September 28, 2012

The Shrimp Boats

For some reason I love the shrimp boats. I do not eat shrimp, or fish at all, but every single time I see them out on the ocean with their nets down and the diamonds of the sun dancing on the water it takes my breath away.

The last bridge to Tybee often has several shrimped boats docked just to the right of it and it has become my own little "Welcome Home" sign. So I stopped the other day and took a walk out onto the fishing pier across from the boats.

The waves come in and the boats gracefully float up and down in harmony with the water. They are tightly anchored to the dock. Rust spots accent the corners of the boats with several spots of the boat missing paint. The nets are strong yet show signs of use and you can easily see frayed strings throughout. Yet these boats go out every day and gather shrimp.

This week has been great work wise. The momentum of our next adventure is really taking off and we are almost ready to launch publically. My heart though has been letting off emotions that I was unprepared for. Scars of the past have emerged which has caused me to pause and reflect. I find myself guarded and fearful. I feel like the shrimp boats look- rusty, worn, and fraying.

After getting my first ticket in 14 years this morning, for doing a stop-and-roll instead of a complete stop, I drove home in silence. Thinking of my Jesus whom I let down every single day, but still loves me. Who forgives the foolish mistakes I repeatedly make. Who never lets me go. I cannot control what storms come, but I can learn to better rest in the knowledge that "he that owns a cattle on a thousand hills..." is my anchor.

A replica of a shrimp boat that I was gifted named "Miss Sarah" hangs in my living room and I stare at it believing.

September 25, 2012

A Return on an Investment

"Please tell me that is not a ticket!" I exclaimed to Mike as we pulled up to my car. Beneath the windshield wiper rested a yellow piece of paper. I had left my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot when we went to Athens this weekend and we were just returning to pick it up.

Walking over to my car I realize that it is not a ticket, but a yellow legal pad piece of paper. As I unfold the note I see today’s date and my name. "Hellow, Are you ok? I saw your car here at Walmart. I was worried about you! That your car was here."

It turns out the a former client of mine for Union Mission saw my car parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot and was alarmed that something had happened to me. "You will never believe this," I say to Mike as I hand him the note to read.

I will never forget the first time I met him. He was full anger at the world and spared no emotions while sharing it with me. Previously he had some pretty string political views that he shared with the wrong people and ended up on the FBI watch list. He had lost his boat, his only source of income and where he lived. Any benefits that he tried to claim were denied and the flag on his identity made him unemployable. He was broken, hurt, and bitter. Over time he came to accept his faults in what had brought him to his desperation and I began to see him smile. He apologized over and over again to me for his angry outburst in the beginning.

He never knew that from the first day that he yelled at me I saw him walk away with tears in his eyes and a piece of my heart became his. It took a long time, but he did get some money that was rightly his and bought himself a jeep. I was the first person he stopped by to see after he purchased the vehicle.

Eventually he was back on track and no longer needed our services, but he would still stop in to see me. The man I met to the man he became was perhaps the greatest redemption story I have ever witnessed personally. I have not seen him since December 2011 when I stopped working at Union Mission, but he remains in my thoughts often.

"I go to church at the Assembly of God. Church next door to Walmart. I was sorry to hear that you left Union Mission. Ive been praying for you. I pray your ok, and your family. Please let me know you are ok! I invite you and your family to church," concluded his note.

When I worked in a youth mentoring program I always told our volunteer mentors that they may never know just how deeply they touched their mentee. Rarely do we see a return on what we invest.

The part of my heart he holds smiled in disbelief, thankfulness, wonderment..."Oh, don't worry I am ok....but thank you, thank you, thank you, for caring about me!" I would have never imagined this from the first time we met.

September 17, 2012

Now What?

It has taken me several days to try and write about that which is stuck in my head and heart. I am still not sure I can find the words to say what I want to say, but I cannot hold all the emotion in any longer.

I tagged along on a conference that Mike was attending in Memphis. We decided to walk down to the National Civil Rights Museum and come across a 70s looking sign indicating "Lorraine Motel". Mike is beside himself as this is a place he has wanted to visit. I honestly had no idea that the museum was attached to the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

We turn the corner and immediately see the balcony on which Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. We both pause and our talking ceases.

We decide to tour the Civil Rights Museum, sans audio headphones, and I was not prepared at all for what I experienced. I begin reading all that is inscribed along the displays with large oversized photos along the walls. Several quotes make me pause and think about how applicable they are to today and I take photos of them.

