Abundant Living

In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Heart Boundaries

Photo from Mindful
There was one young man who really got to me at CRC last night. 

He is all tatted up. His head is shaven and he has this tattoo on top that looks like some kind of seal. He has what looks like a red lipstick kiss mark tattooed on his cheek, he has something written in cursive on his head above his ear.  He has a bunch of other tattoos all over.  It's the first thing you notice about him.  He also has a serious countenance.  He is Latin and your first impression of him is that he is a gang banger.

When we were in our small group talking, I was impressed with him because early on in the discussion he brought up something he'd read that week.  I'm always impressed in life by people who read. Throughout the group discussion he was well spoken and voiced ideas that will serve him well in life.  It was obvious that he gets the concept of it not mattering what other people do or don't do because you have to choose who you are going to be.

At one point he said that people see him and probably think negatively based on his appearance but that, when he starts talking they see that he's got much more too him.  That's exactly how it was for me.  I find myself praying for this young man.

I pray that God would bring him close to Himself.  That God would prosper him and use him to help others while he's on the inside.  That he would be able to establish a healthy relationship with his child's mother. That he'd be blessed with a job when he gets out.  That he would become an inspiration to others and be used to God's glory. That he would be a father who starts a new legacy in this generation.

It seems to me that God's using these young men at CRC to get to my heart.  To enlarge the boundaries of my heart.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A bit of work craziness

Graphic taken from Bing's Pinterest
I've noticed during the 2 weeks since I started back at Rockcreek that things are different than when I worked here before.  There's a serous lack of employees who can drive the company van, and major employee attendance problems.

This means that just about every day I'm getting call off calls from employees at one of the  3 homes with which I work.  It seems like there's always a huge struggle to find coverage.  Most frequently these call offs are for the PM and NOC shifts.  I've had face to face meetings with the staff at all 3 houses and one of the major issues discussed was attendance.  The ironic thing is that not everyone showed up at these trainings. I've been catching up with those who didn't show and talking about what was discussed at those meetings as well as explaining that attendance at trainings is just like attendance at the job- a person can't be a no call no show, they must call and let me know why they can't make it and get an authorization from me to miss.

Due to the driving situation, last Tuesday was very difficult for me.  I'd worked all day and then rushed to CRC to do the class.  As I left CRC I was happy and looking forward to going home and relaxing.  I checked my work phone and found messages regarding a client who had to go to the ER because he is non-verbal and was limping so we needed to ensure nothing was broken.  I sat in the parking lot of CRC and made calls for about an hour trying to get someone to come in and take the client to the ER.  I then realized that there was not anyone to get, so I went in and took the client to the ER.  Fortunately CRC is only about 15 miles from the house/facility where that clients lives. I didn't get back to the facility until 5:30AM.  Then I drove the 45 minutes it took to get home, took a bath, and went to bed for 1 1/2 hrs.  I then had to get up and get ready and be in to work for one of those house meetings, followed by a meeting with a day program and social worker about a client which did not go well.  I finally managed to get out of there by 2:30PM on that day, but still got calls and texts the rest of the day.  That whole situation was a bit too intense for me.  I need to get some time off work each day and be able to sleep for at least 5 hours. This is a salary job so I don't make any extra money if I have to do these kinds of things. I am OK if this doesn't happen but a couple of times a year, but if it happens all the time I feel that it's just too much. 

I almost had to go in and cover  a NOC shift last night (which is Saturday night and I'm theoretically off on weekends). In order to avoid going in to work myself, I told the staff person on duty  that she'd have to work a double.  In health care in general there is the understanding that if your replacement staff does not come in, and coverage is not found, that you must stay.  The staff person was upset at me and told her residential manager (RM) this morning that she was sick because she is diabetic and did not get to take her medicine.  I texted her and asked if she was OK.  I also informed her in the text that I didn't know that her working would cause her to miss taking medication.  I said that if I'd known I would have worked. She texted back that I knew she had diabetes.  I agreed that she had told me that last week but that all diabetics are different and I didn't know that her staying would cause her to miss medication doses.  In all honesty I am not sure if she did miss a medication does because most diabetics take an AM and PM dose; not medication in the middle of the night.  But still...

