Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Catching Up

It's been a while since I've written, and I'm home for the holidays right now, but I just thought I should catch up on what's been going on since my last entry!
My last day in Denver was amazing! It was my most joyful day there, everyone was so open, receptive, and happy to talk.
These guys were amazing! The four of us prayed together, and it was so beautiful. It was such a powerful time of prayer, it's indescribable! It was so cool how tangible God's presence was in the middle of this park full of drugs and darkness. But our God is so much more powerful than any of that and He can shine in the darkest places.
After hanging out, handing out things, and saying my goodbyes, I was starting to leave the park. I was kind of sad because I hadn't seen Sham since my second day out, and he was such a joy to me that I wanted to get to say bye to him. But he wasn't in his usual spot and I didn't know where else to look, so I just decided to leave. I was about to be out of the park when I heard, "Bye, Tori!" I turned around and it was Sham! I was so excited! It was just the perfect end to the perfect day. I just love Sham! It made my day that I got to see him before I left, and I love that he called me out!
This is sweet Sham!
After my time in Denver, I got to go with a couple of friends to a four day conference in San Diego called School of Power and Love. The speakers were Dan Mohler, Todd White, and Tom Ruotolo. This conference was so amazing, if you ever get the opportunity to go, GO! Or just youtube Dan and Todd, they're so filled with God! The conference was all about knowing your identity in Christ and knowing that you're a son/daughter. It's not about works, it's all about knowing your Father and your intimacy with Him. The conference was so amazing. I got freedom there, I got to branch out, I witnessed miracles, heard amazing testimonies, and just got to know more of my Father's love. And it was so good to be in a room full of people just giving their all in worship to their Father. So amazing.
From there, I went to Omaha for Thanksgiving. Originally, I had planned on going out to the homeless while I was in Omaha, but I had a hard time finding anyone. Whether they just had a lot fewer, or if they were just all staying inside, I don't know. But my first day out, I only found two, and one that I talked to didn't want anything, and the other got on a bus before I could talk to him. The next day we walked around downtown as a family, and I didn't see anyone during that time. So I decided I would just spend the week spending time with my family, because my searches for homeless in Omaha weren't very fruitful, and I only see my family once a year.
It's also really cool how God's shown me that I don't need this work. I absolutely love it, don't get me wrong! But my worth to God doesn't depend on how many people I feed in a day. If he took this ministry away, I wouldn't be lost, because I have Him. He's all I need for significance. Being His daughter is all that matters. It's what's most important to him. Any ministry we are involved in should just be an overflow of our intimacy in Him. It should never replace it. We should never be defined by anything other than our adoption in Christ. That's so freeing!
After Omaha, I went to Chicago. My time in Chicago was cut short because I got really sick and came home  early. So now I am in Memphis for Christmas break! God is just continuing to show me things and draw me closer to Him. He's taught me so much through my time on LWAT, and He's teaching me still even as I'm home. It's just all about love. Without love, I am nothing. Without love, none of this matters. So just go love your Father and invite Him to open your eyes to deeper levels of love that are already yours through Christ. And love the person in front of you, no matter who it is. I hope everyone has an amazing Christmas! I can't wait to start back up the tour in January! God bless!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

This ain't the Bible belt!

      My time in Denver so far has been different, but good! I've been volunteering at the Denver Rescue Mission serving lunch and helping in the kitchen. It's a really great Christ centered rescue mission! One of my first days going out on my own was tough. I went to a park that was pretty much a center for drug dealing. I've never been offered drugs so many times in a row in my life! That didn't really bother me, it was just a really dark area. When I started talking to people and giving them sandwiches, no body was interested in the Bible.  In every other city, when I offer people Bibles, their answer is either, "Yeah!" or "No, I already have one." So it was my first time encountering so people who weren't at all interested in the Bible and kind of seemed annoyed to be offered one. I didn't feel personally offended or rejected by that, but it was hard because it made me so sad to see people so shut off to God.  Here are some of the guys I met that day:
So the next day going out on my own after that started out really hard. Walking through the park, I felt so overwhelmed! I was in a park full of guys who had mostly been completely shut of to God or even receiving a Bible, and it was just a really spiritually dark place. So I walked through almost all of the park and I hadn't talked to anyone. I just felt so overwhelmed and intimidated and I felt like nobody would want me to talk to them. And then, once again, God made one of these precious people an angel on my path to keep me going. I had walked through almost the entire park, and then I saw Sham! I had met him the day before, and I just loved him! That day he had been the only bright spot in a dark day out. He pretty much stays to himself and doesn't like asking people for things. He had such a sweet, gentle spirit, and he let me into his little world a bit. I loved talking to Sham! So when I saw him right as I was about to just leave without talking to anyone, it completely turned my day around! When I see sweet, familiar faces out, it brings me such joy! It gives me a nudge to keep going. So I sat and talked with Sham for a while and God used him to completely revive my spirits and give me comfort and the courage to keep going. After I left Sham, I talked to every person I saw! God used him to totally change my attitude from one of intimidation to loving boldness! I talked to and fed and gave some clothes to everyone after him! And after that, nearly every person that I offered a Bible to wanted one! It was so amazing, and if God hadn't sent me Sham to flip my day around, I might have left the park without talking to or helping any of these people and they wouldn't have gotten Bibles. I'm just so thankful for the way that God can turn a day around. He can take us when we're overwhelmed, weak, and scared and use us to shine light in a dark area. And I love that he uses these precious children that are looked down upon by society and he uses them to minister to me more than a suited up ordained minister. Because I get to look into their eyes and see Jesus. If you read Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  I wrote in my Bible next to this passage, "If you want to hang out with Jesus, go hang out with the least of these, look into their eyes, and see Him." And it's so true. If you feel distant from Jesus, go hang out with the poor and the needy. If you want to be more like Jesus, care about what He cares about. He cares about the poor, the orphans, the widows, the outcasts, the prostitutes, the liars, the alcoholics, the people in the streets, the people begging that might use the money you give them for food to buy drugs instead. God loves them! And He tells us to take care of them.
         And I promise you, you'll never miss a cent or a jacket or a minute that you give away to the financially poor or poor in spirit. Being able to pour blessings on people and see it totally change their demeanor is the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. I got to see this beautiful change in sweet Barbara the other day! She was sitting on a park bench and the only jacket she had was a really light windbreaker, and it's really cold, so she was shivering. I talked to her and gave her some jackets, socks, gloves, a hat, a scarf, a blanket (once again, I really cannot thank people who donate enough), some food and water, and I wrote down the name of some shelters for her to try. I just talked to her for while. She was so sweet, and it was amazing to see her change from a shivering woman with her head hanging down to a woman with a bright smile who would look into your eyes. And this change was caused by something so simple. And really, I think what blessed her most was when I hugged her. It was so sweet, it made her giggle! What blesses people most is love! Even if you don't have any money, food, or clothes to give to people, you can always give them your time, love, and a hug. Trust me, you'll be just as blessed if not way more! God loves these precious babies! And I am so beyond grateful that He has shared them with me. I'm so glad He gave me this wonderful gift of a job. It isn't a duty, it isn't a burden, it isn't a sacrifice. It's a beautiful, precious gift. I'm in love with my Papa and I'm in love with these people. Little ol' me gets the gift of all these beautiful babies. I really couldn't be happier. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. And He wants to give this gift to you, you just have to open up to receive it! He invites all of His children to be a part of the gift the nonstop cycle of receiving and pouring out love. "Sacrifice" is the most fulfilling gift you could ever receive. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

