Support for Families

Teen Conversation

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 ( 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?

I think there are lots of practical things to do as parents. One of my main things is to have a strong village. Be friends with the parents of your kid’s friends. That way, you can call them and check out their stories. You can check Instagrams. The more eyes and ears on your kid, the better. Check their phones! Do it. You won’t be popular. They will hate it. Will they probably still be able to hide stuff from you? Yep. Will you still cuss Snapchat because you can’t see what is being discussed in a group chat involving way too many girls? Yep. And will you question why they don’t just text each other like normal people? Yes. But I am still a proponent of checking your kid’s phone. Do all the stuff they tell you to. Know where your kid is. Have rules and curfews. It is totally cool to not be cool with your kid. You are the parent. Don’t forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are the parent.

Another neat thing I saw in a blog is to sit down with your child and review your parenting. It sounds super scary. It is kind of like having a performance evaluation with your kid. The only way to improve is to know how you are actually doing. Now, I imagine some of the feedback you get will be actual crap. I am pretty sure Kinnick will let me know I am overprotective and I need to let him stay out later and keep his phone in his room overnight. No chance, buddy. But, I bet there are things I do that bother him that I could change. Either way, the list I came across could start some pretty cool discussions.

  1. What have been some of the best times you’ve had with your dad/mom this past year?
  2. If you had to give me some advice on how to be a better dad/mom, what would it be? Why?
  3. If you and I could sit down and talk about anything, what would it be?
  4. What are some of the things that are making you anxious, fearful, or discouraged right now so I can pray for you?
  5. What’s something you would like to do with me?
  6. How can I help you grow in your love for God and in your ability to serve and live faithfully for Him?
  7. What has been the best thing I’ve done (or that we’ve done together as a family) this last year that has helped you most in your understanding of God and His love for you?
  8. What would you say has been the biggest area of growth for you in the last year?
  9. What have you learned about God/Christ/faith this last year that has blessed you?
  10. If you could grow in any area in the next 12 months, where would you want it to be?
  11. What do you think your dad/mom is most passionate about?

Ultimately, using a couple of these questions leads you to learning a whole bunch of things about your children you might not have otherwise known. Or it leads you to ask more questions. And I think the most important piece is just spending the time. Spend the time so your child knows you care. Spend the time so you know your child’s heart. Spend the time so your child knows your heart.

Being the mom is scary. It isn’t all glamorous and wonderful like people make it look on Facebook. It is hard work. And it requires time. I pray that Kinnick knows he is loved by God and so many people and that his decisions matter. I pray that he takes care of both his heart and his body. I just keep repeating Proverbs 23:15 in my head, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” It’s absolutely the best we can do. Teach them, love them, pray for them and send them out into the world.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Back to School

“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).

Our desire is for all families to be burden free and at peace knowing their needs will be met! As a local body of Christ, we have the opportunity to fulfill this need and be a part of the solution. This is an element of establishing Kingdom demonstrations of God’s goodness and promises. God values education and people. Let’s be the people that put the gospel into action by practical means of meeting the needs of families.

If you feel called to contribute to Bridgehaven’s back to school supply distribution for the 2017-2018 school year please bring donations to Client Support at Bridgehaven by 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 31st. Our distribution for our clients will be held Wednesday August 2nd.

Below is a list of basic school supplies we are in need of this year:

  • School bags for boys and girls, kindergarten through high school (Important need)
  • Copy paper (Important need)
  • Loose leaf lined paper
  • Notebooks – wide and college ruled
  • 1, 1 ½, and 2 inch binders
  • Folders – all colors, with and without holes
  • Plastic pocket folders
  • Markers – skinny and fat
  • 24 packaged crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Pens – red, black, blue
  • Pencil boxes
  • Dry erase markers
  • Highlighters – variety of colors
  • Pink erasers
  • Glue sticks
  • Blunt and non-blunt scissors
  • Glue
  • Rulers
  • Kleenex
  • Purell hand sanitizer, individual size
  • Clorox Wipes
  • #2 pencils

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

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

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.

