“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:2 NASB
I was invited to attend the Care Net conference this month in Washington DC. with several other staff members at Bridgehaven. Care Net is the umbrella organization that supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America, including Bridgehaven. We soaked up four days of engrossing keynote speakers (like David Nasser and Andi Andrews), current knowledge and instruction from amazing workshop leaders (like Kathy Koch), rich networking fellowship with others from all across the nation, and powerful times of holy worship after each morning devotional.
I have many, many take-aways (I am still deciphering and organizing my notes). But, what has traveled home with me, and what I have found myself talking about more than anything else is a session with Lisa Hosler, President of Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her session was called Leading in the Secret of the Productive Pause.
Do you feel it? Can you feel the heaviness circling around us? It can feel like we are suffocating in despair and sorrow, fear and worry, tragedy and death. The pictures from Harvey & Irma, the pending devastation, the wild fires, and more. My heart breaks constantly and my mind is consumed with images and empathy for their circumstances. Where is hope in these situations?
Where is my hope–who can see any hope for me? Job 17:15
Then with one image, one story, hope can flood all the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. I do not have this image, but was only told of its existence. Even so, I felt its powerful message as the image was created in my mind and then on my heart. It was of a woman, rescued by boat from the aftermath of Harvey. In her hands, the only things she carried and had left in this world were a pair of flip-flops in one hand and a flower bulb from her drowned out home and yard in the other. At first glance you might pity her for the loss and only see the very little she has left. But this image represents a gift. A gift greater than anyone can imagine or see with their eyes.
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?
It’s achingly important to me to share the Good News to others that have not heard of the amazing love story of Jesus; His unfailing Love and Creative Authorship over our lives. It’s equally valuable to me to share those authorship stories of victory and personal walks with Jesus with the Body of Christ. I want to introduce you to a woman who is pursuing Jesus and allowing Jesus to pursue her wildly. In her own words, she briefly shares her journey with Jesus and Bridgehaven.
I pray her story edifies, exhorts, comforts you and brings endless glory to our King and Savior. For He is worthy!
Edify: to build up, to strengthen
Exhort: to stimulate, to encourage, to admonish
Comfort: to cheer up
(Dawn) Q: Will you share about your family?
(Client) A: “Our family of five consists of me, my significant other, our five-year old son, and our three-year-old and four-month-old daughters. We have one income so our budget is considerably tight. Bridgehaven helps us make ends meet.”
I knew it had been quiet too long. I walked into the bathroom and found my two-year-old daughter standing on her stepstool, gripping my eyeliner pencil like a magic marker. She looked up at me with accusing blue eyes, as if I had interrupted her on a very important phone call. She had scribbled a thick black line from the corner of her mouth to her right temple.
“Beautiful,” she said.
A few days later, we were running late getting out the door. Despite my asking her a handful of times to go get her shoes, she had not budged. Instead, she stood in front of the hallway mirror, glued to her own reflection. She was wearing her favorite dress—the puffy one from Nanny Betty, the color of Pepto Bismol. Tule exploded from every angle as she turned her little hips from side to side.
“Princess,” she said.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13
God calls us into community with one another and through that, He builds strong bonds of friendship that, for me, have blossomed into sisterhood. In January of this year, a few gals I knew from various avenues of life; a few Junior League friends, a mom I met through my son’s friendships, a life-long friend, and a friend from work, came together in hopes of learning a little more about Jesus. Over the past eight months, we have studied, shared our hearts, cried, laughed and prayed together. We have watched as the Holy Spirit has entered into our sacred space (my living room) and, in a very short time, has transformed our hearts, our minds and our lives. This band of characters, this village of mine has evolved like a great story.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Over the past month, I have had about five different people, in varying conversations and circumstances, share with me very similar messages. These messages all started out and sounded a little bit like this, “When I stopped trying to…”
When the first person shared this message, I was drawn even deeper into the conversation because this concept was very interesting to me. When the second and third person started to share this same message with me, I was like, “Okay, maybe I should start listening even more intently and become aware of the ways in which I need to work on this more in my life.” But then when the fourth and fifth people had spoken about this same concept, I was like, “Alright, God. Show and guide me to those deep places in my heart and soul. I need to work on these things even when it might be really tough and yucky to examine under a microscope.”
We have generous donors that believe in the power of higher education.
Bridgehaven receives a yearly donation designated for scholarships for clients attending Kirkwood. Clients in the Earn While You Learn program have the opportunity to complete an application, essay, and interview with us. Each year, we are blessed and inspired by the stories of goals, overcoming obstacles, reliance on God, and the power of determination.
This year, we had three applicants apply for the scholarship, and all three were awarded amounts that complemented other grants and scholarships they were receiving. Two clients received Kirkwood scholarships through Bridgehaven last year and can now continue their education in the fields of nursing and human services. They have been very successful in their programs with honors and high recognition! Bridgehaven is so proud of them and honored to be able to walk alongside them in their journey.
Following are portions of their stories, motivations, and dreams surrounding their educational goals. Join me in celebrating and offering up thanks and praises for these people and their educational desires.
I had been a part of the Bridgehaven staff for nearly two and a half years when the Lord began to gently guide me into the hidden rooms of my heart. Rooms with doors that had been locked, sealed off, darkened over time until they were no longer even acknowledged. Not forgotten, mind you, just easier and easier to ignore.
As I began to learn more and more about the women we serve, I became aware of a class that was offered several times a year. It took place after hours, when most had gone home. There was anonymity in the air…one light in the building would softly glow for a few hours more. It was a Post-Abortive Support (PAS) Bible Study.
At my two year mark, I began to feel a growing uneasiness that comes from keeping your abortion a secret while working at a pro-life pregnancy support center. And just as quickly as God began to awaken this call for me to come forward, the enemy began to undermine, whispering familiar messages about my shamefulness, my hypocrisy, my inadequacy. Contrary to what I knew of the hearts of those I worked with, I was taunted with messages like, “If they knew, they would not have hired you. If you tell them, how could they possibly allow you to keep working here, especially with teens!”