Who Qualifies to Love at Choices?


[The word random is such a liberating word, right? It (mostly) frees me from writing rules, which, frankly, makes writing so much simpler. Sometimes these thoughts wake me up at night, and I scramble in the morning to recall them – this is that. And, I know I’ve written about this before, but since we’re always needing more peeps to care, here we go again, which, I know, is just more random yada yada.]

Babies don’t always show up at the most opportune times, right? We often say there’s never a perfect time to have a baby.

Babies come when life is challenging, when we’re not economically sound, and when we had other plans, and so forth. Basically, babies are often darned inconvenient.

Just like volunteering.  “But, I have to _______________.” Yeah, we totally get that.

Let me ask you, do you ever meet a friend for coffee and conversation? At your house? At a local coffee shop? In the park?

Okay, so maybe not, because you know, you’re busy. But, seriously, the act of conversation and listening can be so therapeutic.

It’s kind of like that at Choices. Most times it’s welcoming folks for a place to relax and enjoy coffee with a friend, plus a time to shop for baby’s needs. Other times it’s a private conversation about hard things someone is going through.

Okay. I can already hear you: “Ummm…I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify…I mean I’ve ________________.”

Let’s consider the reality that volunteer advocates aren’t perfect, and (some) have had less-than-stellar (whatever that means anyway) lives. Some of us have experienced abortion, divorce, multiple baby daddies, addiction, anger, abuses and such – especially those of us over a certain age.

It doesn’t make us damaged goods – or without gifts for the world.

Sometimes a client/guest/friend says, “Hey, I could do this. I could welcome and care and let someone know they’re not alone during a hard time,” we want to truly hear them because giving back continues the healing, and restores dignity. (Sometimes there are other factors that might mean someone isn’t a good fit.)

Maybe because we’ve been there?  Actually, likely because we’ve been there, and are acquainted with a specific suffering that we feel we know a thing or two.

Giving back is something we hear with fair frequency, right? There’s a number of people who’ve struggled with addiction who’ve told me when I’ve asked about a possible future vocation, that they’d love to become substance abuse counselors. It’s what they know, and they’re able to connect with the struggle.

“It kind of makes you an expert in your field,” a wise family member just said to me. Yeah, it kind of does. Those who’ve suffered in this manner are intimately connected with that grief.

CNN’s 2016 Hero of the Year was born in Columbia with disabilities that his doctor said he ‘would amount to nothing’. Wrong. So, so wrong. He’s been to law school and been a fierce advocate for providing educational and medical support for youth living with disabilities in Columbia.

The world shouldn’t need heroes. We really should just do whatever we can to change the world so our fellow humans with real names, faces, and lives can simply live, having been loved well. And, it feels pretty darn Jesusy to me.

If you’re ready to consider volunteering for a few hours each week, and you’re what we call a ‘safe’ person, not judgmental, no agenda (other than love & compassion), and open to learning best practices for helping others in hard places, please contact me, because what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

And yes, there’s also that eensy-weensy faith-based question on everyone’s minds that is some version of this: “But, I’m not in church,” or “But I’m not sure what I believe – I mean, I don’t have it all figured out,” or “Yeah, I believe the whole Jesus-died-for-me thing, but does that mean I have to be all straight-laced and perfect?”

The answers:

  • It’s okay.
  • I’m not sure either. I don’t have it all figured out.
  • No, you don’t.

Depending upon your translation, love is mentioned in the Bible hundreds of times. It’s apparently a massively important concept and mandate. ❤

Did You See Who Went Into Choices? 


Non-profit organizations like Choices Mt. Shasta, are, in the truest sense of the term, non-profit, because many receive little to no governmental funding. (Choices receives none.)  We’re at the mercy of the hearts, minds and generosity of the general public (people, groups, churches, businesses) to keep us afloat. It’s also very true that without people sharing their precious financial resources folks will go without compassion – which means, in many cases, they would suffer alone. And no, I’m not exaggerating – let me paint a typical picture of life for some of our mamas (daddies, and families):

You may go home to your cozy house, and sit down to a plentiful meal, but your neighbors struggle to find a diaper to replace the soiled one currently on their baby, even as they’ve just returned from their minimum wage job, and and scanned their nearly empty cupboards for quick calories to call dinner. And maybe mama, who wanted to breastfeed her baby, has given up, because it’s just too hard to juggle the pumping and the feeding, and work and child care with someone she’s not entirely comfortable with, but she doesn’t have enough money at her minimum wage job to find quality care. Imagine leaving your precious newborn with someone you don’t entirely trust? Imagine not having a sufficient supply of diapers, and your baby develops an ongoing painful rash, risking infection…you can write your own possible endings to this story.

But, as they say, I digress. (I do this often, by the way.) 

Choices is kind of between a rock and a hard place. It’s essential that we put our mission before the public often, so that people understand what our mission looks like and how it impacts our communities.

But, we also have a strong commitment to confidentiality – essential, you get that, right? Without it, who would come? Specifically, in our context (setting), if we were to communicate via pics and words with identifying details, well, that would be invasive – way too vulnerable – when it’s not our call to do so. Our call is to protect, first and foremost.

So, we tell stories. Sure, changing names, and major and/or minor details, communicating only non-identifying information. To do anything else, would be to exploit our clients to get value or use from their suffering for our gain. Even though one might consider it a worthy action, it’s unkind, unsafe, and undignified – in other words: it’s not going to happen.

