Sunday, August 2, 2020

Chapter 25: My Heart's Desire

I worked for a year at the Prison. While I did so, I communicated online of all my adventures, both in and out of work.

One morning, I came home tired and frustrated and posted a tongue-in-cheek excerpt of my night that was not taken too well by my supervisors at work, and was immediately called into work to have a talk with the warden. My explanation of the post was not enough to soothe his inquiries, so I resigned immediately in order to quieten any unintended uphevals that my post had caused -- even though the post had been deleted.

My time at the prison had been a blessing, but the mental and emotional turmoil it wreaked on my heart, due to the constant mind-games that the inmates played on a daily basis, made resignation some-what of a relief. I felt that God was telling me it was time to move on to something more "peaceful". I needed to rest.

I had done the smart thing in saving every penny of my money after bills in order to have something in case of another situation where I had to leave work. And, I was informed that I would be able to re-apply at my job in six months, should I desire to.

I decided to try my hand at direct sales. I signed up to sell Watkins Products on the internet. I mourned over the fact that I was told I would never again be able to sell Avon years before, due to my ex's intrusion on my finances and the past due bill -- even though it was paid off in time.

I was good at selling Avon.

Out of a sense of nostalgia, I put in my application to be an Avon Independent Sales Representative, anyway. I was expecting to be denied.

Joel 2:25

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.”

I was accepted immediately. I was overjoyed, and praised God! I felt that God was giving me a second chance, and that it was in His will that I do this.

It was during this time that I began to speak to someone from my past. Many great memories of times we had together and unfinished business began to flood my heart. I began to long for a life that I felt should have been mine. I begin to reflect and over-think on what life could be like again, if given the chance.

I started praying for relief for my heart. I knew it was all in the past, never to return. But, I believed in a God who performed miracles; and so, I prayed for a new start. I wanted easy. I wanted to build on something that was already there.

God had restored so much in my life. Could He not restore this, too?

In six years of being single, I had come to be independent and secure in myself. I had no need of any relationship with the opposite sex, and did not desire the change in my life-style that it would bring. I certainly had no desire for the heart-ache that I knew it could bring if the answer was "no". And, I knew myself well enough that I still did not trust my own judgment.

But, I felt that if I was going to go into any kind of relationship, I was going to go ALL in. I wanted to be able to say I gave it my all; so, I did. I gave it everything I had. Every day I prayed on my knees for an opening. Every day I prayed for a miracle to give me the future I felt that life had stolen from me due to bad decisions from my past that I had no control over.

It was during this time that I found out how easy it was to lose all self-respect and create distance with God. I fought this as best I could, but realized that my worst weakness was my emotions. I even came to a point, briefly, where I was angry and willing to throw everything about who I had become out the window to make the point that I did not need this pain. I thank God that He stepped in to make that impossible for me by thwarting every move I made. One mistake did not deserve another.

I started working at a local diner as a cook to help off-set my bills and personal expenses as I worked to build up my Avon business. I worked hard to be a good employee, in spite of the low pay and odd hours. At times, my job was respite from the turmoil that my heart was going through, and I took out all my emotions by working hard physically, so I wouldn't have to think about anything -- but, came home only to find that the desire was still as strong, if not stronger than ever.

Proverbs 4:23

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

After a year in wallowing in self-pity over having made the mistake of trusting my heart again in vain, I began to long for God to fill my life with the same joy and abundant life I had before realizing what I DIDN'T have. I prayed that He would either give me my heart's desire, or take the desire away from me. At times, I felt God was answering with, You made this mess. YOU fix it.

I kicked myself hard on a daily basis, and through my prayers, for giving into the temptation of believing that something that was miles away from me was just at my fingertips.

In the meantime, God was still blessing me -- even though I certainly did not deserve it. I had fallen away, and felt that I was in a "rut"; but, in a way, I was still inching forward, heels dug in, trying to stop whatever progress God seemed to want to make in my life in favor of what I wanted so badly.

God is a gracious and merciful God, even though I didn't feel He was being "merciful" at all with my heart. And, I knew this and respected Him enough to say, "Thank you, anyway" with every prayer I prayed.

I paid off two of my biggest loans from the purchase of my home. Though I was still paying mortgage, my finances were relieved immensely.

And then, COVID-19 came along.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Chapter 24: Lean on Me

I started back to work on November 1, 2018. The joy I felt at being able to do so was enormous! Each day, I posted on my Facebook page another reason to be thankful this year. The reasons were sufficient. All glory went to God!​

But, I started thinking about my recent situation. I could have died alone in my new home. There was no one there the day I slept for 32 hours straight. No one came to make sure that I was hydrated, or not so ill I couldn't facilitate myself. No one was there but my baby dogs, and they had no way of alerting anyone if I was in danger. 

The more I thought about it, the more I prayed about it. Finally, I made a decision to fix the problem as best I could without endangering the single life I had grown accustomed to. I called on my friends who had helped me out during the transition to my new home -- the two homeless guys that I had helped to acquire a one bedroom apartment they could afford. 

I proposed a deal to rent them my two bedrooms at a price they could afford. 

Two weeks later, they decided to take me up on the offer. 

I then was faced with the problem of furnishing my home to make them comfortable. 

I was blessed when my mother informed me that she was selling some of the stuff in my grandma's house to help pay for the taxes on the property, as my grandma had passed away the year before, and she was executor to her estate. 

I was able to procure two sets of mattresses, a book shelf, a pantry shelf, a couch, a file cabinet, and a coffee table for a very low price. And, since I didn't have the money right off the bat, mom added the cost to the loan I already owed her and was paying her monthly for. Then, she and my stepdad hauled it to my new home. 

