Tag Archives: mentor

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I stayed in bed far too long yesterday morning. Excitement and fear paralyzed me as I looked forward to the lunch appointment I had on the University of Mary campus with someone who had intervened in one very specific moment in my life over 20 years ago.

When I was a freshman at Concordia College, my bipolar self was not diagnosed accurately.   The highs and lows of energy that I still experience manifested themselves in those days in a variety of ways such as chaotic eating, concentrated exercise schedules,  extended depressive episodes, odd sleep patterns, spurts of intense productivity,  and general silliness.  All of these things masked what truly bothers me – energy-based bipolar tendencies which a psychiatrist finally diagnosed correctly when I was 36 years old. During those college days, though, I spent a good amount of time “on the run” – something I still often feel tempted to do and have posted about in the past.

The church I attended during high school had a very active youth group. We went to camp, traveled on mission trips, and spent most Wednesday nights and weekends together.   Every Christmas and Easter, our group joined other groups from around North and South Dakota for retreats.  These were my good friends – the same friends that I found at camp. I married one of them, and I remain friends with most of the others to this day in some way or another (at the very least on Facebook).  I also had the opportunity to meet other adults from around the state who spoke into my life at various points throughout high school, college, and into my adult life.

Several weeks ago, I sat in a meeting with University of Mary Student Support Services staff members.  Each of my English 098 students has an advisor, and I wanted to share my thoughts, impressions, and concerns with the advisors as a group. I had emailed with many of them, but their supervisor and I thought it would be worthwhile for me to attend one of their meetings.  When we went around the table and introduced ourselves, one name…and the face…seemed oddly familiar.  I was completely caught off-guard but had to focus on my meeting.

After the meeting, I could not shake the impulse to contact her, so I did….by email…because that is the best way to find out information without exposing my soul to too much pain or rejection if I am wrong.

Ummm…were you, by chance, a youth leader from <<her church>> in the 90s?

I sat at my computer and waited for the reply. I refreshed my email several times, and then her response came – YES!  I shared a few more details about who I was “back then,” and her reply came back again…she remembered me!

The next day, we were at an event together.  When I saw her, I had mixed emotions about knowing that she knew that me…the me who left her dorm room in the middle of the night because the urge to run had overwhelmed her…the me who did not know how to deal with the thoughts that told her to run…the me who showed up in a driveway hundreds of miles away from college, slept in the car, and was found that way the next morning by the very woman standing in front of me…the me who this youth leader had encouraged to go back to school saying that I was fine.

“We should have lunch,” she said.

Yesterday, we had lunch.  Throughout the morning, though, all of the parts of me that feels and experiences joy, anxiety, and fear held my body in a paralyzing force.  The what ifs of how lunch could go raced through my mind and nearly kept me from going.  To be honest, I left the house later than I had planned, I took the long way to the university, and I thought I might just keep driving south to miss the lunch appointment altogether.  Eventually I put on my big girl pants, and I still arrived early.  Strange how that works!

All morning, I felt like “that me” again…young, frightened, and ready to run.  At the same time, I felt like the “this me” who is the dean of students of a new little online school in Minnesota, teaches classes at the University of Mary, is married to a pastor, and has two grown children attending Baylor University.  This paradox of us being able to feel two ages at once is something that I need to explore more in another post.

When we sat down, she asked me to tell her about me.  I was stunned and absolutely speechless.  I know – me! speechless??  I had no idea where to start.  There I was sitting in front of a woman who had found the eighteen year old me in her driveway after I had driven a few hundred miles and slept in my car…and she wanted to know about the “today” me – the forty year old pastor’s wife and mother of two freshmen in college.  It dawned on me that my own children are now the age of “the me” who ended up in her driveway that night.

As I told her about me, I told her the raw stuff without going into the icky details of any of it. We both have master’s degrees in education, work as guidance counselor types, and are familiar with the lingo, so it was easy to be sort of clinical about it all.

Before I knew it, lunch was over.  We parted ways as we each have jobs that need us.  We waved goodbye in that way that we do when we know the person is in the same town or on the same college campus most days.  The mood was light, and it became clear to me that all of my anxiety was silly.

Next week, I will drop off a book to the student success center where she works.  The book is a compilation of essays written by my students. The title is Unexpected Giants and is a tribute to those who have carried my students (and me) on their shoulders so that we could see futures that we could not have seen alone.

When I  mentioned the incident to her (as a point of reference for other incidents in my life), I used my favorite term – “crazy.”  She sort of laughed it off and said, “I worked with teenagers, Stacy.  I didn’t really think it was all that unusual.”

While my essay is not about this particular giant, it easily could be.  One day, I hope to write the book that features all of my giants.  I had good parents who did their best raising me.  But sometimes we need other caring adults to impact our lives as well.  This dear woman did that for me clearly – based on her comment to me yesterday – without judgement. I am thankful for the brief, yet powerful, role she played in my life.

I know that this season is busy, but can I challenge all who read this?  Whose life can you briefly touch today, this week, this month, this year, or this lifetime?  And…as you drive to work, put up the tree, or bake those cookies, consider who were giants in your life…and how you can let them know the powerful way that they impacted your life?



