30 December 2013

Thoughts on the Old Year...and the New (Audio)

ITP #25: It's been two weeks! Have you missed your visit Inside the Pomegranate? On this special catch-up podcast, Anush shares the work that's been keeping her busy and the thoughts that are bouncing around inside the pomegranate as she prepares for the New Year. What's going to be your One Little Word for 2014? It's all Inside the Pomegranate!
Towns Burr Gallery: www.townsburrgallery.com
Ali Edwards (One Little Word) www.aliedwards.com
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Thoughts on the Old Year...and the New

Hey there, did you miss me???

I haven't posted for two weeks, and it feels really good to be back!  I missed you.  Really I did!   I never meant to be away for so long, the days just flew by.  I hope you all had a beautiful and meaningful Christmas and that the message of the birth of Love is still being celebrated every day. 

I'll let you know a little bit about what's been keeping me so busy throughout this whole Christmas season. We had our homeless outreach in Glendale. If you remember, the last time I posted, I told you we were taking the kids with us to crew this month.   Cooking dinner at the shelter has gotten to be a popular outreach and I always have volunteers to crew, but this month Fr. Vazken selected 6 of our kids, ages 14-20 to come help.  We served comfort food.  Homemade macaroni and cheese, baked ham, salad and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.  I was so proud of our kids.  They helped set up and serve, made salad and baked cookies.  But most importantly, they got to see that the residents at the shelter, especially the children that live there, are no different than they are.  The chocolate chip cookies were a hit.  And our kids had a great time serving
platefuls of warm cookies to the tables.  One family that lives at the shelter was especially grateful for the second plateful....and the third.  After we were finished and cleaned up, I asked Edward (the resident manager) if he would take the kids on a tour showing them where the residents slept and what their home at the shelter was like.  I think the kids were very moved by it all, and especially noticed the meaning of "family"...that it isn't necessarily the conventional biological family but the people that are gathered together under one roof....sharing life together.  The residents have become each other's family. And when we are there together once a month, they  become our family as well.  Edward shared with me that when our "In His Shoes" name appears as guest chef for the evening on the board, the residents know that the evening will be a good one.  He said they are grateful for whatever we serve for dinner, but they know that no matter what is served for dinner when we're there,  it is always served with LOVE.  He said that they can  all feel that.  I thought that was really beautiful.  And he's right.  We do put a lot of love into our efforts, and that is put there by God and our desire to spread His light and love to those around us. 

We also had a special Skid Row delivery the following Monday.  One of my dear friends, Sedma, who is a regular crew member for our outreach approached me.  An anonymous donor had told her they would like to donate 150 cheeseburgers to be distributed on Skid Row  Sedma asked if we could help with that.  The plan was that we meet at church at 7:00 pm.  She would pick up the warm burgers at McDonalds and bring water and chips...and we would meet up and drive down to distribute.  Well, goodness is contagious.  I had mentioned to my boss on our morning coffee walk that we had this burger delivery to Skid Row.  And she was moved and made a donation - in lieu of client gifts - to our outreach as well.  She purchased socks and fleece blankets for us to distribute.  So we did a special delivery last monday  night ...a little different than our usual hot soup and snacks.  And the people were so grateful.  There were many out on the streets that night. Just to put things in perspective.  We distributed 150 meals, over 3 locations in less than one hour.  : (  

Here's my blanket for our blanket drive
Let's see...I also had a blanket to finish up for the blanket drive.  And I did finish it.  There was a lot of bus crocheting and late night crocheting too.  But I'm glad we made it on time.  Our church distributed beautiful hand knit/crocheted and sewn blankets to the patients at City of Hope.  This an annual blanket project that we've been doing and I love that our church becomes this busy beehive of activity for Christmas.

We had our Holiday Jammin' Boutique. I'd like to give a  shout out to all of you who came out to hear the amazing gypsy jazz band - Private Cat Radio -  and to support our ministry.  It was a really fun event.  Everyone who came had a great time.  Special thanks to Bruce and Connie at the Towns Burr Gallery who opened their gallery to our event.  If you would, please show your support by "like"'ing them on their FB page or better yet by visiting their gallery or webpage.  They've got some beautiful artwork and gifts.  

I know there's something I'm forgetting here.  I mean other than the Christmas shopping and cooking.  Wait....Oh right....so this year our family decided to sponsor a family for Christmas.  We all had a great time shopping for the children in the family and trying to fulfill their wish lists.  The best part was getting to meet them when we delviered the gifts.  Their case worker arranged a meeting.  This young family had lost had been evicted from their apartment when the youngest girl was a newborn, only a week old. After 10 years of living in the same apartment, they were short on the rent by $100 and got thrown out.  Eventually they were able to get into another apartment only to have a fire destroy everything they owned.  Despite the hardships, you would never know their story of you looked at these children in the family. They were all smiles and anticipation for a joyous Christmas.  And seeing their beautiful smiles was the best gift of all...for all of us.

This reminds me of something I wanted to touch on this week.  As you know, I am the coordinator for our In His Shoes Homeless  outreach.  I like to report on it because I feel that it adds a little bit of an  inside look into what this vulnerable population is about.  Also, our outreach is supported by donations by kind donors such as yourselves.  When reporting about it, whether it's here or on facebook, it's a way for people to hear about our work and support it if they are so inclined.   So I wanted to write that any praise that is directed toward the work that we do, goes to God, whose work we are doing.  As Christians, it is our duty to love one another...and to care for one another.  Before our outreach we always do pray that God allows us to share His love and light with those on the street.  And it is only through His guidance and love that this ministry happens.  What I'm getting at is that it's not any ONE person.  You know?  It's all of us, working together, and your prayers and support in action that make it all happen.  So thank you to all of you who support us, pray for us, collect clothing, and donate to our ministry.  Because you allow us to spread God's love.  Thank you from all of us on the homeless outreach crew!

And so on to the New Year!  Tomorrow is New Year's Eve!  Are you doing anything special to ring in the new year?  What about new year's resolutions.  Are you making any?  Do you have hope that you'll be able to follow through with it?  or will they be said and done by the following week?  How did you do on this year's resolutions?  Hmmm, that's what I thought.

