Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

Do you ever have those days where the line from the song in the kids version of Robin Hood seems to be about the only fitting words to share, “oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally golly, what a day”. I had a lot of them this past year.

For 2016 I chose the word ‘true’ to be my word for the year. Part of me wants to say, “that was a mistake,” because of what path the year took and all the lessons I learned from it that I would’ve loved to never experience, but amidst the pain and chaos I learned oh so much. I will share some, because ‘true’ is a newer thing for me, and I’ve had a year, but I’m still working…

  1. I wanted to be honest with how I’m doing. I’m a person who can easily hide my own emotions to care for yours. But some days are hard. And real friends should have the right to know that when they ask. Living in a house with 19 others helps force conversations. Especially when you live with 19 of the most intentional people in town. This year I got to work on telling the truth when I came home from work whether it was a good day or a hard day. I learned, that when you do tell them, people very often care. So interesting.
  2. I wanted to stay true to myself, my faith, and my God. In the world of “you do you” it’s easy to start believing that whatever you want to be true, can be true for you if you just believe it enough. But I know that isn’t really true. That’s convenient. That’s nice. That’s comfortable…but it doesn’t work in the long run. There are some things in the world that just aren’t true. There are some things in the world that are just unavoidably true no matter how false I want them to be. This year I’ve gotten to remember some of those. Pay attention and notice them. And process what I want to do about them. So interesting.
  3. In May 2016 something happened that brought up a whole lot of garbage from my past. It brought up: Insecurity. Fear. Anger. Confusion. Hurt. Trauma. Sadness. Isolation.  And the biggest one was a general distrust and dislike of people. It brought all the lies that I’ve fought against for so long right back to the surface. The lies that people aren’t worth it. The lies that I am too messed up to fix. The lies that everyone is out to get you. The lies that people don’t really care. May was a really hard month. So was June. Followed by July, August and September. Might as well add October too… But in November something happened. I got to say these 5 words that actually made me cry, “I feel like me again”. For over 6 months I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t want to be around my friends. I didn’t want to leave my room. I didn’t want to face the world. I faked the smiles. I forced the conversations. I cried a lot. I dealt with anxiety for the first time. I believed a lot of lies. But in that whole time, I had incredible support. A family in multiple timezones who were always there when I needed to talk. Friends who invited me to join them or just came to me even when I wasn’t fun. A mentor who prayed over me. An online therapist who listened to me. Coworkers who picked up my slack in both my jobs. God used so many people to demonstrate His love for me and to counter the very lie that was trying to push it’s way into my heart that I shouldn’t trust people. God made people, and He made them very good. So interesting.
  4. Focusing on ‘true’ in 2016 taught me (reminded me) that fear doesn’t get to call the shots in my life. Sometimes it answers the quickest though, but throughout the year I tried to identify when fear got the first word, and go back and acknowledge that I was wrong in letting fear answer first and then tell the truth…maybe I still didn’t know what that was, but that fear didn’t get to make the decisions in my life. So interesting.

2016, you were a tough year. But God taught me so much through you. I wish “word of the years” could go away after the year ends, but I know just like ‘delight‘, ‘pursue‘, ‘intentional‘, ‘greater‘, and ‘overcome‘ you, ‘true‘ will be here to stay in my life for me to continue working on. Stay tuned for 2017’s word of the year to get a post soon. It’ll be another year full of learning…that’s for sure.

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On Wednesday I cried.
I cried a lot.
My heart felt broken.
I knew there was hope.
I know there still is.
But I had to grieve.
I had to mourn.
Just like one of my favorite movies (Inside Out) shows sometimes we need to feel sad.
I didn’t cry because I was so sad Hillary Clinton didn’t win.
But I did cry because Donald Trump won.
There is so much misunderstanding right now.
I’m still very confused.
I’d love for you to read why I cry.
I hope no one feels attacked by my words.
They are in no particular order.
No matter if you cried or not, I’d love to hear your heart.

