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I’d like to introduce you to Renee Ronika. She commits to honest faith and bold vulnerability as a writer, speaker, event host, and minister. She publishes poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I hope you enjoy this lovely piece she is sharing with us today.
How I Learned to Read a Map
I’m the girl who likes to ask questions, especially when I need directions. I’m inclined to trust others’ judgment over my own. When I was 21 and lost in Edinburgh, I stopped a local—a man about 90—to get directions to a restaurant. He’ll know, I assured myself. Old Scotsmen have wisdom. His accent, however, was thick and his speech, hurried. I thanked him and stood squarely on the cobblestone street, wondering how I’d pinpoint the few words I could decipher to reach my destination.
I took out my map again and navigated myself. The streets, wound about the city, felt haphazard and bleak. It was December. I found my way to the restaurant, and I warmed myself by the fire. I ate stew with a baguette.
My life story remains the same from there: I doubt my way and seek out someone’s help, only to find their communication foreign and obfuscated. So I wait in the quiet and scrounge up some courage, maybe patience, and seek out the answers myself.
“It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map that failed to show many of the things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance for the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity was complete; and no interpreter came along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps.”– E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed
In my twenties, I prided myself in honoring others first, in deferring to an elder’s wisdom, a pastor’s authority, a friend’s insight. I heard Jesus’ voice through the prophets, priests, and kings surrounding me, and my dutiful obedience lit my path.
By my thirties, I saw the road behind me illuminated by a lamp that I did not hold. All those years—of trusting, deferring, rendering others as more able—dimmed my trust, my strength, my ability. I was hard of hearing and poor of sight. I could not read maps because I had dropped them along the way of consulting others.
As I lay silent and blind, the prophet within me spoke and saw. The prophet foretold a story rife with conflict, wanting resolution, with ambient light and a stalwart protagonist.
Once the story began, the priest within me emerged. The priest listened for the voice of Jesus and heard it in the crisp autumn air. His voice remained through winter. It arrived again in spring and stayed through summer. After I listened, seasons begetting seasons, I could speak.
When I spoke, the king within me stood. The king was draped with all that had been heard and said, all that had been obeyed and rejected, all that had been fought against and won. The throne was lit by a light that was entirely mine yet not mine at all.
People stop to ask me for directions. Sometimes I’ll advise on a few turns, but then I refer them to their maps. I know enough to know their maps are accurate, if not entirely legible, and my perspective might skew the horizon. I don’t want to confuse a journey, particularly not someone else’s.
I know enough to know the Jesus I heard at 18, at 21, at 25, at 35, really is the way, the light, in every manner imaginable, and authentic, and real. He’s my map, and I don’t want to trust anyone else to read it for me.
Renee is Prism Women’s founder and visionary. Renee resides with her husband Gregory, a pianist and composer, and their three children in the Wild West—her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona—where she’s discovered green grass and true community after fifteen years of living abroad and throughout the country. To read more from and about Renee, visit www.prismwomen.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram as @reneeronika or @prismwomen.
Back in 2012 when I was told my husbands heart surgery was taking place in San Francisco I was terrified. Not only because, well dah, he was having heart surgery, but because it meant I would need to be in San Francisco too. Staying in the city while my husband was in the hospital or driving back and forth each day were both scary scenarios for me.
I’m not cut out to be driving around in the city. I’m a calm, go with the flow kind of driver. Most of my friends call me the ‘granny driver’. I think you need to be an aggressive driver in order to fit in well in the city, and I’m not even close to that.
Almost a year ago my dad took my daughters and I to the city via the ferry. It was unusually warm that day, which I loved, and we walked everywhere. Walking around San Francisco is a great way to see the sights and experience it to the fullest. The main purpose of this visit was to see a few of San Francisco’s privately owned open public spaces. There are many beautiful views to be seen.
Even though I wasn’t familiar with the city, I felt relaxed and had a wonderful time because our tour guide, my dad, was familiar with where we were. You see, my dad and brother go to the city often to explore.
Recently I had the opportunity to go on a getaway with my friend Brigitte. We had many places to choose from, but San Francisco quickly came to mind. I suggested taking the ferry, but my friend offered to drive. Thank goodness, because I wasn’t offering! Who wants to be stressed out when you’re supposed to be having fun? We passed on taking the ferry and chose to drive since it helped keep the expense down.
We had no clue where we should stay. I asked my dad, but his suggestions were a little out of our price range. He likes to stay in the Union Square area. We knew we wanted to stay somewhat close to Fisherman’s Wharf, so we started our search there. After looking into several choices, some over our budget and some in questionable areas, we landed on the Holiday Inn on Van Ness. We stayed on the 24th floor with a beautiful view of the city.
Other than eating fresh seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf we had no agenda. So after we checked into our room, we grabbed a map and headed out the door. I suggested walking, but my friend didn’t enjoy walking the way I do (I hope to change this someday). We decided to take the bus, but had no idea how the bus system worked. To solve this problem we walked into the market next to the bus stop to ask. To our surprise both the clerk behind the counter and the customer he had just helped gave us all the information we could possibly need to confidently ride the city bus.
We hopped on the next bus headed to Fisherman’s Wharf, found some deliciously fresh seafood and a place to eat while listening to live music on the Wharf. As we sat on the bench singing along to Happy by Pharrell Williams, we discussed moving on when the song ended. Then Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars came on and we both jumped up and started dancing and singing. I felt like a little kid and it was wonderful! As I looked around I noticed we were the only ones dancing around, but it didn’t bother me a bit. We were having fun and that’s all that mattered in that moment.
After wandering around the wharf for a while, we decided to try and figure out where the food trucks were that someone told Brigitte about. All we knew was it was next to Fort Mason by the water. We made our best guess after looking over the map and jumped on the next bus heading in the general direction we thought we needed to go. As we were discussing what stop to take and where we were heading, a few locals chimed in. They told us we were heading in the wrong direction, and explained which way to go after getting off the bus. I couldn’t tell you where we were walking, but the houses in this area were beautiful and the streets were quiet. The next thing we knew, we were at the Yacht Club next to a park. Still having no idea where the food trucks were, we decided to ask a local for help. They knew exactly what we were talking about. They said it was called ‘Off the Grid’ and occurred every Friday night on the other side of Fort Mason near Safeway. I knew where the Safeway was, so I finally felt somewhat confident in where we were heading.
If you’re ever in San Francisco on a Friday night you must experience ‘Off the Grid’. There’s at least 20 different food trucks to choose from along with music. They have a DJ until 7pm and then a band takes over. I had two BBQ sliders from The Boneyard and later from the Creme Brulee Cart I had The Golden Ticket (A Salted caramel creme brulee torched to perfection and topped with dark chocolate shortbread crumble and sea-salted caramel sauce.) It was super yummylicious!!!
We made it back to our room before dark and planned on staying in for the night, but after all the dancing we did in the room, I was hungry again. That’s when we decided to venture out and sample the nightlife in the city. We stumbled across a Karaoke club with a few brave entertaining souls, but no food, so we didn’t stay long. After finding a hole in the wall that served pizza by the slice, which was extremely tasty, we decided to ride the trolley. This was a first for both of us. We caught it on Hyde near Chestnut and rode it all the way down to Market St. The driver was kind and talkative. He offered to take our picture when he heard it was our first time riding the trolley. There were a few people in the closed section of the trolley but we were the only ones at the open end. The trolley conductor said we could stand and hang on the poles. Brigitte took him up on the offer, but I passed. I could enjoy the sights from my seat thank you very much!
