Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nursing Home Blues

Did I mention that my new house is just accross a parking lot from a nursing home complex? It is. Last night Trisha and Carter spent the night (much to my delight), while they were treating their house for fleas. This morning we said our goodbyes and I closed the door behind Trish as she left.

Just then I heard this strange sound. At first I thought it was the wail of some animal, but then I barely made out words midst the wailing, "Waaaaaaaait! Haaalp Meeeeeee! Paaleeease!" I quickly opened the door back up to see who was making the noise. I looked around for some screaming kid, but then realized the voice sounded more mature. Hmmm...I shaded my eyes from the son, and peered through the chain link fence that runs between my road and the nursing home parking lot. There, in an archway that must lead to a courtyard, I saw the figure of an old man stooped over in a wheelchair. I realized that he was the source of the wailing, and that he was trying to attract the attention of Trisha and I as we stood in my driveway.

As our ears adjusted to his warbled voice, we realized that instead of yelling "Puhlease!" over and over again, he was yelling, "Pooooliice!"

"Call the police, their killin' me!" he hollered. "Police, get the police! I need the police!"

Trisha and I looked at each other quizzically. "Should we call the police?" I asked, "Just in case there is something going on?"

"Nah," decided my social-worker sister turned therapist, "I'll just go talk to him." So I sat down in her backseat next to where Carter was buckled in while she proceeded to walk around the fence and across the parking lot to the man who screamed all the more when he saw her approaching.

"Please, Lady!" he shouted,"Don't come here if you want to live, just call the police! I need the police!" By now, there were two women wearing scrubs on his side of the fence that appeared to be trying to subdue him. I couldn't hear them or Trisha from my seat in her car, but I could still hear the man yelling. Trisha must have asked him his name because I shouted, "Don Walters!!" and then, "Nice to meet you Trisha, but call the police!" At some point he yelled, "IT HURTS!!! They gave me my medicine already but it still hurts! I need the police!" Trisha was squatting down so she could be eye level with the man through the gate, but he didn't like whatever she was saying to him. "Don't you have a brain?!" he berated her, "You need to get a brain!" About that point, the two women who worked there, began to wheel him away from the courtyard and Trisha returned, on the way assuring concerned neighbors that everything was okay.

According to Trish the building closest to my road Psych Ward and this guy had only been there a couple days and was having a hard time adjusting. "He told me they were beating him," she said, "and he kept pointing to his dressed wounds. It looked to me like he may have fallen on the ground from his wheelchair or from a bed or something."

"How did the people who worked there treat him while you were there?" I asked.

"They seemed nice, but then I was right there." We stood there for a minute.

"It's hard," I finally said, "There are places that don't treat people well, but how do you know whether or not to believe someone who is behaving erratically and crazy? But then again, everyone who works there could be really nice except one mean person who really did do something to hurt the guy. That wouldn't be too hard to believe..."

I decided to keep my eyes and ears open. and I've been hoping to go visit with some of residents at some point, so maybe I can ask them how well they like the place and see what they say. All I know for sure is that I'm really glad that starting tomorrow my Grandma will be here with me.

I hope I didn't give the impression that my grandmother's current place is abusive. They have been kind to her, I just think I can offer her an even better quality of life, here living with someone who loves her.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Get By with A Little Help from My Friends

I'm a notorious underestimater. If I say it'll take me ten minutes to get ready, I'll be ready in twenty. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to get Pacific City, but I always say it will take 2. How tall is my baby sister? Oh...about 4'10" (actually she's 5'2.5"). I'll try on this size--oops I'm not that small. And of course, I always underestimate any task I'm going to undertake. Like in December, I was convinced I could pack up my entire apartment in 12-14 hours. Ha! Try 30ish.

