by Erin MacPherson
photo by Molly Burpo
It was just some flowers that broke down barriers.
Okay, not just some flowers. Big bunches of beautiful peonies and striped roses—nicer than most people's wedding flowers—nested in gold vases. And not just a bouquet or two, but an entire room full of blooms, spread on every table, covering every nook, spilling out onto the patio, making the room feel like a secret garden. It was extravagant. And beautiful. And so far beyond what anyone expected that hearts were moved in a big way.
It all started with a single, pregnant mom. A girl who had bounced from foster home to foster home for her entire life, a girl who had been raped, beaten, abandoned and who was sleeping next to the river on cold, rainy January nights, eating whatever she could find, not sure where to turn, not sure where to go.
She claimed she had no one. No one to catch her when she fell, no one to provide a warm couch to sleep on, no one to split a plate of tacos with her while she cried on their shoulder.
But she was wrong.
She had someone. She had a God who loved her deeply, who was moving mountains for her even as she lived in a dark, lonely valley.
A God who within days would provide not only a safe place to live and food on the table, but also the friends who would become the family she had never had, counseling to help her work through the pain of her past, the support structure she desperately needed and a roomful of extravagant flowers to celebrate the beautiful life growing within her.
God certainly provided just what she needed.
And then He went far beyond that, revealing His true character by revealing a beautiful, extravagant, never-give-up, never-let-go love. For this lonely, once-abandoned, once-forgotten pregnant mom, this extravagant love came in the form of a baby shower hosted by Austin Angels, an organization that supports foster children.
It started with the flowers, donated by a florist who wanted to show that girl that she was worth the indulgence of fresh, beautiful flowers. It continued as people—kind-hearted, but loving strangers—entered the room one-by-one with huge, brightly wrapped packages. Cribs and changing tables. Strollers and car seats. Tiny onesies and embroidered blankets. Hand-knitted hats and tiny booties. Everything this tiny baby needed, provided. Then came cupcakes and a beautiful array of food, lemonade and a hilarious game, and then a young woman—a college student--laid hands on her back and prayed a powerful prayer for the woman that she had just met.
A prayer that cycles would be broken.
A prayer that love would win.
A heartfelt request that this baby would be the one to change everything, that His kingdom, His love would be revealed on a daily basis through this tiny child, and that never again would this lonely, single mom feel the pain and rejection of being without a family, without a safe place to fall.
Tears were shed. Hearts were lifted. And love was spread.
And had that moment been the end of this story, it would have been a beautiful example about hope and reconciliation and the extravagant love that our Creator has given to each of us.
But this story doesn't end here.
Because photos of those flowers were shared on Facebook.
And people noticed. And not just the people who attended the shower, people those who gave so selflessly, people who loved so readily. But other people. People who don't know God's love at all.
The woman, a self-proclaimed atheist who asked if we knew that we were throwing a baby shower for a baby was being born outside of wedlock. She said, "wouldn't the church want you to ask her to repent of her sins and turn away from her sins? Did they know about this when they decided to throw her a baby shower?"
Or the man who hadn't set foot in a church since the day when he, as a teenager, was rejected as a sinner. He said, "I've never seen anything like that before. In a place where I would have only expected judgment, there was instead love. Very different from the church I grew up in."
Words flowed that caused us to pause, to contemplate the power of God's love.
It's so multi-faceted, far-reaching, heart-changing. By being the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need it most, we are not only helping the widows and the orphans, those who have been abandoned, who are alone and with nowhere to turn. But we are also touching those who we would least expect to touch-- those who have never seen Christ's love in action in a meaningful way, those who have rejected Him as a loving God.
By showing that we are just the opposite of the judgmental, hypocritical church that we often see in the media, a snowball effect begins to take shape. By serving the pregnant mom who is alone, or the foster child who has no one else, or homeless man who has no shoes to wear on a cold night, we are touching those souls with God's love, of course. But that's not all. We are also reaching those cold, hard hearts who want nothing to do with His Kingdom.
ANC Stories - a collection of real-life stories from the Austin New Church community; and outpouring of lives lived on mission for the glory of Jesus Christ.
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