Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Just a story about grace

This story doesn't really have to do with the topic of singleness and relationships, but it's a story I wanted to tell.

I have a picture on my bookshelf in my office of an eleven-year-old girl. I don’t even remember taking the picture so I can’t say how I accomplished it, but it’s my favorite picture I’ve ever taken. She’s wearing a red polo shirt and her body is turned away from the camera. Her blue eyes are peering out from under her eye lids and there is clearly something emitting from her blue eyes, but it’s mysterious and you can’t tell what she’s thinking. I will call her Rebecca.

Mooseheart was a boarding school for at-risk youth, and for some reason, I was crazy enough to be a houseparent there. I met Rebecca at Mooseheart Child and City School after I had lived there almost four months. I had heard rumors about her behavior, but my first impressions were that she just needed attention. She was particularly clingy, even with a stranger, and I thought it odd that she acted like a young child instead of a fifth grader. As I got to know Rebecca better, I learned that she was a child with numerous problems and outlandish behavior. She had been raised by her deaf and mentally disabled mother, and there had been few other influences in her life. Her father and grandparents were around occasionally, but for the most part, her mother was her world. Rebecca was highly intelligent but had no idea how to effectively communicate with people or how to behave and interact with others. Those life skills had never been properly modeled for her. It took a while for me to see her true colors, but not long after I was assigned to live in her home, I quickly learned why Rebecca had a reputation on campus of being totally out of control.

Rebecca seemed to like me right away and did not hesitate to talk about her past. I saw easily how her behavior was a result of her traumatic childhood, but unfortunately, those around me just put her on medication to try to control her symptoms instead of dealing with what caused her to act out in the first place. For example, Rebecca never wanted to go to bed and put it off each night as long as she could stand it. This is quite normal for any child, but I soon discovered that her reason for not wanting to go to bed had little to do with the “normal” reasons most children avoid bedtime.

One night as I was praying with her, she started talking about her dad. Rebecca often tried to start conversations as I was leaving her room each night as a tactic to stay up, and usually I would quickly end the conversation, but I realized that this time she had something important to say. Rebecca was anything but quiet and was quite vocal and articulate. She never whispered anything! That night, however, she was sitting cross-legged on her floor and she began to talk in a whisper with her head sunk over. She often requested to sleep on the floor, but she was told over and over that she needed to sleep on her bed.

I don’t remember how she said it, but I’ll never forget her tone of voice and look in her eyes as she described how her father used to rape her. She admitted that she hated mattresses because it made her think of what her father did to he,r and she tried so hard every night not to fall asleep because she would dream of him. I never made her sleep in her bed again.

It didn’t take long for me to see her temper. There are two memorable OIC (out of instructional control) moments. My second most memorable OIC experience with Rebecca was actually my first OIC ever with her. She decided to run away, which was a typical response to a frustrating day. This time was different, however, because it was the dead of winter and she was barefoot and only wearing shorts and a tank top. She was outside almost an hour in the dark. It would have been impossible to find her in the 1,000-acre campus, so my boss told me to just wait for her to come home. Eventually, she came back, but her temper tantrum was far from over. It lasted about 3 or 4 hours and by the end, she had t-peed the entire house with our whole stock of toilet paper. Every single surface and every inch of the floor was covered. Before she found the toilet paper she discovered a few bowls of potpourri. She proceeded to skip around the house humming the wedding march while dropping the potpourri on the floor like she was a flower girl at a wedding. As she ran around the house with the toilet paper she smashed the potpourri into the carpet.

By the end of the evening, the house was beyond trashed and we were up late into the night watching her clean. The rules were that she is supposed to clean up the mess herself, but we were exhausted and wanted to go to bed.
Earlier that night, before she had found the TP and potpourri I had asked my boss to come over because it was the rule that any new FT (family teacher) needed a supervisor to observe during and OIC. When he arrived something triggered in Rebecca and she must have felt threatened or out of control in some way like she must have felt with her father. In the middle of a string of swear words she pulled down her pants and underwear and walked over to my male boss. She then asked him if he wanted to have her, and that he could if he wanted. It was said in defiance and it took my breath away. I wanted to cry and I had no idea what to do with her behavior.

