Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Shelby, I don’t want to die in here.
I can’t get those words out of my head.
Shelby, I don’t want to die in here.heart

A woman came into my office today, lets call her Sue for this story.
When she walked in her eyes were puffy. It was clear she was upset about something, but I had no idea what. I had only met her once before so I tried to remember what she had shared in the past. *think brain think* I couldn’t. I met multiple women the day I met her, and their stories were colliding in my mind.

So I did the next best thing, I guessed about her kids. I thought maybe she had told be about her sons, so I asked her, “you have boys on the outside, right?” Wrong. She has one boy, and he’s not on the outside. The tears started falling as she told me the name of the prison her son was in. Then the one her daughter was in. And a third that her grandson was in. *no wonder she is struggling* I thought to myself. That is a lot of weight for anyone to carry.

But I was wrong again. While that did bring her down, she went on to tell me that she found out this week that her husband passed away. She relied on him. He didn’t use drugs. He loved her. She looked me in the eye and said, “He loved me when I couldn’t even love myself…I came from an alcoholic family, and I didn’t know how to love”. Now she doesn’t even know if she will make it to his funeral.

“I really wish I was allowed to hug you,” I told her. “I know” she said, “I can feel it. Thank you”.

We talked about feeling and how it felt bad, but it was good that she could feel it. We were both thankful she didn’t have access to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, even though it would seem like the ‘easiest’ solution if it was available. And she said, “maybe that is why I came in here, because God knew I couldn’t have dealt with it on my own”. I respected her so much for looking for the positive in such a negative situation.  She told me how it was hard to sleep, and that sometimes her breaking heart hurt so badly that she thought she might be having a heart attack. That is when she told me, “Shelby, I don’t want to die in here”.  And she meant it. She is scared. She doesn’t believe she is having a heart attack, but death is something she has experienced far more than many of us. She knows it’s not something waiting for us at the end of our lives when we’ve had enough, she knows death comes at times you wouldn’t expect. And she’s scared that she’s next.

Friends, please get help when you need it. Know that you are loved. You were created in the image of God, and He loves you. Even if your family never did. And it’s ok to have problems, addictions, relatives in jail, a record, naughty kids, debt, a bad day. Those things don’t have to be hidden. Don’t turn to a bottle to soften the blow, there are people who are willing to listen, and a God who redeems. Trust me, I get a front row seat on both sides of these stories, and one side is better than the other. I guarantee it.

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Sometimes I wonder why I can’t ever seem to find the time to clean my room. Then I take a look at my life and roll my eyes at myself. I have time…I just chose to put it elsewhere. Check out a couple of my projects lately that have brought a ton of joy!

For starters, with the help of some incredible friends who were willing to give up their weekend and stay up way too late, I painted my car…IMG_3164IMG_3166IMG_3156IMG_3189

Then I ran off to Turkey for a week to visit my family. No, they don’t live there…it’s just the ‘middle’ where this three continent family could most easily all be in the same place at the same time. IMG_3867IMG_3945

In the midst of jet lag I don’t always make the best decisions, and so decided that the Little Free Library I was going to build for winning our house ‘pitch dinner’ couldn’t be just like everyone else’s…nope. I decided it would be in a hollowed out tree. Why? I don’t know. But I did…so it is. Well, it’s not done yet, but it will be by Monday! IMG_4071 LFL IMG_4132

So since the library has a time limit to complete you’d think I’d just focus on that, but one of my housemates started a free expression wall in the stairway…so between power tools I picked up my paintbrush and painted the world… IMG_4079  IMG_4114

Most of the co.family is gone this week for Spring Break, but they will be back soon for many more adventures and family dinners which will once again warm my heart!IMG_3052

There is always so much going on in life. There are also all of the work adventures I didn’t even mention, and sometimes even though there is so many good things it can still feel overwhelming. But I was challenged recently and I’m determined to chose joy in it all. This life is too good not to make the most of it, and even in the bad parts, I trust that good will come again. Because God is good, and He is for us.

“Shelby, I’m back.” Normally those are word I love to hear. When my housemates come home my heart is full. When out of town friends visit it’s wonderful. When I get to see my family after a long separation.

But not today.
See, today is Thursday.
Thursday is jail day.

