I’m new at this whole dealing with emotions thing. I’m 31 years old and you would think I have it figured it out by now. That’s a big, fat, NOPE. Not even close. I grew up farming, working like crazy. Work before school, go to school, softball practice, game, or football game for band, work, do homework, eat, sleep, repeat. Went to college and didn’t realize how many hours were in a day! But worked my tail off through nursing school. Started working in the hospital setting and had worked 7 amazing, yet HARD years in the busiest emergency department in PA. I learned how to shut of my emotions and get the job done with just enough compassion that the patient needed, but not to let it get to me while at work. I had plenty of days on my way home from work where I lost it. Bawled. Was angry at that parent that beat the crap out of their child and/or sexual abused them, especially when it came to young children and babies. I would end up at a friend’s house if I had off work that night to spend time not thinking about it, and then spilling my guts out at 2 am, processing it, but only to the point that I could go back to my job the next night and do it all over again. I learned how to function with shutting my emotions off and on, but only on for a little bit so it didn’t become too much to bear since I had to work and face another couple hundred patients the next night. I’m talking terrible, gruesome accidents, child/baby abuse, children and babies dying, parents completely losing it, stabbings, gunshots, suicide attempts, drunk patients throwing urine at you, people screaming at you constantly, people with addictions, cancer, people at their worst, with a touch of humorous moments to get you through. We went from doing CPR on a baby to helping an elderly confused patient walk to the bathroom, to getting screamed at because you didn’t get that box of tissues in less than 2 minutes, and triaging more people than you can count with a line still going out the door to be seen. It’s so much to deal with that you just have to learn how to have “tough skin,” put up a barrier and not let anyone in. Do I regret those years, growing up on a farm and working in the ED? ABSOLUTLEY NOT! It has taught me so much, helped to get me where I am today and I use what I have learned from all of those years daily while living in Guatemala. I am truly grateful and thankful for those experiences!
Since moving, I have started to let those walls down and starting to FEEL again. It’s a scary and vulnerable process to be honest. I have lost my crap so many times from feeling so much at once and not knowing what to do with it. Peter’s said it’s like peeling back an onion with so many layers. Sometimes I feel like the layers are coming off a bit too fast and I’m like CRAP....not ready for that! But God knows best on how to heal my heart and soul completely, and allowing me to feel and experience things I never would have in the States. It’s allowing me to understand the people we help in this ministry better. To an extent, some of the situations are the same: homelessness, unemployment, trying to figure out how to provide for your family, abuse, and alcohol issues. But it’s different here for many reasons. The resources here aren’t as available as they are for many in the States. At least for the population that we are working with, the education is terrible, if they even go to school. Many don’t have an education or at least enough of one to get a semi decent job. There is hunger, living in a tin shack is fairly common with the community we are helping, and eating a tortilla and maybe an egg for the day is “normal” for a lot of families. Hearing and experiencing a small part of what these patients, kids, and families we help are going through, it’s easy to just put those walls back up. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to “go back to that.” I also can’t allow myself be a giant puddle and end up not being able to help anyone. These people come looking for hope. Hope that God can use us to help them in whatever situation they are in. It’s a fine balance between putting up a wall, not allowing myself to feel anything, and feeling too much that I can’t think clear enough to figure out how we can possibly help those who come to us.
There is way more need out there than we can only attempt to help. The longer you are here, the more you see and hear and feel like there hasn’t even been a dent made in the giant heap of problems that there are. But I’m frequently reminded to look directly in front of me, right at what God has put in front of us. Not all the other issues as well. Here’s some stories just from this past week:
Most of you know we have some kids with us who don’t have anywhere to go. One has cerebral palsy, is 16 years old, but only had completed kindergarten a long time ago. She’s now too old for any school to accept her at this point. I have been homeschooling her in my broken Spanish (homeschooling her has been helping me to learn more) and she just wasn’t getting subtraction at all. I was about ready to lose my marbles over it. Some other youth kids, Peter, and her brother tried to help her to understand it. It just wasn’t getting any better. Finally, one day, for whatever reason, it clicked. She did really well. She was so happy. I was so proud and happy for her! This kid went from basically living on the streets, begging for food, to now putting on some weight from eating properly, having a bed, shelter, and surrounded by people who love her like a family, and she’s learning. Miracle. Seems simple, but this is huge for her.
