Bless Them

#26 Nicki @ Northern and Grand Ave, Phoenix.

Nicki looked like the life of the party wearing a fluffy skirt with leggings and I couldn’t tell you how many colors her hair was.

Her sign read, “Anything would help” and since I was in traffic and on my way to work, I did something I never do.

I waved to her and rolled my passenger side window down.

I hate doing that, because I feel rushed and I know our conversation would be quick, but I also didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity to give her a lunch.

Don’t know anything about her. I drive this way nearly everyday and I’ve never seen her before.

#27 Howard @ Arizona Ave and Ray, Chandler.

Howard was pushing his cart down Arizona Ave.

I few across two lanes of traffic to pull into a Walgreens.

I was afraid I was going to miss him, or have to chase him down the street, so I pulled quickly into the first spot. The spot, of course, was flooded from all the rain.

I jumped out to catch him.

Funny, I spot him standing in the middle of a drive way, adjusting something, or perhaps, waiting for me.

I wave as he looks over towards me.

He waved back with a grin, but continues to push his cart out of the road.

“No!” He looks back once again.

This time I wave and point to the brown paper bag I have in my hand.

His grin turns to a big goofy smile as he abandons his cart and starts to walk towards me.

“Good morning!” He hollered out.

“Good morning! I was afraid I was going to miss you. I made you an extra lunch today. I don’t know? In case you haven’t eaten today.”

He just seemed so joyful, he made me feel joyful too.

Lord, bless the ones who bless me.

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Mr. Brokenhearted

#25 Eddie @ I10 and Litchfield Rd, Goodyear.

Recently I was telling Mike, before I started making extra lunches, I would notice people living on the street, everywhere.

Since making an extra lunch, they are much harder for me to find. Some days, I don’t see anyone at all.

I wonder to myself, if maybe God has someone in mind for me and he doesn’t want me distracted.

So I look for them. Sometimes it requires me…OK, most of the time, it requires me parking my car at quite a distance before I can walk back to them to learn who they are.

Today I was driving to my last interpreting assignment and coming off the freeway, when I saw Eddie.

After seeing him on the corner, I had to drive under the overpass, circle around in a couple of parking lots before parking at Jack in the Box, and walking back to meet him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18

I know where to find him.

I know when I see him.

I know he pursues me. And I like to pursue him too.

Today, I scared him as I approached him from behind. I’m always afraid of doing that. He was sitting on the ground with his back up against a street sign, holding a sign that read ‘HUNGRY’.

I asked him how his day was going. He smiled and told me he’s not going to complain. As soon as he does, things get real bad.

I shook his hand a couple of times. First after he stood up to greet me, the second after I told him I made an extra lunch for him and he grabbed my hand again as he accepted my brown paper bag.

“I’m so hungry”, he tells me.

I squeeze his forearm, as a driver in a car pulls up, hooks her horn, and starts waving something out her front window.

Certain, that she wasn’t looking for my attention, I turned to walk back under the overpass to get back to my car.

“Have a great day, Eddie!”

Yep, today I saw Jesus. He was there. Taking care of his sheep.

Mr. Sky

#23. Sky @ Country Club and Baseline, Mesa

I originally drove past him as I was heading back to the office. He was standing at the drive into a Walmart wearing all black and holding a small sign.

He didn’t look like he lived on the streets.

I thought maybe he was looking for a ride. I circled around to get a glimpse of his sign.

It read, “Hungry and Broke”.

I circled around once more and parked.

He looked confused as I approached him and waved.

Not sure if he spoke English, I shouted out, “Good morning!”

“Good morning!”, he says with a smile.

“I made an extra lunch today. Would you like it?”

He took my bag, but asked, “Who made an extra lunch?”

“I did. Everyday I make an extra lunch and look for someone who is hungry. You can have it if you’re hungry.”

I don’t know, I was kind of taken back by his shock. He looked at me like he was surprised I was giving him food, when he was clearly holding a sign that says he’s hungry.

“I have a poem for you”, he told me.

He spoke a beautiful poem about tears and rainbows. I wish I could recite it to you. It was a poem he wrote. I tried to listen to his soft words over the rough engine sounds from the passing cars.

He had some wisdom for me too!

It was about not grieving loved ones once they pass, but rather sitting down to write a long Thank You letter to them to help you heal from the loss.