The next morning at check out, we discovered we could keep our car in the garage until 4pm. Which I hear is a good deal. We only paid $40 for parking and had been there since we checked in the day before. Our first stop was for coffee and food at The Crepe House on Polk St. I had a large coffee to jump-start my brain and French toast with fruit. Brigitte had one of the scrumptious breakfast crepes. We shared because that’s what friends do.
The rest of our day was filled with a lot of walking, more bus riding, some beautiful sights, a few that were unexpected and more kind hearted city folk.
The Grace Cathedral was our first stop. We arrived during a funeral service, but were still allowed in. The inside, as well as the outside was exquisite. After taking in its beauty, we decided to sit and take it in for a few minutes. As we sat, we heard, and felt, the organs play and the reciting of The Lords Prayer. I could feel the Holy presence of God. This was an amazing way to start the day.
On our way to a bus that would take us near Haight and Ashbury, we ran across a furry friend. Not a cute furry friend, but an ewe gross furry friend. A rat! It was on a street corner hovering over a sewer grate as if it were trying to figure out how to get down there. Unfortunately, it was to fat, so it couldn’t fit through. It didn’t seem to be fazed by the cars or people all around, but I still felt sorry for it. I hope it didn’t get flattened by a car.
While in the Haight and Ashbury area, we came across a young man sitting on the sidewalk drawing with chalk on cardboard. He was talkative and wanted to share with us his about his new love for drawing. He had recently taught himself. By the look of his doodles, he was quickly learning. He said he picked up one day and decided to go to California, from Denver. He had been in San Francisco and homeless for about a month. What would make someone just pick up and leave their home like that? No plan and no resources. I don’t know if he’s a Christian or not, but that would be hard to do with God leading the way. Like the Israelites being led through the desert for 40 years. Doing that without God seems insane to me. My heart goes out to him.
We’re now coming to the end of our adventure in the city and feeling exhausted, so we decided to make our way to the nearest bus stop to take us back to our car. As we’re walking up Fredrick Street, Brigitte says “Oh my goodness, he’s naked!” I wanted to look, but couldn’t at first. Because honestly, who wants to see a naked guy walking the streets of San Francisco? I certainly didn’t, but still felt the urge to look. Yes, there was indeed a naked guy walking up the other side of the street. Well, except for his socks. I’ve heard, since returning, that a person roaming naked on the streets of San Francisco can’t be arrested, only ticketed, if they have socks on. I’m not sure if this is true, but I find that a very interesting law. I guess this is a regular occurance in San Francisco.
Aside from being naked, you could tell he was out of it. I’m guessing he was on drugs, or something, since he stopped and got sick a few times. Thankfully, there were cars parked along the street, so we could no longer notice he had no clothes on. How does someone get himself or herself in such a situation? How could someone’s family or friends let them get to this point? I don’t understand it. My heart breaks as I think of him. Will you join me in praying for him? I pray he would be surrounded by people who know and praise God. Surround him with people who will be the encouragement and strength he needs to point him to God Almighty.
God has changed my heart for the city. I have a new love for the people in the city. Every place we went and ever bus ride we experienced we were met with kind helpful people who are clearly proud of the place they live. Thank you San Francisco for an amazing, fun and heart felt experience. Until we meet again!
My prayer for us today ~ Thank you Lord for opening our eyes to see things the way you see it. I pray you help us continue to open our hearts to the people around us, Amen.
Have I every told you my favorite season is summer? Well, if I haven’t, it is. I love, love, love the hot, hot, hot days. The hotter the day, the bigger my smile and happier I feel. The warm air of summer makes me want to get out and move around to explore the world.
A few days ago, with my dad as our tour guide, my girls and I went to San Francisco to explore. I don’t visit the city often. The hustle and bustle of the city usually stresses me out. This time, with my dad leading the way, I was determined to enjoy the wonderful sites the city had in store for us.
Our day started off with a ferry ride. I have to say, it’s so much nicer than driving. If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying a ferry ride, I strongly recommend you find time to. That is unless you get motion sickness. Then I think diving is the best bet for you.