My most memorable OIC with Rebecca started when she decided, as usual, to run away from home. This time, however, was admittedly a more comical experience than in the past. Fortunately, it was warmer outside, although as the sun began to set it got much cooler. Rebecca stole a bike and began riding around the campus. I let her go for a while to blow off steam, but eventually, I thought I should try to find her. It was light outside and I figured I could start in her favorite places, like the pond and the horse barn. By this time my boss had arrived with her husband on their golf cart, and they offered to drive me around to save time. We eventually spotted her, but since she was on a bike it was difficult to catch her. We kept our distance because we didn’t want to give her too much attention, but we wanted to make sure she was ok. After a while, she got bored or tired of being chased around and headed back to the house.

When she got back inside she headed for the kitchen to see if she could find anything forbidden to eat. Rebecca was so often in trouble that she rarely got the extra treats the other girls did because taking away sugar snacks was one type of consequence. Most often when she went OIC she would eat as much as she could since it was usually the only time she got to eat junk food. I was not allowed to touch a child that was OIC unless she was causing physical harm to herself or anyone else, so I had to just stand there and watch her eat a week’s worth of sugar! In her searching, she discovered a box of food coloring. I was pretty nervous what she was going to do with it; I should have tried harder to confiscate it, but I had no idea what she was about to do.

Rebecca took the bottles of food coloring and quickly squirted every last drop of all four full bottles onto the kitchen counter. She began to essentially finger paint all over the counter. Before long her hands and arms were covered in food coloring and she started to rub them all over every surface in the kitchen; the floors, appliances, walls, etc. Then she came for me. I was wearing my favorite jeans, my Birkenstocks and nice dress shirt. She rubbed food coloring all over my clothes and every inch of bare skin.

It was at that point that I decided to call in reinforcements. My boss reluctantly came over (it was a Sunday night and she was on call that day). I don’t think she realized how crazy the situation had become, but as soon as she walked into the kitchen and saw what Rebecca had done she started yelling at her. We were always told never to raise our voices, and I never once did, but the kids sure responded well to it! Rebecca immediately began following instructions and stopped acting out.

We began the slow process of cleaning it all up. I wished we could have made Rebecca clean it all up, but we were scared everything would stain if we didn't clean it up immediately. Some things were stained permanently, like some of the walls and a wooden door. My biggest fear was my skin because my sister, Cindy’s wedding was in 4 days and I was terrified I would still resemble a rainbow as I walked down the aisle! Thankfully, after a few days of VERY strong scrubbing, it came off. By the wedding, the only remnants were my green toenails, and I just covered them up with nail polish. Afterward, when Rebecca had calmed down she became extremely apologetic. After every OIC she would be so upset at what she had done; it was almost like a switch would turn on and she would see the destruction she had just caused.

This had all taken place late into the evening, so the other girls were not aware of what happened. When we all got up the next morning they discovered what Rebecca had done the night before. They were furious at her actions and even angrier at my dyed skin. I tried to get them to quickly move on but at dinner that night the subject came up again. All the girls were complaining to Rebecca and reprimanding her for her actions. I asked the girls to stop the conversation because I had forgiven her and we needed to move on.

As I was putting Rebecca to bed that night she was quieter than usual. She asked me a question I will never forget. She asked me, just above a whisper, if I had really forgiven her. I could feel her guilt weighing so heavily on her heart. I broke for her in that moment because I realized she did not have the peace of the Holy Spirit to comfort her heart after sinning. I immediately told her that I had forgiven her and went on to have a conversation about how God had forgiven me and I wanted to forgive her. I hope that by the end of our talk she understand the concept of God’s grace. Whenever I think back on Mooseheart I think first and foremost of the difficult times; when I’m having a bad day all I have to do is think about Mooseheart and I’m so grateful not to be there. I had so few happy memories and even fewer breakthroughs with students, but this moment with Rebecca made the 11 months worth it.

Despite her terrible temper, Rebecca was the most compassionate girl in the house. On her good days, she was absolutely hilarious and great entertainment. She was passionate about horses and could remember every country song she had ever heard. I only cried in public one time that year, and it was in front of Rebecca. I knew that she wouldn’t look down on me, and for whatever reason I couldn’t hold my tears back. She immediately reached out to comfort me and quite distressed over my tears. She was intelligent, a tremendously hard worker when she wanted to be, athletic, and an excellent student. She left Mooseheart about 6 months after I did, and I have no way of getting a hold of her. She’s back living with her mother, and to be honest, I’m scared for her. Every once in a while, it brings tears to my eyes that my role in her life is done. I wish I could be there for her now, but at this point, all I can do is put her picture on my bookshelf so I can remember her in my prayers.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Thoughts Exactly

I love reading articles that remind me I'm not alone in my perspective. Take the time to read this!

