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Monday Meditation: The Beatitudes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

When Jesus sat down on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee to deliver what would come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” I imagine that the women and men and children who gathered around him leaned forward, straining to hear his provocative words. The opening passage of this sermon is called “The Beatitudes” – a list of blessings. Jesus’ litany of those who are blessed is somewhat surprising. For example, how can those who are mourning be considered to be blessed? And yet, upon closer inspection, we can see a pattern in Jesus’ words.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)

The poor in spirit are those who have learned that they must rely on God in all circumstances. Those who mourn depend on God to sustain them as they move forward into a future without the companionship of their dearly departed ones. The meek are not people who are weak; they are those who approach God and others with humility. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness trust God to guide their lives, to direct their paths. Those who are merciful demonstrate Christ-like compassion for others. Those who are pure in heart manifest integrity – there is no differentiation between their public life and their private one. Those who are peacemakers desire to live in harmony with God and others. Those who are persecuted for doing what is right take comfort in knowing that they do not walk alone on the path of righteousness.

Do you see the connection – the thread running through all of the blessings? Jesus does not equate blessing with fame or fortune. Blessing flows from an individual’s intimate relationship with God, from an individual’s dependence on God.

Jesus’ words remind me to look for blessings in unexpected places, in unanticipated ways. May you experience the blessing of God this week

When I Grow Up

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney   

During the pandemic, my extended family has gathered weekly via Zoom to stay in touch. With participants ranging in age from 7 months to 81 years, these experiences have been memorable and life-giving for us.

One feature of these virtual gatherings is a trivia game, and if a family member has a birthday coming up, then the trivia game focuses on them. One of the standard questions is: “When I was a child, what did I want to be when I grew up?” The answers have been enlightening and hilarious.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a reporter. I started my own newspaper in 6th grade; as I recall, the issues of this short-lived publication focused almost exclusively on the Cincinnati Reds. During junior high school, I considered becoming a meteorologist, primarily because I was a huge fan of Tom Siler the Weather Wizard on Channel 2.

Looking back, I can now see how my desire to become a reporter was rooted in my love of reading and writing, which eventually blossomed into a fondness for researching, teaching, and storytelling. When I responded to God’s prompting in my life to go to seminary, I was confident that writing and teaching would be a part of my calling. Although I was initially surprised while in seminary by my newfound love of preaching, I realize now that it was an outgrowth of my desire to share stories.

As I listen to the stories that the clients share at The Next Door in group settings and in one-on-one sessions, I am aware that none of them dreamed of becoming an addict when they grew up. None of them hoped to become homeless. No one set a goal to spend time in jail. None of them desired to have children and then lose them to state custody.

Even though their lives have not turned out the way they imagined, many of our clients cling to the hope that the future can be different. As they embrace a newfound faith in God or recommit their lives to following the God they first learned about as children, they are optimistic that new dreams are within reach. They sense that their lives are now on an upward trajectory. They are growing spiritually as healing takes place in their bodies, minds, and spirits.

At mid-life, I have been surprised to realize that I still don’t feel like a grown up. I am aware that I still have a lot of growing to do; I still have so much to learn. The faith in Christ that I embraced as a child has been transformed and deepened through the years. Like our clients, I am still growing up spiritually. God has given me new dreams, and I am grateful.

 

A prayer for spiritual growth: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please God in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

Monday Meditation: The Second Sunday of Advent

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

As I child, I remember learning the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father,
brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me;
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment
and live each moment
in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.

 

As I child, I wasn’t bothered by the exclusively masculine pronouns in the song; today I would much prefer the use of the inclusive word “siblings” instead of brothers. But the sentiments behind the lyrics still ring true.

History of the Hymn

This popular folk song was composed in 1955 by Jill Jackson-Miller and her husband Sy Miller. Jill was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1913 and was adopted as a child by the Jackson family. As a young woman, she moved to Hollywood and launched her acting career. At the age of 31, she attempted suicide after her first marriage failed. Five years later, she married Sy, and they collaborated to create this song, with Jill penning the lyrics and Sy composing the melody.

