I’ve been on a blog-surfing kick lately. Partly to do with researching all I can on the clinical side about Asperger’s Syndrome as well as reading stuff from parents of children with Asperger’s. But I’ve also been popping around on sites of Mommy + Motivational-Speaker sites. I need as much encouragement in my life and these sites are chock-full of inspiration and courage and encouragement. Reading the stories these women share make it really easy for me to kick my life into high gear and start making a better difference in my life and the life of my family and friends.

There’s a flip-side to that though… the more surfing around I’ve done, the more I’ve realized that all of these women (as in, ALL) have a core group of women friends. A core group of women that hang out together, cry together, laugh together, dream together, dread together, fear together and create together. They relate in good times and bad and spur each other on to greater things. These women also have AT LEAST one woman in their life, or an inspiration from afar, that spark them on to go for their dreams and goals and seek out courage.

It kind of hit me again this week… I have no friends or mentors like this. I never have and it makes me wonder if that’s a major part of the reason why I feel in such a rut so often. I’ve got some horrible shit from my past, combined with the fact that I really have no support. No one to really look up to and no one around to really help me back up to my feet. For my whole life, I’ve watched friendships bloom and grow around me and pass me by. I’ve got friends now that I feel are great and I feel like we’re all on the edge of taking these friendships to the place of *3o years down the road*. But there always seems to be something in the way. Everyone has always already had a super close friend or two and I’m always the third wheel or these friends of mine are so popular that they barely have time to share any substantial amount together.

I’ve always longed for the type of friends where we can go away on vacation together or if I had an emergency at 2am, they’d be the first I’d call.

Looking at my life and comparing it to those friendships I’ve been reading about online, makes me wonder… is it merely the fact that they’ve got a mentor or someone to look up to and friends to help prop them up that makes them successful and happy and courageous and positive and prosperous?

I know I’ve got God… but sometimes consistency in tangible smiles and tears “helps the medicine go down.”

It’s a lovely thing to be comforted in a time of confusion and heartache.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my #1 passion, my singing. For the first time since beginning singing in 1991, I’m considering stopping for good. Which terrifies me. Not so much as it would strip an identity in me since I’ve made sure to correct that path I was previously on. I’m terrified because it brings me so much peace and clarity with God. I’ve never really been able to verbalize or write out how singing truly affect me, until I read this interview today.

Most importantly, this part:

(replace paint with singing/sing or maybe any other passion that you may have)

… I have a relationship with paint and from within that relationship I feel a sense of comfort and safety sharing my emotions on canvas. I am an emotional artist and I paint what I am feeling. Pain, sorrow, joy, happiness, anger, defeat, hope – for some reason when those feelings are woven within ‘art’ – there is a freedom in being so vulnerable. Vulnerability connects us. It affects us. It’s a little bit terrifying and a little bit magical.

And this:

Perfection is something I try to work on by simply being utterly imperfect at everything I do. I’m kidding. A little. Perfection is just a matter of perspective. When I set out to paint – I feel like that moment is a junction of an idea, skill and timing.

I do my best and maybe it isn’t EXACTLY what I was after – but, it’s a clear and true representation of that moment and how the idea, the skill, and the timing come together. On a different day – perhaps the execution would be different.

I don’t pay too much attention to ‘perfection’ because life is always evolving and it is always a cocktail of idea, skill and timing. Sometimes those three elements come together to form magic – it’s just right. And sometimes they don’t – and it’s perfect.

I try to manage my insecurities with something I call my Bulletproof Positive Attitude. It basically means to me that I am here for my own journey. I do not compare myself to others. I do not kill myself with expectations. I don’t talk myself out of chances. I do not listen too closely to the criticisms OR THE accolades – because BOTH are dangerous. I silence the doubts and fears that get in the way of the task at hand – making art.

Reading these quotes took my breath away. Literally. After two decades and for the first time ever, I saw my heart about singing, written out. It sparked something in me that I thought flickered out, long ago.