On November 28, Fred and Gary moved in with me. I felt the blessings overflow as I realized that I didn't have to watch my favorite shows alone anymore, and that I could cook more without worrying about wasting food, and that they needed me as much as I needed them. We could go places together and enjoy life together. 

I made it clear that I was not looking for a mate, and that it was a platonic relationship for all involved. I thanked God that they felt the same way. When they moved in, I made it clear that we were now "family", and my home was their home, and I expected it to be treated as such. I don't know, but I think they were as happy about the arrangement as I was, for all of the same reasons. 

I looked forward to having two companions in my life for a while. We could struggle and overcome obstacles together -- just as God intended for God's family to do.

Ecclesiastes 4:10
“For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that isalone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” 

Chapter 23: Celebrating Recuperation

When I finally was released from the hospital to return home, eleven days after I went to the emergency room, I was told to not lift anything heavy and to rest. 

I immediately started making phone calls to secure my short-term disability payments, and to insure that my job was still secured. It was stressful. 

I still had a bag stem in my stomach that the doctor did not want to remove until I had healed some, in order to make sure that everything was going where it was supposed to before it was removed. I had an appointment for October 2 to determine whether or not it could be removed. 

I then received a phone call from my mortgage company instructing me to register my new mobile home with the state in order to have my taxes escrowed into my house payment. So, I attempted to do that as well. 

Then, on the Friday before I was to go to the hospital to have the procedure done to check my progress in order to have my bag stem removed, I got a call from my doctor. I was told that without a referral from my primary care physician, which I had not even met yet, my insurance would not pay for the procedure. So, I had to rush to make a doctor's appointment with the doctor that never returned my call before I went to the emergency room. 

By a miracle, I was able to make the appointment the day before the procedure was to take place; but, because it would take time for the insurance to get the information, my procedure was scheduled for a day later. 

I just wanted my life back to normal. I wanted to go back to work. I wanted not to worry about my finances and not to lose all God had given me thus far! At times, I broke down in tears in fear of my future, but I didn't let it incapacitate me. I didn't stop moving forward, praying for a breakthrough. The devil was mad. I had now made it through my surgery, and was home recuperating, so he was going to do everything in his power to make me miserable, once again. 

I worried about my dogs. I had just got them back. I didn't want to have to send them away again. I worried about eating. I had no food in the house. What little I had wasn't going to last. And, without money coming in, how was I going to pay my bills?

Finally, I let go. I decided that if God wanted to allow me to lose all He had given me, I was still blessed. I would remain blessed, because I knew God wouldn't put me where He didn't need me. And, if I was where God needed me, then He would insure my survival, somehow. I was His servant. I didn't deserve all He had already given me. So, if He decided to take it, who was I to stop Him?

I listened to Lauren Diagle's "Trust in You" again. A lot.

I had saved about $500 before my illness. So, I had that to fall back on for my first house payment in October, along with my lot rent, and a few bucks to eat on until then. On October 1, when I was supposed to get my check for all my leave pay from work, I was told that it would not arrive until the middle of the month. What was I going to do? I still had phone, internet, electricity and car insurance to pay. I was broke. 

So, I did the only thing I could do: I asked my mother for another loan. She asked me, "Why?" So I told her, "I just learned that I am not getting paid until the middle of the month, and I have bills due before then." She agreed, and it eased my burden until I could get paid. 

I went to the bank to deposit my money, and the teller asked me how I was feeling. I told her, I had been in the hospital, then when I got out to recuperate I had spent days on the phone taking care of business with my new home, my short-term disability, and the insurance company. "I am supposed to be recuperating. You'd think it would be less stressful!" 

Then, finally, praise God! My short-term disability claim was approved. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. And, I finally received my check in the mail from my job. I praised God! Together, they were enough to get me through until I could receive my first paycheck after returning to work, which the doctor had signed a release for me to do. I would return to work again on November 1, giving me a couple more weeks to recuperate. 

I had one more gallstone that had eluded the surgery that was still in my body. But, it didn't require any extra time. I would have it removed on October 29 as an outpatient, and then I would be home free! Life would be normal again!

On my way to the bank to deposit my leave check, I praised God. I decided to celebrate. I wanted to do so by taking Jesus with me to eat. 

Matthew 25:40

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I decided to go to the local homeless shelter, Randy Sams Homeless Shelter, and pick up someone to go eat at a Chinese buffet with me. When I got there, I told the guy at the desk what I was doing and why, and asked him to "Please choose someone for me who needs a blessing today, and needs to be encouraged."

They gave me Tennie. 

Tennie and her husband were estranged. He was emotionally and verbally abusive. Neither of them believed in divorce, but there is nothing in the Bible that says you have to live with an abusive spouse.. So, they separated.​

It has been many months since Tennie heard from her estranged husband after the last bad words he had to say to her that left her in tears, asking God, "Why is this happening?"

But, God is our vengeance.

Romans 12:19
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” 

Tennie recently got out of the hospital. She only had Randy Sam's homeless shelter as her home. No job, no money, except a small social security check she was already getting that wasn't enough to get her own place.

A few days before, however, God showed up.

She received a letter in the mail from Social Security Administration. They told her that her husband had died. He left a sizeable pension in social security for her to claim. She will be receiving enough to well take care of all her needs, including enough for her to leave Randy Sams.

I went there hoping to be a blessing. I told her my testimony. She told me hers. She thanked me, and told me that it was, indeed a blessing today to spend time with me.

