Sunday, April 10, 2022

How To Save A Life

“Mama. You can go home and rest easy now. He is in good hands and he’s not going anywhere. Your shift is done. We have him.”

After one of the worst months of my entire life, I found myself on a red-eye last Saturday.

My oldest son has been homeless for over a year. And three weeks ago he called me and told me he was going to kill himself.

And then he went radio silent.

I knew that he had been robbed many times and I knew that it was a distinct possibility that his phone had been stolen, but I also knew that these couldn’t be the last words I heard from him.

So I took the week off, made all the plans for childcare (because my husband can’t take time off work right now #bluelinefamily), printed out everything my boys needed, went on an extra grocery shopping trip for easy-to-make food, and took a red eye with my daughter to find my oldest son in a homeless camp 3500 miles away.

The only thing I had to go on was a Wendy’s that I bought him food at regularly, that, and a hundred prayers.

I had told my pastor before I left that I wasn’t sure what to do and he connected me with a pastor in a church in the next city.

So armed with prayer, I left. Not having any idea what I would find.

We got there at 6am. We got settled in. We slept a bit. Then we went to sit at the Wendy’s and wait.

And he came.

Dressed in holy pj bottoms and a woman’s sweater, he looked terrible, but he didn’t run. He just hugged me and cried.

I was right. His phone was stolen. Along with absolutely everything he owned.


First things first, dignity and communication.

We got him clothes, shoes, and a few simple supplies to shower with. We had him put them on as soon as we bought them.

He came out and looked human.

Dignity is absolutely invaluable.

Then communication. Next stop was Best Buy to purchase a phone and some prepaid Mint Mobile cards. (They are the best value, and the easiest to use.)

And now I had checked off all of the boxes I had for the trip. On day two.

If only I had had some idea of what God had in store. Because, my friends, God works in mysterious ways.


God works.

The next day I went to visit the pastor.

He just wanted to connect.

And after all, my son was still homeless… dignity only takes you so far.

My ‘loaves and fishes’ moments were just beginning.

Although we gave him dignity and communication (and my daughter bought him a used bike so he had transportation, too) he would be in a very similar spot when we left there and flew home.

I was just hoping for a few resources that he could lean on to help ease his way.

I met with the pastor for 20 minutes. In that amount of time he set me up with a woman who’s son had been in a similar situation and ended up dying of a drug overdose 4 years ago in May.

To say this woman had a thumb on this part of the population is a gross understatement.

She asked the right questions, had intimate knowledge of the area and the population I found my son in, a no-bullshit attitude, and a huge heart for him as well as the things I had gone through. “Does he have insurance?” “Yes. But only for 4 more months”. “Well we should use those wisely then.”

She had a room in a private rehab facility for him within hours.

The speed of it made my head spin.

She was an absolute force to be reckoned with and she had friends.

Then he failed intake.

He “didn’t need help”. He “was fine”. He “Wasn’t a danger to himself”.

They saw right through it.

But I didn’t.

Thinking he was going to a rehab facility, I decided to help get him ready. Having no idea I was being lied to.

The next morning we went to his camp and got all of the clothing items he had left to take to the laundry mat to be sanitized. And I was humbled and terrified by what I saw at the homeless camp.

I thought it was all buttoned up. Until she called me and said he said he wouldn’t go.

She connected me with two other contacts. Steven and Mark. Both former addicts that had found salvation and spent the last few years dealing with the addict and homeless population.

They started texting me asking for his whereabouts and asking for more history. They had another spot, if only he would answer questions honestly about what he was dealing with.

He failed intake again.

I was now in the loop, though….

Me being in the loop he came upon some hard realities.

I wasn’t taking him home.

First off: He is on probation and has to stay in FL.

Second: I have younger kids still living in my house. There was no way I was adding the chaos of mental illness and addiction back into that mix.

Third: Boundaries save your damn life. They are SO important. The only way that *I* was going to get through this is if I had clear and consistent boundaries. I knew it when I decided to come.

So I held firm.

And slowly he started to break.

He admitted he needed help.

He admitted how dark his mind was.

He admitted where his dealer and ex girlfriend (also an addict) were and they were just blocks away from the cabin I rented. So close to him that the only thing between him and using was a phone.

And I had just handed him that.

But, by God’s grace he had just failed the intake at both of the local places. The only one left that we KNEW had a room was 4 hours away.

This time, he didn’t fail intake. And they sent a car 4 hours to pick him up.

The drivers name was also Marc.

(God bless the Mark/c’s of the world my friends. That name will forever be in my good graces.)

At 8:30 Wednesday night, Marc comes with the car from the rehab facility - 4 hours from my son's troubled past and current pitfalls - and took him to a place filled with therapists, medical professionals, and HOPE.


Yesterday morning I got a call. After reviewing as much medical and mental health history as was needed, the therapist said:

“Mama. You can go home and rest easy now. He is in good hands and he’s not going anywhere. Your shift is done. We have him.”

It’s the only time the whole trip I cried.

But wait! There’s more.

The successful ending of the trip had not even truly dawned on me yet where we had to go to the airport. I was still in the heavy work of processing processing processing… it had only been an hour since I had spoken to the therapist.

I had done a great job of not falling into my more detrimental patterns of self-soothing while we were gone, but with the end looming and relief coming, I wanted a coffee, badly. Even though I knew it would hurt me.

Bad habits don’t always have to ruin your life. Some just ruin your day.

I am walking towards the Starbuck’s line, kinda like a zombie… but trying to convince myself to walk past when I see a familiar face.


When I say that God’s hands were on this trip… that the obviousness of miracles was so near that I could feel the beauty of the grace right next to me like the gentlest welcome touch…. I can’t even express my shock and awe at the “coincidence” of it.

Because here I was, at the Tampa airport, 3500 miles from home and I see one of my best friends.

We have raised our kids together. Gone through tragedy and divorce and (yes) her brother’s addiction together.

We had drifted apart due to our kids being in college these last few years, but not in a bad way. In a “we can pick this up next time we have time” kind of way.

And she was right in front of me.

Then the absolutely unbelievable happened.

We were seated together on the plane.

I kid you not.

We had assigned seats SIDE BY SIDE.

She being the only one of my close circle that didn’t know about this because we hadn’t talked recently. And also being the only one who would truly understand what we had just accomplished. She was next to me for 7 hours and 14 minutes.

My mind was blown. My “loaves and fishes” moment had happened.

God had spoken.

And he said that it was good.

God works in mysterious ways.



God works.

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