Currently, singing doesn’t happen as easily as it once did and I refuse to do anything if it’s not done with excellence. Not perfection but anything I do needs to be done with effort and done the best that I’m capable. I’ve neglected my voice for long enough and now it’s really beginning to show that lack of care. So, I’m giving my passion one last ditch effort. I’ll start voice lessons for the first time in my life, next week. I hope that these vocal lessons provide the turnaround that is so desperately needed.

This is such a big thing.

More than just a cry for mercy, this title is also an update on the latest happenings in my life and the lives of my family. And boy is it a DOOZY!

It seems the roller coaster of life just keep on rolling, keeps on spinning and sending us on death-defying loops and surges. Life has been absolutely insane lately. Oddly, I’ve never felt more confident that God is who He says He is and will do all that He promised in carrying us through the mud and manure.

Since Kindergarten, Malakai has had issues in the social environments at school. Since infancy, he’s had issues with textures. Since the age of two, he’s had a very particular way of organizing and obsessing about things. Like, organizing every vehicle in his room to line up perfectly on his bed and freaking out if they became misaligned or arranging every single kitchen utensil into a perfectly straight arch on the kitchen floor. Since starting school, he’s had issues with noise and light sensitivities and with interacting with peers and teachers. He has a lot of triggers in what sets him off into “shutdown mode” or “meltdowns” and it’s been a decade of hit and miss with figuring out where his freak-out meltdowns come from and how to calm him down. We knew there was something going on with him, but we had no idea what it was. On a referral from his school counselor (thinking he may have OCD and impulse control issues), Malakai started seeing a Community Reach counselor at the end of 2010 who quickly diagnosed him with a disorder that we had never heard of. I researched and found similarities in the symptoms to Malakai but since it didn’t line up perfectly, we wrote it off thinking the counselor pulled this out of his hat. Needless to say, we knew something was going on with him and fifth grade became a very transitional year as social interactions and classroom time were becoming increasingly difficult. Because of these issues as well as the fact that we had an extremely long list of problems with his fifth grade teacher and with the way he was treating Malakai, we pulled Malakai out of school. He had six weeks of fifth grade left but we couldn’t allow him to continue in the negative environment he was being forced into. For the first time in his life, he was saying that he wouldn’t finish assignments and was acting as if he didn’t care that he wanted to quit everything. His teacher would belittle him and single him out from the other students and showed us many, many signs of acting as if he could *save* Malakai from the issues Malakai had displayed at school. After emailing this teacher, numerous times, and meeting with him and the staff at the school, we were told there was no place for Malakai to go to finish out the year if we took him from his fifth grade class. So, we removed him from the school. Thankfully, I love researching and although I spent hours researching homeschool and education laws/rules online, I found it was actually quite an easy process (after remembering that the school and district aren’t in control of our children… WE are) to file an intent to homeschool. It also happened to work out perfectly that we pulled him the Friday before Spring Break so he already had a week off school in the works. During Spring Break, we went down the the local school supply store and stocked up on planners and workbooks and got to work figuring out a schedule that would be cohesive to Malakai’s learning style. There were some ruts in the road and some push-back but, overall, it was a pretty easy and smooth process and Malakai was relieved to be away from the poisonous environment that had begun to suffocate him.

In the spring of this year, before taking him out of school, due to the increased problems between Malakai and school and even in the classrooms he took part in at church, we started the lengthy and frustrating process of finding a psychologist that would be able to provide a Psychological Evaluation for him. We needed someone to go through the entire scope of testing and tell us what they felt was going on because we were at a loss, which put us at a loss as to how we could best help him in all areas of his life. Malakai began needing to check into the buddy-system at our church, at the beginning of this year, so he could consistently have someone with him to provide support as well as accountability. The lady that directs that part of our church taught high school special ed for over 30 years and said she was interested in what this Psych Eval would discover, because she had her own thoughts on what was going on with Malakai.

