November 2013 Posts

Rachel’s Lens // Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all of you spent the day sitting at home, enjoying vacation, funny Buzzfeed articles and leftover Thanksgiving food.

Thank you to all of our supporters who helped provide turkeys, volunteer hours or generously donated to those in need this month. We needed every bit of it and we appreciated it all!

Enjoy this special video from our CEO, Brad Meuli: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RixLveA9O5Q.

Conversations About Anything // MichaelAnn Pineda

Written by Rachel Greiman, Writer & Photographer

Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

This series was inspired by the book Anything written by Jennie Allen. Please follow me as I struggle with life’s difficult questions and walk down the path to find my “anything”!

MichaelAnn has achieved that perfect combination of sweet and sassy that most of us spend our whole life trying to acquire. She’s got a smile that can instantly make you feel better, but she also can slide you a sarcastic one-liner within seconds of flashing you that same smile. She has the kind of personality that people are drawn to; it’s one that attracts joyful conversation and dispels anxiety. I find her presence in a room to be calming and reassuring.

I chose MichaelAnn for this interview because of the unbelievably courageous decisions she’s made in her life. Though she isn’t someone to broadcast good deeds or accomplishments, I’ve gotten to know her over the past year and the more I learn, the more I’m amazed. Her peaceful disposition that I described has made her home a safe haven for young people over the past two decades. More than once, her door has been open to family members who need a place to get back on their feet.

Her honesty is humbling and her desire to serve the Lord is motivating. Three years ago, MichaelAnn and her husband were enjoying their lives. They had a 10-year-old son and had been together 11 years. They were past the days of diapers, toddlers and babysitters. And then Denver Human Services called. MichaelAnn’s nephew, Andrew, needed a place to go. They discussed it and within days, Andrew was in their home.

9B9A6598Rachel Greiman: Did you ever pray a prayer like “anything”?
MichaelAnn Pineda: When I first got saved, I felt the urgency of the Lord. My biggest prayer was that I would be obedient. I asked for Him to use me. I prayed for the strength to be obedient to that calling.

RG: When you asked for that, did you expect that the answer would be Andrew?
MP: No. They say, “Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it.”  It was like asking for a piece of candy and getting a huge candy bar. And a cake. It’s so much more than I could imagine. We pray from a human perspective. But He answers those prayers with a heavenly one and it’s always more than you can even ask for.

RG: Tell me the story of how Andrew came to live with you.
MP: My nephew was born October 3, 2007. We were at the hospital when he was born. My husband told me that he had a revelation from God. He said that this boy was going to be a really important part of our family and bring us all closer. I just wrote it off. I just thought it was wishful thinking that we would become closer.

RG: So you were both believers?
MP: No, my husband wasn’t saved then. I had been praying for him forever, for years. But one day, in late 2010, the Lord gave me complete peace that he would be saved. And soon after that, he came to the Lord. He completely changed and was a brand new person.

RG: Was he right about his revelation from the Lord?
MP: He was. Shortly after my husband was saved, we got a call from a social worker, asking us if we could take our nephew for a couple weeks. We talked about it and decided we could handle that for a short time. But a couple weeks became a couple months, which turned into a year. And at the end of that year, we were given full custody of him.

RG: That wasn’t what you were expecting at all though, right?
MP: No, no. That decision to accept those rights was tough. That whole year was actually really hard on our family, our marriage, me personally, and my relationship with my sister. It felt like everything was strained. It was hard on my son. It was hard, really hard.

RG: If that year was so hard, why did you say yes?
MP: When they asked us if we would take him permanently, we talked and prayed about it—I prayed and I prayed. One day I opened up the Bible and prayed, “God, what do I do?!” And the verse that my eyes went to was: “Show your true faith. Take care of the widow and the orphan.” And I closed my Bible and said, “Ok, that’s what we’ll do.” I didn’t tell my husband. I kept it to myself and I had peace about it. And he came to me that same week and said that he was praying: “Lord, what do I do? I don’t know how to love an adopted child.” And the Lord told him, “I adopted you and look how much I love you.” He felt engulfed by God’s love. And since then, he’s been our son.

RG: What a powerful moment! I have goosebumps! What was most difficult about that?
MP: I think the point where it got most overwhelming was when we had to deal with court appointments, social workers, lawyers. There was always someone coming to check on him, on us. There were so many questions and it was exhausting. And we didn’t think it was going to end. It was like a puzzle. You see all of these situations, all by themselves, and they don’t make sense. But as they come together, you start seeing that it’s actually a really beautiful picture. And it was like it was meant to be.

RG: That’s incredible. Do you ever struggle with the question, “Am I doing enough?”
MP: Oh yeah, all the time. I think any parent does. But I do especially when it comes to Andrew. He is not my child. He has another mom and another dad. That’s hard for him and it has an effect on him. He asks a lot of questions. He is trying to figure out if his situation is normal. He is still trying to make sense of it. And of course I want to protect him. I want to make him feel like he’s special.

RG: Are you ever afraid?
MP: I’m afraid that he will grow up resenting the whole situation. It’s really hard to explain it to him and for him to understand. Even sometimes when you have the answers, it’s still difficult to understand. So yes, I’m afraid and I do struggle with it, but I know ultimately that the Lord is in control. One of my favorite verses is: “Man may have his plans but the Lord determines your steps.” My hope for him is that one day, he gets to put all his puzzle pieces together and see the whole beautiful picture and praises the Lord for it.

