Dec 05

Flashback Thursday: Managing holiday expectations

CLICK HERE FOR A BULLETIN INSERT ABOUT MANAGING HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS

 

While far from ideal, my childhood provided me with great memories of the holidays. I recall special days of decorating cookies with my Aunt Shirley, sharing a bowl of homemade Chex mix with my Grandpa Haughee while watching football, candlelight services at church, and special meals where family came together. We were a firmly entrenched middle-class American family, and one of the few times of excess and celebration centered around the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed a time when it was “all about the kids,” and being a kid, therefore, was pretty great.

Through my adolescence and young adult years, music and movies took a significant role in shaping my images of the holidays. I still love to crank up Bing Crosby’s Christmas album, and watch the Christmas classics when they come on TV. One of the best parts of moving from the Pacific Northwest to Montana a decade ago was that I could sing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” with an expectation that my “dream” will actually come true! I love the lights and the decorations, and can honestly say that the holidays are my favorite time of year. This is despite the fact that they are also the hardest time of the year for me. Try as I might, my holidays don’t look like they do in the movies.

Only as an adult can we appreciate the stress that the holidays must have brought our own parents. It is as if, through our own experience as parents and adults, we can look back on those memories of childhood with a clarity we didn’t have then. Behind the bows and lights, and hidden in the dark corners where the candlelight didn’t reach, there were all the stresses and hurt I feel now as an adult. I am sure my parents were missing their loved ones that had passed, just as I miss my mother who passed away this year. The running around from school program to church service to the mall for Christmas shopping undoubtedly tempered their enthusiasm for our celebrations. There were substance abuse issues, strained marriages heading to divorce, and dire health diagnoses that existed throughout my childhood that were as ever-present as our family gathered to share meals and make memories.

By Produnis - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45731820

By Produnis – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45731820

That’s why my expectations of the holidays, shaped by the movies to conclude with a happy ending despite any difficulty, leave me confused and always a little melancholy as an adult. Intellectually, I recognize how silly it is to mourn the loss of an ideal holiday that never truly existed, but my heart longs for that happy ending and saccharine sweet Hollywood storyline. So, what should we do when we are stressed out, disappointed, or depressed at the prospect of the holidays with no sign of immediate relief? I have a few suggestions that have proven helpful for me.

  • First, name false expectations out loud. Sometimes just speaking the words, “I can’t have a great Christmas unless [fill in the blank]!” helps you see how silly it is. Our joy shouldn’t hang on the outcome of the weather, our family’s gratitude, or getting that item on our Christmas list. Joy comes from within, not without. Take a deep breath. It will be okay, and okay is good enough.
  • Secondly, manage moments and take time for people, not tasks. Some of the greatest moments during the holidays can be found in chance encounters. If you rush around getting tasks done, you’ll miss these moments of joy. Plan for connection with people, realizing that being together is what’s important—whether it’s over a store-bought cookie or one you spent six hours baking in your kitchen. It’s about being fully present at your child’s concert or performance, not capturing it for Instagram or other social media.
  • Third, get outside yourself by serving. When our holidays are about our experience and how we feel about them, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. But, if we look for opportunities to serve someone else and brighten their day, lightening their load, we shift our gaze from our expectations to another’s need. It just may tap us into a deeper reality behind the holidays, especially as we celebrate the birth of the one who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Lastly, if you take good care of yourself as a parent or caregiver this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to provide that wonderful holiday you want for yourself and your family. Your children will thank you for it, and they will appreciate the tradition you build around a more balanced and relationally-focused holiday more than any present you could buy them.

Blessings,

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Dec 02

Children’s Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent: Beyond “The Giving Tree”

Object needed:

A copy of the book, “The Giving Tree.”

Theme/Main Idea:Giving-Tree-image

Even when things seem hopeless, God gives us hope. When nothing is left of the tree but the stump, there is still life there… just waiting for the right season to spring up again. Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree, ends with an old man sitting on a stump and the “tree” is happy again… but the ending of the book is pretty sad, really! The story of Isaiah, in today’s passage, is MUCH more hopeful.

Presentation:

“How are you this morning, children? My object lesson today is a book, and I am guessing it’s one that many of you have seen or had read to you before… anyone want to guess?

[take time for children’s guesses… I’d be amazed if someone got it!]

No… though those are all good guesses and well known stories. The book I have [reveal book at this time] is called, The Giving Tree! Do you know this book? Oh, it’s really good. We don’t have time to read it all now, maybe later we could, but for now I want to point out how the Tree in the book and the boy are friends. The book moves through the story with the boy getting older and returning each time to take something more from the tree. At the very end, what is left of the tree?

