I picked up a homeless person

It was the first day of school, finally! I had had the kids since March and they were finally going to school in mid August. I had plans to eat Doritos and binge watch some nature or crime show all day. I dropped them off at school and as they got their temperature checked, I willed the thermometer not to read high. Then I went to McDonald’s, parked for a moment to eat my breakfast and listened to the news! (Yes, this is my idea of fun) After eating, I took the longer way home just to enjoy the ride ALL ALONE! Then, I saw her, she was walking barefoot near the dam in Grand Rivers. She was frail, thin and looked disheveled and lost. I didn’t want to stop, I wish I had taken the freeway, but there was no way now that I was going to ignore a woman that most likely was homeless at best, or abused and exploited at worst. I sighed a big sigh of frustration and knew I had to obey the tug at my soul to aid this image bearer. I made the U-Turn and then another, and pulled up close to her, only to realize that she was really a he! He was very thin and looked Southeast Asian. He had already seen me and I didn’t have the heart to just drive away and leave him there. I then called my husband and just said “I’m pulling next to a homeless man, I’m putting you on speaker phone just in case he’s drugged up and tries to kill me.” This isn’t the first time I do things like this, so Nathan just sighed and stoically said “okay” and stayed on the line. (I love him so much!) I wasn’t too scared of him, since I probably had about 100 pounds on him, but people on drugs can get pretty strong, even skinny ones.

I briefly talked with the man to find out if there was any way I could help him, but he didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak anything else but Spanish. So I got no where with him. I didn’t have any money and I had just gobbled up my McDonald’s breakfast, so I gave him what I had, my leather moccasins. My favorite, Minnetonka, comfy, tan moccasins. “He has no shoes, he has no shoes.” I kept telling myself. He is walking through the streets and has no shoes. All the homeless people I had ever seen before have had shoes, even their dogs have those little scarfs. This man, has no shoes, and I have a closet full of them. So I gave him my shoes, and he took them gladly and to my surprise they fit him a little big! But he was still grateful. I then tried to ask him where he was staying and he pointed at the woods and that he had been living there for 4 or 5 weeks. So I gave him the other thing I had. My Thirty-One monogramed bleacher blanket that cost me more than I’d like to admit! But here was a man who was living in the freaking woods. He was covered in bites, he had no shoes, and looked starved. So I gave him my blanket! I had 20 blankets at home! I even crochet blankets all the time. For fun! Blankets. Throws. Fluffly towels. Not leaves, or grass, or branches. Blankets, that’s what I have. He has leaves. I have blankets. Blankets!

I then asked him if he wanted something to eat – as I shamefully wiped the biscuit crumbs off my chest. He mentioned he hadn’t eaten in two days. So that’s when I decided I would take him to Wendy’s. I was also able to figure out that he had 3 children, and that he would like coffee since he hadn’t had any in a very long time. He was also a butcher and worked mostly with pork. His country of his birth is Thailand and he speaks Karen.

I eventually took him to my home (yes I know, I did tell my husband what I was doing and he was okay with it) and had my oldest help me get him some clothes. My oldest also wasn’t too surprised when I bolted into his room crying that I had a poor, half-starved man waiting in my minivan. He was a little upset that I picked up a man, but once he looked at the half dead man just waiting for us, he didn’t say much but helped me pack a duffle bag for him full of clothes, towels, an extra blanket and socks. My oldest accompanied me to drop him where he wanted to go and when we said goodbye, ThaiThai (which is the name my oldest and I affectionately call him, not his real name). Well, ThaiThai cried. He then put his hands together, bowed his head and said what I think was thank you. My oldest squeezed my arm and whispered to me in Spanish — “Not right now. Hold it together. Be strong. Cry later.” I didn’t hold it together and cried. We drove off and I sobbed.

I am so blessed beyond measure and I am ashamed at how self-centered I can be, so I want to give out a warning to all of us, my dear Christian brethren. Do not let this “pandemic” make us self-centered. I wanted to do what I wanted to do with HIS time. I wanted to not share the material things that HE has given me so much of. I felt inconvenienced when He wanted my simple obedience. Covid has done this to us. The kingdom of God does not cease to expand because of a virus. The threat of death has never in over 2000 years thwarted the mission of the Church – on the contrary it usually thrives within it. Fear of the unknown has never been an excuse to disobey our God who calls us trust in Him and not lean on our often flighty understanding.