I wasn't expecting someone like her who had already been so blessed, but I feel now like God has used me to give that extra little "umph" to her in encouragement, and to let her know that He has her back, and it is HIM she should keep her focus on. 

We both had something to celebrate, so we celebrated together. 

She asked me what I saw in her future. I told her "I am not a prophet. But, I will say this: God's will, done God's way, will never lack God's resources." It made her smile.

Matthew 6

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 

I went there to be a blessing. I was the one who was blessed.

And, I made a new friend.

Chapter 22: God the Graceful Physician

About four months into my employment, disaster threatened to shake all the new found blessings that God had given me. 

In 2014, while I worked at the hospital, I had an attack that sent me to the emergency room. I could not breathe. I was hurting in my chest cavity. I couldn't even fill out the paperwork to admit myself into the emergency room. 

They wheeled me to my assigned room for emergency evaluation, and on the way, between gasps, at 45 years old, I found myself crying, "I want my mama!" 

I would never cry for my mom. I was (and am) very independent, and did what I could never to need my mom. For me to cry out for comfort from my mom, was proof of the amount of pain and fear I was in. 

When they got me to my room, this continued for a good fifteen minutes, while the nurse patiently stood their observing me, at a loss as to how to help me until the doctor could get there. Finally, a wave of nausea passed over me and I looked at her and said, "I'm fixing to puke."

She immediately handed me a gray tub, and I puked. 

Then, I was fine. I could breathe. The doctor had come in as I was puking, and he was observing me. I looked at the doctor, smiled, and said, "I can go back to work now. I'm fine."

He said, "No. You are not going back to work today. You are not going back until after we test you tomorrow." He made an appointment for me to come in the next day for an ultrasound to see what caused this horrific episode..

I presented my boss with the doctor's orders and went home.

The next day, I was diagnosed with gallstones. 

Because, at the time, I didn't have insurance, the doctor said they would not treat it. My kidneys and liver were working well. I needed to change my diet and live with it. If it became unmanageable, and an "actual emergency" (when my skin jaundiced and I was in pain that would not subside) then they would be forced to do something. 

So for four years, I managed my pain, having an occasional attack when I ate the wrong things or ate too fast. All was good. I was even eating healthier. I had to give up some of my favorite foods at a result, like bacon, but I was managing it.  

When I started working at the prison, the first thing we did during our academy training was fill out all the paperwork required for insurance purposes. I opted to pay for everything. I got health, vision, dental, short-term disability, long-term disability, life and retirement. My paycheck was cut almost $1,000 a month for all the insurance I was paying for, and I still made more money monthly than I made at the hospital. I was blessed.

One Thursday night, about two weeks after my baby-dogs were returned to me, before I even made the first payment on my new home, I had a gallbladder attack. I struggled with it for a longer time than usual, but it subsided. 

The next morning, I decided to make a doctor's appointment. I had insurance, and my recent attack made me realize that I needed to be vigilant with my health. I was not getting any younger. But, the doctor's office never returned my call. 

On Friday night, August 31, 2018, the gallbladder attack came back. I struggled with it for hours, until I was finally able to fall asleep. Then, I slept for 32 hours straight. I just did not have the energy to get up. When I finally woke up, I was badly dehydrated. I drank a lot of water and Gatorade, as opposed to the sweet tea I usually drank. My urine had turned dark orange, and  I was feverish.

On September 2, Sunday, I felt as if I had a grapefruit lodged in my chest cavity, and my back hurt so I could not get comfortable. I kept telling my babydogs, "Mama is sick! Go away!", which was way out of character for me. 

Monday, September 3rd was Labor Day. I could not get my doctor on the phone. His office was closed. I was scheduled to return to work that night. 

I tried to get some rest, hoping it would go away by the time I had to ready myself for work. I am the type of person that never misses work unless I am too ill to move. I was not planning to miss work if at all possible. 

But, I woke up and the pressure in my stomach had intensified. I knew I could not function at work. So, I bathed, got dressed, left three days worth of food and water for the dogs, and went straight to the emergency room. I called my mom to let her know where I was going and why. Then, I called in to work to let them know why I would not be there. 

After being examined, the doctor ordered a chest X-ray, an EKG, then an ultrasound. He came back and said that it looked as if my gallbladder was, indeed, infected. I had a cyst on my liver, and a blood clot in the vein that connected the stomach to the liver. My gallbladder was abnormally shaped. My gallbladder would have to be removed.

I was admitted into the hospital.

I called work and told them that I was being admitted and why. 

I was told to make sure the hospital faxed our human resources department with the information. I was worried about losing my job. 

Normally, a gallbladder removal was done by laser surgery and the patient was released from the hospital the same day, with a few days to recover and then released to go back to work. I was assured I had the leave time on my books. I felt better. 

The next day, the doctor came in and ordered an MRI to make sure I was okay for laser surgery because of the abnormality of my gallbladder's shape. They found that gallstones had become lodged in ducts that surrounded my gallbladder. They would have to call in a specialist to blast the stones out before they could do surgery. 

They did so, but were unable to blast them all out. One of the stones was lodged and of a massive size. They would have to cut me open with a knife. 

So much for the simple laser surgery. 

On my fourth day after admission, I finally went in to have my gallbladder removed. As I waited in the OR for surgery, the doctor came in to explain the procedure, and to inform me that it might be a few months before I am released to return to work. I was devastated!

I just closed on my new home. My job was still new. I did not have the leave time to support myself during my recovery! What to do? Then, I remembered that I had signed up for short-term disability when I first got the job. I praised God!

