Bridgehaven Pregnancy Support Center - Cedar Rapids, Iowa Blog

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.

I know a girl with rosy cheeks and eyes that shine like a doll you get at Christmas. She laughs so easily at my jokes that I leave most of our conversations convinced I could do stand-up. She’s the type of listener who locks eyes with you and draws you out of yourself. You have coffee with her and end up sharing every detail of your thought life, your dreams when you were in 6th grade, your deepest regrets. Being in her warm presence, you would never guess this girl endured the nightmare of abuse for several years of her life.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

I know a woman with ageless wisdom in her eyes. She is one of those people you just want to sit with for hours, soaking up her words. She wears her hair in a bun, is ten minutes late for everything–smiling, steady and soft. Two months ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She wasn’t ready for it (who is ever ready for a diagnosis like that?) but she is not crushed. She is using her time in sterile, intimidating waiting rooms to pray with other patients and talk to the hospital staff about Jesus.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

I’ve had a strained relationship with my Dad for a number of years. Many things infected our relationship: addiction, pride, bitterness, deceit. After my conversion, I was fearful we would never see eye-to-eye about spiritual things. A few months ago, I sat at my kitchen table across from him and we prayed together for the very first time. With tears in our eyes, we thanked God for restoring the years that the locusts had eaten. (Joel 2:25)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I know a guy who finally accomplished his lifelong goal of starting his own business. He proved his doubters wrong; he rose to the top. He “made it.” And you know what? If you look past all the new office space purchases, love interests, and national attention, he is lonelier than he has ever been. He can’t trust if the people in his life are his true friends or just seeking his status. Between the foggy nights of drinking and jam-packed days of endless meetings, he is left with the feeling that something just isn’t right. This life feels empty…it just isn’t what he thought it would be. When asked what brings him joy, he is unable to give an answer.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but our world is full of hurting people. The difference in these stories isn’t the amount of pain experienced. The difference is Christ.

It’s not that Christians don’t experience pain; it’s that Christians do not see their own suffering as senseless. It’s not that Christians are stronger people with more resolve; it’s that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Our affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17). Christ in us provides the possibility of suffering and peace happening simultaneously. Affliction can exist alongside the real true soul rest that comes from carrying one another’s burdens to the foot of the cross.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Christ died for me when I was still in sin. That means before my conversion, while I was a homeless meth addict, Jesus was pursuing me with grace. His grace is the reason I’ve not been consumed by my regrets, nightmares, dental problems, and tarnished credit score. Because he lives in me, I am able to wake up to fresh mercies every morning and point people to the One whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Nothing can compare to that. And if you’re reading this, it’s not too late for you to turn to him. Everything he promises is true. It’s more real to me than anything. I’d stake my life on it.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

A Mind to Work and the Call to Fish for Men

Earlier this week, Bridgehaven hosted its Fundraising Gala and I want to share the heart message of the event and trumpet call to be fishers of men.

The Gala was an amazing night of inspiration, praise, focus, and clarity of what our work is in the pro-abundant life, pro-family, pro-marriage realm and the fruit of our labor thus far.

Our Gala theme was “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

Our theme was so appropriate for the conversations and messages shared from the various speakers. It also reminded me of a past blog I wrote in 2015: A Mind and Heart to Work. I was inspired to write that blog after attending Care Net’s (our center’s national affiliate) annual conference. That year, Care Net launched a vision of restoring fatherhood and the design of family God intended through the means of evangelism and discipleship; truly, being fishers and equippers of men. That vision of being fishers of men continues to stir and build into 2017, establishing momentum and clearer directives for Bridgehaven.

Chelsey McDill, our Executive Director, presented a message at the Gala of immense hope, unity, and a call to action and work coupled with prayer, obedience, and boldness to be about the business of being fishers of men for God. This will be walked out and demonstrated through discipleship, empowering fatherhood and men, educating and modeling the design of family with evangelism with love and the Holy Spirit.

I want to share some of Chelsey’s remarks from the Gala that are so timely and activating to this next level of ministry.

“There is perhaps no greater experience that we are offered than to allow the Holy Spirit to do and complete His transformative work inside the hearts of those that come to us.”

“In order to do what we do each and every day, we must love fearlessly! We must see beyond the circumstances in front of us and be rooted in the Truth of God’s love and sovereignty over it all.