A Godly Marriage

A Godly marriageFebruary! The season of love, romance and all things pink and red! (Ohhh, how I love all things pink, I really do!) This sweet season of giddiness, googly-eyes and constant hand-holding means one thing; Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

Honestly, I’m not the mushy type anymore, but I used to be. Now, there’s just not a lot of opportunity for mush. Between rushing from here to there, managing a busy family schedule not only diminishes the time available for the lovey stuff but doesn’t necessarily leave you in the snugly mood. But when Valentine’s Day comes around each year, those butterflies in my heart are awoken and ready to profess my love to my love.

Well, the mush and romance may not happen every day but I truly do love being Mrs. Don McDill more today than ever before. How is this possible? The only way this is possible is with God. The day we allowed God to be at the center of our marriage, everything changed. Don and I both have failed relationships in our pasts and this time, we vowed it was different. We never wanted to go down that broken road again. However, those words didn’t mean much without our acceptance of God’s presence within our marriage. With God, we have vowed to put our selfish needs and wants aside, choose love and move forward in unity.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:7-9

I have to admit, however, I am truly an imperfect wife. I’ve gone through seasons where I try to be perfect and fail miserably. I still experience times of struggle where I want to take control and then other times when I have no interest in control. I still send mixed messages and make mistakes; essentially, I’m a work in progress. However, as we began to learn and live out God’s plan for marriage, we found a renewed sense of harmony and grace between the two of us.

“Wives submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19

I know this is an unpopular way of thinking when measured by the world’s view of womanhood and I certainly didn’t think this way ten years ago. But as I began to embrace God’s idea and plan for me as a wife, it empowered Don to be a better husband and father, and ultimately, brought us closer together. This calling upon my life is not easy and not a natural place for me to be. I am used to taking the lead, making decisions and moving the team forward. God is using this stirring in me to teach me a new sense of discipline and obedience that brings not only Don and I closer together but it brings me closer and more intimate in my relationship with Jesus. Proving that some of the hardest transformations bring the most fruit in our lives.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love.” 1 John 4:18

When we are functioning within God’s plan for marriage, the love is powerful. There’s…

  • no fear; only confidence and strength in each other
  • no confusion; honesty and trust wins out
  • no arguing; tenderness and authenticity in our partnership prevails as we work through the ups and downs of life
  • no stepping over each other; only kindness, patience and respect

Despite my natural tendency to lead, I am making a conscious decision (and effort) to give him space to step into his role. God has grown me so much in my marriage to Don. He is constantly reminding me of how my pride is the killer of a godly marriage. I am daily making a choice to move my ego aside and allow my rock solid, loving husband to take the lead in our marriage. I proudly take my place as his helper and partner and am reaping the blessings of a love that knows know fear.

Heavenly Father, this Valentine’s Day, I celebrate the fearless and beautiful love You want for all married couples. May these couples experience the humility, grace and unity that you desire for a life-affirming and life-long marriage. May husbands lead with dignity, strength and truth and may wives come alongside their husbands with support, wisdom and grace. Remind us, Lord, that marriage is gift and blessing created for your people and a covenant to be entered into with the utmost honor. Amen.

Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

We Are a Family of 6

“We are a family of 6; we have been married for 1 and a half years and together for 5 and a half years. We have a 10 year-old son, 9 year-old son, and 6 month-old twins. We learned about Bridgehaven through a friend who attended Earn While You Learn classes. Our friend knew of our struggle with having new twins; the financial burden, the emotional depletion, and the lack of support. Our friend encouraged us to sign up for classes and receive the material benefits, as she shared her personal testimony of value from Bridgehaven.

My husband works and has a good job, but we don’t qualify for assistance. We are above the line to receive some assistance. We live paycheck to paycheck and our money is tight. We needed something to help ease the burden of having twins. We would spend $30 or more a week just on diapers.

We didn’t know what to expect coming into Client Support at Bridgehaven but we signed up for a cooking class together. I learned so much about my husband from the cooking class, as we were able to cook side-by-side. In our home, one parent is cooking while another parent is with the kids.

