Mrs. Crabface and Rainbows


 I am not particularly fond of the puppy when it begins barking at four in the morning to let me know he has to pee and poop. I'm pretty sure the first coherent thoughts that circle through my brain are rather sinful. But I do get up, and I think that's the important part of the story.

Hugo (the puppy) is a little fluffy sweater pup. He can barely wag his tail and remain standing on all fours. At four in the morning, this adorable sight is enough to cause me to murder. I snatch him up, place him on his pad and say, "Go poop." He just blinks at me, lays down on the pad and sighs. "Poop!" I demand. He blinks again.

So I sit down in front of the space heater and wait. This is when rather strange things come to mind. I suddenly remember my mother looking at me and saying, "You know, it's really a miracle you didn't end up brain damaged!"

....Thanks mom.

You see, I was a preemie, and apparently in so much distress that I was born black (more like a deep, DEEP purple). My mom had been telling this story when it appeared she suddenly realized I should have been brain damaged from this. "But I wonder," I say to Hugo who is still laying on the pad, "if she really is surprised."

I am now wondering if my mom was crossing her fingers, ever vigilant to mark off my milestones as I grew, paranoid that if I didn't accomplish them, the proof of brain damage would be evident. So the first time I rolled over, I imagine her jumping up and down, pumping a fist in the air. The first time I peed in the toilet, she would have been doing a touchdown dance like running back Ahman Green in 2004. When I figured out how to count to 100 (with the help of my Uncle Matt) and understood my left from my right (thanks to Aunt Angie) my mom was down on her knees thanking the Lord that all of my brain seemed to be functioning just fine.

So far.

In second grade, I think my poor mama had her first panic attack. My teacher, who my mom dubbed Mrs. Crabface, told my mom I probably wouldn't succeed very far (who says something like that?). Hence, the reason my mom didn't like her. But here's the deal: IT WASN'T MY FAULT!! "It was the rainbows," I tell Hugo, who still lays on the pee pad. He blinks and lets out a harrumph. 

Remember when the teacher used to pass out the blank writing paper and tell you to number it 1-10 for you spelling test? Then she would call out the first word and use it in a sentence and you would write the word? Yeah? Well, I had managed to write my name and number my paper before I sat quietly, patiently waiting for Mrs. Crabface to say the first word. As I waited, I noticed the rainbows hanging from the ceiling. The next thing I know, the kids are passing their finished tests forward. I panicked. What in the world just happened?! She never said a word!!! But the other kid's tests were completed. SERIOUSLY!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!


So I swallowed back my panic and passed my test in with the others. At recess she called me in and asked why I didn't fill in my test. I just stared at her. How was I supposed to explain that the entire universe transported me out of the classroom during the test; that all of time halted for me while it went on for others; that I had NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED except that I was admiring the rainbows?

So I shrugged my shoulders and mumbled something akin to, "I don't know, please don't paddle me (because there WAS a paddle)." I guess that's about the time she had a meeting with my mom.

Poor mom.

"But look at me now, Hugo. I'm thirty years-old and...rocking it."

Hugo poops, turns around and immedetly tries to eat it. "No! We don't EAT poop!" I pick him up, get toilet paper and dispose of his poop. "Who is the brain damaged one here??"

The thirty year-old woman talking to her dog at four in the morning, picking up his poop, and thinking about those dang rainbows, you might ask?

XP (that's my sticking my tongue out at you).

Pffft. I'm artistic. I like rainbows hanging from ceilings. So what?

Sigh.

Sorry mom.



PS: No, I didn't not actually sit and talk with Hugo about all of this. Only some of it. Most of this went through my mind after I crawled back to bed and couldn't go to sleep. Also, yes. I did in fact google to find a good football player reference for touchdown dance. I have no idea, whatsoever, what he did in 2004. I bet he has some brain damage though.

PSS: Yes, I do tell this story often. It still makes me mad...and puzzles the heck out of me. WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED?!?!?!

~Gia
0

Blessed Are Those Who...Barely Keep It Together



I have this bizarre theory about why Eve may have been so easily swayed by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. I mean, she had EVERYTHING! She had the perfect partner, all of her needs met, was basically queen of absolutely everything, AND she got to literally walk with God. She SAW her creator. There is no reason she should not have trusted and believed every single word He said. Right? But instead, she threw that all away and listened to a serpent.

But I think that Eve needed to be lost and then rescued. That's what I believe. Because as crazy as it might sound, I think we as humans and children of the Lord need to be rescued by Him. Growing up, it is easy (for those of us/you blessed with fathers that loved us) to believe our daddy will scoop us up when we were in danger, bandage up a scrapped knee when we fell down, or discipline us when we blatantly disobeyed, but lovingly restore us by holding us and wiping away the tears. He might whisper, "It's okay, baby girl. I love you. I forgive you. I'm still here." And something about the affectionate physical hold and those words...bonded us to our daddies all the more.