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Super Bowl Mom

Of all of the people involved in the Super Bowl yesterday, the one that I would have enjoyed being near the most would have been Mrs. Harbaugh – the mother of both teams’ coaches.  Anyone who watched the game last night already knows that the family drama involved in the game itself, so I will not re-hash that.  Anyone who did not watch the game would not care.

But – care about this!

While football may not be everyone’s thing, caring about the future generations should be.  After hearing and reading about the Harbaughs, their attitude toward the game, and their forward thinking about which son should be their focus after the game, I am so impressed.  Good parenting more often than not leads to good outcomes. 

If the Harbaugh brothers would take the developmental asset inventory from Search Institute, I am guessing that they would score pretty high.  If the Harbaugh family would take the family asset inventory from Search Institute, I am guessing that they would score pretty high.

It does not take a family having loads of money to give their kids an edge.

Families need to invest in their kids, bring other caring adults in to encourage their kids, and provide an environment of high expectations with lots of support.  Failures needs to be seen as opportunities to improve.  And mistakes need to be corrected.  All of this needs to be done in ways that empower children and teens to be better than what they think they can be while helping them to see reality.

As I watched the game last night, I commented that I want to be an NFL kicker.

That is not realistic!  I am nearly 39 years old, a woman, not quite five feet tall, and about as un-athletic as they come.  This dream needs to be tempered with reality.  However, had I wanted to do something big and dreamy like that, I am sure that my parents would have cleared the path for me by making me play football with the boys, making me play soccer, and the like.

The Harbaugh parents did something to clear the path for their boys and have stayed with them as supporters all the way to the Super Bowl.

It is clear by the reports of how Jim and John interacted with each other and what their parents did after the Super Bowl ended (consoling the losing coach rather than living in the glory with the winning one) that this family is filled with assets.

The Search Institute’s asset-building approach easily works with just about any parenting style and belief system.  When I see the results of asset-building parenting live in the midst of a football game, I get a bit giddy.  Whether we are parents or those “other caring adults” in a child’s life, we have a huge impact.

Who in your life helped you to get to where you are today? What did that person do?

What are we doing today to help them realize their dreams and go to the Super Bowl?

And who knows, maybe someday someone will teach me how to kick for a field goal!

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January – National Mentoring Month

There are days when I read other people’s work, and I think, “Wow, this would make a great post…I wish that I had written it!” This is the first time that I have made the jump to simply posting someone else’s blog post in place of my own, but it has so much value – I have to do so!

Childhood Relived

January is National Mentoring Month. 

Did you know that?  Oh, you didn’t.  Well, perhaps that’s because you were off celebrating National Bath Safety Month.  Or National Blood Donor Month.  Or National Oatmeal Month.  All causes worth celebrating, all worthy of a promotional month.  Especially the oatmeal one.  I like it in cookies.  But, alas, National Cookie Month is not until October.

So rather than nosh on a bowl of oatmeal, I got to thinking.  Could I help promote National Mentoring Month on my blog?  Could I help urge people to mentor?  People who do not include drug dealers and van-driving “modeling agents”?

I know!  What if I were to have a “Very Special Episode” on my blog, much in the way of the sitcoms of yore?

[Editor’s Note:  Very Special Episodes were a public service announcement gimmick on the Must See TV of the 80s.  Typically, this involved your favorite sitcom characters suddenly breaking from their normally…

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How Should I Be Remembered?

Hot tears stung my eyes and blurred the words on the page. How could this have happened? They swelled over my eyelids and rolled down my cheeks. How could I not have known? As the words came in and out of my vision, understanding fell over me.  Could this be true? No one writes about another person in the past tense unless she is no longer with them. But when? And how?

Some background: In December 1998, I interviewed with four people at Shore Country Day School for a position that I felt I had no chance of being offered but desperately wanted.  Those same four people became my “bosses” when, against all odds, they chose me as the Director of After School and Summer Programming.  Of the four, two of them oversaw my position the most – the Head of the Lower School and the Chief Financial Officer. I later discovered that each of the four had reservations about hiring me (as would I…I was only twenty-five years old at the time), but they also each had reasons to choose me.  The Head of the Lower School and the CFO became wonderful, healing mentors over the next three and a half years as I had left a very unhealthy job situation. Who I am as a worker today is due very much in parts to their mentoring.

Back to present day: I sat in my car outside the car wash on Martin Luther King Jr Day and read the Shore Country Day School bulletin. The school continues to mail it to my Grand Forks address. As I had been in Grand Forks that weekend, the bulletin was in my car. I thought the car wash would be a great time to catch up. Boy, was I wrong!  The bulletin was the 75th Anniversary Edition, and there were highlights of various staff people – all written in the present tense…until I came to the loved Head of Lower School.

I recognized right away that there was a shift in the tense of the article: this article was in past tense. As I drove into the car wash, I read and re-read the article…hoping that I was wrong, grasping at any explanation for the article besides the fact that my mentor had passed away without my knowing.  She had given me a passion for younger children, had taught me patience and understanding, and had showered love on my own children who were toddlers when I started to work there.  She believed in a restorative approach to discipline, but she held them accountable for their actions at the same.  How could she be gone?

