St. Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine’s Day

While walking into Old Town Orange, down the street to this small little shop, MMD, where inside there is another cute shop, SoftGoods, that was a lot of info, I was behind this sweet little couple and was instantly reminded of Valentine’s Day. It has slipped my mind in a personal sense, although I love what it stands for and sent off my children’s valentines already, I forget about it.

When I first spotted them, she had her arm on his shoulder, and then she moved her hand down, he then grabbed her hand. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen. The whole world has stopped for them to show affection. I walked a little faster and caught up with them and put my arm on hers and said, “I don’t mean to startle you, but I took a picture of you, can I share it?” She said yes. I told her it was beautiful to see them. She said she did not know how much time they had because he was slowly declining in health. I said, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Sweet Couple

Last year one of the boys surprised me and took me to an exceptional dinner on Valentines down by the water with a seat looking out over the busy street and water in the distance. He secretly called ahead of time and told the server about bringing me in for dinner.  The sacrifice of his time and his money to make me not think about my first Valentine’s Day alone in many years, was a blessing.

It is not my life at this point to necessarily have a Valentine myself and the possibility is high that I never will but I have enjoyed the holiday in the past and took full use of it. I suggest you take advantage of the day with your sweetheart. Don’t feel sorry for me, seriously or others in a similar position whether a widow or single but benefit from what you have because someday you might not be able to enjoy it. Some moments can have some sadness, but overall, I am not sad. The Lord has blessed me despite the loss of my husband with wonderful family and friends around me.

The real story behind this day isn’t necessarily about romance but sacrifice. The legend is about a Catholic priest named Valentine, during the reign of

The legend is about a Catholic priest named Valentine, during the reign of Claudius Gothicus. Supposedly, St. Valentine intervened on behalf of young men who could not marry their sweethearts during the time of 270 AD because they were thought to be better soldiers if not married. He then helped them secretly marry in Christian churches. Because of his intervention, he was found and eventually killed, however, before his death, he prayed over a young woman and while in prison, he wrote her a note that said, “from your Valentine.”

I don’t know if all of this is true but either way, but love that person you’re with even they are difficult or suffering themselves, or if you are suffering, hold their hand, kiss their face and show love because you never know what a day holds.

faithfulness of a spouse

faithfulness of a spouse

Today I attended a memorial for a friend from high school. Friends from high school come in and out of your life just because life does that. We all move on yet the friendships can remain for a long time. Her name was Julie, she married and had three children and two grandchildren. It was a little difficult yet good to be reminded that the Lord allows suffering for His glory ultimately. She was an incredible woman who left an amazing legacy. We had both gone our separate ways so some of this story, I was unaware of. I kept in touch a little over the years with her best friend, but Julie and I talked once in a great while meaning several years in between.

caregiving

Julie and I saw each other at a high school reunion, her in a wheelchair, me standing, I don’t remember meeting her husband.  She told me with a smile; she was diagnosed with MS around eight years before that particular time. I was at a loss for words at that moment. Daily suffering effects people’s lives, the loss of a marriage, the loss of children, the loss of a spouse, the loss or sickness of a parent, loss of a job, loss of finance, being a victim of a crime, no longer having the ability to walk, just everyday suffering.  Today they shared her legacy or life story put another way but what impressed me (which it was never meant to do) was the husband of Julie. One year after they married, Julie was diagnosed with MS and a few months later she broke her ankle, to never walk again. As a caregiver for two years, I so understand the dedication, the denial of self at times, the prayers, the crying out to the Lord to heal your spouse, the physical and emotional turmoil that you face and the questions from everyone wanting to help but you don’t even know what to do.

But 24 years ago, he was a young man, he was 21 or so. His faithfulness to his family and wife apparently needed to be shared. People wrote letters about her and him moreover the legacy he has been leaving all these years. I just quietly said thank you Lord, for a godly and faithful man and to those who are caregivers, the quiet one’s no one knows about, those that work in the life of someone else suffering.

He is not perfect; none of us are but he was faithful.

Nifty Package Co, a business venture

Nifty Package Co, a business venture

Cake Pops

Decision making for a widow can be difficult. After a few months of a sabbatical, prayer and a lot of research, I have decided to work for myself.

I used to own a corporate gift and gift basket company before I worked in corporate America. I learned that I like to sell but not manage the details. But, without the details, failure is inevitable, and eventually I failed. I ended up working at a Denny’s to support myself and my three boys as a single mom, trying to salvage any sense of dignity that I imagined I had.

I lacked the wisdom and understanding of what it took to run a successful company. After failing miserably, I then proceeded to think I would never do that again. But I later found that success and wisdom can come through failure. 