RG: What does Andrew add to your family that wasn’t there before?
MP: He is more of a blessing to us than we are to him. He has this amazing spirit of encouragement. No matter what, every single day, he says something encouraging to us. Even if he gets in trouble, he says, “You’re a good mom.” He says “I love you” every single day, at least 10 times a day. Down to the littlest detail, sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. Yesterday, he told me, “You have good skin Mommy!” It doesn’t matter…anything he can find to compliment you on, he’ll do it.

RG: Does he get that from you?
MP: No, it’s just his spiritual gift. It’s his God-given gift. He brought us closer. Our marriage was really, really rocky at the end of that first year. But we both felt the Lord say that this is what He put before us. It brought us together spiritually.

RG: What do you find rest in?
MP: The Lord puts things in your life for a reason. But He gives you a choice. It feels like there is a goal for your character and through the hard things, you gain those characteristics and maturity in your walk.

The last thing that MichaelAnn said to me painted the perfect picture of her attitude in life: “If you seek Him with your heart, He will make known to you whatever you want to know. When you think you don’t have the strength, you can lean on Him to give you what you need. And when you feel like you’re going to fall apart, He can give you the peace. Ultimately, we aren’t meant to do anything on our own, we are supposed to do it with Him. And he wants to be a part of our lives.  I think God provides these experiences so we can call out to him, so he can be a part of our life.”

Amen, girlfriend.

The Real Christmas

November and December seem to be the busiest times of year for me and I am assuming many others. People are busy running errands, planning parties, going to parties, and the endless gift shopping. Sometimes, I get so busy at Christmas that I forget I am celebrating and remembering the greatest gift – Jesus.

Last year, my small group decided to do an outreach together for  Christmas and it just so happened that Denver Rescue Mission had the perfect outreach: Adopt-A-Family. We signed up.

We were matched with a family, read their story and received their wish lists!

My friends and I picked a group shopping date and picked out gifts for the family. There was something so special shopping for someone I have never met. Choosing gifts for him was far better than shopping for some people on my own list.

A few weeks after we dropped off all the gifts at the family’s home. They were waiting for us and I hate to think that the children in the family wouldn’t have a gift to open on Christmas morning. I know that Christmas isn’t really about gifts, but the gifts we gave represented community, love and hope – all things that represent Jesus.

I am telling you about my experience not to receive a pat on the back or recognition, but to inspire you to gather some friends and bless another family this Christmas! You won’t regret it!

Right now, we NEED 200 sponsors to adopt families! Sign up here.

((photos taken by the Mission’s photographer, Rachel))

young boy

hug

family girl pointing  presents coming

Rachel’s Lens // The Rough Side of Grace

Written by Rachel Greiman, Writer & Photographer

Written by Rachel Greiman, Writer & Photographer

You know those photos on Pinterest with words laid on top, talking about grace? They are always so beautiful and romantic, with soft lighting and sunsets. See here, here and here.

And yes, grace is a beautiful and romantic thing. It’s one of God’s most loving gestures. But grace usually comes at the end of something rough.

Last night, my small group met and solved all the world’s problems. I joke. We meet each Wednesday, and we try to tackle difficult questions with honest conversation. We often just end up asking more questions instead of answering any, but nonetheless, it’s a time of growing and stretching. Back to last night. We were talking about grace. The pretty kind that makes everyone feel happy and content. And my husband said: “I just have to be real. Usually when God is showing me His grace, it’s because He has just led me through something awful.” Everyone laughed, but the heaviness and truth in his statement sank in quickly.

Grace is the light at the end of what can feel like a hopeless tunnel. To experience God’s grace means to acknowledge our humanness. It means to confront our sin. It means to admit fault and to accept that we are not enough.

But after that acknowledgement, confrontation and admission, we see the beauty. We find the romance.

I have never seen God’s grace more clearly than in the lives of our program participants. The program is not easy. It is full of self-examination and hard work. But the hard work pays off and then our participants walk in the grace of God, boldly and with courage. It’s a transformation unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced.

The stories are motivating for me, calling me to press into the hard things in life, looking for refinement rather than a way out. I hope it’s motivation for you, too. Find rest knowing that the hard things are worth it, that there is an ultimate pay-off. Look for the light of grace at the end of the tunnel. The harder it gets, the brighter that light should shine.

Keep Calm and Gobble Gobble

Keep Calm and Gobble Gobble: My co-worker found that saying on a shirt. We laughed because these next two months are incredibly busy for employees here at the Mission. There are turkeys to be collected (15,000 turkeys to be exact), families to be adopted for our Christmas outreach, 2,000 Thanksgiving meal boxes to be distributed, and HUNDREDS of meals to be prepared.

Today, our staff gathered at the Mission’s warehouse to launch the Turkey Drive. We decided that if we are asking the community to donate birds, then we should too! Brad Meuli, CEO/President, also agreed to wear this flashy turkey costume if Mission employees could collectively donate 170 turkeys. photo 3

The launch party ended with prayer. We formed a circle and grabbed our neighbor’s hand. We prayed for our city, for our neighbors and that all that is done will bring glory to our God! We have a great group of employees dedicated to the communities we serve, don’t you think!?

((make a goofy face))

photo 2

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