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 ∞

Art Journal Morphing

First Fridays at VERONICA’s Voice are so much fun. The art journaling class has morphed into a general art class due to necessity. I found it difficult to explore new art journaling techniques when so many times the women in class did not have their journals or had not begun one yet. Many times the class was about making a new journal or altered book which did not develop past the cover. There were a faithful few who brought their altered books to add more to their pages, but overall I began to lose enthusiasm. So today we tried something new.

The assignment was to choose an image from a magazine, any image that spoke to them, and glue it on a piece of cardstock. After adding a bit of gesso, I had them add words, words about their day, their feelings, or why this image spoke to them. Then the layers with creamy Portfolio pastels were added. Some were very satisfied at that point while others journeyed on with layers of paints. My favorite part was listening to the stories behind the finished collages. One spoke of her mother, another of her new life, another of her freedom, beautiful stories, eyes lit up with sharing.







So my sweet artist friends, if you have ideas to share for this art class, please leave comments. I need projects that will work as a one-time class with limited supplies, since the audience is different from month to month. Have you experienced a project or taught a class that would work well in this setting? Art = community.

amanda ∞

My daughter, the teacher

While I was away at Artfest filling my head with creative things, my daughter became the teacher for the art journaling class at VERONICA’s Voice. She did a wonderful job leading and teaching and guiding.  Here’s the mosaic collage technique she demonstrated that day:

tree-collage She sketched out the tree for placement, then added the color. The paper is from magazines which she tore and placed with a glue stick. Fun!

The art journal class is going well. While we do bring suggestions and techniques to the table, the women are free to do whatever they would like in their journals. I’ve signed up for the Stencilry Class over at Dispatch from LA and am hoping I can share some of what I learn. Fresh ideas are always welcome.

On another note, I just had to share this hilarious card my mom sent me:

symbol-minded-card The inside reads, “You’re my symbol-minded friend…”

Isn’t it hilarious? My grandmother purchased this card sometime in the 60s or 70s. I come from a family that either saved or used everything, so after both my grandparents passed, my mom inherited a box of very charming vintage cards. I am so thrilled to get them in the mail on occasion. They are my absolute favorite.

Our family will be joining with all of my husband’s immediate family this weekend for the Easter Holiday. It has been years since all the siblings and cousins were together at the same time. We are all very excited for the reunion.

And then next week I’m going to share all my wonderful tales from Artfest as well as glimpses of my projects. I’m still on a creative high. Even preparing tax returns could not bring me down.

Have a meaningful and joyful Holiday in celebration of the risen Savior, and in remembrance of the Passover.

amanda ∞

Merci bon ami

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Sneak peek of some the thank you gifts for those that chipped in for the art journal class. I’ll post more as I finish the details.

amanda ∞

Art Journal Class

Today I was teacher to a group of women that have much to express. I had the opportunity to lead an art journaling class at VERONICA’s Voice. The enthusiasm was contagious as they set to work on their journals, personalizing and claiming them as their own private place for self expression. Profound and deep thoughts, meaningful sentiments, statements of self were made. It was all beautiful. The tables were strewn with art supplies. Joyous chaos. And the most exciting part is that they all loved it so much they want to work on their journals every Friday afternoon.

I am so thankful for those that chipped in and made it possible to supply the journals. The goal to raise money was met and then I found such a great deal on the journals bought in bulk at Dick Blick that I was able to purchase some other extra art supplies that really put the class over the edge.

I took pictures, but forgot to get permission to post them on my blog, so just imagine very happy faces laughing and sharing, and some very messy tables.

amanda ∞

Tender

This is the first page of my Moleskine. The concept for this page is from Sarah Whitmire at Caspiana and her Soul Journaling prompts. Written in sparkly gold gel pen over the green paint are the words:

This book contains TRUTH! If you are not ready to receive, this book is not for your eyes. No Judgment Allowed. Remove your lens and look through mine.

The Bible text is Ephesians 6:10-20. I glued the knight over the gesso and painted it red (washed in Christ’s blood), then glued the Bible text down, painted green over the red except over the knight (new life in Christ), and then used white gel pen to detail the red knight (Christ’s holiness and purity covering me).

It has been a week since our last meal served at VERONICA’s Voice. While I was really busy throughout the week catching up on Latin and life, the reality of this loss seems to just be hitting me. I feel as though there has been a death. My heart is grieving. I feel I am going through the stages of grief in a minor way, been through detachment and anger, and now depression. Although not truly depressed, I am feeling quite reflective and lonely. Right now I just need a shoulder to cry on, just one long good cry, so I can release this grief. I need to share all the details of what is hanging in my mind. I completely trust that God has all the details worked out, and everything will work for His glory. Right now I’m just dealing with my own tender state.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh my gosh, lady. You were just serving lunch. What is the big deal? Get over it and enjoy your free time.”

So here’s a struggle of mine on occasion, like right now: I would love to pour my heart out and let you all know all the details of why this is so difficult for me, but that might put others in a negative light. Where do I draw the line? Even if I were to tell one friend privately, where would I draw the line? How much is okay to share? Nothing, probably. If that is true, do I just absorb these emotions? If I absorb them now, how will they reveal themselves later?

Tender. Reflective. Aching.

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 ∞