Tag Archives: acceptance

Lessons from the Front Desk and Beyond

926338625-canstock5690339 My husband and I spent the past year doing volunteer work at Hephzibah Children’s Home in Macon, Ga. For us this was an opportunity of a lifetime! Most of our lives we have been involved in raising children, six of our own and three foster sons as well as other foster children and at one time we had even talked of opening a children’s home of our own one day. But it just wasn’t in God’s plan for us.

We had been serving as volunteers at the Children’s Home for several years, first with church groups and later going there for two weeks each year with another couple, so when the option came to serve long term we gave it serious thought and began to pray and seek God’s direction. It took almost three years before the way would be clear for us to make a one year commitment. We set the date for April of 2016 to April 2017.

We are both thankful for the opportunity and glad that we took this step in faith to serve God for that year at Hephzibah! Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner when we were younger and in better shape.

This past year has been an experience in faith, faith for strength to serve, faith for good health while we served, and faith for God to watch over our family that we left 950 miles behind for a year. And God did not disappoint!

There were many great experiences during our year of service. Experiences in learning new skills, in meeting new friends, and seeing new places. But the greatest experiences, for me, were the lessons learned at the front desk of the administration building where I spent many days filling in the gaps for the regular receptionist and as an interim receptionist between the permanent receptionists.

Now I will have to admit that it was no secret that this was not my favorite assignment while I was there. My favorite assignment was working in their donation center where I did sorting, organizing and distributing necessary items to the children and staff. This work gave me instant gratification and “felt” important and appreciated. And I worked alone a lot of the time so I could work at my own pace.

But the most valuable lessons are always learned in community with other people! I often felt that my contribution as a receptionist was small because I “just” answered the phone and greeted people directing them to where they needed to go or who they needed to talk to. Not exactly earth shaking work but as time went on and I had the opportunity to interact with many of the kids, staff, other volunteers and even the vendors and service people and I found fellowship, blessings and enjoyment in the work.

It is sad but true that it wasn’t until the last couple of months when we were completing our year and preparing to return home that I really began to realize the learning experiences God had blessed me with at that front desk as I interacted with the Hephzibah community. Not only did I learn the skills I needed to do the work but also some lessons that are still ongoing today in changing my life!

I learned what it is to accept people where they are and that everyone has a story if we are willing to listen;  that everyone needs encouragement (even those who may seem to have it all together); lessons in being accepted just the way I am and accepting encouragement as well.

In the area of communications; lessons about when to speak and when to be still, and especially about when to humble myself and ask forgiveness when I mess up the proper sequence.

My husband and I learned some things together as well.

God blessed us with time to get away from the hustle and bustle of a blessed but busy life. And after 52 years of marriage, six married children, three foster sons, fifteen grandchildren, five great grandchildren, friends, church, and community, we had built up a lot of hustle and bustle back home.

We had more time to pray and listen for God, to stop and smell the flowers and to enjoy new experiences, make new friends and create new memories. We were often able to minister one-on-one to staff, kids and other volunteers whenever and wherever God gave us the opportunities, and we learned to accept the ministry of others to us.

Other lessons learned: 

We can live with less

Our children and grand-children can survive without us (they knew that but I didn’t)

We can still work five days a week but not as fast as we once could

We can still be useful even though we are retired

And solitude is not necessarily a bad thing

But for me the best of all was that our year at Hephzibah gave us the opportunity to serve God and do ministry together in a place we love. A place where we were blessed and hopefully blessed others. A place where we worked alongside some amazing people who often face struggles and many of the challenges that every ministry experiences, yet they remain faithful and passionate in serving at risk teens and children who have been neglected and abused, and they share with them that they are loved, that they are the King’s Kids!

For most of us “baby boomers” retirement offers many great opportunities for travel, winter homes in the south, and cruises and all that is great. We have been blessed with some of these opportunities as well.

But for my husband and I, we will always be most thankful for this opportunity.

It’s been a great year!

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Filed under accountability, Children, communication, enjoyment, faith stages, Family, humility, quiet, self-examination, Work

“The Family Reunion”

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What is the first thought that comes to mind when you receive the invitation to the annual “Family Reunion” ?

I dread it, I will tolerate it, I don’t have time for it, It’s just a bunch of old people and nutty relatives?

