A Witness

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My story starts when I was homeless back in 2008. The winter shelter I was staying at with my boyfriend at the time, was at a Baptist church. Out of curiosity and no place warm to go on Sunday, we hung around and went to services a few times. I felt happy and content and really listened to the services and sang if I knew the songs. At some point by Spring, I had found God. I wanted him to work in my life. I got baptized and continued at church every Sunday until March  2009. I had an offer from a friend to stay with her and her family out in Ohio, get a job and get on my feet. I accepted. I went to Ohio until just after my birthday in June. Truth is I had legal issues back at home that I had to deal with or it wasn’t going to be pretty and I’m not one to go run and hide. So I came home… Still homeless, no boyfriend and no more job. I took care of my legal issues after finding myself a bit of respite at friends. She also happened to be my boss years before. I stayed with them for quite a while and then I was asked to be a live-in caretaker for someone’s husband. I jumped at it. Unbeknownst to me that things would go from fine to really bad. By now it’s spring of 2016 and I’m working 24/7 and 24hours a day. I lost weight but ended up really sick. I wasn’t doing well by their standards and I wasn’t happy without a real day off so when the doctor had an appointment I went to my mom’s and she received a phone call just minutes of walking into her front door. They told her to tell me that I was “No longer needed”. Fine. My health should come first anyway. I ended up getting to the doctor and received a diagnosis. Ulcerative Colitis. Not fun by the way if you don’t have it. I don’t wish it on anyone.

Mind you I’m literally homeless but had been sneaking into mom’s to catch a couple of hours sleep in the evening then hang out where ever I felt safe, bus benches at stores where there were lights, bus stops downtown and hanging out in the parking lot next door to my mom’s apartment building. The chilly weather was coming and I decided to swallow my pride and stop by the day shelter and see if I could get some help. They did to a small extent at first. I ended up with a case worker, they had a nurse from the hospital who would come in two days a week to help the homeless get medical care, (which I owe Ammie so much!). I ended up with new glasses and on a regular regimen with my meds as well as a consistent health provider that I can get along with and listens to me. But I was still homeless and I spent entire days at the day shelter. Free food or meals were provided on most days, usually a late breakfast. I was able to visit the food shelf every day, take showers and wash my clothes. During most evenings I would go to mom’s and cook something up for the both of us from something I’d get at the store with my EBT. September of 2016 The Winter Overflow Shelter opened back up and I found myself the 3rd Musketeer with two guys from down south that pretty much took me under their wing and protected me. The shelter was again at the church I was baptized at. There was a pull to go back to services but I was hesitant.

At the day shelter, a man named Richard showed up and hung around a lot. He was the medical ride guy. Those suffering from medical problems that couldn’t walk ended up getting a ride in the evening to the overflow and in the morning back to the day shelter. He was pretty goofy and a really bad flirt. Eventually, after about a month he started asking me to go out with him. He’d make comments like “I’ll make you mine.” or if I bummed a cigarette he’d joke about “taking it out in trade”. I always told him “No. I don’t think so.” or “In your dreams.” He was persistent throughout the entire winter. I had gotten sick. Really bad sick with Bronchitis and a bad start of COPD. I ended up in the emergency room because I was coughing so hard I’d vomit and couldn’t breathe. When I got out that night I went back to the shelter and finished up the winter nights sitting up against the wall sleeping on my cot just so I could breathe. I ended up with a nebulizer on top of it all. And I was getting medical rides with the flirty gentleman. He’d hang out at the overflow for a bit and he’d show up early in the mornings. He was always watching me and smiling. Not scary stalker stuff. Just the curious, I want to get to know you better looks. Then one morning I had asked him if he would give me a ride to my mom’s because I was in no shape to walk up either huge hill that I had to climb to get to her house. He said yes but it will cost me. Boy, I had no clue just what it would cost. And just to let you know… It was well worth the cost. As he drove to my mom’s he put his hand on my knee. Now I would have thrown a fit and told him to let me out or slap his hand had it been anyone else. I said nothing and he didn’t move his hand until he stopped the car in front of my mom’s building. I still said nothing and asked him if he could pick me up to go back down to the day shelter before it closed and go to the church. He said yes. When he picked me up he smiled a huge smile. He didn’t reach for my knee or anything. This is in April 2017. When we got to the overflow at the church he hung out and we chatted a bit then he went to leave. And this was where EVERYTHING changed.