Here is the thing, in scripture, anyone worth their salt suffered--they didn't have an easy path. Some of them fell into sin, like King David, and others had misery inflected on them by Satan (like Job). Women that did great things for the Lord didn't have it easy, either. They had to walk in faith and courage and simply trust that God had their back--like Esther as she stood up to Haman, or Rahab as she tossed her scarlet cord out the window and waited to be rescued.

So I am a believer in suffering, in falling far from what you were meant to be simply to be rescued and restored, and/or facing a scary road and mustering for all the faith and courage you have even when there is no certainty that God is behind you. I believe that even the most fallen woman will see all the more just how amazing her Heavenly Father is and HOW GREAT HIS LOVE FOR HER is when she finally allows Him to rescue her.

When Eve's eyes were open to the good and the bad, it hurt. She was cast out of her home and had to face the payment of her disbelief. She worked hard just to stay alive. Seems pretty bad, right? But yet, God didn't reject her. He still loved her. He was there--just not literally walking beside her as He had before. Instead, faith was born. She had to believe that He WAS still there. When Eve's eyes were open, she saw the true heart of a father that will never turn His back on you even when you fail Him. Eve...grew up.

When storms come your way, hold on tight and smile at the ominous clouds about to swallow you up. Because each storm makes a more beautiful son or daughter in the end. You may not always feel God's presence, or even be certain His eyes are upon you at all, but He has promised never to forsake you. He IS there. And not only is He there, but He knows and trusts that the storm (or your mess up) is going to make you shine all the more.

Easier said that done. I know...

But a true story, none-the-less.

Trust that you are worthy of the magnitiude of the storm before you...and that you are strong and capable of hanging on...and being a superhero when the storm is at your back. ;P If you're barely holding it together, believe that you are about to become something strong.

"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." 
~Deuteronomy 31:8



~One Storm-Battered Gia


1

Holding the Wounded



Last night, I came home, saw my husband waiting at the door and all I wanted was for him to wrap me up in his arms. I realized how incredibly blessed I am to have him, loving and taking care of me. I am blessed that my children were warm and safe in their beds...

Truthfully, I figured that my mother-in-law was exaggerating about the illegal acts going on inside the strip bars. Last time I went, I came home with a smile because I was able to share Jesus and didn't see anything but topless ladies walking back and forth from the dressing room. In my mind, I could handle seeing that and maintain my composure and witness. It never occured to me that much worse was happening behind me on the stage...

People outside the ministry have told me that the ladies are going to be put off by Christian women walking in to be a friend to them. I haven't seen this at all. Last night, I walked into the club and found a single dancer at the bar with her drink, tears in her eyes. A half hour later, I turned around and found another dancer (fully clothed and off duty because she was a day dancer) with two drinks, a cigarette and tears pouring down her cheeks. These are not prideful women that enjoy what they do. If you think that, you've not visited any of the clubs I've been in. These aren't glamorous locations with flashy lights and rich business men. These are places where they girls' nails are chipped, they've had a baby or two (or nine) and not a single person acknowledges state laws and regulations.

Indiana has some strict laws and regulations regarding the adult entertainment industry. It is illegal for women to not wear pasties or bandaids. If the girls are wearing a g-string, they must wear a mesh stocking (or something or another) over it. There is never to be any touching whatsoever, let alone blantant sex acts being preformed on stage or in a private room. In the three clubs I've gone in, there were no pasties or mesh stockings....and I will refrain from explaining how the no-touching rule was way more than disregarded.

The hardest part was when I was talking to a lone dancer when we first walked in. She was at the bar drinking, wrapped up in a winter coat. She was awkward. She didn't look like what you envision a dancer looking like. She looked...run down. Or beaten down. She kept ducking her head during our conversation, as if she were ashamed. She didn't meet my eyes until I started telling her funny stories and making her giggle. I acted like she was fully dressed like me and that we were old friends. I told her and the awesome bartender the story about the lady busting into my house. They burst out laughing when I said I made her coffee and held her hand...

But suddenly, her smile was gone and she ducked her head again. Her eyes were sad when she said, "Sorry...I...I have to go...make money." A man had walked in and taken a seat right up at the stage. She took off her coat, picked her song...and stepped up to the pole. I looked away. But the next time I glanced up the man was performing a sex act on her. My heart plummeted. I turned around in my seat and looked at Deborah and the bartender (the bartender can't see anything from her location). Other men started coming in to the club and sitting at tables...and this was happening right in the middle of the club...right on the stage. No one cared. It was normal. There was no shame.