I cry because the KKK wants to hold a celebratory parade because of Donald Trump’s victory. He may have denounced them once, but I cry because I don’t see him denounce them daily. I don’t see it publicly. I don’t hear it loudly. He now has a whole lot of power and a whole lot of people watching and I cry because I don’t see him using it to bring equality to the races. I cry because every one of my nieces and nephews will have darker skin than me, and though none have been born yet, they will all be just as valuable as I am.

I cry because I live with and love people who have immigrated to this country both legally and illegally. I know them. I love them. I know why their parents brought them here. I want them to be safe. I want others to be safe too. I do not want them “sent back home” because this is the only home they remember. When you come before kindergarten it isn’t really your choice.

I cry because of shame. I’m afraid I won’t be personally effected. Don’t get confused. I don’t want pain, or to be degraded, or to feel unsafe. I only wish we really were equal. I wish my roommate felt safe walking home in our neighborhood at night, but instead she’s staying with friends in another part of town this week because she has dark skin and feels the people around here are unpredictable right now.

I cry because I am so grateful for my faith and the freedom to worship in my country and I am nervous what could happen. Many Muslims are scared. I am scared for them. And I’m scared for me. I will fight for their freedom to worship. If I will not fight for theirs who will fight for mine? Sure, I’d love it if everyone believed the same things as me, but I most definitely do not want to force people to share my beliefs. Don’t you see…if it’s not a choice it’s not a true belief.

I cry because we have become so divided. Us vs them, left vs right, pro-life vs pro-choice, dems vs reps, him vs her. I don’t always fit into a party or a group. I grew up as a third culture kid. I know what it is to not fit in. I know what it is to have views that people don’t understand because they’ve never heard of them let alone experienced them. I’m willing to be patient while people ask borderline offensive questions if they truly are trying to understand. In my life it’s been “do you speak African?” “Are there tigers in your backyard?” “If you’re from Africa how come your white?”…the list goes on… now there are different questions. Questions that cross party lines. I’m afraid people will be too scared to ask them. I’m afraid people will go on living in the seclusion of their bubble and not try to ask, hear, listen, and learn from the “other side”. Two sides are not enough. So many of us are like third culture kids – caught or bouncing or stuck somewhere in the middle.

I cry because my 2 brothers at black and brown. I’ve had nightmares of one getting shot. I’ve witnessed both of them experience racism. Just one example each is one being referred to in a derogatory way as Mexican (though he is not) the other being questioned for being in a church (when he was 6) because “they do come in sometimes” the lady who was questioning him told my mom. I clearly know that racism has been around long before our president elect, but I am afraid of people thinking now that what was done in secret is ok to do in public. I’m afraid of people feeling confident using the N word, touching women inappropriately, telling a transgender person that he or she is not valuable or worthy, or making fun of someone with a disability. I’m afraid things like the Black Lives Matter movement will be targeted and discredited even more now than they were before.

I cry for my housemates who went to bed Tuesday night wondering what they would do without health insurance. Wondering if there is an insurance group that will cover them if Obamacare gets repealed. Schizophrenia and Crohn’s are not something insurance companies often want to cover.

I cry because I have always been the optimist. I’ve always had hope. I have to believe people can get better. I believe my friends in jail can, I believe my friends without houses can, I believe my friends stuck in addiction can, I believe my friends who have, but don’t understand privilege can… but I didn’t want to believe our president elect could. I just wanted to be angry. I cried because my heart was hard.

I cry because people are misrepresented. As I talked to a white, middle class, evangelical christian man at church today my eyes brimmed with tears again as we discussed what could be next. He, as I, has felt targeted by the media for being the cause, when he didn’t want it either. As we discussed our fear for his gay son and my black brother we were saddened by the fact that media says we chose this simply because some people who share our faith voted for this.

