Influence in Action

I have known for years that writing makes me come alive, but it wasn’t until last fall that God gave me a clear purpose for it.

Influence.

Since the weekend that He first gave it to me, that word has rooted deep and is woven throughout everything I write. Every part of my life, the good and the bad, has the potential to influence those around me. What kind of influence do I want to be? How can my influence make a difference? And how can I spur those around me to make the most of their influence as well? The answer to these questions and others came down to a single thought.

By being faithful.

God is my reason for all of it. Serving Him, loving Him, and glorifying Him are why I am on this planet. I am passionate about my love for Him, and about passing that passion on to all the lives I am privileged to touch. That is why this past weekend was very special to me.

An event took place at my church…”Sew Powerful & The Purse Project.” This wasn’t just another event for me. It is very near and dear to my heart, and I will tell you why, but first a little about what we did.

The project was two-fold.

First, gently used purses were filled with necessities and gifts for the homeless women of our local area. These purses will be distributed by women in our own church, one of which who was homeless herself and knows the depth of that struggle. She is now acting as the liaison between us and them. Talk about a powerful and faithful influence!

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Hannah & Camille Mueller putting purses together for the homeless, along with Pat Bauslaugh.

Secondly, using the model that Sew Powerful has laid out for us, we sewed purses for girls in Zambia. In a nutshell, from the Sew Powerful website, this is why:

“The purses you provide are used in local schools and clinics in Lusaka Zambia as part of Menstruation Hygiene Management (MHM) programs. This simple gift – combined with re-usable sanitary pads and health information can make a tremendous difference in the lives of adolescent girls. Read about our Sew Powerful Purse Project here. Our ministry partners work hard to educate and inform the girls in their community so that they stay in school and grow in confidence and self-esteem. It really is sew powerful!”

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So, on a Saturday morning, at our little corner church a few women and a lot of helping hands came together in a very unique way. My 10 year old daughter, and a couple of her friends, were there as well and I couldn’t help but think of the influence this was also having on their lives. The girls cheerfully gathered up supplies and stuffed purses for the homeless, and when they were done with that they babysat for some of the younger moms who wanted to help with the Sew Powerful part of the project. And all those who were sewing had an abundance of options to chose from thanks to a generous donation from Calico Corners in Vero Beach, FL. Sometimes a simple opportunity is all it takes to find the servants in our midst.

As I reflect back, I am still overwhelmed by all the different ways influence intersected that day. You see, Sew Powerful was founded by my sister and her husband almost 5 years ago. (This is the very “near and dear” part that I mentioned earlier.) Their vision is already reaching hearts and lives that I’m sure they will never know about. But the stories they do know about, like this one, the one where their 10 year old niece was part of an event that is something bigger than herself, or the one where their use of purses gave someone else a spin-off idea that purses could also be used to reach the homeless, or better yet, the one where awareness grew, and those who were there only wanted to do one thing when it was over. More.

This is what influence is all about. Being faithful in your part, however small it may seem, knowing that it will be magnified through the lens of God and spread in directions to numerous to count. It always starts right where you are. It’s that child who needs a little more attention. It’s that pencil you need to pick up and use to write the first word. It’s that idea that keeps rolling around in your head that just needs to be put into action. God is calling you to be a faithful influence, and trust me, if you answer that call the only thing you will want to do is more.

When You are Simply Trying to Survive Infertility, and it’s Mother’s Day…again

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner and while many will be enjoying breakfast in bed and crayon family portraits, many others will be slowly dying inside. For years, that was me. I dreaded Mother’s Day. My arms were empty. The most natural thing in the world, that thing I had desired most of my life…motherhood, was remaining just out of my grasp. It felt like all I ever did anymore was wait. I was angry, hurt and devastated, and those feelings were only magnified every time Mother’s Day rolled around.

I still remember the crushing defeat I felt the day we found out that not only was my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to blame, but that my husband also had contributing factors that were keeping us from conceiving that child we so desperately wanted. I didn’t know if the tears would ever stop. My world came crashing down. It was a defining moment for me. The road would be long. The dream might never become reality. This was 1996. We had been married for 3 years.

The details of our journey from that time on will be saved for another post. Today, my heart is heavy for you who are living this right now. You, who want nothing more than to hold your very own baby in your arms. You, the women who have to face, yet another childless Mother’s Day. It’s hard, extremely hard. And even as I write this I know my words will not change your situation, but I hope they will be like a salve on your open wound.

As I think back on all those Mother’s Days that I would have rather skipped altogether, those Sundays where my smile did not reach my eyes, and my heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest, I wonder…how did I make it through? What words did someone say to bring me comfort? The more I look back and reflect on this, the more I see one constant that helped me through. I did not need someone to say something. No one’s words could change my situation. I needed someone to listen. I needed to know that someone cared about the stabbing pain in my heart as I watched another childless Mother’s Day pass me by. The difference was made by  the ones who took the time to notice, stopped to ask and stayed to listen. When you are in that place where the sight of a pregnant woman feels like salt on an open wound, it is hard to breath, let alone smile and make small talk at church. But when someone makes time for you, lets you sit and grieve through the feelings swirling around in your soul, while they listen and “be Jesus with skin on” for you, that makes room for God’s grace to wash over you and bring peace to your weary soul and your tired body. He sees you and knows about the ache that never goes away. I wish I could tell you that the ache goes away. Mine didn’t. But when I took it to God, he met me every single time. And when I was around someone who knew…really knew…how I was aching inside, somehow the ache was a little easier to bear.

Everyone has a different story but mine did not include a moment where I “arrived.” I did not all of a sudden learn what God wanted me to learn and then magically conceive. I wrestled with God all the time. I doubted. I trusted. I cried. I rejoiced. And a thousand other emotions, all while waiting on Him. It was a perfect mess, but God wove it into something beautiful.

And on July 22, 2000, when we received the phone call that would change our lives forever, the one where my husband and I, along with his parents, experienced a moment we will never forget, the one where my hand flew up to my mouth as I tried to contain the sobs of joy that wracked my body, the one where I stood there holding the phone in disbelief, while my husband, who was sitting next to me, flung his arms around my waist, laid the side of his head on my belly and cried, yes…the one where the nurse told us that after our second round of in-vitro we were finally pregnant, God graciously took my ache away.

My friend, I don’t know how your story will end but that’s the thing. It isn’t the end. In fact, as I look back it feels like that was just the tip of all that God had, and continues to have, in store for me. And today, as you navigate the unknown, and the waiting seems to be swallowing you up, know that God is weaving your story. Mother’s Day is hard and it hurts. There is no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to do “the hard” alone. Take the ache to God and watch how He cares for you. Watch how He will intimately meet your needs. And watch as his plan for you unfolds…trust in spite of the pain…It is worth it.

And if this story isn’t one that resonates with you. If infertility was never your battle. This Sunday, while smiles and greetings are being exchanged, look for the one whose smile doesn’t reach her eyes and ask her how she is. It is also worth it.