If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trading Comfort for Ministry

I ran track in high school and I was terrible at it.  I would get ½ way around the first lap and basically give up (I told you I was terrible).  Consequently, my coach moved me from the 400 to the 200 because I was clearly not going to run the race beyond the point at which it became uncomfortable. 

I said in my last post that we are ½ way through our climb of Mt. Harvey and today I would like to say that we are ½ way through the race.  It feels like the theme that Trent and I have continually run into this week is one of desire to return to that which is comfortable.   That is not a shot on anyone because we are all human and I believe our tendency as humans is to pursue safety and comfort.  It is truly natural but it is not what God is calling us to in this hour.

A friend of mine shared a video testimony with me today in which he was talking to the photographer and telling his Harvey recovery story.  In it he references the church and says, “I don’t even go to church there but they brought faith to me.  They brought faith to me.”   We did not bring faith to this precious man in the comfort of our Sunday school rooms and programs.  No.  We brought faith to this man in the depths of our discomfort, when our own faith was tested, and Christ’s love shown as light in a dark place. 

If we choose to return to lit places of comfort faster than God has called us, I fear we will be cutting our race in half and only performing at the capacity that we are able to perform by our own merit.   Let’s put in check all of our desires to get back to normal against the incredible call that God has placed before us.  There will be plenty of days to return to the security of our buildings (and frankly I fear those) but for now let’s run the race (the entire race) that has been set before us.  Let’s lean into our discomfort while trusting that our faithfulness will produce character in us and fruit in this community.  “They brought faith to me.  They brought faith to me”





Sunday, October 1, 2017

Harvey in Phases


I am a categorizer.  It is just how my brain is wired.  I see things in rows, stages, and pictures.  Harvey has been no different.  Like other struggles before, I have seen it as a mountain and the recovery process feels like it fits comfortably into 3 phases.    I would love to share those phases and some cheesy illustrations with you so you can see where we have been and where we are headed as a church and as a community.  
I also secretly hope that you see yourself somewhere in there too. :)



The Foot of the Mountain

The foot of the mountain is your oh crap, honey white-out the calendar our plans just changed, what are we going to do, Jesus take the wheel moment.   I say in my book (not out yet) that most of our mountains are not chosen but are given to us instead.  This was certainly true with Harvey.   No one could have possibly anticipated the challenge that was about to be handed to these individuals and this community.   It took us a few days, standing at the foot of the mountain, to recover from our shock and start making our plan for scaling it.   I am especially proud of our church for how quickly they sprang into action with a solid, organized response.  That led us to Phase 1.








Phase 1- Climbing Mt. Harvey

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The theme of Phase 1 was to meet people’s immediate needs in the most efficient way possible.  To do that, we had to recruit the help of churches, non-profits, and individuals from all over the country.  We were amazed at the compassionate response that we received as we mucked out homes and provided people with essentials like food, clothing, and toilet paper. 

If you can bear with my illustration for a moment, phase 1 is like climbing a mountain for several reasons.  It is best to consult those who have climbed it before as a preparation for what terrain lies ahead.  We did just that as we formed a list of advisors, who included pastors from Louisiana and organizations who had experience with flooding.  We also made a solid plan, packed the necessary tools, and positioned ourselves to be flexible to respond to unexpected challenges on the journey.    






At the Top of the Mountain- Where We Are Now

Last week, we completed the clean out of the last home on our list.  This weekend we have a team down handing out Bibles as we take a moment to rest and regroup.  We are truly sitting at the top of Mt. Harvey, catching our breath, reflecting on the journey so far, and preparing for Phase 2.  












Phase 2- Descending Mt. Harvey

What we realize from the top of the mountain is that descending Mt Harvey will require as much help as ascending it.  Our church cannot insulate and sheetrock 91 houses (our current list) without some serious out of town support.  Just as people donated clothes and toiletries in phase 1, we will need people to donate household essentials in phase 2.  Please don’t think this journey is over just because we finished taking people’s possessions to the curb.  Phase 2 is about rebuilding and we will need help to get there.   Phase 2 is like the redemption of Phase 1.   What we tore out in Phase 1, we get to return in Phase 2.








Phase 3- Celebration and The Good Stuff

I told someone the other day that Phase 1 is traumatic for everyone involved, Phase 2 is necessary (like the fork you get as a wedding gift), and Phase 3 is celebratory like the gift that you keep forever and pass down to your children.  Phase 3 is the other side of the mountain where you celebrate where you have come and add the finishing touches.

Let me depart from my overused illustration for a minute and give you some examples of just some of the ideas that I have for Phase 3.   What if you and a couple of friends could decorate the bedroom of a kid who was flooded?  What if we could put basketball goals in the driveways of kids who could not afford them before the storm?  What if we could deliver large potted plants for people’s front porches or wreaths for their front doors?  What if we could make wood signs for their living rooms that say “Home” or something even more meaningful?  Y’all I could come up with 20 more ideas of ways that we can help families not just live in but love their homes again. 

