Posts Tagged ‘Scary’

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. 

“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.


“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 I wish I could only tell you the happy things. I usually tell the stories with happy endings, or at least the happy parts of stories, but what about the days that leave me in tears? What about the really hard stuff.

The problem with helping is that in order to help you have to know. And knowing hurts.

Just the other day I spoke to four people who don’t have money to pay for heat. So they are cold. I spoke to a woman who cried as she told me she would have a glass of water for dinner because she was out of food and money and didn’t have any more food stamps. I spoke to another woman who called and said that her grandkids had been staying with her and so she had run out of food – normally she can live on what the food bank gives her, but because she had extra hungry mouths, she ran out. I heard about cancer, and sickness, and loss. That was all on one day just in the office.

Later that week, as the chaplain in jail, I heard about more. I heard fear, questioning and wonder. I heard women talk about their kids, husbands, boyfriends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and even one’s unborn baby. Who they can no longer care for, protect, and help. It’s so scary to be in a situation where everything is out of your control.

It’s hard to know all these things. But I also know that God cares and loves all these people. He sees them as the people they are, and not for the problems the are stuck in, or the problems they have caused. By knowing about these things I can help. Just this week I was able to pray with people and tell them, “It’s worth it,” “hang on,” “keep fighting through,” “don’t give up.” I was able to help coordinate rides to the doctor, get some food delivered, and get people connected with a team who can help to provide heat.

Not everyone I meet gets the help they need, but it’s worth knowing the needs are out there so we can keep fighting to provide the solutions. Jesus was a problem solver, but He didn’t just take away all the world’s problems. He shared God with people. That’s what we should do too. As we meet the physical needs that we can, we should also be loving people with Jesus love. Because ultimately, He is the one who can bring healing to their souls. Look at the people around you, one or many of them may be in serious need, and just not know how to tell you.

toddler-car-seatAny moms out there know how stressful it is to have a little one. Now picture this…three little ones.

A one year old,
a two year old,
and a four year old.

Hmm…that’s stressful. Now picture this, you’re in a new town, because where you used to live was an unsafe area and you didn’t want to raise your three precious little ones there. You don’t have anywhere to stay, and you have to be out of your hotel room by 11am. Also, you and the kids Daddy don’t have jobs yet…still stressful.

I think to a lot of us this sounds like a bad dream, but to the family of five that I met today, it’s reality. I love having a job where I can be the one to get a phone call saying, we have these kids here, and we know you have a carseat, wanna come help out? And to have the freedom to drop what I’m doing and lug some kids and their sweet parents to a hotel that Hearts for Homeless was able to get for them for the week while they try to figure out life. I’m blessed to have a friend who thought to make dinner for them and bring it to the hotel, so they could have a hot meal tonight. And to live with a family who have extra kid things and toys that we could share with this family.

When I picked up one of the sweet littles this morning and looked into her eyes, my heart broke. It kills me to think, that they, at such young ages, have known homelessness. I hate that this is the reality for so many. But it also breaks my heart to know that it isn’t just them. It breaks my heart that for some reason we can all agree that no matter what it isn’t ok for these sweet littles to be living on the streets, but we can’t always agree about that for bigs. It breaks my heart that I look into the eyes of adults who know the fear of wondering if and where they will sleep at night. Homelessness hurts. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s scary, and lonely, and hard. But I know that while I cannot stop homelessness, I can still do my part. I can hug these sweet littles. I can encourage their Mama. I can chat with my friends at the shelter who, though they aren’t as small, are just as valuable. And I can share what it means to have hope. Not just hope to find a place to call their own…though that is wonderful. The hope of Jesus Christ. The God who knows what it is to be a child without a home…remember, he was born out with the animals? God cares and He loves us. He also has a plan even when things don’t seem to make sense. On days like today, I need that reminder too. Feel free to pray for this family, and the many others who are stuck in really tricky situations.

DSC_8207-2 Calvary is hosting Out of the Cold right now which is a temporary emergency shelter that rotates between 12 local churches during the winter months. It is a wonderful program that we work very hard to find lots of volunteers for. We have cots and blankets for our friends, good conversations, games and a warm meal. It’s not the same as having a house, but for an emergency shelter I’d say it’s pretty great.

photo 5-4

A couple weeks ago my life group had a chance to make the dinner and hang out with the guests for the evening. It was a joy to be together and see my two groups of friends collide. Sometimes it catches me by surprise that people I can feel so close to and such good friends with are only involved in one section of my life. I love when there is overlap. I think the reality is there is so much more that is the same between us than what is different. A lot of times we notice what is different. Like “I have a house and you don’t”. Or “I’m not in school and you are”.

photo 2-9But what I saw happening this night was not two separate groups focusing on their differences. But one group of people sharing a dinner together and just enjoying warm food and cheerful company. It brought joy to my heart to listen to my Life Group friends ask my Out of the Cold friends where they were from, what things they had studied in school, and why they had certain opinions. I also loved hearing my Out of the Cold friends asking similar questions of my Life Group friends. I think friends are fabulous and I have wonderful people from all the many sections of my life.

photo 4-3

Please keep Out of the Cold in your prayers. It’s tricky living together with a big group of people all winter long. It’s hard to sleep on cots. Even a warm meal every night is less appealing when you don’t get to chose what it is. No matter what kind of games we play it is not fun to be homeless. It’s scary. It’s overwhelming. It’s challenging. But we have lots of friends who face it bravely. Many of fought their way out of it. And I believe many more will overcome. In the mean time pray. Pray for love. For joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self Control. Pray that my friends would know Jesus. Not just His name, but how He loves them.

