Today was a peanut butter cookie kinda day on North First Street. Let me explain, see I have had to be gluten and dairy free for the past year and a half. This might not be a big deal to someone who is extremely health conscious… but for me… it was extremely hard. I have loved food my whole life and have used it as a way to treat others as well as myself. I love to cook good food for people in hopes of bringing them some sort of happiness…. Yes I do see food as more than just nutrition for my body. Fortunately for my health… I have had to change to a gluten free/dairy free diet. In doing so I also had to change my view of food. I could no longer use it to hide hurts, anxiety, anger, frustration, tiredness…because once you take away gluten and dairy… a lot of my comfort foods disappeared with it. This has been a wonderful thing for my health, but on days like today…I needed something.... and hot gluten free/dairy free homemade peanut butter cookies fresh out of the oven were just the thing I needed.
Today was overwhelming for me. I am not sure why though because I didn’t have to prepare any of the food. It wasn’t physically exhausting, it was emotionally exhausting. I have spent the last 6 hours trying to process the whole thing and I am not sure if I fully understand it even now. In 1 John 2:7 it says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you, rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment- to love one another- is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.”
I believe this so much and North First Street is such a great example of this. Over the past almost 2 years… I believe that the darkness has retreated some as the true light continues to shine. Maybe I was overwhelmed by the out pouring of love that was lived out today. Being the end of the month… the line was extremely long and people were hungry. At this time of year the clothes are needed, but not as much as in the winter, none the less… the people are hungry year round.
Someone asked me this past week why they are so hungry, “They have meals at the mission, so why would they be hungry?” I agree… the mission is a huge blessing of resources for these people, but the truth is…lunch is not served on the weekends and to get breakfast, they must have spent the night at the mission the night before. Many of the people we feed don’t sleep at the mission because they live in nearby hotel rooms, therefore their last meal would have been the night before at dinner. And I don’t know about you… but when our house was filled with children… they didn’t just eat at the 3 meals I made every day…. They were growing and wanted food throughout the day and evening. The people on North First are no different. There are often 4 or 5 kids living in a hotel room with their mom, dad, or grandparents. Often by this time of the month…they do not have much in the way of food hanging around. Let’s just say the line was extremely long and people were just plain hungry.
The great thing is that we had plenty of food!! The Mormons have adopted us as their humanitarian project for the year and have volunteered to bring the meal on the 4th Sunday of the month for the next year. What a huge blessing!! We had volunteers today from so many different churches. There were even volunteers who did not belong to any church. They just wanted to come and help. I am in awe and overwhelmed with God’s love and provision! We had abundant food, abundant volunteers, and abundant clothes! Thank You Jesus!!! The love that was shown today is what helps push out the darkness…. The love of children, teens, young adults, parents, grandparents reached out to people on North First Street today. That is what makes me feel emotional….we had little kids handing out apples next to their parents, teenagers asking to come help, older people willingly giving up their afternoon to extend love to our North First Street friends. That alone brings tears to my eyes….
But there is more…maybe it was the kid like excitement that Amanda had when we gave her her very own bag of go-gurt, strawberries, 2 bananas, and a peach…Amanda is about in her mid-30’s and has no teeth because of the drugs she has abused. She loves soft fruit and is so excited when we bring her something special. She flashes her huge gum-filled smile and I know that the light…is pressing on the darkness.
Maybe it is the Fulsom family that stirs my emotions….they are the family who we have been helping to find furniture and dishes for their apartment. They came down today specifically because the father wanted us to pray over his family. They start highschool on Tuesday and he wanted prayer for all of them….. The light is pressing on the darkness.
It might be the image of David’s face in my mind as he flashed his akward smile to me in the midst of his writhing twitches and movements caused by his progressing Huntington’s disease. David’s eyes are as blue as a clear sky in Yakima on a Summer’s Day. David can’t get much out, but the twinkle in his eyes says it all. He enjoys sitting against the wall after he has eaten and watches all the busyness of the day. David sat there until the last car drove away… and as I looked back I could see David taking the longest, deepest drag on his friend’s joint….David lives on the street and often uses drugs to help ease the pain of the Huntington’s…..”Bless You” he says as he walks awkwardly away. I believe that David sucks in the love of Jesus as he watches us run around the lot helping others. The light continues to shine on David.
A mother and father of 5 recently got their special needs child back from Seattle. They approached me with requests for help with school supplies and school clothes for their children. We talked about getting preschool special education services for their child and where to access those resources. They were so appreciative of the help being offered and I felt the burden of their hearts for their kids. You could tell that they were trying to do the right things and get it right this time….I pray that the light of Jesus… and the love of Jesus invades their hearts and blasts out the darkness. They have a long road ahead of them.
Chris… a prostitute/drug addict who is about my age came back today. I haven’t seen her for months and wondered if she was still alive. She showed up wearing a platinum blond wig which caught me off guard and made me laugh inside. She explained how she had been hiding from the police for the last 8 months but they finally caught up to her and she ended up serving a couple weeks in jail. Really??? 8 months of hiding for 2 weeks in jail?? Talk about living in the darkness…She said the good thing was that she is finally off black tar heroin…. “Whew I thought”….”Ya… now I am only on meth.” I am a speech therapist and I work with special needs children. I spend my days thinking in baby steps…. I break curriculum into little tiny steps and measure little tiny bits of progress… so in a twisted way…. Chris is making some progress…Chris gave me a huge hug and the only thing I know for sure is that she feels the love of Jesus (even after not seeing us for 8 months). The light continues to push out the darkness in her life and Jesus continues to love her as much today as the day she was conceived. That thought overwhelms my emotions…..and brings me to my knees…with pure humble thanksgiving and awe!
I don’t know why my emotions were on high alert today…It just felt overwhelming to see Wild Bill sitting in line with his camping chair and his trusty dog tied with a rope… Bill gave me a great big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Next to him was the guy who was drunk and manic a few weeks before. He shook my hand and said that he was doing much better now…”It was a bad couple of weeks,” he said. Two of the teenage girls have been gone for quite a few months now and we found out that they were finally removed from the home because their mom’s heavy drug use. It is the best thing for them I would think since they were being prostituted out so their mom could supply her habit. These things seemed to weigh my heart down today….a much heavier burden than I usually carry. I know what to do though… I know that God is the one who needs to carry the burden and I just need to leave it at His feet. It is only a small feeling of anguish compared to what Jesus felt on the cross when He felt the sins of the entire world come upon Him as he hung on the cross. It was through this great act of love that we are each propelled forward to love the world around us.
God loves us with a relentless love that never gives up!!! He chases after each one of us as if we were each the most precious lamb in the flock. His love is big enough to help each of the people we encounter and He only asks us to be obedient and offer what we can in the process. I am continually amazed at the love, kindness, time, and treasures that people offer up. And I am continually amazed at the great love that I feel coming down from God the Father….each and every day!! I don’t need peanut butter cookies or any other food to comfort me on days like today… I only need Jesus and His great gift of love!