So today I was going to paint the interior walls of my new house. Yes, all the walls. I was smart enough to realize that I needed help, but I figured between Eric, Tracy, Mindy, Andrew and I, we could get it done in 6 or 7 hours. Again, HA! We painted from 1pm until 1am, and we still have 3-1/2 rooms left to paint! And that was with Amber and Zachary helping for a few hours as well. I knew this was going to be a big job--but I completely underestimated how big.

So, after a loooong day of painting today, and looking forward to day of painting tomorrow, followed by a moving day on Saturday, I'm so thankful for my friends and family and their willingness to help me get this stuff done. I seriously could not get it done without them. Thank you guys so much!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Golden Key

It all started with a golden key that I received this evening. But what is it for?'s a door. I wonder if it will work.

It works! I'm sure you can guess what door my golden key opens...

That's right, it's the door to my new house.

After several years of working and saving and praying...the Lord has blessed me with a house!

I figured I'll wait to take inside pictures until everything's in stay tuned.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"Oh...Hi...Umm..I'm living downstairs here..."

Have I mentioned what a blessing my friendship with the Smart family has been? They have provided me with a place to stay, with storage for my belongings so I don't have to pay for a storage unit, with companionship, friendship, lots of laughs and even car repair. Andrew has helped me with my car two or three times since I've lived here--in fact just the other week he put one of his car's battery in mine to help me get home and then two days later had replaced my faulty alternator before I was even up in the morning, and this afternoon he fixed my long-broken window! (Another thing that I've come to enjoy about having a man in the house is that he'll carry heavy suticases and boxes up the stairs for me. I could get used to that.) The boys are constantly encouraging me, and hugging me and even writing things at school that include me in the family. Amber is like another sister to me, and we have stayed up [too] late many nights hanging out talking about our lives and our faith and our future plans and hopes. As I grow and my closest friends from high school and college move away or travel the world, I'm so glad to add to their ranks a friend who is settled with her familiy HERE. So...yeah, I love the Smarts. Living with them has been fun and healing (going through the last 6 months living in an apartment alone would have been much harder for me emotionally), and I am so thankful for this time!

But sometimes living with a family can bring up strange situations. So...that brings me to today's humorous and slightly uncomfortable story.

Last night all the Smarts spent the night in Seaside, and then Andrew (who leads worship on Sundays at his church) came home today while Amber and the boys stayed for a few more days.

A little while ago, while Andrew was out in the yard, he was chatting with his next-door neighbors and mentioned that Amber and the boys were out of town. His kind-hearted neighbors invited him over for dinner so he didn't have to eat alone, seeing as how his family was gone. After he had finished working outside, Andrew came in to quickly shower and change before heading next door.

Meanwhile, I'm in my room in the basement wearing "laundry day clothes" (mis-matching shirt and ugly sweats), doing my laundry and watching the Olympics, completely oblivious to the the above-ground world. Boom boom, boom, boom, boom. I hear someone firmly pounding on the front door through the clamorous dialogue of the ridiculous sportscasters who were commentating on the event of the moment. I figured the door wasn't for me and waited for Andrew to answer it. But he didn't. Huh....well, maybe he went somewhere, I thought to myself. So, as a kind basement-tenant, I went to answer the door for him.

I open the door and the man standing there gives me an odd look. "Hi," he says slowly, "is Andrew there?"

"I think he is," I reply, then turn to call up the stairs "Andrew! ANDREW! Are you here?"

I hear Andrew's voice muffled through a closed door asking "what?"

"SOMEONE'S AT THE DOOR FOR YOU," I yell back. Then turning to the man on the porch I asked, "Are you one of the neighbors?"

"Yeah. We live right next door," he answers, "Andrew was going to come over to our house for dinner."