Had I not got my job when I did, I would not have the benefits to make it through my recovery. God had placed me where I was when He did because He knew I was going to need it! And, need it right now, I did!

At that point, I surrendered it all to God. Even if I was not able to keep my job through all this, I felt grateful that I was where I was at the time to receive the care that was saving my life. But, I prayed that if at all possible, God would work to preserve my job so I could return to it when all this was over. Even if the answer was "No", I knew I was blessed with that job by God at a time I needed it most, and I know God was gonna take care of me in the future as He had so far, putting me where HE needs me to be. 

In more ways than one, my new job turned out to be one of the greatest blessings God had ever given me. 

A few days after my surgery, as I was still in the hospital recovering, I was listening to Tony Evans on The Bridge radio on my cell phone as I slept. I woke up to Tony explaining how Satan told God, "Go ahead send me a man. I'll take him. Send me another one. I'll take him, too." Etc. Then he asked God, "what are you going to do about it?"

God said, with a smile, "I guess I'm just going to have to become a man."

Then what did Satan do? He used food to get Adam. He tried to use food to get Jesus. Remember when he tried to get him to turn the stones into bread?

It was then that I heard God talking to me.

"Satan tried to use food to get you Shonda. He was going to tear you from the inside out. If he couldn't do it one way, he was going to do it the other. But I'm not just Jesus. I am the Father in me. And you are mine. With my authority you are still here. You are here because I want you here. You are me in you. No food Satan can throw at you can stop you until I'm ready.

So you remember that. The next meal you look at you remember there's a reason you are here child. Live accordingly."

Friday, October 11, 2019

Chapter 21: Sacrifices

As the time moved closer to my graduation, about half-way into my pre-employment training, everything was going good. My future depended upon my ability to get through the Academy and keep my job. As a requirement, I was informed that I could not be late for class, or I would have to be recycled and start completely over. I could not afford that. So, I did everything I was supposed to do, the way I was instructed to do in order to make it work.

It was a 25 to 30 minute drive each morning to get to work. I had to be there by 6:30 A.M in order to join my classmates at line-up to march into the building to get processed in for classes.

One morning, at 5:30 A.M., I opened my car door, threw in my purse -- which had my cell phone in it -- and shut the door to return to my apartment to get my uniforms for cleaning and my ice chest with my water bottles and tea in it I took with me every day.

When I got back to my car, the door was locked. My car keys were inside my purse.

The apartments where I lived recently changed owners and many of the tenants there had moved out. There were only three apartments lefts in the month of May, 2018. I was one of them. I knew I could not wake them up to help. I had 45 minutes left to get to work at that point. I could not call a locksmith, because it would take them too long to get there. I could not call a cab for the same reason. So, I did the only thing I could do.

I went back into my apartment (thankfully, I had kept that key in my hand) and grabbed my hammer, and busted out my rear driver’s side passenger window.

On the way to work, I traveled down the interstate highway. An 18-wheeler had caught fire so traffic was slowed somewhat. I thought about the fact that had I made the trip during the time I was supposed to have made it, I might have been caught right beside that truck when it caught fire. I could have been involved in a wreck. Me locking my keys in my car was God’s protection of me, even though, at the time, I was frantic and frustrated at the situation.

2 Samuel Chapter 22
3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: [he is] my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.
4 I will call on the LORD, [who is] worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

I praised God.

When I got to work, I had to park off the premises, because I was at a prison. Vehicles that were not able to be secured could not park inside the designated parking lot for safety. So, I had to walk a little ways to make it to the rendezvous point to meet with my class.

As our class instructor, a Sergeant, came out to lead us inside, he asked the class, as he inspected our uniforms and formation, “Has everyone checked their pockets and persons for anything they shouldn’t have on them before we go?”

One of my classmates spoke up and said, “Sarge, Ponder didn’t park on the premises.”

The instructor looked at me and said, “Ponder, how come you didn’t park where the class was designated to park?”

I answered, “Because I busted out my car window this morning, Sir.”

With an inquisitive look in his eye, he asked, “How?”

I said, “With a hammer, sir.”

I could tell the corners of his mouth were turning up slightly as he tried to hold back a smile. He asked, “Why?”

I said, “I locked my keys in the car, sir. I didn’t want to be late.”

He was trying not laugh, but I could tell he wanted to. Some of my classmates giggled. He said,

“Ponder, you got heart. I’ll give you that. Forward! March!

As we were marching in formation, one of my classmates behind me said, “It will cost you to get that window fixed.”

I said, smiling, “It would have cost me a lot more if I hadn’t busted it out.”

I actually felt pretty about myself all day that day. God had my back when I didn’t expect it; and, Satan hadn’t stolen my joy!

Psalms Chapter 121
1 (A Song of degrees.) I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help [cometh] from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD [is] thy keeper: the LORD [is] thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Chapter 20: God’s Remarkable Provisions

By the time I finished my pre-employment training, I was counting down the days until I could start my regular shift work, praising God for my new job and the opportunities that it presented.

God was working in the background, blessing me at every turn, as I prayed that what I was doing was what He was calling me to do. The drive to work was about 30 miles both ways. I worried about whether my car could make the long drive indefinitely, as I depended on my transportation in order to keep my job.

A friend of mine, Rosa, that I grew up with had married and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, several hours away. Her parents had been instrumental in influencing my growing up years. Her father had been born with cerebral palsy and was not expected to live the night he was born, yet he was a vibrant man who had put himself through college and had two careers in his life, raising my friend Rosa to appreciate learning, books, politics and Jesus -- not in that order. I always found him hard to understand when he talked, but what he had to say was important enough to listen. It was him and Rosa’s mom who gave Rosa the big heart that she had, and the intellect and strong faith that she carried with her throughout her life.

