God Exists

First.

I have to tell you a little story. Completely true.

I am in the Holy Land. We are handing out wheelchairs and eyeglasses. I am running around, taking pictures, sewing vinyl wheelchair footrests, counting rolls of velcro for inventory and sorting gifts for gift bags for our local volunteers for the end of the week.

I am the pop-fly shagger. The gopher. The water boy girl for the team.

I don’t mind. I’m happy and humble to do it. I have no idea what I’m doing, but as with improv, you simply accept what someone says and build on it.

“Martha, will you…?”

YES! Would you like fries with that???

I was not perfectly humble. Sometimes I grumbled. But then I would just pout in private, pray and move on when I could smile again. In the Holy Land, my butt-hurt recovery period was very short. Thank God! That 4:30 AM call to prayer came early and loudly. Right into my hotel room from the neighboring mosque. Punctuating the snores of my roommate. I would say my own prayers when I woke to those pre-dawn mournful meditations. I prayed. A lot. All day. For everything. Trying to incorporate that into this American life.

It also helped that I was witnessing miracles on a daily basis. Here’s just one. A tiny miracle that sows seeds of faith.


I was mostly in the wheelchair clinic. We were in a very large community center divided into two sections by a beautiful, dark red tapestry. The wheelchair clinic was about 2/3 of the space and the eyeglass clinic was on the other side of the curtain. Because I was helping with the sewing/upholstery department, I didn’t see but a few glimpses of the eyeglass clinic. I took many pictures, but I didn’t get to know the volunteers or patients very well.

They had a young man helping during the week with eyeglass distribution. He was a local tween or teen. Maybe 11, maybe as old as 13 or 14, I’m bad at carnival-guessing anyone’s age under 18, especially boys. I didn’t really notice him until the final two days.

Before the banquet on Friday, we were cleaning up the facility, putting things away, packing up our gear and returning the space to the condition we found it. Perhaps even cleaner!

I had brought several kid-centered trinkets from my home in the States. We had received an email before the trip about all the families and children that come to the clinics and how they might appreciate games, more interaction, activities and attention. I decided to pack a few things that my daughter didn’t want, we couldn’t use or that were cluttering our overfilled home. Things that kids would love. Stuff for bracelets. Pins for older kids. And a pair of neon sunglasses that were given to us. No one in my family wanted them and they were cool, but a little too…bright for us. ๐Ÿ™‚ Perfectly good pair of sunglasses.

Well. They were sitting on our small utility table Friday as we were packing up. I never found a kid to give them to. They just sat all week. I looked at the sunglasses. I looked at my overfilled bag of cameras, computer and sewing accoutrements. Looked around the room and saw Swoopy-bangs Kid.

He had curly bangs. A little too long. Swooped to the side. Cool.

Maybe he wants these shades.

As I walked over to Swoopy-bangs, I had a sudden, slight sinking feeling of “do kids still like things like neon sunglasses? Am I the dorky old lady who offers the nerdy object to the cool kid and is totally oblivious to my own ridiculousness?”

Just ask.

“Hey man, do you want these sunglasses?” in as cool a voice as this 45-year old white lady could muster.

He looked surprised. I couldn’t tell if it was disgusted or thankful surprise, so there was an awkward pause.

He asked with a slight accent, “Who are these for?”

I pointed to him. “You! If you want them.”

He cracked a broken smile, averted his eyes sheepishly and heartily accepted them. Phew! Yay!

Sunglasses given! Smile achieved! Backpack and heart loaded for bear. Cool status confirmed.

What I didn’t know until later that night at the banquet…

Final banquet. Dinner. Speeches. Pats on the back. Gift bags!

Can I just say? As the Gift Bag Coordinator for 2019 Holy Land Trip, stop giving gift bags!

Or, buy one thing and give it. Don’t weigh down your luggage from America, burn jet fuel to get it there and then make some hapless pop-fly shagger distribute your American trash. I mean–Merry Christmas.

Fine. Praying over here.

Gift-bag giving was hell. Not one person was happy with the way I distributed gifts to the local translators. I relinquish my duties as the Gift Bag Chairman for 2019 and may all future gift-giving souvenirs burn on the Gehenna piles of Jerusalem. Ahem. Sorry. I’m still bitter. Still praying.

Anyway. Let us not dwell. LOL

Before the gift-bag portion of our evening, one of the directors of the clinics summoned me. “Martha, do you have an extra bag for this guy?” The director pointed to Swoopy-bangs.

Crap!

“No. I’m sorry. If I didn’t have his name before tonight, I didn’t prepare a bag.”

This had become my script. Before Eyeglass Director had asked this specific question, I had been bombarded with questions over the gifts all week.

Did you get this person on your list?
Do you have an extra bag?
Did you put my souvenir in my translator’s bag?
When are we handing out the bags?
Did you get the tea bags I brought?