On August 5th, we received the Psych Eval results and it agreed with what the Community Reach counselor and our retired special ed teacher / friend assumed: Malakai has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Just writing that out made my head feel like it’s gonna explode. Not out of fear or any negative thought of what that means but because I truly have no idea what that means. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks, researching and scanning every medical and blog site that I’ve found. I’ve researched locals groups and organizations that care for children with Asperger’s. I spent at least 2 hours of every day, sometimes much more, reading about as much as I can about this diagnosis and it’s showed me two things. One, I absolutely believe Malakai has Asperger’s. I’m a total skeptic and I don’t jump on anything labeled a Bandwagon. If a physician is giving me a diagnosis, I’ll research that sucker until either it or I am blue in the face. Thankfully, I’ve got memories and pictures that reassure me that my child has been dealing with something for quite some time and it’s not just some random dx that a doc wants to pull from their ass. The second thing thing I’ve learned, in all of my 3 weeks of straight research is this, I still don’t know what the hell this all means. I’m overwhelmed with information and somehow unable to figure out which way is up so that I can catch my breath. I realized, this week, that it’s like I’ve got a million puzzle pieces and I have no idea how they all fit together. Maybe I’ve got the corners and edges all lined up and figured out but the middle part that houses the DNA of the puzzle is a confusing and frustrating wonder. Although, I made sure to send off an email to his former 5th grade teacher, and the staff at Malakai’s elementary school, to share with them the fact that I hope they never again generalize or try and shove any other student into their pre-formed box. **Side note** Prior to this diagnosis, I shared with Malakai’s fifth grade teacher that we felt there was something going on, deeply, with Malakai and that we were pursuing a psych eval to see about the possibility of an Asperger diagnosis. His teacher responded with, “Hm. I don’t think so… he is EXTREMELY smart. I don’t see anything wrong with him.” Sounds like the educator needs to get educated…**End side note** This diagnosis also opened up the floodgates of grace so we’ve able to see that most meltdowns happen as a result of us not planning properly for his triggers. Even still, I’ve got the world at my fingertips and I’m frozen in not knowing how to proceed or what steps to start taking in regard to groups and professional help.

Oh yeah, life.

Along with all of that hodgepodge, I’ve got my life and the lives of my husband and my girls balancing up in the air.

For me, once we got the results, I was relieved to finally have an answer. A solidified, results-based, insightful answer. An answer that didn’t have to do with, “He’s just rebellious.” “He just needs more discipline.” “He needs to stop watching Harry Potter.” “Surround your house with prayers.” Dear God… as if our trial and error circus wasn’t enough. So, I was relieved, AND overwhelmed, but mostly relieved and I jumped into research / MamaBear mode. This has been sort of world-flipping though, as I feel I’ve not had any alone time for three straight weeks. I permanently quit my part-time job (I had stepped down several weeks earlier due to personal stuff going on between my mom, which is my boss, and my dad and our family but I was hopeful in returning at some point). Due to quitting permanently, I had to pull Cali from her preschool since we couldn’t afford her school AND a second car without a second job. I also wanted to be sure I wasn’t stretching myself thin in worrying about three different schools and a job and household and this thing called Asperger’s. In the midst of all of this, I’m still trying to maintain my sanity. I’m working hard to complete a book that I’ve been reading for a year, Wounded Heart, and work on all that that entails. Which is working on some DEEP, DEEP wounded stuff. So, I’m overwhelmed with everything that being a person on a road to recovery / a mom / wife entails. I’m also wishing that I had a really good core group of dependable friends right about now.

Jase has also been going through some stuff. Our overwhelmed hearts are best explained, by Jase, here.

The girls are still flittering and floating about. It takes even more intentional effort to make sure these girls don’t fall by the wayside but I think we are are pulling it off. Cali loves being at home with me so it wasn’t very painful to remove her from school. She actually requested it since there was always a bribe (of a Starbucks pink cake pop) to go to school every day. She loved it but it was an effort to get there. Zoë is back in school and LOVING it. She thrives in a school environment so she’s at ease now that school is back in session.