God Knows

        I'm now in Denver! I didn't write much while I was in Kansas City, but my time there was such a blessing!
        The organization that I worked at in Kansas City was Hope Faith. I worked in the laundry room my first day and in the kitchen the rest. When I wasn't there, I was either downtown looking for people to talk to and take care of or at International House of Prayer. I went to IHOP almost every day, usually after the sun was setting and it was too dark to go out. My time there was so good for my soul!
         Even though I loved my time in Kansas City, it was there that I had my first really hard day. I didn't really want to write about it because it really hurts my heart, but it is a reality for some of the homeless people. One day while I was driving around downtown looking for people, I saw a guy with plastic grocery bags wrapped around his feet. I stopped and went up to him and asked what size shoes he wears. It was kind of hard to understand him because he didn't speak well and what he said was hardly audible. I started asking him what all he needed, and he would respond to most things, but he wouldn't tell me his name. It was sad to me that he wouldn't tell me his name, but I thought maybe he just had his guard up because some strange girl he'd never met before was coming up to him and just giving him a bunch of stuff and asking him questions. I figured he would warm up to me after a few minutes and tell me his name. So I got him some food to eat while I looked in my car for shoes that would fit him. I didn't have his size, so I asked him what kind he would want so that I could go buy him a pair. He asked for a pen so that he could write down what he wanted. While I was driving to get his shoes, I was just thinking about how sad it is that he lives in a city full of people that pass by him every day, yet he was walking around with plastic bags on his feet. That just blew my mind. It took me a while to find a shoe store, but I eventually did and I picked out some black tennis shoes that I thought were really nice and would look cool, yet give enough support for all the walking that this man does. When I got back him I pulled the shoes out for him, and honestly I was kind of expecting a good response. Maybe happiness, excitement, gratitude. At least something positive. But when I gave them to him, he didn't give any kind of reaction, he just kind of nodded. So I kind of just said my goodbyes (we couldn't really talk much because I couldn't understand most of what he said), and started walking to my car. Before I got in my car he came over to me and asked me if I could return the shoes. The shoes fit the description of what he asked for (black boots or tennis shoes), so I asked if they didn't fit well. But he said he wanted boots instead. That part of the story really makes me laugh, because I thought, "Sure, I'll go get you boots...but why did you write down tennis shoes if you really didn't want them?" Haha. So I went back to the shoe store and got him some sturdy black boots and prayed that he would like those because it was starting to get dark. When I got back to him, I showed him the shoes and asked if he liked them. He nodded his head and he started packing the shoes away. I kind of wondered why he wasn't putting them on. I asked him if he wanted to try them on before I left to make sure they were the right size, so if they didn't fit well I could take them back, but he said they were fine. I tried to talk to him for a bit longer, then I said my goodbyes and went to my car. I couldn't leave, I just sat there and sobbed. I was talking to God and all I could say was, "He needs more than just shoes!" This guy was so sad! He could barely speak, he had grocery bags to keep what you could barely call a shoe on his feet, and he wouldn't tell me his name. It was just so sad. And I thought, "Whoopie. I gave him shoes. Now he's a sad, lost homeless guy that has a new pair of shoes." I felt so useless. A pair of shoes is helpful, but it doesn't change his life or his circumstances. It might make him happy, but it doesn't change his heart. It didn't even really change this guy's demeanor. I gave him a Bible and told him about Jesus' love for him, but he wasn't very responsive. I just felt like I did absolutely nothing for this man. I still was sitting in my car, and he came up and knocked on my window. I rolled it down and he asked me if I could help him get to the hospital. He needed some money for a bus ride to the hospital. I said yeah, and asked how much. He said $1.50. As I was looking for the money in my purse, I asked him what was wrong and why he needed to go to the hospital. He told me he had to go to the hospital to change his shoes. When he took off the old ones, they wouldn't come off clean, so it had to be done at a hospital. My heart just broke even more. Then as I was giving him the money, I found four quarters first, then I gave him a dollar bill. He tried to give me back the two quarters, which shocked me. I told him it was fine, he could keep the quarters, I wanted him to. But he refused to take any extra money than what he needed for the bus. He wouldn't even take fifty extra cents. He tapped my car and said thanks, and he walked off. That just killed me. A man with bags on his feet that wouldn't even tell me his name or take two extra quarters, when usually homeless people will take as much money as you offer and some even ask for more.
        That was the first completely heartbreaking homeless reality encounter I've had. And it was truly heartbreaking. I did all that I knew how to do, though. At first it made me kind of afraid to go out again. Because that was so hard. But I can't let how hard it is keep me from trying to help these guys. I was so sad. The next day, I was scared when I first headed out on my own. But the first person I found was sweet Eric! The people that I find when I'm sad, and they turn it around and bring me joy in the midst of this sometimes really emotionally hard journey, those people always hold a really special place in my heart. Ray was one of these people in Nashville when I sat with him and he brought me comfort after I was so upset about sweet Denise sleeping in a  park. Teddy was this person in Atlanta when I was so upset about Mike, one of the guys who had some mental/spiritual issues. And Eric was this guy in Kansas City, who cheered me up after being so torn up over the guy without shoes. It's funny, because these people don't really do anything to comfort me. They're just there when I'm sad and they make me feel better. It's like being with them says to me, "It's ok. Some of us are alright, and we'll help you get through the hard ones." So when I call them friends, it's not just something I say. While I'm in the cities, these are the guys I hang out with. These are the guys that I'm excited to go out and see. These are the guys that cheer me up. So I was so excited to see Eric. For some reason, I just loved him! He melted my heart! For the group that he hung out with, he was kind of the baby of the group. He was a bad alcoholic, so Eric always had to be taken care of. Also, in his family, he was the youngest and came twenty years after his brothers and sisters, so he's kind of been the baby his whole life. And I just loved him. His story of alcoholism is really sad, though. Both his parents were alcoholics, but he didn't really look to drink on his own. He was a really good drummer, and in a band with older people when he was about fourteen. The older band members would ask him where his cup was and ask him what was in it. He'd tell them where it was and that he had coke or something in it, and they'd take it and put alcohol in it and tell him to drink it. He said it was just downhill from there. It's just sad how innocent a fourteen year old is, and he was just interested in the music. But that influenced his entire life path.  Eric was so sweet, I was always so excited to see him!
Here's me and Eric with his new glasses!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Shepherd, My Pasture

