A Walk in the Park

On Saturday my friend and I took “a walk in the park”.  Both of us received an invitation to do outreach in Kosciuszko Park on the Southside of Milwaukee.  This is an area that has a little more diversity than other parts of Milwaukee but consists of many Spanish-speaking immigrants.  The two of us decided to go, backpacks full of tracts and pens, and hang out with people in the park.  There was an outreach set up with music, a food truck, and multiple churches.  We both share a heart for youth and decided to stray over to the playground and play with the children.

Children were walking up to us and wanting to play when we noticed a teenager sitting by herself.  The two of us decided to go visit with this girl, who we learned was a teenager, and watching her friends play at the park.  The three of us were sitting when a surprising incident broke out.  A man high on drugs decided to expose himself and masturbate on the grass right next to the playground and right behind us!  Many of the adults started to freak out, grab their children, and call the police.  One African-American young man, a friend of the girl’s, ran into the situation and started to beat the man.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe African-American young man beat the man who did drugs then let him loose to run off.  The young man stated he wanted to kill the man but he was learning to control his anger so he let him go.  This young man was at the playground with his daughter to play.  When he saw a situation arise, he handled it to protect the safety of his daughter.  He also knew the reality of the South Side – this was going to be low on the police’s priority list.  This young man stayed at the playground for two hours after everyone else left while we waited on the police and sat talking with my friend and I.  We had the privilege of meeting his daughter, mother, and brother.

We learned the story of a young man striving to raise a daughter on his own.  A man trying to overcome the bad influences of his childhood.  One who was trying to overcome a history of violence and was working third shift so he could show his daughter the value of hard work.  We watched when the police showed up two hours later and he respectfully approached them and explained what happened.  He shook their hands and told them they could call him with any questions.  This young man was an example of working hard to be the best in your current environment.

So many times we hear the story of “bad” young black men and bad instances with cops.  It is important to recognize that you need to judge EACH person on an individual basis.  For every story of a young black man being shot by the police or hurting others, there is a story of a young black man who sits waiting in the park to talk to the police so they can work together to make a safer place.  For every cop that shoots a young black man, there is a cop who shakes that young man’s hand and thanks him for helping in a situation.  Needless to say, my friend and I were very blessed to get to know this young man, his friend, and family.

Drunk in the Holy Spirit

Probably not the title you expected to see on my blog! Despite what you are thinking, this is not an anti- or pro- drinking post. I actually stay in the gray area on the issue. Getting drunk is definitely not okay but the Bible also does not say it is wrong to have some alcohol. Personally, I do not drink alcohol but many of my friends enjoy the occasional glass of wine. This is a personal choice that you should seek God’s guidance and what He is telling you specifically.

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The other day I was with three of my closest friends at Applebee’s around midnight. We were celebrating one of my friends leaving to live with a host family in Russia for a couple of months. It was interesting because this verse came to mind.

“Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit..”

– Ephesians 5:18

All around people were drunk but we were the ones that people were looking at. All three of us were laughing at the most ridiculous things. The funny thing is none of us had any alcohol. It was actually a Wednesday night and we had come from church. Everywhere we go an adventure ensues. All four of us were homeschooled during our lives and I believe that has bonded us for life.

I personally believe that it has also led us to find joy in the simpler things in life. We can turn going to Culver’s for custard into a nighttime picnic sitting in the grass outside of the restaurant. A surprise birthday picnic in the cold became a walk by Lake Michigan with blankets wrapped around us. A night at Applebee’s turns into making up the most ridiculous stories about what could happen while one of us is in Russia.

