Archives for Kylee Pusteoska

Teen Conversation

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?

I think there are lots of practical things to do as parents. One of my main things is to have a strong village. Be friends with the parents of your kid’s friends. That way, you can call them and check out their stories. You can check Instagrams. The more eyes and ears on your kid, the better. Check their phones! Do it. You won’t be popular. They will hate it. Will they probably still be able to hide stuff from you? Yep. Will you still cuss Snapchat because you can’t see what is being discussed in a group chat involving way too many girls? Yep. And will you question why they don’t just text each other like normal people? Yes. But I am still a proponent of checking your kid’s phone. Do all the stuff they tell you to. Know where your kid is. Have rules and curfews. It is totally cool to not be cool with your kid. You are the parent. Don’t forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are the parent.

Another neat thing I saw in a blog is to sit down with your child and review your parenting. It sounds super scary. It is kind of like having a performance evaluation with your kid. The only way to improve is to know how you are actually doing. Now, I imagine some of the feedback you get will be actual crap. I am pretty sure Kinnick will let me know I am overprotective and I need to let him stay out later and keep his phone in his room overnight. No chance, buddy. But, I bet there are things I do that bother him that I could change. Either way, the list I came across could start some pretty cool discussions.

  1. What have been some of the best times you’ve had with your dad/mom this past year?
  2. If you had to give me some advice on how to be a better dad/mom, what would it be? Why?
  3. If you and I could sit down and talk about anything, what would it be?
  4. What are some of the things that are making you anxious, fearful, or discouraged right now so I can pray for you?
  5. What’s something you would like to do with me?
  6. How can I help you grow in your love for God and in your ability to serve and live faithfully for Him?
  7. What has been the best thing I’ve done (or that we’ve done together as a family) this last year that has helped you most in your understanding of God and His love for you?
  8. What would you say has been the biggest area of growth for you in the last year?
  9. What have you learned about God/Christ/faith this last year that has blessed you?
  10. If you could grow in any area in the next 12 months, where would you want it to be?
  11. What do you think your dad/mom is most passionate about?

Ultimately, using a couple of these questions leads you to learning a whole bunch of things about your children you might not have otherwise known. Or it leads you to ask more questions. And I think the most important piece is just spending the time. Spend the time so your child knows you care. Spend the time so you know your child’s heart. Spend the time so your child knows your heart.

Being the mom is scary. It isn’t all glamorous and wonderful like people make it look on Facebook. It is hard work. And it requires time. I pray that Kinnick knows he is loved by God and so many people and that his decisions matter. I pray that he takes care of both his heart and his body. I just keep repeating Proverbs 23:15 in my head, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” It’s absolutely the best we can do. Teach them, love them, pray for them and send them out into the world.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Harold

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.

Back to Harold…I had this big idea that we could visit Harold. We could go to the care center and have a nice chat. Wouldn’t Harold be blessed by us coming to say thanks? Wouldn’t he appreciate that we drove over to thank him? I was feeling pretty proud of my idea. And I still think it was a good idea and it was the right thing to do. Harold had supported us for many, many years and his wife had been a volunteer for us. We were thankful for all they had done with their time and treasure and especially that they still gave all these years later.

I contacted the care center and asked if there was a way we could visit. I received an email from Harold’s daughter that was so nice. She was delighted that we wanted to visit but let me know Harold is suffering from dementia and she wasn’t sure how much of our visit he would understand. I let her know we were up for it anyway if he liked having visitors. Her response was that he loves to chat and muffins and cornbread were treats he might enjoy. The visit was set and five staff members were excited to show our appreciation for all that the family had done for Bridgehaven.

We walked in with homemade blueberry muffins and a brightly colored Thank You balloon and found Harold in the activity room visiting with his friends. As we were led to a smaller lobby area that would be quieter so we could visit, I noticed that Harold’s eyes lit up with excitement. He remembered Leanne and seemed to connect that we were from Bridgehaven/Aid to Women. Harold loved the muffin and was happy to tell us about all the activity at the center. He has the cutest smile and his daughter was right, Harold loved to chat. After a bit, he asked if we would like to see his home and the photos his daughter had put up for him. We graciously followed him to his room and walked into a hallway filled with photos. There was Harold at age…probably 4 or so…sepia-toned photo with a smart bow tie and pink cheeks. There were photos of him in the military, with his young bride and the other side of the hallway featured colored photos of grandchildren and newspaper clippings of a 65th anniversary and an 85th birthday.

