Christmas in a Hotel

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My family is my daughter Jessica, the only one of my 4 children who wants me in their lives.  She is having a baby soon, the only grandchild I will see–unless things change.  Jessica spent Christmas with me in a nice (but inexpensive) hotel in Ontario, California. We stayed there before–during the Miss California competition and Thanksgiving.  The hotel has a cheerful, red-hued lobby; a pool; and walkways with a gazebo and rose gardens.  It reminds me of hotels I stayed in throughout China.  We gave away some of my books to curious staff members and enjoyed green tea, butter cookies, and a few wrapped gifts.  I am thankful that, though I do not own my own home, this year I was not homeless.  I have a good job and can afford a hotel near to where Jessica lives.

Jessica read the story of the first Christmas as written in the Bible’s Gospel of Luke.  As a Messianic Jew and a Christian, I could be criticized for celebrating Christmas, a holiday not well steeped in valid history.  However, I love Christmas for the songs whose words I memorized when I was a child, the tiny blinking lights, angels, and evergreens.  Jesus came as the “light of the world.”  He died on a tree, our sacrifice to wash away our crimson sins, and rose again to bring new life.  Somehow these ideas do not erase older traditions of Hanukah, but fulfill.

How was your Christmas?

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Christmas Book Tea

Lonna Christmas 2018

You are invited to drink tea, eat cookies, and get one of my books for free!  This Sunday, December 23, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., I will be in the lovely lobby of the Ontario Airport Hotel in Ontario, California.  Stop by.  Everyone who shows up gets a free book!  I have 7 books (my true cancer survival story, travel adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and journalistic-style coverage of the country of Turkey–with color photos, links, and interviews).

Instead of “bestsellers,” may my books be “bestgivers.”

Merry Christmas!

Turkish Tea

Turkish Tea (in a seaside cafe near Istanbul, Turkey)

Big Churches & Big Bucks

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Not many people can say that they’ve visited the biggest church in America and the biggest church in the world.  I went to both of these, not as a welcomed speaker or acclaimed, best-selling author, but as a traveler needing a place to sleep.

I came upon America’s biggest church quite by accident.  I had just arrived in Houston, Texas at the turn of the New Year, 2016.  A winter storm with strong gusts and torrents that blinded my driving pushed my car off the downtown freeway to Lakewood Church one night.  I thought it was odd that the name “Joel Osteen” was lit up in lights next to the church’s name.  The building was a former convention/sports stadium that had been turned into a mega-church.  It boasted several levels, below-ground parking, and an arena that could seat hundreds of thousands.

I parked in the lower-level parking area and found my way inside the church which was hosting many events for children and adults on a Friday night.  I walked past the cafe and bookstore and took an elevator to Level 4 where people gathered for a Celebrate Recovery meeting.  While my husband, still shy about America, waited in the car, I listened to a woman give her testimony of being free from an abusive relationship.  She also played the guitar and sang.  I stayed for the free soup after and asked a woman with a badge if anyone could help me and my husband, new in town and with little money, to find a motel for the night.

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“Oh, you have to come back on Monday when the office is open,” the badged woman informed me.  I thanked her for the soup and mentioned, as I walked away, “I need gas and food, and that’s 3 days away.  I’ve tried all the public welfare agencies.”

A black man handed me $20.  “I don’t know if you are telling the truth or not, but Jesus loves you,” he assured me.

He walked quickly away, before I could thank him.  I found my way back down to the parked car.  We drove to an old auto repair shop not far away to spend the night in our Mazda 5 minivan.  Since we blended in with other parked cars, no police or neighbors bothered us.

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Monday morning I returned.  The church looked more ominous in the daylight.  I walked up its steep entrance ramp, through one of many glass doorways, past a uniformed guard, to the long security desk. Continue reading