I am having a difficult time with the fact that it is the last day of May, 2017. My mama always warned me not to wish my life away when I was yearning for the days to pass quickly to the next great adventure we had planned. And now I know why; it seems the older I get, the quicker the days are going, becoming months and years which feel as though they just evaporate while I am unaware.
While reading a blog post from a writer I follow, she gave me the words to share the conundrum I have found myself in the last few months. As my friends know, John and I and our two still-at-home sons jumped into inner city life in the final days of February and the early days of March this year. We had been prayerfully considering our move for two-plus years. We finally decided there is no "perfect" time, so let's just jump in.
Our family has six years of inner city ministry "under our belts." We have worked in a ministry dedicating ourselves to an after school program involving tutoring, meals, recreation, and sharing the Bible and God's love with some of our towns most vulnerable children. We have fallen in love with the children we serve. We long to make their lives the best we can; but we are limited in what we can do. Our hope and prayer is that we can do it better by living among them, being available all the time instead of just a couple of hours a day several days per week. There are so many stories among the families we minister to. I have struggled with the realization that their stories need to be shared; but their stories are not my story so they are not mine to share. And yet, as Jesika Knight of The Knight Five wrote, "It's not my story to tell. But his story (her father's) is forever interwoven with
mine. And the only way I know to make sense of all this mess is to
share my part in it. "
And so just as the childrens' stories are not mine, where our lives are interwoven. I try to share in ways that my friends will become aware of the consuming needs in the community in which I live. I try to thoughtfully keep identities hidden in my writing.
The month of May brought joy in that we got to spend quality time with three beautiful siblings bringing them to share in worship at the church we attend. We got bonus time with them each of those three Sunday afternoons, taking them to a city park to play or to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see their first bear; and then this past weekend, I confirmed with their mom on Saturday that we would be by to pick them up to take them to breakfast and that we would feed them lunch before returning them home to her mid afternoon on Sunday. She told me that they would either be at her house or their daddy's house. Sunday morning came and we couldn't find them or their mama anywhere. We know some of her hangout spots so we drove the streets of our neighborhood searching to no avail. It breaks my heart that they have loved going to church, the extra hugs, the Bible stories and activities and we couldn't find them. I pray they had food to eat that day and stayed safe while roaming our streets with their mother.
I made a new friend this month, a lovely young woman just getting started in adulthood. She called me out of the blue, having gotten my phone number from a mutual friend. She asked if I could take her to the emergency room; she was experiencing severe abdominal pain. We went thinking she probably was suffering from one ailment and found out that she was actually suffering from a much less serious ailment and a full recovery is mostly easily achievable. Praise God!
The surprising part of our time together was her transparent sharing of her story with me. She spoke openly about early childhood abuse and trauma and how it is still affecting her; she spoke about her many hospitalizations over this last year and learning to deal with the long-term affects of the abuse and the resulting conditions she must live and cope with. She also shared her plans for a bright future and the goals she has and the steps that have been outlined for and with her to achieve those goals. She gave me hope that there are answers and that just maybe she and her generation of children of poverty might be the ones to put the family patterns behind them and succeed in overcoming and achieving a better life for their children.
This last month has also brought a new realization that just because one pours their life, love, time and energy into the life of another, it in no way means that person loves or cares for you or would not inflict harm, or place you in a dangerous situation. And that my friends was a heartwrenching, sobering realization.
On a personal note, two of our sons celebrated birthdays in the month of May. The oldest son is thirty-one and the next turned twenty-one. The twenty-one year old began his first professional job with a local school system after graduating from our local Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
And then just in the last week, our baby boy, aged eighteen, and I completed our final year of home education. I have had him at home since he began fourth grade. Again, where has the time gone?!!
I have also had the privilege of sharing many hours with one of my best friends. She underwent three surgeries in just a month's time due to complications and a fall and resulting fracture after hip replacement surgery. After she came home following her third surgery, another friend of ours and I spent time with her each week day while her husband was working. We have changed her bandages, prepared her meals, cheered her on through physical therapy. I learned to become an advocate for her when I felt there were gaps in information or care. I have also transported her to numerous appointments, learning that I can do this (though I was scared to death she would somehow be hurt during our first outing.) I joke with her that she has thoroughly trained me for becoming a certified nursing assistant.
I named this blog East Tennessee Blessings years ago after a few wonderful days with a niece and her extended family in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. While my life has taken twists and turns since then, I am blessed to live out my life with God's gifts for me in beautiful East Tennessee. All blessings come from His hand and I am an abundantly blessed woman!
My family and I covet your prayers for us and our neighbors. There was a shooting a few blocks from us this past Sunday evening just outside a church building. As I sat up late a couple of nights ago trying to quiet my mind from this month of troubles, I heard what sounded like many shots rapidly firing very close. It is difficult to distinguish if the shots are in deed close due to the proximity of our home to the houses on either side and the closeness of all the homes and buildings in our neighborhood. The sounds reverberate off our dwellings and structures and we just look at one another dumbly and say, "Did you hear that? Was that gunshots? How close do you think that was?" The shots occur far too often. And the children we love so much are just down the street or around the corner hearing the same shots we are. Many of them are growing up not only with chaos on the streets outside their homes, but also inside.
Thank you in advance for your prayers! I will be praying His richest blessings on you also my friends!