Their open-door policy, when it concerned her friends, made them the extended family that many of us, as kids, came to enjoy. They lived right next door to the church I attended and was baptized at when I was fourteen. When I found myself pregnant and going through a hard time with my parents as a teenager, they let me stay with them until the situation was remedied enough for me to return home. They gave me my first trip to the public library when I was twelve.

Rosa’s brother developed an illness that eventually took his life about a year or two before. So, now the two resided in New Boston, Texas, just five miles from my job, alone.

Rosa’s husband had developed the early stages of dementia and it was progressing. Her parents had decided that they wished to live near her in order to help her as they go through this, and Rosa found that she really needed her mom and dad now more than ever -- but they were so far away.

So, Mr. and Mrs. Jones decided to sell their trailer and move to Fayetteville to be near their daughter. But, they were looking for someone to take up payments on their trailer home. Hence, the reason Rosa contacted me and asked me if I would be interested, knowing my situation at work, and my desire to move.

At first I balked on accepting the deal. The trailer was badly in need of repair, and I really did not want the responsibility of the maintenance work that would be needed. However, the owner of the apartment complex in which I was living decided to sell the property, and had found a buyer. The new owners decided that all tenants had to pay online, which raised the cost of the rent about $14 for a convenience fee of doing business online. Then, they decided the tenants needed to pay for their own electricity, and water bill. This would effectively raise my bills to over $100 more a month.

Then, the new lease they expected me to sign contained clauses I disagreed with, such as not being able to have visitors stay with me me without the owner’s permission.

Recently, I had helped some homeless friends off the street by letting them stay with me for a few days until I could help them locate an apartment. Under the new rules that would have been impossible for me to have been able to do.

I was not happy with the new arrangement, and I felt like God had offered me a way out. So, I prayed for clarity, and a sign that this was the direction that God wanted me to go.

I had applied for a home loan about a year before, but was told that my credit rating was one point off being able to be approved for the loan. But, Rosa encouraged me to try again, saying that taking up payments on the mobile home was a different category and I would probably be approved for that. So, I applied. I figured if I was approved, that would be the sign I needed to move forward. It was around the start of the month of May in 2018, and I was only a couple of weeks into my pre-employment training at Telford Prison.

I refused to sign the lease, and I had until June 1st to move out of my apartment. I had no where to go, and no one to help me move. My own mother refused to let me stay with her until I could find something better, and my dad was unable to.

When I received the call that I was approved, I determined to move forward. I contacted the owners and we planned accordingly. I agreed to even give them an extra $2,000 to help them move, on top of the down payment that I would have to make to the mortgage company when the deal closed.

While some of my friends said that I was being too generous, “No one does that! Why would you do that?” I prayed to God. I would need a stove, a refrigerator, and a way to wash my clothes when I moved. As I prayed, the owners contacted me. They told me they were going to leave their stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, lawn mower, weed-eater, garden hose, a living room chair, a big dresser and the metal storage building out front for storage. It was as if God said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this!”

I thought about my dogs that I had to give up when I moved to my current apartment because the owner had a policy of no pets. The people who took them told me that when I got situated, they would let them return, if the dogs didn’t have a problem with it. Then, I learned that the home I was buying had a dog pen attached outside the back door, complete with a dog house. I was more than excited! My baby dogs were coming home, soon!

God had just provided me with a great job, and home in which I could do what I wanted without anyone telling me I couldn’t! My independence was being secured, in the name of Jesus!

There was still the problem of having a place to stay until the deal closed. My friends that I had helped out offered to let me stay with them. I agreed to pay half their rent until other arrangements were made. They let me have their bedroom for privacy.

Then, I had to arrange for storage for my belongings that I would be taking with me -- my deep freeze and other furniture I did not want to lose. The owners agreed to let me move all my stuff into their back bedroom for storage until they could move. They even let me go ahead and use the address as my permanent residence already, so I could make all the arrangements with my workplace and insurance information.

God had stepped in. I was SO blessed!

And, I was so looking forward to the move. God had brought me so far in just a few years, since I had determined to live for Him. I now had another testimony of God’s great provision to add to my story as I showed off my crown!

Chapter 19: What Am I Getting Myself Into?

At the end of March, in  2018, a year after I started my job at Denny’s, I had money in my savings account, and I had recovered from the beating my body had endured, for the most part, from my work at the hospital. I was not happy with my new job, however. Some of the people I worked with were too negative, over-emotional, and did not seem to care about doing their job so that I was beginning to feel ignored and as if I was doing more than my fair share at times, and did not have the tools to even do my job well at other times. Over all, I was just not happy.

So, not being one to deal with stress well, and opting not to if I could, and choosing to be happier, I chose to quit my job and look for something better.

I had two months to search for a job. I decided I would take a week off for vacation time, then I would make my job to be to find a job. I relaxed the first week at home, then, on Monday, I decided to go fill out applications.

A friend of mine that I grew up with and graduated with in high school had been trying to get me to put my application in at a state-run prison about 30 miles away. I decided to do that, finally.

In order to go to work there, I would have to go through a pre-service training academy, much like those that the local police had to go through. I had to be able to pass a work-history check, a background check, and a drug test. I knew I could do all of that. So, I applied.

I was accepted into the academy. Then, I became anxious because I was almost fifty years old. I was also a bit overweight, and I couldn’t see myself running long distances or doing sit-ups and push-ups. I practiced and did a lot of walking before my physical agility test I had to pass before I could enter the academy.