Another child has been doing well in school and his teacher spoke to Peter and thanked us for taking the time to invest in this child and she is noticing a huge change in this child and the potential he has. A few days ago, this child also randomly thanked Peter and I for everything we have done for him and how we love him as our own family. This coming from the kid who demanded eggs, beans, and coffee for every meal and if he didn’t get what he wanted would sit in the middle of the aisle at the store when he first came to us.
Another who was much like me and not open to talking about emotions and just being like, “Everything’s fine. It’s fine” is starting to be more open and process what all he’s dealing with. These kids don’t have easy lives at all. And I’m talking about a lot deeper issues on top of normal teen “drama” and issues.
There is another teen who comes to our house frequently to hang out who had started coming because he wanted to change. He was sick of the way he was living and how his mom was sometimes nice and other times would literally beat him. He has made some amazing changes and has noticed a huge change in his mother in return.
All the kids we took to the concert (including us and Peter’s mom) were deeply moved and filled with joy from it. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and the opportunity finally came up. The songs and message were perfect for each of us. It was so awesome to be a part of watching these kids attempt to dance (even though we were crammed like sardines), clap, sing (even making up words when the songs were in English), and some of us moved to tears. These kids were able to experience something fun, and impacting, when they easily could have been out on the street not making the best choices. It was one of the kids’ birthdays the day before the concert. Until we got back the following day, the entire extended family that came to celebrate this child’s birthday had left. We felt bad about that since we didn’t know that his family was going to be at his house. But the kid said he didn’t mind missing it. He had walked into the house full of beer cans. His family denied that they had all basically gotten drunk, but he smelled it. So instead of getting drunk, or at least surrounded by a bunch of family who were getting drunk, he went to a concert that impacted him so much in a positive way, and was surrounded by his second family who loves him very much. Another kid had just lost his dad and this allowed him to get a break from his life, be impacted, and surrounded by people who loves him as well. God is saving so many towards his Kingdom and it’s amazing to be a small part of it and witness God at work.
Patients. The patients. Most people here are super thankful for Tylenol, ibuprofen, and/or vitamins. Yeah, sometimes, I’m still getting used to getting hugs and kisses over that. The patients with these leg wounds...they come week after week to check the progression of their healing and get so emotional when saying thank you and how they pray for us and thank God for us daily. We have had people literally cry because we gave them insulin and supplies, a little cooler for the insulin, a nebulizer, IV fluids, etc. Even people who are beyond what we can do or got a diagnosis that they don’t want to hear are still thankful for our help, kindness, and compassion. Personally, I think those are harder for me. These people are dying, aren’t going to get better, or beyond what we can afford to help and they are still thankful. I want to be like please don’t thank me. I can’t even help you! But it’s not me or us, it’s God who deserves all the glory and he’s just using us as his instruments. Technically, I can’t help anyone. It’s God who is doing it and He is using the skills that I have learned from school and work to attempt to help those who God put in front of us.
All of these are reminders that God knows what he’s doing and has me where he wants me, even in the moments of feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, not qualified, have never had experience running a ministry before, living off of donations and not having a “real job,” raising teens, homeschooling...in Spanish, and the list goes on. I just need to TRUST him and SURRENDER EVERYTHING to him. “Just.” Yeah, like it’s that simple. It’s not. Working in the ED, I never knew what was coming through the door. BUT whatever came through the door, I knew what to do. Yeah, it’s not like that anymore and God is teaching me how to now let go of everything and trust Him fully. And allow myself to be blessed as well by these kids, the families, and patients He puts in our paths. So when you are feeling overwhelmed, look directly in front of you and see what small or big blessings are there. God is at work.