Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mercy Works......

Last Thursday,  I arrived at the county jail to a swarm of busy-ness.  I have two classes each Thursday and in the five years that I have been coming and going, I had never seen such activity.  The day before our local drug task force had captured and arrested thirty-three men and women involved in the illegal purchase and sale of narcotics.  There are still seven under investigation.

When I got home later that day, I looked on my Facebook feed ( which I have a love/hate relationship with) to see various posts of celebration from folks in my county on the arrests of all of those "low lives". 

Some of the comments included sentiments such as "proud to be from a county that locks those thugs away" or "justice is served" or even "so happy that that trash is off our streets".

I found myself growing angry with these people who had made the statements.  I had to sit in quiet with God to figure out the source of my anger and this is what I came up with:

I do think that it is good that we stop the illegal sale of drugs.  I think it's good that these folks receive a consequence for their action.  But, the lynch mob mentality towards those arrested was quite disturbing. 

Each person arrested  is a son or daughter.  Each person arrested is a child of God.  I understand that it is a good thing to discover who is selling them and to stop that person but make no mistake, there will probably be another one there in short order to fill his spot or like the bad disease that addiction is, that drug ring will morph in a new way until the authorities have time to catch up to them.

And then there is this:  I have started working on a new mentorship program there at the jail and I have been asked to work with a lady who gets out near the end of September.  I met her last week for the first time. 

We discussed her needs.  She has no home to go back to, no clothing once out, no job, no family support, no education to speak of, her only ID is a revoked drivers license and she is scared to death.  She has written to every recovery house in our area to try to secure housing but inside jail she can only communicate by mail and on occasion by phone.  The recovery houses have asked her to contact them by phone.  On her few opportunities to phone, she gets a voice mailbox.

I'm going to call this lady Maggie.  Maggie filled out our form which assesses need.  She has held a job for as long as seven years at a time.  She has survived the addiction of her first family, physical, emotional and sexual abuse the best way that she knew how.  Even though at one time she was suicidal, she now feels like she is ready to try living again.

Sitting face to face with this woman taught me a lot about myself.  It was hard at first to look beyond the tattoos and missing teeth.  It was hard to look at the un-kept hygiene of someone who was about an inch away from giving up again.  But then I thought of my mentor ( at least in my mind) who is Mother Teresa.  What would she do?

If you follow her, you know.  I looked deeply into Maggie's eyes.  I kept my gaze there.  Jesus was there and as soon as I reminded myself of that fact, I stopped noticing the evidence of a hard life.  Maggie was weak and soft.  She is a heart crying out to find something that she has never had 

We talked for the two hours that our class lasted.  Towards the end I asked about whether or not she had a felony.  It is a lot more difficult to secure a job if you have a felony. 
"Yes" she said. 
Was it violent?  I asked.  Another hurdle for finding a job.
"Yes, she said.  I was so high on pills that I stabbed my husband." 
"Is he okay"  I asked. 
"Oh yes, it was superficial.  He's in here now."

Here I am sitting with a lady who stabbed her husband.  And, because we sat face to face and I was able to look beyond the label of 'assault with a deadly weapon', I understand very clearly that I have no right to judge. 

Am I naïve about her chances of reoffending?


Do I believe that simply locking people up and getting them off the streets for a certain period of time will work or even make our society better?


But, then I think about my mentor.  Sometimes, when she found the dying in the streets, she only had the time to hold them in her arms and stay with them as they died, gazing into the eyes of Jesus.  She might have taken them back to her Home for the Dying and bathed and fed them knowing that in the end it would not save their life.  But, her goal was only to love and serve. 

And so, for me, that will be my goal.  For whatever period of time that I have with them, I will gaze into the eyes of Jesus....offering the love that is freely given to me in spite of my offenses.  I will leave the final results in the hands of God.

That is the lesson that I wish that I could convey to those who made those comments.  But, then again, you have to be ready to receive the message.

 Funny thing is this:  It took addiction to open my heart to receive enough so that I could give it away.

