Tag Archive for: faith

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

Meditation Monday: Zacchaeus’ Transformation

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Last Wednesday night, the clients at The Next Door took a deep dive into the story of Zacchaeus, as recorded in Luke 19:1-10, when they completed their Spiritual Wellness worksheets. Many of us first heard this story as children in church – I was certainly attracted to the idea of climbing a tree to see Jesus!

Rereading Zacchaeus’ story today, we can now see things that we missed as children. As adults, we can more fully imagine the range of emotions that Zacchaeus experienced when Jesus looked up at the tax collector in the tree, called him by name, and invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ home. As a tax collector for the Roman government, Zacchaeus amassed wealth at the expense of his neighbors as he took a cut of the collections for himself. Because tax collectors were often lumped in with “sinners,” he probably didn’t get many dinner invitations from his neighbors.

Zacchaeus likely considered Jesus to be a threat to his way of life, since many people believed that as the Messiah, Jesus would overthrow the Roman government – Zacchaeus’ employer. He climbed the tree not because he desired to follow Christ; he scaled the sycamore tree out of self-interest and curiosity. When Jesus called his name, did this tax collector think he was about to be rebuked or shamed?

What happened around the table in Zacchaeus’ home when these two men sat down together? Luke does not provide us with details about anything Jesus said, but we do hear a declaration from Zacchaeus: “I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.” Two thousand years before the 12 Steps were developed, Zacchaeus was ready to practice Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Zacchaeus was truly transformed by his encounter with Christ.

In his book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the 12 Steps, Fr. Richard Rohr explains the old way of viewing inner transformation. Many of us have been taught that the progression looks like this:

  sin —> punishment —> repentance —> transformation

Fr. Rohr argues that God’s love, expressed through Jesus Christ, actually works like this in an individual’s life:

  sin —> unconditional love —> transformation —> repentance

I believe Fr. Rohr is right, and the story of Zacchaeus provides us with a perfect example of the progression. The tax collector had been sinning, doing things that dishonored God and hurt his neighbors. When Jesus offered him unconditional love that day, Zacchaeus was transformed. As a result of this spiritual transformation, Zacchaeus was eager to repent and make amends to those he had harmed.

Love is one of the core values of The Next Door: We demonstrate what love looks like, so our women learn to love others in healthy ways and love themselves. We do not shame our clients for their addictions. We do not rebuke them for how they have been living and demand repentance. Instead, we welcome them into our midst with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We set the stage for spiritual, mental, and physical transformation to take place in their lives as we lovingly help them envision a healthier, brighter future and provide them with tools for lifetime recovery.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Loving God, help us to love one another. Amen.

Published on June 15, 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

 

Monday Meditation: Disappointment

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Disappointed.

This word has been popping up repeatedly over the past few months as a result of the physical distancing necessary to minimize the impact of the pandemic.

  • High school and college students are disappointed that they were not able to celebrate their academic achievements at traditional in-person commencement ceremonies.
  • Brides and grooms are disappointed that their wedding plans have been dramatically altered.
  • Grieving families are disappointed that they have been unable to gather for funeral services to remember loved ones who have passed away.
  • Athletes from children to Olympians are disappointed that they have been unable to compete.
  • Singers and dancers and musicians are disappointed that performances have been cancelled – and their fans are disappointed, too.
  • Parents are disappointed that their children have been unable to attend school.
  • New grandparents – like me – are disappointed that they have not been able to meet their newborn grandchildren.

The list goes on and on. How would you complete this sentence?

I am disappointed that _________________________________.

 

Disappointments are a part of life. At The Next Door, we are disappointed each time a client chooses to leave AMA or ACA. We are disappointed when the difficult decision must be made to ask a client to leave. During this unprecedented period in the history of TND, we are disappointed that some of our team members cannot work alongside us for financial reasons. We are disappointed that volunteers cannot safely join us in our work. We are disappointed by all the disruptions, personally and professionally.

In the Spirituality in Recovery group, clients regularly express three primary levels of disappointment:

  • They are disappointed in themselves.
  • They are disappointed in family members.
  • They are disappointed in God.

God can handle our disappointment. We need not fear being honest with God – after all, God knows what we are going to say before a word is even on our lips. We can express the depth of our disappointment and ask God to help us to make meaning of these troubling circumstances. What does our disappointment reveal about the routines and rituals that are important to us, the people who are important to us, the values that are important to us? In the midst of our disappointment, can we still see God at work?

 

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise God again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5-6a)

Published on June 1, 2020

Monday Meditation: Memorial Day

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance to honor and mourn the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The desire to remember and honor is God-given; the impulse to mark sacred and solemn occasions with rituals and monuments is deeply ingrained in our souls. Long before war memorials were constructed on our National Mall, people used stones to mark places where they had encountered God.

After God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they spent four decades living as transients in the wilderness. God led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night and fed them with manna. They were unsettled and uncomfortable, but God compassionately provided for their daily needs, even as they grumbled, complained, and rebelled.

