Sunday, September 28, 2014

When God Gives An Assignment

Forgive me while I write myself into an understanding of my current assignment from the Lord. My approach to these assignments, and my expectations, don't always match His, so in writing it out I hope to relinquish control and drop any personal agenda, and just be His instrument.

Dear me...I don't know where to begin about my 12-year-old neighbor girl situation. The exact day I had decided to begin "counseling" Miss L and have her over to bake with Mary, her mother had a friend over for a quaint little Friday afternoon "drinking party".

Miss L came to our door about ten minutes after the school bus dropped her off (yes, our neighborhood finally has a school bus running again--after two years!). I didn't need to ask Miss L. how things were going or figure out how to approach the topic of alcohol abuse in her home. Visibly stressed, she relayed that her mother's friend was over with "a pack of reds", and she feared what would happen because this friend "was bad news and already had her kids taken away from her".

So, my mind began racing and everything I had thought about saying, I couldn't think of, because: "Wow, God, I didn't expect this opening!"

And right away I wondered...should I ask what "reds" is or just assume since it has "pack" in front of it, that it's alcohol?

Trying to seem as though I hear such news everyday (non-judgmental, I mean), I told her as much as I could remember of my little prepared speech, "I was going to tell you that when I was growing up my mother drank, and so I know what that is like. You can talk to me about it when you need to. Please know that it's not your fault, and you can't solve it. The Lord is always there for you, even when there is turmoil around you. Go to Him for comfort and pray for healing. Please come here if you ever feel unsafe."

I told her there were books from an organization called Alateen that I was going to get to go over with her, written for teens who are dealing with family members who drink.

Her grandfather, I learned, does not drink now, but drank a great deal before his grand kids were born. Miss L's grandmother's recent passing is a stretch for her grandfather's apparent 12-year sobriety, so let's hope the Lord can keep him strong (there are no Christians in this family, but Miss L went to AWANA with us for a year, and has been to Bible Studies here, but her life has been too erratic for us to know where she is spiritually).

The grandfather works second shift so he was not there during this drinking party, nor does he know the mother has been doing such things during his absence. Miss L said if he did know, he would kick her mother out.

Today I asked how the rest of the evening went last night, and Miss L said the mom's friend went out to get more "reds" and was going to smoke marijuana in their house too, but Miss L got her mother to lock the door and not let the friend back in. I guess this worked only because the mother was annoyed with the friend anyway.

Boldly, I told Miss L that although it seemed like a scary thing to do, the best thing for her mother would be for Miss L to tell the grandfather what was going on. "No way. We would get kicked out."

"Would your grandfather care for you if your mother couldn't live there anymore?, I asked (not remembering the second shift).

She said she was nearly old enough to babysit for her 8-year-old brother--and wanted to run a babysitting service--but not yet. Her grandfather couldn't take care of her right now.

My mind is thinking and considering, because obviously this is a very unsafe situation. I would really like Miss L to tell her grandfather the truth. She has taken on the parent role and her mother has taken on the child role, and this is robbing Miss L of her childhood entirely, which will have repercussions for a lifetime. A single mother drinking also puts her young daughter at risk for rape, depending on whom the mother allows around the house.

Right away I'm praying that the grandfather comes home unannounced at just the right time, because Miss L's mother needs to lose her financial support in order to hit rock bottom and have the custody of her children put at risk.

Parts I'm Wrestling With:

~ The Grace of God 

I prayed with both Miss L and her brother before they left our house Friday evening, asking for protection and more. And you know, it seemed like so little, as I sent two kids off to a possibly drunken situation.

In therapy on Monday I brought up with my kids' psychologist that my son Paul feels sad about my headaches and sister Beth's arthritis--almost guilty that we are suffering with things that he doesn't have to deal with. Paul is an anxious worry wort who takes on the weight of things too much, and between the psychologist's comments and my comments (mom and the psychologist work as a team) Paul learned that he has to trust God to provide the hurting with grace--that God is powerful enough to do this, and loving enough. We can be instruments of grace, but when our part is done, we have to trust God to do the rest. We can live in peace, knowing that we can't even imagine or see all the ways God will be there for people we know who are hurting. Sometimes we're privileged to hear about the ways God provided grace, and sometimes not, but we have to trust that God is there, always, loving and comforting.

As I wrote above, after going home last night, Miss L convinced her mother to lock the door on the "bad news friend" before the night got any worse. Isn't this an example of the grace of God?

I don't know what the Lord will do, or when, but I can rest (I can abide), knowing that this is not my problem to solve.

