Posts Tagged ‘Thankful’

Dear World,

Thank you for being so nice, sweet and good to me. But please, don’t do any more nice things this month. See, I have a list of 103 thank you cards I need to write, so I simply can’t keep up with anyone else being nice, volunteering, donating money, and just generally doing things to make me so thankful.

thankfulActually, you can still be nice and kind, just be so nice that if your thank you note comes very late…or even not at all…you’ll still be gracious to me. =)

In fact, I’m hoping to provide Christmas presents to up to 400 people who wouldn’t be getting them this year because they are incarcerated. If you’d like to join, please do! You can mail me a check made out to “Calvary Church” with “Prison Ministry” in the memo line to me at 201 Harvest Fields Dr, Boalsburg PA 16827 or give online here and put “Prison Ministry” in the line for who you are supporting. Every bit of your tax deductible gift will go towards buying presents for those incarcerated in the Centre County Correctional Facility. Just $40 would cover the cost of Christmas for one inmate.

So I guess I changed my mind. Don’t stop being nice. Just maybe share your niceness to someone else so they can write you a thank you card. =)

I’m so thankful.
Thankful to have so many reasons to give thanks.
Thankful for Jesus’ redeeming love.
Thankful to know that there are so many people on my team.
Thankful to watch people serve the homeless,
provide for the incarcerated,
and host community movie nights.
Thankful for you.

Today was beautiful.

There are so many reasons why. I’ll probably blog about lots of them individually, but I’ll give you the quick list now:

  • IMG_5883It started strong when soon after I woke up my phone reminded me to have a good attitude since I knew I’d need a reminder after getting very little sleep.
  • I got to talk to my Mama in Tanzania for a minute.
  • My phone didn’t break even though I dropped it down a flight of stairs and it bounced on every step.
  • We got to feed 50+ artists breakfast and they were so very happy about it.
  • I heard stories from people who live all over the nation.
  • We got to hand out hundreds of free water bottles to strangers on a hot day.
  • Several friends came to visit me and hang out.
  • My kitchen and bathroom are both clean.

I could go on…there are so many reasons today was beautiful! But the one that stood out above the rest was getting a small white flower from a sweet little girl. After we gave her a bottle of water, I complimented this (maybe 4 year old) little girl on a flower she was holding. She paused, looked at the flower, and then slowly raised it up to give it to me. From someone else, this might seem worthless, a frail flower they grabbed from the side of the road somewhere, but from this little girl, it was clear she gave me a treasure. And by doing so, she reminded me to be intentional about being aware of my perspective. Life is full of moments. I don’t always see the treasure in each one, but I want to. I hope your day was beautiful too.

IMG_5891

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

I’ve been silent on here for a while now.
Sometimes it’s better that way.
Sometimes it’s not intentional, I just get busy and distracted.
Sometimes it’s intentional, I know the things I’m thinking won’t be beneficial to share.

But I also know there is power in truth.
Sometimes truth hurts.
Sometimes we don’t like it.
Sometimes it offends the people around us, but we were not created for secrets.

In my silence there has been pain.
There has been confusion.
There has been loss, worry and fear.
But more than that there has been truth.

In my silence I’ve searched the Scriptures.
I’ve bent my knees in prayer.
I’ve cried with friends.
I’ve painted, read, walked, and given my brain and heart time to process.

What’s been going on, you ask?
Lots. But to sum it up my trust was broken.
I was caught off guard in a situation.
Compared to other people’s problems it was in fact rather small.

But it was an area in my life where the devil wanted to grab ahold of me.
It my time of silence there were days I wondered if he had.
But through the anxiety I clung to one thing…Jesus.
And I knew each step of the way, Jesus wins and I’m on His team.

So thankful to be on Jesus’ team.
So thankful to have you on my team.
Life has ups and downs.
And each day is worth it.

IMG_3185.jpg

humbled.jpgI get humbled a lot. In my job I am reminded almost daily how much I take for granted in life. How much I don’t say thank you for. How much i think I deserve…even though I don’t. See, I think I deserve a bed, a blanket, a room to keep my things in, shoes to walk in, clothes to wear, at least some food to eat each day. But that’s just not true. I don’t deserve those things… sure, as humans we should have those things, but why do I think I deserve them when I know other people don’t get them.

IMG_3075.JPGTonight I was humbled above and beyond the normal recognition of my greed. Today I was given a gift from a homeless man. It doesn’t sound that crazy, I mean, I have lots of homeless friends and I’ve gotten gifts from them before because many are the most generous people I know, but today was different. Today I got a gift from a man I’d been arguing with earlier in the week because he came in demanding things and I wasn’t going to have any of that attitude. We have as few rules as possible in our shelter, but we still have some and when you start making exceptions things tend to go bad quickly. So we argued. I stood my ground. He threatened to leave. I said ok. I was kind of hoping he would. But we kept talking and he calmed down and we ended up having a decent conversation.

