Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grits

Going home to Ohio is like exhaling for a really long, slow time. It's a free vacation. It's being at home, but with none of my regular responsibilities and extra help with the kids. It's never about doing anything, really. It's about the exact opposite.

Last week, headed South for a few days, my sister mentioned that she would be serving breakfast to homeless people in Dayton the following day. Without thinking twice, I told her I wanted to go.

I did want to go. But I also knew that I needed to go.

I've been on a frustrating ride lately - a ride that goes no where. It's so strange to feel the rug being pulled out from underneath. I learned that jumping up at the exact time that it is yanked out helps. It softens the landing. It reduces the chances that I'll be tripped up and fall flat. I expected my quick response - my willingness to take flight - to be rewarded with a shiny, new way of living. I was so sure that this house would sell in two weeks - four weeks, tops. I thought we would be tucked safely in elsewhere, by now. I thought we would be doing all of the things we dreamed about, by now.

The trouble is, the rug was yanked and my heart cracked and I jumped high, then I came back down, only to find the very edge - the fringe - still underfoot. I was halfway changed, but I was halfway the same. My life wanted to look different, but there it stood - tall and lanky with eyes an ordinary shade of brown and hair that never falls quite right.

All the while, I'm saying to myself, "Just do something. You do not have to be in a different house to live the life you are supposed to live." I know that's truth knocking and I grip the knob every single day, but my hands must be slippery or the jamb is stuck, because that door never opens.

So I prayed. I prayed again. For opportunity that cannot be ignored. For eyes that see the underground roots and not just the silky petals.

Meanwhile, my cracked heart was scabbing over. It was healing itself back to death, and I knew it. Those blasted catalogs never did stop arriving at my doorstep and I turned around v e r y slowly until I was almost back where I started. I was forgetting what it felt like to be banged up on behalf of someone else. My glasses were fogging over again and it was as comfy as ever, living inside my frosted glass house, where the light could pour in, but I couldn't begin to see out.

That first night in Ohio, Keisha and I stayed up until 3 o'clock in the ayem. I sat near the crook of that familiar, green couch and remembered nights with my friend Angie, where we relished the idea of staying up all night. On this night, my eyes burned and I listened hard and I knew 6:00 was just a few breaths away.

I fell asleep on the horizon of the "L", Keisha on the perpendicular.

Four hours later, my eyes like a couple of marbles in sand, we climbed out of a warm car to the morning-black-sky of inner city Dayton.


We found our way to the kitchen, donned harvesty aprons and name tags with table assignments. The lady who started the ministry was thrilled to have extra, unexpected help. She showed us the ropes and every time I looked at her, all I saw was the love she has for the people that show up every day to be filled with what they need most. I banged around the kitchen and read on taped-up fliers that breakfast had been canceled for all of September, due to a lack of funds. I squirmed as I thought of the breakfast that waits in my kitchen, every single day, no matter what.

The men and women shuffled in and I smiled big and true from beneath the rim of my hat. These people looked nothing like me and I wished it weren't so. I wanted to blend in. I wanted to be shorter, right then. I wanted real worry lines on my face, not just laugh lines.

I always tell myself the lie that people in need will resent my willingness to serve. This escape hatch serves me quite well. It's big enough for me to slip right through and it closes surprisingly quietly. But, as I discovered, it's irrelevant when I'm standing at the threshold of a church while hungry people file past me.

They all said hello and some smiled. One leered and eyed me in a way that made me feel exposed and silly and I wanted, in that moment, to run. I told myself that I am not cut out for this. I prayed that tables 21 and 22 were filled with nothing but women. Who cares if they were mean.

While the eggs cooked, these people, bused in from who-knows-where under moonlight glow, filed into folding chair rows to be filled first with Truth. The message was the same, but it wore different shoes and its hair was messy. It was about being freed from addiction. Walking away forever from crack cocaine. Finding ground stable enough to hold a job and care for a family. It was about the Only way to get there.

I lined jugs of Orange Drink up on tables and watched as men in raggedy clothes walked up the aisle and fell down at the alter.

I prayed while they did. I prayed for them. For me.

The tables filled and number 21 was filled with young, street-wise guys. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. So I walked to them with bowlfuls of grits and heaps of sugar packets. I smiled and looked them in the eye and asked them what they would like to drink. They answered every time with "Ma'am" tacked onto the end and I chanted silently to them, praying that they could hear my thoughts above the din, "I am the same as you."

Every plate was cleaned and they headed back to the buses, back to who-knows-where and the best I could come up with was, "Have a great day". I don't know if it's possible to have a great day in who-knows-where, but I know that if my prayer was answered, if they saw an undeniable glimpse of their Creator, if they carried the glow of love between their jackets and their skin, then their day would be a far cry better than the one that came before. And sometimes, greatness is relative, but other times, it's exactly the same.


:: For more information about Target Dayton or to donate, click here.