Without telling stories, how do we keep the mission going? Stories bring meaning to life. Historical fiction, is some of the best way to understand history – dry, boring textbooks with ample amounts of statistical data minus real people, with real names, real faces translate to real stories that help us grasp reality for those lives.

And our stories? They’re sometimes incredibly hard – even for us. But, not always. There’s also stories of celebrating – seriously, do you know how many adorable wee ones we get to hang out with? How many showers, weddings, births and birthday parties we get to go to? Oh, how I wish we could share pictures of each and every one of them!

Consider this: when you watch the news, if there weren’t pictures, and stories, your emotions wouldn’t be affected, and you might not be motivated to respond in some way, say, to be influenced, to have a change in heart, click to give, begin sharing from your cupboards, or going through you and your children’s closets for what is no longer needed.

Let me localize this: We’re in a small town – we welcome many folks each week – for a variety of reasons. Some might surprise you. 

  • Pregnancy test & consultation (self-testing model/we’re not medical; we’re here to be a soft-landing with resources and referrals as requested)
  • Emotional support (someone to talk with about fears and anxieties about pregnancy, parenting, partner abuse, sexual concerns, or just life)
  • Pregnancy support (to learn about what’s happening to the body, ways to support a healthy pregnancy, and fetal development)
  • Parenting session (self-selected topics of need and/or interest; an honorable educational pursuit)
  • Senior projects (we’ve mentored many high school seniors through the years)
  • College research (COS and online students)
  • Donors and other mamas (who bring in baby items, groceries or checks/cash, or items for our thrift store in Dunsmuir)
  • Grandparents and other family members looking for emotional support
  • Friends who come by to visit us, bring us lunch, or drop something by for someone else
  • Volunteers who come to sit with and help clients/guests/friends
  • Post-abortion compassion (sometimes women want/need to share their grief and sadness)
  • Relax (no kidding – we’ve regularly have folks drop by just to take a sit, and enjoy a glass of water)

So, the next time you’re driving by, and see someone you know, consider that any of the above might be the reason for their visit. And/Or, if you’re reading a Facebook or blog post, don’t imagine you actually know whose story we’re sharing. We serve most areas of Siskiyou county, and a bit of Shasta county, outlying communities, many travelers, and lots of folks are pregnant and/or parenting, and need help in so many different ways. Coming alongside people to nurture life forward? Beautiful, for all of us.

So many of our guests we love and live life with at Choices would be happy to share their stories and pictures – and sometimes that happens, because they beg us to share with you. But, we invite you to consider those stories understanding the courage they’ve demonstrated in walking through our doors saying some version of, “I think I’m pregnant…”, or “My baby is due really soon, and I thought I could get it together, but…”, or “Do you guys have any diapers? My baby just pooped in his last one and I’m out!”…and every imaginable (and sometimes unimaginable) story you’ve ever heard. 

Here’s the thing – 

  • We won’t ever share identifying details of those who come for help, because their well-being is our first priority – however, we deeply need people to help us help others.
  • We don’t intend to be annoying with all our posts about the beauty and goodness that happens at 215 W. Alma St. in Mount Shasta, but we have limited options in asking for help. 

One last thought, (really, I promise!) – 

  • If you’re curious, have questions, and you’d like to hear more, contact us, and let’s plan to chat soon!
  • If you’ve heard/know enough, and would like to help us help others, head here for online giving.

Thanks so much for spending a bit of your valuable time with us! We know you have so many options! 

Choices Mt. Shasta: Sorrowing With


Driving up I notice a couple, he’s on the phone, walking up to my minivan, and she’s following close behind. “Are you going to open this place up?”, he asks. “Yes, so sorry I’m a few minutes late,” I apologetically reply. Our regular volunteer advocate had let me know she couldn’t come because her little guy was suddenly puking, and had spiked a fever. But, the weather report indicated downpours, so history encouraged me that it would likely be a quiet day, and that I could stop by the post office to pick up the mail, which would make me five minutes late. (Normally we like to arrive earlier than that, but today was ‘one of those days’.)

But that’s not the point. Maybe, at least part of the point is that I’m very aware that folks come when we’re not there, and so human pain isn’t met with compassion, and, that bothers me, likely more than it should. And we almost missed this couple – by seconds, because they were on their way to their car.

So, that’s the background for this story. But, again, it’s not the story I want to tell.

I want to tell the part of the story where I had to suck it up and not begin weeping at their response to her positive pregnancy test. At how, in the presence of another sobbing, a young woman who could have been my daughter, or the young guy who could have been my son, I was unnoticeably sorrowing, albeit struggling to maintain composure.

Insight: When it’s not a “happy-positive”, we know they will only catch some of what is said, because they’re mostly numb, and in shock. So, I left them with two things: 1. You will encounter people with their own opinions about what you should do, and that pressure will be hard, so keep focused on your own voice, and what your heart chooses to do. If you decide to parent, you are not alone, there are resources, and, 2. We are here for you 24/7. Call if you want to talk, or need help.

The sheer terror of how fast life changes, recognizing the reality of all the possible decisions as painful chapters, that yes, include hope, but not so much what you might have planned? Crisis. Trauma. Fear. Anxiety. Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. And on and on.

