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10/22/13

Experiences of the Milky Way, Born-Again Christians, Indian Princesses, and Peacocks

I've written this text in 2003. I was reminded of it last night as I watched a documentary about African people.

[CLAUDIA, a petite Kenyan woman with funky, ‘tossed-salad’ hairdo sorts through several plastic bags containing children clothing donations. Her voice is mellifluous.]

1. Show Me a Way Out!

I’ll tell you, this! I’ll tell you this! That God’s love has followed me all my life in the most awful situations, even in the darkness of my life God has always followed me. Right! He was always there, whether or not I felt it, it was something different, but I tell you the first time my eyes really opened and I knew that there must be a God who is pursuing me, and that’s what I really believe, I really believe that God pursues us, okay? Is like it says in the Bible, you draw near Him and He’ll draw near to you, okay? First, you have to have that disposition of the heart, that’s my point. I just told you earlier on how, you know, I came here from Africa and I was pregnant with my second child, I was alone, I was going through a very, very hard time, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any job, it was just horrible, horrible time, and it was such a horrible time, that I actually considered giving up my child for adoption, because I didn’t know how else to take care of him and I could not go back to the relationship that I had before, it was not an option, so I was in a situation where I could not have that child, I didn’t have the emotional energy, the spiritual willingness, I didn’t have the financial, I didn’t even have a place to live, I told you I was living with people, moving from one place to another, so one day, [Beat.] still he wasn’t born, I had decided with the hospital staff that after he’s born, they gonna take him away, and just take him away because I didn’t need to see him, because I was gonna give him up. Everything had been prepared, all the documents were signed, and the people from the agency were gonna come and take him, so the Sunday that I was gonna be discharged from the hospital, I had never seen him. He was born two days before, I had not seen him, there was no need to see him, because he was going to be given up for adoption, and the people from the agency came to take him and I packed up my bags to leave and to go home. Then, inside my heart, I had a desperate need to see him for the last time, actually the first time, because I never seen him, I said to myself, Look, I will never see him again, let me at least see his face for the first time, for the last time, and then say goodbye; so I went up to the nursery where all the other babies were and there he was, and then, you know, say goodbye, so I went there, and as I was walking towards him, the first thing that came to my mind,--because it was time for feeding so all the mothers were there, nursing their babies,--the first thing that hit my heart and I felt my heart break was the fact that mine was the only child that was not being nursed by his mother. Every other baby that was born in the last two days had his mother nursing them and they were in the mother’s room and only my child was in the nursery by himself, because there was no mother to nurse him, so I walked into the nursery alone to say goodbye to my child who was alone because all the other children were with their mothers, and as I sat there to look at him and to hold him and somebody who… He will never know me! He will never know me, because I’m about to walk out the door and leave him, and I said, Oh, my God! How can I do this? But what else can I do? What choice do I have? And my heart broke and I fell on the floor and I was crying and I wasn’t even praying because there was no prayer, there was no strength in my heart, my heart broke, but the Holy Spirit knows what we feel and He intercedes on our behalf, even when we do not know how to pray, He prays because I know I was on my knees crying because I didn’t know what to do, it was very distracting, but what happened was that I sat there on my knees and I cried like I never cried before. The lady from the agency came and she said to me, It’s time to take him [Beat.] away. It’s time for you to go! [Beat.] So I held that child in my arms and I said to God, God, if You can show me what to do, I will keep my child, if You will help me raise him and show me how to do and give me a way to keep him, I will keep him and I will dedicate my life to You. ‘Cause I thought it was so impossible, how was I gonna do it? How was I gonna do it? I didn’t have anything! I didn’t even have a diaper! I didn’t even have a dollar in the bank account to buy a diaper! So I said to Him, Lord, I don’t wanna do this, this is my child, and if You show me how to just keep him, how to raise him, I will turn my life to You. And the lady who came to take him, who was from the adoption agency who saw me when I was on my knees, I was holding him and crying, and she shut the door and said to me, Listen, I’m not supposed to do this, if they found out that I’m doing this, I will get into a lot of trouble, they would fire me, but I have seen you and I can see how your heart is breaking and I know that if you leave this child here your life will never be again the same, so I’m going to say this to you: if you want, you can come and stay with me. I will give you two months of my life, you come and stay with me and figure out what to do and you will not have to pay for anything, I will buy everything that you need, you just come and rest for awhile, and—she’s not a Christian, actually, she was actually recovering from a thirteen year drug addiction, she didn’t even know Christ, but God uses whoever he wants to, He doesn’t need you to be a Christian.--And she said, Don’t tell anybody and if you want you can move in tonight, you can take your baby and you can move in tonight!
You tell me if ever I doubted God’s provision, God’s love, you tell me what that was! You tell me what that was?! If that was not God directly answering a prayer. That night I moved into her house with my child, she bought a crib, she had gone to K-Mart, she bought clothes, she bought diapers, she bought Baby Formula, she bought baby food, she bought everything that I needed, even a crib, to sleep on and I stayed with her for the next 2 months while I rested, 'cause I needed to rest. I was physically tired and I rested and I made arrangements to come to New Jersey and live with some people that I knew here. So… That has definitely been the most dramatic ways in which God has shown Himself. And every time I’m in a situation that causes me to doubt a little bit, God reminds me, Are you forgetting three years ago? In the hospital nursery what happen? Are you forgetting that? And then I have to remind myself, Don’t be silly, woman, look how far God has brought you. How can you doubt that He will put food on your table, or that He will find you a place to stay and how can you doubt that He will take care of this little need? Look at where you were! Even if you came to America pregnant and alone.--I came to this country with 600 dollars in my pocket, that is all I had.--So, God’ faithfulness I had never questioned. God’s provision, never for one minute!

