Dancing in the Rain

rain showrrWe are now making our way through the month of April!  Spring is here and with that comes rain showers that help to saturate the ground with the much needed moisture that will enable plants to grow.  You’ve heard the saying “April Showers bring May Flowers” and you’ve seen it come to pass.  Once a rain soaked April exits, a warm and colorful May arrives with a myriad of beautiful flowers as far as the eye can see and the leaves of every tree sporting thick, healthy leaves, filling in the spaces that winter helped to create.

Does this happen overnight?  No, it’s days upon days of rain mixed with sunshine, a much needed combination for plant life to grow.  Plants need the sun for energy which plays a vital role in the process, photosynthesis.  Because of the sun and the energy they derive, they can grow and thrive.  Without rain, a plant would die, it’s root system disfiguring, thus the wilting effect occurs.  Water helps to drive key nutrients from the soil into and throughout the plant.  Water also helps to regulate the temperature of the plant through the photosynthesis process and is stored in the roots of the plant, moving up to the leaves as necessary.

IMG_0036At The Salvation Army, we meet many individuals who are wilting from the burdens of life.  Financial, personal, relational situations can deplete and pull from us in ways that disable us from truly living or believing we have any worth. Through the various programs we offer, we strive to provide the necessary “nutrients” to those who seek our help.  We encourage them to be patient, that changes don’t happen overnight but soon enough they will see their lives bloom right before their eyes and they will never be the same.  We pour into them with love, compassion, understanding, resources and tools.  We allow them to not only see their true potential but realize it.  Our Life Skills Learning Center offers free classes to our community that can help someone get back on their feet and reach new heights of personal development.  Computer classes, resume writing, job readiness, GED are among many of the classes offered.  Our Transitional housing program for single men, single women and families offers a refuge and opportunity to those who would otherwise be homeless; enabling them to find stability and the chance to pick themselves back up, readjust and eventually transition from our program to a home of their own.

As the rain falls and the clouds roll in, it’s difficult to muster the energy to celebrate, to dance when it feels like the world is caving in around you.  The good news is, the rain will pass, the clouds will depart and the sun will shine.  So go ahead and find the joy in the rain, trust and believe that you are growing and that your breakthrough is right around the corner.  God has you in the palm of his hand!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Go Fish!

602342_4236887278198_1303048187_nPicture this, the sun has yet to make it’s appearance as you walk toward your trusty wooden boat, it’s painted sides peeling from years of use.  You set your tackle box on the floor of the boat, position your fishing poles just right so they don’t get tangled and with both hands on the oars gently paddle out into the mist filled morning.  As you glide through the mirror like waters, you count the silver ripples that billow across the top of the water with each strike of the oar, you breathe in the fresh air and admire the hint of gold that is making it’s way up out of the horizon.  You stop and anchor in the perfect spot, collect your rod and reel, and after securing the bait, cast and listen for the sound of the hook making contact with the water.  Minutes or hours can pass but all the while, you savor the solitude, the sounds, the breeze that peacefully rocks the boat and the beauty of rocky shorelines, stately pine trees and the occasional wildlife who make their way to the water’s edge for a refreshing drink.  Suddenly, you feel the pull and your rod bends with the weight that is on the other end.  With practiced movements, you begin to reel it in, carefully, methodically and then, soon, a large bright, silver fish appears out of the depths of the lake and into your boat.  The entire day produces several fish which ends up being enough to feed your family that night along with the fresh vegetables you planted in the garden. You smile at the joy of learning, practicing and achieving a skill, that in essence is providing a much needed meal for your family.

Now, which is more exciting and beneficial, to sit in the boat after careful preparation and catch your own fish or for someone to hand you a couple of fish and say “there you go, enjoy.”  What is more rewarding, what enables you to achieve more, which one can you pass down to your children and teach?”IMG_4856

At The Salvation Army, within our Life Skills Learning program,we  want to provide the resources (tackle box), tools (fishing pole), patience, love and hope (Jesus) to those who seek us out wanting to make a change in their lives. If someone is hungry we will feed them and immediately fill the need but then we quickly show them how they too can meet that need through commitment, patience, planning and practice.  We provide opportunities for them to learn skills that will free them from dependence to independence and will enable them to reach new heights on their own which becomes their own personal ministry and testimony for others to observe and learn from.

Many broken and lost souls find their way to our doors, many have failed to hold down a job, put food on the table or a roof over the heads of their families.  But once they enter our programs and follow through with what is offered, they exit our doors with heads held high and with fishing pole in hand, head out into the world just as the sun is rising, casting what they have learned, patiently awaiting the expected results.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” ~Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie 

Love Will Always Live Here

familyWe are nearing the end of February and as you may or may not have noticed, our “Love Lives Here” posts have been sporadic at best.  Within the realms of any non profit, you will find that employees generally wear many different hats and are responsible for a myriad of various duties that are all equally important for the common good of the organization as a whole.  At times, one particular area may demand more attention than the other and thus the focus needs to be readjusted for a moment.  But, here I am to close out the month and let you know that no matter how busy all of us become, no matter how many “to do” items are on our list minus the check marks to signify they are complete, no matter the meetings that need attending or the papers that need filing or the forms that need submitting, every single employee and officer never fails to catch a vision of the lives being impacted and changed here at The Salvation Army.

Even if we are in a meeting, a client or employee (past and present) can walk by and we stop what we’re doing to offer hugs, smiles and conversation with a friend!  As we diligently type away on reports, memos, or the completion of a grant, we will always stop, get up and walk around to see what’s happening around the building, to see if we can’t snag an opportunity to bounce a basketball with some youth at our community center, admire the beautiful artwork of students in our after school program or read stories to infants and toddlers here in our transitional housing program.

We could have meetings scheduled all day, but will intentionally carve out time so we can come in early and feed our “street family” girl fishingbreakfast on board our Breakfast Brigade, stay late and work with adults in our GED and computer classes or feed the homeless under the Jefferson street bridge with our Soup Wagon program. During the holidays, staff and officers can be found on Thanksgiving and Christmas serving meals to the homeless at our 631 Dickerson Pike location and even driving a bus to head out and collect those who may not have a means to get here.  During Angel Tree, we are working 10-12 hour days without realizing it because of the love we have for the families we are serving.  The temps can be cold, the wind can blow and the rain can fall, but you can find us ringing bells, sharing the sound of hope with those around us encouraging them to donate change for change in the lives of  our brothers and sisters.

The beauty of the team we have here in Nashville is we all pitch in, we all come to the aid of another, we are here to uphold and support the mission and most importantly encourage and love those we have the honor of serving through the various programs we offer.  Love will always live here as long as we keep God first, seeking his wisdom and guidance in all things.  God is love; a true example for us all and so throughout the year and for years to come, love will be here.  It will be here when we hold the hand of another lifting them out of the pit of despair and onto solid ground built on a foundation of hope.  It will be here as employees and officers support one another in our respective fields; edifying, encouraging and helping when times become challenging.  It will be here when a lost soul walks through our door, seeking to know the truth and we have the chance to share how much God loves them and how on a cross, Jesus died for them, a sacrifice of love so that they may know true freedom.

Love lives here, love lives everywhere.  It’s not just a word to be spoken but an action to be taken.

Blessings to you all!

Beauty? It’s in the Bag!

trash 7Many of us may not even think twice as we lift the top off the trash can, grab hold of the bag contained within and head out the door to deliver it to the dumpster awaiting it’s arrival outside.

Many of us would probably not take the time to really study the bag itself, it’s strength and it’s shine.  It’s innate ability to contort and shape itself around that which we shove in it, day after day.  Then, it’s ability to withstand the trip from the trash can to the dumpster with out breaking under pressure, although some inevitably do because the contents became too much.

Now, picture an individual that people pass by day after day, not focusing in on what he or she is going through.  Not catching a vision as to their talents and their strengths.  A lot can become piled up in their lives and for many years, they may hold on, but soon enough, they break under pressure with no one to help them pick up the pieces.  That is where The Salvation Army steps in and with various programming geared at lifting up, teaching and encouraging people, transforming lives from ashes to beauty.  Individuals and families are provided with hope and a new way to look at their lives.  They are more than what they seem and with resources, love and most importantly God in their lives, there isn’t anything they can’t achieve.

So here we are at our Women’s Auxiliary luncheon, 2 weeks ago and at the podium, we enjoyed a moving and heartfelt testimony from Pamela Abdalla, an Advisory Board member for The Salvation Army in Pittsburgh, and on The Salvation Army National Advisory Board.  Pamela shared on her love for The Salvation Army and for the work being done providing, “second chances to those who need it the very most.”  She also remarked that The Salvation Army is “quietly efficient and remarkably effective” with the tools and resources we have.  That said, Pamela decided over 20 years ago to raise awareness for the cause and the families that we serve by transforming ordinary trash bags into evening gowns fit for a gala event that would raise money to support the mission and insight into the challenges facing our community and how through The Salvation Army, people are being radically changed!trash 5

An ironing board sat in the middle of the room and with even, well practiced strokes, Pamela showed us how to flatten out and design dresses out of garbage bags.  She created ribbons, pleats and ruffles that resulted in ooo’s and ahhh’s from the audience.  She displayed a hand crocheted garbage bag dress that was beyond intricate and dazzling and explained that women as well as men enjoyed this gala, donning garbage bag cummerbunds, bow ties and vests!  At each of these galas, pictures and thank you cards from the families served at The Salvation Army were trash 2placed at the tables for each guest to read through, enabling them to gain a greater understanding of why they were there.

Hosting a “Garbage Bag Gala” or any other type of creative event is a wonderful way to engage your community and enlighten them to the cause.  While always seeking the correlation between the event and the mission, never failing to remember why it is we do what we do.  It’s all about Others and how we can serve!

Need Some Inspiration – Part II

Welcome to Part II in our Need Some Inspiration series!  You met Daniel, now we’d love for you to meet Sarah Mallory!
I met Sarah a couple of years ago at church and she was nothing short of sweetness mixed with sunshine.  Sarah loves life and treasures opportunities where she can give back and help others.  Sarah has been a runner since high school and shared with me this year that she is excited to participate in this years Bridge 2 Bridge race.  So, how did Sarah get into running?  Why does she do it? And why does she support The Salvation Army?  Well, here she is!
“I had been jogging here and there since I was a senior in high school and then one day got a running guide book and followed its suggested program that guaranteed running at a faster consistent pace. I followed it exactly and in 10 short weeks was off and never looked back. I began running consistently in 2008 and have since run 5k’s, 10k’s, and 1/2 marathons. My long term goals are to continue to improve my pace and time as well as mileage. A goal is to run a full marathon in 2013 and to also complete a 1/2 marathon per year.
I look forward to running every week about 3 times a week due to the time it allows me to be with myself, my thoughts,  and my breathing.  I find that with each run especially a long one, I feel so much more relaxed and confident. As a mother of a 10 month old and a social worker with a busy schedule, running gives me time to myself and to achieve my fitness goals.  I also love running because I can take it anywhere I go and I love to explore new routes and roads to run. For me running is the one of the most worthwhile activities I can do and plan run as long as my body allows it!
Running also provides me with quiet time to be with God and to see nature and all of the beauty of the great outdoors. There have been times I didn’t think I could keep going the extra mile when training for half marathons and I know it was  God who helped get me through it as he does with all of my obstacles!
This race is so appealing to me just knowing it can assist in helping families enjoy Christmas and have hope. Promoting awareness about the The Salvation Army Angel Tree program can hopefully further encourage our community to help these families out and let children celebrate Christmas this year.
I believe all runners at any pace or distance are still runners and sometimes just getting on your running shoes and registering for the race is the hardest part. There are always others to compliment your pace and goals and you’re never alone! It ends up being so much fun and such an accomplishment, while always serving great causes. It’s totally normal to feel nervous at first..but once you get into your run..see folks cheering you on..and have your vision in mind, it’s all worth it. I will say that running can be addicting though…so watch out ,this race more than likely, wont be your last one!”
Join Sarah and countless other racers on December 1 as we run for angels at the Bridge 2 Bridge 4 mile race/1 mile walk to benefit The Salvation Army!  For more information on registering and/or fund raising for this event, please click here!

Walk With Me

Thanksgiving Day is when we give thanks and reflect on our blessings.  Many have posted daily gratefulness leading up to and including Thanksgiving via social media, commercials reflect families gathering together around a large table adorned with food as far as the eye can see, a roaring fireplace in the background, candles flickering in grandmother’s silver candlestick holders.  Everyone has a smile, everyone is comfortable.  But that is not always the case.  Walk with me, and I’ll show you.

There are many who look at Thanksgiving as just another day amidst the chaos they are enduring.  This chaos can include loss of a job/income, family and your home.  It can include wondering where your next shower, meal and a bed will come from.  It can include not having an ounce of hope left.  On Thanksgiving morning, I climbed onto our mid bus and with Mike Servais, Ex Dir of Marketing and Development at the wheel, we set off in search of finding folks who were hungry and had nowhere to go on this holiday that when defined, means togetherness.

We drove down the various downtown streets of Nashville and came across a park where many were gathered, bundled up with plastic grocery sacks containing all they have in the world.  Mike parked the bus and walked over to where they were sitting.  He asked “who was hungry, that we have a feast waiting for them and we will bring them back here afterward.”  Many got up out of their seat and shuffled over to the bus.  They selected a seat, smiles on their faces.  Folks from every walk of life and background were on that bus.  Conversations started and many met for the first time, chatting candidly about their lives, the weather and who their favorite football team was.

I remember looking out the window and catching a glimpse of a very nice restaurant. on the corner  Individuals, dressed in their best, waiting patiently outside for the doors to open so they could be escorted to their table and then served their meal amongst friends and family.  Then I looked back at our passengers.  These folks will get to do the same thing at our Center of Hope down the street.  They are wearing the best they have, they will be greeted at the door and shown to their table, they will be waited on and will have the opportunity to relax, eat until they are full and be surrounded by friends.

As I stood in our dining room, tears started to fall as I watched each and every person enjoy their meal.  Some chose to eat in silence, savoring every morsel of stuffing, the richness of the turkey and the tartness of the cranberry sauce.  Others talked the time away as they hurriedly ate in anticipation of the next plate that would be handed to them.  I watched all of the smiles, the hugs, the thankfulness they displayed at this meal provided to them and how grateful they were for the love.  It was the most beautiful thing to watch and I can’t imagine being around a greater bunch of people.  I was blessed and honored just to be in their presence and I pray that we all take the time to stop what we’re doing and make time for others.

Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”

Need Some Inspiration? Part I

Our Bridge 2 Bridge 4 mile Run/1 Mile walk is just around the corner and in light of this amazing event that benefits The Salvation Army in Nashville, we are featuring a couple of runners who have a heart for others and a determination to stay healthy, mind, body and soul!

Meet Daniel Escue!  I met him last year at our Angel Tree warehouse.  Daniel had arrived early to pick up his race packet but they weren’t quite ready so Daniel immediately asked how he could help.  He was directed to me and I showed him the wooden rail carts full of toys that needed to be placed in their corresponding bag, matching number with number.  He went to work and an hour later, he had completed 2 large carts.  Daniel also raised $500 through his fundraising page with I Run for The Party, the event management company who sponsors this race.  Daniel was a blessing to many angels that Christmas with each step that he took across the 3 bridges and with each bag he carefully placed and sorted in the warehouse.  So how did he find us to help?  How did he get into running?  I’ll just let him tell you!

“15 years ago this past October, I was involved in a bad car wreck and almost lost my left leg from the knee down.  At that point, I wasn’t even sure about walking, let alone running.  After the accident, I wasn’t really active, just let life happen and soon found myself unhealthy, over 50 pounds overweight, just not in a good place.

Then, in 2011 some life changing events happened in my family that made me realize I’m not getting any younger and I need to take care of myself.  In June 2011, I started long, brisk walks that eventually turned into jogging, which soon turned into running.  On Father’s day, I entered my first race which was a 5k and it was all uphill (or preferably down hill for runners) from there :)  I began eating healthier as well and before I knew it, it was August (my birthday) less then 3 months since I’d began running and 60 lbs lighter. I felt and looked better than I’d ever had before.

To date, I’ve completed over 30 races,  16 of those were half marathons, 2 Triathlon Sprints and, ten 5ks. I also ran the Bridge 2 Bridge 4 mile run and will be running it again this year to help raise money for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. I support the Salvation Army because I believe in what they are doing year round. Last year, I experienced just a glimpse of it when I went down and helped sort out a warehouse full of toys!!

Running has changed my life and I believe it could change anyone’s for the better. Whether you “Run It Fast” or walk it, what counts is just being out there!

Join Daniel on December 1 as we run for angels!  For more information on how to register and/or fund raise with the Bridge 2 Bridge 4 Mile Race/1 Mile Walk, click here!