Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

He Called me ‘Kid’

Posted: March 18, 2018 in Perspective, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The world lost another person,
That’s common as can be.
More than one hundred-fifty thousand,
Die every day you see. 

But this person was unique,
That’s a word to appease all.
Some say homeless, smelly, weak,
Most likely found on a bar crawl.
When I heard he died I couldn’t speak,
All I could do was bawl.

Who will see me on the street,
And come over to say hi?
Ask ‘how’s it going?’, call me ‘kid’,
Never just pass me by?

The world lost a complainer,
I lost a dear friend.
An old and hardened man,
Versus free hugs up to the end.

The world lost an alcoholic,
I lost my baking’s biggest fan.
Tough and gruff and grumpy,
Or survivor, honest friend.

There were things we disagreed on,
Like how to choose a spouse.
Get him talking about women,
And he could really run his mouth.

But he was also chivalrous,
He’d walk me to my car.
That is before he lost the strength,
To walk even that far.

He was a man who loved his mother,
For her utmost respect he had.
He’ll be replaced here by no other,
Today I just feel sad.

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Mary, Myanmar & My heart

Posted: March 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

Last month I got to go and visit my “family” in Myanmar. It’s funny how we didn’t meet until she was 14 years old, but Mary and I bonded instantly. This sweet girl is a sister to me, no matter what our blood and DNA say. We met last year, and this year she was at the airport to meet me when I flew in even though she gets carsick on the hour plus ride. Sometimes when I’m missing my friends there too much I look through the letters they sent home with me. Let me share a few highlights with you…IMG_8954
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“I am very happy because you love me always.” – Mary

“I so very happy I you are cute and very kindful.” – Tamar

“I want to live with always. Time you don’t forget me.” – Priscilla

“I very love you.” – Naomi

“I miss you every day.” – Abisak

Judy summed it up in a drawing…I think it looks like us? Don’t you?

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Myanmar is just another place in the world. There’s really nothing amazingly exceptional about it. There’s beauty, poverty, power, people, heroes, orphans, but the family at Agape orphanage have grabbed my heart and made Myanmar feel like home. We have memories together from the past two years. They expect me to come back, and I know that someday I will. In the mean time, here’s to these beautiful friends of mine on International Women’s Day.

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Shelby // Judy // Mary // Tamar

Mail keeps me going…

Posted: February 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

IMG_9568Sometimes in the midst of recruiting volunteers for Out of the Cold, asking for financial support to be able to continue the work I’m doing, figuring out how to fill and where to store 10,000 easter eggs between now and easter, searching for local artists who would be willing to donate their art to Art with a Heart – a community fund raiser, even thinking about getting all the volunteers and projects we will need in place for CityServe, matching new mentors in the mentoring program at the jail, recruiting volunteers for kids ministry at church, planning events for our young adult ministry, and making it to your occasional staff meeting it feels like there isn’t time left to send emails and write blog posts. But there is always SO MUCH to celebrate and so today I wanted to take the time to tell you about it.

  • Friends in jail – one got her GED! At age 44 she finally feels like she has some value. If we were allowed to throw a party while she’s in there we totally would, but instead my friend Beckie and I just rejoiced with her over lunch on the unit and told her we were so proud of her! Another got out of jail recently and her mentor (through Building Hope our mentoring program) had a celebration party for her. What a wonderful way for her to be reminded that she is loved and she has people on her team! Both of these things just absolutely filled my heart!
  • Getting thank you cards from Christmas in the Jail. Raising $5000 for Christmas in the Jail takes away from raising my own financial support so it gets really tricky, but cards like the one pictured in this blog that came this week remind me that it is so worth it. God provides for our needs, so I will keep trusting him…and donating plasma, but whatever.
  • When someone signs up for 4 volunteer spots over the course of 2 weeks for Out of the Cold without even being asked! I love that our church participates in Out of the Cold, but it can be hard to find all the volunteers we need as overnight shifts make work really hard to go to the next day, but we are starting to get our volunteers spots for April filled up and already have 22 of our 56 overnight shifts taken.
  • Our last community movie night had almost 150 people at it! A bunch of them were community members we’ve never met before. We love that Calvary is a safe space in our community.