As Harold talked about who was in the photos and of fishing trips and vacations to the beach, it was clear that his family meant so much to him. He spoke of his three daughters and his eyes sparkled. And he talked about his wife…”She was the president and she got things done!” Working gals, we all loved that and it was clear he was so very proud of her. A few stories later, his eyes filled with tears and he spoke of his love for her. How he missed her. The five of us were looking at each other and smiling with tears in our eyes. What a blessing to be there with him in that moment. How powerful to hear about a love so strong that death didn’t matter. It was such a cool moment.

So, I set out today to bless a sweet, generous man who has been giving to Bridgehaven for decades and I left a care center feeling like he did more for me today than I could ever do for him. I was honored to witness his love for his family and the passion he still has for a wife who is gone. To know that, while he might get lost in a story or forget certain words to complete a thought, the love he felt for the four ladies in his life could never be lost. It was powerful. And so while I thought my morning was going to be about thanking a donor, it was really about being a witness to a man’s heart. It is a blessing I won’t forget. Thank you, Harold.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Fishers of Men

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.

To be a good fisherman or fisherwoman, you must be diligent and persevering. You have to know what you are trying to catch and use the correct equipment. Sometimes, you have to wait a very long time before anything will bite. Patience is definitely a key and you must learn to wait. There might be times of no fish and you have to hang in there.

If you manage to be loyal in your fishing, you must also be smart and willing to work hard. You have to pay attention to the ever changing weather conditions and listen to other people who have experienced success. The sun might be hot or the winds might be strong but you have to have the fortitude to continue on if you hope to catch a fish.

All that being said, fishing sounds pretty daunting from a faith perspective. And when we consider that the verse is asking us to fish for men, for souls, it is darn right scary. And it surely is if we think that we can do any of it on our own. But look at the verse again. Jesus said, “I will make you…” He doesn’t say follow me and make the world better by yourself. He says He is going to make you a fisher of men. Your success will come because you are fishing with God’s strength. He will enable you to catch the fish. He will provide the bait and all the equipment and you just have to do. Go. Fish.

When we look at fishing from that perspective, it makes perfect sense that we chose it as the theme for this year’s Bridgehaven fundraising gala. I would guess that most of our staff would not know how to clean a fish but with God’s strength, they are loving on our clients every day. Our volunteers probably don’t know how to cast correctly, but they are sharing Jesus with clients in the counseling rooms on Center Point Road. And most of our donors have never been out on a boat in the middle of the ocean but their contributions allow God to work at Bridgehaven.

God calls us to “fish for men” and I think that can look a lot of different ways depending on who you are and what your gifts are. God takes each one of us and says, “Do your thing. Do what you are good at and do it for the good of my kingdom. Use your talents for not only yourself but for all my children.” He doesn’t expect us all to preach the gospel or speak from a pulpit. Some of us are called to do things like be moms. Some of us are called to raise funds for a ministry that empowers choices for life and encourages all children to be born into healthy families. But he calls us all to do good for his kingdom. We are all responsible for doing what we can to make the world better. So I encourage you to Go. Fish. Do your thing! And do it with God’s strength.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

The Ring


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.

But now there was something else. K had another “mom”. That was NOT ok with me. I was his mother and it was my job to care for him and teach him about life and be the one he came to for advice. What I didn’t see at the time is that this woman wasn’t trying to replace me. She didn’t want my job. She was graceful enough to see the bond between K and me was nothing that needed supplemented. She could see her husband and I were good parents. We worked together to make decisions and supported what the other parent decided. Her husband demanded K treat me with respect, as well as her. Her role was not to be another mother for K. What she knew from the very start took me a long time and lots of nudges from God to figure out.

I am the first to say that being the mom is hard work. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, along with being my greatest joy. It is a role that requires 24 hours a day for the rest of my life and there is nothing I value more. But as you moms know, it can tear your heart out. It can make you a screaming monster you don’t recognize. It finds you on your knees praying more than ever before. But it is the most glorious thing…no wonder God loves us like He does. The power of our feelings as moms is just a tiny glimpse at how God feels about us. He thinks being our Father is the coolest gig ever. So while I was beating my chest about how hard it was to be the mom…I never considered the even more difficult job of being the step-mom.

A simple story will illustrate how I finally figured it out. K’s step-mom ordered a ring for a special occasion. It was a very cool piece of jewelry that featured a skinny sliver band with all her children’s and grandchildren’s names for a stack that proudly displayed her love for her children. Cool, right? Until I saw that one band had K’s name on it. “She is not his mother.” I may have said some other choice words and shed some tears because how dare she think she should wear a ring with my child’s name on it. I lived in that angry place for a couple of days…stewing in the bitterness of my situation…thinking mean thoughts. And then God tapped me on the shoulder and as clear as day I heard him say, “But what if K wasn’t on the ring?” My momma bear instinct fired up and I thought, “What, he isn’t good enough to be on the ring? Even though he lives with you 50% of the time you don’t consider him part of your family?” And I paused…she couldn’t win. I was mad either way. I felt wronged about either situation.

