Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When It's Not a Fairy Tale Ending...

"You left and you never came back."

Those were the words whispered to me as I laid on a hard bed in a dimly lit house filled with random people and stroked the hair of a former student who was coming down off a trip on an unknown drug.

About four months ago my heart pounded as I heard, "Ms.'s me," on the other end of the phone line. It was the voice of a former student in Atlanta who had run away and been missing for several months. I had done everything I could to try and find her via internet research on facebook, twitter and instagram. I sent messages to people on her contact list asking them to please have her call me. She had blocked me because I think she knew I would not stop trying to find her. I did everything short of going to Atlanta and driving the streets myself. Eventually she decided to come home and she called to let me know. Her plan was to start Job Corp. She sounded good. She sounded happy. She sounded like the girl I once knew. The one who had a dream.

We talked a few more times but I had not heard from her in about a month or two. I was in Atlanta this past weekend and decided to visit some of the students we had worked with before moving back to Savannah. I called this particular students house and the grandmother who takes care of all of her grandchildren proceeded to tell me that several of her grandkids were "going crazy" and she didn't know what to do with them. She told me that her granddaughter previous mentioned had not started Job Corp, had run away again and just come back recently. She had come in that afternoon speaking nonsense and acting crazy because she was "on something" and was currently sleeping it off. When I asked about her grandson she told me he was in jail awaiting trial for a robbery, but the adult he was with when committing the crime had received 15-20 years. Her grandson is only 13. My heart ached. Why? Why were these kids running hard and fast toward crime, danger, wrecklessness? The laughter and memories we had shared ran through my head. I told the grandmother I was on my way.

I pulled up in front of a house I had been to many times. Several of the siblings greeted me with hugs and smiles. As I walked in the door the only light in the house was that of the TV screen. I could barely make out the faces of those I knew and there was a girl passed out on the couch. I squinted to see if it was my girl. One of the other kids directed me to the back bedroom and said "she" was asleep on the bed. There was an old man sitting in a chair next to the bed watching a football game. I've always seen him but he never speaks. I excused myself as I squeezed past him and gently settled on the bed next to the student whom I have prayed, ached and cried for many times over the past 3 years. I started stroking her hair gently to let her know I was there.

"Ms. Morgan?"

 - "Yes's me."


 - "What are you doing sweetheart?"

"I don't even know. I don't know what I took. Is there a girl on the couch?"

 - "Yes. She is asleep."

"Oh man. I thought she would be gone."

 - "Sweet girl. I've been so worried about you."

"You left and you never came back."

 - "Oh but I did, but when I came back you were had run away. I told you even though we moved I would always be here. I'm here now"

(She looked up and started stroking my hair)
"I guess people go their seperate ways, We thought we were never gonna hear from you. But you were the only one that called.. Yeah....I know you were looking for me too. My friends told me."

-"Do you know why I do what I do today?"


-"Because of you. You were the first dreamer. Everytime I see a student now, I think of you. What happened to your dreams?"

(she sat upright on the bed)
"I don't know. I'm about to get really mad."

-"Why? At who?"

"At myself. Why did I let myself get to this point? I don't even know why I'm doing what I'm doing."

-"It's never too late sweet girl. I believe in you. You are talented. Beautiful. You have SO much ahead of you, but you have to choose it. It's not easy, but it's worth it. Let's go get some fresh air."

We stepped outside and stood by my car and talked awhile longer. I looked up to see a teenager standing in the window of the abandoned house across the street throwing up gang signs and then causing the sounds of a taser shock. My girl said, "oooo I should have beat him yesterday, he's always standing over there with a gun in his pants acting all cool."

I took a deep breathe and gave her a hug and told her I would be back in a few weeks to check on her.
She asked me if she could come back to Savannah with me. I told her she had to start making some wise choices and get off the drugs before she came home with me but we could revisit the conversation later.

I drove home with another girl who we have walked through the fire with and thankfully come out the other side. Through a cracked voice and tear brimmed eyes I said, "I'm proud of you." She said, "Why, Mama Morgan?"  I replied with..."I just am. Papa Glenn and I are so proud of you."

I dreamed of being able to say that to the student whom I'd just left coming off of her high, praying that there was a next time to be able to say it.

It reiterated to me how important it is for these kids to have a consistent and  positive someone in their life.  It reminded me of the power of prayer and how I need to be on my face before God on their behalf daily. It reminded me that I am not a savior to anyone and that only the true Savior can create a life change that they need.

Not every story is a fairy tale ending, but showing up, reminding them of what they can not see and keeping hope alive is sometimes all you can do and leave it in God's hands.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When the Adrenaline Runs Out and You're Left With, "No, I'm Not Okay."

Remember that time recently when I smiled and said, "I'm fine, everything is great" .....?

I was probably lying. Forgive me.

I feel like I live in this tension of making life and what we do "happy, happy, joy, joy" for supporters and the community (because who wants to support a complainer)  and on other days, the desire to scream "THIS IS SO FREAKING HARD AND LONELY AND MAY I PLEASE QUIT?!"(And when I attempt to, I usually go back and delete my comment or status).

Last night  I found myself spilling out my gut wrenching feelings to a few ladies and I was met with the unexpected..."What can I do? How can I help? I'm glad I know how to pray. Thank you for sharing the hard stuff because it makes you and what you do more human."

And oh how human I am. So I'm practicing real on my blog today.

I sent my husband a text message yesterday that said, "Can we please move to St. Augustine? I'll give red train tours and you can give boat tours." I was only half joking. 

Running....far away. It's what I want to do sometimes. The above came after a few very stressful weeks of ministry, failed attempts at self-care, no defined boundaries in a ministry of crisis care to kids and watching myself slide over the edge.

In so many ways we parent kids on a daily basis: we provide food, clothes, tutoring, emotional support, and sometimes....I forget that they are not my kids. I love them fiercely and worry about them, pray for them, laugh and cry with them. When they get sassy or hurts. It hurts because I can't really discipline and I'm not talking about spanking or anything physical (I would never...), but I can't follow through on the needed ways to show them that there are consequences. So what did I do last week when a girl I have mentored for over a year and invested everything into reponded in a completely disrespectful and sassy way? I had a mom moment. I took my finger tips and turned her chin towards me and said, "look at me when I'm talking to you." Eye contact.....they refuse to make it but I needed her to not only hear me but see me. She took the opportunity that I've always feared and so carefully avoided  in dealing with kids. She laughed in my face and then started saying, "Did you see her try to choke me?" REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!  It was also met by my realization that only her siblings and cousins were around to back up her story. So,  I spent the next 48 hours in complete fear, envisioning my life in prison (probably an overreaction and convinced myself there was no way I would survive it), wondering when were the cops were going to come haul me in for something I did not even do. The fear was real. I have never in my life felt that kind of intense anxiety. I finally went over to their house to face the fear head on and was met with smiles like nothing ever happened. (again...REALLY?!?) 

This came on the same week that we had four other kids coming to shower and do laungry at our house because they had no running water and their electricity was set to be shut off at any moment (This has since been taken care of), but every day for a week and a half the mom called me in desperation about her situation and scared DFCS was going to come and take her kids away and what could I do? This also met by trying to help the kids shower and do laundry on the down low because kids can be cruel, even if they may be facing the same thing.

Incarnational Ministry. I'm still trying to figure it out. How do we live in the midst of our community and be a light and safe place and still have boundaires. I think we are often seen as a local ministry or non profit, but we have always considered ourself full time missionaries more than anything, because we are IN IT 24/7, It was manageable with 12 kids, but now there are more like 45-50 and their families. Estabilishing boundaries and expectations with parents we are helping is tough. When the expectations are ignored, we have to follow through on the tough conversations and the consequences that go with them except they don't just effect the parents, it effects the whole family.

Supporting kids without enabling will always be the biggest struggle.

So....for those who say, "I don't know how you do it..." Neither do I. Only by the grace of God becaues in my humanness..I am simply that. Human. I feel all of the emotions. All of the frustation. All the worry. All the exhaustion. Some days....all the desire to run.  But I know we are in this place and situation for a reason. God is daily refining me to become more like Christ and in this context is where He is doing the sifting and refining. 

This was my scary post. The one where I say..."I do not have it all together, I am not superhuman."  And while I can let my mind run wild with all of the thoughts people may have, this is my truth.
 My real. No one elses. 

When I'm going through these moments, my first reaction is to reach out because its what I know I need. My second reaction follows very quickly in that I withdraw because even though its what I need, I don't want to put out the energy that comes with engaging. Been there?

So people who ask, "how can I help? What can I do?" I'm REALLY good at asking for others, here's my attempt at personal requests: (I'm going to bet this goes for any missionary friends!) So here is my: How to love on a full-time missionary list:

1. Pray. Not a cop out answer. Jesus is the only one who can sustain us and He is the provider of all things both materially and spiritually so in all seriousness, PLEASE add us to your prayer list. We need prayer warriors daily.

2. Love on us.  I cringe as I even write those words because I am a giver to a fault. Accepting, even though I have to, is hard. God has made it so that we literally survive each day on the generosity of others so I'm having to learn to speak what I need. Invite us to have dinner with your family.  Ask us to coffee. Treat us to a movie or concert. Send us a quick text, email or card in the mail that simply says, "Thinking of You." You have no idea how the little things sometimes get us through the hard days. The only way we truly get to breathe is to leave the neighborhood. Shutting the door to the House of Dreams does not work. If they know we are there, the knocking will not ever stop. So if you have a vacation home that is sitting empty somewhere and wouldn't mind allowing us to get away for a few is so amazing to change the atmophere and reconnect. Pastors get sabbaticals and we are going to start scheduling some regular time out of the neighborhood in order to be sustained for the long haul.

3. Spread the Word. The best way for others to know about the ministry in our community is for you to tell them. Share our website. Invite us to speak at your church or business event. We WILL travel. The more people who know, the more people can be involved, the more lives we can impact, and the better resourced we will be to carry out the call. We sometimes think we are one of Savannah's best kept community secrets, but we want to change that. An ad about The Dream Campaign is on pg 158 of the Oct/Nov issues of Savannah Magazine. If you find yourself in doctors office, open it up to that page and leave it there ;)

4. Give as you can or feel led.  It's just a fact that we can only do what we do because God's people are generous. We have gone from 10-12 students weekly in the beginning of the year to closer to 45-50 now. If they all showed up at one time we'd probably have 75-80 kids in our yard for youth group. We are at a point where we could run after school programs and summer programs, but we need space and staff. That stuff costs money. We have our eye on a piece of property by the House of Dreams where we dream of building a center that could house youth group on the cold and rainy days and provide a space big enough to contain our entire group of kids for community programs. We are also trusting God that we can start receiving a directors salary this next year. Up to this point we have received no salary for running the Dream Campaign because it is what we felt the Lord leading us to do to get it up and running. We would love to be able to rent a little house in our neighborhood that is the Paddock Home where we can shut the door at night while still being a part of the community and keep the House of Dreams for strictly ministry space. One time gifts and monthly sponsorships are so greatly appreciated. Pray about being a part of our ministry financially. If God directs you in that manner, you can find the "Donate" button on our website:  
All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you for reading and hearing my heart. Please hear me when I say I LOVE where we are and what we do. Just keepin it real ;)