Since I have a large family with many grandchildren and more on the way, I particularly desire the flexibility that working for myself can create. Also, I desire that others in my similar situation can take a small risk and have that flexibility as well. I will document my journey, including the good, the bad and the ugly as I walk through it. 

I love business. I love everything about it; the challenge, the fun, the creativity, and the character developed in the process. As a pastor’s wife, the garden of pastoral service was always evolving. Now I am in a different garden. I need to support myself and am looking forward to the fruit this basket will hold. 

This is a work in progress, and I don’t have all the bugs worked out yet and will continue to work on the branding. But I am excited to start this new adventure.

 

I am introducing Nifty Package Company where we offer innovative, creative and artistic corporate gifts and custom-themed gift baskets and within those baskets are cottage foods, as organic as we can make them, which will include cookies, cake pops and eventually jams.

We take pride in our superior customer service, commitment to charity, and attention to details. NPC is also on Yelp, Facebook, Pintrest and Instagram.  If you need any baskets or corporate gifts, let me come to you or give us a call. 

Luggage BasketLabel for NPC

 

Bikes and Baskets

Bikes and Baskets

In March, a few months before the one-year anniversary of my husband’s passing while in a church service,  on the announcement screen there flashed, “join the Freewheelers.” The Freewheelers happen to be the EV Free church #cycle group. I cannot even tell you how excited I was about that whole idea.

Within the next month, we as a board decided that YAS would be closing its pantry doors, and there came another end of a season for me. I sent off an email to the Freewheelers group, and they responded giving me the time and location of their next ride. I was excited!

I was ready to go in my sweat shorts, t-shirt and new gloves along with my cruiser that had a very cool basket on it. I loved it! My youngest son came out to head off to work, noticed my cycle apparel and said, “Mom, that group is going to be a bunch of 70-year-olds in spandex, and you look a little out of place.” My response was, of course, “Well it’s what I have, and I am going.” So off I went.

I unloaded the hefty (prayerfully no one was looking) bike out of my car basket and all. Proudly put on my gloves and helmet then walked over to the group, no they weren’t all 70, many were young, and the looks were something I will never forget. I looked around and said, “Are there any women in this group?” 

And simultaneously the men said, “Yes, and she should be rolling up at any moment.” I thought, cool some women.  Up rides two people, one man, and one woman. The gal got off her bike, proceeded to walk right over to bubbly me and said while taking out the 5 lb bike lock I had (hey, I loved my cruiser) handing it to me, “You don’t need this, and that basket why do you have that?” I responded, “you wish you had one,” not knowing what else to say, and as she walked over to her bike she said, “and turn your gloves around, you have them on upside down.” Then they prayed before riding. I think they prayed I would quit but not me. I am for sure a turtle, but I am not a quitter. My friend, the woman, told me later she said to a fellow cyclist, “Oh brother, we have a winner.” This woman has stuck by me, taught me, trained me and was very patient through the process.

They let a kind man on an electric bike stay with me, and I thought I was going to die! I could barely breathe. I rode eight mph downhill, I worked out all the time and was in excellent shape. I rode to the beach in that cruiser, in those sweat shorts and sure enough they kicked my booty. They were all relaxing at the local coffee house when I rode up. Someone graciously bought me a coffee and no one knew how excited I was actually to make the 12 miles but just as I sat down, the gal said, “Ok, Michelle get back on your bike and head back.” WHAT! I just sat down and needed to breathe for two minutes, but I got back up on the cruiser and headed off back to who knows where. I learned a few lessons that day. Never open your mouth to say how cool next to a chicken farm because flies find your mouth quickly.

I am telling this story because these in this group are now some very precious friends of mine. Over the next few months as I closed another small piece of who I thought I was they took me in and befriended me, talked with me, and prayed for me. That gal is now a close friend to me and has trained me to be a good cyclist, encouraged me, pushed me along with the others so that I would improve. They have been such good friends with fun, sweat, and even tears. I worked hard when they weren’t looking, rode to the beach and back on my cruiser until I purchased a good road bike and began to train myself and study all about cycling. I have come to love the sport and during my time of sabbatical when I did not work and did not counsel anyone, I just relaxed and spent time with the Lord and my family. Something I don’t’ know that I have ever done. These friends are new but feel like old friends; they have accepted me, and I would have never met them if I had not had the sabbatical.

God is so gracious. I needed the rest, and now I am back working for myself. I was given an incredible opportunity to work for an excellent company, but I have decided to work for myself being encouraged by my children, friends, and family. I will keep you posted.

