Posts Tagged ‘Sad’

I wondered, ‘what in the world are we are thinking‘. And wished I wasn’t part of the we. But if I haven’t made a strong voice against, then I am still in the main stream, am I not? Flowing deeper and deeper down, matching all the other drops around me.

Broken systems need to be fixed. And not just because they take too many tax dollars (though I’ve been guilty of using that to help motivate the masses before). Broken systems don’t need to be fixed once an easy solution is available or just because we are finally personally affected. They don’t need to be fixed because of any political movement.

They need to be fixed because lives, human lives, depend on it. I spend a fair amount of time in jail and I see people both come and go and come again and go again. I see those incarcerated, the corrections officers, volunteers and the visitors. A while back I saw a toddler hiding under the chairs in the main waiting room refusing to leave after visiting his Mama. No child should wish for jail. But that is what we have taught him as a society to do. Once a week, for one hour he gets to visit his Mom. When the car he is in drives past the jail on other outings he will scream for her. He loves her. He sees her face first, and not her crime. He remembers something so many of us have forgotten. She is a person. She is valuable. She is worth loving and she is loved. oscar-courage

I challenge you to remember today that no person is a number. No person is just bad. People do bad things. People make mistakes. People act out in their pain. Some get caught. Some get labeled. Some get forgotten. That needs to change. All people should be loved. “It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all of its tainted glory, and still to love it.”  – Oscar Wilde

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cant-waitHave you ever gotten a note from a friend and it said, “I can’t wait to see you!”? I have. Usually I like them. (I love mail) And sometimes they come in other forms, I got a voicemail the other night that was stating how it had been too long and we needed to get together. While the distance is kind of sad, knowing they are excited to see me makes it overall feel happy.

But today I got a note that said the same, “I can’t wait to see you!” and it made my heart so sad…

Today I got notes from multiple friends who I used to see every week. We went through a lot of emotions together. We cried. We laughed. We planned. We prayed. And I haven’t seen for quite some time. But I saw them again today. You guessed it. Today was a jail day. Sadly they are back on the inside. I loved seeing them. But I wished it was different. I wished I could hug them. I wished we could be creating halloween costumes for their kids. I wished we could go get coffee, go on a hike, see a movie, really anything other than sit in my office and face the question…”can you believe I’m here?”. Ugh. Sigh. Some days it’s hard to see friends. But it’s still worth it.

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. 

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

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.

“How are you?” always seems like it should be a simple question, but then, we answer in code, “fine” we say. But what does that mean? I use this code, and still can’t always decipher it. It could mean many different things, but some of the common ones include:

  • Fine.
  • Average day.
  • All is well.
  • Move on.
  • Don’t ask
  • Please notice.
  • I’m not going to make it.
  • Help.

I’ve felt myself wanting to use “fine” as an answer this week. For those trying to crack the code when I use fine it usually means there is a lot going on right now, but I’m not sure you want to hear about it, so unless you notice what I’m trying hard to hide from you I’m not going to tell you about it. …I know…it’s not a great way to be. So I’ve been challenging myself to give real answers.

“How am I? Well, my friend went to jail this week…I’m angry.” It shouldn’t be a big deal, because a lot of my friends are from the jail or go back to the jail, but this one was different. I was caught off guard. I had so much hope.

“How am I? Well, I argued with a homeless man tonight about how often he could shower…I’m wondering what that makes me.” If I didn’t have a shower in my house I’d probably fight for rights to one too, but there are rules for a reason, and everyone can’t shower all the time. I guess it makes me the bearer of bad news, and not a bad person.

“How am I? Well, people are responding to my program…I’m excited.” The mentoring program is going well! We have 3 matches and are hoping to train more mentors soon. I’ve gotten mail back from inmates we’ve never met, but whose kids we were able to buy gifts for though the Angel Tree program. There are other people coming into the jail to help add joy and peace.

“How am I? Well, I’m just me…I’m fine.” I think it’s ok to be fine sometimes, but it’s so important to be honest. It’s easy to feel alone in our issues, but people do care, and God is in control even when all we can see is chaos.

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.