Wednesday, February 10, 2010

William & "The Change" & heart songs

I have spent several nights over the last month wide awake when I should have been deep in some quality REM. Nothing bothering me, no pending catastrophe that I am aware of, in fact if truth be told, it is a most relaxing awake...body in a near coma, mind wheeling through all sorts of things.

My girlfriends warn me it could be symptoms of "the change". Let's just keep that little threat to ourselves here in blogdom. D is already dreading such things and all the fits that are sure to go with it. Let's not cause any anxiety until we are sure.

But to my knowledge I have never had hormonal symptoms in my life and since PMS are the three letters no man should ever speak and expect to live through, D would wholeheartedly agree, thus living to see yet another wonderful or duck and cover day with yours truly.

Back to sleepless in Ventura. One particular night, as I lay awake for going on 2 hours, I did the only rational thing. Get up, get the stuff done I was supposed to do first thing in the morning so that when I did go back to bed and to sleep, I could stretch the night into the first few hours of the day. Ah brilliant!

Running machines in the garage, I also checked into my email, because heaven only knows how many cyber-emergencies could be avoided if dealt with in the middle of the night. I had two messages from Jeff at the Kingdom Center about my friend William.

"Wow, what a day for William...This may be the first step in his walk with changing for sure...His hand is in Billy's life"

"He is coming around...great people in his life...Matt, a pastor at Ventura Community Church and many others are sharing God's word with William. Keep praying and come see him anytime. He's at the Kingdom Center most of the time. A long way to go, but he's moving in the right direction, Praise God!

"I will praise you God with all my heart...I will sing your praise" Psalm 138:1

Hallelujah! That was worth loosing some sleep to hear and I thanked the Lord for waking me up to get just a few more hours of sheer joy by reading it in the middle of the night. William, my William. William, of the Kingdom Center, if softening and searching and maybe just getting a peak at the ONE who makes all things new.

I don't even know if I slept in or not. I do know that I skipped my way the next day to the KC. Two "$5 footlongs" in hand, I found him about midday working on the roof. He came down for a few minutes and exercising great restraint, I did not make any comments that could be used as stalking evidence, thus proving that old dogs can learn something...even those going through "changes".

We talked a little, he seemed discouraged that particular day. I had so hoped he had applied for housing where he was working so hard. He said that he hadn't, that there were "so many women and children" and that he had looked over the requirements and didn't think he qualified because of his past. I didn't pry, but dang I wanted to, because everybody has a past and I know for certain a troubled past does not keep you out of the Kingdom, or the Kingdom Center. But that's where he was and I knew if God was doing His thing, then I was gonna just support them both.

But...But...William is an ARTIST! He told me he had done a few drawings and went to get his bag. He is talented, really talented. Landscapes mostly and just on whatever paper he had. He had an agent at one time and explained the process of taking a drawing and getting it ready for sale, etc... My mind was working overtime trying to figure out how to get him back into selling his art work and and income and blah, blah, blah...until I checked back into the conversation and God showing me that drawing was William's heart.

I asked him how he was doing in general...he shared a little and again said "I honestly never thought I would see you again".

"God won't let me forget you."

"Ya, I have been hearing a lot about God."

I left that day and went to the art supply store. God drove, I sang and found a few things, including some real paper. Thank goodness a few artists were hanging around, cause 80 lb paper weighs the same as 40 lb paper to my hands. You'd think wouldn't you, that a peri-meno...woman my size could barely pick up 40 lb paper let alone the 80lb stuff, right? Who knew 80 lb paper is completely within my strength...take that Venus De Milo!

Protected in a briefcase, I dropped off the supplies the next day. It was like Christmas for me. He was out on his bike that day. I haven't seen him since, but I am praying he sees that God would totally drop off art supplies for William, even if he chooses to use a sleep deprived stalker to do it.

Can't wait to see what he draws on the paper and how he is being drawn as well, to the God of new beginnings, second chances, redeemed yesterdays.

I pray that if he has any sleepless nights, his heart and ears are wide open. God is doing His thing and my heart sings.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

ahhh the Deeds!