[turn page to where the old man sits on what is left of the tree… now just a stump]

Right! Just a poor old stump. But still, the story tells us, the tree is happy because the “boy,” now really an old man, can sit on her and she feels connected to the boy once again. And that’s it. That’s the story… kind of happy, and kind of sad. But, of the stories I know that talk about stumps, and I am not sure there are too many, The Giving Tree is only the second best story. I know a better one. It’s in the Bible! It’s a great story… really!

Hmmm… you guys don’t look convinced. Maybe I better explain…

Do you know about Advent? Advent means “the arrival of an important person or event.” It’s the start of the church year, and throughout the season of Advent we recognize the coming of Jesus as a baby. We celebrate that particular miracle on what day that is coming up? Do you know?

[let kids respond]

That’s right! Christmas! So, Advent is the time leading up to Christmas… It’s a time when we look back on the Bible passages that foretold Jesus’ coming so we can learn more about the wonderful gift Jesus was to the world! In the passage from Isaiah that we read this morning, for instance, the prophet talks about the promise of a ‘branch’ that was going to come and save everyone. Do you know what God was actually talking about? Or, maybe I should say… Do you know WHO God was talking about? [kids guess] That’s right… Jesus!

Jesus was the branch Isaiah wrote about. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? It gets a little less weird if you understand why God promised that branch in the first place.

Back then, the people of Israel were pretty discouraged. They had messed up big time, and they were suffering the consequences of some pretty bad choices. They had turned their backs on God and decided to do things their own way. It didn’t work out very well for them. So, like a big beautiful tree getting cut down, all of the ‘amazingness’ of being God’s people was taken away. They had to leave the places they were living and go live somewhere else. They were sad. They had gone from feeling like a big, important and beautiful tree to a lowly little stump. And, as they felt lowly like that stump, without any hope, that’s when God told them that out of that stump they had become a new tree would sprout! At first it would be so small, it would just be like a little branch coming out of the side of the stump!

Wow… incredible! When they felt their worst and felt like maybe God would just throw up his hands and be done with them, God gave them a promise. God told them that they would have a future leader, a great great great (you keep going on and on for a little while…) grandson of King David, who would help make them the type of people who are ‘right with God,’ close to him, and part of God’s family! That’s a wonderful promise to look forward to.

So, here we are in Advent, just starting out. Let’s remember how God kept his promise to send the branch—the seedling from the stump of Jesse (that was King David’s dad)—and that branch is Jesus, and most importantly… God still keeps all his promises today. In our own small way, we can help extend the hope that God gives us by supporting the work Intermountain does with kids and families.

We handed out change cans last week and have some more for you if you missed that (pass out cans to any that weren’t in church last week), and we’re hoping you fill them up between now and Christmas. You’ll hear a little more about Intermountain as we continue to move through the Advent season. But, for now…

Let’s pray:

God, thank you for your presence in each of our lives. Help us remember the promises that have come true and those that will come true in the future. Give us patience to wait for all the good things you promise to those that love you and place their trust in you. Help us hold out for the best, YOUR best God—for us, and for our church and our community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

Key Text: Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIrV)

Jesse’s family is like a tree that has been cut down.
A new little tree will grow from its stump.
From its roots a Branch will grow and produce fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on that Branch.
The Spirit will help him to be wise and understanding.
The Spirit will help him make wise plans and carry them out.
The Spirit will help him know the LORD and have respect for him.
3 The Branch will take delight
in respecting the LORD.
He will not judge things only by the way they look.
He won’t make decisions based simply on what people say.
4 He will always do what is right
when he judges those who are in need.
He’ll be completely fair
when he makes decisions about poor people.
When he commands that people be punished,
it will happen.
When he orders that evil people be put to death,
it will take place.
5 He will put on godliness as if it were his belt.
He’ll wear faithfulness around his waist.
6 Wolves will live with lambs.
Leopards will lie down with goats.
Calves and lions will eat together.
And little children will lead them around.
7 Cows will eat with bears.
Their little ones will lie down together.
And lions will eat straw like oxen.
8 A baby will play near a hole where cobras live.
A young child will put its hand into a nest
where poisonous snakes live.
9 None of those animals will harm or destroy anything or anyone
on my holy mountain of Zion.
The oceans are full of water.
In the same way, the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the LORD.
10 At that time, here is what the man who is called the Root of Jesse will do. He will be like a banner that brings nations together. They will come to him. And the place where he rules will be glorious.

Nov 14

Are you ready for the holiday season? This may help…

Recently Intermountain sent hundreds of letters to our faith-based supporters. These letters thank you for your prayers and supporting Healing Through Healthy Relationships, as well as invite the opportunity to give in 2019 if you have not already done so. Perhaps you and your congregation have not had an opportunity yet this year to be a part of bringing hope and healing through healthy relationship?

If you didn’t receive that letter, there is a link in this post, as well as a poster that can be printed off and placed on a church bulletin board or used on pre-service announcement slides.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LETTER AND FREE INTERMOUNTAIN POSTER FOR CHURCHES

As a thank you for your faithful support, I would also like to make available to you and your church free Advent children’s object lessons! While written primarily for a Children’s Sermon format, these object lessons could be used in a Sunday school setting, youth group, or even as sermon illustrations! Though written as a companion and a resource to couple with change CFC-logocans, none of the lessons are dependent on Change for Children (CFC) participation! Our desire is that they would be a gift to you and a thank you for your support. If you choose to dovetail CFC into these lessons, it’s as simple as contacting us and requesting our prayer cards or setting a goal of numbers of cans returned by Christmas!

Click here for: CFC 2019 Children’s Sermons – Year A in Lectionary

In my twenty-three years in children and youth ministry, the object lessons I have used for children’s sermon times have been a very effective way of communicating the truth of God’s Word.  Many of the adults in the congregation would tell me they preferred my children’s sermons to my “regular” sermons!  Jesus taught in object lessons and word pictures, too, so it should be no surprise to us that this method is highly effective—surely Jesus knew what he was doing and set an example for us to follow!

These lessons have been carefully crafted around the stories of the Advent season (Revised Common Lectionary, Year A) and how the message of God’s love for us in Jesus impacts our hearts and lives. I hope this resource blesses you, saves you time in preparation, and makes your workload a little lighter. So, enjoy these lessons, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and build a stronger relationship between the chaplain’s ministry at Intermountain and the good work you are doing in your church and community.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Nov 12

Intermountain Moment: Camden’s Story

Ten-year-old “Camden’s” mom was highly abused throughout her life. In fact, horrific abuse goes back three or four generations in their family. Camden’s mom is both hyper-protective and terrified of her children’s emotions. Camden and his mother needed help to keep their small family together. Intermountain’s Community-based Services provided that help.camden

Camden has a “light up the world” smile, according to his Intermountain therapist. When he first came into therapy, he had one emotion that he was willing to express: happy. As he progressed in treatment though, he became willing to express other big emotions. He learned to do this by hiding under his therapist’s desk and building a fort of pillows around himself. His therapist would try to guess his big emotion that day. When the therapist got it right, Camden would burst out of his fort, sending the pillows flying.

At the same time that Camden was learning how to safely express emotions other than happy, his mom was doing the same. She was taking Intermountain’s Circle of Security parenting class, learning to be “Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind” for her kids. In the past, her immediate reaction to her kids’ strong feelings was anger. She’s now learned how to talk to her kids instead of yell and scream. In a recent joint therapy session, Camden was able to sit in his mom’s lap and just “be sad.” It was a breakthrough for them both.

While it used to take almost an hour for Camden’s therapist to get him to express his emotions, it now only takes a few minutes. At home things are better too. Camden’s mom is continuing to improve the way she reacts to her kids’ strong emotions. She now has a steady job. She’s determined to break the cycle of generations of abuse in her family, and Intermountain’s determined to help her succeed.

When you support Intermountain, you are helping hundreds of children like Camden, and you help families be more successful. For more information or to support Intermountain, call 406-457-4804.

 

CLICK HERE FOR A .PDF BULLETIN INSERT TO SHARE WITH YOUR CONGREGATION

 

Oct 20

FREE Children’s Object Lessons for Advent (Year A)

Once again, I would like to make available to you and your church free Advent children’s object lessons! While written primarily for a Children’s Sermon format, these object lessons could be used in a Sunday school setting, youth group, or even as sermon illustrations! Though written as a companion and a resource to couple with change CFC-logocans, none of the lessons are dependent on Change for Children (CFC) participation! Our desire is that they would be a gift to you and a thank you for your support. If you choose to dovetail CFC into these lessons, it’s as simple as contacting us and requesting our prayer cards or setting a goal of numbers of cans returned by Christmas!

Click here for: CFC 2019 Children’s Sermons – Year A in Lectionary

In my twenty-three years in children and youth ministry, the object lessons I have used for children’s sermon times have been a very effective way of communicating the truth of God’s Word.  Many of the adults in the congregation would tell me they preferred my children’s sermons to my “regular” sermons!  Jesus taught in object lessons and word pictures, too, so it should be no surprise to us that this method is highly effective—surely Jesus knew what he was doing and set an example for us to follow!

