Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume I

Each day that begins and ends brings us closer to the day we'll pack up all of our books and dishes and shirts and Legos and move a bit further down the road.

What should have been June might now be July and I'm doing my very best to keep the inner cynic in check, because what I'm thinking on a good day is, "They'll never be done by July." On a drearier day, it's more, "This is never going to happen. Never."

There's a thing inside me that feels so much better when I hold the timeline in my own two hands. I've been reluctant to talk about all of this, because what if I'm wrong? What if we're hours away from the rug being yanked out?

As you already know, I hate being wrong. It's embarrassing. But I'm learning. I'm learning that publicly tip-toeing to the edge of the cliff brings a unique brand of exhilaration. It's possible that I'll be wrong, that I'll have to recant. It seems like it wouldn't be the end of the world after all.

So this is our street. If you walk a few blocks further down, you'll come to the school where the kids will attend.

I've gotta tell you, it looked a bit less depressing back in August. Once the leaves fell and everything got all washed up in gray, the latent doubts came back with a vengeance.

This isn't the life I had pictured for my kids. Or me. I pictured us sitting under shade trees in the back yard, bare-feet explorers. We'd harvest cherry tomatoes and cook them up for dinner, far away from the threat of poverty or crime. Far away from anyone at all. We'd sit on the porch at night and almost never think about brokenness. It wouldn't cross our minds. Come night, we'd sleep with the doors unlocked.

I pictured it all so clearly, the colors fully saturated, because I lived it for four years. Four years isn't a long time, in the scheme of things, but it's plenty long enough to remind me for years to come of all that we lost.

I wonder what life will be like after we climb inside these photos with the cracked up streets and the houses that give me the creeps. I'd be lying if I said I never felt a little scared. People tell us with their eyes that it's dangerous. They dance their way around it - what if this is the beginning of the end for your kids? There are drugs over there. There are gangs. The neighbors might not speak English and who will Calvin play with after school?

I hear it all but I feel it even louder, because most of their words aren't spent in breath. Most of their words fall silent in the deep space between their question and our answer. That's what most people want from us, a tidy explanation. We don't really have one, at least not one that can be said in two clipped soundbites with a wink and a smile. Many seem to want reassurance that just because we're doing something stupid, they won't have to. 

So the best I can do is this: God sent us over there. He directed our hearts in a way that was impossible to ignore. He woke us up to the basic truth that this was an option, and we would have never gotten there on our own. This kind of life wasn't on our radar two years ago. Back then, it might have been me with my eyebrows knit together in the middle, saying all I needed to say in a pause that was a beat too long. You're making a big mistake.

When I picture Jesus these days, I picture Him in Gap jeans and a flannel. His hair is longish. His boots are old. I see Him going to places like these, and places that make this look like Vacation Bible School.  He keeps company with those who mourn. He likes talking to people who don't have all the answers. He goes to where life runs thick and dark and he brings the light. His compass points to the place that is the most dangerous, the least comfortable. Why did I ever think my compass should be any different?

So what we'll do is follow Him there. He leads. We follow. He's more than enough light for all that gray.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. 
Psalm 27:13


61 comments:

  1. Love you! Can't wait to see the new digs. I'll put July down on my calendar, and trust IT WILL HAPPEN! :)

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  2. So proud of you all. Please know that there are people standing alongside you.

    I have paraphrased the following verse a little, "Then The Martins heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go?”I The Martins said, “Here I am. Send us.” Isaiah 6:8

    We have a responsibility to rescue lost and broken people. Jesus said you have sent me father, now I send them in my name. Jesus sends us to a lost and broken world. Surely God wants to use those rescued people (us) to rescue people. Think about this... safety, comfort, and security is not the goal of Christianinty, freedom is. How can you ever be free if you aren't where He wants you to be. He never promises us any of those things.

    Thanks for modeling, obedience to Gods call.

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  3. My dear dear friend Shannan, What is there left to say but I love you for your obedience to Him.

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  4. Wow! (when all words seem empty) Know I am rooting for you!!! :)

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  5. Girl. Sending MASSIVE amounts of love and prayer your way. Love the way you love. ;-)
    xoxo,
    Shaunna

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  6. I'm rooting for you and your family too. You will find the beauty there and maybe show it to those who can't quite see it.

