Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Day 47 ~ South Coast Rock Tour

South Coat Rock Tour
~ Day 47 ~

Jacksonville…OCC…Ann and Jo…Downtown…JoJo.

This was my third time going to Jacksonville. Just can’t get enough of this stellar, surf town. I had sent a text to Ann last night telling her I was coming back to Ocean City Church this morning and hoped we would merge paths. We planned to meet for lunch after devouring the spiritual meal of the message at church. It was a filling five-course spread. The worship team played some of the same songs from that I was getting more familiar with being that I had been to OCC the last three Sundays. How I love this church and the people therein. There were also some songs sung that I had not heard before. One was a hymn that had powerful nuggets of truth interlaced throughout the verses and chorus. “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him”… Wow, this is the fitness club I want to have a full-time membership to. Another song talked about the “Overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God” which just scratches the surface of His passionate pursuit of our hearts that were created to be in a relationship with Jesus. Sometimes, I’m tempted to change my Facebook relationship status from “single” to “In a relationship”, for I truly don’t feel single in this journey… I am in a deeply fulfilling relationship with the Creator and Lover of my soul. Whether you are single, dating, or married, we all can have this most beautiful relationship with God. Come join the fitness club of admitting we all need the overwhelming love of the Savior.

Pastor Derek gave a great message and pulled truths out of Corinthians and Ephesians. He talked about evangelism being an invitation… one that reverberates into eternity. My heart leaped as he said, “When our passion rises above our fear, we will be able to take risks. For when we are free in Jesus, we are fearless.” Good stuff. Great encouragement coupled with a challenging charge. I like messages that spur one on to grow deeper and go higher, rather than spurring on the settlement of complacency. Ocean City Church was a gift along this southern journey. God provides places of fellowship along the way while away from my home church that I miss greatly. So excited to once again sit next to my parents and grandparents under the umbrella of the E-Free church when I, Lord willing, return home.

Ann and I met in the lobby after the last song. She loves her role of greeting people, extending love and authenticity, and connecting them with others. We planned to have lunch at Delicomb and her twin sister, Jo, was going to join us. Her other sister, Beth (Derek’s wife), was also invited but she had existing plans. I was able to spend some time with Beth before the service and I feel a closeness to her even though we barely know one another. She pours so much onto others and the Holy Spirit keeps her full to overflow on those around her. Beth has eyes that sparkle like stars reflecting off the water on a bright blue night. God is writing a beautiful story through her and her family.

The twins and I merged paths at the popular deli. Wraps and paninis were ordered and we found a table among the bustling building. When the three of us started talking, the people in the room disappeared… it felt like it was just us together. I had Ann on my left and Jo on my left. They are twins, yet they are separate. They have similar looks, but different personalities. Their stories have combined chapters, yet the titles of their stories would be not be the same. So fitting for Jo to receive a “Story” rock.  It was cool to get to know Jo on a deeper level. Like Ann, Jo has a solid foundational love for Jesus. She is a daughter, a twin, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a friend, and a teacher. Jo and Ann have a bond that started in their mother’s womb and has remained tethered as the years pass. They complement each other cohesively. It was an honor to be in the middle of these two tender-hearted twins.

Hugs were exchanged and half of my panini was bagged up to eat later. The two hours conversing with Ann and Jo could have extended into the evening if we both didn’t have places to be. Not knowing exactly where God wanted me to be, I walked back to Tumbler and sat in my buddy’s seat for a while. “God, can I please stay in Jax for a couple days. I love it here. Could I stay at Ann’s tonight and spend more time with my new friend? “ --- Silence --- “Not in the talking mood, huh? Okay then, we’ll take it an hour at a time. How about going downtown?” --- Silence, but in a peace-full thumbs up type of silence. I thought of the verse “All the fitness He requires it to feel your need of Him.” Oh, how I need Him. God would allow me to exercise this fitness the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Downtown Jacksonville is very different than beachside Jax. The sandy shores are traded for cement and asphalt. The small buildings with soft corners are traded for high rise buildings with sharp angles. The laid-back surfers and shop owners are traded for briefcase-carrying men and high heeled women. It’s still got a Florida feel to it, but not as cozy. Tumbler meandered through the streets and we spotted many homeless handouts. I wanted to stop at each of them, but kept driving. Sensing that we wouldn’t be here long, I started praying for specifics as to where to park and for the path that would lead me to whom God wanted me to come along side. Both were answered in the first hour. It was 3:45pm when I parked off a side street and 4:10pm when God introduced me to JoJo.

