Thursday, October 8, 2015


She said she was pissed because some girl with a ghetto street name was wearing her son's shirt. She'd rifled around in her drawers while she was at work, this near-stranger who lives in what used to be her home but has become just a roof and four walls. Who the hell does that? These were her words, not mine, but trust me, I'm editing, and sometimes, I grow weary of it.  Sometimes I want to tell you like it really is, give you all the throb and every bit of the tension that bangs around a room jammed with broken people.

Maybe someday I'll tell you about the song I was sent to help me understand what it feels like to be an addict and how for a fraction of a second, a single atom of me understood. It didn't matter that it was loaded with the f-word. I felt just one molecule of the despair and it made want to rage. It made me want to sob until my sides ached and I wondered if God is really big enough to rescue someone from meth. And if he is, why not here? Why not now?

I wanted to share it with someone, but I wasn't sure who could handle it or who would want to. We're taught not to invite suffering and I won't overstate it, I can't suffer for a song. But I also can't escape this one, and I'd like another person to absorb it by half. That's how I feel a lot of the time. I want to unburden, but who wants this load?

I don't know these answers, so I edit.
I save.
I hold back out of fear of offending, and I'm the one left wondering. Who are we to be offended? Where do we get off?

I want you to know that this is what they think about when they think of us. They believe we cannot handle them. They think we'd never want to. They see us as too clean, too good. They hate us for it, because they believe in their bones that we're better than them. Even if we are a bunch of hypocrites.

Over time, their gut knows they are unholdable.
It's not the streets that teach them this. It might be the needle, but just in part.
We could blame their record or all their baby daddies or the ones they wanted who didn't want them back.

We'd only be half right.
These are their wounds, but we bring the shame.

Driving across town just an hour ago I saw a man in a different broken-down neighborhood. In a Land's End half-zip, he held his to-go coffee while he spoke to a woman on a bike. His eyes were filled with kindness. I'm lucky I didn't drive straight into his neighbor's front yard the way I whipped my head around.

I don't know the story, but I wrote one anyway.

He lives in that house with its suspiciously bright white paint.
No one quite understands why, and that includes his people and theirs.
He loves his neighbor.
And he's waiting for someone else to see that the "his" and the "theirs" are marked off with a soluble line.

I'm dying to know him. I want him and his unfussy wife with her homemade quick bread in my kitchen and I want them here yesterday. I want his rowdy kids hovering over Minecraft with my own. I want them to tell us everything, because I need to hear it. I want them to tell us nothing at all, because I already know.

He's a middle classer. I see it like I see the first-hand boots on my own two feet and our second freezer full of meat. I know it like the tea in my hand and the curtains pulled wide at my window. I can't say exactly why I know it, only that I do.

And if it's true for him, it's true for me.
I will never blend in all the way, and this causes me more angst than you will know.

But I saw the way he cared for his neighbor, so I wrote the ending, too.

He loves them.

He refuses to turn away from their pain.
He stands with his coffee and talks to the lady on her giant tricycle bike and it's worth it if he's a few minutes late to work because some of them love him back, and that's what wooed him there, not just to love them, but to be loved by them.

I don't know most of my neighbors and I don't love any of them like I should.
The human part of me wants to chisel off all my hard edges, become someone entirely new, who feels and lives differently, unafraid and unselfconscious.  I want to be friendlier. I want to kick language barriers in the mouth, bake cookies, and take more walks.

It doesn't come easily for me, and I wonder if that's the whole point.
If nothing else, it serves as a constant reminder that I'm the one waiting to be rescued.

I close the distance between me and whomever stands nearest, that much I can do. Accidentally, I've arrived at a place where I don't flinch when God and prayer and f**k fall cleanly in the same phrase.

Sometimes, secondhand smoke is the fragrance of Christ himself, and I pull a long drag.

I stand close to their flame and my edges melt. But theirs do too.
This can only mean that I carry some burn of my own.

They can handle what I've got. They don't turn away with the Jesus that falls from my lips or the opinions I'm prone to offering without invitation.

Real love does not apologize, and we keep on learning the way truth can cut chains.

God loves me exactly the way I am right now, in my Goodwill sweater and my morning hair. He loves me, and I can be sure, because I stare hard at faces lined with pain and all I can see is His glory, shining off their hard surfaces, lighting everything around me like a fuse.


  1. "These are their wounds, but we bring the shame." So true... I'm being broken down slowly but surely from the clean lines that I've drawn between me and others, and your words and example are helping me along the way. I feel like I should read Tattoos on the Heart again while I await your book to come out. Also, please send me the song. I want to know how it feels.

  2. Truth teller. Say what's uncomfortable for others. We need to be able to see in our own darkness. Bawling in my car a million miles away. I'm seeing it all over the US. You can always tell me the super ugly, hard, truth. It's the only thing I want to hear.

    1. I wanted to comment, but then I realized that Meghan already said exactly what I wanted to say, in precisely the words I would have used.

      "You can always tell me the super ugly, hard truth. It's the only thing I want to hear."

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  4. "I wanted to share it with someone, but I wasn't sure who could handle it or who would want to. We're taught not to invite suffering and I won't overstate it, I can't suffer for a song. But I also can't escape this one, and I'd like another person to absorb it by half. That's how I feel a lot of the time. I want to unburden, but who wants this load?"

    Yes. I can't add anything to this, but yes.

  5. ….and I wondered if God is really big enough to rescue someone from meth. And if he is, why not here? Why not now? Shannon, he is, I’m proof, I’m a miracle. You have to want it, do the work (steps, meetings, prayer), it’s so possible. Don’t ever give up thinking He won’t help (or doesn’t care) because he does.

    1. Such a hopeful reply. I'm for you Deborah!

  6. Deborah, I needed to hear that you made it. I work in behavioral health with kiddos age 5-17. And yes, we do get 5 year olds. Sometimes I wonder if anyone can beat the odds. So thank you. You have a ministry that is real ! We all need to know He is who He says He is.

  7. That is a beautiful post about the ministry of presence. Sometimes, that's all we can offer. To be present and offer hope.

  8. shhhhhhhhhhhhh......that is all of my air exhaling with the weight of your beautiful, convicting words. Thank you for who you are and for leading us through the hills and the valleys, the truth and the ugly truth, and the play grounds and the war zones of real life.

  9. This is my exact life. Bone chilling. Your words always pierce the deepest and darkest parts within my soul. Thank you for helping to keep it exposed and aching for the truth of Jesus. He is enough. Always--no matter what we feel.


  10. YES! I'm living my own self-inflicted story this week too...for caring too much, being too open, loving too much and now suffering the broken heart right along with my friends. It's ugly. But we have to tell. We. Have. To. If we don't, we deny that it's real, that they're real, that HE is real and that there IS redemption in the's in there. I love you, friend. I'm so very grateful to know that you're one I can share my (our/their) story with and that you don't just get it, you weep with me.

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing this frankness.

    God's continued blessings, peace, love, strength and joy on your and yours. You are a light to your community.


  12. This touched my heart. Thank you. You've put into words what I could only feel.

  13. I have no words to explain how much this touches my heart. I love your words - 'God loves me exactly the way I am right now" - He does and always will, nothing can ever take that away. This blog touches on the hard stuff yet at the same time you show the good stuff too. So beautifully written!

  14. So beautiful and so ugly, such is life here on earth. I will hold up your arms. I'll be a load bearer with you.

  15. This so reminds me of you. Cigarettes and diapers.....

  16. Thank you! I needed this. As I'm dealing with my so sweet, so hurting therapeutic foster children, and I'm getting punched and "shut up bitch"-ed daily by a 7 and 8 year old. As I prepare them to see their heroin addicted birth mom who tells everyone how her kids were taken from her and sent to live with a rich bitch. And I don't hardly know how to love my boys enough, much less their mother. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you for doing this hard, gut-wrenching work. The only way to survive is Jesus...but this is Holy work.
      Praying for you now, that someone near you lightens your load and that you can feel some sun on your face.

  17. I live this everyday . From both sides . I've bee a nurse for 32 years but we live paycheck to paycheck . We live in a rental house and you can see the landfill from my house. I worry over spending 5 $ on myself and go without dental care because I can't afford the co pay . I long for Christ but each time I reach out to Christians I'm ignored because I'm not in the in crowd .
    I feel like your neighbors like gods stepchild forgotten and unloved.
    This from a woman who used to have faith.
    The church I once loved has become so judge mental that it would condemn those who don't fit the mold to hell.
    I work in a job where I see the worst in people . Some of the rudest people I care for are good Christians .
    Yet I blindly stumble around trying to find my way back to a father who I wonder ever loved me. Blessing praised by others as God providence become arrows to my heart as i struggle . Does God really only love white middle class women who live in upscale homes and have etsy business and are stay at home moms who have disposable income to spend on$90.00 hoodies and $50.00 necklaces and Hawaiian vacations . It seems that way on IGThis is my question Like so many of those you speak of. I feel this is who to church needs to seek out and love ! What I wouldn't give to be invited to a hope spoken or similar event like that but sadly people like me and your neighbors don't get to attend things like that
    Just my thoughts from the other side of the fence . This is in no way a condemnation of your words but to thank you for being a truth teller and for seeing the beauty in places the mainline churches ignore or pretend don't exist .
    It has gotten to the point where kindness to me and my neighborhood is shocking and that's sad that for most of us on the other side that church has become more like an exclusive club and not a hospital for hurting people! It's sad we go around the world to help others on missions but ignore our neighbors next door who only long for love and community and inclusion.

