Monday, December 8, 2014

Promises, being honest, being awesome, and peace

 We've been continuing in our efforts to meet people where they live in a couple of local neighborhoods. Previous blog entries go into a little more detail concerning these places, if you'd like to understand more.
We're just showing up, allowing relationships to be built, and then we go from there with whatever we have to offer.

What we usually find that we have to offer is simply our selves.
To those who think this language is hippie-like and idealistic, that's ok. I get it. It does seem like there would be more to write home about if we could list amazing stories of transformed lives here in this blog.
But we can't... yet.

This is a long road. Building community, helping others identify stress-factors that lead to things like abuse and neglect, isolation, and addiction takes time. Then there's the working alongside of them to help make change and grow in health.
Also, navigating through the mental illness of individuals, or dysfunctional culture of families can be very challenging.
And then there's the whole job thing, and lack of resources. Again, back to the 'Stress-factors'.
Continuing to move forward, being grateful for progress, and refusal to give up is key. But that doesn't always come naturally to people who are stressed out. And it's difficult to do when life gets overwhelming.
Husband lost his job again. Kids need to be clothed, the electric needs to stay on, and the school called again about the stuff going on at home. Oh, and your house burned down with everything in it. Just before Christmas. And there's addiction mixed with treatable mental illness that is causing a lot of stress at home.

So when we start to feel overwhelmed, like nothing is happening, things aren't changing for the better, etc. it's time to evaluate our goals.
We have to believe that friendship, open hands and hearts, humility to learn from others, and being an embodiment of hope actually goes a long way.
We must allow ourselves to be open to learn about God's grace, love, hope, faithfulness, and peace from the people whom we think so badly need it. They certainly do. But so do we.

We show up and go from there.

It's very important to remember that it is a process. Not just a process, but a relationship. One where there's give and take. There's trust. There are failures. Breakdowns in communication. Challenges that go beyond our scope of experience.
And it's very important to believe that we are not alone.
A lot of you that actually know me (Jim) get the opportunity to see the 'awesome' me. The 'inspirational' me. The folks that are near to me see the 'unafraid' me.
And those things are mostly true.
But I act like an angry fool sometimes.
I lose inspiration some days. I forget everything good that I know sometimes.
I wake up some mornings desperately needing to be reminded that God, love, hope, truth, and grace are very real things.
I find myself terrified of what could happen if everything falls apart.
But you know what?
So does every person that we come into contact with. Every neighborhood is full of people that deal with the same stuff.
I think the difference lies in whether or not we walk through it alone.

My good friend Aaron Alford says, "To suffer alone is to despair. To suffer with a friend is to hope."

I whole-heartedly believe in this statement. It makes the difference in how we are shaped by it all, and what we learn from it.
We learn to be honest, and we become secretly awesome. We begin to spill God's love into the world around us. We stop judging. We allow the pain, fear, disappointment and beauty of others to remind us of what is good and real. And we meet with them in it. And we are blessed with eyes to see the good that is happening.

Jesus gave to his friends his peace. For real. He promised that he would never leave them, nor forsake them.
This is the story we are determined to tell with our lives. And it is the story we are ever so longing to be told.
Because a promise is a promise, and we must never let go.

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