Being a single dad, before marriage, I didn’t have a lot of cooking skills. We just got by but through the class I learned more cooking skills that are healthy for my family and makes my wife happy. I enjoy cooking and providing for my family.

We are so thankful for Bridgehaven. We consider our classes at Bridgehaven our “date night.” We are able to have a break from our kids and also from caring for my dad; I am becoming his primary caregiver. We trust the people at Bridgehaven’s Children’s ministry to care for our twins. We don’t worry about their care while we are in class. We know they are being cared for. Our daughter had acid reflux and it was stressful seeing her suffer. I received some great advice from the Children’s Ministry Coordinator that helped reduce her reflux.

We have learned so much about each other through the classes and Wellsprings(1). We do our own Wellspring reflection, then share and talk about what we wrote. There have been times when I have been in tears in the Wellspring room; tears of thankfulness for my husband and seeing the need I have of sharing that more with him. I really do appreciate him and need to tell him more.

We really enjoy the classes, Wellsprings, and Service Learning Projects(2). We are people that love to give back and doing the Service Learning Projects in Client Support help us feel useful and serve a larger purpose and it allows us to give back to a place that has helped us in so many ways.

I encourage young and new dads to come into the EWYL program with an open mind, to not be discouraged, and to know you can learn a lot here. You can learn how to provide for your family, talk to others in class, and it helps provide financial relief.”

(1) Wellsprings are a 30-minute reflective exercise using different spiritual disciplines. Bridgehaven implemented Wellsprings as an additional means of evangelism and to introduce people to various ways of experiencing and knowing God personally. They are meant to fill, refresh, saturate, and encourage all of our clients.

(2) Service Learning projects are hands-on projects (another component of Wellspring) for those clients to have a spiritual pathway of service. Clients participate in the organizing of food and clothing items correlated to Client Support. Examples (Sorting socks, labeling food, bagging items, etc.) It’s a tactical means of engaging, empowering, and using client’s gifts and skill sets to give back to a ministry that has poured into their lives. We are seeing a personal fulfillment and desire to serve others more through these various outlets.

God is creative in touching our lives and we are so blessed to see miracles, transformation, and growth happen in so many lives!

For The Single Mom on Christmas

For the Single Mom at ChristmasMaybe this is your first Christmas as a single parent; maybe it is another in a long line. Maybe you’re in the midst of a custody battle and you won’t get to spend December 25th with your kiddos this year. Maybe you’re a widow, and every Christmas seems to be more difficult than the last. Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet and you won’t be able to buy that gift your child has been asking for. Regardless of what brought you here, I want you to know I’m praying for you, and you aren’t alone.

I never thought I’d be a single mom. Actually, I hadn’t even seriously considered being a mom at all. About two years ago, I was living about as far from God as you can imagine. I was at the peak of a seven-year drug addiction and losing control of my life. I was in and out of homelessness and barely hanging on to the job I’d gotten after graduating from college.

I had a void in my life, and I sought to fill it with drugs and relationships. But no matter how hard I tried, the hole in my heart just seemed to grow bigger. My world came to a screeching halt around Christmastime in 2014. All in the same week, I lost my job and found out I was pregnant. Something had to change. I moved to Iowa to be closer to my extended family and to get sober.

Suddenly, I found myself across the country from everyone I’ve ever known: in the cold, pregnant and alone. And when I least expected it, God showed up.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible I think most single mothers can relate to. In Genesis Chapter 16, we see the first single mom in Scripture: Hagar. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, let me summarize.

The story of Hagar begins with two people who were tired of waiting. God had promised Abram and Sarai a family, and so far, they had not received it. Sarai was barren, and as the years crept by, their impatience grew. Eventually, tired of waiting, Sarai thought she would “help” God fulfill his promise. She gave her servant, Hagar, to Abram in order to bear a child.

Abram and Hagar conceive a child, and it doesn’t solve any of the problems Sarai thought it would. As a matter of fact, it makes the situation much more complicated. Hagar and Sarai are at odds with one another, and eventually, Sarai treats Hagar so harshly, she runs away into the wilderness.