IMG_3078We were cautious around each other the next time we were both there, but over the past couple days we’ve continued to talk. He asked if I could dry his shirt in our laundry, I asked questions about his past and his future. He’s still needy, demanding, and can be on your nerves in a heartbeat, but he is so much more than that. He is a human. He is in a tough place. He has a lot going on. He is created in the image of God. He has a reason to be alive. And he probably thinks he deserves all the same things I think I deserve…only he can’t take them for granted anymore. When someone gave this guy money today, he bought me candy. I can’t say it’s the best use of his cash, but I can say it makes me wonder what I’d do if I found a $5 on the ground. I think it’s time to restart a gratitude list, because I don’t want to take life for granted. I don’t want to be needy and demanding. I want to notice all the gifts I’m given each day. Things, breath, light, joy…wonderful, God given gifts! I also want to challenge you…take a minute. Stop. Breath. Think. And be thankful.

 

 

To the man traveling all the way from Alaska to visit your daughter. I’m sorry. Sorry for the multiple missed flights. Secretly it was nice to see the same face at multiple cancellations, but that was kind of selfish, so I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that your time with her is going to be much shorter. I hope you guys make the most of it. Your calm acceptance of the situation reminded me of my own dad. I miss him, and wish I could go visit him, so it made me happy to know that one daughter/father combo would be together soon…maybe not as soon as we all hoped though. I thought about you while I sat in the airport.

To the woman going to India for your mother-in-law’s funeral. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that because of our delay you will miss the funeral. I’m sorry you didn’t make it back in time to say goodbye. I’m sorry you are alone. That you just said goodbye to your daughter and son-in-law and brand new grandbabies to make the trip home to India. I know you left early trying to make it before your mother-in-law, the woman you’ve lived with for the past 35 years died, but you didn’t make it. She died too quickly. And now, as we sit here waiting, you know that you will miss your connection. You know that you will miss her funeral. I am praying for you. You know this…I told you…but I hope you remember. I hope my one hug was enough to give you the strength you need to get back to India. I’m glad that she was a wonderful woman, and I wish I could hold your hand the whole way to India, but for now, I’m thankful to have met you. I’m thankful that you made eye contact with me and that when I asked why you were going to India you were honest. I’m glad you let me share your sorrow for a while on those uncomfortable airport chairs. I thought about you while I sat in the airport.

To the man going to visit your mom. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that the reason for your visit is that she isn’t doing well. I’m glad you weren’t on my flight that you were flying somewhere else and are able to make it there to see her as she struggles through the end of her life. I’m so thankful to know that your mom loves Jesus and you not only get to see her right now, but you have hope to see her again in heaven. Thank you for telling me that. It was encouraging to me. I thought about that hope while I sat in the airport.

To the ticket counter people. I’m sorry. I can only imagine how hard your job is and how many frustrated people you deal with…I got to see plenty of them as you explained again and again to all different groups why they would miss their connections or not get home on time. (Word of the wise though…maybe it’s worth hiring faster pilots.) Thanks though for your encouragement. Your apologies. Your sorrowful smiles. Your effort to keep trying to get me home. It was appreciated. I tried to make sure you knew how much I appreciated you, and that I didn’t hold this against you…I hope I was successful. Anyways, as I watched you stay calm with the frustrated people around me, it reminded me to stay calm. It reminded me that God has a plan that we just can’t always understand. I thought about your attitudes while I sat in the airport.

To my friends in jail who I promised I would visit today. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to stand you up when I’m one of the very few you’ve come to believe and count on. It broke my heart to not visit you today. I would’ve given anything for that jail food today. =) I’m sorry to the two of you who will likely be transferred to other prisons by the time I get to visit next week. I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. The past few months of talking with you, reading God’s word, and praying for you, your friends, your families has been life changing for me, and I hope it has been for you too. I don’t know if I’ll find you again, but know that I will search. I will try my best to, at the very least, send you a letter explaining why I didn’t get to say goodbye. I thought about you while I sat in the airport.

To my friends and family I’m not sorry. To you I am very thankful. Thanks for the phone calls, text messages, airport visits, rides, bed, food, encouragement, thoughts and prayers. Thanks for reminding me that God is in control…always. Thanks for loving me well. This adventure reminded me of just how wonderful all of you are! And I thought about you while I sat in the airport.

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!