Donte’s 21st Birthday

Tuesday night we took Donte out to dinner to celebrate his 21st birthday.  On the way home, I told JR that “parenting” Donte has been the best and worst part of our marriage.

Donte birthday 21When we said “I do”, Donte had already been in JR’s life for three years.  He was one of his closest Young Life boys at the time.  There was really no option for me but to embrace this young man being around.  Of course at the time we had no idea how much we would really embrace this young man.

It’s been the worst part because it has been tremendously costly.  Our friendship with Donte has cost us every type of resource we have: social capital, financial, spiritual and emotional.  It has been inconvenient and discouraging.  We’ve navigated many waters and situations where we’ve had no clue what to do or what is right.  We’ve disagreed on what to do.  It’s cost us time together.  It is often frustrating and just plain hard.

It’s been the best part because as we have worked as a team and prayed for something that has seemed impossible we’ve seen God do some incredibly miraculous things.  I love my husband more because of the way he loves Donte.

We had several friends go above and beyond to love Donte on his birthday this year.  One invited him into her family’s home and celebrated Donte with very generous gifts and a birthday cake.  Another couple threw him a surprise party.  On our way to dinner, we asked which birthday has been his favorite, partially expecting the answer to be this one.  Without hesitation he quickly answered, “My 17th birthday when JR had all those people bring me different things at school.”  Later on at dinner he told us that on his 17th birthday he thought he would be in prison, dead or living his life continually under the influence of drugs by 21.  We celebrated that he was none of those things and that he is now on a very different path for his future.

On Tuesday night Donte shared with us a small way he hopes to be generous to two of his friends once he is employed again.  He then shared that on his list of things he dreams for his future returning the generosity he has been given is near the top.  This was the first time we’ve heard him truly acknowledge how much he has generously and graciously been given from others who owed him nothing.  He longs to be successful so that he can pay it forward and be generous to others in need.  H

That is exactly what Jesus does for people.  We have been given much: salvation, freedom, peace, joy, confidence and a family.  Due to that, we give much to others.  We give to the lost, the hurting, the broken and the poor.  We give to those in need because all of our needs have been met in Christ.  We invite them in to the family and freedom we have tasted and seen for ourselves.  Much has been given to us; therefore, we give much.

Donte’s journey reminds me of how much I have been given, how I so often forget to recognize the generosity and how it is the call on my life to give much to others.

Many of you have so faithfully prayed for our friend.  Here are a few things you can continue to pray: 1) For a job 2) For him to get a photo ID 3) For continued perseverance and dedication to abide by all of the restrictions of his probation 4) For Donte to humbly submit to all of the authority he is under

May you too remember how much you are given in Jesus and may that drive you to give generously in every area of your life.

Donte birthday

 

The price of freedom

After I wrote last, you people came together in a miraculous way.  Within a few hours, $3000 showed up in our bank account and another group of people had worked together to book Donte a stay in an extended stay hotel.  What we needed that day was more time.  You bought Donte the chance to live free.

During his two week stay at the hotel, things continued to come together.  A group of three Christian guys stepped forward and wanted to consider having Donte live with them.  We shared more of the story and Donte met with them. After a few more days of prayer, Donte moved in to their converted garage extra bedroom.  One post on Facebook later and a free mattress showed up for him.

Donte's new room

A few days later, Donte called me one morning asking if I knew who Jeff was.  I did not.  He explained that he was supposed to meet Jeff at the address where at his office, but he didn’t know which office he was in and Jeff wasn’t answering his phone.  After failed googling attempts, I told Donte to just start going into every office in the building asking for Jeff and explaining why he was looking for him.  His search turned up empty.  But, several people pointed him in the direction of one specific office.  He walked in there even though he knew it wasn’t where Jeff would be.  He told them the same thing he had told every other office.  One of the employees said, “We don’t have a Jeff here but you say you are looking for a job?  We can help with that.”

Turns out that office was a hiring agency.  We still haven’t figured out who Jeff was or where his office is.  Donte completed all of the hiring agency paper work and was honest about his background.  A lady came back a few minutes later with the news, “You start Monday at 4 pm.  Show up at this address and you’ll need a pair of steel toed boots.”  Donte found himself a job.

He has been working hard the past two weeks at a beauty supply distribution center on the night shift.  It is hard to believe we all survived those first few weeks when he was released from jail.  It is incredibly clear that God made a path for him: people offering their home for a night at a time so he had a place to sleep, dozens of people donating small amounts of money so that we could pay his bills and a provide a place to call home for two weeks, connections coming forward from all different corners to connect us to agencies that may be of help, a group of guys feeling led by the Lord to open their home long-term to Donte (even after I resisted several urges to take matters into my own hands and prod this group of men to consider it) and a job landing perfectly in his lap without any of our help.

I got to the end of myself: the end of my own strengths, abilities and connections.  You people rose up.  You paid the price for Donte.  You paid what he couldn’t pay for on his own.  It was beautiful.  Without your help, he would not still be free.  We had to have approved housing by a certain day and as that deadline was approaching, we had nothing.  You purchased his freedom.  The money you gave is still helping to cover his bills until he is able to take them all over.