Well, I used to start off the new year with all kinds of resolutions.  Namely involving diet and exercise.  I mean who doesn't right?  But for the past several years I've just tried to make it more about being honest with myself.  I try.  It's not always easy.  By being honest....and then saying that I've failed to be honest, it's not like saying I'm lying to myself.  Well, if you look at it that way, it sort of is.  Here's an example.  I resolve to be honest, yes?  Okay.  And in that resolution, there's this desire to exercise.  You're with me, right?  The bottom line is...if I exercise, I will feel and look healthier, I will lose weight.  I sincerely want that.  But then when I make up excuses as to why I can't exercise, am I being honest with myself?  Do I really want the end outcome of the exercise bad enough?  So I think what I need to do personally, is to set some REALISTIC goals and make all my actions count toward the realization of those goals. Here's the inner dialogue:
Me:  "I would like to be healthier by making better choices today and in the New Year.  By doing so  I would like to see a healthier me".
Devil self:  "How about warming up a piece of that cream filled khadayif that you made for Christmas...with a nice hot cup of coffee?"
Me:  "Would eating that khadayif right now help me achieve my "healthier me" goal?  What?  No?  Then I think I'll pass.
Bravo!!! Can I hear wild applause for my tremendous willpower???
Do you really think it will happen that way?  I hope so, but the reality is that there will be days, and there will be days.  Right?  The reality is that the one piece of khadayif is sitting there calling me and saying, "come on...I'm here all alone...and if you eat me now...I'll be gone, thus removing the temptation...so go ahead, live a little."  Sound familiar?   The truth is that we can only do the best that we can do.  As long as we are being honest with ourselves that the BEST is truly the best that we can give.

Last year, I tried something that I had read on my daughter Ani's blog.  She had gotten it from another blogger.  It was called "One Little word"  and what you were supposed to do - the challenge - was to choose a single word that was going to be your word to work on for the year.  So my word last January was "Balance".  I was going to try to be more balanced in my life.  I don't get very much sleep (which is not good), so one of the things that I was thinking about balancing was my work life, my leisure time, my sleep time, my eating...you get the idea.  Balance.  Did I have a balanced year, you ask?  Well, uh, no.  In fact, I think it was sometime in March, just a month or so after "Balance" that I changed my word.   And that was because trying to balance made me realize how unbalanced my life was, and it was creating more stress for me and therefore causing more unbalancedness.  Does that make sense? The truth is that I don't sleep enough...and I do take on too many tasks.  But that's how it has always been with me.  I mean, would I be writing this at 12:53 a.m. if I was balanced?  Nooooo!

So my One Little Word changed in March to....ready?  :::drumroll::::  PEACE!  Tada!!!  And that word worked better for me.  I DID have a year filled with peace.  And though it wasn't all like that, I did find myself reigning myself in sometimes.  Most noticeably, I have changed my attitude about my work that I do for a living.  Whereas in the beginning of the year, I was in a constant battle with myself about my job, today, I am realizing that my job affords my healthcare coverage, the ability to keep a roof over our heads and to live a more peace-conscious life.  I also experienced a lot of peace in my prayer life this year. 
2013 was also my first full year of being a vegetarian (started in November of 2012).  And that helped to contribute to my more peaceful year as well.  So peace I can do.  Balance...not so much.  And maybe that's a challenge I'm going to have to take on another time.  

And so speaking of challenges, I thought I would challenge you.  I know you already have your own thing about what you're doing for the new year, but maybe think about this.  What is your one little word going to be for the new year? It can be anything:

So, what's it going to be?  Only you know the answer to that, but I would love it if you would share.  And please do it on the blog on not on Facebook to keep things all in one place! Let me know what your one little word will be.  And I will share mine with you, next week.

So that about wraps it up this for this week - and this year!!!  It's been a wonderful year.  I want to wish all of you a very happy and healthy new year filled with an abundance of God's blessings for you and your family.  Thank you for all your prayers and support throughout the year.

Wishing you all a very pomegranate YEAR AHEAD filled with hope and ripe with possibilities!!!

09 December 2013

Life's Awful Moments! (Audio)

ITP # 24: This week, Inside the Pomegranate, Anush talks about life's Awful moments. Ever have those? We all have, but are we in tune to them? Listen in to hear what Awful moments make it to the top of her list.
Holiday Jammin' Boutique - Saturday, December 14
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Life's Awful Moments!

It's really hard to believe that we're in December now, isn't it? Even more strange is that it seems like just hours ago it was the 1st of the month and already we're in the second week!  Christmas is well on it's way, and so is the cold weather here in California.  I know, I know, it's not like cold-cold, like what those of you have to experience, but let me tell you, when the temps are in the 50's during the day, and that's COLD for California.  But I love it!  Everything feels so fresh. And it gives us a chance to wear our scarves and jackets and feel like we have a winter!

The calendar is filling up fast.  This Thursday we'll be at Glendale's homeless family shelter, cooking our monthly meal.  I'm doing something special for this month.  I am taking a crew of our younger parish family with me this time to serve and prepare the meal.  I have teens and young adults going this time, and one of the nice things is that after we serve the residents we take a plate and join them in the dining room for dinner.  This is always such a nice experience, and I'm hoping our kids will really benefit from the experience.  Especially in light of Christmas and it's materialism/commercialism.   I'm looking forward to it and living the experience through our kids.

So on to this week's topic:  As a child, and later as a young adult, I had a hard time understanding the term "God-fearing".  Back when I was growing up, I sometimes attended campus ministries, and there was that term.  God fearing.  Or they would say something to the effect of "a good Christian is God-fearing".  I had a hard time with this because I was brought up to believe in a loving God.  A compassionate Father, who may not always like what we do, but always, always loves us.  So the fear concept was strange.  Until eventually, I understood that the "fear factor" was more about reverence, and respect for God.  And perhaps fear of the unknown?  So this past week at our Wednesday night Bible Study, Fr. Vazken was doing a translation of the word "Awful" as it pertains to God both in the English and the Armenian translations.  So I looked it up on dictionary.com.

The word awful in the dictionary, is translated as follows:
Extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly
Yes, it could mean that...but not when it pertains to God - at least not my God.
But reading on with the definition, it gets better.  
Awful also means:
Full of awe; reverential; solemnly impressive; inspiring awe.  
Now that's more like it! Right?

The parallels of the wordplay made me remember those God-fearing days...and made me think of things in my life that were truly AWFUL - or AWEful - where I could really know in my heart that God was showing me his presence and letting me know that He was right there, where He said he'd be, if only I had faith.   There have been quite a few awful moments in my life.  And when Fr. Vazken asked us if we would like to share ours, my brain started trying to think of those that were truly awful. And I've been trying to think of them every since.  So I thought I would share with you some of my most awful moments (and hopefully you'll share yours with me as well).

