Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Day the Lights Went Out

On our third week of the Prom Closet this year something strange happened that has never happened in our 12-year history. The lights went out. 

Have you ever been in darkness? During those times I have not always been at my smartest. For example, one time at home when the lights went out, I decided to look for a candle but couldn't find one.  I decided to open the refrigerator for some light. Go ahead and laugh. Definitely not my smartest move since the fridge runs with electricity.

However, I realized something as my eyes were trying to adjust to the dark.  I was able to remember familiar things around the house so I could get where I needed to go without getting hurt. (Or at least that is what I thought until I stepped on my son's tiny Lego.)  I tried not to cry as my eyes adjusted to the dark and my foot throbbed in pain.

Darkness is not a place that God has designed for us to remain in. We can take the darkness for granted and not even think about it.  Better yet, you can look at the darkness in a deep and spiritual way. 

In my faith walk I had moments that felt like either the lights went out or they were too dim.  My eyes were adjusting to get familiar with my surroundings and keep moving forward without getting hurt.  Much like moving around in my house in the dark I can still get hurt (remember the Lego) but my eyes can adjust to the surroundings.

When the lights went out at the Prom Closet we had only been open an hour and a half and were full of shoppers.  To my surprise (eye roll and all) God used that moment!  It was pitch black inside and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized it was hard to pick out dresses in the dark.  Before long phone flashlights came on to fits of laughter and fun as the shoppers adapted to the new situation.

Are you ready to be my twin again?

I apologized to people for the inconvenience.  I felt like I needed to do that even though I was not the one who broke the tree that took the power lines down (I think it was the strong squirrel that hangs around.) I told them that they will never forget this experience! Who else is going to give them a prom shopping experience in the dark? But, did you notice a couple of things I mentioned before?

1. My eyes were trying to adjust to the dark.

2. People couldn't be in the dark for long before turning on their phone flashlights. 

In my faith walk sometimes I have tried to adjust and just roll with it. After all isn’t it my responsibility to grow my faith? At times it was hard to see people holding their flashlights in the form of hope, grace, and mercy.   I was missing God because I was focused on adjusting my eyes to my surroundings - not realizing how faith grows. 

Faith grows when surrounded by people who love God that are willing to share their light when it is too dark for you to see God's mercy, grace, and love.

That day at the Prom Closet strangers were surrounding each other with their flashlights. They let their little light shine and instead all I could think of was “are the lights ever going to come back on?”

We are created to chase the light because darkness is not a place God has designed for us to remain. Just like the tree that fell on the power lines and took the light away from the Prom Closet, there are things in our lives that happen that take the away our faith in people.  We often hope that someone else with a good deed will restore it forgetting that true faith doesn’t come from people.  People can’t provide you with faith only God can. However, we have responsibilities as people of God. 

1 Peter 2:9 New International Version

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

It reminds me of the lyrics to the song Gratitude that has become a challenge to me in my praise time:

So come on my soul, oh, don't you get shy on me

Lift up your song, 'cause you've got a lion

Inside of those lungs

Get up and praise the Lord

If you are struggling to see THE LIGHT, you are not alone.  Remember that there is a lion inside of your lungs.  Don’t get shy and dim your light.  Lift your voice! 

After all, you are a light chaser! 

Blessings, 

Aileen




Sunday, March 6, 2022

Today I want to share about Faith and how God uses the one place that challenges me every time I step in it - the Prom Closet.

Why would Jesus single out my lack of faith? 

I hope this has not been you but if you can relate, then we are twins LOL.

Before opening for the season, I was excited, scared, overwhelmed and yes full of doubt. Wow! What a familiar feeling somehow, I found myself back to day one of the Prom Closet 12 years ago. I remembered standing in the hallway staring and thinking...would anyone show up?  After not having normal years of proms, would anyone remember we are here? 

On the day that we had our "work out day" some of our Prom Squad came to get the Prom Closet ready for opening day. We were busy cleaning, hanging dresses, dusting, moving things around, laughing, enjoying each other... it was a familiar feeling of fellowship that only God can put together.

My doubts grew from there.  The little voice in my head was now real voices, many voices really asking the same question.  “Do you think people will come?”  I will admit I as trying to stay positive when just wanting to check it all off.

