From my front row seat

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Story Too Big to Tell

We’ve had an amazing thing happen at Blue Monarch and every time I sit down to write about it, I’m so overcome with emotion, I can’t even put my feelings into words.  But I’ve waited too long.  There’s no way I can do this story justice but this is how this blessing has looked through my eyes and I want you to feel like you were there with us.  So here goes…

Last year was the first year I didn’t reach my fundraising goal.  In years past this would have put me into quite a state of panic.  However, I had a sense of peace about this unexpected shortfall and continued to pray for abundance.  For many years I foolishly prayed for only what we needed, but last year as a staff we shifted all our prayers to those of abundance – not necessarily monetary abundance, but abundant blessings. 

Before the end of the year I had a significant dream in which God showed me the campus of Blue Monarch from the air, he lifted off something like a lid, and when he did, magnificent bright light burst out of it and filled the sky.  I felt he was telling me not to worry, that 2016 was going to be a great year and in my own words, “bust wide open!”  Boy, was he right…

On an otherwise ordinary Friday afternoon in February, I checked my email before I left my office for the weekend.  I was excited to see that I had an email from this guy, one of my favorite donors, Bob Peters, who was living in New Hampshire with his wife, Jacque.  Or so I thought.

Bob informed me that Jacque had passed away, which I was really disappointed and sad to hear.  She had given us her organ before they moved and I am reminded of her every single day when I walk past it.

“Jacque was a wonderful loving wife, mother of four great children, grandmother to nine up-and-coming young people plus three great grandchildren. Naturally, we, her family, would like to honor her memory in some meaningful way. One compelling idea is to do something in conjunction with Blue Monarch to which she felt an immediate connection since we first learned about your efforts to help mothers and their children get out of the clutches of abuse and addiction and back into mainstream society.”

Bob went on to describe how he and his children wanted to dedicate a playground to her since she cared so much about physical fitness.  I thought this was an awesome idea!  He had me at this point because I was so excited to honor her in this way.  Yay!  A new playground!  What a great way to end the week.

But then in the last paragraph, Bob went on to describe how he and his four children wanted to donate a “good portion of Jacque’s estate” to Blue Monarch.  And he put the dollar amount in parentheses. 

Okay – this is a moment I will never forget.  In fact, this goes right up there with the men walking on the moon.  My first thought was that my imagination was running completely amuck.  I remembered as a child hearing about a neighbor who had a “nervous breakdown” and since it happened to her in the grocery store, I assumed it was this uncontrollable thing that could happen to you at any moment – at any place.  Was this my own nervous breakdown?  Was I imagining things?

I sat there and stared at the number.  I counted the zeros several times.  And this was the amazing thing.  No matter how I moved the commas around, it was still incredible. 

For fear this wasn’t really going to happen, I was hesitant to share the news with anyone other than a few close family members and friends.  But most had the same reaction.  Tears.  Immediate tears.  Yes, it was overwhelming news for sure and I often wondered if I was simply walking around in some sort of altered state.

A few weeks later I met with Bob and two of his four children, Kent and Beth.  We discussed some ideas of how this gift might be used and how it could fit into the future plans we already had in place.  One of the ideas that appealed to them the most was one that was actually on my own personal bucket list - building four cottages for our graduate transitional program.  (This program has been hugely successful in gradually preparing our graduates for the outside world in a supportive environment, but we only had one cottage for this purpose.  We call the program, WINGS, which stands for Women In Newly Grounded Success.)

I was especially excited because they all three agreed that if we were going to do something, why do it ordinary?  Let’s make the cottages extraordinary.  We already have a reputation for providing a uniquely beautiful home for a population that often finds help in more institutional facilities.  We, however, have a former bed and breakfast on a beautiful 50-acre farm and the cottages needed to live up to that standard.

We also discussed using the other half of this gift to establish an interest bearing account for Blue Monarch to use for major projects and sustainability.  This would be the first time in the history of our organization that we had such a fund. 

Bob then asked if I would plan Jacque’s memorial service and incorporate a groundbreaking ceremony as well.  I could not have been more honored.  And it was especially moving that this memorial service would take place on our own Blue Monarch campus.

So - in a private ceremony last week, we had this special day.  Family members gathered from across the country.  We celebrated the amazing woman Jacque was:  an adventurer, a world traveler, an avid athlete, an amazing mother and wife.  We marveled at how many parallels there were between what she stood for, how she raised her children, and what we do at Blue Monarch.  It was no wonder she was so drawn to Blue Monarch.  Bob said after her first visit she came home talking about us and kept talking about Blue Monarch for days after.    

We laughed at the remarkable way Jacque first learned about Blue Monarch – through her bowling buddy, Pat.  (Which by the way, I’ve been encouraging everyone to get out and bowl.)  And we absorbed the deep meaning of how this gift, that originated from Bob and Jacque, but is actually being granted by their four children, not only demonstrates the continuation of her generous heart through her family members, but will also impact so many women and children in the years to come.

The four siblings, Kent Peters from Tennessee, Lynn Peters from California, Robert Peters from Michigan, and Beth Corwin Peters from New Hampshire, each had beautiful brass plaques designed that feature their own sentiments about their mother, along with words of encouragement for the families who will live in the cottages.

Caden and Linsey
Our four upcoming graduates, who are scheduled to move into the new cottages in the fall, participated in the moving ceremony.  Brandy read a beautiful prayer she wrote herself.  Tosha read scripture and her eleven-year-old son, Caden, also participated by reading the list of things Jacque would have strived to do as a Campfire Girl when she was young. Linsey shared an emotional story of her recovery and the impact this gift will have on her and her son, AidynMaggie closed with a moving prayer that all the residents wrote together.  It included blessings for the Peters family and gratitude for their new guardian angel, Jacque. 

As a symbol of how the numbers of women and children benefitting from this opportunity will continue to grow, the residents of Blue Monarch scattered wildflower seeds in the garden that will surround the future playground of the WINGS community.  Then in a deeply moving gesture, the family members eagerly began spreading seeds alongside them.  I’m sure Jacque was beaming at this point.

It was a glorious day.  And it was truly a day of abundance – not just abundance in gifts - but abundance in new friendships, abundance in community support, abundance in the numbers of women and children we will be able to serve, and abundance in the blessings they will receive.  

I have to wonder, how many times are we praying for a Pinto when God really wants to give us a Cadillac?  The Bible is filled with examples of how much he loves us and wants to give to us abundantly.  (Luke 11:9-13)  But it’s also filled with instruction that we must first ask – and also believe we will receive. 

Thank you, Lord.  We are grateful for those who listen to you and allow others to receive abundantly. 

An exceptional mother allowing others to become one.
Mildred Jacqueline Peters