Around verse 6, we see Hagar flee to the wilderness, pregnant and alone. I can imagine she felt abandoned, betrayed, terrified, and out of options. Sounds familiar to me. But in the most destitute of circumstances, God shows up. At a time when Hagar feels unwanted and unseen, God sees her. He finds her, appears to her, and calls her by name.

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” (Genesis 16:7-9)

I find it interesting that Hagar only answered the first question. She knew where she came from, but she didn’t know where she was going. She knew she was running away from a painful situation, but she didn’t know God would tell her to return to it. His command to return to Sarai wasn’t at all what Hagar had in mind.

Have you ever looked around at your circumstances and thought, “This isn’t what I had in mind, God?” The angel of the Lord tells Hagar she will bear a son and name him Ishmael, which means “God hears.” From that point forward, Hagar calls God by a new name: El Roi, which means “You Are The God Who Sees Me.”

It’s an awesome truth that when we feel desperately alone, God sees us and God hears us.

Hagar returns to her circumstances for a few years before she is sent away again. In Genesis Chapter 21, Sarah and Abraham have had their son Isaac. Things are getting tense between Sarah and Hagar, and between their sons. Sarah tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael back into the wilderness–for good this time. I can only imagine the pain and rejection Hagar must have felt as the father of her child sent her away.

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. (Genesis 21:14-20)

Have you ever felt crushed by the financial, emotional, and spiritual pain of single parenthood and wanted to throw in the towel? Rest assured that God sees you and hears you. If you cry out to Him, He will open your eyes to things you’d never noticed were there before. He will provide for you.

The void in my life I mentioned earlier isn’t unique to me. We all experience that longing and emptiness. I think single mothers experience it in a unique and profound way. The good news is that the One who created that longing in us promises to fill it Himself.

Dear woman, you and I have found ourselves walking in the wilderness of single parenthood. But we are not alone. Let’s remember that Christmas isn’t about gifts and traditions–it’s about Jesus, who came to save you, me, and our children.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

(Isaiah 40:11)

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

Leading Many to Righteousness

shineEach semester we choose class topics and materials for our Earn While You Learn program prayerfully and strategically. The class schedule is laid out to empower clients with knowledge that will promote healthy families and relationships, emotional health, and spiritual truth.

Our exciting and abundant fall class lineup exemplifies all of these vision points for Client Support. Let me introduce you to just a few of our classes and how they are initiating a journey of personal, cultural, and generational reformation.

“Reformation, like education, is a journey, not a destination.” Mother Jones

Screen Time

This class focuses on healthy family guidelines surrounding technology usage and exposure and is especially relevant in today’s society. Our class instructor, Jasmin, teaches the effects of technology on neurological development in children and identifies common myths of technology while helping parents to establish truth, safety, and fun parameters in using technology.

A client taking this class says she has recognized the value of “play” and “interaction” with her children. Prior to this class, her children would watch videos of other children playing. The parent purchased the toys in the video and realized her children lacked skills of play and enjoyed watching other kids play. What a turning point for this family and for generations to come!

His Story

Jo, one of our long-time instructors, is teaching this 10-lesson topical study covering fundamental beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. This class provides biblical answers to life’s most important questions, including “Who is God?”, “How can we be saved?” and “How shall we then live?” It is designed for believers at all stages of growth.

Clients in this class are excited about learning how to look up scriptures and how to apply the Bible’s truth to life issues. Clients are posting scripture in their homes and teaching their children about God’s truth!

Buy. Eat. Live with ISU Extension

This new partnership and class with ISU is a 9-week course taught by Donna, focused on learning how to budget and make healthy meals for the family. Donna teaches food safety, how to meal plan, provide new recipes for families that are healthy, cost efficient and broaden ideas of cooking with fruits and vegetables.

Dare to Discipline

Sandra teaches this class designed to help parents lead their children through the tough job of growing up. This practical, reassuring class teaches parents how to meet their children’s needs of love, trust, affection and discipline.