"Oh.....Hi," I reply in a tone I'm trying to keep warm despite the neighbor's stare.. We stand there waiting for Andrew to come to the door and I'm acutely aware of the fact that this man is looking at me a bit strangely. I shouldn't have answered the door, I thought, this is weird. And then...I get it. Andrew had told his neighbors that his wife and kids were out of town, and they had invited him over so he wouldn't have to be alone. Then they come over and some strange woman opens the door. I quickly try to explain who I am: " Umm...I'm living downstairs here until I can get a house." It is clear to me now that Andrew isn't going to be able to come to the door for a while. I feel agonizingly uncomfortable under the neighbor's gaze, and I decide it's time to get rid of him.

"I think Andrew might be in the bathroom..." I suggest. Now, you have to understand that I have indeed been well trained by my parents to say something like, "he's indisposed right now" instead of "he's in the shower" or "he's in the bathroom." But at this point, I think the neighbor is looking at me like I'm the other woman, and I can't bring myself to say "he's indisposed," lest he interprets it all sleazy-like.

"Can you just tell him we're ready for him to come over?" he asks.

"Sure, I'll let him know."

I smile. Neighbor smiles. Neighbor leaves. I shut the door. Just then Andrew appears. "Your neighbor came to say they're ready," I tell him.

"Okay, great!"


Apparently the neighbors asked about me that night at their dinner, and I'm glad that Andrew could explain to them who I am and why I'm there, and remind them that my car has been in the driveway for 8 months now (wow...I can't believe it's been that long). But it sure made me feel icky when I thought the neighbor might think ill of me. As I said, sometimes living in another family's basement can put me in odd situations. :-) But I love 'em (the family, not the situations).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jr. High Girls Camp 2008

I was once again amazed by God's grace, peace and beauty as I saw him working in the hearts of 108 jr high girls this week!

Highlights of the week include:

► My computer--which was to be used for all our lessons and worship sessions--broke down completely five minutes before our first chapel time. I actually laughed. "I should have expected this," I told one of the staff members. Thankfully, the previous night when I had edited the PowerPoint® presentations, I had thought, If something happens to this computer we could lose everything we need for this week, and so I had copied all my camp files to my memory stick. We were able to just use Amber's laptop for the rest of the week. What could have been disastrous ended up not being a problem at all.

► For the first time in four years of directing this week of camp, we had to send home a camper due to behavioral problems. Even that went well because the girl was sad to leave, she wanted to come back next year, and she knew we loved her. Throughout what could have been a sticky and difficult disciplinary process, I felt complete peace that each discussion and each consequence we issued was done with a heart of love that God had given us for this girl.

► On Wednesday, a friend of mine spoke very honestly to the girls about the painful experiences she has experienced in life, and how God has grown her through them. As she shared her pain with them, it was as if walls of fear were melting from the girls hearts. That night, girls in each cabin began to share with others the pain they felt that they had been afraid to share before. As the girls saw the pain that their friends or even the girls they hadn't liked before had experienced, their hearts softened toward one another. After that evening the entire camp was unified in love and understanding in an amazing and inexplicable way that I believe only came from God. It was amazing to see cliques that had been fighting suddenly want to spend time together, suddenly accepting each other. I can't really describe the feeling that permeated the rest of the week...but there was a lot of acceptance and compassion for one another.