It took me about fifteen minutes to snap out of the funk I was in after seeing this. I was speechless and blinking a lot to try to keep my tears at bay. I had just talked with her. I knew she couldn't be enjoying what was happening to her. Truthfully, I wanted to go rescue her. Instead, I ordered a bottle of water and sat at the bar taking the cap on and off and pretending to sip from it. It was awful. I kept crossing and uncrossing my legs...all antsy. Thankfully, the drunk dancer beside me took my mind off everything. I had the opportunity to hold her hand while she cried and spontaneously started laughing and telling me jokes. She was drunk because her husband was so mean to her, she explained. At one point, she blinked and said, "Do you work here? You're beautiful!" I tried not to be offended because, so far, all the dancers just looked worn out and a mess. But I smiled and said, "No, I don't, but thank you." She glanced over me and giggled, "Ah, yes! You have your clothes on, don't you?" Later she would look at me with dazzled eyes and say, "I love your hair! How do you get it to stand up like that?" I winked at her and said, "Believe it or not, it just grows straight out my head like this." She burst into happy giggles and I laughed with her. Five minutes later, she was in our arms sobbing as we prayed with her right there at the bar.

The thing is, these women don't belong to anyone. They were abused as children and got hooked up with the wrong man. They all have the same story. In one club, there is a grandma that has danced all her life and still dances. At one point, she stripped with two of her daughters. In another club, a mother sits at table and orders one drink after the other and watches her daughter take off her clothes on the stage. When asked why, she says, "I have to make sure no one hurts her." She cries into her empty beer glasses...her eyes always on her daughter.

When I put on my coat and gathered my things to leave, the bartender followed me to the door and held my in her arms. "It was so nice to meet you," she said close to my ear. "These girls need women like you. It means so much to them that you ladies come here."

At home, I let a few tears escape. I shared with Roger who I thought was going to cry. It's very, very hard for him to let me go, but he does because he knows I'm built for work like this. You see, most of these girls still have the dreams they had as children. They want to be a nurse, or a mommy... but not me. I wanted to grow up and me Maverick from Top Gun. ;P I wanted to be a fearless fighter...a hero.

We live in a country that proudly flaunts our freedom. We are foolish. I was foolish. These women don't want to be there, but because of the cycle of abuse and the way they were made to feel worthless as little girls, they are trapped in bondage and slaves to sex, drugs and more abuse. It isn't as simple as deciding not to strip anymore or be pimped out. The key is proving to them that they are worth something...that they are beautiful and invaluable. The key is walking in to the most wretched of places and holding their hand before and after they dance and are molested. The key is knowing what is really happening and becoming impassioned to pray and support in however God directs you. But it takes more than just saying 'no'.

"Please pray that a good man comes in here and helps me get out of this place," a dancer said as I was leaving. I nodded and said I would be praying. What I wanted to say was, "I'll do whatever I can to get you out of here. Just give me the time."

Please pray for me and the ministry. Pray for these girls. Some of the clubs have been shut down, and as a result, we are not welcome at a few particular clubs. Last night we were asked to leave at one, but not before I was able to give a free photo session away to a stripper who has a grandchild with a life-threatening disease. It blessed and surprised her. When we left, I walked straight up to the giant dude who said we weren't welcome to stay. I held out my hand to shake his and smiled, looked right in his eyes, "I'm Gia...and I really appreciate you letting us come in for a moment and love on these ladies." I could see the shame wash over him. He cut his eyes away and said softly, "Aw...it's okay."

So, I would be so blessed by your prayers. Share the stories if you feel that it might help. But mostly, pray for us and all the ministries like this one operating all across the nation. There are people that are not free. Don't be fooled in thinking that they are.

~Gia
2

What To Do During Home Invasion? Hold Their Hand.


People that are from Sheridan, and currently living in Sheridan, often complain about what a terrible town it is. I've never had this problem. I like my small tractor town. I've never really had any problems here. I really like living in a tiny town with country celebrations and weird people. After all, I might be the weirdest person living here. But once in a while, strange things do happen. And apparently, the strange things like to happen to the Cooper family.

Most people have heard the story about me finding a naked little boy in my yard and having to sit with him and wait for the police to arrive. The was strange, right? But last night, it got stranger.

The kids, Roger and I got home late last night. In the rush to get jammies on, bedtime bathroom routines conquered and prayers said, Roger decided to step out and run to the gas station for a diet coke. As soon as he was gone from the house, the back door burst open and someone ran into the kitchen where I was standing. I turned around, found a woman about my size staring and out of breath like she had been running for her life.

