These past few weekends have been really busy ones for me. Last weekend, I was attending Authorfest up in Denison, Texas. It was so much fun and was a two day event. Friday, there was dinner and readings from the participating authors and Saturday, there were book signings , Bark and Paws events and even a parade. After the main event Saturday, there were more readings from the authors.
When I got home from church, Sunday, my kids came over, along with my grand daughter. This is an every week occurrence that we love. It gives us time to catch up with what is going on in our kids’ lives and time to play with Miss Doodle. She loves to play school and of course, being the kid, she has to be the teacher. She is quite strict and we get sent to time out if our participation is less than stellar. At any rate, there is a lot of giggling, eating, laughing and loving all meshed together in these little visits.
This weekend, Saturday boasted Doodle’s first dance recital. Her little class danced ballet to “A Spoonful of Sugar” of Mary Poppins fame. All were cute, but , I have to tell you , being the doting nana, our little Doodle was the best and the cutest! When I was dancing in recitals, we danced and went home, glowing because we had made our mommies and daddies proud, but these kids, well, they get flowers for their performances . So, the glow is only secondary to the big people flowers they get for dancing their little hearts out.
Sunday, my husband, Stephen and I drove up to Pottsboro, Texas to Camp All Saints, the camp we perform “labor of love” weekends (getting ready for the children who come to the camp during the summer) with our Church for the unhoused. Only, this week, we went for Jason and Tricia’s wedding. What a beautiful couple they made. Tricia in her yellow dress and wedgie shoes and Jason in his nice pants and suit coat. Their vows, tender and loving made me think back to my own wedding day. Talk about glowing- Tricia was the most beautiful bride. Jason is a lucky man to have her and she is a lucky woman to have Jason.
Hey y’all! I have finished the sequel to The Conservative Congregant and now have a working title. The title, as of this moment is “And Time Stood Still.” It encompasses the book pretty well, I think .
If you have read The Conservative Congregant, then you know it is about a woman who leaves her comfort zone to make a meal for the “unhoused” congregation of The City of Hope. The City of Hope is a church for the unhoused or homeless folks of the city. It is set in Dallas as the book is based on my actual church, The Gathering. The Gathering was a dream of Archdeacon Jim Webb of the Episcopal Diocese here in Dallas. Thankfully, he was able to see it come to fruition before he passed away .
Back to the book. Because Eloise Dowager stepped out of her comfort zone to feed the homeless, many blessings come her way. I don’t know if you have noticed it, but that is truly what happens in real life. TCC follows her as life takes her through the many changes that take place in her life, up to and including the day she makes the dinner. The blessing she receives is much more than one could ask for and she is truly blessed.
The sequel follows up on her blessing and all that entails. I cannot go through it with you for obvious reasons. But, suffice it to say that something big comes out of this book. I am very excited about it and hope to publish it to be released in June 2016.
My plans are to publish one or two more novellas and then publish the novel that will tie the story fully together. I hope you will follow me in this exciting journey and pick up the books as they come out in print or on Kindle.
There are times I feel like my life has been hard. I have had hard times- we all have. But, today, while riding my horse, I passed my husband who was riding his lawn mower, mowing the pasture. A wry smile came across my face as I realized, not for the first time, how wonderful my life really is. My husband mowing the lawn on his day off while I rode my horse. Amazing!
Some might wonder why I think this is such a big deal. Well, the reason is because we were, at one time, both city kids, both terribly spoiled, woefully oblivious to other folks plights, but struggling to stay afloat with our little family of a daughter and two young boys. Oh, we knew there were other people worse off than us. We were sure of that. We had no idea who they might be, but we knew they existed.
My youngest son, Micah, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a lung and endocrine disease- so far without a cure. We found out when he was about 9 weeks old. My older son, David was about 22 months when Micah was born. My daughter Amanda, was almost 13 . We were in and out of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas seemingly all the time. It had become like a revolving door. Micah’s CF was pretty well under control after he was about 5, I suppose. At 9, he was back in the hospital and then again not for 11 years. We have been blessed. Very blessed. It didn’t seem so at the time. Funny how time changes your mind regarding your circumstances.
