How To Couchsurf and Put Your Life Together

I have officially couchsurfed while technically being homeless.  I wasn’t really homeless…but I didn’t have a home of my own.  I had just moved out to DC for my first job after college, and as I was trying to find my first apartment, I stayed with family friends.  My sister did a similar thing, but in NYC.  (Thank you to these amazing families!)  We had a choice…but not everyone does.

I’ve been working at Launch Ministry for 8 months now.  It’s been a long 8 months…so
many different stories, but many with similar themes.  Being homeless or having non-
permanent housing is generally part of their stories.  As we do not have any shelters in our immediate area (and don’t tell me “oh, they can just go into the city”…yeah – and how are they supposed to get to work/school without transportation as the buses aren’t when and where they need them???), most end up couchsurfing with friends, relatives, relatives of friends, and total strangers.  It’s part of their reality – their lives.  Perhaps it is part of your life.

And one recurring theme: burning bridges when couchsurfing.  So, here are a few guidelines for those couchsurfing…and wanting to stay friends with your host:

Guidelines for Successful Couchsurfing

  1. You are a guest, but it is not a hotel.  Keep your personal items in one, organized, small consolidated area and always clean up your trash.
  2. Always leave the space looking as if you are not staying there.  (Don’t leave clothes wherever they fall, clean up bathroom/kitchen immediately when done, etc.)
  3. Find ways to help your host – take out the trash, walk the dog, share food from a food shelf, clean (not just after yourself, but other things too!).
  4. Work everyday towards getting your own place to live – check apartment/room listings and contact every possible option, work overtime or a second job to save money, apply for housing programs, etc.
  5. If your host(s) say no drugs, alcohol, and smoking – then no drugs, alcohol or smoking.  This includes not “coming home” high or drunk.  No excuses.
  6. Do not invite friends over without prior approval from your host(s).  If approved, you are responsible for your guest’s behavior and cleaning up after them.
  7. Set a time limit for your stay with your host and stick to it.  Even if your host says “whenever”, keep it to no longer than a few weeks.  (You may be able to stay with them later…if you follow these rules.)

As the saying goes, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will make it.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Mother’s Day Sermon – Warning: Not Your Typical Mother’s Day Message

On Mother’s Day 2016 I had the unique blessing of preaching at my church, Grace-Trinity.  As I haven’t been blogging much (PTO volunteer and work duties are taking up quite a bit of time lately!), thought I would share!

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him.  A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes.  She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.  Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

 At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”  (Mark 5: 24b-34 CEB)


Happy Mother’s Day!  This week our daughter invited me to her preschool class’s mother’s Day Tea.  On the way into the event, our daughter clarified that it wasn’t a tea, but a party because we weren’t going to have tea, only juice.Mother's Day

It was a short and sweet affair, with the entire 5 year old class and their moms sitting
around small tables, the kids served us and then themselves angel food cake, brownies, strawberries and juice.  And after we were all finished, the kids lined up and sang a mother’s day rendition of “she’ll be coming over the mountain” and then passed out our gifts.  Our gifts were the same that the school has been doing for decades, decorated plates.

This was my 6th plate from my kids attending preschool, and my last.  One of those many small items – small moments – that a mother cherishes.  A heartfelt gift from their child – and also, being the last, a reminder that time moves on and we are entering another stage of growing up and mothering.

 

As mother’s we have a unique view into someone else’s life…these small beings grow and change right in front of us, and slowly move away.  Our memories are filled with various firsts – walking, going to kindergarten, and driving, while our hearts contain the sweet instances when they look at you and everything else falls away…and then a few minutes later find yourself infuriated with them.  Motherhood – constant movement.  Constant unpredictability.  And a constant roller coaster of feelings.

And that’s when everything goes right!

In it’s most purest form, we are given the image of Mary – the sweet young girl who accepts God’s gift and does everything right without yelling, or taking time for herself, or getting sick.  This image has morphed into the perfect modern mom who has a leadership role at work and volunteers for at least two organizations, a perfectly clean house, straight-A kids involved in multiple sports, and with ample time to work out and have drinks with friends.  Just as this modern image isn’t possible in reality, the image of a perfect Mary isn’t possible either.

