As the clients who walk through the doors of Bridgehaven get younger and my son gets older, I feel like my worlds will soon collide. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. What I mean is I have to start looking at my son, my baby, as a potential client. He hates when I call him my baby. I do it all the time on social media and he is like, “Stop, mom. I am not your baby.” Ah, buddy, you are absolutely wrong. Despite the fact that you grow taller than me daily, you will always be my baby…the one your dad and I prayed to God for for years and years. But you are right. You aren’t a baby. You are a young man. And that scares the crap out of me.
Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart. I say this like I know even though mine has only been an actual teenager for a few months. The facts are not pleasant to look at. According to the most recent CDC findings (cdc.gov) reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2015 report, nearly 10 million new STDs reported each year were among young people between the ages of 15-24; nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15-19 in 2015; 20% of surveyed students nationwide had ridden in a car or other vehicle one or more times with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 41% of surveyed students had texted or emailed while driving a car; 22% of students surveyed had been in a physical fight one or more times; over 20% of students had been bullied on school property and 15.5% electronically bullied (email, chat rooms, social media); 14.6% of students nationwide had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide; 63% have tried alcohol and 44% had usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them; 21% were offered, sold or given an illegal drug. Kinda makes you feel sick, doesn’t it?
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
Donor relations. Doesn’t it sound fancy and complicated? If you google it, there are books and seminars and discussion boards. It must be difficult. It must be impossible to make all your donors happy. Lucky for me, I had good teachers in my previous job (Huge thank you to Jean Johnson and Kelly Allen!). The key to having good donor relations is simply honoring those people who give to your organization. It isn’t rocket science to understand people want to feel valued. They want to feel like their gifts were important and that the organization appreciates what they have given.
Last week, we received a generous donation from a long-time supporter in memory of his wife and I noticed his address had changed to a care center in the area. It made me wonder how he was doing and if he would appreciate some visitors. In my past life as an assistant in the alumni relations department at Coe College, a wise woman showed me how to truly care for the people who are connected to your organization. She would take flowers to those with special birthdays and visit sick alums in the hospital. And it seemed like she was never too busy to attend a funeral of someone close to Coe. She instilled in me a belief that without loyal supporters, your organization will not thrive. People have chosen to support what you do when you work in a non-profit and they certainly don’t have to. They could easily donate to a different group or not at all. The love they have for what you do should be honored and celebrated. My passion for non-profit work started with Jean and I hope I am able to pass it on to someone else someday.
Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men…Mark 1:17
Jesus commanded the disciples to drop everything and go out into the world…out into the big, scary world and fish for men. Wait, what? What does that even mean? I have tried online dating to “catch” a man but this message must mean something very different since it comes to us from the gospel of Mark. I have had some time to really sit with this verse for the last 9 months since I came to work at Bridgehaven. I swear that the 9 month thing is just a very cool coincidence…
As it turns out, this seemingly simple verse has such rich depth. When you really think about it, fishing is an act of faith. You throw your baited hook out into the water and hope for the best. You can’t see the fish but you hope they are there. Your success is dependent on so many things, most of which are outside of your control. So, you must believe.
I don’t like to share. Ask anyone and they will confirm that. I consider myself generous but try to take one of my Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs and you might think differently. One thing I never imagined sharing with another woman was my son. When I brought K home from the hospital, I thought I would be the only woman in his life until he started dating. God must have smiled at my dreams because He knew there was a lesson coming for me.
Divorce was also something I didn’t see happening to me. But like many people, it did and I survived probably the most painful time in my life. Not once during that time did I consider that my ex-husband would have a new wife…someone who would be a step-mom to my only child. It was enough to get through the days without adding another level of pain and confusion, I guess. When he let me know he was getting re-married, it put me into another tailspin I didn’t imagine. Even though I had put the relationship behind me and knew we were better off apart, it was more agonizing than I could have imagined. With the help of my faith, family and friends, I lived through a couple of really dark weeks.
I think it’s safe to say I’m stubborn. My parents would totally back me up in that statement. If you ever meet my dad, you should ask him about the Green Bean Incident of like…1985ish. It wasn’t pretty. In some important ways, being stubborn is a great quality. I tend to work at something until it is finished. I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. And I think it naturally lends itself to being a loyal person. On the other hand, it also leads to some less than stellar things…like having a hard time letting go of things. Or even allowing other people to help me. It also causes me to think I can do everything by myself. It’s not that I am not a team player because I absolutely am. It is more that I don’t want to burden anyone else with my “stuff”, so I try to do it all alone.
As it turns out, this is not what Jesus wants…and it causes me to read books and books and books about having faith, learning to trust God and the latest idea, that I don’t have to prove myself to Him. In fact, I can’t prove myself because I am a broken person. There are so many ways that I find myself broken; it is actually pretty embarrassing. You learned in this blog about how I failed Client Advocate training and in this blog about how I have a hard time listening to God. Geez, I am a mess. The good news for me and for everyone is that God doesn’t care. In fact, he expects me to be a mess because it is when I admit that I am a mess and ask for help, he is able to show up in huge ways.
I have to be honest. If it was a graded course, I would probably be failing. This is tough to admit for someone who fought against an A- in my master’s coursework at UNI. I pride myself on being someone who loves to study and always wants to be prepared. But this class…is kicking my butt.
Some of the newer staff members at Bridgehaven are participating in Client Advocate training with Haley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy. We feel it is important for all of our staff to understand what happens in the counseling rooms as it is truly the heart of our ministry. In my case, I also want to be able to talk to donors in an educated way about how we love on our clients. It seemed like such a good idea…it would be interesting and easy. That is absolutely not the case.
It’s that time of year again. Do you have a list of resolutions you plan to embark on? Do you have to start on January 1 for them to count? Or could you start the 2nd because it is a Monday…but what if you have Monday off to observe the holiday and so the year “really” starts on Tuesday, January 3rd? Is your list filled with things like lose weight, save more money, read more books, spend time with the kids or quit smoking? What should our focus be in 2017? What is God calling us to do in this new year?
I will admit something to you. I am a planner girl. I mean a paper and colored pens and stickers kind of planner girl. Sometimes, I do things and then write them down in my planner so that I can cross them off and feel good about my day. So, I maybe should have said I am a crazy, fanatic…I mean serious planner girl. I spent days looking online this year at different planners and different reviews of planners and even blog posts about planners. It was a big year for me. I decided I was going to switch planners from the one I had been using for the last 5 years. This was a big deal. But I did it.
For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time of family, food and football. We anticipate a favorite dish, whether it be Aunt Nancy’s mashed potatoes or Cousin Andi’s Asian salad. Some are concerned about the outcome of the Cowboys game. Still others worry about cleaning their bathrooms for the in-laws who will be spending the weekend. But what if you were the Development Director at a local non-profit? This would mean you were planning a wonderful Giving Tuesday campaign for your beloved charity.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday…November 29th this year. Traditionally, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate philanthropy. Around the globe, social media lights up with wonderful stories about the valuable work of of non-profits, along with a call to financially support these great organizations. We, at Bridgehaven, happen to be pretty proud of the work we do and I can’t wait to share that with the world.
I walk into my office at Bridgehaven every day and smile at the photo I have displayed of my son and my nephew. They are 12 years old now but the boys are around 8 months old in the photo, wearing only diapers and my son has his arm on his cousin’s shoulder and his cousin is looking at him. The photo is adorable. It is an easy reminder of why I come to work…I want more mommas to have warm hearts when they look at old photos of their babies. But a situation happened last week that absolutely changed my heart and my focus.
On Thursday, I was away from the center, meeting with the staff at our Treasures location on 8th Avenue. We were in the office going over things and the phone rang. Julie, the store manager, took the call so I could only hear bits and pieces… “That’s terrible!” “Of course.” “Isn’t there more we can do?” Julie ended the call and explained to us that one of our Earn While You Learn clients at the center had a horrible thing happen to her. She reported to work on Wednesday only to find out that the company was eliminating her position effective immediately. She was devastated but the news only got worse. When she went to the bank that Thursday, she discovered someone had also cleared out all her accounts. She had no money and several children to take care of, including an adolescent son who needed clothing because he was growing so fast and nothing was fitting at home. Dawn, Director of Client Support, was simply asking if she could send the mom and son to Treasures to get some items of clothing for him as a first step in their journey to recovery.