D and I got home from church Sunday to a message on the answering machine from the Deeds...
"Hey Papa and DD, want to go to heaven with us? Mommy and me are going, and Daddy. Yes or No? Call me back!"
Ahhh, Deeds.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Wouldn't forget him, part 2

Christmas eve came and because we were flexing around a captain's schedule, it gave those grown kids of ours the day to spend with their other families. I so looked forward to the next day and didn't feel one bit pitiful for having some time alone. We spent the eve of Christmas eve together at a local theater company's "Family Christmas Show" where the Deeds passed out candy canes to the guests around us.

We got such a kick out of him as he included a warning with the peppermint treats. To the 6 elderly people just in front of us, our own little 3 year old blond elf offered "Would you like a candy cane? They are a widdle bit thpicy (spicy)". They giggled so in relief, to have gotten that disclaimer.

Anyway, here I was caught on the day between two memorable days and couldn't shake the thought of William and what on earth he would be doing for Christmas. I am not generally a regifter, but we are always the recipients of such amazing homemade treats and sweets during the holidays, I decided I would package up a few and head down to the Kingdom Center to see if I could find him.

When we talked on Thanksgiving and he told me he had been in town for only a few days and hadn't found a place to sleep yet, I suggested he look to help at the Kingdom Center. This is a local motel that is being renovated and converted into a transitional living center for the homeless. I wish this was just another in a succession of similar places in our beach town, but truthfully it is the first and only one of its kind and is clearly God doing a work, growing faith, and will be an opportunity for a second chance for many who want to become independent and need help. Complete owned and supported by Christians, churches and without any government money or dependence. AMEN.

William told me he had been a maintenance man, so I knew his many skills would give him a place to keep busy and feel productive if he chose it. All the labor is volunteer so there would be no paycheck for him, but the owners and visionaries of the project are all believers, and each room is sponsored by a different church so the opportunity to meet and be surrounded by good people was there. His other choice was to set up camp in the river bottom with so many other homeless people.

The river bottom is a tough area. D's station covers that area, and with their own culture and community, there has been a lot of trouble, crime and violence there. When we left him on Thanksgiving we did warn him of that and prayed he would choose working, even for nothing, over the trouble in the river bottom.

Several weeks later, one of the owner's at the Kingdom Center posted a video update on his facebook, and when I clicked on the link, there was WILLIAM! He was in several different shots doing different parts of the project and I was so thrilled. Grateful he had chosen that environment where I knew God's people would be in and out and surround him. That is where he was spending his days, but I worried about where he spent his nights.

So goodies in hand, I headed there on Christmas Eve. Empty, the whole place. I should have known. There was a van in the parking lot with someone inside so I asked that someone if he knew William. "Yes, I am waiting for him and another guy to take them to Christmas dinner, he should be here in about 20 minutes". The Harbor, what a great ministry.

Jackpot! So I waited.

I don't know if he remembered me right away, but we talked for a minute and he said "I didn't think I'd ever see you again". Cause don't you know that is what happens. If someone does take a minute to show some kindness, they aren't usually attempting any kind of relationship. A one time gesture is much easier, appreciated to be sure, but fleeting.

"I can't get you off of my mind. I think about you all the time." DANG! As soon as I heard myself say it, I was reminded he is a man and I am a woman and dang I hope he doesn't get the wrong idea. But judging from his expression and response, he was more amazed and grateful someone remembered him than flattered in any kind of "is she stalking me?" way. I told him he looked good (dang again) and he said he really liked hanging around the Kingdom Center. Of course you do, who doesn't like hanging around a place God spends some quality time? Only I said that to myself and not out loud, though I wanted to scream it and dance just a little at what was beginning. I handed him the goodies and warned him to share them, so he didn't get sick from too much chocolate because Lord knows if I am willing to stalk him, I'd also be likely to cause an overdose of sugar on Christmas. I handed him a small gift and gave him a big hug.

"You better start thinking about how you're gonna tell your story, William of the Kingdom Center, because God is gonna give you one, I'm sure of it." With that, the question of my sanity was sealed for him...not just a stalker...a crazy stalker.

Merry Christmas, William. I won't forget you.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Wouldn't forget him, I just knew.

