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.

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.




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Manna Moments Post #1

We are 9 days post Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston.  Most of us have experienced moments of shock, moments of great motivation to participate in recovery, and other moments of profound sadness.   What has helped me move forward, when my heart wants to get caught up in the devastation, is to reflect on the moments that I have seen God move before and after this storm.   My husband calls them manna.  We might just label them “manna moments” here.

I would love to record some of those stories so you can find your own encouragement in how God demonstrates His love for us. 
Here are the first ones:

Manna Moment- Preparing us for Harvey

Did you know that Trent took his first ever sabbatical this summer? It lasted 4 weeks and ended the week before Harvey hit.  I believe God knew that we would need to be well rested going into this recovery phase.   Some might call that coincidence but then what about the fact that our youth minister, who was filling in for Trent, taught those 4 weeks on loving your neighbor.  Was that preparation of our church for response also a coincidence?  Nope.

Here is another way God prepared us and it requires a little backstory.  When Maggie had her strokes 3 years ago, I wrote a book and titled it, Conquering Mountains.  At the time I felt like it was just a place for me to process all that God taught me.  So instead of self-publishing it, I just stored it away on my computer.  I honestly did not think about it again until about a month ago when I felt like God was telling me that it was time to pull it back out and reconsider publishing.   I re-read the entire book and recounted God faithfulness as I made a few changes.  I wrote the last sentence as Harvey was preparing to make landfall on Saturday, August 26th.   On Sunday, August 27th we woke up to find our entire city flooded.  On Monday, August 28th , as the water was still rising around us, a reminder popped up on my newsfeed.  It was the 3 year anniversary of the day we brought Maggie home from the hospital.  God was reminding me of his faithfulness with Maggie’s mountain so he could lovingly prepare me for Mt. Harvey. 


I believe that the God who so lovingly prepared us for this storm is still present to lovingly guide us through the recovery.  I can’t wait to see how He moves and I look forward to sharing those stories with you here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

SURVIVING POST-HARVEY


Joe Raedle/Getty

I am not a counselor and I have never experienced a natural disaster of this magnitude before, but I have experienced trauma and I was on the grounds of Haiti shortly after the earthquake.   Trent and I have noticed many similarities between what our community is experiencing now and what we have experienced in the past and I hope that I might have some words of wisdom and encouragement for you:

      1. ADRENALINE IS A LIFE-SAVER AND A KILLER.  

Most of us are running on adrenaline right now.  It is a life-saver and helps us find the energy to get what we need done.  What I experienced after Maggie’s strokes though was a post adrenaline survival crash when I returned home from the hospital.  My body rhythm had adjusted to its new best friend and did not know how to function without it. 

One of the first signs, for me, of living on adrenaline is when I wake up in the middle of the night wide awake.  I noticed this in the last few days and started taking steps to break it.  I have cut out any power naps in the middle of the day and started taking something to help me sleep all the way through the night.  You need to figure out how to keep your body on a normal sleep cycle and not become dependent on adrenaline.


2.     POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IS REAL AND MOST OF US WILL EXPERIENCE IT AFTER THIS.

When I returned from Haiti, my entire body broke out in hives and I could not fathom stepping back into life as I knew it before my trip.  My family had a counselor call me at 6 am one morning and I remember him saying, “Of course you are feeling this way. Your eyes have just witnessed what no one should ever have to see.  What you are feeling is COMPLETELY NORMAL for what you have experienced.”  Ya'll I was 50% better when I hung up that phone because normalization gave me permission to not be okay and it gave me freedom to move forward at my own pace.

If I can offer you any comfort in this moment, let it be the encouraging words that were offered to me. What you experienced was unfathomable.  Our bodies are overloaded with sights and smells that we simply do not have the ability to process.  It is okay to not be okay right now.   YOU WILL BE OKAY AGAIN.  It may just take a little while and a little help.


3.  TAKE BREAKS!!!!!! 

I remember the permanent missionaries in Haiti experienced extreme burn out and fatigue.  They had to build in intentional breaks even though the need was still great.   When Maggie was in the hospital, Trent and I switched off daily to give us a time to step away and regroup.   I believe this was critical for our ability to walk that road for 4 months. 

We have a command center at the church were the same volunteers are working 12-15 hour shifts taking in requests and connecting them to those who are ready to serve.  Right now they are running on adrenaline but I have already arranged for relief to come in and put them on a 3 day rotation.   We can only go this hard for so long before we crash.  If you need to get in your car and leave town for 2 days then come back, do it.  If you need to turn off your facebook and TV and say I am not available again for 24 hours, do it.  There will be work to be done for years but you won’t be available to do it if you burn out in the two weeks. 


Like I said in my intro disclaimer, I am not a mental health professional but I am pretty good at taking on mountains.  I told a friend today that I think I was able to spring into action while everyone else was still in the shock phase because not much shocks me anymore.   We are going to get through this friends but this is a marathon and no one wins a marathon without pacing themselves and taking care of themselves along the way.  You got this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I Made My Kid Watch "The Help"



I made my 14 year old watch The Help last weekend because I wanted to set the stage for a powerful lesson on racism and the cycle of poverty.  I wanted him to know first and foremost that racism hides behind cultural norms.

I have written and deleted this paragraph 5 times now because I have no desire to criticize the small Texas town that I grew up in.   What I want to say here and what I want my kids to see is that no one I knew woke up in the morning and set out to be a racist.  The people I shared life with are good God-fearing people but indeed the segregated practices of that small community were examples of how racism hides behind cultural norms.  I love my hometown and the people who still live there but we need to own our stories and mine includes cultural norms that I am not proud to have been a part of. 

Fast forward a generation and my kids are growing up in the most culturally diverse city in the country.  They would never dream of using a racial slur  (or at least the better not).   Their cultural norm is different from the one I grew up in but that does not mean that it is free from racism.  They are growing up in a culture where you question the legal status of someone who doesn’t look like you or wonder about the motivations of the Muslim kid 2 seats over.  Their cultural norms are different but racism still hides behind those cultural norms and they can get caught up in it if they are not careful.

The other lesson I wanted him to see in The Help is that the cycle of poverty is not easily broken.  I was trying to explain this to my kids a few weeks back after we drove through a poverty stricken small town.  I pointed out that the children growing up there would have a very hard time getting the education they needed to ever leave.  My middle child then said,  “yeah well what about Serena Williams?”   What he didn’t realize was that he was making my case for me.  “Yes, son if you can manage to become the #1 tennis player in the world then I guess you can break the cycle of poverty.  Do you think that was easy?”   I want my kids to appreciate that the cycle of poverty is not easily broken and sometimes we may have to sacrifice our own sense of entitlement to help make that happen for another child. 


When it comes to diversity, I want my kids to understand that the topic of racism is complicated, historical, and cultural.  I want them to see that the response has to be personal to become systemic and yet for many it needs to be systemic to become personal.  In other words, we can’t advance culturally if we don’t move forward personally but if racism truly hides behind cultural norms, we have to make progress culturally in order to influence the next generation personally.  

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