“In order to gain something, you have to let go of it. You cannot receive with it clenched fists. Through my journey, I learned about how not to panic. I learned not to force things. I learned to take a step back and let life play out. I learned that mastery is not about doing things perfectly, but about recognizing what is going wrong and being able to sit back and understand we do not see the whole picture - but God sees everything. I learned to be still and trust God.” -Nancy.
Nancy welcomes you into her room at the Jonquil and her presence, vibrant smile, & personality are evident immediately and they openly defy many parts of her story that include layers of pain and loss. She has fought hard for the great resilience and strength that spilled forth from her as she showed us around her home. I was so grateful to hear her story as part of an assignment with Good News Partners. Good News Partner's mission is TO END HOMELESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS WITH EVERYONE GOD BRINGS US – TO FOSTER JUSTICE, AND BUILD BRIDGES OF RECONCILIATION. GNP seeks to provide desirable and dignified housing for those in transition and over the course of a week I was welcomed in to meet people and capture stories from many residents living in their various properties in Chicago.
Finding herself in need of stability and a fresh start after the death of her husband and losing everything, Nancy looked at many SRO’s (Single Resident Occupancy), but found The Jonquil to be the best place for her. She had lived here years before and found herself coming back with a new sense of what God was doing in her life. She feels safe which is something many take for granted but without which humans cannot thrive, "So no matter what happens out there I am in the eye of the storm in here- I feel safe, because where I was living before was not safe.”
The transformation she has made in the space is pretty amazing! She clearly has so much pride in the way that she cares for and maintains her room and loved showing us the creative ways she had to make great use of a small space; cutting a shower curtain to put under her kitchen area for storage, pieces of a yoga mat decorating the wall and giving a chair to her vanity area some cushion, a chair cover that matches her décor from Good Will.
I sat in her beautifully decorated apartment with inspirational quotes on the walls ('keep life simple, thankful, well behaved women seldom make history, this girl definitely can, do all things with love, & what feels like the end is often the beginning') and these quotes became more true and real during the 90 minutes of her sharing with such vulnerability & candor her story of as she describes herself as the “prodigal daughter.” She shared about her life in Germany before coming to the US, abuse that crippled her young years, drug and alcohol addiction that haunted her for years, her marriage, getting an amazing job and a beautiful home but also the lack of preparedness she had for that new life. She has had much and had little and knows money does not solve problems...“I was living a white picket fence life and now I no longer was addicted to drugs but now I became addicted to shopping and material things- I just transferred my addiction around.”
Nancy lost everything again and again discovered that community and God would not allow the voices of her past to speak the loudest, “I know all things are possible with God- I began to develop gifts because I was put into pressure cookers because life was squeezing my gifts out of me.” Her gifts are clearly evident at the Jonquil.
She shared a story from her childhood she remembers recalling during a difficult season in her life. "I remembered when I was a little girl and my art teacher told me that the pottery was not done until it hummed- until the fire had finished it." She said looking back she realized that she needed to learn to “sing in the fire.” And that is what she is learning through the opportunity for safe housing and community at the Jonquil.
Many of the staff I met had been through the programs as residence prior and they have real personal experience that help them serve and love those in the programs from a place of empathy. Their personal stories inform the compassion they offer to others at Good News Partners.
Sharing more from GNP soon but please check out their newly launched website for more about their good work in Chicago.