While walking, three street guys were seen. I asked them if there was a rescue mission nearby and they said I could walk with them, as they were going there now. Their names were Matt, Doc, and Ryan. We didn’t talk much while walking except to say where we were traveling from, how long we had been in town, and that the downtown area was rough. They were right about that. It was a darker atmosphere and most people had a “doing what I gotta do to get by” type of attitude. Bags and backpacks were kept close, as stealing was prevalent. Women were far outnumbered by men (about a 1:25 ratio) and it was not dangerous, yet it was far from a safe environment. Matt, Doc and Ryan kept to themselves and seemed to be solely focused on getting food at the mission. I felt neither in harms company nor protected walking with them. I wasn’t including in their quiet, small tribe, nor was I excluded. When the mission was reached, they got in line with the other 75-100 people waiting to be let inside. Dinner started at 4:30 and we had a 20min of waiting in outside in the humid air. I parted ways with the guys and sat down by a thin tree that gave no shade from the hot sun. A small girl with a bright pink hat carrying a bag rounded the corner. She stopped and stood in the distance from the line of people, comprised most of men. Our eyes connected. I smiled and she looked away. I knew she was the one that God wanted me to befriend. A few guys came over to talk to me and we exchanged names, time spent in Jacksonville, and how hot it was today. Everyone’s face was dripping with sweat and the backs of our shirts were soaked from our backpacks trapping the heat against our skin. At 4:30, the line started to move slowly. The girl with the pink hat joined the line with a straight face. I let a few of the guys go ahead of me so that she was next to me. “I like your hat. I usually wear one too, but it’s so hot today.” --- “Yeah, I should take it off, but I just like how a hat feels on my head. It’s protective.” --- “This is my first time rolling through downtown Jacksonville. How is it here? --- “I keep to myself. I don’t trust men. I’m trying to get back northwest. My name is JoJo.” She started to warm up as we waited in line together. JoJo shared how she didn’t feel a sense of belonging, how she had come to the states when she was a teenager and found herself roaming the country by herself. She elaborated on her lack of trust with men enough for me to know some of the reasons for her distrust while not going into detail of the experiences that had formed her stereotype. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you all of this. I don’t even know you. Typically, I don’t talk to anyone, but you just seem like someone who actually cares.” I nodded and took the risk of reaching out my hand to rest it on her tiny shoulder blade. She flinched at the touch, but then exhaled the breath and her mouth formed a small smile. “I’m not going to hurt you, JoJo. God knew that we would meet each other today. I just want to be your friend.” --- “I’m not used to people being nice. I always keep to myself. Would you want to sit together when we eat?” I nodded and put my arm fully around her shoulders. JoJo didn’t flinch.

The mission lets in people to eat in the room full of tables with around 50 chairs. When 10 chairs open up, 10 more people are let in. JoJo and I finally were let in and we had to put our backpacks down by the front door. We signed in the log sheet and got our plates of rice, turkey, beans, and a slice of bread. JoJo and I kept looking back at our bags that we put up on a wooden box to be in constant sight. In an area full of people who are prone for “five finger discount deals” of people’s belongings, we watched our bags throughout the whole time inside. Even when I put my backpack down on the streets or the beach, I keep one of the shoulder straps under my foot or in contact with my arm, so that if someone were to try and take it, I would feel the strap slip out from under me. Here at the mission, there was no physical contact with our bags, only our eyes that kept a keen sight on our precious cargo. For JoJo, this bag contained all of her belongings. We tried to talk while eating our food that was far from a 5-star restaurant. When one is hungry, food is food. The people around us were loud and many walked by us with hungry eyes for the two women who stood out in a sea of men. JoJo was visibly uncomfortable. I tried to keep her distracted by asking questions and making jokes. Another girl came over to our table and sat down with us. Her name was Jess. She wore sunglasses and didn’t talk much at first. JoJo and I were talking about my rocks and she said that she wished she was artistic. “You were created by the first Artist, who created you, so you have art within you. Maybe it’s not drawing or sculpting, but you are an artist.” JoJo talked about how she loved secretary work and that she loved organizing forms and data onto spreadsheets or on the computer. “I guess that’s kind of art. Art with word and numbers.” --- “Totally girl! Everyone is an artist. The material and canvases just look different with everyone.” The girl with the sunglasses spoke. “I like how you worded that. I used to do photography. Since being on the street, I lost my camera. Now I feel like I’m not making art anymore, but I still am an artist, just with a different canvas.” The three of us women talked for 10min until it was time to give up our seats for the next hungry person. We grabbed our bags and all pulled the straps tight, grateful to be in physical contact with them again.

