A Happy Camper

Sunday, June 1, 2014, Gainesville, FL

5 a.m.

It’s coming together – what appears to be my Beloved’s leading and guidance are coming to the fore. I’m sitting here at Bo Diddly Park with my “buddy guards” giving out Band-Aids to people with blisters.

Praise God for a sleeping pad, even if it is just on loan!

Waiting for a bed, waiting for meals, waiting for something… It would be so easy to give up.

Was awakened this morning by the sound of the maintenance man cleaning up the nightly filth from my comrades.

I wonder why the city doesn’t provide porta johns for us here at the park for when the bathrooms are closed overnight instead of expecting us to go behind a utility box before 7 a.m.? (Where it stinks, obviously.)

The only way for me to maintain dignity under these circumstances is to know my true identity – daughter of the Most High God! This is who I am and this is why I sing in His sweet Presence.

daughterLater

Just returned from washing out my clothes and carrying around a backpack full of wet clothes again. Heavy! If I were in charge of a shelter, I’d at least provide a spinner for clients who can’t afford to use a dryer.

Monday, June 2, 2014, Gainesville, FL

Slept under a porch overhang last night with two buddy guards. (Later discovered it was a federal building!) It was raining so people in the park were sleeping on the stage (the only shelter in the park) but later, the police chased them off.

I’m longing for clean, dry clothes. Father has removed my fear of the night, and I’m thankful.

Later

Today I got a free Gainesville bus pass for a year! Came up to the new shelter near the airport and had a delightful breakfast: yogurt and pumpkin muffins. There were real flowers on the tables and even tablecloths! The dorms should open soon.

images12I smell like a pig even after shower because I’m wearing wet clothes that have soured in my bag. And have developed blisters upon blisters on my feet.

Sleeping up here tonight instead of the at the park downtown. Forget signing up for a bed – it’s useless!

Crickets instead of cursing tonight! J I’m a happy camper although I’m on concrete and need to battle mosquitoes and flies. So thankful for a roof over my head!

mosquitoTuesday, June 3, 2014 Gainesville, FL

Went to the thrift store today with a voucher from a Christian agency. Spent all morning there shopping for my three new outfits. It was a blast! Will look like a new person tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, Gainesville, FL

What a blessing to have new friends and new, clean clothes! Got to wash out some old clothes (after spending 10 days in my denim skirt!) and hang them up to dry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I have been camping here for more than six weeks now and consider myself blessed. Although the dormitories are not open yet, the shelter provides a grab-and-go breakfast and a hot dinner. Every week a friend conducts a service for Shabbat; I occasionally do odd cash-jobs like participating in studies for the University of Florida, doing minor house repairs, and proofreading.

There are more than 80 people living out here now, anticipating the opening of the dormitories before winter. There is only one shower for all 80 of us (and the number is increasing daily), so I usually go downtown to shower and have lunch. I spend most of my time working on personal projects at the library. Next week I will begin offering chair massages for the women. So many of them cannot see past this dark place in their lives, and I am blessed to offer Hope.

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Onward

More excerpts from my journal:

Friday, May 30, 2014, continued

On the bus to Ocala

Woke up in time to see a sign that said “JOY Find it at 88.1.” It reminded me of when I was trudging around Orlando yesterday, and I saw an old Watchtower magazine on the ground. The article it was opened to was “Wings of a Blue Butterfly”!

images11My feet are hot, sweaty, and athlete’s footy. Shoes are always wet; haven’t changed socks for a couple of days.

Later that morning

I turned around and took the next bus out after arriving in Ocala! The Greyhound station there is 5 miles from town – that would never work for my butterfly needs… Bought a ticket to Gainesville…

The same evening

After arriving in Gainesville, I called the shelter downtown and was told I needed a police clearance to use the shower and other day facilities so I walked until I found the station. When I reached the shelter, I signed up for a bed, but none  are available for tonight so I guess I will walk the streets tonight (illegal to sleep on public property here).

