Thursday, November 3, 2011


Today I heard Youth work be compared to triage. That really resonated with me. There are so many hurting people in the world who need the love of Christ and there are only so many hours in a day. I posted about this a couple years ago (see "A Day In The Life" post) and it still rings true today. Last week I had to decide if I should stay in the coffee shop with one teen who was going through a really hard time generally in life, or leave immediately and go help the girl who just texted me saying her mom had hit her. Both hurting, both in need of love. I make these choices of who gets my attention on a daily basis. I try to be everywhere for everyone and am always falling short of others expectations. Those girls I spend time with me regularly know that if they want to go for coffee with me and it's not an immediate emergency of some kind, that I will book them a time about one or two weeks in the future. Then I go to some conference somewhere and some guy on stage tells me to remember to come home with enough emotional space left to be a good spouse. Plus there are friends that I would like to see and family. Yup, it's triage. I have been in the past and still am at fault for not giving enough time to my friends and family because I'm dealing with crisis after crisis. So they get bumped down the triage list to somewhere at the bottom over and over again. They have been so very good to me! So understanding! Thank you everyone.

Having been working in the triage type method for the past 4 years however has taught me somethings. My definition of what an emergency is has changed dramatically. I used to think that if someone was crying it was an emergency and I needed to drop whatever I was doing and attend to them. Now however, if someone says it's an emergency they had better be bleeding or considering making themselves bleed seriously. THAT I consider it to be an emergency. And in the case of that sort of emergency I should not be the one called. Emergency personnel such as the RCMP or the paramedics should be called anyways.
The other thing I have learned is that there are very few things that must be talked about at 3am that can not be talked about at 9am the next day. Along with that things are usually better talked about at 9am then at 3am anyways.
So my triage methods have changed, and consequently I find myself with much more time for my husband, friends, and family. I could say that I wished people would have told me this years ago....but they did. I just had to learn it for myself.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Tears Say it All

In a week of trying to calm down teens who think they are pregnant, talking to the Ministry concerning an abusive home situation, and generally feeling overwhelmed by the needs of the teens around me I did experience one light of encouragement this week. I was sitting in a coffee shop (surprise surprise) with one teen that is especially dear to my heart. We were talking about some tough things in her life and I mentioned that I wish I were a therapist or a councillor so that I could help her along the road to healing. As I am not a councillor I can only take her so far before I am over my head. I'm a youth worker. I can walk with kids, but I can't provide them with concealing services when they need them. I can refer them to councillors and be a support to them while they go, but that's it. The girl spoke up and said "But you are better then a therapist because...because..." and then she started to tear up. Her emotion spoke deeply to my heart. In that moment I caught a glimpse of how significant of a role I play in this teen's life. I was touched and honoured and I thanked her. Then we went back to talking about silly things like what vehicle you would like to be if you were one, and dissecting the plot of a movie that just came out. In the face of overwhelming need and constantly feeling like whatever I do is not enough, it's good to hold these moments close and be warmed and refreshed by them. I do make a difference. I do have importance. I can keep going. And I would be a mini-cooper or a red bike with a basket and a bell, just in case you were wondering. :)

give me my innocent suicidal kids

I was driving home after a very very long day of work. I was in a new place, with new kids that day. These kids made me think that I had never really met a real at-risk kid before in my life. There had been an incident where I witnessed some disturbing domestic violence. The RCMP were involved and I went home feeling sickened by the whole incident. Many of the teens I work with have experienced abuse. Physical, sexual, emotional, and every other kind you can think of. I've sat there in Starbucks hearing their stories, feeling empathy for them, helping them along the path to healing, but I've never had to watch it happen before. As you can imagine this was difficult for me. Please don't be concerned for me. These things are supposed to be difficult.
The day I become numb to these stories is the day I quit being a youth worker.
The difference between these kids I met that day and the kids I usually work with is that my kids take their pain out on themselves. They cut themselves, they try to kill themselves, they don't eat and don't sleep. They are depressed and suffer from anxiety. But they've never stabbed anyone. They haven't done jail time. These new kids are suffering the same pain. But instead of taking it out on themselves like I'm used to....they take it out on anyone who gets in their way. When I got home and debriefed my day with my husband I said "Just give me my innocent, suicidal, depressed kids! They are easy to handle." We both listened to the echo of what I just said in our heads, and started to laugh. I went for a run, showered off the day, wrote up a critical incident report, and by then the feeling of God's hope had replaced the feeling of sickness. God is good. It is well with my soul. I'm going back tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taco Bell

