This post is going to be considerably different than the past several have been. I don’t have a Scripture reference or a quote to headline this with. This is not an easy post to write and for the longest time this afternoon into tonight, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to share it. I’m a relatively private person so this is out of my comfort zone.
As I sit here writing this, my heart is shattered into a million and one pieces. I can’t think. I can’t concentrate on my Homiletics review for a midterm on Tuesday. Days like today, as painful as they are, remind me why exactly I’m in the field I’m in. Days like today remind me why I’m so passionate and have such a heavy burden on my heart for Pine Ridge. I’m starting to understand why God gave me such a distinct calling to go to such a specific place that admittedly, most people wouldn’t enter.
Being a Christian counselor, the first things you’re taught are:: (1). Never let your face show and (2). Leave your emotions and feelings at the door. I am a student mentor as part of a federally funded grant and as part of the grant requirement, we had to do a community service project. We decided to make Valentine’s Day goodie bags for the children at the Murrow Home, a group home for Native American children on the Bacone property. I’ve heard some extensive history about the Murrow Home but had never gone on a tour or anything of it until today. It completely broke my heart. Our faculty sponsor, another student and her younger sister, and myself went to take the treat bags to the children. I had a bit of a unique perspective because I was looking at this experience through the lens of being an adopted child. I honestly did not expect this experience to hit me as hard as it did. What I saw today shook me to my core. What I saw today changed me. Being a writer and someone who wants to go into the field of counseling and family therapy, I’m normally pretty good at turning my emotions off and leaving my feelings at the door, so to speak, but I couldn’t do that today. Not when it was my own kind.
Even now, as I sit here in my dining room at 2am, recalling the events that took place 12 hours ago, I’m in tears. There are some things in life I will never understand. What I saw today in the children I encountered at the Murrow Home was beyond my comprehension and brain processing. To be honest, I’m still trying to process it all. It hit me especially hard. As I said before, I’m an adopted child. While I was adopted as a newborn, I saw my own birth situation in so many of these children. As we were handing out the treat bags, in the back of my mind, all I could think about was my birth mother and what it must have taken for her to give me up. She was a teen mom, which is why I’m so passionate about counseling other young moms on the reservation. It made me think how easily it could have been me growing up in a group home. It was convicting almost, because of how long and how deeply I’ve resented my birth mom. While I don’t harbor that resentment anymore, I still have residual confusion and guilt. Today taught me how important it is for me to keep my birth mom lifted up in prayer. I don’t know if she’s a Christian or not. If she is, I pray that she continues to hunger and thirst for a stronger and deeper relationship with God. If she’s not, I pray that one day, God will meet her right where she is.
Conversely, I also walked away from this experience with a greater appreciation and an ability to love my family even deeper than I already do. As we were leaving, all I could think was, “There by the grace of God, I’m not in a group home. God handpicked the perfect family for me. God set up that divine appointment the moment I was born and placed me with the family I was meant to be with.” It was honestly one of the most humbling, convicting, and heartbreaking moments ever in my life.
Seeing the cottages these kids lived in—I came home so emotionally and mentally drained that I ran to my mom and crumbled in her arms, reduced to tears. I had no idea how to handle so many emotions rushing through me at once. To see walls that were stark white and from an outsider’s perspective, other than the designated hooks the children had for their schoolbags, I never would have guessed children lived there. I can’t imagine or fathom children living in an environment without finger paintings or drawings decorating walls. As I looked around, it was almost like I could feel my heart breaking even more than it already had. To be honest, I can’t stop thinking about the children I saw. I can’t stop thinking about how I saw so much of myself in the older girls. To be completely honest and transparent, it’s going to be something that I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. In another aspect, this experience convicted my heart about the relationship my father and I have. There is some negative history between us that we’re still trying to work out. An altercation took place 5 years ago that left some significant scarring and damage to the father/daughter dynamic we had. The experience I had today put it in a new perspective. While I may not be able to forget what he did, it gave me an outlet where I reached some new insights on forgiving him and moving forward. We’ve done a lot of work together in family therapy, but there were things I needed to sort out on my own. I spent a lot of time in prayer, as an effort to calm myself and center my emotions where I could function logically again.
There are things God is still speaking to me about and there are things God called me out on that I’ve been holding back. We went to Murrow Home today to be a blessing and love on the children. They were the bigger blessing. In the 45 minutes we were there, they gave me a completely different and new outlook on how I view not just my life but also my life at home and how I view my family. As an adopted child that has spent several years struggling with figuring out who I am, I realized today that while knowing who I am is important, what’s more important is remembering Whose I am.
I left the experience today albeit heavy hearted and the minute I got in my car to drive home from Bacone’s campus, I crumbled and was in tears pretty much the entire drive back to Wagoner. I blasted my worship music and was thinking about my own family. There’s a quote I’ve seen floating around in various social media outlets from Native American poet Linda Hogan:: “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still”, they say. “Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.””
I hope that wherever my biological family may be, God has a plan and if I’m meant to be reunited with them, I will be. Days like today make me realize how blessed I am to have had grandparents who were so active in ministry. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher who instilled in me, even as a baby, the importance of a relationship with Christ. My grandmother and mom carried those life lessons on to me as a child and then on to adulthood. E-du-da (Cherokee for grandfather) is the main reason I’m in Christian ministry today.
To whoever is reading this, if you take nothing else away from this post, hug your loved ones a little tighter. Make the most of the time you’ve been so graciously blessed with. Parents:: Hold your babies a little tighter. Make the most of the time you have with each other.
In closing, like I said, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to share this but as deeply as it affected me, I felt like there was a reason for it and it needed to be shared.