The historical display of hatred left me speechless. I read nothing new, but seeing the photos, hearing audio clips of the time, and "being there" penetrated deep into my heart and mind that I am still trying to wrap my mind around the haunted presence.

The museum starts with the earliest slave revolts over 400 years ago and depicts the "Unremitting Struggle" from 1619-1865. I turn around to the next exhibit and am aghast at the KKK outfit glaring at me from the center of the wall. In this "Strategies for Change" exhibit I am reminded that 4 million African Americans were freed as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation and the North having won the Civil War but, Black codes and Jim Crow laws emerged as a way to keep former slaves inferior.

The next several exhibits tell me the story of protests and organizations that fought for a freedom that should never have been not a freedom. By this time I am filled with pain for what has occurred in our history.

At this point in the museum, I see a bus. Stepping onto a bus I am struck by the vision of Rosa Parks, clutching her purse and hear her nicely refusing to move. Standing there next to her seated on the seat, my mind and body are transported to another place and time. It is wrong.

My heart is heavy and continues to ache as I continue through the museum....the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in, Freedom Rides, James Meredith, The Albany Movement, Birmingham- Project C- Confrontation, a replica of MLK in the Birmingham Jail, March on Washington, Freedom Summer of 1964, Bloody Sunday, March Against Fear, the development of the Poor People's Campaign in Chicago, and finally Memphis.

By this time, Mike and I are touring the museum on our own speaking rarely. Nothing is said as we enter Room 306 from inside the Lorrain Motel. I stand there frozen in time. My heart and head are a mix of emotions. The depth of the cruelty of the past several hundred years and the tragedy of 1968 touch deep into my soul as I stand there viewing the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. All the photos that I have seen of this day enter my mind and where I am becomes a black and white version captured in time. The past becomes alive in me and I stand there silent.

Eventually we cross the street. I am honestly not sure what we are going to see until I enter the exhibit. I am not prepared at all to be standing at the window where James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr. The actual evidence found at the scene is, beer can, the gun, hair follicles.... it is almost too much for the mind to process.

I never expected to feel so much touring the National Civil Rights Museum. I am still trying to find the words to share my emotions. I cannot leave there and not be changed. The tragedy, injustice of the past, which I believe still lingers in the present. I have sat here for days questioning myself over and now what?

I cannot make up for a past that I was not part of it, but I still share sorrow that it ever happened, but Sarah you saw all this, you felt this, this touch deep into a part of you, now what?

I vow that my girls will learn to love and respect others, seeing them for who they are, not the color of their skin, where they live, or what they believe. I vow that I will show compassion and teach the girls to help others. I vow that I will leave every place I go better. I vow that I will try to bless others.

It is just a start of taking that which I felt and doing something with it. There is nothing that can erase what happened, but I also know that I cannot "have been there" and not want to do something about it.

September 7, 2012

Literally Speaking

I am a very literal person. I never realized how much so until I married a very non-literal man.

I take what is said at face value always. When I say something to you it is truth, not a sugar coated version of something to make you feel good. I mean what I say and only say what I mean. This has caused for many interesting discussions in our household.

I have been told that I am not an encourager when the truth is I am not going to say “way to go,” unless it is deserved. If I see more in a person than they do I try to push them further. “Well done,” from me is true statement of how I thought you did, not a sprinkled version of affirmation to make you feel good.

I try to be kind to everyone but I cannot say I honestly love everyone. Despite being commanded to by Jesus, I fall short here. Those I love know I do.

I believe each person has their own beauty, but I suck at giving (and receiving) compliments. However, some people are so quick to tell everyone how special they are, which in my opinion removes the specialness of it all.

My favorite quote guy says it perfectly when Javan wrote: If I am truly honest, I cannot say I offer love to every stranger I meet for then what would I offer to those truly special in my life. Instead, I would like to believe I offer- Understanding that their life is as important to them as mine is to me; Compassion for all the pain and suffering that comes with being human; Tolerance of that which they choose to believe and the way they choose to live; and the Freedom to know their own life and to discover and develop their own abilities without any unwarranted hatred or prejudice from me. For even if I do not offer love, there is no other foundation on which love can grow.

I constantly say I am on my journey to becoming. I think it is a life-long process. I am starting to share more and more of my process through writing because I find in interesting to see where others are and try to motivate others to look at their own journeys. I love discovering that I am not alone in my thoughts or actions or doubts.