There were 38 people in my class with me. I made the lowest score, but I praised God, because I made it! I was now an employee-in-training for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

There was a lot of classroom time. We learned to have each other’s backs, and how to always stay alert and be ready for anything that could happen. It was a dangerous job. We would be working with some hardened criminals: some murderers, drug dealers, gang members, thieves and the like. There were some monsters behind those bars. Some of our fellow corrections officers had been killed in the line of duty. So we had to be vigilant.

We also signed up for insurance. I got it all: Life, health, dental, vision, long and short-term disability, and retirement. The benefits offered were outstanding! And, so was the pay. At least, it was to me. It would be twice what I made at the hospital.

My academy "pre-service training" opened my eyes to a lot. I listened to stories from current employees there about experiences that they had had. I listened to stories about things I might have to go through. I listen to stories about what people did, right and wrong,  and how they acted and reacted in a crisis.

After taking a tour of the facility with my fellow trainees, I came away humbled. The people I would be working with, when my training was complete, were nothing less than heroes. I stated to a fellow trainee, very humbly, that I only hoped that when I have to face such a crisis, I could be as brave and courageous as I had heard about.

As my late stepmother once said, and my fellow trainee pointed out in response, "You aren't going to know how you are going to act until you get there. No one can."

She was right. It's easy to want to be a hero. It's a whole other thing when the opportunity presents itself. Anyone can talk the talk -- but it's the walk that matters. I had already learned that in my Christian walk with Jesus.

We took a tour of the facility. At one point, we went through a recreation yard. There were about fifty inmates on each side of us as we walked through, playing basketball, walking around, running, exercising, hanging out. I felt really uneasy. There were only 18 of us. And, usually, there are a whole lot less who watch over them as they recreate. What if they decided to riot, or attack?

After my tour, I came home and did some really hard thinking and praying about what I was getting myself into with my new job. Do I really want to put my life on the line every single day? I mean, that is what I would be doing -- flipping a coin every day to see if I got to come home safe and whole at the end of the day. Coming home was an important goal each day, as I had been taught.

No wonder the benefits were so great.

I prayed.

Was I really fit for this? Could I do the job if faced with a situation I have never been in that requires defending myself or a co-worker or another inmate?

Clearly, I needed work.

After thinking and praying about this, I asked myself:

Is this why God had put me here? Is this something I needed to do for some greater job He had for me in the future? And, if so, what do I need to do in order to do it right?

God spoke to me in my heart and said that I should not fear, He would be with me.

Isaiah 41:13
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”

I didn’t have kids to come home to, or a family at home that was depending on me the way many of my co-workers did. I could afford to put all I had into my job. If I died tomorrow in the line of duty, my children were grown and could fend for themselves. Besides, the benefits were there to assist them.

And, I really did need to get into better shape.

I watched some training videos. I decided to start practicing at home -- and do more situps and push ups each day. Maybe this job was because God didn't like how I looked and wanted me to lose weight. Maybe I was fixing to have my house broke into and I needed to defend myself and my property. Maybe there was an inmate who needed to be counseled in the Word. Maybe there was a co-worker who needed my support.

I came to the conclusion that I was there for a reason. I needed to have the courage to stay. I needed to buck up and move forward and do what I was called to do, no matter what the cost.

That's what Christians are called to do every day. I guess God was putting me to the test.

I intended to pass.

It actually took courage just to walk through the doors of a prison each morning.

I prayed that I had sufficient courage when I needed it.

The next morning, I held my head high, and with a new perspective and motivation, I walked through the doors confident that I could do it, and even more confident that I was where God had called me to be.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Chapter 18: Praying for My Children

I had told both my children, from the time they could talk, about Jesus. I had taught them that with God all things are possible, that there was nothing they couldn't accomplish on their own with God in their hearts. I gave them a Bible when they were old enough to read, and explained to them that if they never read any other book, that it would be the most important book they would ever read in their lives.

I taught them that Mama wasn't perfect; but that God was, and that there would be times in their lives when Mama couldn't be there, but God always would be. True to my word, I had to send them to their father to live just as they were entering their pre-adolescent years, due to life circumstances that forced me to act in their best interest. 

Even then, I never denied the power of God, I had just not learned how to embrace it at the time.

My oldest son had now just reached his 30s. He was a bit of a wanderer. He chose to live on the streets among the homeless and the destitute. It was not a lifestyle that I would have chosen for him, but understanding his need for independence, I prayed for him daily, that God would direct his paths, and that the path he was on would somehow lead to Him.

He had been the “problem child”. Ironically, it was my oldest child that taught me how to give it to God to take care of. I learned through him that I had no control over my children's future. Only God could direct their paths. All I could do was teach them that God was there.

My son kept in touch with me on Facebook, occasionally sending me antidotes of his experiences on the road. I was always delighted and grateful to God when he would let me know that he was at a food co-op, or a church that catered to the homeless. I was equally encouraged when his friends would inform me of how much he had helped them with witty advice and encouragement for their souls  I knew God was working in his life, and was with him on the roads he had chosen, in spite of how rocky they were.

I prayed that one day he would learn to love God the way I did, that the lessons he learned brought him closer to the Great Father of us all. I liked to believe that he was on the right path, in spite of himself. I had no doubt that he believed.

My youngest son was the more sensible one when he was a child.  He had always made good grades in school, and had always tried to do the right thing even when no one was looking.

As he got older, he went through phases of depression and burnout. He began to ask questions about whether God was actually there for him. I worried about him, as he became more negative in his opinions, and his questions became more intense about God's purpose in his life.