Hoping to get back to blogging more often, but we’ll see if I find the time. Enjoy the sweetest note below and I hope it encourages you to remember that when you do something – even something small – for a person in your community the effects will last much longer than you know…

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Would you believe me if I told you that with just over 30 people and just over 30 days we raised just over $5,000 for Christmas in the jail! HOLY COW! The thermometer was filled on July 31st!

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I am so humbled. I set a goal, a necessary goal to reach, but if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to reach it. I thought, “hey, if we aim for 5, maybe we will get 3 and that will be a great start”. But no, we not only hit 5000, but we passed it! With that and the couple thousand Calvary Church is chipping in, I now have almost all of the money we will need to put on an amazing Christmas celebration in the jail this year. Just like last year we’ll have journals, coloring books, colored pencils, devotional books, candy, Life Recovery Bibles, and of course a hand written note to each and every inmate. There’s also a couple of additions this year, but I’m not going to ruin the surprise because I know word will get back to the jail and it’s more fun to get presents you don’t already know about.

To those who gave financially, THANK YOU. To those who encouraged me, THANK YOU. To those who have supported me over the passed several years in getting to this point, THANK YOU. For those who have prayed, THANK YOU. I couldn’t do what I do without all of you behind me. I’m so grateful.

According to google, the word opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something“. Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to share about the opportunities I’ve received and open up opportunities for others to join in order to create opportunities for still others to have an easier time of transition and ultimately a better life. …I know, I know, that’s all jumbled and confusing and I used the word ‘opportunity‘ too many times, but it’s true! Let me break it down for you…
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Photo Credit: Commissioner Mike Pipe
Last week I had the chance to share about Building Hope (the mentoring program I helped create) at a Mokita Dialogue on prison systems. The Mokita Dialogue was an event put on by the Jana Marie Foundation and hosted by New Leaf Initiative. They have discussions every month about important topics that need to be talked about, but that people don’t really like to talk about. For example, mental health, homelessness, prison system… not easy topics, but necessary.
So at the prison system talk, about 50 people gathered in room to acknowledge issues, and dream of change. The exciting thing is we didn’t just dream and be on our way, we then got to share tangible ideas, inspire those in the room with the capacity to take action, and invite people into what’s already being done. Several people came to chat with me after to learn more about what it looks like to be a mentor. I don’t know if they will sign up, but I hope and pray they will. It doesn’t take much to believe in someone and help them to learn they are valuable just because they are alive. To show that a prison system doesn’t define our humanity. To sip coffee in the sunshine while exchanging work stories. It doesn’t take much to spend an hour a week with someone, but to that someone it just might mean the world.
If you’re a local and interested in becoming a mentor, please reach out to me, or follow this link to apply!

“STOP IT!” she screamed into the silence. “I know what you’re doing and I feel you enough. JUST GO AWAY!”

“SHUT UP!” the other yelled back, “just stop your ranting for one moment and give me a little peace. You’re making me crazy!”

“Why are you mad? Isn’t this what we wanted? Did we never talk about this?”

“Of course it’s what we wanted…we asked for it. I just didn’t know it would feel this way.”

Back and forth they bickered and yelled all. day. long. But silently. You may have noticed them though not so harshly. Maybe the harshness of the first was reflected in my tone when I spoke. Or maybe you saw their frustration of the second in the tears that welled up in my eyes for seemingly no reason while we were talking. Or that quiver in my voice that I pretended wasn’t there. You might have noticed. But you might not have, but those have been the voices of my head and my heart today. On the inside, they are so very loud.