My most awful moment was the birth of our daughter Ani.  I'm sure a lot of you can relate to this one. You
can be all set to be a parent.  You can have the crib ready in the baby's room, and all the clothing and diapers ready.  You think - I can handle this! I've read the books - and then you're in labor and delivery.  Your body is on auto-pilot and you deliver this little bundle of love.  I remember when they handed Ani to me, there was such an amazing presence of love in the room.  It was the most profound and AWEful moment.  To look at this little miracle of God's handiwork.  Perfect little fingers and toes, earlobes, and wide open eyes.  We had talked to her for 9 months before she was born; sang and read stories out loud.  And I remember when they handed her to her dad, and he spoke to her, she turned her head and looked directly at him as if to say, "Hey, I know who you are!  I know your voice."  It was such an amazing experience.  So this is the first awful moment...and heads the top of the list!

I've shared with you one of these moments in another post about our homeless outreach.  Our producer, Suzie, and I shared it together.  It happened on a homeless outreach to downtown's Skid Row area.  We were distributing our soup as we always do when a man asked if he could have a sandwich or a salad.  We didn't have that and offered him what we normally bring with us....soup, water, snack.  The man thanked us and left without taking anything, and then moments later, a car pulled up.  Some people had seen us distributing food and wanted to know where they could take some food they had picked up.  Starbucks had just closed and they had taken this food to distribute.  We asked what they had.  "Sandwiches and salad."  I remember Suzie and I just looking at each other, kind of like, "what just happened here???" But as awesome as that was, it wasn't the whole thing.  It continued.  Because we called the man over to tell him we had food for him.  He was so happy to get his food.  But rather than take it and eat, he came down on his knees, right there on the sidewalk, held the food up to the heavens and gave thanks to God for hearing his prayer.  I will always remember this beautiful, and awful moment.  It reminds me to not only have faith, but to believe in the prayers that we offer up to God, because they are being heard.

One of my most life-changing awful moments happened one year after my first cancer diagnosis.  I had gone for my one year check up.  My mammogram revealed another questionable area and I had to go in for another biopsy.  The surgeon had told me that yes, it looked like the cancer had returned.  He pointed it out to me on the film.  I was devastated.  I had just gone through cancer the year prior, and now here it was again.  We prayed.  When I say WE, I mean everyone.  My family, friends, prayer groups.  The day of the biopsy came.  I was draped and anesthetized but I was awake.  The surgeon removed the area in question. He said, "Yes, it looks like cancer."  He even SHOWED me what he had removed and pointed out the cancer.  Off to the lab it went.  He called me the next day completely baffled.  I'll always remember his words, "Your biopsy came back negative.  I don't understand it.  I saw it.  I showed you. But it wasn't cancer."  What was it?  He didn't know.  Maybe some mutated cells from the radiation...but he hadn't seen anything like that before.  Of course I KNEW what it was.  This was really the power of God and the answer to prayers.  Like I said, this event really changed my life.  It helped me to understand the power of prayer, and the presence of God.  And because of this, it has helped eliminate the fear.  I have nothing to worry about because God will be there to help me through it.

All three of these are pretty amazing events that took place.  When I think of it, there are many.  I shared with you a few weeks ago about my son Nareg, and the divine intervention that brought us together.  That was another Aweful moment when we realized that this little boy that we were getting ready to adopt was actually the same little boy that was supposed to be ours 9 years prior.  We weren't ready for him then, so God had stepped in to make sure we ended up with him when the time was right.

But there are other daily awful moments that I see pretty often.  What about the awful sunrises and sunsets? We have to really stop and watch the sky when we notice these moments because the palette of color is changing right before our eyes.  It's like watching God painting, adding lights and darks, and swirls of color.  It's God showing us the beauty in His creation.  And try as I might to recreate that beauty...not just the colors, but the feel of that color transitioning...it just can't happen.

Oh wait, I just thought of one more.  Have you ever gone to Yosemite?  As you're driving there, there are a lot of twists and turns in the road where you catch a glimpse of the amazing panorama.  And then there's that one final tunnel that goes right through the mountain, and when you emerge you are smack dab in the full view of God's amazing creation.  You see Half Dome, El Capitan, the valleys and peaks, the falls.  It's a very awful view and you just can't help but pull over, even though you see all the tourists pulled over and taking photos...and you think you don't want to have to be in that space...but you can't not do it because it's mind-blowingly amazing and it makes you feel "so small" because of the wonder and majesty of creation.

Okay, so there you have it...those are just a few of my awful moments.  I would love to hear of some of yours so please share with me.  You know, I write my blog on a weekly basis, but sometimes I wonder who's out there.  I read your comments on Facebook, but I would love to see your comments on the blog as they're more permanent.  So any comments are really appreciated.

Before closing I wanted to let you know about an event we're planning.    It's called the Holiday Jammin' Boutique.  If you're in the southern California area (of even if you're not and want to come down), we'll be at the wonderful Towns/Burr Gallery in Burbank next Saturday, December 14 from 4 to 9 p.m.  It's an evening event with live gypsy jazz music, and a chance go bring the family out, do a little Christmas shopping.  I'll have my Pomegranate & Eye line of jewelry there.  Suzie will have her delicious artisan jams and her AWEful knit and crocheted creations.  Sonig has made her Armenian pumpkin candy, and Linda will have her Madame Kubah delicacies ready to make your holiday entertaining delicious and easy!  AND the best part of it is that a portion of all sales will go toward our In His Shoes ministries. We've got refreshments too.  So it's a win/win!  Please come out and support us.  We would love to see you there!!!

02 December 2013

On Love and Thanks (Audio)

ITP # 23: It's December 2. We're back to work after Thanksgiving weekend. But is it business as usual? Or are we still riding the wave of thankfulness? Take a look Inside the Pomegranate to learn how love is playing a role in ministering to the needy.
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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On Love and Thanks

It's Monday, and we're back to business as usual after celebrating Thanksgiving this past Thursday, November 28 here in the states. Thanksgiving weekend has always been one I look forward to because our offices are closed the following day after well as Thursday, so we always get a 4-day weekend.  I've always loved the non-commercial aspect of Thanksgiving.  No gifts to buy.  Just a beautiful day to think about all that we're blessed with, spend time with family,  and give thanks to God.  But this year, for the first time, we heard of stores opening on Thanksgiving day - advertising sales, and urging people to shop on that day.  I thought this was really sad.  I have a coworker who has 5 children.  I asked him what he was doing on Thanksgiving.  "Nothing," he said, "my wife has to work."  His wife works at Macy's department store. Without mom at home, the whole family would have to forego having Thanksgiving dinner together.  "It's not the same without her there."