I say all this to say to you- If you are in difficult circumstances right now- try to view it as a learning experience. We had many a heartache, heartbreak and despair. We had times we were on food stamps, CHIPS (before that CIDC), our doctor vistis for the kids were often write offs for the docs. It was quite embarrassing to us. Both Stephen and I had been well off within our families, so we had no idea how to cope at this point in our lives. We flew by the seat of our pants and God’s grace. You can too. Prayer changes everything and sometimes situations occur in which God is the only one who can help, who can understand, who can hear you. Stay the course, it works out- maybe not the way we want it
to – maybe it works out fine- but it works out how it is supposed to according to what God wants you to know.
I feel as if I am writing to someone who needs to hear this right now. If so, I hope my message helps, because God will make your life the Best Life.
All of us have preconceived ideas about lots of things. Sometimes, our preconceived ideas have us refusing certain foods because of the color, the smell, but not usually the taste. What do you think when I say “Brussell Sprouts”? Does your lip curl at the smell of them? Do you shriek with terror? Or, do you lick your lips? What about when I say “Cops”? Does it conjure up a good connotation or a bad one? Fear? Anger? Compassion or perhaps, the phrase,
“They give their lives for our safety?”
So, then, what comes to mind when you think of homeless people? “Lazy?” “Crazy?” “Weird?” Do the words “Nice”, “Sweet,” “Funny?” ever come to mind? Have you ever taken the time to speak to a homeless person? Have you even looked them in the eye? Have you escorted someone to a restaurant and bought them lunch? Or does the mere mention of the word incite fear, anger and lack of understanding, fill you?
I am asking because it seems we all have preconceived ideas regarding some topic or another- some words bring instant visuals to our minds’ eye. I am also asking because I used to have the same visual. I thought homeless folks were lazy, crazy, weird, scary and God forbid I ever look a homeless person in the eye.
But, I had a change of heart when I began going to “The Gathering.” The Gathering, you may remember (because I write often about it), is a church for the “housed and unhoused” people of Dallas. Some of the most sincere, loving, funny, friendly, wonderful people worship at The Gathering with us.Some are ill, bipolar, mentally ill, unable to get medications that might stabilize them, unable to get proper help for their illness. Most are so different than we think they are. Some made me feel ashamed I did not worship God with the fervor they did. But I learned and so can you.
“They” are us. “They” are what we might be someday, what the hidden part of ourselves could be. There is no “They” and “Us. There is,however, “We.” Because we could all be walking in their shoes.
My challenge for this week is to start with a first step- make eye contact and say hi. How hard could that be, right? Well, it can be very difficult for some. Some folks have been taught negative things about homeless people all their lives. It’s time to stop all of our preconceived ideas about the homeless and come to think of it, anyone else. So, practice… if you dare. Say hi, make eye contact. Maybe next week, you might have a smile. Choose one person. Make them your challenge. Step out of your comfort zone and walk in Jesus’ shoes for a day. Be kind. Love. Help someone else. I’d love to hear about your experiment.
When we help others, we forget our own troubles. Isn’t that worth it?
Homelessness should be a crime. Not for the homeless, of course, but for those who let it continue. Those who vote against help for the homeless – those who disallow communities to be built for them or those who choose to disallow help for folks because they don’t want their property “devalued.” Wow. Really? Before you label me a bleeding heart liberal, follow through reading .
I have epilepsy and bipolar disorder . In the last few weeks,my mood had crashed. In other words, I was so depressed, I could only sit and cry. That is what bipolar disorder does to you. Although I have been stable with it for a good long while, meds suddenly quit doing their job- in need of tweaking. I spent the last month in great despair because the meds quit working. I don’t choose that. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain that sometimes has a mind of it’s own. One might wonder why I was in such despair for such a long time. Well, the answer to that is because it usually takes about that long to find out if it is, in fact, a medication problem. Sometimes, depression comes about because of situations arising that we are not sure how to deal with. It does take time to sort out why one has crashed. During that period of time, it is not easy to continue functioning. It is so easy to just stay in bed and sleep through it all. If one is asleep, no pain is felt, no tears, no hallucinations, no voices . It’s just easier.
I called my doctor and she added a medication. She had samples for me, so I went to pick them up. It worked and for a change, it was a medication which worked quickly. I called to let her know it worked and could she call the prescription in. She did. When I went to pick it up, imagine my surprise when the clerk told me it would $262.00! And that was with my insurance paying part of it! This is where it stops being about me .
