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A Bitter Sweet Night

Last night our small group went to Stand Up For Kids in Oceanside to cook a meal for kids who have no homes and who live on the streets.

AKA homeless kids.

Right before we left, Finley was feeling the “crazy cause my teeth are bustin’ through my gums.”  We used a frozen wash cloth and held his clingy little body as we piled hotdog buns and cookies into the bag.  “Well, if anything, he’ll convince those kids not to become teen moms,” I joked to Andrew.  “Maybe I should just stay home with him.” Andrew said.  “I think he’ll be ok, let’s just go.  He’ll be no better here,” even though I have to honestly admit staying home did cross my mind.  I’ll do another post about how I try to maintain my priorities even though most of the time they are totally off kilter.

Since it’s summer and they have a grill, we brought chicken and hot dogs to roast, salad and fresh, pink watermelon.  We hid the cookies as we lined the food up on the tables, learning from last time that if given the chance, that would be the only thing some of them ate.  No bueno for the vegetable fanatic (me).

“Oh, you guys are grilling?  There is no propane tank, we’ll have to have someone local bring it over.” -lady in charge (l.i.c.)

“Oh, that’s fine, in the mean time, can we serve them salad?” -me

“Oh no, they won’t touch salad” -l.i.c.

“Oh I know how they feel about salad, I threw away a whole salad last time we were here, but since they have to wait for their food anyway, they might just be hungry enough?”  -me (Can you sense my eagerness?)

“I don’t think so.” -l.i.c.

I walked up to a teen boy about to grab some watermelon.  “I’m sorry, we aren’t serving just yet, but can I make you a salad?  Would you like ranch or italian dressing?” I asked as I piled the plate with greens, using the same smiling trick I use on The Tiny while convincing him certain foods are yummy.

“Oh, um… I.  Um, I’ll have Italian, I guess.”

“Great!  I’ll make it for you and bring it to you!” I smiled as I drizzled some Italian on his salad.

Maybe because I am big on vegetables, maybe because that woman said no one would eat salad, but I walked to each person asking not if they would like a salad, but which dressing of the two they would prefer, “Since the propane tank wouldn’t be here for another 25 minutes or so anyway” I smiled at the hungry kids.  We were piling those flimsy styrofoam plates up high with salad after salad. (As if eating a salad would make any lasting impact on the of these kids, but it still felt good.)

“Wow, I’ve never seen them eat so much salad,” I overheard the doubting lady in charge mention quietly to a friend.  It’s the small victories, right? 😉

One girl told me she remembered me from last time, “You were pregnant then.”
“Oh yes, I was!” dipping down to show her Finley’s smiling face from his spot nestled in the Ergo.  “Yep, pregnancy leads to one of these, as you can see.” I chuckled, thankful Finley was feeling better. As soon as we got to Stand Up for Kids, The Tiny was smiley and happy, no teething pain.  I was so glad we pushed through and focused on serving, a mental discipline we are still getting used to.

“I’m glad we came to serve instead of focusing on my whining at home.”  -The Tiny

“Oh yeah, I know. Pregnancy leads to babies, I am 20 weeks along.”  She told me.

“And I’m 32 weeks along,” said her young teen friend sitting next to her.  My mind raced back to 5 minutes previous, the only two girls who refused salads, both smoking two cigarettes back to back between their nail polish chipped fingers.

“Have you two had any morning sickness?”  I asked calmly with a smile, trying to not ask the questions I truly wanted to know just yet.  Kathleen, Jessica and I listen to them tell us about working at Carl’s Junior, wanting an epidural, what their favorite names were and how much they disliked cramping.

“Are you going to be able to stay home with your baby, or will you have to find someone to watch her while you work?”  I asked.
“I don’t know, that’s what’s stressin’ me out so bad right now.”
“What about your family,” I asked.
“My mom just moved away, so she can’t help.”
“I’m so sorry.  That must be so hard and scary being pregnant with your mom so far away.”
I got one of the girl’s numbers and told her I’d give her my bassinet.  Perhaps I can give her my old prenatals as well…  Will she let me help her, we’ll see.

After the propane tank got there, the guys threw the hotdogs on the grill and filled the yard with that wonderful roasting beef smell of summer.