Today when I went onto the block for lunch my friend came up to me and said, “Shelby, I’m back.” “Oh friend…” I said, but there were no more words. “You are.” “Why?” “I’m sorry.” “What did you do?” and “Seriously!?” just didn’t seem to fit the moment. So we just locked eyes in a moment of understanding.

I had flashbacks to my second graders telling me, “Miss Caraway, my dad’s in jail,” as they stood in line and having no response for them. These things that are so normal, are not good. In fact they are very bad, but when we let ourselves feel it hurts. So, too often, the calloused walls go up and get stronger each time.

Sadly, so often, it’s that very fear of feeling that leads people to jail. Too often using drugs is the easiest way to ‘cope’. Sadly, it doesn’t ever actually help. It just blocks, delays, distracts, or postpones the pain.

Can we make it ok to cry again?

Can we follow up our “how are yous?” with real questions that require bigger answers than “fine”? If we want people to get better, it’s on us to help. I dare you to feel the feelings you’re afraid of today. And when someone asks about your day be willing to tell them the truth instead of what you think they want to hear. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Last week in the jail I went onto the block for lunch like normal and I sat down at a table with a woman who was 75. When I introduced myself to this tiny but beautiful white haired woman she nodded and responded with her name but quickly added that everyone calls her “granny”. I wanted to cry. I thought about my Grandparents sleeping on the cots in there that are not comfortable. I thought about how although I wouldn’t get to be with my Grandparents over the holidays I was glad it was for different reasons than this woman’s grandkids. I thought about how confusing the system is when you go in and how hard that must be to figure out at that age. I thought about how little respect inmates get, and how after living a full life as an adult being treated more like a child must feel beyond frustrating.  I watched her choose which food she would eat because she knew she couldn’t get through an apple and a sandwich in the allotted time to eat lunch.

I don’t know what she did. I don’t know why she was there. I don’t know when she will be out. But I know that she was sweet. I know that it is hard in jail. And I know that coming out is often like facing culture shock no matter how long you’ve been in. I’m so excited for the mentoring program being launched now so that people like Granny can have someone on their team to call or meet up with when they get out. If you are interested we are looking for more male and female mentors. Check out the website at buildinghope.squarespace.com and follow up with me if you have any questions or just apply today!

Some days just don’t go to plan. That’s good for me, because half the time it seems I lose my planner. (I swear I get more scatter brained as each day goes by!) Today was one of those days where I forgot my planner at home, but it didn’t really matter, because in my job the unexpected doesn’t fit itself into the plan. It calls you to it and makes you think on your feet.

photo-15I don’t remember if I blogged about the time I broke into someone’s house with the police because I was worried she had passed away, only to find out she was napping, but that happened a while back. So knowing I can be over zealous, today’s adventure was different. I was worried again, about the same friend. But I did better research this time and we found out that someone had seen an ambulance at her place. I called the hospital, and explained how I wasn’t family, but that it didn’t matter, because there isn’t local family, so I should count and I got the info I needed.

I went and found her in the ER and sat with her. I’m sure the nurses thought I was crazy cause I just started talking. She was pretty unresponsive…like completely. I tried to shake her awake to visit with me, but gave up and just talked, I pulled up the gospel of John on my phone and read to her. A tech came in and worked hard to try to get some blood, which did finally wake her and she noticed I was there. Though she couldn’t come up with any words while she fought for air through the oxygen machine, her eyes smiled at my corny jokes and random stories. We sat, held hands, and I talked. It wasn’t what I had planned for my day, but I wouldn’t trade it. I know the feeling of having no family around. And I am so thankful for the wonderful friends who have been there for me in times of need again and again. I love that I get to be there for others and call it my job. Thanks for being on the team, and please pray for healing for my friend in this difficult time.

It hurts so much to sit silently, 3ft away from girls mourning and not reach out to comfort them. As they mourn the loss of belongings, basic rights, children, parents, pets, their past and their futures. As they weep, rock, bounce their knee, bite their lip. As they hurt and long for comfort. As they tell me how all they ever get are blank stares I wonder how my eye contact is perceived. I wonder if they can see that my heart is breaking. I wonder if they know I’d give anything to change their situation. I wonder if they know they are worth it. And I hope. I hope and I pray. I believe they can overcome. I believe they are worth the fight. I believe God is for them. I believe they can have hope. Even as I hear their stories. Just a couple snippets of todays stories below…

“They say retaliation isn’t allowed, but really, how can they stop it?” – you don’t need a shank to hurt someone back. Sometimes silence, rumors, language, or force hurt just as much as weapons.

