Category Archives: Gina Gippner-Woods

CAN YOU BE HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

Iusedtobe

Saturday afternoon I decided to go to the mall. It was as if I could hear the Christmas music coming from that direction and had to go and see if that was where the music was coming from.

Sure enough. It was.

As I was walking around the mall, I grabbed a Starbucks,  went and sat in a chair and called a few friends. I wanted to let them know that Christmas had arrived. When my phone calls were finished I walked through all the stores. So many people were out shopping and it seemed as if the spirit of peace on earth and good will to men  had arrived early, and on that happy note I decided it was time to go home.

Anyway, as I was leaving I saw a woman sitting on a chair selling something when my heart heard, “Go talk to her”  and before I had time to say, “no” to myself…I was standing in front of her kiosk asking, “So, how’s your evening? Are you enjoying all the people in the mall?”

“Yes.” She replied.

“How long have you worked here?” I asked.

“Not long.” She replied.

Our conversation was easy and we talked about everything from where she came from, to how many children she had and then I saw it. Her eyes went from open to trusting. That’s the best way I know how to describe what I saw. She trusted me and said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this but… I’m homeless.”

She then told me her story, and like so many people I’ve met in her situation her story seemed to be the same except she told me more. She started to share that has time goes on, and one can’t find a job, one comes to accept that their car is their place of residence. She was sharing how she learned how to survive and how when she would meet others who were in her situation she would tell them where to shop. How to shower, and as I listened to her speak she said, “The only thing that happens to someone that is tragic, is after they’ve been homeless to the point where they can survive, they get embarrassed to tell people. We stop going to places that we’re invited, because it’s much like an illness— when one looks healthy, but then shares they have cancer there’s a silence that falls over the room, and the same goes for those who are homeless. Silence falls.”

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about this woman and yesterday I reached out to a young woman, who I know works in the mall. The funny part is  I actually met  this young woman a few months back at the DMV and she invited me to her church, and because of her heart, I went and met all those she goes to church with. So, yesterday I reached out to this young woman and asked if her church could  help her, and this was her message back to me:

“Okay, Gina. I would love to meet her and send her flowers or something. Maybe we can get a group of women together and take her to lunch and go on a prayer walk or something.  Let me know what you think would be a good idea. We’re having a midweek service if she wants to come too. Please give her my phone number.”

What I loved about her response back was she wasn’t thinking, “Okay. Let me ask those in the church if they know anyone who is hiring or I’ll pray for her.” No, this young woman thought about the things that make people know they are valued. Friendships, flowers, eating with friends, moments.

And, what I learned from this woman is the only thing she seemed to miss were the friendships of others, because she never once said to me, “I wish I had a big house. I wish I had a nicer car. I wish I had better clothes. I wish I had more food.”

No, she didn’t.

She said, “I miss having friends.”

One of my favorite reminders  of what a true friend is resides within the Bible and reads:  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..” Matthew 25:35

My hope in sharing this story is that each person who reads this will become HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS… and all year-long! Now, I don’t mean I want you to give up your home and live on the streets or within your car, “NO!”  What I mean is whenever you see someone who is homeless, don’t fear them. Do not look away because you think that if you look at them YOU HAVE TO GIVE THEM MONEY! You don’t have to give them money. You don’t have to give them food. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE THEM ANYTHING…

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS…

Say hello!

Wave!

If you’re walking by, reach out your hand and introduce yourself.

Ask them their name. Nothing is more comforting to a person than to hear someone say their name.

Pray for them. Don’t tell them you’ll pray for them. JUST DO IT!

And, yes.. if you’re walking by with a sandwich and “half” some left… offer it up, because that’s what friends do for their friends.

Yes, this holiday season and beyond please join me and become Homeless, because when we embrace the love that arrives within the smile of a new friend…

There is where peace on earth and goodwill to us arrives!

NOW, ONWARD TO THE HOLIDAYS!

L.B.

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What Door Will You Open Today?

 

Mission

It’s funny there’s a quote that is shared often and shared like this, “Well you know what God says. He says… ‘When one door closes, another door opens.'” Actually, God never said that. It was Alexander Graham Bell, and what he said was…

“When one door closes, another door opens; but we often look so long regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the one that is open for us.”

Until the other day I had no idea what he meant, but inevitably every time something didn’t go my way someone would recite those words in the hopes they made me feel better, and while I was SMiling on the outside, the inside of me was screaming, “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? DOES ANYONE REALLY KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?”

Then the other day I happened to be in San Juan Capistrano with a friend working, when we decided we would take a moment and walk through the Mission.

Corridor

 

Walking down the corridor of the Mission I happened to notice that many of the doors were open so I decided to start my tour and I walked through a door which showed where,  (in the year 1776) the people who lived at the Mission would have cooked. It was a tiny kitchen, but it wasn’t until I heard a young woman say, “Oh, now this is where you would have found me if I lived in 1776,  I would have been in the kitchen.” I looked over at her and she had a SMile that told me that cooking was her gift and it didn’t matter how small or inefficient the kitchen  was, she would be there.

Then I walked into another room and inside was a place where they stored the tools and a man said, “Oh, look at the tools they used back then. If I lived in 1776, you would have found me here, grabbing all the tools to build this mission.” I looked over at him and he had a SMile that told me his gift was building and it didn’t matter how inefficient the tools were, he would be using them.

Then I continued on… into another room… where there was a living space that was tiny and I heard a young girl say, “Oh look how cute this room is. If I lived in 1776, I would be playing house in this room, because when I grow up I want to be a mother and keep my house tidy like this room.” I looked over and saw  she had a SMile on her face that told me her gift was going to be having a family and no matter how small her house would be, she would care for it.

As I walked through each door I kept seeing the same thing. Faces that would light up when the person walked through the door of the room “they belonged in.”

Then it happened. I walked through my door and it was there where, for the first time in my life, I understood what Alexander Graham Bell was saying. I had found my doorway. It was open and just my size. The room was small and it housed the only things I’ve ever needed: A Bible and a writing desk. Yes, there were other things in there, but I didn’t notice. All I noticed was that I had found my SMile and that is when I said, “If I lived in 1776, I would be sitting in this room, reading the Bible and writing down all that I learned, and then I’d run outside and teach what I learned to all who wanted to listen!”

 
IMG_5243

 

For a moment I stood in “MY” doorway and I didn’t want to leave. I had finally found the place within my heart and it was there where I met Alexander Graham Bell. It was as if he was standing in the room saying, “You have found my little secret. The secret of the door is looking back on your life and knowing that YOUR heart is the one that closed all the other doors behind you. Now, keep this door open, read your Bible, write what you learn and share with those who ask you.”

He was right. Within my life thousands of doors had been shut, but the truth-of-the-matter of life is when we know what we were born to do, we’ll stop at nothing to complete it. The trick is to keep walking through doors until we find the one door that makes our heart beat in such way that we couldn’t close the door if we wanted to.

Within the Bible IT IS WRITTEN, “…so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Matthew 25:10

 

L.B.

ONWARD BY FAITH!

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Believe in your nuts!

photo (3)

Have you ever had one of those days where you’re feeling so bad you just don’t ever want to get up again?

For the past several weeks I’ve been under the “instructions” of a physician on what I can eat and what I need to stay away from,  and it seems that my new frequent favorites are “nuts”.  All I have to do is pick a nut: a walnut, peanut almond, brazilian! As long as it’s a nut. I’m free to eat.

Anyway, last week I was having a really bad day and as I went to reach for a walnut, for some reason my heart really missed my grandfather, so within the simplicity of how my heart works, I looked up to heaven and asked God to simply tell my grandfather I said hello and that I love him.

A few hours later my friend, Gina Aponte, sent me an instant message on Facebook asking  if she could send me some shelled walnuts, and I knew… God was letting me know that my grandfather was saying hello and that he loved me too.

How did I know that?

Because… when I was in high school my grandmother used to paint pictures and then each weekend she would take her paintings down to the park and she would erect them on easels and wait for someone to come along and appreciate them. Now, while she was waiting for customers, my grandfather was waiting for her, and he would take his newspaper and sit in the park and read. Then one day he noticed  a woman had set up a booth and  was selling something unusual:  painted walnuts that looked like strawberries. She wasn’t selling any so my grandfather walked up to her, purchased one, and tried to tell her how to sale them. But, when the woman didn’t care to listen to what he had to say,  my grandfather decided he would go home and make his own. The following weekend he would return with his painted nuts and show the woman how it was done.

Strawberry Nut Ornament

And, “done” he did. Within 10 minutes my grandfather had sold every one of his “red” creations, and when the woman saw that he sold them so quickly she immediately came running to his table and asked, “What’s your secret? How did you do that?”

His reply…

“Lady, you’ve got to believe in your nuts!”

I never in my life thought I would be sharing that “I believe in my nuts”,  but I do! Because if God can go so far out of his way to put it on Gina’s  heart to send me a box of nuts… Can you imagine what He’ll do for YOU!

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14)

Gina Aponte, “And you thought you were just sending me a box of nuts!”

L.B.
Onward with a SMile!

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The Most Valuable Lesson in Business… I Learned from a Lemon Tree!

Lemon Tree

Has anyone priced the cost of lemons these days? In California a simple lemon is going for 89 cents a piece, and the way I use them,  I realized that I’ve been spending around $53.40 each month to keep them stock piled so I wouldn’t run out. Last Saturday the unimaginable happened. I ran out, and when I went to the store they were out. What was I to do?

I came home and told my husband that the world was running out of lemons. He laughed and  shared that his sister had a lemon tree and he would see if she would share. She did and WOW did she have lemons. She has a lemon tree that is over 25 years old and each lemon is the size of a softball, so I decided that I would take six lemon seeds  from her donated lemons and plant them. I would grow my own lemon trees so that I would never run out again.  I planted the seeds and shared with my husband that I had solved my ‘problem of the lemons’ and within 3-to-5 years I would be producing an abundance of lemons!

“Are you serious? he said. “You’re going to wait 3-to-5 years for those seeds to grow?”

“Yep!”

Then yesterday happened. My husband walked into my garden and saw my bright yellow container with a note that shared there were lemon seeds within the soil and he said, “That’s it. Get in the car. I’m taking you to a nursery and I’m going to buy you a lemon tree that has a lemon on it.”

We got in the car and drove to several nurseries and no one had a lemon tree to sale and all I could think was… The world is running out of lemons. What am I going to do? But as life always seems to work itself out we came upon a nursery that had one lemon tree standing alone as if to say, “Pick me!” My husband looked at the price and said, “Let’s go to a few more places. I can’t fathom paying 24.50 per lemon, because with only two lemons growing,  these will be the most expensive lemons you have ever squeezed.”

Last Tree Standing

We got in the car, headed to a few more places before we ended up back at the nursery with the last lemon tree standing. My husband purchased my tree and when we were leaving I noticed there was a beautiful statue of a little girl sitting in the garden. I snapped her picture and when we arrived home my husband planted the tree for me, I watered it, and the two of us went inside. Our mission was accomplished.

Little Girl Waiting

Then this morning I walked outside  to check on my two lemons and it was there where God showed me the most valuable lesson in business that I will ever learn.

My two lemons

For 25 plus years I’ve been working on a non-profit that has been very hard, and every time I wonder if we’ve given enough, God will put it on my heart to keep going. So, we go!

But, what I realized this morning was that God used the lemon tree to show me the importance of timing, and when He wants someone else to do something for us. To help us. To teach us. To give to us. He will put it on their heart to do so. Just like the tree. I was willing to wait for the harvest, where my husband’s heart was willing to purchase the necessary tree in which fruit was already producing.

One of my favorite bible verses arrives within Habakkuk 2:3, For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. 

Now, I know why it’s always been one of my favorite verses, because my Appointments with God have been nothing more than my waiting on His appointed time to teach me the lesson, and He’s right. I’ve never been deceived by Him or disappointed.

And, real quick… Back to the picture I snapped of the statue of the little girl. God used that photograph to remind me that even though my body is aging my mind still remembers the little girl who once sat in a garden and dreamed that the desires of her heart would one day be made possible, and from this day “onward”,   I will never ask God again if He still wants me to give comfort, because much like the tree. All I have to do is plant the seeds and the harvest will arrive.

The fun part of this appointment is within a few years I will have six lemon trees that I will pass on to others, and they too will have lemons in abundance, because there are some moments in life where we plant a seed thinking the fruit is for us, but in the end… He had us plant it to help another.

My hope in sharing the story of my lemon tree  is to share that if God has given you a dream…  keep growing it because one day your harvest will arrive or another will arrive to help and the two of you will harvest “the” dream together.

L.B.
Onward to watering the desires of my heart!

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Growing Lessons!

My Garden

I can honestly write that since I was a child I’ve been planting seeds. When I was in elementary school, and would eat an apple, I would save my seeds and on my way out to the playground I would find a piece of dirt and plant them. I never actually saw any of my seeds come up, but just the same… I planted them.