I cried really hard when I read articles making fun of those crying after the election. The tears are real, they are not a show. Please be gracious. Recognize there is a time to mourn. There is a time for fear. We will pick up the broom and keep sweeping the mess after we have mourned, but please, oh please, don’t make fun of the tears. The protests are one of the freedoms of this nation. Give them space. Please don’t think I approve of of violence and vandalism. But a peaceful protest may be someones best way to mourn, to say they are hurting, to share their fears…

I cry as I ask, are we more divided? Or has our division simply been brought to light? My hope and prayer is that we choose to acknowledge the pain. Acknowledge the fear. That Christians would live out what Jesus commands to love like He loves…to the outcast, the hurting, the broken, the most degraded and say that because of Him they are worthy. I hope we will be willing to lay down our comfort for those who need comfort. I hope we will admit our wrongs and apologize for them. I hope that we will be willing to stop trying to hide our nation’s problems and start finding ways to work together to deal with them.

I can’t say that my tears are done.
But I do promise to fight for today.
And tomorrow I will fight for tomorrow.
I will fight for equality.
I will fight for safety.
I will fight for love.
Because love trumps hate.
Because peace is better than war.
Because my God is a God who saves.
I will hold onto hope.
Will you?

There’s a lot of things that make me sad.
Some get more time and attention.
Some happen so often it’s hard to keep them all straight.
Some happen once in a lifetime.

Death makes me sad.
Unnecessary death makes me sadder.
Targeted unnecessary death makes me even sadder still.

Names are powerful.
I won’t pretend to know all the names of people shot this year.
Or even all the people shot this week.
To be honest, I probably can’t even list all the names of unarmed people shot by cops this year.
But there are two names that stand out to me tonight.

One is mine.
I share a name with an officer who is being charged with manslaughter.
I share a name with the person who shot Terence Crutcher.
That makes me sad.
It reminds me I am not far removed from this pain.
I cannot pretend this problem is not mine.
I cannot pretend it is out of reach.

Another name is my baby brothers.
He has a beautiful name. And with it are beautiful dreams for his future.
But sometimes my dreams turn into nightmares and his name becomes a hashtag.
Sometimes I’m afraid he won’t get the future he is supposed to.

Sometimes I get angry that I don’t have to be afraid for myself.
What makes my brother and I different?
We have the same upbringing. The same parents. Even similar dreams.
The only difference is our skin color.
I was born white. He was born black.
But we were both born human.

I don’t know how to fix this.
But I do know that silence is not an option.
I don’t know my part is in the healing that must come.
But I will do whatever I can to not contribute to the breaking.

Will you join me?
Will you be the change?
Will you acknowledge your privilege?
Will you celebrate diversity?
Will you value our differences?
Will you ask questions?
Will you try not to be offended?
Will you open your heart?

Three men. Three races. Similar wisdom. Fighting for peace. Silence is not peace.

“So I have one friend?” she asked me nervously.
“Yes,” I answered confidently, “I am your friend.”

This conversation happened in the jail (like most of the ones that make the blog). We were talking about how scary the idea of getting out of jail was. How hard it would be to start over since her husband was divorcing her and she couldn’t go back home after this. Since her addiction had kept her from building any positive relationships in the past. Since she didn’t have custody of her children. Since she wasn’t sure what her relationship with her parents was anymore.

She asked how to make friends. She could do it in a bar, she said, but followed that thought up with the fact that she couldn’t go to a bar because she knew if she took one drink of alcohol all her hard work of staying sober would come crashing down. She knew she still doesn’t have the power to stop after one drink or to say no if offered a drink. She knows if she wants to stay healthy she cannot be around it at all.

“I’m your friend.” I said, and then continued with my list of friend making ideas, “You can go to the park, the library, the same coffee shop every week,” I told her. She said she loved the library but didn’t know how to start talking to people. “You can come with me to church and I can introduce you to people there.” It was here she stopped me to ask about my first statement. “So I have one friend?” It was so meekly asked that I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to say, of course you do and I know so many more who would love to be your friend. I know the people who don’t care what your past holds and how many more times you mess up. I know the people who will love you with Jesus’ love. But I knew that would be too overwhelming, so instead I gave her a simple yes. “Yes, I am your friend.” And I hope and pray that one day she has so many more.

