Visit Those In Prison

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few weeks ago, I learned that my grandchildren’s mother got arrested…again. In April, she bonded out after sitting there for nine months. She made a bunch of promises to the kids in March that I fussed at her about. She was in no position to make promises, and, as I knew would happen, she didn’t fulfill any of them when she got out in April. In fact, she never contacted us. She disappeared. She still hasn’t gone to trial on those charges, and now she has more.

I told her this time she wasn’t going to talk to her children: no phone calls, email, visits, or letters. I told her if she called and I was working or the kids were with me or I was in public, I would not take her call. It hasn’t stopped her from trying, and every single time she’s called I was either with the kids, working, or in public.

She’s decided I hate her.

What do you do?

To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not in any hurry to talk to her. I don’t hate her. You can’t hate the child you raised and nurtured through childhood and the teen years. They are a part of you.

The other day, she undermined my decision about contact and sent the kids a letter. On this day, Victoria got the mail out of the mailbox. Neither of the grands love doing that–there’s a tiny spider who hangs out there–but for some reason,  she did it that day. I intercepted the parts they didn’t need to read but fought hard to hide my anger over this action.

More and more, my daughter has become a person I do not like. Like is not the same as love. And not liking someone doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love them. I can love her and dislike her actions. It’s complicated, but what relationship isn’t?

In church, we’ve been talking about walking the second mile as a good neighbor to those who are in need. This past Sunday, Matt, our minister, talked about who our neighbor is and specifically mentioned those in prison.

I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:36

I can’t do it. I don’t have the energy. Not anymore. I’m not the one who needs to visit her. She needs encouragement. I’ve done it many times over, and I’m tired.

Why am I telling you this?

Because wherever you are, there is someone in prison whose family has hit that point. The person is prison still needs encouragement, and a family member is the worst possible person to do it.  If the prisoner has not admitted to their mistakes in full, they will wear that family member down to a husk with promises and pleas and manipulation. I’ve seen it first hand. While visiting her, I’ve watched family members cry, yell, storm out, cajole, and provide the wrong things to their loved one. Someone who is not a close family member can say things to them in a different way. Can keep the emotions out of it.  Can let them know that God hasn’t turned His back on them.

So, please consider it. You can’t just walk into a prison and visit someone. There are rules. But please, if this speaks to you, check it out. Prison inmates are captive audiences, literally. They are open to contact from Christians more so than the general public.

It takes a special person to do this, but I’m certain some of you reading this are that kind of person.

 

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A Loved One’s Addiction Changes Us

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Christians whose adult children deal with addictions change how they see the world. They must to survive.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? Ephesians 2:15-16

The car pulling into the gas station today caught my eye. Nothing special about it, I just noticed it because we jockeyed for the same pump briefly. We ended up on opposite sides of a different pump. The car had a handicapped placard, so I blinked in surprise when a young woman popped out of the driver’s seat. In one glance I knew. She’s an addict. How? There’s a look around their eyes. They have an unhealthy used, run-over appearance in their face. They tend to be skin and bones. I chided myself for thinking such things and went on and pumped my gas.

While I replaced my card in my wallet, she walked up to the payment window. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew my daughter. A few moments later, she returned. She noticed me watching her and veered toward me. “Can you spare a dollar or two for gas?”

I told her I didn’t have any cash. She shrugged and walked away. A wave of guilt hit me. Could I buy her some gas? Sure, but there was no way I’d hand any cash to her. And that’s really what she wanted. The gas request is a subterfuge. It’s not like a dollar or two would help.

While I waited beside my car, I heard her answer a phone call.  “Hello? Who’s this?”  she said this with a suspicious, sharp edge to her voice. Yep. I’ve heard that tone before. As I finished up, she left the car at the pump and headed toward the grocery store. I assume to beg from someone more amenable.

I found myself driving home replaying some stories my grandchildren have told me. My daughter pan-handled for gas money and food, her children in tow. One man threatened to call social services on her for exposing the children to this. I wish he had. I’ve heard some disturbing stories of the things she did when short on cash. I’ve experienced what I call “the shakedown” when she tried to coax money out of us.

Was I wrong not to help this woman today? I’m typically a very giving person. I feel empathy for the person in need. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says when we provide food, drink, clothing, or we visit prisoners, it’s the same as doing these things for Him. I can get very literal about this and say this woman did not lack in food, drink, or clothing. She was not in prison. She drove a decent car. I don’t think that’s the point in those verses.

Then there’s the passage at the beginning of this post. Ephesians 2 explores acts versus faith, so it may be out of context to point to it as a command to give to the poor. Yet, I’ve seen it quoted as guidance for dealing with those in need.

I struggle with this dilemma as I’m sure many other Christians do. Should we give to someone who appears in need when we suspect an ulterior motive? There is a flip side to this discussion. We don’t hear it talked about as much in our current society, but it’s worth remembering. Later in Ephesians we read:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:25

If the woman honestly needed gas money, then it would be ok to help her. But when she walked away from me, she didn’t ask any other person at the gas station. She walked past a woman putting groceries in her car and didn’t ask her either. Someone truly in need would not shrug and walk away when I said no. They would tell the person who called them on the phone that they were in need of gas. They would ask everyone they could for help. She didn’t. She only asked me because she saw me watching her.

Whether I like it or not, I’m more cynical than I used to be. I can’t help it. Maybe I’m wiser. I don’t know. What I do know is having children with addiction problems changes the way Christians look at the world.

Finalizing Your Vision: Finding Your Passion For Service Pt 8

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

 

 

 

During the first two months of 2018, I taught a Vision Board workshop to women at my church. During that time, we explored how we prefer to serve, why we want to serve, and whom we want to serve. I summarized each of the sessions in the following posts:

Wednesday night was the last night, and we finished creating our vision boards. As I’d reminded these wonderful women each week, the best way to create a vision board is to pull images that spoke to them, whether they understood why or not. Even though I teach this process, I’m still amazed at how well this approach helps someone recognize their passions.

In last week’s post, I shared an older vision board of mine:

My Mission Statement at the time of the above board’s creation was:

To inspire, motivate, and encourage women in their search
for personal acceptance and development.

This blog grew out of that mission, and I have focused many of my posts on my personal story of overcoming barriers and traumatic events in my life. Although this remains a passion of mine, recent changes in my and my husband’s lives have drawn me toward a new focus in service.  Although it’s a work in progress, my current Mission Statement states:

To open communication, touch lives, and create close relationships that
support grandparents as they meet the challenge of raising their grandchildren.

 

This is my new vision board:

 

 

The process of creating a Mission Statement and Vision Board helps us create something that points us in the right direction when asked to serve. Does it fit our Mission? Should we say yes or no? I’m the kind of person who always wants to say yes, but realistically I can’t. I serve God best when I stop and listen to the Spirit’s guidance. My new mission resonates with the verses in Jeremiah 28 and 29 where God instructs the Israelites to grow where they are (in Babylon captivity).  In this blog, I’ve already begun sharing the experience of raising grandchildren. How will I expand in this area? Where it will take me, I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to share here.

This workshop series was a great journey for me, and several of the women who participated found new purposes in their Christian service. Two wonderful ladies gave me permission to share their finished boards here.

As you can see, they took very different approaches in creating their boards. Throughout this workshop, I encouraged everyone to follow where the Spirit led them, and I’m thrilled and humbled to have shared this journey with so many amazing women.

Have you followed this process through these posts? I would love to hear what you learned about yourself!

 

 

Interested in offering a Finding Your Passion For Service workshop? I’m available for one day workshops or weekend retreats. Please use the form below to contact me with questions.