Praying for us all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good Grief!

Little Sister just left for a babysitting job that will keep her here in our hometown until Saturday, but away from our house.  Then she will head back to school for the "make or break" semester in nursing school.  We will probably not see too much of her even though she is only an hour away.

Big Sister is settling in at her new home for the next three to four years.  Yesterday, she got to see her office.  Her classes don't begin for another twelve days.  We won't see her until October when she flies in for a wedding.

The Son is living somewhere other than here.  He is probably not making healthy choices.  Finally, I accept that there is nothing that I can do but pray.  I have even stopped trying to manipulate God in prayer.....Yes, I tried doing that. 

Good Grief we are changing.  And, quite frankly, I find nothing good about the grief.  Saturday while in Louisiana we went to the vigil mass.  I could not stop bawling all through the mass.  I came home went straight to Big Sister's room and cried at the empty space. 

I've been waiting for Little Sister to leave.  I needed her out of the house so that I could really have a loud and ugly cry.  She and I talked about it and she is feeling the same way.  She and her sister are fourteen months apart. 

I'm blue about them leaving.  I'm blue about an era in my life ending.  I'm tired and blue about addiction.  I'm sorrowful and blue about all the chances I blew, choices made wrong and fear that I let stop me from dealing with it all for such a long time. I'm frustrated with myself for looking at others--comparing.  I'm sick of feeling sorry for myself because I envy what I think they have.

So now I will enter another season of mourning.  I will let those dark feelings come and sit with them for a while.  I will try my best to process them and let go of them as they will let me. 

But, most of all....I will try to pray more.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Past Meets the Future

We drove thru Mississippi several times each year when I was growing up.  At Memphis the terrain looked different.  My mother was from Tupelo.  My aunt lived in Jackson.  I loved the beautiful pine trees and the hanging moss trees that dotted the low flat roadways.  Tobacco and corn gave way to cotton and sorghum.  I always wondered about Billie Joe McCalister as I crossed the Tallahatchie River.  The visits with my cousins were fun and a little exotic to a girl from such a small town in Kentucky.  I memorized the drive.

Cousin and I saw the movie "Grease" four times one summer until Uncle found out and put a stop to it!!  We delivered the Clairon Ledger early in the morning wearing shorts and t-shirts and rollers in our hair.  We rode bikes to the pool and ice cream shop and sometimes to Kroger to buy shrimp off a truck that brought it fresh from the gulf each day.

The last time that I made that trip was twenty-seven years ago to be a bridesmaid in my cousins wedding.  The church was a beautiful stone building right across the street from the state capitol building in Jackson.

Big Sister is going to grad school.  She will be a doctoral student at Louisiana Tech University.  The first trip we made, we went thru Arkansas.  It was exhausting.  The second trip, we drove thru Jackson and went west thru Vicksburg on past Monroe to Ruston.  Memories began to flood back into my mind. 

My daughter would travel these same roads that me and my mother did.  She was going as far away from home that the Dad and I did just twenty-nine years ago.  The past was meeting the future.  Wonder how it's all connected?  Does it mean anything?

We moved Big Sister into her apartment.  She hung a mirror on the wall by the front door.  One last glance before heading out to be sure the hair is just right before going out.  But as I caught a glance of myself taking one last load up her stairs I didn't see myself in that mirror.  I saw an older woman that looked an awful lot like my mother.

Time marches on.  Time marches on.  Trying to live in this moment.  Even though my mind is caught up in the past.  In April, all three kids were at home.  We asked the son to leave a month ago.  He is where he needs to be to decide the kind of life that he wishes to live.  Big Sister is making her way far away.  Little sister begins school one week from today.

Our full crazy house will be quiet again.  I am sad and I am glad.  Not sure how to think or feel but going to keep praying. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Yesterday's rain brought a drop in the dew point which means instant relief from the humidity here in middle Tennessee.  Between a change in the temperature and a steady stream of Facebook feed pictures of school aged children all holding signs stating the first day of school for which ever grade they happen to find themselves entering, I feel a shift in the seasons.