38 comments:

  1. You opened the door, your hand didn't slip. You're going places aren't you? Even if it means fighting off magazines for the rest of your life. Your heart is beautiful and that's what matters.
    You can't be stuck. Did you read this post? She and her husband are working their way over to Africa...
    http://therunamuck.com/2010/11/03/are-we-there-yet/

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  2. Thanks for giving me a good kick in the bum, Shannan.

    xx

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  3. I love reading your posts. I wait for them to come. You are truly an inspiration. Our paths have some major similarities. I too am waiting on a different house to start living the life I want. Every day I tell myself, I need to start living that life now. Thank you for this post, as well as the others.

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  4. What a beautiful post. So beautiflly written. Thanks for stopping by to visit me.

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  5. our church (apex community church) works closely w/target dayton. they are doing awesome things to show Jesus to this city!

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  6. I don't even have the words to properly comment on something written so beautifully, so pure, so transparent, so full of love, so honest. Please know that it went straight to my heart where it will certainly stay and I will chew on these words for a long time to come. Thank you Shannan!

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  7. Sis-
    Once again I find myself embracing the tears that are running down my face.
    I feel this pain for the "least of these" slowly overtaking me -more than ever before. I see a multitude of lost faces all around me whether in America of when I'm overseas, yet I feel like I am not doing enough to reach them. I know we are the 'body of Christ' and I must accept that while some are the 'hands and feet' I am nothing more than a prayer of intersession for them and I guess I have to trust that 'it's enough' for now.
    I love you and I will continue to pray that God shows you daily how to impact another life outside of your own home. God loves to use ordinary people (like you) to do extraordinary things... just as He has been doing with you!
    I love you Sisssay...

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  8. Are you in my head? I think you're in my head, because those are certainly some of my thoughts, just in a more eloquent form.

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  9. beautiful post Shannan. Sometimes we are the only Jesus some will ever see.... I try to remember it daily but I don't always succeed. Keep pushing on girlie!

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  10. falling in and out of desperation...wondering what will happen too.
    love the truth.

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  11. What a beautiful post. Made me tear up.

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  12. This was a hard post to read. Sometimes the truth is just that...hard, but just as you "needed" to be there, I "needed" to be reminded. Thank you.
    Debbie
    P.S. Let me add one other thing...you are a gifted writer.

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  13. Last winter I made and served dinner for a homeless shelter (http://bit.ly/bKM1op). It was our family's Christmas present (since we don't do Christmas presents). You've reminded me that I need to sign up on the schedule and start planning!

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  14. Thank you for this post. I am going this morning with my church to feed the homeless. It is my second time and I can tell you that last time I felt so many of the emotions you described. Like the people would see right through me and despise me for being a "do-gooder". Like I couldn't relate to them at all. But I ended up just feeling alot of pain for them, and love too.

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  15. My daughter goes to the men's mission or battered women's shelter every week here in Fort Wayne with her youth group. On Wednesday they decided to haunt the homeless hangouts. Hubby went and also brought my 11 yo son....they were all wearing shell shocked faces due to seeing grown men sleeping on cold sidewalks with one measley blanket. My son kept saying "can't we get them another blanket?" The men generally refused saying 'I'm ok'. Well, their 'ok' looks alot different than MY 'ok'. I also remember my oldest son at 13 crying that he saw a man rummaging thru the garbage behind the library downtown (by that camera shop your hubs likes)...poverty is overwhelming to stare at in the face, yet when we do, what stares back at us is....us. Truly, we are all the same.

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  16. Again, you've left me speechless yet full of tears. Absolutely beautiful post. And inspiring. God IS using you in many ways... the good news, is often times we don't see it.

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  17. I live in a small town about 45 minutes northwest of Dayton, near the Indiana line. We've often wondered what good we can do for the poor in a town where the poor areas and needs are not obvious. This is a good reminder to makes a few calls and find out. Thank you.

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  18. That's what we need to do THE most when we are broken and discouraged...serve others. Thanks for that reminder. I just love your heart Shannon.

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  19. This is AMAZING, Shannan. Amazing.

    I wish I could help people more like this. I feel so sorry for these people. And some people have the nerve to set back and laugh at them. To say, get a job. If it were only that easy. It's hard to get a job when you have nothing to show up in but rags.

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  20. 1. your kids are pretty dadgummed adorable too!
    2. without his sister in his face, he plays really well on his own while we do school. since it's just kindergarten and pre-k for the older 2, it really only takes about an hour (often less!) to do school. if he's particularly crazy that day i often wait until he sleeps and then do school. the older kids like that scenario because then it makes their rest times shorter!
    3. yep, my husband is the music man at apex. :) we've been a part of the ministry since we were in college and he's been on staff for almost 8 yrs. if you're still in town you should visit this weekend, the gatherings are all about orphan care! although my husband and i are doing a quick interview on stage...not looking forward to my awkwardness in front of crowds being out there for all to see!
    sorry for my novel. peace out.

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  21. there is happiness and good days in who knows where. we are all the same in that way regardless of circumstance. common ground fo sho.