There is a commercial I saw the other day that starts with a man looking intently into the camera and demanding more of life, not satisfied with the status quo, wanting more then what the world has previously offered, and this man was willing to do something about it. Then he orders a taco at Taco Bell. It made me laugh, but it also made me very very sad. I see this exact mentality all over. In the news there are riots for no particular reason, on the streets there are kids getting into trouble, in the smoke pit at the high school they are telling stories of rebellion from the weekend before. This generation is feeling restless. They want something to fight for because they are....bored. Rebels without a cause. I have good news! I have a cause you can fight for! For peace and justice in this world. Fight for love and equality! Fight for safe streets! Fight for our elderly that are being forgotten! Fight for the unfortunate! "Defend the cause of the weak and the Fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and the opressed, rescue the week and the needy and deliver them from the hand of the wicked."Psalms 82:3 We were never meant to stay idle. We were not made to live without work or war. But let us choose carefully what we war against. Injustice? Or burgers?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

except me

I've heard all of the following statements in the past month. I live in this constant state of not-counting. I find it kinda funny.
"I hate christians. Well, except you Carmen."
"I have nobody to talk to. Except you."
"Nobody really understand me, except you Carmen."
"Expect for you, I don't have any friends. And it's your job to hang out with me."
"The whole world is made up of selfish morons, well, except for you of course."
"Nobody cares about me." I give them a look. "Ok, well except for you."
"She asked me to keep all that a secret, and I have. I haven't told a soul." I think to myself, huh, apparently I don't have a soul.

closet christian

One of my girls who has given me a lot of joy in the past few months, as she has allowed me a front row seat to her walk with God, had something very profound to say. I had just asked her what her relationship with God looked like right then, and she said, "You know those shoes you have that are really special? They make you feel amazing when you wear them, and when you have a bad day you go home and put them on and wear them around the living room? Or it can turn a bad morning into a good day when you decide to wear them out and about even though they are way to fancy for the occasion? When you put them on, they make you feel great, then you put them lovingly away in your closet. You shut the door and they stay in there until you need them again. Every once in a while you open up your closet and look at them, smile, and then shut the door again. That's what my relationship with God is right now." When I asked her what she wanted her relationship with God to look like, she said "I want to wear those shoes everyday everywhere!"
What a great answer. This answer coming from a little baby newborn christian can challenge the rest of us old farts. Let's all wear our "God-shoes" proudly!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I keep a rock in my purse

I keep a rock in my purse to remind me that people heal.
Back in October I sat on a beach with a young person I care for very much. She was very upset and with good reason. Life deals a different set of cards to everyone, but this girl got bombs instead of cards. Or something like that. We talked and cried together that day on the beach and continued to do that for months but in coffee shops as the weather had turned to.. well, winter. During spring break the two of us took advantage of the returning good weather and went back to that same beach. This time there was a beautiful rainbow and this girl was smiling and saying things like "I'm happy now." It was wonderful. As we sat there throwing rocks into the river I marvelled at the contrast from the last time we were there. People get better. People are resilient.
So I keep a rock in my purse to remind me during those long winter days, that the rainbow will come.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter ... | Video on

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter ... | Video on
This is a beautiful piece of poetry if you have a few minutes.

sometimes that's enough

I don't always have the answers, but I often don't need them. I'm reading a book called "The Gift of Therapy. An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients." by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D. In this book he talks about asking long term, or old patients who no longer are being treated by him, about what they found to be the most valuable part of their therapy experience. He was expecting them to recount to him epiphany moments, or great bits of wisdom he had imparted to them, or the major steps forward that they made together. Instead of receiving these answers however all of the patients said that what they valued most was their relationship with the therapist. The fact that he listened and was there for them consistently. Huh.
So I may not have the answers to the questions my teens ask me, but I am there for them to ask the question to. And maybe, sometimes, that is enough. I care for them deeply, and maybe that's all they need for healing to begin.

what should we actually be afraid of?

There was a study about fear that was printed in the New York Times back in December of 2010. It stated that the top 5 killers of teenagers were, in this order, car accidents, homicide (usually committed by someone they know.), child abuse, suicide, and drowning. What were the top five things that parents across the country said they were afraid of for their teens? Kidnapping, school snipers, terrorists, dangerous strangers, and drugs.
Our fears are misplaced. "Parents are just bad at risk management. We are constantly overestimating rare dangers and underestimating common ones" Christie Barnes author of The paranoid Parents Guide said. So instead of teaching kids to fear their own shadow when in public, we should be teaching them how to drive responsibly, how to pick good friends, to report abuse, and how to swim.
Interesting eh?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

touching the leper

I made sure to get to the little gym in our complex by ten to eight. The last couple days that lady from the other building has beat me to the treadmill and I've had to use the stationary bike. I only run for twenty minutes so I figured I could be use it and be done by the time she got there. I turned the treadmill to my usual 5.5 speed while putting my ear buds in my ears. I was listening to the book of Matthew. I was about 0.5km in when I heard the words out of chapter 8
"When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. "

