Saturday, May 12, 2012

Journeying on Faith

I've learned in the past two weeks that the more faith you ask for, the more the unexplained and sometimes bizarre-seeming your decisions seem to everyone around you.

This, I have learned from personal experience.

For four months, I knew... I just knew without a doubt that God was calling me to go to Los Angeles. I had some idea why... and there were so many confirmations to go that, despite any fears, I got on a Greyhound bus with the money God had blessed me with by selling some odds and ends of my things and a few gifts from others who believed in what I was doing. I left on a Saturday... less that two hours after finding out my best friend's three-year-old nephew was in a coma in ICU in a local hospital with massive head injuries. Less than five hours after finishing up a two-Saturday course on Spiritual Giftings held and sponsored by my church. Less than 12 hours after the end of my going-away party, a small gathering but a meaningful time. Less than 24 hours after telling my best friend what I thought might be goodbye for a very long time. Less than 36 hours after saying goodbye to the boss from my volunteer position; precious time at the Black Sheep Cafe together. A few days after co-hosting with a group of wonderful people from said volunteer job an exciting carnival-themed event for many of the clients and staff of the agency, who work with elderly and disabled.

Photos from

So, that Saturday, three dear friends of mine saw me off; I boarded and sat next to the only quasi-familiar looking person I noticed. It turned out he had the same first name as my best friend, and we had a friend in common; a pilot I'd known since second or third grade who used to just be "some neighborhood kid" that over the years, I got to know rather well.

We conversed much of the way to Los Angeles, with little sleep considering the scent of the Greyhound toilet and the sounds of people around us in our uncomfortable faux leather seats. Halfway through, we traded seats and I went from the aisle to the window. I was pleasantly surprised by the utter beauty of the terrain... especially Stockton and Sacramento, and then Hollywood and most of what I saw of LA prior to turning on 7th near Alameda into the station. And at the station, we parted ways.

After having just passed through the near-tunnel of palm trees and paradigm-shifting atmosphere of Hollywood - very different from the greater Portland-Vancouver, Salem, and Eugene areas I had grown up familiar with - the Los Angeles Greyhound station was a bit of a shock. First because neither of the people I thought would be there were... nobody's fault, but frustrating, nonetheless. So I dictated a few letters over the phone to a trusted friend who could access internet for me and made a few other calls as I waited to see what would happen. By the time 1 AM rolled around, there was nobody else to call, so I read, prayed, and crocheted. I spoke with a young woman trying to regain custody of her son, who was in foster care; I watched the bags of a woman who got ill to her stomach; I shared my food with three people who seemed very hungry. At 6:30 AM I finally ventured out... as far as the local McDonalds (about a block or block and a half) to check and reply briefly to email, and met Christopher as I left; the man who five minutes earlier had asked if I had anything to share so he could buy coffee. He helped me get my bags back over to the station and explained that I was on the local Skid Row and that gangs covered each corner, then shared his story.

As we spoke, I waited for my best friend to call me. When he did, he wasn't too happy I was talking about coming home, but after having prayed on and off all morning and then hearing Chris' story, I was ready. It was time to go back home, despite that the original plan was to move to the area for work and ministry. As Chris took a little nap, the many angels sensed within me, and I went in and got a return ticket with the remainder of the money I had earned and been gifted... came back to where he sat on the bench to let him know when I was leaving, gave him something to eat, and waited inside the few hours I needed to for the bus back.

As I waited near the terminal gate to Portland, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself; thinking I was a failure. At least, for the first ten or fifteen minutes. Then God brought me another angel. Ignacio. A former Catholic seminarian who was to be a fellow traveler on the bus... we spoke then, and after we got to Sacramento, continued conversation much of the way to Portland before he continued on to Seattle and I grabbed a bus to a friend's place.

The man who helped me get my bags onto the bus back in Portland thought he was a woman, but he was very sweet and interesting to talk to on the way to my destination. The driver carried my bags off for me, and I walked in to find my smiling friend in her home, welcoming me. :) I sensed relief, thankfulness, and that I had accomplished my mission in LA despite having spent a mere night there. Leaving LA, I felt like I had missed the mark. Maybe I did. If so, Lord God forgive me... but had I not gone, I wouldn't have gotten to minister where I did to so many, nor would some of them been able to minister to me. I wouldn't have grown in faith; stretched myself to a seeming breaking point. I wouldn't have made the connections between placing my feet to Los Angeles soil and answers to some pf my prayers, and those of others.

