Thanks, Mark! Thanks, God! Thanks, CBS6!

I can no other answer make,                                         but, thanks, and thanks. 

~William Shakespeare

Wow.  I’m rather speechless, which doesn’t happen too often.  I am overwhelmed by and grateful for the positive response to a blog post I wrote on Monday called Heart Breaking. Soul Weeping. Mind Reeling. Knees Bending.  Only a handful of people actually follow my blogs Miss Marti’s House and …into the neighborhood on a regular basis.  So, I was quite surprised when this post started receiving 100s of hits!  Miss Marti’s House started 2 years ago by telling the story of how I ended up living in Southern Barton Heights, how I met and married the ‘other half of my pair’, Louis Williams, and our life here.  …into the neighborhood is a more recent development, somewhat of an experiment, a direct response from questions we get a lot.  It’s meant to be a resource to individuals, families and churches who want to live more neighborly, incarnationally or missionally.  We get regular requests to speak or consult with people and churches, so we thought we would create an online tool to talk about it.  It will also showcase people, ministries , etc living it out and how God is being glorified throughout our city, country and in the nations.   I have 2 great stories in the works.  One from a friend living in a remote village in the country of Columbia.  The other being my aunts in Oregon.  Coming SOON!  Stay posted!  Go ahead and subscribe if you want to stay up-to-date.

Mark Holmberg from WTVR CBS 6 contacted me quite unexpectedly yesterday afternoon, because he had seen that post.  (Thank goodness I had just gotten my roots touched up!!!  LOL) He wanted to interview us about what and why we do what we do.  Of course, it also involved one of the young men accused of First Degree Murder.  He was a welcomed friend, almost a son, in our home on a regular basis.  You know what?  He and his family are still welcome!  Kids make bad, sometimes even horrific, choices or decisions.  It doesn’t mean we give-up on them. Don’t get me wrong.  I still believe that people should pay the consequences of their personal decision, choice or reaction. As much as the public wants to make this a race issue or a urban/suburban issue, it is not that simple.  I wish it were.  All our youth need us.  I’m still hopeful.  Emily said it perfectly in one of the responses to the post…

…they do need us and we all need to stick together (near or far), continue to impact, never give up hope, and pass the message that all children are reachable teachable lovable and savable….

Amen, Emily!

You can find Mark’s story here…  Miss Marti Brings Message of Peace and Love.  That peace and love is rooted in none-other-than, Jesus Christ.  He is my Savior.  I can’t save each and every youth or adult I encounter.  But, Jesus can.  I am but one tool that He uses.  Thanks, Mark and CBS6 for allowing the hope of Jesus Christ to be in the middle of this story.  I know it wasn’t want you intended.  But, you know what?  God did.  To God only be the glory!

My heart still grieves for the devastating loss in our city, within the many impacted families and network of friends. Words can not explain, nor can they alone comfort the grief felt.  My prayers continue to be with those who grieve and our city.  May God’s Spirit comfort us and bring peace.

Psalm 23  NIV

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Heart Breaking. Soul Weeping. Mind Reeling. Knees Bending.

tears Image

My heart is breaking.  My soul is weeping.  My mind is reeling.  I don’t understand. But, my knees are bending.  And I have a pile of used up tissues beside my chair.

Almost 7 years ago, I moved into Southern Barton Heights in Richmond, VA.  I knew life would never be the same.  From the get-go, I fell in love with the neighborhood.  Especially the kids.  Literally, from the first weekend after I moved in, I met a bunch of the kids.  After that, they were over all the time.  I loved it.  I never went anywhere alone….one of the kiddos was always with me.  We watched sports together.  Yeah…me.  I watched sports and pretended to enjoy them.  We went to the grocery store together.  And cooked together.  And played together.  We did life together.  They were often at church with me….and always at youth group and retreats.  We talked about virtually everything! They were and still are…Miss Marti’s Kids.

But…over time…some of the kids moved to other parts of the city.  And, now most are grown.  Thanks to Facebook, we are able to reconnect.  Some are…graduating from high school.  Going to college. some cases, ending up in juvy.  Today, one, now an 18-year-old young man, was arrested, along with 2 of his friends, for First Degree murder of 16 year-old Brett Wells in Mechanicsville, VA.  People would always tell me….”Marti – You can’t save them all.”  My response was “I can’t save any of them.  But, my God can.  If the kids will remember what it felt like to be loved.  If they can remember God’s unconditional love, while they are laying on the cot.  That’s all I can ask for.”

That response is really being put to the test this evening.  Why CAN’T I save them?  What else could I have done?  What could I have said?  Why does it have to be this way?  Those are some of the many questions that roll through my mind as I weep over our city and for our youth.  I know the standard responses….”You did all you could.”  “You loved those boys like your own.”  I know.  I know.  I know.  But, I ask myself those same questions just like any parent would.

One of the 8 Core Principles of Christian Community Development is relocation.  Through my relocation – living in this community – the community’s assets are now my assets.  But, the community’s challenges have also become my own challenges.  Today….that is even more evident than ever.  I can’t go into my home and go about life pretending like this hasn’t impacted me personally. I can’t ignore the fact that it has impacted my community, the Mechanicsville community, my church, and the rest of Miss Marti’s Kids.

No one said this would be easy.  No one said it would be “happy, happy, joy, joy”.  This world is broken.  This world is fallen.  And frankly, it sucks.  Big time.

For those who have seen the news, it isn’t a black/white thing.  It’s not a suburban/urban thing.  It’s not the “boys from the ‘hood” murdering a 16-year-old in the white suburban community thing.  It’s not that simple….at all.

But, it IS a tragic thing.  Our youth need us.  They need us in the counties and in the city!  This is such a complex issue.  It’s not a time to point fingers.  It’s not a time to say “they” should take care of this.  “They” meaning the government, the schools, the parents, the non-profits.  It’s a time to say WE should take care of this.  WE means each and every one of us.

I know people who know and love the victim and his family.  I know and love one of the 3 guys…love him like he’s my own.  How can I make sense of it all? How do we comfort the parents who lost their 16-year-old son? How do we comfort the mom who could lose her 18-year-old son to prison? How do we keep drugs and guns off the streets? How do we comfort the friends of both? How do we help the youth of our metro area?

How, we might ask?  It’s obviously not a simple answer…or we would have done it by now.  But, let’s see what the Lord has to say on the topic.  The answer may be different for each of us.  As for me….I’m gonna be on my knees.  Please join me in praying for our youth and young adults.  They need us on our knees.  On my knees.  God help us.