Once outside, JoJo, Jess and I found a shady tree near the parking lot. I pulled out a few rocks from my back and let Jess pick one out. She chose a green heart with “Deep Love” written on it. Jess had had an extra hard day. She had been crying for most of the morning, hence the sunglasses to hid her red, puffy eyes. After she shared some of her reasons for the repressed pain, I gave her hug. Jess did not let go and she squeezed me hard. I wanted to give Jess my camera. I wanted to give it to her so that she could have her art back… something to help her cope with her emotions, an outlet to express that which was within. But I hesitated too long, and she walked away. I regret this hesitation.

JoJo and I watched Jess walk away and we stood under the tree in silence for a bit. It was nice to be together, even if were where silent. Sometimes simply sharing time and space with someone is enough to carry the quiet conversation of “I am safe with you.” JoJo was given a rock that said “Grow” and I didn’t elaborate on what it meant to me, for I wanted her to hear what God was whispering to JoJo. “I’m going to carry this rock wherever I go and remember you.” I told her that I wouldn’t forget her either. We talked about God being our Rock… One who is unshakable in this shaky world. I also told JoJo about Christopher, the staff member at the Panama City mission. “I know that you have been hurt by many men, my friend. I have been allowed similar pain. But I hope you can discover that not all men are out to hurt you. There are many, many kind men. Christopher is one of them. On your travels northwest, stop in Panama City. Tell him Daisy gives him the ‘love’ hand gesture.” We talked some more about how our past can either define us or refine us, how it had the potential to create purpose in the pain. JoJo and I parted paths with a long embrace. I wondered when the last time she had received a true hug from someone with no ill-intentions. While walking away, I looked back at JoJo sitting on a bench off to herself. I prayed for God to send more people to befriend the friendless girl, be an ear to listen to the girl who spoke to no one, and hug the girl who wore a pink hat on a hot day because she felt safer with the touch of cotton than a human hand.

My time downtown was not long, though it was long enough. Ann had invited me to spend the night at her and Dan’s house and I truly wanted to take them up on their offer. But this was not God’s plans. Tumbler was headed to their house, but took a southern turn when the road split in two directions. It was my third time leaving Jax, and it was no less hard to move on from this city of which I have grown a strong affinity for. Tumbler turned off the Interstate 95 and settled into an ambling speed on A1A that traversed the ocean through towns I had already left rocks in. Crescent Beach, Palm Coast, Ormond By The Sea, and Daytona Beach. Memories floated to the surface with each place we went through. Tumbler and I landed in Titusville. “God, you have carried me thus far. You are faithful and gracious. Thank you for being so loud at times and at other times, being quiet. Even in your silence… I am safe with You.”

Oh, the overwhelming,
Love of

Unshakable Peace and Purpose
Cling to the Rock

Psalm 18:1-2

Day 44, 45, 46 ~ South Coast Rock Tour

South Coast Rock Tour

~ Day 44, 45, & 46 ~

Cheryl…Beaches...Body Surfing…Air BNB.

Greetings Friends! It’s a beautiful day to be grateful. Thursday through Saturday were spent with my lovely friend, Cheryl, who flew down for a few days of quality time and rest. We were able to accomplish both. Our time was not super busy nor was it far from boring. I will recap the three days with highlights:

~ Picked up Cheryl from Daytona Airport at 11am
~ Shared a lunch of full crabs, shrimp, potatoes and puffed fritters
~ Relaxed on Daytona Beach
~ Checked in at a darling Air BNB
~ Wrote and slept
~ Dinner at a great BBQ joint
~ Cheryl gave leftovers to homeless man
~ Slept deep and long

~ Our Air BNB host, Trish, gave us fresh eggs for an omlette
~ Drove to North Intercostal Lighthouse Beach
~ We talked, slept, talked and slept more
~ Went swimming + bodysurfing in the ocean with our clothes on.
~ Dinner at the same BBQ joint for their huge salad bar
~ Wrote and relaxed back at Air BNB
~ Spent time with host Trish and her cool grey cat
~ We went to bed earlier

~ Got up at 5am
~ Drove in the morning fog very far up the Northern Peninsula
~ Found a gnarly spot on a distant beach to watch the sunrise
~ Took in God’s early morning beauty of the ocean and sky
~ Breakfast at small, long-standing, local café (waitress Shyanne)
~ Ormond Beach quality time
~ Packed and checked out of Trish’s Air BNB
~ Went back to the beach
~ Ran into guy from AA meeting while walking
~ Took Cheryl to Daytona Airport at 2pm
~ Long hugs and deep happiness
~ Went to library to write
~ Spent time with guys from AA club
~ Drove to Jacksonville
~ Stoked to go back to Ocean City Church and see Ann again

You know you are with a true friend
When silence is the best conversation
And stillness is the most beneficial activity.

