In My Shoes

This week, I will be attending Catalyst Conference for the first time. I’m really excited to be able to get to know a few new people and to put some faces with folks I’ve only “met” via email. Today, we received an interesting email from one of the event’s sponsors, Toms Shoes, asking us to tell them in 200 words or fewer why we would like to go on a Toms giving trip–where they distribute their shoes (free of charge) to kids who are in need.

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I thought, “Hey, a writing challenge! Let’s go for it!” It was fun to consider the issue from a new angle—from the bottom up as it were. My entry read as follows:

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I am a woman with size 11 feet, so finding shoes can be a bit of a struggle. Stores usually stock only one pair that will fit my tootsies, and another gal who’s in the same predicament I am often beats me to them. Either that, or they’re wide width. The problem? My feet are narrow. So, like Goldilocks, I’m on a perpetual hunt for something that fits “just right.”

My frustration, however, is of little consequence compared to what children around the world face. Their shoelessness is not a mild inconvenience, a lack of trendy, comfortable kicks. They’re fighting a battle against disease, and that’s a struggle we can spare them with a few strips of canvas and latex.

I would love to participate in a giving trip, to wash the feet of God’s beautiful creations and watch their faces light up. As they wiggle their toes inside those new shoes—ones that fit and will last—they’ll realize they’re one step closer to a better quality of life. They’ll know that they matter to me and, more importantly, to God. Having size 11 clodhoppers hardly matters in the face of something as grand as that.   

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I’ve had a lot of little things go wrong this week. Our health insurance was impacted by Obamacare (more on that later), and my car broke down on the way home today. However, when I think about the fact that I have a car to break and the money to fix it again, it makes me much less angry about it. Even in my problems, I am blessed.

What about you all? Has something reminded you to be more grateful lately? What are you thankful for?

Of Generosity and Snooty Norwegian Water

Imagine my surprise Thursday morning when I looked in my inbox and saw that I had not one, but two donations to my charity:water project, Aqua Jade! I saw the two were for the same amount and from the same person, so I figured there must be a glitch in the notification system. However, when I logged on later, I saw that the person had, in fact, donated twice. Now, this may still prove to be a clerical error, and that’s just fine with me. I’m still stunned by her generosity.

Why? Because I have no idea who “Shawnee M” is. Literally no clue at all. And she gave me $100—my biggest donation yet.

She and I could pass one another on the street, offer to hold the door for each other, or even have a moment of polite conversation while waiting in line and never know that we are connected in one of the most intimate and wonderful ways possible—love and kindness.

This is the second donation I’ve gotten from someone I have no way to thank. Like Blanche DuBois, I’m “depending on the kindness of strangers” for this little attempt at helping others because there’s no way I can come up with that kind of scratch on my own. (I work for a non-profit for goodness sake.) And two people have already stepped up, one of them doing more than double what I did for the cause. She helped not one but four people gain access to clean drinking water by giving to someone who can never repay her for her kindness.

Shawnee M—whoever you are—know that you blessed me in a way you can never imagine. I can only give so much. But if my campaign and my story can get just a few wonderful people like you to help out, we can change the lives of an entire village full of people in Ethiopia. These are people who will never know the prosperity we enjoy every single day. It’s a privilege to serve them alongside you.

A project like this compels a person to see the world in new ways. What could easily be taken for granted are cause for introspection, a reason to question the “why” of things. Honestly, I don’t buy bottled water. Not because I’m against it for ecological reasons (though that thought has crossed my mind) but because, at home and at work, I have access to clean, cold, filtered water any time I want. I put it in cups or my wicked cool Marvel aluminum bottle that I got on sale for $2.50 at the Disney Store. (Yeah, I’m grown. What about it?)

So it’s only natural that I can glide on by the wall of water bottles at the local grocery store every time I run in there. (I don’t know about you, but if I don’t need something, I’m not wasting the time it takes to walk down the aisle.) Today though, still thinking about that $100, I took a look at the endless supply of bottles and thought about just how blessed I am.

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I counted fifteen brands. Spring, drinking, purified, and even fluoridated. Flavored, flat, and sparkling. It comes in plastic bottles, ones made of glass, and even aluminum cans. It’s topped with everything from sport lids to screw-on tops. Man, we are truly spoiled for choice.

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And this is something about which I must rant.

Of all the bottles on the shelf, which were arranged in order of price, Voss took the grand prize for cost. Two glass bottles of water for $5.00 (at a savings of $.50 mind you!) Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it tastes great…you know, like water. And the bottle is quite well designed. It’s clean and simple, like something out of Tron. And, to Voss’ credit, they do have a foundation that supplies clean water to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But there’s something in me, call it common sense, that just can’t fathom paying $2.50 for a bottle of water. Even if it is, in their words, “taken from a virgin aquifer that… has been shielded for centuries under ice and rock in the untouched wilderness of Central Norway.” It sounds like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, not a bottle full of hydrogen and oxygen.

Image from comicvine.com.

The money someone spends on eight bottles of this stuff could buy a lifetime of clean water for a person in need. Eight bottles is…counting on fingers….168.8 fluid ounces. A gallon is only 128. So for $20 you get less than a gallon and a half of water. Foundation or not, that’s ridiculous, Norway. You have some lovely fjords and were the birthplace of both Edward Munch and Henrik Ibsen. The Vikings were pretty awesome, too, as is the Nobel Prize.

A-ha wasn’t bad either. In fact,  if I were an evil overlord bent on destruction, I would spare your frigid nation only because of “Take On Me.” But you can keep your snooty water.

In a Manner Worthy of the Saints

I have had a lot of conversations with the ceiling this year. Most of them begin with, “Are You sure, Lord? I mean really sure?” Most of the time, this question pops out of my mouth when He’s asking me to do something for which I feel woefully unprepared. I know He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—that everything that happens does because He has the perfect knowledge and power to make it so. However, I sometimes look at where I was eight or nine years ago and compare it to now, I am speechless.

At In Touch Ministries, I serve as an editor and a writer for the magazine, which is something I never imagined myself doing a decade ago. But, in all that time, He was preparing me spiritually to do the things He has ordained. I am humbled beyond measure that the Creator of the universe not only knows me and calls me His child, but also loves me enough give me a talent with which to serve Him. In short, this article is proof that God is truly in control.

I taught a wonderful young woman named Catie Carter who passed away in June of 2010, but before she left, she managed to touch thousands of people in the Jacksonville area. God wasn’t content to let it stop there though. Because of His perfect plan, I was in a position to share her testimony with millions of readers around the world. I have no idea how many people the Lord will touch as a result of this connection. But He does….and always has. I simply cannot wait to see what happens!

I would like to thank Catie’s family–her parents, Jimmy and Kerri, and her siblings, Emily, Jimmy, Lindsay, and Ellie–for being willing to share their precious girl’s story with me. Because of your courage, faith, and strength, people you and I will never know will have a chance to meet her and will be changed as a result.

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