Amsterdam bound

Amsterdam bound. Yes, I am, thanks to a dear friend who asked if I would join her on the Missions Focused trip with our church. With this trip, we will learn from our pastor, Jeff Adams, who will teach us about the missionary view and cultural sensitivity. I have heard of so many life-changing experiences from those who have attended this trip in past years, both in their worldview and understanding of God’s grace.

My friend, Wendy, has such a huge heart for reaching out to others. I’m sure this trip will be one of great growth for the both of us. I thought of sharing in my own words why this trip will be so amazing, but allowing my friend, Wendy, to share her story with you will be more than I could ever say.

Wendy’s Story:

But by the grace of God…..that is so true to my life.  I had the husband, two children, two new cars, nice house in the suburbs. Then one day it was gone. The marriage was over, husband did not support us and in turn I could not support my children. He also made threats to harm my children, so I had to make one of the hardest choices of my life and place my children in my brother’s home for him to raise them for me.  It was then and still today is the best choice for my children.

So then I had to try life on my own, well I always had God, but I didn’t access Him. I felt unworthy of God and his blessings. So I tried to control my life on my own…and guess what…it spun out of control. I got a great job for a major company making $38K a year. Bought a car and purchased a house. And oh yeah, the man….he promised me so much and gave so little. But I believed he loved me and if I stood by him and trusted him..well,  I thought he would see his own mistakes. He had a gambling problem, drug problem and loved a life of drama.

He introduced me to the world of prostitution. At first he just asked me to come up with catchy little ads to run in the Pitch (a local newspaper here known for its sex ads). Then he would bring young girls home and ask me to talk to them about how to treat a man, to take the street at out of them, and explain to them how much they would receive and why we would keep their money. At first I thought I was helping them, since they all had drug addictions and would sell themselves for a piece of crack. He convinced me that we were showing them how to make more money to help themselves. I would clean them up, get them a nice outfit, new under clothes, shoes, take their pictures and post an ad on the internet. Didn’t take long to realize, they never got ANY of the money and he keep them under control by supplying them with their drug habits. Sure we gave them a place to stay and fed them, but I would soon find out the price they were paying was much higher than money alone.

The girls would all leave after time and next I was hearing how I didn’t try hard enough for our home. Even though I still had my job making $38K, I needed to do more.  So one day I did.  I posted an ad for myself. The phone rang 15 minutes later and I was off to my first “call”. I don’t remember being nervous on the way there. What I do remember was collecting $700 for a little less than two hours of my time. I remember walking out and getting to the car and crying all the way home. And then when I got home he  was absolutely horrible to me. As a matter of fact he beat me the next day, so badly that I couldn’t go on my next “call” for two weeks, because of the bruises and cuts. Well, this became my life…I would go on calls and about every three weeks or so he would go into a rage and beat me. Each time took me to the hospital. Once I came home on crutches, once I was in shock and didn’t know my name, twice I had a broken collar bone, and once I bled until I passed out on my bedroom floor. But I always went back, I mean he would pick me up from the hospital. I can’t explain to you why, but all I wanted to do was go back to him. Twice I did go to a shelter for battered women, but I had him come and get me. I even went to Minnesota to live with my brother for three months, and guess what….that’s right I came home to him again.  And after being home for two months…he had convinced me to start running ads and make him money again. By now the car and been repo’d, the house in foreclosure, and I had been arrested several times because I was taking the fall for him. Well between the second week of Sept to the last week of Nov. I had made over $40K selling myself, but I was getting evicted and never had any money and life just keep spinning.

Then the most amazing thing happened…I was arrested in Wyandotte County for prostitution. It was amazing because now I had a GOOD reason to stop or at least slow down. With all the money I had made he couldn’t even bail me out. I had to call my parents. My dad. I has daddy’s little girl and I had to tell him what I had done. But he loved me. He came and bailed me out. Had to wait seven hours outside the jail for them to release me, but he waited.

