I will give you a run down of this past month. What seems to be about a year worth of drama crammed into the space of 30 days. Where do I begin?
We are caretakers for a big homestead... also in charge of property management. Needless to say we had 3 evictions to do this month. Mark and I never did that before so we were a little unsure what to expect.
Cops and Robbers...
Okay, so, our landlord tells us we need to go get air conditioners out of a rental in a very shady neighborhood. He was afraid they would steal them. We were supposed to just walk in, take the air conditioners out, in a drug dealer's rental who is not paying rent. Yeah, that sounds safe, right? I told him that I thought it would be risky and he said, "oh, no this guy is harmless." I did not buy it.
Mark was going to go and the only time he could go was, yes, you guessed it, at night. Can you imagine a big guy like my husband barging into a home to take air conditioners? That would seem threatening to a drug dealer. I was worried that he would be shot in the process. So I chime in, "We are in the south, and this is a drug dealer, probably, and maybe he has a gun!" He could think we were robbers. Even though we were not. He never met us and we were just working for the landlord.
Surprisingly, my husband says in return, "Well, you do have a point." I guess I did not figure that he would be worried about it. So I say, "I want to be there with you just in case you get shot. I want to hold you in my arms, and be there with you in your last dying breath, if..." Then he pipes up, "Do you always have to jump to the hypothetical right away?" Yeah, that is me. I just play out all the what ifs, and how about.
So we decided to call the cops to do a civil stand by. Here we are sneaking up to this shady neighborhood teaming with pit bulls and loud music echoing in the distance. With flashlight in my hand, I see the cop car, oh, good, he is already there. I tiptoe behind my husband in the black of night with my beam of light shining at the back of his shoes. Somehow, I knew it was all going to be okay. We walk in and the cop is standing there, to find out there was nothing we could do. Thankfully, we did not have the authority to take the air conditioners out. We were certainly relieved. The guy was just puffing away on a cigarette with cuss words printed down his arms. It actually seemed like a harmless situation—or maybe it was the protection of God, who knows, I like to think the latter. Later, we came again and served the papers and changed the locks. Case Closed. Is this the last time we have to go to this neighborhood? Think again.
The next renters stopped paying rent so we had to go and serve more papers the following week to the homestead on the creek. They had 5 cats and 2 dogs living with them in the home. Wow this is not as shady or dangerous, so this will be easy. Of course, you know when you meet people online, you think, they must be normal. They came from another country and they wanted to be homesteaders. Nothing made sense. They had the crazy cat collection. Everything was a mess. Long story short, they moved into an off grid place and we walked into the homestead for the first time.
There was hair, litter, remnants of pee and poop all over the house. Dogs were sleeping in our beds that we had let them use. Scratching and digging into the fibers. The smell was unlike anything you have experienced. A mix between urine and old dog with skin problems smell. It was bad. The girls and I spent about 35 hours cleaning it. Scrubbing and washing slobber off walls, not to mention hair and fleas in the refrigerator because the dog apparently had a bad habit of eating the food out of the fridge. He would pull the door open and help himself.
In the meanwhile...
Cops and Church Meetings...
We had started a home fellowship in our home and had several large families joining us each Sunday. It was a blessing. We would follow the meeting with a pot luck meal. One Sunday morning our other renter who lived in the cottage in our front yard came pounding on the door. She was livid, she was fuming mad, and my husband was trying to calm her down. She was upset that there were cars in her yard which was actually a shared yard with us.
He interrupted the meeting to get the cars moved out of her way. She was afraid the ambulance would not be able to get her if she needed one. She is on many drugs and is also suffering from schizophrenia which causes her to see things that are not there. One night she claimed there were 15 cars in our yard at 2 in the morning and they were walking around. But that never happened. Just one example of many. Now, this situation, even after the cars were moved, they were still there in her mind. So she called the cops on us. Yeah, in the middle of our church meeting, the cops came to talk with us about her complaints. Later that week, she claimed there were cars still out there.
Thankfully, the Lord made a way. The landlord needed a renter at the other place (in the drug house, shady neighborhood), and she wanted to be out because of the cars that were not really there. I just got done cleaning the other building to put the church meetings into, then I was moving my cottage renter. There was no getting her moved unless we actually did it all for her. So we were over there for several days hauling loads to the other place. Everything was thick with heavy smoke. The cottage renters were heavy smokers so I was feeling nauseous the entire time. But I kept a smile on my face. Even these older renters, worn out from life, the stains of drug using all over their faces. Only 50-55 years old, too. It is surprising what a life on substance can do to age a person.
As I was helping them, Stacy, the 50 year old man, would often say in his slow, southern drawl voice, "Your my hero." That was so nice to hear. He told me how one time he was so down from family getting on his case about his drinking and smoking problem, that he was going to kill himself. He said...
"I went down to that ol lake and I done wanted to walk in that there water and take a deep breath. But there was man there with eyes so red, like I never did see before. He said he had helped the men take the voyage to the arctic some hundred years before. And he was with a woman in prison the whole time. When she got out she went with a bad man. And he told me, that he followed them both up to Alaska but the bear got that bad man. I told the man that my family was down on me for my smoking, and the man quickly came back to say 'I won't hold the smoking against you, but I do have to help a lot of people.' and just like that he was gone. I went to the store and the same man was there, but his eyes were not glowing red. I told him I saw him before, and the man said he never saw me."
