May - Foster Care Awareness Month

I sat in my oversized (and probably overpriced) leather chair with my bible in my lap. I was quiet and contemplative, seeking relief from the anxiety that comes from loving broken children without the tempting safety of aloofness. So much anger and so much sadness. So much trauma and so much need. So much childhood ravaged and gone forever. Eleven year-old women. Baby fat still adorning their cheeks, while they have been sexually exploited by their own mother's. So many empty places that just needed a REAL momma or a daddy to step in, and give their "yes". They do not need an adult who, in a terribly untrue sense of martyrdom, bursts on the scene in a self-adorned messianic cloak. These kids need adults who (as Ann Voskamp so beautifully puts it) can do the "hard and holy things". Adults who will, like Jesus, do what the Father asks even when it's not your most idyllic life-plan.  When a life in semi-obscurity, as a soccer mom/dad would be more like “something you have a peace about”. Let’s be honest, Jesus admitted in the scriptures that he did not want to go to the cross. He knew how hard it was going to be. But, he submitted  to His Father’s plan, and did it anyway...for us. This is the kind of commitment that Michigan’s foster youth need!

Did you know that foster girls are the most vulnerable population in our country when it comes to commercial sexual exploitation. Girls who have no belonging will accept scraps of family from a pimp with a readiness that makes American's believe that these kids are choosing this life. It is a much easier filing system for us that ensures they don't need intervention or rescue, when we can tell ourselves that this is the life they want. These are children without options. When we don't have options (either known or perceived), we make terrible choices from desperation. This is true for all of us.

Her braids and bright pink beads might cause an onlooker to assume that her childhood is in tact, and that her innocence is still securely hers. You wouldn't know when you look her beautiful, broad smile squarely on, that she was beat constantly for smuggling her chewed-up food to her siblings who were being punished. Siblings who, once evaluated at the hospital, were found to be in the advanced stages of starvation. This sweet girl sabotages any personal progress because she is raging against the idea of ever being happy without her siblings. She will not...cannot leave her five siblings behind. Could I? Could you?  At times, because safety and predictability are so uncomfortable for her, she thinks she would rather languish in a shelter for Michigan's foster children, eating "jail food" and wearing jail-issued jumpsuits, seeing her siblings once a month, than to ever be happy while they are not with her. Always a big sister. Always the last to present a need. Never showing a hint of vulnerability. Never getting sucked in to excitement or's too risky. Still the little-momma. She has always is so tough for her to see her sweet little sister cling to a foster parent at the sibling visits each month. This new mother that is now meeting her little sister's needs. Doesn't her little sister need her to be the 8 year-old momma, anymore? She can hardly bear it. Isolation and anger are her allies.

There is another young lady who presents calmly and with a demure personality. She is put together and sensible. She is quiet and self-controlled...or is that a learned, calculation? Is that truly calmness, or a lethargy brought on by years of sexual abuse that would prove to be her own "boot camp" for prostitution? Maybe it's a depression and weariness from the sheer exaustion of the two year court battle where her mother showed up as a character witness AGAINST her, and FOR her own daughter's rapist. You wouldn't know if you interacted with her, in the luxury of shallow acquaintance, that she has a self-loathing that remains in absolute control of her mind. You wouldn't know that she wants desperately to be dead. You wouldn't know that she has a sense of worthlessness that bullies her relentlessly. The verbal beatings, and sexual abuse she endured has imprinted her with labels in the most indelible of inks. She can breeze through just about any room undetected and flies through her schooling in the same way. It’s like her superpower! "Don't stand out." "Don't be an outlier." "Be average, and stay off everyone's radar." But, we see her. She is known. She is healing. She is NOT invisible.

These are the girls who are the most "at-risk" for a life under the control of a pimp and forced commercial sexual exploitation, in America. So many erroneously wonder why "these girls" don't just leave. Why do they stay? The idea of victimization is not as easy for us to accept when society demonizes these children as willing participants who choose that life, or even like it. The age of consent is the same for Elizabeth Smart as it is for one of these sweet girls who end up in a commercially sexually exploitive situation. But, there are no middle or upper class parents to go on Nancy Grace and beg for help. These girls are widely minorities who come from extreme poverty and, in large part, remain invisible...last I checked, a child was a child - even if their childhood was violently stolen!

We can and must do more! We do not have the luxury of looking away! Join us in this fight for commercially sexually exploited foster youth. The pimps are rightly counting on the fact that Americans don't care! Often, for these kids, the only real kindness that they are looking for is the absence of violence. They need a frame of reference for being treated with love and value. We can do that. You can help do that for even one girl!


Maggie Dunn, Co-Founder and Director of House of Providence 


She Took My Breath Away

I’ve had my breath taken away a time or two in this privileged life I’ve been given!

As a child, I remember being outside on very frigid Michigan winter days, and the whipping wind would actually take my breath away. Standing on the sledding hill that we called "Bald Mountain", I  struggled to inhale. As I trudged through the snow, hauling a sled (that was usually bogged down with a sibling or two), I remember feeling breathlessness, and pulling up my scarf so that my inhales would be filtered through the warmth of the damp wool.

