Friday, May 4, 2018

“Who is Lydia? .... Are you Lydia?”

I love answering this question.

Every time I think about Lydia’s story the Holy Spirit stirs my emotions and sets an energy within me that shares the Gospel even when I am scared or nervous.   Lydia’s story is one I have read and told many times during the last eight years and every time I learn something new.  Lydia's story is only three powerful verses in Acts 16:

Acts 16:13-15 New International Version (NIV)
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Lydia's story takes place outside the city gates in a place Paul calls "a place of prayer (13b.)"  Often when I am at the Prom Closet I see that it is truly our "place of prayer” where women gather.  People who come to the Prom Closet might not realize it, but before we open every Saturday the Prom Squad gathers in the back room to pray for them. God knows who will be coming through our doors. He knows the needs, the hurts, the blessings, and the joy.   As volunteers we do not know these things but our prayer, much like Lydia’s, is to prepare hearts to receive not just a dress but a blessing that will have an eternal impact. 

Paul and Silas were sharing the gospel when they met Lydia.  My favorite part of her story is that "she was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (14b.)  Lydia had been preparing long before Paul and Silas arrived to accept the Gospel.  It challenges me to remember that as a believer I also need to prepare my heart to receive God's word and blessing.

It is clear to me now that her story is ultimately about God pursuing Lydia and her response to salvation.  Salvation not just for her but also her household. Her response brought her family to God. "When she and the members of her household were baptized..." (15a.)

Lydia story challenges me and reminds me, have I made "room" in my heart and in my home for God? or Like Lydia, Am I quick to recognize the truth and welcome it? Do I take time to prepare my heart for God?

“... she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house” and she persuaded us.” (15b.) We hope that as Lydia welcomes Paul and Silas into her home, you also feel welcome and feel God’s love as you come to the Prom Closet.

By the way, I can’t wait to share Lydia’s story with more people... 


Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Spiderman, Spiderman, Does whatever spider can..." Now that the song is stuck in your head you are probably wondering what Spiderman has to do with the prom closet.

We all know that spiderwebs help spiders catch their dinner. But can they capture other things?

Yes, they can!

Last Wednesday we got the honor of serving 20 special needs girls!! Talk about awesomeness!!

I almost got run over by one girl trying to find her way to the mirror!  She just could't wait to see herself in that perfect dress.  When she looked into the mirror it was like magic.  She stood there forever just looking at herself.  I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking...

As if she heard me she turned around and smiled from ear to ear.   At that point I knew the answer.  She didn't have to say anything, I just knew!

God had touched that little girl's heart and He allowed me to experience it, too.

Trust me when I tell you there was a little chaos that day.  Can you imagine 20 girls trying on dresses?! We had another girl who starting dancing as soon as she came out of the dressing room. She didn't care who was watching - she was happy and she was letting us all know!  What a joyful time we had!

After everyone had found their dresses and left, I noticed a spiderweb on the bottom of Tammy’s black pants.   Tammy said “Oh no!  It’s OK I will clean it up once I get in the car.   I have a lint roller there."

It wasn’t long after we had all left the Prom Closet that I got a call from Tammy.  She had forgotten to clean the spiderweb off her pants!  So, what does God do?  He uses it!  God is limitless and all powerful nothing is out of His reach:

Tammy was in one of her appointments.  You all know Tammy: “she was in a corner quietly getting things ready to do her job” when one of the ladies in the office noticed the spiderweb.

Tammy, without knowing what God was getting ready to do, tells the lady why she had a spiderweb on her black pants.   “I was just at the prom closet serving" and she tells her about the Prom Closet and what we do.

The people in the office were touched and remembered several Bibles they had that they could give her.  When they opened a drawer, they found even more Bibles that they gave her for the Prom Closet.

Did you know spiderwebs are also a source of energy for the spider?  Some spiders eat it so they can gain their strength back after making that beautiful web.  Just like the spiderweb is a source of energy, the word of God is our source of energy we consume every day.

And this particular spiderweb captures Bibles!  As Tammy left with an armload of Bibles that will soon be handed to families at to the prom closet, she was reminded of a verse:

"Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? Job 11:7


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I Truly Feel Like I am Running a Marathon

Can you believe it has been four weeks since we opened the prom closet for our 8th season?!
It has been a very busy four weeks...

