Thursday, September 24, 2009

broken i run to You for Your arms are open wide

I broke down today on the way home from my internship. Actually, every Thursday I have cried once I got into my car to leave. I was expecting it. But the tears are so good and healing. I am sad and broken. I am the most tired on Thursdays. I work until 9pm on Wednesday nights, then don't get home until later and wake up at 5:45am Thursday mornings. I feel like I just go home to sleep and come back. And so I think I am so tired on Thursdays that I finally allow myself to feel everything going on. I feel overwhelmed by everything around me. It is a whole new world to me. Here I am at a residential treatment center for drug addiction and I don't know much about drugs and have never done them. I don't like to take cold medicine anymore because I hate how it makes me feel. So I don't really know how to relate on that level - but I know drug addiction goes deeper than that. And then I still am trying to get comfortable with other staff. I just don't really offer much of myself yet. I mean I like the people I work with, I am still learning what professional relationships look like. I don't think I will like that kind of relationship though - I like personal relationships the best and think they are all that way since we are all people. But thats a whole other story...

We are all so broken. Everywhere I look I see depression, anxiety, fear, shame, pain, bitterness, hurt. There is abuse, drugs, suicide, other addictions, loneliness. I see it in myself, too. And I see all this and my heart is broken, but not heavy. I know there is hope. I know that Christ can heal. He is mighty to save. His grace has changed my life. The truth of who He is, what He has done and His words have brought so much freedom and peace to my life. However, I am not always sure how to communicate that to the people around me. It's challenging when they mock Christianity and seem so resistant to it. And I honestly fear how they may respond to me, but more so want to represent the truth and gospel of grace - for them to know a God of compassion and mercy, not one of condemnation. I want others to know Christ, to know the Healer. And so I just am praying right now for wisdom and boldness on how to love like He does, and how to shine a light in such a dark world, how to offer healing to the hurting and broken. What to speak of the truth, for opportunities to speak the gospel, and for God to soften hearts to know Him. And I am learning how to accept His grace myself. I am in process, and its hard, but I praise the Lord for it all. Everyday is a new day, and I thank God for all that is happening because I know He will work for good in all things, and be faithful to complete the work He began in me. He is faithful in all things, and His love never fails. And that is what I cling to. He is my strength. Amen.

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  - Psalm 73:26

Saturday, September 19, 2009

He has made everything beautiful in its time

I just finished another week of my internship, and I LOVE it. This week was sweet. I learned so much about myself, people, the Lord, drugs, addiction, brokenness, healing, recovery, life. I feel much more comfortable with the people I work with and the kids there. I was blessed to have some sweet conversations with some of the kids and staff. Each day I wake up excited for the day and what God has planned. It is exciting, intense, but so good. Thursday night I began to feel everything hit me, but it was sweet. As I drive home each night, I simply praise the Lord for that day to be alive. I am so much more thankful for each moment. Everything is a gift of grace, and I don't want to take any of it for granted, but to develop a heart of thankfulness to Christ.

I admire the kids I work with. They are honest and brave as they come to acknowledge where they have gone wrong and work hard to change. Yesterday, I got to sit an a group where they confront one another and hold eachother accountable for their actions. It is done in a way to help them, not condemn, but because they are concerned. They ran the whole thing by themselves, each taking responsibility for talking to each other and encouraging one another. It was incredible. They live in community. And its beautiful. I sit and listen to them talk, and it makes me more aware of my own feelings, hurts, struggles. Lies I believe about myself. Lies I believe in general. So I am being changed so much as well. They are awesome kids. They make me smile and encourage me a lot. I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them.

And they are hungry for the truth. Yesterday some of them were talking about wanting to go to church on the weekends. Sometimes they get to go to the movies, or a sporting event like football or soccer games. But four or five of them talked about wanting to go to church. And only about a third of the kids were in the room talking about it and I am sure there are more. They wouldn't be forced to go by any means, but if they want to, why can't they? I actually think someone on staff already asked to take them, and got a no. Not exactly sure why, but it is definitely something I would want to look more into and ask about. But it was so encouraging to hear them wanting that, to know that Christ is at work. He is faithful and is the One who works and moves and draws people to Himself.