Can we hand out the bags:
Before?
After?
During?
In front of…?
Can I be in charge of my bag?

Gah!

*In the voice of Pontius Pilate* I wash my hands of this.

The spirit of Christmas was truly lost on this night for me (it was Christmastime for this part of the world). People were obsessed. It was not a very Christ-like environment and I really had to pray hard. Not judge these Americans for their entitled, demanding, materialistic behavior. I made it through the night. Dinged and daunted, but not broken.

But to refuse Eyeglass Director yet another time, I started to feel defeated. He immediately dismissed his last-minute request and understood my frustration. “Nevermind. He just really helped us out. It’s fine.” I felt bad though because I really liked Swoopy-bangs. We only shared a few words, but he seemed appreciative of such a simple thing like the glasses I handed him. Gratefulness, in anyone, is something I admire and appreciate.

Later on that evening, I was relaying my frustrations to a new friend. We sat at different tables that night, based on our clinic service assignment. So when we got to talk after dinner, she asked how my night was going. We had become fast friends, despite our age difference and geographic extremes. (We live on opposite coasts!)

I told her I felt bad about the kid. “I didn’t have a gift for him. Did I miss his name at the beginning of the week?” She was in the eyeglass clinic, so I thought she might know more.

“That kid?” She pointed to Swoopy-bangs. “Don’t worry. He was there part of the time and he was helpful, but it’s fine. I think (Eyeglass Director) felt bad because the kid wanted a pair of sunglasses from the eyeglass clinic and he didn’t have enough.”

WHAT?!

“That kid wanted sunglasses???” I asked. I was dumbfounded.

“Yeah. It’s no big deal. We just didn’t have enough and he seemed disappointed, but it’s fine.”

“No! You don’t understand. I just gave that kid sunglasses before we came to this restaurant. I had no idea.” I was shocked. Humbled. I just kept repeating, softly. “I had no idea.”

I wanted to run over to that kid and hug him. Throw my arms around his neck and scream “Hallelujah!” But I just sat quietly with shiny eyes pooling with tears and the overwhelming knowledge that God had orchestrated all those tiny, tender moments.

Giving me some pair of neon glasses.
Packing them in my overstuffed suitcase.
Traveling halfway around the world.
Preparing hearts.
Creating desire for sunglasses.
Fulfilling wants.
Planting seeds.
Watering my desperate heart with words from my new friend.

God whispers small urgings to our overwhelmed hearts on a daily basis and we usually drown out his pleas with doubt and busy-ness. But this time, because I was tuned to his grace, alone in a foreign country, relying completely on his protection and will, praying my keister off, I took a small risk and the dividend was immense.

There were so many miracles on this trip of people served. This is just one, tiny example of God at work. But this is a reminder to me. God exists and he knows the number of hairs on your head. In the middle of our struggle, pain, ramblings, writhing, he cares. He is at work. And he cares about a boy, on the other side of the planet, and where that boy will go. Who he will touch. Whether seeds are planted in his brain of kindness and love and providence. And if his eyes are protected and stylish. ๐Ÿ™‚

Luke 12:22-27 NASB

…โ€œFor this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23ย For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24ย Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25ย And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeโ€™s span? 26ย If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27ย Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.


As I was writing this, knee-deep in word construction and heart-pouring, my computer shut down, unexpectedly. Nothing was lost. Everything was saved. Thank you, God. Thank you, WordPress. Thank you, AutoSave. God exists.

If kind, loving people exist, then God exists. If the watch is designed, the Watchmaker designs.

 

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Jerusalem!

Here I am. Last night in the Holy Land. The old city of Jerusalem behind me. Just came out of the Jaffa Gate. So pretty at night. I was so sick in this shot, but so happy to have hoofed all over Jerusalem. I’m about to hop on the all-night flight home. Thanks, Roomie, for the pic!

martha in israel
Me, with my Dr. Who backpack that everyone asked me about. lol

 

What do you do??

So, while I was winding up my trip in the Holy Land, I got sick. Really sick. And I’m just now getting over it. It has made my traveling and life-re-entering difficult! Finally feeling better. But. While I was sick at the hotel for two days, I found time to interview myself about my role overseas. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s supposed to be funny!

Heart is a Gypsy

Perfume and spices on the air as I wait in the string-lighted courtyard of our final banquet dinner. There are fires burning in the metal stand welcoming street strays. The smoke in my clothes and tearing eyes might as well be from sycamore limbs back home in Missouri. My heart is full and oh-so heavy knowing I might not see my new friends ever again. Wishing farewells and whispering fevered fantasies about moving across the globe to adopt new customs, cuisines and children. This could be my home. My heart is a gypsy. A Native American warrior heart nomadic as a tornado.

My heart so fragile. Powerful. Chaotic. Ready to rope out and lose its whirl at any moment. Yet overeager to jump and pump arteries-first into strange territory of emotion and relationship.