Unshakable Peace and Purpose
Cling to the Rock
Psalm 18:1-2

Day 43 ~ South Coast Rock Tour

South Coast Rock Tour
~ Day 43 ~

Frankie…Free Parking…Rebecca.

The hot sun woke me up before my alarm went off. I have been going to bed earlier than my normal 2am drift and being mindful of not over exerting myself during the day to the point of exhaustion. Some days give a passing grade to this mindfulness, and other days receive a big F drawn boldly over the day’s page with a bright red crayon. Today’s exhaustion would be due to my lack of awareness to my surrounding… but God would place diamonds in the long, arduous detour.

This Wednesday started with normality… Normal slow waking up as I made my backseat bed, normal banana and V8 breakfast, normal grey metal bathroom, normal praying for God to lead me through the day. We started this day by going to the library. Thought I was there to write in the air-conditioned building, but God had other plans in the hot outdoor air. When I pulled into the lot, Tumbler veered into a parking space that was away from the crowded prime parking spaces. My Carhartt purse and laptop bag were grabbed and I went to open Tumbler’s door… that’s when I saw Frankie. He caught my eye immediately. Partially because he had a handsome, laid-back look about him, and more so because the Spirit nudged me saying, “Go talk to him.” And so, I put down my two bags, and walked over to his SUV that he was standing next to and organizing the inside of. “Hey man, you a traveler?” --- “Ha! In some ways, I am. In some ways, I wish I was more so. I travel around the area playing music.” I asked a few more questions, and Frankie told me how he had been successful in the corporate world but was never passionate about it. “I would crawl through the work day and couldn’t wait to get home to write songs and play my guitar. Eventually, it felt like I was suffocating in the office job and I decided to quit so that I could pursue my passion… music.” Frankie’s transition wasn’t easy. Many of his friends and family were not supportive. Frankie and I talked in length about how he has navigated playing gigs at bars and restaurants. He talked about how difficult it was to play his original songs, for establishments wanted to hear well-known cover songs. Frankie had stopped writing a year ago to focus on learning more cover songs. His acquired agents wanted to brand him differently than his natural brand. He left the corporate world to be free to live his dream, and now his dream was shifting back into a business. I encouraged him to continue to do what he loves, even if those around him weren’t cheering for him. Frankie was given a “Be Brave” rock. The two of us talked in the library parking lot for an hour. He was easy to converse with. We both agreed that God knew we would meet today and connect on a deep level. Our embrace was long and firm before we parted paths for the day. Frankie said he would start writing again. I may never see him again, but I will always be cheering for Frankie.

I finally went into the library, but couldn’t concentrate on writing. It was 10am and I wanted to hit the streets. When Tumbler’s door was opened, I let out a loud chuckle, because it was so apparent that the Spirit had me go to the library solely to make brief but lasting life-music with Frankie. Tumbler drove over the big bridge that led to the intercostal and the smell of the ocean came in through the open windows. Learning from yesterday, the closer one gets to Daytona Beach, the more expensive parking can get. So, when I saw a “Free Public Parking” are after crossing the bridge, Tumbler took an impulsive right into the lot. Patting his dash, I said, “Heck yeah, buddy… what a find!” As I put on my backpack, and started walking, I had no idea that this “free parking spot” would be paid for in a different way. Unbeknownst to me, Daytona Beach was over 6 miles away. I had parked in the north side of Ormond Beach. I had on a tank top, capris tethered up to my knees, and my sneakers with thin polka dot socks to my mid-calf. Oh, and a 50lb+ backpack full of rocks. The first hour went fine as I was jacked to get to the busy beach area. The second hour was more arduous. I would look ahead to slight bends in the road, thinking that around that curve would open up to Daytona. Each time the bend was rounded, the road would open up to no sight of the main buildings and tall rides. I stopped for a cold Gatorade and chugged a coconut water fruit drink. My packs straps were tightened and I was grateful that Ann’s rope held together the strap that had broken back in Jacksonville. After walking for 3 hours, my feet were on fire and my shoulders were screaming at me from the weight of my cargo. There was a vacant lot where a hotel had once been. I crossed the street and trudged through the desolate landscape. There was a 12ft cement wall that dropped to the sandy shore. If it had dropped directly to the ocean, I might have been tempted to drop my pack and do a cannon ball into the cold, blue waters.