When the Israelites finally assembled on the banks of the Jordan River, Moses and many others from their original ranks were no longer alive. The survivors of the wilderness peered across the water and pondered what it would be like to at last live in God’s Promised Land. God gave Joshua instructions on how to proceed; included in these commands was an order to mark this occasion with a monument that would remind future generations of what God had done.

Generations before, God had parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the pursuing Egyptian army. Now God parted the Jordan River to permit the Israelites to pass over into the Promised Land. As the priests remained standing in the middle of the riverbed, Joshua enlisted twelve men to pluck twelves stones from ground to use to construct a memorial – one stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and God kept it dry until you were all across, just as God did at the Red Sea when God dried it up until we had all crossed over. God did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might honor the Lord your God forever.’” (Joshua 4:21-24)

Last week as I sat a red light at the corner of 8th Avenue South and Demonbreun, I snapped a photo of the boutique hotel that is under construction at the original site of The Next Door. I remembered what God had done at that sacred place and gave thanks. Just as surely as God delivered the ancient Israelites from slavery, God has delivered countless women from the bondage of addiction through The Next Door. Let us remember what God has done and give thanks. Let us remember what God is still doing and give thanks.

Published on May 25, 2020

Faith, Hope, and Recovery

– Written by Anna Derrington, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

One day while I was sitting in treatment at The Next Door, a volunteer came to share some hope with my fellow group of residential clients. She read this scripture to us and shared a motivational story about having just the tiniest bit of faith and how it can be life changing to believe in something. When I think about faith the size of a mustard seed, I think about hope. Hope is one of our core values at TND, and it is the one that stood out to me most during my first days, weeks, and months of recovery.

The Next Door has a program for alumni called Aftercare. It is a support group for program graduates, and it was so impactful for me to be able to come back to The Next Door after leaving residential treatment. My first night attending Aftercare, the facilitator asked us to pick a word that meant something to us and to write it decoratively with paint pens on natural rocks. “Hope” is the word I wrote on my rock. I kept that rock with me everywhere I went. When I was asked a couple of months later to come share my story with current clients, I brought my rock in with me and held it while I shared my experience, strength, and “hope” with ladies sitting right where I had just been. That was in 2016. In 2017, I had the honor of being asked to speak at the main fundraising event for The Next Door. My rock was with me then as well. The following year, I was honored to transition from alumni to staff. Also, in 2018, TND’s big fundraising event’s theme was “Lead Me to The Rock.” During the event, all attendees were given rocks with positive and affirming words written on them. “Hope” is the word that was written on the random rock given to me that year. I found hope here at The Next Door, a little over three years ago.

At the beginning of treatment, I did not want to be here. The idea of getting sober seemed as impossible to me as moving mountains. The first two weeks were some of the most difficult of my life, but there is something special about The Next Door. It creates a safe and healing space for women. After I let go and began to trust the process, I found peace here. There came a point in my treatment where a shift happened, and I surrendered. A place I had not honestly wanted to come to became a place I did not want to leave. A lightbulb had turned on. I realized I didn’t have to use anymore. That realization flooded me with relief and freedom. I heard people say that before, but it took me a long time to accept the personal freedom in that truth.

Aftercare gave me an opportunity to keep coming back to the place where my life had changed and where my new life had begun. I came every Wednesday night from 6-7. On Thursdays and Sundays, I volunteered to bring a 12 Step meeting to the residential clients with the help of my sponsor and other women in the fellowship. I was encouraged to go back to school and finish my degree. One of my classes at Belmont asked me to do a service project, and I chose The Next Door. I started volunteering to serve lunch once a week. Sometimes I was asked to facilitate the Aftercare meetings. This was a huge honor! Eventually, a front desk volunteer was needed, and I was offered to start training for that position. I volunteered at the front desk and then applied to work there as an employee. I was hired part time! It was an absolute dream come true. A goal I had set for myself in early recovery had become a reality.

This recovery stuff is magic, I promise you that. When we keep doing the next right thing we are amazed at what transpires. This IS a promise. There are no words for the gratitude I have for this place, the people who work here, and the women who come here for treatment. Shortly after, I was asked to apply to be a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist. By staying connected, volunteering, and being asked to participate, I was able to set and achieve goals for myself. This was a huge contributing factor in my recovery.

Consistently coming back and engaging in meaningful participation helped me stay rooted in my recovery. I’ve always been interested in helping and adding to my community. Back in high school, I created a club called Hillsboro Helps to offer volunteer opportunities for the local students as well as Sudanese and Somali exchange students living in Nashville. I lost the desire for being involved with my community in active addiction, but Aftercare provided the opportunity for me to get reconnected and involved in my community. This was a gift. The Next Door, and being in recovery, has given me numerous gifts, including my life. And my life is tremendously wonderful today.

I did not fully realize in the early days of my recovery how important this place had become to me. It is only through reflecting back that I can see how essential The Next Door has been to my journey of finding my true and purposeful self. Being in recovery has given me the chance to figure out who I am. The person I’m turning into doesn’t want or need drugs and alcohol. I used drugs and alcohol as my solution for a long time. Now, I’m even better than I was when I first started using. I do not even slightly resemble the person I was before. That realization happened here, and The Next Door will always hold a very special place in my heart

Recovery can sometimes be hard, but it is far from impossible. Even if you start out with faith the size of a mustard seed—with hope—you can take steps towards healing with love and support.