See, every Wednesday for the past 3 years I have been prepping emotionally to wake up the next day and go into jail. Today I didn’t. Tomorrow I am not going to jail. It’s still jail day. But I’m not going in. My dear friend and coworker has become the answer to my prayers that have been piling up for 3 years now. Prayers to be able to share this work with someone. Prayers for it to become sustainable. So many prayers. And now as I watch them being answered and I rejoice, it hurts a little bit. That’s where my head and heart get mad at each other. One wants to see the logic and say “THIS IS WHAT I WANTED! YAY!” the other says, “I sure am going to miss my friends tomorrow”. One says, “I cannot even believe this is growing to more than just me!” the other questions my identity. “What exactly is my intro now if not, ‘I am the chaplain’?”

As I look to Jesus and quiet my soul I am reminded that I don’t have to know what’s next to trust that it is good. Transition, even when it’s good, is hard. Tears are not bad. Trust takes work. I don’t like that, but it’s true. Trust. Trust. Trust that tomorrow will come and go just like today. Trust that the next steps, no matter how scary, are where I’m supposed to go. Tonight I will choose to trust and rest secured and before I drift off to sleep reread my favorite bedtime psalm. Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

I wondered, ‘what in the world are we are thinking‘. And wished I wasn’t part of the we. But if I haven’t made a strong voice against, then I am still in the main stream, am I not? Flowing deeper and deeper down, matching all the other drops around me.

Broken systems need to be fixed. And not just because they take too many tax dollars (though I’ve been guilty of using that to help motivate the masses before). Broken systems don’t need to be fixed once an easy solution is available or just because we are finally personally affected. They don’t need to be fixed because of any political movement.

They need to be fixed because lives, human lives, depend on it. I spend a fair amount of time in jail and I see people both come and go and come again and go again. I see those incarcerated, the corrections officers, volunteers and the visitors. A while back I saw a toddler hiding under the chairs in the main waiting room refusing to leave after visiting his Mama. No child should wish for jail. But that is what we have taught him as a society to do. Once a week, for one hour he gets to visit his Mom. When the car he is in drives past the jail on other outings he will scream for her. He loves her. He sees her face first, and not her crime. He remembers something so many of us have forgotten. She is a person. She is valuable. She is worth loving and she is loved. oscar-courage

I challenge you to remember today that no person is a number. No person is just bad. People do bad things. People make mistakes. People act out in their pain. Some get caught. Some get labeled. Some get forgotten. That needs to change. All people should be loved. “It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all of its tainted glory, and still to love it.”  – Oscar Wilde

You know that feeling when you finally see the ones you love…that’s what I was feeling here. =) Reuniting with the whole family is always the sweetest thing.

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We set out to catch up on things we missed and had the most lovely Christmas and celebration of Luka’s birthday.

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If you didn’t know it before, you should now know, that I have the coolest brother in the world!

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A couple days after “Christmas” we headed off to Oman to have a new adventure together, and we were wowed by everything we saw. The land, the people, the mosques and forts…

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Wandering and exploring the wadis was probably all of our favorite activity. Climbing, swimming, adventuring…

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We got to visit this gorgeous Grand Mosque

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And though you can’t see it, we are standing on the second largest carpet in the world.

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Wandering around this old fort was an incredible adventure too!

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Even our downtime was spent taking over the world…

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To the ones who taught me to adventure,

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And the ones who have never let me adventure alone.

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It was an incredible trip and I can’t wait for the next one!

img_8513I always wear my Africa. Africa is my strong. It’s my symbol to remind me to pray. It’s my tiny map so when people ask about home I can point out where it is. I wear it like armor, it makes me feel brave. It has led to laughter when people try to figure out which state in the USA it is. It has opened up multiple conversations with strangers. The other travelers in a crowd can find me and start an easy conversation. When it is around my neck I feel like home is close to my heart. That family isn’t so far away. That I will be back someday. That it isn’t over 7000 miles and several days of travel to get home.