“To be a good fisherman, you must be intentional, it must be on purpose. Bridgehaven has been assigned a God-sized vision, one in which more is required. More prayer, more intentionality, more reach, more obedience and more courage.”

“But God is on the move in a big way and the time is NOW! There are countless circumstances and scenarios where God has proven his hand on this ministry in big ways.”

“We are answering the call to this God-sized vision and couldn’t be more excited! 2017 is a start of something new, something life changing…community changing. It starts with a bigger sweep and broader reach to our ministry in all aspects. The question we ask ourselves is…What if the transformational love and power that exists within Bridgehaven were to explode into our community? What if what we’ve seen, experienced and know to be true about what God can and has done within our walls started happening outside our walls?

“So, we have this broader net we are casting with community relationships and partnerships, but we CANNOT forget the daily struggles countless women and families are experiencing. With the annual abortion rate holding steady at approximately 1 million a year, we know there’s more to be done. So, what if people were equipped to do what we do within the walls of Bridgehaven? What if churches and individuals were prepared and confident in their ability to walk with men, women and families facing a pregnancy decision? What if these women sought refuge and hope in the power of the church?”

“Our official launch of the “Making Life Disciples” curriculum will be held in June and more information will be on our website. Pastors are receiving the information but anyone who is interested in being a part of this ministry within their churches are encouraged to attend.”

Care Net has developed a one-of-its-kind curriculum called Making Life Disciples (MLD). MLD will equip the Church to provide compassion, hope, help, and discipleship to women and men considering abortion.

Father, you see the unborn, you see the lost, you see the broken, and you see the body of Christ. May the equippers and fishers of men be equipped to disciple, reach out, be intentional in working and being the Kingdom of God. May we work with compassion, focus, excellence of spirit, with purity of heart in total abandonment to You, Your purpose and Will for those in need of You. May we see in this generation, the restoration of the design of family with life-affirming decisions and mindsets. In Jesus name, we boldly say Yes to you and your call for this community and nation!

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

Ministry Update

This is the text for a speech given at the 2017 Bridgehaven Fundraising Gala.

Let us open with the scripture from Mark 1 16-18:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Imagine for me if you will…a sweet young girl who lives next door. You’ve known her for years; her parents moved to the neighborhood when she was three. You’ve seen her grow and blossom into a young woman. But recently you’ve noticed a change. She walks, head down, just wandering. The sparkle in her eye and the spring in her step is gone. You wonder, for a moment, ‘What’s going on?’ You’ve seen a young man coming and going from the house and again you say to yourself, “Mind your own business.” This morning you’re headed out to run an errand, you’re rushing out the door but notice someone sitting on the stoop next door. It’s her. You wonder, “Is she crying?” You are torn. “Do I mind my own business or go to her.” The Lord prompts you, “Go to her, she needs someone.” As you walk up, she notices you and begins to dry and hide her eyes from view. But you know and she knows…everything is NOT ok.

Last week, a woman came in with a young girl. The relationship these two shared was unique, it was dear, protective and supportive. The woman was the young girl’s neighbor and wanted to help her in any way that she could. This neighbor was a fisher of men. This woman was a believer and answered the call of Jesus to walk alongside her young neighbor, who had recently had an abortion; sharing grace, understanding and most importantly Jesus.

“Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” Romans 5:5

There is perhaps no greater experience that we are offered than to see the Holy Spirit do and complete His transformative work inside the hearts of those that come to us with broken hearts. Bridgehaven launched it’s very first-ever Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat last summer and just completed its second retreat this spring. Rachel’s Vineyard is a post-abortion recovery retreat that is founded in living out the Gospel messages, seeking healing and forgiveness for its participants. This life-changing experience can best be described through the words of the men and women…

“Rachel’s Vineyard has helped me to move on with hope. When I met other women who had abortions and had suffered just the same as I had, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. The healing I experienced on the weekend was amazing and is still ongoing.”

“The environment was completely free of condemnation and judgment…I have never felt such acceptance, understanding, and grace. It was incredibly powerful to just be accepted and, for once, be unashamed of who I am.”

