From Jerry Lewis to My Own Front Yard

As a child, Labor Day weekend marked summer’s end. It was well-defined by sun streaked hair, copper toned skin, a new pair of jeans and an overstocked backpack bursting with the scent of Crayola. But one other pivotal event always marked the season’s end; The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Year after year, I’d settle in and watch as American’s rallied together to help those inflicted with Muscular Dystrophy. The story-based fundraiser captured real time adversity from the mouth’s of children and families living with MD. One year, while sitting on the living room couch, a story squeezed my heart so tight I remember crying elephant sized tears. I determined right then and there to do something. I was 11 years old. So, I went to my parents and told them my idea. Together, we organized a festival in my own front yard to raise money for the Jerry Lewis telethon and MDA.

Mom drove me to the local Coca-Cola plant, bank President’s and company CEO’s to pitch the idea. Donation after donation rolled in and the following summer we held a festival complete with games like ring toss, mini golf, and a cupcake walk. There were food concessions and face painting and pony rides too.

We raised more than $217!

And I was convinced Jerry Lewis himself might show up to invite us onto the show. Ha! Well, that never happened, but we made headlines in the Hutch Leader and my heart was so very happy.

Fast forward 20 some years and I find myself serving on a team, helping to organize a community festival raising money for livestock animals to be distributed via the humanitarian organization World Vision. I’d long forgotten about my front yard festival at 11 years old, until my mom dug out this newspaper clipping. I marveled at the similarity. I marveled at the thread of compassion stretching through the years, connecting me once again to a good work.

God prepares good works for us in advance. 

Many times we miss seeing the orchestration. Adulting has a certain way of blurring the vision. Work becomes small and mundane and merely meaningless. We stop to catch a breath and whisper curious words about our purpose and who can really know?

But I’m feeling inspired today to encourage you to look no further than your own front yard. The place where you played as a child and frolicked in the grass and kicked the can into the night. All those memories, light years away. Perhaps, the thread of passion in our earliest years holds a secret passage. An awesome revelation to be found. Purpose: can it be found in the 11 year old you? What do you see? Who have you become? And where will it take you?

Though my Livestock Music Festival season has come to a close God is still working this compassionate desire for good. Today I’m advocating for a small village in Sierra Leone, West Africa through the Lulu Tree.

So, thank you Jerry Lewis for inspiring a young girl with a big heart. I promise to take what you’ve given me and pass it on. May we all take heart and do a similar small, good thing.

Crazy Chickens Create Traditions #GIVELIVESTOCK

I love this picture.

It was June of 2009. The 2nd annual Livestock Music Fest. We were a hot mess! No really, it was 110 degrees outside, with an added 20 fleecy costume degrees. At days end we’d lost our marbs. We had fun, yes! We did it for purpose, yes!

Raising money for livestock animals like chickens, pigs, cows, and goats is no easy task.

Photo Credit: World Vision, USA

What I love most about that “crazy chicken” picture is the small onlooker in the background. I’ll bet you missed seeing her. My daughter. She was three years old and taking it all in. As the years pass with intrepid speed and another Livestock Music Fest is planned and commissioned, I look at this picture and my heart slows. It’s always the small things. Often overlooked. These are the moments, the pictures of life that make the biggest impact. It’s how traditions are formed. Quietly and unrealized. They are the organic things that we do, make, and celebrate. Over and over, again.

This is it. This is what it’s becoming. A tradition. For her, my daughter now 9 years old, a legacy of learning how to give to those in need. A legacy of creating fun and celebration because God is so good. 

But, there’s more.

This community. It is becoming. You and your families and your children. Together, each year gathering as one to celebrate through music, food, and festivities. Each year a tradition of giving cows, chickens, and goats to help give a hand up to someone in need. These are the things that bind us in unity.

Photo Credit: World Vision, USA

What are some traditions you’re noticing in the corner of your life’s frame? Your chicks are growing–grown. It’s never too late to do something new.


The Heart of a Kinsman Redeemer

Imagine this: You lose your husband, your source of income to provide for yourself, and all hope for the life you had once envisioned.

This is a true story.

Ruth was a young woman when tragedy struck. Her husband had died leaving her lost and alone. The only thing she had to cling to was her mother-in-law, Naomi. A strong woman who also wore the veil of widow-hood. Together, the two of them, left behind everything they owned and traveled back to Naomi’s childhood home. A stack of horrible circumstances pushed these extremely vulnerable women to move back to Naomi’s homeland. A foreign country for Ruth. Literally.

I consider the idea of being placed in the worst possible life situation, such as Ruth and Naomi. What if my only hope for survival was to pack up my belongings and move to a foreign country.

As their journey to this new land unfolds, we witness them wrestling with bitterness and grief. The sinking reality that now they have nothing. They are completely empty.

How will they provide for themselves? How will they survive?

And thats when an unlikely character emerges. His name is Boaz and he is their Kinsman Redeemer.

In Hebrew tradition, a Kinsman Redeemer was a qualified relative, someone who could step into a situation, and assist with restoring property, financial security, and future inheritance. A typical God story where restoration, recovery, and redemption abound.

Boaz is a rich landowner who is leading his working people through the fields during the harvest. He notices this young, foreign woman trailing after his workers picking up scraps of the sheaves. When Boaz asks about her needs he finds in his good heart to give back in complete abundance to these women in need.

As we ourselves enter into this season of harvest, a great time of giving thanks, how can we consider being a Kinsman Redeemer to those in need around us? In the story of Ruth, we find that Boaz has laid out a very simple model for us to follow.

1. Notice. Open your eyes and take a look around you. Who do you see lagging behind? A foreigner, perhaps? Someone who has fallen on hard times? A widow?

2. Clothe with Comfort & Kindness. Sometimes the warmth of a hug or the soft bend of a listening ear is all that one needs. Lavishing someone with intentional kindness often times means that we are the ones who need to step out of our comfort zones. Clothing others with kindness means that we are invested in their pain. Willing to share it with them. When we begin building that kind of relationship with others we will soon discover those needs that might warrant our attention.

3. Give. Go out of your way to give. When Boaz noticed Ruth, first he showed compassion to her by listening to her needs. He made sure she was protected by instructing his workers to look after her. Boaz wanted to make sure that no further harm would come to her. Then, he continually offered her food and drink. He gave her an overflowing measure from his own harvest.

‘Tis the season of the harvest. We gather together and count our blessings. Our lips praise the good things we’ve been given. It’s the abundance. What do we do with the overflow? I encourage you to step out of your space of comfort, stretch out your hand, and bless someone with the heart of a kinsman redeemer.


Invest in a different kind of stock – LIVESTOCK

Only a few days before the 6th annual Livestock Music Festival. It’s the calm before the beautiful commotion. All is good!  Before we officially step into summer, I have a couple stories I still want to share with you from our African adventure.

This is one of them.

When we arrived to the second village, we found the atmosphere to be different than the first. This location serves as the official World Vision office for the Lugbu community.

Unlike our first village experience very few villagers came to greet us initially, and the air felt somber. We later learned that a few days prior to our arrival, one of their own, a young twenty-something man had tragically died when he fell from a tree. His young wife carrying their first child was now a widow. The day we arrived was the day this village laid him to rest.

Sorrow spilled over. The grief was palpable.

But this man, Sheku Massaquoi and his 10 year old son Idisa, came from a different village. We were told that they traveled a great distance in order to meet us. Sheku has 7 children, but for this day he brought with him this treasured son.

Idisa is different. At an early age he contracted a fever (probably Yellow Fever) and the sickness caused his feet to become deformed. He is crippled and cannot walk. His father tells us that when his son became sick, “I was tormented and hurt. I was not happy…but, we did not lose hope. So long as there is life, there is hope.” As I sat right next to the boy and his father, I observed how deeply this father loved his son. I watched the boys heart beating wildly from his chest and I wondered about the impact of this moment on this boys life.

Even though the disability prevents Idisa from doing many of the same activities his brothers and sisters are doing, his health is good.


Two reasons:

1) Livestock- At first, the family received a female goat. Within a short time the goat reproduced and they were able to keep one goat (expanding their farm) and sell one goat in exchange for chickens. Within a short time the chickens began laying eggs. Not only were they able to diversify their families diet but they could sell the eggs too!

2) Investment- We many not think of livestock animals as an investment opportunity but whenever we take a risk by putting our hard earned money into something that has the potential to grow and flourish – we are investing.

Sheku is a wise man. He has taken your investment of a $75 goat and built a thriving livestock business in his own back yard. His entrepreneurial efforts have not only benefited the needs of his immediate family but he is helping to meet the needs of his surrounding neighbors. This single investment has increased the health of this families diet and provided additional income, which has allowed them to send their children to school.

Families in Sierra Leone are not all that different from American ones. They have hopes and dreams for their children just like we do. They want their children to be healthy and well fed. Then, they want them to receive a proper education. During our visit, we quickly learned that our investment of livestock animals is paving the way for an entire village of children.

Children who will one day become adults. Educated children who will be empowered by the resources given to them today to make a difference tomorrow.

It’s time to invest in stock that will pay eternal dividends.