Jill’s reflections about the inspiration for this song are poignant: “When I attempted suicide and I didn’t succeed I knew for the first time unconditional love—which God is. You are totally loved, totally accepted, just the way you are. In that moment I was not allowed to die, and something happened to me, which is very difficult to explain. I had an eternal moment of truth, in which I knew I was loved, and I knew I was here for a purpose.”

Life Application

When the peace of God takes root in a person’s life, transformation ensues. As individual lives are changed, families can be changed, communities can be changed, the world can be changed. Over the course of the past year, I have heard dozens of clients offer testimonies similar to Jill’s: After a near-death experience, they have come to believe that God must have a purpose for their lives. They are grasping for God’s love like never before, clinging to the belief that they are loved and worthy.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Shalom is the Hebrew word that is translated as peace, and shalom means far more than the absence of conflict. To experience shalom is to be at peace internally and to live in harmony externally. Shalom means wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Our Jewish friends both say hello and goodbye to one another using the salutation “Shalom!” – a wish for peace in their comings and their goings. How lovely.

We are called to peacemaking work at The Next Door, but we must have first-hand experience with peace ourselves in order to faithfully model it for our clients. So let us strive to walk in harmony with one another. Let us solemnly vow to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us.

Shalom, friends.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:8)

Resources: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-let-there-be-peace-on-earth

Published on December 7, 2020

Not Just Another Statistic

– Written by Jane Saffles-Granville, LMSW, Treatment Therapist

As a therapist in alcohol and drug treatment, one of the first things I ask my clients in our initial therapy sessions is a simple question: “Why did you come to treatment?” It has a handful of common answers. “For my children,” “I want to learn how to be sober,” or “I need coping skills.” One of the responses that has always given me pause is “I don’t want to be another statistic.”

When my clients say that, I hear not just “I don’t want to die,” but also “I don’t want to be forgotten.” The statistics of overdose death are harrowing. Most see the headlines, shake their heads, and go about their day. It can be hard to truly internalize the sheer number of deaths, the amount of loss, the number of grieving loved ones left behind.

For the past few months, it has felt like so many more people are dying. COVID has taken so many lives, and I think the full scope of its toll cannot be fully understood until you also look at so-called “deaths of desperation”—drug overdoses and suicide.

I have this seen firsthand in the past few months in a way I haven’t in my near decade of work in social services. The truth is, I’ve been navigating my own grief for too many clients of mine who have died. Women who had been in my outpatient group just days before, and women who had graduated residential treatment years ago, and many more in between. Women I saw cradle their pregnant bellies and cradle their infant children. Women who shared their own grief for loved ones who died of overdoses. Women who cheered on their peers for leaving an abuser, just as they had once done. Women who fought so hard for a way out of a system that was stacked against them. Women who made me laugh and exasperated me at the same time. Women who gave me hope. Women who were so vitally alive when they were sober, it was hard to imagine them in their addiction then and even harder now to imagine them gone.

I don’t know what led to their relapses. I don’t know what their last days were like, or how long they had been sober after the last time I saw them. It can be so easy to focus on the death by overdose, and see it as failure. But when I reflect on this feeling, a line from the poem “Failing and Flying” echoes in my head: “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” When we hear about the mythological Icarus, it is a cautionary tale of hubris and preventable tragedy; but what of the miraculous flight that happened first? His wax and feather wings did not last indefinitely, and yet he did fly. Isn’t that true for people who die from addiction? We struggle to look past the death to see the successes before it, the love before it, the life before it.

And so, I believe “I don’t want to be another statistic” has another meaning: “If my addiction kills me, I don’t want my memory to be reduced to my cause of death.” Sadly, some of those women who told me this have since lost their battle with addiction. They became what they feared: a statistic, one of the many lives lost this year. Overdose is a lonely and tragic way to die, stealing the futures of too many worthy people. On National Overdose Awareness Day, it is our job now to remember their lives, not just their deaths; their names and not just the numbers. They cannot, and will not, merely be a statistic.

