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Lost Sheep

by Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin, Clinical Pastoral Resident at The Next Door

 

So he (Jesus) told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15: 3-7

During my childhood I came across many lost sheep. There were many days that on my walk home from school I would arrive at my house and see three or four sheep in our front yard. They were adventurous sheep and would often push themselves through the hedges behind our house to venture into this new land. Each time they appeared in our yard, I would go into the house, pick up the phone and let the farmer know that his sheep had escaped again. The farmer would arrive at our house with his sheep dog to round them up. There are many differences between 1st century Palestine and modern-day Ireland; however, one big difference between the lost sheep in my yard and the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable is that the owner noticed the sheep were missing in Jesus’ parable.

Often when we think of this parable we think of the shepherd as God searching for the missing one. AJ Levine, my New Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, suggests that when this parable was initially told 1st century Jews would not have viewed the shepherd as God, because God does not lose us.  I remember the moment she shared this interpretation with us in class. My mouth opened and I thought, “You’re right God doesn’t lose us! God would have known where that sheep was all along.” AJ suggests a new name for this parable, “The Parable of the Initially Oblivious Owner.”  Those who first heard this parable would have heard a personal challenge to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing. God might just be saying to us, “I know where my child is, I am still with them, you have lost them! Go and bring them back into community.”

May we find comfort and challenge in this parable. May we be challenged to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing, to go and search for them, and welcome them home. As we do this work of welcoming people into community, may we be comforted by the knowledge that each of us are known and loved by God wherever we are. There is nowhere we can go where God is not right there with us. God is with us in our moments of deep darkness and of bright light. God does not lose us.

 

(AJ writes more about this and other parables in her book, “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi”.)

Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin is a Clinical Pastoral Resident at TND – this means that she is completing her Chaplaincy training. Ashley is a PC (USA) pastor and has been a Nashville resident for 7 years, having moved here from Northern Ireland. Ashley spends her time at TND providing spiritual support for clients and staff.

Spring Fever

by Rebekah Bohannon, LPC-MHSP, Director of Clinical Systems of The Next Door

Temperatures are rising, the sun is coming out and spring fever is among us! With record amounts of rainfall this year we have been trapped inside for far too long. Parking ourselves in front of our favorite binge-watching app and eating everything in sight is the new normal for a good old fashioned American good time. The average American sits 13 hours a day[i]! Aside from the physical effects this prolonged sitting and eating have on us, what are the effects on our mental health?

Making exercise a part of a routine is a struggle for us all. Making false promises and fluctuating commitments are the crux of failure for most new year’s resolutions. Getting up and prepared for the gym, regretting every moment of your decision and looking for ANY reason to change your mind. But, you don’t change your mind, you suck it up and show up! You get a great workout and leave the gym feeling like a champ! Sound familiar? Working out releases endorphins. But what are those?

When we workout, our body releases endorphins that interact with our brain chemistry to produce feelings that help relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria[ii]. To be honest, just walking 20 minutes a day, three days a week can help keep fitness gains and food goals on track. Not to mention the benefits exercise has on our mental wellness. Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of depression and promote overall mental wellness as we get older [iii].

If knowing how good something was for us was all it took; obesity rates would be down, and we would all eat healthy. However, simply knowing the facts is not all it takes. In most cases seeing isn’t even believing. How many times have you knocked some weight off just to get comfortable and gain it back? I think we look at wellness in separate categories and do not spend enough time examining how they overlap. This could be because it is overwhelming to try and overhaul our entire life. However, if we try and make incremental changes in each area perhaps we will be more successful. For example, if you do not exercise at all, walking only a few minutes each day is a great place to start. Likewise, cutting out unhealthy snacks or fast food is a small change you can make today. Making these small changes will greatly impact our mood and overall mental health.

When all else fails, TRACK EVERYTHING! Tracking our eating, as well as our fitness and mental health goals, can yield trends that may be sabotaging our success. Some may enjoy tracking every calorie while others may just write down what they eat in a day, not necessarily the calories in every bite. A small mark in your calendar to indicate what days you exercised and what time you exercised can help determine a routine that works for you. Finally, tracking our mental health. I recommend tracking your overall daily mood on a scale from 1-10; 1 being very sad or low mood and 10 being energized and happy. Hopefully after a week of tracking you can see what types of food and exercise have the greatest positive impact on your mental health. At the end of day enjoy your life! Incremental changes add up to make a big difference without setting yourself up for failure from day one. Get out and enjoy the sunshine, take in the day, get good rest and look forward to tomorrow!

