I spent my day with Maria. A recently released inmate (5 days ago), and a darling of a girl.
I got an email telling me about her two days ago. Along with my introduction, I was given a list of her needs. Let's just say, the list showed me that she had nothing. I've been on the phone and emailing people for two days trying to organize some help for her. Several kind men donated $100 each to go toward her utilities and deposits. I found a resource for her for free furniture which he kindly delivered to her newly rented empty and very naked apartment this morning. I drove up as he drove out and whisked her away to all sorts of places before she even had time to arrange what he'd delivered. We went by the gas company, the power company, and the water company. She had been living in the apartment sleeping in the cold in a sleeping bag. Her electricity was finally turned on, but we will still have to go back and handle the gas issues on Monday. She is now using the burners on her stove for her heating. And only today did she get her water turned on. She's been flushing her toilet hauling water in 5 gallon jugs from a friend not so far from her for the 5 days that she's been there. She still lacks a refrigerator, a frame for her bed, sheets for her new mattresses, a washer and dryer, pots and pans, dishes and utensils to eat with. Plus, so much more! So many of the things that we have that we often take for granted.
We went by a Caring Center for clothes and food, but they close early (at noon on Fridays) so we were told to try back next week on both Monday and Wednesday. Monday for the clothes. And Wednesday for the foodbank. "We open the foodbank up on Wednesday's at 9," we were told, "but you'll need to get here early. I get here by 7 or 7:30 and there is always a line already formed outside the door when I walk in."
After going to a couple of places after there for this thing or that it was after lunch and our stomach's were growling. I asked her if she was hungry. Smiling she said that she was. When she hesitated to say where after I had asked her where she'd like to go to eat, I reminded her that yesterday was her birthday... though a day late, today I'd like to splurge and treat you to celebrate it. We went to Martin's. They serve the best homecooked meals with HUGE portions. One meat with three sides. Our plates were heaped high and we started eating. After a little while she looked at me timidly and apologized for still eating with her spoon. "I've not quite gotten accustomed back to the fork again, I find that I stab myself when trying to eat with it." She showed me the fork and the spoon. "See. The fork is a lot longer. I've been eating with a spoon for too long."
"They won't let you eat with forks in prison?" I asked. To which she shook her head no. "I guess that makes sense, you know. I wouldn't want the wrong person to get a hold of one in a bad mood."
I loved that we could talk so openly and honestly. I asked her lots of questions about prison. There was nothing it seemed that she minded telling me. There wasn't a morsel of food left on her plate when finished, but that didn't stop us from ordering desserts. My goodness it was good! We both opted for coconut pie...the biggest slices that I've ever seen! with meringue the height of a standing finger! They almost had to roll us out of the place upon leaving.
By this time it was almost time for school to be out and I had to go pick up my daughter. I took her back to her apartment with her thanking me the entire way. When turning into her drive she told me that my vehicle (a red Dodge Durango) doesn't fit in her neighborhood. She told me to be careful, because though I might not know it, I was definitely being watched and noticed. She told me too, not only does your vehicle not fit here, but you don't either. She warned me to be cautious on my way out, because people can gang up and start something that you wouldn't want to happen.
I told her I wasn't afraid and didn't feel intimidated or threathened and that I felt that they could read that. I drove off feeling sad that she felt she had to apologize for the only neighborhood she could find to live in that she could afford to pay for. Even empty and naked it was a place over her head and in all of the hours that we spent togethet not one time do I ever recall her complaining. She talked about God and how good He is and she praised Him for all that He's done for her. She didn't complain about the cold (it was in the 20s last night!), nor having no water to even flush her toilet, or about any of the things that she didn't have... she was simply overwhelmingly grateful for all that she did!
I posted a blog once about the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card stating that sometimes getting out of jail wasn't free, at all. This time it is! It was! Today I watched Maria soar in her freedom. With Jesus Christ (no matter your situation or circumstances), if you chose to, you always can! Maria may have had a naked and empty apartment with hardly any clothes and no coat to put on; but even in her emptiness, because of our Savior she was full and free and joy~full! The joy of the Lord really IS our strength! And we can do ALL things with Christ who strengthens us!
Lord, thank You today, for blessing me in mighty ways through the precious vessel of Maria's. You look good in her! And it made me want to even be more and more like Your Son, Jesus!