Or

I can’t wait, love seeing everyone and catching up, will meet new family members and fellowship with the elders, hope crazy Uncle Larry is there, he is so much fun!

After 50 years of family reunions I have observed that there is a general response that varies depending on what seasons of life we are in and the family dynamics we have grown up with.

As a kid I didn’t go to family reunions because we didn’t have them. Our family was pretty fragmented and had a degree of dysfunction that kept us from being close to family most of the time. So when I married my husband who had a very large family and experienced my first “Family Reunion” it was a bit overwhelming to say the least.

Everyone came Grama and Grampa, Aunts and Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, all of the cousins from the oldest to the youngest, there was even an aunt who brought her husband and her boyfriend! Everyone brought food of some kind and games to play. It was like a rerun of Walton’s Mountain, as a matter of fact it was on a mountain where my husband’s sister and brother-in-law lived on a farm.

These people were excited to see each other and everyone knew everyone else that was there. I recall thinking “I could probably only recall two of my Aunt’s names and maybe four of my cousin’s”.
Older relatives commenting on how the little ones had grown, younger ones smiling then running off to play, laughing and teasing one another.

The men quickly went off to visit with family members they hadn’t seen which always led to a game of horseshoes and or a discussion regarding fishing and/or hunting.
The women were left to visit, get food set up, and compare notes on kids, husbands and life in general.
My husband’s family was very kind and tried to include me in conversation and activities but, having been raised in the city in a smaller and transient family, I saw nothing that we had in common and felt like a fish out of water. They were country folk and I was a city slicker, they had farms, cows and huge gardens that supplied their families with food. I, on the other hand, depended totally on what was on special at the grocery store to fill our cupboards. I even turned my nose up at the thought of having to dig in the dirt to get my food and drinking milk straight from the cow out of a stainless steel pitcher . I was also somewhat perturbed that the women were left to watch the kids and get the food set up while the men went and played (well, truth be known, probably more than slightly perturbed). After all hadn’t these women heard of the women’s rights movement?

All very foreign to me yet it somehow held a fascination I couldn’t explain at the time.

So for several years my response was “it’s his family so we will go for my husband’s sake”. But after we had a couple of children and they couldn’t wait to go see all their family and play with their cousins my heart began to soften. I thought about what I had missed as a child by not having the same opportunity with my own family and my attitude began to change. I wanted our children to experience family in a way I never had. The realization came to me that I was a part of “this family” now.

Every year I would get to know this family better and began to see that there love for each other was genuine and that they loved me in the same way. They were actually showing me what being part of a family was really all about. The full impact of their influence on me and how I raised my family was not realized until many years later when my own children began leaving home.

As our kids grew older I began looking forward to the family reunions as I realized the importance of family and that it wasn’t just his family reunion but was our family reunion. I came to look forward to the reunions and the love we found there.

Over the years many of the older generation passed on and finally Dad and Mom Bird went home to heaven too and a strange thing happened for a few years, the “Family Reunion” sort of fell by the wayside. Then all our kids grew up and had families of their own and in-laws to consider and life was so busy that we didn’t see each other much any more. Those of us who were now the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families realized that our grandchildren were missing out on a great family tradition. And as our children grew older and their children as well we began a journey that brought us back to the family reunions.

Things are different now, change happens, and many family members are no longer with us, many have moved out of the area and can’t make it, but we are coming together again and hopefully setting a course that those who come behind us will follow and the importance of family will be passed on to future generations.

In my own extended family we have also developed a new appreciation for each other and have been working to bring our family closer together. Our families have come to be one family as well.

In this winter season of my life I am so grateful for this family that took me in, tolerated me, loved me unconditionally through the rough years and taught me the importance of caring for one another. And I am  thankful for the love that has grown out of it all in our own children for their families.

That love has been passed on to my own siblings and many foster children over the years and it all started at the Family Reunion!

If you’re looking for us the first Sunday in August we won’t be available. We will be at the farm on the hill at our “Family Reunion” where we will find family, food, fellowship, fun, some crazy people, but most of all love!

When is your family reunion?

If you have one don’t miss it!

If you don’t have one, start one!
Don’t have a family? Join us, there is enough love to go around in ours!
Because family matters!

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Filed under Children, Kindness