Grill Masters Jared and Mike

One of the pregnant girls was standing by the grill, waiting for her food.  “Do you wish you could eat a hotdog tonight?” I asked, in my attempt to see if she knew if she really couldn’t.
“Wait, why?” -she asked.  Joe jumped in, “Because they have nitrates which cause low birth weight and can give you cancer!”
“Oh my gosh!” she said, wide eyed!
“I put my hand on her small stomach for 32 weeks, looked her in the eyes and said in a low voice, “Do you know what causes low birth weight and cancer even more than hotdogs?” as she looked down and shifted her wight.
“I know, I know.” she mumbled.
“How much do you smoke?”  I asked.
“Less than a pack a day!” she said.
“That is a lot of cigarettes.  What does your doctor say about it?”  I asked.
“I don’t know.” She said.
“I’m sorry, I know it’s annoying that I am saying this to you, but I need you to know it’s very bad for your baby, and for you.”
“I know,” said this 17 year, motherless little girl herself, spending her money on cigarettes, as I felt her tiny baby kick my palm resting on her stomach.

Some of the kids played hacky sack, Jessica held The Tiny, and Kathleen and I talked to a group of kids at the picnic tables.  “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?”  I asked them.  That question always has eager answers, no matter who you ask it to.

 “I WOULD GO TO BANGCOCK!”  One spurted out proudly.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that place is awesome, you can get a $5 massage on the beach.”  I said.
“You can get a lot more for more than $5,” he laughed, mischievous look on his face.
“Yes, you can,” I agreed, “but you need to be careful with that stuff, it’s shady.” I told him.

“I would go to Amsterdam!” The boy next to me said.
“No, you wouldn’t.”  I told him.  “That place is no good for you.”
“What!  Yes it is!” He retorted, shocked that I wouldn’t readily agree to the obvious perfect destination choice.
“Oh really?”  I looked at him.  “And what would you go there to do?”  I asked leveling my face with his, and looking him in the eyes.  (Am I making myself sound judgmental or too harsh with them?  Hah, maybe, but I would rather speak the truth to them than waste their time agreeing with them I guess)
“Well, I heard that a 10 year old can go into a bar and get a drink if he wants to,” his smile showing me that this would obviously show me the validity of his perfect response.
“Yes.  I am sure you are right.  But drinking can bring a lot of hurt and destruction, especially when you are young.  It destroys many lives, especially kids’ lives,”  I said to him quietly.
“Oh.  Yeah, I guess you’re right.  Yeah, I guess drinking isn’t good for kids.”
“What is your dream job?” I asked him.  I never ask, ‘what do you want to do when you grow up,’ because at this point, they need to be grown up and it’s not a time in their lives for speculation, but for decision making.
“I want to own my own business.  I want to own a detailing business.”  He said quickly.
“That’s awesome, you should.  Would you want to do a mobile business?”
“Yeah!  I would!  You can charge $400 for a good detailing,” he said.
“Are you kidding me?  I would NEVER pay $400 for a detailing!  I would just get rid of that car!  I would go BUY a car for $400 before getting it detailed for that much!”  I said, rolling my eyes.  “Did you know that my husband Andrew owns his own business?”
I looked him in the eyes and said, “Did you know my husband dealt with a serious addiction and couldn’t finish high school, but went to continuation school?  Did you know that two things helped him get over his addiction that was ruining his life?”  Knowing I was speaking boldly, more boldly than I even intended.  “He then graduated college and now owns his own business.”  At this point, 4 of the kids were listening intently to me.

“What did he do?”  one asked.

“First, he moved away.  Far away from his friends and his life that had him trapped.  He couldn’t just do it with will power, and it took him a while to really know that.  He went to live and work with his aunt and uncle and got away from his friends.  He couldn’t escape them otherwise, and he did hard labor.  Then, for the first time, he gave his life over to Jesus, and Jesus absolutely changed him.  He changed Andrew’s life.  Look at him,”  I said pointing, and their gaze followed my finger.  “He owns a growing, big time business.”  The boys and one girl looked through bleary eyes over at my husband, piling hotdogs onto a plate, laughing with his friends.  “Andrew, come over here!  I’m talking to these guys about addiction and how you changed your life and started your own business.”

As Andrew walked up, he admitted to me his addiction.  Later, denying it.  But I was so proud of him for sharing once.  So, so proud.

“Oh yeah man, I totally did,” -My awesome and amazing husband.  (I love and respect him so much!)