The real test came the first week of appointments.  That week I had my regular Bible study and the topic was Jesus’s story about the mustard seed that grew into a mighty tree.  I realized God could use my small amount of faith.  He isn't asking me for a mountain size faith (one day I will get there.) For now, my little mustard seed is all He needs if I am willing to let go and sit at His feet.


So, with my little sassy voice I said “fine, ok this is yours and as for my doubts, well, those are yours, too.”

As I mentioned week one of appointments was on like Donkey Kong and I was in for yet another lesson.  First week I booked for the opening month, and it looked like the first weeks of our first season.  But before I knew it (because I didn't learn very well) the second week came around and we were completely booked through the second week of March! 

Can you see what is happening? God singled out my lack of faith. I am the one that set up the appointments and I talked to people before they stepped into the Prom Closet and lacked faith (please anyone? Am I an island?) Oh well.  God wasn't done with me yet because my Bible study the following week in Matthew 14 these verses stood out

Matthew 14:28-31 New International Version

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Can you see how I became Peter?  I learned that faith is not defined by a specific moment of doubt. Faith is much bigger than a short time of questioning. Our faith isn't the object of our faith; it's a tool we use to see, and grab hold of Jesus.

As I navigate through my lack of faith, I need to remember to trust that my questions will be met with gentleness. My doubts were met with mercy to allow my mustard seed of faith to grow a little bit more. He took the time to give me grace.  He looked at me! 

If at time you feel the same way, I can tell you this: tomorrow I will doubt again, you will doubt again but we are going to be met with gentleness and mercy. I am not a workout kind of person, but I do know that I need to keep working on those faith muscles!

Blessings, 

Aileen 


Monday, July 27, 2020

Dream Small

As I pressed “end call” on my phone I wondered what I had just agreed to.  Why didn’t I ask more questions? What was I thinking?


That morning started with preparing a devotional for others, not for me (or so I thought.)
It started with two questions:
1. What is the biggest dream for yourself that you can think of?
2. Think about whether your dream is according to God's will?

If you know me you know dreaming big is not my thing! I like to dream small, but somehow God seems to turn these very small dreams into something much bigger than me.

I think the reason I like to dream small is because of fear.  Fear of failing the people around me because WHAT IF I don't do a good job? WHAT IF I don't meet their expectations? WHAT IF I fail? Would people be disappointed?  This devotional was turning out to be a recipe for disaster for me.  I was saying one thing but thinking quite another!

At the beginning of the Prom Closet, Juan often said "This is going to be big" my response was always  “Nope, I don't think so.” Through the years many people have added their thoughts about the Prom Closet that echoes Juan's belief.

My response is always “Nope, I am not saying and I am not dreaming it because if I do, it is out of my mouth and into God's ears and I can't take it back. SO NOPE! No worries I AM NOT writing it either.  What If God reads this and then is for His eyes and I can't take it back! so Ha! I like the Prom closet to be "small!"

As you may know, I lost that battle.  God took this ministry and made it bigger in a blink of an eye and I had no say so!! It became pretty clear to me that this ministry was never ours  -  it has always belonged to God. He started it with six dresses and two crazy ladies 10 years ago.

Back to my phone call…


When this ministry started I never dreamed I would get this kind of phone call.

“Hi Aileen” a nice the lady said.  “I have a few dresses to donate."

That should have been my first sign but I am a very slow learner.   After I agreed to take the dresses a few questions came to mind.  How many?  Do we have the room?  Too late I guess.  I have already agreed.

When she finally told me how many I was speechless.  It was probably only a few seconds but it seemed like an eternity.

"Hello.  Are you there?"  she asked.

All I could say was “You know that about 3,000 is not a few dresses."

Yes you are reading that right.  Last Sunday evening, we hooked up the grey trailer, and two families headed to pick them up.

You are probably thinking WHAT? WHERE DID Y'ALL PUT ALL THOSE DRESSES?  They are all in the "war room"  We named the room that because of the mountains of dresses from donations we would have when we first started the ministry.  Mountains of dresses gave the name to our war room because we always went into battle with each new load and when we got a handle on it even more dresses would come and the battles would continue!

Are you thinking what I am thinking -  WHAT IS GOD DOING? This is not a small dream!! When did it get so big! And why didn't He warn us?

I guess regardless of my desire for a small dream it doesn't stop God from doing what He does best! 



Blessings,
Aileen

Friday, May 29, 2020

I did not see this one coming! Did you?