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  7. I am also confident, if we look for it, we will see the Lord's goodness. Never forget that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. God bless you as you make changes in your life.

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  8. I admire you. More people need to be like you... including myself.
    xo

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  9. God's working on us over here. Every time we make an excuse He blows our excuse out of the water.

    Praying for you girl. Praying real hard-like.

    xxoo

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  10. Is that a PARK on your street?? How cool is that?! I'm with you, girl. I really am. I see SO much ministry opportunity here. Brimming. Overflowing. You are going to love it. I am SO excited for you guys and your brood. This is adventure--real life, adventure! I'm coming over!

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  11. Your courage and admission of fear are inspiring, challenging. Thank you.

    From today's devotion in "Each New Day" by Corrie Ten Boom...

    The world does not read the Bible--it reads you and me. The godly man is the ungodly man's Bible.

    How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14 RSV

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  12. your new street looks like ours. only ours has less tress. (bummer) we like it here. i think you will too.

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  13. Jeremiah 29:11-12 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."

    Its really during the time when God calls us, we go and then...........that we truly are tested and refined. Thank you for your honesty, openness and willingness to be an example. It really matters to those of us who read what God is doing in your life. Cause if we never meet here, how wonderful it's gonna be when we meet THERE and are able to share how God moved in our lives because of this. Because of God.

    Thank you.

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  14. Your obedience to the Father is inspiring and I am going to be sure to keep following you ....here & in prayer.

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  15. God's love and wonderfulness will continue to shine forth from your family, maybe even more so in this neighborhood. He is the LIGHT, may you feel His love, peace and strength each and every day.

    You will make your house a loving home.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

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  16. thanks for the reminder that ultimately His street is better than any we could pick out for ourselves. we're walking in the valley a bit this week, and i needed a tiny ray of sunshine. you were that for me. so thanks! xoxo

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  17. Only found your blog recently. Still intrigued to know why you moved from your paradise.I will look through your older posts to fill in the blanks :-)

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  18. You know I stumbled upon your blog and read all the little highlighted bits. I went upstairs to make soup and was thinking about you. My 4 children are now in their late teens and some have left home. We lived in all sorts of neighborhoods. Some were well,not nice. Most people thought we were crazy. We did it for financial reasons.
    I don't know where you live or where you are going. I don't know your crime rates but I know this.
    You said you wondered who your children would play with? They will probably play with kids like me. One who needed to see the inside of a home where there was love. One where, I needed to see a mom who was affectionate,and dependable. Having sneek peaks into people's worlds who did not abuse their children. Looking at children who trusted the adults in their lives. Learning about what a real family was and did.
    If you worry about who your kids play with invite them into your home. Maybe change it around in your mind. See it like I wonder how my life will affect the children who come to play.
    Make your house a safe haven for an afternoon. You never know the effect you will have.
    You said in your previous post you saw the infinite face of Jesus in your Hollyhocks. Plant Holly hocks. Be a hollyhock. Quietly standing guard in your neighborhood. You might get blown back and forth, but like the holly hock you will come up everyspring. You are raising more hollyhocks, more sprouts who can have the same affect.I needed good children around me. I realize now, I was the bad seed in my neighborhood.
    I found out another thing. People in lower income neighborhoods were more friendly. More willing to live in community.

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  19. The only thing I wonder about if is this. If you are the only new house build in the area you may be looked down upon because you are "rich". You might have to get past this hump in your road. Are there any new housebuilds yet? Are you the only one?

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  20. i love you for this post. reality (gut) check for me. i needed it. I really really want the backyard garden and romps under the big shade trees, but God has us firmly planted in the cracked streets in our little ghetto! For a reason, bigger than us, but no less for His glory. keep keeping it real my sistah!

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  21. What God calls us to do rarely makes sense to the world. Love you and praying for you!!

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  22. First time commenter, long time reader. :) I am rooting for you too.

    Susan

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  23. God is already there working. Someone in that neighborhood and school are praying and your troop will be the answer. God didn't give us the light to hide it, it was meant to shine to chase out the darkness. And light always wins over darkness. Plant a big garden( you will need it), and lots and lots of flowers! Hey, I am off for a week in July!!!