I stayed in Portland for the next five days... a night with friends; another with a different wonderful friend; and three evenings with one of the people closest to my heart and their two adorable cats. While I didn't get to spend tons of time with any of them, I was so very thankful for each moment we had together. And it was during this time that a second trip - related to a job offer attached to ministry - came to light. Somehow, less than two hours after the offer was made, God provided the money. The lovely woman who had the position open offered to front me a little over a third of it, as did another friend, and the last few dollars was already in my account from before. So this past Sunday, again, I was saying goodbye... to some of the same friends.

My best friend and his mechanic dropped me off at the station. There was a discrepancy between Paypal and my bank, so I called the lady who wanted me to come and work for and minister with her and discussed the options: I could leave that day as scheduled if the money were produced from elsewhere, and I could pay it back, or I could wait until Saturday when the prices came back down and pay it all out of what was in the account once I knew it had cleared. The latter was what I was hoping for, despite knowing that either would have some challenges. Arrangements were made, and it was decided I'd leave at the designated time and pay her back when I arrived in her state, halfway across the country. A long hug goodbye, and I was off to get in line at Amtrak with my bags headed in a different direction, hoping the right decision was made. I had been assured several times over the phone that if I didn't like it, I could come right back; that there would be a way to get back easily... and for that, I was thankful.

The Amtrak trip was quiet for most of the first state and a half, other than a handful of texts with various friends calls with one of my aunts and my mother. Then, when I got as far as North Dakota, the atmosphere of conversation with the woman who I was going to go and help changed drastically. I mentioned missing some of the people in my life, including my best friend. We had been discussing things of the Spirit and family, as well as health since it was a health-related position of sorts. And then she said something that really took me off-guard; more than one thing. Considering the mixed audience on here and that I respect this lady, I will not repeat them. They were unkind and out-of-step with what we had been discussing and all of a sudden I knew that something wasn't right. Five minutes later, she told me, "Go home." For the next 85 minutes, on the phone, I heard how I should go home, should come work for and minister with her, go home, come, go, come, go, come but if you cross me once you'll be taken to the local shelter. It was then that I decided I needed to make a choice: continue with the journey all the way to where she was and stick out everything, including some of the uncouth comments and confusion that were coming from the woman, or going with my gut and returning home, paying her back as soon as possible, and cutting my losses. I made a couple of phone calls, spoke with some friends when I landed in Chicago, and it was a consensus that going home was the best choice for the situation, for everyone involved. The lady I was on the way to minister with and work for didn't agree and began to threaten me in varying ways, and I continued to reassure her, initially, "I will pay you back as soon as I can, and some of the money from the ticket has already been put back onto your card as a refund," basically. After more threats, I decided less was more and that silence was better than trying to argue with someone who was upset. I prayed for her, and still do.

In Chicago, I stayed with friends for a night once my bags were found; there had been a mix-up and it took over an hour and a half to retrieve them and we had a lovely tour of the basement level of Amtrak in order to retrieve them before boarding the Metra to where he and his wonderful wife live, as they had graciously invited me to stay the night there before leaving the next day. We watched Betty White, had Parmesan chicken, yams, and salad, and had some good discussion that night; I took a couple of photos of their deck view, which is just gorgeous, then it was back to Amtrak, where I had some wonderful and interesting conversations with several people while waiting for my train.

On the way back, as with the Greyhound to LA experience, I met more people than on the way. There were conversations covering everything from art to religion to the prison systems of the Netherlands and United States in contrast of each other; of families and life experiences; of the scenery and differing types of wildlife we saw. Someone spotted cranes as well as storks. One seatmate and I saw a herd of whitetail deer and handful of elk at one point in Montana between photo-taking opportunities, and others saw different deer a bit later. I met people with a wide variety of belief systems in place, from Zen Buddhism to Universalist Catholicism and from Southern Baptist to atheistic viewpoints.

I took much more photography on the way through Montana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin more than elsewhere, and wish to have gotten more. I re-read part of The Seer, by Jim Goll. I gave away a book to a woman who could probably purchase it without an issue; a book I was told to read and pass on... so I did.

So much beauty around us while not all is as it seems to be reason enough to begin changing our minds and accept that there HAS TO have been a Creator of some sort, and that Someone is Jesus the Christ, Who healed he sick, raised the dead, and forgave all wrongs coming into and on Him because. we who believe in Him understand the metaphor...

As I reflect back some, I know more lessons will come up, but this is fascinating to me. I look forward to seeing the way God will work this out for my good, as I love him...