen that she is.

Thank you all for making this her Night to Shine.

 

 

 

Paper Plate

What on earth am I going to do? 

Homeschool would begin in less than ten minutes, and there I was, scrambling to pull together an engaging lesson on an important topic.

Respect.

Over the past two days, my children had completed activities on the subject.  Both had gone well, but I yearned for something more, an interaction that would engage their hearts and impact them forever.

I hadn’t realized until that moment how much this meant to me.  Normally I would let a less-than-perfect lesson go and revisit it the following day, but this was different somehow.

I wanted this morning to matter.

The clock ticked on as I grew exponentially agitated.  Nothing was coming to me.  No lightning bolts or ingenious worksheets.  No personal flashbacks or astounding video presentations.

I couldn’t make it happen.

 

I felt ridiculous slapping the lesson together.  How could I not have placed a higher priority on preparing to impart such a critical character trait to my children?  Respect was important!  And there I was, disrespecting respect.

God, forgive me.  Please, Lord, grant us breakthrough.

Peace washed over me.  God gave no immediate answers, but I knew He would somehow provide.  I rose, resuming my morning preparations.  As pancakes sizzled, I unpacked our picnic basket, drawing out yesterday’s leftover paper products.

As I stored them in the cupboard, my eyes fell on a stack of paper plates.  They were the six-inch dessert size.  I stood mesmerized.  The small circle was milky white, so pure.  No cake crumbs or watermelon seeds, no ketchup smears or pickle juice.

It looked perfect.

I felt this tugging in my heart to pull one out, so I complied.  I raised the plate eye-level, as if it were a face looking right into mine.

And then it hit me.

“Good Morning, Mom . . . uh,“ said the Early Bird, peering around the corner.  He balled his fists, rubbed his eyes, and then looked at me again.  “Mom, what are you doing?”

I lowered the plate and smiled.

“Good Morning, John.”  I grabbed a stack of plates, tossing, “I’ll be right back!” over my shoulder as I darted out of the room.  As quickly as I could, I affixed tape to the backs of the plates and stuck one in a visible area of every room in the house.

I texted my husband for assistance.  He loves impromptu requests and happily obliged.  While I poured milk and juice, pictures popped onto my phone of plates hanging all around one of the recycling plants he runs in New York City.  A plate on his office wall, another wired to his hard hat so that when he went up to the roof, the plate was there, overhead.

I texted him a big heart and a smiley face.  My lesson at long last stood ready.  This was going to be great!

The girls emerged from the stairs sleepy-eyed and sweet, taking their places at the table.  After greeting my children, I waited to see who would ask first.  It didn’t take but two minutes.

“Mommy, why is there a paper plate taped to the wall?”

“It’s a reminder that God is here with us.”  We discussed all the places God could be.  Outer space, Australia, Dairy Queen, etc.  We talked about the world, our country and state, as well as various places in our community.  Then I shifted the conversation to how we would handle our interactions with people differently if God were visually present in every conversation.

“We would be on our best behavior – everywhere, all the time,” John said.  Their heads nodded.

“That’s right!” I said.  “Sometimes we all need help remembering to make good choices.  These plates are a good reminder for adults, too!”  I picked up my cell phone and captivated them with their father’s “Plates at Work” photos.

“Daddy’s doing it at work?”  They beamed, incredulous that a grown man would play along in a professional environment.

“Don’t you think God is at Daddy’s work?”  More nodding.

“Hey, wait a second,” said my son, pausing dramatically, folding his arms across his chest.  “Is God watching us like a spy?”

“Not really,” I said.  “He’s not waiting to zap us if we make a mistake.  He’s always loving us, standing with us, using His power to help and strengthen us.  The plate can remind us of all those important things in addition to helping us remember to make good choices if we take the plate seriously.”

“You mean take God seriously,” Hannah said.

“That’s right,” I said.  “That is respect.  Taking God – and others – seriously.”

Quiet chewing of pancakes ensued as these ideas tumbled around the young minds seated before me.  We paused the lesson while one of the girls used the ladies’ room.

Upon her return, she said, “There’s a plate in the bathroom!”  Laughter filled the air.  Hands on hips, she turned to me and said, “Ok, Mom.  This is really creepy.  I took it down.”

“Don’t you think God is in the ba–“

“Mom!  That is SO gross!”

“Well, I didn’t mean it in a gross way.  Haven’t you ever prayed in the bathroom?”  Eyeballs rolled.  Lungs exhaled large, long sighs.

The child who prays a lot in the bathroom and will remain nameless nodded discreetly.  I sacrificed myself before the others picked up on it.

“I have!  When I’m sick or having a hard time, I pray – even in there!  Look, I didn’t want to leave anything out for the lesson’s sake.  I can’t use paper plates to show God is everywhere and then skip a room, now can I?”

Giggles.

