From my front row seat

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Look what we found panning for gold!

Instead of playing with dolls, I had a huge crush on this guy, "The Rifleman", and preferred to pretend I was living in the Wild, Wild West as a cowgirl.  (I just now looked for my autographed photo of Chuck Connor and I'm a little relieved I didn't already know where it was.)  I was completely fascinated with horses for transportation, saloons that had bad girls living upstairs, and brawling fights that took place on Main Street for the whole world to see.

The Gold Rush, which was also intriguing, inspired me to pan for gold in a nearby creek, where I was convinced I would one day hit the jackpot.  I sifted endlessly through the mud and gravel, searching for precious nuggets of gold.

Blue Monarch often reminds me of this.  We see many women and it sometimes feels like we are panning for gold.  Not every woman we serve values the opportunities we offer as much as another.  I often tell them that Blue Monarch is a beautiful, valuable gift God has offered to them.  Some will look at it, and hand it right back because it's not the right color.  Others will keep it for a while and then decide they don't actually want the gift after all.  Truth is, they may not be ready to accept such a tremendous, life changing gift.  Then a few might even throw it on the floor and stomp on it, which is painful to watch.

But then there are the ones we love to see, who will take the precious gift in their hands, hold it to their chests and cherish it.  They will love it, nurture it, protect it, appreciate it, and want to share it with others.  (They are the ones for which doors will suddenly open in miraculous ways.)  Those are the nuggets of gold we love to find.

I'd like to introduce you to one of those nuggets of gold.  Her name is Linsey Vanover.

Linsey came to Blue Monarch in July of 2015.  She arrived with her baby boy who was only six months old.  Linsey had struggled with an addiction to painkillers.  Her doctor put her on an alternative drug during her pregnancy, and although he insisted it was safer for her unborn child, he was born addicted to that drug instead. 

Linsey had lost everything.  She had no job, no home, and her family had given up on her.  She held felony charges in two counties, pending charges in three, and there was a warrant for her arrest.  She was at rock bottom with a baby that was trying to get to know her again after a month long separation.

Even after a few weeks at Blue Monarch, Linsey was still living out of her suitcase because she wasn't sure she would stay.  She was very emotional even though her baby showed remarkably little emotion.

However, Linsey eventually began digging in and working the rich, amazing Blue Monarch program offered to her.  She worked very hard in her counseling sessions to discover what had caused her downward spiral in the first place.  Through spiritual growth she developed a beautiful relationship with God.  As Aidyn grew into a strong, healthy little man with loads of personality, she bonded with him as they recovered together through structure and lots of love.  She put her heart into her assignments, she did her chores without grumbling, she struggled through days that were painful, and she forged ahead with "white knuckle" strength and determination.  

But there was still one more step.  All residents must take my Work Ethics course before they graduate.  This is an intensive 9-week course that takes place after they have completed the other classes we offer.  It was designed from my own bad experiences employing this population through a previous business, and it addresses their specific challenges in the workplace.  

Early in the class I surprise them and have a business professional come to conduct mock interviews, which we videotape to critique later.  I intentionally do this when they are raw and unprepared so they can see all the areas that need improvement.

Despite the fact Linsey held good jobs in the past and had a college degree, her mock interview was terrible.  I will never forget her response when the interviewer asked the last question, "Why should I hire you?"  She said, with a sense of defeat, "Honestly, I don't know why you would."

After the interview she returned to my office to report on how she had done.  It was one of those moments permanently etched into my memory because she sat in the cushy peach chair by the door, and with tears streaming down her face she said, "No one will EVER want to hire me with all my felony charges."

I realized then that we had work to do.  As we must do with all our residents, we had to find a way to turn those experiences into strengths that would benefit her employer one day.  Those mistakes needed to empower her, not cripple her for life.

Linsey finished the class with a brighter outlook on her future and graduated with her head held high.  She immediately moved into our new WINGS community and continued taking advantage of all we had to offer through our transitional program.  Instead of hibernating in her cottage, she continued her counseling and she sought help for new parenting challenges.  She kept strengthening her spiritual life and faithfully leaned on God for guidance.  She invited us into her safety net.  Linsey was a perfect example of someone who made the most of her "golden" Blue Monarch opportunity.

We were proud that Linsey was immediately offered a job as a court advocate for a local women's domestic violence shelter.  Shortly after, she was given a promotion and more responsibility.  She excelled at her job and was thriving in her new life with her sweet little boy.  After nearly a year in our WINGS program, Linsey transitioned into a new place to live.  It was a bittersweet goodbye but she remained close to us and always stayed in touch.

Recently our position for Director of Family and Children Services opened up.  I immediately thought of Linsey.  Was it possible for her to do this important job?  I asked God this question over and over and the answer always came back the same.  "Yes!"  Our staff wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agreed and I had great peace about asking Linsey to join our amazing team.

So you can only imagine how it felt to look at Linsey sitting in that same peach chair a few weeks ago when I offered her a job here at Blue Monarch.  I don't know about you, but when I look at this picture, I see gold.  Even though it's only been a few days, I can see Linsey's glow reflected on the faces of the women and children we serve, and that's because she has already started panning for gold, too.     

So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  1 Peter 1:6-7
Lord, we pray that all the women we serve become nuggets of gold as we know they are already precious in your sight.  Amen