Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

“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.”

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.

Kids these days are different.
Systems these days are broken.
Some always have been.
But they don’t always have to be.

When I was born I nursed at my mother’s breast.
One of my friends just had a baby, but they are not together because she is in jail.

When I was one I saw both parents in my home every day.
My friend has a one year old who she sees for an hour every other week when her daughter is brought to the jail for a visit.

When I was two I tried to run away (but couldn’t open the door), because my parents wanted me to be safe and wouldn’t let me play on the stairs.
One of my friend’s kids are out of county with her in-laws and she cannot reach them now because she’s in jail, and if nothing changes she cannot be with them when she gets out because she’s not supposed to leave the county on probation.

When I was three I moved to a new house with my family.
One of my friends signed her three year up for an Angel Tree Christmas present to be delivered, because she will be in jail for many more years and her daughter has been adopted into a new home and family.

When I was four life was great, I had dolls and toys and dates with my mom while my sister was at school.
One of my friends was not allowed to talk to her kids for several months until CPS changed their minds and now she can call home from jail and at least talk to them on the phone while she waits for her trial and for the courts to decide if she is guilty or innocent.

When I was five I went to kindergarten and loved my teacher.
One of my friends has a son in kindergarten who hides under the table, swears at his teacher and asks for his mom.

When I was six I had my first real birthday party and all my friends came over.
One of my friends has a six year old in the hospital because he tried to take his own life.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I am by no means saying that these six women are innocent. Nor do I think they would all make the best mothers (some sure would). But I do think this…our system is broken. We are not helping these kids by throwing their moms in jail and forgetting about them. Maybe, just maybe, there is another way, that we haven’t tried yet.

Like I said before.
Kids these days are different.
Systems these days are broken.
Some always have been.
But they don’t always have to be.
Will you take one step towards changing them?
Will you make a difference?

“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.

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. 

When I asked to go into the jail 2 years ago I had no idea what that would bring. I thought maybe I’d just teach a class and get to meet some people and whatnot. That’d be cool. I didn’t know I’d become a chaplain, the “party planner”, and the random girl in “street clothes” that eats lunch on the block every Thursday.

I didn’t know that I would start running the Angel Tree program at Calvary to provide Christmas presents to local kids with incarcerated parents. I didn’t know I’d get to bring in a small library to share with everyone. Or that I’d raise a couple thousand dollars and lead a church wide candy bar drive to be able to give presents for each inmate in our local jail for two years now. I didn’t know people on the outside would tell me stories of impact from their loved ones on the inside who received our gifts.

I didn’t know I’d decorate cards with men and woman who would send them to their kids, parents, lovers, and friends around the holidays hoping to not be forgotten. I didn’t know I’d listen and pray with women who signed their kids over for adoption. I didn’t know I’d recruit others to go in and lead events and classes. I didn’t know I’d hear about so much death and the many lost loved ones in these people’s lives. I didn’t know I’d launch a community mentoring program to help people adjust back into life after jail.

I didn’t know I’d become a penpal with someone on the inside. I didn’t know I’d make real friends who have left that place and now I get to see in street clothes sometimes. I definitely didn’t know or even hope that I’d get put in touch with people who live 4 hours away because their son is in our jail and they need help knowing what to do and who to contact. I never expected to hug a random stranger who cried on my shoulder as she thanked me for caring about her son and acknowledging that this was hard and embarrassing, but it didn’t define her. I knew God called me to go into that jail, but there was so much I didn’t know. I keep dreaming of more, but there is still so much I still don’t know. That’s just one reason I keep following after Jesus as He leads me into more and more incredible adventures beyond my wildest dreams.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Dream-Big

For starters lets talk about things Jesus didn’t say, “Take my yolk upon you.” Gross. That makes absolutely no sense. But today more than one girl I talked to thought that the Bible said just that.