Rachel’s Vineyard is now an ongoing program offered through our ministry, and an important step for women who’ve walked the path of regret and shame to healing and grace. Additionally, the Rachel’s Vineyard experience encourages these women, men and families to find their voices and speak out about their experiences in hopes of preventing others from having the same regrets and pain.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

In order to do what we do each and every day, we must love fearlessly! We must see beyond the circumstances in front of us be rooted in the Truth of God’s love and sovereignty over it all. When our Prevention Team tells us that a young man in one of their 8th grade classes talked with his girlfriend about the boundaries of their relationship…we praise Him and say yes, Lord bring us another one. Or when we experience weeks like the last few where an influx of young, very young women, came to us for help and support; 14, 15, 16 and 17, we say, “Lord, go before us, go around us, pace our steps; so that your love is all they see.” Just last week we received an email from the mother of a 13-year-old girl, reaching out for help. Immediately, prayer for this family began. Our hearts are connected to these young people, their families and all those involved in the pregnancy decision at hand.

It’s circumstances like these that God has created Bridgehaven for…God is continuing to guide, mold and shape Bridgehaven to become stronger, bolder and more courageous fishers of men.

Now, I admittedly know close to nothing about fishing. I know…Shocker! I am as girly as they come, but I do know and acknowledge that to be a good fisherman, you must be intentional. Your efforts to fish must be ON PURPOSE. On purpose to increase. On purpose to grow the kingdom of God. Bridgehaven has been assigned a God-sized vision, one in which more is required. More prayer, more intentionality, more reach, more resources, more obedience and more courage. In the past, the pregnancy center movement has been fraught with a caution and fear. Centers were targeted and persecuted, they were forced to pull back in what they said and how they said it. Honestly, in many ways this was a good thing to have happen. We now know exactly what God expects from us as a ministry. It’s helped us to understand the difference between ministry and manipulation and the true meaning of ‘no condemnation, no shame and no judgment.’

But God is on the move in a big way and the time is NOW! There are countless circumstances and scenarios where God has proven his hand on this ministry in big ways. Now is when we must continue our discipline of prayer and draw nearer to Him.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

We are answering the call to this God-sized vision and couldn’t be more excited! 2017 is the start of something new, something life changing…community changing. It starts with a bigger sweep and broader reach of our ministry in all aspects. The question we ask ourselves is…What if the transformational love and power that exists within Bridgehaven were to explode into our community? What if what we’ve seen, experienced and know to be true about what God can and has done within our walls started happening outside our walls? More love, less judgment. More healing and repentance, less shame and condemnation. More talking about and being the hands and feet of Jesus.

For Bridgehaven, this means that we must begin to connect into and reach across the table with people and organizations that think and believe differently than we do. We must not fear working alongside secular or government organizations. God is calling Bridgehaven to come out of its shelter of protection and become a beacon of light within this community; sharing its message of hope to families in our community. To fish with bigger nets and tastier more satisfying bait. What is more satisfying than the promise of God’s love for His children?

Intentional and purposeful partnerships are one way of we have begun to broaden our reach into this community. Tonight we are honored to have representation from our local government in attendance. Their support shows the type of collaboration it will take to begin a transformation of hearts in our community. It starts with the leaders coming together and acknowledging, respecting and honoring one another for the mission and call upon their lives. I want to thank you both for being here this evening; Representative Ashley Hinson and City Council Member Susie Weinacht, would you please stand to be recognized? Thank you for your service to this community.

Another partnership we launched this year is one with HACAP Food Reservoir. This enables us to continue receiving from various organizations in the community, but in addition, provide more quality food items to clients than we’ve ever done before, on a consistent basis. Things like milk, cheese, and a variety of meats. Partnering with another organization took wisdom and intention. Linda Gorkow and her team at HACAP walked us through the decision making process with patience and encouragement for our program. We see a number of possibilities with this partnership and we are excited by what God has and is providing.

So, we have this broader net we are casting with community relationships and partnerships, but we CANNOT forget the daily struggles countless women and families are experiencing. With the annual abortion rate holding steady at approximately 1 million a year, we know there’s more to be done. So, what if more people were equipped to do what we do within the walls of Bridgehaven? What if churches and individuals were prepared and confident in their ability to walk with men, women and families facing a pregnancy decision? What if these women sought refuge and hope in the power of the church.

“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

God’s Word makes it clear that saving the unborn and caring for their mothers is a central role of the church. When this scripture was written, orphans were children without fathers and widows were mothers without husbands. Today we have cultural orphans and widows. Nearly 9 out of 10 women who have abortions are unmarried. Additionally, recent research has revealed a sad reality about abortion in the church. Our national affiliate CareNet, in partnership with LifeWay, commissioned their own research to check the accuracy of recent data reporting this problem. They found that 4 out of 10 women were regularly attending church at the time of their abortion. In the pews on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday. Furthermore, the research shows that the majority of these women viewed the church as a place they could not even talk about their pregnancy or seek help. They have an abortion, then continue to attend church without anyone knowing.

So what would happen if WE came alongside the church, instead of what it’s looked like for years, the church coming alongside pregnancy centers? This summer Bridgehaven will be launching a new curriculum, a tool to equip people and train first responders within churches to be ready and available to respond to women & men facing a pregnancy decision. Life decisions need life support and who better than the church to use its power to do this work.

This is just the beginning, because from this Church Initiative comes the ability for Bridgehaven to develop a ministry of transformation, not a series of transactions. We do not want to ever become church for our clients and therefore we need to work on this issue in a different way and come alongside the church on their issue rather than the church coming alongside our issue.

Our official launch of the Making Life Disciples curriculum will be held in June and more information will be on our website. Pastors are receiving the information but anyone who is interested in being a part of this ministry within their churches is encouraged to attend.

Finally, in February of this year, Bridgehaven participated in a site study that was conducted by an organization called Pre-born. Pre-Born is a national organization that equips pregnancy centers through three initiatives:

  1. Prayer
  2. Grants for ultrasound machines & nurse training
  3. Onsite Evangelism Training called The Invitation.

During this two day visit, my staff and I were encouraged and affirmed that what God is doing in this place is of Him and for Him. Jan Wright, our Pre-Born representative, was impressed by how much we were able to do and still keep the number one thing the number one thing…Jesus.

With that we are thrilled to announce that Bridgehaven has been approved for a grant with Pre-Born and will receive a newly refurbished Ultrasound Machine this year! This ultrasound machine will replace the used one we acquired when we launched our Ultrasound Services in 2011. Our current machine is completely outdated. We can no longer get replacement parts or maintain the machine. It will provide clearer images and detail for our clients and will include Doppler ability to hear the sound of their little one’s heartbeat.

In addition, we were blessed to host Pre- Born’s Evangelism Training entitled, The Invitation. This training helps pregnancy centers equip their Client Advocates through prayer and process to invite clients into discussions about the Gospel and to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bridgehaven way is God’s, it’s a way that is led by the Holy Spirit and not our own desires or agenda.

Since our training in February the Holy Spirit has sparked countless conversations that are planting seeds and allowing the spirit to move in the way of transformation, but we have also been able to walk with four individuals as they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Two of those four happened in the past week. I would like to share with you the story from one of our client advocates as she describes her experience.

Yesterday a return client came to Bridgehaven for a pregnancy test. She was extremely anxious. Throughout the almost two hours of pouring out her story, I heard pain and shame along with embarrassment for hurtful choices, leading to a sense of entrapment. As I reflected what I sensed her feelings to be, she sighed and smiled as she said “exactly!” She seemed to relax a little, just from being heard and understood.

Her situation is complicated but I heard honesty, taking responsibility for choices she now needs to make, humility in not blaming others for her current situation, and a longing to have a stable and loving home.

With her permission, we looked at several scriptures together from Jeremiah and Romans. After discussing her reactions to these, she was open to praying together, “But I don’t know how to pray,” she said. I assured her that I would be glad to help if she wanted me to. She nodded, “Yes.” After we prayed together, she surrendered her life to Jesus, asking Him into her heart to lead her and teach her how to live for Him by the power of His Holy Spirit, she gave me the biggest smile and accepted a warm hug, thanking me. I told her, “Now you just watch how the Lord is going to work in your life!”

I think it’s the most humbling opportunity to become a fisher of men for Jesus. It is the most important thing that we do, but must be done with pureness of heart; we must keep the goal of continuing to be ministers and NOT manipulators at the forefront of our minds. We anticipate and know that God’s timing is unique for everyone we meet and the conversations or experiences will look different with each client He places before us, so we move forward with complete trust and obedience in the Lord.

So, I want to fill your hearts with one last story of the cutest couple that came through our doors a few weeks ago. I don’t know much about them, other than what I heard and saw for myself. I was holding a meeting in my office when I heard this hootin’ and holleran’ outside my office window. I did my best to discreetly sneak a peek through my blinds and saw a young man and young woman headed to their car. The young man had his arms raised to the heavens and with all this energy exclaimed to the entire neighborhood, “Whoooooooo! I am so happy!!!” As he continued over and over again, he ran around to the passenger side of the car and wrapped his arms around the mama, making her break out into a huge smile. It was terrific, so heartwarming to see and hear!