These lessons have been carefully crafted around the stories of the Advent season (Revised Common Lectionary, Year A) and how the message of God’s love for us in Jesus impacts our hearts and lives. I hope this resource blesses you, saves you time in preparation, and makes your workload a little lighter. So, enjoy these lessons, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and build a stronger relationship between the chaplain’s ministry at Intermountain and the good work you are doing in your church and community.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Oct 11

Guest post: Proactive Parenting by Tracie Dahl, LCPC

Parents can easily describe many pressures from their own “tween” and teen years which bring back awkward memories and cringe-worthy recollections. However, the world has changed exponentially in the last several decades and continues to undergo rapid changes at an erratic and unpredictable pace.

The world today is filled with what can only be perceived by teens as unsafe events. War, bullying, gun violence, natural disasters, and the constant stream of reporting of these events via every available media source from television to internet streams; there is a never ending, shock provoking flood of horrifying news.Boys-on-phones-Proactive-Parenting-post

Adults must help adolescents learn how to navigate the perils, reduce anxiety, and build the strength and tools they will need when their instinct is to protect and shelter them as the adult response to the very real threats in the world today may also be an increase in fear and anxiety. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Start by using supportive problem solving which gives adolescents the opportunity to learn to think for themselves instead of making decisions for them. Any setbacks or mistakes become learning experiences, while successes allow children the ability to feel truly capable of handling difficult situations. As a result, both their resilience and confidence will grow. Oftentimes, I have coached parents in my practice to ask their kids when they present a problematic situation to them to respond with the question, “Do you want me to help you with this or do you just need to vent?” Kids want someone they trust to listen as they search for the answer themselves.
  2. Be a model of responsibility and allow children opportunities to help others. A child’s intrinsic need to help triggers anxiety while feeling helpless to improve the state of the world we live in. Conversely, having the ability to actually help others reinforces both responsibility and a sense of empathy while giving kids a sense of ownership and investment in their own destiny. Serving others gives tweens and teens an appreciation of how their actions affect and impact others, and a genuine feeling of positivity and success.
  3. Approach the world with a healthy dose of optimism, hope, and courage and model this for your children. We must remember that what is reported on the news and coming across our social media platforms is largely negative, so it is apparent why anxiety, fear, and depression are triggered. As adults we can choose to be optimistic about situations, people, and the future. We can choose hope while instilling courage in adolescents. The solution lies in changing our mindset, shifting our view, and promoting individual strengths instead of weaknesses.

And, remember… no one is perfect! You are doing your best as a parent, and if it ever seems to much it’s okay to ask for help! Perhaps Intermountain can be a resource for you? Call Intermountain at 406-442-7920 to see what we offer for parents and children.

-Tracie Dahl, LCPC

Day Treatment Director

Sep 01

Guest post: A look into the classroom with Kathy Brandt

KathyBrandt-headshot

It is difficult to define success in the classroom, especially in a Residential Treatment Center. Mostly because many of the students who come to our program have not previously experienced success in areas that reinforce healthy development such as; social interaction, academic growth, being able to self-monitor behavior, and general school work.

I have had the pleasure of watching every one of my students grow in all of these areas. Through this I have found joy is watching students begin to take risks on challenging tasks, initiate and maintain friendships, accept difficult feedback and mentor around unhealthy choices. Above all, joy is watching these students begin to trust that they are competent and valued.

Over the course of a year, our students learn they can achieve success by becoming less dependent on adults and more confident in their own ability to sets goals and meet them. My students have an end of the day self-reflection where they can assess whether or not they were able to be safe with their body and words, responsible with school work, and respectful in their interactions with both peers and adults. This allows them to take ownership of their school day and visually see their personal growth with a sticker chart. By the end of treatment, the student can see that the reward really isn’t a sticker, or a positive reward, but rather it is an intrinsic one of feeling good about their daily choices and hard work.

Looking to the year ahead, I hope that the classroom will be an engaging, challenging and rewarding environment that students want to come to everyday. Also, that each child discovers how they are smart. Whether that is in math, interpersonal relationships, nature, athletics, all kids have gifts and talents they possess, so it is just a matter of getting to know each student both academically and emotionally. One of my favorite quotes that I keep in my desk is by Michelangelo. ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ I find being a teacher is a very similar process of carving away the unhealthy patterns, or beliefs in a child’s life and helping to bring out his/her value that was already there from the beginning until the end result is nothing less than a beautiful masterpiece of a child being free to make mistakes, learn from them and have hope for a positive future.