There are days that feel like they were made for collapsing  into someone’s arms and weeping on their shoulder. Yesterday was one of them. Another  14+ hour day of work totalling the work week somewhere around 85 hours meant that my emotions were about at their end before the day even started, but I continued to put them to the test.

In the jail, I met with three different women for an hour each. (I met with seven other women in between those three, just not for quite such long periods of time.) The three women spent much of their hour with me in tears. One walked in and said hello, handed me some books she was returning and sat down. I glanced down to mark which books she’d brought and by the time I glanced back up she was weeping.IMG_5983

“They say addiction takes everything…”
“My life is over.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Everything is gone.”
“My life is over.”
“What can I do?”
“I left everything I knew and now it’s all gone.”
“My life is over.”

Now repeat that for an hour. Adding in a few personal details here and there. And pausing long enough for her eyes to stare into mine through the tears and beg for an answer that will fix it, but not long enough to wait for any answer I could give.

Some days I just hate my job.

I don’t hate that I do it. I hate that it’s needed. I hate that so much pain exists. I hate that there’s no one else who can listen to her. I hate that I’m not actually trained. I hate that people tell me I’m so strong when they find out what I do…because I’m not.

Sure, I kept it together while I listened, but I went home and sobbed.

While it is hard, I love that I get to meet these women. I love that I get paid to be kind. And to share the only hope that keeps me walking into the depths of these stories over and over again. Jesus. I could not face the darkness each day if it wasn’t for His love. God has proven over and over in my life that while He doesn’t promise to make all days good, He promises to be with us in spite of the bad. And He is a redeemer…nothing and no one is too broken for God to redeem. In spite of the hard days, I am so glad I get a front row seat into stories of God’s grace regularly.

After the awkward introduction with a new girl where I couldn’t shake her hand because we aren’t allowed to touch:

“How are you doing?” I tried to ask soothingly.
“I was caged alive for 7 months.” she said despondently as she stared into my eyes.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on. (At this point I still wasn’t sure if she meant she’d been in jail for 7 months, been in solitary confinement for 7 months, or she had somehow been held captive before jail.) I’m not sure I ever really figured it out, but she went on. She told me how great her life was and then she paused:

“Then he went off and died on me.” she said as the tears started to flow.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“Who was it that died again?” I asked, trying to pretend I just missed his name when really I was incredibly confused by the conversation… She went on to talk about addiction, loss, and through the tears our conversation continued to be very confusing. I can only imagine how confused her heart must be feeling tonight.

After joining the ladies for our PB&J lunch on the block another new girl asked to speak with me. She said she had court yesterday and it was hard to process. Noticing her eyes filling with tears I quickly promised I’d call her out to talk one on one instead of at the table with all the other girls listening in:

“So what happened at court?” I asked.
“If I get more than a year they are going to adopt out my daughter,” she sobbed.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on again. This has honestly become my go to phrase. Sometimes there’s just no way to fix it. There are no words to say. We still can’t touch, so no hugs to give. Nothing I can do but acknowledge the emotion. And sit in the pain with her.

We talked about adoption. How there was no one in her life she would trust with her sweet daughter because the people closest to her did drugs. How she knew adoption was good, but that this girl was a part of her. She wasn’t for someone else. I can only imagine how scared her heart is feeling tonight.

On to the next and the story goes like this:

“So you heard my big news?” she asked cynically.
“I’m so sorry.” I replied, knowing she was referring to the loss of her mother.
“This is torture.” she said flatly.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

Again, no words were fitting. I had a hard day yesterday when my mom flew to another country but is still only a phone call away. We reminisced on stories of her mom. How she was her best friend. That she would miss the funeral. Though she was struggling throughout the whole conversation she was grateful that her mom was finally out of pain. I can only imagine how much her heart is hurting tonight.