The courts had me go to this place called Veronica’s Voice. I had never heard of it and didn’t want to find out either. But it was go there or get a felony conviction for prostitution and go to prison. So I went. At first I hated it. Didn’t talk much and thought I was different. I’m not. Every single women I met there had been molested as a child (like me), been raped (like me) and choose prostitution for survival (like me).  We were all just women broken.  Needing love and support. God had an angel there waiting to reach out and help me. There was this wonderful family there, a mom and her two kids. They came every week to feed us lunch. The meals were incredible. You felt fed with love at the end of each meal. I began asking them questions about different things; cooking, music, art. I discovered that they attend my church. Wow, what are the chances of that? This is when I started to see God’s love for me and he uses everything in your life to bring you back to him and his love. I started going to church again. But this time I started to listen, not just hear. This time was different. This time I heard God answering. Not long after, that man…well he went to prison and within a couple of weeks, I stopped going on “calls”. I started to understand what I was learning in church, and believe it. That amazing mom that once fed me on Fridays..well her name is Amanda, and she began feeding me with God’s word. I became Amanda’s disciple, which was all part of God’s plan for me. I began to grow through Christ and suddenly life looked so different. And the day came when I just trusted the Lord for everything! No more worries. No more stress.  Just grace and mercy and LOVE.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have struggles, big ones even. But now I trust God to see me through them all. God has never lied to me, never let me down and most important…God has NEVER left my side.

I completed my sentence with the courts, but still am very active with Veronica’s Voice, I have a new job in which I get to help young adults with mental illness learn to live independently, I have been part of a documentary on prostitution, I was asked to speak on behalf Veronica’s Voice at a charity function. I have so many blessings in my life that it would take less time to count to stars than my blessings. I have a wonderful relationship with Christ, and I have devoted my life to do His will. God is awesome! Amen.

Over the past year, I have seen Wendy make the most God honoring choices, difficult choices. Her spiritual growth has in turn caused a greater passion and love for God in my own life. While I was supposed to be the mentor in the relationship, Wendy taught me time and time again about total reliance and faith in God’s providence. And she has been so patient, waiting on God’s timing.

Wendy felt very pulled to go on this trip to Amsterdam. When she asked me to go with her, she was confident that God would provide the money. I have no doubt she is right, and no doubt that this trip to Amsterdam is God calling her further into service for him.

The reality of Wendy’s financial state is not bright. She is now working two jobs to not only pay for the trip, but also to continue to stay above water with her daily living expenses. As one can imagine, a woman with a court record does not get paid a large salary. And she recently experienced vandalism to her car costing more financial pressure.

In an effort to help Wendy raise her funds, I have set up a chip in site for those who would like to contribute. All the money contributed will be sent to the church to be applied to her trip costs.

One very exciting side note for the both of us is that we will have the opportunity to work alongside some people in Amsterdam that minister to women caught in the life of prostitution. What a thrilling opportunity to carry on hope with Wendy’s own life story.

amanda ∞

Summer Self Portrait = Meanderings While Sweating

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I sit in the heat of summer with my familiar perspiration making my face glow. (If only the models would realize that sexy shine comes from SWEAT.) The windows are open this evening, fans pushing air through the house. I have come to love the heat of summer permeating the air of my home. I choose open windows over air conditioning. What began as stubbornness a few years ago has become my preference. I was tired of giving my money to the electric company as their rates continued to rise. Now I am thankful.

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Each day this summer I awaken and run a load of laundry through the washer. Then I retreat to my art studio with espresso in hand. My Bible opens and I soak in God’s amazing and living Word. I feel it penetrate to that inner chamber, that same chamber that was once sealed shut. Now the doors are flung open hungry for more truth, more love, more life. And I am ready for this day ~ whether gladness or suffering comes my way, my foundation is beneath my feet.

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The temperature rises, the laundry flaps and snaps on the line. Through the open windows I can hear the birds, the loud song of the cicada, the poetry of the cottonwood. When I step outside I am not struck by a wave of heat. The warmth of summer has already permeated my home and my bones. The out of doors beckons me. I no longer dread what summer has to offer, but embrace it. As I wash dishes the sweat runs off my head dripping as the steam rises from water. As I pull weeds, the sweat rolls down my chest. Dirt is in my fingernails. Ice cream is prepared, mosquitoes slapped. It is hot. It is summer.

amanda ∞

Floating

Self portrait from a joyous family reunion.

The effects of the Kansas wind also reflect the the cogs in my brain. I need a time of rest, a time for my windblown mind to settle.

