Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Saves’

“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.

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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.

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

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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.

Ending a life is a really big deal. But it’s also a question a lot of people consider. Probably more than you’d expect. Has it ever been so bad you thought you’d end it all? People consider this question for so many different reasons. Are you willing to listen? Are you willing to ask people if they are okay? And follow up? Have you told someone lately that they are valuable…not for what they’ve accomplished, but because they are a human being? Someone around you probably needs to hear that truth today.

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Just yesterday I sat and heard, “I always had something in reach to end it all if the cops ever came back for me. It would just be easier on everyone. It’d be less pain on my family to mourn my death than for me to keep going back to jail,” she told me as tears flowed down her cheeks. She had made a plan, her close friends knew about the plan, and she intended to complete it when the time came. She told me that she always knew where there was a knife or enough pills to overdose. I’m so thankful they caught her off guard. She has so much life yet to live.

This girl realizes that she isn’t in control of her own life. She believes that God saved her from herself the day she was arrested, and she is asking questions about what it means for God to save her from sin. She asked me to pray for, “strength and endurance to get through this”. For her and her brother (who is also in jail). And, “For us to learn and get better.” I love when people want to get better. It’s a visible change when people want to get out vs want to get better. Please pray for my new friend. There is a long road of recovery in front of her, but I believe with Jesus help, she can overcome.

Do you ever try to think back to a time before you knew?

It’s easier to not know.

It’s easier to not care.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to not knowing and so not really having to care.

But it’s too late.

I know.

I know names.

Names of people who right now are sleeping…or maybe pacing outside without a place to stay tonight.

I know.

I know names.

Names of people who are using drugs…wishing they weren’t, but not believing they are strong enough to stop.

I know.

I know names.

Names of my friends.

Friends who think this life is all there is.

Friends who think that if this is all there is maybe it isn’t worth it after all.

Friends who think that somehow they can stop it all from hurting, not working, or crashing in on them again.

I know.

I know The Name.

I know Jesus.

The only One who can fix it all.

He saves.

Redeems.

Pursues.

He fights for us.

He helps us overcome.

He knew the bad things I would do.

He knew the bad things my friends would do.

He knew all of those things before He chose to die in order to save us.

He knows.

He knows the end of the story.

I know I can trust Him.

I know that He is the hope my friends are looking for.

It’s worth it to know after all…so if you know, tell someone else.

They are worth it.

God created them.

He knows them, and wants them to know Him too.

And if you don’t know that…lets chat!

I know Robin Williams is ‘trending’ right now, and it makes me sad. I’m not going to address the suicide issue that many other bloggers expressed their opinions on. There are lots of thoughts bouncing around the web right now that I am not going to add to. I simply think it is sad. And I pray for Robin’s family and friends as they now struggle through the depression Robin was trying to escape.

But something I have noticed is an incredible amount of people saying that they are going to miss Robin Williams. Because this claim was so widespread I began to ponder it. Why? I think it’s sad, but I didn’t actually know him. What will they miss? Did they know him? Do they know him as Robin or as Genie? Do they just want to hear him say “Good Morning Vietnam” or have they heard him say “good morning” to them? It might not be as happy to watch Mrs. Doubtfire knowing that Robin Williams isn’t still alive, but I think a lot of the people who will miss him, will have no less of a connection to him now, than they did before he died.

Into this thought I kept pushing. Who in my life would I miss if they died that may not even know I exist? Who in my life could use a note of encouragement? A hug? A smile? Who feels confused and misunderstood even while they have their whole community (or the world) hanging on the words they say? I can’t go back and reach out to Robin, but there are a whole lot of people all around us who are struggling desperately with depression. While it will always be their choice to fight it or to give up, the people along side them can make an incredible difference in their decision making.

Don’t think you aren’t connected. Reach out to those around you. Share Jesus with them. Pray for them and with them. Offer a hug. They may not accept your love and help, but they may be waiting for you to offer. You don’t know until you try. And if you don’t, you’ll probably wish you would’ve.

I see a lot of broken things.
And a lot of broken people.

Growing up in Africa gave me a unique perspective in how to fix things.
Like Duct Tape, if done correctly, can hold almost any two things together.
Or a wire, is a magical tool that you can force into almost any shape and size you need.

This week one of the things on my to-do list was to make a meal for a family in my church. I was working on doing that and I needed to melt something in the microwave, and halfway through the melting process the microwave died. At this point I didn’t want to transfer it from the microwave safe bowl, to a pan I could put on the stove, and it wasn’t melted enough to use, so I went and found my hairdryer (I knew it would come in handy one day!) and finished the melting.

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Unfortunately not all broken things are as easy to find a way around as our microwave. People heal, but it takes a long time. This week I hung out with a boy who is in and out of homelessness as well as jail. He has some very real struggles in his life, and one thing that breaks my heart is that I don’t see him being wanted anywhere. Maybe that’s because he hasn’t been given a chance, maybe it’s because he’s already burned all his bridges… All I know is that Jesus came for the broken. He loved the unlovable. And he offers a new life to all of us. He doesn’t just give us a bandaid, He gives us new life. No one is too far gone. Will you remember that the next time you are around someone you’d rather not be around? Will you remember it when you pass someone who seems like a lost cause? Don’t give up on people, love them well and tell them about Jesus.