IMG_5657I think it’s these conversations that make me dislike TV so much. I have a hard time sitting back and separating these stories from the stories in the shows even when they are so very different. I hear the phrase “New Girl” and I think of all the new girls I met today and their stories. I hear “Orange is the New Black” and think about what all the different colors of clothing mean in jail. I hear “House of Cards” and think about the odd politics and manipulation that goes on between the girls in there. I just can’t get their sweet faces out of my mind.

But I also see so much good. I get to see the girls who care about each other as well as they can in the middle of these broken situations. I hear about the gratitude lists that are being made each day. The many people who start their mornings reading the Jesus Calling book we were able to give out for Christmas and then choose to face the day with hope. The counselors who squeeze as much work into their time there as possible. The COs who stop many fights before they begin. The excited updates of girls who have gotten out. The constant requests of prayers for loved ones. I know it’s hard to imagine their lives, but if you believe in God, would you lift up a prayer for these girls? I’m sure their hearts could use it tonight. 

I’ve been silent on here for a while now.
Sometimes it’s better that way.
Sometimes it’s not intentional, I just get busy and distracted.
Sometimes it’s intentional, I know the things I’m thinking won’t be beneficial to share.

But I also know there is power in truth.
Sometimes truth hurts.
Sometimes we don’t like it.
Sometimes it offends the people around us, but we were not created for secrets.

In my silence there has been pain.
There has been confusion.
There has been loss, worry and fear.
But more than that there has been truth.

In my silence I’ve searched the Scriptures.
I’ve bent my knees in prayer.
I’ve cried with friends.
I’ve painted, read, walked, and given my brain and heart time to process.

What’s been going on, you ask?
Lots. But to sum it up my trust was broken.
I was caught off guard in a situation.
Compared to other people’s problems it was in fact rather small.

But it was an area in my life where the devil wanted to grab ahold of me.
It my time of silence there were days I wondered if he had.
But through the anxiety I clung to one thing…Jesus.
And I knew each step of the way, Jesus wins and I’m on His team.

So thankful to be on Jesus’ team.
So thankful to have you on my team.
Life has ups and downs.
And each day is worth it.

Sometimes after I go into the jail it takes me a while to process some of the things I hear.
If I can’t snap out of the pain that’s jumped off someone’s story and into my heart I have to find a way to deal with it.
Usually it’s through running, napping, drawing or writing.
If I try to write but can’t find words I look at quotes.
Yesterday I met several new women and heard several new stories.
Today was a day that needed quote looking and drawing and writing.

IMG_2966

“My mother sold me to the dope man when I was ten years old.”
“My father abused me for 10 years and my family tells me it was my fault.”
“I peed the bed as a kid to try to keep my cousins from coming in and doing things to me, but that didn’t even work.”

There’s lots of days I wish I never heard the stories. There’s lots of days I wish what I heard wasn’t true. There’s lots of days I wish someone who was trained was going in to do the listening. There’s a lot of days I wish there were proper answers to give. But this quote helped me remember that I can help by simply being there and listening…

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” – C.S.Lewis

I remember when I was younger being told (by no one that still influences my decisions) that I wasn’t allowed to talk about issues that were going on in my life. I think that hurt the most. It hurt more than the actual offense. When I look at these broken girls in the jail I realize that it isn’t the bars that make it feel so lonely…it’s the call to silence. The unspoken rule that we can’t talk about our problems. The fear of people hurting us more if they know our weaknesses. It is incredibly isolating. So in my office where words aren’t recorded and no one else is there these women pour their hearts out to me – someone who is practically a stranger. I just pray that I can listen well, love them with Jesus’ love, and share a hope that the silence can be broken, the pain can be faced, and the challenges can be overcome.