Speaking of school, Malakai had the worst first week of school that I’ve ever heard about. The prep-meeting that I had, back in May, with his new school director and counselor (as well as the elementary counselor) basically did nothing. The explanation of what did and did not work as well as speaking about the behavior plan and his triggers did nothing to help them prepare for his arrival. Because… they planned nothing. I basically threw him to the wolves on his first week of sixth grade. He was instantly targeted and outcasted and the staff were much too overwhelmed in their new, busy magnet school, that they couldn’t wear enough hats to provide the safe environment that Malakai needed. Knowing all I knew from the research I did, in May, we pulled him from public school again. For the last time. Currently enrollment forms have been sent and we’re waiting on word of approval for a free public online schooling option for Malakai. Creating our own schedule, in the comfort of a loving home environment seems to be the best path. At least for right now.

So, here we are. Researching-gone-mad and stuck in the ethernets of possibilities. Thankfully, we know who we’re hanging on to during this crazy ride and we’re trusting to come out a little tattered but also a LOT stronger and wiser.

Besides my life path change in 1996, 2010 was the most defining year of my life. I’ve learned so much about myself in the last year, things that I never would have believed were true. I learned that I’m judgmental. I learned that I am codependent. I learned that I cared more about trying to control the way people view me, rather than how I was treating my husband and my children. I learned that I cared much more deeply about the opinions of strangers and acquaintances than I did those that truly love me. I painfully learned that there are people that will judge me and dislike me, no matter how much I try to win their praise and adoration. I learned that I don’t need anyone’s praise or adoration. I learned that volunteering, at least at this point in time, in the children’s ministry and youth ministry caused me to be much too distant from my own flesh and blood. I’ve learned that what I do, does not define who I am. I learned that there are lots of people that I considered a friend that actively try to avoid / ignore me, rather than speak truth into my life. I’ve learned that I’m ok without their friendship, without their approval, without their false smile. I’ve learned that I’ve lived most of my life envying the accomplishments of many people. I learned that I froze in that envy, preventing me from pursuing my own dreams and changing my life for the better. I’ve learned that I can find value in my life without feeling like people “need” me. I’ve learned to (finally / really) start taking care of my mental and physical well-being and to keep it consistent.

I’m learning to be more like the moon. Reflecting the sun, rather than trying to be the sun.

It’s a long and difficult road, but I’m also learning how to keep my heart and mind clean because I want it to make a difference in the lives of those that I care about the most.

“First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:26

Confidence is a tricky thing. If you have too much, you’re arrogant and annoying and if you don’t have enough, you’re self-deprecating and annoying. The line in-between is thin and tough to find but I think I’m beginning to recognize it. I’ve wanted to swing as far away from arrogance, as possible, but it has left me constantly beating myself up and never being “good enough.” My *lip service* has always been that I’m good, just as I am, and people should be happy with that. I should be happy with that. But my counter-actions and feelings were a LOT stronger than those words. In everything I do; as a mom, a wife, a friend, a mentor, a daughter, a sister, and a singer, it’s never been good enough for me. Conversations could have improved, time spent with a teenager or my children or my husband could have been increased, singing a certain part could have been different and better, my house could look nicer. I was never happy with my end results. The more self-deprecating I was, the more withdrawn I became and the more off-key (vocally/emotionally/spiritually) I was. In everything I did and with everything I was, I was discontent and it’s a very depressing state of mind.

In the last several weeks, though, I’ve realized that this state of mind existed because I was placing my worth on my own unrealistic expectations. By doing that, I wasn’t allowing God to just *be* in/with/through me.

It’s a tough path to stay on but I’ve got a bounce back in my step and my shoulders are settling back a little more firmly and my head is lifting a lot higher. I’m feeling a new and strange sense of confidence that I’ve never had before and it’s exhilarating. I’m learning to tell the difference between confidence and arrogance and it’s such a freeing place to be. I’m learning how to give everything my all and then give it over to God and not dwell on it. No matter the outcome.

I’m not naive but I have a feeling that the episodes of beating myself up will slowly disappear, because I’ve already seen and felt a difference in the last few weeks.

