Thank ya for thanksgiving!

Alongside 50 or so football players and my awesome friends, Nathan and Courtney, I began my Monday evening sharing with some young men the story of a fellah and a lady who changed the course of my life.  (A big thanks to Grace, Erin, Jason, Kate and Pen for helping shop, pack and storing my frozen goods all over)  Certainly the Lord ordained my steps when a coach assignment took me to a baseball field each evening to photograph a youth football team going through the motions of practice.  I spent hours and hours documenting and growing with the kiddos there, but I spent most of my time watching how their coach interacted with them.  How he spoke to their parents.  Listening to the words he would say about the boys to his coaches.  I'll keep my words short, if you wish to see the story in its entirety, I'll gladly email it, but there was one evening that changed my life the most. Coach Danny took his players to deliver thanksgiving boxes and turkeys to families in the community.  He had found a local insurance agent and some folks to sponsor the costs and off we had gone, shopping and learning about buying turkeys and groceries, in our football pads and smell, of course.  We packed the boxes at the baseball field and prayed together for the families and our hearts in delivering the boxes.  Some of our players delivered to their own mothers (let me tell you what that looks like…tears streaming down everyone's faces), to their friends from school, to strangers, but there was one lady who touched me deeply.

Ms. Benita.  She took care of her grandchildren.  Her health was failing.  I mean failing.  She was flat broke.  Heating her home with the oven when necessary.  And she had been praying all day for food to arrive, because they were to the end of their supply.  We talked with her.  We prayed with her.  We all walked away from her home sobbing.  Sobbing.  For the record - I don't cry much and I was sportin' the ugly cry.  The boys offered up $5 each, which many of them surely didn't have to begin with and purchased Christmas presents for them.  I kept in touch with Ms. B and would take her things she needed from time to time.  Or run her by church, put gas in her tank, watch the girls so she could shower in peace - I made an agreement with myself that when I called, I would do whatever she asked.  Her faithfulness and giving spirit marked a sharp turn in the way I treated my neighbor.  It wasn't about what I could do for her, it was all about the stories she told me.  The way she prayed for this or that, and the way the Lord provided time after time.  She's so faithful.  In raising her grandchildren who both have special needs.  In seeking the Lord.  In trusting Him with her frail health.

Fast forward to my move home.  I let two Thanksgivings go by before I got out of my seat and did what the Lord had taught me.  The original plan was to pull together a few kids and deliver a few boxes.  After a quiet conversation at Todd Shipley's house, it morphed into sending his players out on delivery and donation.  And still, 30 boxes wasn't enough, the Lord threw an open door for adding 20 more.  We've talked about the idea for weeks.  We made lists, gave the boys their donation assignments and I collected names from the family resource officers and my friends at the Dorman Center.  I had a plan.  And it failed. I had another one.

And it wouldn't reply to email.  And still another who didn't follow through.  So 4 days out, we had an unknown amount of goods coming from the player's donations and rolls coming from Cattleman's and Claudia Sanders.  Awesome.  A box full of rolls and maybe some veggies.

Let me tell you.  I came downstairs one morning and told Nathan that we're just gonna have to pray for a specific item each day this week and use social media to ask for donations of the specific item.  We started with cardboard boxes, then green beans and corn, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  My faithful mother walked in first with a few flats of green beans, corn and boxes of potatoes.  Ok God…..that's my Mom.  She always buys into my ideas.  We've got 50 families to feed.  By the time Friday came around, our office was full.  No where to walk full.  Friends came over and assembled boxes, started packing and Erin and I made a laaatttttte night Kroger run for 300ish canned goods.  God provided more donations then I calculated we would need.  We provided 52 families with a Thanksgiving meal.

The most beautiful parts?  When I showed up to pick up our turkeys at the fabulous Kroger, my friend Jeff passed over the bill.  I got a wee teary in the Kroger line.  I had calculated we'd need over $650 for turkeys.  Well, my friend Jeff flashed me the final price, handwritten on a piece of cardboard - $368.  Shut the front door, buddy Jeff - 51 turkeys for about half the price.  Praise the Lord - we can buy sweet potatoes and gravy packets!!!

Wait.  There's that sweet lady I knew through friends who hit a rough patch and needed diapers for her new set of twin babies.  Gave her a quick call and got to work grabbing apple juice, cereal, spaghetti and sauce, oatmeal, rice, diapers, diapers and some more diapers.  All on your behalf.  I was standing in the line again when Jeff walked by with a surprised look on his face.  "What are you doing back?"

"Uhm - giving a lady a month's worth of diapers because you were so generous, Mr. Kroger.  Ya just made my year."  Nathan and I packed her box - stacked as tall as most middle schoolers and I said a little prayer over her family.  I sent her group out on delivery first with Nathan in tow and from his account and a few things I've seen on Facebook, it seems the gift was tearfully received.  And wouldn't ya know - it seems the Lord is slowly turning her situation around this week.  Our gifts were more than well received.  I only got to see a few deliveries, but the simple surprise of a Thanksgiving meal no one had to stress over providing, was more than enough reward for the little work we did.

I can't quite say thank you adequately.  To those of you who latch onto my crazy ideas without even thinking.  To those of you who gave when you really couldn't.  And to you young fellahs who listened to me share a piece of my heart.  We may never know all the stories of how our efforts helped, but I know one thing for sure - I'm going to live my days being spent on behalf of the folks in our town.

I want you to know about what we did because there isn't a single thing special about these boxes.  You provided the money.  You provided the boxes.  You provided the canned goods.  I provided a floor.  It took me two years to go and do what the Lord was asking of me, but that's it.  I just took the idea and did it.  I'm not special.  You and I are the same.  Each of us have opportunities daily to love and give and listen to the Lord's calling on our lives.  Sometimes I do OK at listening; mostly I fail miserably.  But nearly always I hear a quiet voice in the back of my mind reminding me to get up and walk.  What are we waiting on?  Go.  Walk.  Do.   God will provide and bless you more than you could have dreamt up on your own.  Half-price turkeys anyone?


P.P.S.  Now read THIS!