Sacred Space - Church on the Porch

Lily Belle sits with me in her way. She's often present during spiritual direction...especially when folks want to meet on the porch. 

Lily Belle sits with me in her way. She's often present during spiritual direction...especially when folks want to meet on the porch. 

This post is best read on a porch with a glass of sweet tea or coffee, to your taste.

When I was a child, I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Saturday night. That is, my mom and I went to church; my dad never went. My two brothers were done with church before they left high school. 

Not me. 

I've realized, all these years later, that I used to believe: If something isn't working, giddy up and do more of it. 

Try harder. 

Now, I'm trying to try less. Don't strive to change the world; maybe help your neighbor carry their groceries. 

 

When I was a child, I only knew a Perfect God, and I was profoundly imperfect;

a merciless God when I desperately needed mercy; a God without grace when I longed for grace to cover me, shroud me, heal me, shelter me. 

I ached for amazing grace. 

I needed a tender God, a God who could visit with a little girl reading a book up in a tree. Or sitting on an old, hot metal glider, the kind that made indentations on the backs of your thighs. 

I needed a God who would meet me on the porch. 

 

I spend quite a bit of time now, out on my porch.

With the old pots, before somebody knocked one off and taught me, again, about impermanence. 

With the old pots, before somebody knocked one off and taught me, again, about impermanence. 

I'm there with Oscar and Lily Belle, two therapy cats who sit with me.

They're not trained to do anything but lounge around being themselves; they never cry the bitter tears of resentment because they are not dogs, or fancy ponies. 

Oscar is very good at resting out on the porch. 

Oscar is very good at resting out on the porch. 

We sit together on this old porch, in silent camaraderie, day after day. 

They're small, but mighty in spirit. 

I remember my grandmother telling me, long ago: "It's all love, child. It's all love."

Come to think of it, she told me that sitting in a glider swing shucking string beans, on her front porch. 

 

So, here I am, Lord. 

Out here on the porch. 

I'm on the swing near the old rhododendrons and the robin out back, urging her hatchlings to fly. 

The old rhododendron, just outside the porch.  

The old rhododendron, just outside the porch.  

Walking Each Other Home

Walking Each Other Home

How one woman went from middle class mom, to addict, prison, and Executive Director of Dinami House in Cleveland, Ohio - a home for women leaving prison. 

Redemption

Sometimes we get to see miracles.  The kinds of miracles you read about, but rarely see with your own eyes. 

But some days, without fanfare, a woman will come to a new awareness and her pain is transformed into a light bright enough to light the path of others.  One of these miracles happen this week.  

Terese was born addicted.  In group, she wept describing her mom who died from a heroin overdose.  Since she was born, she had longed for a mom who asked her about school; who cooked a meal, or braided her hair.   

Terese had none of these things.  Her mom had been an addict all her life.  Now she was dead.  There would be no better mother-daughter times ahead. 

In group, she spoke of the futility of her own life; the pain of being the daughter of a junkie.  But slowly, with the help of clinical care and a circle of sisters, she found a new story.   

Last week, Terese began sharing her story with young moms on the unit.  She talked with them about the pain of being an addict's daughter.  Of the damage done to her self-esteem, her sense of trust, her self-loathing because addiction robbed her of a mother.  She told them she always knew her mother loved drugs more than anything, or anyone.  She spoke of suicide attempts, and the chronic self-loathing that dogged her days and robbed her sleep at night.  

The moms listened.  They thanked her and said she inspired them to stay sober one more day.  

In group, Teresa said she had found a purpose for her pain.  "Maybe my life matters," she said.  "Maybe I can help keep a mom from turning her kids into me.  Maybe the pain of being an addicts daughter wasn't for nothing." 

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#Addiction #Treatment #Recovery #Healing #TraumaCare #SexualTrafficking  

The Next Step?...

MiddleWay had an incredible opportunity today.  A local judge invited us to talk to her probation officers about our programs and the many ways in which we're out here on the front lines working with women involved in the justice system. 

We had a great start. The judge was welcoming.  Six probation officers gathered around the really big conference table...did I mention we met in a courtroom?  I began telling them with great enthusiasm about our programs, classes, job training, and the endless potential of the women we serve and mentor.  

Then they had some questions for me.  The questions were relevant, probing, and insightful.  Only problem was: I didn't have the answers.  

It wasn't until later - much later - while reflecting on the meeting that I realized the most important people were not at the table.  We should have had - we needed - those we mentor: the women working hard to build new lives for themselves and their children. Women know what type of support they need to create new lives  - not to survive - but to THRIVE!

So, we're walking more slowly into this phase of growth.  And we're applying a tool from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus learns that 5000+ people are hungry and need food.  As disciples name several methods of getting the job done, including telling the crowd to disperse and find their own food (a problem due to where they were gathered: namely, in the desert), Jesus asks them, 'What do we have to work with?' When the disciples don't know, he commands, "Go and see."  

So, MiddleWay is "going and seeing" which for us means asking the women we serve, "What do you want us to do for you?"  

We're asking and we're listening.  After four years of pro-bono service to NE Ohio women with endless potential but few opportunities, we are listening carefully to learn from the collected wisdom of the women we serve.  They know their strengths, and they will teach us where we can be of help.  We are eager to sit, talk, laugh, get uncomfortable, get comfortable again, and then get to it.

Filled with hope, on a wing and a prayer, we're taking the next step. 

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#Teamwork #Recovery #Treatment #Women #Recovery #Reentry  

Hope & Torn Paper

It's humbling to be with people who have few possessions yet practice the art of gratitude.  That's what it's like to be with homeless women when they leave their temporary homes - residential treatment facilities, homeless shelters, halfway houses - and come to a Recovery Retreat facilitated by MiddleWay.  

The women love expressive arts and sometimes that's creating a "vision board". Our theme this day was "I want my life to look like..." The women gathered to create a collage which represented their lives post-treatment, post-homelessness, post acute addiction.  This is an inexpensive but potent therapy. The women spent time using art supplies to engage in 'play therapy' to represent their deepest desires, working with color pencils, chalk, clippings, crayons, and glue sticks - such simple things - to build a picture of their best lives.  

Working with homeless, abused, and extremely poor women allows us to see them work with so few material things to create such big changes: from dropout to high school graduate, from unemployed to employee, from addict to woman in recovery, from surviving to thriving.  And they do it all on a shoestring, a hope, a 'vision-board' of their future, and a hand reaching out to grab theirs.

 We stand in awe.  

The women who come to Recovery Retreats remind us of the words of Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in LA, the largest gang-intervention program in the United States.  Fr. Greg says, "May we stand in awe at the weight of the burden carried by the poor, instead of criticizing the way they carry it."

We stand in awe today, marveling at the resiliency of the women who are creating lives they want to live in. 

Creating a vision-board of our "best lives." 

Creating a vision-board of our "best lives." 

"Remember" stones. Make one for you, one to give away. Remember: You are loved.  

"Remember" stones. Make one for you, one to give away. Remember: You are loved.  

Meditation on the tenderness of the inner child who lives within.  

Meditation on the tenderness of the inner child who lives within.