Let me tell ya, the fish are really bitin’ right now. God is bringing them to the surface and we are prepared, equipped and connected to him like never before. So, come along with us…bring your resources, share your time, share your love, share Jesus.

I want to close tonight with a few words our current VP Mike Pence shared with the crowd at the 2017 March for Life: “Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.” I’m going to pray this over each of you tonight…because we cannot miss this!

Father, you have brought each person here for this moment, this message; this opportunity. Thank you for the hearts you’ve united and call you have upon Bridgehaven, its staff, volunteers and supporters. Let US be known for love not anger, compassion not confrontation. For nothing is stronger than gentleness. In your Holy name. Amen.

Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

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

Lay Down Your Burdens, Love Awaits

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

I’ve recently been embraced by a wonderful community of Jesus-loving women. These women come to my house every week. We enjoy scripture together, sharing our lives together and growing in Christ’s love together. We have quickly created a bond of safety, trust and sisterhood.

This year, during Lent, we decided to journey together through a release of baggage or burdens that we are carrying. Each of us were given a rock to carry with us throughout the 40 days of Lent. The rock represented the weight, obstruction, accommodation and presence of the burdens in our everyday lives. The idea is to be able to name your burden, identify how it affects your life, your relationships with those around you and ultimately your relationship with Jesus. For me, I had done this powerful activity during a retreat a few years ago and laid a very heavy burden at the cross. It was freeing and allowed me to fall deeper into God’s perfect love for me. This time, however, I wasn’t sure. There was no one big, heavy burden taunting me or holding back; or so I thought.

The assignment was to carry this rock everywhere, yes, everywhere. To work, to events, sitting there at the table while you’re eating, in the bathroom while you’re getting ready…everywhere. While carrying this rock, this burden, we were to meditate on what we were learning about carrying this around. Well, by the end of week one I had already failed. My rock remained perched where I had left it that Sunday afternoon; on the side table next to my comfy chair. Throughout the week I would glance at it, knowing exactly where I left it. Seeing it there reminded me of the assignment and how clueless I was to what God was calling me to let go of during this time. It wasn’t until about two and half weeks in that I realized how God was weaving a beautiful message for me.

It has been a desire of my heart and prayer that the Lord would take me deeper and into purer relationship with Him. That he would reveal to me anything and everything that was holding me back from a pureness of heart that only comes from His love. Day after day, as I glanced over at my rock sitting on that side table, I began to see it. That little rock started to blend into the décor of my household, no would know its significance but me, and the Lord. People may not even notice it sitting there or feel its presence; but I did. No matter how small it was I knew it was there, nagging at me to pick it up. Sometimes, I would; it felt smooth in my hand and I found it kinda pretty. But as I set it down that final time it hit me…I knew what burden my rock represented. I suddenly knew why I had not felt an urge to ‘follow the rules’ and carry it every day. Why it sat there inconspicuously taking up space in my home.

This little rock represented the hardness and ungodliness that still took up space in my heart and was keeping me from the deeper, purer relationship I desired with God. You know, the prideful things or judgmental things you may not say out loud but are thinking, before you say what you’re supposed to say or feel, before you ask God to change your heart. Those things are always there, taking up space in your heart. No one would know but you, and the Lord. Oh, how hard it is for me to admit that my first mental responses are not appropriate for public ears. But God has always known what’s in my heart and what I’m thinking or feeling, He’s always loved me despite this ugliness.

After I was able to get over my initial disappointment in myself, I thought I had come so far, He asked me to lay down the hidden burdens of pride, judgment and control. He promised to replace them with true humility, authentic understanding and a kind of peace that only He can bless us with. Yes Lord, that is what I know you are calling me to but I do not know how. His grace showered over me as I sat in this truth and prayed for mercy to help me let go of these ungodly things.

I admitted my sin to the godly women of my weekly study, and they listened and loved me anyway. They loved me the way Jesus would. And on that last day, before Easter, as we released our burdens and prayed over one another in my front yard, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit bringing us comfort and peace; His presence never failing to lift us up, sustains us for our journey. Thank you, Lord.