Don’t grow lazy my brothers and sisters. Righteousness is not something we can drift towards. We must strive for it. Obedience is often hard (giving away your stuff, sanctification, mortification, giving away your blanket) and sometimes scary (helping out a man you thought was a woman). It is a constant struggle and now with the excuse of a “pandemic”, very easily we can lose the will to struggle for righteousness. But, take heart, we trust in the One who has overcome death. He loved us so much, He didn’t fear the ultimate virus which has an 100% mortality rate, but bravely bore it and we are now immune. Forever. And not only are we immune, but we have been given the call to tell others of this great news! That they too may live forever with Him!

So love on the ThaiThai’s around you. Don’t neglect the assembly of the saints. Tell God “Yes I Will”. Live fearlessly – wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Remember, what’s the worse that can happen when you obey God? Death? But your immune!

God bless my friends!

I am not your redeemer .. .

I was driving back home from Chicago – a 7 hour drive one way. I was deep in thought listening to my audio book when the sudden urge to pee came over me. I looked down to check to see how many miles I had until empty and to my utter horror it was a big fat zero! How long had I been driving like this? Where am I? I have to pee even more now. I had no idea humans could whimper until I heard one coming from my mouth and my nose. Tears welled up from the lack of bladder relief and I was in total despair. I quickly looked up the nearest gas station on Google maps and saw that the closest one was 8 MILES AWAY! I whimpered again. I saw a sign that said Pesotum and I figured it was a tiny town and surely they have a gas station that Google forgot to add. So I exited and hoped to find civilization. I didn’t see a gas station, but I did see a couple outside their home enjoying the soon approaching sunset – which was my doom if I had to walk in the dark to get gas in the cornfields of central Illinois. This is how all murder movies begin! Thankfully this sweet couple had a big dining table for sale in their front yard so I had a perfectly good excuse to peel into their driveway and frantically wave at them as I got out of my minivan. They approached me with reserve because I was a bit jittery due to a full bladder and the non-stop whimpering. With the biggest smile and quavering voice I told them I was on zero on gas and if there was a little gas station near by I could fill up at. She told me there was one about 5 miles from where we were. I told her thanks and I hoped I could make it. I tried to comfort myself saying, well I could use a walk, and cornfields at night aren’t that scary. Right? Oh yes they are!! Darn you, Children Of The Corn, Signs, Freddy vs Jason, A Quiet Place, Sinister, Jeepers Creepers and every other friggin horror movie with a friggin corn field!! And just to top off the scary corn field, Illinois has these massive windmill propellers swinging around. I know they draw attention to all kinds of aliens and monsters and white-haired children who kill for kicks! Thankfully, the man who had been silent this whole time said I was in luck and I need not drive away, run out of gas and pee myself as I was being strung up to be a live scarecrow. He had just filled up his little gas cans and he would put gas in my van. I almost peed for joy. He put gas in my van and then said something very interesting to me.

He apologized to me.

He told me he had not one racist bone in his body. And frankly I believed him, because most people don’t. We have biases, ignorance, stereotypes, but outright racism, no most people don’t. I quickly held up my hand and shook my head stopping him from further apologizing for something he never had done to me and I believe, to anyone else. I was not his Judge or his Redeemer.

As I drove away noticing that I now had 46 miles until empty thanks to my white new friends, I thought a lot, but not too much because I didn’t have the heart to ask them to use their toilet so I got to the nearest gas station and ran – yes ran my jiggly self – to the bathroom. There are few joys in life than peeing in a non-cornfield place, with lighting, and minimal gas station bathroom juice on the floor. After that AND filling up my minivan, I did think a lot about my new friends. We had chatted for about 10 minutes and even took a selfie. I thought about all my closest friends where I live (who just happen to be white). I thought about how they make me laugh. I thought about how we have shared tears, and joys, and even fights. I remembered the strong opinions we have, the hobbies we enjoy, the theological debates we partook in. They are a true joy to have on this earth and I revel in the idea that they are joining me eternally in Heaven – together forever, literally!! And their whiteness or my Mexicaness has NOTHING to do with these moments. We have such strong bonds because of our shared faith. My or their DNA has nothing to do with our friendship, it just adds to the fun!