I pray that this does not become a regular event.  I pray for health of the employees at the facilities I cover.  I pray that there would be a spirit of responsibility and team work.

On this past Thursday the woman who is the program manager (PM) for my homes came to me.  She said that the other woman who is PM for the other 13 homes was quitting and Friday was her last day.  She said that she really likes working with me and wants a PM with whom she can partner and would really like to work with me.  I responded that I really like working with her too and, no matter what, we'll work together.  She'll either be my PM for these 3 houses or we'll be PMs together.  I prayed about it.  Every day I work for this company I want to be excellent and work as unto the Lord.  My main over riding feeling is that I want to fix problems, make things better, and be a blessing where I am at.  By God's grace I've developed some skills and have some knowledge that can be helpful in this setting. 

Friday the executive director (ED), PM and I met.  I basically told the ED that 2 of these 3 homes have huge problems and the good 1 has conditions out that we're seeking licensing to put back in. If they want to keep me there so that I can be of help in fixing all that, I'm good with it.  I told the ED that I know she's been telling me that for the first time she can remember they actually have several  Q applications (I am working as a Q right now); that they have more qualified  applicants then openings. So if she wants me to be a PM, I can do that.  There is a east and west side PM and I live closer to the east side homes. However, I was a PM for the west side homes close to 3 years ago. I told the ED that I could be a PM, if that's what they wanted, for east or west sides.  I told them that I just want to work where I'm of greatest service.

The PM position pays about 20% more than the Q.  They both pay terrible for all the required education, knowledge, skills and work they take. I love the ED, the Rockcreek faciliteis, and this industry; which is part of why I keep coming back to work here. I feel OK about the fact that I only stay 1 -2 years when I work for them because I take no training, jump right into the work, and make things better.  I also feel OK because it's always just too  much, it interferes with the ability to have a life outside of work.  The 2 times I've left before, I gave a month's notice.

The PM and ED decided that I should be the west side PM.  I think that the PM was very happy because she is currently working as the east side PM and the east side, for all it's problems, is not as troubled as the west side. I recognize that it's going to be a big headache but am excited that I'll get to train a brand new Q. I really enjoy teaching and mentoring employees in this field. I feel like it puts all my experience to use.

I'm a bit afraid of all the staffing challenges and the possibility of having to come in and cover shifts or take clients to the hospital during my off time.  I have prayed that God would use me to His glory, so I'm believing that this will be part of that.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tidbits from class at CRC

Photo from The Preacher's Word
One of the things that really blesses me at CRC is the young men who are so eager to change. Who are trying to learn what being a new person looks like in day to day life.  Who want to have better lives and are working to make that real.

There was a discussion during part of the break out portion of class this week that I found interesting.  One African American man who looked like he was 15 years old (but he had to be at least 18 since this is prison), who I'll call K, asked me some questions. Another couple of African American young men who I'll call E and T joined the conversation. E and T seem to be in their mid twenties. The conversation went something like this:

K: Does it always pay to be a nice guy? I mean, do you really do better in life or do people just take advantage of you?

Me: Wow, that's a great question. Because you know, sometimes it doesn't seem to pay off; not in the short run.  Sometimes it does seem like  you do all the right things and don't look like you prosper.  But since you asked me, I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that whatever  you put out there in life is what you ultimately get back.  As Christians, we call this "sowing and reaping", Hindus call it karma.  But, whatever you want to call it, it is a true phenomena.

E: Didn't say anything but was watching me very intently as I talked about this and was nodding in agreement. 
T: I know that's true because when I was on the outside, I tried to be generous.  Once my girlfriend and I saw these homeless people and I gave them money.  I saw that they didn't have any shoes so when I got some new shoes I brought them my old ones.  Sometimes I'd bring them food. During that time I got a good job and made lots of money.

K: But what about the guys here who're always up in my stuff? Who mess with me.  Do I have to be good to them?  Won't they just take more?

Me: Have you taken the boundaries class yet?

