Category Archives: The Mission

On Giving What You’ve Got

I did a photo shoot for COR the other day which was pretty exciting.  Since we first moved here I knew I’d love to have this chance someday.  I think photography is really important, but depending the direction you go with it can feel kind of like fluff.  Using it instead to expose issues or to bring beauty to someone who has suffered a lot of loss could be powerful and life changing.

When the development director first contacted me about taking pictures of COR’s programs, I was ecstatic.

The morning of the shoot I woke up feeling grim and just thinking getting dressed felt like a big deal. Work all day when I could be enjoying Steve’s day off with my family, lugging equipment, and working with difficult lighting situations didn’t sound very glamorous.

Worse, yet, I was filled with insecurity and wanted to do nothing besides burrow under the covers.  Why did I agree to do this? Now I’m feeling rough…how will I make it through the day? I don’t know if I have the skills. What if I don’t get the shots they need?  I don’t think I’m qualified for this.

There are many days when I am weak and timid and self-doubting, but God is strong and confident and secure. I want to learn to exchange my thoughts for His thoughts about me.

That morning I prayed that God would give me strength, got dressed and headed to the mission.  I got there a few minutes early and my brain was still racing with reasons that I was not cut out for this job. Mostly I was so afraid that I’d send in pictures that were sub-par.

Asking God to please give me a word, I reached for my Bible lying beside me and flipped it open. The story in front of me was the parable of the talents ending with the verse telling us that if we use the talents we have been given we’ll be given more talents, but if we don’t use what we’ve been given they will be taken away.

Doesn’t it just blow you away when God speaks so specifically to what you needed right in a moment??!  It gave me such a rush and  a feeling of protection to know that God knew how insecure I was feeling and gave me the encouragement I needed to hear.

I was praying as I walked inside that I would be faithful with the gifts He has given me and could find JOY in them.  Maybe I felt like I only had a little strength…but I would use that little bit of strength today as long as it lasted.  Maybe I felt I only had a little bit of skill…but I would use that little bit of skill for His glory.

It helped me remember that He would walk with me all day, that He would give me strength, that He was the one who had given me a creative eye and a mind for details and wanted me to do well.

The day went well.  It was hard work, but I was stronger than I expected I’d be. I had an assistant who helped me carry gear and set up lighting and who supported me in lots of ways.  There were situations that required flexibility and creativity, but God gave me ideas for how to work with them. Several people were angry with me for taking pictures, but God gave me peace (after some initial shakiness and more prayer) and I was able to keep moving forward.


Last evening I put together a small collection of photos to give to the development director and for the first time I realized that the pictures were solid.  What’s really great, is how  these pictures now feel like a gift from God.  They aren’t about my abilities, but the fact that He will use us and give abundance when we’re willing to use the small gifts we have been given.


Eden Village III


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Steve’s work at City of Refuge is the reason we moved to Atlanta and is such a central part of our life here.  Hopefully I can start representing it better here on the blog.  I’m not able to be at the mission much, but I’m slowly collecting pictures of the programs.

City of Refuge has so many great programs.  One of their main ministries is housing women and children.  Each of these units are an “Eden Village,” a place where everything a homeless woman needs can be provided.

Eden Village I houses mothers with children in hotel style rooms.  Eden Village II houses single women in an open dorm room.  Eden Village III is the placement center for the city of Atlanta and is featured here tonight.

There are many ministries in Atlanta serving the homeless community.  Each ministry has a unique set of focus, requirements, and maximum length of stay.  When a woman is on the streets, she can can come to the assessment center here where her needs are assessed and she is paired with a ministry that can best serve her and that has a space available.  Some places accept older children or only children up to a certain age.  Some ministries are available for helping women with psychological challenges.

When women are waiting for a space to open either at City of Refuge in Eden Villages I or II or at another ministry they can stay here in Eden Village III for up to four weeks.

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Some of you ladies from Abbeville will recognize a few of these quilts. :)

Standing at the entrance to this room is a moving experience.  There is a sense that the women here have so little and yet they have so much.  They have little privacy, not much space, few personal belongings–much less the extra pretty things we women love.  Think of what it might be like being a mom with a child who cries at night knowing that the cries might wake a dozen other people.

These women have so much, too. After being homeless a warm, soft bed, a shower, a safe place to stay, a place to sleep where they and their children won’t be woken and asked to move, knowing they will have food to eat at the next meal, having several feet of space that is “their own,” are valued.  Even better is having hope–knowing that help is available, that they will have a chance to get back on their feet.

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I stood looking at these rooms–two single beds pushed together to create a bed big enough for a mama to share with her babies, at the neat rows of little shoes, at the boxes of diapers and the baby food jars–a mini home all a part of home shared with so many other women. and thought of all the things they don’t have that I take for granted.  It looked like so little. I said to myself, “Some woman is thankful for this tonight.”