So, there it is, I’m a change in progress and I’m gonna try and stop being so pathetic. 🙂

Written on 5/17/2010:

The last few months have been a blur. Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been in a really good mental and spiritual place and have even started getting into a routine to get into physical shape. Finally. My genes have allowed me to be lazy. I’m tall and (for the most part) slim and that has made it really easy for me to splurge with junk food and become nearly non-active. I’ve realized that it’s also contributed to my mental state and fatigue as well. Duh. 🙂 So, I’m starting slow with walking for 45-60 minutes, several times a week, and merging a couple of minutes of running in there. My goal is to be able to run (at least!) a half marathon one day. Writing that out made my stomach drop because I can barely run two blocks without feeling like I’m dying/hyperventilating.

Now, when I say I’ve been in a really good mental/spiritual place lately, it doesn’t mean that every day has been amazing and perfect. It means that my outlook on life; my comfortability with who I am and where I am in life, has been steadily accelerating to a healthy and positive place.

I got back, yesterday, from a weekend trip to the mountains, with other women from my church. In anxiety and fear, I almost decided not to go. Being at a church event, a “retreat” with 400 women that I don’t know, doesn’t necessarily cause me to jump for joy. I always feel transported back to junior high at these type of events. Consumed with feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness and embarrassment. Thankfully, God is placing people in my life that care enough about me to take my “no” and shove it back in my face. With love, of course. 🙂

I learned two things on this weekend trip. One, what people say about me is NOT a reflection of who I am, it’s a reflection of who THEY are. I needed to hear that SO bad. I am, and always have been, a people-pleaser. To the point that I am never “good enough” because I am always striving for the perfection in other’s eyes. The second thing that I learned is that an ipod, Truth through music, my voice, a snowstorm and a snow-covered valley at the top of a mountain can be more redeeming for a soul than anything I’ve ever imagined.

Written on 5/10/2010:

Jase, the kids and I had a perfect day yesterday, for Mother’s Day. We left our house around 1030am, to go on an extended walk, and returned 6 hours later! There were so many laughs and admirations for nature (and for each other) as we ventured to the park and enjoyed snacks, ate lunch at a nauseatingly-hot fast food establishment, and laughed/got freaked out by different animal parts/sea creatures in an asian market before stumbling on some delicious candy. We got the kids to try new things with mocha coconut Boba Tea (a favorite of mine and Jase’s) and found LOTS of books to borrow from the library. The two mile walk back home was rewarded with a strawberry shortcake dinner and reading two chapters of our new library book, The Secret Garden. Really it was a perfect day. The kids would complain every now and then as they got tired or overwhelmed with carrying their stack of books back home, from the library but I might just claim yesterday as my favorite Mother’s Day ever. The weather was even great. Sunny and cooled off by a gracious breeze. The day was so beautiful.

So why am I stuck in a rut again today? Why have I been feeling like this for months? I don’t want to put away that last load of clothes or clear the piles of paper off of the kitchen counter. I don’t want to vacuum up the floor or clean the toilets. I wonder about what I’m doing in life and where I’m spending my time and whether or not the things that consume my mind and my time are worth it.  Jase and I watched a movie last night. The movie was a live-taping of a comedian and really funny, I was even cry-laughing at some points, but I almost threw up when the sexual jokes started. I hate that I’m affected, negatively, by that. I hate that it affects the way I feel about myself, my body, and my trust in Jase. I hate that I can’t just laugh those things off or at least overlook them, unaffected.

Life, at the moment, is beautiful and tragic. It’s exhilarating, yet, in stasis.

I feel like I’m constantly switching from joyful and satisfied with life, to depressed and feeling as if my life has no purpose, no meaning. I feel worthless and unable to do anything right. At the moment, I question the time I spend mentoring teenagers and with one of the things that seems to sustain me: singing. I wonder if the passion and love I have for people means anything, does anything, helps at all. I’m having severe issues with trusting people and their words of affirmation and love. I’m severely dissatisfied with my health and my physical shape.

