Tuesday, August 16, 2016

For When it All Falls Apart

The fridge goes first, warming instead of cooling the food inside.

Then the car, with smoke pouring out from under the hood.


And it all happens suddenly - no one is prepared. One day the milk is ice cold - the next day, I reach in and grab hold of a jug that pours out lukewarm and soured liquid.




I'm reminded that there's no preparation for when everything begins to go sideways. Just when one begins to think that everything is moving along smoothly, that all four kids have been playing peacefully, the neighbourhood is quiet and calm, the car will get us from point A to point B with no problems...that's when everything begins to fall apart.


Can I write here, how much I loved my fridge?

Because I did.

It was the fridge that I had always wanted with almost all the bells and whistles that could be had.

Tony had purchased it as a surprise and grinned from ear to ear the day it was delivered.


And when it started to go - when I discovered how much the repairs *could* be on this bells-and-whistles-fridge, I began to wrestle.

Because no matter how much one has let go of - there's always more.

Even a fridge can become an idol.





And so on the evening that our car broke down, the evening before the repair man was coming to assess the cried-over fridge, I sat in my green chair in the dark and the quiet and I prayed.

I knew we couldn't afford this repair on top of the car - and I knew that holding on to the illusion of control was only going to make things worse and so I opened my hands and let it go.

Kneeling before Jesus, acknowledging Him as Sovereign over all things, coming before Him as a child before her Father, I lifted up our needs before Him. The fridge could go - it really could. Just a plain simple white fridge would do. I was done with fancy.


I have a print hanging in our dining room that boldly proclaim the words of Matthew 6:25-26

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

As I went to bed, leaving our needs and my dependence on possessions at the feet of Jesus, I fell asleep thinking of those verses.




Morning came and Tony woke up to a text on his phone, letting him know that a rental had sold and the buyers didn't want the fridge - would we like to have it?

Tony's mom texted, asking if she could drive over the mountains and stay at our home for a couple of days - and there was relief knowing that by the time she arrived we would have a working fridge and food of the right temperature to feed her.

Only, she had a surprise of her own...

Even before our car had broken down, even before she knew about the uncertain future of our vehicle, she had wandered through a car lot after seeing a flyer with the words, "Matthew 6:33" printed on it. She had written down our story and handed it in with the hopes that maybe a donation could be given.

And it was - Because God knew.

So she drove that car over the mountains and in the middle of the girls soccer game, she smiled wide and told us that car parked in the back was ours and then waited for that realization to sink into our weary heads.


There's the temptation to feel foolish writing this down in light of loss of tragedy and pain all around me...all around the world.

And yet.




I go back to the early years of our marriage, when I would begin to panic over all the "what-if's" that could happen, the hypothetical scary things that would keep me awake at night. In those moments, Tony would go back over all the ways that God had shown Himself faithful in my life, in his life and in our life together, and my heart would slow and I would nod and those moments of His faithfulness became strongholds for me to cling to.

Because the moments of shock and pain and devastation were sure to come, and they *did* come in huge and unrelenting waves, but because of Christ's faithfulness, His steadfast love that He made evident over and over, I knew that He was trustworthy and sure.





So, yes, it's just a fridge, just a car, in some ways. But in the other ways, in the ways that matter most, it's a demonstration of His care for His own, His provision for His children who are learning what it is to be dependent on Him. It's another marker to look to when more moments come that threaten to undo my faith.

They are two more tangible gifts that lift my eyes off of the fleeting and uncertain moments of now and lock them firmly onto the beauty and greatness of the Most Holy God Who calls me daughter.

And grace becomes just a little bit more understood.




11. ice cream on the porch before bed
12. arms aching from the painting
13. hearing our four laugh with their daddy
14. the way Tony determinedly gives thanks when everything begins to fall apart
15. the friend who steps in to take care of animals when the car has broken down
16. the way Jesus tenderly lets me wrestle
17. a fridge!
18. a car!
19. moments with Nana
20. teasing Liv
21. afternoons at the farm
22. those crazy tall sunflowers
23. picking peaches
24. even when everyone is overheating
25. even when everyone is crying
26. even when we have to drive another hour
27. front porch meetings
28. golf cart afternoons with him
29. Olivia's last night being 8
30. breakfast birthday cake tradition and how everyone looks forward to it, year after year.