Published on August 31, 2020

How Addiction Hijacks the Brain

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

In her memoir We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life, Laura McKowen recalls a cellphone conversation with her friend Holly the day after Laura almost attended a party where she knew she would relapse. Laura had reached out in desperation to Holly via text as her train neared her intended destination, torn between her craving to drink and her desire to avert certain disaster.

“Babe, your brain was hijacked.”[i] That’s how Holly summed up Laura’s experience the previous day. Holly explained what happens to the brain of an addict. The flood of dopamine that accompanies drug or alcohol usage short-circuits the brain’s prewired reward system. The hippocampus creates a record of this pleasure shortcut for future reference. The amygdala signals to the brain that less dopamine should be produced. Consequently, over time more and more of one’s drug of choice is required to achieve the desired pleasurable effect. Simply put, addiction hijacks normal brain circuitry.

The Apostle Paul was not addressing addiction when he wrote to the Christians in Rome in the first century, but Paul’s words certainly have a modern application: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). Time and time again, clients at The Next Door lament the sequence of events that led them to seek out treatment for addiction (or led a court to force them to get treatment). No little girl grows up wanting to be an addict. Our clients don’t understand how it got so bad so quickly. They wrestle with self-worth: Am I a bad person because I kept drinking, kept using drugs, regardless of the consequences?

As our clients learn about brain chemistry during treatment at The Next Door, they discover how their brains have been hijacked by alcohol and drug usage. They come to understand the powerful internal forces that have kept them in bondage to addiction. They come to understand the good news that their brains can be rewired over time. They come to understand that they are worthy of love and respect. They come to understand that they can chart a new path of lifetime recovery, one that will require self-discipline, sober support, and spiritual grounding.

Fr. Richard Rohr, author of Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, believes that all human beings are addicts. Rohr writes: “Substance addictions like alcohol and drugs are merely the most visible form of addiction, but actually we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing anything, our own defenses, and most especially, our patterned way of thinking, or how we process our reality.”[ii]

Rohr prompts those who are not addicted to a substance to consider the ways their brains have been hijacked by “stinking thinking” – a commonly used term in Alcoholics Anonymous. When do you fail to do what you intend to do? When do you do what you hate? How can you break the cycle? Just like those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, we can’t make a change until we admit that we have a problem.

Creator God, creating still, create in us clean hearts, renewed spirits, and restored minds. Amen.

 

[i] McKowen, Laura, We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life (Novato: Callifornia, New World Library, 2020): 44.

[ii] Rohr, Richard, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2011): xxiii.

Published on July 9, 2020

Meditation Monday: Running on Fumes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

The Parable

In Matthew 25:1-11, Jesus uses a parable about ten bridesmaids to describe the kingdom of heaven. In this story, the ten bridesmaids have gathered to await the bridegroom’s arrival, for they will accompany the groom in a festive procession to the wedding banquet. All ten bridesmaids have come equipped with oil lamps, but only five of them have brought flasks of oil to enable them to refuel their lamps. These five women were wise, for the groom was delayed. When he finally arrived at midnight, the wise bridesmaids were ready to go with fuel to spare. Unfortunately, at this key moment, the lamps of the unprepared bridesmaids flickered out.

You could read Jesus’ parable and view the five prepared bridesmaids in a negative light, since they refuse to share their oil with the other five bridesmaids, but to do so misses a key point: There are some things in life that can’t be borrowed.

The Demonstration

In her memorable sermon on this passage titled “Filling Stations,” Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence describes a scene from one of her seminary classes. A lamp that only had a little oil left in the reservoir was placed on a table in front of the class. The wick was lit, and the students watched with interest as the lamp burned up all the oil and flickered out.

“What just happened?” Dr. Florence asked the class. “The oil ran out, so the light went out,” the students replied. This object lesson was used to convey a vital message: A Christian with no oil can’t be the light of the world for anybody, no matter how much they want to.

The Lesson

There are some things in life that can’t be borrowed. You can’t borrow someone else’s relationship with God. You can’t borrow someone else’s faith. You can’t borrow spiritual maturity. You can’t be light for the world if you lack spiritual fuel.

