From my front row seat

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The High Price of Thinking You're Batman

What do John Glenn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Batman have in common?  When I was a kid, I wanted to be all three of them.  John Glenn was my hero so naturally I wanted to be an astronaut one day, until that dream was shattered by my obvious challenges in math.  (Many years later I had the great privilege of meeting John Glenn at his home and that remains one of my greatest thrills.  I will never forget all his magazine covers hanging in dime store frames down the hallway as if they were ordinary family photos.)

Then there was Elizabeth Taylor.  For whatever reason, as a child I was absolutely fascinated with her multiple husbands - and I confess, I chipped away at that goal through the years until I decided to stop at three.  That's plenty.

But it was Batman who probably influenced me the most when I finally got my driver's permit, the minute I turned fifteen years old.  A few days later, while my parents were gone, I decided to try out the car.  My family lived in a quiet subdivision on a dead end street, which looked like a perfect spot to practice some of the Batmobile maneuvers I had seen on TV.

I grabbed my little brother and put him in the car with me.  Not sure if I wanted an accomplice, or if I was stretching the "extra driver" requirement, but he was going with me.  I pulled the harmless looking baby blue Volkswagen sedan onto the street and decided to see how fast I could go between our driveway and the cul-de-sac.

Stomping on the gas pedal, we peeled down the street and when we reached the end, I stomped on the brake pedal, yanked the steering wheel to the left, and let the car spin until we did a complete 360.  It was awesome.  Naturally I wanted to do it again and again.  My brother tried to bail at one point but I grabbed him by the collar and jerked him back inside the car.  By golly, we were in this together.  (His version is a little more dramatic.)

After a few trips up and down the street, spinning around and spewing gravel everywhere, it was on one of those trips back that I accidentally over shot the driveway.  The car violently bounced off the culvert and landed in the yard.  Needless to say, we left behind skid marks and tire tracks that were impossible to repair before my parents got home - so it wasn't a secret for long.  

This April 15th marks our 15th birthday at Blue Monarch, and I remember that day in 2003 like it was yesterday.  The closing on our beautiful property was a month before, but on April 15th, a day most people dread, I was able to finally get the key and open the door for the first time.

I will never forget that moment.  I turned the key in the lock and walked into the main house.  The previous owners had sold it completely furnished because they were moving out of the country so it already looked amazing.  Everything was spotless - but it was supernaturally quiet.  Not a sound. 

As I walked into the kitchen, I suddenly got an overwhelming, panicky feeling of "Oh, my word, what have I done?!"  The magnitude of this enormous undertaking hit me like a load of bricks.  I even got a little dizzy from the endless "what ifs" going through my head.

Then immediately God reminded me, "This is MY plan, not yours."  He showed me what the empty kitchen would look like one day when it was filled with women and children, lots of laughter, and completely full of life.  Whew!  That's a relief.  It was way too scary to think of as my plan.   

I glanced over to the sofa where I had met with the owners for the first time.  I remembered telling them how God had meticulously described Blue Monarch to me in a dream years before, and how I wanted to use the home for women and children to heal together and start a new life.  I felt they also had a right to know I was not a qualified buyer, and furthermore, I had absolutely no idea how I would find a million dollars for their three houses and fifty acres.  

When I finished my story, convinced the owners would feel they had cut the grass for no reason, the woman looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "We always knew God asked us to build this place for someone else to use one day - and we always felt it would be for women who were hurting.  So we're just glad you finally showed up."  It was in this powerful moment that I realized this thing had a life of its own and I was simply along for the ride.  (To this day I can't tell that story without getting the same chills I had that day.)

Miraculously, God sent an amazing couple who helped me purchase the property, even though to them, I was nothing more than a stranger with an ambitious plan on paper.  Then by 2014, with the help of many generous donors, we were able to pay off this debt.  Yay!

But what an amazing ride it's been.  I have seen lots of babies born who most likely would have died if their mothers had not come to Blue Monarch.  I have seen women find complete freedom from hideous traumas and harmful addictions.  I have seen over 250 children reunited with their mothers when they were inches away from never seeing each other again.  The miracles have been so remarkable I sometimes feel like each day brings more blessings than any one person should expect in a lifetime.

As we have approached this 15-year milestone, I have also given a lot of thought to things I wish I had done better, things I wish I had done sooner, or things I hope I never do again.  I realize, even as a teenage organization, we still have a lot to learn.

This is the funny thing, though.  As I have recalled the absolute lowest points, and the times of adversity that brought me to my knees, they all lead to the same place.  Every single time, I placed myself in the driver's seat and tried to solve problems in my own power when I had only been given a learner's permit.  I never was given the authority to drive on my own. I should have trusted God more and I could have made things easier on myself and those around me.  I shouldn't have underestimated his power and abundant blessings because his plans are always grander than my own.  There should have been more prayers of, "Lord, please show me how to drive," instead of, "Lord, why did I just spin out?"  
God has been so good to us.  He has provided abundant blessings.  One of the special blessings I never overlook, though, is the daily reminder of his faithfulness.  Every evening as I walk through that kitchen that was once empty, but is now full of noisy women and children, I can't help but remember that powerful day fifteen years ago when God showed me that same, exact picture to illustrate that it was his plan and not mine.  Little did I know then, every one of those women and children would one day represent a breathtaking miracle.  But God must have smiled to himself in that moment, because he knew that all along.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  
Jeremiah 29:11-13