Poem by Amy Carmichael

Nothing in the House

Thy servant Lord, hath nothing in the house,

Not even one small pot of common oil;

For he who never cometh but to spoil

Hath raided my poor house again, again,

That ruthless strong man armed, whom men call

Pain.

I thought that I had courage in the house,

And patience to be quiet and endure,

And sometimes happy songs; now I am sure

Thy servant truly hath not anything,

And see my song-bird hath a broken wing.

My servant, I have come into the house –

I who know Pain’s extremity so well

That there never can be the need to tell

His power to make the flesh and spirit quail:

Have I not felt the scourge, the thorn, the nail?

And I, his conqueror, am in the house,

Let not your heart be troubled: do not fear:bird2

Why shouldest thou, child of Mine, if I am here?

My touch will heal thy song-bird’s broken wing,

And he shall have a braver song to sing.

The Highways and/or the Byways

js 268 - fixedWhile I was standing at the bus stop near the Morningside Nature Center yesterday watching the cars whiz by, I noticed movement in the narrow gutter of the highway lane closest to me. Taking a second look, I was surprised to see a large tortoise running along the road. (“Large” is relative. He was at least 9-10 inches long.) And yes, he was running, if tortoises can run, or at least he was moving along with great speed for a tortoise! He definitely had somewhere to go in a hurry.

Fortunately for him, no cars were passing by at the moment so I quickly and carefully picked him up and placed him near the edge of the woods at the bus stop. Soon he poked his little head out of his shell and headed into the jungles of Gainesville, this time in a much safer location for traveling.1246259.large

Perhaps there is an object lesson in there for me…

I am eager to share my testimony of God’s goodness in preserving my life during the dark times of my life, to share information about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and it’s devastating and debilitating effects on a woman’s life, and to share the fullness of joy I have in my Savior Y’hoshua (Jesus), as a full-time ministry, to both the churched and the unchurched. To accomplish this, I was planning to rejoin the rat race of the world in which we live – find regular full time employment, get an apartment, etc. But God has carefully picked me up and placed me in a new environment where I can shine for Him. Like Mr. Tortoise, my “safe place” is not on the highway but in the woods (literally).

A song I know came to my mind. It is composed of just two verses from God’s Word:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace toward me was not in vain… (1Timothy 1:15; 1Corinthians 15:10).

If I am the chief of sinners (and I am)

and if Y’hoshua (Christ Jesus) came into the world to save sinners (and He did)

and if I am what I am (saved, delivered, healed, restored) by the grace of God (and I am),

then to show that His grace toward me was not in vain,

I must share His hope, especially with the women around me,

even if it means remaining in my present circumstances for now.

Like Mr. Tortoise, I am popping my little head out of my shell and, by faith, doing what God has called me to do as quickly as my little tortoise legs will carry me.

Gracious Father, thank you for taking me off, and keeping me off, the highway. You know a safer place, a better place, a better way… I may not see it clearly right now, but I trust that you are leading and providing.

Thank you for your beautiful creatures and the environment you created them to live in!

 

 

First Things First

This is the first time that anyone in Gainesville has seen me without my head covering.

This is the first time I’ve been inside a prison.

This is the first time a friend of mine has been convicted of a crime.

aam_prison_closing_3

Today I went to visit one of my original “buddy guards” from the time when I was sleeping at a park in Gainesville a couple of months ago. Conviction: assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill… He says he didn’t even pull out his knife, just threatened to do it when some guy ran off with his money and backpack. It’s strange the other man didn’t end up in jail too…4dba382dd175f.preview-300

My friend only gets two hours of visitation a week and I took one – he seemed happy to see me, the first visitor he’s had since he got in there. There was a thick glass between us and we spoke on telephones. (Everyone knows that already I guess, but it was all so new to me.) And I was told me to take off my head covering. Of course I wasn’t expecting that so I didn’t even have a hairbrush with me!

Visiting my friend in jail was difficult for me, not just seeing him locked up and all of that but watching the other men as well, with nothing to do, nowhere to go. It was a pathetic scene. And here’s my friend not knowing whether he’ll end up with a 10-year sentence or 60 days…

I’ll look into visiting again next week.

Light in the Darkness

I was out walking last evening when a young woman nearby used some very vulgar language with another camper. When she realized that I was within earshot, she immediately put her hand over her mouth and with great embarrassment apologized, “Ma’am, I’m so sorry! You didn’t hear that, did you?

Appreciating her respect yet trying to put her at ease, I clapped my hands over my ears like a “hear-no-evil” monkey. “Of course not,” I teased her.

monkeysShe continued, “You’re religious, I can tell.”

I smiled.

“It’s the way you dress,” the young woman said as she looked me over from head(covering) to toe. “It’s the way you conduct yourself. You’re beautiful.”

I smiled again. Soon I will tell her why.

I Will Bring You Home – By Michael Card

home

Though you are homeless

Though you’re alone

I will be your home

Whatever’s the matter

Whatever’s been done

I will be your home

I will be your home

I will be your home

In this fearful fallen place

I will be your home

When time reaches fullness

When I move my hand

I will bring you home

Home to your own place

In a beautiful land

I will bring you home

I will bring you home

I will bring you home

From this fearful fallen place

I will bring you home

I will bring you home

 

Massage Mania

Last night I offered to do some chair massages for the women at the shelter here in Gainesville  after dinner. Although we started later than planned, eight women were able to enjoy short back/neck/arm/hand massages. imagesI don’t know who was more blessed: me or them. I dare say that I was because touch therapy is so healing. They were feeding my soul while I was feeding theirs!

Definitely looking forward to ministering to the ladies again next week.

On my way out, an elderly gentleman stopped me and asked, “When is the dude going to come by to massage the men? I have a sore shoulder.”

I assured him that I will look for someone to train so the men can enjoy this healing therapy as well.

The women were so appreciative, receiving a little TLC from a peer and a sister. And they seemed to enjoy chatting together while they waited in line!

One of the women smiled and said, “I’m celebrating my birthday today so this massage is a gift to myself.”get-the-birthday-present-you-really-want-with-giftiki-3be80181aaPraise God for healing hands and His Spirit working in the lives of these women.

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.

images10

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)