You likely won’t be able to do a very good job of nurturing others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You won’t be able to serve God as energetically as you desire if you are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually burned out. That’s not to say that God can’t use you when your reserves are running low. God certainly can and does do this – I can testify to this reality. However, we would be foolish – like the five unprepared bridesmaids – if we allow ourselves to always run on fumes.

We can’t expect to fill ourselves up spiritually once a week and think that will be sufficient. If we desire to love God with our heart and soul, mind and strength, we need to fill up our spiritual tanks frequently. Some of us feel spiritually energized when we do things with others and for others. Some of us need to be alone, quiet, and still in order to recharge. Perhaps you need a little of both. We can find God both in times of devotion and in times of service.

We need plenty of fuel in order to burn brightly. What will you do today to fill up your spiritual tank?

Life-giving God, fill us up so that we may be the light of the world. Amen.

Published on June 8, 2020

 

A Crisis Response to Compassion Fatigue

– Written by Morgan Coyner and Eleanor Wells, RN, BSN, ACC, CCFP

In February, The Next Door hosted a workshop with Eleanor Wells of Cohort4Care on Compassion Fatigue. It’s a topic that is talked about a lot in behavioral health and other direct care professions. You may have heard it referred to as “burnout.” Compassion Fatigue happens when helpers are unable to rest and refuel. Under the best of circumstances and in the most certain times, Compassion Fatigue is still a threat to our staff. Most of our clients have lived through incredibly difficult things that affect how they react and behave. As you can imagine, getting to the root of an addiction and finding years of repressed trauma is hard. Walking women through this process and hearing their stories day after day can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout, especially if staff don’t prioritize their own mental health.

Two months ago, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, and the world as we knew it shifted right in front of us. We moved from being able to learn about Compassion Fatigue and put plans in place to prevent it to having to find a totally different approach. Eleanor Wells puts it this way:

“If someone were having a heart attack, you wouldn’t walk up to them and start talking to them about healthy eating habits and exercise. You’d start performing CPR. The diet and exercise won’t help if you die. Those things will get addressed in time.”

We’re in a crisis right now, and that warrants a crisis response. But what does that look like? Now isn’t a time when front line workers can take a mental health day or talk to their supervisors about being overwhelmed. Everyone is overwhelmed. If Compassion Fatigue happens when people are unable to rest and a symptom of it is being unable to rest or relax, how are we supposed to refuel so that we can get back to work?

One thing we need to do is redefine “rest.” Rest doesn’t have to mean sleep. It doesn’t have to be an extended period of quiet time. Research shows that taking deep breaths makes a huge difference. The coffee break was born out of the discovery that workers were more productive when they had breaks. Even fifteen minutes makes a difference. A few other simple tips: Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Take a lap or two around your building – the fresh air and Vitamin D helps. Put down your phone.

When you ask someone for technical support with your phone or computer, what’s the first question they ask? Did you try rebooting it? A simple reboot can solve a whole host of problems. Our brains are the same way.

Right now, it’s not about big interventions. Incorporate small things throughout the day. And don’t underplay the importance of connection. We will not get through this on our own. It will take a collective resiliency. Find people who are safe to fall apart in front of. Find people who will help you notice the positives in each day. Be that person for others when you can.

We will get back to a healthier lifestyle. We will get back to a life of routine and putting safeguards in place to create healthy rhythms in our lives. Hold on. This is not the end.

Published on May 20, 2020

Recycling is Mindfulness

by Kellie Kroening, TND Intake Specialist and avid baker

Recycling is a mindfulness practice. Maybe you know someone who recycles like it’s their full time job. Maybe you know someone who thinks the whole thing is a joke. Unfortunately, the movement for recycling sometimes get a bad reputation because of the way it’s been presented – for instance, “if you’re not recycling, then you hate animals and the eventual disappearance of the polar ice caps is on you and your empty Dr. Pepper bottles.” (Can we all just agree that harsh and judgmental extremes don’t really help anyone?) If the newest research is true, we have already passed something of a “point of no return” with the climate problems at hand, and it doesn’t just have to do with recycling. There are a myriad of contributing factors. Yet, while we will have to put our heads together in years to come for solutions to this issue, it doesn’t mean we should stop doing what we already know to be important.