K: Shakes his head  no

Me: That class will last several weeks and I think you'll really benefit.  In it we talk about ways to be a good person but set boundaries in our lives. Being kind and good does not mean letting people get over on you or take advantage.
E: Oh no, you can't be letting people mess with your stuff up in here.  There are some people who if your soul was a real thing that you could put in your pocket, they'd even steal that.  You have to have boundaries and guard yourself and your stuff. [On an aside note, isn't E poetic with that whole thing about if you could put your soul in your pocket, they'd take it.  That's profound.]

T: Looks directly at K and smiles.  Now I know what you're talking about.  That's something different from doing right and being good like we're talking about.  Those types of guys, you can't let them mess with you or take your stuff.  You only have your little bed and your few things, if you let them start taking stuff from you,  you'll have other problems. 

Later during this break out session, as we were going over the homework we came to a section with Bible verses where the guys were supposed to look them up and write about what the verses meant to them.  The verse was Romans 13:1. This time T and E had these things to say:

E: When I read that verse I thought about how it means that God has let every authority be here.  That means that since God has let me be in prison, that even the warden and the guards and the rules, God wants me to obey them. [If you understand prison culture, you'll understand that this is a huge revelation for E.  In prison culture the warden & guards are "the man" and looked at as the enemy.]

T: Yeah, like doing good at my job IS about working for myself to pay my rent and put food in my refrigerator, like I talked about earlier.  But it's also about doing good for God.  He's our boss over everything and all the other bosses.

Me: I so much feel that way T.  I've had jobs where I've worked real hard and the owner didn't appreciate it at all.  But I would remind myself that I didn't really work for the owner, that everything I do is for God.  Because He's been so good to me and given me so much.  I can never be anything but grateful.

E. Me too.  God's done so much for me.

I'm just so blessed by these young men's hearts.  The culture of people who end up in prison is called anti-social.  Anti-social culture is all about yourself, looking out for number 1 and not really respecting anyone or anything.  Rehabilitation programs try to teach what is called pro-social behavior; behavior that a person engages in to benefit both themselves and others.  Pro-social behavior respects authority.  Those who work in the criminology field know that changing anti-social values and mind set is not easy.  That's a huge part of why around 70% of released prisoners end up back in incarceration within 3 years.  It's such a blessing to me to watch God working in some of these young men's hearts.  To see them change and grow.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unexpected Prayers

I have a confession to make - typically I'm not very good at prayer, I tend to feel like I'm "not doing anything" when I'm praying. Of course I know with my head that this is not true, but it's still how I most frequently feel.  But lately I find myself drawn to prayer.  Prayers of gratitude and prayers for the ministry at CRC.  Specific young men periodically come to my mind and I find myself praying for them.

Picture from Streams of the river
Picture from Streams of the River

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rockcreek Again

Later in the day this past Tuesday I saw that Rockcreek was advertising to hire a QIDP/Administrator. I've been thinking and praying about if I want to go back to work there. I've never felt totally "finished" there.  I love that company and those people. So I went ahead and applied again.

Wednesday morning Kimberly, Rockcreek's executive director, called me.  She told me that they actually have 3 Q openings but are in the process of hiring 2 Qs.  She said that neither of them have been promised any exact location and I could have my pick of any of the 3 locations and "start tomorrow" if I wanted.  She told me that she had 2 current, somewhat stable, program managers right now but if one of those slots were to come open I could certainly have the position (Qs supervise 3 homes and program managers supervise 4 or 5 Qs). She was eager for me to work for them again.

I told her I was happy to be a Q.  I mentioned that what I love about being a Q is getting to be around the people who live in the homes, that many truly wonderful people work for Rockcreek, and that if I do my job well I can really make life better for the people who live in the homes. I didn't say it to Kimberly, but one of the other things I like about working at Rockcreek is that so many of the Qs, house managers, Kimberly, and the HR director are all people that I like on a personal level.  The kind of people who it's fun and easy to talk with - I just find them interesting.  The kind of people I'd actually like to even hang out with in my personal time.