That’s when I knew how hard it was to be the step-mom. You can’t win. Your job is to love someone else’s child as much as your own but God forbid you cross any lines that would indicate you are the parent. You were supposed to support your husband and his son but not so much so that you went outside a boundary. I had given no thought to how she must be feeling. No thought to how hard it would be to enforce rules she might not agree with. No thought to how to discipline a child who might be a brat to you because you weren’t his mom. No thought to her experience…how it would be a challenge.

The ring was a blessing to me. It allowed me to see that being a mom is ridiculously hard but being the step-mom isn’t much fun either. It requires a woman of grace, a woman who has to learn to mother in a way she never anticipated. She must be strong and soft. She must be flexible yet maintain a routine she didn’t decide on. I think there will be a special place in heaven for women who succeed in this role. And I know I will never be able to express my gratitude to K’s step-mom. She might not ever know how much I appreciate the way she has navigated the waters and made K a priority in her world. She won’t understand how grateful I am to have a woman in his life to care for him when I can’t be there, to cheer for him, to cater to his finicky eating, to provide grandparents and siblings who love him and to be a positive influence in his life. But I hope God blesses her in a special way. I hope she feels my prayers. My son loves her in a way he could never love me. And as it turns out, it is a blessing to all of us.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Stubborn Like Me

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.

At a recent staff prayer time at Bridgehaven, Natalie, our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, presented a Godly Play lesson about Moses leading his people away from Egypt. It was complete with wooden figures, sand and the tale of the parting of the Red Sea. (A total side note and random thought is that this lesson was so cool! Natalie made the story come alive and I could have listened to her all day. I am so excited about what God is doing with children’s ministry but that is a very different blog post for another day.) We were then invited to complete an activity we felt called to and respond to the story we heard. Some of the ladies wrote journal entries, some colored pictures and I chose the Play-Doh. There are several other ways the children can choose but those three were chosen on this particular day.

It had been years since I played with Play-Doh. I had to think about what really stood out to me in the story, keeping my limited artistic skills in mind. I thought about it for a while as I watched the other ladies get to work…and that is when it hit me. God always has the answer. And usually, it is an answer I could never comprehend. In this particular story, Moses had led the people through the desert and they were suddenly aware they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s Army. The timing couldn’t have been worse as they looked back to see the army advancing as their toes were being lapped by the water of the Red Sea. They were trapped. There was no way out. People began to lose faith in Moses and God as they assumed their fate was sealed. They had no options…but only because they simply considered what people could do. They forgot about what God could do. They couldn’t even fathom ideas for rescue because God always sees the whole picture and our humanness only allows us to see a tiny sliver of the story.

Isn’t this the truth? We are so trapped in the moment we can’t see God. We only think about our human options. For the crowd following Moses, it was get killed by the army in a bloody massacre or drown in the wild Red Sea. Neither option sounds great, does it? While this is a pretty dramatic display of how we are limited in our decision making, isn’t it true across many spectrums? We often throw up our hands and wonder how God could abandon us. We work harder at what we think is the solution…we throw money at problems…we ignore some problems…we blame someone else for a few things. Sometimes, I try all of those things and the problem remains. My stubborn self tells me to try harder, go longer, don’t quit. I am slowly learning (and by slowly, I mean at a glacial pace) none of these things are typically going to work. What God calls us to do is surrender. What? Aren’t there entire movies where the theme is “Never Surrender.” I am thinking Rocky and the Russian…Mel Gibson patriotically fighting the British…and the Goonies. It is not in our nature or our culture.

God doesn’t care about our culture. He cares about us. He wants us to rely on him, to depend on him. God has answers we can’t dream of. His solutions solve the problems, they don’t just cover them up. His love for us is so great and he simply wants to be our Father…to care for us…to help us…to be there for us. We only have to let Him. We have to let go of our stubborn ways and allow ourselves to lean on God. When I write it out, I feel like a moron. Why don’t I do this all the time? Why can’t I trust in this? It always works out. God always carries me during the storm and I come out on the other side feeling washed clean instead of battered. Well, if I had that answer, I probably wouldn’t be a development director at Bridgehaven because I would be rich and famous and travelling the world telling everyone how to free themselves.

