Ticks in the Timeline

I was sixteen sitting in my high school psychology class. Our assignment was to create a timeline of our lives projecting ten years into the future. Bless our teacher, he must have thought us foolish. For he had the knowledge that adolescent plans rarely come to fruition.

I’m twenty-six in 10 days. Ten years from psych class and light years from my expectations of adulthood. I dreamt of meeting someone at 19 and marriage at 26. Now, I have succumbed to my singleness. One part blessing. One part burden. I have the whole world in my hands, but no hand to hold. I battle (albeit rarely) with the same tensions of adolescence. Am I pretty? Am I worthy? Is something wrong with me? Why will no one cast me a second first glance? Am I even good enough?

I believed, I would be sitting on this mountain of success as a psychologist. Counseling people into wellness, uncovering the depths of brokenness, being a conduit of healing. Now, I don’t even know if I agree with modern psychology, and it’s ability to “help” people. This is even more frustrating, because I am working on a Masters of Counseling and have invested too much to just walk away. The idea of meeting with someone one-on-one makes me anxious and bored. Now, concerning vocation, I am doing well. My work is my heart. The teens I work with make daily life enjoyable. They fill me with hope and light and excitement and laughter. I could not be more consumed with them than I am.

Then, there were my finances. Wealth knows few men, but poverty is popular. I’m floundering. I feel like a slave to my bank accounts. I don’t control money; money controls me. It is an abusive relationship. Where in the good times, we can enjoy each other. In the bad times, it places stringent limitations on everything. I am closer to my teens in that manner than they could imagine. I look to my next paycheck with dread. For a brief moment, there is hope. I awake to a text to see income has been deposited. By Saturday, bills have been paid and I have nothing. I greet fear as we will be acquainted with each other for another two weeks.

Nothing goes according to plans. I look on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone seems so happy. People are in love and getting married. People are getting their Masters and experiencing success. People are saving and buying homes. Is everyone this happy? How are you all doing it? Let me in on your secrets. Don’t leave me out please. I know we all have our different paths, but sometimes I just feel left behind. As, I tend personal injuries people pass me joyfully, effortlessly jogging, as I struggle just to walk. Comparison you are the bloody original thief.

Then there is God. Whom, I never wrote into my plans, not even on a subconscious level. He just interrupted everything. Whose to say, maybe if He hadn’t interrupted, I would have been a married psychologist sitting on wealth, posting pictures on Instagram with trite hashtags, but I am not. And even in this low with continual descent and lament, I know God well enough to know this is not the end of my timeline. It is just the beginning of a hard tick.

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The Language of “I Love You”/Loving My Teens

I have never met three little words as simple and complex and these. Each individual word is only one syllable, but it is as if every letter carries the weight of Kilimanjaro. Because each word means a million other words.

At the conclusion of my first year of foster parenting, I wrote a post titled Loving Your KidsThis post chronicled the beautiful agonies of loving someone with your whole heart and constantly seeing them go. There are several little boys and girls who will never remember me, but they carry fragments of my heart.  The way a parent loves their child is essentially a replication of how God loves me: unrelentingly, at my worst, sacrificially, unconditionally, furiously, purposefully. I don’t think I ever loved people as passionately and ferociously as those little ones. Until now.

I enjoy my job. It is interesting and beneficial and challenging. However, I love my teens. Working with them reminds me of each and every day of being a foster mama. In dozens of ways, God used working at Casa de Esperanza to prepare me for working with my teens. I look back on my adolescence and having a conversation with my friend Jon Butts. It was about those three little words. I remember in my adolescent melancholy telling him, “If you say I love you too much, people won’t think you mean it.” I still hold to that statement, but it is with the added phasing, “If you show I love you, then people will know you mean it.”

Saying “I love you” communicates you have an affect on me. You. You as you are, are so worthy of love. In fact my love is a gift. I want you to accept it, but if you don’t it is always here. Because in the midst of the cursing and fighting I realize, for me to love my teens it requires absolutely nothing on their part. They don’t have to change. They don’t have to like me. I just love them. Know, I don’t do things perfectly. I trespass against them and am rude. I am annoying, and sometimes don’t know when to back off. However, they respond, I love them.

It is a humbling love.

It is a love that let’s another human call you a b#&$@ and not respond in wrath. 

It is a love that forces you to sit in silence as another human pours out their rage on you. 

It is a love that seeks healing for the brokenness. 

It is a love that makes frightening police encounters opportunities to prove you are there for them. 

It is a love that cries the tears that have already dried on their face. 

It is a love that drives throughout Downtown Houston looking for truant teens

It is a love that when someone yells, “$@&# you” all you want to do is hug them. 

It is a love that allows you to sit and paint the nails of a girl who doesn’t speak English. 

It is a love that moves you from your desk to the basketball court while wearing a dress or a skirt

It is a love that finds opportunities for them to grow

It is a love that lobbies for the best possibilities. 

It is a love that does not look past faults, but corrects them. 

It is a love that sees potential and nurtures it. 

It is a love that opens you up to empathize deeply and many time painfully so. 

It is a love that daily wipes the slate clean. 

It is a love that brings you to a place of utter transparency. 

It is a love that desires to know the deepest yearning of their heart. 

 

I don’t do all of this perfectly. I barely do half of them averagely, but the more I look at this list, the more I realize my Father’s love for me. His love knows and drives and moves and seeks and allows and nurtures and finds and desires and cleanses. And, His love is like this unrelentingly and perfectly with the same intensity at all times. His love is best. We are best equipped to love others when we know many of the ways our Father loves us.

There are dozens teens who probably will never remember me, but there are little mason jars, abbreviated authors, troublemakers, teen mamas, and many more who hold fragments of my heart. My hope and prayer in this moment is that they realize it was never my heart in the first place, but the heart of the Father.

The Thin Line

Apathy and over-concern, these are the two sides of a difficult dichotomy in which I function. I don’t know if this is common in all fields of work. I assume it is, but it is only exacerbated when your entire job is to serve people. There is this massive blending of my work with my person. I try so hard to keep my blues, blue, my reds, red, and my yellows, yellow.

Lately, I have been struggling in how I relate to my teens. I think they are too close to me. I love them, but sometimes I don’t think they see me as an adult. How to you create respect with people you love? Detachment? I don’t know. Boundaries? Today, except for two teens, I have sat in my office in complete silence without a single adolescent chatting with me. In the introvert/extrovert spectrum I find myself drawn towards introversion these days. I don’t hate the spotlight, but I would much rather just be alone. When I am not in touch with internal processes, I am a much more annoying extrovert.

How do you walk between caring and not caring? Is this even a me problem or a teen problem?