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.  


 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." 

" long has he been gone?"

"He left on Friday."  It's Tuesday. 

"Well who's taking care of you?" 


"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?"


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.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

For When You Aren't Always Sure

I don’t think he would have noticed it if the glass of that old window wasn’t in shards all over the ground.

It’s a window that I found hidden far back in a forgotten corner of the basement in this place we now call our own.

It’s been sitting on our porch for almost 2 years now, leaning up against a ladder that belonged to Tony’s grandfather, snugged up against an old screened in window that I found in the old chicken coop out back.

I was going to cover the glass with chalkboard paint this summer – that was my plan. It already had a place, and now it had a purpose and I was already thinking about all the things I was going to write on this fragile space.

Only, a bullet found it first.

One night in early February, while I was far away in Ohio and lost in conversation with a dear friend into the early hours of the morning, Tony listened as gunfire happened in the street right outside of our home. He told me it had sounded close, but he didn’t realize just how near until he went outside the next morning and his shoes crunched on glass. 

Until he looked closer and saw the hole that now scarred our siding.

He didn’t tell me this right away.

It was on the long drive home over the mountains and into our valley after that cross-country plane ride, when little ones had finally drifted off to sleep that he started to share with me what had happened that night. 

This home of ours, it’s old and marked. The siding is ugly and the paint colors drab. I look at it and see all kinds of potential and I’m still processing at how Jesus opened all the doors for this place to become our own.

But now, as I knelt down to look at this hole near our front door, I couldn’t see anything else; how it would draw my eyes as I would drive up to the curb and walk up those front steps.

It’s one thing to say that you are bulletproof until God calls you home,

It’s another thing to believe it when it marks your home.

I woke up slowly in the early hours of the morning this past Sunday, disoriented and unsure of what I was hearing as the slow and deliberate metallic boom of gun shots settled deep in my chest. This was no fast drive-by, but it was calculated and pointed. And it was right outside our four walls. Amazingly, all of our children slept through it all.

It was after this and  after church, Tony sent me out to a local Starbucks with my bible and journal and told me just to be for a bit.

I found myself in the book of Acts, following Paul and his many words and journeys when his impassioned voice  grabbed a hold of my heart:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the
Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24

Because, as I had been praying and wrestling with that bullet hole on our front porch, as Jesus had been asking things of me that required great trust and I was fighting back by pointing out that hole, convinced He didn’t see the gravity of it, I was coming to realize that I *did* view my life as precious…and not only my life, but the life of my husband, of my children, of the young men and women we see at Madison House everyday and have grown to love like they are our own.

All life is precious because each life has been lovingly knit together and thought of before time even existed. 

But it was at that point  the words of Christ blazed brightly off the page as I flipped to the book of Matthew – 

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let Him deny himself
 and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, 
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.   Matthew 16: 24-25

Yes, our lives are precious, but they should never be more precious than the life of Christ in us. 

As Easter approaches and my Lent study leads me closer to the path of the Cross, I am reminded daily of His sacrifice, of the One who counted His life as nothing so that we could have eternal life through Him.

As I sat in my leadership class last night at church, one phrase burned itself deep into my heart and I haven’t been able to let it go,

*We are saved to serve*.

Five words, but they are wrecking me.

I used to think that serving and ministry used to involve big and grand acts. But what I’m learning now is that it’s in the little things, the ordinary and mundane things.  The things that seem small and insignificant.

It’s in sitting on the steps on the side of your home and handing a glass of water to the woman beside you as she shares her story.

It’s in rejoicing with her as she shares that she learned that prostitution didn’t have to be her path – that she could find purpose and joy in salvaging discarded things and giving them purpose and then giving them away.

It’s in the moments spent in the kitchen baking cakes and cookies for ones you worry over and pray for and you know of no other way to show them they are loved than this.

It’s in stepping into the middle of squabbling siblings and pulling them all close and letting them know that their mama struggles with wanting her own way too and then pointing us all to Jesus.

It’s in messing up and failing in so many different ways, of getting overwhelmed and scared and frustrated and worried and then turning back to Jesus and asking Him for mercy and grace and help.

It’s in the little ways that we die to our selves – it’s bit by bit that we loosen the grip we have on our own lives and raise our open hands in praise of the One Whose own life gives us all we need.

It’s always in the ordinary and small ways that we die to ourselves.

While I was out this past Sunday, drinking coffee and lost in Acts there was another shooting right on our corner; the text from Tony flashed up on my screen telling me to stay out as long as I needed.

I’ll be honest here, it didn’t take long for fear to rise up and my imagination to run wild, until I believe the Holy Spirit led me to this verse in Psalm 116:15,

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.   

Whether a physical dying or a dying of self to His call on our lives…as our lives become smaller to us and His life becomes all, our lives don’t lose significance to Him. 

And I can’t help but wonder, as we, you and I, run the courses He has set before us with everything we have – as He becomes our focus and everything else becomes secondary, when we come to the end of all that He has given us and we finally see Him face to face, if the whole of all that we have given up and for Him in worship and love isn’t what marks our lives and our deaths as precious. 

It’s our dying that makes our living rich and full, because Jesus, Who is Light and Life, becomes center.

Sunday afternoon, I knelt before that bullet hole with a different purpose in mind.

I could either be gripped by fear each time I walked up those steps, or it could become a thing of beauty. 

Because the reality is, the siding on my house and the power of warring gangs aren’t bigger and stronger than my God who kept the bullet from going through the siding and into the house.

So I frame it, because it’s a picture of grace. A picture of the tenderness of the One Who gave us all we have and the One Who would still be worth it all, even if He took it all away.