 

[i] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

What a Beautiful Thing it Can Be to Finally Feel Again

by April Barnes, Director of Outreach of The Next Door

Recently, I was able to lead group with our women here at The Next Door. I was excited to share some intimate time with the ladies where I could pass out my essential oils and fill the chapel with the smells of patchouli and lavender. One of my greatest joys in working at The Next Door is to be able to connect with the women in this setting.

We started the group by randomly selecting a card from The Language of Letting Go and spending some time in meditation to let the words from our chosen cards resonate in our spirits and asking our divine power to meet us there in that space.

After the meditation, I opened the group up for anyone who wanted to share about their reflection. While my intention for the group was to educate the ladies on holistic ways to support your body in early recovery, we spent most of our time sharing about the content on the cards, given the intimacy of the moment. As one of the ladies read aloud from her card, we all leaned in as those words connected to each of us around the room.

“Today I will face discomfort, trusting that feelings of HEALING and release are on the other side. Help me, God, to FEEL whatever I need to feel to be whole and healthy. While I am doing this, I will trust that I am cared for and protected by myself, my friends, my higher power and the universe. “

These words immediately reminded me of something a therapist once told me years ago. “You gotta feel it to heal it”. While sounding cliché, how profoundly true are these words?

Many of the women who come into our program at The Next Door have been avoiding pain and discomfort. At the root of their addiction is pain, whether mentally, physically or spiritually. Identifying the root cause and working through that discomfort is essential for the healing process and freedom from the bondage of addiction.

The women shared their experiences, some stating they had not “felt” in years. Others stated that they were scared to “feel” or that they didn’t know how to process feelings in a healthy way. While in treatment, the women work with their therapists and clinical team members to learn how to recognize and process feelings and explore healthy emotional regulation. What a beautiful thing it can be to finally feel again. 

One of the women shared her experience of how much shame, guilt and anger she must work through, but also stated how refreshing it is to now be experiencing JOY, HOPE and EXCITEMENT as she releases that shame and guilt and anticipates a new life found in recovery.

Recovery isn’t just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Recovery is about a process of change. A change in thoughts, perceptions, emotional regulation and behavioral habits. We change the way we cope with uncomfortable feelings and bravely step into experiencing those moments, trusting that on the other side of that discomfort, is healing.

 

One Word for 2019

by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development of The Next Door

For the past 8-9 years, I have chosen a word of the year.  I begin praying in December for how I want the next year to be different.  I pray for wisdom of what one word of focus could be to help me get there.  This year, my word is INTENTIONAL.

What led me to this word was that I felt like at work in my role as Director of Development, everything I do is with great intention, purpose and strategy to achieve the fundraising goals for The Next Door.  However, outside of work, I don’t live with much intention.  I chose this word for 2019 because I want to be intentional with relationships in my life I want to strengthen, and I want to be intentional with my health, fitness and dietary habits.  There are several other ways in my personal life I need to be more intentional, because I believe when you approach things with intentionality, you are more likely to see change that you want in life.

Because I love this annual exercise of choosing my word of the year, I decided to ask our clients about theirs.  On New Year’s Day, I put up a sign next to the elevators on each residential floor and asked a simple question:  “What one word do you want to guide you and define you in the new year?”   During the entire month of January, as new clients have come into the program, I have enjoyed seeing their responses.  Here is what they wrote:

  • Happy
  • Humble
  • Serene
  • Sober
  • Peaceful
  • Recovery
  • Thankful
  • Strong
  • Productive
  • Sunshine
  • Resilient
  • Amazing, sober mother
  • Real
  • Different
  • Blessed

While I thought, prayed and toyed around with several words that I wanted to guide and define me in 2019, the women in treatment at The Next Door last month most likely came up with theirs in a brief period of time, while waiting for the elevator!   The simplicity of their answers was inspiring.  To merely want peace, serenity, happiness, strength or sobriety as they look at a new year may seem simple to me, but for our clients, this could be a major shift from the life they are living now.

Each day I work in this ministry, I realize that I have MUCH in common with women of The Next Door.  I may not struggle with addiction, trauma or mental illness, but what I do long for – like each woman within our doors – is a new start and moving from weak to strong in some area of our lives.  Whether that’s to be more intentional in my approach to relationships and fitness or women simply wanting to wake up sober and productive each day of 2019, we each seek change.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

I hope each of you is having a wonderful start to your new year.  Remember:  we love to have visitors at The Next Door!  If you feel led to be involved in some way in this life-changing ministry for women and find common ground with these courageous women like I do each day, come see us!  To arrange a visit, please contact me:  kate.mckinnie@thenextdoor.org.

I Love Data!

by Ginger Gaines, Chief Operating Officer of The Next Door

My co-workers, family and a few friends know how much I love a good spreadsheet.  I am by nature very analytical, and I want to have all the facts before making any decision.  Of course, when deciding where to eat dinner this can be infuriating to my husband who would say, “Just pick one!” and then have no angst about the choice.  If there is an unfamiliar option, I would first want to review the menu, other diner’s feedback and their prices, to start.  Are you like that?  I just love putting everything in a spreadsheet, at least mentally, to reveal the obvious best choice!

Well, did you know that January 22-27, 2019 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week?  I was recently reviewing much of the research data found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website about substance use disorder, alcohol use, suicide rates and so forth.  Even loving data, I quickly became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the growing drug and alcohol addiction impact to communities and families today.

While all the national and state-level data is quite daunting, I am excited about the difference that The Next Door (TND) is making – one life at a time.  I am so grateful to serve at an organization that restores hope! TND exists to empower women for lifetime recovery in an environment of faith and healing.  I can really get excited about the data and feedback gathered through client surveys regarding treatment service experiences at TND.  For example, 1461 clients received treatment services at TND Nashville in 2018 and of those 1461, the overall satisfaction ranged from 91-95% positive!

Let me share just a few of the actual client comments from surveys in 2018:

  • Treatment with genuine care and respect
  • Liked opportunity to engage in service work in the dining room
  • So grateful for all of the staff, they are awesome!
  • The Next Door is an amazing, safe compassionate program
  • This place means the world to the rest of my life.
  • It means so much that the staff try so hard to love us during this crucial time.
  • Admission process was very smooth. Made us feel welcome & loved.  Staff were calm and patient. Quick response when call for treatment.
  • Detox saved my life, it was exactly what I needed.
  • Our group facilitator is wonderful.
  • The Therapist included us in the development of our treatment plan.
  • The Case Manager included us in the development of our discharge plan.
  • The accountability requirements really helped me stay in line and learn more responsibility.

Of course, TND also learns from the constructive feedback from every client. My favorite this year being that Food Services serves too much broccoli!  Seriously, we gather and utilize the feedback of our clients for continuous improvement.  We know that not only does every life matter, but also every life represents a network of more lives finding wholeness and hope for the future.  Though this is difficult data to quantify, in a spreadsheet or not, it brings me great joy!

Blog Post – Strong

Sallie Hussey

I grew up in a family of strong women. My sisters and I were fortunate to have vibrant, talented women, like my grandmother, and even great grandmother, who were wonderful examples. My grandmother, a newspaper reporter, gave me a giant hard-back Webster’s dictionary when I started first grade. She told me to “ask if I didn’t know the answer” and “find whatever you need to do your job.” I didn’t really understand that in elementary school but, certainly as the years passed, it started to sink in.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I saw my mother and grandmother juggle career and family. I know they had adult problems and struggles, but I was shielded from them. Now I see how truly difficult it often was and how many challenges and obstacles they faced. Today is no different, in many respects for women in 2017. The challenges of motherhood and career can be overwhelming. The stigma of addiction and mental health is real and still one of the many barriers a woman must face.

Maybe being raised in a family of women (mostly) helped prepare me for work at TND. I see amazing women every day who are here and are working to overcome the most extraordinary circumstances life has given them – balancing family, careers, maybe school, and now overcoming addiction. Women are resilient and we are born to survive. The Next Door is uniquely, and wonderfully, equipped to help women and we do it, every day. I smile when I see our case managers and therapists just chatting with a woman in the hall, or when I see how easily our clinical assistants bond with a frightened young woman on her first day. Each day women help women here and it’s beautiful to see.

My grandmother would say we’re helping these women “find what they need” to do their job. Those jobs are numerous and diverse – wife, mother, CEO, business owner, care taker, home owner, sister, friend, student, and so much more. I know what a blessing it was to grow up in a family of strong women. I’m blessed now, too, to have even a very small part in helping these amazingly strong women in their recovery from addiction. We would love to have you join us.

Sallie Hussey serves as the Chief Development Officer at The Next Door.