Several clients have recently encountered Jesus in a profound “first love” experience. They are learning, growing, and walking out their faith through parenting and asking great questions. This has led to a follow-up discipleship class.

IPAK (Influential Parents Accountable Kids)

Pastor Mark does a great job of teaching IPAK, which is based on the Love and Logic parenting approach. Love and Logic is a process by which children grow through their mistakes and learn from the consequences of their choices. There are two basic rules in Love & Logic:

  1. Set firm limits in loving ways without anger, lecture, threats or repeated warnings.
  2. Set limits using enforceable statements, regard mistakes as learning opportunities, and resist the temptation to nag.

Joy is teaching a 13-week condensed version of our 22-week curriculum that covers the entire length and development of pregnancy, labor, delivery, birth, and breast/formula feeding. We celebrate and honor those in the class with a group baby shower on the last day of class. Those that qualify through attendance, can receive a crib or car seat. Bridgehaven is very pleased to be able to offer this level of gift made possible through a grant.

Baby Basics

This 8-week course led by Cindy goes through a baby’s first 12 months of life including social, physical, and emotional developments. Topics include: teething and colic, when to introduce foods, sleep, and home safety, infant massage and sign language. A guest sleep consultant shares helpful practices to help establish routines.

Conversational English

This course is for international clients who desire to learn the written and spoken English language. Our instructor, Shawna, uses creative means to demonstrate and teach American culture as well as learn customs, values, social situations, history and holidays.


English as a second language is for our Hispanic clients. Lilana teaches the written and spoken English language and also teaches a bible study in Spanish.

Clients in both ESL and Conversational English have graduated and are employed!

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

Being there

kidsI walk into my office at Bridgehaven every day and smile at the photo I have displayed of my son and my nephew. They are 12 years old now but the boys are around 8 months old in the photo, wearing only diapers and my son has his arm on his cousin’s shoulder and his cousin is looking at him. The photo is adorable. It is an easy reminder of why I come to work…I want more mommas to have warm hearts when they look at old photos of their babies. But a situation happened last week that absolutely changed my heart and my focus.

On Thursday, I was away from the center, meeting with the staff at our Treasures location on 8th Avenue. We were in the office going over things and the phone rang. Julie, the store manager, took the call so I could only hear bits and pieces… “That’s terrible!” “Of course.” “Isn’t there more we can do?” Julie ended the call and explained to us that one of our Earn While You Learn clients at the center had a horrible thing happen to her. She reported to work on Wednesday only to find out that the company was eliminating her position effective immediately. She was devastated but the news only got worse. When she went to the bank that Thursday, she discovered someone had also cleared out all her accounts. She had no money and several children to take care of, including an adolescent son who needed clothing because he was growing so fast and nothing was fitting at home. Dawn, Director of Client Support, was simply asking if she could send the mom and son to Treasures to get some items of clothing for him as a first step in their journey to recovery.

Several things ran through my head at once. I felt so horrible for the woman and her children who were going through the heartbreak of someone leaving them with nothing. I was so proud Julie’s first instinct was to say yes and then offer more. I was in awe of the fact that because of the people before me in the ministry and our loyal donors, we had ways to help this family move on. We had a retail store that could provide them with some of their material needs. The clothes in the store were donated by people in the community. We had a stocked food pantry at the center that includes items donated by local businesses and people in the community. We had staff prepared to help the mom emotionally and spiritually recover from this. We also had courses that would allow her to develop job skills to secure new employment. We were literally surrounded by grace. And God would help this woman and her family through us and because of the people in our community.

Bridgehaven does empower choices for life but the ways that happens are so much bigger than I thought. We offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. We teach life skills classes where clients can earn material assistance each week. We go into the community and educate young people about good and healthy choices. But we are so much more! We are a place that makes the community better. We are making stronger families. We are a support for people who need assistance and don’t have anywhere else to turn. We do all this with the help of our community. God’s love is moving at Bridgehaven. You just can’t imagine how big it is…how fast it moves…and what wonderful things it does. God is good. We are just lucky to be a part of it.
kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development