Monday, August 1, 2016

Going Back to What I Know

I sat down this evening to finalize lesson plans and curriculum choices and organize them all neatly and send them in.

That was the plan, but there are so many choices.

Last year we stepped back from practically everything and just focused on rebuilding small hearts, and it was a good thing and a needed thing and in the praying over this coming year, I'm sensing that we are to begin to open up again. Slowly, yes, but with intention and grace.

Ah, grace. The word I have wrestled with so much this year.







August comes and the heat lessens and I look ahead to a school year with a knowing of all the hard work that comes with it. The temptation to rush, when small ones need to slow and absorb. The temptation to be lax, when self-discipline needs to be exercised.

This life we have been called to is one that I love, one that I'm still learning to navigate all the tensions of, one that I'm still learning to turn over to Jesus completely.

In the quiet of my Bible reading each day, there has been one phrase that has been jumping out at me over and over again to the point that I finally took note of it and realized it's what I've let go of in the rush of living.

It seemed almost cliche, you know? It all began for me in the late fall of 2010 in the middle of upheaval and deep sadness. I came across this blog and I grabbed hold onto her idea of writing down 1000 gifts. And I did it. And then I slowly stopped after the popularity started to fizzle and it seemed silly to continue when even the posts on her page slowly ended and disappeared.

I just stopped giving thanks.





And as I look back over the last 2 or 3 years, I can see a hardening in my heart - a sort of callous that I've allowed to form to protect myself from a life in ministry. 


But the truth is, giving thanks isn't a movement or a novel idea or something reserved for certain holidays and seasons.

Paul exhorts us, in the middle of his darkest moments while chained in the darkness of a prison to,

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, 
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving
each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above
all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And 
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one
body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:12-15


Giving thanks is to happen in all things. Why? I'm sure there are many reasons, but the one that seems to be resonating with my heart most deeply is it's a way to remind my heart that God is faithful and good and sovereign when everything else around me feels shaky and uncertain.

Protecting my heart only hardens me and makes the situations around me more difficult. But pausing and choosing to see the goodness of God, even in the darkest moment, it keeps my heart open and it makes my faith in Jesus stronger.





So, I start again. Every Monday I'll sneak back here and add to the growing list with no goal, no end number in sight. I'll just keep building a foundation to remind my heart in the trustworthiness of the One Who created me and placed us here.

1. That sunflower *almost* ready to bloom
2. The lavender beginning to blossom
3. Those tomatoes on the vine
4. The smell of bacon frying on the stove
5. The way Lyla chooses to watch Anne of Green Gables over and over
6. Visits on the porch with the dearest of friends
7. Summer sun and finally, almost, beginning to love it
8. Hint of Fall in the air
9. Those 2 books wrapped in ribbon handed to me at church
10. The sister who holds me accountable

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

To Love

His sister dropped him off with those two bags filled with his dirty clothes right outside the abandoned house beside us.

I caught a glimpse of his face, just before I turned back inside the house,

just before I cleaned out the rest of the clothes from the washing machine.


He had called Tony and asked if he could do his laundry at Madison House because we were all leaving for camp in the morning, but when the washing machine here in our home is large, and there was already crazy chaos happening, why not just do his laundry here?

He said yes in his quiet way.




We've almost been at Madison House 4 years. Not long, I know, but long enough to have memories that are embedded deep - long enough to know that first impressions are rarely correct.


He scared me, in that first year, and I'm not sure why anymore. I just know at some point, it changed. At some point, he began yelling my name across the street and waving as I would walk by with my little ones up the front steps. At some point the guard came down a little.


So when he walked in our front door and filled up the washing machine with his things, it didn't feel odd to have him in the house. I know it probably seemed a little odd for him, but he is loved by the people who live here.