Homeless people don’t choose to be homeless. Sometimes, it is because they are mentally ill, sometimes because they are on drugs- addicted to some drug – maybe not for the high they get, but for the feeling of “normalcy” they get from it. Most people who are on drugs are on them because they are self -medicating. They want to feel like a “normal ” person. They don’t want to hear the voices that tell them to do bizarre things, or feel scared because there is something real there .
Stay with me, please. I told my story to say homelessness is a vicious cycle. Let’s say someone has a good job, but has mental issues and don’t really know or understand what is going on. Let’s say, then, our person tries a drug.. let’s say meth. From what i understand the meth high is a very short time period. But, meth is fairly cheap and may make someone feel “normal.” Therefore, he continues to take it over and over again to feel okay. Well, this person may not know that meth causes massive paranoia, mini-strokes, tics and brain damage. He does, however, know it makes him feel right. All of this exacerbates his problem with his mental illness. Jobs are lost, relatives don’t want them because they are addicts. Where else can they go but the streets. Let’s say with their job, they had insurance. Even though they go to the doctor and get prescriptions for meds, the meds, like mine are so expensive our guy can’t afford to get them. Yes, there are generics- but not on all meds. The medications that do work well are third generation drugs- new drugs-expensive drugs.
Yes, there may be addicts among the homeless. In most cases, the person has been through rehab many times and it can’t help because being sober means not feeling “normal.” How then, can we make mental help possible for people like this? There are low cost mental health clinics, but many times, one still has to pay something. How can one pay something if they can’t work?
The cycle continues, cities are not willing to step up to help make the situation better, homelessness runs rampant and nothing is done.
People are afraid and shun the homeless folks. Why? People are afraid of what they don’t understand. That is why I write this missive. I want people to know there is nothing to be afraid of- say hi to a homeless person. If they ask for money and you don’t want to give it directly to them, why not take them to a sandwich shop and buy them a meal, a drink, a cookie? Treat them like they are human beings. Because that is what they are. They love and are loved. They get hungry,tired, sad, happy. Just do something out of your comfort zone. They will truly be grateful.
My husband and I worship in downtown Dallas – Thanksgiving Square on Ervay and Pacific . We call it The Gathering. It is a service meant for the unhoused as well as housed folks. So, that means anyone can come to it. Kind of interesting how we got involved in this mission.
The church we helped start in Royse City had just merged with another church out in Caddo Mills. Caddo Mills is not all the far, but we felt God was calling us to do something else. We were not sure what, but it was something we prayed about and talked about. One day in late August, Stephen asked if I’d ever heard of a church called The Gathering sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese for the unhoused people of Dallas. I had not heard of it, but it piqued my interest. So, the following Sunday, we visited . Our lives have not been the same since that day.
I am not sure what I expected, but what I witnessed was the most amazing thing. I watched people,with little to no material things, worshipping the Lord- raising their hands , thanking God for everything they had- for life, for the chance to worship. I was humbled. Here I was, a housed person- a person who had grown up with ‘things’ , a person who didn’t take the time to thank God for my life, for what I had, for the little things I had experienced. I didn’t thank God for the ability to go to the doctor, the dentist, to buy a Dr. Pepper or a sandwich. I was so ashamed.
I never felt unwelcome. I felt loved and I felt immediately part of something bigger than any of us knew. I hugged and was hugged. I loved and was loved. I felt at home. I was home. I’d found my place in this world with the unlikeliest people in the world. Turns out God has a great sense of humour.
It has almost been a year since we began going to The Gathering. I was blessed to meet Jim Webb, the founder- whose dream it was to have a church without walls for the housed and unhoused people of Dallas. I am sad to say he lost his battle with cancer not long ago. Father Charlie Keen is the pastor, Tom Hauser, Lyn Burgess and others who are just as important, but names escape me at the moment.
Today was the first wedding held at The Gathering- Nikki and James. They’ve been together for a while and wanted to make it a lifetime. They are perfect together. Funny thing- turns out my daughter, Amanda, went to school with Nikki . It also turned out Nikki was from my hometown of Richardson. Small, small world we live in. Nikki made the most beautiful bride and James , a handsome groom. The love was evident in the way they looked at each other.
Once , at a wedding in Canaan, Jesus turned the water into wine. He did it again in downtown Dallas today – at Nikki and James wedding at The Gathering. Thank you Jesus!
for more information about The Gathering, check out these resources: