God was my lifeline during this time and I was praying about my loss, my marriage, my kids, my finances and my responsibilities. Embarrassingly, I had not prayed for M and E.
My husband had just moved out. I had only peeked into his bedroom once since he left and it was an absolute mess. I had severe financial issues. I had no idea how I was going to deal with this loss, take care of myself, handle my son’s senior year of high school, cope with my daughter being gone at college another year, pay the bills, keep up the yard work and handle our 89 lb dog by myself. How could I possibly take care of two more people?
So, after I brought Ben home, I took a walk.
I prayed. And prayed. And still I heard nothing.
I prayed the Psalms, shouted at God, begged him to give me an answer. I heard nothing.
I went home. I made supper.
I read my book and went to bed not having a clue what I was going to do. As I was drifting off to sleep, I was reminded of things I read somewhere.
“You are following a homeless guy who was murdered on a cross. What did you expect? Following Jesus is not safe.” “If you want a religion to be easy or to make you feel comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend Christianity.” (I don’t recall exactly where I read these but I am guessing either David Platt or Jefferson Bethke wrote the first one and either C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton said the second. And I know I am not quite quoting them correctly. 😉 )
I taught my kids that God speaks into people’s lives, that we are to read the Bible, pray, have reflective time to listen for God and then to talk with other believers. I taught them that it is important to make sure that what we heard is consistent with the Bible and what we know about God. So, when they came to me having prayed, having read their Bible (yes, they were citing verses back at me specifically Matthew 25:34 – 40), having had quiet reflective time in which they believe they heard God speak into their hearts, how could I possibly dismiss it?
Of course you know what I did. I didn’t really have a choice. Not if I was going to make my words match my actions.
I had been reminded that while sometimes God answers our prayers directly, He does not always. He is not a vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops a handful of good feelings. He is not a magic Eight Ball where you keep shaking until you hear what you want to hear. Sometimes He speaks to you and sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He speaks to others and, if it is consistent with what you know about Him, you need to just believe. You need to take a risk.
In committing to helping M and E, I was showing my kids that I respected their walk and that I would support them in whatever they felt called to do. But I was committed to helping M and E up, not helping them out. I did not want to become another ineffectual stop on the merry-go-round of houses, couches and slide tunnels these kids were stuck on. If they were going to come and stay in our home, they were going to have to work towards stepping off this crazy carnival ride, not just leaping to another carousel horse.
I wanted their experience at our home to be different from their experiences in other places. If we were going to do this, I didn’t want to just be another lady who let us stay in her house for X amount of time. If B and K (my children if you are just jumping into this series) had heard from God that we were supposed to help M and E, M and E needed to know it was God who had stepped in and intervened in their situation. I wanted them to be able to see Christ in this process. I wanted them to see Christ through us.
Christ wants us to grow in our faith. However, He never pushes an agenda. He lays out the truth and it is up to us whether to accept or reject that. He provides teachers and pastors and books and classes and podcasts and Christian bloggers and it is up to us how much of that we take in and how quickly. And, we have the right to refuse, to reject it all. But if we choose to reject Him, we are not welcome in His house. (Although we are welcome back if/when we repent ie do a 180 degree turn around.)
Keeping that in mind, the five of us sat down to talk. I asked M and E to tell us about everything they had lost – families (functional or not, it was still a loss), a home, stuffed animals, favorite blankets, self-respect, friends, the opportunity to finish high school. A multitude of wrongs poured out of these two. And then, we asked them where they would like to be. We asked them how they would like to live, what they would like to have in their lives.
They were completely silent. No one had ever asked them what they wanted before.
Answers came out tentatively. “For sure a job so we can pay for stuff.” “Video games.” (Well… they were normal 17 and 19 year olds.) “a diploma.” “A car.” “A way to get around.” “My friends back.” “I want my mom back.” “I really want a cat.”
We wrote these things down. And then we talked about how they could get there. What steps were needed to get a job? Interview clothes. Nice clothes for work. Hair cuts. Toiletries. A copy of information for applications. A list of their skills. These were all very doable, manageable things and M and E put a deadline on accomplishing each one of them. We did this for everything on their list.
Then, I told them that they could stay at our house (and eat our food!!!) for free. E would bunk with K and M would bunk with B until I could get my husband’s old room cleaned out and set up for them. However, I explained, to do this they needed to be working on accomplishing their goals. They didn’t have to achieve my goals for them or B and K’s dreams for them; I expected them to work on only their dreams for themselves. I reminded them that their goals were their goals. This meant that if something wasn’t working or if something was taking longer then they thought, it was okay. We would just sit down, talk again, think through things and change the deadlines, goals or steps as needed. However, they needed to make, set and work towards accomplishing these goals in order to continue to live in our home.
They decided that they would begin by working towards jobs, an education and transportation.
Before they left the table, I told them that there was one other condition for living in my home. If they were staying in our house, they were family. They were not slaves and they were not freeloaders. They would eat with us, cook with us, clean with us and play with us. They could have private/personal space but they would also attend family gatherings and outings.
E. cried again.
M. kept asking for clarification. “Wait… so… to live here, we have to go to barbecues and things?”
“Yes. If we go, unless you are working or ill, you will come with us.” I responded.
“Well, what if I don’t want to go?” he challenged.
“Then, I guess you don’t have to go. I would just like it if you would because that’s what families do.”
He tried again, “What happens when we move out? … Do you forget about us like everyone else?”
Knowing what he needed, what she needed to hear, B responded. “No, M. You are always family. I think moving out is part of growing up. And it’s okay. It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. You’ll be my brother as long as you want to be.”
K chimed in, ” E! We’re sisters! … I adore B but did you know I’ve always wanted a sister?” She put her arm around E and led her upstairs, offering to give her a manicure. After all, that’s the sort of thing sisters do.