After pouring over the article several times and coming to grips with the fact that it was definitely written in past tense, I whipped out my phone and sent an email – through tears that would not stop – to my other mentor, the CFO.  The two women had very different approaches to mentoring me.  While the Head of the Lower School was much like a grandmother, the CFO is like a bulldozer.  I learned efficiency and confidence from her in a trial by fire sort of way.  I remember that I had asked her approval for several purchases within the first month of my hire.  After one too many requests for that approval she told me, “Stacy, you are the director of this program.  You are responsible for the budget, not I.”  Wow!  I learned that she would prefer that I make mistakes and learn how to fix them.  What a gift…

In my email, I apologized, knowing that the email asking about her friend would bring back many memories, but I asked her if what I suspected was true.  Within two hours, she responded.  And I had been right.  By then, I was in the parking lot at the music store where the boy takes guitar lessons.  I again sat in the car as tears stung my cheeks as they ran down my face…sadness overwhelming me at both the knowledge that my mentor had passed away but also at the disappointment that I had not been able to know and mourn with others.

The Head of the Lower School had a tremendous faith in God, and – from what the CFO said in the email – she had come to peace with death as it approached.  In the email, my mentor shared my sentiments, “She taught us all.”  What a great way to remember the life and the death someone!

As I thought about this throughout the week, I have often thought, “What would I want others to say about me when I am gone.”  There is so much that one could say, but that phrase – she taught us all – would be quite a tribute.

What do you think?  What would like to have others say about you when you have passed away?  And what are we doing today to make that possible?

Do I live in a way that I would like to be remembered?

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Filed under Education, Freshly Pressed

Love Those Pastors’ Wives!

On Monday night, Kerry and I attended the 2011 version of what has become an annual event: Pastors and Wives Appreciation Dinner.  Held in August for the past four years, this event is hosted and provided for by the Minnesota Association Executive Board members who treat the pastors (and wives if they have them…in Minnesota’s case all of the pastors at the moment are men – with wives) to a beautiful spread of food that includes yummies from the grill.  My personal favorite this year happened to be the mushrooms.  Is that weird?

As usually is the case at these events, the men migrated to one another and started talking shop while their wives migrated to each other and asked about updates in life.  Although the pastors get together once a month for prayer and support, we wives rarely do.  Our schedules do not tend to mesh well.  Two of us work in public education, one is the church secretary and recently started working a bunch of hours at a flower shop, and yet another is a daycare provider.  None of our time off seems to overlap, we are spread out from one another, and our jobs do not give us release time to get together like our husbands’ jobs do.

Being the wife of a pastor is different than being the wife of just about any other man with an occupation.  While every other job has its own family “requirements,” few people understand the exceptionally unique elements of the pastors’ family.  I find that being in the company of other pastors’ wives relaxes me.  They understand our strange rituals, odd hours, and secret handshakes.  Ok – that one might not be true!  What is true is that we do not have to explain much.  A knowing look communicates so much when we are together.  Needless to say then, it was great to chat with these fabulous ladies.

Typically at these dinners, we sit as couples for the main course; this time was different.  As ladies, we had been sitting in sort of a semi-circle in close proximity to a table.  When the “servers” (they are wonderful people!!) announced that it was time to gather around the tables, the wives sat at one table.  After some jabbing from the pastors (I am not sure if they were jealous that we were laughing so much or what), they sat at their own table as well.  The hosts gave us a bit of a hard time, but the women would not budge.  Some might say that I was a ring leader in this whole thing; I do not know where that idea comes from!

I cannot recount every conversation in this blog post – in part because of protection of my dear friends and in part because some of it may have only been entertaining in the moment.  Our conversation covered a grand pendulum swing from updates on our children’s lives to a performance of “The Wiggles” live to the costs of weddings and funerals and the various ways that they could go badly.  One of the most entertaining conversations recounted the strange unwillingness of a wedding caterer to serve decaffeinated coffee at a reception.  Yet another spoke of inconsiderate, though well-intentioned, actions of funeral attenders.  “The Wiggles” conversation had me laughing so hard that I wiped tears from my eyes.

These encounters, though infrequent, are precious to me.  My fellow Minnesota pastors’ wives are not cut from a specific mold.  Our approach to how we support our husbands differs in each of our lives.  They represent, though, a strong back-bone to each of their husbands ministries.  Everyone present last night has lived longer than I, has been married longer than I, and has been in ministry longer than I.  They have seen their struggles and their joys in their marriages, in the raising of their children, and in their churches’ ministries.  They march in front me and encourage me to keep marching.

I love our church; I would not trade it for another at this point in my life.  However, being in ministry, no matter how much one loves her church, can stretch us out of our comfort zone.  Few of us thought “pastor’s wife” would be one of the many hats we wear.  But we do.  And those women sitting around the table with me last night model for me what I can become and, at times, offer their guidance and support as I stumble along the path of the pastor’s wife.

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