Where is everyone?  5:15 a.m. on Black Friday at
Eagle Rock Mall
I fear that in the future, this beautiful tradition/holiday of giving thanks will take a back seat to commercialism. That's just sad.  And really the only way that we can combat this is to not fall for it.  Black Friday started at midnight the following day.  That should be enough, right? Now don't get me wrong.  I love a good sale.  In fact, my sister Sona and I have our own tradition.  We do a 5:00 a.m. Friday morning run to Macy's and Target.  This year, there was no one there.  When we were coming home from Thanksgiving dinner at my daugther's, it was close to 10 p.m. as we passed the mall.  The parking lot was PACKED with cars.  This is on Thanksgiving evening.  My sister and I were at the same mall at 5:00 a.m. the following morning and there were very few cars in the parking lot.  What I'm saying is, why ruin your thanksgiving with lines, and crowds, and miss spending quality time with your family when you can get the same deal in the following morning without all the hassle?  Doesn't make sense; does it?  You can shop anytime.  And actually, isn't the precious little time that we have with our children and family worth it?  I don't know...that's just my thinking.  What are your thoughts about shopping on Thanksgiving day and department stores that are open touting Thanksgiving Day sales.  I mean, I know there are business that are open that day, namely, grocery stores for last minute items.  Hospitals, of course....but these are necessity stores.  I'm talking about the retail stores.  Tell me what you think (leave a comment!).

I wanted to write about Love and Thanks.  Specifically as it ties in to our homeless outreach.  When we help the needy, it's not out of false thanks, like the Pharisee in the parable, who thanked God that he was not like the lowly tax collector.  It is out of love.  And because as Christians, we are commanded to do so by our God, Jesus Christ.  This week we had an opportunity to extend a hand up twice in one week.  On Monday night, our In His Shoes homeless outreach took to the streets of Skid Row in a very special evening.  Friends of our In His Shoes family, Sonig and Kevork had donated the evening's meal in memory of their nephew, Harout, who was taken from us tragically at a young age.  They had provided sandwiches, and our usual fare of soup, snacks and water bottles. But in addition they had donated these beautiful green apples. (I seriously felt like the witch in snow white, offering pretty apples to my friends on the street.)  So we had plenty of food.  We had also collected a record amount of clothing this time around.  We went on our outreach with 4 cars (where we usually take 3).  And we had a LOT of clothing to distribute.  In fact, we had so much that I thought we wouldn't be able to distribute all of it and as we usually do, we'd drop the remaining clothing at the rescue mission.  But there were many on the streets and the people were so grateful as the weather has taken a turn for the cold. 

As happy and grateful as they are though, it's also difficult.  Tempers do flare up.  And sometimes we do witness anger and frustration.  As you can imagine, when we do our outreach, we all have something to do. Whether it's distributing soup, passing out water bottles or trying to find the right size of clothing for the right person, we're all doing something.  And what I do is to help wherever needed, but mostly to be the lookout to make sure things are running smoothly, and to give the call to pack it up if there's anything that might put our group in danger.  As the food was being distributed, I heard voices being raised.  I didn't see the soup fly, but I heard about that after the fact.  But I did hear one man raising his voice to another, and tensions started rising.  I called out to our team..."Pack it up!  We have to go!"  As much as we love being there to help our brothers and sisters, we do need to be safe.  So I had made the call.  Until Dolly came up and asked if we would please stay.

If you follow my blog or podcasts, you may remember me mentioning Dolly Dotty Dorothy.  She is a small woman from Ghana and she is a missionary.  She is on the street by choice.  A vision on the streets of Skid Row, she wears all white. She very rarely asks for anything for herself, but knows who needs what.  When the fight broke out, and I was ready to pack it up, it was Dolly who asked us to stay.  "Please don't go.  I will make him stop."  The man who was causing the problems was a large man, and Dolly was small comparitively.  But she went right up to him and said, "All these people will not get to eat or get the help they need because of your anger. You must stop."  I don't know if it was Dolly's vibe.  Or the man's realization of the situation, but I heard him say, "I'm not fighting.  I didn't do anything."  And he just walked away. Watching this, I really appreciated how Dolly had approached this man.  He was combative, and later, I learned that he had thrown soup at one of the people that was waiting for food.  She didn't yell.  She didn't meet violence and anger with the same...but she approached him with love.  She was firm, but her reasoning for this man to stop the way he was acting was out of love and concern for the others.  Approach all things with love.  A great lesson witnessed in action.

I noticed a lot more young people on the street this month.  One young woman sat expressionless on a blanket on the sidewalk, staring straight ahead while her friend sat  beside her trying to engage her in conversation.  My crew appoached her with clothing, with food, she didn't want it.  You could tell there was just emptiness there.  She remained still and unmoving the whole time we were there.  We didn't know if she was on drugs - numb to everything.  Or if she was angry.  But this young woman was very real, there on the street sharing a blanket with a man over two times her age.  And it makes you wonder what happened that caused such a disconnect.

We met a young man in his 20's named Ryan. Yeretzgin. Susan and Hourig had been working with him to find him clothing and shoes that would fit.  This man was so grateful for whatever they had provided him.  He had only the clothing on his back.  He was newly homeless.  His problem - meth addiction.  He had come to California with his girlfriend.  But the drugs took over his life.  Soon he was unable to pay the rent because of his habit, and he told us that although he and his girlfriend loved each other, she told him that he brought too much darkness into their relationship.  They got evicted, she left him, and there he was on the street.  I was surprised by how likeable and articulate he was.  And he was very much aware of his shortcomings.  He was in a recovery program and said he was not using. Checking in with his probation officer, he was subjected to daily drug testing and was clean.  It was terribly sad.  There he was trying to fix his life, yet he was right in the center - the worst possible place to be as a recovering addict - right where all the drugs are.  You wonder, where are the parents?   He mentioned to Susan that his father had come to visit him and stayed in a hotel as Ryan was on the street.  What would cause a father to abandon his son?  But in all fairness, we don't know what the situation is.  I've learned that drugs can cause people to do very strange things....lying is one of them.  So who knows what the situation was that caused him to want to numb himself in the first place.  So we talked to him.  Tried to encourage him  I gave him a the names of a few agencies that might be able to help him with temporary housing and programs to help him out of his current situation.  As we left him, he was so thankful.  We told him we would pray for him.  We were trying to encourage him and told him to fight for what he wanted.  "Love conquers all!" we told him.  "I believe that," he said.   As we hugged him goodbye, he said that he hoped to see us again.  Susan told him that as much as we would love to see him again, we hoped that he next time we came around that he would be in a better place off the street.  Then he said that maybe someday he would join us by doing what we're doing -  helping others on the street. We left that spot feeling a lot heavier in the heart.  As a mother, I hurt for him and I couldn't get him out of my heart.    And it made me realize that Ryan could be any of our own children, taking a wrong path that lead him down a difficult spiral. Our prayers continue with Ryan, and I've asked many to pray for him.  I ask that you please remember Ryan in your prayers.  He will need God's strength and united in prayer, we can help him.  That was our Skid Row outreach.  

A beehive of activity as we box the food for distribution
On Thanksgiving Eve, we had our annual canned food distribution.  Fr. Vazken had asked us to be at church by 6:00 p.m. to sort through and box all the canned and dried food that we had collected.  When I got to church that night at 6:15, the church was buzzing.  It was like a beehive of activity.  Seriously.  Boxes were lined up on the pews in several rows.  There were piles of canned and dried food sorted out, and basically, you picked up the food and put one or two of each type into the boxes.  This way each box had a variety of foods.  Rice, tomatoe sauce, beans, fresh and canned fruit, peanut butter, meat, you get the idea.   So anyway, everyone was sorting or boxing and before you knew it, we had all these boxes ready for delivery.

But first, as we always do on Thanksgiving Eve, Fr. Vazken called us to a short Thanksgiving prayer service, after which he blessed wheat and salt for each of us to take to our homes.  We then waited for our assignments to deliver the food boxes to needy members of our community.  Sonig had a list of families that would be receiving the boxes.  Each family would receive a box of food and a turkey as well.  Some of the
Each needy family will receive a
box of food and a ham or turkey
families had come to our prayer service and it was nice to share this beautiful service with them.  And I hope that they understood that our offering to them was made out of love.  

I had coordinated with Ascencia - Glendale's homeless shelter - and asked if they had some transitional families that might need our help.  We were able to help four families there that were in housing, working, but barely able to make ends meet.  The families were contacted and told to pick up directly from the shelter.  It was after 8:00 p.m. by the time I drove there.  Peeking in the glass door to the dining room, the room was dark with only the kitchen light shining.  I pushed the button to ring the bell.  In the kitchen, I could see the woman I had met last month, cleaning the kitchen.  A little boy came to the door and opened it.  He had to be around 5 or so.  Sarah, one of Ascencia staff, came to help me with the boxes, and together we carried them in.  She was so touched.  When I had told her over the phone that we had food to bring over, she said she never thought it would be so thoughtfully put together with a variety of foods for a family.  She thanked us and said what we had donated would help so many for a few weeks.  She got all misty eyed when she wished me a happy Thanksgiving.

We said our goodbyes, knowing that we'd be seeing each other on the 12th when we'll be preparing the meal there on our monthly outreach.  As I drove home, it was close to 9:00 p.m.  Later than I thought I'd be. Ned sent me a text, "Are you okay?"   I was better than okay.  The question made me think about what I was feeling.  
Content - Because I live a full life. It may be busy and chaotic, but I don't think I'd have it any other way.
Happy - Because I was able to make others happy
Blessed - Because I am able to do God's work
Thankful - Thankful for all the usual things.  My health, job, family.  And that I am part of an amazing church family that joyfully (and actively) follows the teachings of Christ in helping others through acts of Love.

Today, on this December 2nd, I want to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.  Because just as everyday is Christmas for the Christian, and every day is Easter for us too as we take the message of victory forward in our lives, every day for us, is (or should be) a day of Thankgiving.  Happy Thanksgiving!

25 November 2013

Peace Anniversary (Audio)

ITP #22: On this week's Inside the Pomegranate, Anush shares a special anniversary. Also, news about In His Shoes participation in Homewalk - a 5K to end homelessness, but more importantly, about empowering our youth to stand up for the causes that they believe in. And the conclusion to the Thanksgiving list of "Little Things to be Thankful For". It's all on Episode 22 of Inside the Pomegranate
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Peace Anniversary

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This past Saturday, our team - In His Shoes - participated in an annual 5K that we've been involved in called HomeWalk.  I want to tell you all about it, but first I wanted to share with you a little bit about a journey that I've been on - because it's time! And then,  I promise, we'll get back to the Homewalk, and then of course my new list of the little things I'm thankful for.  Deal?

I wanted to share that this weekend was my anniversary!  No, not my wedding anniversary. It's my peace anniversary! Peaceaverary?  Now what, you may ask, is a peace anniversary?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I haven't wanted to talk about this prior to this weekend to avoid sounding preachy, but this week marks one year to I can share now that's it's official.  This Saturday marked one year  that I have been a vegetarian. And what do you ask does that have to do with peace?  Well, I'm so glad you asked.  Because all of this came about through a prayer.  A prayer   for peace. Here's how it happened.  I always pray for peace.  So last year, sometime around June, during my prayer for peace I received an answer.  And it came through with such clarity.  The message was this:  If you want peace, be peace.  Live peace.  Breathe peace.  Work for peace.  I actually heard God (with my voice) tell me this message.  And I remember then, just being still with it, and trying to digest what had just been sent to me.  I remember one of the first thoughts that came to me after that was about vegetarianism.  I told myself that God had told me something profound. And  how can I live peace and be peace if something has to die in order for me to live?  But then, the little Armenian devil on my shoulder tried to chime in.  "You can't be Armenian and be a vegetarian!  What about kebab?"  Ooo...now there was something I didn't think of.  That's right,  there's kebab involved. 

Around that time we were training for the Avon walk.  I remember the prayer staying with me.  And so when Linda Z and I were walking one afternoon around the Rosebowl, I shared the peace message with her, and I my thoughts about vegetarianism and the kebab struggle.  Now this is what's funny: in all reality, we hardly ever eat kebab, so I don't understand why it was such a big deal to me, but it was.  The whole thing about inconveniencing people who's home you were going to for dinner also played into the equation.  Or beingout on a business lunch, having to explain, y'know?  So I remember Linda telling me that maybe I was interjecting that message into it.  Sure, you have to be peace, breathe peace, work for peace, etc.,  but there are other ways to do that that doesn't involve giving up meat.  It made me think about it at least.  And continue on as is for a few months at least.  But I couldn't.  The message was a strong one and it kept revisiting me always there in the back of my mind.

And then one afternoon, when I was researching something on the net, I came across a movie on YouTube called Earthlings.  Have you heard of it?  Let me tell you right now, that if you have no intention of giving up animals, then do NOT watch this movie.  The idea is that we are on this planet Earth and we think of ourselves as the only Earthlings.  But we're not.  The animals that share this planet with us are also Earthlings. And then the movie goes on to talk about the animals that we consume, how they are penned, fed and treated, and what they go through during the slaughter.  The pain and suffering.  That movie was a 9-part series, and when it was over, I was a vegetarian.  I mean, how many of us even think about what we're eating.  It's all packaged up for us at the market - clean and neat.  My intention here is not to convince you to convert or tell how you should eat because this is my journey and it works for me.  But I ask that you just consciously think about what it is that you're eating. Okay? So anyways... It's been a year now, and no regrets!  I haven't eaten anything with a face or a mother.  It's been a good year.  And the whole Armenian part hasn't been as big a deal as I thought it would be. And there are so many great vegetarian and vegan recipes that are part of our Armenian cuisine that I don't miss the meat at all.  So that's it.  It's been a year of peace.  And I am going to continue on this peaceful journey for years to come.

Okay, so now I wanted to share with you about this weekend's Homewalk.  Every November for the past 7
Team In His Shoes
years, the United Way organization puts on the Homewalk.  This is a walk that helps the homeless, raising money for housing and programs.  This year, Team In His Shoes was 9  walkers strong.  And I posted some of the photos on our In His Shoes facebook page so please check them out.  But what I specifically wanted to write about today was not just the details about the walk, but about walking with our younger generation....and about teaching them, at a young age, to align with a cause that speaks to them...and then to work toward the betterment of that cause by fundraising for it.  Or giving  time and energy toward it.

Last year I asked my niece Madi to walk in the Homewalk with Neddy and I.  She did it, and we had a great time.  But more importantly, she saw all the other kids that were out there, just like her. She saw what a difference a bank of like-minded people can make.   And she also got the chance to get educated about the homelessness problem in Los Angeles.  There are families out there, mom's pushing strollers, homeless people that are walking and sharing their stories, young and old.  We're all out there walking to end homelessness. There are organzations and schools that bring groups in to walk. So anyways...the registration for minors is free.  So it's easy to sign up to walk.  You don't have to fundraise, although that's what is hoped that you'll do.   But last year we registered, adults paid their fees, kids were free, we got our tshirts, and we walked in solidarity.

So this year, when it was time to register, I asked Madi if she'd like to walk again.  She told me she was looking forward to it.  Again, we signed up except this year I told madi she needed to fundraise. "What? Who am I going to ask?"  Now think about that.  Valid point, right?  At 14 you don't have friends that have money and/or jobs.  So the idea of fundraising was a scary one.  Still, I set a goal for her.  $50.   That was doable.  And then nothing happened.

A couple weeks ago, I bugged her.  "Madi, you need to fundraise.  I see that your website is not even up yet."  "I will."  And another week went by, still nothing.  Okay, now we're just 5 days from the walk, and it was time to start getting serious. I called, FB messaged and finally, the Monday prior to the walk, the webpage was personalized and she was ready to go.  And to make a long story short, she raised the $50 and actually surpassed it.  Who did she ask?  Family, parents of her friends, but she made it happen.

My adorable niece (and God-daughter), Madi
Okay, big deal, you say.  But it IS a big deal.  Along the routeMadi and I got a chance to talk.  We took photos along the way.  There were areas along the route with questions to ask yourself.  "If you were suddenly homeless and could only carry with you three things,"  said one sign, "what three things would you take in your shopping cart?"  Madi's answer, cellphone/charger, guitar and laptop.  My three? photo album, flute, and Madi (since she can play her guitar and sing to create some revenue for her dear sweet aunt.  right?) But seriously, we did have a good conversation about the importance of commiting to a cause.  And then discussing it with others.  Being prepared to work for the outcome of that cause.  Even if it meant asking people for money.  Because remember, I told her, you're not asking for it for yourself but for the cause.

So that's the jist of it.  Back when I was a kid, the norm was protest.  We would picket, and walk, and align ourselves with issues and causes.  But I don't see it like that today.  So that's why by registering for these type of walks, or getting our children involved in volunterring, we teach them important lessons about giving and seflessness.  It's important that we teach by example too.  When our children grow up seeing us do these things, they will learn by example.  But they also need to learn by dialogue and goal setting as well.  They need to be pushed.  And they need to know that all these things come with a price.  Yes, signing up as a minor is free, but there is the cost of the tshirt, the advertising, etc.  If we can all do our part to help, more of the money raised will help the cause.  After walking the 5K HomeWalk and having raised $80, my niece felt accomplished and proud of herself.  And you know what?  I am very proud of her too.

I just want to say though that it's up to us to guide our children in these area.  To push them toward the things that matter, because the outside influences are too great.  If you believe in a cause, then you should support it.  And the same goes for our church and our ministry.  If you believe in the message and the good works that are coming out of it, then show your support!  Enough said?

And now, here's this week's list of the little things that make my life more beautiful:

Little Things I'm Thankful For: 
1.  Think about the smell of Palmolive soap and onions when your grandma first opens the door of her house and you walk in.  Think about smelling the roses blooming in the garden, or your favorite perfume.  My first item to be thankful for is my sense of smell.  Imagine going through life with a cold in your nose and not being able to smell the delicious smell of a newborn, the spicy smell of a carnation, or the incense in church.  We're blessed with this sense of smell that makes our lives so full.

2.  Scented candles.  Yep.  They're so good.  Especially arount the holidays when they come out with their winter fragrances - especially the pine, cranberry, apple spice.  I love lighting candles and having my house smell great during the holidays.

3.  A garden.  I'm thankful that I have a small patch of garden that I can grow - or at least attempt to grow - vegetables, flowers and plants.  Gardens reassure us in the hope for tomorrow and new surprises.  I'm grateful for my garden.

4.  Social Media.   I'm thankful for being connected, and for the wonderful frends I've met through Facebook, Twitter, and my blog.  There are good and bad aspects of it, but in general, I like being able to keep in touch with friends and family.   Think about it.  If it weren't for social media, I probably would never have met you!

5.  Flowers.  Whether they are sent to me at work, or it's the wild geranium that's growing in my front yard, I am thankful for the beauty and fragrance of flowers.  The colors, shapes and sizes...varieties are unlimited, and like I always say, God is the best artist!

6.  Fridays!  I'm always thankful for Fridays. It's been said that the first five days after the weekend are the hardest.  And I always find that my work week gets better and better the closer we get to Friday.  It's really my favorite day of the week, even though half of it is spent on being at work.  Saturday is always filled with all the chores.  Sunday there's church, and then by the time you have lunch and clean up, it's time to finish up projects and start planning for Monday again.  But Fridays when work is finished....that's the day that's filled with fun and hope for a great weekend.

and finally 7.  YOU!  Not that you're a little thing, you know...but I am thank you for each of you .  Thank you for reading, listening, commenting and praying for me.

Finally, I want to take this time to wish all of you a very happy and blesssed Thanksgiving.  I hope our little exercise in the little things has helped you appreciate all that you have, large and small, and help you to understand how truly blessed we all are.  God bless your families this Thanksgivig and always.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

18 November 2013

All Under One Roof, Under One Sky (Audio)

ITP #21: Ever get asked for help by someone that you know is not helping themselves? If you say no, do you feel guilty? We talk about that this week, and also reflections at the homeless shelter, and continuing on with the little things to be thankful for. Anush covers "All sorts of stuff" on this week's episode of Inside the Pomegranate.
email: anushnoor@gmail.com
link to blog: www.pomegranatenadeye.com
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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All Under One Roof, Under One Sky

Last week, my friend suggested a topic for me to cover. He said, "How about when we feel guilty when we stop to help people that always use us when they're in trouble...over and over again, without them doing the right thing for themselves. How does this make sense?" That's a big one, right? I'm sure all of us can relate to this - and it doesn't just pertain to the homeless but to anyone in need. Some people are just needy. Always making the wrong choices, asking for help just one more time. We help, and then the next thing we know, they're in trouble again. Sound familiar? It does to me. I have people in my life like this - who have been like this their whole lives. What do you do when it's someone in your family? More than likely, you'll not turn them away, but help them, albeit, help them knowing it's not the last time, right? Of course, because family is family. But let's take it a step further, because I think my friend was talking about people on the street. Do we just continue to help the same people on the street - even though we know they are not doing the best for themselves? Do we give money to the homeless guy who asks for money to buy something to eat knowing he's going to buy alcohol or a fix? I want you to hold on to this for a little bit, while I tell you what happened to us on our homeless outreach on Thursday evening because it was very special, and beautiful, and because even though 4 days have passed since then, I still can't stop thinking about it.

Last Thursday, it was our night to prepare food for the homeless shelter in Glendale - Ascencia. For the past 6 years, our In His Shoes outreach has been feeding and clothing the homeless of Skid Row, and earlier this year we expanded our outreach to cook dinner at the Glendale shelter. From the very start of the evening it was magical. Late Wednesday evening, I received a text from my sister asking when we'd be going to the shelter since she had girls' clothing to donate. She has great timing. I dropped by at 6:30 Thursday morning for pick up. When I got to Ascencia that afternoon after work, I was the first of our group there. This was the first time for us at the new facility which opened last month. And I noticed a lot of people out front. I guess the rule maybe that the doors open at 4:30 for the evening, and the residents had started to gather. Within the group, I noticed quite a few children in the group, and along with them, tired parents. I rang the bell, my arms filled with groceries for salad. A few minutes later, they opened the doors and everyone came in. The kids went into the common area, some watched TV, other's played, a saw one teen doing homework. It was very homey. I went to the kitchen to get started. And then I remembered the clothing. 

Edward - the resident manager - helped me with the bags in the car. I told him I had clothing for little girls and some adult clothing that I had collected as well. We brought the clothing in and put it in the dining area and I saw Edward give the "come here" hand signal to a middle aged woman. He told me, "She has 7 kids. She'll be able to use these clothes." Seven kids. Wow. She came over and I told her about the clothing and that my sister had said there was a duffel bag as well as a child's sleeping bag. She thanked me, and I went on to the kitchen to tend to the salad. But I was able to watch what was happening from where I was. The next thing I saw were two little girls that she had called over. (Later in the evening I got to meet them). These two little girls were so excited. It was like Christmas. They went through the bag of clothing, the woman holding the shirts/sweaters/pants up to size on the girls. The older girl got the pack. The little girl got the sleeping bag. They left the clothing that wouldn't work for them, and they in turn called over another couple of girls, older this time. And they were able to use some of the clothing. And this went on with more and more gathering. each taking only what they could use. I wished that my nieces could have been there to see the joy that this simple act of giving brought to this group.

Fr. Vazken came next, and I put him to work chopping tomatoes for the salad. And we talked while working - enjoying the time together before the rest of the group showed up. Next Yvette came. I had asked her to bring fruit to fill the fruit bowl. She had brought beautiful apples, oranges, bananas and pears,and they were brimming out of the large stainless steel bowl. It was really beautiful, just like those Thanksgiving cornucopias that symbolize abundance. As we took the bowl of fruit out to place on the table, I noticed the faces of the children as they were using the communal space. And then slowly they made their way over....taking an apple or a pear. The sparkle in their eyes as they were so happy to have such beautiful fruit. It made me remember stories my mom used to tell us when we were kids. Always at Christmastime, when we had finished opening our gifts on Christmas morning, amid the torn wrapping paper and the toys that we had just opened, she would tell us about how little they had growing up, and that always on Christmas morning, Santa Claus would bring them an apple. An apple! As a kid I remember thinking wow..what a gip. Right? I would think, she must not have been a very good little girl if that's all he brought her. But there and then, standing there watching these children enjoying something to basic that we take for granted, it made me understand what my mom had shared so long ago with us.

Next, Suzie and her mom came. They had prepared the main meal for the evening: chicken tikka, basmati rice, spiced lentils, rolls and butter. Lida and Jenny came to join us and brought with them dessert and juice, and there we were, working side by side in the kitchen, preparing the meal, getting things ready for the feast. I have always felt comfortable with the homeless. I've written before about how our parents would share our food with the homeless of our community. We grew up understanding that they are no different than we are. All of us created by God, who loves us all. Equally.

One of the residents there is a man I've seen for the past 3 times we've been there. He's got long hair, a wild look in this eyes, and wears a lot of jewelry, some of which is intricately beaded. I was admiring his bracelet as a fellow beader, and he told me he made all his jewelry himself. A fellow artist, he told me he had made some bad choices in his life and ended up on the street strung out on heroin until Jesus Christ saved him. He had been clean for 22 years. He shared with me that he wanted to put on a show/exhibit for the community, to give back, and had spoken to Fr. Vazken about talking to our teens about his story. He was so open and honest and ready to share his message with those who will listen. I was glad for the opportunity to talk to him and hear his story.

Dinner was served. Such abundance. Our friends lined up on the one side of the glass, with us on the kitchen
side, customizing their plates. No rice? More chicken? Sure you can have a plate for your brother. So many beautiful faces, but the most beautiful of all were all the children, so hopeful, so excited. Once everyone has been served, we get a chance to make a plate for ourselves and join the residents in the dining room. At this time, we brought out this large sheet cake. Suzie had chosen this cake with pretty autum colored icing roses in the center. The little girls came over, "Who's birthday is it???" I said, "No one's birthday. We just wanted to share with you!" They watched as I cut the cake, eyeing it but not taking a piece. And then I connected. It took me way back to when I was a little girl. Watching the cake being cut and waiting, patiently, until the icing flowers were near so I could ask for a flower. These little girls were no different than I was. I stopped cutting, "Would you like a piece with a rose?" Punch stained mouths said, "Yeah!" I took the knife and cut into the center of the cake asking them which rose, what color. They were so happy! These two little girls were Shalyn and Lauren. Sisters. I could tell without asking from their beautiful blue eyes. I asked where their mother was? They told me their mother didn't live here. I asked if they lived at the shelter with their father. No, they said, they were here with their grandmother. All seven of them.  