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/single-satisfied-and-sent-mission-for-the-not-yet-married

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Purity

I just read an article that was a response to another article written about a women's experience of saving sex until her wedding night. This women struggled a great deal because she was told her whole life that sex was dirty. When she got married, she had a difficult time being with her husband, because she felt like sex was sinful. This women's response article was fantastic. I was also heartbroken over this girl's experience. It's so sad to see how the church sometimes talks about purity, as if it's only something for singles. After you get married, you still need to discipline yourself. Therefore, purity is lifestyle, not a event. The habits you develop as a single person will follow you into marriage. I also think we need to be careful how we talk to our kids/teens about sex. We should tell them it's one of God's coolest inventions, as long as it's inside the boundary of marriage. We can't be scared of telling teenagers that sex is great out of fear they will want to do it more. We need to make it clear that it can be an awesome thing within the context of marriage. Sex is so great as a married couple, that you should want to protect that gift. It's worth the wait! (so I hear....) I'd love to hear any suggestions, especially from married people, how you would describe the value of waiting until you're married. How can we communicate the significance of sex without enticing kids to want to try it?



"Christians, Stop Staying Pure Till Marriage"
http://sarahisawriter.tumblr.com/post/105152515930/christians-stop-staying-pure-till-marriage


I'm waiting till I'm married to have sex.

That’s probably not the first thing you were expecting to read when you bashfully looked over both shoulders and clicked on this link, but it’s true.

Why then would I write an article with a headline that implies otherwise?

Because I’m waiting till I’m married, but I’m not staying pure till I’m married.

Samantha has caused me to see things this way.

You see, Samantha is the author of a blog that went viral several months ago titled: “Why I Waited Till My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and Wish I Hadn’t.” In the article, Samantha shares the gut-wrenching story of how she grew up in the 90’s Christian purity movement, making a commitment to stay chaste till marriage, and the emotional disaster that followed on her wedding night.

A lot of progressive thinkers stood up and applauded Samantha’s stance, agreeing that the church’s ideas are both legalistic and old fashioned, but what most of them failed to look at, was the prerogative from which she was coming from.

Samantha had been raised to believe sex was something vile and dirty, that it was a shameful act to be kept in secrecy and never openly discussed. It’s no wonder she struggled so much when she finally got married. How can you expect a girl to be told something is bad her entire life, then magically expect her to think it’s good the moment she says “I do”?

We as the church tend to have a weak theology when it comes to sexuality, but more on that later…

Samantha went on to say that her struggle to enjoy being with her husband caused her to seek professional counseling. It was during one of her sessions that she was faced with a crucial option: she could either be spiritual, or she could be sexual. Not only did she pick the latter (as if the two could somehow ever be separated), she still ended up walking away from both her religion and her marriage.

To me, and so many other young ladies who are waiting (or those of you who have waited), this whole ordeal broke my heart. Hearing this woman, who has so clearly been burned the aforementioned weak theology, try to convince other young ladies that their choice to wait is a mistake, made me unspeakably angry.

We have a problem here. A problem that causes me great deal of frustration when it comes to the more legalistic arguments involved in the modern day purity movement.

The phrase “staying pure until marriage” echo’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.

If your goal is staying pure UNTIL marriage, you’re going to walk into a marriage highly dissatisfied. That’s because you were never meant to lose your purity. In fact, it’s not something that CAN be lost. It’s a lifestyle, not a state of being. Something either you walk in or you don’t. In accepting the exchange of Jesus, you can’t separate yourself from it. It goes with you to both the grocery store AND to the sanctuary, to the doctor’s office AND to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

It also goes with you to your bedroom.

It goes with you, because you go with Christ.

Purity isn’t lost in the moment, it’s an essential key to a happy (and lasting) marriage. It’s what keeps you connected to both God and each other, it’s what helps you stay strong and faithful to one another, it’s what helps you to build trust and affection.

And yes, blushing elders. It’s one of the most important ingredients in having GREAT sex.

See, we often confuse purity for virginity. One is lost, while the other is lived.

And honestly—side rant—what’s with the whole “losing your virginity” thing anyway? To lose something is to imply that said thing is of no more worth than a forgotten stick of gum in the pocket of your pants.