When two become one, two families also enter into a new phase of trying to capitalize on the time the newlyweds have for each of us. We love every minute they allow us, and yet know that their own life as a family has begun, and we would do ourselves well to adopt flexibility when filling in the holiday plans on the calendar. The definition of "holiday" must be "when we are all together" to celebrate, regardless of the date.

Normally, not unlike the rest of you, our Thanksgiving day is generally cooking, game playing and watching football, but since we were planning to celebrate a few days later, we were able to take advantage of an opportunity to serve on that day.

We all looked forward to it, to one degree or another, admittedly Dot and I were probably the ones actually jumping up and down, but the others were more than agreeable. A local church had organized the event to feed the local and growing homeless population and when it was publicized in the paper, more, far more than enough, people showed up with food and to serve. The goal was accomplished in feeding the hungry people that came, but it was a little disappointing to arrive, looking forward to serving and be told that there was plenty of help.

We were encouraged though, to "mingle" or "sit and talk" with the homeless as they ate. Long cafeteria tables filled the packed room and though our group was prepared to serve food, making conversation with total strangers brought a certain level of discomfort and challenge. Its tough to imagine having a lot in common with someone living on the street. I noticed my team heading outdoors to see if the drink or dessert table needed some help, but I spied a group of men and women sitting together and sat among them.

I hesitate to go much further. I am cautious to write about this day and what has followed at all because I know that being public about my experience could be misunderstood as self-serving. I know as believers the Bible says both "Let your light so shine among men, that they will see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven." and "but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand knowing what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret".

So I am torn. Except that I am so excited and I can't stand not sharing it because people...God is doing a thing in the life of a man named William. And God is doing a thing in me by allowing me to watch it up close and I do not want you to miss any moment of the excitement.

Back to Thanksgiving. I sat and wasn't especially welcomed by 3 of the 4 sitting there. I understand that. Here some healthy, well intentioned people, who live in homes, drive cars, and are wearing a fresh pair of clothing, come to serve the needy. But its a holiday and it probably looks like we are here today and will be gone tomorrow, and then feel really good about ourselves while our homeless friends, find their way back to the cardboard box or less, and lay awake tonight picturing us back in our warm houses watching football. But...But...William.

He was cautious at first when I started asking about his life and situation and history and I am so not good about giving people space and privacy. Considerate and respectful, yes I am, but I can't always figure out how to love somebody where they are, unless I know, well...where they are. He was hesitant, wondering how much of who he really was and his past I would sit through and what he might say that would make me bolt.

The more I heard and could relate, the more I wondered the same thing of him. I mean I am further from my past, but though God forgets our sin, he lets us remember enough so that we can relate to someone else and for heaven's sake close the gap between us. Because what a waste of time to think we are different people in the eyes of a Savior who died for both of us.

He didn't begin by opening up too freely, but he didn't get up and leave either. So we kept on. The details of where he has been and the life he came from leaked out first in general terms, then in a few details. I can't say we have experienced the same things, but pain and suffering and disappointment are universal. And, somehow God gave me some downright amazing insight and so many comforting things to say to him about who is really is, not who he has been.

At one point, through tears this 57 year old skeleton of a man, looked at me, and said "I wish I had had a mom like you". I don't believe he was pointing to anything except just wanting so badly to be listened to and understood. Maybe its been a long, long time.

There is always a story. There just is. There is always a set of circumstances, a series of decisions, key people missing at important moments. There is always a story. You will never convince me to abandon that truth. There is always a story.

We both pulled our sunglasses down, so we wouldn't look unmanly in the crowd. Because whatever self respect still remains when everything else has been lost, is worth holding on to.

I don't know how long we sat there. He talked about how he thinks God looks at him. I told him the truth about that. He told me about being so behind in doing good in his life, that he could never, never make it up. I told him he was right, but "doing" had no bearing on what God thought. I shared my own low point and time where my own reflection in the mirror disgusted me. But that there is hope, and redemption and that God had taken a heap and brought so much good and healing and purpose.

And then it was time to go.

I told him I would never forget him. I am sure he didn't believe me. We would go home and he would go back to homeless. So I hugged him good and tight and had to put my sunglasses back down on the way out. And D held me tight to the car and I had to leave my sunglasses down for most of the ride home, and now.

I knew I would never forget him. I just knew.