Tony and I, we slipped out for a quick dinner and while we were gone, he must have slipped out too, promising to be back to finish up the wash.

Only we got home first, and I still had laundry to finish while his last load spun 'round and 'round in the dryer.

He kept telling me that he could do his own laundry, switch the loads and put it away - but he wasn't here and I stood in my laundry room completely unsure what to do. Not wanting to do the wrong thing, or offend in any way.




There's a sign just above the washing machine that a friend made for me in Canada that traveled with us here and that just keeps getting hung back up wherever I find myself washing clothes - a reminder of what I'm actually doing when I'm bent over those tubs and filling with soap or changing loads...I'm not sure if he saw it, but the words, "Blessing Room" stop me each time I take the time to read them and so that is why I did what I did.


Because folding his clothes was no different than folding the clothes of my own children - praying over him as the stacks grew taller was just as natural as praying over the piles for each of my four. One doesn't have to bear the title of "son" to be loved like one. Loving others takes place in the mundane and quiet moments - and sometimes actions are the only way to show the truth of it.


I had to run home the next morning before we headed out of town and away from wifi for the week to rescue a blanket a certain 3 year old had forgotten, and as I jumped out of my car the first yellow bus drove by and his face looking out at me from near the back windows beamed with a joy I rarely see.




And I have to ask myself why I am so often afraid to be bold enough to love? A woman who sits regularly under the shade of a tree across the street wanders by our front gate tonight while I sit on the porch reading and as she gets to the end of our property line, she begins to jerk around erratically. By the time she crosses the street, she is having a full on conversation with the air and the man in the blue house sits calmly and watches with his cowboy hat pulled low while he brushes his dog. When she double-backs 20 minutes later, she is calmer, her walking smoother and I keep rocking in my chair.

And I think, "Water. Why didn't I offer her water?" If I am to love like Jesus, offering water should be a natural thing.

I don't even know how to pray.





Neighbourhood kids leave our yard half an hour later and as we are cleaning up the last of the mess, Olivia whispers to Tony and I, "I think the lady in that car is dead".

Tony's eyes meet mine and he quietly walks out the gate towards the Suzuki that's been parked by our house for the last 2 days. Windows are rolled down, and that's when I see her face, mouth open, eyes closed.

"She's breathing", Tony calls to me and as everyone heads to the door he leans close and says, "I think you should give her some water".

And that fear settles in as I walk to the end of the kitchen and pull down that mason jar and fill it with water, as I reach for the biscuits Liv had made for dinner...the ones that were in the shape of a heart.

And Tony and I, we go to the passenger window and 3 minutes feel like an eternity when you are trying to wake someone up you don't know and as she's jolting awake, she's trying to convince us she's fine, even though we all know she isn't.

But she takes the water. And she takes the bread baked into a heart.



And as I mopped up the water spilled on the kitchen floor later, I *know* that could have been me. It could have been me just as easily strung out and asleep in a car with the windows duct tapped together, I know the wickedness of my heart and where I could have followed it to.

Moving down to 4th Street was nothing heroic or grand on our part - as Tony said this past week at camp, "There's no good or bad parts of town - they are all bad apart from Christ. Our sinfulness is just expressed differently in different ways and places".

My sinfulness is exposed more here than maybe anywhere else - but the beauty of Christ's grace is that He allows me to see it so much faster and He gives me opportunities to try again in ways that I can easily recognize.


I picked raspberries in the garden of a dear friend while she was out of town at the beginning of the month and at first, I found it hard to know where to begin. It wasn't until a cat brushed against my legs and I looked down that I found the heaviest and sweetest fruit was hidden under the leaves and branches near the bottom.

And it's true here...and there...bending low in service, worship, and love - it can be difficult - it can be hard and hurt deeply, but in the quiet, in the Shadow of the Almighty, we can find the sweetest Peace and Joy.