–Kathy Brandt, Special Education Teacher

Intermountain Residential

Aug 09

Flashback Friday: “My Tears in His Bottle,” a devotional by Pat Hays

Pat Hays has written a devotional book that gives wonderful insight into the joys and struggles that parenting a child with emotional special needs presents. Her book, My Tears in His Bottle: prayers from the heart of a special needs’ mom, contains excerpts from her personal prayer journal as she worked through the last fifteen years of

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

balancing her calling to be an adoptive parent with the roadblocks she encountered in her neighborhood, friendships, school district, marriage, and church as she sought understanding, acceptance, and peace for her and her family.

As a chaplain at a residential facility working with children with special needs (kids on the spectrum, emotional disturbance, trauma recovery, etc.), Pat Hays’ story feel very familiar. Nearly every family I meet at intake says, “We were going to church until…” and then proceeds to tell a story about how they looked for comfort and healing in the church and they had a hard time making connections and feeling understood. Worn out from advocating for their children at school, in the neighborhood, with doctors and nurses, therapists, and many others that come into the lives of a special needs family, Pat Hays holds out hope that some pastors and some churches really to “get it” and want to support and uplift families of special needs children.

That’s why I am so enthusiastically supportive of this book! Honestly, it does what coaching and training in trauma-informed principles can’t do… it expresses the heart of a mother seeking to make sense of the parenting challenge God has given her. Only when that empathy is built can a community of faith make the leap from seeing special needs children as a challenge to endure to a blessing for the church.

I would love for churches, small groups, and individuals who have a “Pat Hays” in their life to read this book and meditate on the scriptures she pairs with her prayers. Pat masterfully walks the line between holding out the hope we have in Jesus Christ while embracing the reality that discipleship often means suffering, difficulty and the loss of what we envisioned for ourselves and our families.

There are no Hallmark card pithy platitudes within the pages of this book, and in embracing the grittiness needed for true Christian discipleship, it has the ability to provide the “comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted” (2 Cor. 1:3-5). It’s an amazing book and I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

If you are interested in My Tears in His Bottle, you can order the book through Amazon.com by clicking this LINK.

Jul 30

IM Moment Video: Perseverance and finding joy while working with challenging children

 

In this post, I thought it would be good to share a pair of clips from conversations I had with Steff Turner and ML Rutherford, two key leaders at Intermountain in Community-based Services and Residential Services. Together, they represent decades of experience in working alongside parents, foster parents, grandparents, educators, therapists, and other caregivers to provide care and support for struggling children and families.

 

Parenting and caregiving–the general act of raising a child– can be difficult, even in instances where the child or family are not in duress. The perceived need to be strong and persevere when addressing the special needs of a trauma-affected or emotionally disturbed child makes caregiving that much more exhausting. This need can also be a source of extreme joy… Yes, you heard me right! JOY.

 

Joy can come from the deep satisfaction of being  what a struggling child desperately needs. The words, “I love you” from a child that struggles to trust and attach in relationships means so much more knowing just how hard those words are to say for them. Joy also comes from finding your own soul’s unfinished work in the process. This is something that can allow you to be more authentic and real before God and others.

 

 

So, to all those caring for struggling children… hang in there. In the end, your perseverance could lead to joy. In those hard, sometimes soul-crushing moments, hold on to the hope that God is with you and loves both you and the child you are caring for more than you could imagine.

 

And, to those who are not currently caring for a child or a teen in need, look for ways to encourage, support and lift up those that are engaged in the ministry. Remember, listening can be a more powerful tool than offering advice and providing practical help (run errands, provide respite, offer to help with a meal or anything else the family might appreciate) can give a much needed break.

 

Also remember that Intermountain supports all those struggling to find joy. We are here to help build healthy relationship so if we can help in any way, please let us know!

Jul 08

Intermountain Moment: Ice cream for “Amber!”

Ice Cream for “Amber”

Intermountain’s Summer Program allows kids to continue the work they had been doing in their school-based program into the summer months. One of the most important things the program does, the director says, is give kids “normative childhood experiences.” He calls them “firsts.”girl-ice-cream

For eight-year-old “Amber,” it was eating her first ice cream cone. “I’ll never forget the smile on her face,” the Intermountain therapist says. Amber ordered three scoops in three different flavors: chocolate with red hots, bubblegum, and coffee.

It couldn’t have tasted very good together, but she ate every bit and she, “probably said thank-you 150 times.”

Eating an ice cream cone on a summer day is something most of us take for granted, but for Amber, who had been placed in eight different homes in the same number of years, it was a “first” and will hopefully be a good memory she’ll always have with her.

Thank you for supporting Intermountain with your prayers and faithful support.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

 

Click HERE for a bulletin insert to share this story with your congregation:

July-August-2019-Intermountain bulletin insert-Ice Cream for Amber

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