Fearless Faith, Uncategorized

Speech//Hillcrest Hope

Hello friends!  Remember a few weeks ago when I was like, “I’m going to do a product review once a week from now on!”…and then I only did that one…and I haven’t gotten around to writing another…?  Yeah…  Sorry about that.  Eventually, I’ll start writing on a consistent basis, I’m sure of it.  And THIS is different than what I typically publish, because THIS is a speech.  I was asked to speak to a group of volunteers and donors of an organization that is very special to me– and, I figured, since it’s already written I might as well publish it.  If you are on the fence about volunteering or donating goods or supporting a non-profit financially, my hope is that this tiny portion of my story will push you closer to saying YES and giving yourself away.  I hope you are all having a fabulous week!!!–the sun is shining…the wind is blowing…Thank you God for this new day!


 

I’m not a speaker. Speaking to a group regardless of size is not something I enjoy.  However, when Rachel asked if I could do this for her…there is absolutely no fear or excuse great enough to keep me from behind this podium.

When I submitted my application, I had just over a year clean from drugs and alcohol.  I had an 18 month old daughter.  I was in a toxic relationship.  And I was trying so hard to get my head out from under water…and I couldn’t.  (Brief caveat: I was a preschool teacher…and I made $10.51 an hour, which is above minimum wage.  But at $10.51 an hour, you also don’t qualify for any public assistance.  No food stamps, no rental assistance, no TANF…) No matter how much I tried to save, no matter how hard I was trying to make decisions that would benefit myself and my daughter, I just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

At the time, I was living with my mom in Excelsior…Hillcrest had been mentioned to me several times and each time I disqualified myself: “I’m not ACTUALLY homeless.  I have a place to stay.”…really what I was saying to myself was, “Someone else deserves it more than I do.”—One day I ended up in the teacher’s lounge where I worked…with a parent of a child who attended this school…and this parent happened to have very great knowledge of Hillcrest.  So I took a deep breath…and asked her about it…and she said, “I think you’d be a great candidate.” And I said, “Well, I’m not REALLY homeless though…” and she just smiled and said, “I think you should apply.”  So I did…  I applied by myself…and during the interview asked if my boyfriend could stay with me (because things were likely not going well when I had filled out the application, but were better by the time I interviewed)…and Rachel told me “NO”…and I’m so glad that she did.

I moved in really close to Christmas…forgive me for not having the exact date, but I remember so clearly getting a knock on the door one of my first nights there… It was my church sponsor…with gifts.  They just came in and set all these gifts on the table, prayed for me, and then they left…and I cried and cried, because I was grateful…and I confused…because I had made so many awful mistakes…and again with that “Someone else deserves it more than I do.” –And, as a non-Christian…not quite an atheist…maybe an agnostic…it began awakening my soul…  Those gifts of towels and a homemade scrap booking kit were so much more than merely towels and a homemade scrap booking kit…

During my stay, I was taught everything—not necessarily because I didn’t know how to do them, but because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to do them without someone’s guidance.  For years, my decisions were poor.  My decisions were NOT good…they got me in trouble…over and over and over again.  So while I was there, I was taught everything…how to clean, how to follow rules and meet expectations, how to shop, how to budget, how to do laundry, how to microwave a hot dog, how to manage time, how to make popcorn, how to pray, how to ask for help…

It was hard.  Staying at Hillcrest was so hard.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished (and I’ve had three children, so that’s saying something).  …There was a time while I was there that my boyfriend took my car…a time when he took my money…and of course a time when I could no longer deny that he was getting high again……and usually I’d forgive him and continue on in this cycle of chaos…but during one of our case management meetings while discussing this relationship, Rachel asked me if I wanted Journey to think that this is how a father behaves.  She didn’t word it like that…but essentially that’s what she said.  …And something clicked.  I told him I never wanted to see him again…and, to this day, I’ve maybe seen him three times, and I’ve left as soon as he’s entered the room…he has minimal contact with our daughter through letters…and I’ve told him repeatedly that he needs to go through the courts if he wants any sort of visitation…because when I was at Hillcrest, I learned how to set healthy boundaries for myself and my child.