Now...there are several things that went through my brain. I think the first was, "Who in the world is this woman? I should know who she is because she's in my house." I blinked about a hundred times trying to figure out what was going on. "But I don't know who she is." And that's when I realized, HOLY COW! I DON'T KNOW WHO THIS WOMAN IS! And that meant she was an intruder. Or something. Right?

Then my brain was flooded with a whole other set of thoughts. "Does she look like she wants to kill me? No. Not really. Did she have a weapon? No. She's in running shoes, a hoodie and track pants. No pockets. Her hands are empty but red with cold. She smells like cigarette smoke and booze. Check. Where is my gun, just in case? Crap. It's on the other side of the house. Can I take her? Totally. I'm not bigger, but I'm fierce. Where are my kids? Dangit. Standing right behind her."

The strangest, most threatening thing (in a long time) is happening in my home, and I am suddenly overly calm. I finally smile at the woman and say, "Hi. How are you?" She doesn't really say anything and Lucy is standing behind her, very confused and a little afraid (how do kids simply KNOW when something is wrong?). "Lucy," I say, smiling at her, "please go get in bed and make sure Teddy gets in bed. You can put a movie on, but please close both your doors."Lucy doesn't argue one bit. This is how I know she understands that something serious is happening. She steps around the woman and goes straight to her bedroom, shutting the doors behind her and doesn't come out again until (later on) the police are in the house. A while back, Roger sat the kids down and explained to them that if he ever tells them to run hide, that they don't argue--they do it and they don't come out again until daddy gets them. (In hindsight, I should have told her to hide)

As this is happening, the woman walks out of the kitchen and across the house to the living room where she sits on the couch.

I have to just pause because...I really have no idea how to explain what was going on in my brain. I tried to text Roger, but my phone was dead. So, I sighed and followed her into the living room, turning on the light because it was dark. I felt bad that the house wasn't ready for guests, which was a ridiculous thought, I know. I sat down on the couch beside her. I started just asking her questions, in the kindest voice I think I possess. I took her hand in both mine and she answered every question she was asked. What was her name? Where did she live? Was she in trouble or someone trying to hurt her (the last she answered yes to). I asked who she lived with, what she did for a living, where she was before she came to visit me. (LOL)At one point she nearly put her head in my lap as she sobbed. Then, when she stopped crying, I asked her if I could get her something to drink or make her some coffee. I asked about the coffee because she had obviously been drinking. So, into the kitchen we went.

I made my new friend coffee while she played with the puppy. She made some comments that led me to believe she might have come and gone from the house while I was gone during the day, telling me how great Hugo had been earlier in the day. Strange. But she may have simply been so drunk she had no idea what she was talking about. Possibly. However, when my mom stopped at 5pm to let Hugo out, she was convinced someone was in the house. Weird. 

When Roger FINALLY got back from the gas station, he came in, surveyed us both...and acted like everything was perfectly normal. He chatted with the lady for a moment before we excused ourselves to kiss the kids goodnight. In reality, we went to the living room and hissed information back and forth and I clobbered him for taking too long at the gas station (not really, but sorta).

Back in the kitchen, we pulled up an extra chair and made small talk, gaining as much useful information from her as we could. Except for the moment when she tried to take Hugo outside, everything was mostly okay. She cried a lot but wouldn't tell us what was making her sad. Instead, she said she was happy that she was safe...that she had found our house, apparently.

Roger and I had no idea what to do with this women who seemed content to sit in our kitchen, make small talk and play with Hugo. I started to wonder if we should let her crash in the house, but that didn't seem smart or safe. So, I asked her if Roger could take her home, and if home wasn't a safe place, if we could take her somewhere else. We ended up with all her information--address and phone number, name and age, parents' names and address, what she did for a living, and her boyfriend's name and what he did for a living. Craziness.

When she and Roger stood up to leave, I wrapped her in a tight hug and prayed over her. She cried...

The story of what happened next is Roger's story. I don't know all the details, but it didn't go well. This is why I ended up at the police department and then later in my kitchen with the police officers. We joked around, chatted about kids and dogs, and how we need to lock our doors. One of the officers knew the woman and was worried about her. After getting all our information and the address, they set out to her house. But not before Roger had them bow their heads so he could pray over them, over the situation, and for the poor woman who will more than likely have no idea what happened last night.

At midnight, the kids were still sitting up in their beds. Roger tucked them back in, prayed over them, read scripture over them and they fell asleep and slept all night in their own beds. He read scripture over me and prayed for me, impressed (I think) about how calmly I handled the situation. And about that time, we heard something above us in the attic. So what do we do? We giggle and argue about who is going up to catch whatever is up there. We argue about the fact that we can't shoot it because the police will come straight back to our house. We search the kitchen for a weapon and decide to use the Gladious sword given to Roger by our pastor (thanks John!). So with a heavy duty flash light, a towel, and a Roman sword...we went hunting. After two o'clock in the morning, we fell into bed and tried to sleep.