We told kids virtues we saw in them, I choked up telling a young girl how much true value and worth she really has, making her feel awkward and prompting her to leave.  (Hah, way to kill a moment, Amy, pull it together!)  We told boys that we believed in them, and how we saw great people skills in them, we told girls that they would make wonderful teachers and nurses and how junior college is “SO easy compared to high school, and how much I didn’t like high school, and how much I LOVED junior college.”
“Can you go to junior college without a high school diploma?  Can you just have a GED?” one asked eagerly, hopeful.  “Oh yes, it’s so easy, just pile your classes up 2 days a week.  You would make such an amazing teacher, and you can still pursue acting during your summers off.  In fact, they are looking for teachers who can infuse art into the classroom, you would be in high demand!  Here is my name, find me on facebook and I will help you!”  (Oh Lord, help her to find me)

The worst part about it, is that yes, these kids are drop outs, drug addicts, young and scrounging but you saw in their faces, that the moment you told them a tiny bit of encouragement, their hardness melted, you saw past their piercings and tattoos, and you saw a child, who isn’t used to being encouraged.  You saw on their faces, when you told them that they had worth and value and that they would be good at that dream they have locked up in their head, that it may have just been about the first time they heard these truths– I mean, you saw it in the surprise and disarmament on their faces!  Their consequent desire to be in close proximity to you, but not really knowing how to show it.  They knew you loved them, and they didn’t quite know how to handle it.  It’s easy to blame them for the choices they make, to be annoyed or think low of them, because most think low enough about themselves that they would agree. But it’s not the truth.

The truth is that they were bought with a price.  That Jesus loves them dearly.  That He can and will rescue them from their paths of destruction, if they would only learn to trust Him.
Maybe they can’t trust Him or feel worthy until they are made to feel worthy.  Oh Lord, let them know their worth.

Please pray for these kids.  Pray that they will know and trust God.  Please pray for the tiny babies in those bellies.  Pray that God would lead us in how to help them and help them find freedom from destruction.

“There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not to recognize Him.” – Fredrick Buechner
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  • Life as Leah July 14, 2011, 11:19 am

    Inspiring post, thank you for sharing! The example of your husband to those boys will probably go even farther than you think-it probably really helped them to see someone that can make such a change in their life no matter the circumstances-He’ll meet you wherever you are.

  • thislifeisabeautifulone July 14, 2011, 7:09 pm

    oh my gosh amy. lots and lots of crying on this side of the computer screen! what an amazing light you and your group were to these kids. thanks to andrew for being open and honest with his struggles as well- such an amazing and beautiful story of Christ’s redemption!!

    isn’t it amazing what pulling yourself together despite whiny/needy baby can do?! i struggle with the same things, but i think choosing getting out is almost always the best choice, you never know how God will use that.

  • Angela July 14, 2011, 9:22 pm

    I read this and teared up. Thank you for being Jesus to those kids! My husband has an all too similar story as your husband. It’s kind of uncanny actually, how similar their stories are to each other. I am so proud of your husband even though I’ve never met either of you. My husband, Vance, has shared his heart with me about addiction, and while I never will fully understand it (I was the golden child who has never smoked anything, drank underage, etc.), it’s nice to know that God is bigger than addiction. 🙂

    I am visiting via spearmintbaby.com. I am now following you and would appreciate a follow back at angelasfavthings.blogspot.com. 🙂


  • Debra July 15, 2011, 12:50 am

    What a beautiful day and what a difference God made through you and your family and your small group on a bunch of children that Jesus loves. Awesome!

    And, thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂 I can tell we are going to be great friends already!

  • Laura July 15, 2011, 5:13 am

    You and your friends are awesome to have done such a great service to that group!! So bittersweet!! Doesn’t it make you feel so grateful for all the many luxuries and blessings you have- even the small things are important when you put them into perspective. Way to go!! You’re a great example!

  • Alicia July 15, 2011, 5:38 am

    I already posted on your blog post for Spearmint Baby but I just had to comment on this. What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. It is really inspiring and makes me want to go find somewhere to reach out in my community. What an awesome opportunity to share the love of the Lord.

  • rebecca July 15, 2011, 7:31 pm

    thanks for sharing. a rewarding experience for you, as well as them.

  • Kendyl July 16, 2011, 4:58 am

    Great post! My Dad taught me that we’re never helpless to help anyone because we can always pray for them. This post is a great reminder of that, and inspiring!

  • Rachel July 18, 2011, 5:56 pm

    Wow, love. Thank you for sharing!

  • Diana July 27, 2011, 2:41 pm

    What wonderful witness you are being to those kids. Prayers that your work with them grows fruit. God love you, child. ♥

  • Diana July 27, 2011, 2:42 pm

    P. S. Visiting via iFellowship blog hop. =)

  • Signing Mama June 24, 2012, 12:13 am

    You are a remarkable woman! Way to power through the teething and find a way to help others – these little things like encouragement mean so much, so so much.