Being Released

I’ve been wrestling with God since my last blog. I also have been trying to take care of myself because the days to come could be brutal if what he has planned isn’t what I’m mentally prepared to handle.

I’ve started Holy Yoga, which I have to be honest, is nothing like I expected. I’m signed up to retake a 12 week Codependency class. I’m meeting with a counselor throughout the month. I’m praying and have been asking for prayers. And lastly reading; scripture, yes, but also books and articles related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This is what I have learned.

  • We live our lives looking to men to be our God. Doctors make us feel good or feel better. They give us answers. They prolong our lives. But when the time comes, there will truly be only one God who can make us feel good or better. Only God can offer us any hope or purpose to why life is how it is. In the end it will only be me and Jesus.
  • God doesn’t like Alzheimer’s, but he will use it to show himself.
  • Those inflicted see Jesus in their caregivers. And if opened to it, caregivers draw on God’s strength, peace, and wisdom. He transforms them to look like Jesus.
  • Jesus served. And so shall I.

The change happened when I felt in my heart, my past relationship with my mom was done.

There is nothing to add or take from it.

You could say, I released her. That’s what it feels like.

Today, is a new day, a new start, and I have been called to continue refining my character by moving on with my Christ-centered life.

My identity, my worth, comes from serving my Lord, not replaying unforgiveness of the past.

I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of growing, while I’m here. I have been called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I have been called to let people see Jesus through me, not for my glory, but his.

I have sinned against my mom. I have not brought her comfort when I could have. I have chosen to pull away, instead of moving closer. I have made things harder on her by not helping her carry her load. I know what a touch does to her soul, but have not been around. I know how affirming words lift her spirit, but I have kept them to myself. I’ve known what she’s struggled to say, but I’ve made her continue searching for the right words. I know how much her family means to her, and I’ve kept them away.

To continue to ignore how God would want to use me, would be deplorably wrong. It would not only be a sin against her, but him.

However, I appreciate how Christ gave me time to heal. I appreciate that he didn’t condemn me for taking so much time in my pain. I appreciate how he didn’t let me sit in my sorrow, nor run from it, but nudged me to keep searching for something I didn’t know what I was searching for.

I have made up my mind to follow Christ. I will pick up my towel and serve him, by serving my her.

Day one, he has erased my hard feelings. That doesn’t mean they won’t come back, but for today they are gone.

I have had a meeting with my family and have asked for their support and understanding and what’s even cooler, is they have decided to come alongside and do it with me.

We will learn together how to have someone who can quite possibly, although not purposely, hurt our feelings but still have a place in our life. We will learn what Alzheimer’s looks like and adapt to its changes. We will choose to love even if we don’t feel loved.

We will learn grace, together.

It is an honor to be given the opportunity to act out my faith in obedience.

However…

I’M SCARED! I’ve already lost my mom. She died 16 years ago when she had her last stroke. I’ve already grieved that part, and if I let her back in, and I love her, I’m going to have to eventually grieve her again.

But I will, because as awful as that day will be, more tragic would be walking away from the gift she could be giving me.

Maybe things happen in my childhood that shouldn’t have, maybe she could have been better, but maybe she’s been given a second chance. I can still learn and grow from her.

I have always searched to become the woman I was supposed to be.

And to not take advantage of this opportunity could mean walking away from my destiny.

Settling for something less.

Allowing unforgiveness to steal my birthright.

Maybe we both have been given a second chance. Maybe she can finally see Jesus. And I can finally become the woman God designed me to be.

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Not Unnoticed

Last night, I dropped off four sleeping mats for the homeless. Of those four, I may have made one.

Tomorrow I’m dropping off, if I was to guess, around 200 crocheted hats to a shelter in Flagstaff. I’ve made none of those.

I went to pick up another bag of odds and ends, containing blankets and scarves to take as well, and I confided in my friend I feel disheartened.

I look at all I’ve collected and what I’ve done, or haven’t, and it makes me wonder what the heck I’ve been doing all year.

She reminded me of the project I’ve been working on for the Deaf/Blind community but I told her I didn’t think I should have turned my back on one community to help another.

I just don’t feel like I’m making a difference. I don’t see anyone changing. My goal is not just to help others, but to get others to help too. If I was successful at doing that, I could have moved on to another community without leaving one behind.

She hugged me, then encouraged me not to believe the lie I wasn’t making a difference.

(sigh)

This morning, as I was playing over all the emotions I felt last night, I was reminded of Job. He didn’t get to see what was going on behind his faithfulness, either.

It didn’t mean that his actions went unnoticed.

I need to remember this.

To Change the World

I want to change the world.

For me, my world is not the people on the streets, or the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

That world is much too big for little o’ me.

No, my world starts with those people who are the closest to me.