Once we arrived at the Ferry Building we headed out for our first destination, the rooftop of the Crocker Galleria. Did you know there are privately owned buildings and spaces that have public access? I never knew. If you’re ever walking around San Francisco, keep a lookout for a small sticker in the front window that says Public Open Space. Or you can Google it online before you head out. I found several different maps, lists and articles written about the differnt hidden public spots to check out while visiting the city.
Before heading up to the rooftop to take in the beautiful views, we stopped to get a bite at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. They’re known for their speedy service, and I have to say, they were pretty fast at getting us our order. The food was delicious too.
The views from the rooftop were breathtaking. It was before the usual lunch rush so the space was quiet. We enjoyed our lunch on a partially shaded bench surrounded by shrubbery. It was hard to believe we were sitting on a rooftop in the middle of the city. It felt like we were sitting in a park in the middle of no where. Well, except for the noise. The sounds of the city echoed up the sides of the buildings.
With full tummies we ventured on our way to the next stop, the rooftop of the Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall. Again, the views were beautiful and the weather was a perfect 79 degrees for the city. So jackets were not needed. However, we did bring them since it’s usually cold and foggy. This rooftop wasn’t as nice as the first, but the views made up for it.
After a quick stroll through the mall we were back outside soaking up the warmth of the city and looking toward our next adventure, the rooftop of an office building at One Kearney Place. But before we could head that way, we needed a sweet treat. There were so many places to choose from. How in the world were we to decide. With a peak at the map and seeing what we were so close to, the choice was obvious……Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. We sat along the window seats so we could inhale our sweet treat, chat and people watch. It was a nice rest for our feet too!
Our stomachs are full and we’re loaded with sugar. We’re now ready to take on the rest of our day. The rooftop at One Kearney Place was small, but nice. It’s a building surrounded by many other tall buildings so it was cool to see the details of the building tops. Something you would never notice while walking around at ground level in the city.
We’re now done exploring rooftops and heading to China Town. This is my first visit there. I wish I wasn’t still full from the ice cream. I would love to have tried some of the food. It all smelled so delicious. We wandered into a few of the shops while walking through. I saw a few interesting items and lovely jewelry. Although I didn’t buy anything, because this was a trip for exploring, not shopping.
We now had one last area to explore before heading back to the ferry. Telegraph Hill. This is another place I had never been in San Francisco. The way my dad described it, I thought there were many more stairs to climb than there actually were. It was nothing compared to the walk Ashley and I go on back home, which I mention in an earlier post, ‘I Prayed For That?’. But I must confess, this was exhausting after walking all over the city. The homes on Telegraph Hill were small, but the scenery and views were amazing. I couldn’t imagine walking up and down those stairs everyday, sometimes several times a day. If I lived there, I would make it a point to only leave and return once everyday.
Oh, I must tell you about the amazing family we had a brief encounter with. At the second highest point of Telegraph Hill we stopped to catch our breath. We were also deciding whether or not we would continue to the top or head down. During this time, my daughter Amy took out her iPod Touch to see if she had WIFI. Typical teenager. Always needs to be connected. As soon as I realized the staircase in front of us was the last one, I decided we had to finish the walk up to the top. Just as we were arriving to the top of the staircase a gentleman yelled out “Is this yours? Did you leave this behind?”. We turned back to look at the man and see what he was yelling about and saw that he was holding Amy’s iPod Touch. When we thanked him he said to thank his family, because they were the ones who noticed it sitting on the ledge where she had left it. I was filled with an amazing feeling. A feeling of love and happiness. I don’t know if that family were tourists or they lived there, but to know that whoever they were, they cared about the people around them and chose to do what was right. It brought a smile to my face and filled me with gratitude.
My prayer for us today ~ Father God, I thank you for the kindness and love you show us each and every day. I pray we share this love and kindness and demonstrate it with those around us.