Sweat drenched my clothes and my hair was snarled with sweat and the salty air. The ocean view was beautiful and I wanted to sit down and rest my body. To my right was a staircase from the torn-down hotel. Sitting on the bottom step, my shoes and hot socks were taken off with a deep sigh. “Wow, God. Didn’t see that coming when we parked. You’ve been so strategic in the parking placement, but this one has thrown me for a loop. But thank You for the exercise.” I looked down the long stretch of the beach to my right and saw the big yellow hotel that marked my starting point. It was a good 3 miles away. Then I looked down the beach to my right and saw the distinct long pier that marks Daytona Beach. That too, was a good 3 miles away. I was at the halfway point, and already super tired from walking with my rock-laden pack. Deciding to stay and chill on the gnarly stairs for a while, some rocks were pulled out and drawn on. This was a desolate part of the beach and only a few people walked by or rode their fat-tire bicycles on the white shore. I didn’t even hear Rebecca sit down on the top step of the staircase. My eyes lifted from the rock on my knee and did a slow panoramic sweep of the ocean and then saw the blond-haired lady above me. “Jeepers, you came in quietly! Aren’t these cool stairs? My name is Katie.” --- “You looked so content doing your art. I come to this spot every day since moving here. My name is Rebecca.” She was friendly, funny, and feisty… We gelled right away. She too, had been a traveler, and her last journey to destinations unknown had been for 2 years straight. Rebecca missed the freedom of not knowing where the next city-to-explore would be, but she had fallen in love with the beaches of this area. “Daytona is a sunny place that attracts shady people.” I struggled to swallow my mouthful of Gatorade before it was sprayed out from laughing at her synopsis statement. Rebecca loved adventure, loved her small cabin off the ocean, and loved this solitary cement staircase. When asked what word she needed, Rebecca said, “Peace”. In my pack, God conveniently had a rock with this word scribed on it. Our time together was one of the main reasons for the long walk that God knew would lead me to my first time at this oddly beautiful perch where Rebecca comes every day.

Rebecca left after we hugged, and more rocks were scribed. After a while, I called my strong and lovely sister, Courtney. Oh, how I love her so deeply. I can’t just hop on the four-wheeler and ride over to her house that is right next to my parent’s farm. We are states away, but hearing her voice made her feel close. Courtney is seven years younger than me, though she is probably the more mature one of us two sisters. She is the mother of Sawyer and Dani Joy, whom I love being an aunt to. She is an amazing mom… loving, engaging, protective, teachable, and affectionate. Courtney’s middle name is “Joy” and it’s a perfect description of the gift she is to me and so many others.

I bounced off my present situation with my younger, joy-full sister and asked Courtney what she would do: Walk the remaining 3 miles to Daytona Beach and deal with the 6-mile trip back later OR turn around now and walk the 3 miles back to Tumbler and drive to the downtown beach. The latter choice was chosen by Courtney, and I went with her wisdom. Instead of walking back to the sidewalk that runs along the busy ocean-side street, my shoes and socks were stuffed in my backpack and I took the beach back the 3 miles. My bare feet sunk in the sand with the weight of the rocks, but the scenery took my mind off the growing burn in my calves. I love the ocean, I love the purpose-full placement of people, I love this south coast journey, I love Jesus, my Rock.

The remainder of the afternoon and evening were spent in Daytona Beach. Rocks were handed out to people as well as left at random places to be found by people at the right time. I treated myself to a feast at Red Lobster (mainly because I was craving those cheddar and herb biscuits) and my waitress, Pam, was a meal in and of itself. Went to an AA meeting late in the evening and talked with two guys for an hour after. Most of the rocks that were made earlier in the day were handed out by the end of the evening. I was physically tired, but spiritually amped up. The next 3 days would be relaxing and mainly spent at the ocean with a dear friend. The speed of the day and the freedom of allowing the Spirit to guide the day would be slightly altered, yet I needed these next 3 days of rest and I love my friend, Cheryl, who would come join me on the journey.

In-joy the journey.
Even the delays and detours.
They often hold treasures in the midst.

Unshakable Peace and Purpose
Cling to the Rock
Psalm 18:1-2