As an adult, so overcome with love, I held my very breath as I held my sweet babies. Caressing them. Some snuggled fetal with porcelain skin, some a bit older with a milky caramel tone and others (the smallest human I’d ever held) with ebony skin as flawless as the night sky. I could stare at them for hours... and if they caught my breath just right, it would take their very own breath away for just a moment. If we went outside on a windy day, I was so careful to keep them covered with something gauzey that would not allow the wind on their sweet faces. Their breathing was airy, and fragile, and any draft could cause them to gasp as their breaths were stolen right out of their chests.

Throughout life there are moments that take your breath away. Moments that mark you, and you are never the same.

                                    *                            *                          *
Anxiously, I walked into the agency in Pontiac. I shifted into another mental gear and braced myself a bit. I knew that I was going to meet the youngest child that I had ever considered for placement at HOP. In her vapor-of-a-life, here on this planet, she had only known torment, trauma, starvation, abandonment and neglect. I was braced. I was a professional. I was ready.

As soon as my eyes met the eyes of this wispy child, she ran to me. I was struck by how very tiny she was. Even for seven, she was slight. She clumsily bounded onto me for a hug. I was so honored to oblige. She was trembling. She matter-of-factly asked if I was the one that was going to "try to be her momma, this time".  I suddenly found myself in another breathtaking, life-altering moment. I choked back my shock, and I changed the subject. I stammered and trembled right back. I was NOT ready

We hugged, and I’m certain that we both felt the weight of it.

She has autism. She is naive and trusting. She has a very disorganized attachment style from her trauma and extreme neglect. She feels communal and doesn't know where, or to whom she belongs. She talks to everyone about every fleeting thought. She doesn’t understand our adult pretentiousness. She doesn't take (or even notice) social cues. She has never met a stranger and she wants everyone to feel like sunshine and puppy dogs when they are in her presence. She doesn’t know that there are things that are too off-putting to say out loud, in America...and I am glad. Her authentic conversations are convicting, and I need them! We all do!

Standing in the sterile and professional conference room, I awkwardly regained my breath and composure. Still choking back my racing emotions, I fixed my face. There is nothing that can brace you (if you are half human with a pulse) to meet an orphan face-to-face, who asks for anyone to step up and be her mother. How do you answer a child when she asks if you want to be her momma? If you have never faced this, you can't begin to know the way it punches you in the gut! I have been asked this question by so many of our girls, and it never gets easier.

We walked to the table, and she sat right down on my lap. We looked through the new backpack and began to chat about all of the new school supplies that she had just received. She chattered on and on and was enamored with her new ruler. I could have listened to her for hours. She has a sweet tone and a memory that rivals any savant. Together, we measured everything in sight. Her joy was contagious and her aloneness was overwhelming. The dichotomy of feelings in that single meeting was a  nightmare for my (quite robust) mental filing system!

Seven years old. Alone. No momma. No daddy. No one to care about her school concert (not to mention the kakhi skirt that was "required"). Never a daddy daughter dance. Never a birthday cake. Never a gentle lullaby with her name in it. Only a fight to stay alive and away from the predators that lurked. A survival mode so primal and prolonged that her adrenals are worn plain out! How could we say no? We were technically “ full” at HoP. Weren’t we already doing "our part"? But, how could we ever sleep at night knowing that our “no” would send this vulnerable seven-year-old to a Detroit shelter where 17 and 18 year olds fear for their very safety?

Still sitting in that conference room (multitasking, as any good momma can) we were measuring every pencil in her case, and I began texting our team. I texted Jason and asked him to please put up another bed. I felt an urgency and I could not leave without knowing she would soon be coming into the faithful arms of the momma's at HoP. We would receive this sweet baby as soon as possible.

Of course, our team shot into action!  You see, we have the most sturdy and tender women that there ever were. They love big and hold nothing back. They love Jesus and work hard. They trust that if the Lord asks us to do it, He will equip us. They assembled the most well thought out welcome bag, and gathered new toys. They purchased new bedding and comforters and made sure every detail was just right! They prepared the other girls and everyone held their collective breath until the day we would welcome our sweet little! We know, at House of Providence, when we work together we can do really hard things! We knew this would not be easy… this taking in a feral child who knows nothing of boundaries, structure or safety… but, we did not sign up for easy.

This little has been with us for months now, and she is the light of our house! We persevere and we wait! She waits. We all wait...for her mommy and daddy to come forward. This is what we do at HoP. Until every child has a home...

-Maggie Dunn, Director of House of Providence

Families Needed

She sat sullen on our couch waiting for her "interview". Another child,  not even a teenager yet, who is alone on the planet. Another girl who had been sexually abused and brutalized - mentally, physically and emotionally. Her matted braids and slight frame showed no signs of thriving. She couldn't muster a smile. She blinked incessantly to shun the tears that were defying her steely stance. I took a deep breath and approached her with a careful cadence that would offer no surprises, so as not to startle or trigger her.


Every time that I interview a girl for our program, I prepare myself so that I am extremely aware of my facial expressions and body language. The things that the children say are often shocking and their life experiences are jarring, but I cannot let on that I feel that way. I smile, but try not to over do it. I appear relaxed, but I definitely am not. I engage them as much as they can endure. Even a gentle hand on their forearm, as it rests on the table, can be a reminder of their abuse. Physical touch, for girls who have suffered such acute and prolonged physical and sexual abuse, is never without horrifying reminders.