I have no idea what happened last night, but I know that a very drunk, very frightened woman ran into the right house. I didn't shoot her, punch her, scream or ask what in the world she was doing. I smiled, said 'hi', held her hand and made her coffee.

I. Am. Strange.

This morning, I am all too aware that the Lord and His angels were standing around watching a crazy show and smiling ear-to-ear at all the insane thoughts going through my head. But it was a pretty hilarious show. The only thing forgot was to take my bow at the end.

Dangit.


~Gia















3

I'm Dirty...Are you?


Growing up in church, I learned everything that I was never to do, or say, or think. Not only that, but I learned all about what hell would be like should I ever do those things...or say...think them. Once in Sunday school, we even read a book about what hell was like by a man who supposedly went there. It was cold and filled with spiders...terribly dark and void of people (REALLY?!).

Even then, I couldn't believe this is what we were learning in a child's Sunday school class. But it gets a little bit better. The same man who visited hell also visited heaven and gave us a glimpse of that as well. He had a transparent body that passed through everything. He couldn't pick the flowers because his hands went right through them. Not only was his body transparent, but it was also rather shapeless--not male or female. In heaven, you knew everyone, but not really, because there was no memory what-so-ever of who they were on earth...

And to my child's imagination, I was terrified. I knew I didn't want to go to hell, but the ridiculous picture of heaven wasn't much better. I recall arguing with the teacher telling her that this was all rather silly and I didn't understand why we had to read this book, as it had nothing to do with what Jesus had said in scripture. Needless to say, I caused a great deal of trouble in Sunday school. I remember the teacher lecturing me about my argumentative nature and desire to disrupt and disagree rather than to sit quietly and listen.

Here I am at thirty and I still have that same argumentative nature that refuses to be sold a pretty, or in the previous case, a horrific bill of goods. I don't care what you want to tell me about heaven or hell, or about what I should or should not be doing to end up in either of those places. Mostly, I reject all of that because it does no one any good (not reject their existence, but rather fear tactics in getting people to believe). It certainly didn't sell me on the idea of following Jesus so I could get to heaven. I didn't want rainbows and unicorns and butterfly wings. I wanted adventure--rocky cliffs to climb and beautiful green forests to explore.

Because here's the thing: My Jesus, the man I would risk my life for to proclaim is real and alive, IS NOT A FRUIT CAKE!!!! He doesn't get jiggy (in the words of Pastor John Freed--who really needs to find a new word) with flowers that can not be picked, or fly across a rainbow tinted land on the wing of a giant butterfly. If you ask me, that screams of a bad acid trip. My Jesus was dirty, and a bit rough, with skinned knees when he was a boy and a busted lip as an adult. My Jesus probably climbed a rock or two, or hunted with a bow and arrow to bring his family back a meal. My Jesus stunk of body odor because he was A REAL MAN with filthy feet and dirt in his teeth. If He was born into our modern world, He might have grown up to drag race once or twice, all in the name of loving on the dudes down at the track. He would have tossed a football or baseball. I'm pretty sure He would have rode a bull and flown a Cessna just for the joy of it and nothing more.

And if my Jesus WAS like that (and still is like that) then the home He has carefully built for me isn't going to be a house for a pansy. Nope. Not me, or you. It's going to be a REAL home with adventure and real beauty...and not the kind of beauty that comes from sipping absinth. 

ALL THAT IS TO SAY...

I'm not going to be a clean Christian. I'm filthy and I'm going to remain filthy (but not my heart--which is clean). I'm going to hang out in the filthy, smoky strip clubs. One day, I might get a group of friends and check out a gay bar and love on the people in there. I want to feed homeless people, play kick ball with the bullies (though I would lose) and give a fist bump to the biggest biker dude out there. I want to be real, like Jesus and like heaven. I don't want to be so clean and 'good' that I can't find a single living soul to sell my rainbow painted bill of goods to. I want to be dirty and stay that way.

And that's that.

Oh...and just a bit of warning...

If you're ubber clean, don't get near me because I will tackle you, muss your hair, tickle your ribs until you nearly pee your pants giggling, and COVER you in my beautiful, awesome, amazing filth.

Just a warning.

~Gia
4

Coffee and War Stories at The Stripper Bars


I'm buzzed on some amazing coffee and second hand smoke. Who knew strip clubs serve coffee?! Let alone a decent cup, right?! But here I am, hungry (because there was no way I was ordering food from there), incredibly stinky and with a tiny headache in my temple. Should I mention the ear-to-ear smile I came home with? Because it is there...along with a happy heart doing a wild dance in my chest, overwhelmed as it is with love and joy.