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  24. I found your blog after a VERY long day with my two young children. I was tired. I was down. I questioned myself. My methods. My purpose. My sanity. and since that night You have been supporting me without even realizing it. I send links to your blog to my husband at work with the subject reading : See I am NOT alone.

    From one mother to another...we don't know what tomorrow will bring. we have today and now. We may not always make the best of it. We may not always be the best, but we will try. We will try every day. and the bottom line is that we love our children and our husbands and our life. I anxiously wait for new posts to see what today holds. Thank you for being a beacon of light. (you have inspired more than just myself I imagine)

    -Katie

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  25. I guess I posted this as my husband. Oh well...Look at that handsome devil :0)

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  26. Good thoughts. Honest thoughts. Thank you.

    I know exactly what those long pauses from those that 'care' sound like. I've heard them many times in my 'unconventional' american life.
    Oh, I know them, "what?, you're going to stay home with your children- but you already are broke and only own three maternity outfits that I am sick of seeing you wear these past nine months"
    Years later-
    "What? You don't have medical insurance? (or cable, or internet, or cell phones or vacations or new clothes)- what are you going to do if someone gets sick!"
    And still more years pass-
    Or the one I'm currently living in now- "Now that you're husband has left you, you'd better sell everything you have, find a job, fix your life pronto- forget those dreams and talents you were given- become a dental hygienist- they make money"
    My answer to each pause has always been a wink and a nod to God, because I know my direction is because it's been His direction- obedience is better than the security of the world- especially when it doesn't make sense. In every life crisis ( and there have been many) He has provided- and provided well. I respect you for listening to Him without the promise of a clear vision. That's faith, and I have no doubt He's going to do in you things you never imagined!

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  27. Miabellavintage: Thanks for your question! The entire block is being razed and re-built, so no, we won't be the only one. :) I'll definitely be talking more about all of this in volumes II - ?? Stay tuned!

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  28. Well is that the only picture you have showed of your new area? I don't think it looks all bad! We ended up moving to a nice looking neighborhood, but a couple women in this neighborhood have been absolutely venomous to me, felt like ice water to my face. I suppose I'll have to go ahead and love my neighbors anyway. I bet your neighbors will be some of the nicest people ever. :)

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  29. I believe that God did send you over there..over yonder.

    I don't think you have OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) do you? I watched part two of her Haiti series. A girl wrote to Oprah when she was 11, she's now 19. She had always wanted to help the children of Haiti, she said God placed it in her heart when she was 8. Her parents finally took a trip with her to Haiti when she was 11. They now live there and run a place for all of the parentless children. Her parents talked about how they'd never seen themselves there, but that they'd most likely live out their lives there. It was moving to see them making such a huge difference in the lives of all of those kids.

    So...it is with you. Who knows what you and your family will do in a less-than-perfect place? I think it's good, it's GREAT.

    I also think God always has a much, much bigger plan for us than we can ever dare imagine.

    xoxo~

    TT

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  30. Wow...makes me think about what we could be doing in our neighborhood, right now. I honestly thought I didn't do anything, that I was just a Mom with her kids, believing God in this house. But recently my 10 yr old daughter told me that the girl across the street says she loves our house. I'm thinking 'Really? She loves stained walls and carpets? We have one tv and five kids that share bedrooms' But she said she loves it here because it always smells like I'm baking something and it feels good here. I praised God for that! God will use us and we will be the ones blessed for it! You go in thinking you are going to change things and you come out changed!! You are in my prayers :) p.s. I love your Mom..so sweet!

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  31. You are doing exactly as you are led to do. I wish more of us had your courage!

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  32. LOVE this picture of Jesus! Sounds like someone I'd like to hang with {a picture of Jesus in his long flowing robes gives me a complex as I can't get my buns out of sweats most days. :) }

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  33. I admire you and your husband. I think that what you are experiencing is evidence that you are walking by faith and not by sight, clinging to Jesus.