I just image a young Jesus – a precocious boy who thinks nothing of wandering off in the big city as the rest of the clan is heading towards home.  And what about the questions he had for her?  And the ideas and observations?  He probably started talking in full paragraphs at just over a year and never stopped.   If Mary was that perfect mom, it was only because she knew who to turn to when things became hard.  When she wondered what was to happen to her son…as she watched him grow, be rejected, be loved…and be crucified.

 

Today I chose the story of the hemorrhaging woman – or perhaps we should call her the woman of faith – because her story parallels real motherhood.

We do not know much more of this woman’s story other than that she had been bleeding for 12 years.  The physical toll was not easy, but on top of this she was ostracized religiously and socially for being unclean.  We do not know how she survived daily – we can guess that she had a family who even at arm’s length, provided her with food and shelter.  She had tried everything – going to various healers and spending everything that she had.  Nothing worked.

How many times as mothers – as human beings – do we face something that sets us apart.  This thing may be ours, or our child’s, or our family’s.  It might not be something huge, something that literally keeps us physically separated from others, but maybe it is something that divides us from our faith, from our community in subtle ways – whatever the issue is, it makes us outsiders, makes us feel less-than, incapable, lost or different. 

Perhaps it is a mental or physical condition.  An addiction.  Abuse.  A hidden family or personal secret.  Perhaps it is being the black sheep of the family, or the one who tends to see things differently than others.  And perhaps it is just motherhood – trying to raise a child today in a time when we have no real clue on how to do it right.

We go and see therapists, join programs, find doctors, read books.  We do yoga, walk, write, golf, meditate.  We keep busy so we can’t think, or we mentally or emotionally check-out so we can’t be touched.

 

I wonder what this woman in Mark did.  Did she have a hobby?  Did she find a way to support herself, but who would buy something made by an unclean woman?  Did she sleep all the time, walk along the edges of town?  We know she went to healers…so what did they say and do?  Did they blame her lack of morality for her condition?  Her lack of faith? 

 

This woman had been wandering on the edges of society for 12 years.  And now she heard of this man, this teacher, this healer, Jesus.  Perhaps he could heal her.  She couldn’t approach him as she was unclean…and how many times had others backed away from her?  Would he back away too?  Would he say there was nothing he could do?  She had nothing to pay him, no social position to get his attention in the midst of the crowds.

But she had to try.  She knew things could be better.

So she blended in with the crowds, hoping to go unnoticed by those focused on Jesus.  Somehow she moved in between the people – brushing up against them and making them unclean.  If just one person recognized her, she would be called out and ridiculed.  Yet she kept moving.  Getting closer and closer to Jesus.

She had heard he was powerful, that he could heal.  He had even just drove demons out of a man across the lake!  He could heal her too…he had to.

She got closer to Jesus, and finally he was just feet away, she reached out and quickly touched the hem of his clothes…

 

Would you do the same?  Would you reach out and touch Jesus to be healed?

Have you?

Or are you, right now, coming here today…going to this church.

 

On your way here you walked through the crowds, seeking to be seen by God, to be healed by God.  You have reached out towards Christ and touched his clothes…

 

And the good news is…if you approach God…you will not be turned away.

 

On this mother’s day…a day when idealism and reality clashes in a multitude of ways…remember always that in the midst of your struggles to parent, your struggles to live as a parent of a child who has died, your struggles of illness or addiction, of nightmares and worry, you can turn to books and doctors, hobbies and busy schedules….but in the end, it is God, and only God, through Christ, that we will be healed.

Come now and look upon the works of the Lord,

What awesome things God has done on earth.

It is the Lord who Makes war to cease in all the world,

Who breaks the bow, and shatters the speak, and burns the shields with fire.

Silence the voices, ignore the crowds…and be still, and know that I am God.

Amen.

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