It’s getting to be old hat now: signing waiting lists for a bed when no beds are available. I’m so tired! I walked away in tears, remembering the incident at the bus station last night and not looking forward to spending a night at the park.

Sure enjoyed that shower today! Thankful to be walking around in clean clothes, even though they are still wet.

Called a couple of pastors in the area and asked for help. One returned my call and kindly arranged a room at a Super 8 for me.

Sabbath, May 31, 2014, Gainesville, FL

Must have put in 20 miles yesterday. I walked for nearly 2 hours last evening to find the Super 8 Motel where the pastor had made a reservation. To make a long story short, I eventually realized that I had been talking to a pastor in Gainesville, Georgia and not Gainesville, Florida!

So his room reservation was wasted and I was exhausted. I stopped in the entryway of a little motel and asked from permission to sit on the ground in a dark, out-of-the-way corner.

“That’s okay,” the man answered kindly. “Do you want water or anything?”

“No,” I thanked him. “I just need to rest for a while.”

I slept on my backpack for about 45 minutes.

Then a women (presumably his wife) woke me up yelling, “What are you doing here? You can’t stay here. Get out!”

I picked up my bag and started walking again. I wandered back downtown amidst the drunk students from the university. It was about midnight by then. I walked to Bo Diddly Park and happily discovered about 30 “unsheltered” people settling down on the pavement for the night.

parkFinding a woman about my age, we struck up a conversation. Exhausted, I laid down on the bare concrete and slept for a few hours, extremely thankful for group safety. 

Homelessness is a great equalizer. Just a bunch of misfit humans banded together helping each other to survive, some selfishly demanding their own way, some hoarding, some stealing, but some loving and assisting others… Beggars telling other beggars where to find bread…

Later on Saturday

The worker at the downtown shelter told me to be there to sign up for a bed at 8 a.m. I was there. But the same guy who told me that on Friday just laughed at me and said, “No, I didn’t say that. There’s no case manager here on weekends. You’ll have to wait until Monday.”

As I walked from the “shelter” back to Bo Diddly Park, I saw a black hose on the ground that reminded me of a snake. I thought of the devil trying to discourage me. How many more nights will I need to sleep amidst the noise and smoke and arguments and vulgarity in the park?

My blisters are so bad that I don’t feel like walking anymore.

I saw the workers at the shelter go through all the bags of donations and take out the nice clothes for themselves before putting out the junky remainders for us mere mortals. Something is wrong with this picture.

After meeting me at the shelter today, one homeless man said, “It’s rare to find a real woman who retains her dignity and beauty.” I appreciated that. (To be continued.)

Demons

 Friday, May 30, 2014 Orlando, FL

The Greyhound station was quiet when I arrived later that same evening. Exhausted, I slept a bit, folded over my backpack like a soggy tortilla wrapped around lumpy beans.

Around midnight, I woke up and sleepily meandered into the restroom, unaware that a man was sitting just outside the door watching me. A short while later, I was ready to return to my seat in the waiting room. As I lifted my heavy backpack from the hook and slung it over one shoulder, I opened the stall door to walk to the sink. At the same time, a tall black man pushed the stall door open.

Before I realized what was happening, the man quickly stepped inside with me. Something red covered his lower face like a mask. Just inches away from my face, we stood eye to eye for what seemed like a long time.

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The look in that man’s steel-cold eyes was evil, simply evil, and I knew instinctively that he was capable of harming me.

He took another step forward, his hands reaching toward me. My eyes remained riveted to his. I couldn’t go backwards; I couldn’t go forwards. There was no place for me to go.

Instinctively, I let out a blood-curdling scream (as it was described later by other passengers in the station), piercing the otherwise quiet night at the bus station. (The scream was so loud that my throat was sore for hours afterwards.)

ScreamingWomanWith one last loathsome look, my would-be assailant turned and ran.

“Help! Help!” I screamed over and over with whatever voice I had left, still standing in the stall like a petrified tree in a forest.

