Wednesday, February 28, 2007

To Shell & Back

Our "Upper Room Ministry" is empty again. Sort of.

After five months, Shell has moved out, or has sort of moved out, or is in the process of moving out. Over the past couple of years we've had eight or nine people living with us almost constantly, and with each person, or family we've been both blessed and left wanting, wishing we could do more for them but also knowing our limits.

Shell has by far been the hardest to deal with, and for those of you with intimate details of some of our other "temporary family members" that should speak volumes. Shell is a street smart young woman who is used to living on the edge and skimming around corners. In some cases that meant she was living a life that conflicted with our growing sense of deeper Christian values.

With almost everyone who has stayed with us, my rule has been, "I know they need guidance, but I'm not going to shove it down their throats, if they ask for my input I'll give it to them...but they have to ask."

In most cases, certainly with Lee and her kids from New Orleans, and to some extent Simon and Katrina, they did seek my counsel, they didn't necessarily follow it, but they sought it.

Shell was a different story and I made an exception to my rule knowing that her life on the streets, shelters, foster homes, etc. made her wary of anyone she considered an "authority figure."

So a few weeks ago I took her out to Starbucks for "the talk." The you've got to choose whose you are talk. The you've got to face your addictions talk. The you never fooled me I've been there talk. The since you got my car impounded, you can't drive it anymore talk. The I can't change you talk. There were a lot of other components, but along the way I asked her to list her goals for me, and then prioritize them.

She rattled off a number of things which will stay between us, but when she was done I had one more "talk."

The -"Where are you and God?" - talk.

She'd left God off her list.

She teared up a little, talked a little, listened quite well and seemingly agreed with virtually everything I said.

Then she disappeared.

Oh she was around, sort of....kind of rushing in and out at all hours for several days, but never stopping long enough to have a real conversation.

Then she came back a little more often, but still we saw no change in her behaviors.

So I was preparing for the other talk, along the, "We love you but we can't enable you" theme, but she was gone again.

Amy had a few intermittent phone conversations, some rather unpleasant, and Shell eventually announced she was moving out.

She showed up last night, I was asleep and tried my best to stay that way, and packed some of her things. She's apparently found a new "boy" and they're deeply in love, moving away, and yada, yada, yada.

She's supposed to be here now to finish cleaning out her stuff, but I don't expect she'll show. She tends to arrive when she's sure I'm asleep for some reason.

She needn't hide from me, I've done all the talking I can do.

When our eldest daughter, Tiffany, spent a college semester in England, she was literally tossed into a house a la MTV's "Real World" with a bunch of kids with values very different from her own. At first she was very uncomfortable. She emailed us saying it was extremely tough for her to relate to these other folks, and she felt compelled to share her values and beliefs, but also believed it would be a fruitless effort.

I remember writing her back and saying there was a time in my life when I was one of those "wasted" young adults with some mixed up views of the world, and gradually I came around to seeing life another way. I asked if she couldn't be a simple mustard seed, walk the walk, and let that speak for itself. I don't really know if that helped Tiffany or not, she's pretty much been ahead of me in this adulthood thing since she was 8 or 9...however that's how I have to view life with Shell, and our other "temporary family members."

We can't change them, we can't turn their lives around on a dime, we can't solve all their problems. We can only show them how we live, give them some time and space to make their decisions, and hope that maybe that seed will land in a fertile place in their hearts to be watered by the love and compassion of others, and nurtured by God.

As I was writing this today, oddly enough I got an email from Katrina, who lived here with her husband Simon and their delightful daughter Emmy just prior to Shell. We haven't heard much at all from them since they left, but we've prayed they were well and we know they are loved. Katrina simply sent a link to some photos of Emmy.

She's still a little heart stealer.

She looks happy and healthy, and the photos made me feel much better, realizing they're obviously doing okay.

It was an extremely timely reminder.

We're not here to be God...God is God. We can only be a way-point at best...our goal should be to be the best way-point we can.

So sooner or more likely later, Shell will finally clear out the rest of her stuff and continue on her own journey...I only hope a little seed of love will cling to her along the way.

And maybe one day she'll send pictures...

"God's kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it." - Mark 13:31-32 - The Message