Close to the end of my stay, I was telling my resident managers about how upset I was about being alone (being alone was uncharted territory)…and how I was struggling with not answering the phone when my ex called…and they told me pray for the right person/people to enter my life.  And by this time, I’d learned to pray because it had been demonstrated regularly by my resident managers…prayer was the solution for nearly everything it seemed…and it WORKED and it turned me into a believer. So I prayed.  And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed…and I have no idea for how long it was…it logistically couldn’t have been longer than a few weeks, I met the man that is my husband today.  …He asked me out for coffee and I told him that I couldn’t spend any money…and he said, “I’m not going to ask you out and make you buy your own coffee…” And that was different.  I’d never dated anyone who had offered to buy my coffee.  I had never really DATED at all.  –I was so confused, because he had it all together…WHY would want to date a single mom…in recovery…in transitional living for homeless…… “Someone else deserves him more than I do…”  But I kept praying…and we COMMUNICATED (which is something else I learned here)…we got married in 2014 and today we stilllike each other.

I feel like I’ve been here and there…and I’ve tried to touch on just a few of the highlights of my stay…but I want to reiterate that this program is so, so, so, soooo much more than a shelter…or a temporary solution… Beyond the ability to save during my stay and getting childcare reimbursement and little treats for meeting expectations…this program gave me a life beyond what I would’ve ever imagined.  I learned indirectly and directly about God…about Jesus…about selfless service…about communication…and boundaries and recovery and credit reports and confidence and that I deserved so, so, so much more than I was giving to myself.  Today, I know with all of my soul that I am WORTHY of a place to call my own…I am WORTHY of healthy relationships…I am WORTHY of assistance…and my story is WORTH telling.  Oftentimes, because my story is mine…and I’ve lived it and heard it many, many, many times…my story loses it’s sparkle.  It loses it “WOW”…until I share it with someone who hasn’t heard it before…and all that shock factor and “OH-MY-GOODNESS…GOD-IS-SO-GOOD…” comes flooding back.

Hillcrest changed my life. –Actually, Hillcrest gave me the skills I needed to change my own life.  Completely.  I am a homeowner…a car owner…my credit is LOVELY…I’ve gone on a trip to Haiti to love on orphans and talk about Jesus…I’m the owner of a bachelor’s degree…I have almost 8 years of recovery…I am a stay at home mom and I can be because we SAVE and we PLAN and we don’t go on a bunch of trips because we BUDGET… …When I say that Hillcrest helped to change my life…I mean it.  I can do hard things.  Hillcrest has played a huge role in teaching me that truth.

Really quickly, before I’m finished up here, I just want to say that Rachel, Anne, other employees…people who donate time and talents for community living…and food and goods for the pantry…and church sponsors for the apartments…volunteers at the thrift store and volunteers on the campuses who build and clean and organize and pray— you are all so vital.  As a graduate looking back, without any one of those pieces of the program, something major would have been lacking.  Thank you so much for helping to create the person that I am and the life I have the opportunity to live today.

Fearless Faith, Mission Motherhood, Uncategorized

JOY

WOW.  Putting aside time to write has felt near impossible these past few months.  Between the baby being a baby and the two-year-old being a two-year-old and the seven-year-old actually being very helpful and the dogs and the kitten and my husband also having interests, along with a job to support our not-so-tiny family…when is there time for me to sit at the computer and get my thoughts out?  If I don’t have time to clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, get caught up on laundry, vacuum, or any of the other “housewifey” things that I feel like should be simple tasks to complete– how can I justify spending 45 minutes in front of the computer?  I’d be the first to tell another busy mom (or dad, for that matter) that self-care is not selfish…but when taking my own advice, I obviously struggle.

IT’S A NEW YEAR, FRIENDS!!  Can you believe it!?  2018? 

Like most of everyone, I’d assume, I did some careful reflection over my 2017.  I had a friend suggest to write things that I wanted to thank God for…and, in the midst of a heavy year, I found so many things that were more than worthy of praise.  –In this activity, I had to quickly realize that acknowledging that I’m grateful for events while mourning the death of a loved one does not negate the pain I still feel.  To me, after a few deep breaths, it felt like an unnatural but necessary part of grieving that I likely wouldn’t have taken the time to do had this friend not literally handed me pencil and paper as she posed this question.  Following the question about thanksgiving, she asked: “What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  …These two questions churned hard in my heart.  For what do I need to give thanks and what do I need to bury to start fresh?  Christians likely think of Jesus’s suffering on the cross, being buried, and raised again to life so that we, too, can have everlasting life.  Atheists, agnostics, and individuals of other religions or beliefs might have an easier time thinking of a tree.  (This was the analogy that I immediately thought of, honestly.)  I’m not even sure if this analogy is true or backed by science, but I heard one time years ago that a tree lets go of its leaves not because they’re unneeded during the fall and winter months, but because their branches would be too heavy to support the weight of the leaves in addition to the ice or snow that often falls during the colder months.  In order for the tree to bear the weight of the snow, it must let go of the leaves grown in the previous season.  It’s because of this defense that the tree keeps its branches and is allowed to produce new leaves and new life each year.

