Thursday, December 10, 2015

Yolanda

It's December tenth and the sky outside my window is a wildfire. The streets are warming up for the day, and my furnace hasn't kicked on once.

Nothing feels quite right, and that's probably okay.

I hear people talking about slowing down to enjoy the season and honestly, I don't understand what that means. Life doesn't slow down for anything, and I'm not sure it's supposed to. We'll bake our cookies and wrap our gifts and do all of those things because we want to and we can, but arriving at a place where we avoid interruption or inconvenience because we're trying so hard to savor Christmas is not the Jesus way.

My heart this morning is heavy for my neighbors.

It's heavier still for you and me.

We can buy gifts for "the needy", hang mittens on the tree at church, pack a shoebox, choose an angel, write the check for an extra twenty bucks for our sponsored child across the ocean, but we resist opening our door to the heaviness of fractured lives. We avoid it year-round, but especially in December.

Earlier this week, Cory's friend Tom arrived back at jail. It was a pretty short turn-around. They talked about what circled him back to incarceration and here's what he said, "I went back to the drug game because the drug game takes anyone."

Are we listening?

Can you hear the hearts breaking all across our cities while we stand in our Sunday best and sing carols, swearing Christmas makes our weary hearts rejoice, failing to acknowledge that we are not the weariest? We hate the thought of that. We wish it away. We congregate together and pretend there is peace on earth.

But we don't prepare Him room just by contemplating His birth or reading our Bible more. And we sure don't prepare him room by being festive.

We prepare Him room by preparing room for His beloveds - literal, tangible room. We rearrange our schedule and push the furniture to the edges of our heart. We clear a path, make a bed, pick up the phone, simmer the soup.

~

A couple months ago I wrote this post about our friends living exiled in poverty and got an email that took the wind out of me. With her permission, I'm sharing it here, because I can't shake it (emphasis is mine):


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 God's 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 to hell those who don't fit the mold. 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's 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 social media.

This 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 conference 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.

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, church has become more like an exclusive club and not a hospital for hurting people!

~

Are we listening, church?

Jesus appreciates a good party. He doesn't mind gifts, and I believe in my heart that he is pro-cookie.

But let's not kid ourselves. He's waiting for us to notice the hurting hearts around us. He's waiting for us to care, and then to act. He's waiting for us to honor him by loving our neighbor, no matter how messy it might get or what it might cost us.

He came to ransom the captives.
Every last one of us.


40 comments:

  1. I can't shake this feeling either--that I am 100% missing what Christ truly longs for me to know in this season (and always!). I can't process Christmas and what it really needs to look like. But I do know that you're right. It's not centered on a party or how much extra money I send my sponsored child etc. It's time to open my eyes wider and draw a wider circle. Love your gut punches--they're the most loving thing you can offer us!

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  2. Amen, sister. I pray for brave truth tellers to use their words to create community and love and security. I pray for the fearful who know nothing but isolation. I pray for the brave who are isolated by the fear of others. I pray for people like you who shine the light. Every. Day.

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  3. A good word for all seasons... may His cry of love for all broken hearts become mine as well. Thank-you.

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  4. Thank you for writing. Your words hit me like a ton of bricks (in a good way). I work at a low income school and my eyes are opened daily to "the other side." I'm constantly torn between celebrating the holiday I love the most and thinking of those who can't. What do we do? How do we make this a holiday for all?

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    1. Such complicated questions!
      I think acknowledging the tension is such a good place to start. Beyond that, we have to be open to God's leading. We have to be willing to notice, and when he brings a neighbor our way, to love them. So this looks differently for everyone.
      The trouble is when we see them and pretend we don't. With all my heart, I believe a person who wants to love their neighbor will be given opportunity to do so. I'm excited for you, because I know God won't let you miss it. :)

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  5. This is such an important truth that we all need to remember. Your words, and the words of your reader, really touched my heart today. Thank you.

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  6. I've got to confess your words make me tired. I understand what you're saying but I feel like I hear all the time how we're not doing enough. I have a foot on both sides. I've embraced the hurting. The single mom, the motherless young woman, the little boy with a speech impediment so strong you can barely understand him and whose dad is in jail, the people other church people raise an eyebrow to. But I'm tired, because so often they suck me dry. I know I need to feast on Jesus to have something to feed them. I know I need to point these new friends to him, but so often I just feel like they're content to feed on me and I'm tired. I'm the church lady who's tired of being the church lady. My mom died two months ago and I do feel weary. And this Christmas instead drawing people into my home I want to be quiet and hope that God will just stop the bleed.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your heart here. It's totally safe.
      You should know that last night, I went to bed feeling many of those same things. It's a constant fight. So maybe these words weren't meant for you, today. I think God always invites us into rest when we need it. He's a good God.
      My words here are for me, because I woke up this morning tired of myself and the ways I want to draw my own lines. And they are for so many others, who want to step out but don't know how, or are just afraid, or plain old selfish.
      On the question of whether or not we're doing "enough", I think that's between each of us and God. He compels us, speaks to us, leads us. And yes, sometimes he leads us back to bed with a cup of tea. Maybe someone needs to open their door to you and offer sanctuary in your season of loss. We all take turns being poor and needy. That's one of the things that makes the kingdom of heaven here on earth so beautiful.
      I'm so sorry for your loss. And I hope you find just the comfort your soul needs. Thank you for loving your neighbor. It's supposed to be hard, and it's not in vain. XO

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    2. Thank you. As a pastor's wife I wonder if I'm allowed time to grieve or if I have to keep working. Sometimes we need someone to say, it's ok, take a break the mess will be here when you get back up again. And I'm glad I've loved those dear, needy neighbors, they've expanded my view of Jesus, and reminded me that I'm a needy neighbor too.

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    3. "We all take turns being poor and needy." I love that. I think one of the (many) ways we fail to reach outside of our 'churchy' little circle is by making those outside believe we are not poor and needy and believing the lie that they are poorer and needier than us....

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    4. shannan, your heart and words in your post AND your responses here are so full of truth and grace and wisdom. thank you. for sharing and for being willing to walk this road even with us that are further behind than you :-)

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    5. Beck, I am sorry about your mom. I lost my mom in January. While I know that we are called to love sacrificially and despite our personal circumstances, I really do believe that there is something to be said for finding rest. Please don't neglect that need in your life. I also know that when I lost my mom I had no desire to feast on Christ, but being on the other side of my pain and looking back I can say genuinely that if I had ignored my lack of desire I would have found joy so much sooner!
      Praying for you this season!!
      Kelsey

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    6. Beck, I, too, lost my mom (20 months ago) and it took more time than I could ever have imagined to be in a place where I wasn't raw. But I got there, and I pray you, too, will give yourself permission to grieve. I love what Shannan said about us all having periods/seasons of being needy. Praying for you and standing on the sidelines cheering you on...whatever that looks like in this season.

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    7. Thank you all for taking the time to encourage! That in it's self is serving.

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    8. Beck- I'm so sorry for your loss. My mom died of cancer when I was 19. It turned my whole world upside down. It was the hardest experience I've ever been through- and I've lived a lot in my nearly 44 years. You're allowed to grieve, process and be sad. Your cookie jar is empty (at least that was my experience. I had nothing to give for awhile after losing my mom)- it will fill up one day. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Sending you love.

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  7. I am one who wants to step out and doesn't know how. And maybe am a little bit afraid, too. Small town, and once your kids are grown it's amazing how so many points of connection aren't there anymore.

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    1. Bonnie, I get it. I have found that just looking the checker at the grocery store in the eye, stopping to smile at my neighbor as I get the mail, waving at the baby in the grocery store cart... it's surprising how often these little actions lead to conversations.

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  8. I believe in being apart of a village.. I believe that we are our Savior hands.. The women of the church she spoke about looks a lot like me on the outside.. On the inside that isn't seen.. Is a mother who has already had four of her own children that she has raised and sent off on their own, a mother who felt she wasn't done with child rearing and decided to be a foster-adopt mother and brought home a new baby that was drug exposed and then 7 months later brought home her 4 other siblings as well.. We are in adopting phase now. I'm also a nurse and works between one to two days a week.. So we may look pretty on the outside or too busy however, that just might not be the case.. I'm serving.. I know that she isn't talking about me specifically..Its just that I have heard the same comments as this before and it was about me.. We are a sisterhood and a brotherhood that does have a responsibility to care for one another.. It just might not look the same as we do our service.. I too seek for the comfort of my sisters as I raise these new little ones.. Their companionship is vital to me.. However, no one is calling me for play dates or asking if they can serve or help in anyway.. I just keep pushing on with the Savior at my side.. I appreciate the words that are spoken on here.. Ya'll have become apart of my village..