But the other day I took it off. Sure, I take it off to wear a different necklace sometimes, but it always goes right back on. Not the other day. The other day I took it off with no replacement necklace. I set it on the dresser and walked away. The other day I took it off because I was afraid. I was angry. I couldn’t make words make sense and I was reminded of that every time I heard it jingle around my neck or felt it move against my chest. I just couldn’t take it…so I took it off.

As a reader, you’re probably thinking, “this girl has lost it” or “where are you going with this one, Shelby?” or, “have you made this thing an idol?” even, “can it really be that strong of a force?” I think the challenge of this post (and all writing) is to get to a vulnerable enough spot that you can understand the thoughts swirling inside my head, but I’m going to warn you right here…they are swirling through the mud and it’s messy, it’s confusing, I’m not sure I can win this one and make it all make sense. I’m not sure it will look nice on the page or be smooth on your tongue as you read it. And even now, as I write this, I’m not sure of the emotion I want you to take away after you’ve read it. Probably, as with all my writing, this is much more for me than for you. But please read. Read it because though I’m not so clear in my writing, it’s even harder in talking…but I want you to know. I might cry if we talk, but I want to talk. I might say I’m fine, but the truth is I’m hurting and confused and I want you to know. You are allowed to ask. If you read this we will at least both be at the same starting point if we ever do try to talk about it.

I took off my Africa when I heard that my family moving away. I LOVE my family and I LOVE when they are close to me, but this time, they were coming closer but it felt so far. It felt wrong. It felt broken. See this time they were being “removed” from Tanzania. What does that mean? We didn’t really know. Lets be real, we still don’t really know. But they were told they have to leave and so they will leave.

There are times and places where culture seems to be stronger than faith. Where people’s desire for power and strength looks better to them than following Jesus. When someone wants to be on top, sometimes they feel a need to push others down before they get there. It sucks. A lie that I have been fighting since I was a kid is that God is the cause of the mess. Sure, God meets us in the mess, but it is not His intention to hurt us. He will help us grow through it. But the mess is made by humans. We are broken. Sinful. And not always the smartest.

This is just one example. Brokenness, messes, trauma – this stuff happens all the time.  I took my Africa off because I was angry that so quickly this token of love and hope and overcoming could become a carrier of loss, hurt and feel overwhelming. Something I wanted to fight back against. But I’m not a fighter. So when I couldn’t take it anymore, I just took it off. “This is a personal battle,” “I’ll show them,” “I don’t care,” and “I’m stronger without it,” I lied to myself. I wanted to believe it too. It would be easier if I could believe that I could just walk away and block it out. I wouldn’t have to feel the hurt. I wouldn’t have to remember the loss. I could avoid going back to the other times people in the church had hurt me. The time the mission made us leave our house and village when I was 14. The time a boy studying to become a pastor treated me as if I didn’t exist when I was 20. The time a man wrote me a letter that fell into the stalking category and I had to bring it to the police when I was 27. There’s more. But other people’s stories are too closely tied into mine for me to share them publicly. There is a whole lot of junk in the church. There’s a whole lot of pain. It’s pretty easy to look at all those things and so many other things that happen ‘in the church’ and believe that God is mean, bad, evil. But then I have to stop and remember…I invite all my friends to church. Church is about God…but it’s full of people. People are risky. People mess up. People are broken. God’s not bad. That’s a fact. I also don’t want to just give you a list of bad things others have done and ignore that I have hurt so many. I’ve said the wrong words, been uncaring, insensitive and ignorant. There are people who could add me to their list and I must remember that. I’m a person. People are broken.

I don’t know what it means that my family is leaving. They don’t either. We are trying to process it. We are trying to figure out next steps. “Can they go back somehow?” we don’t know. “What will happen to all their stuff?” it is already sold and given away, other things are in boxes that they hope they can get to America in the future. The last of my childhood has been packed up. The walls I painted, the posters I hung, the clothes I left for when I go home to visit, the dogs. They’re gone now. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I took my Africa off.

But then I realized, if I take it off and block out the pain, I also block out the joy. Did I want to give up the memories of mud fights? The hours spent painting nails, watching Princess Bride, making beaded bracelets with Hekima, Jenny, Grace, and Alice? Did I want to forget about playing ‘nage’,  the best game in the world that no Americans know how to play? Did I want to give up roof rack riding? Picnics at the waterfall? Swimming in the catfish pond? Did I want to give up goat roasts and pig roasts? Hunting with my dad? The 30+ foster siblings my family has cared for? Did I want to give up hours of eating sugarcane and kumbikumbi (bugs) with all the other MKs? Did I want to give up the country I called home for over half of my life? Could I give up the country of my brother’s heritage? If I couldn’t take the pain, I’d have to block out the joy too. I’d have to forget that I already overcame lots of those battles I’ve mentioned above.

As angry as I was (am) I couldn’t give those up. I couldn’t let them go. That is my life. It’s my heritage. It has molded me into the woman that I am today. And this…this really painful and confusing time…this will continue to mold me. It can lead me to bitterness. It can lead me to strength. I get to choose. So after a few days I put my Africa back on. I’m still angry. I’m still hurt. I’m still confused. I still haven’t made it through many days without tears. But, I choose to trust.

My word for the year of 2017 is trust. I chose the word trust the day before I heard about my family being kicked out of Tanzania. I was nervous to pick the word trust, because I know that learning to focus on trust and trying to learn more about it is risky…we learn to trust through trials. Our faith is strengthened when we persevere. I chose the word trust and then I wanted to give it back. I didn’t want it anymore. But I do. I believe that God didn’t change when my circumstances did. I believe that God is faithful. There have been times I’ve taken out my anger on God instead of trusting God and being angry at the situation. I don’t want to do that anymore. There’s hard times in life. There’s hard people. Life is messy. God is good.

I’m still hurting. I still might cry if you ask about this. I still don’t know what it means. I still don’t have closure. But I’m telling you this, I’m choosing to trust. I’m willing to share. If you want to ask more then ask. If you want to pray then pray. I’m sharing this here, because I need to face it. Africa may not always be on my neck, but it will forever hold a piece of my heart. It might not always be my home, but it will always have been my home. I may be from Pennsylvania now, but I grew up in Africa. And that’s okay.

Below are some of the verses I’ve been clinging to these past couple of weeks. Hope if you’re going through something, they might help you too.

  • God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Gen 1:31)
  • The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9-10)
  • We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)
  • See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
  • When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13)
  • 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)

Goodbye Linda, you are missed.

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

I miss you, Linda.
I miss your quirky.
I miss your innocence.
I miss the way you always made me laugh.

I remember and regret that I didn’t always want to be around you.
Sometimes you seemed like a lot of work.
Sometimes I struggled to find ways to encourage you.
Sometimes you just overwhelmed me.

But now I wonder, who in our town will visit Goodwill every single day?
Who will buy all the incredibly gaudy jewelry and see the beauty in it?
Your perspective was so different than those around you.
We connected in seeing the beauty in color and and junk and things that others miss.

I will miss your pride when showing me you had a couple square feet of space clean in your home even if the rest was a disaster zone,
though I won’t miss the hours of organizing and scrubbing.
I will miss the voicemails you left me at 3am,
though not the anxiety in your voice when you left them.

I’m glad we went out for lunch last month just as friends with no agenda.
I’m glad you felt safe enough to talk about all your medical issues with me.
I’m glad we got to debrief some of the trauma of your past.
I’m holding onto the memory of that last hug.

I’m sorry I forgot to call you on Christmas.
Time got away from me this year.
I hope you knew that I loved you still even without the phone call.
Because I did. But now you’ve passed away. And I miss you.