The Next Door has recently started a recycling initiative called The Green Team, which I am honored to be involved in. We’re a small group of people who go around the building once weekly to collect recycling and take it to Nashville’s many drop-off centers, in addition to brainstorming ideas of how TND can be more sustainable and focus on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. However for me, there’s a bigger picture to why I recycle. I’m hoping that as TND participates in the Green Team’s new efforts, the conversation can turn toward mindfulness and how recycling aligns with some of our core values. I believe that recycling actually impacts how we interact with other human beings in the world. Let me tell you why.

When I was in 4th Grade I went to a magically special school called School in the Woods. In the middle of the Black Forest on the Eastern slope of the Rockies in Colorado, there exists a haven for fourth graders where you spend 80% of the school year outside, with the goal of learning how to be a naturalist. A naturalist is a type of biologist who studies the impacts of living species on each other and the environments in which they live. So, a troupe of 10-year-olds including myself spent the year walking around this piece of forest observing, notating, drawing, studying, identifying, counting, quantifying, qualifying, and appreciating the ways that all parts of the earth interconnect and impact all other parts of the earth. This experience was extraordinarily formative for me, and I carry that naturalist heart with me into all facets of my life. As an adult, I came to realize that this is why I was drawn to be a counselor; because counseling is really just naturalism. It is observing, listening, identifying, and appreciating all the ways that each part of someone’s life impacts each part of their own “ecosystem.” How, perhaps, someone’s childhood trauma impacts the beliefs about the self, and how those beliefs impact behaviors, creating gaps in emotional regulation, and how maybe, like for our women and many others, it may result in substance abuse or other dysfunctional coping mechanisms. We can study how the family system can be incredibly resilient even through the harshest blizzards and how the most frozen hearts thaw with enough time spent in the glow of a new sun. Or how when the lightning strikes one too many times, it may set someone’s whole life ablaze. The counseling relationship is there to give witness to all the life and death, growth and change, and to mindfully love the system through the process.

One very important lesson that naturalism taught me was that for the whole ecosystem to be healthy, each part must work in healthful cooperation. This is one of the things that brought me to the Next Door – it attracted me originally because it felt like the sort of place that encourages all parts of the whole to be healthy and to give and take, when needed. For instance, the core values encourage that if we want our women to understand values such as love, respect and community, then we need to also demonstrate love, respect, and community. Health begets health. Love begets love. Respect begets respect. You (be)get the idea.

Which brings me back to recycling. I believe that recycling is a mindfulness practice because for me, when my body makes that habitual motion toward the trash can with something paper, plastic, metal, cardboard etc. in my hand, I pause, and bring my awareness to the moment, instead of mindlessly letting go my waste into some hypothetical landfill. I could throw it away. No one would know. Would it make a difference? Does this one piece of paper or this one straw really matter in the scheme of things? Maybe not. But did you know that every person produces about 4 pounds of waste a day? (Don’t ask me to do the math on that; as you can imagine, School in the Woods didn’t help much with my math issues.) In that momentary pause, I consider that waste begets waste.

So, I mindfully turn my body instead to the little box where I collect recyclables. Because even though I’ll have to make an extra trip, and even though I’m just one person, recycling begets recycling. It is an act of love, and respect, and community because it says “I know that YOU live here too, and for the ecosystem to be healthy, all parts must work in healthful cooperation.” Maybe we are past a point of no return in climate change or melting ice caps but the naturalist in me urges you to believe that we are not past a point of no return within ourselves. It’s what we ask our clients at The Next Door to do every day: to believe that they are not past the point of no return, but that there is still hope that change can happen and that it does matter. Think about the impacts of living species on each other and the environments in which they live, and how that does start with you, within you, sitting at your desk, or standing in your kitchen, practicing mindfulness, and knowing in the grand scheme of things that whether you recycle something to be repurposed or just throw it away, it does matter.