It is a constant battle for me. I try to embrace the benefits of being stubborn while allowing myself to know when God wants the reins. Moses teaches us this in the story Natalie presented. He fought and fought and kept asking Pharaoh to let his people go. I mean, there are entire songs about how stubborn Moses was. His hard work allowed him to lead the people to freedom. However, when the problems were too big for his humanness, he called on God. God provided an answer Moses couldn’t have dreamed of. Seriously, who could imagine that the sea would part so his people could cross and then close around the army so they could continue on safely? That isn’t a human answer…it is God’s answer. And God can’t give us an answer to a question we never ask of him. We have to be stubborn first and use our God-given gifts. When those don’t work, we must be meek and seek the Lord. He has the answers…answers that are so much bigger than we are.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Failing Client Advocate Training

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.

The first skill advocates are taught has to do with listening. I am a good listener. I took my StrengthsFinder test and empathy was my number one strength. This should be no problem. As it turns out, I have been listening wrong for 41 years. While I thought empathy would allow me to really hear what people are saying, I immediately want to help and fix whatever the problem is. I want to attack the situation, make some decisions to make it better, cross it off the list and move on to the next thing. In many instances, this is a great skill to have. Things get done. When it comes to matters of the heart and soul, though, this is not the way to operate.

Client advocates are taught a skill called reflective listening. There are several ways to do this, but the main point, is repeating what the other person is saying so they are able to hear it. When they hear it from someone else, they are able to process things differently. It allows them to verify their thoughts, or to re-think things. It also leads to figuring out feelings and messages that might be hidden in the actual spoken words. It is a crucial step for those searching their hearts to discover what is best for them. However, it is really, really hard to be the listener and function as a sounding board. I want to hug them and fix the problems and tell them everything will be ok. That is not the job of an advocate.

The job of the advocate is to hear the heart of the client and help her with her pregnancy decision. While the decision isn’t often made during the appointment, the advocate allows the client to speak without judgement in a safe environment. She allows the client to explore feelings, fears, and questions about the future. The main goal of the session is to minister to our clients. Advocates are trained to listen well, ask good questions, and provide support, no matter what the client decides. There is never manipulation. No one gets to jump in and solve problems. Nothing gets crossed off a list. There is only love.

Our main goal is to love each client who comes through our doors for free pregnancy tests. We want to walk with her through her decision, and provide truthful information. We want her to feel safe, both physically, and in that she can speak what is on her heart. It is a blessing to be able to work with women who are making difficult decisions. It is our honor to love the women and men who walk into Bridgehaven.

So, while I might fail Client Advocate training, I have learned so many valuable things. I have learned that our ministry is so special. The men and women who serve as advocates are truly blessed by God to have such skills. Haley is a terrific teacher, and guides her team with such grace and compassion. I also learned that maybe I can be a better listener. Maybe it isn’t about fixing and moving on. Perhaps it is being able to earn someone’s trust…it is about hearing what is on the heart of who I am speaking to…it is about loving them well…it is about empowering them to make a choice.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

What’s Your Mission?

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.

I found a beautiful planner with delicious paper and the correct layout with a 2-page monthly spread and a weekly view that was vertical by day. I spent weeks waiting for it to arrive locally at the Office Depot. My son happened to be shopping with me and I could see the planner on the very top shelf of the planner section…it wasn’t even displayed yet for the public to buy. I made, I mean, asked him to climb up and get it for me. He was mortified but understood by the crazed look on my face that we weren’t leaving the store without it. I walked out of Office Depot with a dreamy look on my face, cradling the planner like a newborn baby. My son slunk out quite a few paces behind me, clearly wondering if I was losing it.

Later that night, I opened the gorgeous planner and looked through the pages. It was going to be perfect. Perfect. I was so very excited. In the first section of the planner it had a page titled, “Goals: Write it Down, Make it Happen.” Cool. So cool. There was a shaded section at the top of the page that said 2017 mission. Underneath were 6 sections titled, “Personal, Social, Financial, Health, Home, Dream Big.” Whoa. It was so pretty and fabulous…and then I started thinking. What was my mission for 2017? I hadn’t really considered having a social goal for myself. Do people have social goals? Dream big…there it was again. (See my earlier blog post about when God told me to Dream Big.) What was I doing with my life? I wasn’t sure what my mission was for 2017. Don’t businesses have mission statements? I know Bridgehaven’s mission is to empower choices for life through Christ-centered education and support. But they had been working on that for over 30 years…with a staff of 17 and hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors. What in the world was my mission?