It’s seriously convicting because who of us hasn’t dealt with discontentment that someone else can buy nice things for their house that we can’t afford or just a little jealous that someone else has their mom and sisters close by for friendship and support? Sometimes I feel like I don’t have much, but standing in that room made me feel so rich.  Even tonight I glance up and see so many things around me that these women are missing–lamps for soft lighting, rows of books, toys, throw pillows in colors that I chose because I liked them, space, a candle.   Yes we are so very, very blessed and spoiled and thankful.

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The women who sleep here are strong women who have made tough choices. Survivors.


All I have needed

Thy hand has provided.

A Weekend Run

It seems runners may enjoy telling their running stories the way mothers like telling birth stories.  There is the preparation stage, the apprehension, the confidence, The Main Event with it’s painful battles and moments of easier breathing. Then, finally, there is the exhilaration of crossing the finish line with the support and congratulations of friends creating music for a weary body.  Here’s the story of my first 5K.

The Refuge Run was the first of what will hopefully become an annual tradition for the City of Refuge.  This year we were raising funds to buy desks and furniture for the new educational facility.  [If you would like to contribute, you can do so here.]

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Friday evening I went for my last practice run.  It was a good run–one of those times the running didn’t feel so hard and I could enjoy parts of it.  I forgot to check the clock when I started, but I know it wasn’t my fastest time.  I was at peace with running on Saturday–knowing I would come in toward the end, but also knowing I had put forth my best effort.

The true measure of a runner

isn’t in time, but rather

in the effort it took along the way.

Jenny Hadfield

I was a little concerned about the whole eating in the morning thing.  I know my body needs food in the morning or it won’t function.  On the flip side I didn’t want to eat too much and confuse my body as to whether it should work on digestion or running.  I planned to get up early to eat a banana and peanut butter then give it plenty of time to settle.  I had been drinking lots of water that week in preparation.

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My friend Rahel and her mother

Friday night we went to bed early thinking we were getting a really long night.  Then Paxton woke around 3:30 and I didn’t get back to sleep until close to 6:00.  Because of that I ended up sleeping later than I planned, but I still ate about an hour before the race start time.

I was feeling pretty calm before the race, and glad the route runs through the familiar territory of our neighborhood.

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The cutest running shoes at the race

Saturday, unfortunately, was one of the days when I was not really feeling all that strong.  I shoved it aside until we were doing warm up exercise with Back on My Feet.  Within minutes I was getting very lightheaded–so disappointing and frustrating.  Steve prayed for me, and I promised him not to push myself beyond what I could handle.

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Steve and I after the race

The race started, and off we went  I didn’t get the adrenaline rush most people talk about.  It all felt very much like typical runs.  Some days the running is easier and some days it feels hard.  This was one of those days it was tough most of the way through.  Overall it went pretty well, though.  There was the funny moment when the train crossed right through our route!

Our neighborhood has some inconveniences, yet we keep running! –Photo and text credit: Phil Swanson

In the second mile my left leg started cramping.  It had never happened before, so I wasn’t sure if I should pause to stretch it or keep running.  I kept running and after awhile my entire left foot was tingling!  Otherwise everything went pretty much as it normally did–mostly running and some walking up hills.  (We had some steep hills on our route!  Steve overheard some of the guys who run a lot remark that it was a tough route.)

Steve ran his best time, yet.

When I got to the last half mile I knew it was mostly downhill.  I decided to run the whole way even if I would pay for it.  I wanted to sprint to cut down my time a little, but I really didn’t have it in me.

I came huffing in and my friend Rahel snapped a photo of me.


I think she Photoshopped it, though.  Because I’m smiling on this one even though I’m pretty sure I looked a whole lot more like this (minus the facial hair):

Was I ever, ever, ever happy to see that finish line, and I even reached my goal. I had been hoping to come in under 40 minutes, and I did!  My time was just a little over 39 minutes.

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I very nearly keeled over as soon as I quit, though.  I ran over to the side to find a place to lean onto.  Steve brought me some water, and I just sat on the ground for a few minutes until I could function again.  I was completely whipped, but also very happy.

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Delicious, warm, chocolate chip cookies by 180 Kitchen

It did feel really amazing to know I had accomplished something that took so much training and hard work.  It also felt pretty awesome to look at a group of runners and to know I was one of them.

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Awards Ceremony

Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves.

It teaches us to push beyond

where we thought we could go. It helps

us to find out what we are made of.

This is what we do.

PattiSue Plumer

To look back to January when I wondered if it would take me an hour…to February when I wondered if I would have to give it up because I was getting lightheaded so often…to March when I kept trying to build up endurance…to April when I fought the mental battle of being okay with the best I could do…and then to come to race day and accomplish that goal–yeah, that is something worth working for.