We began to chat and she never relaxed. I asked about her favorite colors, foods and television shows. She answered in rote as though she were trying to get every answer "right". As the interview went on, she began to share, quite matter-of-factly, about her brother's death and her grandfather's abusive treatment. She shared how the two tries at adoptions just hadn't "worked out". She was completely shut down and her affect was totally flat. She had methodically and successfully shut her emotions down. She was in protection mode and did what was necessary to survive.


She arrived for her "move in day", and she was extremely tense. She choked back sobs and pretended as though she didn't care about anything. It didn't matter how many gifts we had given her or how many hugs we offered, she did not budge. She was determined to remain isolated and hold-up inside of her own psyche. Her muscles were hard as rocks and her shoulders could've carried the weight of the world...and it seems they did. Her world crumbled...again, and she found herself entering another unknown. She was being "placed" into a residential facility. This fate is reserved for the most profoundly traumatized children in foster care. How was this her story? How had she gotten here? Just 24 days ago a family had promised that they would adopt her and be her "forever". Forever seemed to be much shorter than she had hoped for. 


She settled in to the routine at HOP. Her first months dragged on and they were not easy (for any of us). She was (understandably) angry and she let everyone know it! She didn't trust us and she made it known almost every moment. She didn't owe us her trust and we were determined to earn it. Almost like it snuck up on all of us, momentum was suddenly on our side! She began catching up in school and believing what we said. She decided to try trusting one. more. time. She began discovering herself. She realized that she loved coffee (pretty much a prerequisite at HOP) and that she was extremely athletic. She quickly discovered that she was the best dancer, and that her sarcasm, previously used to keep others away, was actually a natural hilarity that brought belly laughs to the house! She reluctantly joined a basketball team and much to her own surprise, she shined and made basket after basket.


Slowly, but surely, this child's ego strength was building. She was processing her trauma in therapy and reframing it as a profound tragedy that she endured because of the brokenness of others. She trepidatiously accepted that her story and trauma weren't things that befell her because she was so easy to hate and abuse. The shadow that darkened every interaction had dissipated and she was lighter, somehow. She was becoming bubbly. This angry girl who could only cling to hate as her safety net to protect from any intimacy that would result in ANOTHER rejection, was transforming into the most conscientious sister in the house who gave encouragement and hugs like they were going out of style! Forgiveness was now her freedom! 


Two years later and she is well and she is kind. She is funny and she is a GREAT soccer player. She was the center forward and she scored nearly every weekend. She is doing great in school and she has learned how to authentically cry when she is hurting. She is active in our therapeutic groups and recalls her mile markers of growth. She tenderly encourages the other girls who are not quite as far along in their journey. 


Won't you please consider opening your home to a kid like this? There are so many opportunities to wrap your arms around a girl who just needs a chance. A girl who just needs a family and a bedroom to call her own. A girl who just wants to be chosen and wanted. A girl who needs her "forever family" to really mean FOREVER

And The Soul Felt It's Worth

When your early years of life are filled with horrors and atrocities, too awful for sharing, your sense of self is extremely skewed. You may believe that you have somehow deserved the abuse...the neglect...the beatings and stomping...the utter starvation of soul and body. Even though this is inherently NOT true, it takes so much time and intentionality to help a child relearn their true value. It takes time for them to believe us when we tell and show them that they are of incomparable worth. That their value is far above rubies. Love has such a foreign cadence that feels awkward and easier to avoid.

When Christmas rolls around, we think of the beauty of all that Jesus did to come to us...abide with us. We try to live that way at HoP. We try to just abide in the places of suffering and bring triage to the soul and relief to the spirit of our girls. We do all that we can to establish new memories of happiness and worth. We struggle to swing that nasty pendulum of harsh words and even more harsh hands, to the other side where tenderness is felt and life is spoken.

We have parties galore and there are more cookies and treats than it would be humanly possible to consume. We decorate and shop. We use oils and candles that trigger new brain responses to new memories. We play Christmas carols for MUCH longer than the staff would, if they had their druthers! We do crafts and look at toy catalogs.

As we all sat together at our Christmas party this past Sunday evening, I looked around the room at our board and staff, and their spouses. I was overcome with utter gratitude for the willingness of these mamas and warriors to believe that there IS better for our sweet girls. This group of men and women fight in their own God-assigned way, to see that HoP moves forward and that more children are rescued. Over the past eighteen months, 14 of our 19 girls are slated for a PERMANENT exit from foster care. This is remarkable and we are grateful to be a small part of the Lord's plan for redemption.

Surrounded by coffee, warriors and desserts, and in the glow of low restaurant lighting, Quela began to sing, in a way that only she can. She sang: "O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till HE appeared and the soul felt it's worth...". She continued on with the timeless lyrics, and everyone was captivated! One staff member held one of our girls on their lap. Another wrangled our seven year old from an attempted escape to the vestibule. Our fourteen year old was mezmerized by Miss Quela's voice. The room was peaceful and holy.

I was a certain kind of mess, though. I was not able to focus, or be in the moment. I couldn't move on. I was completely undone. "YESSSS"! I thought to myself! It hit me as never before! "That is exactly IT! We work at HoP every day for exactly THAT!!"


As we drove down sidestreets, we wove in and out to avoid debris and poorly parked clunkers. I am great at small talk, and I engaged this girl relentlessly. She has been at House of Providence for almost a year, and knows me well enough to know that resisting my chit-chatting is pointless.

She has known rejection so deep, that I don't have words to properly sort it for you. She has exhibited a courage so great, that she, quite  literally, left it all on the court (or in the courtroom, as the case may be). This six month long excercise in bravery, that her life circumstances had forced her into, had left her so depleted, that she hardly had a will to live. We watched her constantly to ensure that she was safe from her own hand. Giving up is not an option at House of Providence, even if we have to carry them for a period of time.

I tend to be a little "Pollyanna" and I am  aware that it can be obnoxious. I am constantly  searching for even the tiniest sign of sunshine in the darkest storms. Some days hope is all we have.  Normally, I'm pretty good at dragging our sweet girls into my hope filled, sappy ways.  This particular day as we "shot the breeze", the weather was just becoming tepid. All of Detroit was emerging from the slumber of winter and spring was teasing us with beautiful days at least once a week.  As we drove, I put the windows down and let the fresh breeze blow through her hair that stretched all the way down her back.  She also has these sweet, short, curly little wispy hairs that frame her face, and rest on her head like a crown.

As we drove and enjoyed the wind on our faces, I could smell smoke from people burning leaf piles in their yards.  Nostalgically, I commented on the smell that was  impossible to miss. "Oh, that smell reminds me of campfires and Smore's!"

 She looked at me wide-eyed, speaking to me before her voice even gave sound.  Sadly, she recalled:  "it reminds me of when we lived in an abandoned house that burned down."

I was slapped out of Pollyanna-land, and into the painful reality that so many of our girls live in. Our frame of reference and perspective shape everything. Our senses don't forget.  I am constantly  reminding myself  that behavior always performs a function; that there is a reason our girls act and react in the way that they do.  I try to  remember this so that grace can flow more easily from my reactions. Sometimes keeping up with their "whys" can be exhausting and sometimes it can be downright confusing. But, I have come to realize, that the way I react and my frame of reference for life is  just as confusing for them.  If I can step out of my ego-centric view of the world long enough, I might just be able to see it "their way" and react with empathy and understanding.


The sun shining down brightly, sharply juxtaposed the darkness of the garbage bags that contained what was left of her world. She lethargically exited the state vehicle and walked toward our door. Her tear-stained face was mustering every ounce of bravery that she had left in her small frame. We are all too familiar with this hollow look and sullen gate. When little girls need us, it means that terrible things have happened to them-things that are largely unspeakable. When the authorities ask for our help, it means that they have nowhere else to turn for shelter or help for this child. We gladly, but soberly, say "yes"!

Often, potency is lost over time in repetition of activity. This was the fiftieth time that we had welcomed a girl into the House of Providence, and somehow the potency of her immense grief and chasms of loss were still just as intense for everyone. The palpable pain was just as intense as on that cold day in February of 2014 when we welcomed our very first girl.

Fifty harrowing stories, later. Fifty foster kids. Fifty broken families. Fifty children shattered. Fifty hearts unnecessarily busted.

As each new girl walks through our doors, we decide to be brave enough to hope! We go to great lengths to prepare their favorite meal, a welcome bag that is tailored just for them (including use of their favorite colors, a NEW iPod with positive music in their requested genre, NEW pajama's, robe and slippers, several NEW outfits, NEW shoes, NEW purse, NEW accessories, well organized and personalized NEW hygiene items, and so much more!) and what's more, we provide a comforting, safe, soft place to land in what may very well be their darkest day.

Fifty reasons to show up! Fifty treasures with spice and grit. Fifty personalities and boundless gifts. Fifty smiles and one hundred ears for us to fill with words of life - words that help to replace the lies of disdain that have been spoken over them for years. Fifty girls who we tenderly tuck in, night after night.

Fifty! A milestone that is nothing short of a privilege and an honor that requires "the audacity to hope" (Rob Morris, Love146)! Celebrate with us as we embark on this new chapter of expansion! Join us at our Wishes Gala and partner with us as we reach the next fifty girls. We cannot wait to open our doors to the disabled foster youth, and the young men and boys who desperately need our services, as well!

 Cedar Point May 2017 #NewMemories 

Cedar Point May 2017 #NewMemories 

What If?

I walk into the office on a cold January morning. I am not even out of my sleeping bag of a coat. A messy tantrum is in full swing. This was not new. This was not rare. She could go from zero to sixty in 2.2 seconds, without even breaking a sweat. Her gear shifting abilities were akin to a high performance sports car. The revving of her engine was obvious and unstoppable. Her feral attributes were devastating to watch. These special "skills" were highly developed and she is not able to surrender them. She has learned that her survival is dependent on them. The anecdotal snippets that she shares about her little decade on this planet are altogether alarming. Some of her experiences seemed so sensationalized that it went beyond unnatural and ventured into the impossible. Horrifyingly, they were not only possible and true, they were her reality. 

There is something so unnatural about a mother rejecting the fruit of her own womb with such aggression, that her child is acutely aware of it. There is something so life-altering about a mother choosing an inanimate intimacy with heroin over a love that should be shared with her child.  There is something so debilitating about being denied life's necessities so that those monies can fuel the mind-numbing habits of a mother who is decaying right before you. A mother's protection should be unstoppable. When it is quite "stoppable", something irreparable is done in the heart of her child.

