Thursday, June 23, 2011

the clothes closet

every wednesday morning, i am the keeper of the clothes closet. inside this tiny, jumbled closet are mounds of second-hand clothes to be given to our folks at grace place. when the door opens each week, you never really know what to expect, but one thing is always promised-an adventure.

last wednesday proved to be particularly interesting. it was my first time running the closet myself, and i was slightly nervous about handling the situations that would arise (because, like i said, it's always an adventure). let me preface by saying this is not an extensive operation we are running. our clothes are very limited-we often don't have enough of certain items to go around, and our sizes are makeshift fits at best. we work with what we've got. it's funny how giving out clothes to people will send your mind spiraling into theological circles. i wrestle with what clothes to give people-is that shirt nice enough or too messed up? would i feel dignified wearing that? does this clothing treat them as an equal brother or sister? and then there are the reactions you get afterwards: there are those who are always grateful for what you can give them, despite my apologies for our limited offerings; then there are those who are never satisfied, and boy, do they let you know it.

my very first clothes closet customer was a new guy to grace place, and for the record, he was already crabby and in a hurry when he approached me. since he was first in line, he got first dibs on sizes we had. i gave him the pair of shorts he asked for, along with anything else, and was pleased to be able to actually give him his size! he, however, was not quite as pleased. i'd already moved on down the list to the next person when he reappeared at my closet door with this lovely greeting: "hey, shorty. hey, hey shorty." oh joy. apparently these shorts (which were actually very nice) were too short-i believe the term "daisy dukes" was used as a description. now i would have loved to roll my eyes and lecture him about proper names and ways to get a lady's attention...but i didn't. i showed him a couple other pairs we had, offered him his choice, and he went on his grumbling way.

but this closet is also the source of joy too. meet kenny. kenny is a faithful grace place attendee, a member of galloway, and probably the only guy who willingly participates on our craft days. he's a mess, but he's a kind, joyful and friendly mess, and thus we love him dearly. kenny decided to sit right outside the closet door that morning, and while i saw him there, i didn't think too much of it. i soon began to notice though that kenny was monitoring the door. every time a guy came up, kenny would remind them sternly that they were not to enter the closet, telling all the newbies the rules. i remember asking him multiple times if he needed anything that morning, and each time he replied "no" with a smile. it wasn't until i was about halfway through that i realized what he was doing-kenny was looking after me. he felt the need to be my protector and helper that morning when he knew i was working by myself.

my heart laughed and smiled at the same time. it laughed because kenny, like i said, is a hot mess. brief synopsis: he's old, walks with a cane, and has a slew of medical issues. but you best believe, if something had gone down that morning, kenny would've been in the middle of it, cane and all. kenny didn't need to be there, but he wanted to. kenny is a living, breathing, messy but honest example of the power of true relationships.

one final note-i'm getting really good at sizing mens' clothing...don't be alarmed if i practice guessing your pants size correctly. i promise it's not creepy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


some quick thoughts, since it's been forever and a day since i've blogged but it's also past my bedtime...

1. spent 5 days last week at an overnight camp for 200 youth called MissionFest, where they worked at various missions throughout Jackson. i'm just gonna be up front and say that just about everything that could go wrong...well, yea it went wrong for me. my team's bus broke down no less than 3 times, i left a poor girl at the church on the way to our work site, and even caused the overall adult leader to create a new rule after the very first day based on my team. let's just say that i do not feel called to youth ministry, but bless their hearts whoever does. don't worry, i lived to smile and laugh greatly about all of this (and even managed to keep my internship! woo hoo! ;)

2. the Word of God is indeed powerful and does not return empty. during one of the days last week, i spent time with some kids from a rougher neighborhood in Jackson. we were hanging out in their neighborhood and told them the story of Jesus healing the blind man by spitting in the dirt and putting mud on his face. i admittedly was not optimistic about them paying attention to the story, but God gave me the sassy snaps and proved me wrong. 3 young boys, around the age of 10, then grilled me with every question imaginable about God. it was astonishing to me how genuinely curious and interested these boys were--they were thirsty, and all it took was for someone to share some scripture and invite them to ask for living water.

3. lindsey and i pretty much ran the liturgy this past sunday while all our pastors were at annual conference. the phrase sink-or-swim adequately describes this scenario. thankfully i'm a firm believer in the phrase fake-it-til-you-make-it, and folks seem to have bought our confidence. the best thing that came from this sunday though were the encouragements i got from some of my grace place friends. 3 different guys have come up to me since, all beaming about how well i did on sunday. one was even so excited to tell me he saw me on t.v, gushing about how nice it was to have a familiar face on the screen--he said it felt like he was there, like it was home. best. compliment. EVER.

4. in true random fashion, i leave you with this tidbit. i am slightly embarrassed to admit that i have now seen, in marathon fashion, all 3 twilight movies...i blame the youth. but for those of you who have even the slightest idea what i'm talking about, i leave you with two words: team jacob. the end.

grace, peace and hugs to all. more stories to come!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

grace place

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." ~matthew 25:35

this verse is the foundation for Grace Place, the homeless ministry at Galloway and where i spend most of my mornings throughout the week. sunday through friday morning, galloway hosts homeless men and women from the downtown jackson area for a hot meal and some respite. usually about 60-75 folks come each day, both regulars and new faces. i think it's easy for us as christians to glamorize a ministry like this, to see it on paper and have our hearts warmed and our fists pumped for Jesus. but here's a little taste of the day-to-day life of grace place--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

the good: God's children are truly gathered here. i met "N" my very first day. when i introduced myself, he was so tickled by my name that his whole face lit up with a smile that literally radiates. if i could only harness the light behind that smile, i promise you it could heal souls. i hope i never forget his face. he is just one of many beautiful children here. on wednesdays, we have a worship service and communion just for grace place. it's raw and unglamorous, but this glimpse of the kingdom is a precious sight to behold. it's where i helped serve my first ever communion, and i wouldn't want it any other way.

the bad: you can't be in grace place long without realizing that homelessness effects all types of people--it hold no bounds, it does not discriminate. its causes are as varied as the people it affects. "V" comes often, and we have a fun time joking on each other. it's not so hard to relate to one another considering he's only 21. from our conversations, i'm pretty certain that he sells/deals drugs. it's crazy for me to imagine this young face out on the streets. there's a story behind "V" (as there always is), and i'm praying one of these mornings i'll have the privilege of finding out from him just what that is.

the ugly: in many other countries, christians still believe in demons and their power over people. after only briefly seeing how life-destroying addictions take a hold of people, i'm convinced they're here in our midst too. i say this not to scare anyone but merely to say that sin is a real and powerful stronghold in our lives, one that can capture us before we even recognize it. my second day at grace place, 2 couples walked in shortly after our worship service began, and in my limited knowledge, i knew immediately that they were addicted to drugs (if not also currently on them in that moment). my heart fell. i knew i couldn't do much to help their situation, that i likely would never see them again, that their battle was much bigger than i could ever tackle. but they got a hot meal that day and some new clothes and heard the Gospel preached.

homelessness is complicated. lately i've struggled to think about how i can possibly help in the midst of so much brokenness--where do i even start? the Gospel of Luke has been my company, where i've encountered many stories of Jesus physically healing and helping those around him; and yet, it has numerous mention of those he did NOT immediately help: "yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." a gem of wisdom lies in these verses, and i must continue to wrestle with them. what i do know is that for now i can offer a meal, some respite from the sweltering heat, a listening ear and a hopeful smile all in the name of Jesus. i pray God may use these small offerings for the kingdom.