A cute little boy came over to the fruit bowl. Same pretty blue eyes as my two little freinds. Eyeing the fruit, he was digging deep into it and pulled out a pear. "I love pears!" He said biting into it. A little while later, I saw him finding another pear. I asked his name. Nathan. We talked a bit. When I commented that he was pretty smart, he said that yes, he was smart, and his favorite subject was science. And he confessed this was his fourth pear! I told him to save one for his lunch tomorrow and asked if he had gone to school today "Not today," he said, "The district didn't give me permission. But I'm going tomorrow." I'm not sure how school works when you're a homeless child, but from what he said, I guess he had to have some sort of clearance to attend.  

The mood was so comfortable. We were enjoying just being there. Shalyn had become Suzie's new best friend, and was happy eating her cake and chatting her. As I was walking over, Nathan came up and tapped me on the arm. In a soft voice he said, "I really loved dinner." It was so sweet and heartwarming. I could't help but hug him. I told him how special he had made us all feel and that it made us so happy that he loved it. I asked if he'd like to meet the person who cooked the meal and took him over to Suzie. He told Suzie the same thing. She was touched, as was our whole crew. When I introduced him, he extended his hand to shake hands with us. Such a gentleman. Later, I found his grandmother who I noticed was probably close to my age. I wanted to tell her how sweet her grandchildren were, and how polite. When I first approached her, I felt her guard was up. But as soon as I told her how sweet Nathan's comment was, and how much we had enjoyed talking to him and her other two grandchildren. Her face softened and she got a little misty eyed. "Thank you," she said. "They can be a handful." I can only imagine how difficult it would be to raise 7 grandchildren on my own. God had blessed this woman with Love, strength and patience to raise these children so beautifully.

We were all so touched by the evening. There was so much good going on. During last week's bible study, Fr. Vazken talked about the family and explained our Armenian word, "Undaneek". Family. Literally translated this work means, "under one roof." Our brothers and sisters at Ascencia are family to one another. Sharing a home. Sharing life and themselves with one another. And once a month, sharing their live and love with us. God bless them all, and God bless the staff at Ascencia for the important work that they are doing.

So now back to my friend's original question, about feeling guilt when you don't help someone that continually asks for your help because you know they aren't helping themselves. I'll give you my take on it, and you can tell me if you agree or disagree.

I have found, that there are two types of people that ask for help. The first are those who really need help, and the second are the scammers...those who take advantage of a soft heart. These are the ones that scope us out in the parking lot at the grocery store and tell us the story about how they need X amount of money to get a busride home because their car broke down, blah, blah, blah. Or that they can't afford diapers for their babies, and could I just spare $20. I know, I know. It could be true, but in these cases, I know they're lying because I fell for it, and then was approached by the same person a couple days later with the exact same story. Regarding the scammers, I don't contribute to them.  But I do help those that are in need. Regardless of drug and alcohol addictions. But one thing I do, rather than just hand them a passing dollar is stop and talk to them. What is their name? And what is their story? Believe me, most of these people are so used to being "invisible" they're often surprised when I stop to talk.  

If you want to help but think your money will go toward drugs or alcohol, then you can ask if they're hungry and get them something to eat. If you work in the city or some place where you see the same person on a daily or weekly basis, maybe you can offer them something to wear. Ask if they can use some socks (this is something we always get asked for on our homeless outreach). If you have nothing to give, you still have something important you can contribute. A smile. A conversation. Offer to pray for them. But don't give up on them. Because God NEVER gives up on us. As Christians, it's not our job to judge anyone. We will be judged the way that we judge others. Think about that. Is that what we want for our final judgement? Uh, I don't think so, right?

As far as feeling guilty for not helping them -- I understand how that feels too...and that's why I started talking to the homeless. Because I can't always give money. But I can smile or say hello. On those days, I just say, "I'm sorry, I can't today. But how are you? Are you doing okay?" At least you have acknowledged their presence rather than ignoring them as you walk by. And always, always, imagine that that person is Jesus. I saw the face of God in a homeless man when I was about 12 or 13 when my father had me take a plate of food to him on Christmas day. His eyes were piercing, blue, and kind and etched in my memory forever. I knew it was Him. And that's when my ministry started. I am doing it for God. Because of God. And because I follow the teachings Christ. To love and care for my brothers and sisters. If my God commands me to do it...then I do it, right? So that's how I view it. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, so please leave your comments for me below.

So that's pretty much it. But before I finish up, I just wanted to share with you this week's list of the "little things I'm thankful for." As you know, I'm focusing on being thankful for the little things that make life so beautiful. And I'm hoping you're doing this along with me. So there it is:

1. Mobility! I think I take for granted so much that I am able to walk. And I walk A LOT. But I view it as a given. I am blessed with mobility. I can get around and not have to rely on someone else to get me there. You know, I often complain about my weight, or my legs, but these legs have carried me through life. I'm so blessed to have them to get around.

2. Clean water. All we have to do is turn on the faucet and we have clean water. Do we realize how fortunate we are? We're spoiled. The water is clean coming out of the tap, yet how many of us have to drink bottled water because tap water doesn't "taste good." Did you know that 3.4 million people die each year from water related disease. tthat's about the size of the population of los angeles!) And every 20 seconds a child dies from it? Check out Water.org

3. Popcorn - I love popcorn. Have you ever thought about who thought about popping corn first? And then who thought of putting butter on it??

4. Compassion. I am thankful for compassion and the ability to help others. Some get defensive. "They're milking the system," they say. But "they" is really "we". We all belong to one another. We're all part of the same family and it's up to us to take care of one another. I'm blessed with a compasionate heart and would rather be this way than any other.

5. Saturday morning coffee. It really is the small things. Saturday morning. Relaxed coffee at home. The best ever! One cup before breakfast when I'm cooking. The second cup with breakfast. The third cup about a half hour later, after I've cleaned up the kitchen. Coffee always tastes so much better when I'm at home.

6. Beautiful colors in nature. Look around. In my front yard the leaves on my tree have changed to bright vivid
yellow. Last Saturday, I took a basketmaking class and the colors in the pine needles were so subtle and beautiful. Be aware of the way the sunlight affects nature at sunrise and then at sunset. The palette changes right before our eyes.

7. And finally, this is a big one for me...

I am thankful for the ability to create. My life is happy because I get to create. Basketmaking, crocheting, jewelry, cooking, drawing, blogging. Creativity is happiness for me and I am blessed that I have the ability and means to create.

So I showed you my list...now you show me yours!! Oh come on....at least list a couple in the comments section below!! Okay, give me one! When we focus on the little things that bless our lives, we'll appreciate each day a little more fully. I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.