After twenty-one years of sitting with others in similar circumstances, there are those that just nail you – you know this path. You know it because you’ve witnessed it repeatedly – and, for some of us, you know it because you’ve lived it.

And yet, that’s still not the story I want to tell.

After this now traumatized couple leaves to begin to figure out life forward, I answer a phone call from a woman who comes in now and again to pick up some diapers, wipes, and whatever else she might like to help her mommy-heart be happy: maybe a dress, or a soft blanket, or even a few books from the basket. We usually spend time talking about what’s hard for her these days – and where she’s seeing hope and places to smile.

She has a lunch break soon from work, (where she makes less than enough to sustain life), and she hopes we have time for her. We do. I do. It’s what we do. It’s not always convenient, but it’s always right and good. Human connection trumps whatever else.

She heads over, and we sit. She says to me, “How are you?” Maybe she noticed my misty eyes? I tell her the general nature of the pregnancy test that just happened (there was no identifying info, the couple were several minutes gone), and how I realized their lives were forever changed – that every option represented pain, at least in this season of decision-making.

And then tears suddenly flowed, from me, and then from my sweet friend-who-comes-for-help. We’d both been there before, pregnant in less than ideal circumstances. We knew what was ahead for this young woman.

Using her own language, my friend reminded me that tears on behalf of another are beautiful, and while I was feeling a little embarrassed to be weepy, (I mean, I’m the comforter, right?), she let me off the hook with words of kindness and support.

And still, the most beautiful part of the story remains: the part where I am positively slayed by the beauty of mutual nurturing – that it is not us who hold the keys to the building of Choices that have it all together, or have achieved worthiness to sit with those who (seemingly?) don’t have it together, rather, it would be all of us, with less than stellar decisions that some might render us all without needful contribution to the community. However, it is in the submission of one to another’s broken and bruised places that we all find life, hope and redemption for our wounds and our needs.

When we extend places of responsibility, participation, and inclusion even and especially among those still struggling and suffering, (actually, aren’t we all?), that we begin to see personal transformation toward Life, Hope, and Wholeness – and that is what makes for a meaningful change that matters for life.

And that is the magnificent beauty that stilled my heart yesterday at Choices – and my ever-present (some would say annoying) quest to figure out how it is that we best Love people into places of Life.

And that’s the story I want to tell…the story I want to live more fully, and the story I want to invite others to consider living, in their own small places of habitation. Because: Love. Because: that mandate to love one another is the real deal – and the challenge is to welcome and experience it in unexpected places, away from the conditioning and pre-scripted narrative of who is able/eligible/qualified to communicate that Love. Because: John 13:34-35 and 1John 4:7 liberates us all to love – and it is enough.


Addendum-ish words…apologies for so many thoughts, but hey, we don’t do this very often – so thanks for bearing with us. 

If you’re inclined to consider practicing along with us, how to love one another in the midst of both challenging and joyous places of life, we invite you to for a visit that will likely include a few calories to graze upon alongside conversation to explore whether this might be a good fit for this season of your life. 

Contact us at 530.926.6726 or choicesmtshasta@gmail.com or message us at https://www.facebook.com/choicesmtshasta

If, in reality, you’d rather click a couple times to help us care well in our local communities through monetary sharing, head here: https://us2e.com/choices/org.html  or snail mail to Choices, 215 West Alma St. Mount Shasta, CA 96067, or just drop by, Monday-Thursday noon to 4PM.

And thanks so much. Your participation with us, even if it is just considering fresh ways of thinking, is so helpful. 

(Another) Thursday at Choices


This was supposed to be a quick write-up of last Thursday at Choices, and *somehow* it’s a tad longer. Imagine that. Grab your favorite beverage and sit for a few moments to read a snippet of what it means to hang out at this amazing refuge of Love called Choices, keeping these in mind:  

Life is (always) on the move. Life is messy. Life leaves us tripping over our laces. Hence, life needs love. ~Donna

Thursday, I was running late. I knew I was scheduled to be alone. Arriving at 12:05, (and yes, feeling guilty, because we open at noon) because I typically arrive a half hour to an hour early to get situated, heat, lights, music, snacks, prayer for focus, etc.

As soon as I pull into the parking lot, rebelliously via the “Exit Only” path, my eyes quickly scan from left to right: there are six people waiting! Two are sitting on a concrete parking space block, two are in their car, and another two are already on the walking path to the front door. I recognize a couple as a regular guests, who struggle with the concept of appointments, (crisis living will do that) and we always fit them in as best as possible; another looks like a mama and her daughter, which I immediately assess as a likely walk-in pregnancy test. And the two on the concrete block look altered, i.e., high. In the same timeframe, Becky, our thrift store manager arrives to pick up donated items for transport to the store in Dunsmuir.

Oh, baby. Here we go. Yet another example of a hoped for quiet day…suddenly needing triage.

Turning lights on, furiously clicking ‘play’ to get Pandora soothing hearts and souls, grabbing pre-cut oranges from the day before, and scanning the front desk chocolate bowl as needful elements of welcome that say, “We’re so glad you’re here!”  –without breaking my stride as I glide intentionally through the office.

Unlocking the front door, and four are filing in: yes, as I expected, emergency needs for one couple, and yes, a pregnancy test for a young woman. The two on the concrete block? They apparently need to catch a ride to Yreka.