      I'm in Kansas City! I've only been here for three days, but these days have been so full and glorious! Yesterday was my first full day here, and when I woke up I immediately started thinking out my plan of action. I was going to go to the store and get bread, make sandwiches, visit some organizations, go out on my own to find people. Before I went out, though, I spent time worshiping, praying, and reading. While I was praying, I started crying out to God, "I want to be your loving servant!" And He said to me, "You can't be my servant until you've learned to be my child."
          That really hit me because I thought I had already grasped that. I know that my God is not a distant God. I know that He loves me and He paid a huge price to adopt me as His chosen daughter. I call Him Papa! So when He said that, I thought, "Woah. What do I do? How can I learn to be your daughter more?" And He said, "Just be. Just be my daughter and receive my love." He told me that He didn't want me to do anything that day.
        I really struggled with that at first, because I felt the need to be productive. I thought, yeah, that sounds awesome, but I can't just spend a whole day here without doing something. I even dared to think that a day without me doing something would be kind of a waste of time. It makes me sad to say that! Because it makes God sad! And it's not that I struggled with not doing because I feel the need to do to earn God's love. It isn't that at all, I love doing! I love volunteering, I love hanging out with the homeless, and I love getting the pleasure of giving them things and meeting their needs! But I don't ever want to see that as more important or more "productive" than spending time with my Father. So I knew, even though at first I was a bit reluctant, that I needed to obey Him and just spend one day without doing anything.  It's kind of funny, because I really did put up a fight at first. I reasoned with myself saying, "Well, I won't go out to organizations or looking for people, but I can at least make sandwiches or write messages on the sandwich bags. That's not really going out and doing something, but it is productive!" But I don't want to ever reason my way out of obedience, so eventually I just gave in to having a day of nothing other than being God's daughter and receiving His love.
         So I spent a while longer just on my own in my room, and then I went to IHOP's prayer room and just worshiped and soaked in God's love and His presence. It was amazing. He really showed me His shepherd heart. He showed me that I was that one sheep that He left the 99 for. Because I was His silly little lamb that thought I knew best, so I wandered off to do my own thing even though I had the perfect guide. So He sought after me. He saw me and was by me calling out my name, but I was too stubborn, weak, and stupid to know that He knew what was best for me and I should probably stick with Him. So He had to pick me up and carry me to the pastures and still waters. He did that for me in April when He healed me and changed my life. When I was too stubborn, weak, and stupid to follow His lead, He picked me up and carried me to the cross. And He did that for me yesterday. When I was too preoccupied with productivity to be His child, He picked me up in those loving arms and carried me into His perfect love and peace.
        "How amazing that He seeks me out! That He calls me into intimacy with Him! How amazing that the God of the universe feels cheated when I put service and works before Him! How amazing that He desires my affection! And He cares enough to pick me up and put me in His pastures of peace when all I'm doing is running. He knows what I need better than I do. And He cares enough to intervene. He shows me the path. He is my Shepherd. He is my pasture."
         And we're sheep for a reason. He could have called us something strong and ferocious like His wolves or His tigers, but nope. We're His little sheep. Because sheep are weak and fragile. Sheep are dumb and easily led astray. Sheep are dependent. And we, as His sheep, have the perfect, loving Shepherd.
        I love it when God reveals more of Himself to me! His love is so astounding and His mercies are new every morning! Yesterday was truly amazing, just getting to soak up His love! I got to IHOP at 10:30 am and didn't get home until 11:30 pm. And I could have stayed longer. Who knew, a girl that once was bored to tears at the thought of church would one day spend over 12 hours at one and still be eager for more. But that's because it wasn't church that I was experiencing, it was God. The majority of my time there was just in their 24/7 prayer room, but 6-10:30 was their Encounter God Service, which is kind of like a Friday night church service. That was the most beautifully, gloriously joyful corporate worship I have ever been a part of. I love services like that! Where it takes three hours to even get to the sermon! God is so amazing and He wants to fill us with joy! His joy is so life altering!
       Just like that song, I really could sing of His love forever. But He wants His family to grow, and that happens when we experience Him, then go out and share Him. So today that's what I did! This morning I went to Hope Faith Ministries, which is an amazing ministry that provides food, showers, clothes, laundry, haircuts, and some medical services to the homeless and needy. Today I worked in the laundry room! After that, I drove around downtown and God led me to some of His beautiful, hungry people!
These are my new friends Eric, Micheal, and Greg:
I got to share the joy and love of Jesus with these guys! And some sandwiches, socks, Bibles, gloves, scarves, blankets, a pair of shoes, and a few other random things (huge shout out to people who gave donations!). They were just awesome people that were really fun to talk with. I loved getting to spend time with them, love on them, meet some of their physical needs, and pray with them and tell them that they are loved by Jesus. These are some of God's most precious children! I'm so glad He shares them with me!
Here's sweet Eric getting some new kicks!
Oh, and here's a picture from St. Louis of me at the Dream Center in the food pantry. At the Dream Center food pantry they have boxes of random donated food items that they call "banana boxes" which are stacked up in the back. I loved it when they said, "We need banana boxes," because that meant I got to climb!
And just a side note, that paragraph that's in quotations is in quotations because it was a snippet of what I journaled yesterday in the prayer room. It might be weird to share things out of my journal, but God feels that same way about you and He wants you to know that! It's so cool how we are all God's little children and I get to share my Papa with everyone and I don't have to worry about Him having less attention or love for me, because He has more than enough for all of us!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Familiar faces

      I'm still having fun in St. Louis! Saturday night I ended up serving at Peter & Paul's, a homeless shelter. The guys there were really sweet! I handed out towels and helped serve dinner. While I was in the office handing out towels through the window, there was a man in there being interviewed because it was his first night. Peter & Paul's is a 90 day shelter, not just a walk in shelter, so when new people come in they have to be asked a lot of questions and have paperwork filled out. I overheard this process going on, and one of the questions was, "How long have you been homeless?" and the guy's answer was, "Since yesterday." That shocked me, because most of the homeless people I've met have been homeless for quite a while. I can't imagine that first day of homelessness: going from living in your own home one day to an old building full of a bunch of strangers the next, having to follow rules and schedules, and being fed meals that someone else decided on. The loss of a home is the loss of privacy and choices, and the initial adjustment has got to be one of the hardest things these people have gone through. But this particular man was so sweet and such a soldier! He still had a smile on his face and was really respectful, appreciative, and pleasant. I think most of us would be bitter, sobbing messes if we were in his shoes!
Here are some of the girls that I served with at Peter & Paul's! They were so sweet and fun!
      Last night I went to a park to give out sandwiches and hang out, and when I got there I saw Sabrahleah! I was so excited! So I sat down with her and we started talking, and then I looked down and at the end of the long bench we were sitting on, and there was Donna, who I had met the day before sitting outside of Starbucks! She's a really cool girl, she's from Australia and hitch hiked there for a while and she's in college here studying Jazz. You meet such awesome people when you talk to strangers! 
Sabrahleah, Donna, her friend (I'm pretty sure his name is Herbert), and me at the park!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

St. Louis!

        I'm in the first city of my second loop: St. Louis! It's been great so far, I really love what I'm doing!
Before I start talking about what's been going on in St. Louis, I have to post a picture of Evalene, the sweetest lady ever that I met on my last day in Birmingham right before I left.
I love Evalene so much! If I wasn't travelling this year, I probably would have taken her home with me! If I had, I don't think we ever would have stopped just telling each other how much we love each other, because that was about half of our conversation! She is so loving and affectionate, I felt like I had known her forever, and we only talked for about half an hour. My favorite thing was she would just look at me, hug me, and say, "I just love the hell out of you!" Jesus already did that, though!  I could not not post about Evalene, though, not only because I love her so much, but after I took this picture with her, she told me to show all my friends!   So here is sweet Evalene, I wish everyone could have the privilege of getting to meet her!
        My first few days in St. Louis, I didn't go to any organizations, I just went out on my own and handed out sandwiches and talked to people. Yesterday I went to the St. Louis Dream Center for the first time. It was really fun! In the morning I worked in the food pantry stocking shelves and walking people through to shop. Then I served lunch in the kitchen. 
        After I served at the Dream Center, I went on my own again to find hungry people to feed and talk to.  I met this beautiful lady named Sabraleah. I gave her some sandwiches and a bunch of other stuff, and one thing I gave her was a Bible.  A lot of people that I meet already have Bibles, so before I gave it to her, I asked her if she had one already, and she said no. She seemed kind of curious, so I asked her if she'd read the Bible much before. She said a little bit. I asked her if she knew about Jesus. She said not much. It was so different than what I'm used to. Most of the time, the people I meet tell me about their favorite Bible characters and they talk to me about how they rely on God, but Sabraleah was the first person I met that didn't even really know Jesus. She was such a beautiful, soft spirit, and so valued, I just wanted her to know how loved she is! So I told her about God and how he loves us so much and is our Father, and I told her about Jesus and how he died so that we don't have to be separated from our Father anymore. Then I asked her if she wanted me to read some of the Bible to her, and she said yes. So I read Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 to her. I just want these people to know how loved they are. I hadn't been to the part of the park that I met her at before, but I'm so glad I did that day!
        This morning I went back to the Dream Center and we went out into the really poor neighborhood and went door to door and talked with people and gave them flowers and pastries. It was so fun! 
Here are some of the kids I met Davion, Isaiah, Asiana, and their brother who came out for the picture!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My big, happy, continuously growing family!

         Today is my last day in Birmingham! It's been amazing, and I'm going to miss all my new friends!
I can't believe it's the last day of my first loop! It's gone by so fast and it has been so fun and life changing. I've been so blessed by this trip!
       One thing that amazes me is how sharing these people are. These people who have so little are willing to give up what they have for someone else in need.  Everywhere that I've been with the homeless, if someone asks for a cigarette, they share.  If I give someone my last two sandwiches, they will willingly give one or even both to someone else that didn't get one. They have so little and are so sharing, yet we who have an abundance of things we don't even need are so stingy. We're afraid to give to people because we don't want to run out of things for ourselves. So we live with our hands clenched tight over our money and material possessions. Yet these people that already have nothing are so willing to pass things on to others in need. It's so backwards! It's because these people really get it. They value life more than things. They know, like Juan said, "We are not less than sparrows." God is going to take care of us, so we can afford to share with others. He sees our needs, and it makes Him sad when we are so stingy with our money or when we want to hold on to our things, because that says to Him that we don't trust Him to take care of us. He's our father and He wants to take care of His children! And He wants His children to share with each other. It's something every parent has had to go through, teaching their children to share. Nobody thinks it's cute when a toddler snatches a toy and says, "Mine!" Nobody thinks it's cute when a toddler wants to keep all the toys to itself while another child has nothing to play with. So why do we think it's acceptable once we're adults? Daddy doesn't want His children to be stingy like those greedy toddlers that don't want to share their toys. It's unattractive! And if we're all honest, sometimes when we see kids like that, we automatically judge the parents. We see the child's behavior as a reflection on the parent's poor disciplining. So when the world looks on God's children, don't make them see a bratty, greedy toddler that makes them think less of the Father. Show them a child that cares more about the needs of others than their own needs. Show them a child that finds joy in giving to others. Show them a child that truly reflects the Father's hear. It really is a joyful thing to do! Giving is joyful! Giving is fun! Giving brings a smile to God's face, and the more you love God, the more He will give you His heart, and the more giving will make you smile! It's a beautiful process!

This is sweet Chuck!
Herbert! Ah, Herbert was such a little angel! He has such a gentle persona and is so appreciative!
Fredrick and his Honey Buns he requested!
     These people make me so happy! I love all the friends and sweet children God has blessed me with. He's increased my family so much this month! All my host families, the people I've worked with in ministries, and the homeless people I meet on the streets all have such a special place in my heart and they really have become a part of my family! These people keep growing my heart more than I thought possible! I love them all so much and I love my Daddy so much! I love how He showed that since we're all His children, I can't look at anyone and see a stranger, all I can see is a brother or sister who maybe doesn't know who their Father is yet.  

       

Monday, October 8, 2012

Faces of Birmingham

       Birmingham has been so great! I don't have one certain ministry that I spend most of my time at like I did in Nashville and Atlanta, but I've had fun just hanging out with the homeless people in the parks.
       This is my friend Terry! I met her on Friday in the park, she was such a blessing! She's one of the funniest, most joyful people I've ever met! We hung out and talked for a long time. She stays in one of the shelters and she talked to me about how she ministers to the people there. It's so inspiring all the people that I've met that use their circumstances to show God to people and give others hope rather than just being sad or wishing for something different. We can bring God glory no matter what stage of life or social status we're in, and these people do that so beautifully!
       This is such a story of redemption! This man is "H", formerly known as "Po Pimp."  H used to live on the streets homeless, and was a drug addict.  Some people started talking to him and saw potential in him started taking him to Bible studies. H now is sober, has a home, and is a lover of God. He encourages others to allow the change that happened in him to happen in them, also.  The woman is Charlotte, one of H's friends who he is encouraging.
       This is my buddy Micheal! I met him today at the park. He had so much to say! He told me that both his mom and dad could talk forever, and he got their genes! But I so enjoyed listening to everything he had to say. Micheal's a great, funny guy!
        Birmingham has been different from the other cities, but still so good! 
This is my awesome host of Birmingham, Spira! It's so crazy that I just met her at church Wednesday, and now I'm staying with her for the week and I feel like part of the family. It's been so fun spending time with her and her daughters!
        And a bonus of Birmingham is that one of my friends was in town this weekend visiting Highlands College! While she was here, she and her family invited me to go to a movie with them. It was so fun to see people I know! I love strangers, but seeing familiar faces was refreshing!


     

Friday, October 5, 2012

I love "setbacks"!

      I'm in my last city of the first loop: Birmingham! It's so crazy to me that I have less than a week left on my first loop of this journy. Time has flown and I've loved every second of it!
      I got to Birmingham Wednesday night. While I was on my way here, the person that I was supposed to be staying with for the week texted me and said that she thought I was coming later this month, so she could only accomodate me for the first night. I read the text, laughed, and thought, "Awesome, God is about to do something cool!" That seriously was my immediate thought. Then I laughed and thought, "Tori, shouldn't this worry you? I mean, you are about to be in a town where you don't know anybody, and you only have somewhere to stay one out of eight nights." But I couldn't be worried at all! All I could be was excited, because God has proven over and over again in my life that when my plans don't work out, it just means He has something better for me.
        So that night I went to Church of the Highlands. I got there a little early, so I went in to get a seat and I sat down next to Eric, Spira, and Nadia. I just started talking to them and telling them about what I'm doing. Then I told them how the person I was supposed to stay with couldn't have me for more than one night and I said, "So if you guys know anybody that wouldn't mind housing a stranger, let me know!" And now I'm staying with Spira! I'm really seeing a huge purpose in why God has me where I am instead of where I planned. He always has so much more in store for us than we would have planned for ourselves.
         It's so crazy to me how radically God has changed me! A year ago, or even less than that, I didn't like new situations and I was uncomfortable around strangers. I was especially uncomfortable when I felt like strangers were looking at me weird. And I always needed a safety net, like an escape route if I got uncomfortable or someone I knew to be with me so I wasn't awkwardly alone. Now I revel in all the things that would have sent me into panic attacks! Every day is a new situation, plans are constantly falling apart, I've often not known where I would be in the next 24 hours or even the next hour, all I do is talk to strangers and even move in with them, and I love it when people look at me as if they're trying to figure out whether or not I'm homeless! I absolutely love all of it! Most people try to convince themselves that they don't need to worry. I've been finding that sometimes I try to convince myself that I should worry, at least a little bit. But I can't! Fear and worry are seriously becoming impossible for me! God has proven Himself so trustworthy, I can't worry or fear if I try. I'm okay with going wherever He wants to take me, and this is the best place to be. I've never known such peace and boldness, and it all comes from Him, being totally in love with Him, and knowing He loves me. No one can reject you when you're accepted by God!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Goodbye