My gas-giving-new friends – who just happen to be white!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not allow others to apologize for things they did not do. If any sin has ever been committed, it was firstly done to Christ! Sins done in the past by others who are now dead were either paid for on the cross by Jesus or are being paid for right now in hell. And it should stir us to a sense of finality because we cannot do anything about that reality now.

BUT

We are alive now, and many are alive with us who still have a hope. So let us proclaim the Good News to any who will hear us. Let us love all the image bearers that God has placed in our lives! Let us, with a little partiality, love and enjoy Christians a little more because of our shared faith. God only sees one color when He looks at us, and that is red – the color of the blood of His Son. If you’re not stained by His blood, repent and trust in that payment. Believe in Him and you shall be saved. Trust in Him and He will make your path straight. Rely on Him and He will give you peace. Look to Him and this world will grow less interesting. All who are called can come to Him. All who repent and believe. All.

#race #culture #Christian #Redeemer

Tamales

For years I have been wanting to make tamales for my family and friends, but every year I chicken out and just stare at the ingredients. I know now though why I hesitated so much. Making tamales is hard work and a long, messy process. But now that the dishes are finally clean, my counter tops and dining table don’t feel greasy anymore, and my friends are happy, it really is worth it – only once a year though.

Living in a very small town in Western Kentucky I couldn’t find the special corn meal for the dough (masa) to make the outer part of the tamal, so I ordered it online on Amazon.  Here is the link for the masa mix I used. And on a trip to Atlanta I bought the corn husks. And on another trip to Louisville I bought the ancho chile for the sauce I made to cook my shredded chicken. Isn’t it fun to discover and explore?!

tamales

So again, I had everything I needed to make them, but this time I promised my friends I would be bringing them to their Super Bowl party – so I couldn’t back out like I had done so many times in the past.

I made the tamales on a Saturday when there was nothing much to do. My oldest was going to be out, my youngest had a new series of Pokemon she hadn’t watched, and hubby had a project he was going to work on. So after a big breakfast, I cleared the kitchen and began.

First, I took two large chicken breasts and boiled them. I added salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and some bouillon to the water. This I used for my chicken stock.(1 pot dirtied)

After the breasts cooked, I took them out to cool (1 dish dirtied). After that I whipped about a cup of shortening for the dough with an electric mixer.(2 dishes total dirtied, 1 very greasy electric mixer) {YES! My mother yelled at me already so don’t tell me I should have used lard. I know! I actually thought I had some, and I did, but like 3 years ago when I originally had bought the tub of lard for tamales, but I never made them and threw the lard out last year I think! So instead of quitting – which I was about to do – I improvised and used shortening! Quit judging me!} After whipping the shortening, I then took another bowl (3 dishes now dirtied) and plunged the corn husk leaves in hot water to soften them. After that I used another bowl (yup that’s 4) to make the masa. I followed the instructions on the bag, but ended up using a little more chicken stock than what it called for.

molcajete

After making the masa, I placed the dough ball in the bowl with the whipped shortening and then mixed the two together using my hands! This was so greasy! It’s like mixing frosting with your hands!

shortening-masa

As I was mixing, I was looking for a consistency that was solid and wet enough to spread easily on the corn husks. I had to use some more of the chicken stock to get it just right. But here is where I think I made my mistake. I added some more bouillon (I use a paste) to the masa and mixed it in. I shouldn’t have. I wanted the tamales to be so tasty that I think I didn’t let the natural flavors just be. Although the tamales did taste fine, to me they tasted too “commercially”.

masa

After I achieved what I believed to be a good spreadable masa, I began to make the sauce for my chicken. (2nd pot dirtied). I placed 3 ancho chiles (I only used 1 though in the sauce though because I was afraid it would be too spicy), three roma tomatoes,  1/4 of a white onion, 2 garlic cloves, and salt into a pot and boiled them for about 10 minutes or until they were tender. I did remove all the seeds, tops and ridges from inside of the chiles before I boiled them.

