Wednesday, January 15

unexpected visits - changed plans - hard but good conversation

It was a drop in visit.  I knew it may happen, and I had the birthday card ready to give.  My overnight retreater had left just a mere hour before the knock on the door.  I greeted him.  A hug.  A hello.  A "come in and have supper with us, I am just making it" comment as I proceeded back to the kitchen.  A quick supper.  Simple.  Pizza perogies and garlic sausages fried to perfection.  (if sausages can ever be perfect!! lol)  Not the typical birthday supper, but a hearty one, and a welcome one.  I really was glad to see him.

Good conversation.  Some pauses as each of us likely was thinking of the next thing to say.  Sometimes our conversation is like that.  That is just how it is when you have not only gaps in conversation, but gaps in our lives where one did not fit into the other's life.  Not by choosing to ignore the other, but by the consequences that follow bad choices that lead to addictive lifestyle.  Lifestyle that takes down everything good.  Family.  Friends.  Jobs.  Health.  Home.  Finances.  Relationships everywhere - disintegrated, destroyed, thrown aside for the sake of the next drink, or the next fix.  But then in a moment of desperation that came while living on the street - a moment of clarity so real that he decided that he needed to get help.  I remember that phone call.  The "I don't want to die on the street" acknowledgement said to me over the phone a few years ago.

Years have passed, and the addictive behaviours still have their icy grip on him.  Some would think that when a person has given their heart to the Lord, all those things would vanish.  I know people have told him as much. He loves the Lord. But the addictions are strong. (I don't know those addictions, but I do know the addictiveness of food and my struggle with eating right and losing weight, so I can only imagine in part the struggle with his addictions.)

Today he looks good. Very very good actually.   Today I would go as far as thinking it has been a long time since taking part in the life sapping mix.  Perhaps he just looks better.  Perhaps he has not partaken in a while.  Perhaps I am just trying to convince myself that he is doing better.  However, I believe he is.  He sounds like he is.  Although I know it is one day, actually one hour at a time I am sure.

With my husband having to leave to go to a meeting, my guest and I go and sit in the living room.  The dishes and the clean-up can wait.  My heart is happy, that he has landed a job outside of the city.  He is just in today, on his birthday and with the blessing of his new boss, to tie up a few loose ends in the city.  We had something for him, for his job which is why I knew he would be by our place.  The job is truly a gift from God for him.  He believes that, and so do I.  God does give us gifts.  He is happy.  He tells me more about his job.  But the conversation goes from one thing to another, and soon we are talking about his life as a child.  As a child that, along with his other siblings (many) they are abandoned.  Some put in foster care.  Some adopted. He experienced both.  I can't imagine how hard it must have been.  I can't help but think the worst about his parents - who abandoned him, but then came back in his life for a while, assuming they could just pick up where they left off.  Oh were they wrong.

He told me what came along with finding his bio parents.  Things like finding out that "aunts" and "uncles" are involved in lives of addiction and some really bad lifestyle choices, some extended family even involved in dealing drugs.  He talked about the emotional gut wrenching stuff that came with finding them, and the tough part about even thinking of his past now. The reasons he lets those sleeping dogs lie.  (or sleeping relatives he has chosen to disassociate from pretty much right when he found them.)  It would be ever so easy to blame his addictions on his parents.  Ever so easy.  Seriously what parent abandons their child.  But then again, knowing the family that adopted him, while not at all perfect in any way, they offered stability, and love, and a christian home and family.  Plain and simple.  Things he did not get growing up in those first five years of his life, or in the foster homes where he was put in a closet and beat up often, and starved.  He said his bio mom thought he was the lucky one.  I would call it God's intervention in his life.   My heart aches.

We talked for a few hours.  Honesty.  Tears.  Pain.  I felt his pain actually.  My heart ached several times.

We talked about not only his early family abandoning him but how the consequences of his addictions caused a chasm in his family life now.  Actually no family life really.  Just memories of what was there in the happiest of times for him, and what he is missing out on, and what he wishes there was.  My heart ... oh my heart.  It feels raw.  At times I wonder if I should have asked some of those questions.  And yet he talks, and talks and talks.  I feel like they were God-ordained moments.  I also feel like I was supposed to be in that chair, at that time, with that person... listening, talking, watching.  I encourage him to write letters to his kids, so that at some time they hear part of his heart too.

A few hours later, the wind has whipped up.  A discussion about street life, and about Union Gospel Mission, and about Siloam.  Missions.  A bed for the night.  A safe place.  A "family" that he knows well.  And ... a Breakfast in the morning.  Not that he is homeless now, he does have a suite that came with his new job out of town, but where do you go when you are homeless in the city and new to a job out of town close to the west Manitoba border, and in the city and ready to go to bed?

He talked about being thankful.  He talked about what he has learned.  He talked about God in his life in the midst of the hardest things like being a dad but not being in his kids lives, about broken marriage.   About failure.  I asked if that was how he felt, and he said yes.  He said that all of it, as hard as it was and is, made him lean into God and grab onto Him because he literally had nothing BUT God.  He talked about answered prayers, again, including his recent job hire.  (I can't help but pray, O Lord, help him not to lose this one, it seems so good).  And then looking at the time, decides he needs to get going, It is warm out, and the doors would almost be about to open for patrons to come in for the beds at Siloam.  And I knew I needed to say, "do you want to stay with us for night?"

And my heart stilled.  It felt like "yes, I thought you would never ask him."  He looked at me, and said with a smile, "sure, but I don't want to put you out."  To which I said that he wasn't.

You see for a very long time, I have been asking God - "Lord, what do you want me to do?  How do I help this person?"  It is very easy to help the homeless when they are not connected to you through family ties of any kind.  It is also very easy to help someone who is struggling when you can hand them a five dollar bill, or a cup of coffee or a meal.  It is much easier when it feels like you are not being put out of your comfort zone.  But let me tell you, tonight, when I uttered those words, there was life.
Life for him.  Life for me.  God is at work in this heart of mine.  I may not always be able to provide a bed on a cold night for someone I love even though sometimes they seem so far from us.  But tonight I could, and I am.  As I type, the table is set for breakfast in the morning.  Alvin, he and I.  As I type, the place is quiet as he is fast asleep, on flannel sheets that are cosy and freshly laundered.  As I type, I am hoping he feels the peace of this place - as only God can give it.  And, as he sleeps, I hope my brother knows how much this sister loves him.  Because I do, and it is all because of the grace and love of God.

Goodnight dear brother - sleep tight.  Oh, and Happy Birthday.  I love you.

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