Maddie's Birthday Celebrations

This was a post I started on July 22nd, the evening of Maddie's birthday ...

What a happy, HAPPY day.

Busy, most definitely.

Joy-filled. Absolutely.

The first words out of Maddie's mouth this morning when she woke me up were "Mommy, I love the decorations on my door. Thank you!" {Melt.My.Heart.}

Maddie and 10 friends filled our home with lots of fun, loud, happy birthday noise this afternoon. This was Maddie's first real "friend birthday" where she got to pick friends that she wanted to party with.

So they piled in.

They danced to VBS music.

They "pearl-beaded" and "beaded jewelry".

and "decorated cupcakes"

and generally just acted silly and fun.

So here are some things I learned today.

1. Don't ever try to "run" a friend party without another adult pair of hands to help. Before the party started I thought, "Ahhh, no big deal. Just some crafts and some cupcake decorating. I can handle it." And then, about 20 minutes into the "make-your-own-bead-bracelets/necklaces/anklets" I realized that I should have taken up some of those offers to help. Next time.

2. Watching your daughter in her element is a really, REALLY sweet thing to watch.

3. Silly is good. Very good. {Even if it is rather loud.}

4. You don't have to spend a tonne of money on birthday parties to make them fun for kids. Hallelujah for old-fashioned [cup]cake and ice cream parties.

5. Sharing a smile and showing some interest and remembering names goes a long, LONG way. {See below for explanation on that one.}

Part of Maddie's party -- the decorating their own cupcakes part -- was designed so that after the party, Maddie, Jackson, Jack and I could head down to a homeless shelter to give away all the extra cupcakes. To share our surplus with those that lack. {That's a story in and of itself.}

And as we pulled away from the shelter, after spending 2 hours with these homeless ladies, one of the first things Maddie said was this: "My favorite part about my birthday was coming to visit the homeless ladies and bringing them cupcakes." {Ya, that made me cry, too.}

When we arrived at Breakthrough Urban Ministries women's shelter,

we walked in and within seconds they were welcoming us, just so glad we came to share Maddie's birthday with them. In fact, they started saying, as they saw Maddie, "Well is this the birthday girl?" And they broke into the happiest rendition of Happy Birthday I've heard in a long, long time. They were tickled that they got to have cupcakes. They were tickled to have visitors. They wanted to talk and share their stories. I suppose it just felt good for people to show interest in them.

We met the neatest ladies and were thoroughly impressed with the impact that Breakthrough Urban Ministries is having on the west side of Chicago. I want to introduce you to a couple of sweet ladies we met ... here's their story.

Chris and Teresa, both homeless and living at the women's shelter for the last several months, found that they had a common interest in sewing and creating. We found them sitting at a table, busily sewing together jean drawstring backpacks that were very cute. As we talked, Teresa kept holding up a backpack saying, "Sweetie, this is our ticket outta here. We don't want to be homeless. This is how we can get outta here." They have set up an ETSY account [go check it out}, they have set up PayPal, they are making backpacks ... they are hard working and industrious and as I heard their story I cried. {I know, this is so not shocking. You know me well enough by now to know that tears were coming.}

As I cried Chris got up and gave me the biggest hug and said, "It's okay. We're gonna make it." And I said, "Ya, I know you will. I'm not crying sad tears, these are inspired tears. You're an inspiration to me and I am SO proud of you!"

And here's a cool God thing. So remember when I went to Texas in June. Well, we stopped at my Aunt Kitty's home along the way and she had this HUGE bag of really nice material that she gave to me to either use, or pass along to a friend who could use it. I had planned to offer it to my friend Julie but just hadn't gotten around to it yet, and when we were visiting that night I said to the ladies, "The kids and I will be back next week with a huge bag of material for the lining of your backpacks. It's meant for you to have."

And so we did. We went back the next week and this time got to go to the men's shelter, where there is a separate room for Chris and Teresa to sew. Two sewing machines were donated to them, and they have a closet where they can lock things up so they don't have to carry them back and forth between the shelters. Their room connects with the computer lab where they can upload pictures of their backpacks and manage their ETSY account.

When we arrived, Teresa did what Maddie coined as the "Happy Dance." She twirled around and jumped up and down and just leaped up and hugged us and said, "You came back!" and they were both so excited to have more material to work with. They were so thankful and appreciative.

And it all started simply because Aunt Kitty gave out of the surplus she was given. How cool is that?!

They needed a model to show their backpacks so Maddie had her debut photo shoot out in the Serenity Garden at Breakthrough.

And as we drove away, I was struck, yet again, at how truly easy it is to see a need and then give toward that need. Do you think it was just coincidence that Aunt Kitty gave me that beautiful material and that I even said I'd take it {if you know me at all you know I don't like clutter and I almost said no to the material because it would be one more thing in my house, but then thought I could give it away so that's why I took it in the first place}. We had a super busy week that week. I mean really busy; probably the busiest week I had had in 6 months. So the easy thing would have been to say, "Ahh, I'll bring the material to them when we get back from Canada." And then, you know how it goes. Life happens. Weeks turn into months and before long we've missed the opportunity.

I hope my eyes will always be open to see the needs that God puts before me, and that I would have the courage and determination to follow-through with meeting those needs that the Holy Spirit prompts me to meet.

I share this not to toot our own horns - because I so do NOT want it to be about that. In fact, I will stop blogging immediately if that's the impression that is given. It is so NOT about us. Rather, I share it so that you might get inspired to just keep your eyes open and look around for opportunities to give and serve and love on others... and share what you've been given. Back to that Intentional Living thing. I want you to walk away and think, "Wow, if they can do it, we can do it. So let's go do it."

Oh, and if you're interested in donating some jeans or material or thread, etc., I'll be going back down in the next couple of weeks and would be happy to bring your stuff, too. They would love to have kids jeans, to be able to do smaller backpacks, and would welcome anything at all.

And stay tuned for other opportunities to help, too. The cool thing about this women's shelter is that each evening meal is prepared by volunteers and they allow kids to come, too. SO, I'm planning to organize some outings to the shelter to cook/clean/visit/serve these beautiful ladies. I hope you'll join us.


amywb said…
This is incredible, Alysa. Just awesome!

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