After they were boiled, I transferred all these ingredients to a blender and added salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin to taste. (1 dirtied blender) I also, at this time, removed the corn husk leaves from their water bath and spread them out onto a towel to dry out.

After the sauce was made, I took my chicken breasts and shredded them and placed them in a bowl (5th dish dirtied). I then added the sauce onto a cast iron pan with some vegetable oil to cook, (3rd pan dirtied)  and then added the chicken.

shredded-chicken

I had to add some more of my chicken stock to the salsa because it did thicken a bit.I cooked the chicken until it was softened and the smell was just wonderful!

chicken

After all of this was done I then began the assembling of the tamales. I placed the large bowl with the dough, the shredded chicken, the corn husk leaves, a large dish (6th one), and two spoons on my dining table. I asked my daughter if she would like to help me and she agreed and she loved helping me spread the dough onto the corn husk. I will warn you though that the dough is naturally greasy. My daughter got the dough all over the table, the floor and herself. Our dog probably ate about half a pound of raw masa from the floor. Where . . . is . . .  . he? Anyway, but these are times when I just couldn’t worry. I was passing a tradition down to my daughter daing it, and the dog dying from a heart attack wasn’t going to ruin this for us! We are making memories! So we assembled on.

Now, on the corn husk there is a very smooth side and a side that is bumpy or wrinkly. The dough is spread on the smooth side. After spreading the dough with the “grain”, using up about a third of the leaf, you then place some of the chicken filler in the middle and then fold the corn husk in half like a taco. After that you fold one more time and then bring the pointy end up to the thick end. If you can’t envision it, look it up on YouTube. My daughter was able to do it on her own around her third tamale.

We ended up making about 24 small to medium tamales.

After making them, I placed them in a stock pot (5th pot dirtied). But before putting the tamales in, I placed a steamer mesh and added water to the bottom of the stock pot. I then lined the bottom with corn husk leaves so that the actual tamales don’t get water in them.

tamales-3

After I added all our tamales and made sure they were all upright, I then placed more corn husks around the edges of the stock pot and then wrapped them up like a little baby.

tamales-2

I then placed a clean towel on top of that and put the stock pot’s lid on top. I steamed them on med-high heat for about an hour and 10 minutes.

At the end of the long wait, I pulled one out and unfolded it. The dough and the corn husk separated easily (which means they’re done) and I took a bite. They tasted good, but I think I over did it on the bouillon. Oh well. My family and I shared that one tamal and they all loved it. My daughter especially had a little proud face when we took them to the Super Bowl party and she found out that they all were gone quickly.

Now, Super Bowl was obviously on Sunday the next day so to reheat them I placed them flat in my cast iron skillet and toasted them a little on low heat to heat them through. This did make them taste better in my opinion because of the smoky flavor that is added by toasting the corn husks a bit.

Tamales are hard work, but it really was worth it. I now understand more why women in Mexico choose to make tamales with other women. It certainly is not something to be done alone. To converse, laugh and pass on the culture to our children is something easily entrusted through cuisine. In my opinion, it is something that currently is forgotten. With boxed dinners, microwaves, and fast food, we don’t have the time to sit with our children and just exist WITH them. Although most of us (me included) will not be making tamales all the time, we could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with our kids. They can help us make some hot chocolate or cookies. Let us teach them to create deliciousness in the kitchen.

When Elijah was down and tired of his life, God did something awesome to comfort him. He fed him. I will leave you with this verse:

And the LORD said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you . . . So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food . . . . . . he reached the mountain of God.  I Kings 19:7-8

Mechanical Bull vs Church Lady

For a while now, I have had on my bucket list: ride a mechanical bull. Unfortunately, the only place I could think of riding one was at bars – probably the kind of bar that solely played country music. Being somewhat close to Nashville, I knew I could easily find a bar or an event where I could unleash my desire to ride one of these things; but the thought of riding a bull, with my top heavy self, in a bar with men, as a 3rd grade Sunday school teacher, just didn’t sit quiet right with me. So I looked elsewhere.

