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Monday Meditation: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Do you ever stop to ask yourself why are you doing what you are doing? In her book Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky writes: “Amid the trials and tribulations of our work, it is possible to lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing. When we carve out the time to contemplate our intentions, we renew our connection to the needs and desires that have shaped our experience. We remember that we can take action to alter the course of our lives. This will help us to alleviate the sensation of being tossed around in the waves of uncontrollable and overwhelming events.”

To help us navigate these waves, van Dernoot Lipsky suggests that each morning we take a moment to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” Remember your calling. Reflect on your gifts and how you are using them. Acknowledge that you are making a choice to do the work that lies before you. Accept this responsibility and freedom with gratitude. Ask God for wisdom and courage for the living of these days.

As a companion of fishermen, Jesus knew something about waves – on one memorable evening, Jesus spoke and the waves were stilled. Let us cling to Jesus’s words of comfort and hope during these disorienting days: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Note: You can download a free PDF of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others.

Published on July 6, 2020

Monday Meditation: A Cry For Help

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Where do you turn when you are struggling to survive, when you are experiencing oppression, when you are fighting forces and feelings that threaten to overwhelm you? For 1,000 years, people have turned to Psalm 18 to give voice to their experiences. The psalmist begins this timeless prayer by expressing love for God, praising God’s character, and recalling how God responded to his desperate cries for help.

“I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.”

Psalm 18:1-6a

 

Can you relate to the psalmist’s words? These vivid images could apply to so many situations, but they are particularly illustrative of the perils of addiction. Recovery is indeed a matter of life and death.

The psalmist imagined what it looked like when God responded to his cries for help. The earth was shaken to its core as the anthropomorphized God breathed smoke and fire and mounted a cherubim to swoop down from heaven amid a hailstorm. The psalmist’s enemies were scattered by bolts of lightning; they were no match for the thundering voice of the Lord. The psalmist was comforted by the image of a powerful God who was willing and able to rescue him in his time of need.

“God reached down from on high and took hold of me; the Lord drew me out of deep waters.

God rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

God brought me out into a spacious place; God rescued me because God delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19

When has God rescued you? When has God been your support? When has God graciously brought you out to a spacious place where you could experience the freedom God intended?

Like the psalmist, take a moment today to thank the Lord, who is worthy of praise.

Published on June 22, 2020

Talking To Your Children About COVID19 (And Other Hard Things)

– Written by Elizabeth Scoville, Family Interventionist

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine was putting her eight-year-old son to bed, and he was crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

Raise your hand if you agree with him.

 

When COVID-19 pushed school districts to close, parents were at a loss with how to help their children cope because the adults felt scared and uncertain. How are we supposed to talk to our children about something we don’t understand? Wouldn’t it be better if we protect them from all the negativity, chaos, and uncertainty?

When we don’t talk to children about difficult things, we put them at a disadvantage and potentially harm their healing processes. Children have an idea of what is going on. They see their parents are more stressed out than usual; they see things are different. The children in our lives are going just as stir crazy as the rest of us. They miss their teachers, friends, and their sense of normalcy. If we pretend that everything is a-okay the children might think something is wrong with them for feeling scared.

Instead of pretending that nothing is wrong in front of our children, we can (and have a responsibility to) talk to them about these challenging things–COVID19, addiction, ACEs–in a way that doesn’t traumatize them. We don’t need to tell them every single detail. But we do need to tell what’s going on. Their schedules and routines have changed. We shouldn’t lie to them when they ask us questions. Don’t dumb it down, rather answer their questions in a way they can digest.

Developmentally, children feel the same emotions that adults feel, and they feel them at the same intensity. As adults, we can identify our feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and manage them. Children don’t have that skill set yet. They are building it. That’s why children throw tantrums; they don’t know what to do with all of their emotions, so they may react and explode.

Talking about these difficult, hard things and how we feel about them helps children improve their ability to cope by expanding their emotional literacy and vocabulary. As adults we literally set the example and show them another way to cope with their emotions by giving them language to describe their emotions so they understand how to talk about their feelings. Children need to know that it’s okay to talk about this. It will prepare them for the hard things that they will experience in the future. And when they go through hard things, they’ll be able to talk about it and cope with it rather than push it down and ignore it.