Everyday Witness to The Sacraments

Written by Amanda Dunlap, Director of Clinical Services

Let it be known right off the bat that I do not claim to be a theologian or pastor by trade, but a therapist by profession, one who is constantly seeking the Lord’s full purpose in my professional and personal life. Over the last six months, I have had many contemplations and stirrings on the subject and action of the sacraments; particularly the sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation and Anointing. Most of us experience the need for healing in our lives at some point and it’s through these Sacraments that healing has the potential to happen.

At The Next Door, women enter our doors yearning for reconciliation and healing of self, family, community… and addiction. It’s not always said in those words; however their eyes tell us they desire something different – making promises to themselves and their families and hoping they can change. They seek realness and grace.

As soon as they arrive at our facility, our staff joins them, walking side by side with them to figure out what this desire and a new beginning looks like. We do this by providing sound clinical and medical expertise, solid 12 step recovery knowledge, and a community that is unwavering. We encourage each woman to begin with admitting that she is powerless and that her life has become unmanageable (Step One in the 12 Steps). This, my friends, is a cornerstone that launches change and hope for a woman seeking recovery. In my time at The Next Door (over eleven years!) I have witnessed this time and time again and it never gets old.

Daily, I am reminded by our incredible team just how to live out the Sacraments in our everyday lives. TND’s foundation has been solid from day one. We strive every day to live out God’s purpose in our work and pass that on to every woman and family that enters our care.

You see, that can be seen as a tall order to live up to everyday; however, being grounded in our core values (Love, Faith, Hope, Wholeness, Community, Respect, and Encouragement), we simply share the grace that has been given to us, i.e. the Sacraments. We do this not to worldly or perfectionistic standards, yet to the standards and mission that we were founded on. The Sacraments of healing are seen throughout our care for our women at TND, and to this, I am humbled to be a part of such true and meaningful work. As Mother Teresa said so beautifully, “Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do but how much love we put into it.”

May we take these words to heart as we live out our lives, professionally and personally. I know I will try to.

The Next Door is a TOP Workplace!

We’re proud to announce that we’ve been named a Top Workplace by The Tennessean for the FIFTH year in a row! We are officially in the Hall Of Fame. We ranked 11 out of the 25 finalists in the Mid-size Companies.

This year is particularly special, as we received the “Meaningfulness” Award. This means that our staff believe that the work they do at TND is meaningful.

A big thank you to all of our employees, who helped to make this happen!

You can find more info on the Top Workplaces website!

Impressions Through The Eyes Of A New Employee

By Morgan Coyner, Grant Coordinator

When I came to The Next Door for my final interview, I was surprised to see clients huddled around the front desk. One needed help making a phone call for a ride upon discharge. Another was waiting for her to go get a snack. A few others asked if they got any mail that day, while even more waited for their group facilitator to begin an afternoon session.

The surprise wore off quickly because this shows the heart of The Next Door. Our clients are at the center of everything we do! Typical desk jobs in a treatment facility like ours can make it easy to create a “we” and “they” attitude. We can easily forget the purpose behind the work we do and distance ourselves from the women who seek treatment within our programs. The Next Door eliminates that possibility by the way staff and clients share this beautiful facility. We eat lunch with clients, ride the elevator with them, and through this, we learn their stories. We see them. We know them. We love them. A simple “how are you” can be met with tears after a tough therapy session or any number of responses ranging from joy to gratitude to acceptance.

I’ve only worked here for two weeks, but I can already see the way God moves through this place. After observing parts of the client treatment schedule in my first week, I had the opportunity to pray with a client that her legal circumstances would change, and they did. I prayed with a client that she would find the strength within her to make a better choice than she had planned, and she did.

I’ve heard stories where women get saved and their addiction disappears immediately. I do believe that God is capable of this. However, Scripture often shows God’s people wrestling through hard things to get closer to Him. This is a more accurate picture of treatment at The Next Door. The Israelites wander for 40 years in the wilderness because God knows if they see the struggles that await them when they first leave Egypt, they’ll be afraid. He knows that He has to teach them how to live in community with Him, how to act, how to trust, before leading them into the Promised Land. They have to learn a new way of life. The Next Door is a little like the wilderness, though we’ve got way better living accommodations and a chef who keeps us well-fed on a variety of meals and not just manna. Here, women gain and practice the skills they will need for their Promised Land, a life at home with their families and children, living in recovery.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Exodus 2:24-25, which says, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

It’s one thing to know that God hears us. It’s another to watch Him answer prayers in real time, without delay. This has been one of the joys of the past two weeks for me, watching God show up in circumstances that only He can, changing things and moving things so that it is evident that He is in control. My faith is strengthened daily by seeing God answer prayers at The Next Door. I’m excited to continue my career at this incredible Christ-centered ministry.