A Greyhound employee who “happened” to be just outside the bathroom door at that precise moment stuck out his foot to trip the man as he fled. That prevented the man from dashing out the nearest exit (a back door) and meant he had to run all the way across the station to leave, gracefully leaping over a five-foot wall on the way out.

images10By that time, the Greyhound security had been alerted and were calling the police. A young male law student from New York chased my would-be attacker through the parking lot on foot. Just as he was about to tackle the man and “beat him up a little before he got sent to jail,” a police car arrived and pulled in front of my mugger. He was cornered.

As they handcuffed the man and put him in the car, I very shakily filled out a statement for the police.

A man is handcuffed in south Los AngelesI can’t get that man’s face out of my mind.

“He will get charged with attempted assault and sexual harassment,” my young hero told me proudly. “It’s all part of God’s plan for me to be in the right place at the right time,” he continued. “I lost my wallet this morning so I couldn’t fly back to New York as planned. And here at the station earlier this evening, I asked you for a pen so I became aware of your presence. God is good.”

Other passengers, recognizing what “could” have happened to me, chimed in, sharing similar testimonies of praise to God. The incident, which the Evil One intended for harm, God was able to use to bring people together, thankful for His goodness and protection. And no one is more thankful than I am! (To be continued)

Angels

While I was brushing my teeth at the Greyhound station, a sweet little girl with strawberry blonde curls stood nearby watching. Her cheery giggle warmed my heart.

imagesWhen I came out of the bathroom, the cherub and her family were seated nearby. There were no seats near my departure gate, so when the little girl motioned for me to sit beside her, I did. She was thrilled.

I gave her a piece of paper from my butterfly notebook to draw on, and we started playing a guessing game. She giggled and giggled throughout the game as she tried to trick me.

Eventually I asked the little girl, “Where are you going?”

With a big smile, she answered innocently, “Nowhere. We’re waiting for a friend.”

“Where is your friend coming from?” I asked.

The cherub whispered to her mother, “Where is our friend from?”

Her mother answered (a bit too quickly), “From Mississippi.”

The truth followed. Before her mother could stop her, the little girl said to me, “I don’t have a house.”

“Neither do I,” I confessed in a voice loud enough for her mother to hear, but the woman said nothing. The cherub giggled understandingly and reached for my hand. I took her soft little hand in mine and held it for a moment. We both smiled, sharing that serendipitous moment.

Was she an angel sent to encourage me? After all, that was the first time I had acknowledged my new status, at least publically. It didn’t seem so terrible after all. I decided at that moment that homelessness was nothing to be ashamed of.

I arrived at the Orlando bus station early in the morning and caught a nap. Then I started calling around to find a place to stay. Nothing. No room in the inn. I tried place after place, getting new leads with every phone call. All of them were dead ends.

images5Discouraged, I thought about sleeping at a bus stop or under a tree, but neither one seemed to be the safest option. By that point, I was hungry and tired and feeling the stress of the situation. I wrote in my journal:

People at the Salvation were horribly rude. I waited all afternoon because they said there would be a bed at 4 o’clock and now nothing. The door was literally closed in my face.

slamming-doorI don’t really need to sleep tonight, but I do need a “safe” place to finally sit down and rest. I’ve covered almost 15 miles today. Maybe I’ll wander back to the Greyhound station or just collapse at one of the city bus stops or a lake – any shadowy area will suffice! I’m so hungry! It would be nice to wash my shirt somewhere. I’m starting to smell.

Later (sitting at the Coalition for the Homeless, another downtown shelter, waiting for supper):

What in the world am I doing here? Father lead me! And keep me under the shelter of Your wings. Something good is going to come of this. I will eat just about anything I am served tonight except pork! Don’t know when the next meal will be. Need to save money for the bus ticket out of here.

Later the same evening

Feeling very tired.  Sitting by a lake on the way back to the Greyhound station… Will ask times and prices and seats to Ocala and try again there. As I was eating supper at the Coalition, about 200 people shuffled in for a free meal, just like me. They looked so tired and hungry, like victims of a concentration camp. I’m sure there wasn’t enough food for all of them.

