Nora St. Laurent runs three book clubs outside of Atlanta and has established a successful model that has made her a resource for others who would like to establish clubs. To Nora, Book Clubs are a Ministry that revolve around relationships and through this, the Lord would love the women that He put in her life extravagantly. She facilitates a safe environment where women can enter into relationships. She says it best: "This is not about what church you belong to or how well you know the Bible. It also is not a matter of whether or not you go to church. God has called you into relationship with Him and with me and the other ladies in this group to love, to be loved and to encourage each other." She has a vision to duplicate the model to reach as many people as possible and is writing a book about how to do just this. Visit her blog at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/
Unexpected Book Club
Homeless! I never thought this would happen to us. We had a plan—if we worked hard and did all the right things, we could put money aside for college, take vacations, and of course, continue to live in our home.
In May 2008, our plan was about to come undone. The economy changed drastically. My job cut hours, my husband’s company lost most of their business, and gas crept up to five dollars a gallon. No matter how hard we prayed, read our Bibles, and looked for extra work, our situation steadily grew worse.
This was the fourth time the phone rang in thirty minutes. Fred answered it. My neck stiffened, my shoulders tightened, my stomach knotted, and I had trouble taking deep breaths. I prayed for him as he sat there, shifting through the scattered bills on the table. His expressionless face matched his voice as he explained our financial situation to another bill collector. “Thank you, Lord, that he’s able to talk to them so calmly; give him strength.”
When Fred got off the phone, I shattered the calm by banging my hands on the kitchen counter: “God’s always been there for us—maybe not like we wanted, or hoped for—but He’s proven to be faithful. This is about the fifth major crisis we’ve gone through together. How many times does God have to part the Red Sea for us before we believe that He can do it? It wasn’t a fluke. Either we believe what the Bible says or we don’t. He wants to provide for us and carry our burdens. Are we going to let Him? Or keep trying to make our own way? This is a spiritual struggle we’re in on top of everything else. We need to have faith and pray.”
My husband gently took my hand, we closed our eyes, blocking out our situation and prayed. Fred said, “Lord, we come before you today to lay down our troubles at your feet. We can’t handle this or fix it. We can’t carry this anymore. Have Your way in our lives. We give it all to you. If we lose our house and everything else, so be it. We want Your will and peace.”
Nothing earth-shattering happened right away! I did notice, however, that we both could breathe a little easier. That’s a good sign.
Soon after we prayed, we received a notice from our mortgage company stating we needed to bring it current by December 2008, or they would start foreclosing. The social workers from our children’s schools came to our home and gave us a list of places that could help us with school supplies, ways to get some food assistance for us personally, and an application for free or reduced school lunches. God was providing for our needs, not as I would have liked. But this gave me hope. I felt I wasn’t alone.
Two days before Christmas, which happens to be my birthday, I experienced something that felt like a scene from a movie. It reminded me of the end of It’s a Wonderful Life where the community comes together for George Bailey. Two of our children’s friends and their parents came to our home and brought us a beautifully decorated box overflowing with cash, a
few checks, and gift cards—enough to cover our mortgage payments. If that wasn’t enough, they asked us to help them bring in some groceries. When we went outside to the van, it was filled to the top with enough canned goods, pasta, cereal, dried beans, and rice to last us for many months. I hadn’t discussed our financial situation with these families, but I guess my children did.
Several people stopped by unexpectedly that day. One person collected funds so we could catch up on our utility bills. Someone else from a church brought special Christmas gifts for my kids. Later that night, I led a book club meeting, after which the group surprised me with a box. Inside was a financial gift. I started to cry. I couldn’t believe how many different people had given to us that day—after all those months of praying. I watched God provide in a way only He could have orchestrated. It was humbling, overwhelming, and definitely amazing. Something my family will never forget: our Christmas miracle.
I discovered that day just how creatively God can provide. I learned to walk by faith and keep my eyes on Him and not my situation. It reminded me of the story in the Bible of Peter getting out of the boat to walk to where Jesus was standing on the water. The minute Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at his circumstances, he started to sink. I could see that happening in my own life. When times got scary again, I remembered our Christmas miracle and that God was right there holding my hand. It was a comfort to know He was there.
The world for us and many others changed dramatically in 2008. This brings me to a book club experience that touches me deeply for many reasons. My heart has a new compassion toward the homeless and those who are struggling through no fault of their own.
Imagine this: a high-powered lawyer living in Boston reaches out and touches the life of a homeless man named Rob; just like my neighbors, friends, book club members, and strangers reached out to my family last year. Neither this homeless man nor my family will ever be the same.
It’s true. The nightly news ran a story about Peter, a lawyer who met Rob, a homeless man in a park. Peter shared his favorite book, Water for Elephants, with Rob. The next week they met to discuss it. A relationship grew. Peter asked Rob what he did with the book. Rob said he passed it on to a friend. Peter and Rob noticed an interest that could bring people together. The homeless book club was born. Peter allowed everyone in this group their dignity and he unconditionally accepted them where they were at.
Click THIS LINK and see another aspect of how God provides a way when there seems to be no way, and you will have another reason to love the book club experience.
Until next time.