I've been humbled by my time at my internship so far, and I praise Jesus! And I pray that He would continue to humble me and allow me to see who I am and who He is, and how that all fits together. I keep being drawn back to the gospel, to my need for a Savior, forgiveness, mercy, grace. I have become aware more and more of my pride and inability to please God or stay away from sin. I am broken. That is how I began my journal yesterday morning because I am. But I love it. Because there is beauty in the brokenness because my hope is in Christ, and His grace covers me. And His love never changes, and I just want people to know that. In everything I do, I want to know Christ more, and to make Him known - to make His deep, unfathomable, unstoppable, constant and never failing love known. We are loved, and there is nothing we can do to earn it, nor anything we could do to lose it. I just pray that we would come to know it more and more.

To know Christ. I've been thinking a lot about the words of Paul in Philippians 3:7-11. "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." That is what I want my life to be about. Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

knock and the door will be opened

I started my internship this week for my last semester of school. I graduate December 5th, and until then I am interning 40 hours a week and taking a 4 hour class that goes along with it. Phoenix Academy is a residential treatment center for adolescents recovering from chemical dependency. I first visited Phoenix Academy on a field trip last semester, and it reminded me of Shelterwood. I originally was working with my school to allow LeadTime to be my internship for this fall, but they informed me in late April that they didn't feel comfortable placing me there. So I am at Phoenix Academy, and I love it. When I wasn't allowed to go to LeadTime as I originally thought I would, I felt peace about it and realized that God had a plan for me greater than I could realize.

I went in May to Phoenix Academy to set up my internship. After looking over my resume, my supervisor was concerned by how much I had worked in faith-based organizations - working at a Christian sports camp and interning at a church, and questioned if I still wanted to intern there. I reassured her that I did, and she told me that if one of the teens asked me what I believed, I would have to respond saying "Why do you need to know if I believe in God or not for me to help you?" I didn't really know how to take this, but have been thinking about it all summer. I don't really agree with what she said, but she also said we could talk about it so I was really excited.

My first day was this past Tuesday, and I was a bit nervous, but also felt at peace. I spent the first few days just observing everything, learning the names of staff and the teens there. It was a lot to take it, but I am getting a good feel for how everything runs. On Thursday, I was really tired, and just felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to be myself there and was very timid. Friday morning, I went to a coffee shop before I went in and spent some time journaling and praying to the Lord about how I felt. I was honest about my doubts, fears, insecurities. I didn't trust Him, I felt alone and overwhelmed. I wanted to be bold and know how to speak the truth about Christ and shine for Him as He created me to. But I had no idea how to do that and didn't know where this boldness would come from, but I asked for Him to provide.

I went in a little early and hung out in study hall with the students where I can help them with their homework. Two of the staff members were talking about Bibles, and one of them was looking for a good one for her teenage daughter. It was refreshing to hear, and I walked over and joined in the conversation. Then I discovered that another person on staff goes to Austin Stone, the same church as me. I was so encouraged just to know that, and I knew it was going to be a much better day, but I still had no clue what else the Lord had planned.

Later in the day, I met with my supervisor for and hour to talk about my internship. She asked me how everything had been going, and then asked me to tell her about myself. I never know how much to share when people ask me questions like that, but I just started talking about my family. And then I began to talk about my faith and how it is my everything. Knowing Christ is the whole reason I was driving to social work in the first place. She asked me how I felt about value conflicts I would come across working at Phoenix Academy, and I began to talk about grace. I kept thinking about how Jesus said He came for the sick, not the healthy - to save sinners not the righteous. And I also talked about the woman who anoints Jesus' feet as she weeps and pours perfume on them, then wipes them with her hair. The Pharisees are confused and shocked at why Jesus would allow such a thing, but He explains to them how she has been forgiven much and loves much. He then tells her that her faith has healed her. The teens at Phoenix Academy inspire me. They do the hard work of staring their mistakes and failures in the face and working with them. They are honest about where they are, when I feel like so many of us who seem to be okay are not. We try to look like we have it all together and are doing fine. We don't want to look weak. But we are. I am so messed up. When I begin to think that I am doing alright, may the Lord humble me to know that I am only a sinner in need of His sweet grace. Even my righteous acts are like fifthly rags before the Lord. But He loves me and accepts me just as I am, and He will be faithful to complete the work He began in me. It was exciting to share about my faith so freely with my supervisor. I am not exactly sure what she believes, but she told me that I can go to her anytime and talk about anything. It is encouraging to have someone who supports me and wants me to have the best internship possible.