Mama and daughter are ushered into a private room – it’s a dignity/confidentiality thing for pregnancy test guests. They’re easygoing and talkative, if a bit nervous, and I invite the daughter to complete the intake form. As always, I let her know there are fairly personal questions on the form, and she’s only expected to fill out what she’s comfortable with – the questions are there for those who might need some care in those areas. (Partner violence, and/or sexual, emotional, verbal trauma and shame.)

Heading back to hear that our visiting couple without an appointment need diapers, wipes and formula – and mama is (happily) pregnant again. A quick ‘emotional wellness’ check-in tells me she’s in a good place today, (quick unspoken prayer of gratefulness) and I let her know she’s welcome to grab diapers and wipes, and I’ll see about available formula.

Meanwhile, back in the pregnant test room, I let our first-time guest know that we use a self-testing model, which means, we’re providing her test, and she’s performing the test and determining the result, because we’re not medical. We’re here to answer questions, and provide a safe space to initially process a potential life-changing event. As per my regular protocol, I let her know, using the information sheet, that she’s looking for a pink line next to the ‘C’ (Control) area, because that tells her the test is working – and ANY indication of color in the area next to the ’T’ indicates a positive test, i.e., pregnant: faint, barely-there-pink is as positive as dark pink. Pretty sure she’s on her fourth piece of chocolate as I’m talking.

The office line rings, and knowing there’s no receptionist today, I apologetically answer it – it’s Becky, letting me know that when she was leaving, she noticed the guy who’d been sitting on the concrete block was now rifling through a car. Quickly stepping out of the room, I ask the guests if they know the guy outside. Yes, they do. But they just gave him/them a ride, and he’s not supposed to be in their car. Suddenly, I’m wondering if I’m going to need to utilize the panic alarms we have in every room.

Alas, no. Situation is under control after a stern reprimand from the car’s owner.

Mama in need of emergency supplies has them, and is now relaxing a with a snack of pumpkin or banana bread (not sure which because both were available).

Back to the pregnancy test room, where daughter has returned from the restroom with her specimen cup – with substantially more than the three drops needed to indicate a pregnancy. Pretty sure she could have run 100+ tests. But, she’s new to this scary process. I tell her the story of a former Choices location that had carpeting in the pregnancy test room, and as I pulled the cart toward our client, it hit a carpet bump. Yes. That happened.

One couple leaves, another comes in. More emergency need. Two more regular guests; plus a guest we haven’t seen in several years. Formula. Yes, we also get that ‘breast is best’, but we know that for a multitude of reasons, we can’t judge, shame or guilt mamas. We want babies fed – not hungry.

Whew. Until the next guest-in-need walks in ten minutes later, looking for a place to hang out, snack of string cheese and oranges for her toddler, conversation in-between chasing her busy, adorable little guy…and picking up diapers and a few grocery items until she heads out to catch a bus. She’s used every available space on the stroller to shove these supplies.

No focused parenting discussions on this day, like so many other days with mamas and/or daddies self-selecting topics of interest like infant bonding, first year milestones, eye contact, food for growth, toddler tantrums, or adolescent transitions.

Over and over and over again. (Yes, I’ve now got The Head & The Heart’s Down In The Valley cycling in my head.) And now you know. Maybe more than you knew before. People often tell us they don’t exactly know what happens here at Choices. Now you know a little more. At least for one half of one day.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

(The Magnificent Defeat, Frederick Buechner)

You knew we had to include a plea for volunteers, right? If you’re someone who notices people in need of care as you navigate your personal world, you are able to sit with difference, similar to non-discrimination statements, such as …does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in serving pregnancy and parenting community needs, and you have two to four hours each week to volunteer as a receptionist, or learn more about what it means to hang out with, and advocate for others in need of welcome, love and more, let us know! Let’s chat to see if it could be a good fit for a season or so for you to join us. Comment, call 530-926-6726, email choicesmtshasta@gmail.com, or stop by during open hours, typically Monday – Thursday noon to 4pm.

My accountant (who pays the bills, and reminds me of the dwindling savings) would appreciate me reminding you that giving *in any amount* is simple (and needed):  https://us2e.com/choices/org.html  and follow the link to the secure donation page. Texting  ‘Choices + gift amount’ to 91011 on your mobile phone works too!  (Also: if you experience any frustration with the online or mobile giving please, please, and please again, let us know. We can’t fix what we don’t know is a hassle or broken.) 

Thanks so much for hanging in here this long. Questions, thoughts, and even challenges are always welcome, so long as they’re kind. We’re just humans hanging out trying to make a difference in the lives of those in the midst of sexuality, pregnancy and/or parenting challenges. 

Not Left Behind

Mobile giving, yeah, it’s become a thing that may make the difference between surviving as an org, and closing up shop. large__10703320934

And I knew it. I could see this one coming. (There’s a reason I am somewhat addicted to news and information, i.e., Research Junkie.)  But, what’s a one-horse administrator to do, who has the vision and understanding, but not the luxury of time and staffing? Really, another project?

For several years I’ve included this accurate reality in our prospective volunteer packet: “For small non-profits, work often follows the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action plan. No one feels like they’re flying the plane; rather, they feel more like they’re building it in mid-air.”  Yeah, that’s basically been my experience of the past twenty years.