Roger said that I needed to be careful, that the experience might go much differently than I was hoping. He was totally right. Nothing went how I imagined it might, but what was in my imagination was a nightmare! What actually happened was all God.

The ladies met at a church to spend about an hour on praise reports, outreach updates, where needs were being met and then to cover us all in prayer. After that, we broke up into teams and went to two different clubs. Some of us (myself included) went inside while others stayed behind in their cars and prayed the entire time we were inside.

There are specific rules when we are in the club. We are never allowed to be out of each others sight. We never go to the bathroom alone (or go at all in there) and we do not leave to a private area to talk to any of the girls, most especially outside. With this in mind, I stayed with my other ladies the entire time.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous walking up to the front doors. My mother-in-law pulled the front of my sweater up because I left my coat and scarf in the car and was now a little more exposed (next time...TURTLENECKS!). When we got inside, there was a table right by the door where a couple of men were sitting, chatting, and collecting cover charges. My MIL already knew them and they were excited to see her. She introduced me, I shook their hands while slipping my cover to them. She had us sit down with her and we all just started talking like it was completely normal to have us ladies in the strip club.

My chair was positioned so my back faced the stage...thank The Lord. There was an old man sitting there and he was so very kind and a gentleman. He asked if we needed something to drink and recommended the coffee. I was so impressed that they had coffee that I immediately said I would love a cup.

The men talked to us about their families, about Christmas, their grandchildren, and told a few jokes (some worth laughing at and some not). So far, this is not what I had prepared my brain for. There was some sort of conversation going on about finances and the economy and how the old man beside me once knew what it was like to scrape by to make ends meet. Suddenly, I am unfurling a story about the first few months of my marriage when Roger was a Private First Class in the Marines and I was only just turning 18. I told him how we had no money whatsoever and were too proud to tell our family how bad it had gotten. I shared with him how one night I said I was hungry, knowing full well that there was no food in the house. That didn't matter because Roger told me he would get me something to eat. He was in the kitchen forever, making all kinds of noise, and when he came back, he had a warm meal on a plate just for me.

My new old buddy was intrigued. He said, "Well, wasn't that something? That's a good man!" To which I smiled broadly and asked, "But do you want to know what it was?" He lifted his brows and I answered, "It was an MRE!" He burst out laughing claiming how terrible those things were. This is how he started opening up about being a Vietnam vet. We talked about the candy in MRE and how they no longer put cigarettes in them. Then we started talking about war...

*I just have to pause and say: GOD BLOWS MY MIND!!!*

I spent the whole night swapping war stories with my new buddy. He was amazing! He even rolled up his shirt sleeve to show me where he had been shot. I would ask him a question to which he would honestly give an answer...and then he would ask me a question. I told him about my experience with war, as different as they might have been from his, and he told me his experiences. He was drafted at 19 and a radio operator in the field. It's amazing he is even still alive. He told me what he did when he got home...the good and the bad. I told him about what we did when we moved home after Roger was out. I even told him the story of how my best Marine buddy said he would give me $20 if I would put a pinch of snuff in my lip. He nearly fell out of his chair laughing at the picture I painted of me turning a zillion shades of green and falling flat on my butt, swallowing the snuff and never getting the $20. He told me about his high school sweetheart and how she was gone when he came home from Vietnam and how he saw her for the first time since then this past Christmas. He told me, "And boy! She was just as beautiful as the last time I saw her!"

Through the entire night, I didn't really get to talk to any of the girls. Whenever one of them past the table, I would lift my eyes, look straight in her eyes, and smile. But now that I am home and have been informed that lesbians also frequent the clubs, I am regretting the decision to have done that. There was one girl who sat down across from me for a few moments. I introduced myself and she smiled and said, "Gia? We have a girl named Gia that works here." I gushed and responded, "Really? I'd love to meet her. I've never met another Gia!"

Then awkward silence filled the air. The girl looked down at her phone and I kinda knew she didn't have a clue as to what to think of me. Suddenly, very awkward myself, I sighed and said, "Yeah...it's not my real name, though." Her eyes shot up and she said with a wry smile, "Yeah? It's not her real name, either."

**Laugh at me all you want!!!! Because I felt DUMB!**

Nothing I saw shocked me, but I am sure one day something will (besides that, everything was happening behind my back). I got the impression that the gentleman we sat with weren't even there to 'see' the girls...but mainly to sit with a war buddy, sipping their alcohol free drinks, smoking, collecting the covers and making sure the girls (which I got the impression they felt fatherly towards) were okay.