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I say all of this simply because I hope that people see the four of us together and think “Wow, those girls are so happy.” I hope they see that we are filled with the Spirit and that brings us joy. Our lives are definitely not always easy but we have the hope of Jesus. That gives us the opportunity to enjoy life together. My hope for everyone is they can have a group of girls like my friends. Ones they can visit with weekly and find joy in the simple things God has given. I hope you get “drunk in the Spirit” with your friends. I hope you have late night conversations with special people who pray with you and encourage you. If you do not have that group, search and try to find one at your local church or school.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

– Romans 15:13

Weekend Wanderer: KY Edition

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In case you haven’t noticed, ADVENTURE is my middle name.  Well, not really, but you catch my drift.  The title of my blog is God’s GYPSY.  I did my longest solo road trip this weekend from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a teeny, tiny town called Mount Vernon, Kentucky.  I am a child of the Appalachia and went for a visit to my grandparents for the weekend.  The best way to entertain oneself on a solo road trip is: a) Be an INTROVERT (It helps A LOT); b) Take the plunge and invest in APPLE MUSIC.  So I was all geared up for the trip rolled down my windows on the interstate, opened my sunroof, and blasted some tunes.

The journey through downtown Chicago, downtown Indianapolis, downtown Louisville, and downtown Lexington only took about 8 1/2 hours.  Travel Pro Tip: INVEST in an IPASS – I got one a year ago and it has saved me TIME & MONEY.  I was lovingly greeted by an adorable little angel, my grandmother, and a puppy dog.  For half of my 36 hours in Kentucky I had the joy of assisting in caring for a 3 year old cousin my grandmother is taking care of.  Definitely a preparation step for motherhood!  Nothing like having someone want your constant attention but all of the hugs and “I yove you” made it worthwhile! (Plus if you know me I will NEVER pass the opportunity to assist with the kiddos).

The main reason (besides visiting family) for coming to visit Kentucky was for an Asbury University Masters of Social Work program reunion.  Those two years flew by so fast and this was my first time back to visit!  I’m totally going to promo right now and let y’all know it is still the best Christian MSW program in the country (You can even check US News if y’all don’t believe me).  A great time was had by all and I enjoyed catching up with the head of the program/my favorite professor I ever had:)

asburySince I had some downtime before another visit with a Kentucky acquaintance, I decided to visit some of my old stomping grounds.  First, I visited the Asbury campus.  There I found the Wilmore water tower with the cross still attached.  Freedom from Religion in WiWisconsin actually spent a significant amount of time and effort trying to sue the city and detach the cross from the water tower.  Justice prevailed and the cross still remains.  Seriously though – we always called Wilmore “the Holy city”.  Why on earth would you waste your time trying to take a cross off the water tower?  They must have missed the sign at the entrance of Wilmore that says “Welcome to Wilmore, Jesus loves you” lol!

My next stop was to a place just outside of Wilmore called High Bridge.  This was a quiet spot for myself and some friends when we wanted to have some space, go write or talk to God.  High Bridge got it’s name because of the train trestle.  For those of you engineer and train enthusiasts, it was the first cantilever bridge in the United States.  Those of us who do not know that much about train trestles – it is an opportunity to learn and has a beautiful view!  Everyone has to appreciate the cool scenic outlook area where you can see the Kentucky and Dix River converge.

After a poignant trip down memory lane, I ended up on the back porch of the director/founder of my old job’s home.  Once upon a time I worked at a place called All God’s Children, Inc. where I had the privilege of becoming a vampire and spending half of my night’s awake caring for teenage mothers and their babies.  The memories of each precious (and precocious) child combined with the need in Milwaukee are what led me to the start of forming my own home for teen moms, as well as to the doorstep of Pam Smith’s home.  We spent two hours (along with her wonderful daughter) discussing our passion for teenage mothers and the desire to see the improved lives of mother and baby.  It is rejuvenating and encouraging to get to learn from someone who has been exactly where you are at now!  More details to come on Hadassah House (that will be the name of the home) in the near future!

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The conclusion of my trip was lots of pit stops because 18 hours in a car alone in one weekend is a LONG time.  There were fuel (gas was only 1.93 in Kentucky!), Starbucks, taco, family, and fuel stops.  One of my all-time favorite taco places is Bakersfield Mass Ave and they have a location in downtown Indianapolis (if your in a hurry, you can get tacos to go!).  I was able to run in and grab tacos al pastor and a bistec taco.  My uncle (who is a chef and lives in Houston) agrees that these are better than almost any others he has had!  They are easily as good as the ones I had in Mexico.  A different set of grandparents live right outside of downtown Indy and I got to sit on the porch and talk with them, my uncles, and cousins.  I thought I’d surprise them but the surprise was on me when my uncle and two cousins were there visiting from Houston!  Needless to say this gypsy’s solo road trip weekend was a success and I am looking forward to next weekend’s overnighter to Chicago.