Sunday, May 8, 2016

For the Ones Who Call Me Mama

I opened my eyes in the morning light of my tenth Mother's Day to find the littlest one had crawled into our bed in the early hours of the night and curled up into the curve of my hip with a sleep-clenched hand resting on my face.




Lyla, she turned 10 just a few short months ago - went and spun my heart in bewildered circles with how fast time really does go.

She laughs when I ask her to stop growing, to become small again. 


I look back onto the very first post I ever put on the internet, the one where she is only 4 months old and still able to be held, all curled up in my arms and my brain can't fathom at how all those fully lived days have become wispy and faint memories. 

Our lives looked so different - he and I were so different.


We were at the very tender beginning, still wondering how many babies we would have, still figuring out how to relate to one another as husband and wife now that we were also Daddy and Mama.

Our families, both immediate and extended looked so different - I never could have imagined the great gaps that would be left where people should have been.


I thought mothering would look like the ideal picture in my mind that had grown large since I was small - 

but that's just it...my picture of mothering was based on my own ideals and dreams.


 

There's a little one who pulls up her chair beside me in the tutoring room Monday-Thursday. She always has something left over from lunch, and as she pulls out her sheets of homework, she'll pull out something to nibble on too.

She has my heart - I'm sure she doesn't realize this,

her mothering hasn't turned out the way she thought it would either.




This small one, she had curled up beside her mama just a few short years ago, curled up for a nap in the early afternoon pressed up against the one whose heartbeat she had known since her very beginning...but when she woke up, her mama didn't.

Medications were unknowingly mixed and turned lethal.

And this daughter was left without a mother.


She came in one afternoon a few months ago and plopped her backpack right beside my feet. Started pulling out her homework and as she laid it on the table, she turned her eyes on me and asked,

Can I call you Mom?


My own four had been running in and out of the room, homework done and freedom calling and shouting my name over every little thing.


The juxtaposition of both situations made my breath catch.


When was the last time she had even said the word, Mom? And here were my children yelling it freely and without thought.


I wrapped my arm around her and told her how much I loved her - how much I wished that she could. I told her how everyday I looked forward to her showing up, how my day was that much brighter when she came around the corner and sat down beside me.

I told her that I could never be her mama, but that I could always be her friend.


It made me think of my own family, my own small four - how where there has been lack, God has always been so faithful to provide.

It may not look like what I imagined and dreamed about all of those years ago, before there was Tony and the life that we've made...but we have never lacked love.





A decade into this journey where all four of my children are under my roof and I don't know what the future will look like for all of us.

I know what my dreams and my hopes are for each one -

I know that I hope they will always love and follow Jesus, that their faith will be strong and grow...

that, should they become mamas and a daddy themselves, that their marriages will be ones that are grounded in the beauty of the gospel...their love for the other would be deep and faithful and lasting.

That the faith that we are sharing with them now would be passed on to the next generation of grands that we don't yet know.


I can hope these things and pray for these things,

but I can't guarantee it.

The world around me, with all of it's statistics and foreboding predictions would have me believe that hoping for good is foolish, to prepare for the worst instead.




But just when I begin to worry, just when I begin to think that maybe the darkness will win out in the end over my children, I am reminded of the verse that begins the recounting of those before me who had faith and hope in the sovereignty of God alone:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

The further in to the chapter one gets, the more it becomes apparent that faith *doesn't* guarantee all we hope for and dream about...the final verses of the chapter talk about their successes and victories, yes, but just as quickly we read about mocking, flogging, imprisonment, torture...


What I need to be reminded is that hope should lift our eyes off of ourselves and what is right in front of us and cause us to realize that what, or really, Who we are hoping and longing for is Jesus. What pushed all of these men and women listed in the 11th chapter of Hebrews to remain faithful to God?

It was the promise of Christ.


My heart that loves my children fiercely is slowly learning to see their hardship and struggle in a different light. 

Learning that when my heart breaks over their pain, that this is a tender mercy as well. That here, when everything feels like it is falling apart around them, that Jesus is showing Himself to be all that they need. That He is greater than this moment, this temporal pain...and He is even greater than the joy that threatens to overwhelm.


So, for the ones who made me a Mama,


May you know how deeply you are loved, despite my daily failings and fumblings.

May we enter into these days together firstly and fully recognizing that this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

May you be bold and courageous when others are mean and unkind and when you hear gun shots across the street, because sweet ones, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

May you face the future with hope and joy regardless of what the outside circumstances are, because in Christ, God always leads us in triumph.

The four of you are the joy of my heart, even on the days when I feel so overwhelmed...over and over you point me back to the feet of Jesus and make me see my deep need for Him and feel such deep love for each one of you.


As we press into each other learning from and growing through the good and bad, may we be found pressing into Christ together, for He is our refuge and our strength.

With all of my love, always,

Mama

 


Sunday, April 3, 2016

For When it All Breaks Outward

The list of names is growing in the back of my Bible.

Even though our rooms are overflowing and it seems at times there are more kids than any of us as staff can handle together, there are faces that you come to expect each day - smiles and voices that  you suddenly realize haven't been seen or heard by anyone for a few days.

When a couple of weeks pass, I pull out my pen and slowly write each name under the one above it.


There is a mama and her family here in town who loves strong...who is strong. I know the secret of her strength, because I know Him too, and she opens her heart and her home to kids who need somewhere safe and there have been some kids that we have known who have ended up under her roof and her care - who have been enveloped in peace and the love of Jesus the moment they have walked through her door.

She has a list too.

I've seen the growing expanse of it when I pick up my kids from their Friday mornings with her, their names painted up on the walls of her home - I've seen the names I recognize and I know that they have been loved deeply here and I am grateful for all the ways God crosses paths.  Grateful for the ones in this community who have said "yes" to the uncomfortable and the awkward. "Yes" to the hard and the heartbreaking. "Yes" to the loving and the praying and the entrusting, not only of these children they don't know, but the entrusting of their own children into the Hands and ways of a good God Who asks us to love like He does.



The last couple of weeks have been difficult - I think I can write that down here.

Feeling as though I'm fraying on the edges, I've only wanted to hide out in my home. We've been sick, off and on, and I've been thankful. Thankful for the moments that meant I could curl up with my littlest and let her sleep on me on the couch. Thankful for vomit and sore throats and fevers and all of the extra snuggling that meant. Thankful for the volunteers who took one look at me after a bout of food poisoning and sent *me* home, telling me they had everything under control.

When the edges are raw, I want to retreat, and for about a week I could.

But the next week pressed in harder and by the time this past Friday finally came, I thought we were all going to collapse.



Spring bursts onto the scene, but so does violence in this place we find ourselves. A double murder happens just down the road a ways, police presence is thick. We hear yelling and screaming and gun shots and I see the color red everywhere - caps, shirts, shoes, shorts - and I find myself double checking our own attire before we head out for the day; the red bag I take with me to work gets replaced by a gifted brown backpack.

The overthinking everything rounds my shoulders in weariness.


I don't remember ever reading anywhere how lonely ministry can be. Surrounded by many, pressed in on all sides by children desperate to be seen, but it can still be so lonely.

I see it in my own children when we venture out past the inner city - their struggle to find where they fit.

They see and hear things that are much different here. My oldest daughter leans against me one evening last week, sobbing because of the horrors that her friends right here experience and bravely share with her tender heart...how do you voice that outside of the inner city to your peers? I watch my children flail at times, trying to get their footing...and it breaks my heart. I know that God is using this, that this is part of His plan for their lives for the good works He has planned for them, but I don't know how to help them through these moments where they feel like misfits - like the odd one out.

But isn't this a feeling common to everyone?

It's just worn differently, depending on who and where you are.



Sure, it's easy to see in a Red or Blue shirt, in the woman strung out on drugs, on that man who walks by our house, desperate to get rid of his demons by trying to drown them in the alcohol in that bottle he carries around.


I wear my glasses.

Now, there are times I wear them because I genuinely need to - contacts aren't as comfortable anymore, no matter how many brands I try,

but there are days when I put my glasses on to put a wall up between me and the world outside. As though that one small barrier will make my smile stronger.


Because things are easier to carry around, to wear. Being bold and vulnerable and saying to the person across from you that you are a mess is just...well...

messy.


And who has time to be bothered anymore?


Everyone is running around like the world is on fire, because it feels as though it actually is.


And our alone-ness feels as though it is going to consume us and it's so much easier to just play one more round of the newest game on the newest app on your phone.

But the hiding it just hardens us...

at least, it hardens me.





The kids all went fishing this past weekend at a local Kid Fish event put on a by a number of people who go to our church. Madison House packed over 40 kids into a couple of vans and they reeled in a good number of trout.

I opened the door to a little boy who proudly carried the fish my girls caught in Ziploc bags right up into my home. Marched across the threshold and through the school room and up to the kitchen counter and plopped them down on the counter.

Plopped them so hard the bag burst open and fish...juice...went everywhere.

 I sighed.

Loudly.


And I watched his face fall.




I still want to cry over it all - not the spilled and watery fish liquid, but over how I reacted. I love this kid like he is part of our family. I love how brave he was and how comfortable he is just to walk right in my door...but in the trying to hold it all together, I became brittle and it took absolutely nothing at all to break me into shards.

Our shards always break outward, hurting those closest to us.

It doesn't seem to matter how deeply I know this, I always seem to forget when I am most weary.





There's a portion of verses in Exodus, when the Hebrew slaves are groaning over their burdens in the heat of Egypt, that always jumps out at me - seems to come to my mind most when I feel most alone, and it's simply this:


And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. 
Exodus 2:24-25



I think to that page in the back of my Bible, of the wall of my friend - both marked by the names of the faces who have touched out hearts, no matter how briefly we have known them. We write them down because they have worth - these children matter, their souls bear the very image of the God Who created them.

Their names are written down, because they are seen and known - not just by me...not just by her - they are known by Jesus and should I ever be given the opportunity to sit down with one of these children who came by everyday and then just didn't - I want to be able to pull out my Bible and show them this - show them that they have never been forgotten; they have been prayed over and loved still, no matter how much time has passed.


The One Who is Most High and Almighty, He sees you and me. He sees each one that feels most alone and forgotten - the one who feels like the misfit and outside of everything. But He doesn't just see - He knows - and in the knowing, He came near...He is near.



Monday is less than an hour away and a new week will begin. Madison House will be open and who knows how many children will press in close and yell and push to be seen.

My edges, they still feel a tad raw, a bit frayed. I'll admit here that I feel a bit of a mess.

But it's the raw and frayed edges that open my eyes to the beauty of Jesus. In Him I'm not alone and when I press into that, I can point the other raw and frayed ones to His love that took on our grief and our sorrows, our pain and our sickness. The One Who wears our names in the scars on His Hands.

There isn't a pen in the world that can beat that.







Sunday, March 20, 2016

For When it isn't Enough {A post by Tony}

People often ask me what the worst part of this job is.  

Contrary to popular belief it's not gunfire at all hours of the day and night, physical violence, constant lies, all our things that have gone missing, lice, broken promises, mice or a myriad of other things to choose from.

Jesus said (Mathew 10:22) that we would be hated for His namesake; that sending us out would be no easy task.  

Great, I know all that, I know what I signed on for.  I told the committee during my interview four years ago that I would never work in an office again.  

I did that job; where I answered to only the president of the college and had 12 departments under me.  

Boring. 

 60k a year, nice car, top level corner office, cheap college housing and good health care, boring, boring, and boring.  

I'm never going back.




So what is the worst part of this job? What did I miss when I signed up? 



She's only ten years old, maybe 11.  She's dragging her family behind her.  A brother,6 and a sister, 4 - about the age of my three oldest children.  They heard about the Madison House at school and came to check it out.  After a couple of weeks they decide they like it and stay.  

She's a nice girl, really shy but she's tough too, and funny.  Being the oldest she is responsible for little brother and sister and she does a good job.  