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  22. Your heart is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

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  23. Shanny - start living that life right now. Get off the Christian Tour Bus where it's all comfortable and air conditioned - feel the heat and the dirt of it all, embrace it. I'm telling myself that everyday. It's hard. I want to be all or nothing, I want to give it all or nothing. I feel guilty when I give some, and then get something for myself that seems frivolous. We have to find a balance. We have to know what the Heart of God is for US - and it may be different than what it is for others. I always want to wait until all things are lined up perfectly - like one day I'm going to wake up in the life I want. I'm almost 50 now girl - and I'm here to tell you, it don't be workin' like that. It's all about moments. Sometimes moments get strung together and they feel like days - or weeks - but mostly - they are fleeting. You make a difference Shannan. Everyday. To more than you know.

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  24. You are not lost my friend, the Lord, who loves you and provides each and every meal the passes through your own kitchen, has not forgotten about YOU!!! He has a plan for your beautiful home, and I know how hard it is to be in a stall pattern...I am there too, but you have so much to be thankful for!!! You are so blessed! I will be praying for you, just as I am daily praying for myself, that you will find joy in each day...that you will LIVE each day with a hope and a trust for what is to come...and that you will be ever so thankful for the pure blessing of living the beautiful life that you have been given! You are daily in my thoughts and prayers, funny since I have never met you, but like I said...we are in a similar place in life, and I KNOW what you are experiencing. You make a difference in your husbands life, your three beautiful children's lives, your family who so loves you, and so many of us in blog land who love to read your words...we find encouragement in the beauty of your heart!
    Hugs and prayers

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  25. Hugs to you! What my Mom said is absolutely right! Jesus loves us all the same, and we all have different struggles and heartaches - rough patches in our lives - and they are different for all of us. It's up to us how we take those struggles & what we make from them - how we glorify him even during our worst days! You're not lost at all & here in blogland - I think you reach many many more than you know with your words & your Christian heart :) You are an inspiration to us all!

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  26. Wow... that's sooo amazingly cool. And it reminds me that sometimes I get so caught up in my own world that I forget about the great struggles of others and how as a Christian, I need to step in and help.

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  27. Shannan, last spring I helped in a ministry shelter in a very undesirable part of town. As dangerous as this neighborhood after dark, under the roof of this shelter we were all God's children. It didn't need to be said or pondered because... I could feel it. The Holy Spirit was flooding my soul. I know that is what you were feeling too :o)

    My fear of being resented was overwhelming too, but I was only met with polite and heartfelt thanks and gratitude. I left there with a new found sense of gratitude myself...

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  28. What a beautiful post, You are a wise woman with a teachable spirit :)May God use and continue to Bless you as He has done so many times over. I am so encouraged every time I read your Blog.

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  29. thank you for your honesty in the struggle to live a different life, it's good to know others struggle too. loved this post!

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  31. Good reminder to everyone, especially this time of year. Gimme a call when you're in OH. We'll get together and the kids can play while we catch up.

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  32. you know how they say "food for thought"? well, that was a hearty meal. i'm feeling energized to go out there and turn those thoughts into actions. thank you. :)

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  33. I loved this!! Its too easy to make excuses, or want to get everything done and caught up first before we step out of the boat.

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  34. God bless you. You were obedient to the call, when you could have excused yourself out of it.

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  35. Shannan you are such an amazing woman inside and out. You have touched my heart with this post. I think we all tend to forget as bad and as uncertain as we think our life is, someone else always has it worst. We need to step outside our safe little havens we have built and reach out to those in need.Who knows only God what our lives hold in store for us so enjoy every good, bad, or sad moment there is always a reason for it. Hugs, Traci

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  36. Oh Shannan, the words in your post were meant for me...

    You are an amazing conveyor of thoughts and feelings. Several times a day I find myself lurking on your blog, reading and re-reading, soaking in your words and thoughts; your insights just knock me over. When I grow up (I'm 58!) my goal is to be just like you. Really - wise and patient while you wait on God to do His work through His perfect will in your life.

    The words that you thought and then put on the page jumped out at me and shook me good.
    "Just do something. You do not have to be in a different house to live the life you are supposed to live." These words caused me to weep with shame. This is exactly what I have been doing for the last eight months. Treading water. Waiting and praying. Praying and waiting. Praying for our house to sell. But it hasn't and we are still here. My life is on hold but my finger pushed the hold button. What good is that?! But God! But God is in control and He used you to remind me of that. I am wasting time, sitting here, waiting for a house to be sold so that the next chapter of my life can begin. Waiting and wasting. Wasting my life. My mom has Alzheimer's and we plan to move back to Arkansas from Texas to help. The idea of moving is good, but the sitting and wasting is not. I am ashamed and convicted. No more wasting.

    What honesty and transparency you have! You allow us to peek in your window and see the real you. Not many are brave enough for that. God is using you and your blog in many ways that you do not even realize. Reading your thoughts blesses me in so many ways. Thank you.

    For you and your sweet family I pray - that God will reveal His will for you soon, that you will be covered in His grace and mercy as you wait, and that every day will provide you with an opportunity to be joyful and to laugh uncontrollably.

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