Monday, August 31, 2015

Love Never Fails


I am not the healer. I am not responsible for healing. I am not required to forcibly bring another person to a version of wholeness, that I (in my own brokenness) "need" from for them. I choose to believe this as I repeat these thoughts as my mantra. I have had to learn to relinquish my false sense of achievement and control. There is freedom here - freedom for ME! I didn't realize how bound up (with a need to see the desired outcomes) that I had become in my own journey, while trying to help others walk towards healing! 

So much seems to be left unfinished  from my view. It takes a very conscious effort to trust that things are still happening when it is far beyond my line of sight. The stone-faced young lady tasted safety and it repelled her. Another young girl received love and chose to retreat back to the pimp's abuse instead. Still another baby girl found her "solace" in chaos and aloneness. A young woman twice her chronological-age, because she had needed to be, walked away on a frigid morning. She could not resist the beckoning of the streets for one. more. minute. 

I was plagued by so many questions and sleep evaded me. Why are there SO many girls who cannot "make it" in healthy environments? I am driven to my knees in complete desperation. Why do they, in their own way, say a giant "no thank you", to safety and relief? I beg the Lord for a balm to accept this. 

As I look to His Word, I'm drawn to I Corinthians 13:8. I read it searchingly...Love NEVER fails. "Ok."-I feel calmed by the newness in these words. "Ok. Ok...Love NEVER fails!" I meditate. Slowly, I repeat this aloud as though it is the first time I have heard it. "Love never fails!" It literally blossoms to life on the page in front of me in real time! I was looking searching for some deep algorithm from the Lord...a laborious and difficult solution that I was ABSOLUTELY willing to walk out for the good of these soul-weary, bound children; young women that I love with the depth of my own soul! But, instead He gently said: "Love never fails." It felt so airy and simple. Nothing like this struggle and striving that I had been chained by. I paused in deep thought: "if I love them well...with a pure love, it will not fail!" He promises this in His word! I will hold to this with all of the strength that is in me!

His yoke is easy! His burden is light! He gently taught me that none of the business of "making whole" is my responsibility - in fact, even if I wanted to, I couldn't accomplish this! Everything that needed to be done, was DONE on the cross those many years ago! I knew this, but I didn't REALIZE this! You see, it's not that I was bound to this works related burden because of some messianic complex. Rather, this daily trudging in my own strength came from knowing a joyous freedom that I so desperately want for these sweet girls! It came from becoming so myopic in my daily grind in the trenches with tormented children, that I had lost my way for a bit. I was focused on the chains and had stopped looking at the One who breaks EVERY chain! 

"Love NEVER fails", He said. He freed me from outcome-driven timelines with those three words! Love them well & it WILL NOT FAIL! I can do that! I can love these girls! That's the easy part! That is my sweet spot!  I constantly look for creative ways to lift their spirits and lavish them with words of life! I LOVE to surprise them with anything from a Starbucks in bed on a cold Saturday morning, to a piercing that they've begged for (relentlessly) for months! Just "love them"??? I can do that!! I can find ways to (as Dr. Purvis says) give them as many "yeses" as possible!

Those three words revolutionized my days! Love never fails! 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Asked and Answered

We quietly shuffled into the back row as the worship team was already belting out their praise. I fumbled as I laid my umbrella down and settled in. She sat at first. She doesn't easily trust people or environments. She always takes several minutes of (socially awkward) silence to evaluate each new experience to decide what her next move will be. As she watched, she relaxed. She observed the other thousands standing and she did the same. Suddenly came a familiar song and she grinned. Music knows no barriers. She enjoyed the rhythm and the energy in the room.

A child who, months earlier, had zero will to live. Her soul was weary and she had declared full surrender. She had given up. As I sat with her on the floor those many months ago, she lay in my arms damp from the emotionally draining mixture of sweat, vomit and tears. She let out sobs for hours that felt like minutes. When you TRULY stand on the brink with someone, all time and the demands of real-life cease to exist. She had given up, but she knew that I had not, and would not! She could't go on, but I could. I could carry her. I MUST carry her.

At the House of Providence, this is the business that we are in. This is what we've signed up for. We gladly walk into the paralyzing, awful, soul-stealing trauma that has arrested every part of these sweet children, and when they give up, we say: "that's ok, I've got it from here!" We BOLDLY walk inch-by-inch toward the finish line marked by healing, freedom and wholeness.

As the worship service drew to a close, the team of well-groomed singers and musicians gently transitioned into the old, and well-loved chorus, "Nothing But The Blood". I could hardly stand upright as I (only through my peripheral vision, so as not to distract her with my voyerism) watch her clumsily hold her hands high with tears streaking her soft cheeks. All I can make out is her loudly declaring in her best falsetto "What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" Asked and answered, dear one! Asked and answered! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reactions

There is so much to be learned, everyday, from every interaction and situation. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about reactions - mine specifically. I have been asking the Lord to show me what I can do differently with respect to my reactions. I have reactions to people, situations, words, emotions and even TRAFFIC!!! I am asking the Lord to stretch me in this area and make me more like Him.

He brought me to John 8, where the bible tells the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. I have read this story many times and have heard countless preachers give their "angles" on it. The Lord brought me some new revelation from it today. He brought me to the point of HIS reaction.

When the accusers brought the woman before Jesus, they were, by all accounts of the law, "correct". They were correct about the woman, about her actions and about the punishment that was called for in that day...stoning. But Jesus paused. He did not react right away. He stooped down and (for all we know) doodled in the sand. It could be that Jesus was buying some time while He sought the heart of the Father. If Jesus had the heart of the Father, He would have God's wisdom to react like Him. Because, although the accusers were "correct", they were not "right"! Jesus did not simply react to what the crowd of accusers demanded, or even what the law demanded. He sought the heart of God and then reacted with the heart of God toward the woman.

I am challenged by this! I am challenged to stop reacting with a righteous piety that demands fulfillment of lawful consequences. I am challenged to take a holy side-bar with Jesus and gain His perspective on what is RIGHT in each situation. What is God's best? And that is not always what is owed to us! Thank God for that!

One of my sons had been particularly RIDICULOUS on a rainy Monday morning and I did the proper "natural consequences" thing that we as parents (who will never be accused of being an enabler) do!!!  As I gave him the verbal "what for" and dropped him at the school door to sort it for himself, I pulled away and attempted to change gears and mentally prepare for all of the drama that awaits me at the office. The Lord would not allow the gears to shift. He was so clear with me that while I was "correct", I was not "right"! The Lord showed me that HE was trying to develop something in my son and that morning I had hijacked HIS lessons of GRACE and MERCY. Because of my sons early years, these are not concepts that settle easily into his sweet heart. Further, his security in where he stands with those who love him is shaky at best. I wept. I, in my obnoxious type-A way, had sorted it logically (much like the accusers from John 8). I was "correct", but I was not "right"! I should've taken the proverbial stoop into the sand, pausing long enough to hear what God's purposes were for that situation. Instead, in my haughty, self-sufficiency, I handled this child that the Lord wanted to soothe.

People around us can be correct and not be right. I love how Ann Voskamp says "life is not an emergency." I try to remember those words each day as I go about my routine, but I am learning they are even more important when I am under pressure. S L O W I N G down is very helpful, and equally as difficult. It is, however, much easier than walking around constantly repairing what I have damaged in my hurried state.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wounds That Skew

When I am interacting with people, I often have "out of body" experiences. Now before you JUDGE extrapolate some deep meaning from this regarding my psyche, let me explain. I am not CrAzY, but I am often in very, VERY intense interactions with our sweet girls at the House of Providence and I am mentally "outside" of the interaction in real-time. I find myself listening to them, responding to them and even consequencing them, and all the while I am dissecting the interactions (both mine and theirs).

Oftentimes, I think (while we are conversing): If this child grows up to be a prolific writer and in their memoirs they included their time at House of Providence, how would it be portrayed? What is their perspective regarding their time here? You see, it is easy to project our intentions without really understanding the lens through which others interpret our actions. My intentions are very important, but they are not the most important. I know what I mean, but what I call "misunderstandings" are reality for those who interpret the situation in their own hearts. I must steward my words well,  and take responsibility for my delivery. This is especially true when I am dealing with children and teens who are so wounded that they can barely get out of bed each morning!

How a situation or conversation is interpreted is always quite biased and depends largely upon our past experiences. Most ALL of our residents here at HOP interpret each interaction through a lens that is blurred by rejection, skewed by abuse and foggy with mistrust. As I step outside of each interaction and attempt to interpret their receptivity of my presentation, I must keep all of these things in mind! I do not have the luxury of ignoring this at all. ever. at HOP.