I have no little ones heading back to school.  But, the moving rental will come and be loaded to take my oldest daughter to Louisiana to graduate school.  Perhaps she will let me snap her picture with a sign saying, "Grad School or Bust" for me to post.

My youngest daughter will start a new semester of nursing school on the twenty-sixth.  She has only three remaining semesters.  I can easily see the beginning of her new chapter in sight.

The Son has been asked to choose the way in which he wishes to live his life.....but do it away from home.  He has been told that he can figure it out and his father and I did when we were about his age.  I hope he chooses well. 

My mother died in late October sixteen years ago.  She started her decline about this time of year.  As I sit on the porch of the morning and the evening the sounds of crickets and frogs seems to slow.  The biting humidity gives way to a cleaner, dryer air and my body remembers.

Sadness still comes sixteen years later.  An open window with the smells of dried leaves brings to mind that time when I held on tight to every bit of her that I could.  Now it is a new generation that I am releasing. 

I guess that I find my life entering it's own Autumn.  Fatigue helps me accept the new season.  Experience helps me to appreciate it.  Hope helps me to keep looking forward. 

Praying for all of us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bottom Line

Everybody has an opinion regarding the death of Robin Williams.  Some can't believe it.  Some want to be clear that he only went back to rehab for a tune-up....Some think those who take their own life are selfish.  Some think he could have afforded the doctors so he should have gone to them so that he could  just snap out of it. 

Those of us who have lived with either addiction or mental illness or both hope that his life and his death might bring understanding to those whose lives have not. 

I accidently "butt dialed" a friend yesterday.  Last year her adult son was killed in a car wreck.  He had no problems with drugs or alcohol.  He was just a wonderful young man who was responsible and hard working.

"How are you doing?"  I asked.  It had been almost exactly a year since his accident."

She said, "You, know I had gotten past the point where I worried about his driving like you do a sixteen year old.  It just came out of nowhere. I don't think I will ever get over it.

"I can't even imagine."  I say.

"I'm really glad you called.  Most people avoid me like the plague.  Losing a child is a mother's worst nightmare and so it's like people are afraid they will 'catch it' from me."  She said.

I felt a big twinge of guilt.  You see I accidently called her.  However,  I do suspect that with God there are no accidents.  In his mercy he gave her an ear when she needed one.

I look at both of these situations and think---bottom line folks--bottom line.  We are to love one another as Christ loves me.  That's it.

So what if Robin Williams was using again.  So what if he was selfish.  So what if he could afford doctors and didn't seek their advice.  So what if we don't know what to say to a grieving mother who lost her sweet boy? 

We're not here to judge.  We're not here to say or do the perfect thing.  We are only here to love. 

Wonder if we will ever get it? 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

All I Can Do is Pray

"I have reached the point that all I can do for him is pray."  The Dad says with sadness.  I had reached that point sometime earlier.  Then second guessed myself and tried to take back control.  Given it up.  Taken it Back......You know how it goes.

But now, we have reached a newer level of acceptance than before, together.  And so what we do now is pray and grieve. 

Our counselor says that this is the place we all need to be.  He thinks we are getting healthy.  But, will the son?  It will totally be up to him.  We are at that place where the realization has come to us and we have accepted that it is time for him to decide for himself, the kind of man that he will be in this life.

He needs to face his own we are facing ours. 

I look at the girls that I work with at the jail.  And, many times I am so discouraged.  This is why I go to Al Anon.  But, I must realize that I am in the business of planting seeds.  It may come up.  It may not.  It may be taken over by weeds.  It may flourish.  It may need to die back before it comes up new and strong.

And, so is the case with the Son.  I've planted the seeds.  Now I need to get back and tend my own garden.  I keep forgetting to tend my own garden.  And, I was thinking.....all along, all we could really do was pray. 

Praying for you and yours.