At the end of the night, my old buddy said, "I think I missed my calling in life." We talked about how people just want to feel special and know that someone cares about them. We talked about how they just want to know someone loves them and that they are not alone. He said, "That's what these girls want. Lots of them have been abused...and they just need someone."

I don't know what God is doing or how He will use me, but I can feel His breath in my lungs and His words on my lips. I know He wants me there. In my heart, I know that my old buddy will not forget the girl who swapped war stories (of all things) over coffee with terrible dance music blasting behind us. The owner will trust that I just want to be a friend when I come back. He will even let me in the dressing room to paint the girl's nails should they desire it. The old guards at the door, my buddies, know they can tell me which girls need what and over what I can be praying about. It isn't the most conventional way to minister to the broken hearted in the world...

But...

I'm not conventional.

The most important thing I have learned is that evangelizing means friendship. You usually cannot simply start talking about Jesus because people are hurting and have built mighty fine walls around their hearts. You have to be willing to sit beside them, talk and listen, laugh and sow some truth about themselves little by little (it takes a great deal of patience). I looked my old buddy in the eyes and said, "You have a good heart. I can see that." He held my gaze with misty eyes...and I know what he heard was God's voice.

Unconditional love. That's what I can give.

~Gia
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Light In The Darkness


 My first glimpse of a strip club was in an old Matlock episode in which my mother promptly changed the channel and said we couldn't watch that one. I was bummed. I loved watching Matlock, even if I only got to watch them when I was home sick from school. Who doesn't love Andy Griffith?

Tonight, I will be going into a strip club to (hopefully) get a change to share a bit of conversation with one of the ladies that work there--as fleeting as the conversation might be. I will be happy if she simply notices the pretty shade of my nail polish and I get to repay her with a compliment. Maybe the next time I go, she will ask me if I have children and I can rave about Lucy and Teddy, my dear ones, and she can share about her own waiting for her at home. Then one day, maybe I will get to share a bit more words with her, slowly building a relationship. Because what I really want to do is hold up a mirror before her and pray she sees the beautiful woman she is, full of worth and purpose, smiling back at her.

It isn't easy to bring light into the darkness, mostly because many of us are afraid of the dark. If we're afraid, we never enter with the light.

Oof. But perhaps that is a silly way of looking at it? Too simplified? But I think it is true--most especially with church people.

I was a little afraid to tell people I was going to join a ministry team that enters strip clubs every Monday night just to love on the ladies there. Somehow, it feels that doing this crosses some sort of line. Why not just wait for them to come out, or meet them before they go in? Why actually enter the club, expose yourself to the things you will see and hear? There has to be an easier, more...pure...way of reaching out to them.

Yet, it takes courage to follow someone into the unknown...a place that is 'off limits'. Wherever there is courage, those who witness it have a tendency to admire it. I guess I'm hoping that those within the club will secretly approve of the audacity it takes to walk into a 'den of iniquity' (*snickers* I just REALLY wanted to use that phrase)...and be a light...be something good...be a friend.  I'm sure they will laugh later about the Jesus girl that came in with her silly smile, little voice and nonsense about love, but I will have won their approval anyway. Hopefully. Maybe.

So this is the start of my little adventure. I have no idea what to expect. As far as tonight goes, I'm not sure I will get the chance to speak a full sentence to anyone. I know I will blush to the roots of my hair and avert my eyes more than once or twice; I might have a mini panic attack and inwardly rant that I had no purpose thinking I could do such a thing as being a bearer of unconditional love. But then I will come home, the Lord will breathe peace and joy back into my heart, and I will go again, shining a little brighter.

'Cause it's worth it. They're worth it. Whoever she is that I will meet tonight is worth it.

There are too many wounded people trying to survive in a world filled with darkness. Why not try to be a light to a few?

~Gia


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A Hero's Kiss Goodbye



Too often in life, extraordinary people pass away and leave a legacy behind worthy of the world’s notice but never receive it. They lived lives that many of us could only dream of, lives that are so rich in history and experience that they are what good books is made of. Pain, sorrow, anguish all mixed together with joy and happiness—that is what makes for an extraordinary life.