He has definitely been the most interesting individual I have met.

I wished him well, and gave him a hug.

I hope I inspired him, as much as he inspired me.

Lord, I don’t know Sky’s story, but I know you do. Bless him today and everyday. May the words he speaks be those you have given him. Keep him safe.

Mr. Pete and Mr. Darrin

#21, Pete @ I17 and Peoria, Phoenix.

As I drove down the exit ramp heading south to turn east, I noticed Mr. Pete from the corner of my eye, sitting on the curb on the opposite corner. With him he had a backpack and a small sign that I never got to read.

After making a couple of U-turns and parking a quarter of a mile away, I walked down to the corner he was tucked away at.

He accepted my lunch, then put it on the ground and pushed it away from him.

Perhaps he will eat it later.

Kinda felt it wasn’t food he was looking for, but that’s OK. There will be those people.

Interestingly enough, after waking back to my car and driving across the street to a QT to use the bathroom and write my note about Mr. Pete, I look up to find someone else who I noticed working the median at a different corner.

He was holding his sign, along with a couple of bags of groceries that he had just recently purchased from inside the store. In his hands were a couple of boxes of cereal, a Monster, a fountain drink and a coffee cup.

I observed him conversing with another gentleman who was struggling with something on his bike.

Shortly thereafter, an employee came out and had something to say to him. It seemed that the employee was not happy, while the gentleman with his groceries and sign, looked confused.

I was confused as well.

I watched him being told to leave the property from the comfort of my car. My car that was parked in front of one of their entrances and I, who only used their bathroom and did not purchase anything was not approached at all or asked to leave.

Interesting.

#22, Darrin @ 7th street and Dunlap, Phoenix.

Mr. Darrin’s sign read, “Homeless and Hungry”.

I find it interesting that people have confronted me about using the term “Homeless” and accuse me of giving them a derogatory label, when in fact, it appears, it is what they call themselves.

For the record, Deaf people who are deaf, consider the term “Hearing Impaired”, to be derogatory, even though those who can hear feel it is more politically correct. Just saying.

Maybe there’s a difference, maybe there’s not.

Having already giving my extra lunch away, I pulled over to give him a coat that was donated to me; he was after all, wearing a sleeveless shirt.

After approaching him and offering the coat, I realized he already had one that he was not wearing.

Awkward moment when I feel he accepts my offer to not hurt my feelings.

Ugh….

I don’t even know what to say about that, except there was a time when I was single and struggling to clothe my four children.

I would never turn down anything that was given to me. Even if I had plenty, I never knew if I was going to run out.

I figured it was a gift that I didn’t know I was going to need. I felt it was God’s provision.

If he doesn’t need it, I hope he gives it to someone who does.

Lord, please look after Mr. Pete and Mr. Darrin. I pray that what they seek is what they need. In your Son’s name. Amen.

Miss Gail and Lieutenant John

I couldn’t miss Miss Gail’s hot pink hair from the road.

I made a U-turn and headed back.

Once I started walking to where she was camped at, I could see there were three other people with her.

I’m not going to lie, I was scared.

I kept asking God to protect me. I was at their home and I didn’t know what to expect.

I handed Miss Gail the one lunch I had with me and immediately she asked if I was with county.

I didn’t even know what she meant. I told her no, I just couldn’t help but notice her beautiful pink hair from the road and wanted to turn around to give her my extra lunch.

She thanked me and I started walking off when Lieutenant John spoke something to me that I couldn’t hear, so walked back.

He was telling me his name was John but the people on the street gave him the name lieutenant.

He spoke really fast. They both did.

Miss Gail came over to us and was saying something I didn’t quite understand but she seemed agitated and set something wrapped in a black bag on the wall and said they were needles.

Dear God, why do you have me here?

Apparently they were something she took from someone because she felt they were dangerous.

I don’t even know. I’m still trying to piece together what she was talking about.

I didn’t feel safe.

Lieutenant John wanted to talk to me about where he’s from, Indiana by the way. His friend who didn’t give me his name joined the conversation, briefly. Their fourth friend had nothing to say.

I left telling Miss Gail I would pray God would put a hedge of protection around her and to stay safe, since I felt she felt she was in danger from the person she took the needles from.

I really don’t know what to think.

This was the 20th lunch I have given out.

