Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sundance, Rotation Four

Man how time flies!! 12 weeks until graduation and only 11 until I finish up at my internship. It has been a wonderful and amazing experience. I actually started my fourth rotation last week (unexpectedly). Most all the other interns are on a semester rotation with practicum, whereas I'm on a quarterly rotation at my school. Because of this my supervisor needed to move around the rotations and I began working with the adolescent group 6 weeks earlier than expected... and I LOVE it!! Right now the group is pretty small (6 kids) and mostly lower functioning and with aggression issues. I'm actually pretty surprised with myself how well I'm able to ignore the random outbursts and attention-seeking profanity...if only I had that ability when I was growing up towards my big brothers ;-)

Within this group we currently have an eating disorder patient and I think she is great. You can't really have favorites in my career field, but I must say I see a lot of who I used to be in this girl and absolutely enjoy working with her and her fighting spirit. She is amazing, funny, and compliant in working with her treatment team. I didn't get to see her in the beginning, but I know from what she has shared that all along treatment has been her idea and she is fighting incredibly hard to take care of herself and get back to her Senior year of high school and her friends. This girl gets it and she is motivated to get better and stay better.

During all this time I've gotten to know the staff better as well and truly enjoy working with everyone. I'm mostly looking forward to September 13 (the beginning of the end) and finishing up this journey. What a journey it has been and most importantly a significant part of my testimony.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My New "Normal"

This blog has been a long time coming (I think I've used that phrase before) and there are actually a few more months to come, but I just couldn't resist writing where I'm at tonight.

I've said it before and I'll probably say it till the day I die, but Billy's death changed me. There was Cristyn before Billy died, and then suddenly, without warning, there became Cristyn after Billy died. It has been a most difficult growing pain for me and more painful to watch as my sister, her husband, and their daughter, Avery adjust to life without their precious "B." And then of course there is his younger brother, Nathan and soon to be youngest brother (due in late September) who will never know Billy this side of Heaven.

I'm not sure if anyone else noticed the change, but I did... I still do, everyday, especially when I look in the mirror and late at night when it's just me and God. I have no doubts that the people who were in my life before Billy died and are no longer in it wouldn't recognize me anymore. True I haven't changed much physically, but I believe they would be blown away at how I've grown spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Once upon a time I was described as a turtle, and I highly doubt anyone would give me that description today.

I had to adjust to a new "normal" on March 29, 2008 and as I quickly found out there were a few things I couldn't take with me from the before to the after. For a short while a dream inside of me died when Billy did, as well as the death grip I had on what I thought my future should look like. As the months passed by, when I started to see how God was getting me through the grief (not over it, I'll never be over the loss of my first nephew), I saw how he resurrected a dream and the passion was re-ignited in me, and that I was fighting for something so completely different now.

I've learned to lay down my future, on a daily basis, for it could all change in the blink of an eye. I've watched as the Holy Spirit has become more alive in me and I've fallen in love with the beautiful creation God has created me to be here on earth. My self-confidence is unexplainable, I've learned not to care so much what others think... that's about them, not me. I'll always dislike the event that transpired to get me here, but at the same time, I have no desire to go back to who I was. I've learned to love change, as hard as it is sometimes, I realize how necessary it is.

I have a fire and passion to change the world, and I thank God for that. I also thank Billy, that every time I see his sweet, smiley, chubby face in a picture, he is the catalyst for this new "normal."

Sundance, Rotation Three

Wow! Third rotation and completely amazed at how much I've learned in only 10 weeks! This is such an awesome experience and such confirmation that I'm on the path that God set out for me so many years ago.

I started last week working with the Elementary Two age group (kids ages 9-12). We have about 16 kids in the group right now, 2 of which are only 8, but they're in our group because Elementary One is busting at the seams with 20 kiddoes. This is dramatically different from Elementary One, not so much redirecting for one thing. However, I'm finding that I might not be cut out for working with kids between the ages of 5-10, at least not in a group setting. These are good kids and they are shockingly honest with us therapists and I love that about them. I love that they feel safe with us (regardless of what has happened to them) and that we are entrusted to help them and their families function at a much better level than they had been.

I think one of the most consistent things I've learned about (at least working with the younger kids) is how CPS works in Texas and how different foster families and adoptive parents can be. I had a family therapy session with one of our newer patients today and his adoptive parents are AMAZING!!! They love this kid, they are on the same page as parents, and it was strictly by chance they adopted this kid (and his brother and sister)... I however believe it was purely a God thing... He knew what these kids needed. They are sticking with this kid through the good, the bad, and the ugly. He has a loving home and it truly spoke to my heart the sacrifice that adoptive parents make and it is stirring so much more in my heart.

Alas, I ramble now and if you know me well you know I could go on... and on... and on....