So that is where we have been, where we are as we catch our breath, and we are gearing up to go.  We still need your help.  God is doing incredible things through this mission field and I pray that you will get as excited as I am about joining us on it.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

THAT WHICH CONNECTS US

I see a lot in the media today about that which divides us.  I don’t have to mention the topics here because, if you are like me, just the sight of some of them will make you click the X in the top corner of your screen.  Am I right?  Good news - this is not about that.

I am NOT interested in what divides us because I am so amazed by all of the signs around me of that which links us.   A statement hit me yesterday and I want to share it and unpack it here. It will change the way that I forever look at my days.

There are few events in life that exist for just that moment, few connections that occur for just that relationship, and no situation where God can’t bring them all together to advance His purposes.

Here are a just few of the post-Harvey stories that have stopped me in my tracks and illustrate this.


CHINA MEETS WEDGEWOOD ELEMENTARY

In July of 2013 I traveled to China with a group of strangers to love some kids in an orphanage in Baoji.  A woman named Toni Benton, who I had never met, led that trip.  We spent 10 days together in China and then stayed in touch casually through Facebook.  When Harvey hit, she sent me a message saying that her brother and nephew wanted to come serve and could she send them my way.   I said absolutely and to have them contact me.  I hit return and did not think about it again until 3 days later when I received a phone call from a man telling me that he was ½ way to Houston from Virginia and that he was hauling a cooker, tents, and enough food to feed 4000 people.  Oh, and that his Aunt Toni had sent him.   After I regrouped and caught my breath, I connected them to Wedgewood Elementary, which is in our church’s neighborhood and sits in the middle of one of the hardest hit areas.  The men set up in the parking lot of the school and fed families who had no means of transportation but were able to walk to the school and get a meal. 

What blows me away is that I went to China with Toni thinking our time together was all about China.  After all, that would have been enough because we did some good work there.  BUT GOD had more in mind.  He knew that 4 years later a massive flood would hit my area and that He was laying the groundwork for meeting the needs of His people before the waters in the Gulf even began to churn.





MY WHITE CHRISTMAS MEETS MY STORM

In December of 2010 my family won a contest with the Weather Channel to bring snow to our home for Christmas.  Those who are like, “Say what?!?!” can read about it HERE.  That is another amazing story for another day.  Anyway, I have kept casually in touch with one of the producers who we just fell in love with as a family.  When Harvey hit, she checked on us multiple times and then just recently passed our name on to another producer who is in the area looking at follow up stories.  I have been able to share with him some of our greatest needs in this area and he is hoping to spotlight some of those in upcoming segments.

So here is where I have to sit down again.  GOD KNEW when we won that White Christmas event that He was laying the foundation for a relationship that would serve people years later.  I thought my Guaranteed White Christmas was just about God blessing my family after a hard season but it was so much more than that.  God was laying the groundwork for helping our community in its hour of greatest need.






PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS DISASTER RELIEF

So this one is more of a compilation of stories.   Most of my photography business comes from friends, neighbors, and church members.  Then there are the ones that I wonder how on earth they found me and it is always a crazy chain of events and connections.  When Harvey hit, I was able to see on Facebook that several of my photography clients were flooded and many were the families that were mysteriously connected to my business.  Our church was able to step in and serve those families by cleaning out their homes and providing furniture.  

I can see now that God was strategically placing them in my path, through photography, so they could be served even greater during their time of need.   To go along with that, I am feeling like my time as a professional photographer is coming to close.  It makes me wonder if this is the wrap up of the purpose of that business.



Y’all I have at least 10 more stories like this.  I shared these because I think the lessons that God is teaching me are good for all of us.  Here are a few takeaways:

  • We can find peace and hope in knowing that God is strategically working to redeem our  greatest trials before they even occur.
  • It is important to stay in contact with people who pass through our lives because you never know when God may bring you back together to achieve His purposes.
  • God is moving around you.  Open your eyes and see it.  Don’t get so busy in your tasks that you miss the opportunity to see God working in your life.  It might just take your breath away.
  • We have the ability to be more connected than divided if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ and His purposes.  I don’t know if the people we have served or served with are Republicans or Democrats.  I don’t know if they kneel or stand for the national anthem.  I don’t know if they own guns or support Obamacare.  I just know that God is moving in them or through them and that is something that I want to be a part of with them.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Manna Saturday

Manna
Today was a productive day at the church and probably one of the coolest for me personally.  We have been given a generous amount of donations so we decided to pack bags that we could deliver straight to the neighborhoods.  It also gave us a way to check on the families that we had served in the week before to see if they had other needs.

