Posts Tagged ‘God is in control’

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.


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!

I often hear people tell me that they couldn’t do my job. I hear the “God bless you for what you’re doing“s and the “Wow, that takes someone special“s, but the truth is I couldn’t do it either.

There is just no way.


The truth is, I don’t do it.

It’s a team effort. God is in charge. I get a lot of the credit, but let me share a bit of where it should be going…

I have around 30 faithful monthly supporters. These people take a risk each month to give to the work that is being done here. These people are the ones investing and doing the work here, though some of them are literally half way around the world. Thank you.

I have faithful prayer warriors. They pray for me. They prayer for my friends here. They pray for the ones I struggle with. They pray for the unknowns. They praise God with me for the victories. Thank you.

I have the people represented in the picture above and many more like them. After being gone a week I came home to 3 letters. One had stamps to be used for my ministry. One had a check. And one had a bracelet. There were also notes of encouragement. Thank you.

Here is one thing I know…God is at work here.

I might be the one to go into the jail. To sit in meetings. To give hugs to my homeless friends. To be matched with a “little”. To make the invites for get togethers at the church. To follow up with people we’ve done service projects for. But I don’t do any of that on my own. God is doing His thing and He is doing it through people all around the world and I simply get to be one of many to witness the results right here in Centre County.

This, my friends, is exciting.

Thanks to all of you who are on my team. If anyone else wants to join my team tell me! There are so many ways you can get involved! I still need supporters. I always need prayer. I love letters. And if you’re local, I’ll put you to work!

It’s funny how much we take for granted. Like I always expect to make it to my destination alive when I get into my car, but that’s not a reality for everyone all the time. Trust me, I know that accidents happen. This year I think God’s angels have been bumped and bruised lots trying to keep me safe and out of harm. And I’m not going to take that for granted anymore.


I thank God that this week when my car was rear ended it didn’t seem to have anything wrong with it. The driver 2 cars behind me didn’t stop in time and pushed the car behind me into me. Thankfully Anna and I were just jolted forward a little bit, and no real damage was done!

I thank God that last time I was rear ended I only had to replace the windshield.

I thank God that when my car did the rear ending (I wasn’t driving, hence my car, and not me) no one was hurt and nothing had to be replaced.

I thank God that when the semi bumped against the drivers side of my car getting off the highway it only left a tiny dent and didn’t smash me the way it easily could have. That story is here.


I’ve recently renamed my car “Invinci-buddy” because it’s such a tank! But I tell you what, we should live ready for anything to happen. Because things do happen. And praise God for the work He does to keep you alive every day that you don’t even notice!

Sometimes people say mean things. 
Sometimes people make bad choices.
Sometimes people lie.
Sometimes people mean to do good things but still do bad things.
Sometimes people try to be nice, sometimes they don’t care.
Sometimes it’s easy to try to avoid people who are like that.
It’s easy to want to stay away from the troubling ones. 
It’s easy to be nice the first time and then say their chances are used up.
It’s easy to be a friend to the people who are friendly.
But that’s not what God asked me to do. 
See God put me into a roll to work with people in need. He didn’t just say that I should work with people who are trying to get out of need, but to help the hurting. All of them. Any He puts into my life. I don’t get to pick which ones. It doesn’t matter if they are nice to me or not.

This past Sunday Pastor Dan preached on Acts 6-8. The stoning of Stephen. 
He challenged us to be Stephens.
See in this story Stephen is killed because he is all in for Christ.
I bet some of his friends or relatives wished he would’ve made the ‘smart choice’ and just stopped talking about Jesus so that he could have lived. But Stephen knew that being all in for Christ and following no matter what the cost was of way more value than living to see the next day. It isn’t that Stephen went out looking for trouble, but that he held fast to what he believed even if it meant people were throwing rocks at him. I believe that God has called me to love. 
And so I press on. 
Not because it’s easy or everyone I know thinks it’s the right thing, but because I want to be all in for Christ.
Pastor Dan also challenged us to be Pauls.
In this part of the story Paul is still called Saul and he’s there with the people who are throwing the stones.
He’s happy to see Stephen being taken down, but he doesn’t stay that way.
He later comes to know Jesus as his Savior.
And he becomes one of the most influential people christianity has ever known. 
I bet a lot of people had given up on him.
I bet some people didn’t want to share life with him anymore.
But he saw past his circumstances and his past and he chose to be all in for Christ. 
No matter what place in life you are in you can chose to start being all in for Christ. 
After church I had a great afternoon and then we had an evening prayer service where there was a bowl with a bunch of verses written out on papers and we could just take one. I didn’t really want one, but I took one anyway and guess what, God just used it to prove His point. He doesn’t want part of my heart, He wants me to be all in. It said…

I’m choosing to listen. I will love, do good, bless and pray even when I don’t feel like it. I know I’ll mess up, but I will keep coming back to Christ because I want to be all in for Him. A verse that has been going through my head lately is Colossians 1:29 “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” – I’m so thankful to be on God’s team and to know that He’s the one doing all the work, I just have to let him. So when things are smooth sailing or when they get tough He’s still in control. And that is wonderful.