He was now in his mid-twenties, and was suffering from mental difficulties that no one saw coming. This made him angry and distant, and his hatred for God had grown to professed disbelief.

I did the only thing I knew to do. I put his name in the “Prodigal Box” at church and I prayed daily for him as well, that whatever it took, God would direct his paths also, and would teach him to love Him.

As a mother, we can only teach our children how to learn and leave the rest to God. I was fortunate to have home schooled both of mine during their younger years. I found that I could not say, “Go ask your teacher,” when they would barrage me with questions. My response became, “I don't know all the answers, but I will help you learn how to find them for yourself.” Now that they were older, I praised God that I had done the right thing, as I witnessed how they were searching for the answers to the questions they had. Even more so, I praised God that He was, indeed, directing their paths, even if it seemed that the paths they were on were not the ones I would have chosen for them. I felt helpless not knowing where they would end up, or even if they would find the answers they sought, but I trusted God was in control -- and He was showing me that He was.

Even in my wayward younger years, I wanted to make sure that my children understood that God existed. I wanted them to know that there was an eternity, and that the most important decision in their lives would determine where they spent it. I could not make that decision for them or I would have. I could only teach them what I knew, and continue to pray that God would direct their paths.

As they grew up and went out on their own, I wondered if I had done enough, and I prayed fervently that I had. They wandered away, searching, grasping at straws, much as I had in my younger years. And, I could do nothing but watch.

My children, whose very lives had been the greatest source of my heart-aches, had turned out to be the catalyst for the greatest love I had ever known. Only in looking at them, could I truly understand the Father's love for me. Even in their wayward ways, I could never stop loving my children, or feeling the need to pray for them daily. As much as I wanted to do for them, I only had the ability to wring my hands and trust that God was watching over them, and that He alone could step in to save them from themselves.

The one thing that bothered me more than anything, however, was that I had nothing to leave my children, should the day come that God called me home. I prayed for a solution to this problem, and kept trusting God that He knew what was best, both for me and for them.

My health was good, except for being overweight and out-of-shape, and an occasional gallbladder attack that reminded me that my health needed attention. I learned to eat healthier. And, my job at the restaurant allowed my body to heal from the beating it had received from working many hours at the hospital earlier.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Chapter 17: Miss May May ​

On a Saturday night in April, as I was driving home from work, I noticed that I was low on fuel. So I pulled over to the gas station on State Line to fuel up.

It is customary (or was) to go to a fast food place on my way to work, grab a burger or taco, and eat it in my car before I got out of my car to go clock in. So, I was looking at all of the trash in my passenger side floorboard in my car.

As I turned the pump on to pump the gas, I heard that little tug in my heart say, "Now is a great opportunity to grab that trash and get rid of it so you can have room to take someone to church tomorrow." I knew and recognized God’s voice.

I said, "Excuse me? How long has it been since You gave me the opportunity to take someone to church with me? It is 10 o’clock tonight already and You think I'm going to have a passenger in the morning?"

God said, "I Am God.When I tell you to do something, you shouldn't doubt me. Look what it got Jonah."

I said, "You are sure right. Yes, sir." And I cleaned out my car.

The next morning, I'm thinking I might sleep in. But, when I woke up I was wide awake. So, I hopped in the shower, threw on some sweats, and was thinking about going straight to Walmart, not knowing what time it was. I stepped outside and saw my neighbor, May May, pulling weeds out of the sidewalk cracks, with earbuds in her ears.​

I looked at my phone to see what time it was. It was 10 minutes until time for church to start. I said,"Yes, Lord."

"May May! Would you like to go to church with me?"

She looked up, pulled her earbuds out of her ears and said immediately, "Yes, ma'am, I sure would!"

I said, "I am leaving right now!"

When she got into my car, I asked her if her "husband" knew she was coming with me. She said,

"I don't have a husband, or man, or anything anymore." She continued with, "I caught him smoking crack in my house and I threw him out. Maybe now I can pay my bills."

Yep. I testified to her on the way to church. You bet I did! LOL

So, we get to church, and Brother Matthew preached about Jonah and the boat. I refuse to think that that was a coincidence. The Big Question of the day was "Is there a Jonah in your life today that you need to toss overboard?" or "Are you Jonah?"

May May was so blessed by the sermon and the Praise and Worship time. She was amazed at the kids. But she felt that God was talking to her that morning.

On the way home, she said, "I was sitting there just listening to KLUV , trying to talk to God, see if I could get my own worship on, because I don't have a car...and it was like God was asking me if I wanted to go to church when you asked. I got there, and it's like, 'Girl I got something I want to say to you...'"

All I know is I might still ask why, but I ain't gonna tell my God no. Especially when He reminds me who is God.

I went to church with May May because I didn't want to be Jonah. Then, I listened to a sermon about Jonah! What a blessing!

May came to church with me as often as she could after that, until she moved away.

One day,  I went outside for a few minutes before I started my car to go to work. Me and Miss May May were conversing. She said she had been telling her neighbor friends about our church and what we were going to be doing this Sunday. She said they had lots of questions, were curious about us.

She explained to them that we were the most loving church that she had ever experienced, that when you walk in the door you feel the Spirit so thick you can almost cut it with a knife.

She asked me if they might go with us tomorrow and I told her, "Of course! As long as I have room in my car, they are welcome!" She came back a few minutes later and said, "They are going!"

I was so excited! Miss May May was serving Jesus right where she was, because I listened to God that Saturday night at the gas station!