An Actress, a Chef, and a Social Worker Drive to Toronto

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An actress, a chef, and a social worker drive to Toronto…  No, we actually really did!  Recently I was talking to a friend about my vacation.  She observed that our vacationing group was very unique.  I suppose that is an interesting combination of individuals.  Whenever we are together an adventure ensues.  This past weekend we actually explored an art gallery within our own hometown (David Barnett Art Gallery) and ended up spending three hours exploring every inch of the mansion and it’s art.  The owner, David,  gave us the grand tour.  We discussed everything from how to hang pictures without nails to how to exterminate bugs from an art sculpture.  Needless to say whenever we are together it is a new experience!  I could not have picked a better pair of people to go visit a new country with.

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We visited London, Ontario; Toronto; and Niagara Falls (in the States and Canada).  For under $500.00 a person we were able to vacation in Toronto.  The drive from Milwaukee to Toronto was only around 10 hours and it was a great time to catch up on the latest happenings.  We made a pit stop in London, Ontario where we explored the downtown and discovered almost everything closes around 6 p.m. in London.  The conclusion of our day was at a sleek Air BnB condo in the suburbs of Toronto.  This became the place we fondly referred to as “home” for the duration of our stay.

Our first day had to be devoted to Niagara Falls.  Our pastor suggested we go during the week to avoid all of the weekend tourists.  He was absolutely right and we found there was plenty of space during this time.  Perhaps our biggest disappointment was seeing that only a street was really devoted to Niagara in Canada.  Our spirits immediately lifted when we crossed the border into New York and discovered a beautiful state park built around Niagara Falls.  DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT IF YOU VISIT NIAGARA SO YOU CAN SEE THE BEAUTIFUL VIEW IN CANADA AND EXPLORE THE PARK IN NEW YORK.  Also, buy gas while you are in New York.  The prices for gas in Canada was atrocious.

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Thankfully we spent the rest of our vacation within the city of Toronto so we were able to navigate our gas to only buying one tank!  One of the best investments we made was a CityPass.  For around 87 Canadian dollars we were able to visit a number of Toronto Tourist attractions.  Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto, the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and the Royal Museum of Ontario were our attractions of choice.  Casa Loma was my favorite with it’s sprawling rooms, secret tunnels, and beautiful ballroom.  The view from the CN Tower was incredible.  If you are exceptionally brave, you can step onto the glass and view the tiny cars and crowds below.

Another exceptionally unique area of Toronto is the Path.  It is the world’s largest underground mall as well as Toronto’s best kept secret.  Our first warning came when we were in Chinatown and when we asked for directions the local said she had no clue how to find the entrance to the path.  It turns out there are many little signs that guide you.  However, they are very hard to find.  We ended up exploring an underground mall after all the shops were closed.  It felt like we were in the apocalypse a little bit…  We did end up going back during the day and found a bustling area of people.  BRING A PAPER MAP OR YOU WILL SPEND HOURS TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT TUNNELS TO GET IN AND OUT OF THE PATH.  I, personally, felt a little like we were on the Amazing Race so I enjoyed the exploration.  However, if you are on a time crunch, bring that map.

Our visit to my second foreign country was exciting, adventurous, and unique.  Every bit of it was enjoyable – from the late mornings sipping coffee and eating eggs together to the evenings researching fun facts of Toronto.  There is nothing quite like going on an adventure with friends – whether it be local or far away.  A couple of side notes would be: Toronto is very eco-friendly (BE PREPARED TO SEARCH FOR PARKING AND BUY GROCERY BAGS), St. James Cathedral in Toronto is a beautiful place for a Sunday morning service (the pastor is super friendly and all the parishioners will tell you the amazing history of the church – including how the Queen visited), and everything closes EARLY (please let us know if you find places open at night and have people inside).  This is what happens when an actress, a chef, and a social worker explore Toronto together:)

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