Archives for Kelli

I Choose Joy

I know something about you.  Yes, you.

Regardless of your marital status, age, ethnicity, gender, income, beliefs, height, or weight– I can tell you with certainty we have something big in common.  We both want to be happy. I know this because it is a basic human desire to yearn for significance, security, and pleasure. Read More

An Open Letter

To the girl facing an unplanned pregnancy:

The last thing I wanted was to be pregnant.  As I sat in the counseling room at Bridgehaven, I had no idea what was in store for my future.  All I knew was I was alone.  The father of my baby was not involved, I was trying to overcome a drug addiction, and I had no money.  I felt like the whole world was closing in on me.  A friend of mine texted me, “You just wait.  This baby is going to change your life for the better.”  I wanted to throw my phone at the wall.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not see even a sliver of light at the end of this dark tunnel.

I’ve learned a few things since that time, and I want to share them with you.  Here’s what I know for sure…

Even though it might feel like it, this moment is not the end of your life.  You can still accomplish your dreams.  You can finish school.  You can find a place to live.  You can find a job.  I was homeless and unemployed when I discovered I was pregnant.  I had an eviction on my rental history and a criminal record.  But I was shown that help is available.  Cedar Rapids has a ton of great resources for housing, employment, health insurance, addiction recovery, child care, food assistance, and financial aid.  Bridgehaven can connect you with the right people and agencies.  Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is ask for help.

It might feel like you’re running out of time to figure this out, but be patient with yourself.  This might be a new thing for you, but it has been done before.  Slow down.  Rest.  Acknowledge your feelings.  Let yourself cry.  Punch a pillow.  Write in a journal.  But remember, feelings aren’t facts.  I felt like my pregnancy was the death of my dreams.  I felt fear and regret.  I felt like there was nobody on the face of the earth who could understand the depth of my pain.  It was important for me to feel those things, but they weren’t reality.

Speaking of feelings, don’t deny the joy hidden in this situation!  It’s okay to be overwhelmed, but it’s also okay to be happy about all the possibilities this brings.  Isn’t it weird how life can be so tragic and hopeful at the same time?  Let yourself dream big about your new future.  You have the chance to be someone’s hero.

And the truth is you are not alone.  Even though it might feel chaotic, there is a plan for your life.  This moment is part of the plan.  It is no mistake you made an appointment at Bridgehaven.  It’s no mistake you are reading this letter.

Can I tell you something you might not believe right now?  You matter, and you are loved.  God broke through my despair and made beauty from the ashes.  I didn’t even know how much I needed grace until I tasted it.  I believe he wants to do the same for you.  Splendor and strength bloom from the deepest pain.  I see it every time I look at my daughter.

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Educator




They Are Worth It

November has been a blur of activity in the Prevention Department! This month alone, we have presented more than 120 unique lessons with one common mission: promoting sexual integrity as a means to achieve the safest, healthiest life outcome possible.

And you know what? Sometimes it’s a difficult job. When you walk into a middle school classroom with a box full of stuffed animal STDs, you’re not usually met with applause. Some of the topics we cover in the classroom–as important as they are–can be awkward. (Pornography, anyone?)

However, along with the discomfort of discussing sperm, fallopian tubes, and STDs, our students are learning life skills they will need for the rest of their life. We teach topics like assertive communication, setting boundaries, making decisions, and cultivating healthy friendships, just to name a few.

One of the most rewarding parts of this job is hearing from our students. We received some encouraging feedback recently and wanted to share it with you. Knowing we are impacting young lives like these is truly what makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy!

“After you guys came in to talk to us I feel so much more confident on making big choices that I’m unsure about throughout my lifetime.” –Blair, 7th Grade

“I think the best and most awkward part was “REAL Differences” day. It was the best part because I think that this was the day that I finally understood my body and what it does once every month.” –Mia, 8th Grade

“I have learned more in 11 days than what I’ve ever thought I would. I had no clue that there was that many risks of sex. I had no clue that there was that many STDs out there. You are TRULY inspirations to me. I loved the class and not just for the candy. You’ve taught me more than any bucket of candy could.” – Parker, 7th Grade

“I learned that whether you want to or not, you should always set boundaries for yourself, and if your significant other can’t respect them, then they aren’t worth your time.” –Hadyn, 7th Grade

“In my opinion the best part of your being here was the lesson you taught us on pornography. I believe this was the best lesson because I feel that it is a very overlooked subject. Most people my age, including myself, really didn’t know the damage pornography could do to your physical and mental state.” –Ellie, 8th Grade

“I would have never thought of someone trying to kill themselves over a break-up. Now I know that in the future if I want to break up with someone, I will do it in person in a public place.” –Sophie, 8th Grade

“These are things that I will keep in my brain and use for the rest of my life to keep myself on a good path.” –Christian, 8th Grade

“I’ve learned a lot in your class, too much to handle.” –Austin, 8th Grade

“I don’t have a lot of friends, but I feel like you were mine. A close friend.” –Beau, 7th Grade

“I’m glad we’ve been given the opportunity to learn these things, and to do it with great teachers that I can tell really care about how we turn out and the choices we make. This program really helps me have hope for my future.” –Ali, 8th Grade

“What you taught me in the last two years is more important than any school has or ever will teach me.” –Quincy, 8th Grade

“I was a little uncomfortable at the beginning but then I learned that it’s a part of life and is something we needed to learn.” –Gabi, 7th Grade

“This class helped me make my decision to have abstinence until marriage. I think that with abstinence from sex is very important because it will make the healthiest outcome.” –Fiona, 8th Grade

“I didn’t just like this class because we got candy, I liked it because you guys took the time to get to know us and care to teach us.” –Landon, 7th Grade

“It made me think more about the ‘marriage before baby’ thing that my mom and dad enforce on me. I never asked about why, I always nodded along and said, ‘I know.’ I guess that you guys made me understand that more.” –Sara, 7th Grade

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

The Cost of a Click

People at work have started calling me the “porn queen.” I’m considering adding the title to my resume just as a conversation piece. How did I earn this title, one might ask? When the topic of pornography comes up (and it often does in my line of work), I have no choice but to shift into educator mode and drop some knowledge. My coworkers good-naturedly bob their heads when I launch into one of my animated educational speeches, complete with flailing arms and recent statistics. While “porn queen” might be a funny (albeit misleading) nickname, the truth is that pornography addiction is no laughing matter.

Porn hates God’s design for sex. It creates destruction and tells lies. It infects the minds of its victims, regardless of age, gender, status, or place of residence. To give you an idea, here are some things I’ve heard just this month:

“Sometimes I’m unable to watch it because my phone is too slow, and that makes me very angry.”

“I’m ashamed and confused about my sexual choices.”

“Since I know he’s watching porn, I never feel like I’m attractive enough to keep him interested in me.”

“I’m heterosexual, but when I see an attractive photo of a member of the same sex, I feel triggered to watch pornography.”

“I live in fear that he is looking at other girls for sexual pleasure.”

“I’m ashamed by what arouses me, like being physically hurt.”

You might be surprised to learn that all of these quotes came from teenage girls. Pornography is often thought of as “a guy problem” when in fact, one out of three porn viewers is female. It’s also frequently touted as “adult entertainment” when the truth is the average age of first exposure to pornography is 10-11 years old. Whether or not your child is searching for pornography, it is most definitely searching for them.

I want to clarify that being curious about sex is a natural part of growing up. It’s a natural part of being human! God created sex—it was His idea! It is a gift meant to be celebrated in the security and commitment of marriage. But pornography preys upon sexual curiosity and tells lies about God’s beautiful design.

When people are engaged in anything addictive (like drugs or pornography), a 4-step brain cycle begins. First, because it is addictive, there is an over-consumption of the substance or activity. Next, the brain is hit with a surge of dopamine. Next comes a release of Delta Fos B, and finally, sensitization of a neural pathway, causing cravings and triggers.

If, like me, your mind doesn’t easily attach to science-y terms, here’s what to keep in mind:

Dopamine tells the brain, “This activity is valuable, let’s do it again!”

Delta Fos B tells the brain “I’ve been here before, and this is what I can expect.”

Let’s use substance abuse as an example. If someone is using cocaine, the dopamine surge tells the person’s brain the activity of snorting cocaine into their nose is valuable, fun, and rewarding. Delta Fos B tells the person’s brain when they see white powder, it means they are going to get high. Even if this person stops using cocaine, they will likely be “triggered” by anything resembling white powder in the future, thanks to Delta Fos B.

But pornography addiction is slightly different from drug addiction. Our brains do not have a built-in circuit for drug use—but our brains are naturally wired for sex. God created us to be fruitful and multiply, so he gave us a built-in circuit for reproduction. Porn hijacks this naturally existing brain circuit and force-feeds it lies.

Because of Delta Fos B, the brain learns the porn on the screen is what to expect from a real-life sexual encounter. And here’s the kicker: the adolescent brain is more flexible than a mature brain (which reaches full development at age 25-26), and also contains a higher concentration of Delta Fos B. That means deeper, longer lasting pathways are conditioning the mind.

So, what lies does porn teach adolescent brains about sex?

  1. Sex should be accessible at any time. If a woman wants a relationship, she must give him whatever kind of sex he wants.
    Unlike a real-life sexual relationship, pornography is never unavailable. Unlike women in real life, women in pornography will never say, “Stop, that hurts.” They will never say, “I feel disrespected.”
  2. A woman is to be dominated and used. Verbal cruelty and physical abuse are normal and permissible in relationships.
    88% of all pornography contains some form of female degradation. This normalizes abuse and teaches the brain to find it arousing.

  3. The only goal of sex is for the man’s physical pleasure. A girl’s self-worth is tied to her appearance and sexual performance.
    Porn does not care about emotional, intellectual, or spiritual connection.

  4. When a guy is no longer fulfilled, he should find someone/something new that excites him. A man can never be fully committed to a woman mentally or physically.
    Among other things, dopamine is triggered when the brain experiences novelty, shock, and guilt. This causes the compulsion to seek new and different types of pornography with each use. When one type of sex act becomes boring, you can search for something else. Sex is viewed from the perspective, “What’s in it for me?”

When this brain conditioning is carried from adolescence into a real-life relationship, it wreaks havoc on the hearts, minds, and bodies of all involved. As a matter of fact, one in three guys between the ages of 18 and 25 suffers from porn-induced erectile dysfunction, or PIED. This causes feelings of shame, inadequacy, and sexual frustration. In many cases, it leads to infidelity and/or divorce.

As if that weren’t enough of a reason to avoid pornography, it is reported that about half of all sex trafficked victims are forced to create porn. There is no guarantee that what is being viewed on the screen has been made voluntarily, even if it appears that way. Because there is money to be made in the porn industry, it creates a demand for people having sex on camera. Sex trafficking is one of the major content suppliers of the porn industry.

So, now what? Once a porn user knows this information, is there any hope of recovery? Absolutely. There are support groups, accountability apps, and resources like the ones listed below. Once you know better, you can take the responsibility to do better–for yourself, your relationships, and the entire world.

Fight The New Drug
Your Brain on Porn
These are the info cards we hand out during presentations, complete with resources.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

The Beauty She Can’t Yet See

I knew it had been quiet too long. I walked into the bathroom and found my two-year-old daughter standing on her stepstool, gripping my eyeliner pencil like a magic marker. She looked up at me with accusing blue eyes, as if I had interrupted her on a very important phone call. She had scribbled a thick black line from the corner of her mouth to her right temple.

“Beautiful,” she said.

A few days later, we were running late getting out the door. Despite my asking her a handful of times to go get her shoes, she had not budged. Instead, she stood in front of the hallway mirror, glued to her own reflection. She was wearing her favorite dress—the puffy one from Nanny Betty, the color of Pepto Bismol. Tule exploded from every angle as she turned her little hips from side to side.