As I got older, I began planting flowers and  small vegetable gardens, and when I got brave and understood how to take one seed and turn it into a bountiful harvest,  I planted hundreds of pumpkin and corn  seeds, and when the harvest arrived in the fall, thousands of visitors would stop by the field, picking their favorite pumpkin and getting lost within the corn.

I love to garden, but truth-be-told, I don’t like to garden because of the crops, but because it’s always been within my garden (whether big or small) where God shows me the simple lessons of life and yesterday I saw something I always want to remember.

In March I walked out to find my dirt ready to be planted, so I did what I always do,  grabbed my rake, and got busy drawing the lines of where I would plant my seeds. When I was happy with the design  I got busy planting. I always plant my herbs first, my vegetables second, and I finish up with flowers.  As always, I have a few flower seeds left over, and instead of saving them I find a spot where they can grow, and over the past several months— they’ve been growing.

Yesterday morning I went out to my garden and  noticed something I had never noticed  before…

My flowers!

I had a planted a beautiful row of Zinna’s and had a few leftover seeds so I planted them in their own special holes, and yesterday I noticed that the flowers that were planted together are now nearing 5′ tall, and the few plants that I planted alone, are barely 12″ and yet— they were both planted on the same day, and watered and cared for in the same way.

Then this morning as I was reading in Ephesians 4:16, I couldn’t help but smile when I read: 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I finally understand why God designed corn to grow in groups of 4 seeds and squash to be planted in twos, and so on and so forth, and not that I didn’t understand it before, but because I got to see the “why”.

Everything that God created was created to join together. To work together. To support each other, and to grow and to build up one another in love. And,  when each of us start to do our part, that’s when life flourishes, because it’s not that we won’t grow…

Because we will!

It’s all about how high we can reach, and we can only do that when we reach out to help each other.

L.B.
Onward to the garden!

 

 

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MEET REBECCA THE FAITHFUL!

Rebecca
On Saturday morning I was in “The Store(y)” working when a woman came in with her father-in-law. She was in a wheel chair and the two of them were admiring the bird houses. I said, “hello” they smiled and silently left. A few moments later I overheard them speaking to one of my regular visitors, Carmella, and a half-hour later Carmella came in the store in tears. She shared the story of the woman and I told her to grab a Beanie Baby and give it to her… “Because when you give, you give a moment of happiness!”

Carmella ran out and a few minutes later all three of them returned. The woman wanted to thank us both for the gift and we continued to chat.

The woman in the wheel chair’s name is Rebecca. Rebecca has been in a wheel chair for the past 17 years and has Muscular Dystrophy. As she was sharing her story, and that there was no cure, and one day her disease would be cured on the day she entered heaven, I bent down gave her a hug and said, “I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure so much for the past 17 years. ”

Rebecca then smiled at me and said, “Oh no. Please don’t be sorry. I get up each day thanking God for each day that I am here. I am married to the love of my life and he thinks I’m brilliant!”

I said, “Rebecca the Faithful, what do you love to do?”

“I used to love making flower arrangements. That’s why my husband says I’m brilliant. I could take ordinary flowers and turn them in to something extraordinary!”

I smiled and said, “Rebecca, you are the one!”

“I am the one?” She asked!

“Yes, you are the one. The other day, my friend Beth Pattee, brought me in the most beautiful flower arrangement and I asked God this morning whom I should pass them on to today. I wanted someone else to enjoy the gift and it was you all along!”

I stopped talking and went and got the flowers. I put them down by her feet (because she has no use of her arms) and I asked her if I could take her picture and share her story…

“You mean you want me to have these beautiful flowers, take my picture and you want to share my story?” she asked!

“ABSOLUTELY!”

She smiled and said, “You mean other people will know my name and will know about me?”

“YES!”

Rebecca smiled this beautiful smile, I took the picture and with all her might she lifted her hands and said, “Girl power!”

She also shared that she lives in an assisted living home because her husband has to work and can’t put on her makeup and do her hair like he would like to be able to, but that he comes to visit her before work each day and each night he stays with her until she goes to bed.

As Rebecca was getting in the car to leave her husband came into the store, introduced himself and showed me a picture of what Rebecca used to look like. Oh my gosh! “She’s still the same stunning woman today!” he said.

