Thursday, September 25, 2008

Changing direction...

Some of you remember this post from last year.….. Prostitution

Well…. here’s another chapter.

She walked in today.

I’ve actually seen her since that last post. She’d come in once before & seemed surprised that I’d remembered her name. I found that funny, in my own head.
“If you only knew…”, I thought.
But then again, how could she? She’s used to having the shallow conversations most of us have when we just want to get out of an awkward situation. And that day, I was no different. I struggled to bridge the gap between casual conversation and cutting to the heart of real life and real relationship.

But today, when she came in, it was different, and so was she.
Clear eyes. She’s gained weight - not drug-induced thin.
She had work clothes on.
She smiled.
She was calm. She still talked fast, but it wasn’t the nervous fast that people speak when their just rolling their story off to you and trying not to get caught in a lie. It wasn’t the fast speak that says “I’ve told this story so many times I’m bored with it myself and I’m not even sure you’re going to listen but I’ve got nothing better to do than try so here goes…” kind of fast.

She was working nearby, and wanted to take some ice over to the site, if we would let her. So as we walked down to fill a couple of bags, we talked.

Sober for 31 days.
“I know you’ve seen me,” she said. “I’m off the street now.”
Got a job.
In a house.
Involved with a church not far from here.

She explains the cycle – having tried to get off drugs… but then needing money.. and hustling to make some… recommitting to get off… around and around. She uses language that’s different from our church jargon, but in it she’s candid and more honest than she’s ever been with me.

I tell her I’m proud of her. I tell her about the night that Jason saw her, and that I went looking for her. She cries. And lets me hug her.

Her boyfriend comes in, and I see the same difference in him. And she relays what I’d just told her. He too is honest – even with admitting anger over a situation that had happened here and the violent revenge he’d envisioned. And yet, in the same breath, he relays what God did with that… and how “God is so funny about that stuff.” He tells with a genuine sense of pride about providing a few boxes of pizza for lunch to a business he’d stolen from for 2 years.
They both share their thankfulness for what we’ve done through the years.

I believe them.

I meet people every week that are begging for something and have “found Jesus”. (Hear the dramatic southern drawl that inherently is supposed to validate their salvation and ensure my response to their request that day...)
So there’s a part of me that doesn’t like being taken. Honestly, I hate being lied to. And I hear so many stories that in moments like this, my first response is always guarded, if not downright cynical.

But I realized today, that in her face, I saw the potential of recovery.

Complicated? Yes.
Long haul? Yes.
Set backs? Most likely.
More failures? Most certainly.

But, that’s what messy lives being transformed are like. It's what mine is like, anyway.
Two steps forward, three steps back. It’s still progress.

Most of us tire of walking that long road beside someone.
At times I feel other’s failure must somehow reflect my own. I’ve got to keep letting Christ refine that fear, as Satan is more than ready to hold my hand and walk me into complete in-effectiveness.

Thank God that He works all the time. Never tiring. Never cynical. Willing to use anybody… anywhere. Willing to take us at whatever sober moment we will give Him. Willing to walk the long road, and desiring to work in all of us that will let Him along the way.

As she walked out, we chatted some more. She told me I had permission to kick her butt if I saw her on the street again and I told her I’d take her up on it. (That's a funny picture - but I'm willing to try....)
I hugged her again. I told her that what was most beautiful to me about her today was her eyes. She looked down and then back at me.

“Thank you. I’m not perfect yet. But I know who is, and I’m trying to look more like Him.”

Today, she did.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grandaddy Miller

My Grandfather died this last week, and so we travelled to Nashville to lay him to rest. I think that's an appropriate term for this particular man - as he continued his life's work until he couldn't possibly continue it anymore. My granddad taught Hebrew and Psalms for 25+ years at Lipscomb University, & authored some biblical commentaries among other things. After after completing the studies towards his PhD at the Hebrew Union in Ohio, he was never awarded the doctorate he'd earned... ultimately because he wouldn't compromise his convictions about Christ in his thesis. As we went through his email, we noticed that his latest work was sent just about 3 weeks before he died - he was working on an online commentary on the book of Isaiah at the request of someone else, and had finished another chapter. Lots was said at the funeral about him- things I hadn't realized about him and some of his accomplishments. (When someone's your granddad - you don't always think to ask such things as he's important to you for other reasons.....) :-) My appreciation grew even more from meeting people who knew him differently than I did.

Eli really took in this reality more than he could before. As we walked into the same house we've been walking into all of his life, he noticed that it wasn't the same. Granddaddy's chair sat there, but others sat in it, and that seemed weird. His walker stood in the corner. His desk and library still looked as if he could come in any minute and sit down to study or write. His razor sat on the counter in the bathroom. We wouldn't want any of those things gone, but they didn't help us believe that he was.
The house was filled so as we left the first day to head to a relative's place, Eli was somber. I asked what he was thinking.
"It's just so sad. It's just not the same without him there. All I could think about was that it wasn't the same and it won't ever be the same."
We all got teary at the truthfulness of that statement.
Except Julia.
"Well," she said, " All I could think about was ALL THAT FOOD!!"
We burst out laughing, (because indeed, there was a LOT of food!). And Eli once again so simply embraced another profound truth.
"I didn't think I would smile at that," he said awkwardly with tears still in his eyes. "But I did." :-)

Death has it's sting. But Christ is victory, and my Grandad fully embraced Christ.

The night following his funeral, I overheard Eli praying. He said, "... God, most of the time people spend their whole life trying to make the world think that they are somebody important. But Granddaddy Miller spent his whole life trying to help the world see that You are important."

This was the absolute truth. He accomplished the goal of his life among his family and many others.
And now, his generations that follow are attempting to do the same.

A passage from his favorite Psalm of all...
"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children- with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts....Psalm 103: 17-18

Monday, September 15, 2008

More quotables from my kids...

Julia sat with my mom during worship yesterday. As communion was passed down the aisle, she watched Nana take some and pass it on. Afterward she leaned into my mom and said, "I don't believe I've seen you baptized in this church, Nana." Apparently mom took the time to explain that she was baptized a long time ago, in another church. "Was my momma there?" Julia probed. I guess she thought eyewitness accounts might be acceptable.
If anyone needs the communion police.... we've got one. :-)

Eli and I were discussing the appropriate-ness of calling boys "beautiful" and girls handsome. I was explaining that handsome wasn't really a word you could use for girls without making them mad.
Eli: "Mom, can you tell more laws between boys and girls?"
Me: (laughing at his choice of wording) "Well, I'm not really sure I could. There's quite a few!"
Eli: "More than for the president?"
Why yes, I think that might actually be true......

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Julia overheard a conversation Jason and I were having about guardianship and wills. I didn't think she was paying close attention until she asked me:

"Momma, if you and Daddy ever die, should Eli and I just get our sleeping bags and go to the church building?"

I don't know if that speaks poorly of us or well of our church family....:-)