Highlights of the Team Organizing Job: Part 1

First off, I want to reassure my readers that I always keep my clients’ identity confidential if that is what they want.  But Ted and Retha, who would have been the stars in the show if they had been on one of those hoarder’s programs on television, want to share the wonderful news that with the help of Jesus, family, friends, and a handful of hired folks including a contractor and his sub-contractors, we transformed their home in a way that they never dreamed possible.

In the beginning, they had so much shame because of their situation. But as the team of folks who helped them kept reassuring them that they were loved and accepted no matter what their environment looked like, I saw a profound in their demeanor. From beaten down, discouraged, and embarrassed, they gradually made a transition to nurturing, funny, encouraging, positive, joyful people who were ready to let the world know that change can happen with the right circumstances.

I want to start out by emphasizing that we really relied on God in order to be wildly successful as everyone thought we were.  People had been praying for Retha and Ted for many years previous, and more prayers were poured on when folks found out that I was coming to help facilitate a team to help with the sad situation that Ted and Retha were in. You see, the whole house was covered with deep piles of clutter.  There were only narrow paths to walk through to get to sleeping and sitting areas.  This contributed to many problems, the biggest one being the heavy burden of despair that comes with such an environment.

When Pat called me about two months ago and described the situation with her step son and his wife, I immediately knew this was going to need a team effort.  The last big job I did which was similar to the one she described took two months with me working 2-3 days a week.  Since I would be traveling to Booneville, and Pat was only available for a week to help since she lives in Florida, I knew this job would need to be done in a much more efficient way than one person (me) going as fast as I could.  Also, I had a vision that withindaysix days with others helping, the job could be completely done.  I really disliked how the job I did alone stretched on endlessly. I realized later that with me carrying all the boxes myself, I gradually built up an injury which almost prevented me from going on my tour to visit Christian communities.

About four years ago Chris, Mahriyanna and Robert helped with a really big organizing job where the client did not want to even be in the job because of stressful memories involving her children being sexually abused.  When I remembered how much more efficient it was to have a team, I realized that this was going to be important for Ted and Retha’s situation.  I’ll write more about how dramatic the change was from when we first started to when the job was completed in Part 2

What was very beautiful was that Pat realized that this could be a process that was going to be healing for the whole family.  So she engaged the help of Ted and Retha’s sons plus a handy lady who was able to work four out of the seven days that we worked. Pat was hoping that Ted and Retha would help, and they worked along side of us in a beautiful way that helped the job be both enjoyable and efficient.

I am now going to share more highlights in this next blog post http://wp.me/p2Uepi-vv

Highlights of Team Organizing job Part 2

I am tempted to give you a blow by blow account of how the whole job proceeded, but because of shortage of time, I am going to have self control and share just highlights.  I have taken many pictures which will remind me of the whole process when I have time to concentrate on that.  The process itself was quite miraculous because of so many things happening in a timely fashion. For example, usually when a person needs a person to do work on their home, it can take a week or more to get them to come. Every thing that was needed doing was completed just when it needed to be done including plumbing so that the work part could go to the bathroom and flush the toilet!

The first highlight was when I arrived. I brought some purple mums thinking that if there could be one beautiful thing that we could focus on, then we could be reminded of the goal.  Pat was over joyed because Retha just loves flowers.  Retha could not express herself clearly when I first met her, but Pat, her mother-in-law, seemed to think that my gift was a very positive thing.  One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is that sometimes a person will stutter so badly that he or she can not be understood except by someone who has been a constant companion.  Retha was having a bad day, and this is the state I found her in.  I was surprised because I had no idea that she was in such bad condition.

We all went to a restaurant called The Tabernacle which is owned by a Christian woman.  Our goal was to build some trust and connection.  When I asked Ted what his main priority was, he said, “For Retha to be cured of Parkinson’s disease.” I was deeply touched by his devotion to his wife which I witnessed during the entire time I was there,  and this selfless goal of his practically brought me to tears.  Since Retha was not coherent during the hours we spent at the restaurant as Ted patiently helped his wife feed herself, I mostly talked to Ted. I found him to be very humble and kind.