~ Putting Boundaries in Place

I must say, this whole business depressed me. The Lord had to remind me that as I help people, I must have boundaries in place. Their problems can't consume me or take away my joy. I could and should still have a pleasant evening with my own family. Soul joy should prevail, even though there are horrors in the world. This is a difficult concept for the tenderhearted among us to swallow, but it's truth.

People who have come from alcoholic homes have particular trouble with boundaries. As possible enablers growing up, they didn't know where one family member ended and another began. Everyone's identity got mixed up with the drinker's identity. Therefore, when adult children of alcoholics try to help someone (they're over-represented in the helping professions--nurses, teachers, therapists, clergy, doctors), they can lose themselves in the process.

So I must help with boundaries in place, always.

~ The Cost is Great

And then there's this. Miss L is extremely high-maintenance. I can take her in small, forty-minute max doses. Although I have a son with ADHD, that just doesn't prepare me--or perhaps it leaves me too exhausted by 3:30 PM--for the traits Miss L displays as part of her own ADHD. Her attention span is very short--she switches activities five minutes after the kids get something set up, and she doesn't offer to help clean anything up. She has learning disabilities that can be problematic during playtime, which she undoubtedly feels she's got to cover up, and she's ODD (stands for oppositional defiant disorder, but it just means she's very pushy and persistent and bossy--she's got to be told no many times before she'll drop an idea).

When she's here, it's at great cost to my personal sanity. When she's gone, I often what good did that possibly do, for it was so chaotic and how well did I even hide my annoyance?.

For example, the baking was a disaster. Miss L's ADHD is worse than I thought in terms of planning and concentration and follow through. She had something in mind she wanted to make, but had no recipe in hand. She began ordering me around for ingredients, planning on winging it entirely, but having no idea even of proportions in cake recipes.

I gently steered her toward our favorite (and easy) chocolate cake recipe, and because she wanted to do this project with my girls, I left them alone with the recipe, the ingredients, and the equipment. That was not enough support, because what came out of the oven did not resemble cake. Noticing it seemed thin before I put it in the oven, I asked her to read over each item on the recipe, to see if she forgot anything. She said she did everything.

The frosting I let her put together herself, and that ended up being a waste of money on ingredients too.

Granted, my girls were on chairs on both sides of her, and her brother and my boys were playing in the living room, so maybe that was too much stimulation for the amount of concentration needed.

Every girl interested should be taught to bake. I see it as a gift we can give young girls--a handmade, homemade gift they can bless their own families with, enjoyed on milestone occasions like birthdays and holidays. The wholesome flavor and aroma of homemade cake can be part of beloved family memories.

So, we have to start from scratch, and because I can't do much about the noise and interference from the other kids, I think I will have the ingredients already measured out, and have Miss L and my girls just combine them and do the beating and such--at least to start.

~ Are My Offerings Good Enough...Or Enough At All

When she's gone and I feel guilty for having watched the clock in anticipation of my "freedom", I feel like it's all a waste. Surely she can see the tension in me? How can any love I want to show come through, when the various strikes against her distract me from the very thing I want most to do--extend Christian love and grace and fellowship and teaching? I love her, but she's hard to love.

I feel like I have these meager loaves and fishes to offer, and I'm not even offering them with a pure heart. I don't have enough patience. I don't have enough time. I'm too nervous. My faith is too small. I wish she would bathe more and dress modestly and quit dying her hair with those store-bought bottles every other week, and what is her mother thinking anyway--can't she figure out why she's being bullied? And why is the exterior even an issue to me? I can't change those things--every family has their own rhythms and tastes and habits.

I'm thinking about how big the problems are, and about how many different problems there are, and it's overwhelming. What Kingdom contribution can I make here? Here is a girl with so many strikes against her, from a tough upbringing, to bullying at school, to teachers who are annoyed with her, to multiple disorders/disabilities, to a grandmother who has passed away.

Where will this little girl will be in 10 years, at 22. Will Miss L love her mother and have contact with her? Will Miss L love the Lord? Will she be working in a job she loves, or be finishing school, or be a happy Mom with a loving husband?

Lord, you are mighty. I give you now all these variables. They are not mine to contemplate, or to try to solve. Help me to love, to counsel, to give of my time, to provide a safe haven. Help my whole family to provide a picture of normalcy for these children. Multiply, magnify, and sanctify my imperfect offerings.

And thank you for the reminder that not one of us is any better than another.

1 comment:

Tesha Papik said...

Such a sweet beautiful post and a great reminder to LOVE others. I admire your honesty because I know all to well how daring difficult people can be! I think it is amazing that you take time for the neighbor children I am sure you are making a positive impact on their lives! When my mom was deep in drug addiction I remember a very kind woman in the neighborhood reaching out to me and caring for me. I am sure she will remember your kindness all her life!