From my front row seat

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What a holy mess...

One of my earliest and most difficult lessons through Blue Monarch took place the first time a resident left early.  It was 2004 and at that time our curriculum was twelve months long.  (It’s now a one-to-two year program.)

Jeannie was our poster child.  She came to us directly from jail in our very first year.  She had three girls and was able to be reunited with them through our program.  Jeannie was not only beautiful inside and out - she was smart and capable of doing great things.  She developed a strong relationship with God, improved her parenting skills, and even got a job in a nursing home helping the elderly, which she loved.  As far as I could tell, she was a perfect example of what Blue Monarch was supposed to provide and how women could expect to transform their lives while they were with us.  Yep, that was a job well done for all of us.

So when Jeannie decided to leave after only six months I was devastated.  I thought it was a terrible mistake because I knew she wasn’t ready but she was so hardheaded she wouldn’t listen.  So that made me angry.  I remember standing in Jeannie’s upstairs room trying to reason with her while she packed and it ended up in a heated argument because we were both so emotional about it.  Jeannie felt she had accomplished all she came to Blue Monarch to do, and she was ready to go back to her old friends and change them as well.

I might have been new to addiction and recovery, but even I knew that was a terrible mistake.  I couldn’t imagine it working the way she thought it would.  So she left.  And I felt completely defeated and heartbroken.  I actually began to wonder if Blue Monarch was a complete failure. It looked like a holy mess to me.

It wasn’t long after that I ran into Steve Blount, who happened to be Jeannie’s prosecutor.  I shared with him my disappointing news about Jeannie and he patiently listened to me.  When I finished he said, “You tell that story as if it’s a failure.  But to me, it’s still a success story.”

“How can you say that?  She was only with us for six months and she left when she wasn’t ready.  We failed her.”

“Well, the way I see it,” he said, “that’s six months she was not on the streets selling drugs.  And for six months her children were exposed to a much better way of life.  That to me is a success story.”

This revelation completely changed the way I looked at our program after that.  I began to consider what could have taken place during those six months if Jeannie and her girls had not been with us.  The possibilities were endless and the potential for disaster was great.  I eventually came to understand that even if someone leaves our program early, they still gain something valuable while they are with us.  And I now have a box full of letters women have sent me to confirm just that.

Some of those letters are from Jeannie.  Her plan to change her friends failed miserably and quickly.  She ended up in federal prison for four years and during that time we stayed in touch.  I even remember meeting her at Waffle House in the middle of the night when she was transported from one prison to another to participate in an intense recovery program there.  It was great to see her, but it hurt to think of her being separated from her girls for so long and to have all that time wasted in prison.  Again, it looked like a holy mess to me.

During those four years, though, Jeannie developed and strengthened her faith and worked diligently to become the woman Christ intended her to be.  It was a beautiful process to witness as she described her journey through the letters she wrote. 

All those years in prison Jeannie expressed to me that she would love to find a way to help Blue Monarch one day.  She always felt Blue Monarch was a special place and that she and her children had developed a lasting bond here.  She often expressed that their time at Blue Monarch probably prevented a devastating crisis for all of them.  

So after she was released and settled back into the real world, Jeannie began coming to Blue Monarch every Friday night to conduct a Bible study with our residents.  Right away it became evident that Jeannie was able to offer something the rest of us couldn’t.  And it was really valuable. 

One of my greatest dreams has now come true.  Because of a surprising and amazing gift from some generous folks, we have been able to hire Jeannie and add her to our amazing team at Blue Monarch!  More than once I have heard Jeannie described as someone who “just lights up the room.”  Yes, I would agree. She glows by the light of the Holy Spirit.  We are blessed that God took Jeannie’s personal journey that was painful and difficult, and found a way to bless others in a way that only He can do.
Now when I hear Jeannie talking to our residents with such great compassion and rich understanding that only she can offer, I’m reminded in living color how God can take what appears to be a holy mess and turn it into a holy blessing. So I just have to wonder...what looks like a holy mess to me today? 

 Click to hear Jeannie talk about her journey: