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!”
About a week ago, I was in line for a coffee at the grocery store. After I ordered and was getting ready to pay for my drink, there was a woman who had just ordered her drink before me and was still standing in line. She had some extra change in her hand from buying her own coffee, and then she looked at me and said to the barista, “Here, put this change towards her drink”. That started the beginning of my permanent smile for a good half hour afterwards. I thanked her so much for her incredible generosity. As we stood there talking for a few more minutes waiting for our drinks, she shared with me the reason she loves being able to do that for people. When she and her family were going through a significant loss in her family and it was the day of the funeral, there was someone who paid for all of her family’s coffee drinks when she was waiting in line. She was so moved by that experience, she now pays for others drinks when she is able, in honor of that person, and the family member she lost.
After we departed, I just kept thanking and praising God for the way He connects people, the generous spirit He has filled inside of that woman, and how He allowed both of us to be able to share in one another’s stories. I also thanked Him for the way He always provides, even in ways we least expect it sometimes.
As I gazed at myself in the bathroom mirror Monday morning, I thought, “There is not enough eye cream in the world to get rid of these tired eyes!” They were squinty and dark, the normal spark lost somewhere behind the events of the past three weeks. They have been filled to the rim with terrific and glorious events, but if I am honest, really hard and emotional ones as well. Moments that made me want to cry in amazement and others that made me want to cry because of a broken heart.
Two emergency room visits (one for me and one for my husband), our daughter’s wedding, then moving her and her family to a new home in southern Iowa, a summer camp program and baseball for our youngest, difficult situations at work, launching a new program, deadlines and requests, a volunteer picnic, and welcoming a U.S. Senator to the center for a visit. Not to mention the weight I carry for those in my life struggling with their own events and battles. Whew!
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?
“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats
For the past decade, a rich practical way of sharing the gospel has been available for families through the Back to School Supply Distribution program. This annual event offers support, encouragement and provision in the lives of parents and children in the Earn While You Learn program at Bridgehaven. Client Support will be accepting school supplies that will support our active clients in the Earn While You Learn program for this coming school year.
The goal and prayer for the Back to School Distribution is to ease the financial burden and stress for families, especially single-parent households, to promote community connectedness and establish Kingdom demonstrations of God’s goodness.
The Earn While You Learn program is a transformational model that promotes growth, learning, healthy relationships and accountable support. Clients earn material assistance and yearly benefits, such as school supplies by attending empowerment-focused classes (i.e. life skills, parenting, relationship, and Bible studies).
Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1: 2-4
Have you, or someone you love, been experiencing sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, loss, or heartache, recently? For me, I can clearly point out to you the areas of my life that these have been evident for me lately, and unfortunately, some of those I love, have been going through every single one of these trials listed, as well. Broken relationships, loss of a loved one, fear of what steps to take next, or the heartbreaking news that just feels too much to bear. These are real trials. They come with real emotion. And they require real effort to keep inching forward.
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.