The love this man has for his wife was the most beautiful moment I’ve ever experienced. He told me they were the Romeo and Juliet story and how blessed he was that she chose him.

Her husband graciously accepted my invitation to come and visit her and promised me that he will bring her in the store when he can so she can spend a few hours meeting the amazing people who come through the door.

Rebecca is new to the area and doesn’t know any women. I was wondering if any of you would like to write Rebecca a letter, introducing yourself, and then I can read her the letters. She can’t read, and when she lifted her hands and said, “Girl Power!” I realized she was right. There’s nothing more powerful than the power of friends.

Please email me at: gina@owiebowwowie.com and I will print them off and take them to her.

I have no idea how long God’s going to bless us with the store, but I can promise you that each person who has walked through the door has become my blessing, and has blessed me with the greatest stories that I forever want to remember.

So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. Genesis 24:58

 

And the two of them lived happily ever after! 

 

L.B.
ONWARD TO MY NEXT VISIT WITH REBECCA THE FAITHFUL!

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Where Stories Are Told!

You're Invited to stop by and get a hug!

For the past month I’ve been blessed to frequent a tiny store on Thousand Oaks Blvd. It was hit and miss if the store was going to open so one day I called my friend Jan Moon and said, “Jan, will you pray with me that God won’t open the store unless He wants us to open the store and is going to bless it.” Jan said, “Absolutely!” and she prayed.

Then time went by and the first day we opened the store I looked up to heaven and said, “Okay God… this is your little corner of the world. I can’t wait to meet the people you send through these doors.”

I should have known that God hears the tiniest prayers of others and each day God has sent the most amazing people, and before most of the people leave they all say, “I have no idea why I came in here today!” I smile and say, “God sent you!”

Yesterday afternoon a woman walked in and we chatted. She’s looking for the movie, “Hunger Games” so if anyone has a copy, please send it my way! Any way, before she left my friend, John, walked in who has an amazing group on Facebook called, Lets Find 1 Million People Who Really Support Our Severely Injured Veterans. He’s going to bring stuff in so we can help him raise money too for those who have been injured or suffer from PTSD, etc. 

Anyway, before the woman left she said, “Gina, I have no idea why I came in here today, but it was as if God told me to pull in this parking lot and then I saw your sign and thought… this will be a good place to rest!”

“Rest?” I asked.

“Yes. There’s a homeless Veteran who was in Vietnam. He was a medic and saved many, but hundreds of men died in his arms. He’s been homeless for years, has cancer, and can’t go into buildings, so there are 4 families within our community who care for him each week. This week is my turn and if you would like you can come outside and meet him. He’s resting for a moment.” 

We walked outside in the parking lot and here was the man sitting on a paint can, smoking a cigarette looking down at the ground. She introduced me and I said, “Thank you and God Bless you for your service.”

He slowly looked up and said, “Oh, my service to my country was a long time ago. I haven’t done anything in a long time.” 

The moment I looked at his face my heart saw a man whose heart used to beat one way before he left for Vietnam and has never beat the same since he returned. And within the silence of his pain he’s no longer able to walk into a building for fear that the building may blow up, or memories arrive of those he wasn’t able to save. His cancer is not good and from his lack of words my heart was able to feel a tiny portion of his heart…

It also turned out that at one time the woman who now cares for the man used to be a concert pianist, and taught piano lessons, but is now on disability and doesn’t have a piano anymore. I smiled at her and said, “Well, maybe God will send us a piano and we’ll put it in the store and you can and give piano lessons again. She smiled and simply said, “How I would love that!” I then told her about John and how he is raising money to help those with PTSD, and she simply said, “God Bless him!” 

This woman was one of 10 stories that were shared yesterday and since I’ve been at that store my head hasn’t been able to stop thinking of the people who God sends through the doors. 

People ask me all the time why I believe in the Bible, and now that I have the store… even if God only allows me to have it for another hour, another day, month or years… What I’ve learned from this tiny store is I believe the stories that were written in the Bible are true… Just as I know this story I’m sharing with anyone who happens to read my tiny heart today is true, and I would like to share this… It doesn’t matter where you work, or what you do, what matters in this life, is the people who frequent our doors.

Today I’m blessed to get another day at the store, and I can’t wait to see who God sends in today, because there hasn’t been a person who hasn’t walked out of my door who hasn’t become a part of my heart!

The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel… Colossians 1:5

L.B.
ONWARD TO THE STORE!

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