2. Dear-God Letters

I always wanted to be a writer but I didn’t have the knowledge to write, but what I did by myself, in my own personal time, I wrote Dear-God letters. Every night I wrote Dear-God letters. Put them in an envelope, I sealed them and I put them away. Two weeks ago I was opening up all my old letters, all my Dear-God letters, three years ago, two years ago, reading them, I came across this one letter that I had written October 21st, 2000, that was a few months after my child was born, and a few months after I moved to New Jersey, and I was praying in that letter, Oh, God, I’m so desperate, I don’t know what to do. I miss my son,--my oldest son whom I haven’t seen for two years or something, 'cause I had left him back home hoping that things will get better and then send for him,--don’t know what to do, Lord, my child, he stopped asking me when he’s gonna come, Mommy when am I gonna come? He must think that I’m lying to him or that I don’t want him anymore because I always tell him, Soon! Soon! but soon never comes so I don’t even know if he’s loving me. My heart is breaking because I want him to come here with me, Lord, I don’t have enough money, how am I gonna take care of two children?! But despite all these things, I know, Lord, and I’m believing that one of these days my oldest son Paul will come here and that You will open the door and he will join me and everything will be okay and I will have a job, a good job to take care of them and not only that, Lord, I’m trusting that You’ll find me a good place to live and I said, I like Montclair, I’d like to live in Montclair [Laughter.] I would like to live in Montclair, I’ve been driving around the neighborhoods in New Jersey and I like Montclair, Lord, I’d like to live there. Won’t you, please, find me a place to stay in Montclair? [Laughter.] And Lord, if I am at it, just stretch it a little more, something else too: I don’t just want that, because after all You’re not just My Father, You’re the Almighty King of the Universe, You created everything that we see with our naked eye belongs to You, so I’m not gonna ask You for the least, I’m gonna ask You for the most, so I don’t want just that, I want more, I want my son to come here, I want a good job with benefits, and I wanna be able to live in a nice place, and I like Montclair, so could you find me a place to live in Montclair? Also, while you’re working at that, [Laughter.] I need a good car so that I can drive my children up and down, because we can not always be taking the bus in the snow and the winters are harsh, and the baby is little and I have to bundle him like seven layers of clothes before we can go to the park! So you need to find me a good car, God, that works and I can travel around, different places? And I prayed for the car and guess what? I didn’t stop there, and I said, And I want a good man! I want a Christian man and you know how I know he’ll be a good man, Lord? Because he would love my children as if they were his own and he would not judge me for whatever mistakes that I made before, he will take me as I am and he will love me and my children and we shall be a family. That’s what I want.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand! It is now June 8th 2003 and I’m happy to report that every one of those things that I cried out to God for, each single one of them even the, not just the apartment in Montclair, the house in Montclair, He wrapped it up in a wonderful gift box and a ribbon and gave it to me. And the man is wonderful. Sometimes I say to him, Are you sure you don’t want to leave? [Laughter.] I had said to him, you know, you could,-- ‘cause sometimes God’s goodness is so overwhelming, sometimes even I’m afraid, I’m like, Whyyyyy? I forget that I’m the one that I’ve asked God to give me this and then when God gives me, I’m so overwhelmed that I’m like Oh, my goodness! And I say to my man, You can have any wonderful girl, single girl with no children, no burdens, you don’t feel… He says, I don’t have to be where I don’t want to be, I’m here because I want to be here. I’m free to do what I want, and I want to be here. So again I go back to God, never shift the focus from God to the person or the situation and say, Oh, this is so wonderful! No, God is so wonderful, 'cause He is the one who so richly provided everything that He has given you, everything that we have, everything that we are, are God’s gift to us.
He is so wonderful.