A Building Filled with Hope

by Rachel Morris, Operations Director of The Next Door

I have been employed by The Next Door for almost 12 years.  During this time, as the Operations Director, my mission and purpose have been to provide a safe, clean, and functional facility to the clients of TND.  When I joined the staff in 2007, we were providing services from a small three-story building in downtown Nashville off 8th Avenue and Demonbreun.  This facility served our purpose well until we began expanding to meet the growing needs of the community. Our goal to serve more clients was coming to fruition, but the reality was that our facility could not keep up.  The staff were literally working on top of one another, and the building was deteriorating faster than it could be repaired.

In 2012, we began dreaming of a new and improved facility that would enhance our services and productivity.  In August of 2014, by the grace of God and generous donations from our beloved donors and vendors, our dreams came true! Staff and clients moved from 8th Avenue to a new state-of-the-art facility off Charlotte Avenue.

As Operations Director, this was more than I could have ever imagined. We went from a 13,000 square foot building housing 40 clients to a 44,000 square foot facility that can house 82 women.  We upgraded to all new equipment, bedding, furniture and beautiful decor. We now have:

  • A commercial kitchen that a restaurant owner would be ecstatic to have
  • Group rooms with comfy chairs and essential oils
  • Computers that actually work
  • Beautiful, professional artwork on the walls displaying our core values
  • Attractive bathrooms with fancy tile
  • Ergonomic chairs and new functional desks

Our hearts have been incredibly grateful since our dream became a reality in 2014.  But speaking as someone that worked in the old facility for 7 years, and the new facility for almost 5 years, I can tell you that it is not the building that makes the real difference in the lives of our clients. It is the professional and dedicated staff who truly care about our clients finding their way out of addiction.  When you walk into our facility you will immediately sense a dedicated team that come to work each day ready to serve with their whole heart.

TND has been providing consistent, compassionate care since we opened our doors in 2004.  On May 4, 2019, we will celebrate 15 years of service.  I am honored to be a part of an organization that is willing to serve our clients in any environment. We are proud of our facility but even more grateful for those who truly make The Next Door a success.  If you know someone that needs treatment – a daughter, sister, or friend – I can guarantee they will be in the hands of providers that truly care at The Next Door.

 

There’s Something Special About This Place

By Karen P., volunteer at The Next Door

“There’s something special about this place,” she said, dabbing her eyes. We all nodded in agreement.

We sat in a circle — eight clients, myself, and my co-leader on a rainy Wednesday night for our weekly Spiritual Wellness small group gathering. The subject of the teaching had sparked some meaningful dialogue —an opportunity to affirm these precious women of their worth and value in the eyes of their heavenly Father.

“Today is a great day,” I commented, focusing my attention on another young woman, who had shared how difficult it was to be separated from her children while working on her recovery at The Next Door. She was not alone in her anguish. “Today is a great day because you are right where you need to be. You made it through another day of sobriety! The Lord has good plans for you. He has good plans for your family. And that ache that you feel for your children tonight? God’s love for you is infinitely deeper than that. God tells us in His Word that He is making all things new— all things.” The room was quiet. I watched their faces, their body language, as glimmers of hope rose within them. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “heal their wounds, bind up their brokenness and shower them with your great love.”

For many of the women who come to The Next Door, grasping the truth that they are worthy of God’s love and treasured by Him is daunting. Often, they feel guilt and shame, regret and fear that God is angry at them, or that He has forgotten them.

As a regular volunteer, it is my great joy and privilege to share the Good News with them—to encourage them and remind them that they are not alone — that our gracious, powerful God longs to walk this journey with them. Sometimes a door opens for me to speak these words of truth. Other times, it is simply by being a calming presence in an intake room with an anxious newcomer, or walking with a weary client to the clinic, or believing God for miracles as I pour over the stack of prayer requests at home on my kitchen table.

I’m just one person of many who share the vision of The Next Door, and my small contribution sometimes feels insignificant. But I know that God is working through all our contributions of time, money, talents, and prayers. He is making streams in deserts, He is quieting storms, He is writing beautiful stories.

There truly is something special about The Next Door, and I’m humbled and thankful to be a tiny part of the big things God is doing!