Sex is precious. It’s one of the most beautiful and mysterious gifts God gave mankind (next to coffee and dark chocolate and peanut butter—completely different blogs.) It’s the emotional connection, the physical glue, and the spiritual hemming of two bodies becoming one soul in complete selflessness till a call from eternity separates them indefinitely.

Marriage is the vow such intimacy lends itself to, the covenant it was created for. How terrible to understand the context of its power and think of it as something simply to be lost.

Call me crazy, but I don’t want to lose it. I want to give it away. I want to place it in the hands of the one whom I know will carry it with him. Because something freely given away isn’t something that’s recklessly abandoned. It’s held close, it’s treasured, it’s preserved with every smile, remembered in every kiss, and honored with every touch. It’s what makes every moment afterwards new again. It’s scary. It’s never safe. And it’s incredibly worth the risk.

Maybe if this was the message we as the church taught more often, we’d have far less broken and bitter Samantha’s telling girls to experiment if only to have the freedom to give themselves away to whomever they please.

Look, this isn’t me thrashing the entire movement. Been there, done that, and have the purity ring to prove it. As the millennial generation arises, there are A LOT of awesome people calling for a revolution in how we as Christians approach sex, those who agree that it’s far time we got messy and real with the one thing we find it so hard to talk about from the pulpit. I’m beyond glad to see such issues coming into the light (I’m all for good sex, remember?)

I plan to strive for purity now as much I will when I’m on my honeymoon. The only thing different will be my last name and my address. I’ll still seek to honor my God with every ounce of determination I have in me, only then, I’ll be seeking Him with a man by my side who is striving ardently to do the same thing—failures and all.


Because even after sex, I’ll still belong to Jesus… and so will you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Really, it's ok.

My friend, Dan, sent me this link to an article on singleness and the church, and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share it with you!

I can't tell you how many times I've been told by my married friends that, "I want you to get married because I just want you to be happy." Well intentioned, but a bit sad. Do I look miserable? I'm not. I don't feel pitiful most of the time, but my relationship status in most church settings has been seen as "less than," undesirable, or a worst case scenario as temporary.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Jealousy

I have two nephews who are currently 2 ½ and almost 5. Watching them play together is fascinating. When one boy picks up a toy, suddenly, the other boy determines his life couldn't be complete without that toy! He needs that toy to be happy! So he yanks the toy out of his brother’s hands, making his little brother cry. When the older boy has successfully stolen the toy, he quickly loses interest, because frankly, he didn’t really care about it much in the first place. He just didn’t want his little brother to have it. Mere seconds later, he notices that his little brother has found a new toy, and the stealing commences. My poor sister has the patience of Job, because this is what her day looks like every day, all day.

Why is something so much more appealing when we see other people enjoying it? And then we get that thing we think we can’t live without, only to discover it wasn’t all that great anyway. The funny thing is, my nephews have mountains of toys. And yet, they only want the one thing they can’t have; they fixate on one singular goal. We tend to focus on the one thing we can’t have instead of all the things we can! It we are so focused on the thing we can’t have, we often miss incredible things all around us! We are begging God to give us that one thing we think will complete our happiness, but fail to notice that we are drowning in a sea of amazing blessings.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are you the kind of person you're looking for is looking for?

I love Andy Stanley's question: "Are you the kind of person you're looking for is looking for?" A year ago he preach a great sermon series on relationships. Here is a link to the last one. It's probably the most practical sermon in the series, but the rest of the series builds an excellent foundation, especially for new or non-believers.

http://yourmove.is/watch/love-sex-and-dating-2013/4/

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Would you chose singleness?

It's hard as a single person to know that people assume you have extra free time; it's easy for others to "take advantage" because you don't have to spend time building a relationship with your spouse. I'll be the first one to admit that I have more free time than most of my married friends. Especially the ones with kids. However, I still get grumpy. Why am I picked to work holidays, weekends, etc., simply because I didn't have a family to go home to? It didn't seem fair. Then I made the mistake of talking to my mom. She doesn't let me get away with much, including complaining. She reminded me that Paul says that part of the blessing of being single is having more time to devote to serving God. That might mean that we work the holiday shift, or the late night, or help out when no one else can. Are have the freedom that parents don't have. We may still be quite busy, but often our lives have a bit more flexibility than someone with a toddler. Are you willing to work harder than your co-workers? Are you willing to give up your free time? Are you willing to live as the bride of Christ, and devote your time to your heavenly husband?

Check out this article on being single as an act of worship. Let me know what you think!

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/blog/23317-pursuing-singleness