I’ve finally made it to this place. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. I’ve been looking at this space on my calendar since April, dreaming about how I would spend my time. Now that I am here I find myself floating. I feel incapable of doing anything. The school year was intense and we have been on the go since. While I have enjoyed each adventure, all the activity has taken its toll. I am undone and in a great need of rest.

What I envisioned for this week of summer was time in my art studio doing whatever I felt like. While this may still happen (tomorrow or the next day), today I am only able to read my magazines and pet my sweet dogs. Beyond that is unrest. So I will continue to float because I can. Thank you, Sark, for teaching me that it is okay to nap or daydream. Sometimes that is just the thing one needs to fill up again.

Isaiah 30:15a  For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: …

This evening I go to pray with my church family which is beautiful, restful and passionate. Perhaps then my soul will realign with my spirit and I will once again be refreshed.

amanda ∞

Re- freshed, Re- newed, Re- directed

The featured speaker at the Summit this year was Morgan Jackson from Faith Comes By Hearing. He was an incredible story teller, sharing stories of the Word of God impacting illiterate people through the audio Bible.

A great reminder received from Morgan Jackson is that God’s Word can be shared in stories. I do not have to recite Scripture referring to book, chapter and verse to share the Bible. Memorizing is difficult for me, but I can remember the idea or story, and the Bible is full of great stories. Perhaps I will be less likely to alienate others with recitation, and instead will engage them in dialogue on thoughts that emerge from stories.

I was also reminded of people I so easily forget. They seem so far removed from me, the poor, illiterate. Rather than keeping up on the latest cell phone, they communicate orally because they cannot read and do not have the means to purchase the latest technology. Our church is a fervent supporter of translating God’s Word into native people’s heart languages. How exciting to go even deeper and reach those who cannot read by sharing the spoken Word.

The Summit was so inspiring. Lately I have found myself in a rut. The lessons learned at the Summit allowed me to re-examine my priorities and my focus. I never want to become complacent or comfortable or a grumbler. To me that is death, but I was heading down that path. I can only thank God for redirecting me.

The first day of the Summit I immediately had to run to the studio and produce these pendants:

Both are Scripture cut from my ancient, dilapidated Bible. The horizontal one features the Scripture:

Isaiah 55:3  Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

And the pendant with the cross says:

Galatians 5:1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

amanda ∞

Harvest

This last piece for the Summit is entitled Harvest. The face is of a child, so I added imagery from children’s books and encyclopedias. The clock was stamped by my mother-in-law when she was a child. The verses featured were:

John 4:35-36  Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  (36)  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

The wheat is from my grandfather’s field the year that he died, and the dirt is from my back yard. Our basset-lab was kind enough to dig a fresh hole for me. The sides are cut from an old farm journal.

While I was gluing everything down with gel medium, I was reminded of the 4th grade. Being bored in class, I had spread glue on the palms of my hands and was peeling off the dried glue when the teacher noticed. She thought that was the strangest thing I could be doing. I thought it was cool how the glue came off in sheets and I could still see the lines and wrinkles from my hands. And here I was again peeling glue off my fingers after having such a wonderful time spreading it all over this final piece. Maybe I am strange, but glue makes me happy.






amanda ∞

Providence

The focus verse that was used for this year’s Summit is Esther 4:14b.

Esther 4:14b  and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

In the last couple months, our pastor taught through the book of Esther. Wow. I loved learning and applying what was being taught. In Esther, God’s name is never mentioned. God is represented by Providence. Esther was created to be queen to save the children of Israel from annihilation.

During the teaching on Esther, the topic of providence and purpose in each of our lives was heavily implied. This can be a difficult topic for me when I am in the throws of depression from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but knowing the truth, that God has a purpose even for me while I am dealing with depression, helps me to find joy within my winter days.

And here is step by step, Providence:






Purpose

Our church puts on an annual event focusing on missions called the Summit. This year I was asked to submit some art to support the theme, The New Missionary. As I worked through each piece, I felt prompted on each step through dreams, prayer, words, thoughts (with exclamation points). I was guided by the Spirit through the process of each piece.

Here’s the first one which I entitled Purpose, the focus of this one being God’s purpose for each individual. I enjoy seeing the process behind other’s art, so I thought I’d share the steps with you:






amanda ∞