God is good. He wants His best for me. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Check. Check. Check. Being a Christian is easy. It is so easy to agree to all of this when life is good…when things are easy. It is simple to embrace these promises when God’s will is lining up with ours. We get the sense God is blessing our plans and life is good. Being a Christian is easy. Except when it’s not. Except when we are also single moms working full-time. Or when we go on another date that ends horribly. Or when we are waiting in the drop-off lane at Solon Middle School in the morning…
The morning was going great. I got up with my alarm and was able to complete my devotional and a little prayer time. K got up with relatively little grumbling. My hair dried quickly and the protein shake was tasty. Life was good as we headed to town and practiced Spanish nouns for K’s quiz. The sun was shining on the beautiful fields…ah, it was a movie type morning. If I turned down the horrible rap music blasting in the car, I am sure I could have heard birds chirping. Sigh. Awesome mom moment. School on time. Child rested, fed and ready for school. And then it happened…the drop-off lane.
For many Cedar Rapidians, the images of a flooded Houston bring back painful memories of 2008 in Iowa. Or even 2016 as the city braced again for possible flooding. As we reflect on how the city really came together during those times and we saw love demonstrated beyond what we could imagine, we spent some time in prayer today as a staff looking at the story of Noah and his famous ark. And while I’m not sure we can even conjure up an idea of how horrible the smell must have been on that boat after being shut up for about a year, I think there are even more important things to consider.
As Beth, our prayer leader for the day, led us through the scripture, I wondered about how the family got along during that time…shut up with no sun, no fresh air for so long. I mean, I love my siblings and their spouses but that was waaaay longer than a holiday weekend. It is only through the grace of God all the humans survived the trip, let alone the animals. But then Beth read us a devotional which pointed out maybe Noah’s response to God wasn’t as radical as we imagine it to be. Wait, what? Did she really just say building a huge ship on dry land and trying to convince people there would be a huge flood and the world would be wiped clean was not radical? Now, Beth is typically the voice of reason in the Development area but I was worried she might have hit her head or something. How could the idea of going against all his neighbors and convincing his sons to gather the animals of the Earth to get on a huge boat not crazy? Why did she think this was just a normal day for Noah?
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.