Shelterwood graduate shares

“It’s not all butterflies and unicorns”: A recent Shelterwood graduate, Crosby Child’s, shares candidly about the ups and downs about being home after graduating the program.

Having grown up in a caring home with a stay-at –home mom and a dad who worked hard to support the family, Crosby’s trouble didn’t start until middle school, a difficult time for anyone. Then, being forced to move at the end of Grade 6 and leave everything familiar behind, Crosby began to mix with the “wrong crowd” and it “turned her life upside down.”   She became angry and stopped confiding in her parents and spent more and more time with her friends, making poor decisions. During her freshman year, she went through even more radical changes: she was moving again to Oklahoma and she found out she was pregnant with a child with special needs. Her anger and bitterness towards everyone spiked. Her move to Oklahoma didn’t change much…she continued to hang out with the wrong crowd and got involved in drugs and alcohol. She started skipping school and all of these decisions really affected her grades and her relationships at home, which went from bad to worse.

Crosby was brought to Shelterwood in November of 2012 where she experienced “ups and downs” for fourteen months and graduated in January 2014. Her highlights include activities such as horseback riding classes, being celebrated as she moved up levels, meeting “a lot of wonderful young women,” and traveling to Haiti twice to work at orphanages. But what stands out the most for Crosby is being baptized with her best friend which she says, “was more than [she] could over ask for and it brought [her] closer to God.” While at Shelterwood, she learned that she was smart and capable at school, that she was able to love others “safely” and make wise decisions, and how to have friendships without unhealthy dependency.

Since graduating from Shelterwood in January, Crosby has been busy raising Tommie (who will be 3 in May) and working to finish school so she can go to college to be a dental hygienist and travel. Her dream is to do missions work and maybe live in a country such as Haiti for a year. While returning home has been difficult and a definite adjustment for Crosby and her family, she says she knows better how to handle struggles and that even though it might not have seemed like it at the time, “Shelterwood was the best thing that ever happened to [her].”

Taking Advice from a Family Counselor

The family counseling profession has burst on to the scene in the last 30 years and is firmly entrenched in the fabric of today’s society. From Dr. Phil to Dr. Lara, from Internet sites to Facebook sites, from L.P.C.’s to M.D.’s, from workbooks to library books, family counseling is playing a huge part in helping a hurting world.

The focus on helping inward issues is to be applauded, particularly in a society that is slow to take true responsibility for problems. While we don’t need to shy away from asking for help, we do need to be careful whom we seek as our source of help.

DSC8848 copy 300x200 Taking Advice from a Family CounselorMy son-in-law Mark was telling me the story about a well-meaning radio announcer that was helping her audience prepare for the pending hurricane to hit her listening area. “Fill the bathtub with water in case electricity goes out, then you’ll have a water source for drinking and cooking,” she announced. As the hurricane made landfall, that same announcer instructed any listeners still in the area to “take shelter in the middle rooms of your house. If it’s the bathroom, sit in the tub and put mattresses over your head for protection.” A panicked women immediately called in and asked, “Won’t I get all wet if I sit in the tub?” Advice comes in a variety of flavors and colors- some of it helps and some of it hinders.

Having a few letters after a name and a shingle in the front of an office does not guarantee good family counseling. And, I’m embarrassed to mention, calling oneself a “Christian Counselor” doesn’t guarantee good family counseling either. I heard a psychiatrist say once that he was looking for a true Christian colleague that would come practice in his clinic. He got a call from a friend he remembered from medical school years earlier. “Thanks for inquiring, but I had no idea you were a Christian Counselor,” the psychiatrist commented. “Oh, I can be any kind of Counselor you want me to be,” said the friend, “I just need a job.” Scary.

So, whether it be your teenager, your marriage, or yourself, seek out help from the many excellent Counselors that have dedicated their lives to being people helpers. But be wise. Here are three basic filters I would run through every potential Counselor before choosing: 1) Be sure the Counselor has professional training in being a people helper. Make sure the Counselor is licensed as a professional Counselor, which assures you that they have the degrees, training (thousands of hours) and competence to truly help. 2) Be sure the Counselor has a pure and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Have them tell you their spiritual journey. Every Counselor bases their family counseling on something. Be sure yours is on Jesus. 3) Be sure the Counselor has a good reputation. Call around. Find out who has been to this Counselor. Make sure the Counselor fits you.