He turned and took two steps and I grabbed his arm and smacked a quick kiss on his cheek and told him “Yes.” The only reason why I did at that very moment was there was a deep echoing voice deep in my heart and soul that said, “He’s the one, it’s now or never.” I listened. And I’m so glad I did. I’m grateful, appreciative and I’m so in love that it sometimes hurts. That day was April 10th. The overflow was closing for the warm weather on the 17th.  I ended up in a tent up by my mom’s in the woods. Richard would come up with me and stay the night to keep me company and sometimes just to make sure I got there safe. A week later I went to the tent for the night. A night Richard couldn’t go and I arrived to find my tent slashed. I ran to mom’s and called Richard the next morning. He came up and got me, washed my blankets and wet clothes for me and actually met my mom. That is another story for the future. He decided he wanted me to stay with him. He wanted me safe and being on the streets wasn’t. I was no longer homeless, I had applied for SSD and was denied but approved for SSI. Okay, a caring and loving boyfriend, income, a stable environment (a home). And as the days went on I became happier and happier. The one stipulation of me living with him was his requirement was I go to church every Sunday. Really?!

Okay, I can live with that! As it turns out his church was the same one the overflow was at and I was baptized in. He was a Deacon. Helping with the Christian programs and educating potential members about what it is to be a Christian, an American Baptist. Well, I wasn’t prepared for what would happen to me in the next few months or in the coming year.

My first Sunday back to church was totally nerve-wracking for about half an hour. Richard sits front and center in front of the pulpit. I had no clue as to why anyone would sit there. I’m the back of the room kind of girl. But it doesn’t take long to realize why he sits where he does and after about 4 Sundays I’m not so nervous. Being a Deacon he does the serving of Communion with a fellow Deacon, He also does greeting and the greeters also do Offering plate. Hrmmm Okay.

The time for Church membership came pretty fast and I had no qualms about it. But Richard the darling man he is got me so freaked out when after the class about what it means to be baptized and an American Baptist decided since I knew what a Deacon does, announced the following Sunday that I possibly wanted to become a Deacon. Oh Lord God, help me in this time of need, please! Well, I was voted in as a member of the church as well as his daughter (who I will call “M”) M, and her boyfriend/fiance. About a month later or so I was voted in as a Deacon.  It wasn’t as confusing or scary as I had first thought it would be. A meeting once a month, greeting once to twice a week, doing offering more Sundays than I greeted, and we volunteered to do Fellowship once a month. I learned Richard’s routine in the morning before church began. And then we started about getting married. This must have been in June or early July. We started out joking that we already act like we are married and feel like we are. The more we talked about it, the more he smiled. He ended up proposing to me the end of July and we set the date for that November. Yes, it seems sudden but to us when God speaks, we listen and God brought us together, we were meant for each other. We could both feel it in our hearts.

After getting married we spent Thanksgiving with my mom and had planned to do Christmas too. Unfortunately, she had passed December 2nd and technically speaking her heart was so bad it medically should have failed before November. She said she wanted to see me happily married to a man she approved of. She died knowing her only daughter was in love, taken care of, safe and happy.

Since that day God opened even more doors for me. I’m busy as a beehive, I’m content with the church and I love not only my husband but I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and with all my strength. He is my shield, my anchor.

Without God I wouldn’t have Richard, without Richard, I wouldn’t have returned to God. God saved me and so Did Richard.

Currently, within the church I am:

Deacon, on the Trustee Board, Collector, working for the church on the payroll as Bookkeeper and for an unspecified amount of time while the Office Administrator is on a leave of absence I am Assistant Office Administrator.

I wear many hats at my church. But God calls, opens doors and I never say “no” to Him. I follow the path he leads me on.

So my witnessing is pretty much a long story, kind of fairy tale if you think about it. And God is my saving Grace. My life has become what God has intended it to be and he’s still working on me. There’s always a message, a lesson or a challenge.

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