        Today was one of those bittersweet days that this journey requires! It was my last day at Mercy. It's so sad to have to say goodbye, but I am so thankful for my time with them. They are all such beautiful  people! During my time at Mercy, I grew in wisdom, I grew in love, I cried, and I laughed. I laughed a lot! They brought me so much joy! I love how quickly I bond with all the people I meet.
Tom and I! Tom's a Vietnam vet and he taught me some self defense moves so I stay safe on the streets! haha. He called me his granddaughter!
A bunch of the Mercy crew!
The Mercy mascot, Serius Black!
Dave, Jesus the soup master, and I!
      It was a great last day with them, they're such a fun group! And I can't be too sad, because I still have two more days to love Atlanta! It's been raining though, which is a bummer because it makes it harder to find people because they all go to find shelter. I've had such an amazing time here and I've met so many cool people! The Mercy crew, Shorty, Teddy, and I met this guy named Gabe the other day after I talked with Teddy. I only talked to Gabe for a few minutes while we were walking, but we connected really quick because he's into homeless ministries, too. He actually does a summer camp that volunteers with the homeless of Atlanta. What's really cool about it, though, is that in order to really understand the homeless community, he'd been spending the last few nights at a homeless shelter! I told him I thought that was amazing and I'd love to do that, but it probably wouldn't fly with my mom, haha. It's inpiring to see people like that who take compassion to the next level and really try to walk in homeless people's shoes rather than just giving them a new pair.
       Atlanta had a homeless newspaper called Atlanta Overlook that's gone away for a while, but they're trying to get it back. They had some old issues at Mercy, so I read some of them. Here is a poem called "Unconditional Love" by Marshall Rancifer that was in Vol. 2 Edition 3
"I don't need your plate of food, I don't need your coat, I don't need your shelter.
I do need your time, I do need your hand, I do need your support. Help me to stand.
A coat can only provide warmth, it can't provide dignity.
A plate of food can only provide sustenance, it can't provide pride.
Shelter can only provide protection from the elements, it can't provide courage."
Feeding souls means so much more than feeding stomaches. Don't get me wrong, giving food, coats, and shelter is really important, but giving dignity, pride, and courage to these beautiful people is so much more fulfilling to them. I look at it like parenting. How appropriate after my last blog entry! But if parents only meet the physical needs of their children like shelter, food, and clothing, they are going to have some pretty sad kids. Children need nurtured and told that they are important, valued, and loved. The same goes for God's children of all ages! Especially the ones that society looks down on. Like Teddy said, these are all my children, and even though I love getting to meet some of their physical needs, I know what's much more important is making them feel loved by myself and even more by God.
         My heart is so full! I love the way God designed our hearts so that the more love we pour out, the more full of love we feel!
 
 


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Just call me Mama!

      Yesterday was such a touching day! My hosts had donuts and muffins they wanted to get rid of, so all my friends got a treat! So I gave out those and sandwiches and talked with everyone.  I went to an area that I hadn't been to before, Woodruff Park.  I had some competition, because the Mennonites and Christian rappers were already out in that area haha, but I still managed to find some hungry people. As I was walking around, I heard someone call my name, and I looked over and it was Teddy! I had met him once before by the bridge, and he is an awesome guy!
        He told me to sit down with him and rest for a while, so I did. God just sends me the perfect people right when I need them! We talked for a long time, it was really nice and refreshing! He talked to me about his favorite Bible stories and characters, his life experiences, his new job. It was so fun! After he talked for a while, he started asking me questions. He asked me what I wanted to be, and I told him how I don't really want a big career, I kind of just want to be a mom! He said, "Yeah, you're gonna have children. You're gonna have lots of children. All shapes, sizes, races, and ages. You already got about a thousand in Atlanta! These are your children," and he started pointing to all the homeless people around me.
          Words can't begin to describe how much this touched me. I thought my heart might explode. I would write more, but there just aren't words!
My little angel, Teddy

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sow and water

       Today was so fun and refreshing! I started the day at Mercy, which was great. In Bible study we talked about Hebrews 2.  There have been a lot of deaths recently in the Mercy community, so a lot of the discussions have been on death, suffering, and grieving and how to deal with those things.  One thing we talked about was the fear of death. There was this one sweet lady named Dixie who talked about how she has relied on God for her strength in her 11 years of sobriety. She said something that was so simple, but so beautiful in the discussion of death. She said, "When He calls me, I don't hear 'death.' I hear, 'I'm going home.'" Another thing that we talked about today was how Jesus can have compassion because he became like us and suffered. One of the girls there said, "Mercy can't grow unless we're willing to become like our brothers and sisters. We trust those that are willing to walk with us." What she said applies to Jesus becoming like us and how we relate to others. Like Jesus, we need to humble ourselves and be willing to walk with out brothers and sisters, because when we do, we gain compassion and a trusting relationship is formed. And that's a beautiful thing.
        I'm so blown away by how quickly I build relationships with these people. I value them so much, and they so appreciate the small things. One of the guys, George, that I talked to said, "We don't want a hand out, we want a hand up." Homeless people don't just want you to hand them food and walk away. They want and need to be encouraged, uplifted, and shown how valuable they are in our eyes and in God's. The small things, like jelly and having a hand written message on the sandwich bag, make a difference to them. Homeless men are smart, and when you give to them they can see when your heart's in it. How much more will your Heavenly Father know when your gifts are given genuinely or grudgingly? Giving grudgingly still feeds their stomach, which is a good thing, but giving genuinely and from the heart feeds their soul, which is so much more important and that fullness lasts so much longer!
         After we got done serving lunch on the streets, the Mercy crew went out to sing on the streets. It was so fun! People driving by would roll down their windows and some would start dancing, it was great! Just singing about God and His love was so refreshing!
Yeah, my djembe playing would qualify as nothing more than a joyful noise!
I love the Mercy crew!
 
        One thing that was so awesome today was I went to a little grassy area near some bridges, and when I gave one guy a sandwhich, he said, "Are you Tori?" and I said, "Yeah!" and he gave me a thumbs up and said, "Keep it up!" haha, that was so touching and encouraging! I guess I'd met some of his friends before, but it was so cool that in such a huge city, he knew me before I'd met him. It shows that you really can make a difference, because when you share love, the people you share it with pass it on. Another encouraging thing was I met a girl named Renee, and she told me that she read the message, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," and she told me she is going to pass that message on. Love has such a huge domino effect! Our reach is so much further than we know, we just have to be ok with sowing seeds of love without having to see the harvest. We can trust God with the harvest, it's just our job to sow and water like crazy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Shorty!