“Well, I’m taking it down when I’m in there.”

“Fine.  Put it back up when you’re done.”

Over time, the plates have blended in, losing the “what’s that doing there?” eyesore effect.  Admittedly, sometimes I blow off “the plate” and don’t take it seriously.  Sometimes I pretend it’s not there.  Sometimes I don’t see it because I’m not looking for it.

But often, I see it and smile.  Other times, I’ve searched it out and turned my heart heavenward.  And in several trying moments, my eyes have been drawn to it by Him.  Most of the plates have come down (I kept one in our bedroom, and my husband left one up in his office), but the lesson remains.

For us all.

 

Never Stop Singing

Have you ever had a dream crushed in an instant?

The aftermath can last long.  Like 25 years.

As a child, I loved to play outside.  My favorite was the swing.  I could swing for hours and hours, cherishing the rocking motion that moved my wiggly body high into the sky.  But better still was what I did while I swung.

Sing.

Oh, how I loved to sing!  I dreamt constantly of being a worship leader at church someday, writing my own songs, and leading others in praise to God.  Most of the time, I sang just for Him.  Songs I knew from church and school.  Songs I’d heard on the record player.  Even songs I made up as I went along, belting them out at the top of my lungs, arms extended and free, smiling and twirling all around, shining before my Best Friend.

Until one chilly winter day.

Sixth grade came with many changes in my life.  My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, so my family moved closer to help during her illness.  I switched schools (as I had the previous year), and within the first week of attending, I encountered a difficult situation in, of all things, music class.

The teacher, whom I happened to like very much, asked the class of about 20 to go around the room and sing two lines of a common song so that she could hear the sound of each voice.  Everyone complied as did I when my turn arrived around child 16 or so, but as I finished, something horrible happened.

Everyone laughed.  Even the teacher smothered a grin.

At first, I thought something silly had happened, like a poster falling off the wall and sticking to the bushy, well-plastered hairdo seated behind me.  But as I glanced around, reality struck hard and fast as tears filled my eyes.  I sunk lower in my seat.  The teacher held up her hands and motioned for the kids to settle down.

“Now, now,” she said with too big of a smile, “we are all different and have different sounds.  That’s why I want to hear all of you.  Next, please.”  And just like that, she moved onto number 17 but not before the damage was done.

Two short lines had broken my heart.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t really given much thought to how I sounded.  Ever.  I had always sung for an audience of One, enjoying the sheer joy of the experience simply for “the doing” of it.  Comparison and competition weren’t on my radar.

Not until the moment when I thought others labeled me “horrible”.

In retrospect, I think I totally misread the reason for their laughter that day.  My father had affectionately and appropriately nicknamed me Little Mouse during my toddler years because my voice was high and squeaky.  When I’d sung the two lines, I now believe neither my teacher nor the other students expected such a high pitch to come out of me, hence their surprised response.

But for years, I’d thought they laughed at me and my singing, so, unfortunately, I believed “them”.  I bore my wound in silence until many years later.  I could’ve ended the pain that day, that miserable moment in sixth grade, by quitting.  Tossed my records and tapes, lyrics and chords, background vocal tracks and piano music into the trash, determining once and for all to never succumb to such ridicule again.

However, there was one ginormous complication to this would-be arrangement.

I couldn’t stop singing.

Tunes kept popping out when I least expected.  I sang while playing in my room, riding my bike, taking a shower, unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog, riding in the car.  So I adjusted to my perceived reality, hiding behind powerful voices in choirs and groups but never attempting a solo.  Over time, I sang more and more, joining various worship teams, deciding the risk was worth it.  More and more contemporary Christian worship music kept coming out, and as it did, I couldn’t keep my song in.

I’m grateful I didn’t.

Today, I’m the Children’s Ministry Worship Leader at my church.  I’ve written and directed a children’s Christmas musical, and I recorded my first song with Nat Jenkins Music last week.  Not to mention all of the FUN my family has singing in our home!

No bragging here.  God gets all the glory for everything good in my life.  I’m well aware that apart from a lot of heart-healing and by His grace, all of these things (and countless others) would never have happened.

I simply share my story to encourage you to never stop using and developing the gifts God’s given you.  No matter the criticism, no matter the struggle.  Hide in the choir for awhile if need be, that’s okay, but don’t give up.  Never, never give in and allow your wounds to define who you are.  He can give you the courage to face your fears, His love to heal your hurting heart, and the strength to rise and try once again.

And sing.

On My Birthday

Leave it to my sister, Krissie, to find the best in everything.  Even death.

Her birthday is January 16th.  Typically, her big day consists of dinner at the Japanese Steakhouse followed by a delicious marble cake topped with purple flowers.

But this year’s celebration was bittersweet.

Christian’s beloved grandmother, “Nani”, died the morning of January 16th.

Krissie had adored Nani.  When our remaining grandparent had gone home to glory over seven years ago, Krissie and I had come to think of Nani as our own.  Even though I was the one who had “married into the family”, Nani had drawn Krissie right in.

Nani had loved her so.

“Beth,” Nani would say, “when are you going to bring Krissie to see me?”

These two weren’t often together, but during the moments they shared, their eyes would sparkle as smiles covered their faces and giggles poured from their lips, both of them always ready for a good time and great conversation.

In many ways, two peas in a pod.  Simple and sweet, loving others selflessly, loyal to the end.  They enjoyed a relationship pure and precious, a bond strengthened by the “being together”.

Having just spoken with Christian about Nani’s passing, I called my mom, thinking she would need time to help Krissie start processing the loss before her birthday dinner that evening.  Mom answered.  Krissie must have stood listening closely beside her because almost immediately and none-too-queitly, she pressed Mom to handover the receiver.

As Krissie spoke, her voice trembled but never broke, and I easily pictured her long lashes moisten, framing her beautiful blue eyes.

“You know what’s really cool, Beth?” Krissie said.  “Nani saw Jesus for the first time on my birthday!”  Krissie paused.  “I will never forget that on my birthday as long as I live.”

Her instinctive response amazed and blessed me.  So sweet, so devoted, this one, this precious sister of mine.  So happy to share her special day with one she loved, deeply and wholeheartedly.

I, too, will forever link these lovely ladies in my mind every January 16th, one of the most treasured days of my year.

May God richly bless them – both today and beyond.

TG TruGlory

Haircuts for the homeless.  Pizza for the hungry.  Trendy clothing for those on a budget.

Who spends their Tuesday nights making this happen?

Tito Garcia.

Last week, my dear friend, Jackie, wore a cool black shirt bearing the letters TG.  I asked her about it, and she smiled wide as she explained it to be part of the TG TruGlory clothing line.

“You know,” she said, “TruGlory?”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”  Keeping pace with fashion has become a distant memory.  With three children under ten in my house, I feel I’ve accomplished a major feat if all the laundry is sorted, washed, and folded neatly in baskets before midnight on Mondays.

“Well, you know Tito, the drummer at church?”  I nodded.  “It all started with him.”

As Jackie shared with me about the ministry, my jaw hit the floor.  How had I not heard about this?  The more Jackie said, the more blessed I became by one man’s vision and how, in 2012, God grew his desire into a reality.

Today, TG TruGlory serves the homeless of Hoboken, NJ and impacts lives in immeasurable, important ways.  Grooming and haircuts to lift the spirit, pizza and sandwiches to satisfy and strengthen, attractive shoes and apparel to meet everyone’s budget.  TG TruGlory’s kindness and compassion shines clear and bright through its generous acts of love.

The story moved me deeply.

Last year, my husband and I celebrated out 15th Anniversary in NYC.  Even though we live ten minutes from Manhattan, we rarely go into the City but took the opportunity for this special occasion.  Our hotel stood near Times Square, and as we approached it, I couldn’t help but notice the sidewalk lined with the homeless.

Tears filled my eyes.

Throughout the course of the weekend, my eyes searched them out, laying on benches, huddled along alleyways, sleeping on church steps.  I couldn’t escape the wrenching-of-heart, the anguish of soul.  I felt their pain as my own and wanted to somehow ease theirs.  All of it.  Unrealistic, I know, but the “wanting to” never left me.

“You’ll get used to seeing them around,” some might say, “and then it won’t bother you so much.”

Get used to it?  I pray not.

I pray that the suffering of the wounded bothers me long into the night and drives me to my knees on their behalf.  I pray that the broken hearts of strangers compel me to deny myself a pleasurable evening and do something to impact the eternity of another human being.  I pray that concern for those who have no hope would fill my heart and embolden my prayers.

Every day.

Whenever I look into the eyes of the homeless, I see what could have been my future.  I have a heart condition, which for years was disabling, and without supportive family and friends to help me through that time . . .

I could have been homeless.

Perhaps that why I can’t look past and ignore.  I can’t walk by and not be moved.  Some don’t want help, but many do.

I want to always remember them.  I want to always stop and “see”.  I want to treat others the way I wish someone would’ve treated me had circumstances forced me to walk miles down their road.

Thank you, Tito, for proving an incredible example of a man who lives out his faith in humble, practical ways, transforming time and talent into an eternal investment.  Thank you for showing how simple it is to offer the gifts God has given back to Him by serving others.  Thank you for inspiring me to do more with everything breath that He gives.

I love what you’re doing, Tito, and am honored to call you my brother in Christ.  I appreciate the sacrifice your wonderful wife, Taina, and boys make every Tuesday night to be apart from you, making them partners with you in ministry.

May God richly bless this amazing family, TG TruGlory, and all those touched by their faithful service, both today – and beyond.