“But how do I know who me is? There are so many.” – asked the girl who was recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when we talked about how medication might help to silence the voices in her head that weren’t hers and make her feel more like herself.

“…Someone must have been praying for me. I don’t know who would…Not that many people love me… (in the middle of this long story she paused, let it sink in to herself, put her head down in shame as the tears began to flow. Then she looked up again.) …maybe three.” – I told her that now she has four, because I will love her and pray for her.

“If it wasn’t for Jesus living inside of me I’d’ve had her up to the wall and smashed her face in…” – the girl who is getting much better at anger management.

“Will you pray that I would believe I’m still a good person who just did a really bad thing, and not the evil person media is portraying me to be?” – the young girl who is truly sorry for what she did.

“I’m a really nice person, but in here you have to learn to be selfish.” – a new girl adjusting to life on the inside.

Sometimes it’s hard to hope in the midst of so much pain, but I just keep praying Romans 15:13 over them: “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.” I believe God’s power is stronger than any person, place, or thing against us. Through Him we can overcome.

I tried to move yesterday. It was pretty successful. I packed all my stuff up, put it into a couple of friends cars, drove it to my new house, carried it up to the third floor, unpacked it and set it all up. Then I went out to get dinner and stopped back at my “old” house to see how the fam’s packing was going and I didn’t want to leave. But I had to…I had just brought all my things over to my “new” house. So they came with me to gather some clothes and my work bag and bring them back home to sleep on the couch cushions on the floor since my bed got packed up to go to Taiwan yesterday (lucky for me the person buying the couch hasn’t gotten it yet). This morning started with lots of tears as we talked about how real it all felt before I ran out the door for work…looking a bit disheveled but making it just on time. Some of the things I can’t get out of my mind include:

  • Conversations early in the morning, middle of the day, and late at night about whatever is going on in our lives.
  • Tripping over toys left on my floor.
  • Being honest and vulnerable…it’s not easy with just anyone. It takes a lot of work and we’ve gotten to that point.
  • Getting dandelions everyday…and always having it be a “surprise”.
  • Going for drives, or brunch or dinner for family adventures.
  • My hand soap being moved to the back of my toilet where it was easier for sweet littles to reach it.
  • Going for walks at 11:50pm because we made a bet to exercise that day and forgot to.
  • Sweet littles tiptoeing down the stairs to see if I was awake in the mornings and climbing into my bed to tell me stories or yelling back up the stairs to report if I was still asleep.
  • Comparing good books.
  • Choosing favorite fairies.
  • Anna initiating spelling out sentences back and forth so Lucy wouldn’t know what we said. ( “I space t-h-i-n-k space t-h-a-t space s-h-e space w-a-n-t-s space t-h-a-t” … “m-e space t-o-o” with a smile and a wink in the rearview mirror.)
  • Regularly coming home to a dinner of delicious food (specifically pork and green beans).
  • Dressing up for tea parties on a regular basis.

It’s not easy to take someone into your life. It’s even harder to share your family. Having a chance to share life with an extra family has been one of the best parts of my life. I’ve always wanted a family of my own, but I feel so much more equipped to know how to love them and raise kids having been “a Shelby” in this home (I’m with the girls on this one and can’t figure out how to describe our relationship – not a nanny, not a sister, just a friend who’s part of the family, I guess). So the best is the worst when you have to say goodbye. I’m good at goodbyes. I say them to my family all the time. I mean, come on, we live on 3 different continents. I always hope it will get easier, but it doesn’t. The best friends are the worst to say goodbye to. It’s just a fact. But I always think of Winnie-the-Pooh’s wisdom when he said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Lately my job ok, life, has been nearly consumed with CityServe. CityServe is a huge weekend of service we plan with the help of 3 other local churches and is completed with volunteers from several more! It is an incredible opportunity to see God at work in our community. And a wonderful chance to share God’s love with people who maybe have never heard about it before.