Over the next few months, I watched Miss May May change from a lady who was going down the wrong lonely path into a lady who surrounded herself with people who loved Jesus. I couldn't have asked for God to bless me more.

Through Miss May May, I got to know my neighbors Sean and Rose. Sean and Rose just moved here and really had nothing to start with. I helped them out by showing them where they could get help with groceries and other necessities. I took them sightseeing out to the lake for the first time, as they had never seen it before.

One day when I came home from work, I found a giant zucchini on my door. They had an abundance and decided to bless me with some of it. They even expressed that when they moved to Indiana they planned​ to adopt me and carry me with them. Of course, I turned them down.

One Saturday morning in July, I decided to go and visit the "Church Under the Bridge" for the first time. It was a place that catered to the homeless in our city. Brother Cody Howard was the pastor who had a heart for the homeless. When he wasn't there, he was at the Friendship Center counseling those who needed groceries or food for the day, or hygiene products.

It was my first visit to this little church under the bridge, and I could not figure out how to get there. So I made a wrong turn and ended up going about 2 miles out of the way. I turned around to see two men walking along the side of the road with their backpacks. I pulled over and offered them a ride. They said they didn't have very much further to go that they were going to the church under the bridge, that they didn't need a ride.

I said, “what a coincidence! That is where I'm headed. I think I made a wrong turn. If you guys would honor me by letting me drive you, you can show me where to go.”

Once again God had provided a way when I couldn't find it myself. They gladly got into my backseat.

People tend to overlook the little ways in which God guides them in their lives. I have learned not to take for granted any given moment that God allows me to live. There are so many times that the small things in life are really great miracles from God that rain blessings my way. I have learned to be grateful for all of them. This time it was a solution to a small wrong turn that I had made. I couldn't wait to see what was next!

I have also learned that when God sends me to minister to someone, it is never for just them. It is always for my growth and education in The Lord!

Chapter 16: Serving God Where I Am

A few months went by. On the last day of February, I quit my job because I felt that my boss had chosen to impersonate Satan. I had been warned not to mention God at work, then I felt they had started “picking on me”. I decided that if God wasn’t allowed there, I shouldn’t be there, either. One night at work, when I felt that the harassment was overwhelming, I turned in my badge and keys and told her, “God has always taken care of me, so I know I do not have to sit here and take this abuse.” and I walked out.

I signed up for unemployment, but was turned down because I refused a job that would only give me 2 days a week and maybe 3 hours a day, at minimum wage. I couldn’t pay my bills like that, let alone my transportation to and from work there. Yet, the Texas Workforce Commission said I was not qualified to receive an unemployment check.

I had enough money saved up to carry me for up to almost 3 months. But, I didn’t want to spend it if I didn’t have to. It was my savings.

And, I lost my health and life insurance.

As I set myself up to start filling out applications online, a member of my church told me to go apply at the restaurant she managed. I did, and I got the job. I knew I wasn’t going to be making the same money, and I had already set myself up to be able to make it on part time minimum wage if I needed to.

I praise God He had given me the wisdom to do so, and that He had provided through a Christian friend who was serving God right where she was.

When I started working at the restaurant, which was located at a truck stop about 10 miles from my home, I wasn’t sure what to expect from co-workers, but I was immediately delighted when, on my first day on the floor as a server, another church family member who worked there just, out of the blue, took my hands and prayed with me to encourage me. That is when I knew that God had led me there, and that I was where I was supposed to be.

On my way to work I would plug my phone into the car charger, and hook up my earphones and listen to Christian talk radio on my way to work. One day, I heard a preacher talk about how our ministry is where ever God has placed us at any given moment. I thought of my friend at work that had prayed with me that day, and I decided that she was definitely serving Christ right where she was.

Each of us are gifted right where we are, with what God has already given us to have our own ministry. If all you have time to do is work and go home, then your ministry is at work and home. The question is, are you conducting your ministry correctly? Are you working for the almighty dollar? or, are you working to bring Glory to God?

I thought about this. While money is important to me (isn't it important to everyone?) it is NOT my end all be all. If I am at work and my employer bans us from giving any credit to Jesus while I am there, I would (and have in the recent past) quit my job in search of somewhere God is allowed to be. If He isn't allowed to be there, I am not allowed, because I am His child, first and foremost.

It is in how we live our lives that testify to the Grace, Love and Mercy of God for others. I've had people comment to me after a simple conversation that I have helped them to see things in a different light, and have influenced them to be better people. I have had people tell me that they believe that God sent me to them at just the moment in their lives when they needed God the most, and they felt that I was His answer.

You don't lead people to Jesus by judgmental preaching and condemnation, you lead them to Jesus by being the only Jesus they are able to see at that moment. My ministry is where I am, and it is done by what God has given me to do it with.

I told my coworkers about it that day, and later, my friend who had prayed with me on that first day approached me and said, "I really needed to hear that."

I told her, "Do you really believe that the God who created you for a specific purpose on this earth would expect you to go to Africa to be a minister, and then not give you the ability to do so? So if God did not give you the ability to go to Africa, wouldn't it stand to reason that He would expect you to minister WHERE YOU ARE?"​

She said, "I had never had it put to me like that before. Thank you!"

This is why I seek to be a better employee, a better friend, a better daughter, a better neighbor.

Mark 12
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

I have learned that by focusing on these first two commandments, all of the other commandments are so much easier to follow...and even if I cannot (for I am still a work in progress), my light shines bright enough that others seek to have what I have found, and start building their own relationship with the Father, and building up their own accountability.

And, that is what a minister is supposed to do.