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New Year's Resolutions

Sarah Jane Thielman

January is one of my favorite times of the year. As a bonafide introvert, I love nothing more than taking time to reflect on the past year and think about what I want the coming year to look like.

As I think of the children and women that I have the privilege to work with at Prodigal Pottery and King's Home, I am reminded that I get to see new beginnings happen here every day of the year. It is incredible to see people that have come through so much commit themselves to starting over. As I think about how much I struggle to keep my simple New Year's resolutions each year, tasks such as consuming less sugar, watching less TV, reading more books, and spending more time in prayer, I begin to wonder how difficult it must be to have to make the resolution to change your entire life.

The women and children who are residents at King's Home come to us for various reasons, but none of them are pleasant. Some of them are escaping abusive relationships, some of them are coming out of cycles of addiction, some of them come here because they don't have homes to live in. All of them are coming from tremendously unfair situations of difficulty, pain, and suffering.

Yet in so many of these women and children, there is a beautiful resilience--a desire to make a new beginning for themselves and to move forwards, away from bitterness and towards grace and forgiveness.

Resolving to start over doesn't always mean that there won't be bumps in the road. Old habits and cycles are difficult to break, and I have realized that for many of the people I work with, this battle between wanting a new life and the pull of returning to old ways, often engrained since childhood, is a constant and ongoing one. Sometimes it is a struggle that is almost impossible to win. It is never any of our jobs to judge or condemn another for falling down, and it is always our job to show the same unconditional love that we have received in Christ. And one of the things that I like to focus on is the beauty and hope that is found in the fact that there is a struggle at all; it is such amazing evidence that, even in the darkest of places, there is a desire for something more. Even when these women and children falter, I am filled with such incredible admiration at the fact that they were able to find the courage to get up and try to walk in the first place. It is more than I think I could have done, had our situations been reversed.

Every day, I feel so honored and humbled to be surrounded by people who are willing to try, willing to make resolutions to give life a second chance, even when they have been dealt extremely difficult and unfair hands. 

Much Love,

Sarah Jane

Pain to Passion

Jamie Ankenbrandt

A question I have encountered many times in the work I do with our women at Prodigal Pottery is "How could God have a good plan for my life?" The question makes sense if you take into the account the absolute atrocities and pains these beautiful women have faced in their lives. From sexual abuse as small children, to perpetual drug abuse to numb their deep pain, to losing children through tragedy, to living on the streets picking trash out of dumpsters to survive. How could you believe that God is even Good, let alone has a great plan for your life when you have faced the deep darkness these women have? 

The only words I am ever able to muster when this question is posed to me, often through tear filled eyes and trembling lips, is that God uses what the enemy would try use in our lives for evil and turn it around to use for His good. This is hard for even me to grasp. How could God make good of being brutally beaten by someone who is supposed to love you? How could God make good of losing everything and ending up on the streets with a newborn, and the only way to feed that baby is to sell drugs to get by? 

I can't tell you the how, only God can...but I can tell you that I get a front row seat to see Him use deep pain for great healing every day in our studio. My hope and daily prayer for our women is that God would use their greatest pain and turn it into their greatest passion and ministry. A woman who has faced sexual abuse time and time again can look another aching and abused woman in the face and love her in a way I never could because I don't understand that pain. A woman who has spent years in prison and suffers with PTSD from the traumatic things that happened to her behind cell bars can hold another former prisoners hand and be a source of hope and peace in a way we never could. These women are bursting with the potential to change lives…to change the world…because God is taking their pain and turning it into passion for change. 

As a supporter of Prodigal Pottery and King's Home, the greatest gift you could give us is to pray that each of these women find their passion, even if it comes from a source of great pain and suffering. Because there is nothing outside of the reach of God's restoration and healing. I think the word hopeless is often used when working with deeply wounded men and women who the world have cast aside. In the eyes of the world, the drug addict who has been in and out rehabs all their life, who has lived on the streets and cannot seem to break the cycle, is a hopeless case. But God is a God of great hope. Our prayer, and we hope your prayer, is that we never look at one of these precious lives we are commissioned with at King's Home and see hopelessness, but that we would always see great hope…great Hope because of Jesus.  

Psalm 3:2-6

Many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.” 

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. 

5 I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Much Love, 
Jamie

 

Shifting Perspectives: Homelessness

Sarah Jane Thielman

 

As a child, I quickly learned from adults in my life that I needed to be "careful" around homeless people. These were not ordinary men and women--they were in a category to themselves. These people were "dangerous" and "unpredictable." If I gave them money, that was fine, perhaps even benevolent, but I needed to be aware that it would probably be spent on drugs or a pack of cigarettes. Certainly not on anything useful, anyways. All in all, it was probably better to just ignore them, not making eye contact and quickening my step as I walked past them on the street. 

As I grew older, I accepted these things, and, although I thought of myself as a kind and caring person, even an open-minded person, I didn't really see a problem with avoiding homeless people like the plague. After all, I wanted to be safe and street-savvy, right? And what good would engaging a homeless person really do? I'd be better off contributing to the cause of ending homelessness in some other way, where I didn't have to be personally involved or put in a potentially awkward situation. Right?

It wasn't until I was 19 years old, when I spent a week working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., that I began to recognize that the attitude I had developed towards the homeless was wrong, and hurtful, even. I talked to men and women who had been homeless, and I was surprised at what I found. One man I talked to had a college degree and had held a well-paying job prior to being homeless. Another man revealed that, while he was homeless, he had started to lose his mind because no one had truly talked to him or said his name in over a year. He said that the worst part about being homeless was when people would walk past him as if he wasn't even there. They wouldn't say, "Hello." They wouldn't make eye contact. They might even cross over to the other side of the street to avoid him.

It was at that point that I realized that I needed to change my attitude towards the homeless. I was the type of person that this man was talking about--the type of person who ignored the homeless on the streets because it was simply more convenient and comfortable. I realized that I needed to replace my fear and discomfort with compassion. These were people just like me, just like any other human beings. If my life had been a little different, I could easily be in their situation. Any of us could.

So I started talking to homeless people. If I saw someone living out of their backpack, I smiled and said, "Hello." I asked them how they were doing. I looked them in the eye.

Of course, I'm not advising people to enter into situations that could be potentially dangerous. But, if it's broad daylight on a crowded street and you see a homeless man or woman, go ahead and smile at them. Say hello. Give them the same dignity that you would give to any other person. You have no idea what kind of impact it could have on someone.

In the video below on homelessness, one of our employees here at Prodigal Pottery is interviewed about her experience with not having a place to rest her head at night. Her perspective is incredibly eye-opening, and I think it will give some valuable insight into a struggle that plagues over 600,000 people in our country.

Much love,

Sarah Jane

For tips on talking to homeless people, click check out these resources:

http://nationswell.com/homeless-america-5-things-to-say/

https://www.operationwarm.org/blog/7-rules-for-talking-to-homeless-people/