Some of my friends

Image

In the Wilderness

Life is romance, life is tragic and suffering is inevitable. You may not have lost someone but you might have lost a career, a friendship, family, business or finance so you understand the feeling of suffering.

When my husband passed away my son and daughter in law brought a few of my grandchildren to the viewing. As much as some of us might think that is wrong, it was right for them because they were able to walk through their grieving and still do at moments. They know where their poppa went. My grandaughter Elizabeth hit me at my core last week when she said, “Does he ever think about me?” Does he ever think about you? What a question, how to answer those big chocolate brown eyes full of tears and I had to be honest and say, ” I don’t know.” She began to describe her feelings to me and we both cried but she is facing the truth. He is not coming back. That is very hard for me but it is refreshing to walk with her through such a sad season. 539871_362708247120259_1542634007_n

The best advice I have heard with all the books, all the suffering advice (which I love and appreciate) was to not make any major decisions the first year. I have to admit sometimes I had thoughts that were entirely different than I think today. You feel like you need someone or something to fill a hole when the Lord wants that place and others don’t want you to suffer either so they try to fill the hole.  The Lord put me in this place, He sent me into the desert, I did not choose it so now I know this is His will.

The wilderness.

It seems dry, quiet and lonely. The place where we can be assaulted by one temptation after another. We look for trees, tempted to not trust the Lord, fear of the unknown and tempted to take things into our own hands.

Those of us who have lost spouses, it is a strange place to be. I am no longer a wife, no longer a pastors wife, I closed down the one thing that I loved and kept me extremely busy, the community outreach so then the temptation is to ask who am I? Am I anything or anyone? I am a mother and a grandmother but there is still that age old issue of I want to be someone else. Why do I do that? Why! The answer is my identity is in Jesus Christ and Christ alone. Not position, not placement, not money not anything. Christ alone.

Psalm 23 reminds me that He makes me lie down, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul, then He leads me again and although this desert seems quiet, He reminds me that I am walking through even if it feels like I’m not moving.

I have loved the season I was in. I have grown tremendously through that time, and now I will grow in a different way while I wait on the Lord and remember that I have wonderful children and grandchildren, a home and many friends but most of all I have the Lord and peace that there is an end to the wilderness and I will treasure this time and look forward to the next season.

~Michelle

 

It’s true, just one last conversation

It’s true, just one last conversation

I wonder what I would say if I was able to have one more conversation with my husband. There have been many times over the past year that I just wish I could talk to him, ask his advice, even have him upset with me just so I could talk one last time but I won’t be able to do that. Although the date is May 28th, tonight at 7pm, one year ago, my husband went to be with the Lord. He has left me with a beautiful family and many memories.

I just want to say one last goodbye on this anniversary to my handsome.

Love,

Michelle

Season’s of Life

Season’s of Life

Winston Churchill said once, “Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it is courage that counts.”

After 13 years of existence YAS will be winding down into a dormant status as of June 1, 2015. We have done our best to fulfill our mission which was to feed those in need no questions asked in our local community along side Covenant Life Church, where my husband pastored for over 21 years.

Our goal was that Christ would be glorified through our service to the community by relieving hunger and encouraging our neighbors to actively participate and contribute to help those in need by sharing the Gospel practically.

What we believe as an organization was that providing the basic need of food gives an opportunity on which people in need can build lives of greater economic security out of love not from a law. We believe that once the basic need of food is met, other community service agencies will be more effective in their efforts to help people in need move toward economic security.

We believe that feeding those in need is an urgent moral and practical responsibility based on the words of Jesus in Mathew 25:35 which says, For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” and in Deuteronomy 15:11 it says we need to have an open hand to the poor no questions asked which is why we are not government funded or supported.

We also believe according to Leviticus 23:22 we are to leave the leftovers for the poor, the widow and the stranger. This is the Gospel message displayed in what we at YAS believe. Helping the poor, and our neighbors in need whom have run into difficult times. We have graciously received food that otherwise would have been thrown out from our local community stores, churches and other food organizations and redistributed it therefore taking a burden off the state and our environment.

As a person, I love helping and serving the underprivileged. Many people helped my siblings and my mom when we were very poor and even myself when I was a single mom.

My husband, who was the senior pastor of the church where YAS is, when he was alive, allowed me to start this outreach ministry at Covenant Life Church at the end of 2002 and many came along side to help whether by serving or giving but it slowly took off. We started out with people just knocking on the doors of the church needing food. Prior to this I tried to start a motel ministry but the Lord did not see that was for me, it is for someone like Wally at Project Dignity, who does an incredible job taking those who need help during a very rough time living in motels and gives them wrap around services to strengthen their lives to get them back on their feet. But at this time, the demands of those in need and the organization keep growing but the finances are lacking. The need is still so great.