After getting to know the couple a bit better, I worked on creating a vision for them which of course would need to be approved.  Pat gave me wonderful feedback which lead to us writing this mission statement together which is not exact because I left the poster board at their home.

“Ted and Retha are happy and healthy in a home where they can thrive, and share love and joy with others as they welcome them into a homey environment. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Without vision, the people will perish.”

They did approve of this vision, and we posted it up on the wall during the whole time we worked.  We read it each tie we had a circle for the team, which we did about four times as people were added to the team and we needed to get to know each other better.  And we definitely had the strength of Christ to help us do what appeared to be impossible tasks.

Reading that vision at the house blessing party we had where about nine people attended was such a miraculous occasion.  For them to have a party at their house was unthinkable, but here they were hosting in a lovely living room and kitchen which was pretty clean and comfortable.  The vision had come true in every way.

Here are a few of the highlights which I want to touch upon not necessarily in the order of when they happened.

Sheila playing a great rock and roll station and everyone singing along including 70 plus year old Pat.  Retha starts dancing and later Ted joins her.

Praying every day before and after the job was done.  Each person would pray a short prayer. This was super inspiring and also a way to get to know people better to build a team spirit.

Me working with one of the couple’s sons sorting papers and having a very deep conversation which he opened up to me about very vulnerable things.  I cherished our connection.

Having a room full of clothes that needed sorting getting the first sorting done within a few hours by Pat and her grandson, John.  Pat loved my technique about sorting several times so things could go faster.  I loved seeing them work together and having fun in the process.

Soring about twenty boxes of paper into just a few categories such as memories, look through later, Retha’s art, and throw away.  I did this with John and George, the two sons.  I felt so privileged to spend time with them and encourage them as they did what could have been a very boring job. But instead, the way we did it meant that they could find treasured items and memories which lead to conversations between them that I think bonded them together even more.  I especially celebrate how when I asked them about the contemporary music they were listening to on the Pandora radio station, and told them I liked the Beatles–they changed the station to one that had the Beatles.  We all sang along together on such songs as “Hey Jude”, which I heard the marching band at the near by high school playing the next day.

I took about 200 pictures, including before and after.  But mostly I loved getting shots of Ted and Reba who were glad to smile as they did things like sit in the new lift chair which was a last minute surprise.  Often they would want their pictures taken together which was so sweet.  When I went through the pictures, I was touched by the loving, peaceful, happy expressions this couple had. I also really loved taking pictures of the whole family, their friends, and every single worker who helped including the trash picker-uppers.  I enjoyed telling them what a miracle it was that was happening and how they were helping make this miracle happen.

One of the funniest moments came when the man picking up the trash grabbed a toilet seat and used it to frame his face.  His big grin and sense of  humor was the source of much laughter as we would tell the story over and over to people who came to help.

I had no idea that we were going to be tearing out the whole carpet, but it became apparent when I got there that this was necessary.  Pat had done what I thought was the impossible job (with out me:) of clearing out the master bedroom with the help of Ted, and getting just that section of carpet out.  Once we found out there were beautiful oak floors underneath, and we saw the health hazards of keeping the rug, Pat and I agreed that it had to go. At first we thought Mike, the contractor, would have to do it four days into the job, but miraculously, Shiela, our fearless handy woman who can do just about anything except mend a broken heart, was able to work during the time we had the grandsons handy who could move the heavy furniture out the way so that I could continue organizing.

Pat was amazing because she would keep setting impossible goals that even I didn’t think could be done. But she would encourage us to work just a little bit longer so that we could do such things as get the rug out in two days.  It was satisfying to have the whole thing done so that we could proceed with putting things back when the grandsons were present.