Being one who has consistently wanted to deny her many years on the planet, I’m always looking ahead for the next greatest thing, not wanting to be stuck in the dark ages. So, as I increasingly clung to my mobile device and marveled at what it could do for my life, I realized that the ability for people to easily donate/give/invest was going to be a thing, and we needed to get on board with that. Busy or not, this was fast becoming a needful reality.

But, yeah, we’re a small non-profit – doing amazing things for pregnant and parenting families, but nonetheless, small. And, maybe from my perspective, staying small is good. When I’ve seen other orgs and entities grow from small grass-roots-ish beginnings to larger more complicated systems to manage it all, what usually ends up happening is people’s humanity begins to be missed for all stakeholders (participants on any level, client, investor, volunteer, etc). But, I digress…oh, and for those interested, here’s a great article that covers small non-profit dynamics – particularly when there is only one or few (minimally) paid staff. Bang for buck? Yeah, right here.

So, I realized that if I truly believed in what we’re doing in our local communities, I knew I had to find a way to keep it happening, changing/adjusting/learning as dictated by cultural and economic trends.

Whether you prefer the term donate or invest – which is largely informed by your age –  is something you may need to grapple with:

“It may seem something simple. It’s just semantics: donation vs. investment. But I think to a millennial, who’s grown up in a very different world, one that’s more participatory because of the digital tools that we have, to them they want to feel like they’re making an investment. Not just that they’re investing their capital, but they’re investing emotionally,” Webb says.

But, here’s my point:

“And there’s the tech part. She says any philanthropy without a smart digital platform — not just for donations but for empowering a community of givers — will be left behind.

Yep. If we don’t pay attention to, and engage with our specific cultural dictates, we’ll be left behind. Which necessarily means (in our little corner of the world), that many pregnant, parenting, and sexuality challenges will go unmet, and people in our local communities risk being left-behind. Left-behind to be unnoticed and uncared for – impacting every level of life, your neighbors and mine, or those down the street (all at the margins of life), that you drive by on the way to your mainstream life.

So, Choices is committed to making it happen, being patient through the tech glitches (we’re sorry!), to make tech-giving streamlined and simple. And the how is important – it might one of the most important things – true in giving, true in coming alongside folks in compassion, i.e., to suffer with. You’re busy, we get it. You have selfies, rants and awesomeness to post – we invite you fit us in there somewhere. And, we know it could be even more simple, but remember, we’re small and we’re trying. (If you encounter a problem, please help us by letting us know.)

We invite you to get on-board with our commitment to insure that people have every chance at living a life that invites dignity through relationship and resources: Text ‘Choices’ + amount to 91011, and follow the prompts to the mobile website – because you’re investing in hope that translates to (real, actual, livable) life. 


Choices will not be left behind. And neither will those who walk through our doors. But, we need loving-thy-neighbor folks to help us help others. And thanks for hanging in there with this what rolled off the top of my head post two cups of morning French Roast. As always, conversations, questions and meet-ups at Choices are encouraged for the curious. There’s always a response on the other end of choicesmtshasta@gmail.com, www.facebook.com/choicesmountshasta, or a good old-fashioned, hard-wired phone call: 530.926.6726. And chocolate. And coffee. And, if you’re fortunate, something fresh-baked by us or the local bakeries.

Consider the flowers…and the people.

549146_10151945404278378_1742843728_nWatering the potted *flowers that adorn the walkway outside Choices has been my spring and summer *spiritual practice. It has become my mission to keep the beautiful flowers alive. Seriously. Just like all the other infinite concerns that beset my heart and soul, keeping the flowers saturated with a needful presence of water to encourage their blooming has been my focus. 

Through the torrential downpours of spring, followed by the seemingly unrelenting siege of summer heat, it has been a challenge – especially for me, a non-gardener. Some of them have not done well, while others having thrived, project a colorful beauty for those walking past to get to our door – I like to think of them as an invitation to find life. 

The flowers are such a reminder of the beauty and goodness that are part of life. It is watching the early flower buds, followed by the hopeful appearance of flowers. But it takes noticing and care. They will be able to do their ‘job’ if we work in concert together. Alone, they will surely fail – those of you who garden in container pots know that special care and attention is required. 

When I have been out of town this summer, I feared that the neglect would be apparent when I returned. In all honesty, I feared that the formerly beautiful blossoms would have turned brown and crispy with all the heat we’ve had! 

Downpours and scorching temperatures can both have the same effect: yes, we need the rain, and yes, we need the warmth, but too much of these good and necessary things wreak havoc with growth and development, nurturing and peace. Timing, as they say, is everything. 

You know where I’m going with this, right? If you know me, you could probably write the rest of this story – my head thinks in metaphors, more often than is convenient – it can be so arduous to tease out these wonderings and potential applications to life. 

In reality, some thrived, while some did not. Potted flowers, much like people, need attention. Had we left them to just buck up and grow on their own, they would surely have succumbed to the natural elements of the seasons. It hit me today while refilling the watering can: our potted flowers are not unlike our guests who come seeking refuge from life storms and desert places. 

My husband is a gardener, and I’ve learned that some plants have different watering and feeding schedules. People fall into this category as well. If people haven’t been ‘watered’ and taken care of, according to their own felt needs (desires), how can we expect them to reflect beauty? If deep roots of stability and strength haven’t taken hold, I’m thinking they might show up a bit wilted and defeated.


These words remind us of the need of rooting well: “When watering your plants, water deeply. Light watering tends to encourage roots to concentrate closer to the soil surface where sudden drying is problem. Deep watering, on the other hand, fosters deeper and stronger root systems.” Deep roots will more easily withstand less than ideal conditions. Because we know that life serves up less-than-ideal-conditions with some regularity, we know that deep roots will more likely encourage bounce back, or resilience.

Nurturing lives of people and sheltering them from the onslaught of life’s storms requires us to know them: listening and learning their particularities, and contributing a steady stream of compassion – a consistent presence – over time. For Choices, it shows up like intentional welcome (as in “We’ve been expecting you – please come in!”), with background music (music helps with stress/anxiety), chocolate, conversation, tissues, and much (attentive/reflective) listening, topic-focused parenting conversations, and provision of practical needs, like diapers, car seats, blankets, and clothing…and groceries, when needed.

Repeat often, with the hope of ever-growing, deep roots. 

Just now, as I step away from this writing, a new mama has come in, with her little seven pound-ish newborn, and she carefully and tenderly lifted him from his car seat. She’ll be celebrated soon at a baby shower to honor her little one’s arrival. She will be showered with goodness, in a form that will benefit, bless and nurture their lives – and, foster a deepening of her root system, that will encourage a more healthy blooming of the life she holds in her arms, her own, and those in her community.

arrow-24848_640As always, thanks for reading. We’re always happy to hear how our words land on our readers. And, if you’re inclined, you can comment with an interest in volunteering a few hours with us each week, as part of our compassionate community of advocates who get to hang out with young & not so young, women, men and mamas and daddies, and grandparents and every age in-between, doing this thing called life. No time, but inclined to lend some (any amount is helpful!) support? Here you go: https://us2e.com/choices/org.php  And thanks again.

*Our potted flowers appeared one day in spring, as a thoughtful, anonymous gift. Thank you friend.

*Spiritual practice: a regular activity for the purpose of developing and nurturing spiritual development and formation. For me, watering these flowers has been my ‘walking path’ in continuing to grasp understanding of my faith and call.

“Hi, I Need an Abortion”

iStock_000018334105XSmall“Hi. I don’t know if you can help me, but I’m homeless right now, I have a job, I tried to stay with my family, but we’re just at odds, and I need an abortion.”  This, first thing in the morning, just as I was prepping the granola to bake. Somewhere between the mixing in of olive oil and honey, my phone rang, and a quick glimpse at the iPhone screen told me it was likely a Choices call, (lines are forwarded during off hours to mobile phones), so in my (hopefully) professional-yet-warm-and-connective voice, I answered, expecting it was a cancellation for an appointment today. But, it wasn’t.

So I did the ‘dance’…at least in my head. What do I say? Well, beyond the obvious, that is – she’s not asking if she should have an abortion – she’s telling me she needs one. First off, I tell her that we’re not medical. That’s always the easy part. She tells me she’ll continue looking. But could she be in need of conversation?

Yes, yes, there’s all the training…and nearly twenty years experience – there’s the desire that she might be able to see past her current crisis to embrace a child. But idealism isn’t reality – and neither is it my place to impose my understandings and beliefs about life into her already wrought-with-pain heart and soul. But, could I ‘listen’ her into fresh hope? Could I ‘listen’ her to get in touch with her voice? Would it be different than what she’s feeling now?

What would actually be helpful, yet not manipulative, judgmental, fear and/or guilt-inducing? How do I honor her heart and soul? Hold her dignity? How do I make sure her inner voice, without crossing the line into influencing with my own personal agenda, is heard? These are the questions that flood my mind – every single time one of  these calls come in. (These, of course, are somewhat rhetorical questions.)

(Honestly, this scenario and dilemma reminds me of those decision-making graphics that use arrows to guide you through a decision-making process: if yes, do this, if no, do this and so forth.)

So, politics and opinions aside – and I know, this is such a scary topic to converse about – but I’m wondering a few things. I’m wondering if when you get together with friends in hard places, do you assert your viewpoints and person1390642_10153377647305468_1316100211_nal feelings? Or, do you listen? What do you do if a friend makes a decision that you are personally not comfortable with? And, for the courageous, what has been your own experience with friends helping you in hard places? Were they understanding? Were you pressured?

Oh, these Monday morning reminders of how our connectivity and availability can make a difference to someone struggling with life decisions, especially for this woman who woke up with “I just can’t have this baby” on her mind, rather than, “Should this week’s granola include dried Bing cherries and pecans?” ‘Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle’ could not be truer.

God help us to get a little closer to leaning into ways of caring that reflect your heart of compassion.

Closed Doesn’t Really Mean Closed


What does ‘Closed’ mean at Choices? For two weeks every holiday season, Choices is officially closed to afford our community regulars (staff & volunteers) time with family, friends and play. While some are headed out of town, most are busy with planning and preparations. And, we also understand that providing periods of rest for self-care helps insure sustainability – meaning that we are able to retain people who care well for pregnant and parenting folks in our communities. As well, we’ve simply learned it’s much too challenging to find replacements, so we’re closed…sort of! 