Continued in Part 4 – Demons

 

In the Beginning

Quotes from my journal, just prior to becoming “visibly homeless”.

Monday, May 12, 2014 Asheville, NC

I’m so thankful – so very thankful, Father – that the Pillar of fire is resting where it is! May I say the same prayer when circumstances are less pleasant. I only see the shelter option right now for many reasons.

Thank you for my current blessings; there are so many! Food, shelter, friends, warm weather, a cat to pet, your abiding Presence, and fullness of joy.

059Friday, May 16, 2014 Asheville, NC

My prayer: Father, put it in my heart to reach out to the lowly and hurting.

His answer:

Stand up! I have chosen you to be my servant.

You will tell people about me…this is why I have come to you.

I will deliver you from the people and from the nations unto which now I send you:

I want you to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners who sit in darkness from the dungeon,

so that they will turn from darkness to light

and from the power of Satan to God.

Remember them as though you were in prison with them.

And don’t forget those who are suffering [ill-treated, in trouble].

Remember them as though you were suffering with them.

Then their sins will be forgiven, and by faith in me

they will become part of God’s holy [consecrated, purified] people.

(Blend of Acts 26:16-18, Hebrews 13:3, and Isaiah 42:7)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 Asheville, NC

Booked my bus ticket from Asheville to Orlando today. One week from now, I will be “homeless” after six long years of couch surfing and situation hopping. I don’t know what to expect but I’m looking forward to trusting in my Savior’s strength. my beloved Master (Jesus), wherever You lead me, whatever comes my way, I look forward to it, in Your strength. I’m not a victim – I choose to follow You. Lead me to others to whom I can minister and lead out of darkness to You, the true Light.

The_Break_Of_Dawn_by_hameed (1)Thursday, May 22, 2014 Asheville, NC

Looking forward to moving on. Big step! It  doesn’t make sense to other people that I am going to a shelter, but this is clearly what God is saying. Finally, it’s just between me and Him.

Abba, I’m free falling. No, I’m free floating! Thank You for buoying me up, for sustaining me, for carrying me on Your wings of Love.

Sunday, May 25, 2014 Asheville, NC

Father, I believe You are calling me (and have been calling for some time now) to go through this experience at the shelter. You are calling me to share hope with the hopeless, specifically street/shelter people. I believe You are calling me to share my PMDD testimony with women, both “churched” and “unchurched”.

You have promised You will keep those who honor You so I trust You to keep me. Abba, I praise You for Your goodness to me!

Evening

The time is getting closer – I’m fearful and excited yet very much at peace! I can clearly see this is His plan for me, the right step in a ministry for my Master. It is necessary. He saved me from it in the past because I was not ready; now I’m submitted fully to Him. I know I am covered. I have peace about moving forward in this way. Right now it is enough to know He loves me, that I am precious to Him, and that I am abiding under His wings.

Lord, I will follow You through this fiery furnace knowing You are here. You are very near.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Asheville, NC

Definitely another adventure with God! Nice to know where I’ll be tonight (on the bus!) but where will I be 24 hours from now? I only know that I will be safe in my beloved Master’s strong arms. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Forward in faith! Carry me up this steep path, my beloved Master, I pray. I trust You in this place and watch for Your leading hand, knowing I am safe and complete in You, no matter where You take me. Your love goes with me everywhere! In Your sweet presence there is fullness of joy.

How-To-Feel-Joy-Nothing is mine; all things are thine. Fill me with Thy peace, love, and joy. Dwell in me; be sanctified in me; satisfy me; complete me!

On the Bus to Atlanta

Traveling for the first time (that I can remember) with no luggage. Freeeeeee! But true freedom is in my beloved Master who covers me with His pure white garment.

To be continued in the next blog – Angels

Mildew and Melodies

The rain beats steadily on the metal roof above me, matching my rainy mood. I sit restlessly on the cold concrete slab, waiting…

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“Waiting for what?” I ask myself.

Perhaps waiting for the rain to pass? But dense, dark clouds fill the sky. There’s no point in waiting for the storm to end.