Little did we know when we started planning for our 10th Prom Closet season...

Are you surprised by the new post?  Good! Because it has taken me a while to write this blog and find the right words.  But today is the day!!

The last couple of days Facebook memories have popped up on my news feed.  They all have been pictures of us setting up, decorating, playing, videos, kind words from others about special needs prom, and more.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." Isaiah 55:8

This Bible verse should be familiar to most of us! I have used this one many, many times to describe the way we started the prom closet 10 years ago. From the way I thought the Prom Closet was finished that first year, to packing and heading to South Carolina for a mission trip, to the way we serve families, to hosting a special needs prom, and to many other things God has brought up that I clearly said “NO” to. 

But He just doesn't listen to me.  Or it could be that I am the one not listening?  (We may never know.)   He has shown me that my thoughts were not even close to His bigger picture.  Fast forward to today and the Pandemic crisis.  Like most people I did not see this one coming!! Who did right?

A few months ago when we all came together for the Prom Project it was mind-blowing to see how He brought the community together and used the Prom Closet to show His love and care on such a large scale.  I will admit I was nervous and anxious about it all.

We all got to experience God differently that day.


When the event was over and everything was done all I could think of was “are we done? Is that it?”  The gym was clean, there were no dresses, fitting rooms, or volunteers around.  As I stood there alone I thought that the next time the Prom Squad shows up in the gym we will be decorating for our 10-year anniversary prom…

I did not see this one coming! Did you? 


My plan, my thoughts, and my ideas were not even close to what God had in mind as our 10th prom season came to an end.

Through all of these trying times - the hardships, the joy, the uncertainty, the quarantine, and all the emotions - I am glad God is in control.  In 10 years of this amazing ministry, He has taught me that His plan is higher than mine, His thoughts are higher than mine, and I know that I am thankful I serve a God like that.

I know that everyone has experienced God in different ways.  He has taught us at the Prom Closet constantly for the past 10 years and has been giving each of us huge lessons along the way.  The challenge for all of us is to not forget those lessons when the journey gets tougher.

I miss you all so much!

And I am glad I did not see this one coming.  Aren’t you?  


Blessings,
Aileen

Monday, December 9, 2019

Something old and torn - turned into a new creation

Sometimes we get very old and outdated prom dresses.  Sometimes we get dresses with really bad stains and rips.  Many times, we think that dresses like that are worthless.  Then our creativity kicks in and we can see the possibilities within that old and tattered dress.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us...” Romans 12:6
Last week that creativity kicked in once again and reached all the way to Virginal! Yeps, from the prom closet to Virginia! God continues to blow my mind!! (And I am ok with that.)

Last week as I was dropping donations off at the prom closet, two amazing ladies, Vicky Pluer and Kathy Brooks, were in our war room looking for a Mother of the Groom dress. We had the best time sifting through the dresses, laughing, and serving.  It made me realize how much I miss Saturdays with you all and seeing God at work.

That day I got to experience what God has in store for us in our upcoming season. (Okay, confession time - you all know that sewing is not a creativity given to me. My definition of sewing is getting the stapler out and going to town.)

I realize that is true we all have different gifts and they are given to us by God’s grace. Each gift has a purpose for His kingdom and one person can’t do it all.  That’s why I am so thankful for all the people who help make Prom Closet work. God has given each of us a gift and I get the chance to experience God’s love through you. You see God created us in his own image and we have these gifts of creativity because they were his first!

In the past some of the discarded dresses were given to our Bible Lady to cover our Bibles.  Those Bibles end up in the hands of the young ladies that we connect with at the Prom Closet.   However, have you ever thought that some of those dresses could actually become bow ties?  Yep, you read that right: bow ties!

As God would have it, one of the ladies was gifted in sewing.  Now we have plans for her to turn some of these old and damaged dresses into brand new bow ties for our special needs boys! Our little Prom Closet is expanding all the way to Virginia!

Our God is a tremendously creative God. He is so creative that when he made us, he shared His capability for creativity with us as well.
Is God awesome sauce or what?!

Blessings,
Aileen


Monday, April 8, 2019

A Generous House Guest


Have you ever had someone invite themselves to visit your home and you panicked?  Is my house clean enough? Do I have enough food? Did I hide my mess good enough under the couch?

What does that have to do with prom dresses? I feel as if the prom closet is an extension of my home. I spend most of free time there and I am always surrounded by family.