‘Closed’ doesn’t reflect that we aren’t available – it just means that our office is saving on utility and heating costs, while our phone lines, (as usual), are routed to two mobile phones – which, coincidentally works quite well. Though the years we’ve answered calls in some interesting places, airport restrooms, grocery stores, family dinners, conferences, doctor appointments, and well, just about every place imaginable. So, we’re closed, yet open. You’re getting this, right?

A few glimpses of ‘closed’ goodness this past holiday season:

  • A hospital chaplain who was hoping to connect a new mom and dad with much-needed resources phoned us, as he knew we’d likely have these items…and more. A volunteer advocate happily got in her car, driving to Choices to collect baby items, and headed to the hospital to offer congratulations and both practical and relational support for this new parenting journey.
  • Another young mom called to kindly ask if she could get some diapers and wipes. While we weren’t officially open, we were able to have a nearby Choices community member make that happen for her.  That conversation was a great holiday check-in to infuse a little emotional hug during a stressful time.
  • Guests and friends (new folks and regulars at Choices) checked in with us now and again, some sharing their sadness but also asking how we’re doing – surely one of the true hallmarks of community. It’s not ‘us’ (having all the answers and strengths) and ‘them’ (needing care and help) – it’s about all of us being there for one another, finding regeneration and hope in the midst of life.

At our core, we’re about making connections and nurturing life in whatever ways are doable. We certainly welcome guests to our office during regular hours, and other times by appointment, but we also have a finely-tuned network of communication  during closed times to insure that we’re available to respond to priority needs, whether that be practical or relational, and/or provide emotional support via phone, text, email, Facebook or a local coffee shop.

We are so grateful for those who share life with this compassionate community mission that provides an avenue of hope to those in need of care with sexuality, pregnancy and/or parenting concerns – together we find ways to welcome and nurture life through beautiful and hard places – and we, as well as our guests and friends are blessed. 

We’re in this together folks, and together we will make it through. When we consider that by intentional design, God ‘lives’ in community among Father, Son & Holy Spirit, each contributing gifts toward the common good, we can take a hint. God’s character as gracious and welcoming, generous and always present is our Good Guide for how we at Choices can be ‘open’, even when we find our doors ‘closed’.

Go forth with goodness and hope. Shalom, and deep peace to you. 


Diapers, Really?


Yes, diapers. Last year a twenty-something mom came to our door at Choices on a day we were closed, but since I had stopped in, I welcomed her inside. Here’s the deal: when someone new comes to our door, it usually takes a lot of courage. Who likes to ask for help?  Who likes to tell a stranger, ‘Hey, my life isn’t working like I’d planned.”  But when desperation hits, and resources run low, loving and capable parents begin to get anxious. And perhaps even more to the point, loving parents, already stretched and stressed thin by a brutal economy have fewer and fewer resources. And that’s why we’re banking diapers.

“Sometimes I don’t know whether to pay the power bill or buy diapers,” are the words that followed in our conversation. We had diapers on hand, and so I asked her what size she needed, and grabbed a package.  Normally our diapers are reserved for our parents who are hanging out with us on a regular basis, learning about their pregnancies, and/or their upcoming role as parents – we desire to honor these relationships we’ve nurtured by extending practical resources.

And, I just sat there thinking, “Wow. This shouldn’t be happening.”  And then I started Googling, and got some insights.

Like so much of life, the need of diapers doesn’t seem so bad – especially when you compare it to, say, need of food or heat – but when you begin to consider these facts, you might reconsider. In the United States, 1 in 3 mothers have had to cut back on food in order to provide diapers for their children, according to a new study.

‘Check the Facts:

  • A typical baby needs 10-12 diapers a day and a toddler needs approximately 8 diapers. At a cost of between $100 and $120 a month, diapers are an expense that many families struggle to meet.
  • 1 in 20 mothers who has had to cut back on other purchases to pay for diapers has reused a disposable diaper. 36% of mothers living in poverty regularly run out of clean diapers for their infants.[fn1]
  • Diapers are not covered by social welfare systems like WIC or food stamps because they are considered “hygiene items”.
  • Families are sometimes forced to use one diaper a day for their babies. These babies can experience diaper rash, infections, and other health problems.
  • Babies with severe diaper rashes often cry more – more crying coupled with the stress of living in need can lead to child abuse.[fn2]
  • Babies who cry excessively are the most likely to be victims of shaken baby syndrome.[fn3]
  • Mothers who are not able to provide an adequate or consistent supply of diapers for their babies feel guilt, anxiety, and an increased level of stress.[fn4]

Wondering about cloth diapers? While cloth diapers may save money in the long term, they require an initial investment of money and time that many low-income families can’t afford. To use cloth diapers a family must either hire a diaper service at a monthly charge or have reliable access to laundry facilities. Most laundromats prohibit the washing of cloth diapers in their machines for sanitary reasons. The majority of daycare centers only accepts disposable diapers and do not accept cloth diapers. A child being turned away from a daycare center can mean a day of missed work for a parent and a cut to their already low income.’

[FN1] Huggies Every Little Bottom Study. Raver, Letourneau, Scott, D’Agostino. June 2010. http://www.huggies.com/en-US/promotions/everylittlebottom/the-diaper-need

[FN2] A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice

[Information above from http://www.dcdiaperbank.org/about/why/ ]

For us, while we’re thrilled to be able to generously hand a package of diapers to a mom or dad to make life work a little better, it also means we have a relational link, with the hope of continued conversations of compassion – because we get it that we are better together – and so are our communities.