I just sat there listening across a table in that old drug house in the shady neighborhood. He told me no one will hear him or believe him that he saw an angel. I told him I do believe him and I began to tell them many amazing stories of my life and how many miracle I have seen. I sat there for several hours just visiting with these people that I wanted so badly to move out because I did not like the smoke, and I did not like that they called the cops. And here, it was the most sweet fellowship I had in the longest time. They were delightful. And I thanked God for those few hours of smelling the smoke and ministering to some of his people. I have to remember the old old saying, "What you do to the least of these, you do unto me." These people were certainly what we Christians would look down at as trashy. Just taking the time to love people and learn about them, changes everything. Loving your neighbor as yourself is something that changes not only you but your neighbor. Love softens people.
We found out the doorknob was busted into and the other neighbors said why, they were so glad this older couple was moving in to the trailer park with them. They told us stories of how the old renter was a drug dealer and they were all so scared and here, this couple could help keep the violence down by living there. My original suspicions were correct about the man who was a drug dealer. It is a miracle how God works things out. What seems bad, God makes for good in the end.
After several days, I was still running errands for Martha and Stacy since they had no car. The last day they told me I was an angel. I though, no, but well, to them, it was such a miracle that I helped them when no one else would, I am sure it seemed like I was sent from above for their help. Maybe to a certain degree, but I kept turning them to Jesus and they agreed. They believed in Jesus. What a gift to be a part of something like that.
The Flea Market...
So, after we went back to the cottage, we opened the doors and windows to air it out. It smelled like an ashtray in there and the only way to fix the odor was to seal it in. We went to the local hardware store and bought 3 cans of oil based primer. The kids and I were coating the walls with paint and they were enjoying the process. It is a much bigger job than I anticipated so I just plain tired out from it because I got a message from one of our renters at the old farmhouse we just cleaned, that they had fleas jumping all over the floors.
I hardly believed them. I mean, I cleaned that place. I washed walls, windows, used a hot water extraction machine on the floors, sucking them completely clean. And it was spotless. What on earth is going on here! So when I arrived, there was diatomaceous earth sprinkled everywhere. I looked closely at the floor, and sure enough, there were fleas still bouncing around. We were up late working on that flea problem and the fleas were jumping onto our legs. I looked more like a bush woman after that evening at the flea market, for just the thought of fleas made my skin and scalp just crawl with itching. It was the eggs hatching! YUCK!
And now, my husband had just informed me that his order with 120 drying racks, while the boys were helping drill holes, the holes became off somehow by a 1/2 inch. So, I sat there and started to cry. I thought, what is going on? My husband said, "It is just wood. No one is dead, no one here is dying from cancer. I just have to buy more wood, and work another week longer. I have to do what has to be done." It was devastating, because the money from the big order was going to help pay the book order when that was due. So of course that was why I wrote the fast food faith post. God is not in the business of making our plans turn out perfectly, He is in the life changing, heart changing, business. And that is just what He is doing with our family. We are getting so used to the drama each day, that we are now sooner dying to it. When there is nothing we can do to change the circumstances we just need to trust that God understands. He will make a way.
So all the while we are killing fleas, making boards, painting smoke walls, moving renters, and cleaning up after them, I get a tap on my shoulder. A 21-year-old plain girl comes to me. She wanted to run away. She came to me because she had no one else. Her mother had left her husband a while back so she could be plain and wear her head covering. This girl told me how her mother would make her pray all day for everyone, all day, long, long prayers. How she would make them work and work and work. And they had to be stinky and dirty because it was better to be less vain. When her mother said she had a prophetic dream that she was taking care of 6 orphans. Then the girl told her mother, "We are those 6 orphans. You spend all your time meddling in other's lives, worrying about all they do, and you will not be our mother. We can not do enough to please God."
The girl told me she believed in Christ, and that she knew it was not of her own workings, that He paid it all. I did not know what to do. I stuck her in my truck, on the floor and went driving down the road with all kinds of boxes and sweat shirts on top of her to hide her. She was on my floor just sobbing, that she wanted to go to her daddy. I kept touching her head and saying, "It's okay." Then I brought her up a hill to speak with a very wise woman in the Lord. This woman told us what to do. She told her to be obedient to her mother and tell her her plans to move out, and do things the right way.
She listened and I see her from time to time. I am friends with her mother. I see them out in the yard as I pass through, and I pray for them. I hate religion. Most of all because it does not ever work. I am thankful to God that he did not allow that to be my story. I could see that the whole thing could have happened for me. God showed me what I would have became had I not submitted to my husband when I was dead set on becoming really plain. Wow, God is merciful, that is all I have to say. My kids will not have to grow up with the thought that they will never do good enough. They can know that salvation is just simple trust and belief. What a gift.
My husband said, "You just wrote a book, we just started a new church. What do you expect? I knew that it was not going to be without some drama." Boy, was he right. And the drama keeps us real and keeps us on the edge of our seats. Gives us more to hope for. Teaches us lessons. And you know what? God sends gifts to us in many different packages. They are not always pretty, but they are the most precious kind. They teach us who we are, what we stand for, and how to have true peace and joy. When you can stand back and have peace after a month of non stop drama, you can truly give all the glory to God.
It has now been a little time since the book has been out in circulation. I am just now starting to get letters from people who say they thought the book might be good, but how they had no idea it would be that life transforming for them. (read testimonies here.) I just stand back in awe of how God can make beauty from all my ashes and joy from all my mourning. How the gifts just keep on giving. When we share our stories that are filled with drama and victory, we share a little gift of God. Others find hope and yet others find perspective, too. God is so Good!
I can continue to share my stories each Thursday about what happens around here if you like to hear them. Just comment below to let me know. This was just in the last 30 days, and it was only a fraction of the drama. I have stories to tell all the time. There is an endless supply of them. Literally. But God gets all the Glory!