I’d say it’s a bit overwhelming, but then so incredibly worth it. I’ve been pushing back against it a little bit and being shown lots of grace from the team as I keep running off to jail, and other meetings that are not directly related to this crazy event. I try to make up for my absence by working in bits and pieces here and there. Sometimes early, sometimes late. I think after this I could learn to juggle. =)

Tonight I came home earlier than I was expecting and needed to just not do anything for a while. I needed to process. So I decided to write, because you may have noticed the silence on here lately…it’s been one of the things that just doesn’t get the time. But it seems that the rest of life just refuses to be put on hold during CityServe. So let me tell you a few of the things that made me “take a break” from CityServe work, but just don’t always count as a break…

  • Meeting a new woman in the jail who told me heartbreaking stories and didn’t believe that she deserves to be forgiven. It’s so humbling to be reminded that she is right. We don’t deserve to be forgiven. And it was such a sweet time explaining to her that she can’t earn forgiveness, but she can have forgiveness because of Jesus.
  • Getting a phone call from one of my older friends who comes to our months dinners, and doesn’t have any family in the community to learn that she received some medical tests telling her she is terminal. I tried to hold back my tears as we chatted about her options…will they try chemo? surgery? radiation? …no. I told her I couldn’t imagine how scary that must be, but she is a believer and she seemed to be at peace…at least that day. It was again humbling to remember that we are all terminal…the only difference is she knows her expiration date. She is very excited to be getting a group from CityServe coming to her home to help her this year.
  • Hanging out at the shelter: holding a puppy, chatting with friends, ignoring whatever crazy movie was playing, getting interviewed for a student’s photo journalism project, entering a ton of names into our database, and giving one of our girls a ride to her new apartment with a box full of food and a pillow and some of her few belongings. It was encouraging to see how many of my homeless friends are signed up to serve as volunteers during CityServe.
  • Going to another friend from the monthly dinner’s house unexpectedly. I got a call from her saying, can you please get a group to come help me because I was really sick and there’s …(insert all types of bodily fluids here)… in my bed, and I can’t carry all of that down the stairs to the washing machine while I’m still not fully recovered. Well, I couldn’t very well call the hospitality team to see if someone wanted to go over, so me and one of my amazing co-workers who is the one in charge of CityServe peaced out of the office after staff meeting to go strip her bed and wash it and remake it. She’s excited for her upcoming CityServe project…and I’m sure the volunteers will be glad we were there for the pre-CityServe work to make it a little cleaner for their arrival.
  • As I was getting ready to head over to my Life Group tonight and lead our study, I got a call saying one of my friends was in the ER. This friend is an addict and unfortunately the thought of him in the ER brought more frustration than fear. But I know that it’s really hard to stop being an addict, and that most things are harder when you think your alone in the world. So I made a few calls, and got my awesome co-leaders to fill in for me, and headed over to sit at the hospital and talk about making good choices and to give him a hug when we parted and tell him I love him. He can make me mad, sad, and disappointed, but he can’t make me stop sharing Jesus’ love with him.

So I get lots of distractions, some are emotionally draining, others are life giving, some are both. But I also have lots of emotionally filling things in my life! The moments when I come home and my sweet littles see me before I get in the door and yell, “Shelby! Shelby! Shelby!” or scamper off to hide behind the curtains waiting to be found. A friend I hadn’t seen in over 3 years dropping by on her drive from NY to OH and spending the night. Phone calls that work (even if they are short) to my family in Tanzania and the U.A.E. Encouraging words from so many friends. Lots of prayers. Watching our need for volunteers for CityServe go from 900 down to almost none! It is an incredible time. It is a crazy time. But mostly, it’s a time to remember that God is in control…just like He always is. And that He is going to do big things…just like He always does. Feel free to be praying for the nearly 900 volunteers who will be serving in and around our town this weekend at almost 170 different locations, and for all the people mentioned in this post. I love serving with a team…thanks for being a part of it!

These past few days have been a whirlwind! I’ve been reminded of so many things! One being that there is so much power in words. Another, that God doesn’t change with our outcomes. A week or two ago my sister found a lump. It was scary, but the doctor said it was a pretty good chance it was just a cyst. So I decided not to worry. I prayed about it, put it from my mind, and waited like everyone else.

