A Place to Sleep

We’re staring down the home stretch of this pregnancy to a due date.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally let myself do some of the things.  We organized some closets.  We ordered some size one diapers (I grow big babies).  My mom graciously washed newborn clothes and bottles and we put them in their place.  I’m starting to believe this may actually happen.  This baby may be born healthy and strong.  It may even come home.

FDED7223-92A4-4B24-989B-40B209C6C3F0We’re more minimalist than I thought I would be as a parent.  No perfectly decorated nursery for Emerson or this next child.  Our plan for this one is a pack and play in the office till sleeping through the night is a thing.  Then, both children will share.  I’ve gone back and forth feeling guilty about this.  Should my children have perfectly decorated rooms?  Shouldn’t I have a picture to post of that?

I’ve started to think about some of the newborn things.  Schedules.  Breast feeding.  Pumping.  How to juggle two children.  Laundry.  Bottle washing.  All the things.  I’ve started to ask a few questions of others about what the next few months may look like.  I’m in a few mom Facebook groups that I’ve started to pay more attention to recently as I watch discussions about naps and feedings.  I’ve read about the exhaustion and frustration.

We had set aside today to have some fun with Emerson and to do some good cleaning of our house.  Nothing says I’m 38 weeks pregnant with an object the size of a watermelon in my belly like scrubbing a toilet.  Well we had set aside today to only focus on some cleaning.

F8AAA42C-46F4-4DB2-AE64-B6C600CD25D0Late yesterday I received a message from a pregnant teenager saying she needed a place to live, 11 weeks pregnant and very unsure of what her future holds.  Then Donte needed our help today too.  He’s been out of a 3-month-jail-stay for a probation violation (maybe more about that in the future) for less than 48 hours and is already running out of options.  Smith and Smith Social Services was open for business.  I was researching pregnancy housing one minute and editing our list of resources for Donte to call the next.  JR was on the phone with him planning a route on public transportation for them to meet so Donte could borrow a computer to do some research.

IMG_2159I think about these three people – my “first” boy Donte, this pregnant teenager, and her unborn child – they aren’t sure where they are going to sleep in the near future.  While we were a little distracted at times today, I explained to Emerson that we were helping Donte find a bed in which to sleep.

“A big bed?” She asked.  She’s very fascinated with the idea of a big bed right now.  She had one for three days in June and then was demoted for bad behavior on my birthday.

“Yes, honey a very big bed.  Donte is taller than the door.  He used to sleep in the bed in your room.”

Then we prayed for Donte to find a safe bed.

It’s easy to fall into the middle-class motherhood trap, where the things matter so much.  I’ve caught myself being tempted by those things in recent days.  But today my heart broke for three people who are worried about something much more basic – where to sleep, what to eat, where to live.

When JR went back to pick up our computer from Donte, I sent him with a packed dinner of anything I could find in our fridge.  Our 6-foot-8-man-boy had only eaten once in 48 hours.

Being a parent is not an easy task, I’m very aware of that.  I’m also aware that its a tremendous gift.    I’m writing tonight to remind myself in a few weeks that when I’m tempted to be overwhelmed by the daily things (the laundry, the spit up, the crying, the lack of sleep) and when I’m tempted to focus on complaining about how hard it is, that all this baby really needs is a safe place to sleep, some food to eat, and some love.  With Jesus in me, I can do all of that.

It’s a broken world we’re bringing a child into.  Today was a painful reminder of that. There are so many “kids” out there who haven’t been given what we hope to give our children.  It’s not as it should be.

One of our favorite children books is “God made light.”  The line that currently makes me teary says, “And on the day you were born God said ‘Let there be light.'” 

With that truth, I hope to bring our next child into the world.  Baby, we want you to be the kind of person that will work to push back darkness in the world.  The kind of person that will love Jesus and be light to those living in brokenness.  We want you to grow up to be an adult who will care for women in crisis pregnancy situations and minority men who have fallen into the broken criminal justice cycle and other people like them.  In the meantime, your mama is going to try her hardest to not sweat the less important stuff (your appearance, your performance, your nursery, nor your schedule).  Hope to see you soon.  If you want to come tonight, that’d be great because the house is perfectly clean and that like never happens.

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