My hands started to sweat. What was I going to write on this beautiful page? How was I going to know what my mission was? And then I spent some time with God. In my devotions and in the books I was reading, I found a common theme. The same message kept coming up in different words, by different authors. I even saw some pretty word art on Pinterest that said the exact same thing I had been reading about. (You can also read my earlier blog to understand that God usually has to knock me over the head several times before I understand what he is trying to tell me.) All the messages I was getting boiled down to this simple idea: Do the next right thing. That was way too easy, wasn’t it? Shouldn’t my mission have more big words? My undergraduate degree was in English…I should be able to do better. So I kept thinking there must be more. God certainly had a grander plan for my 2017, didn’t he?

As it turns out, no. After much time and prayer, Do the next right thing makes perfect sense. Don’t get me wrong, I have goals for the year both personally and professionally. There are things I want to improve on as far as my health goes and who wouldn’t be better off if they saved more money? So there are now words, written in colored pens on the sections of the Goal sheet in my planner. But my mission shall be: Do the next right thing. It means that I get to make mistakes. I get to sometimes stray from the path God wants me on. I get to live this messy, beautiful life as a mom who sometimes gets tired and grouchy. I am allowed to forget I want better health and eat too many Hurts Donuts once in a while. But there will always be an answer to the question I ask myself after I falter. “What do I do now?”

God knows we are broken. He knows we are going to screw up. He watches as we make bad choices. But ultimately, he offers us grace and invites us back to the path he wants for us. So the answer to the question, “What do I do now?” is: Do the next right thing. I get to pick up the Bible and spend more time with God. I get to take a deep breath and take my son to Chick-fil-A and a movie so we can have fun together. I get to eat protein and take walks so my doctor is ok with my health at the next appointment. So while I get to write goals for 2017 and do my best to achieve them with strategic planning and calendars and timelines, my mission remains simple. Do the next right thing.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Catching Love in Action

catching-love
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.

My Marketing Coordinator and I came up with a fabulous plan, including photos and videos of our staff and volunteers talking about our work. I thought it was going to be an easy sell to the staff members…not so much. Apparently, being videotaped is a phobia-inducing experience for some. Others were worried about lipstick or hair. Others wanted to make sure they said exactly the right thing. There were several practice sessions and videos taped over and over. In the end, I think we are going to promote the joy and love that radiates from Bridgehaven but the experience got me thinking.

Doesn’t God ask us to shine our light into the dark world? Isn’t he asking us to show love to our neighbors and help care for the least of his people? The staff and volunteers at Bridgehaven do this every single day. They meet with young women who are often frightened and alone. They counsel young families facing difficult circumstances and teach classes to men and women who are trying to make their lives better. The staff is constantly making connections in the community so that we can offer our clients information about services we don’t provide. We work with several other non-profit organizations in Cedar Rapids to make sure our clients get the care needed by them and their families. Every day, these men and women at Bridgehaven work hard to do God’s work….to be the hands and feet. And they do it with a grace I am in awe of. So why was it so hard for them to share that?

I think everyone on our staff feels called to be here. There is a connection with each other and with our clients that could not exist outside of this non-profit ministry. The love that moves through this place is like nothing I have experienced. It is such an honor to be part of this team. I am pretty sure everyone feels that but there was a disconnect when it came to saying it out loud on a video. Was it modesty? Humility? Was it the ol’ Iowa nice kicking in? It could have been any number of these things…it could have been all of them. But I think I finally figured it out.

Bridgehaven is a place of acceptance and love. The people who work here see that as normal and merely answered God’s call to be here and to serve. They don’t understand that what they do every day is miraculous. The work that happens at Bridgehaven involves faith and a comfort in knowing we are changing the future for the better. But the men and women who work here don’t realize all the gifts and talents they bring to the table. They don’t understand that I see them all as rock stars in Jesus’ band. They simply show up every day and love. They love each other and they love the clients and families who walk through our doors. They solely live the mission of Bridgehaven “to empower choices for life through Christ-centered education and support.”

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful I work with a team so involved in love they don’t know how to express that in a promotional video. They come and hold the hands of our clients and offer them information without judgement. They sort clothes at Treasures to help raise funds to support the ministry. They teach classes about parenting to create stronger families. They do ultrasounds and teach classes about positive life choices. Some of us get to watch all of this and be amazed by what happens here. So when I tell you that the staff and volunteers here are exceptional, believe me. Just don’t ask me to show you evidence on video.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Being there

kidsI 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.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Dream BIG

dreamI 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.

Dream BigThe 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.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development