What to do with all this feeling? Love? Raw force of nature?

I love this country. I love these people.

Purple Balloon Boy.
Yellow Chair Girl.
Red-nose Rudy.
Pink-Jacket Joy.

I hope to share eternity with you, Friends. Stay with God and send Him with me and we shall meet again on different, distant shores. Still bright and glistening.

I saw a young girl in a hot-pink jacket take her first steps with the help of a pediatric walker. She strolled straight through our hearts with smiles and laughter into the outstretched hands of her own mother’s love. I got to see what love can do.

Physical therapists seating kids who need wheelchairs. Nurses treating gunshot wounds. Kind people ready to laugh and bring joy, handing out glasses.

Make the sick well. Give sight to the blind. Bind wounds. And make the lame walk to mother’s waiting arms. Miracles. In the land where Jesus walked.

Love did that. Love changed their world. My world. THE world.

“For God so loved the world…”

Please let me see this place again. Please let me feel this love again. This beautiful lump in my throat. Jumping unrestrained from my lashes. Down my cheeks in rolling, fat tears.

Don’t let me pass from this valley without your love, God.
How do I take this with me?

my prayers are

for i am gentle

103

sink stones

yellow chair angled

Good Advice

Some of the best advice I ever heard was indirectly. That’s the best kind. Simply an illustration, manifestation, of good sense. Or proverbial wisdom. Sharing an overlooked or misunderstood or obscure nugget without harsh or pointed intent.

It came through our friends, Richard and Tracy Potter. Haven’t seen or talked to them in quite a while. I hope Richard sees this and nods.

Their child had a tough choice. A good, tough choice. Go to a local prestigious university or halfway across state? The child was bright, talented and earned her way to either school. The differences in benefits of each school were minute. It was pretty much an equal choice aside from distance. So they asked this incredibly bright child, with no other information to weigh, “Which choice will make you more dependent on God?”

Woah.

I didn’t even think to ask that. My question would have been, “Which one’s easier?” My question for my daughter? No question. You’re living with Mommie until you’re 37. LOL

But this is the question, the one they asked of their girl, we should be asking of our children, of our spouses, our family, ourselves. What choice is going to make me focus on God the most?

I have to say, I feel somewhat guilty, leaving on a missions trip. I’m going to help others, but those motherly/wifey twinges of paranoia-guilt tug at my emotional heart. Will they survive without me? Will things, bodies, hearts be the same when I come back in two weeks? Will they feel forsaken?

But when I ask the Potters’ question, “What will make us depend most on God?” Going to Israel will bring all of us to the foot of the cross. Lilli will have to pray more. Guy will have to ask for help. They will have to seek each other for comfort and necessity. I will be completely alone emotionally and have to turn to God through all of it. That’s a good place to be.

I’m sure our family does much codepending all too often. We can’t help it. We like each other.

So I guess going is okay. I don’t have to feel guilty. I just have to trust God. And talk to him. Lift my family up to him. Make room to grow.


Good news! I’m going! I reached my immediate goal of $500 and then some. Thanks to all who helped. Now I will tackle those big Venetian fish and ask local churches if they have any discretionary mission funds. Pray, if you’re the praying kind. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or give if you can.

This World Is Not My Home

This World Is Not My Home (Statler Bros version!)
gospel song by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home
I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world any more


This was a song at my dad’s funeral. A friend played it on guitar live at the funeral home. I still love it. At the time it meant, my dad’s journey was over and he gets to go home. That was hope. It means something different now though. But still hope.

I don’t feel at home in this world. I have taken the red pill and I’m awake. I’ve been flushed out of my Matrix pod and I want to go back. Except. I can’t. After having been convinced of the need I see around the world, I can’t sit at home any more. I have to serve in some way. I can’t complain about injustice, I have to change it.

I give to the needy. Except I don’t tell you every time I do because you’re not supposed to, right? I buy or try to buy homeless guys tacos. I donate my very expensive bike to charity so that they can fix it up and sell it to benefit homeless vets. I give where I can. I give to local theaters. I volunteer my time at the local community theatre when they need hands. I am kind to children, small animals and jerks. I take care of neighbor dogs when the family goes to Disney World or to the opera (yes, I said the opera, I can’t pick neighbors’ activities). I remind myself to be patient when I’m stuck behind Grandpa Trumpsticker. I treat old people with dignity and kindness and slow down to remember their gifts. I open my eyes to those around me.

I walked into an assisted living facility one day to collect labs. I was walking down a long narrow, winding passageway and I heard the most beautiful piano music waving through the hall. I couldn’t tell if it was a fancy player piano in the lobby or an actual pianist. As I saw the piano and the old woman sitting at it, I was filled with emotion.