My supervisor is great, but I will be spending more time with the case manager. He has been great so far and doesn't want me doing much paperwork at all, but supports me and wants the best experience for me as well. The people at Phoenix Academy have been so great to me, and I am so blessed. After I got back from meeting with my supervisor, the case manager was there and I needed to get my stuff out of his office. As I did, I was talking about my meeting with my supervisor. She had told me that we (the case manager and I) have similar beliefs. So we started talking about them a little, and he is in a weird place right now he said. Sounds like he is asking a lot of questions and looking into different things and different religions. I talked about grace again, and how it has changed my life the past few years. I grew up going to church but for so long I thought it was about looking good on the outside. Recently I have begun to understand the depths of my depravity and sin, and in turn understood the sweetness of Christ and the grace and mercy displayed on the cross. I cannot earn salvation and can't please God with my good deeds. I simply come as I am, broken and sinful, fallen short of God's glory to ask for mercy. And He comes to me, washes me clean and shows me grace to walk again with Him. I fail time and time again, but He never leaves me or stops loving me. Its crazy, but its the gospel. And its beautiful and lovely and brings peace to my soul. I will never be the same. And I just want people to know Christ, to know His grace, love, mercy. To be healed. To be known and loved.

All that to say, I wasn't sure how I was going to be myself or shine Christ in my internship, and yesterday - only the 4th day of my internship, I was able to have at least 3 spiritual conversations with people, two in which I was able to talk about Christ and the gospel of grace. I also sat next to one of the teens reading the Bible and was encouraged by Christ to know that He is definitely there. He provided opportunities to speak about Him and testify of who He is, and I have no idea how it all happened, but it definitely didn't have much to do with me. I hardly had to try. But I was so blessed to speak of Christ, and as I did I was reminded of the gospel myself, and how amazing His grace is, and how faithful He is to listen and answer our prayers - all for the glory of His Name.

I drove home in the rain singing worship songs in my car. One of my favorites from Chris Tomlin. "Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city. There is no one like our God." Amen. May Christ be made known in all the nations, His grace, love and gospel of truth. His grace is sufficient and He is mighty to save. And all I can say is...thank You.


Hey everyone!

I had several people encourage me to create a blog as I go off to do LeadTime in January - so here it is. I thought it would be fun to start one now as I complete my internship at school since what I am working with is related a lot to LeadTime. LeadTime is a year-long internship and discipleship program where I will be living with troubled teenagers in a Christian residential treatment facility. The program is connected with the program for teenagers called Shelterwood. Just a fun fact I like to tell people: How to Save a Life by the Fray (which also happens to be one of my favorite bands) was written about a teenager from Shelterwood. The teens are referred to as Littles, and I will be called a Big, along with the other people in my LeadTime class. I am really excited because I love living in community and have been so affirmed in going to do this by everyone I have talked about it with. I am thankful that the Lord has led me to this place and look forward to what He is going to do as He allows me to know Him more.

Most people start LeadTime (LT) in August and stay for a year. I however, am starting in January since I graduate this December. So a lot of other Bigs I will work with are already there. It is crazy to think about, but exciting as well. I will be in Missouri for all of 2010! I don't know if I will be in Branson or Kansas City, but hopefully I will find out soon. I will write more about LeadTime as time goes on...and will probably write the whole story of how I came to be involved in the program in December before I leave. I hope you enjoy!