3. The God Of Bouncing Checks

I don’t know how other people pray, but I’m a very demanding person.
When God allows you to go through a hard time, you think it’s getting even worse, because sometimes you can’t bear it anymore and you think, Oh, Lord, what are You doing? Can’t You see? Can’t You see I have no money? Even to feed the children, can’t You see? But He can see! He needs for you to see, how can I say… I guess He just needs you to trust Him to a point where He can trust you with the things that He’s gonna give you, or the experience He’s gonna share with you, whatever it is. I think sometimes we are too self-centered. We focus very much on the problem or whatever it is we’re going through, it could never, ever, ever! compared with what Christ went through for us on the cross! [Beat.]
I fight with God! I do! I sit and talk to Him as if He was right here with me and I tell Him, Look! God, I will not allow You not to do this or whatever, I fight with Him a lot and I tell Him, God, my bank account is, is over drafted, what You gonna do about it? What You expect me to? And I tell Him, These children are Your children! Why have You given them to me? What are You thinking about that? There is no food in the fridge!--I make it very personal.--I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna accept this God! I don’t know what are You trying to show me, but I need some food in the fridge, can You make available some food in the fridge right now? I don’t want; I don’t want to deal with this! I don’t!
I give you an example: three weeks ago, or four weeks ago, I was so financially struck, I had no money and I had written checks I knew they gonna bounce, I knew they gonna bounce! But I knew! I knew! Because if I didn’t write them at that time, because I was gonna see the doctor and if I didn’t write the check, the doctor wouldn’t see me. But I didn’t have any money, but I said to myself, okay, I’ll write the check and then I’ll figure out how the money is gonna get into the bank account, but for now I’ll just write the check so that I can see the doctor. So I wrote checks and there was no money, and I knew they gonna bounce, I knew, so now, when Monday came, 'cause this was the week before, so Monday came and I said, Oh, my goodness what am I gonna do? Let me call the bank manager, let me talk to her, maybe she will let these checks pass if I tell her that I’m paid on Thursday so she can take the money right back. I call the bank manager, she said, No, we can’t do that. So when she said no, I went to the ladies’ room, in the bathroom and I said, God, Lord, You are not gonna leave me on my own! Every one of those checks that I wrote, I wrote them because there was need. I didn’t write them to go shopping, to buy shoes or clothes or make-up or anything silly. I bought beds,--that was when I was moving to Montclair,--I bought beds for my children to sleep on; I bought food for them to eat; I went to see the doctor and I paid the doctor’s fees; there was real need! And I don’t know what You gonna do Lord, but You gonna fix this problem, You have to! Because I need the money and these are Your children and You gave them to me, so You figure out how You gonna, You can’t leave me on my own! And if You gonna tell me in the Bible to be anxious over nothing but thanksgiving and whatever, make your requests known to God, I’m making these requests known to You! So You better fix it! Because if You don’t fix it, how You gonna tell me not to be anxious, or not to worry, if I come to You, and You don’t fix it? So You better fix it! And I don’t know, I don’t care! But I’m not gonna think about it because I can’t fix it, so You fix it!
And I dried my tears and I went back to work.
And I said to myself, I’m gonna go to the bank and I’m gonna see the bank manager, she wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, I’m gonna see her! Maybe she sees my face and I sit down and I try to reason with her, and maybe she’ll have a heart, so at lunch time I go to the bank, and I sit down and I talk to the lady and she said, You know what? That’s not my department, let me refer you to my boss. So she refers me to her boss and I go and see the operational manager and she sits and she tells me, You know, Claudia, we can’t do that, we can’t let your checks go through, that’s not the bank policy, but you know what? Hold on, one second, there might me something I might be able to do, hold on one second, just let me figure out, just hold on one second. Sit right here and I’ll be back. She goes, she does and she’s busy, she’s busy, she comes back, she says Okay, I have a solution: the bank is gonna give you a permanent overdraft line of credit,--so much money, she tells me,--so from now on, even if you overdraw your account, we gonna give you an overdraft facility protection of so much money, so you never have to worry about overwriting your account ‘cause the bank will pay for you and then when you get paid, you just put it right back, but we’ll charge you interest for it.
So not only did He sort out those checks but it has been helping me even till now, because even now the overdraft facility is permanent, so even if in future I ever overwrite my account, so God not only took care of that need for those checks, but He saw that this might happen again, or whatever, I don’t know, but it is a solution that He has provided in a most unexpected way that I was not expecting for Him to. I was only asking for the bank to allow $80 and they gave me hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in overdraft protection. So, who says God is not interested in every detail?
The way I pray, the way I talk to God, I’m very specific with Him. I tell Him, Lord, this is what I want, not blue, not green, orange, you know? Other people say, Oh, Lord, whatever you want. I say that too, but I also say, I want him to be six foot two inches, I want him to be like this, but it’s oooookaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! if Your will, but I would prefer, you know, but whatever You want, but I would prefer, and I tell Him my preferences.
I tell you what: there are times that I thought, my goodness, I prayed for so long, God doesn’t listen to me anymore, but God is never late. He is never early, but He is never late, He’s always on time, so when His timing is right, He will give you your heart’s desire, but you first must look to Him, you must first… I guess He wants us first to need Him for Himself, not for the things that He can give us, this has been my experience. So.

 
 
Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being some of them, I’d be grateful.


New York
October 22, 2013

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