The words pierced by heart, as they often do. As I ran I smiled (and yes, I probably looked creepy with my smile because I also had the typical "I'm running so I look pained" look on my face at the same time, so my smile probably looked more like a grimace.)
I smiled because I was reminded why I can serve Jesus so passionately and unashamedly. Because he is worth following.
Lepers were outcasts. Leprosy was very contagious. They had to yell out "Unclean! Unclean!" everywhere they went so people would know to avoid them, to cross to the other side of the street, and most importantly, not touch them. And here is Jesus. What does he do? He reached out and touched the man. He could have just said the words and the man would have been healed, but Jesus chose to place a reassuring hand on the man. I wonder when the last time was that that man had been touched by another human being?
That's the Jesus that I know. He is the God who came down to earth to walk with us in all of our muck. He hung around with "sinners" and outcasts. He touched lepers, he had compassion on prostitutes and those we would consider "unclean". He calls us christians to also be people who stretch out our hands and "touch the lepers". To reach out with compassion and unconditional love to the loveless, to talk to the creepy, to have compassion for the sick even if they brought it on themselves, to show empathy to the bullies, to talk to the intolerable annoying people. If Jesus touched a leper, I can talk to the smelly kid.


This isn't my story, but I love it and found myself inspired and encouraged by it once again yesterday so thought I would share it.

Based on the story by Loren Eisley...

I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean's edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion. I saw a youth, bending and reaching and flailing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.

As I approached, I sadly realized that the youth was not dancing to the bay, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea."

As the youth explained, I surveyed the vast expanse of beach, strectching in both directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness of the youth's plan became clear to me and I countered, "But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference."

The youth paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, "I made a difference to that one."

I left the boy and went home, deep in thought of what the boy had said. I returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping the boy throw starfish in to the sea.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Next time i'm bringing my first aid kit

Today I went to watch a Rugby game that some of my girls were playing in. I wanted to go and support them and cheer them on. I ended up being quite useful. I gave a blanket to one of my girls who was recovering from a concussion after being kicked in the head. I gave a tampon to another one of my girls who shoved it in her nose to stop the bleeding after she had been trampled on. The third girl messed up her shoulder.
We lost the game, but I got to meet one of my teen's mom, and was there for my girls when they were hurt. Next time I'm bringing my first aid-kit and will have my sister the athletic therapist on speed dial and ready!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

here's to having some answers

Most of the time I don't have the answers to kid's questions. (But I'm reading C.S Lewis's book "The Problem of Pain" so I'll have all the answers to life's most difficult questions by tomorrow.) Every once in a while however, I do have the answers to kid's questions, so this post is about those.
A couple months ago a teen came to me upset and very stressed out. She didn't know how she was going to graduate high school because she didn't have enough volunteer hours. I was able to inform her that all that baby sitting she did last summer for free counts. His demeanour changed drastically and we were able to joke around after that. The stress that was so overwhelming before, gone.
Around christmas time a young woman came to me and told me about her nightmares. They were terrible, horrible things that had been and were effecting her day to day life for years. With a huge smile on my face I told her that because of Jesus and his power, she didn't need to be afraid anymore. She gave her fear to Jesus and just last week told me that she hasn't had a nightmare since!
It's an incredible feeling. Stating simple truth, and seeing that truth set people free!
I was able to look across the small starbucks table at the girl sitting across from me who was barely holding it together. I took out a piece of paper and wrote on it "Forgiven". I handed it to her. The tears spilled over as I explained to her that Jesus chose to forgive her, she can chose to live in that forgiveness. Those tears were cleansing tears and she stepped into God's river of life, and felt forgiveness wash over her for the first time. Set free.
So here is to having some answers! I try to remember these moments as often as I can. Because I don't know what to say when a young girl who has been victimized looks as me with tears in her eyes and scars on her wrists, saying "why me?" I don't know if there is anything to say at all. I just hold their hands, and cry along with them.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

