Coloring Outside The Lines

By Sonya Laughlin, Executive Secretary This past weekend, I was privileged to have the opportunity to supervise one of our girls’ resident halls. As I walked in the door at 7 a.m., all was quiet, and it seemed impossible that I was sitting in the living room of a normally bustling girls’ home. As I sat quietly praying over the day for patience and wisdom in dealing with these little angels, one of the girls came padding down the hall in her bare feet, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When she saw me sitting there in the quiet she asked, “Sister, you over us?” It seemed like such an obvious question, but to them I’m sure that it seemed at bit out of place to have Bro. Judd’s secretary overseeing them on a Friday. They were out of school for the day, and Bro. Judd was out of town, so I volunteered to supervise a resident hall. I fixed this little girl a bowl of her favorite cereal, and as we chatted, it wasn’t long before they all awakened one by one and came down the hall to join us. It was a beautiful day in Northeast Mississippi, and the girls were so excited to have a respite from all of the cold weather that we had been having. They looked forward to playing outside. I sat on the front porch and rocked and watched them all ride bikes, scooters, and rip sticks to their hearts content. We were all enjoying the abundant sunshine, when one of our little 5-year-olds said, “Sister Waffin, I want to color.” I retrieved the crayons from the shelf, and she picked the coloring book that she wanted to work in first.  She colored as I sat at the kitchen table. “What color should I make the flowers?” she asked. “Whatever color you want, Sweetie, it’s your picture,” I replied. “What about blue?” she pondered. “Blue will be beautiful,” I said. As we sat there, I noticed that the older girls came in the kitchen one by one, declaring that they too, wanted to color. These were not little girls, mind you, but teenage girls, so I was a little surprised that they would be interested in such a juvenile activity. As we sat there in the quiet, one of the girls began, unprompted, to tell me her story. There was no pressure to share, but I think she felt safe with a crayon in her hand and a blank page in front of her. You see, many of these young ladies never had a childhood of playing with dolls or coloring pages for the mom’s to post proudly on the refrigerator. They instead, shared stories of abuse and of lives that were so dysfunctional that at times, their stories were hard for me to follow. They were tales of living with stepparents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. They told me of horrific instances in their lives that were simply unimaginable to me, but I never showed my astonishment. In fact, I never said a word. I just listened. It seemed almost liberating to them to just talk and color, which we did for over an hour. I started thinking, as I sat there listening, how they were never allowed to pick their circumstances. It was as if they were told, “These are the crayons that you are allowed to color your world with, and you can’t go outside the lines.” They didn’t get to pick their families, or their circumstances. They didn’t get to decide if they wanted peace and tranquility in their homes. And as I sat there, I began to think that maybe the reason that they enjoyed coloring so much was because no one could tell them what crayon to use or even what page they had to color. They were free, in that moment in time to make their own decisions. Each of these beautiful girls now had the opportunity to color outside these lines. To take control of their future as they grew older. As our wonderful session of sharing came to a close, one of the girls said, “Here Sister, I made this one for you.” I folded the beautifully colored picture carefully and tucked it away in my bag. I looked at it again today as I opened the fridge for something. Because you see, I was never more proud to hang a picture on my fridge. It was reflective and commemorative of my day with these precious girls. I couldn’t help noticing as I gazed at the picture that she had dared to color outside some of the lines, but to me it was simply beautiful.