On Monday, we could see some real progress.  I had the idea of having a house blessing party on Wednesday morning which was when I was supposed to leave. But two of the people who we knew had to be there could not make it. Chester and his wife Caroline had been faithful, loving friends to Ted and Retha. Without their help, this job would not have happened.  Since Tuesday evening was the only time they could come, we decided we would at least get part of the house ready for the party.

The party was the true highlight of the whole job.  Although Ted and Retha had not, for various reasons, been going to the church they used to go to, people like Chester and Caroline had not given up on them.  The new pastor showed up, along with Chester and Caroline, and another couple from church came to the gathering.  Margie had visited Retha regularly, but had never been in the house since Retha was so ashamed of the environment.  Her face was shining when she was able to walk into a clean, uncluttered environment.

I was privileged to facilitate the event because Pat at the last minute said, “do your thing, Patricia.”  She had seen me facilitate a number of very beautiful, bonding, trust building circles and she loved them  and how they brought people together quickly.  Pat and I were loving partners in this whole situation and we now consider ourselves dear friends who will stay connected.

After asking the pastor to open with prayer, I asked people to answser the question, “How has your life changed since you surrendered your life to Jesus.” Since I knew everyone where was a follower of Jesus, I knew that this would not offend anyone.  The answers were so beautiful and inspiring, and the atmosphere of love and connection in the room was palpable.

I will need to describe the whole gathering in more detail, but I will repeat that this was the best part of the whole experience.

Spending time getting the place presentable for guests including cleaning up the bathroom, a bedroom and the hall way took considerable time away from the sorting process which seemed to go on forever. I still hadn’t touched the laundry room, and the master bedroom needed emptying for a bedroom suite which was going to be delivered the next morning.  So after the party Shiela and I worked together including her patching a big hole in the wall which was hidden behind a stack of boxes of books.

The next morning I did not know when the bedroom suite was going to be delivered, so with only about five hours of sleep, I got an early start. With Ted’s help we were able to get all the boxes out just in time.  And wonderfully enough, where we put the boxes were where they needed to stay anyway.

By Wednesday I was the main person working on the job since Pat was spending the day with her grandsons.  Retha and Ted needed to take some breaks, although they helped some. I felt like an organizing machine.  I was on my seventh day of working mostly 14 hour days.  It had to be be God’s grace that I did not get tired or sick.  I did bring enough healthy food like chia seed, green smoothie ingredients, and sunnie dip to help me eat mostly raw. That helped a lot.  But to be able to keep going and have a clear mind to make the thousands of decisions I had to make to tie up all the loose ends was truly one of the many miracles that happened during this process.

By eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, I had the house looking very nice for Pat. I wanted her to see a somewhat finished job since she was leaving early the next morning for a Joyce Myers conference in Indianapolis.  She was very pleased with the results, and we had a wonderful prayer circle with Ted before we said our good byes.

I was convinced that I would need to sleep in the next morning.  But instead, I worked until about 1 and woke up ready to complete the job at 5:00 AM.  I wanted to have some quiet time with the Lord, but I sensed him saying that I could have time while I worked because there was a lot to be done.  I yearned to have the home in a place where everything had a home and systems were in place to help them keep the place uncluttered. I also wanted to have the car port to look presentable since that was something that everyone driving by could see.

Robert was picking me up at 9:30 so that I could get back in time for a job I needed to do in Fayetteville. When he arrived I was putting on the finishing touches of telling Retha and Ted about some simple systems and where things were. I had been able to put every room in order and usable except for one bedroom which was still in need of repair.  I stacked up boxes to sort in categories together such as memories, Retha’s artwork, electronics, small things to sort.  Many of the clothes and soft items such as sheets were stacked up on a high shelf out of the way in the laundry room.  All was clearly marked. Sorting through this was going to take another day at least.  I envisioned a “sorting bee” where friends could come and help sort the last of the stuff.  Everything had been touched at least once, but my technique helps get rid of enough stuff so that there can be room to move.  High priority things such as the house title and some special electronics were easily discovered and placed in safe places.