Am I waiting for the mold to stop growing on the clothes inside my soggy tent?

054“This is Florida,” I remind myself. “The mold and mildew will grow.”

Am I waiting for supper soon to be provided inside the homeless shelter’s dining hall?

“It’s the weekend so there will be pizza for supper tonight. But pizza isn’t vegan or gluten-free so why should I wait for something I shouldn’t eat?”

As far as the eye can see, stately pines tower above the carpet of bright green grass in front of me. Each blade bows under the heavy rain yet continues to stand. Can I stand like the grass, humble yet undefeated?

I’ve spent the last hour scurrying around in the downpour, trying to salvage as much as I can from my camp mate’s leaky tent. Seeing the soggy books and papers and clothing around me yet again is disheartening.

Soaked to the skin, I begin to feel the chill so take a quick sponge bath at the tap near the porch. I finally locate some dry clothes to wear, not an easy feat in the wet world I live in.

“Okay, so it’s raining again and everything is wet again. It’s not my fault that everything’s soggy again,” I chide myself. “And look on the bright side: I have a shelter and I know where the port-a-john is (if I feel like getting soaked again to get myself there) and I know where there’s pizza if I want some. Things could be much worse.”

Probing deeper, I repeat the question, “What am I waiting for? Why am I so restless?”

Perhaps I am waiting to find myself in a different situation, no longer homeless, as if being warm and dry and secure will make a significant difference.

The repulsive odor of mildew hits me. Imagining myself sitting on a sunshiny beach on the coast of Florida, I close my eyes and feel the scorching sun beating down on my upturned face… Now that’s more like it… I begin to feel warm and imagine a soft sea breeze blowing around me. My skin feels like leather in the summer heat, but I don’t complain – I’m finally dry! The dampness of constant rain and humidity is gone…for the moment.

imagesPicturing myself walking along in the soft sand beside my Divine Hero, my beloved Master, I listen. After all, I have confidence in my Teacher, my Friend. He promises to do something new. He is with me and longs to answer the cries of my heart.

The rain is coming down harder now and so are my tears. Discouraged but undaunted, I press forward in my mind’s quest for a reason for my restlessness. After all, homelessness is as much a state of mind as it is a situation. I lack nothing in this place. It is a state of peace and “home.” My beloved Master fills me.

A melody fills my mushy mind. I begin to hum. It talks about how God’s arms are strong and that He is proud of me, His precious daughter.

Thinking back to six weeks before, remembering when my “visible” homelessness began, I realize that it’s all simply part of my journey and not different than anyone else’s life journey – there’s joy and pain, loss and gain, love and risk. Our journeys are similar in many ways.

Has it only been a month and a half since I started out on this journey? When I left my previous work assignment, I left all I knew behind. Although I didn’t know what I’d find, I was willing to leave the familiar to go where my Master led because He promised to go with me. And He is with me.

I am home.images1

Continued in the next blog – In the Beginning

The Promises of God

God gave the promise, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” And He said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” Exodus 33:14; 3:12.

These promises are for us today. Claim them! Hold Him to His living, powerful Word!

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Zoo Atlanta

Sharing our Creator’s creativity with you!

Sabbath-ing in Christ

“I have put the Lord before me at all times; because he is at my right hand, I will not be moved” (Psalm 16:8, Bible in Basic English).

One day I heard a radio preacher talking about heaven and the tree of life. He said there will be no more sorrow, wounds, haunting dreams, or dashed hopes in heaven. He said that in heaven there will be no more spiritual failures, struggles with imperfections, or wishing you could serve God better. There will be no more resisting or battling with the flesh, the world, and the devil. He said that in heaven, no one will live in bondage to sin. There will be no more pain of separation. There will be no more remorse or guilt. There will be no darkness or night there. He said that heaven offers every occupant a new mind. Then he said, “In this life, you have never known one minute of these pleasures. In your best day, hour, or minute, you have never experienced any of this.” The preacher added, “You will never experience perfect peace or perfect freedom from sin or perfect joy or satisfaction until you are in heaven.”