People have really been affecting me, negatively, lately. I sang, at church, a couple of weekends ago and I’m having a hard time letting go of some looks and smirks that seemed to be directed at me.

I’ve been doubting a lot of things lately… the love people have for me, the positive qualities I thought I once had, the difference that I make…

I’m fighting. Fighting back hard.

Days like yesterday continue to sustain me. However, these ruts/attacks, though few and far-between, are tough.

Jase and I, and the kids, were rear-ended on Sunday. Besides the pain I’m now in, the thing that sucks the most is the fact that we were in the process of communicating with a broker to trade in our van and jeep for one vehicle with a lower monthly payment. After looking at a car lot on Saturday, selecting a couple of vehicles that could work for our family and communicating with this broker, we were finally on the right path of getting our finances in order.

That is, until Mr. Chevy Impala decided to not see us stopped at a yield for a highway on-ramp and slammed into the back of us. My first thought was the trauma of this night as I desperately scanned the back seats to make sure my children were ok. Then I was concerned since the man was now in Jase’s face, while Jase was still in the driver’s seat, and the guy had his hands on Jase’s shoulders, apologizing profusely. I was afraid of what this stranger was capable of doing and that chemicals could possibly be in his system. After asking the guy, several times, to back off, the guy retreated and Jase went out to handle the info swap. I got on the phone and called 911. Paramedics, police cars and a fire truck showed up. From terror to confusion to excitement to fear again, the children experienced a range of emotions. When I started feeling the numbness/painless-burning in my neck, I got scared. Not only did we now have to handle the strain of insurance companies and claims and getting our van fixed. I knew that in a couple of days, I was going to be painfully messed up. Did I mention that we don’t have medical insurance? Yeah…

My last blog entry had me looking forward to helping out with the Downtown Rescue Mission again. Well, fear got in the way of that and I never went back. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

I was preparing to help my friend that night and, on a whim, I decided to reread the story of my childhood/teenage years, my testimony. I wrote it out, years ago, but some sort of curiosity took over and I read it, just hours before I was supposed to leave. That was a major mistake and it sent me into a downward spiral. Reading about being in numerous, frightening positions and being taken advantage of many times, made me feel stupid for preparing to put myself in a situation where, once again, I’d be in a room where the men to women ratio and the drug-free to on-drugs ratio was desperately uneven. Reading about those bad times and feeling like they had all happened yesterday, caused me to completely freeze up. I tried to fight off the fear but it only intensified. I tried to rationalize and it only retaliated, stronger and more convincing.

I was terrified and it enflamed me. I was crushed. I felt defeated. I felt like I was taking two steps backward from the healing and recovery that I felt I had just gone through.

Two weeks prior, I felt on top of the world with conquering a fear and feeling like I would never look back or take a step back and here I was, trembling with the possibility that I was about to make the stupidest decision to go help people. This fear got my mind racing at the endless possibility of having anxiety take over, preventing me from doing just about everything. Where would it stop? What would trigger this fear? How many situations will I put myself in, in the future, and then realize that I feel vulnerable and trapped and want out? It was in this moment of sheer terror that I was grateful (and pissed off that I was grateful) that I never went to Afghanistan. I can’t imagine having this fear and anxiety overtake me as I’m halfway across the world from everything that makes me feel safe.

This situation also got me learning much more about myself. I’m learning that I have boundaries. I can’t stand knowing that I have them but this has to be some sort of positive step in realizing this about myself. It’s caused me to figure out what frightened me about going back to the Rescue Mission and what situations, in the future, might cause this fear to rise.

I feel as though there’s a fine line with knowing too much about people and not knowing enough. I know that people can be cruel and that sometimes a certain type of person is more prone to cruelty than others. Obviously I can’t see their heart, so I discriminate toward the people that remind me of those that have harmed me. The lack of knowledge about people can easily be replaced by fear while having knowledge about people can instill fear as well. How do I combat this? It seems like a neverending cycle… At various points in my life this fear will cause me to freeze and hide, tremble and cower. What I’m learning is that the antonym of my fear is faith and hope. I can have all the love in the world but, in fear, that love is worthless. Without faith and hope, I would continually sit in my house and ponder the end of everything good.