My family, my friends, my coworkers, my former schoolmates, my neighbors, my acquaintances…

People I interact with and do life with everyday.

I want to be surrounded by so much love; by so many people who live life for others.

I want my children to be brought up in a community that is for each other, and not against.

I dream of a day, where we all move as one body, doing the works of Jesus. Bringing heaven to earth, to reach out to the people on the street, and the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

I don’t care what church they go to. Or don’t go to.

I don’t care, what city, state or country they live in.

I don’t care who they voted for. Or if they did.

I want to see my community move, not because the church tells them, but because Jesus moves them.

I want to see a community where the Spirit dwells within them, richly.

I want to change the world by encouraging, supporting and showing.

It’s so simple, but it’s not so easy.

Many people are full of good intentions or excuses, but good intentions and excuses do not fulfill transformation!

The Spirit of the Lord is not silent, still, or too busy.

I dream of a day where my community not only reaches up, but also reaches out. A community that not only listens, but obeys. A community that stops acting like sheep and starts shepherding.

Every. Day. All day.

Serving the Lord is a full time job. It requires overtime. Sacrifice. It’s sometimes grueling, but most the time rewarding.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a lifetime.

And one day the opportunity will be gone.

Make this day, and everyday, count. They are numbered and are running out.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Is the thief stealing, killing and destroying your time? Or are you living your life to the fullest? Are you living out all the opportunities Jesus has made for you?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:17

My life is not my own. I was not put here for my own gratification. I am not here to see how successful I can become, how many riches I can aquire, or how much freedom I can possess.

May the Lord use me as he sees fit. May he take all that I have for his glory. May I be emptied so that He may fill me. May there be less of me and more of him.

I live only so that one day I may hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So are you with me? Can you help me?

If someone reaches out to you, will you pick up the phone? Will you help them move? Or watch their kids? Will you ask those who are hurting, how you can help? Will you LOOK for who has a need, and fill it? Will you welcome those who are pushed aside, or shunned from society? Will you give second chances and offer forgiveness? Will you cry with your neighbor? Will you do more than just pray for them?

Will you stop being offended and serve them instead? Will you stop sitting in a pew and start representing our King? Will you stop saying, I’m too busy?

Because, we can all can ask, and we can all listen, and this IS following Jesus.

We are on assignment!

Will you be the church with me Every. Day. All. Day?

I want to change the world. And my world starts with you!

To See Jesus

#30 Steven @ 32nd Street and Thomas, Phoenix.

Steven was just sitting on the corner, minding his own business. No sign. No hand out. Maybe he was taking a break from standing but when I encountered him, he was just watching traffic.

I sat down next to him and asked what he thought of the weather. It was a bit chilly for me.

He made small talk for a minute, but clearly wasn’t comfortable with me sitting with him so I got up to leave.

He probably didn’t feel any more special today, but for me he was a milestone.

I’ve just met thirty individuals, and passed out thirty extra lunches.

Actually, there’s a few more than thirty, but I didn’t get their names. Not that they don’t count as individuals, but not as a name to go with a face. God knows their name. I want to know their name too.

Thirty seemed like a big deal to me.

That’s one person a day for a month.

Wish I could say that’s a goal I’ve actually met, but it’s still thirty people I never would have taken the time to meet if I never followed through on my “What if” conversation I had with my friend.

All these names are people, like real people. All people who were once little kids, who went to school and had friends and a family, just like me.

1. Norma at 32nd Street and Windsor, Phoenix. Norma had her public assistance cut.

Recycle guy at 32nd Street and Yale, Phoenix. He was going through a dumpster of a trailer park looking for cans and bottles. I don’t think he speaks English.

2. Kurt at Washington and I10, Phoenix. Kurt lives out in a field. He’s looking for a job that will pay cash since he can’t afford to lose his public health insurance. I’ve actually had a lunch for him, a couple of times. If I see someone more than once, I try to check in with them.

3. Mike at 91st Ave and Olive, Peoria. Mike is an older gentleman looking for a job but won’t turn down food either.

4. Steve “Sarge” at 83rd Ave and Bell, Peoria. Steve is struggling to pay for his wife’s medical bills.

5. Daniel at 59th Ave and Northern, Glendale. Daniel is a young guy who’s hungry and hanging outside of the Walmart parking lot.

6. Rebecca at 59th Ave and Northern, Glendale. Rebecca is up early looking for food.

7. Jack at 67th Ave and Thunderbird, Glendale. When I offered Jack a lunch he asked me why I wasn’t going to eat it. I told him I already ate mine and I made a second one for him. He was in shock and couldn’t understand why I would do that.

8. Gary at 20th Street and Thomas, Phoenix. When I asked how his day was going, he told me not good, but when I offered him a lunch and told him I hope it gets better, he became so excited and told me it already is.

