I watched as she made her way from the campsite to the street. The passageway that connected the field to the rest of humanity.
Kimberly lived in a makeshift shelter sandwiched between the roar of cars and trucks racing down the highway and a frontage road running parallel to the freeway. Alone in the vastness of an empty field, her home was partially camouflaged by the trees that lined the path to the road.
The roof and walls were made from a brown plastic tarp supported by four metal poles. The floor was dirt, swept smooth by Kimberly’s bare feet. A small camp stove graced the ground outside the door.
The campsite was nearly swallowed by the debris that surrounded it – a metal bed frame, bicycle parts, old tires, buckets, bottles, paper, and mounds of trash from months of surviving.
It was Kimberly’s sanctuary. A safe place from the chaos that is homelessness.
She was young, late 20s, with long blond hair that she pulled to the side making a single braid. Her clothes fit snug, perhaps a size too small. Yet, her age and stature were not what caught my attention. What made me stop and take notice was that she was dragging a tattered beige stroller.
The wheels wobbled as they rolled across the uneven terrain. The frame was bent causing it to jerk to the left regardless of how she pulled. Yet, Kimberly was persistent. She tugged it up the steep embankment that acted as a defensive barricade until she reached the sidewalk.
I found myself watching her and wondering what she was carrying. Why was she spending so much energy tugging and pushing the stroller to the road? Was she carrying trash, something to bargain or trade, or perhaps …
Then the pink floral blanket covering the carriage moved. Small fingers protruded from the rubble, then an arm, and finally a small round face framed by blond curls emerged. Kimberly paused for a minute to reposition the little one, gently brushing her cheek.
It was difficult to believe, Kimberly was carrying precious cargo, her baby girl.
I swallowed several times then breathed deeply just to retain my composer.
She was a mother, living in the void of an empty field, in a dwelling made from trash, with a baby.
I watched as she continued to push the stroller, crossing the two-way street, and disappearing into the alley between the Dollar General and a fast-food drive-through. The stroller’s wheels shaking violently as Kimberly increased her pace. Her baby’s small head rocking with each bump and jolt.
And then, they were gone.
I often find myself thinking about Kimberly and her little one. How did they land in that dry barren field? What were the circumstances that caused her to select a tarp over permanent walls, a women’s shelter, or her family? And her infant daughter, how would she survive under the unforgiving heat of the California sun with only plastic to protect her from the elements and from those that could cause harm.
So many unanswered whys.
Yet, Kimberly is not alone in her attempts to survive desolate lands. Those lonely places where our hearts and heads are disconnected from the reality of what is really happening in our souls.
I think if we are honest, we all have experienced the wilderness, pushing and pulling our brokenness across rough terrain. Sometimes the wheels shake uncontrollably causing us to lose our footing, our confidence, our purpose. Those times when we are pushed to the edge of our faith and we wonder if we will ever be able to recover, reach steady ground. We want so badly to trust but God seems silent, distant, even absent.
So like Kimberly, we keep moving. We accelerate our pace to keep up with our expectations and to outrun the disappointments that come with living in the wasteland.
Psalm 62:5-8 reassures us that even in desolate times, God is present. We may not feel Him or perceive His presence but we can be assured He is near.
5 But I stand silently before the Lord, waiting for him to rescue me. For salvation comes from him alone. 6 Yes, he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense, and fortress—why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come?
7 My protection and success come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me. 8 O my people, trust him all the time. Pour out your longings before him, for he can help!
The Living Bible (TLB)
As difficult as it is, I have to trust that God is caring for and protecting Kimberly and her baby. We can do the same with our lives. Regardless of the situation, the desolation, God is our sanctuary, our unwavering security, our stronghold.
You can trust Him.
He loves you.
You are His BeLOVED!
I encountered Kimberly on a recent trip to Northern California. I noticed her home, sitting alone in the field, while visiting a local garden shop. I probably would not have paid much attention if she wasn’t struggling with her stroller.
Like Kimberly, thousands of women and women with children have no permanent roof over their heads, bed to sleep in, or consistent source of food. A 2020 analysis by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, found that 31.8% of the homeless population were women and women with children.
As you navigate your day, please take the time to notice these women, pray for them, and when possible talk with them. Their stories will change your perspectives on homelessness and your lives.
To learn more about homelessness, access the link below.
State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition – National Alliance to End Homelessness
Please take a few minutes to read Psalm 40 and reflect on the questions that follow.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. 5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. 7 Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: 8 I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”
9 I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O Lord, well know. 10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. 12 For troubles surround me too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.
13 Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me. 14 May those who try to destroy me
be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.
15 Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
16 But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!” 17 As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay.
New Living Translation (NLT)
(Psalm 40 NLT – Psalm 40 – For the choir director: A – Bible Gateway)
Take a few minutes to consider the following.
- Are you currently living in the wilderness – a broken place where it feels like there is no escape?
- As you reflect on your circumstances, do you see God working? If yes, what are you learning about yourself? What are you learning about God?
- What is God prompting you to do as you journey through this dry barren land?