During that week, I was talking with a friend about trusting God. We were discussing how it is kind of an instant change when you meet God, but then still a daily process to trust Him. I told her how my family is my weakest part, but that I’ve chosen that I will trust God not matter what happens to them. I said this out loud the day before my sister called to tell me that the lump wasn’t a cyst. It was in fact a tumor.

I wept.

But there was still a chance it was ‘nothing’. It could be just a benign mass, they told us. Though trust in those same people who said it was probably a cyst and were wrong was hard to muster. So I wept. And as I wept I remembered what I had spoken out loud just the day before. I will trust God no matter what. It was such a sweet reminder. I knew that God wasn’t pushing the “smite button” on me just because I had promised to trust Him, but instead had led me to that conversation right when I needed to be reminded that God is enough. That He has a plan, and He is good…no matter my circumstances. And that He can do a far better job taking care of my family than I can.

Many people prayed with and for me and reminded me of truth, “Jesus knows, and loves you all,” “Keep resting in Jesus’ arms of security and hope”. Friends called to make sure I was ok, emailed and texted…their prayers were felt greatly.

I decided to drive to Michigan to wait with my sister for the results of her biopsy. It was possible they would come the next day, or maybe take several days. Either way, it was worth it to be with her, so I went. In my life group we have a tradition where any new person who comes gets to ask a question that we all answer. One of the questions this year was, “if you knew you had one year left to live, what would you do?”. What I noticed, was that there were very few people in our group, if any, who claimed they would be doing the very same things they are doing now. The majority of us said somehow we would be with our family during at least part of that time. That really made me evaluate my life. Is 16 hours of driving fun? No. Is being with family something I value. Yes. Then I go. I want to live a life that I value, and be there for my loved ones when they need me. I never want to look back on my life and say, “I really wish I would’ve given up normal or comfortable for what was valuable or right”. I want to live without regrets.

The trip turned out to be one of celebration when the doctors said it was not cancer. We celebrated life, but we also took time to mourn the fact, that not everyone who the doctors called that day were cancer free. Some people’s lives have been put on hold and plans changed because of terrible diseases or other things. But that doesn’t change who our God is. One friend responded to my news of no cancer with this, “The Lord is so kind”. He is. God is good, and kind, and sweet. He loves us, and whether we get the news we want or not, He will carry us through.

toddler-car-seatAny moms out there know how stressful it is to have a little one. Now picture this…three little ones.

A one year old,
a two year old,
and a four year old.

Hmm…that’s stressful. Now picture this, you’re in a new town, because where you used to live was an unsafe area and you didn’t want to raise your three precious little ones there. You don’t have anywhere to stay, and you have to be out of your hotel room by 11am. Also, you and the kids Daddy don’t have jobs yet…still stressful.

I think to a lot of us this sounds like a bad dream, but to the family of five that I met today, it’s reality. I love having a job where I can be the one to get a phone call saying, we have these kids here, and we know you have a carseat, wanna come help out? And to have the freedom to drop what I’m doing and lug some kids and their sweet parents to a hotel that Hearts for Homeless was able to get for them for the week while they try to figure out life. I’m blessed to have a friend who thought to make dinner for them and bring it to the hotel, so they could have a hot meal tonight. And to live with a family who have extra kid things and toys that we could share with this family.

When I picked up one of the sweet littles this morning and looked into her eyes, my heart broke. It kills me to think, that they, at such young ages, have known homelessness. I hate that this is the reality for so many. But it also breaks my heart to know that it isn’t just them. It breaks my heart that for some reason we can all agree that no matter what it isn’t ok for these sweet littles to be living on the streets, but we can’t always agree about that for bigs. It breaks my heart that I look into the eyes of adults who know the fear of wondering if and where they will sleep at night. Homelessness hurts. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s scary, and lonely, and hard. But I know that while I cannot stop homelessness, I can still do my part. I can hug these sweet littles. I can encourage their Mama. I can chat with my friends at the shelter who, though they aren’t as small, are just as valuable. And I can share what it means to have hope. Not just hope to find a place to call their own…though that is wonderful. The hope of Jesus Christ. The God who knows what it is to be a child without a home…remember, he was born out with the animals? God cares and He loves us. He also has a plan even when things don’t seem to make sense. On days like today, I need that reminder too. Feel free to pray for this family, and the many others who are stuck in really tricky situations.