A Whole New World

“Am I dreaming or is this real?” I ask myself. In the space of one week, my whole world has been transformed…

Instead of being woken up in my tent at 2 a.m. by drunk people yelling obscenities at each other, I am woken up at a reasonable hour by a happy rooster crowing outside my bedroom window.

Instead of feeling the hard, damp ground beneath me, I feel a soft, dry bed.

There are no ants crawling in my clothes, no blood-thirsty mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, no roaches scurrying around for the cover of darkness, no scorpions seeking a place to attach, no ticks looking for a free ride.

Instead of smelling mold and mildew, I catch a whiff of fresh toast. Instead of pastries and doughnuts in the homeless shelter’s dining hall, there are fresh farm-grown persimmons for breakfast.

Instead of showering with a garden hose in public or taking a bus to shower at the shelter downtown, I shower in a clean, private bathroom.

And the joy of having meaningful work here on the farm – transplanting seedlings, watering in the greenhouse, endless hoeing, picking vegetables and then sorting and cleaning them for market.

I think of the movie Poor Little Rich Girl and how Shirley Temple wakes up one morning to find her attic world transformed from cold and dark to warm and bright. It can really happen!

But I can also testify that in the midst of the rainy, moldy, buggy world of homelessness and tents and shelters that God is with His children; He preserves, protects, and provides for His own. He can make even dark situations bright with the light of His presence.

I was thankful for His abundant blessings then; I am thankful now.

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness [mercies], and for his wonderful works [wonders, miracles] to the children of men!” Psalm 107:8. 

For Women Only: A Musing on the Mundane which May be Amusing

After spending the afternoon putting soil and manure through a mesh screen in preparation for use in the greenhouse, I was covered with dirt from head to foot. After a quick shower, I caught a glimpse of my almost-50-year-old face in the mirror over the bathroom sink. What was all that furry stuff on my face? It’s not that I hadn’t noticed it in prior months, but I was just too preoccupied to do anything about it.

I confess that I started shaving and plucking and primping and preening.

“What a joy to look like a lady again!” I thought to myself.

Then a thought crossed my mind: is it true that I am more feminine when I can pluck my eyebrows and shave my mustache?

Definitely not. In fact, just last weekend when I returned to the homeless camp for my little massage ministry, I heard a man remark to his buddies as I passed by, “Now, there goes a real lady.”

I smiled. He hadn’t noticed my thick eyebrows or little mustache hairs or nose hairs or absent make-up or dirty fingernails. He knew I was a lady from knowing my character, from the way I dress, the head covering, and how I conduct myself.

That, I believe, is the essence of womanhood and true femininity.

Steppingstones

The past several weeks have been full of trials and transitions, yet God continues to bless me abundantly.

Recently while I was waiting in line for the evening meal at the shelter, the man behind me (without even introducing himself) said, “Hi. Would you like to work on an organic farm?”

My mouth dropped open. Me? Work on an organic farm? I peppered him with questions…

Long story short, I began working part time on the farm last week and am now camping on the property. It is a small organic farm right in Gainesville!

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The timing for this move couldn’t be more perfect as I have recently had several “close encounters” with various males at the shelter compound. I was feeling more and more insecure in the environment (while still recognizing that I am protected by bands of holy angels).

I plan to return to the homeless shelter on weekends to continue assisting with the Shabbat service conducted by a Jewish friend as well as to continue prison and massage ministries. The rest of the time I will be picking beans, transplanting and transplanting vegetables and flowers for winter (broccoli, cabbage, kale, carrots – the works!), sorting vegetables for the bi-weekly farmers’ markets, and other farm-related duties. And in my spare time (!) I would like to I edit my books, Shine for Me, Blue Butterfly! And Fullness of Joy: Living Where the Roses Bloom Forever” in preparation for presentations at shelters and churches.

It is such a joy and a blessing to work outdoors with God’s creation, to nurture life and growth, and to have meaningful work and flexible hours! I praise HaShem for His glorious gifts.

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.

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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.