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalm 55:22

Live Loved,
Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

Suffering into Hope

A little over a month ago, I was one of the five facilitation team members on our Rachel’s Vineyard retreat who was blessed to be able to witness how God can transform our deep suffering and pain into hope. Throughout three short days, we had four men and women who entered into the retreat opportunity full of heartache, shame, pain, and suffering they had been carrying around for many years from their past abortion experiences. During the weekend, they invested themselves fully in relying on Christ to guide them through each step of the intentional and purposeful healing process based on scripture. God has promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you…” (Heb. 3:15) — He will never allow us to go through our pain alone.

On the third day of the retreat, there is a very special time and moment that happens for the retreat participants through the honoring of the children they lost through abortion. It is a time and space in which the light comes back into their lives, the darkness is banished away, and the hope they never thought possible to get back, is instilled into their hearts again.

As we have been through another Lenten journey and are in the midst of Holy Week, it has allowed the opportunity for deeper reflection and prayer time. I have been processing what this Rachel’s Vineyard retreat experience means for all who are involved, what it can do for those who trust in the process, and how it can literally transform hearts for those who believe Christ is who He says He is, and that He is strong enough to do that for us. It has also made me realize what a humbling example this retreat is of the suffering and resurrection that can happen, and did happen, throughout three short days.

On Good Friday, Christ endured unimaginable suffering because He loved us with the greatest example of unconditional love, to the point of death on the cross. He knew we are all sinners, we make mistakes on a daily basis, and we are all broken people. But He did it because He knew the hope that comes from this kind of unconditional love. No matter what you have done, how broken, unworthy, or unforgivable you feel, nothing; and I mean nothing, will ever take away the hope and love Christ has for you.

What are the examples in your life right now where you are experiencing suffering? Throughout your suffering, what is the hope you hold onto? Where do you draw your strength from? Who are you dependent upon? Do you believe in the hope of resurrection and redemption despite the suffering you may be experiencing right now?

When Easter Sunday comes, I pray it is a time and reminder of the light and hope that has been given to all of us through His Son’s resurrection.

Haley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Haley Brimmer

Director of Client Advocacy

Rooted and Built Up

On March 17th and 18th, Cedar Rapids was blessed to host a Beth Moore Live conference; a faith gathering of over 2,500 women. Bridgehaven received several tickets for clients who wanted to attend.

Beth Moore does 12 yearly conferences and extensively prays and studies specifically for the community and women she will be teaching. Each conference is unique and dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit. When Beth was praying and preparing for the Cedar Rapids Live event, she received the message of “Taking root in the family tree of God.” As a Bridgehaven community, we were thrilled to receive a great confirmation of our mission and vision through this event.

Rooted for Life

As we celebrate and settle in to our new space for Client Support, I want to draw your attention to the fresh identity, appeal and heartbeat of Client Support: being “Rooted for Life.” Cheryl Klopfenstein, Client Support Assistant, blessed us with her creative art skills and brought to life a vision of “strength” in the Rooted for Life mural (shown above). It is our desire and prayer that you would experience and encounter love and establish a firm, rooted faith foundation in Jesus. – Excerpt from January 2016 Good News (Client Publication)

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col. 2:7

The foundation scripture Beth Moore used to illustrate how to be rooted in the measureless love of Jesus is from Ephesians 3:16-19 of The Voice translation:

“Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings.”

I would like to share some personal feedback from our Bridgehaven clients who attended the Beth Moore Live conference…

Share about your experience from the Beth Moore conference:
“I love it. It was a great experience. Her message was so powerful. Her words were impactful and enlightening.”

“It was extremely encouraging and a call for a new beginning, a new walk with Christ!”

“My experience was great! Beth is so relatable and I felt like she was speaking right to me the whole time. Everyone was positive and loving. The whole atmosphere was great. I would love to go again.”

“It was simply amazing! I really had to think about my roots, my family tree. I felt overwhelmed with this feeling of warmth and I just knew I was where I belonged!”

What touched your heart from the message?
“Beth’s candor and honesty but also a new way to read my bible. My current to-do list includes reading the books of Matthew and Ephesians from beginning to end.”

“When she talked about going to our deepest root and uprooting it so that we can create fruit and live a healthy life.”

“The children. Now I’m sponsoring a young boy in Central America!” (Compassion)

“The personal stories. The woman who had the chronic illnesses; how her faith is struggling and watching everyone pray over the women who needed prayer.”