I’ve have been asked a lot how many dresses we picked up last Saturday in Charlotte.  But before I answer that...

Zacchaeus comes to my mind. He was a tax collector; a little man that climbed a tree to see Jesus.  Jesus tells him “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I most stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5b
Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus house. I wonder if he panicked, too?  JESUS is coming to your house!! What do you do!?

Last Saturday, Jesus invited himself into the prom closet and all we could do was clean and yes… hide dresses under the dresses!

First, we had an amazing group of women from my mom’s Bible study class come to the Prom Closet and fill a huge need we had for more Bibles!  We had given away every Bible we had in two weeks!  So, what happen when Jesus invites himself in?  Seventy Bibles were donated for our “Bible lady” to cover.
As you know Tammy and I had a plan... (you know when you start a sentence with those two names trouble must follow.)   Our plan was to have our “war room” clean to make room for 500 dresses. My mom and her friends and all available hands were put to work! The room was cleaned and four racks were empty and ready for dresses in no time.

Second, that afternoon we all left for uptown Charlotte. We had two cars and five people.   After we arrived, they kept bringing bag after bag of dresses.  When then they ran out of bags and started rolling rack after rack full of them!  We had to be quick on our feet and think… Where are we going to put all of them? We have no room!

After mom and I gave up our seats, all 891 dresses as well as boxes and bags of shoes made it into two cars.  With the exception of two people who had to be left behind until Mis  Gail came to pick us up, we managed to get the whole load back to the Prom Closet.

But Jesus wasn’t done with His visit yet:

While waiting for Miss Gail a lady came to pick up dresses. All the dresses they had were gone. Without hesitation we told her about the Prom Closet in Huntersville.  She said, “I work with mental health patients and I want to have a prom for them.”  As we talked one thing she said stuck out to me “I was driving from Raleigh, I live here in Charlotte and I knew I was going to be late, but something would not let me just go home. I drove here knowing I was late. But now I know the reason I am here.  It’s not for the dresses but God wanted me to here to meet you.”

As we talked it calmed me to realize what a blessing it is to have Jesus in your home! 

Like Zacchaeus, how high do we have to climb to see Jesus?  How would Jesus invite himself in?
After we collected the 891 dresses Saturday even more dresses came in to Lydia’s Loft so we now have well over 900 dresses.

What a generous house guest Jesus is!

Blessings,


Aileen

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Making Disciples of All Nations

Stebbins, Alaska

Have you ever been too shy or scared to ask a question?  Like me, are you afraid that the answer will be no?

I met a friend at a Bible Study group a couple of years ago and I was able to share a little about the Prom Closet and what God was doing through it.  A few years later, when her daughters were attending prom, the Closet was ready for them.

She said, "We love your ministry and the blessing it has provided my family. We were able to serve our Lord and still allow the girls to go to prom.”

For the last few years they have visited the Prom Closet and found the perfect dresses.  That doesn't seem out of the ordinary but God always has something up His sleeve that I just love!!

As many of you know, Prom is becoming more expensive.  People can spend at least $1,000 on the dress, shoes, hair, makeup, prom tickets, dinner, valet, and more!

So where do we go from here?  Malawi Africa!!   Yep… you read that right Africa!!

My friend said, "Last year our family went to Malawi, Africa.  Getting the prom dresses last year for both of my daughters was a blessing and helped us put our money towards our mission trip."
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations..."Matthew 28:19a
But God is not done yet!  This year one of the daughters will be heading to Delaware:
“Again, the prom closet has blessed our family” she said.  “We are able to save money, but still have the Prom experience.  My girls were treated with such kindness and they cherish the experience."

God has endless blessings up His sleeve.  Last week we even got a chance to bless girls in Alaska! Twenty-nine prom dresses will be heading to Stebbins, Alaska, a remote Yupik village.   The amazing lady who came to pick up the dresses will be taking a mission trip there and bringing the prom experience to the beautiful girls in Alaska!

It gives me chills to think that we played a small part in God's Kingdom as these families go to wherever God has called them to be in the world and "make disciples of all nations."

Have you ever thought that God could take six prom dresses stored in my garage next to the oil and paint cans and do this?

Last year the prom closet took its first mission trip to South Carolina and Africa. This year South Carolina, Delaware, and Alaska.

What next? I am afraid to ask…

Blessings
Aileen