I took the couple, along with Robert, on a tour of the house, explaining where things were. I had already done this to a certain extent, but reviewing never hurts.  I video taped the house and also some beautiful comments by Retha and Ted which really touched my hearts. They were so appreciative.  I felt as if I was a hero to them.

As we hugged and said good byes, there was so much love and affection between us. I wrote on the spray bottle of the natural cleaning solution I had brought, “I love you, Retha and Ted. Whenver you spray this, think of me and how much I love you.”

I admit that I asked for this, but the mallet that we used to play the xylophone whenever we wanted to celebrate a part of the job being done was presented to me by Ted and Retha.  We had initially used a spoon, but when a mallet was uncovered it was even more handy and melodious.  I will now always used the xylophone to add fun and laughter to our process, and will tell the story of how I obtained the mallet.

I took a picture of Retha and Ted waving at me as we drove off.  When I reviewed it later, their smiles and demeanor reminded me of how they had been so loving, kind, patient, and often joyful during what was often a painful process of letting go. But Retha told Robert and I at the end, “I realize now that all this stuff was a huge burden weighing me down.”  Ted said, “Thanks for lending us your wife for this long time.”  Even though I was totally honest from the start that Robert is my former husband, everyone insisted on calling Robert my husband. I thought that was sweet.

I can’t wait to make a video of this whole endeavor.  I long to do this again. I have a huge amount of ideas and have learned so much.  It was the most uplifting organizing job I have ever experienced.  I hope that our Wellspring Community members can help with the next one.

Mahriyanna’s account of Fun Fellowship and Service praying for the unborn and serving the orphans

I participated in some meaningful times of service this last weekend. From the unborn to the orphans, I felt privileged to serve those in need, and to do so alongside my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to help package meals for orphaned children. The event was held at the Assembly of God in Huntsville, AR. The church’s entire gym was packed with volunteer groups from different churches that came to help. Each group of volunteers hosted a table, and, at that table, formed an assembly line of volunteers who worked together to transform boxes of bulk food into neatly packaged and sealed meals. Through a united effort, all of the volunteers packed 39,000 meals in 2 hours.
This was a fun and rewarding activity, and I’m so glad I got involved. Not only did I have the privilege to serve those in need, but I got to serve alongside some awesome friends in the process!
The following day, Sunday, I  participated in a peaceful prayer and worship vigil for life. During the morning to mid afternoon shift, the group consisted 8 of FFS and AHOP members. We had a powerful time of prayer and worship, interceding in love for the deliverance of the unborn, the struggles of their mothers and fathers in the difficult situations they face, the emotional  healing of post abortive women, the promotion of pregnancy centers and adoption agencies, and many other abortion-related issues. Toward the  late afternoon, our group was nearly tripled by the arrival of a group of more FFS members. During a short time of overlapping shifts, we had a presence of 21 people standing vigil in front of Planned Parenthood, holding signs with messages such as “Pray To End Abortion,” Before I Formed You In Your Mother’s Womb, I Knew You. -God,” and ” Pregnant? Need Help? txt: ‘Pregnant’ to 313131.” As the evening drew to a close, we gathered one last time in prayer for the unborn. After the 12 hour vigil ended, our group headed to the bowling alley, continuing our time of fun and fellowship, with memories of service fresh in our minds and hearts.
In anticipation of this vigil, I was slightly anxious, concerned that spending most of the day praying outside of an abortion clinic would be taxing. However, the time that I dedicated turned out to be more rewarding then I possibly could have imagined. The presence of friends and family, the common purpose that I shared with them, and the presence of God that bound us together in unity filled me with joy!
I think one of the sign messages that was displayed in front of Planned Parenthood sums up the theme of the experiences I described above. The sign read “Love all Life, Born And Unborn.” This message is what my weekend was about; it was about loving the orphans by helping to supply their needs, it was about loving the unborn and all of those involved in abortion–including the abortionists themselves–by praying for God’s love to deliver them, and it was about loving my brothers and sisters in Christ by partnering with them in service to God.