What did you learn from the Beth Moore conference?
“To focus on my deepest root. That I need to work down before I can build up.”

“I realized this before but if felt like a confirmation from God that all I needed was really the love of God, nothing else matters.”

“That God has been there since the beginning.”

How are you moving forward from the teachings?
“Moving forward, I am resolved to live a life of praise, to worship God in the good and bad times. At the root of everything is knowing and staying aware that God loves.”

“Trying to live a more honest life.”

“I’ve been praying more, reading at least 10 minutes a day.”

“More bible studies. More time with God. Working on my personal relationship.”

Thank you to those of you that donated tickets to the Beth Moore conference for our clients. Lives were changed. Connections were made. God was exalted!

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

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

Longing for Unity Among My Community

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6

This scripture from Ephesians 4 is one we frequently use to describe how the Bridgehaven team is inspired to work together. It has quickly become one of my favorites. Not because we do it well 100% of the time, but because when our little community becomes one in the Lord there is the hope of peace.

I am so grateful that our Lord intends us to live in community with one another. He doesn’t intend for his children to live in isolation from each other. So many people feel alone, or that they don’t belong. We’ve all experienced times of our lives that we think no one will understand or no one will accept us. That is a lie. Jesus says, ‘You do belong. Keep coming. Keep coming.’ The truth is, God already knows your brokenness and loves you anyway.

He created us to be unique and different from one another. To live in harmony, complementing the God-given gifts that he’s blessed us with. Ok…so that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But is that what’s happening? Most days, as I look out into the world I see a vast divide. I see people using their God-given gifts in self-righteous and hurtful ways. We are quick to condemn those that don’t respond, act, think or share the same views as we do. Satan is playing with our egos like I’ve never seen before and it’s heartbreaking.

Unity is a part of community. All of us have a community of people we know and love. So how do we turn that community into unity? How do we love bigger, forgive more, remove our own agendas and grow closer to the Lord?

‘To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8

Hard stuff. I know, but isn’t it worth it to live in God’s peace? Our internal thoughts and our inability to love is, in many ways, the cause of the divide in our community. I think that if we followed Micah 6:8 more often we would see more people doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it might be. We’d see people’s hearts breaking and bleeding for one another, especially those that have wronged us. And we’d see a removal of self, we’d move through life with no expectation of return.

Today my prayer for my community, all those I know and love (including you) is 1 Corinthians 12:25-27:

‘That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.’


Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

Learning Through Play

Godly Play in the classroom

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3).

Spirituality. Quiet. Worship. Sacred. Contemplation. These are not words normally associated with trying to teach children about God. But they embody the spirit of the new Godly Play curriculum that we are using in our Children’s Ministry program.

Bridgehaven’s mission of “empowering choices for life through Christ-centered education and support” is not just meant for parents. It is also our desire to share the truth and love of God with our client’s children. Godly Play teaches children to listen for God and to make authentic and creative responses to God’s call in their lives. We are working on incorporating this curriculum into our Children’s Ministry program for those 3 years and above.

What does that look like in the classroom?
Children are welcomed as they enter the room and asked to join the teacher on the carpet. This is a time to slow down a bit, get ready to spend some time with God, and to listen to what he might want to teach us. This is also a time where children can share about their week and what is going on in their lives. We talk about our actions and our choices. We talk about the good choices that we have made and our not so good choices. We listen to a couple of slow worship songs to help us settle our minds and our bodies.

Once we are all in the space and ready to listen, we present a story from the Bible. The stories are told using child-friendly language so that they are easy to understand. The teacher uses a play set in the story. This gives the children something to look at. Once the teacher finishes telling the story, we ask some questions to help the children think about the story and connect it to their lives. What is this like? Natalie Hayslip, Bridgehaven Children’s Ministry Coordinator, shares the story of the Tower of Babel in the video below:

After the story, the teacher brainstorm ideas with the children by asking questions like, “I wonder if we are ever like these people?” After the wondering time, the kids can respond to the story through play. They may choose to act out part of the story using the play set. They may build an object from the story using clay. They may paint or draw a picture of something that stood out to them in the story. It is play…with a purpose.

The kids finish their session by coming back to the carpet for a snack (or feast, as it is called). During this time, they can share what they learned from the story and ask more questions. We end our time listening together to songs as we wait for parents to return to the classroom for their children.

We are excited to be offering this program to the children in our program and look forward to seeing them grow in faith.