“No, no!” I protested to myself. “This isn’t God’s truth! Doesn’t this man know the Gift of God? If all of these blessings are still in the future, why am I experiencing so many of them now? How can he tell me that sadness, pain, toil, and death are my lot in life when I experience perfect joy, perfect delight, perfect rest, and perfect Life in my Savior right now? These blessings are present reality in my life, and they are all included in the Gift of God – the perfect Righteousness of Christ!”

“There will be no sorrow, wounds, haunting dreams or dashed hopes in heaven” – But Christ has already healed my broken heart. The leaves of the tree, His promises of grace and power, nurture and sustain me right now. I am healed and whole in Him.

“…With his stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53:5.

“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole…” Luke 8:48.

I ‘Sabbath’ in Christ’s healing Presence.

“There will be no spiritual failures, struggles with imperfections, or wishing you could serve God better in heaven; there will be no battling with the flesh, the world, and the devil in heaven” – But Christ has already fought the battle for me and won! I stand as a conqueror right now!

“…Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” John 16:33.

I ‘Sabbath’ in Christ’s victory.

“No one will live in bondage to sin in heaven” – But Christ has already freed me from Babylon, and I am no longer a servant to sin but to righteousness! Right now I am free!

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32.

“Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” Romans 6:18.

I ‘Sabbath’ in Christ’s freedom.

  • “There will be no pain of separation in heaven” – Christ’s sons and daughters who are one in Him are already connected by His Spirit. I enjoy oneness of spirit with my brothers and sisters in Christ near and far right now!

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” 1 John 1:7.

I ‘Sabbath’ in this place of unity.

  • “In heaven there will be no remorse or guilt” – But Christ has already washed away my sins and my guilt forever! He is my Joy. How can I be sad when I have fullness of joy in His Presence right now?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

“…In thy presence is fulness of joy…” Psalm 16:11.

I ‘Sabbath’ in Christ’s forgiveness and in His joy.

  • “There will be no darkness or night in heaven” – Christ is my Light already! I live in the Light. I am light! The night is over – joy comes in the morning – and the day has dawned in my life. The Sun, the Day Star, has risen in my heart, right now!

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world…” John 8:12.

“Ye are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:14.

“…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” Psalm 30:5.

“…That ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9.

“…Until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” 2 Peter 1:19.

I ‘Sabbath’ in the Light, the very ‘day-ness’ of our Redeemer’s shining Presence, His glory.

  • “Heaven offers a new mind” – But Christ as already given me a new mind! I am a completely new creation right now!

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: … all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“…We have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:16.

I ‘Sabbath’ in Christ and His mind is in me.

This continual, ‘present reality’ resting in the perfect righteousness Christ now heightens my experience on the Day of Delight, God’s weekly seventh-day Sabbath. The Bible says:

“God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them…and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3.

The seventh-day Sabbath was and is a memorial of God’s perfect work of creation and thus a sign of God’s power and His love. It is His oasis in time, a gift of physical, mental, and spiritual rest at the end of the work week. We purposefully set aside our “regular rush” and daily toil and wait in quietness before Him. The silence of the soul during those sacred hours amplifies His melodious voice speaking to the heart and we rest more completely in His holy presence.

The Bible tells us that “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered” (Psalm 111:4). The weekly Sabbath invites us to delight in God’s wondrous works in nature and brings us into closer communion with the Creator. It is there in His presence that we can find comfort because the powerful Word that said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and created all things is the very same Word who speaks life to our souls.

The seventh-day Sabbath was not merely for Adam and Eve and for the children of Israel. It is for us today. Like the other precepts of the Decalogue, it is of everlasting obligation. When God’s garden once again blooms here on earth, His holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the sun. The inhabitants of the new earth will go up to worship before the Lord from one Sabbath to another (see Isaiah 66:23).

Praise to our merciful Savior, our beautiful King, for the Gift of God, Christ’s Righteousness and ‘Sabbath-ing’ in Him! May you find true rest in Him, is my prayer for you.