Andrea moved into the nest around the same time I got hired on as a weekend family coach. Our weekends quickly became filled with experiences and opportunities for me to get to know this courageous teen mom on a deep level. We learned how to cook new recipes, went on an adventure to the city museum, took (unexpected) trips to the ER, went to activities at my church, and snapped Polaroids of her baby bump as anxiously anticipated the arrival of her sweet baby girl.
One day, as I was dropping Andrea off to visit her family for the weekend, I said “have a good weekend! I love you!” as I was leaving. Her head whipped around sharply and she stared at me like I had three heads. She held the confused look for a bit and then mumbled “mmmk goodbye!” as she got her things and headed towards her family’s mobile home.
Later that weekend as we were driving home from her family visit, she nervously said, “it’s not that I was upset that you told me you loved me, it’s just hard for me to say it back to people. I don’t trust a lot of people. I’ve been told “I love you” many times by family and friends just to be disappointed and hurt by them in horrible ways. I don’t mind if you say it to me, but I’m not going to say it back”. I listened as my heart filled with sadness over her story, the ways she’d been hurt, and the lies the enemy had been telling her about her worth and identity. I told her she didn’t have to say it back at all, but that I cared so deeply about her and wanted her to know that she is loved by God and everyone at Sparrow.
A few months passed and Andrea was preparing for her baby to be born. We spent a couple hours at the kitchen table talking and painting a picture for her baby together. It soon became curfew and she had to go upstairs. On her way up, I said my usual “goodnight. I love you!” Only this time, it was returned with a quiet few words that echo through my head still to this day. “Goodnight. I love you too”.
It’s moments like this that make me realize that everything we do here at Sparrow is worth it. All of the sleepless nights, hard conversations, and tears. The laughs, hugs, deep talks and memories. They all came together in that moment. It was more than just Andrea saying “I love you”. It was a sign of trust being built after long weekends. It was a sign that she was feeling God’s love during her time at Sparrow. A kind of unconditional love that she hasn’t experienced in her world before. A love that she can learn to model to her sweet baby and break generational chains with. It’s the love that God selflessly showed us.
At Sparrow, we have the privilege every shift of showing this kind of love to our girls. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s almost never easy. But my goodness, in those sweet moments where God makes it abundantly clear that the girls are getting one step closer to seeing him for who he truly is and experiencing his unconditional love, it’s unbelievably worth it.