All of us on the board of directors for YAS feel that we have to close down here in this location for this season but are not closing down the 501 (c) 3 and are keeping our assets until such a time that we either reopen or relocate if the Lord opens that door.

This is a very difficult decision that I have had to pray through, seek a lot of counsel and accept trusting that this is the Lord’s hand and I need to have courage to do the right thing. However, all my godly counsel and the YAS board are in 100% agreement for the season that we are in even after being in operation for 12 1/2 years

I have in the meantime found locations around us who can help carry the responsibility of those in need which of course for me is my priority.

For me personally, although I worked more than full time for YAS, there weren’t sufficient funds to pay me and it was never the original design of YAS nor did my husband foresee his cancer resulting in his passing a year ago. I will need to work to receive full-time pay starting in August or September. The church has helped support me and house the YAS ministry for this past year since my husbands passing but at this time, I need to let Covenant Life’s new pastoral family lead the church.

Our family has gone through a very difficult season but we are very thankful for those who have supported us through this process.

The questions I had to ask were:

  • Can we continue to advance our mission effectively and efficiently?
  • Do we have sufficient resources (not just financial) to continue our programs in a manner that still makes sense?
  • What are our prospects for securing the resources we need to continue our programs?
  • Can we realistically create new revenue streams without chasing dollars not truly related to our mission?
  • How will our dormant position impact our clients, staff, and can we take steps to alleviate the harm done to those most impacted?
  • Are there other organizations that can fill the gap that would result from our dormant position for the clients?
  • If we decide to be dormant, what legacy will we leave behind and how can we best honor God, CLCC, the good work and accomplishments of the organization and its leaders?

We are going dormant on growth, not decrease but we cannot handle the growth properly at the same time to grow YAS I would have to put even more hours in and at this time, I can’t work to the level needed. I currently worked 50+ hours per week .

YAS has enjoyed significant growth within the last eight years. From January 2009 until November 2009, we fed over 59,075 people with approximately 173,800 lbs. of food; which is a 232% increase of what we did in the previous year alone! In 2014, YAS volunteers worked approximately 23,100 hours and distributed 406,000 pounds of food to 72,000 people. Over the years, YAS has focused on serving healthier and more nutritious food, and increasing volunteer participation.

The table below illustrates the number of people served, the amount of food served, and the total volunteer hours spent preparing and serving food since 2008:

 

YEAR PEOPLE SERVED POUNDS OF FOOD VOLUNTEER HOURS
2008

 

17,800 OVER

155,750 lbs.

5,000 hrs.
2009

 

59,075 OVER

173,800 lbs.

8,500 hrs.
2010

 

71,000 290,942 lbs. 13,828 hrs.
2011

 

71,000 OVER

309,942 lbs.

15,500 hrs.
2012

 

71,000 317,000 lbs. 16,000 hrs.
2013 65,000 340,00 lbs. 17,500 hrs.
2014 73,135 382.328 23,105 hrs.

 

What YAS accomplished in 2014

  • Distributed ~406,000 lbs. of food and fed over 6,000 people monthly
  • Of that we rescued 382,100 lbs. and purchased 24,000 lbs. of food, given to people in need
  • Added 7 additional Stores to food rescue program
  • Emergency food and supplies inventoried
  • Distributed extra food to Men’s Recovery home, Mercy House, Fullerton City Lights, homeless junior high students and other small organizations
  • Started & implemented a new Satellite Pantry in Santa Ana, by request
  • Established a process to receive volunteer labor thru the OC court referral program, and VolunteerMatch Referrals
  • Increased volunteer hours from 17,700 to 23,100
  • Private contributors increased to 50 donors
  • Funding increased to 18 Grants/Foundations
  • Went from 2 to 4 staff members, and 1 additional experienced grant writer
  • Expanded the board by one new member
  • Took-on the previously sponsored expense for the rental of facility space.
  • A New 2013 Ford Van was generously donated
  • Remained Debt Free
  • Began Empty Bowls Program with Chapman University which created awareness, finance and community relationship
  • Community Corporation participation increased to 5 new supporters/volunteers
  • Gave over 500 children Back-to-school backpacks full of school supplies.
  • 787 full uncooked turkey dinners for families in need at the Thanksgiving 2014 Outreach
  • Established & Implemented a Corporate Christmas Program with no cost to YAS

We are sad but thankful that we had the opportunity to serve the Orange area and surrounding communities.

Blessings~Michelle