My bright idea was to rent one for our annual church women’s Christmas party. I felt I could “let loose” a little more, not having to worry about being a stumbling block to any males because there is a sensuousness to riding a bull. After being a bit disappointed at the super expensive quotes I got, I finally found a reasonable one. (If you live in the Western Kentucky area, I highly recommend them! They were great and super friendly and accommodated all my theatrical whims. Click here for their website.) I told the owner my plight and whispered – because that is what church ladies do – “I need a bull for women. Because – you know- men.” He chuckled at my modesty and affirmed me he had actually done a couple of events at some churches and he completely understood since he’s also a pastor! I gasped! He gasped! But I knew he would turn his eyes the other way if things got a little too sexy on the bull, up at the church lady’s Christmas party! So he e-mailed me the contract, I signed and returned it with a check. The date was scheduled, but as fate would have it, it rained the day of our event and rain and mechanical bull don’t mix well. I would have to wait to check off “mechanical bull riding” off of my bucket list. We rescheduled for my daughter’s birthday party, but alas, it rained again. I was discouraged. Distraught. It was as if this would never happen. But it did!

Every year our church has a fall festival INSIDE a large convention center and we have all kinds of games, prizes, food, hay rides and even a petting zoo. I called up Ethan (bull guy) again and re-rescheduled him one more time. I told him that this event is indoors and even if did rain, it wouldn’t matter. So again, we set up a date.

The only problem though, was that I face paint at our fall festival, and I face paint A LOT of little cute faces. And I don’t take a break from face painting because I just don’t have the heart to tell an adorable little bumble bee to wait while I make a fool of myself on a mechanical bull. So I just painted along. We had hundreds of visitors come to our festival, and a lot of people enjoyed the mechanical bull. I guess I would just have to sacrifice my whimsical bucket list item, for the kingdom of God. And in reality, it really wasn’t that difficult.

But, as our event was ending and there were no more faces to paint, I went up to Aaron (the bull guy’s helper) and gave him permission to end the bull riding. (Going over our allotted time would cost me more money, and I didn’t want to go over!) He asked me if I wanted to get on. I looked around and there was mostly just church people there! “Oh yes please!”

I got on the inflatable and raised my leg to mount the bull. But I couldn’t get on! You know when your mind thinks it can do something, but your body just doesn’t respond? That is what was happening here. Oh no! I tried by putting both hands on the bull and hoisting myself up! As if I had that kind of upper body strength! Finally, Aaron told me he could help me. Thankfully he’s a pretty tough guy, but how was he going to help me? What if I killed him? Thankfully, I am sure of it, Aaron has dealt with bigger women trying to mount a mechanical bull at a church event. He got on a knee and told me to use his other knee as a stool to get up on the bull. I huffed, I heaved and I got on.

What happened next was the most anti-climatic thing that has ever happened to me. I got on the bull ready for him to buck me off. Ready to prevail in the battle between woman and machine! Ready for my hair to fling one way and then another! I was ready! So I clutched the rope, steeled my back and then the mechanical bull moved ever so slightly and I remembered that I have no core muscles. None. I quickly then bear-hugged the hunk of bull and slowly, every so very slowly melted off the bull. Have you ever baked bread? You know when you knead the dough, form it into a ball and then set it in a greased bowl to let it rise? And then you punch said dough and “pour” it onto a floured surface for shaping. That is how it looked like. The pouring part of the dough. And that is kinda how I felt. A turned over, punched, ball of dough ready for shaping. I laid there in my shame realizing that my mind is so much more fun than my reality. I log rolled a little away from my victorious foe and got out of the inflatable arena. Two more deacons went after me and I just walked to my face painting table flushed and defeated. No, deflated would be a better word to describe myself.

                                   Some of the church ladies wedding dress shopping.

I checked off “mechanical bull riding” off of my bucket list. But it wasn’t an assertive check, but in the end that really didn’t matter. I did have fun laughing, mostly at my lack of athletic ability. A lot of people did have fun and like we always do at these events, we shared the Gospel and God’s love to the people in our community.

I don’t think I will ever have the opportunity to ride on a mechanical bull again, but it’s okay. After all, life is made up of memories, not fantasies.