If you’re able to share a package or two, or even a case of diapers to help local families, bless you! You can drop them by, or have them shipped to 215 W. Alma St. Mount Shasta, CA 96067.  

We’d love to have you drop by for a visit to check out what’s happening in this little house of hope in Mount Shasta. Coffee and chocolate are (almost) always available – along with our fabulous advocates/friends who care so well for others!

Choices Dunsmuir!

Yep, you read that right!  Choices Dunsmuir is opening this summer.  We’re bringing a limited version of Choices Mt. Shasta’s compassion to care for people with sexuality, pregnancy, and/or parenting needs to Dunsmuir – right inside the premises of our fundraising project, Unexpected Treasures (UT) thrift shop.

While the original vision of UT was primarily to financially help Choices continue caring for people with pregnancy and parenting needs, it also included an earnest desire to have conversations of care for those who came into the shop, perhaps with a cup of coffee or tea, and cookies. It was hoped that in the midst of the receiving, processing, preparation of and sale of donations, people could find a smile, hug and a listening heart.  And, this has been happening, for five years – and it is beautiful. Not that it hasn’t been a bumpy road. It has been both beautiful, and (sometimes) brutal, teaching us that in order to grow (for the sake of others), we must sometimes endure uncomfortable ‘growing pains’. But worth it?  Yes. Immensely so.

Why Dunsmuir? Siskiyou county is a county in need of noticing, and Dunsmuir is easily accessible to us. With county safety-net services increasingly disappearing, we considered our resources, listened to people who were acquainted with local family needs, and knew we could do something. Having been a Dunsmuir resident for seventeen years added to this awareness, and desire to see hope realized there in mamas, daddies, little ones and families!

“The Spirit is out there ahead of us, inviting us to listen to the creation groaning in our neighborhoods…” Alan Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God In The Neighborhood (2011)

A (Re)Imagined Vision.

Our mission statement flows like this: “Choices exists as a compassionate community providing resources and support to those with pregnancy, parenting or sexuality related concerns.”  We understand that to be a mission of integrity, we are called to care way beyond birth – to do so is to holistically nurture and affirm life.  So, we listen to the needs around us – of those who come for care, and from our own lives and stories.  We pay attention, using all the senses God created within us to engage, and (re)focus, adjusting our lens, to see areas of need more clearly.  These processes inform our way forward, and give us fresh vision to make course adjustments.  If we fail to take our mission seriously, people lose hope (more), and people suffer (more).  We are called to revive hope.

Past, present, future.

The past reminds us that we will always have hurdles – but not barriers. It also shows us that we are always changing. Your clothes, hairstyle, decor and more are likely not the same as they were twenty years ago. If we are to keep pace with the needs of people and communities, we must change as well – we’ve learned this through 2+ decades of care.  (And in considering my closet, my kitchen and my current lifestyle.)

We know a few things about the present. We know that safety-net services, those services and resources that people have depended upon to help with food, medical, mental health, and other social services are greatly reduced – or gone. We know that Siskiyou County has the highest rate of child abuse per capita in the state of California.  Other signs of felt hopelessness such as substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide are more evident and stressing the fabric of family.  These are the lives of our family and friends, and our neighbors both known and unknown.

The future can be discovered as we listen for the heart of God in those around us. Marianne Wilson, who has most recently worked with families-in-need of care, but was laid off, is currently available for another season at Choices – and we couldn’t be more delighted.  After listening to Marianne’s heart, we realized we have the capacity to do something. We asked Marianne to join us as our Dunsmuir Care Coordinator.

Jessica Wilden, who has been serving as our Community Relations Coordinator, since January, (but has been with Choices since she was 16!), has listened to the stories and concerns of the UT volunteer community, building a much-needed relational bridge and providing ongoing support during this time of transition.

Beth Wagner, who’s been with Choices for twenty years, is providing training oversight, i.e., ‘how to be a caring and compassionate friend’,  for UT volunteers, and incoming (yes, we need you!), Choices advocates, who will meet with pregnant and parenting folks. It’s true – we have a fabulous team of people who are invested in the care of others!

The future also includes an awareness of the needs of mamas, daddies, children, teens, and families – and our ability to take these needs seriously. We choose life for those God loves – and that means, by virtue of our desire to (re)present Christ in our practices, we are compelled to respond. (Consider Matthew 25:31-46.)

Here’s a glimpse of what we’re creating in Dunsmuir:

  • a physical and colorful space, designed to be a welcoming place for folks to find a caring conversation and cup of coffee, tea, cookies, etc.  A space that communicates, “We were expecting you – come on in!”

Choices volunteer advocates & friends will be available  to:

  • meet with people privately, to provide limited consultations, relationally supportive care, and practical resources for pregnancy and parenting needs – which, because we also have an ethic of celebration, often includes chocolate.

And so we (re) again and again. (Re), as a prefix, is ‘to do again’, or ‘again and again’. We’re doing it: (re)focus, (re)imagine, (re)present, and (re)vision to (re)introduce hope…again, again and again.

 “When we love boldly, it’s going to cause a stir at times. Don’t let the value of discernment, the benefit of being thoughtful, or the rewards of caution dissolve in you the will to speak and act against the grain when it is needed most.” Ian Ebright