While learning the boundaries of my emotional well-being, I’m also discovering what it takes to push past those boundaries. I’m learning what I’m prepared to conquer and what may still take time to overcome. There may be things in my life that I will never be able to do because fear is gripping so tight. There may be things I never would have dreamed to prevail over and I may effortlessly triumph. For now, I’m grateful to be learning more about what I can and can’t handle and I’m grateful to learn more about what faith in God actually means.

I’ve been treading water, keeping my head above drowning, for my entire life. Specifically, desperately, in the last year. I’m just now realizing that I’ve done nothing to bring me closer to shore, to where I want to be. I’ve completely worn myself out, staying in the same place. In faith, in action, I must press on. Beyond the boundary.

I have a huge heart for people that are hurting. Sometimes, I have more empathy than I can handle. The things I’ve seen in my life have filtered my love, though. Sadly, to the point of cynicism and mistrust in some cases.

Take last night, for example. My friend signed up to serve a meal at the Downtown Denver Rescue Mission and asked for some volunteers to go with her. Of course, given my love for people and serving others, I jumped at the chance. Concern began on the drive down there, wondering what I’d do with my purse. I couldn’t bring it with me. It’s a temptation to some of *them*. What would I do, hide it somewhere to be found or keep it on me to be stolen and traded for crack? (I mean, I should know… when I was a teenage runaway, living on the streets and smoking crack, I did the same thing with someone’s stolen purse and someone’s stolen wallet.) The other ladies I was with, were going to put their purses in the trunk. In my mind, that’s perfect for any schemers to see, plan and steal. So, I shoved mine under the driver’s seat. If someone was planning to break into the trunk and grab the purses, they’d most likely not be searching the rest of the car. (Grab and go.) So began my fear and anxiety. Walking toward the Rescue Mission, my reconnaissance mentality kicked on, making sure to have a clear head and my surroundings in check. After signing in, we walked downstairs and as soon as that door swung open and I had a view of faces, it flipped on. As if it was second nature and without a flinch, I removed my wedding ring, casually pushed it into my pocket and (knowing I was now “available”) I moved the ring from my right index finger onto my left ring finger. Not a flinch or facial expression. Dear God. That mentality was as crystal clear as if it was all yesterday. For the rest of the night, I wasn’t my usual self. No joking around, nearly no laughter. I kept eye contact to a minimum and if necessary, extremely quick and unemotional. I was in survival mode and I’m sure it showed. But I didn’t give a shit. I came there to do a job. A job I was still very determined to fulfill and very grateful being given an opportunity to help others even if I was surrounded by 80 homeless men, most likely all with mental issues and drug addictions. I wasn’t there to make any friends. The girl I came with was laughing and carrying conversations with some of the guys and I couldn’t help but look at her with sympathy. She had no idea that she was most likely a game to them. The *easiest* women were the targets, the first victims. I know this from experience. Could every single homeless man that we served last night, all 80 of them, be innocent, tame and pure in heart? Sure, it’s a possibility. But I’ve *lived* what homelessness and drugs can do to a human being. Knowing what I know, I wasn’t about to let my guard down until we were back in the car and on the way back home.

I accomplished my tasks with fervor and effectiveness. I slightly smiled and gave lots of “you’re welcome” and “thank you” responses. But last night taught me how much my past is still with me. When we left the building, there were people smoking crack about 50 feet from me. It was a very strange feeling to want to run away from them as fast and as far as possible BUT I also wanted to walk up to them and just chill out and hear their stories and show them that joy and peace was possible, without drugs.

Fear and love/passion do strange things to the human heart. I feel like I overcame something last night. Something I never knew existed. I’m hoping that the more I serve in this environment, the more trust I’ll gain to replace my fear. I’ll be back to do this again in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait.

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