It was the first time I ever felt uneasy while I was there and not sure how I should feel after I left.

They were very nice. They were not threatening.

I was scared because they talked fast.
I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
She asked me something, I didn’t know what she meant or who she thought I was.
She openly talked to me about meth and needles.

I don’t think I will go to anyone’s home again. I don’t think that was smart.

But I won’t let this interaction stop me from packing an extra lunch.

I want to continue to love God and love others.

Lord, please look after Miss Gail and her friends. She could really use your help. Thank you for giving her friends she seems to trust and can look out for her. I pray they feel your call for their lives and may they feel your love.

Help me to find you during this brief encounter I had. May I learn from what you wanted me to see. Amen

“Do Not Fear”… But I Do

Precursor… Yesterday, I informed my eighteen year old son, he would once again, have to leave my house.

Yesterday, I was beyond grief. I was mad. I was scared.

Today at church we were introduced to a new song. I meditate on it as we are always encouraged to do.

“I am no longer a slave to fear.
I am a Child of God”

… and yet I’m afraid because I’m not sure of where my son is in all of this.

He is also a child of God.
Isn’t he?

Is he still saved?

Could he just be screwing up his time here, but still be with me in eternity?

Am I responsible for where he spends his life in eternity, or how he spends his life here on earth?

If he suffers here while he’s here on earth, but not when he’s in heaven, am I OK with that?

He had accepted Christ as his Savior at one time. Is it still true if he doesn’t give him that position right now?

Is there an age requirement? Was he too young at the time, and therefore irrelevant?

I believe our sins are not what keeps us from entering heaven, but rather, not accepting God’s gift; which is acknowledging Christ came to die for our sins.

Is my son still saved?

Am I upset over his choices because of the consequences he will suffer here on earth, or because of not knowing his eternity?

I’m also aware that one could live a life that looks good but still not spend eternity in heaven.

Which would I rather him live with?

I’m so confused.
My heart aches.

“I am no longer a slave to fear.
I am a Child of God”
… how can this be true?

You are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. – Galatians 4:7

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear”…but I do!

No, I do not fear for myself, but I do fear for the life of my son.

What am I missing?
What do I not get?

Finding God in My Backyard

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It was two and a half years ago, that I decided to tackle our backyard.

It was a mess. We were lucky in that the one dog we had, only went to the bathroom on the sides of the house. It led to easy clean up and she left my focal point alone.

The grass.

However, since it was late spring, and I was planting seeds, instead of laying sod, and didn’t have a sprinkler system, everyone thought I was waisting my time.

After a few hot weeks of watering my dirt, I thought so too.

I gave up.

I’m thinking it was probably the end of September, or maybe the start of October when it started to happen. After a few sprinkles from scattered showers, my seeds started to grow! Like everywhere!

I was so excited. So encouraged. I started watering the dirt again, every morning.

I would turn the water on as soon as I got up. Then after I jumped out of the shower I would put on the rubber sandals I had stolen from my son, and move the sprinkler to the other half of the yard.

The tricky part was remembering to turn the water off, after I was ready for work.

Slowly, but surly I noticed more and more blades of grass starting to pop up.

IT WAS AWESOME!

I started to feel confident.

I was so excited the botanical gardens were having a sale. I bought two ice plants. They were beautiful.

I bought two grapevines, too. Knowing they would need to mature for a couple of years before they would produce any fruit, I took great care in deciding where exactly I should place them.

I started to make big plans for draping our cinder block wall so it wouldn’t radiate heat.

Someone donated a couple of railroad ties to mark out a small garden. I had planted a few vegetables from seeds, along with a few herbs.

And for a long time, I felt like my sixth grade science teacher was a scam. She insisted, if you just put a couple seeds in the ground, with water and sunlight then BAM! You would have a plant.

Well guess what?

It doesn’t work like that here in Arizona.

At the time, I had an intern with me from Indiana. Yeah, she would tell me if you accidentally over fill your bird feeder you would get all kinds of stuff growing.

She laughed at my frustration.

Our dirt is clay. There is absolutely no nutrients in it. And it is rock hard. You have to make or buy soil. It doesn’t come with your house. No. No it doesn’t.

Then there is the heat. It sucks everything dry, so not only do you have to worry about how much water you’re giving everything, you also need to worry about shade and keeping things cool.