I truly feel like I am running a marathon. When a runner gets ready for the big race they train, eat right, train some more, drink plenty of water, push harder, stay motivated, and best of all, they get to wear really cool exercise clothes.  (Nothing like me, I wear exercise clothes so people think I am cool. LOL)

Hebrews 12:1-2 talks about running a race with perseverance that has been marked out for us.  We have been training for months and our training doesn’t look like what the world expects.  We have been praying, our intake of food and water is the living water, and our food is the word of God.  For the  cool clothes… they come in the form of a prom dress.

In our race we have made a few stops along the way. On our first week we had people lining up waiting for us to open. Our second week, we took a trip to S.C and for the first time, we were split into two groups! But our coach (God) kept us as one and we saw Him in a mighty way!

There were inspirational stories from the boy that helped our Bible lady here in Huntersville to the girl in S.C that brought tears of joy to our prom squad.

If God is coaching anybody, it is us!  We know He equips those He calls.

What is He coaching us for? What is His plan? My answer is simple: I don’t know.

But, one thing I do know is that his training is teaching us to fix our eyes on Him.
“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building” 1 Corinthians 3:9  

There are many stories of how we have seen God at work already in the lives of others. But, this time I am going to focus on our prom squad.

This is my “God fingerprint” for the past four weeks as we have come together in prayer, Bible study, and service.  Many of you have been on call because we had unexpected groups show up when we are not open.  We have been breaking bread together.  We have laughed and cried together.  What an amazing training plan we are in!

S.C showed me how close we are to each other even when we are apart.  God is omnipresent!
Saturday in S.C. Tammy and I were sharing the prom closet story with a group of young girls that were helping other girls find their dresses.  We had to pause our conversation because someone came in to get a dress.  One of the young girls later asked me to finish telling the story.
I told her I would during service the next day and asked her to pray for me because I am not a good speaker.  Her reply was exactly what Mrs. Judy has been telling me for years “You will do fine, but I am praying for you.”   This young girl and Mrs. Judy don’t know each other but I could hear God’s voice through them!

During the Sunday service one of our volunteers was brought to Jesus’ feet through prayer.  God’s training was to bring another of our volunteers to pray for her.  To see these two amazing women together, connected through prayer, and at the foot of the cross is what Prom Closet is all about. You see, what God does in the prom closet is more than give out dresses.

God is not only bringing our prom squad together to serve Him but he is also knitting us together and allowing us to be filled with His love, grace, mercy, and compassion for one another.  When we serve others, we can’t help but bask in God’s limitless love.

Has it been easy? No.
Is it hard work? Yes.

But, the finish line looks glorious from here.  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I know God answers prayer.... but emails, too??

While I was picking up prom dresses donated at Lydia’s Loft, I get a message saying a bridal shop has a few dresses that they would like to donate. When I contacted them and made arrangements to pick up the dresses, I did not ask how many there were.

You see “Larry Boy” my Veggitale Jeep does not have a lot of room.  (I was kind of afraid to know how many there were.)

The volunteer who gave me the message told me later “oh by the way, they mentioned a hundred dresses.”  I thought, we can put 100 dresses inside Larry Boy, no problem.

I was in for a surprise.  I arrived at the bridal shop this morning and loaded them up. Did I mention the dresses were in boxes? Luckily I mom and I have been training by playing Tetris for years and we were able to arrange the boxes like Tetris Masters.

You are probably wondering what all this has to do with God replying to my email?

When I told the volunteers we are having our first workday I believe He just wanted to make sure we have enough work to keep us busy.

Replying in the form of 121 brand new dresses and 17 pairs of shoes!

- Aileen

Monday, October 2, 2017

Time for a Little Math Quiz

Last week, Mrs. Judy, Mrs. Penny, Wendy, Bethany and I were at the prom closet. We had 2 brides and 3 special occasion ladies trying on wedding dresses to find that special dress!  It was a blessed day!  I was beyond excited because God was putting wedding dresses and a special person together!

So here is a little math quiz:
We had 12 available dresses, 2 left the prom closet.  So how many should we have left?
We were left with 15 dresses!  Confused?

As all of us at the prom closet counted the dresses we counted 15!  If I am correct if we had 12 and 2 left the prom closet we should have 10 left.  In the war room we all looked at each other and asked “How did it happen? Where do they come from?”

As I was taking pictures of the dresses for Facebook my mind wandered to an earlier conversation with one of the volunteers.  She was worried because she was finding it harder and harder to spend time with God as she was getting busier and busier in her life.

Time for a little “God math” quiz:
It is not about subtracting time for God but adding time for God.  He adds grace, love, peace, comfort, and blessings... he takes away our sins and divides His work among His servants.  Now that is God math for sure!

At the end of the night we all left more blessed than when we started.

Does God know math? Yes He does!