2 more weeks with this group and then I move on to start working with the pre-adolescents... I'm really excited about that group (unnecessary drama and all!). Oh and on another note, I finished my Practicum I class tonight... one more class to go in the fall (Practicum II) and you'll be lookin' at a graduate with her Masters degree in Professional Counseling. So excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel get brighter!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Blogger on SIDS America

*The following comes from Bill Darnell, my brother-in-law and Executive Director of SIDS America*

It is with a humble, hurting, and heavy heart that I reach out to you. I am desperately seeking immediate financial help for my family.

We recently moved back to Colorado Springs. It has been so healing and redeeming to return to where our hearts have always desired to raise our family. This is where we believe God has called us to be and where we are to base our nonprofit ministry, SIDS America.

At the same time, it’s been humbling & frustrating considering what our lives, lifestyle, and routines were just 28 months ago living in Colorado Springs before Billy’s death. I was making $75,000 a year in a corporate management job. Both cars were paid for, we had no credit card debt, we had saved up over $45,000 in emergency savings, we owned our home with considerable equity built up, and we were so blessed that Cheryl could stay at home with Avery and Billy. We felt financially responsible, independent, self sufficient, and wise with decisions and investments. We never asked anyone for help; in fact, we sought ways we could bless & serve others, and our life & future felt very happy & hopeful.

Then, Billy died.

Now, 28 months later, we find ourselves desperately trying to survive. I’ve worked over 40+ hours a week, with minimal income, since launching SIDS America back in November 2008. We’ve depleted our savings and have even taken out loans to further the ministry and to help pay off grieving families' funeral, burial, and emergency medical bills.

  • We’ve served over 60 families across the country, representing hundreds of lives deeply impacted by the tragedy of SIDS.
  • I've aggressively been raising funds for our nonprofit ministry. To date, we’ve raised approximately $100,000 in private donations, and Cheryl and I have invested $135,000 of our own money into the ministry. All of these funds have been depleted to serve families in need, provide appropriate resources, and to form, build, and further the ministry.
  • We have dozens of volunteers across America who have offered to help us identify families who have lost a child to SIDS, visit and encourage grieving families, write notes of encouragement, pray for the families we serve, provide meals for grieving families, lead support groups in their hometown, organize fundraisers, and to contact their local pediatrician offices, hospitals, birth centers, daycares, medical examiners, churches and tell them about SIDS America.

As a family, we are just 10 days away from facing complete financial ruin and destroyed good established credit. For 28 months now, we have found a way to pay our bills on time, to keep afloat, as we aggressively & persistently formed, built, and grew SIDS America while all along searching for, reaching out to, and helping newly grieving families. Also, although this is humbling and hard to admit, we’ve had to apply for food stamps & Medicaid in order to get by.

Yes, the death of Billy has put our fragile lives in perspective.

Forming and starting the only faith-based, 501(c)(3) SIDS nonprofit in the country has come at a great price. But we have no regrets. In fact, we have new found empathy for the families we are serving.

I feel like we are getting a second chance at life again being back in Colorado. Our 4th child, Jared Wesley, is due in less than 45 days, and I can't tell you how much I long to welcome him into a calm, secure home environment, to make Cheryl & my kids feel safe, secure & stable again.

Would you please consider helping me reestablish my family and continue this ministry? Whether it’s $10, $100, $1000, $10,000, $100,000, or somewhere in between, given as a one time gift, or given monthly, your support will help us rebuild our lives. Even more importantly, your support will allow us to continue in this life-building ministry. Broken hearts will mend. Babies' lives will be saved. Hope will flood homes. All because YOU invested in SIDS America.

Here’s how you can help.

Our board has approved a $65,000/yr Executive Director salary for me to run SIDS America. If you can contribute to my ministry support, not only will you allow us to reach out to newly grieving families and further the ministry as laid out in the attached SIDS America Investor Proposal / Business Plan, but you will also help us continue on the path of healing here in Colorado Springs.

If this letter touches you anyway and you feel the urgent situation we are in, the most direct way to help us is to give online at www.sidsamerica.org/donatetoday. Any amount you give would be tax deductible since SIDS America is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry, and you would receive a receipt for tax purposes.

Or, you could send a check made payable to SIDS America to our new Colorado office address:

SIDS America
13710 Struthers Road, Suite 120
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921

Or, you can send anything you want to the home we are renting:

Bill & Cheryl Darnell
14618 Allegiance Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80921

If the tragedy of Billy’s death and the path it has lead us down forces us to have to face bankruptcy, ruined credit, and years of not being able to own a home again or to get a loan, then I’m at the very least going to go down fighting to the last second. I refuse to be “that guy” who at his most desperate hour, didn’t ask for help. Please help us.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Bill Darnell

Sunday, August 8, 2010

SIDS America

This is how I remember Billy. Smiley, lovable, cuddly... all in all a happy boy. And that is exactly how I imagine he is running around in Heaven with Jesus. It's been 28 months since this precious boy went home to Jesus. So much of life has changed, so many seasons have passed and I see a strength and a legacy that he has left behind. He's our little bear cub... leaving a paw print on the hearts of all those that knew and loved him and I even believe a bit of him lives in his little brother, Nathan and I look forward to see what comes from the personality in his youngest brother due in just under 2 months.

The biggest legacy this little one has left is the birth of the only faith based 501(c)(3) SIDS non-profit in the country. There is a huge need for SIDS America and although I might be a bit biased, I think when you read about what they are doing and how they are working to help other families in need, you'll want to be a part of it too. I realize times are tough, the economy is struggling, but it doesn't take much to support a worthy cause. I truly believe that if you (dear readers) consider giving financially you will find you will be blessed beyond belief. It may not be in the way you think, but I believe it will blow your socks off and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Please, if you do nothing else, take time to read about Bill and Cheryl Darnell at www.sidsamerica.org and you can also read about some of the families they have helped. You can also be a part of assisting these families and others by donating at www.sidsamerica.org/donatetoday Please consider donating, you won't be sorry.


*Below is the essay I've submitted to International Justice Mission (IJM) as a part of the application process to intern with them next Winter*

“We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, everyone overcome.” ~ Desperation Band, Jon Egan, 2007

Over the past two years, I have seen and heard time and time again of people who have “overcome.” They have overcome difficult circumstances, they have overcome tragedy, and they have overcome attempts by the devil trying to gain a hold on their lives. My most vivid picture and testimony of the will to overcome come from the tragic and unexpected loss of my nephew, William Thomas Darnell Jr., to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), in March, 2008. As the two years have passed since that day, I have witnessed as my sister and her husband have pressed deeper toward the Lord and placed all that they have in His hands; and, as a result they have overcome and continue to walk in healing. I have witnessed how He has blessed their faithfulness to Him. Has it been an easy road? No, not in the least, but it has been a journey from loss to meaningful life once again.

As the days following that tragic day unfolded, I watched from a distance as my sister both questioned and listened to her Heavenly Father, and trusted as He began to speak and comfort her and her husband. I watched as my sister so adamantly wrote and delivered the eulogy at her son’s memorial service. I watched how her grief and honesty testified to others in being open and honest with their grief. I watched as she and her husband built (and continue to build) a ministry that assists other families who face the same loss that they experienced. It is a ministry that might not have been planted had they not walked this road themselves. I have witnessed and heard the countless stories of the families they have assisted in the year-and-a-half that the ministry has existed, and I have seen how God is using the love and compassion in their hearts for a greater good.

I believe that overcoming is a choice that we are all given the opportunity to make. My sister and her husband overcame by trusting in God’s plan, while not knowing what it might be. A lot of the strength they found came from the support system around them. They were able to choose to overcome, to trust in the Lord because of so many people around them trusting, praying, and believing for them.

I foresee for my future a calling to trust in, support, and pray for others. Years ago, I felt called to pursue a masters degree for a career in professional counseling. It was not until two-and-a-half years later that I finally began the journey that would get me to that degree. Through that journey, it has never been about the degree or the initials after my name, but about continuing to work through my “overcome” moments and hopefully helping others do the same.

There is so much hope in the phrase “to overcome” and I thank God for the work He has done and continues to do to help me overcome challenges so that I, in turn, can minister and help guide others toward Him. International Justice Mission is a ministry that gives others the opportunity to choose to “overcome.” When I look at the work that IJM has done and continues to do, I see how they step forward as God has called each worker and volunteer. Those workers and volunteers teach others across different nations to overcome, to see that there is something beyond what they have always believed to be the only way to survive.

Jesus Christ came to this world to overcome so that we may have the choice to overcome through his power and love. It is when we make that decision that we fully walk into all that God has planned for us. Overcoming is a universal word, a universal concept… I do not believe that there should be any cultural barriers when it comes to learning how to overcome.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Can't Imagine...

...doing anything else.

The other night a good friend and I were talking, sharing life and laughs like we most often do. In the midst of the conversation regarding my internship and going into the counseling profession she stated that she couldn't imagine going into that field and hearing all the stories and circumstances surrounding the patients and being able to leave it at the office. I told her I couldn't imagine not being in it, not being there to help these people, to hear their stories and help guide them towards life.

This is a short blog tonight as I'm exhausted, my heart is overflowing and as a counselor I'm finding how much more I need the ultimate Counselor, Jesus Christ. I wanted to share as a mini-testimony that God truly does have a plan and as I step into the one He's mapped out for me I want you to know I can't imagine being or doing anything else (except for maybe being a wife and a mother...someday).

Good night dear readers & God Bless!
~ C