“What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  

For me, the answer wasn’t one that I wanted to hear…but it was an immediate lump in my throat and I knew that I had to put pen to paper: ego, pride, self-reliance, and comparison.  Between Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and self-help sections and DIY projects, it is so easy to find myself buried in a pile of “oh-my-God-how-am-I-ever-supposed-to-get-all-of-this-done-in-15-minutes-and-the-veggies-are-burning-and-why-is-there-snot-all-over-your-face-son?”  And, instead of asking for help, I’ll look on Pinterest to find ways to make my one person become so efficient that I’m able to complete the tasks of several while still caring for my children and modeling for them the values that I want so badly so soften their hearts in a world that suggests toughening up.  Why do I look on Pinterest?  Why do I ask for recommendations on Facebook about organization and quick meals?  Why do I think I should do it all and why do I think I have to EARN a break by completing everything?  In teaching, I know that students perform better if they’re given frequent breaks.  Why would I think it would be any different as an adult?  I also tell my children regularly, “Do not yell at me.  Do not whine.  If you need help, all you need to do is use your words and ask.  I’d be happy to help.”  I was on the phone with my mom a little over a week ago, and she said, “Dani, why don’t you ask me to help you?  I’d be glad to come watch the kids for a while.  You just need to tell me when you need me.”  My mother in law, aunts, grandma, friends, neighbors, etc. have all said the same thing.  Why is it so hard to ask for help?  Ego.  Pride.  Self-reliance.  “I got it.”  “I can do it.”  Or the worst of all: COMPARISON.  “But I saw on Facebook– SHE has kids…THEY goes on vacations…HER house is clean…HER meals are perfect…THEIR bodies are flawless…SHE is a better mom/wife/Christian/daughter/friend/person than me…THEY ARE BETTER.”  I know I’m not the only one who does this.  Right?  Right.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on through the upcoming year.   Each year I’ve experienced transformation.  The first year, my word was “INTENTION.”  Year two: “IDENTITY.”  Last year: “PEACE.”  This year: “JOY.”

In the previous years, I’ve mediated and prayed about my word because I wanted to pick the perfect word for the most drastic spiritual transformation.  This year, I didn’t do anything to receive my word.  –I have not been able to get away from my word for MONTHS.  It literally keeps showing up everywhere.  I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Christmas was just here…and ‘JOY to the World’ and JOY-this and JOY-that…”  But it’s been more than just the typical Christmastime sightings.  And it started prior to Christmastime festivities.  So my focal word for 2018 is JOY.  As a noun, it’s great…of course: “a feeling of happiness”–but as a verb…that’s truly where I’m going to place my focus: “rejoice.”  Can you imagine how much less stressed and resentful I would feel if I would stop comparing my dirty dishes to yours or hers or his or theirs…and instead took a minute to rejoice?  It sounds hokey.  But I’m going to try it, because it can’t hurt.  I’m going to rejoice in the dishes that show my family has eaten today…Rejoice in the laundry that shows my family has plenty of weather appropriate clothing…Rejoice in the aching shoulders and arms that show my children feel comforted in my care….Rejoice in the many friends and family who offer to help and say YES because self-care is not selfish.  Rejoice in the knowledge that I’m not so important that another person can’t watch my kids or load the dishwasher or fold the laundry…Rejoice in the recognition of some control issues and the ability to ask for help instead of drowning because I refuse to let go of the idea that I can complete everything on my own.  Rejoice in letting the dead leaves fall to the ground (ego, pride, self-reliance, comparison) in order for fresh leaves and new life to emerge (JOY).

 

 

 

joyDo you have a word for 2018?  If you haven’t yet chosen one, I encourage you to choose a word that resonates with your soul.  Choose a word that encourages growth and demands action, but is gentle enough to tuck away at night and allow you to sleep
peacefully.  If you have already chosen a word, I’d love for you to comment with your word.  No explanations.  Just the word.  I believe in support…I believe in the power of prayer…and I believe that the simplicity of a single word can be extraordinarily impactful.

Until I get the chance to write again, from my heart to yours, Happy New Year!

xox,
Dani