My love and correction does not usually translate for our girls at HOP. Their level of understanding cannot be assumed, and a conversation that SHOULD take five minutes, will likely need thirty to sixty minutes. These conversations are frought with questions like: "ok sweetie, what did you hear me say?" or "could you explain to me what you think I mean by that?". We have learned (the hard way) to review again and again so that we are sure that everyone is truly heard and that clarity is achieved. Until a level of healing happens, the sweet girls are constantly being wounded by benign interactions.

During our therapeutic groups, I try to help the girls gain framework for their hyper-sensitivity by likening this kind of emotional wounding to a physical wound. For example, if I have a gaping wound on my arm and a well-meaning friend comes and taps my arm during a hug, I am going to recoil in GREAT pain. Though there was no pain intended with the hug, because I am so wounded already, I could not withstand the interaction without walking away even more wounded. That is not the fault of my friend who gave the hug! If that same friend has the very same interaction with me when I am whole and healed (scars don't hurt anymore, they are proof of a healing) I would not recoil and the lens through which I view the interaction would be altogether different. Prior woundings cause our interpretations to be incredibly skewed, and while we are not responsible for someone elses reactions, we MUST learn to take great care (not enable) with how we interact with the wounded!

We are told in Romans to prefer one another, and a large part of that is giving room for others to interpret what we are saying or doing. We WILL be misunderstood because we all have different lenses through which we interpret every interaction. I've learned this (THE HARD WAY) and I try to make sure that what I am saying is laced with love and understood by the receiver.  A large part of that is my delivery and message palatability, but even more importantly, I need to understand the lens of the hearer!

Let's decide to be healthy and believe the best about others!! Let's learn to assume the best about their intentions, and LET. SOME. JUNK. GO!!!! If we do this, we will have so much more time to devote to meaningful things!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Too Difficult For Words

I strain to smile and keep the tears from brimming over as I cup her soft cheek in my hand. I don't want her to see my tears, I want her to see my hope. I am trying to tell her, more with my eyes than anything else, that I am still here. I want her to know that she should not be celebrating her 14th birthday in a mental hospital.  I sit in a white brick room with a steel door that shouts "institution" at me while invading all of my senses. I sit overstimulated with grief. I try to keep my composure. I am searching desperately for the positive spin as she stares at me through a drug-induced fog, and it evades me altogether.

She is thinking of trusting. This is not something that can be taken for granted. She hopes that she is wanted as she looks fleetingly into my face. She is beginning to THINK about bonding. There is so much weight because this contemplative level of trust must be stewarded well. The day that she was welcomed into the doors at the House of Providence she was completely unreachable. This was a new level of trauma that I had not yet been acquainted with. She just wants to sleep. She says that when she sleeps her heart doesn't hurt. Her heart hurts for the brother that was smothered to death. Her heart hurts from the rejection as she begged family members to take her in, and one-by-one they said "no" in their own ways. Her heart hurts because she misses her other two brothers desperately. Her heart hurts from the unconscionable abuse that she has suffered at the hands of foster parents. Her heart hurts because she is furious with herself for forgetting her real mother's name. Her heart hurts because she is the broken and "rejectable" child. Her heart hurts because she is dead tired and her soul is weary.

She is not the problem. She is already filed by the professionals. She is known and described with many words ranging from trauma to "unadoptable". None of the words used EVER speak power or truth. I will not use these labels.

As she slowly allows us to see glimpses of her true self, we are altogether captivated. She is witty and has a comedic timing that is uncanny. She always dresses beautifully and adds a detail (with a scarf or  pop of color) that is uniquely her own. She thrives in structure. She loves babies and she is magical with toddlers. She reads with a graceful fluidity that is beautiful. She prays with a raw furor that convicts me to the core. Her simplicity is precious and longs to be nurtured. Fiercely loyal and hilarious are words more apropos and fitting.

The protection that she deserves has long forgotten her. We reintroduce her to this concept and she is skeptical. This sweet girl's story is not rare and it is not isolated. The plight of children in Michigan's foster care system is horrifying and the problems are systemic. The overwhelming struggles are paralyzing, so instead of complaints, we come with a solution. We do not join this fight with judgment, but rather with a vigor that can be oxygen for those with whom we are aligned. If we love well, it will not fail! The children deserve nothing less than our excellence, strength, integrity, wisdom, boldness and courage. We dare not require anything of them that we are not ourselves exercising daily on their behalf.