From my front row seat

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's not always love at first sight

It started out so lovely.  There we were, eating lunch side by side.  The sweet toddler in the high chair next to me was eating chicken noodle soup while I enjoyed my leftover kale soup.  Swimming lessons had just ended and we were at the Blue Monarch kitchen table as moms and kids, and staff members, scurried around preparing their lunches.  The room was filled with lots of laughter and chatter.  That's one of the things I love about bringing my lunch.  It gives me a chance to visit with the amazing women and children we serve and get to know them better.  It was another special Blue Monarch moment.

Then - all of a sudden I heard a loud splashing sound with great force and velocity.  The adorable little girl next to me was calmly spooning noodles into her mouth, all the while peeing a river through her swimsuit, right onto the floor.  She must have a bladder the size of a watermelon because there was a virtual lake beneath her.

I guess this is a great example of the environment in which we work because I paused to say, "Bon Appetit", to no one in particular, informed her mother that we had guests coming any minute and it would be nice if the massive mess on the floor was gone, then kept eating my soup as if nothing had happened.  (It's not always a Hallmark moment at Blue Monarch with hosts of angels singing in the background.)

When I was a young teenager I made frequent visits to the doctor's office for a nagging stomach problem.  In looking back I think I was simply anxious about being a teenager.  But I grew very tired of the routine, which always began with a pesky urine sample.

One morning before my mother and I left for yet another doctor's appointment, I happened to look in the refrigerator and discover a Tupperware container filled with leftover pineapple juice - the real syrupy kind from a can of pineapple rings.  Hey!  That looks familiar.  So I decided to play a little joke.  This was going to be great.

I hid the container in my purse and could hardly wait to implement my brilliant plan.  Sure enough, as soon as my name was called, the nurse handed me the usual cup and nodded toward the bathroom.  Just in case someone was listening, I turned on the faucet and let it run while I carefully poured the pineapple juice into the cup and flushed the excess down the toilet.  I marched out the door and placed the cup on my file as I had been instructed, then took my seat to watch what would happen next, which I had not considered until that moment.

I could hardly contain myself.  This was absolutely hilarious and without a doubt, one of the best tricks I had ever played.  It was hard to keep a straight face while I watched the nurse run her test on my fake urine specimen.  She quickly ran another one.  Then another one.  Her face gradually turned white as a sheet and she became increasingly frantic.

Suddenly she jumped up, grabbed the two doctors in the hallway, and rushed them back to see the results.  They looked just as alarmed as she did.  Occasionally they glanced over their shoulders at my innocent mother in the waiting room, then turned their backs and whispered among themselves.

Eventually the nurse looked over at me, and I suppose I must have looked pretty guilty because she yelled, "WHAT IS THIS?!"

Immediately I realized my joke was not funny to anyone but me.  I confessed it was pineapple juice and I suppose the sugar level was sky high and no one was laughing.  Especially my mother.

Both doctors stomped off in total disgust.  The nurse just stood there shaking her head as the color in her face swung all the way back to beet red.  No doubt they probably grumbled to themselves, "We come to work every single day only trying to help people - and then she comes in here expecting us to fix her problem when she's not willing to do her part!"

Does that sound familiar?

We do random drug testing at Blue Monarch.  Actually, we test for a variety of things:  drugs, alcohol, and even nicotine.  (We are a non-smoking facility.)  Occasionally we have someone who tries to fool us and finds ways to fake a test.  Instant coffee, her child's urine stored in a medicine bottle, you name it and someone has tried it.

This always aggravates me.  A woman comes to us for help, we are committed to helping her change her life, and then she does something like this that only cheats herself.  Aren't we all on the same team here?  Team Help Her?

Well, actually we may not be.  At least not yet.  Many of our women arrive here very broken.  Some have developed pretty sharp survival skills that may show up as deceit, manipulation, and even ugly entitlement.  Often they don't trust us - and they are suspicious of anyone who wants to help.  "Why are you doing this for me?", which usually means, "What's in it for you?"

These are thick, heavy walls to tear down.  It takes lots of time, great patience, loads of prayer, pretty intensive work - and especially the tremendous grace and mercy of God, to reach that sweet place of redemption.  But in the meantime there are some days when I honestly want to grab a woman by the shoulders and say, "What were you thinking?  Don't you see we are only trying to help you?  Do we care more about your recovery than you do?!"

That's when I have to take a deep breath and ask God to please show me what He sees in her.  "Please, Lord, help me see her through your eyes because I'm having a hard time loving her today."  And each time I get the same response.

"She is my daughter.  And I love her."

Well, this does the trick every time.  In that moment I am humbly reminded that she and I are actually sisters.  We are both children of God, and He loves each of us the very same - even on the days she hands us pineapple juice.

Thank you, Lord, for the raw and beautiful reality of recovery that you so graciously allow us to witness day after day.  Help us to feel your presence, even on the days that are hard.  Thank you for the gentle reminders that we are always to love others as you love us, and that when we do, the results can be amazing!  Amen.