I can't help but wonder what these unhinged attributes could have been without the trauma, abuse and neglect. The chaos had formed her. What if love had built her? I wonder what her agility and quickness could have been. Could she be the unstoppable soccer player loved by her teammates and celebrated by her coaches? Could her acumen for manipulation, instead, have been a brilliance nurtured that allowed her to become the valedictorian. Would she have received a full-ride scholarship to the University of her dreams? Could her aggression, instead, have been a strength that propelled her into a future with confidence and boldness fearing no one? How about her amazing and complex grasp on the english language (especially the most vulgar words and assaulting phrases that she could sling together on a moments notice)? Could she have been a renowned orator with a litany of TED Talks, or an author? So many possibilities hijacked by the daily terrors of abuse and neglect. 

Hope flickers dimly in her eyes. I fear that the light may go out completely. Her fragility is obvious and needs no introduction. Her anger bullies her. We will bring felt-safety, consistency, love and boundaries to the table every day. I long for the day that she "lets go" and begins to feast.


Foster Care  

She is quick

She ran into my heart

I am unable to extricate her

  *Pictured above: a rare glimpse of her happiness and compliance while decorating for Christmas.

*Pictured above: a rare glimpse of her happiness and compliance while decorating for Christmas.

Let's Be Thankful

Anxiety and strife are the norm for our precious girls. There are, very LEGITIMATELY,  so many things in this world to worry about. How much more for a child who is abandoned and alone on the planet! When they come to us, they cry (for some) for days. They are so filled with fear and anxiety.  All we can do is wait. We patiently wait for them to take the risk, and believe that maybe, just maybe, we could be who we say we are. Maybe we really are kind and maybe we do love them with no personal agenda for gain. We long for them to relax a bit and feel the whimsy of childhood. We pray for them to rest in the fact that they are safe, now. We can see it just beyond their grasp, and it pains us when they are so bound by fear that they cannot experience the "felt-safety" of their new home.


This is exactly what the Lord is doing for me every single day. Waiting patiently for me to realize that He is GOOD and that all that He does is GOOD. He is for me and He is kindness personified. If only I would rest fully in that, I could finally relax in Him knowing that I am a fully vested child of God. Not an outsider that is tolerated. That I indeed, have a seat at my Father's table. 


The antidote to this fear-riddled way of life is THANKFULNESS! . If we come to the Lord with our concerns, and if we remember to keep our hearts grateful, we will be taking the leap of trusting Him, without even realizing it. Before you know it, you'll be learning a new normal way of living. A way of life that refuses to focus on the "what-if's" of sorrow and dread, but instead chooses to perseverate on the goodness of God and the wonderful gifts in our lives! Take your seat at His table today, and be grateful! 


Happy Thanksgiving! 

The Call

The cell service was intermittent, only allowing me to hear every other word at best.  A raspy voice was on the other end. The young woman overused the word "like" in her nervousness. I engaged in the back-and-forth of: "can you hear me?...hello?...oh, wait, there! I can hear you, now!" Eventually one of us entered an area where the service was much better. The conversation kept it's awkward cadence, but continued.

The voice on the other end bled with emotion. This sweet girl, that was now on the line and grasping for words, had a love repellent so highly developed and unlike any I had ever experienced. She consistently repelled people and love out of her abandonment and grief. She was not a mean or violent person. She was a child, whose brokenness had left her so desperate and alone that she could not afford herself the luxury of any other emotion besides anger. You see, other emotions leave you vulnerable and open to more pain. But not anger. Anger builds walls of false security. Walls that masquerade as safety. This empty sense of control, in reality, is a lonely place riddled with sorrow. When anger is consistently indulged, you become confined within it's unforgiving fortress and you feel utterly helpless to free yourself. Trapped. When anger is your bully, you enter a cycle that robs you of love and dismantles your hope.

The brave caller simply needed to hear me say the words: "I forgive you." I quickly explained that I loved her, and that forgiveness was not needed. I went on to tell her that I thought of her often and only with fondness. She was unhindered in her quest for the phrase that would be a balm to her weary heart. She was unrelenting. I acquiesced. "Yes. Of course I forgive you" I said.  She exhaled loudly, and seemed quite unaware of it.

I went on to make small talk and ask about her life and goals. She talked about meeting siblings that she never knew she had. She talked about her new apartment. It was lovely to hear her speak with a smile. She aged out of Michigan's foster care system, and her reference to that milestone was revealing. She said with a haunting pride (pride in the fact that she "made it" and the system didn't kill her - not all foster youth are so lucky fortunate) "I'm free now, Miss Maggie!".  I lovingly added (not revealing the lump in my throat), "Yes, I know, honey. I'm proud of you."

As we wrapped up the small talk, she seemed uneasy. Something hung in the air and I waited for it to unfold. She sped up the gate of her conversation and sounded like someone who was very serious about their pending request. She began to talk about the promotional video for the House of Providence that was online. She sputtered a jumble of words that I listened to intently. She begged me not to EVER take the promotional video off of the internet. She explained to me that we were the only family that she had ever really experienced. The video was what "tucked her in" every night. She spent time with us, her family, each night by watching the video and then (and only then) was she able to drift off to sleep. "If you take it down, I won't be able to go on." This was not a dramatization. This was a fact. I promised. She relaxed.

After I hung up the phone, I thought back to the times when, as a young child, I would lay and wait for my mom and dad to come to my room. I fought against that sleep so hard. I didn't want to miss their hug or kiss and the comforting "tuck-in". I think of all of the children who wait tonight, with no parent on their way. I think of the children who lay alone in bed, and alone on this planet. Lord Jesus, tuck them in tight and bathe their minds with Your comfort. Thank you for letting us be Your hands and arms to tuck in those that we can.


Sheepish from the abuse (that she believes tells her truth), she looked up at me hoping that I wouldn’t catch her fleeting glance. She was so determined to reject me, but her heart was betraying her. I prayed for breakthrough. It has not yet come, but still I wait.
She screamed and scratched while demanding that we pack her things so that she could run away to find her “mother”. After wearing herself out, she snuggled and sobbed. This baby-girl lay sweaty and soul weary - grateful that we had not acquiesced. 
Anger rages and abandonment falsely frames every. single. interaction. There they remain, listless and unable to risk the vulnerability brought by the audacity of hope. To live life as someone that is only tolerated is an unbearable burden that crushes foster children. This childhood prison is a thief that relentlessly returns over and over to snuff out hope, intimacy and the ability to bond. 
1 disdain 
noun dis·dain \dis-ˈdān\
Definition of disdain
: a feeling of strong dislike or disapproval of someone or something you think does not deserve respect.
If you’ve ever showed up to a gathering where the host was not expecting you, then you understand the awkwardness of feeling like you don’t belong in a place or at that party. It feels like everyone is rushing around to make room for you, but you weren't expected or initially "wanted" there. Can you imagine with me, the reality for foster children who KNOW this is true about their very existence? Children who KNOW that they are cast aside and only tolerated, NEVER celebrated. And we have the effrontery to wonder why the behaviors they exhibit attempt to shun everyone who comes emotionally near them. Understandably, the suicide rate is much higher in these children. The highly developed antisocial traits have proven to be the only comfort they find in controlling the inevitable rejection. It is far easier to survive a (perceived) controlled rejection, rather than riding each wave of rejection as it swamps them completely.  
At the House of Providence, we celebrate the very existence of each of our residents. We understand that we are not the “plan A” of their lives. We talk openly about this! We are not bullied by this fact, and we certainly don’t shy away from broaching the subject. We declare openly that we are going to do whatever we can to be the best “plan B” possible (and that they absolutely deserve)! We have to get pretty creative at HOP when trying to be this bestthat our girls need and deserve. Sometimes that looks like a quiet night in with a movie and healing laughter. Other times, this looks like REFUSING to give up on a child who is beggingyou to give up, with every defiant action that she can muster. Because, for her, loving us is just to dang risky!
What Michigan’s foster kids have endured, is not a reflection of who they are, and this is a difficult truth to convince them of. It can be equally as difficult to convince society of this truth. If perspective is reality, then we have a big paradigm to shift! Won’t you join us in our attempt?  


**Names are often changed in this blog to honor the dignity of our residents.


I walked up the shamefully uneven sidewalk toward the unmistakably secure institution. With each step I took, I noticed that the weeds had already begun to fill the cracks and were quietly announcing Spring. Hope can be seen anywhere, if you are searching. I approached the entrance of the emergency shelter for under-aged girls, as I have many times before. As usual, I am on the look-out for hope! Certain environments try to trick us into believing that hope is not here or cannot be found (and this awful shelter is certainly one of those places!). Today, the Lord would generously offer me an enormous helping of hope that would seek me out, and serenade me to a place of humility that would be leveling.


I signed in and waited for the young girl (the one that I would be interviewing as a possible resident at HoP) to be escorted in to the room where I was sitting. As I sat, I imagined and prayed. I always ask the Lord for His eyes, and great clarity. I already had a sense that this girl would be a perfect fit for our program. Our program requires a minuscule degree of internal readiness for change.  Did I mention minuscule? I literally mean minuscule! All we need is a teeny, tiny seedling of desire and we can nourish that thing to full bloom with: an ounce of the child's cooperation, all the unfailing love that we can muster (that is the love of God flowing through our frailty)  and immeasurable mounds of Supernatural healing!


As the loud turning of the doorknob startled me back to the present, the commercial safety door swung wide. The staff member (whom I have come to know and love) presented the brightest introduction that I had yet seen at this facility! "Hey Maggie! This is Angelina!" This young lady was a sturdy 5'6" and her smile immediately lit the room! Her hot pink, too small glasses were mangled and hanging by a thread lots and lots of scotch tape. It was obvious that her lens was quite strong, and that going without glasses was not an option if she were to manage on her own. Unfortunately, that's exactly where she has, ONCE AGAIN, found herself...alone.


She sat with a nervous excitement in the chair adjacent to me and made fleeting eye-contact. She knew why I was there. I could see the wonderings spinning in her mind...would she be "good enough"? Would she be acceptable? Would I want her? Still smiling, although much more sheepishly, she waited for me to engage and set the tone. As soon as we were alone, I began by warmly greeting her and making the room feel as safe as I could. I engaged her fear and addressed it head on. I complimented her from every angle, without patronizing her. She began to open up about her life and the death of her mother (when she was only three years old), and then two years later, the death of her guardian-her grandmother.  How she now, six years later, found herself back in foster care because the adoptive father had been abusing her and using her as "The Help". She had a dimly lit sense of self and it grew dimmer still as she reminisced about her past losses and trauma.