► After we sent the girl home, some of her friends were very upset with us, but as we talked with them and showed love to them, their hearts softened toward us--especially after Wednesday night. Thursday afternoon, three of the girls came to me and were talking about the experiences of someone they knew. "I can't believe he left her when he found out she was pregnant and then thought he could come back once she lost the baby!" one girl exclaimed with disgust. "It's so sad," I replied, "I see so much pain that comes from experiencing full physical intimacy with someone before there is full emotional intimacy and before there is complete commitment to one another." The girls were listening intently, so I continued. "There are so many people who feel love for someone and give themselves to that person only to find out that the other person was not as committed. That's one of the reasons why I believe the only safe place for sex is within committed life-long relationship with another person. In our culture, the way we publicly make that commitment is through marriage vows and a marriage ceremony." To my amazement, the three girls (one of whom was seen to have condoms in her purse) nodded their understanding. They were still quiet so I decided to keep going. "Of course, another problem is that these days marriage is viewed less as a life-long commitment and more as a temporary arrangement. I think people have become confused about what love is. They think that love is butterflies in the stomach, and raw attraction. Love stories often end at the beginning of commitment, and they don't show you the hard times that come next. Real, life-long love is choosing to show love to someone you are committed to, even when the feelings aren't there for a period. A mother may not have oogly feelings toward a child that is screaming hateful things at her, but a loving mother does what is best for her child even when it is not easy." I looked at the girls who had just been sharing about how much their parents' divorces had hurt them, "I'm hoping that since you guys have experienced the pain that comes from splitting up a family or from growing up with only one parent, you will be the generation to do things differently. I hope that you guys can decide to save physical intimacy for a fully committed relationship to save yourselves from hurt and to make sure that the children you have will grow up with two parents who love them. And I hope you will realize--unlike the generations before you--what true love is, and that you will work to have healthy marriages that survive the hard times, so that your children do not have to experience the things that have been so hurtful to you." The girls looked serious and thoughtful, but they were nodding as I talked. I pray that God will give this next generation the strength to do things differently, even when it is difficult, and that they and their children will be blessed because of it.

► After Wednesday night's openness and transparency, several girls felt safe enough to ask for help with abuse that has occurred in their home and to admit their struggle with body image or eating disorders. As a camp, we have done and will continue to do what we can to ensure the safety of each girl and to see that she receives the help she needs in order to begin to heal.

► On Friday night, a counselor asked me to sit down with her cabin as they were asking many difficult questions. Included in her cabin were three young women who honestly told me, "We are not Christians yet, but we're thinking about it and we are trying to see if it is right." Some of them had felt a lot of pressure this week to begin a relationship with God through Jesus, and I think the pressure was relieved slightly when I affirmed how important I thought it was for them to consider this decision seriously and thoroughly. These girls were amazing! Some of the questions we discussed were:
  • How can we trust the Bible to be true?
  • How can a loving God allow anyone to experience hell?
  • Why do you claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
  • What happens to babies, mentally handicapped people, and people who have never heard about Jesus die?
  • How does a person cross over from wondering to believing?
  • Can someone live a happy life without a relationship with God?
  • Does it matter if two people in a marriage/relationship have different beliefs?
  • If God is more powerful than Satan, why doesn't he destroy him right now?
  • Why did God let people choose to sin?
  • If God knew people would sin and some would be eternally separated from him, why would he make us?

There were no miraculous breakthroughs, but I could see God's holy Spirit working to draw these girls to him. I pray that the words I spoke and the attitude I portrayed would represent God's glory and truth well, and that where I failed God will lead them to his truth.


Overall it was a really great week. Even though some things were difficult, God allowed me to feel peace and have a fairly stress-free week. The stress I did experience had less to do with camp and more to do with my health and the loan process. I truly enjoyed speaking in the mornings, and although I’m sure that the hot topics we discussed in the evenings (friendship, peer pressure, depression, body image, and relationships) are the things the girls will remember the most, I’m absolutely okay with that. I do hope that when we talked about heaven, it helped the girls begin to imagine that it will be a wonderful, exciting, adventurous place. And that they will begin to look forward to and even long for this place where they can be in the presence of the God of the universe who created each of us and loves us and died for us and calls us to come to him.

Lord thank you for such a wonderful week. Thank you for leading me in what to say to specific girls and for giving me ideas of how to communicate with them when they were asking tough questions. Use the truth you spoke through me to minister to the girls where they are, and anything that I said from myself that was not true or helpful for them, allow them to forget. Please grow and encourage those girls who trusted in Jesus this week. Please comfort all who are hurting, and allow them to feel your presence in a very real way as they go through hard times. Please bring healing to the hearts of these girls as they seek to find their identity and their value in relationship to you! I know you love them more than I do, and I trust you to work things for good in the lives of those who are yours. Amen.