And those pretty flowers that bloom everywhere all over the world? Yeah, not here. Nope. So you’re kind of limited on what you can grow.

Absolutely everything is against growing here in the desert. Everything.

Well, now I’m buying books, looking online, talking to my ARIZONA gardening friends, joining dessert gardening groups, all in the hopes of growing something, anything.

I have to tell you, no one was more excited to see something green sprout out of the ground THAT WASN’T A WEED!

I had lettuce and cucumbers and it was so super cool to watch those watermelons get bigger and bigger and bigger.

And then one day…we got another dog.

A big dog. A big friendly dog. A big friendly, lovable, goofy dog.

I first noticed the giant patch of grass that had a slight yellow tint to it. I asked my gardening friend to come over and take a look at it.

He said I was crazy. He didn’t see any yellow.

Oh, I could. I knew my grass. I was out there watering it every morning. I cut and edged it every weekend. There was a huge yellow spot appearing on my soft, luscious, deep green lawn.

Asking around about it, the popular explanation was THE DOG. Seriously, I knew the dog went to the bathroom on it, but he’s not a dinosaur.

Then one of my ice plants wasn’t doing so well. What the heck? I gave it more food. I gave it more water. I gave it less water. Nothing was helping my poor beautiful plant that was losing more and more of its blossoms.

And then, there it was.

The day I caught my dog, our big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog taking a nap on my ice plant!

TANK!!!

Within weeks of the kids going back to school, he had gotten into and destroyed EVERYTHING, both inside and outside of the house. I will not forget the morning my son walked into the living room, carrying a half eaten, green and yellow watermelon.

“Mom!!! Look what he has done!”

Unbeknownst to me, my son had been secretly plotting to devour this on his own. He checked on it every morning. He would trek out into the backyard every day he would come home from his dad’s. This was his.

We were all devastated.

Everything I had worked for, for a year and a half was gone.

I was disappointed. I was done.

I let it sit for a whole year. I didn’t go back there. I would close the windows so I wouldn’t have to see it.

Just thinking about it upset me.

So, here we are now. It’s September again. We still have the same big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog. It’s the same month, two years ago, that showed me promises of blades of grass.

It’s getting cooler again.

Yesterday, I opened my back sliding door and gazed out at the huge mess one would have after letting the dogs use it as their bathroom for the past year, and thought…maybe.

I put on my tennis shoes and grabbed my rake, and I’ll tell you why.

When I was taking care of it two years ago, I learned something. I learned about God. I learned about myself. And I learned about life.

God

I learned it takes a gardener to make something grow. If I leave something alone, it dies. It produces no fruit. And in my case, it can smell pretty bad.

I am grateful for my Gardener. Not only has God never given up on me, but he fights for me. He pulls the weeds that threaten me. He protects me from the heat. He provides every need, to not only grow, but to thrive.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

I learned frustration when you expect great things to sprout and it doesn’t.

God has made great plans for me. He has equipped me. I am His seed. He knows I am capable of great things, and yet, I know, because of fear; I do not always live up to my potential. How completely frustrating I must make him. This hurts my heart.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippines 4:13

Myself

I learned it takes nurturing; food, water and sunshine for life to thrive.

If I want to see change, I have to make the change. If I want to see beautiful things grow around me, I need to invest in others. For my children, my husband, for my friends; I need to nurture them. I need to make sure I water relationships, feed into them. Love them with sunshine.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.- 1 Peter 4:8

I learned everything is a process.

My grass did not sprout up over night. It took time. It took a lot of time. There was stuff I had to do, to get anything to grow. Before there was any fruit of my labor, I had to work at it every day. And just like my garden, I am a work process. I have setbacks. I have growth spurts. I am a process. I am not a disappointment.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Life

I learned from dirt comes living things.
I have learned, beautiful things can rise from the dust. No matter how broken one may be. How filthy one is. How far into death one has traveled. There is hope. There is peace. There is beauty.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. – Isaiah 61:3

So, yes this morning I watered my grass. I know it won’t be easy. I still have forces that battle against me, like the heat and the dog. But I am better prepared.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

God started over once. The second time he sent His Son. A Son he sent for me to imitate, to emulate. So I’d like to learn more about him too.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

I’ve got more work to do. More to learn. And apparently some more grapevines to relocate!