     Today was Shorty's 56th birthday! It was so fun, I brought him a little cake and gave out cupcakes to all the guys, it was such a good time! Nobody else would sing with me, but I sang Happy Birthday to him and gave him a card and a little foam bed cover that I had in my car! The card that I gave him was actually a Thank You card, because that's all I had. But like I wrote on the note, a Thank You card was still appropriate for him, because I am so thankful that God brought us together and I was so blessed by the words he said to me. And I'm just so blessed by getting to know Shorty!
Celebrating Shorty! By the way, guess what. This picture was taken by a homeless guy, and I still have my camera! They aren't all scary criminals like so many people want to believe!
Birthday boy!

     So today was just a really fun day of celebrating Shorty and having a good time. My sandwiches go so fast in Atlanta! There's so much ground to cover!
        I guess I'll go back and tell about Monday now! Monday was awesome! I started the day at Mercy Ministries. They start the day off with worship, prayer, and a Bible study. It was such an awesome time of fellowship! Those guys had so many good things to say! After Bible study, there was a writing class, which was really cool. Not that many people participated, but the ones that did were awesome! The prompt was to write about what gifts you have and how you can share them.  Ivan wrote this awesome piece about how he doesn't have anything of materialistic importance. But he has love, and that's enough. He talked about how most tangible gifts that he's recieved don't really last. But the gift he gives is his heart and his love, and those can't be lost, broken, or run out. His writing was so poetic and so true!
        After writing class, we all went out to feed on the streets. I think it's so cool how the people that eat breakfast at Mercy help to give out lunch on the streets. We're all equal! There's no separation between volunteers and the homeless, because we're all just people!
        After I left Mercy, I went out and handed out sandwiches and hung out with people. Then I went to Bethel again, which was awesome again!
        So yeah, my time in Atlanta has been so amazing! I'm meeting so many awesome people and getting to do things I never could have planned out for myself!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who's blessing who?

       I've been so rocked by God today!  I started my day going to Bethel Atlanta, which was awesome!
         After Bethel, I went to what's becoming my usual spot at the overpass. I handed out my sandwiches and Bibles and all the guys were really sweet again today. Then I got to talk to Shorty. You know how you always hear people say that when you serve people or minister to people, you always end up being the person that feels served and ministered to? My experience with Shorty was the epitome of that statement! I was SO blessed by him.
        I walked up to Shorty and asked him if he wanted a sandwich, and at first he said no. But then he said, "Oh wait, yeah I'll take one! I remember you, your sandwiches are fresh!" So I gave him a sandwhich and sat down to talk to him and he just like unloaded God's word over me, it was insane. I'll try to remember everything he said, it was all so good!  He said, "Yeah, I feel you. You're a Christian, and you have been for a long time. You were raised in a Christian home, but it hasn't been until recently that you really have experienced God in your life.  And let me tell you something, don't try to rush things. Don't try to get everything done and rush everything. God took six days to make Creation. So don't get impatient with things, you're not going to get everything spiritual in a week." So that was so crazy, because I'd never had a conversation with him before, and everything he said was right on point. And with the wanting to get everything spiritual now, that's exactly what I've been dealing with lately. Like I want signs and wonders and every spiritualy gift to be evident in my life, and I've been wanting those things so badly, which isn't a bad thing, but I just need to rest in the fact that love is what's most important. Love is above all those things. None of those things matter if I don't have love, so I just need to keep on loving, and those things will come when God wants to give them to me. And I just have complete peace in that now. And when Shorty was done talking to me, he said how none of that was him speaking. He didn't know what he was going to say when he started talking to me, and he wouldn't have been able to recall the scriptures that he said to me any other time. But he just let God speak to me through him, and he trusted God to give him the words to say. Seriously, I went out to minister to these men, and I get hard core ministered to, it was crazy! Shorty blessed me so much!
       He also talked about how sometimes when he talks to people, they say to him that if he's a Christian, he should have a home and a car, because God says he takes care of his children. But Shorty says that he is taken care of. He may not be content in the physical, but in his heart and mind, he's completely content and God completely takes care of him. And that's what God means when he promises to take care of His children. Shortys says that he doesn't need a house and a two car garage and a Mercedes to be content. He's thankful for where he is, because he feels like he can minister better in the situation that he's in now. How amazing is that that he's thankful for his homelessness because it gives him the opporunity to minister to those men? That's the true, sacrificial love of God in action!
       As I was walking back to my car, I saw two guys that looked kind of angry. In order to be safe, I've been trying to only approach people that I don't think would be violent. These guys kind of looked like they could be dangerous, but they kept looking at me. And God told me to go ahead and talk to them, that it was ok. So I just smiled and asked if they were hungry, and huge smiles spread across their faces and they said yeah! So I gave them sandwiches, and it was just so awesome. They weren't looking at me out of anger, they were just looking at me because they desired that love, too. They weren't dangerous, they were just hungry.  And when I shared that love with them, their entire demeanors totally transformed. They went from hard, angry guys, to smiling softies just by being given some love, attention, and a sandwich. That's all it takes to transform a person! Well, really only love!
       It was so amazing. God is so cool. After I got done talking with Shorty, first of all I was totally blown away! I had to kind of gain compusure before I went out again haha. But then I went and hung out some people who are a part of Occupy Atlanta. They were just really friendly and I got a lot of insight from them! And it was just cool to hang out with them and get to know some more of God's creation. When you decide to just love people with no judgement, it's so awesome. 
       So it's been another beautiful day of pouring out God's love and having it poured right back into me. Seriously,.living in God's love is the most fulfilling life you'll ever have, just surrender.

My occupy Atlanta friends, Mandy and Mike, and some of Mandy and her boyfriend's art:
Shorty, the homeless, amazing, street prophet child of God!
 

     

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bridges

      Another day full of being astounded by God's love! Today I joined with 7 Bridges Ministry, which is a really awesome ministry that goes either into the really bad areas (like abandoned houses and projects) or under overpasses to give food and hygeine kits to and pray for the people there.  I chose to go under the overpasses! We got to meet a lot of cool people. One guy that really stuck out to me was Bryan. He had such a good heart! He talked to us for a while and one of the things he said was, "Sometimes we get so educucated and so knowlegeable that we forget the simple things. Like love."
Bryan and I:
Praying under the bridges:
 

       After I was done with 7 Bridges, I was feeling like I might be getting sick, so I thought I might be done for the day, not because I wanted to be, but just because I wasn't feeling great. So I parked somewhere to get some water, but the parking meter was broken and there was a guy that was acting sketchy, so I got back in my car and figured I'd find somewhere else to get water, so I drove away. When I was driving to find somewhere to stop (keep in mind, I don't ever know where I'm going, I just drive until I find where I'm supposed to be), I passed a part of a bridge that I had stopped at a few times before. I love how I keep "just happening upon" this same place! So I looked over and saw some people. A part of me still wanted to just go find water and be done for the day. But God said, "Why would I bring you here if I didn't want you to feed these people?" So I was like, yeah, you're right. Even if I'm sick, these people still need fed, and I may be the only person to feed them. So I parked and took out my sandwiches and Bibles. And, as always, when God gives me something to do, no matter how I'm feeling physically or emotionally, if I say yes to Him, I always leave with my heart completely full!  I gave them all food and talked to them for a while. It was just a really sweet time. There were probably about twenty guys in this area. Usually when there's a group that size or bigger, not everyone will be receptive.  But every single one of the guys I went to in that area was not only receptive, but grateful! And as I was leaving, every single guy shouted out, "Bye!" or, "Bye, Tori!" and waved. All of the guys!  It was one of the sweetest moments I've had in Atlanta.  I love these guys so much, and I don't ever expect anything back from them. So when they show that they love me too, it blows my mind! It's hard to put a moment like that into words.  It's so much more than just some guys waving and saying bye. It's like separation was bridged and walls were torn down. Some of these guys build up a tough exterior in order to survive, so to have all the guys, even the tough ones, give a warm, sweet "goodbye," some even calling me by name, it was so beautiful.
     Choosing to always say yes to God is seriously the best thing you could ever do. I keep saying yes to God, not because I'm some super obedient servant, but because I know that what He wants me to do is what's going to bring me joy. Saying yes to Him makes me happy! Saying yes to Him makes my heart filled to overflowing! Saying yes to God has never hurt me or worn me down. It has only ever brought me more joy than I thought possible! And if you want to say yes to God, but don't know what He's telling you to do, just  loving is a good place to start. Saying yes to love is saying yes to God, because God is love. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

People, not a problem

       I found my Atlanta home today! Yesterday I gave out a ton of sandwiches- they went really fast! So after I ran out of sandwiches I kind of went looking for somewhere to serve and called a lot of places. When making phone calls, I came up with some of the same issues that I did in Chattanooga: volunteering in most places requires orientations and applications.
This is one of the places I went to give out sandwiches and Bibles, under an overpass:
This is my sweet buddy James that I got to see again today:)


        In one place that I went, I talked to a lady who gave me a few suggestoins of where to look to volunteer, and I wrote them all down on a little piece of paper. Later last night, I was going to look up the places that she told me about, so I started looking in my pockets for the piece of paper that I wrote her suggestions on.  I didn't find that piece of paper in my pockets, but I found a notecard that I had forgotten about. I read it and then remembered that it was a suggestion that Eric, a guy that works at East Nashville Cooperative Ministry gave me when I told him that I was going to Atlanta. Perfect!
        So this morning I emailed Mercy Ministries, the place that Eric suggested, and right away, Chad, the guy in charge, emailed me back and told me to come over! I was so excited, finally a place that would take me! When I got there, I instantly knew that it was my Atlanta home! It was so much like ENCM, so I was in love! It's so crazy how I can see how God is putting everything together for me on this trip! Everything is so connected and full of purpose that I never could have put together on my own! Papa is cool that way.
        Mercy Ministries is open Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. They start the morning with fellowship, a Bible study, and worship with volunteers and the homeless members of the Mercy family, and then they take food out on the streets to feed people on the streets.  Today, I only got there in time for feeding in the streets, but I am SO excited to be there on Monday for the Bible study and worship! I love ENCM and Mercy so much because they aren't about people going there to "do their part" and check off a good deed box. In so many places, you go in, do your job of handing out food, then leave without ever actually getting to know anybody or even having a conversation. But at ENCM and Mercy, it's a group of equals spending time together. There's a feeling of community and family rather than a feeling of segregation that so many outreach ministries have. That's why I love these places so much!
Some of the Mercy people and I:
The guy walking in the back was posing haha he was hilarious!
        After I left Mercy, I went out and found people. I drove around not knowing where I was going, but God took me to all the right people! He took me back under the bridge that I went to yesterday, so I got to see James again! He's such a happy guy, I love it! I love these people so much! One thing I've been thinking about today is how we need to stop seeing the homeless as a problem that needs to be fixed, and start seeing them as people that need to be loved. God doesn't care about social status, where we live, or what we wear, He just wants our hearts! And the hearts of people sleeping under a bridge are just as valuable to God as yours. Jesus didn't die just for comfortable Christians, He died for everyone! His love is such a beautiful thing that we should all be so excited about it that we can't be comfortable with just consuming it. Go ahead and share it, it's ok! It's not going to run out! And no matter how much of it you give away, you won't have any less, I promise! In fact, the more you pour out, the more filled you feel!
This made my heart smile! This is Jo, I gave him a couple sandwiches and a Bible, and as I was walking back to my car, I looked over and he was already digging into the word! So cool!

         If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you might be sick of hearing this, but I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!
         Oh yeah, and look at the awesome place that I hung out with Papa today! He just keeps reminding me that He doesn't care how much I get done in a day, He just wants me to walk in His love, wherever I am. My performance doesn't please Him, my heart does. He's so awesome! And He loves you so much!
Spending time with Him in His Creation is so fun:)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jump out of the boat!

       God seriously is amazing. Yesterday I started driving to Atlanta and I didn't know if I would have anyone to stay with once I got there. I just knew that that's where God wanted me, so I had to go knowing that He would take care of the rest. And He did! My mom called her friend who called some of her friends that live right outside of Atlanta, and halfway through my drive to Atlanta, I had a place to stay. And its an adorable little barn with the sweetest couple ever, Mr. and Mrs. Purvis! They are so sweet and we have awesome conversations! I'm amazed at how God keeps blessing me!
        One response I get a lot when I tell people about what I'm doing is, "Oh! How brave!" haha. At first I was like yeah, I guess this is kind of a brave thing to do. But now I see it's not brave at all! What I'm doing doesn't take any courage! Every time I step out in faith, God does amazing things and He shows that He has my future all planned out. If He proves Himself trustworthy every time, why would I ever be afraid? He's given me every reason to completely trust Him with my life and my future, so why wouldn't I? He's taking worry and fear completely out of my vocabulary! And I think He wants to do that for all His children, but so many people are too afraid to give Him the opportunity to prove Himself. If you never get out of the boat, God will never be able to show you that He can keep you above water.
      It's so funny how I can see the way God is changing me, even within the past few months. When He showed me the vision of Love Works: America Tour, at first I kind of dipped my toes in the water, but then decided I wanted to find a way to incorprate God's plans while staying safely in the boat by going down the normal college path and keeping God's plan in mind for later. When God made it clear that He wanted me to follow Him now, I timidly got out of the boat by deciding to follow through with the plan He gave me. And now, I don't want anything to do with the boat, my false sense of security in what's safe and comfortable. What's explainable by human capability. Yesterday, I didn't just get out of the boat, I jumped out! And I'm so glad I did!
        I don't want anyone to think that my stepping out and trusting God with my future is a testament to my faith. It's not! It's a testament to my God! To me, trusting God with my future is becoming like trusting that the sun is going to come up in the morning. If someone tells you that they aren't worried about the sun coming up in the morning, they just believe it's going to happen, your response would be, "Yeah, the sun does that!" That's how our response should be to people when they say they are trusting God to have their future perfectly planned! "Yeah, He does that!"
       God longs for you to put your life completely in His hands! He'll be patient with you as you first dip your toes in the water then timidly begin to get out. And He will rejoice with you when you finally realize that you can joyously jump out to meet Him on the water and run into His plan for your life! But you can't just stay in the boat! Trust me, once you get out, you'll never want to go back! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nothing Wasted


 
So, finding my niche in Chattanooga hasn’t been as easy as it was in Nashville. 
       I got in town Monday around 3:30, and I drove around the city looking for homeless people… I couldn’t find any. So, I went to the home of my Chattanooga hosts, the Hutsells. The Hutsells are so sweet and have such a lovely home! I am so grateful for our time together, even if it ends up getting cut short.
       This morning I drove to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen to see if they had anything for me to do there. When I knocked on the door, a lady answered, but she didn’t let me in. She kind of just stood in the doorway and asked me what I needed. When I asked her if they had any volunteer work that needed done, she told me that I would have to call and make an appointment. So that didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for, but I wasn’t discouraged. I knew I just had to keep looking.
         From there, I went to Starbucks so that I could make calls and Google more ministries that I could try to plug into.  Some of the places I called didn’t answer, some places said I would have to leave a message and have them get back with me, and some places said that they didn’t have any short term volunteer opportunities. So calling and googling didn’t end up being very productive, either.
        While I was sitting in Starbucks, I had really bad neck pains that were making me feel sick and easily distracted. My mom posted something about it on Facebook, and I saw somebody comment on there that maybe I was around someone with neck pains and I needed to pray for them.  But I just went along googling and making calls. Then I went up to get some more coffee and I looked at the barista and asked him if by chance he had any neck pains. He said, “Yes, in fact I do. I have herniated disks.” (Crazy, right? The first person I ask has not just neck pains, but herniated disks!). So I asked if I could pray for him, and he said yes, so I did. When I was done, I asked him if it felt any different and he said, “Not at the moment.” And I told him I believed it would!
       I had never prayed for healing before in that kind of way, but it was really cool! First of all, it was awesome that the first person I asked said yes. After I asked him and he told me about his herniated disks, my neck pain left. The fact that after I prayed he said he didn’t feel any different, might make some people consider the whole situation kind of a failure. But I don’t think it was at all. One thing I thought was awesome was the fact that when I asked him if his neck felt any different, he didn’t say “no,” he said, “Not at the moment.” The way he said that showed that he had hope that it would. I know that God is able to heal, and I know He loves Rodney.  When I was talking to my mom about it, I told her that I think maybe God wants to heal Him later instead of immediately after I prayed for him so that I wouldn’t see Rodney get healed and try to take credit for the healing or in some twisted way be prideful of the fact that God healed him after I prayed for him.  But I continue to pray that God will heal Rodney when I’m not there so that God will get all the glory.
         After I left, I went in search for some homeless people, because I had yet to find any.  I went to a park by the river, and I did find one! I gave him a couple sandwiches, but I couldn’t really have a good conversation with him because I couldn’t understand anything he said. But if he and Rodney were the only reasons I came to Chattanooga, then they were totally worth it!
       After I talked to him for a second, I kept looking in the park.  The park had a map of the world in the ground, so I sat on America and read my Bible and prayed for the country and all the places I’ll be visiting this year. When I opened my Bible, I opened it up to 2 Corinthians 2:13 which says, “I still had no peace of mind…so I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.”  I felt like that was confirmation that God wants me to move on to Atlanta earlier then planned!
          Today I am going on my final search for some homeless people (I got some leads on where to find them from some people at a college church service I went to last night with my high school friend that goes to UTC), but if I still don’t find anyone, I am leaving for Atlanta today!
         It’s kind of crazy because I don’t know exactly where I will be staying tonight, but I really feel like God wants me to move forward, and He won’t call me somewhere if He doesn’t have the way already mapped out.
         So keep me in your prayers and let me know if you know anyone or any programs in Atlanta!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Revived

     Today God's been completely reviving my soul! I didn't think I could feel any more alive, but God proved me wrong! This morning I went to Grace Center. That experience was beyond words! I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if God pulled an Enoch and took me straight to Heaven right in the middle of that worship service. I got there at 9:30 and left at 1:45, and I wasn't bored for a second! Within that time, there was an hour of soaking, an hour and fifteen minutes of worship that felt like twenty minutes maximum, an hour and a half long sermon, and half an hour of prayer and getting lost in God's presence. It was so amazing and so refreshing!
       After that, I went to serve at the Women's Rescue Mission for the last time.
       It's so crazy that today was my last full day in Nashville! Tomorrow morning I head to Chattanooga! This first week has been so amazing and full of love, I can't even describe this feeling. What I'm doing, in the natural, would make me feel like I'm pouring myself out to the point of feeling drained. But I serve a supernatural God and He's giving me peace beyond understanding, and I'm completely saturated by His love. He continues to pour His love on me so that what I give to others is just an overflow of my endless supply of my Father's love. I don't have any less love or joy because of what I'm doing, because I don't just have love and joy. I am love and joy, because Jesus is love and joy and He lives in me. You can't have less of something that you don't possess. When we allow Jesus to completely take over our hearts, we don't possess love, we ARE love. I just keep falling deeper in love with my God as He shows me more of Himself. And I'm so glad He chose me to take on this journey. I am beyond blessed! Go soak in His presence, He adores you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I'm going to miss my friends!

     Today was such a good day! I'm so full of God's love, it's amazing! The day started with me handing out a few sandwiches. Then I went to Nashville Rescue Mission for Women to serve lunch. There were a few other volunteers there that serve once a month with a women's group from their church. They asked me about what I was doing, and when I told them, they were so supportive and encouraging! They said they were my "Nashville cheerleaders"! They were so sweet, and it was such a blessing to get to serve with them today.
My Nashville cheerleaders and me:
I also got to talk with Ms. Roxy, a woman who works there, and she was a sweet encouragement for my day, too!
          After I left the Women's Mission, I headed to my usual spot downtown, but as usual, couldn't find anywhere to park. I feel like my motto of Nashville should be, "When you can't find parking, just keep driving." Everytime I have trouble parking, it's because God wants to take me somewhere better than where I had planned on going! Today, He took me to hang out with my friends from ENCM! When I gave up on finding a parking spot, I decided to head towards the Nazarene Church, because I remembered Juan saying that they hung out in that area sometimes. When I got to the church, I saw some people hanging out in a parking lot across the street, so I drove over to offer them food. When I pulled up, I realized they were my friends! So I got to just sit and hang out with them for a bit, it was really sweet! Once again, I was glad there was no available parking!
My friends Jerry, Country, Shannon, and one of their buddies (Juan took the picture). And you can see John Brown's legs! He was asleep

      After I hung out with them for a while, I went back to my usual spot downtown to find more hungry people. As I was walking, I saw a guy sprawled out asleep. I could tell he was really tired (yeah, it sounds obvious because he was sleeping, but I could tell that he wasn't just sleepy, he was worn out from life) and hungry, so while he was asleep, I put a Bible and sandwich by his stuff. That's my favorite! Blessing people when they can't see me, it's the best! That way they don't get distracted by the messanger, all they see is the message. And I can just imagine him waking up and having a Bible and food, not knowing where it came from other than God. It's so awesome! When I walked back to my car, I saw him, and he was sitting up. From the way he's sitting, it looks like he could either be sleeping while sitting up, just sitting, or praying. But I believe he was praying!
     This journey has been so amazing so far! God shows Himself in every situation. On this trip, He's been my comfort, my guide, my home, my constant friend, my protector, my peace! I feel so amazingly blessed by this trip and all the beautiful people I'm meeting. They really are my friends! I can't even express how full my heart is!
      Oh, and just a random awesome part of my every day while in Nashville is the fact that I get to see God show off His beauty every ride to and from downtown. This picture doesn't do it justice at all, but I'm surrounded by mountains on my drive every morning and night. God wouldn't let me forget how awesome He is if I tried!