I sprinkled our undeniably formal chat with questions that would make her feel like the sweet, normal 14-year-old girl that she is. We talked about: favorite colors, boys, subjects in school that are a total drag, television shows, what makes her sad, her favorite food (ice cream!) and what three foods she would love to live without (broccoli, broccoli and broccoli)!  When children come from really hard places, and extreme neglect, food is a very. big. issue!


As our time together began  to wind down, I asked her if there was anything that she was really good at. She seemed to sit up a little straighter, and with a confidence that she had not yet revealed, she asked: "want me to show you?"  Of course I nearly jumped out of the chair at the offer.  She closed her eyes and solemnly cleared her throat.  She began to sing. I knew immediately that this was a MOMENT that I would not soon forget! She sang "I Smile", by Kirk Franklin.


 She started  her solo midway through the song with these lyrics:


Today's a new day, but there is no sunshine

Nothing but clouds, and it's dark in my heart

And it feels like a cold night

Today's a new day, where are my blue skies

Where is the love and the joy that you promised me

Tell me it's alright

I almost gave up, but a power that I can't explain

Fell from heaven like a shower

She proceeded to close it  out with: "I smile...See, I smile...Smile."  It was all I could do to maintain my composure in the sacred moment. I dared not burst into the ugly cry and recklessly bleed my selfish emotions all over her. This dear child, with her lap full of loss and  life full of trauma, was singing to me about why she smiles and her reason for hope.  I was disgusted with myself and the simplicity with which I become distracted by disappointment. Lord, please forgive me. I will try much harder to keep my holy "smile"! 


Audacity to Hope

Some days are filled with obvious and miraculous reasons for hope. Some days our girls are making therapeutic progress and embracing the love that we offer, with open arms. Some days the pre-teen girls sit together on the suite floor playing Barbie's and laughing with a heart that believes there is "better" ahead for them. Some days our teen girls actually get along, giggle about cute boys and beg to watch some ridiculous, mind-numbing reality show about dance moms. Some days feel hopeful and normal.

Other days don't offer much of anything in the way of reasons for hope. There are days when anger gets the best of a thirteen year old. She is so angry that she does not know how to gain control over all of the triggers from her abuse and memories of rape. When her anger bullies her, she ends up throwing a few punches and destroying several rooms, all while firing up the fear brain in our other girls, who thought domestic violence scenes were in their past.

Yet, on the darkest days, if you look close enough, you can see glimpses of hope. I have the audacity to hope. I hope, because I look into the prettiest, darkest eyes of a ten-year-old girl who is eager to move in to HOP because the Easter Bunny DOES show up here. She has all of her earthly possessions packed up shoved in this garbage bag and nervously picks at a hangnail trying to avoid eyecontact. Most of her things are torn and small. She loves these things and we treat them with the respect that a couture gown would receive. All of her items are washed, dried and neatly folded. They are then placed into her beautiful new dresser with crimson lined drawers. She is unsure and reactionary with reflexes that would outwit a feral cat. She is posturing mean and angry. That is ok with us. We WILL win her heart and help her heal. We believe in the "slow work of God" (Teilhard de Chardin), so we show up, day after day and love her well, because we have the audacity to hope for her future.




I receive court rulings, recommendations from foster care workers and reports about all of the "deficits that will be permanent" as a result of trauma, and they try to leave me breathless and angry. Hope often feels eclipsed, and it is not always readily discoverable. BUT, hope is there-just waiting for me to grab ahold and with all of the tenacity that I can muster, CHOOSE to remain hopeful. 


This is not the end. This present trouble is not the bitter end or the finale! I know WHO has the LAST WORD! I choose to walk around spreading Light to dispell darkness. I find it is MUCH more effective and productive than just making sure that everyone is "aware" of the darkness by announcing all of the hideous forms that it takes on. 


The room was dimly lit and smelled of lavender. The silence was soothing. We lay on our mats while Ms. Sarah read Isaiah 40. She read of hope and soaring like eagles. I soaked it in. Grateful.

It was our first yoga class at Living Waters. These young ladies who seem to have boundless energy (ONLY AFTER the "I will NOT get out of this bed" argument has been sufficiently waged). These young ladies who are always poised for a fight (physical or verbal) because that's what they have had to do. These young ladies who struggle to regulate reactions and emotions. These young ladies who just want to be "normal", whatever that is (they believe it is everything that they are not). These young ladies who are (albeit slowly) learning to be others-focussed and socially appropriate. These young ladies who walked trepidatiously into that Grosse Pointe yoga studio, stressed out about the possibility of doing it "wrong".  So unsure. So self-conscious.

I try to be very obvious about modeling how to do something that I know is brand new to them. I talk my way through the simplest of why's and what's as an attempt at empowerment. This takes the edge off and allows them to follow my lead. It also takes off the pressure of figuring it out. They begin to follow my lead and take their shoes off and place them on the shoe rack, as if this were old-hat! When I am sensitive to their deficits in experiences, and model with oversimplified clarity, they feel more at ease and more confident. When I see our girls try on confidence, it profoundly affects me EVERY TIME! Not taking one. single. thing. for granted, I mention as we walk into the small front office: "Oh, that's the delicious infused water for after our session, that I can't wait to drink once we are finished." Every girl responds in a way, as if to say: "yeah, of course...I was totally gonna wait until after our session to tie into that amazing-looking iced water!!!"  Feeble as I feel, it is my way of teaching them without making their extreme lack of experiential knowledge painfully obvious.

Our girls WANT to be well. They simply have no skills or ego strength to draw from. When our girls arrive, we first stabilize and build trust and then we work on developing a more robust sense of self (this is an amazingly arduous process that is altogether beautiful to witness!). Without this, they simply cannot withstand the restructuring and healing process. Frailty and fragility are the most paralyzing when you are trying to heal or process trauma! We believe in the development of STURDY girls at HOP!

As we concluded our yoga session with Ms. Sarah, she again read Isaiah 40 in a soft, sweet voice while the instrumental music lulled us to relaxation. I was laying in a room of survivors. Survivors who never give up...girls so full of depth and value that I am not even worthy to roll up their yoga mats. I laid there, sprawled out on my slate blue mat with aromatherapy spritzing over me. The tears were defiantly sneaking down my temples as I looked at the ceiling.  I could hardly take it all in. These girls who come to us in desperate need of emotional ICU, full of self-harming behaviors and suicidal ideations and couldn't make it through a single day without a massive meltdown...they were laying beside me in a completely relaxed pose after being silent for an hour of yoga...what fresh miracle was this? Hope is alive and change is in the air. I suddenly realized that they are not just survivors, they are overcomers!

We'd Love To Have Her

"She's a thirteen year old permanent state ward.", they said, factually. "She's had quite a few failed placements.", they said. "She can be a sweet kid, but she is pretty tough to manage.", they said. "If you don't want her, she will probably stay in lockdown because that's all we have." they said. "We'd love to have her!", I said!

"She's a 17 year old girl, who is currently staying at a shelter.", they said. "Her mom doesn't want her and will likely relinquish her rights to her next week.", they said. "We don't have anywhere to place her.", they said. "Our only option is lockdown.", they said."We'd love to have her!" I said.

"She's 16 and she's being kicked out of her foster home today." they said. "Her adoptive mother died last year and she's really struggling with some pretty serious anger." they said. "Her behaviors are pretty intense at times." they said. "We really have exhausted all of our options and we have no place for her." they said. "We'd love to have her!" I said.

"She is 14, almost 15, with no place to go and no family to speak of." they said. "She's a permanent  ward of the state." they said. "She is very depressed and won't participate in school." they said. "There is no real plan for her, and she doesn't have any hope of finding a family." they said. "We'd love to have her!" I said.

These are just a few of the introductions that are attached to the girls we GET TO do life with, here at HOP.  Move-in day at HOP always seems bleak and terrifying in the eyes of our girls at every. single. intake. We hold our secret hope (of what we know is possible for them) close to our chest so as not to FREAK them out when they first meet us. Every "first day" is filled with uncontrollable trembling and tears. We try to do a LOT more listening than "telling". Not one new girl comes in unscathed by the terrifying realization that she is at our mercy. Who are these new people? Will they abuse me, too? Will they feed me enough? Will they be mean?  Young girls, alone on the planet and desperate for a safe place to live. Desperate, because safety is something that has long eluded them. As we welcome them, we can hardly contain our hope for their future!  We hold it like a soda pop that has been shaken beyond the limit of its containers ability to hold it in.  We are probably much more obvious than we'd like to think!

All of the girls who live here and who have come to trust us, always greet the newcomers with cheer and expectation for what they now know "can be".  Hope is what we must infuse their shriveling souls with. It is the only antidote to this internal wasting away that is powerfully visible to the naked eye.  Hope is, however, not a luxury that these girls have been able to afford. They are too busy surviving and that takes just about every ounce of their will that they can muster.

We'd love to have her! That's the easy part. Intake does not even scratch the surface of the beginnings of what we do here at HOP. We have to be purposeful in maintaining the attitude that we really do  love having her. Every day. Good days. Bad days. Hard days. Messy days. Exhausting days. These are the days where we must continue to convey that we LOVE having her! The daily minutia is so important. It is how the Lord designed our lives to be played out; what our legacy will be. After all, our lives are the sum total of our moments. Our true purpose is not found in what we say is important to us, but what we prove is a priority for us. Michigan's suffering foster youth IS OUR PRIORITY!

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! 

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 TRULYstand 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! 



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.


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!

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.

Power In Consistency

There is a power held in simple, mundane consistency. That power can permeate our lives in every arena. We are gaining ground when we consistently move forward with no reward, and no evidence of victory. It is by faith that we trudge on. When we wield what is in our hands for the glory of God and the good of others, the Lord not only makes something beautiful come of it, but He also brings miracles through it.

The race that we are running requires endurance. The bible tells us specifically to cast off every weight that is holding us back, And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  God has a specific plan for each of us and taking daily steps to position ourselves for obedience is critical in walking that out. Instead of looking for a grand event where that  plan comes to life, I have learned am learning to see it as a lifestyle of obedience where I walk out my worship in all that I do...even in the difficulties of my monotonous, often taxing, daily routine.