to be a lady

Yesterday I asked a room full of teen girls what it means to be treated like a lady in today's world. The general answer... "I have no idea, I've never experienced it before." Out of the group there was only one girl who thought that her dad treated her like a lady. When encouraged to think about what a gentleman treating a lady like a lady would look like, they didn't get anywhere past opening doors for girls and walking old ladies across the street. This seems deeply wrong to me.
I recently read the book "To kill a mockingbird". It took place over a hundred years ago in the southern States. It was an age in which ladies wore dresses and big hats. It was illegal to swear in the presence of a lady. Yes, I said illegal. Women were considered precious flowers that were delicate and needed to be spoken softly to. The men would edit the stories they told the ladies lest the violence of the stories cause them to faint. Fragile creatures indeed. The men protected the ladies from the evils of the world. And evil there was. The slaves were freed by law, but racism was still in full force. There was the same violence and cruel evils then that exist today.
I must admit, sometimes when I'm eating my cereal in the morning while watching the morning news I daydream about pouffy dresses and hats. What if the total sum of my existence was to simply be graceful? I could sew and garden, and "tend the children". I would bake and make sweet tea. And oh, the glorious hats I would have! My great grandma used to tell me stories of going to grand balls in victoria, of the "suiters" who would ask her to dance while their fathers discussed politics by the crystal punch bowl. Do you know what though? She told me about sneaking out of the ball, replacing her fancy shoes for bare feet, and playing at the ocean with her friend! She had on one instance beaten a fish with a stick until it was dead, and then proudly brought it home! Not so fragile a flower after all.
I want to be the kind of lady who will go out dancing at a ball with her husband, and then go shoot something! My female heroes are woman like Eleanor Roosevelt, who said "I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived." Mother Thereasa, Amelia Earheart and Rosa Parks. Women, ladies, who lived great lives, who changed the world, but not as a man. As a woman.
Ladies are strong, and to be treated with honour. That means more then opening doors for them. It means treating them with respect and honour. That's what it means to be treated like a lady. Also, a true lady is a woman who deserves to be treated with honour and respect because she is both respectable and honourable!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

the passion

It's excitement, dedication, devotion, ardor, and fervour. It's Spirit, zeal and fire. It's what drives me. Where did it come from? It was planted inside of me and grew. The seed was deposited one night in 2006 when I met a young girl who confided in me. She told me about her suicide attempts and her inner pain. God planted a seed of compassion and anger at injustice in my heart so deep that my heart broke. As my heart healed that passion for justice and compassion, the desire to see the lost ones saved, to help the orphans and destitute, to see hope given to the hopeless became apart of me.
My dream is too big, and I am too small to do this on my own. I would be swallowed up, overwhelmed and overcome by the hopelessness of it all. God is the one who planted this dream in my heart, and he is the one who helps me to do it. The image that comes to mind is of Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia. There is a scene in the movie Prince Caspian when little Lucy is at one end of a bridge and an army on the other end. She holds out her little dagger and stands her ground against hundreds of men in armour. The army turns back. Why? Aslan, the great Lion, the creator of Narnia is standing behind her.
That's how I feel everyday. I stand my ground, I hold out the miniature skills and wisdom that I have, and I have seen armies tremble.
My God is great, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." -The bible (Philippians 4:13)

Monday, January 3, 2011

and so it continues...

2010 was a year of highs and lows like any other year. The lows mostly looked like moments of silence while sitting on a beach, in a coffee shop, or in my living room during a heavy moment of unspeakable sorrow. These teens that I love come to me and share their hurt and pain, and I feel it with them. I feel it to the depths of my soul. I hate slushies now. One evening I sat drinking a "recovery slushie" with a teen who had faced unspeakable pain and somehow was still alive. That was a low. Another low was hearing the words "where do I belong?" come from the mouth of a teen with immense amounts of emotion and hidden pain behind them. It took two Starbucks napkins to soak up her tears. Another low was saying goodbye to a precious teen who was suddenly moving across the country.
There were high points too though. I sat in Starbucks across from a teen I have walked with closely with this past year. I said "Ok, So February 6th we will baptize you in the river." Her eyes welled up with tears and she fanned her flushed face as the tears began to drop quickly down her cheeks. She smiled at me and said "These are happy tears, I feel like I just set the date for me wedding." I smiled so big that I've been smiling ever since. I smiled like that at a fundraiser when one teenager sang a song beautifully and I watched as her mom watched her daughter sing and was proud. That was a sacred moment. I have so enjoyed having a front row seat to one teen's life as she has been discovering herself and life and been cautiously and timidly letting God into her life.
Those conversations, those moments light up my heart with so much joy I'm afraid I will explode over some poor random Starbucks barista who made the unfortunate mistake to ask me how my day is going.
That was 2010, and 2011 will be a continuation. We are only on day three and already I've experienced high's a lows!