Praying for peace at Planned Parenthood

Our community is passionate about following in the footsteps of Jesus as he teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Not only does Jesus tell us to love one another–our family, friends, church family, people we know-but we are told to go many steps further and want the best for people who think differently and do things that we think are hurtful.  I realize that many of my friends may have a different outlook than we do about abortion, but I believe when we pray against abortion in front our local Planned Parenthood, we are praying for peace.  Peace for the woman who often regrets her abortion.  Peace for the fathers who are begging his partner not to abort his child.  Peace for the unborn baby who can feel pain at 20 weeks.  Scientific evidence proves that here   Peace for the unborn baby who someone has determined has no human rights even though from conception he or she is a separate human being from the mother.

Even though there are countless issues that we could focus on, one of the main ones we spend our time with is participating in activities that will help prevent abortion–such as helping with our local pregnancy center Loving Choices–and praying against abortion during the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils which happen twice a year.  We yearn for peace in this area because innocent lives are being taken and so many people are unwilling to take a stand.

We were never active in the anti-abortion movement until we learned about 40 Days for Life.  Previously we had seen so many anti-abortionists (who called themselves pro-life)  share their message in a violent way which often served to alienate people who might otherwise have some openness to that cause.  When we learned about 40 Days for Life when we witnessed them praying in front of a now closed abortion clinic in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we became active supporters of the anti-abortion movement.

I call it “anti-abortion” because that is a much more accurate description than “pro-life”.  Yes, we are pro-life.  And I believe that all of my friends who support women in making a choice for abortion are pro-life.  My friends are caring people who fight for such causes as world peace, saving the earth,  stopping fracking,  protecting the Buffalo River,  preserving the wilderness, fighting poverty and hunger, standing up for injustice, and finding a solution to the horror of human trafficking.

I love these friends, some of whom have shared of their abortion experiences.  I care deeply about these folks who are passionate about doing good, yet at the same time believe that Planned Parenthood is a great organization that really serves women.  But as long as they want abortion to be available because a woman has a right to choose, then I will call them pro-abortion, rather than pro-choice.

Christopher and Mahriyanna started a group called Fun, Fellowship and Service. One of their first activities was to inspire their friends and parents to join them in attending a very inspiring rally where Abby Johnson, who had recently quit her job as a Planned Parenthood director when she realized that abortion was really killing a child and how much PP higher-ups were pressuring her to make more money by pushing abortion.   Shawn Carney, co-founder of 40 days for life, also spoke.  I will never forget their very compelling talks.  Now, three years later, Abby is one of the leading anti-abortion activists.

That started a twice yearly “adopt a day to pray against abortion” for Fun Fellowship and Service where they would choose a day that they committed to fill up with prayer warriors.  Then afterwards they would get together to have fellowship and fun.  I am so happy that they keep organizing this event.  Mahriyanna wrote about her experience in this blog post http://wp.me/p2Uepi-vp

Jesus teachings about non-violence

Heartfelt and inspiring, this sermon from a guest speaker at The Meeting House really touched me.  Not only does he have a great Austrailian accent, but he has some amazing stories about community and clarification about how Jesus taught to overcome evil with good. 

http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/transforming-communities-june-2013/part-1-be-perfect-be-purple-5462

7 communal practices

I plan on talking to community members about how we can incorporate these practices into our community life.  I love check lists:)  I see that I am really missing some of these practices and just having a conversation about them will be helpful. I am enjoying learning about this church called Life on the Vine.

http://lifeonthevine.org/about/7-communal-practices/

1.) Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving.’ 

2.)  Proclamation of the Gospel.  –

3.) Reconciliation

4.) Being with people on the fringes.  

5.)  Being with the children.  

6.) Fivefold ministry gifts. 

7.) Kingdom prayer