A man pushing a cart at 27th Ave and Yorkshire, Phoenix. His sign said he was 73 and a US vet. Couldn’t get his name or story since we were stuck in the car, holding up traffic and not having a place to pull over.

9. Scott at Buckeye and I 10 exit, Phoenix. He’s from Arkansas. Been here about a year. He came out to help a friend. I have no idea what happened to the friend but he’s hoping to get a job next month.

10. Kevin at 32nd Street & Washington, Phoenix. Kevin was pulling a cart full of cans, empty bottles and scrape metal across the street. Two months ago he was in an accident that required putting several pins in his elbow. The other driver left the scene.

11 & 12. Corina and Lydia at 59th Ave and Bethany Home, Glendale. This is the day I told my son he’d have to leave my house, for the second time. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as brought bags of chips, popcorn and some fruit. Even though there was several people in the same park, there were the only two who would have lunch with me. I gave the peanut butter jar and jelly to Corina since she said she had kids.

13. Spanish speaking woman (got her name, couldn’t understand it) at the light between the 101 and 91st Ave and Northern, Peoria. She was holding a sign asking help for her kids.

14. Steve at Cortez Park at 35 Ave and Dunlap, Phoenix. Steve was fishing in the park with his buddy A.Z. We didn’t get to meet A.Z. but Steve asked if we could put a lunch in his chair for him.

15. Jim at Cortez Park at 35 Ave and Dunlap, Phoenix. He was older and sitting cross legged in the middle of the grass. I don’t know that he was doing anything but sitting.

16 &17. Nate and his son Timothy at 7th Street and Indian School, Phoenix. Timothy’s mom, Kristy was at work.

18 & 19. Gail and Lieutenant John at the canal just east of 19th Ave and Hatcher, Phoenix. I couldn’t miss Miss Gail’s hot pink hair from the road.

20. Ramon at a field on Grand Ave, north of Indian School, Phoenix. He was sitting in the middle of an empty field.

21. Pete at I17 and Peoria, Phoenix. He accepted my lunch, then put it on the ground and pushed it away from him. Perhaps he will eat it later.

22. Darrin at 7th Street and Dunlap, Phoenix. Darrin’s sign read, “homeless and hungry.”

23. Sky at Country Club and Baseline, Mesa. Told me a poem he wrote about tears and rainbows. Also a metaphor about not grieving for loved ones, but writing a thank you letter to them.

24. Gene at 19th Ave and Bethany Home, Phoenix. Hid his face behind his sign that said, “Please help.” He wouldn’t make eye contact with me, but was very nice.

25. Eddie at I10 and Litchfield Rd, Goodyear. 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 complaining.

26. Nicki at 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.”

27. Howard at Arizona Ave and Ray, Chandler. Howard was pushing his cart down Arizona Ave.

28. Syai (Sy) at 5th Ave and Hatcher, Phoenix. Sy was very grateful for his lunch, but he wants a place to stay. He asked for help. No one has asked for my help before. Questioned why God brought me to him. I felt helpless.

29. Justin at 59th Ave and Thunderbird, Glendale. His sign read, “food”.

30. Steven at 32nd Street and Thomas, Phoenix. Steven was just sitting on the corner, minding his own business.

But something went wrong.

Maybe they were taken into foster care after something horrific happened?

Maybe something horrific happened, and they weren’t!

Maybe they were raised by addicts?

Maybe they have an undiagnosed disability?

Maybe they have a mental illness?

Maybe they don’t trust?

Maybe they’re scared?

Maybe they’re facing their own demons?

Maybe they’re socially awkward and were outcasted?

Maybe they mentally can’t handle relationships?

Maybe they did something terrible, and believe this is all they deserve?

Maybe they were abandoned?

Maybe they are self medicating because they can’t afford help?

Maybe they’re heartbroken?

Maybe they’re lost?

I don’t really believe everyone of these thirty people are lazy and have poor budgeting skills.

I don’t believe they decided one day they didn’t like all the responsibilities that come with a job and family, so they believed living on the streets would be easier.

I don’t believe anything that is going on inside their head is easy.

Are there scammers?

Maybe, but even still, I don’t believe any of them are living a life to be envied, so who are they really cheating?

Maybe they don’t have any desire to come off the street.

Maybe they are choosing to live this life.

Maybe they make poor choices.

Does this mean they are forfeiting their value? They have no worth?

I don’t believe that’s true.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you. – Psalm 139:13-18

When it all boils down to it… maybe they’re just not as good at hiding all their brokenness as I am? That shouldn’t change anything.

So my goal remains the same.

To look like Jesus to a stranger, if only for a brief encounter.

To see what Jesus sees.

To see Jesus.

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.

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.