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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: Seeking a New Narrative

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Years ago while traveling through the West, I paid a memorable visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park. Located in the Whetstones, a mountain range in southeastern Arizona, this pristine limestone cave is decorated with speleothems – spectacular mineral deposits with whimsical names like cave bacon and soda straws.

Because Kartchner Caverns is a live cave – one where calcite formations are still growing – extraordinary measures have been taken to preserve the caverns from harm. The dry desert air above ground must not be introduced into the humid cave environment; otherwise, the cave will quickly die. Visitors also pose an existential threat to the cave, since they can inadvertently be carriers of substances that could harm the cave’s delicate formations or the bats that call the cave home.

Those who take a tour of Kartchner Caverns must first walk through an air curtain that blows lint from their clothing.  Next, visitors pass through a chamber where mist forces any remaining lint against their clothing. Finally, visitors enter an airlock that preserves the cave’s 99% average relative humidity. The cave remains alive and well because of these safeguards.

That experience of walking through the air curtain has stuck with me through the years. Lately I have been thinking about how I need to pass through a spiritual air curtain – a process that could help rid me of the pollutants I have been carrying around in my heart and mind for too long. Ideas that were once presented as “Truth” have been revealed to be false, antithetical to the loving God who created us. I am seeking a new narrative – for myself and for my world.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” the psalmist prayed (Psalm 51:10). May God cleanse us of all that we carry that threatens the health of our neighbors and our world.

Published on June 29, 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

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: 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

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

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.

Life-Saving Ministry! 

Written by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development

In the world of development, our goal is to effectively tell the story of The Next Door’s services – whether that is one-on-one with donors, through grant funding applications, during special events or marketing efforts.  One “buzz-word” that is often used is that The Next Door is a “life-saving ministry.”  Because I’m not a clinical team member and I’m relatively new to the field of addiction and recovery, I wasn’t sure what this really meant until recently.

Anyone with eyes and ears is constantly hearing about the opioid crisis in the news.  Last year, The Nashville Prevention Partnership trained the entire TND staff about how to administer Narcan, which is given to a person who has overdosed on opioids.  As a result of the training, each of us walked away with our own Narcan “kit,” which included a pair of gloves, two doses of Narcan, instructions, and a reporting form to fill out if/when we ever used it.  I remember feeling so empowered leaving the training that I could potentially save someone’s life!  From that day on, that Narcan kit sat in the bottom of my purse – where it stayed for almost a year.

Two months ago, I had just finished what felt like a normal day in the world of fundraising – I had a few meetings, worked on the E-newsletter content, wrote some donor thank you notes, proofread a grant application, etc. That morning, when the TND lot was full, I parked my car on a side street, which required me to drive around to the back of our building, something I rarely do.  As I drove down Clifton Ave on my journey home, I noticed two members of our nursing staff who appeared to be pulling someone out of the bushes behind our facility.  As I slowed down, I noticed it was not a female client they were helping, but a thin male who appeared to be unconscious.  I rolled down my window and yelled, “Emily, do you need Narcan?”  With a panicked look on her face, she said, “Yes – do you have some?”  I jerked my car in park, grabbed the Narcan kit that was in my purse in the passenger seat, and raced over to help.

Because a Nurse Practitioner and a Nurse were the first responders, my only role was to give them the gloves, unwrap the first dose of Narcan, and hand it over.  I watched as Emily talked to the man, telling him that she was about to administer a dose of Narcan and asking him to “stay with me.”  She sprayed the Narcan in his nostrils quickly and there was no response.  I asked her “do you want the second one?” and quickly unwrapped it and handed it to her.  After the second dose, the man’s eyes began to flutter open, right as I heard an ambulance approaching nearby.  Seeing that my non-medical services were no longer needed and that this man was in kind, capable hands, I went back to my car to drive home.

As I got in the car, still shaking, I began to process what had just occurred.  What are the odds that a man experienced a drug overdose directly beside/behind an addiction treatment center?  What are the odds that TND nurses spotted him stumbling outside their office window?  What are the odds that I would be driving by at the exact moment someone’s life needed saving, and that I had Narcan in my purse?  GOD’S PLAN BEATS ALL ODDS!  He was and IS at work in the countless lives needing saving from addiction, which confirms why I choose to work in this life-saving ministry.  At the next stoplight, I took a minute to praise God for using me, Narcan, and TND nurses to save a life that day and to pray that anyone battling opioid or any addiction would seek the help they need to beat the disease of addiction.

On Wednesday, July 24th, The Next Door will offer a FREE Narcan training at our facility from 10-11 am to the first 50 TND supporters who would like to be trained on how to administer this and receive their own life-saving kit.  If you are interested and available that day, please register by emailing:  RSVP@thenextdoor.org.

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!