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 ∞

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 ∞

Shift -ed

Towards the end of 2008, I felt anticipation, intuitively knowing that something was about to change. I found myself making concrete goals, taking affirmative action, becoming that artist I’ve been telling myself I am. My journal pages reflected this.

I do owe much of it to this book:

Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts

Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts

But something pushed me, prompted me to purchase the book. I have so many on my wish list. How did this one make it to my home? And I’ve only made it through the first chapter.

This book, the first chapter of this book, widely opened a door that had only been cracked just enough to peek through. Fear had been holding me back from opening the door, fear of rejection, of failure, of depression, of becoming overwhelmed, that I might find out I’m not really an artist after all. And what did I find on the other side of the door? Why my art studio and myself.

One of my favorite movies is Strictly Ballroom. I’m not sure if it is the ludicrous dress and hair, the animated characters, or the underlying theme of the movie that made me fall in love with it. I’ve adopted its motto:  “A Life Lived in Fear Is a Life Half Lived.” And it’s Biblical…

2 Timothy 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

After Christmas, the shift occurred. I have been Creative Every Day in an very active way, more so than ever before. Out of the blue I’ve received several requests for specific artwork or jewelry. I have a list of items I am working on and through. And when I get these projects done, there is more, so much more.

I am very excited about a specific project of which I’ll show you a glimpse:

There will be three 16×20 collage pieces in this series which I’m making for our church. I’ve decided to wait to reveal them until they are done and show more of a step by step process. Also I want the church to be the first to see the finished project.

So now I have a new dilemma. Between homeschooling, cooking, and working in my studio, blogging has taken a back seat. But I’m not too concerned. I’m sure with the ebb and flow of life that I will find my way back here more regularly. Until then, picture me with messy hair, a far-away look in my eyes, paint on my fingers, and passion in my heart.

amanda ∞

My Mom the Artist

My mom and dad visited last week. Mom and I had fun as she designed some jewelry pieces for gifts, and I soldered for her. I love how they turned out.
Front:

Back:

Friendship Ring:

Front:

Back:

This was her first time creating charms. I think she did such a wonderful job. Her recipients are in for a treat.

I have found that since our school year began, I have had little creative time. Although I would not change for the world how our family has chosen to live, I am longing for time in my art studio. This fun time with my mom just made me realize how long it has been since I made charms. Months! Much too long anyway.

I’ve enjoyed having my focus on drawing this month for The Big Draw 2008. This is an area I’ve really wanted to develop and grow. Since I began my creative journey, my thinking has changed from “I can’t draw” to “well, that looks cool.” My expectations have definitely changed. This has removed alot of baggage that was hindering my from learning to draw in the first place.

  • Side note: The Latin word Impedimentum means hindrance in singular and baggage in plural.

I am ready to move on from my drawing focus though. This next month is Leah’s Art Every Day Month.

Although I plan on participating, I have made a rule for myself that I do not have to post every creative thing I do. So while I plan on “doing” art every day, I may not get it posted if time doesn’t allow. As Carla Sonheim says, “Give Yourself Rules,” along with the quotes she added to reinforce this truth. Establishing this rule will give me the freedom to create without worrying about the extra time it may take to post.

amanda ∞

Decompression

For almost two years, my family has been preparing and serving meals each Friday at VERONICA’s Voice. This past Friday was our last day. God had been leading me to reevaluate our service this summer, and once school began for us, the answer was obvious. It was time to stop.

I really have mixed emotions about this decision. I absolutely loved serving those women. God truly gave me a heart for them, to serve and treat them as the precious women they truly are. My kids did too, immensely. But there is such freedom in following God’s lead.

My greatest question for God about giving this up was, who will take our place? Who will love these women like we do? I prayed for help, then a replacement, but neither came except more help from my own family. God’s answer to me was to just let go. He would take care of the details. 

As we served up our last meal on Friday, I received confirmation in several different ways that we were supposed to be there that day, and that it should be our last. I was thankful for that. Upon driving home, van full of dirty dishes, I felt relief wash over me. A burden had been lifted, not the burden of service, but the burden of carrying too great a load.

I think that I was questioning God a bit about what He was asking me to do before Friday, wondering if I was hearing Him correctly. One of the books I picked up at the library about a month ago was Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God by Dallas Willard.
 Developing a Conversational Relationship With God  

But, you know what, I was too busy to read much of it. How ironic.

So this next week, with an extra 10 hours added to my week, I plan on reading, pondering, loving, listening, and keeping up with year 3 of The Latin Road to English Grammar. And I plan on thanking God for directing me. His way is always the best, even when we don’t have the whole picture.

amanda ∞

The Big 2 oh

Yesterday was our 20th wedding anniversary.

Besides eating at one of the best restaurants in town for lunch, and eating the most delicious cake made by my daughter,

we spent the day rearranging furniture. We have a sleeping porch which we have always used for a dressing room/sewing room. My husband had the brilliant idea that we use the sleeping porch for sleeping since we don’t plan on turning on our air conditioner ’til we melt. He also likes his room very cold in the winter, so it would work as the bedroom then as well. During the one extremely hot month here in Missouri, we will have to use fans to blow cool air to the porch since it has no vents, but I can deal with that BECAUSE now I have an art studio! It just happened. We moved the clothes, sewing machine and work desk that were crammed on the sleeping porch to the old bedroom area. The rest of my art supplies fit easily. And I even can fit a custom soldering table to boot.

The new bedroom with 8 windows:

The door between the sleeping porch and ART STUDIO:

My work space:

Shelves we drug up from the basement:

My sewing table:

My soldering table, an old high school shop class work bench, which my clever husband put on casters, can roll out of way if need be:

Essentials were added:

Treasures were displayed:

God really has a great sense of humor. In the morning, I had been journaling about my lack of personal space. I wasn’t complaining and really was content with how things were working, but had taken notice that all my creative spaces were always shared by others. And then this day just happened. I’m giddy.

amanda ∞