I'm pretty sure that it is a bad idea to replace my meals with creamy, heavily sweetened and highly caffeinated beverages, but it seems that is my current coping strategy.
The way I see it I am allowed a week of counter-productive, self-medicating behavior, right?
The answer to that is "yes." Please don't pop my bubble.
After walking through way too many time outs, temper tantrums, "he's not sharing" fights and heaps of dishes, I found Andy in the kitchen last night and put my head on his shoulder in surrender.
I mused out loud, "How can I love doing something that is so hard?"
Because I really do love this. Not love in a warm fuzzy sort of way, but in an "I can't even begin to fathom NOT doing this" sort of way.
I have three teen boys in my house currently. One just moved in, but two of them have been with me since Andy and I took on this job. Both of those two have been arrested at least once while in my care. Both have sworn at me, threatened to run away and lied to me over and over and over again.
But I adore them.
They tease me and I tease them. I sympathize with their breakouts, I pluck their unibrows and I chastise them for agreeing to go out with girls they don't really like. I'm not sure I could have ever anticipated the satisfaction and "full" feeling of having two teen boys rush in the house each day, eager to tell me about the latest high school gossip.
It is all fun and games until
a scroungy teen boy
who has trouble remembering to shower
notices your dried out and neglected
and asks you why you don't have pretty
feet like other adult women.
Because, you little whipper snapper,
I'm too busy reminding you to do your laundry
to indulge in anything as frivolous as a
For the last week, they have shown me extra grace. They have each picked up extra chores (or more accurately, done their chores without so much prompting) and played with Jack and Joey as I pour my efforts into teaching our new guys the ropes. As they have given more of themselves one of them asked me today, "How do you DO this?"
You know I love that kind of commiseration!
This morning, as I was called out of my room by needy little voices I asked myself the same question. How can I do this?
This last week has exhausted me. I feel as if I am mere skin and bones at this point. My body feels empty of soul - all of my mind, will and emotions being consumed by a short (please Lord let it be so!) season of extreme exertion.
I started a conversation with the Lord in my head this morning, asking him how I can give so fully -to genuine needs- yet still find space to be filled.
I mentioned to one of the pastors at our new church, and a friend of ours, that I was asking God that question. His reply was so simple and so sweet: "What did he say?"
I had to confess that as of that moment, I hadn't heard an answer.
But I was wrong. I had been hearing the answer since before I asked the question.
Yesterday GAP partnered with JCPenny's to get all of the 80+ kids in our ministry new school wardrobes. Each child receives a small allotment of clothing money each year they are in state custody. Penny's offered to match what they had.
They didn't just match.
They also paid all the sales tax,
which in AZ is RIDICULOUS!
They opened up their store TWO HOURS early, fully staffed with the brightest faces and most cheerful personalities and we walked our kids through the clothing section, filling bags with new outfits for the school year.
I had asked two new friends to come with our house and be personal shoppers for kids and they both enthusiastically said yes. Andy's mom was in town and she watched our boys for the morning and another staff member played with our two new additions so that our hands could be free to help the school-kids.
I had so much fun.
One of those teen boys I was talking about acted like he had never tried on clothes before. He assured me he had picked out everything he wanted, but when I required him to try it on, not a single item fit. I was able to spend almost the entire time with him, getting him a whole new closet of clothes, because the friends that came with us were so generous with their time.
The boy I worked with took a solid hour longer than the rest of the kids in my house, so my friends took my three other kids out to breakfast and to play.
When I met up with them again they were happy and well fed, feeling like they had just had a treat, instead of like they had waited a hour for a really pokey shopper.
When everyone had finished shopping one friend came back to the house and jumped right in, changing poopy diapers, playing with kids and keeping the house in order.
Andy's mom ended up staying the entire day. She took over bath time, bed time, and all other time with the two tots and freed up my hands and my emotions for Jack, Joey and my big kids.
By the end of the night my house was in order and everyone had received the attention they needed.
Not only that, but my load felt manageable.
The answer to my question is that I stop thinking that my calling is something I live out alone.
I know that not everyone is able or willing to live in a house like I am, but that doesn't mean that they might not be eager to lend a hand or play a part in some amazing stories.
If I continue to operate in a solo state, thinking that because this job is my ministry right now it means that I (underlined three times!) have to be the one to make it work, I am going to burn out and have to give up this beautiful life, before my season here has run its course.
Taking care of kids and building a safe home are the obvious parts of my commission. It would be a shame to miss the more subtle pieces of the picture - those that include inviting our neighbors to compassion, making room for our friends to give, and exposing kids in my home to the beauty of community - simply because I am too self-reliant or self-conscious to invite others in.
So let me be clear.
I need help.
This is not a one woman show.
To make it such is selfish and foolish.
I REALLY don't want to be either of those.
So while I still intend to give everything that I have, I find that I am retiring this evening with hope. Hope that as I invite others in I can give fully, but begin to fill too. That is the place where I want to live; to give and receive in equal measure - that what I give isn't mine, it just passes through me, a stream of living water.