As I passed her, I said, “That is beautiful. Thank you.” And her face was shining from droopy lobe to droopy lobe. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was, “I hear you. You’re beautiful. Thank you. Keep going!”

I had a job to do. I couldn’t stop and talk with her. But I wanted to.

I see you, Grandma. I see you. I long for the day that I can sit and watch you. Listen to you. Love you. Wait on you.

I have to love others. I have to provide for need when I see it. I have to reach out for poor people, dirty people, hard-to-love people who are entitled and snippy. I have to call out beauty when I see it. I have to love my enemies because if I can’t do that, God can have no part of me. I can have no part of him. I must live by grace.

Jesus loves us. Even when we don’t deserve it. Because we never deserve it. We mess up all the time and constantly need forgiveness. He has told us to go and love the people of the world and help where we can. To show his spirit.

“The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.” But they are beckoning me to help now. Here. In this place. On this earth. To love the hardest to love.

That’s why I’m going to Israel. I am convinced of the need. I hope you will be, too.

GAiN for Martha Maggio


Many people of different ethnicity and faiths will benefit by the support provided. I am serving at a wheelchair and eyeglass clinic in several different ways. Please consider giving.

Mission From God

Blues Brothers: On a Mission From God

I have just been accepted to go on a mission. I am going to the Holy Land in January. Because it’s an area with delicate political issues and potential risks, I have been asked to only say the very general region. I can tell you the people we’ll be serving are in need.

We will be serving at wheelchair and vision clinics. Please click on the link below if you want to know more or can donate:

Help me go on my MISSION!

Here are the tiers at which you can donate:


1-Shout out! I will tag you on Facebook or WordPress and thank you personally for any donation of $5 or less.

2-Reblog! I will reblog your favorite or most recent post on my site! Or, if you don’t write at WordPress, I’ll post your favorite article or excerpt. I’ll even write a personal introduction and tag your blog for my 400+ followers for any donation of $10.

3-Reading materials! Signed manuscript of any of my online Amazon publications (Present Tense, Updo, House Full of Hope), your choice, with a personal note of thanks, plus all of the previous rewards for any donation of $25.

4-Double reading materials! 2 signed manuscripts, your choice, personal note of thanks, plus the first two rewards for any donation of $50.

5-Pictures! Full color bound picture album of my mission (from Shutterfly), plus the previous rewards (1, 2 and 4) for any donation of $100 or more!

Thank you in advance for just reading about my trip and learning more about GAiN!

You may ask yourself, “Why, Martha, are you going halfway around the world, burning jet fuel, to aid others in a difficult country? Why not help at home?”

Good question.

This has been something I’ve been taught my whole life. Support missions, go out and teach the world about Jesus, go on missions, spread the Word. And I used to assume what that meant–convert the world to Christianity.

I’ve come to understand it’s more complex than that. What the Bible shares, what the Bible teaches Christians, is slightly more nuanced than just “make others submit.”

If we teach? How do we teach? By showing.

If we love? How do we love? By acting.

We don’t win hearts by conquering, punishing, extorting. We show God’s love through acceptance, kindness, tolerance. By example. We do what Christ did. We heal. We live small. We show humility. We are meek. We take care of our speech and actions. Mainly because–if we act nice, if we act lovely, won’t others want to be the same and be close and find out more? Won’t they want to know why we act this way? Won’t they want to know Christ in the same way? They cannot deny Christ if they see him in us. Even if not, then we have still served as we are commanded.

We serve. We serve the least of these to show that we live what we believe. We show Christ by doing the things he did. By loving the people he loved. By going where he went. By washing the feet of the least deserving to be washed. Because who on Earth deserves to be cleansed?

I will admit, I want to see the places where Christ walked. But I also want to serve where he served. Die to myself where he died. Continue in service in His Spirit as we are asked to do. I want to touch those walls and earth and stones that he touched. But I also want to touch the souls of those he reached for.

When people look at me, I want them to see Christ and his love. His smile. His care. His heart.

That’s why I’m going. Plus. That plane is going, with or without me. Why not be on it? Time to do good in the world.

This is not a luxury vacation and people go to the Riviera every day. This will be work. Hard work, long days and a risky environment. But God has rebuilt this temple of mine. I’m ready to put it to use.

I’ve thought about crowdfunding before. Especially when I faced my very expensive medical debt, but I paid most of my surgeries through savings or one bill at a time. It was tough. I spent thousands of dollars, but I made it through without crowdfunding. Most Americans can’t do that with rising healthcare costs.

I will need your help to make this goal. That’s tough for me. To ask for help. But this is exactly what Christ has called us to do. Help each other. Please help me help those in need! If you can. I will go in your place even if you only have $1 to give. If you have nothing, that’s ok! I totally get it.

Thanks for any help. Truly. I need to raise at least $500 in the next ten days to go (to reserve my spot), but the total goal will be ~$3500!

GAiN for Martha Maggio