I sent the teams out before lunch and most came back with incredible stories of gratitude, tears, and unfortunately more need.  We were able to then load people up with those specific items and send them back out to meet those needs.  On 4 different occasions, I had someone walk up with an area of great need at the exact same time that someone approached me offering to volunteer to go somewhere.  It was crazy to witness God meet those needs immediately.


Phase 2
From the beginning of this recovery it was clear to us that this would be a fluid process and that we would need to be one step ahead of the change.  Our stationary distribution center has now served everyone who can get to us and we want to transition to a more mobile distribution plan where we deliver products directly to those who need them.  That will help us to minister to families better and meet their exact needs.  We found earlier today that there are a lot of families who don't want to ask for help or are so stuck in their devastation that they can't even process how to go about finding what they need.  We want to reach those people better in Phase 2.

As we finish cleaning out homes soon, we will be transitioning to mold remediation and helping people prepare to put their homes back together.  This will include rebuilding but it will also include some cool projects like building furniture.  We are still working out those details but I am excited about the potential there.  Please stick with us and keep sending teams because we will need you in this phase as well.


My Battle- just a final thought
I was up at the church last night at 9:00 helping to unpack the last shipment.  I was beat and honestly beyond my sanity window.  I walked out into the hall and saw a couple walk in with their bags.  They had just arrived to stay for the night before donating their time this weekend.  I looked in their eyes and I immediately identified with the excitement I knew they were feeling to be there and be able to get started helping.

I have been on several mission trips and I am always somewhat giddy when I arrive.  I can't wait to step into their battle and fight for them for just awhile.  It occurred to me last night that for the first time, I am the resident missionary.  I am the exhausted full timer who needs to hand some part of her battle over to the giddy weekender.  They are entering my battle.

I am grateful for every volunteer, team member, and servant who walks through those doors to back us up.  I have been honored to see family, friends, and former coworkers step in to help us.  We are not alone and neither are the people of this community.  This is a battle for sure, but we are in it together.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Manna Moments Post #2

Our church continues to see God move in miraculous and encouraging ways as we recover from Hurricane Harvey.  We are calling those "Manna Moments" and I am sharing them here. 

I have 3 Manna Moments to tell you about from the last 2 days:

1. SILVERWARE MANNA

The first was with our kitchen.  I asked our kitchen lead, Miriam, to tell about it in her own words and this is what she wrote:

Oh my goodness!!! It was about way more than just silverware and it really was just the icing on the cake!!!


These people drive up- someone came and got us.  Each evening I would make a list of how we could improve what was being done by us along with things we needed.  Each day we tried to write a list of our needs and post on our "work board" that way when someone called or walked in we had it ready... My prayer that morning was to provide Gatorade (our field peeps were requesting), water (we WERE) running low and silverware (we only had limited amount remaining). That truck (with just people from Pearland as they said)  had water, Gatorade, much more and these two humongous boxes of silverware... tears just rolled down bc I have never witnessed so many miracles and they had just been coming in day after day as we prayed, God provided and then that happened!


2. A PIANO

This morning one of our families that we served posted this amazing video of their daughter playing a piano while the flood waters were rising around her.  As I shared it, I initially wrote "I would love to find someone to replace that piano".  I then felt prompted to remove that and pray instead.  So I did and I prayed specifically for someone to give them a piano without me having to ask.  A few hours later I received a Facebook message from a friend stating that she wanted to donate her piano to the family in my post.   It brought me great joy to share that story with both the family and the individual donating that God was answering prayers for them and through them. 


3. A LESSON FROM LONG AGO



Yesterday I woke up to the most unexpected Facebook message. It was this picture from my 1st grade teacher's son who I have never met.  I remember this day clearly.  The local newspaper came and ran a story on my teacher's classroom economy system.  What surprised me most was what her son wrote.  He said, "You were the first student to put that idea in motion! Because of you and Mom, they are doing it Nation Wide!!"

Okay so I have no memory if being an entrepreneur at 6 years old so I have to think one of two things is true- either my mom helped put that in motion with my teacher OR my behaviors was so bad that it prompted such ingenuity. :) Regardless, if what he says is true, the classroom economy system that my children participate in today was kicked off by my 1st grade teacher in like 1982.

I walked away from that post encouraged that we have no idea how the steps that we put into action today will impact generations to come. When we volunteer in a home, we are making a generational impact. When we give someone supplies in the name of Jesus, we are making a generational impact. When we serve a meal to a volunteer, we are making a generational impact. Mrs. Book, my first grade teacher, will never know that her efforts impacted the children of her students and I believe that the fruit of our efforts today will extend far beyond what we will ever see too.




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Trading Comfort for Ministry

I ran track in high school and I was terrible at it.   I would get ½ way around the first lap and basically give up  ( I told you I was ter...

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