So if my writings cause you to pause and think about your own journey…”Way to go!” The literal person in me means that!

September 6, 2012

Are you a Carbon Copy?

Running today I was watching for my bubblegum pink lady. She was not out on my first time by her house, but on my route back I looked again. I found her sitting under the carport with her walker and a huge white alligator skin purse. “Good afternoon,” I yelled waving to her from the street. It made me smile real big doing so.

Behind this 5’3” frame is someone who was afraid to be fully me. That will surprise a lot of people, I know. I was speaking with a dear friend the other day about how I am trying to raise the girls to not believe or be what I believe or am simply because I believe it, but to discover their own beliefs and self.

I grew up in a wonderful home going to church, participating in youth group, great at school, sociable, and went to a Christian college.

The problem is I never explored why I believed what I believed during this time. I followed what was taught by my parents or youth leaders. I knew all the right answers and still made tons of bad choices, but I did not have ownership of my faith.

I remember clearly in college that there was a woman coming to speak at chapel. We were required to attend chapel at least twice a week. I at first was appalled that a woman was speaking at our Christian college. Clearly this was biblically wrong, but I did something I normally didn’t and started to question that. So I attended the service and ended up loving her.

This led me to start to read and research on this topic.Since that point I have taken time to research and read on many other topics so that I began to understand what I believe and why.

For years I sat every time the door was open in a church pew. There were some great pastors I learned from, both good and bad lessons. I still love the traditions of a church service and singing the good old hymns, although I am not in attendance every Sunday.

And now I often go to Tybee Church which is held in a bar, although no alcohol is served. It is a collection of people who have felt shunned or have left the traditional church, but find Jesus is this tiny little corner down in the south. Some of the holiest people I know I have met there.

I am greeted every time I go with hugs and kisses and true honest “It is great to see you.” Echoing Don Miller’s sentiment on meeting people outside church, “Because I grew up in the safe cocoon of big-Christianity, I came to believe anything outside the (traditional) church was filled with darkness and unlove. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined there were, outside the church, people so purely lovely as the ones I met here.”

I am letting go every day of the “what would others think” insecurities that I carried around for so long. I am choosing to share what I have been through, where I am, and my joys and struggles because when I do others seem to resonate with me or be inspired.

I still struggle with worrying about what others would think if I……. but really it is between me and God. I am not designed to be just another, when I can be the wonderfully quirky compassionate me that I know was gifted to me.

Too many of us hide behind ourselves. We hold true to a faith that is not our own. We want our children to be just like us. Stop and take a look at yourself. Begin to peel back the layers of what the world or your past has hidden. Take time each day to look for yourself. In the choices you make, the things you say, the activities in which you invest your time.

For a long time there were parts of me that I hid for various reasons. I did not spend time looking for me until I realized that I was becoming a carbon copy of someone else. Like the bubblegum pink lady today, I found myself because I was looking and I smiled real big in doing so.

September 3, 2012

Heart smiles I had to share

Four Army men come jogging up the parking lot as we are lining up to start the 5K on Saturday. I nudge Mike who is standing near me and point them out. Dressed in camouflage long pants, brown T-shirts, their Army boots, carrying backpacks full of stuff…I start to sweat more just looking at them.

I do not think much of them until I catch up with them in the 5K and over hear them bantering back and forth….”Hey, I have cookies in my pack…” one exclaims to another. “I think it is time…” and they all laugh. I decide that I am at mile 2 and if I can keep pace with them it would be an awesome picture at the finish. I begin to banter with them, telling them how fun it would be to have them all enter the finish area in front of me and then all of a sudden I break through the middle of them. They love the idea.

As we continue running, one of the four slows down his pace. His partner realizes this and makes the other two stop while he runs back to get the one who has slowed down. He rejoins his partner and runs in step with him until the four are all together again. No comments were made about the guy that needed to slow down or why. They all just continued running as if one never lagged behind.

Somewhere, probably in a movie, I heard that military never leave a man behind. I imagine on the battlefield this is true, but to see this play out in a 5K left me in awe.

I finish the race ahead of these four and cheer loudly for them as they cross the finish as a unit. They have no idea how they touched my heart. Then I see two of them return to the path and emerge again with their wives who were also running the race. Tears came to my eyes.

These four will never know how much their simple actions touched me. The commitment of the four bound together by a military oath, not leaving one behind. Followed by the two running back to finish with their partners in life. It was a beautiful thing to witness. And my heart smiled.