    1. Yolanda, I don't know you obviously, but I love you and your words and the way they make me want to run to your neighborhood, your hospital, wherever you are and get to know you-you have speak such truth and depth and I need that--so desperately. I think Jesus is most found in the forgotten spaces. I fail at this everyday. So thank you for this. Thank you for the brave words you spoke and the cracks they are knocking into my heart. I'm copying your comment and revisiting this-I can't begin to tell you how powerful it is to me.

    2. Yolanda,
      I hope you got my email earlier this morning. :)
      I can't thank you enough for speaking truth in this space. We need to hear your voice.
      You can speak into places I simply cannot, and your words are a necessary sucker-punch to me and many others.
      Thank you for knowing this is a safe place to say hard things.
      I'm cheering you on and encouraged to do better.
      The church has got to do better than this.
      I've carried you with my all day, and will continue to do so. God adores your humble spirit and I hope so much that you have seen today, in some small way, who He is and how He loves you.

    3. Dearest Yolanda...Your truth is heard..Wake us up oh dead, judgmental, calloused, church-going Christians. Oh Father, forgive me, forgive us...for not loving in the hard places, for not reaching out and inviting Yolanda in...We need you Yolanda..we need more of you to wake us up and remind us that because Christ loves us each, just the same as the other, we are to matter what...or how will you know that we are His disciples?. Thank you Yolanda.. I am praying for you and I wish you were my neighbor in Alabama..and we could dine together and go out and learn to love like Christ....together.

  18. "it serves as a constant reminder that I'm the one waiting to be rescued" Such powerful words! Thank you.

  19. Gads. Convicted. Needed the reminder. Dealing with long-term house guests, and needing to be more loving, kind and understanding. Asking God to change my heart.

  20. Thank you for this. I had to read it three times. I've felt so lazy in my faith lately, and this spurred me on. God is big enough to rescue from meth-I see three miracle faces...and probably more every single day. I forgot that. I forgot what was right in front of me, begging to be celebrated and walked with.

  21. I came here after reading the comments on a FB post about why our "perfect" suburban neighborhood shouldn't host garage sales. Let's just say many of my neighbors don't think the people attending theses sales " belong" here. I sometimes wonder how many of these people even hear what they say. The dehumanization brings me to tears.

  22. Love the raw, vulnerable words in this post. This really resonates with me. The paragraph about how you have great want but it's not easy is where I am. I'm standing looking out and trying to figure out how to push past myself.

    I saw that you will be at allume. This is my first year attending. Looking forward to your session!

  23. People are rescued from meth every second of everyday. I volunteer at a women's rehabilitation center. Most of them come to us sick from withdrawals fighting an addiction to meth. My shifts are filled with walking babies going through their own hell so mom can get a break. Or I'm standing in a tiny bathroom looking at my hands trying not to fidget as woman shamefaced and embarrassed do their business into a 'hat' so I can collect their urine for drug testing. When I started, I wasn't surprised by any of this. I expected to be heartbroken and discouraged watching as women went back to their drug of choice. And yes some of them do but so many don't. How do I know? Because alumni are encouraged to come back and hang out with the women going through treatment. They fill up the sign in sheet every day. Bright shiny healthy faces coming to lend an ear or a hug. I also watch as the women go through their rehab doing the twelve steps, happy, engaged and excited with nothing but the shirt on their back and a bad drug addiction. It works those twelve steps and I got a front-row seat to the miracle.

    I encourage any of your readers to get into the fight. It's not hard at all. I have one shift, Monday night from 5:00 to 9:00, anyone can give up that amount of time. Want to help people like Yolanda? Go over to her side of the street. Volunteer in her hospital so she gets a tiny bit of a break. Or pass out clean needles, work in a relief nursery, be a casa advocate, help abused panicked, women navigate the court system to get a restraining order against their abuser, feed the drug addicted prostitutes, mentally ill homeless or the gay youth who was kicked out of his house and has nowhere to go. Let them see those pretty white middle class faces in places usually not seen. Volunteer, find your Mary. Then stand there and bear witness as her self-esteem fills up a urine cup. When she's done give her a hug so she knows compassion is peeking around the corner even in a tiny ill-lit decrepit bathroom.

  24. "You've never laid eyes on a person who doesn't matter to God."
    Yep, your neighbors are messy. And we're messy, too. We just know the socially acceptable ways to hide our mess and filth. I think Jesus might well value a soul-searching cry from the heart over some "pretty prayers." I've said my fair share of the latter.

  25. I can relate to your story my friend. The words you used are vulnerable and could really felt by anyone who reads this.

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