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  34. I love flannel, how comforting one can be.Blessings to you and your family during your journey of life.There is so much brokenness and if we all could just lend a helping hand the things we could accomplish would be amazing! We live in a broken world and if we don't start to fix it ourselves it will only worsen.If only we all could reach out to others in a time of need and guide them to the Lord.Most of them don't know any better.It's what they have learned to live by.If only! ~Best of luck to you Kim

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  35. Faith is believing in the things unseen, and so I have FAITH that it's gonna happen for you!!! It is I just know it!

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  36. I want to share the other side of this process.....I have often thought that I was called to "help" and have found to my amazement that I was the one to receive the "help". So many times I have marched off on a mission so grateful that my skills and talents could be used and the next time I looked up realized that I had learned so much more than I had given! Life is a big bowl of specialness.....it comes in all sizes, colors, financial status, education levels, neighborhoods, religions, ages.....not just what feels right to me. Stay open and enjoy the adventure. You will be surprised at some point......it has never been for the reasons I dreamed of in the beginning.

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  37. This: "He goes to where life runs thick and dark and he brings the light. His compass points to the place that is the most dangerous, the least comfortable. Why did I ever think my compass should be any different?"
    Good question that begs to be asked in my own life.

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  38. i love to witness obedience.
    it's scary.
    but inspiring.
    it makes me feel like my faith is so tiny.
    but also gives me hope that it could grow.
    thanks for having the courage to share yourself.

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  39. My husband and i run an inner-city mentoring program in Atlanta and moved into the "hood" about 6 months ago. The Lord has shown us so much about being a good neighbor and not taking the "easy road" - I'll be praying for you guys and look forward to following your journey!

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  40. "There's more than enough light for all that gray." You said it, Sister! Go!

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  41. Thank you for sharing your heart. The oppotunity to move has presented itself to us as well, and it has my stomach all up in knots. The good, the bad, the ugly, the hope. Trying to figure it all out and what is best for our little family. At the end of the day though, we have each other, and that is what is best of all. The physical shell may be our house, but my family is my home, and they aren't going nowheres. Hugs to you. It will all be ok.

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  42. I honestly thought you were going to talk about the sweet older neighborhood you were moving in too. But then my city has miles and miles of concrete, beaten down worn out apartments, houses with trash in the front and four to five families living within. There is no maybe about speaking English, even the billboards are not English. And the schools, we are second to last in the nation in our quality education. Heck I'm not in the ghetto and I would absolutely love any of those houses.

    I have lived in far far worse and I think you'll find most of these families (if not all of them) are hard working people who are looking for the American dream. Your kids will benefit from a richer culture, my son is so completely color blind as he was raised with every color in the rainbow. There are SO many benefits for your children in areas that are considered poverty level. They will never take what they have for granted. And your family being as amazing as you all are (honest, forthright, loving) will be a shining beacon of the TRUE American dream. Trust me your going to be so happy there. See it from my eye's its a beautiful neighborhood.

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  43. A little story...I have heard Him, too. In my own life. But, I fear I could be completely wrong. My hearing has been around another child for us, and yet my heart is so betwixed over whether it'll be one of *our own* or through adoption, a calling I've never been able to shake as far as I can remember my own name (and gosh that's a long time). But, adoption doesn't make sense. And neither does another child most days. I have such fears I'll be wrong that I also want to plan it all in my timing to make sure it really does get done. But, that's what it's all about--just stepping back and resting in the truth He speaks into our hearts--as scary, dark and bleak as it may look right now; knowing that the color will be radiant on the other side. Blessings in these days as He prepares you for those ones.

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  44. I'm a country girl who moved to the city almost 20 years ago....we thought we would stay for a year or two, but we found a home here. We live on the edge of the city, but our church and son's school are inner city. We have learned so much. I feel like our kids are as safe here as in the country. I also feel like I have it easy - we live on the edge of the city, with grass in our yard and trees to enjoy. It's an adventure. I'm kind of ready for a new start - I'm anxiously watching what God is going to do next in our lives. I can't wait to hear more about your adventure!

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  45. You are going to be a breath of fresh air to that neighborhood! You and Cory and your munchkins! - and who knows what lovely diamonds lay in the rough. Only One knows.

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  46. God bless you. We all need to be as real.

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  47. thank you--I needed to hear those words today as we step out into our own uncertainty. Would love to write more, but I'm about 1/2 a second away from tears and the kiddos are in the room lol ;) I'll be praying for your mountains to be moved, hearts to be calmed, and God to be felt leading the way!!!

