Those who have known me for a while know my past is working with teens. Teens from all types of backgrounds, economic status, some who made excellent choices, some who made really poor ones, some who just could not find their way, some came from really supportive homes, so came from no home, some had crappy attitudes, some were on student council, some were in a gang, some smiled, some cried, some liked me, some did not, and we treated them all the exact same.... with a clean slate and with grace.
I say all this leading up to what is about to happen:
We are hoping to have our girl home with us on Friday. Our girl, meaning the seventeen year old that we just got guardianship of who will be living with us this year. She is not foster care, so that means when the time is right some of you will get to meet her, or maybe see a picture of her, or learn her name, or become a crucial part of her support system and we can share more details about her than if she was in foster care.
She is going to be a part of our forever family, and she is a girl I have known for a long time. A girl I have grown to love as my own. A girl I could not bear seeing go to foster care, especially if we could not open yet to take her.
I got to visit with her a couple days ago, and I put on my "mama hat" and said "now we need to talk about the expectations we will have when you come home." She asked me, "will it be like a step system, where I have to earn things or earn trust? I can do that, Ms. Rachel"
I had forgotten. Most youth programs/shelters in our area treat kids like criminals. :(
So, when she asked if she had to earn our trust, what she was really asking was: will I have to go through the steps like at some places she was used to- such as, earn the right to get to wear make-up, or brush her teeth without someone watching her, or make a phone call, or watch television, or get a snack, or be able to read a book, or have earrings, or perfume, or have friends....etc...etc...?
Because everywhere else puts you on the lowest level when you arrive, and you have to work as hard as possible just to be able to get to do common ordinary things that you and I call ---- dignity.
Apparently, a lot of places who "help kids" have forgotten about the word dignity.
Mind you - this girl - is a good girl. She has made a couple poor choices (but I have seen A LOT of kids in my day, and she has not even tipped the ice burg in things she could have done), and for those couple bad choices she has paid severely.
So, back to our conversation...
I paused for a moment, and then remembered something I put on my Facebook a week or two ago, "Girl, at our house we hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection."
I then continued, "in our house we practice do-overs, we practice forgiveness, and we practice honesty, and when you enter my home, you enter it with a clean slate and you enter it with my trust."
Tears swelled up in her eyes, and she then smiled, "I really want to go home." (and home meant with us)
How could we not love this young lady and want to hug her neck and root for her?
She faces some unique challenges, and it will be a very growing season when she comes to stay with us, but she has a beautiful heart that needs redemption, love, grace, and restoration, and I think this may be the core of what God has led us to. Being the family that offers second-chances, means cutting through all the messiness and loving and seeing what God loves and sees.
Bless her heart, she has already filled a big chunk of mine.