Monthly Archives: April 2012

note to self.

There are weeks that never seem to end, that make it glaringly evident that we live in a broken world.

As you may have guessed, I am currently in one of those weeks.

Today I sat across from a woman who had her son taken away from her just two days ago.  She couldn’t stop crying long enough to get out even one complete sentence.

Hours earlier, I had floundered in my attempts to comfort a woman fleeing an intense domestic violence situation.  Her young son sat in their car, not fully understanding what was happening and too afraid to come into my office.

Yesterday, a woman with a serious mental illness called over and over, just wanting to be listened to and understood.

Last night, a college student showed up around 11.  Last month her 5-month-old daughter went to be with Jesus, and her husband decided he couldn’t stand to be around her anymore because it reminded him too much of what they had lost.

And in the midst of all of this, agencies from around town kept calling to ask if we had any room for the women in their offices who were stranded, desperate, and without hope.

I had no idea what to do in any of these situations.

They were, for the most part, all scenarios that I’ve seen before and so one would think that it would have been at least a little bit easier this time.  Like, maybe this time I would have words to say to alleviate some of the anguish they were feeling.

But no.  I fumbled around awkwardly, trying to think of something to say, coming up only with silence and the idea to hand over a box of Kleenex.

There is no hidden message here, just the reminder for myself that there are times in life where it seems as though there is no limit to the heartache that people can feel.  And in those times it feels like all I can do is trust that things will get better for them, somehow.  If I internalize all of this pain, I will be unable to help anyone.  Just as these women need to give their hurt and feelings of betrayal over to the Lord, I too need to surrender these feelings of inadequacy and helplessness.

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following blindly.

As I may have mentioned before (or maybe I just think about it a lot), I have mixed emotions when it comes to having kids here at the Mission.

I love when they crawl up onto my lap during chapel, I love seeing them run across the parking lot just so jazzed about everything, I even love having to tell them for the hundredth time to stop playing on the stairs.

They draw me pictures of their families, they tell me about everything that’s happening, they pretend like their hands are spiders to attempt to creep me out (it totally works.  every time.), they remind me to not take things too seriously.

When there are kids here, sticks become swords or lightsabers, the cracks in our parking lot become the only safe places to walk so we’re not swallowed up by lava, and everything just gets so much more exciting.

I love them.

At the same time, if they’re here, it means that they’re homeless.  It means that in their short lives, they have already known displacement and confusion and fear about the future.

It means they don’t have their own bed with Spiderman sheets or a kitchen table to sit around or a place to invite their friends to come hang out.  It means they stand in line for meals and attempt to do their homework in a room filled with everything their family owns.

When there are kids here, there is a heightened need to make this as safe a place as possible, it becomes even more obvious that one person’s choices can so easily affect others, and it seems as though reality sets in hard.

But these kids are survivors.

Through them, I am learning what it means to fully trust the Lord.  These kids have been through a lot, but they still believe that their parents want what’s best for them.  In some cases, they’re absolutely right.  In others, the parents don’t actually want that, or they do but they have no idea how to go about providing for or supporting their children.

Whatever the situation, most of these kids trust that this time will be the time that their moms or dads get it right.  They move forward blindly, recognizing that, for now, someone else is in charge of their life.  And they trust that whoever is leading will make the right decision.

The obvious difference here is that the Lord does, in fact, always make the right decision with regards to our lives.  Whether or not we think that’s true at the time, it always eventually becomes clear that what He thought was best was actually way better than what we were thinking.

And so, I am realizing that this blind trust that these kids have been modeling for me is what is necessary to follow Jesus.  He doesn’t always give us the plan ahead of time, he simply asks us to follow.

Stepping out in faith means we don’t always see where our feet are going.


you are safe here.

One of the things that is becoming more and more evident to me all the time is that the Lord works in mysterious ways to teach people important lessons.

Most recently I realized this through a crazy ball of energy disguised as a 4-year-old boy.  This kid wants to know about everyone and everything, and it is very apparent that he’s been raised in an environment that has attempted to suppress his curiosity.  After witnessing one of our interactions, his mom told me she could tell I didn’t have kids because I was so patient with her son.

One night at dinner, he and I were talking about something when he stopped mid-sentence, stood up on his chair, and asked me point-blank, “Do you love your job?”

I was taken aback, but I said yes, to which he responded with a nod and a sort of self-satisfied smirk as if he had already known how I was going to respond.

Later, he continued his interrogation with such questions as,  What color is your hair?, Am I eating a sucker?, What’s your name again?, and so on.

Before I could get overwhelmed, his mom looked up from her phone and said, “Don’t worry about responding to all of those.  He only asks questions that he already knows the answers to.”

Interesting.

Yesterday I was headed into my apartment when I learned that a woman had left a note on my desk.  This woman is one that I’ve mentioned before, the one with the sometimes-crazy hair and the questions about tax fraud (I still don’t know the answers).

The note, in part, said this:  “Now that Jessica has this note in her possession Please ask that they Please forward my reduced fare i.d. to the proper authorities due to the inability to have my own living environment stepped on by those that deem themselves qualified to yell and scream to people…Don’t go to the back!  Fair warning–Fare is fare.”

I’ve now read that note at least half a dozen times, and I still don’t understand what she’s asking me to do, but I recognize that she trusted me with something that she sees as valuable .

During this season of Lent, I have been spending time each day (or, more accurately, attempting to spend time each day) reading and meditating on the Psalms.  One thing that stood out to me immediately was the fact that the word “refuge” is used over and over.  It’s mentioned 19  times just in the first forty Psalms.  The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him, and so on.

It feels as though I am constantly praying that Jesus would make my heart more like his, though the specifics of that are changing regularly based on circumstances.  These past few weeks, this has meant that I’ve been more specifically praying that, through my actions, people would see that the Lord is a refuge–a safe place, that people can trust Him and trust His followers.

It is not always easy for me to give off good first impressions (those of you who know me are probably not shocked by that admission), and so I have just been praying and asking God to change that, to change a fundamental part of me, knowing that it won’t be easy but that the end results will benefit every person who I encounter.

And honestly, I’ve been discouraged.  But this week, the Lord used a 4-year-old and a woman with schizophrenia to show me that He is, in fact, slowly (and oftentimes painfully) changing me,  and that He is refining me into someone transparent and trustworthy.

I am telling you this, in part, because I think sometimes it is easy to become frustrated when our prayers aren’t answered right away, or when we try so hard to change but it doesn’t seem as though anything is happening.  In those times, know that God is working, just not always in the ways you most expect or hope for.