I want to keep working at running stronger and building endurance.  I really need another goal to work toward….Anyone want to sign up for a race and be my accountability partner? =)  I just told you how weak I’ve been.  Trust me–if I can do this you can, too!

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My friend Jordan and I
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Jordan’s sweet baby girl who was in her first 5K as well!

After the race the boys and I hung out with Steve while he worked a few hours.  In the evening we were back for the People’s Truck preview.

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The People’s food truck will soon be serving Atlanta their delicious food.  Each meal sold will help fund meals City of Refuge serves to the homeless.  You can see more photos here: People’s Food Truck.

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Learning to Run

For quite awhile I had known that I NEEDED to get more serious about exercise.  When I got my health plan with an order for 30 min. of daily exercise and the mission announced a 5K about the same time, I had an incentive and a goal.

It took me a month before I admitted to anyone besides Steve that I was going to run a 5K because ha-ha-ha the thought of me running a little over three miles was just, well, laughable.

It was winter, then, and Steve and Christy do not run in the cold.  And when I say cold I mean 30’s and 40’s.  (Now you know how tough we are.  To our credit: we complain about heat hardly ever) Lucky for us, the mission has a weight room which ended up being a perfect way to get started.  We hit the treadmills every other day, and the boys had space to play in the room with us or the adjacent gym. Often there were even basketball or soccer games to watch.

At first I just tried to get my one mile finished a little faster.  Then I inched my way to two miles and then finally to three.  The day I finally ran longer than I walked was a huge milestone.  Since then I have kept shaving a few seconds off my time, but wow this has been hard work!!!

At first I kept almost blacking out when I ran for a couple of minutes.  I would be holding  the treadmill to keep from falling!  It was so confusing because I often heard people say that you need to push yourself harder and you need to keep going even when you feel like you can’t; yet when I pushed myself I got to a place where I couldn’t keep going.  I finally learned that I needed to accept the limitations of my body now, slow down, and take baby steps.

You know what is really tough?  Not being the best.  Well, not only not being the best, but not being good at something. And even though I feel so good about how far I’ve come, that is still the battle I’m fighting now.  Because I have worked so hard, and I am still slower than slow.

I told someone that I’ve hit a wall and I’m afraid I can’t do it.  She said, “Well, you know you can always slow down and walk for a while.”  Right….but see that’s still part of my routine.  I can’t even get close to running the whole time. :(  I’ve had a couple of really good days, but I often still get light headed (not so badly that I nearly fall over, so don’t freak out.  Just enough that I have to stop running and really hold it together.)

Tonight I ran (Okay, ran/walked do you have to ask?) the route and had a rough night.  I’d had a smoothie and hour earlier, and now I know not to do that before the race.  Woah, that did not sit well. At all.  I’m feeling kind of bummed because it ended up taking longer than 40 minutes since I got light headed more often again and had to walk for longer than normal–not to mention nearly vomiting a couple of times.

But…now that I’m writing this, and think that my mom (or my doctor, or some other friends) will probably suggest I walk more so that I don’t get light headed, I realize I really want to run.  And that feels great. It is awesome to sometimes look forward to running.

And it’s pretty great to have accomplished this much in a few months.  To go from living listlessly to running most of three miles is pretty great. Did I just use great in each of the last three sentences?  Yes, I think I did.  But all of this is pretty great, don’t you think?

So the run is this Saturday and I’m partially typing out all of this to help myself snap out of my discouragement.  I need to be reminded that finishing is good, that I don’t need to be an awesomely fast runner, and that it’s okay to be competing with the walkers instead of the fastest runners.

If you’re feeling up to a 5K this weekend, you can still register for the Refuge Run here.  If you would like to lope along beside me, that would be especially awesome.

Bright Futures

CoR-Bright Futures--0092  Bright Futures is a Christian academy for middle school and high school students in our area.  For the past few years they have been using a space at City of Refuge for their classrooms.  The first year we lived here Steve built two classroom for CoR’s afterschool program which were then also used by Bright Futures.

Recently generous donations allowed City of Refuge to expand the school area in their empty warehouse space.  We are all so excited!

The academy and many donors were invited to a special dinner and ground breaking ceremony.  I was privileged to photograph the event, so I’ll share a few pictures with you.

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The staff provides excellent service:

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Part of the staff at the amazing 180 Degree Kitchen:

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Guests and students interacting before the meal:

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A delicious meal beautifully presented:

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Guests of Honor:

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Bruce, the CoR director, describing the story and vision of the mission:

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Heading over to the new school location:

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One of the high school students giving a speech:


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The students were holding up signs marking the location of each classroom, the library, cafeteria, etc.CoR-Bright Futures--0082

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A student, the after school programs director, and the youth pastor:CoR-Bright Futures--0103

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Several teachers and students from Bright Futures:

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