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    1. I feel you here. I've been there. We've had 20 drug exposed babies--and I have to say that you are serving in the most beautiful and selfless of ways--despite the loneliness, the long nights, the sighs and sobs, there is so much love and hope in midst. Praying for you specifically right now.

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  9. Well, that made me cry. But thank you so much.

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  10. Shannon you are gifted at telling the messages you want to convey. I appreciate and need to hear your messages as a sister. Thank you for your time and your thoughtfulness

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  11. Your post dear Shannon and the heartfelt responses are very moving.

    Thank you for your honesty and telling things as you see and feel them.

    FlowerLady

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  12. Shannan. Seriously. One of your best. Please keep speaking truth because we are listening. Your example is pure light.

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  13. This post makes me realize I am not nearly as good of a listener as I thought I was. Thank you, truly, for that.

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  14. Your words reminded me of the song, While You Were Sleeping by Casting Crowns.
    Love, love, love each post, your heart and your light! Keep shining bright!
    Christy

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  15. Thank you for sharing. I too have struggled if God doesn't love me because I'm not #blessed. theres a big big world beyond white women in social media with etsy shops...but sometimes it doesn't seem that way. A whole lot to think about.

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  16. I just have to say that this looks different in all of our lives. We are all in different seasons. I guess the question is "Am I using this season as an excuse to not really see my neighbor?" I live in a middle class neighborhood, and people here my not look needy on the outside (including myself) but we truly all are. The need is as vast as the ocean is deep and wide. The need of a Savior doesn't stop just b/c I have more stuff that merely masks the need. Reaching out will look differently too as the Lord leads each believer and as our hands are lifted open to the possibilities of His grace in our lives and to extend grace to those around us.

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  17. Fist bump for this one. I wonder if we, the Church, are listening too.

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  18. Wake up call received. Thank you.

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  19. i've never shared one of my own stories in a blog comment before (i have a fear of coming off as self-promotional), but my spirit recognizes yours here: http://erikamorrison.com/2015/01/12/just-touch-them/

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  20. I found you via IG and this touches my heart. I was perusing IG and someone posted about crying and being heartbroken at their child possibly seeing his or her gift on the front porch because UPS left the box visible... So many commented oh yes. My kids saw their car or whatever. Is this what Christmas really is?
    What a raw and beautiful post...

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  21. Awesome work Shannan. I am so glad I didn't respond as soon as I read this, but rather waited to see the comments from your readers. To the readers that serve, don't feel guilty about taking time to refill your tanks- it is vital you do so, like placing the oxygen mask on yourself first so you can help others.
    To others, there are so many ways to serve, once you hear and acknowledge His call - you will know what to do. Mine was at my volunteer fire/ems department. Shannan, thank you for saying things that need to be said!

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  22. I'm just reading this now. I know exactly who to reach out to. Thank You!

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  23. I've read your blog for a few months now and always enjoy what you have to say, the way you write, the topics you post on. This post really hits home. Thank you for writing what you feel and what is on your heart. I'm sure when you write, you have no clue just how many people are needing to hear what you wrote. I am one of those today.

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  24. love this.. in a ouch! it's a convicting and i need to do something about it kind of way. it stirs something in me, and i've been praying just that. "Lord, stir me!" i want to be moved to action by stories like this. not just moved to emotion. we've been going through the book, "Tangible Kingdom" with our small group and, oh, man! just so, so much with all that. and i keep thinking even here more recently with all the talk about the refugee's and loving them, which i'm all for and agree with %100 ... but what about loving on those right in front of us? like the Yolanda's? the hurting hearts in our very churches. our neighborhoods. we don't have to go far to find them. thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes open. to not just feel, but DO.

    <3

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