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.”
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?
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.
I love to share the story of me and my husband’s very first Valentine’s Day as a couple. When Don and I were first dating, country music was a big part of who we were. We’d spend time in the car singing our hearts out to Rascal Flatts or dancing in the park to My Maria by Brooks & Dunn. Just thinking about those days make my heart happy. So, on our first Valentine’s Day, I was giddy at the thought of surprising him with tickets to the Brooks & Dunn Red Dirt Road Concert and the memories we’d have of the evening together.
When the day of the concert finally arrived, we were both so excited. Not once did we consider where our seats might be. But when we got there and the usher stopped at the steep staircase directing, “All the way up,” I looked up and realized the limitations of my checkbook. The only seats I could afford were a trek up to the second to last row of the stadium. I felt bad, my special gift felt minimized and not so special anymore. However, Don was encouraging and joyful. Just happy to be with me.