“Sometimes when it gets real bad I curl up on my bed, hide under my covers, suck my thumb and sing Jesus loves me. It’s all I can do,” said one of the 30+ year old woman I meet with every Thursday in jail.

Anxiety sucks. post it
Jail sucks.
Addiction sucks.
Mental disabilities suck.
But Jesus loves.
And God is faithful.

As I read Psalm 91 again and again with the girls in jail today verse 15 kept jumping off the page at me. “He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble…” God doesn’t promise that we won’t have trouble, but He does promise that He will be with us, even in our trouble. And he will deliver us and redeem us.  This is a fact we can cling to. This is truth. God is bigger than our feelings, greater than our problems and stronger than our fears.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Yes, Jesus loves me….yes, Jesus loves you too.

Last night I had a nightmare. In this dream I was scared. Angry. Terrified. I was living through a divorce and couldn’t fathom that this could be happening with people so close to my heart. People in my family. I tried to talk to them. I cried. I screamed. But I couldn’t get through. Nothing helped. Lets just say I didn’t wake up feeling very rested or refreshed. But I woke up reminded of many things. 1st: that it was only a dream and NOT TRUE! 2nd: that many people live through that terror and pain all the time. And the question that left me with was, “What are you doing for the kids who live through that in real life?”

Last year I was talking with a friend about how sometimes it’s scary when everything is going right, because we can begin to forget our constant need for God. When all is going well for us it can be easy to close our hearts to the people who don’t have everything going right. Easy to look the other way when people are hurting in order to relish our peace. And we might try to justify it by saying we don’t want to brag, or we don’t want to hurt them more by showing we are doing well. That’s foolishness.

When I pondered this last year I decided that I never wanted to fall into that place of complacency again. (Though I am not opposed to having things go well for me) I prayed faithfully, expecting it to hurt, “God, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Seriously. I mean it. Even though it will hurt.” I told God I was serious. I knew He would answer, but I didn’t know how. 

Now, I rarely dream. Or if I do I very rarely remember my dreams. Maybe just a handful of times a year. But after praying that, I dreamed every night for a week. And they were not happy dreams. In every dream I was there, but I couldn’t reach the other people. I was an observer. I could hear, but I could not be heard. I could scream, but there was no reaction. All I could do was watch…even when I wanted to look away. To run away. I watched. And my heart broke. 

When I woke up I was shaken, scared, and heartbroken. But I was also filled with hope. I felt like God gave me a picture of so many overlooked people. I suddenly knew that although I couldn’t empathize in a way of having been through the same situation myself, I could understand a little bit of where people were coming from. I could just begin to fathom their pain and their fear. Divorce. Rape. Hunger. Death. Sickness. Abuse. Those were some of the dreams. Another non-coincidence is that I had a friend who rarely made in through the night without a nightmare last year. I had never understood how scary that was, until I lived it for just a week. 

Today I got to hang out with a couple littles who have already lived through a divorce. I don’t think that is a coincidence following last night’s dream. I don’t ever want to neglect people’s pain, and tell them to just deal with it because it’s “normal” now. Pain hurts, and that’s ok. We can listen. We can offer a hug. Whether we can understand it all or not isn’t the issue. We know what kind of things break God’s heart. I pray that you recognize them and act on them before He has to tell you plainly…like He often does for me! 

As I keep raising money and hoping to get to the point of full time ministry, I am so excited to be able to spend more and more time in “broken” areas. I never want bad things and pain to be okay, but I want to love the people surrounded in bad and pain. I never want to give in to the temptation to look the other way, but I want to visit those in jail, sit with the hurting, give hugs to the lonely, feed the hungry. There is evil in our world and it’s not from God. But God is the reason we have hope, and I don’t want to keep that to myself. Love someone well today. Care. Listen. Ask them their story…even if they seem ‘okay’. A lot of times we tell people they have to be okay, but really Jesus is the only one who can bring full healing and make them whole.