Loveland Lake

Rebuilding after disaster

Colorado. The word conjures images of the majestic Rocky Mountains and herds of Elk roaming freely … thoughts of relaxing in the outdoors … and feelings of awe that we have been blessed by God with such beauty. 

Peaceful, isn’t it? In September 2013, however, the region of Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties was anything but peaceful. Heavy rains prompted flash-floods across some 2,000 square miles, destroying or damaging more than 7,000 houses. Miles of roadways were gone.

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Remembering the guardian of Topton’s history

I had heard the name Virginia “Ginny” Ebersole numerous times after the 2000 creation of Diakon that brought The Lutheran Home at Topton into my work-life, typically as the guardian of The Lutheran Home’s history as an orphanage.

Because I had a similar role in safeguarding the records of the children’s home operated by Tressler Lutheran Services—my former organization before the Diakon merger—I felt a sort of kinship with Ginny, even though the similarities ended there.

Ginny, after all, had actually grown up in the children’s home and then returned in retirement to the place of her childhood, living in one of independent-living cottages at The Lutheran Home, now a senior living community.

Although I had the privilege to work with Ginny the past two years, I wish I had learned to know her personally sooner because her commitment to protecting and preserving the history of the home was both outstanding and amazing. When someone wanted to know the history of a child who had been served by the home, everyone immediately turned to Ginny for that information.

But no longer. Virginia B. (Baer) Ebersole passed away last Sunday, July 24, at the age of 88.

Ginny lovingly told stories of her time at the home, to which she moved in 1933 when her mother passed away; her father’s work schedule made it difficult for him to take care of his family.

Horse and sunset

An honor, a privilege

Some believe that knowing your life’s journey is coming to an end can be a blessing of sorts. You have an opportunity to say goodbyes and perhaps even let go on your own terms—but knowing certainly does not always make the process easier.

At Manatawny Manor, we recently helped a chronically ill resident and her family members face such a struggle. Our chaplain, the Rev. Roxi Kringle, has a special way of discussing end-of-life issues. She engages in a heartfelt conversation with individuals and their loved ones, asking about wishes and goals. Is there something the person would like to do, a place to visit, favorite foods?

Climbing a phone-tree … to view the past

When you work in communications, your daily tasks can be pretty varied, from developing an entire strategic plan to … well … redoing a phone tree.

What’s a phone tree?

It’s the sequence of options people hear when they call a main number for an organization … you know, “to speak to this program, press 1,” and so on. I don’t do any of the technical phone stuff; rather, I review the sequence of the tree, edit the accompanying text and arrange for the professional recording you hear.

Diakon had not revised its tree for a while and when I began the update process, I found I had quite a few changes to make, sometimes because programs had been transitioned to other providers, sometimes because they had moved geographically or administratively or, in an instance or two, because they had closed.

In some ways, tackling a phone-tree update is a history review.

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Mission possible

My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.

Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.

This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.

This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.

After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.

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Where is God?

When “bad things” happen to “innocent” people, many wonder, “Where is or was God?”  “If God is good and loving, why does God cause or allow such suffering?”

After my 35-year-old sister died of cancer, I was very angry at God and had those same burning questions.  With a lot of prayer, reading and conversation with some wise people, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

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Always worth it

Adoption has always been something that my husband, Tim, and I knew would be part of how we would build our family. It just didn’t happen exactly as we planned.

Tim and I knew we wanted to have biological children first; later in life, we would adopt. I am a planner—and this was my plan.

What we didn’t expect was that having biological children would be so difficult. After my having had three miscarriages by the age of 22, we decided to see a fertility specialist, who suggested genetic testing. We learned that I had an autoimmune disorder that was likely the cause of the pregnancy losses.

While all of this was occurring, we had begun the process of becoming foster parents with Diakon. We knew we wanted to start our family and we didn’t want to wait.

We received our first placement in February of 2010, a gorgeous little boy who needed a mommy and daddy as badly as we needed him. He was born prematurely, at just 26 weeks’ gestation, and had spent his entire life to that point in a hospital—yet that didn’t affect his amazing and joyful spirit.

Mike Leavitt and Friends Diakon OAC

Get started!

I’m too out of shape to run. I’ll start after I lose some weight…

Sound familiar?

Mike Leavitt (bib #113 in photo) felt this way for quite some time. He was an athlete in his younger days but work, family and life in general had taken its toll.

At 38 years of age, he felt scared and disgusted at how out of shape he was. And when a friend suggested joining a running program, he thought it was out of the question.

“I’ve never been a runner per se. With flat feet, bad knees and a larger frame, I’m not really built for speed. In addition, my energy level was really low. I wasn’t motivated at all. Never thought I could do it!” he says.

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Siblings and foster care: the give and take

As the mother of a large family, I am often asked all sorts of questions about doing foster care, but the one posed most frequently is “How do your girls feel about it all?” … followed by, “I am sure it takes away from them, doesn’t it?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

When Jeff and I first considered foster care and adoption, we had many questions and thoughts and scenarios. Foremost, being the birth-parents of four daughters, we were concerned about their safety and happiness. They would be sacrificing a lot as well and that sacrifice wasn’t to be taken lightly. They would share their rooms, their toys, their time and their parents.

How would they feel when a child left? Would they understand it at all? We would bring it up often and always spoke the truth. We didn’t have a lot of the answers to the questions they had—and a lot of the questions they had were the same ones we had.