Mr. Alex Kiss was this kind of man. He died over the weekend in White House, Tennessee—a tiny little town nestled among beautiful hills that serve as footnotes of time and mystery. He was just a boy in Hungary when the dawn of World War II threatened to change his life forever. When Hitler rounded up young men to serve in the Nazi Youth, Mr. Kiss and his best friend were among them. Thus began his legacy…

I cannot imagine being swept into a movement anything like the Nazi Youth. When I was a child, life was more carefree than what should have been allowed. But to be forced to learn to hate and fight in the way that the Nazis did…is unthinkable. Mr. Kiss and his best friend were handed a gun and a uniform. They were sent out on patrols that I imagine started out innocent enough. The grown men probably offered them their first cigarette on a blistery dark night as they stood nervously clinging to their guns. They would have learned how to use swear words correctly in the rough and tumble military world they were falling into. The hate was all around them. The Jews were bad. They were the root of all evil, the cause of all the world’s problems. They must be held at bay. They must be killed.

I cannot imagine…

Alex Kiss saw hate in its raw form: unadulterated, unleashed, unrestrained and ugly. Eventually, the thin veil fell away and revealed the true intent of what the Nazi Youth was being trained to do. They were to kill—murder their fellow citizens.

Alex was only a boy when he witnessed what the heart of man was capable of. Being drug from their homes, Jewish men were stripped of their clothes in the town square for all to see. In the frigid temperatures, buckets of water were poured over their heads. Some passerby’s mocked the men and ridiculed them. Others tried not to hear the blood-chilling cries of the wife who begged the Nazis to stop only to be silenced by the slap of a hand or crushed by the butt of a rifle. Children cowered, much like Alex Kiss did—confused and afraid of what was happening before their eyes. The nightmare was only finished when the poor Jewish man froze to death, naked, exposed and left lying in the town square.

“Sich in Reih und Glied aufstellen!”

I cannot imagine what must have raced through Alex’s mind as he and his best friend held innocent Jews by gunpoint. His heart must have raced, afraid of what would happen next as Jewish men, women, and even children were lined up along a river. I am sure he stared into the eyes of a boy just like him—eyes wide with fear—heart pounding like mad.

“Feuer!”

When the shots were fired, he flinched. The echo shook the earth and birds exploded from the trees. The world slowed and spun around him as the bodies fell lifeless into the water. Rich, velvety blood was caught up in the rushing ripples that washed over the dead. Tears hung from his lashes as Alex’s breath caught in his throat. What kind of world had he been born into?

It was during the night that he and his best friend decided that they had to escape. They would not become monsters. They refused to kill innocent men and women. They could not watch another child be killed ever again. But it was risky. Anyone caught fleeing would be shot on sight.

“We’ll run.” His friend’s voice was hushed, his eyes serious. “We’ll run and never stop…never look back. Do you hear me?” Alex barely nodded. “If we hear gunshots, we won’t stop. No matter what, Alex, don’t stop!”

It was a dark night with pristine snow casting an eerie look over the land. The men were on patrol when Alex and his friend slipped away. Taking a deep breath, they stared ahead, looked one last time in each other’s eyes where a silent pact shone…

…And then they ran.

The German shouts only made Alex’s legs pump harder, his heart racing. “Keep running!” His friend commanded…

…And then the shots rang out.

Alex flinched, heard a hollow thud in the snow behind him, but he never stopped running. Silent tears slid down his cheeks. His best friend, his co-conspirator in boyhood mischief…was gone.

Over the last many years, Mr. Alex Kiss was just an old Hungarian man to most people in White House, Tennessee. He was a nice man that made friends easily. A member of the White House Methodist Church, he would often visit the church office during the week. This was where he waited for his wife to pick him up for Chemo treatments. He was dying of cancer, but no one would have known it by the life that radiated from him.

He came to the church office to sit a while and talk about nothing in particular with the pretty lady that worked there. She happens to be my Aunt. If you knew her, you would understand why it was the place Alex would want to be before the dreaded Chemo. My Aunt is vivacious, to say the least. She’s easy to talk to, and when you spend time with her, the world doesn’t seem so serious.

On one of these visits, my Aunt’s eight-year-old son happened to notice a strange tattoo on Mr. Kiss’s arm—a faded line of numbers. Like most nosey young boys, Corey asked why he had such a funny tattoo. Alex’s answer came in the form of a story; a story about his best friend and how Alex was captured and imprisoned in a concentration camp. He told him about his days in the Nazi Youth…and the evil that one man sowed in an entire generation of young boys.

Perhaps they were stories that some may deem inappropriate to tell to an eight-year-old boy, but Corey looked at Mr. Alex like one would look at a superhero. Even though Mr. Alex told his stories with tears pouring down his cheeks, to Corey, Mr. Alex was a hero.

Some people die and the world never knows. Though Mr. Alex’s stories may never be read in a thrilling novel, be seen on the silver screen, or grace the headlines of the media—they will forever be hidden in the heart of my cousin Corey. Alex Kiss was his superhero with a legacy that will forever haunt his boyish heart.

May there be more men that live and breathe lives worthy of such boyish praise.

~Gia
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