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  48. I usually don't listen to music while I'm reading...I tend to have a hard time focusing on both. Tonight, as I read your blog, I had Pandora playing...I have never heard this song before, but this is what was playing:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYHFtUIoHG8
    Praying for you and your family!

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  49. LOVE! Your obedience is so refreshing! I love your vision of where Jesus would be. You're right. I don't see him resting under a shade tree, not thinking about brokenness! He is there, "where life runs thick and dark"! He has to be thrilled you are following to be His hands and His feet!
    xo

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  50. PRAISE jesus, he is more than enough light for that grey. amen.
    this is exactly what's on my heart tonight, too.
    besides chips and salsa. and that is heart *burn* i guess.


    love you.

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  51. My friend Becca Stanley lives in the ghetto of Atlanta with her husband and 2 small children. She shines Jesus' light so brightly. I cry with thankfulness. You will bring the light as well.

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  52. I saw a tv show a number of years ago... I think it would encourage, inspire and maybe even comfort you. I'll see if it's available online and email you the link. It was an old extreme home makeover episode where a pastor gives up everything he knows and moves to one of the ugliest, most violent neighbourhoods in the U.S. It's the only episode of the show that not only made me cry, but challenged my faith and how I view the world and it's "scary places." And I am certain that your journey will inspire others too... it's the beginning of reaching into the ugly places that need the Light most.

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  53. Shannan, you have followed your heart and who knows what is ahead for you but you have faith like no one I have ever known and I know it will work out just as it should.

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  54. I'm so thankful you're sharing your adventure with us :) I love your street already...and I'm thinking I'll start right now praying for your neighbors! I don't know why, but that hadn't occurred to me until now, but from now on, every time I pray for you and your sweet family I'll pray for your new friends as well.

    p.s. Your babies will be just fine as long as you and Cory continue to fill their hearts and minds with Jesus. A life full of true and real is a zillion times healthier than a life full of "pretty!" Have a good day :)

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  55. you couldn't be safer anywhere else than in the will of God.
    it is such a blessing to witness obedience and the raw emotions that
    exude from it.
    God will protect and keep your sweet family.
    i know it.
    blessings.
    xo

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  56. Just like your image, the Jesus I know is a little scruffy, wears flannels and jeans and hangs out with the lonely, sick and depressed :) Thanks for keepin it real!

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  57. i get you. and i love you. and i will TOTALLY hang with calvin after school.

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  58. "He's more than enough light for all that gray."

    I didn't grow up in the inner city...quite the opposite. But, I did grow up in the middle of my fair share of instability and addiction.

    I loved the families who seemed normal. I loved that they welcomed me into their home. I loved that they took me to church with them....I LOVED that their lives seem to reflect what we talked about at church.

    Jesus loves the broken hearted. He adores the crushed in spirit. He came to set the captives free.
    He is our perfect example of how to love others.

    He really, really, really is more than enough light for all that gray.

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  59. I lived in the inner-city for a few years and want you to know that there is so much need for families who love each other. The fact that your husband loves you and you love him. The fact that you are involved in you children's lives and school will shine light like nothing else.

    It reminds me of the Jeremiah 29:4-8

    'Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters--that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

    Blessing to you.

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  60. I will be praying for you. When my husband and I bought our first house right after we got married, we bought in one of the most dangerous areas of Atlanta. Friends were a confused to say the least. But we felt that was were God was calling us to live. We lived there for almost ten years, through the birth of both of our children. I have seen drug deals go down across the street, prostitutes being dropped off on the corner, a crack house burn down, and have even had to go to court because I witnessed a break in. I know the some of the local street guys. We've fed them and prayed for them. I had never pictured myself in such a place, but I am so thankful for the experience. We still own the house with renters in it, so I still feel some tie to the neighborhood. While some days had me sobbing, others had me rejoicing because of the friendships we formed there as slowly more families moved into the neighborhood. We used to say. "We're putting the neighbor back in neighborhood." No doubt you will have days of uneasiness but you will also have His strength to carry you through. Those people need you and I know that you will be an influence for His kingdom.

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