Behind the Scenes

I almost don’t know where to begin.  I had over 500 words written and just deleted them, because they weren’t quite right.  I have been wanting to write this post for over two years.  After today, I decided to do so.

My mother is amazing.  I am so proud when people tell me that I remind them of her.  Let me tell you why.

Twenty-three years ago, she started a Christian non-profit agency to serve children (ages 5-12) with histories of abuse and/or neglect.  She did this because she had worked as a social worker for years with these kids and their families and saw that something more needed to be done.  And as she was asking God one night why He wasn’t doing something, she heard Him say, “Why aren’t you?”

The Yahweh Center was born.  To describe the amazing process this was would require a whole series of blog posts on how incredible God is and how He used my mother to do what many said was impossible.  And this post isn’t about how the Yahweh Center came to be.

It is about the here and now.  And here it is.  The Yahweh Center Children’s Village is struggling.  It is a tiny rowboat that has been tossed in the sea of a relentless NC mental health system, of a declining economy, of a system that is anti-faith and anti-hope, and by a Medicaid system that is antiquated and infuriating.  In the current system where a myriad of providers, some with the status of a yacht, serving similar populations, has closed their doors as they were battered and tossed by the winds of all this change.  And our little rowboat has pressed forward and IS MAKING IT.  Not just because of an amazing team or outstanding clinical work, but also because of its captain.  No, not my mother.  She is the first-mate.  You see, she would proudly and humbly point you to The Captain.  She always, always strives to give God the glory for the work done at the Yahweh Center.

But let me tell you about this first mate, this person who speaks to the crew on behalf of the Captain (and He put her in that position, I might add).  This person, my mother, cares more for the staff and the children at the Yahweh Center than any of them will ever really know.  She is literally up in the middle of the night interceding for staff by name, recalling their prayer requests from the mid-week meeting and remembering them before the Father.  She is the kind of leader who brags on the skills of the staff to others, both in the agency and outside of it.  She is the kind of leader that takes time to write personal notes on people’s paychecks, thanking them for what they do.  She has spent her own money time and time again to buy pizza for the staff or special meals for the kids.  Over the years, if a staff shortage occurred, she has worked in ratio (direct-care) with the kids.  She has sacrificed vacations to be there when needed.  She has almost a 1000 hours of vacation she has not been able to use.   She regularly works over 60 hours a week- in the past year, it’s been more like 80.

She is the kind of leader who has held her own paycheck more times than I can count in the past couple of years to ensure that there were as many funds available as possible to assist in paying her staff.  Even when it meant that she may not be able to make a house payment on time.  She has taken money out of her own pocket to ensure that a staff member’s electricity would not be cut off, or dug through and found enough to give a staff member gas money who couldn’t afford to fill their car that weekend and arrive to work (this just happened last week). She does WHATEVER SHE CAN to make sure staff get what they need, and for those recent times where paychecks have had to be held, she works tirelessly to find another way to make up the difference (finding out about the deficit usually only a day or some before they are to be released that not all the money is there).   And again, this happens based on larger state system issues.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, it is not in her control.

I have heard some say- well, gee, she lives in this big old house, she can afford to do that.  Wow.  What assumptions we humans make (myself included oftentimes).  My dad built their home.  He is incredibly talented.  They didn’t hire some contractor to do it.  He and my mom wallpapered their home top to bottom themselves (yes, wallpaper, this was over 20 years ago) :).  They did almost all the work.  My uncle, a plumber, did his part.  And many other friends did their parts.

Or, but she drives a BMW.  Yes, she does.  And that BMW she drives is over 6 years old, is one of the basic models with no extras, and she got an amazing deal on it.  How many of us these days have cars over 5 years old?

Or, well, she doesn’t know what it is like to work direct-care, where you get hit, spit on, cursed at up one side and down another.  Where you work long hours and get little thanks.  *I want to note here that the staff that work directly with the kids do an amazing job- it is an extraordinarily tough job to do and takes a special person to do it.* My mother was a DSS worker for years before starting the Yahweh Center- while it isn’t exactly the same as working a shift with these amazing but tough kids, it has many, many difficult aspects as well.  Such as driving down a busy street holding a child by the arm as the poor little girl attempts to commit suicide by trying to dive into traffic.  Or getting punched and kicked when you have to remove a child from the home, or end a visit with siblings.  Or receiving death threats from parents, like the time a parent threatened to hunt my mother down and cut the baby out of her womb (my mom was pregnant with my brother at the time).

She is a leader who I have heard countless times cry as she lifted the staff up in prayer (she often didn’t know I was around), or whose heart breaks when she has to write a memo or deliver the news that paychecks may have to be held for a week because Medicaid had a skip week because of the holiday.  She is a leader who hasn’t had a raise in almost 8 years because she wants to make sure others get them that deserve them.  And darn it, there are times, that with overtime, some staff have made more than she does.  She doesn’t have any benefits, no retirement plan.

And you know?  Staff aren’t supposed to know these things.  My mom, as the leader, knows that this goes with the territory. And normally, as her daughter, I keep silent.  Because let’s face it, a lot of people aren’t going to listen to me anyway.  When I speak up, they throw the “nepotism” word around.  And some of this I only know now that I no longer work there.  She worked very hard to keep boundaries, and she did an amazing job of it.

But today it got to me.  Because people continue to accuse my mother of not caring, of not being encouraging enough, of not understanding.  And it’s just plain wrong.

I write this 1) because honestly (and I suppose, selfishly), it feels good to process my frustrations.  When I worked at the Yahweh Center before stopping to become a stay-at-home-mom, I couldn’t share all the things others don’t see.  I guess I feel more freedom to do that now.  And I want to share some truth about my mom.  She may not be a perfect leader, but she is a leader who cares.

But even more than that, I write this because I want to encourage current staff members (assuming any are reading this!).   You have a boss who cares more than you will ever know.  No amount of words that I write, no stories that I share, will be enough to convey just how much this woman cares for each of you.  Just know that she does.  And please know that the reason she cares is because He does.

And please pray for the Yahweh Center, my mother, the staff, and the kids.  God is doing an amazing work there.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12

“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8


2 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes”

  1. Olivia,
    After reading this, I can see that you have an amazing Mom. I can imagine how hard it has been to keep all of this in and I’m sure it feels good to get this off of your chest. I, also, have a phenomenal Mom, and if I felt like others may not be seeing her for who she is, I would have a hard time. I will pray that others who need to read this will receive it well and that God will unify the staff at the Yahweh Center. I’m sorry things have been so difficult lately. Your poor Mom needs a vacation!

  2. Beautiful.

    What courage it takes to step out with God and do something new. Many times people {I’m guilty!} have asked God why He isn’t feeding the homeless, healing the sick, etc. And many people have gotten the same reply that your mom received and have done nothing! God is Spirit {John 4:24}. He occupies our bodies to get His agenda across. He is not coming back in body form {as Jesus}again to get things done. That’s why we’re here!

    Your mom is amazing, a true servant of Christ. She knows what Paul knew:

    Philippians 4: 10-13 “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

    **She goes through things, but doesn’t need anyone else to be concerned. She has learned to be content {at ease, fulfilled, glad, at peace} no matter what her circumstances. Why? Because she is operating in God’s will!!!! She can do all things through God: she can lead people who may not fully appreciate her or serve people who may not know the depth of her heart, but with Christ with her she does it, and she is satisfied.

    Sorry about the long rant! I speak that I too will get to the place where Paul was and your mother is.

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