She loves to play pool and every day she asks me to play a game with her.  We talk and I learn that she doesn't have a mother, there's a father but he seems in and out of the picture.  

"He's gone," she says.

 We are playing pool and I look up from my shot, "Who's gone?" 

"My dad." 

"Where did he go?" I ask.  

"I don't know. He said he was going to the store and he never came back." 

"Ok...how long has he been gone?"

"He left on Friday."  It's Tuesday. 

"Well who's taking care of you?" 

"Grandma." 

"Oh, ok,"

I ask more questions about gangs or drugs, trying to find out details but she adroitly dodges all my questions from that point on. She's said all she's going to.  




A week goes by, we are playing pool again. 

"He came back." 

"Oh good, when?"

She shrugs, "a couple of days ago."

"Great," I say, "right?"

"I guess so." 

"Did he tell you were he went?"

"No." 

Weeks go by and Christmas approaches; we've been doing all we can as a staff to help her family in particular.

No mother, no father most of the time.  We give them extra food after dinner to take home, rides to church and tell them how much we care and are praying for them. 




It's a week before Christmas and there's a third day in a row of snowfall.  All the kids badly need gloves and I've given out all I have.  

"Tony, do you have any gloves?"

"No," I say "I'm all out." 

We gave them all away, 100 pairs, maybe more. 

"Ok," she says, clearly sad and looking at her red chapped hands.  

She starts to walk away and I feel a pang of guilt. 

"Wait," I say calling her back, "take my gloves, they might be a little big but you can have them,  I can always get more gloves."  

She yanks them on,  runs off down the hall.  

That is the last time I see her, a smile on her face, headed outside with floppy, oversized gloves. 

She never shows up for the Madison House party, or the Chistmas Party. 
 
None of the kids she attends school with have any idea where she is or where she went, they just keep telling us, "one day she just didn't come to school." 



We've driven her home enough times that I know where she lives so finally 2 weeks into January I drop by the house and knock  on the door. 

A lady, mid twenties, answers the door.  I've never seen her before and she's never seen me.  She says she's a cousin but she has no idea where the three kids have gone and clearly and understandably doesn't trust me, a perfect stranger. 

"Oregon maybe?" She finally offers in an effort to get me off the porch. 

I climb back into my car and head to Madison House filled more with sorrow than frustration. Wherever she is at least she has warm gloves. 






It's late February and my 8 year old daughter is holding something dirty, heading toward me. 

"Hey dad," she yells as she gets closer, "isn't this your glove?" 

"We found it under the last snow pile outside, do you want it?"

"No, just throw it in the garbage." 

This daughter is most like me and she immediately senses something is wrong and asks, "Are you proud of me for finding your glove dad?"

"Oh yes," I put my hand on her shoulder realizing my tone and body language have given her the wrong impression.  "You did a great job bringing it to me, but I bought another pair so I don't need the old ones anymore." 

She skips off happily to the garbage.  

I will see her again. 

That's what drives me crazy.  

I know kids are sold into sex slavery, I know they move from house to house, town to town. I know they are used as look outs and drug runners.  I know they are abused in every way imaginable.  We call CPS about something and they tell us, "We've already been to that house 3 times in the last year, there's nothing more we can do."  This is just one story where kids disappear and we never see them again.  It kills me more each time.
  
People will tell you that whatever I wanted to do, I could always do it:
 
Played on my state football all star team in high school, worked three jobs and paid my way through college, always made it to management level of every job in less than a year, 

Started a band in Seattle, made top seller of the year in my region for Starbucks, Director of operations at a college.

But I'm down here, living across the street from Madison House and I feel completely helpless.  I open up the field and building on weekends, I give away my own money and things constantly.  I have endless conversations about fundraising and volunteer work.  

There's nothing more I can do. 

 It isn't enough.  

I have perfect peace that God is in control but it doesn't take away the loss and pain.  It hurts and sometimes it overwhelms me to the point that all I can do is weep.