It’s what I’ve been wanting. I got what I asked for and then some. So why do I feel so afraid? Why does my stomach hurt and my heart feel fluttery? I don’t get anxious…normally. That’s what I was thinking today.


Today I was scared.

I woke up feeling under qualified.



But that didn’t carry through my day. Sure, I am under qualified, under educated, and under prepared for the role I stepped into today, but that’s okay. My qualifications had nothing to do with getting me where I am right now.

I’m in jail.

Don’t worry, I’ll be out before you read this, but as I write this I’m in jail as a chaplain. Before I came in this morning I spent an hour praying with the Recovery Team. As I listened to their prayers for me tears came to my eyes as the fear and unworthiness melted away. Oh, I was still nervous, but very much reminded that God didn’t need my experience and qualifications. He needed me to go. To trust Him. To have an open and willing heart. And ears to hear. He just needed me to obey. So I did.

My heart fluttered all over again as I sat in the chaplain office…my office…alone. I reached for the phone to call down an inmate. We have such a fear of the unknown. But when she came I just got to hear her story. I wished I could offer her tea or coffee cause it felt like a normal coffee shop conversation I would’ve had with anybody on any given day. Sure, there are things to watch out for, there are issues that will come up, but when I walk in there I just pray that God will use me to do His thing. Please join me in prayer as I will be going in weekly to meet with these women.

*I wrote this in jail, but now am out with access to the internet in order to post it. So for any of you worriers out there, I’m fine. =)

When it rains it pours.

We’ve been going through the beatitudes from Matthew 5 in church lately. I’ve been both enjoying and being challenged by the series. Sometimes it seems like they don’t make any sense, but then they capture your heart. See Jesus talks about things that seem like bad or difficult situations and pairs them with a good outcome.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted…

This weekend I was staring at my Bible trying to find the “blessed are the scared”. It’s not in there. Scared goes right along side many of the other things described, but scared itself has no ‘good outcome’ paired with it. There isn’t a specific word to cling to in those verses.

If you read my last post it talked about how I was scared but trying to remember how God is enough. He is. And now a week has gone by and the fears of last week seem almost laughable as this weeks fears are bigger, scarier, and make me feel physically sick.

See, this week I found out that my ‘Aunt’ has Papilledema. You probably don’t know what that is. I didn’t until they told me. Basically it means that her vision is blurry. That’s what she went to the doctor for. But vision doesn’t get blurry just on it’s own, and so now they are trying to find out what is causing it. There are very serious things like tumors that are known to cause this, and also some less serious things it could be. Right now we don’t know what the cause is. The family just made it back to the States, because they live in Tanzania where they are missionaries. Please pray with us for a miracle. We know there is something wrong, but pray that we and the doctors be left without wondering that God did a crazy work here. Pray that they are able to see doctors quickly now that they are in the States. Pray for peace for the family. Pray for all of their physical needs to be met as the adjust back to America for a while. Pray for their work in Tanzania which will continue on while they are away. There is so much to pray for, but God cannot be overwhelmed. He doesn’t get mad at us being too needy. He has a plan. He loves us. He is good…no matter what our situations. Thanks for your prayers! Keep trusting.

Yesterday I prayed through a court hearing. 

Tomorrow I’m going to jail. 


For me, these are choices.

I am not directly affected by the outcome of the hearing.

I will not be held in the jail without the option to leave.

But the facts remain the same.

Yesterday I prayed through a court hearing, because my friend made bad choices. Again.

Tomorrow I am going to jail. I am going inside the jail, but I will not be locked up.

Tomorrow is a new beginning.

Unlike most who walk in there I won’t lose my job, I walk in as part of my job.

I’m going in just for a meeting, to collaborate with others. To try to find ways to help people when they get out.

Jail is scary.

For some because they cannot leave.

For me because the opportunity to get involved seems to be endless.

Jesus loved people well.

He told them to stop doing the bad things they were involved in.

He also offered forgiveness to each of us BEFORE we asked for it. I think He sets a good example to follow.

I’d love your prayers for wisdom.

And if you’re local, let me know if you would like to get involved in any way.

Praying. Leading Bible studies. Writing letters. Being part of a support group. The possibilities are endless!