yolk

Today I went to jail, as I always do on Thursdays. I usually print out and bring in a little daily meditation that comes to my email everyday. It starts with a verse, has a short devotion, and ends with a prayer. Today the verse was, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The most common response after reading the meditations each week is, “How did you know that was exactly what I needed to hear?” That’s what I expected again. In my mind this made sense. But to many of my friends it didn’t. We’d read it and pause. “Can you explain this to me?” they’d ask. “Well, do you know what a yoke is?” I said. “Like, an egg?” they asked. “Nope.” Jesus doesn’t want us to egg people’s houses, He wants us to follow Him and let Him share our load. I guess with all the modern technology kids these days only know about tractors and not farming with cows.

yoke-of-oxen

“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.

My life is good.
So intertwined.
I am at home.
The other day I bumped into a friend at a store where the people working knew me by name and asked about my ministry. The friend I bumped into was one of my hoarding friends who I help clean for and used to throw community dinners for (my co.worker is in charge of that now). It was fun running into her there. I then went to my pastor’s house where I sat for an hour or two and just got to talk and relax because Lynn, my mentor, was cooking her famous cinnamon rolls, from there I went home and had a conversation with some of my college student housemates about some of our local homeless friends new accomplishments in getting housing, friends who they’ve met through volunteering at Calvary during our time to host the temporary homeless shelter called Out of the Cold. I went out with a coworker to hear one of my musician friends play and he came over to talk about a concert he had played earlier that week…in the jail. I got him connected and he’s been in twice so far and is planning a third visit. Next another friend finished work (cooking in the back of the restaurant) and came to chat with me and Kendra. This friend used to be homeless and isn’t anymore. He is doing really well. I also texted on and off with a friend who is working hard to overcome his heroin addiction. And the next day I got lunch with a friend who I met in jail and has since been released. It was the first time after many months of friendship that I got to give her a hug. It was the first time I met her daughter. I was so honored! I have so many incredible people in my life. I am so lucky. So blessed. So grateful to be given each of these friends, coworkers, acquaintances…God is so good. After a short time with my family I was welcomed back with so many wonderful smiles, hugs, and such love. Life is good.

I don’t use the word ‘hate’ very often.
I was taught to remember just how powerful it is.
But today in the midst of many emotions, I can’t find a reason not to.

grief

Maybe you know someone using heroin.
Maybe you don’t.

…Or maybe you’re like me, and today you know one less person using, because the drug won the fight.

Today a brother is missing, a son is missing, a friend is missing, and he isn’t going to come back. His body couldn’t handle the drug, and it shut down. He overdosed. He died. We didn’t talk much, but we did recently, we talked about addiction and how hard it is to kick. He knew I was praying for him and asked me to pray for specific things. We didn’t always get along, but I have so many memories.

I don’t hate many things, but I hate heroin. I can’t find anything good about it. I have recently been exposed to so many friends who have become trapped by it. They didn’t mean to get addicted. They just thought they’d try it once. They went through detox, rehab, jail, but keep going back to it… The list goes on. It’s a hard one to kick, but I know people can overcome. I’m not angry at this friend for not winning his fight with the drug, but I sure do hope that his story can tip the scales in someone else’s fight and help them overcome before it’s too late.

i'm ok

The other thing that this tragedy reminds me to do is cherish each moment and each friend. To encourage people whether or not they look like they need it. Often the happy ones are the hurting ones. To tell people how I feel about them now while they are alive, and not save those words for after they are gone. Drugs suck. That’s what it comes down to. Please don’t do drugs, they just don’t fight fair.

Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just be angry, than to try and learn from a situation, but even in the storm I will choose to praise the Lord. Paul said it well in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” I’m not happy for the loss of my friend, but I will thank the Lord for His comfort in this situation, and pray that I am able to better comfort others in their loss as a result. If you guys are the praying type please pray for my friend’s family and his friends who were much closer than I was to him…they are hurting, and prayers help.