I am so thankful that God has gifted so many professionals with skills to help the hurting and heal the wounded. When you encounter difficulty personally or within your family, be willing to let someone “bear the load” with you. But be careful and prayerful as you find the right person.

Don’t get caught sitting in a bathtub full of water.

I Love Being a Mentor

Here is my story of a wilderness camping experience with some of the students that I am working with at Shelterwood Academy.

%name I Love Being a MentorI think any guy with much camping experience will tell you that there’s really nothing like sitting around a campfire at night enjoying deep conversations. But how much greater is that experience when you get to be a big brother to those people, discussing life and staring into a slowly dying fire? Those are the kinds of experiences I treasure as a big brother. Every part of the canoe trip was exciting to me while we were driving down, pitching our tents, wading through the knee-deep creek hunting for crawdads, watching the fireflies at night lighting up like I had never seen before, and floating down the river trying to avoid getting my boat flipped by an overzealous little brother. I just genuinely enjoy being able to be barefoot for a couple days and getting some wet grass between my toes. Now I’m starting to worry that all this Missouri air is starting to get to me. It’s pretty amazing being able to take a bunch of guys from all different places out of their element and spend some time in nature and out of the artificial.

I remember waking up one morning and only half awake, I walked down to the fire and plopped down on a cooler. It was great just sitting there watching some guys cook our breakfast in a skillet on the fire. Actually, we accidentally left our spatula for the trip back home so we had to find the cleanest stick we could off the ground to stir the scrambled eggs. The little brothers would trickle in toward the fire and after a while they would reach for some breakfast and then eventually woke up enough to string whole words together. So we sat around the fire there again enjoying a slow morning, eating a hot breakfast, and spending time building relationships and telling stories. It’s genuinely a delight to be involved in something where this is considered my job. I love these moments in life and being able to be a part of someone else’s journey and getting the chance to help someone heal away from such negative influences is priceless.

I’ve actually spend my whole life growing up in the Ozarks so camping is almost second nature to me, but there’s always something special about climbing back into your bed when you get back. It’s like my dad used to say, his favorite part about eating ice cream is the cold glass of water afterward. Surprisingly, I think my favorite part of the canoe trip was coming back to the house with the guys. We all have the same bug bites, the same memories, and we all long for the same air conditioning. That’s when I feel really bonded with the little brothers. We shared a few days together outside of our comfort zone, taking in the elements but finally we’re back enjoying the fulfillment to our longing for safety and comfort. And as a big brother that is what brings me, far and above the greatest joy, to be able to provide the little brothers with a sense of safety and comfort.

This is What Real Mentor Relationships Look Like

tough guys 225x300 This is What Real Mentor Relationships Look LikeBrad Paynter (Mentor, 2002-2003) reflections on a mentor relationship with a student, that’s lasted over 12 years.  At Shelterwood Academy we have fostered hundreds of these type of committed mentor relationship and believe that your teen would benefit from this type of life long support.

Zach had been on the Shelterwood campus for a number of months before I arrived in the fall of 2002. The friendship was immediate. We shared a very similar history: both from Iowa, both soccer players, both raised in military families. In addition, both our fathers were physicians who knew each other through their respective careers despite the distance between our cities.

But the providence of our encounter extended beyond the regular kind of mentor relationship that is wonderfully typical of staff and students.  Soon after I my role as a mentor in 2003, I invited my parents to Zach’s graduation party in central Iowa.  What developed was truly a display of God’s provision for community among believers. On more than one occasion our families have been a blessing to each other in ways that can only be understood by our similar histories. When my father retired from the National Guard, the Websters helped us find a spot for the reception after the ceremony, and then helped with the preparations.

Zach and I have continued our friendship through the years. We have commented at times that being at Shelterwood seemed like an entirely different life—in a weird but wonderful place. What a blessed life.