I didn't need to mention to Kimberly what we both know are the downfalls of being a Q.  It pays poorly, it's always a challenge to keep staff, you're on call 24/7 and get called a lot when you're off work. If you really have staffing shortages, sometimes you even have to cover for an line staff and work the floor. It is due to the downfalls that I've left working for Rockcreek on 2 other occasions.  The first time I worked as a Q for a bit over 1 1/2 years and then left to go try being an HSA in an immigration detainment center.  About 2 1/2 years later I worked for them for a year as a program manager.  I left that time because Rhea offered me a position as a nursing home administrator. Rhea had worked for me as a nursing director back in 2004 - 2006. She'd become a clinical director for a company that owned a few nursing homes and needed an administrator in the area where I lived.

On the good side it feels great to be wanted and appreciated.  I'm grateful to get a job. I know that I can go in there and do a good job for them and make things better.  However, to be candid, I'm struggling with my ego. I'm the only person I know with a license to be a nursing home administrator that would work as a Q or program manager in this type of setting. The pay is less than half what I'd make as a nursing home administrator. It's much less prestigious.  But I don't actually need more money.  It's most likely good for me to work hard at a more humble position.  It affords me the opportunity to practice having a servant's heart and humble attitude.


Photo from Nelly Cherry
Sometimes there's a moment in time that becomes fixed in your mind.

There were a few such moments during our last class at CRC.

The men have a workbook through which we are working.  Each week they receive a chapter that they work through on their own prior to class. The class includes 35 men and is set up so that there's a general opening introduction regarding the chapter we're working on that week. Then we break up into 3 smaller groups to allow for more intimate discussion.

When part of the discussion involved stuff that happened during their childhoods, I was moved by how truly terrible things had been for some of these guys. One man talked about how, starting when he was 6 years old, he had to get the money he needed if he expected to eat that day.  Another mentioned how there'd never been any kind of routine in his house since life had revolved around his mom doing whatever it took for her to get drugs. As I listened to bits and pieces of the nightmare experiences that comprised many of these young men's childhoods, I couldn't help but think why would we be surprised these guys ended up involved in criminal activities?

Several guys really grabbed my heart with their comments during our discussion about long term goals. Here are some of those comments that got me:

* "I feel kind of funny saying this and you might think I'm weird, but one of my long term goals is to not have a kid with anyone unless I'm married to her.  I already have one child but I'm not going to have any more unless I'm married to the mother before we have children.  My dad must have something like 20 children wandering around with lots of different women, I don't want to be like that."

* "You know, my dad's been in and out of prison my whole life.  This last time he's been out the longest he's ever been out - two years.  Everyone says I'm just gonna be like my dad, but I'm not.  When I get out my goal is to never come back to prison. I want to be different."

* There was a very quiet young man who I had to encourage to speak. He tentatively said, "I'm not sure if this counts as a goal, but I want to get my GED." When he made this announcement a few of the other inmates made comments such as "that will only be the beginning. You can do that and then keep going", "way to go, good for you", and a few clapped for him.

I was hit again, as I was last week, with that pervasive feeling emanating from many of the young men in that room. It was Desire.  Desire to change.  Anxiety about if they would be able to.  A bit of puzzlement as to how to really do it.

It is so rare in life that I come across such sincerity of heart in people who want to become different, who want to be better. I can't express what a joy it is to get to teach people with this attitude.

I pray for each of these men and look forward to seeing how God's gonna work in them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lunch with Pam

I'm really rather selfish and tend to put myself in the middle of life, as if everything revolves around me.

Perhaps this is why I am so surprised that I enjoyed the three hours I spend with Pam today.  We went to this great fish taco place that has sort of a fast food place, but almost a restaurant, kind of set up.  We went after the lunch rush and there were lots of empty spots by the time we finished eating; so we sat drinking tea and talking for quite awhile. Then I took her with me to go buy some herbs for a hanging herb garden I'm setting up.  Pam used to have a huge herb garden when both my parents were alive and they had a ranch out in the country.  She's into herbs and knowledgeable regarding them.  It was a entirely pleasurable time.

Here I'm thinking I'm doing this thing for her, but it's me who ends up getting blessed.  Honestly didn't see that one coming.
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