Friday, September 8, 2017

God works for the good of those who love him

Did you ever imagine that the Prom Closet would take a turn from prom dresses to wedding dresses?  Did you ever think we would end up with 12 wedding dresses hiding in our War Room?  Have you ever thought you knew what was going to happen and you were completely wrong?

Without knowing God’s purpose, last week I put a post on Facebook looking for brides in need and several of them responded.   I went to the Prom Closet to find the 5 or 6 wedding dresses I thought we had.  The more I looked, the more I found.

I stood there staring at the 12 wedding gowns and thought “How did they all got here? We do prom dresses NOT wedding dresses?”  In my mind, I needed to remind God what we do (I will never learn.)

As brides started to reach out, one in particular was able to meet last Friday.  Again, not knowing what God purpose was,  I pulled the wedding dresses out for her.

She looked at them and said " We are having a very small wedding with just a couple of people.  Those dresses are beautiful but they might be too much.”

I took her to our prom dresses with the possibility of finding a prom dress that could be turned into a wedding gown.  She started to pull several dresses of different colors. My thought was wedding dresses but God had something else in mind.   I had failed to ask our first question “What style do you like?”

In desperation, she said " I don't have anything to wear and we are getting married next weekend."
I remembered what Tammy always says and assured her "God brought you to us.  That means the dress is somewhere in here."

She started trying dress after dress then I noticed that the dresses she was pulling were navy blue.  Yet again I failed to ask our second most important question “What color do you like?” I started pulling navy dresses from the War Room with no avail and then I did something odd - I started bringing different color dresses.

Yet again in my mind "She is a bride.  She needs a bridal gown."

God was just not understanding that! So, I brought her the only short bridal gown we had and she loved it.  It was a little big so I asked her if she knew anyone who could alter it. Sadly, she said " My grandmother could sew but she passed away a couple of months ago.  It has been a hard year but I told God that September was my month.  You have no idea how much of a blessing this is for me.  My friends keep asking me if I have anything to wear."

Again, I assured her " We have the dress in here for your special day."

After several hours of looking and trying, I brought her a flowing, soft grey dress. she tried it on and it was perfect! As soon as she looked at herself in the mirror her face lit up.  I knew we had found her dress!

She turned to me and said "I love it!  This is my dress! My husband will be wearing a blue suit and I was hoping I will find something that matched with his and this is it!"

God was not done showing me His purpose.

As I was putting her dress in a bag along with shoes and jewelry I thought I should find a Bible for her.   I went to the War Room but couldn’t find one.  Sadly, I went back to packing her items when my eyes fell on a basket full of bags.   I took the bags out and to my surprise there was one Bible in there! A blue Bible that to match her husband's suit!

She took the Bible and said " I don't know what to say, I just happened to see your post and now here I am being blessed like this! You have no idea how I feel!"

I looked at the sweet girl and said "We think we know what we need but then God shows us in the middle of our storms how He is holding us.  He blesses us beyond what we think we need."

She said " I have to tell everyone in my church what God has done. I am part of the worship team so I can tell them what a blessing this is for me.  You have taken your time to be here with me and bless me."

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Now let’s go out and tell everyone that the Lord is good!



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Christmas in July

Monday I got a phone call from FiFi's:

“We have a few prom dresses for you…  (pause) ... around 60." 

What?! I know I should be used to it by now but it feels like Christmas morning every time! God continues to surprise us here at the Prom Closet!

Chris and I picked up the dresses and when we brought them back to the church, we were determined to get them all in one trip.  I am glad no one was around to video us struggling to carry all those dresses, walking like ducks up to the Closet, and dropping them all along the way.

Thursday, I got a phone call from Hope House about someone who needed a dress.   As the director asked me about how the last prom season went, I told her about all the great things that had happened:  the many walk ins we had, the children's hospital, the fashion shows for the elderly and …

I knew her wheels were turning because she interrupted me by saying "Fashion show? I wish we could do that for our women at Hope House!”

(I might of have said something like "That would be a great idea! We have all the dresses they need")… OK… I did say that…

We started brain storming (and I might have said to "call me back if you want to do it")... OK… I did say that too.

She said “Yes I am going to call you for sure.  When is your down time for the season?”

My first thought was that we would want to do this all during the season.  Kind of like Chris and I trying to carry all the dresses in one trip.  It dawned on me then that God was saying “the load is too much.”  Trying to carry the load all at one time we might drop something.  We might miss the best parts!

I love how God is using this ministry to reach people during every season and from all walks of life.  The best part is He allows us to see that!

- Aileen