Several things ran through my head at once. I felt so horrible for the woman and her children who were going through the heartbreak of someone leaving them with nothing. I was so proud Julie’s first instinct was to say yes and then offer more. I was in awe of the fact that because of the people before me in the ministry and our loyal donors, we had ways to help this family move on. We had a retail store that could provide them with some of their material needs. The clothes in the store were donated by people in the community. We had a stocked food pantry at the center that includes items donated by local businesses and people in the community. We had staff prepared to help the mom emotionally and spiritually recover from this. We also had courses that would allow her to develop job skills to secure new employment. We were literally surrounded by grace. And God would help this woman and her family through us and because of the people in our community.
Bridgehaven does empower choices for life but the ways that happens are so much bigger than I thought. We offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. We teach life skills classes where clients can earn material assistance each week. We go into the community and educate young people about good and healthy choices. But we are so much more! We are a place that makes the community better. We are making stronger families. We are a support for people who need assistance and don’t have anywhere else to turn. We do all this with the help of our community. God’s love is moving at Bridgehaven. You just can’t imagine how big it is…how fast it moves…and what wonderful things it does. God is good. We are just lucky to be a part of it.
Director of Development
I didn’t know what to expect at my first CareNet Conference in Orlando. I had only been on the job seven weeks and I was constantly surprised by what I was learning. As the new Director of Development at Bridgehaven, I had thought coming from the world of higher education to non-profit ministry would be an easy transition. That was not the case, so I couldn’t imagine what would happen at our national conference with pregnancy support centers from around the country.
The sessions were informative and the conference attendees were so helpful and willing to share. I had so many ideas to take back to Cedar Rapids and such wonderful discussions with Chelsey, Tree and Kelli, the rest of the Bridgehaven staff who attended this year. Chelsey and I would spend the night talking about life and the million things we wanted to do to make our good center better. There were so many exciting things to do and we were realizing the staff was in place to make these cool things happen. Chelsey felt the foundation had been strengthened since she had taken over the reins two years ago and it was now possible for the center to explode with all God was calling us to do. I was excited to be part of this and yet…my transformation would not occur until a random moment at a vendor booth.
I get it. It sounds weird and hokey. If I were you, I might even be mocking this story. I totally understand and yet…it is true. I approached the Embrace Grace booth and there was an antique suitcase filled with envelopes. The sign said to take one and there would be an individual message you were supposed to receive. “Cute marketing,” I thought. Little did I know it would rock my world. The rest of the gals got their envelopes and we headed to a table. We opened them together and were all speechless for a few minutes. That might not seem like much but, when you consider the personalities at the table, it was a huge moment of silence.
The gals will have to share what their messages were but mine was pretty simple. Dream BIG. The title of my card was simply that, Dream BIG. It kind of stopped my heart. Hadn’t I been holding back a little at this conference? Questioning who I was in the Bridgehaven plan and wondering if I was the right person to help take the center where it needed to go. It was like God spoke to my heart and said, “Hey, dummy. You are the right person and you have the right skills. I will help you every step of the way but you have to do it, sister. You have to make things happen.” Well, geez, I didn’t think God’s will would be hiding in a card at a vendor booth. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We don’t get to know when or where God will speak to our hearts but we have to be ready to receive him. Maybe if we ignore him, he sends actual mail to get our attention.
God was encouraging me to embrace the fact that I had skills and ideas and I needed to use my big dreams to expand Bridgehaven. He had given me the personality and the ability to do this. I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t accept the fact that, “There are dreams inside of you that can only be done in and through you.” God is so big. He is so wonderful. And he created me to do great things. He created us all to do great things. I was right where I needed to be and it was his will and his timing that allowed me to apply at Bridgehaven. He knew big things were coming and I was the lucky duck who got to be part of it. He blessed me. He led me. And now I just need to be smart enough to accept it and follow Him.
It’s funny. I went to CareNet expecting to come back with documents and notes and contacts. And I did. But I came back with so much more. I came back closer friends with three incredible women. I came back with a sense of purpose and permission to dream BIG and to reach far. Without knowing it, my life would be altered by a note hidden in an antique suitcase. And I hope that many lives will be touched by such a simple message. Big things are happening at Bridgehaven and I am so, so blessed to be a small part of it. And I encourage you to pay attention…you never know when God might send you a tiny piece of mail that changes your heart.
Director of Development