Here are some ways you can help your child right now:

  1. You might be worried about paying bills and your job. Your children are worried about their friends and what school will look like next year. Both are important. Don’t forget to focus on your children, their emotions, and their experience through this, too.
  2. Increase mindfulness and honor the here and now, the present moment with your children. As much as possible, leave the future in the future.
  3. Normalize and validate their struggles. They need to know that how they feel (no matter what those feelings are) is normal and okay.
  4. Be authentic with your children. Show your children that YOU have emotions, too. It will allow them to increase their emotional awareness and talk about emotions.
  5. Create a place where it is safe for children to get it wrong. Parents set the example for how to cope, but children aren’t perfect mimics. Take advantage of the extra time with your children to teach them healthy coping skills.
Published on June 18, 2020

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!

That Glow!

by Holly Cammuse, Assistant Director of Nursing of The Next Door

As I waddle around the building the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I have heard this phrase over and over again, “You are just GLOWING, Holly!”  I have assured all parties involved that the “glow” they are imagining is probably just sweat glistening from my newly formed mustache… O the joys of pregnancy hormones!  As we encroach upon temperatures nearing 100, I can’t help but reflect on the ease and simplicity of carrying my first child through the winter months. The other comments such as “There must be more than one in there!”, “You must be due ANNNYY day now!”, and “WOW, you’re carrying low!” make me giggle at the transparency of those women that we serve at The Next Door… transparency that I respect and have learned to love over the course of three years.

As I squeeze onto the elevator (because who wants to take the stairs at 9 months pregnant?!), I bump bellies with another Momma-To-Be, only this Momma is a client of The Next Door. So many things make The Next Door unique, but this is by far my favorite. We serve and embrace ALL women, even those fighting to better a life other than their own.

The Next Door took a leap of faith and began serving pregnant women in the winter of 2016. It was obvious that because we were one of few treatment facilities to accept a woman with child, the services that we provided would be sought out by women all over the state of Tennessee. NICUs were at capacity with children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which a newborn withdraws from drugs it was exposed to while in utero. Why couldn’t The Next Door play a part in ending this vicious cycle?

To date, we have served nearly 100 pregnant women, can you imagine the glow that has radiated from these walls!? Obstetrics certainly wasn’t our specialty, and we proceeded that first year with caution and good faith, putting some restrictions on what risks we were willing to take. All pregnant women using illicit drugs are high-risk, most have experienced many other births, some with poor outcomes, but if we weren’t willing to accept them into treatment, who would? There is such a small window of opportunity to make such a generational impact. It was a no-brainer to our ambitious team.

Although the future still holds many exciting opportunities for pregnant women at The Next Door, we have certainly come a long way in terms of knocking down barriers for this population. We are currently revising our admission requirements to allow pregnant women , even those with little or no prenatal care, to walk through our doors free of stigma and full of hope. We have a Registered Nurse Care Manager who assists these women with finding an obstetric provider and keeping appointments, an OB-GYN that assesses these women once a week, a Licensed Therapist that spends time unraveling fears and instilling lifeskills related to parenthood, and valuable resources like 180 Health Partners that provide a warm hand-off once discharged from The Next Door and through those critical postpartum months.

A dream of mine would be to provide housing for newborns with their mothers upon delivery; however, my view is still pretty sweet, as is, from my desk window. One of the first pregnant clients ever served at The Next Door now resides in our Freedom Recovery Community apartments, just behind our building on 22nd Avenue. What a precious sight to see her sober, successful, and pushing her little miracle in a stroller. Now THAT glow is one that cannot be beat.

Encouragement in Recovery

by Kristy Pomeroy, Community Services Manager of The Next Door

Freedom Recovery Community is a very busy place this summer. We currently have 21 women and 22 children living on property full time and have 12 children who come for visitation. Most of the days are quiet as women are working and children are at day care or day camps. Their evenings are spent in family time outside or playing games, going to groups and much more. My favorite thing about our community is the way this group encourages each other. In order to reach all of the families we have a group text where we send reminders about group schedule, activities and chores on a weekly basis. The women also communicate to each other through the group text. Here are some examples of the recent texts that have been posted:

“Went to a really good 12-step meeting at a church tonight. Going back next Wednesday for anyone who wants to ride along.”

“Thank you for the fresh vegetables from the garden as we are having cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner!”

“Good girl! Change the Stigma!”

“You have some amazing and awesome kids who helped me carry in my groceries. You have no idea how much I needed that today!”

“So what’s next? You heal. You grow. And you help others.”

“Trying Celebrate Recovery tonight…who wants to go?”

“I have never led a meeting, but I am willing (to try) today.”

“I am so grateful for my sisters at FRC.”

The women at FRC are truly living out the scripture to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (Thessalonians 5:11) on a daily basis.