It is so obvious that this is the heart of our God.  When we couldn’t pay the price for ourselves, God paid the price to purchase our freedom.  His Son gave His life in order for us to live free.  Now we are able to decide how we want to use that freedom.  Will we continue to walk with God and recognize all that He has paid for us or will we live for ourselves?  Will we offer our lives to Him or will we pursue only our desires?

This is where we find Donte now.  The pieces are in place for him to be successful; but, where there is great freedom there is also great temptation.  There are still many cards stacked against him: Probation and no training in managing personal finances are two of the big ones.

Our hope for Donte is that he will use his freedom to pursue things that honor the Lord.  We want him to chase after things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).  His life serves as a reminder for me to use my freedom to do the same.  The price of freedom is costly.  What will you do with yours today?

 

 

What’s the backstory here?

Well obviously he’ll live with us

Inconvenient tears

Let your generosity be a whisper of encouragement

Donte’s home

Not yet an ending

God’s love for the guilty

Showing up and visiting jail

Preparing for baby

Celebrate

Someone say yes

End of myself

End of myself

Last week was 24/7 Donte except for sleep.  An away message went up on my email to buy me some time from the rest of my responsibilities.  My mom watched Emerson as I made phone calls, took Donte to appointments and did research.  Sometimes Donte and I were silent for hours because we were beyond frustrated with the no’s we kept receiving.  Thursday alone I called 57 different organizations or individuals trying to find ways to help him.  My mom and JR saw me break down several times from the weight of it all.

Many of you were so helpful calling with encouragement or sending texts with ministries you thought may be worth a call.  We’ve been chasing down all of those rabbit trails.  Several people have told me, “this isn’t your burden” or “you can’t carry this.”  But, if I don’t fight for this kid who will? He has no money, can’t reach out to his family and has no form of identification.  He didn’t have a phone until we bought him one.

I’ll admit that at times last week I carried it like it was mine.  I want to find the solution.  I want to fix the problem.  I’m a planner.  I’m a doer.  I have two separate notebooks with running to do lists.  I like to cross things off.  This is how I’m wired and most of the time it serves me quite nicely.

To do lists

But, my theology does tell me that Jesus’s yoke is light.  It tells me to cast all my burdens on him because He cares for me.  What I can’t reconcile right now is how these things all intersect.

1) I’m a doer.

2) God can move mountains and has all things under His control.

3) This young man needs a place to live by Monday or will violate probation and face arrest.

Last week I called and I worked.  Donte called and worked too.  He has been successfully learning to use public transportation to get around.  On Friday, he managed to get his birth certificate all by himself.  He is freaking out about not having an approved place yet as the Monday deadline closes in.  It is not just us carrying the weight of this, it is definitely Donte as well.

I think God’s message to me has been clear this week.  I am at the end of myself.  I am out of phone calls and I am out of resources.  My action now is to pray.  I wish I could do something.  I want to fix the level of brokenness I’ve seen in the world this past week.  But I can’t.  It’s bigger than me.  It’s bigger than my family.  And it’s bigger than Donte.  I’ve sent Donte the last list of resources to call today because I’ve heard that its time for me to sit down, get on my knees and beg the Lord to show up.

Donte has already been accepted by a great ministry that will help with housing, GED completion, mentorship and job provision.  He will go to a new client meeting next week and then begin working with them.  Right now we just need a miracle to buy us about a month of time until all of that can begin.  We need a bridge or something to stand in the gap.  Luckily we have a God who is great at building bridges between things that are at odds.

When praying about Donte, someone else heard for me to “cast the net, lay it out there and let go.”  I’m done today.  Our family heads to Houston this evening to celebrate JR’s brother’s wedding.  (Isn’t the Lord so good to give us something so wonderful to celebrate in the midst of this storm?!?!)  I have to get us ready to leave and I’ve been told by the Lord to sit down and pray.

Today I’m relating to the the disciples in John 21.  They had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  They were fishermen by nature, experts in their trade.  Yet, they came up empty.  I have worked tirelessly and I too have come up empty.  Then, they hear a man tell them, “Cast your net on the right-hand side.”  This advice sounded ludicrous.  Who are you to give me advice?  You think it’s that simple as trying the other side?  I feel the same right now.  You are really telling me to sit on the bench now?  You think it’s as simple as me quitting working and trusting that You will still be at work?  Do you think anyone else is going to care about this as much as we do? But when the disciples did so, they could not even haul the amount of fish.  Their response is perfect: an acknowledgement that “It is the Lord,” followed by getting to Him as quickly as they can.  I’m praying for this ending.  I’m no longer working as I have. With complete fear and the smallest amount of faith I can muster, I’m not making another phone call.  I’m listening to the Lord telling me to try a new thing, wondering if He wants to do something in your life in light of this situation.  I’ve been told to stop and pray.  I’m both frustrated and relieved to be placed on the bench.  Now I’m waiting for the miraculous catch to fall from the sky and for God to deliver in the most creative “only God” way possible.  I promise to give God all the glory and all the credit and you better believe I’ll run hard after Him.

Need a refresher course on Donte?  Start at the beginning

Well obviously he’ll live with us

Inconvenient tears

Let your generosity be a whisper of encouragement

Donte’s home

Not yet an ending

God’s love for the guilty

Showing up and visiting jail

Preparing for baby

Celebrate

Someone say yes