“Princess,” she said.
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But God

I used to think Christians were the weirdest people on the planet. I couldn’t trust their joy—why were they smiling all the time? Their willingness to help was disturbing—why did these total strangers want to help furnish my apartment? I was annoyed with the way they remembered my name and spelled it correctly. Attention to every detail. What do these polished smiling people want from someone like me? They’ve obviously never experienced pain like I have. They’ve had it easy their entire lives.

But God.

Well, I’m one of those weird Christians now. God came into my life and interrupted my judgmental assessments of his people. And recently he’s been showing me some truths about fighting for joy.
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Intrusive Grace

It was one of those days where nothing turns out as planned. I was driving home with my daughter in the backseat, feeling sorry for myself. The soundtrack in my head went something like this:

You can’t provide for your daughter.
Nobody wants you.

You’ll always be alone.

The Enemy isn’t very creative, is he? It seems like he repeatedly attacks the same place he knows it hurts most. I needed to vacuum. Ever since I got sober, I’ve found it to be an excellent coping mechanism, so that’s precisely what I did when I got home. I powered up my Dirt Devil and inched it around my tiny apartment, trying to let go of the pain of the day. As soon as I finished, there was a knock on my door. Since I’m a single mom living in a questionable part of town, I don’t make a habit of answering my door at night. But this knock sounded urgent, persistent. When I cracked open the door, I was relieved to see a friendly-looking portly man, smiling from ear to ear.

“Are you Kelli?” he asked me in a tone so cheerful I was nearly convinced I was a Publisher’s Clearing House winner.
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Loving the Fatherless

If we want to know more about our Creator, the best place we can look is in his Word. Reading through Scripture is a surefire way to decipher what God loves, what he cares about, and what he wants from us. When I read through my Bible, something jumps out at me very clearly: God has a special place in His heart for the fatherless. It is evident he places special focus on children who are not loved well by their earthly parents. Here are just a few examples:

  • “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4)
  • “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

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For The Single Mom on Christmas

For the Single Mom at ChristmasMaybe this is your first Christmas as a single parent; maybe it is another in a long line. Maybe you’re in the midst of a custody battle and you won’t get to spend December 25th with your kiddos this year. Maybe you’re a widow, and every Christmas seems to be more difficult than the last. Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet and you won’t be able to buy that gift your child has been asking for. Regardless of what brought you here, I want you to know I’m praying for you, and you aren’t alone.

I never thought I’d be a single mom. Actually, I hadn’t even seriously considered being a mom at all. About two years ago, I was living about as far from God as you can imagine. I was at the peak of a seven-year drug addiction and losing control of my life. I was in and out of homelessness and barely hanging on to the job I’d gotten after graduating from college.
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Holding Your Position

1800s Fire TruckIn the 1800s, back before fire engines made their debut in America, firefighters relied on horses for transportation in emergency situations. But not just any horse could serve as a fire horse. They needed to be resilient, agile, obedient and courageous. At the scene of the fire, they needed to stand patiently while embers and flames surrounded them. It was imperative for them to be still in the midst of distractions, holding their positions while the fire was being fought.

Doesn’t it feel like our world is set ablaze with misinformation, broken promises, and distraction? In this sex-saturated culture, promoting sexual risk avoidance can feel like fighting a fire much bigger than we are.

The good news is that we don’t have to fight alone. We have the Truth on our side. Saving sex for marriage is God’s plan for our bodies but it’s also the safest, healthiest lifestyle choice for our youth. Research shows that saving sex for marriage means enhanced emotional support, vastly lower poverty rates, better academic success, and fewer incidents of crime, child abuse, and domestic violence.

We are living in a culture that screams to our youth that premarital sex is inevitable and STDs are no big deal. Sometimes it can feel like the flames are burning out of control. Sometimes the heat feels like more than we can take, like we might just become enveloped in the blaze. But like the fire horse, we need only to stand firm and strong while the fire is being fought by the Truth.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant