What No One Sees

My friend over at Roman Hokie’s Tracks recently asked, “What kinds of things do you find are important to do in your daily life but nobody sees them being done and everyone assumes it’s just magic?”

I have taken this opportunity to reflect on my own work.  I have two jobs, one in the public school system, one in people’s homes.  In both positions I work primarily with kids who have autism, teaching them appropriate behavior and developing the skills they will need to maintain that behavior without me.  I love my job, love the kids, love learning with them.  I also find the work more challenging than anything I have ever done, which may be one reason I like it.  So where does the magic happen?

Roman was talking about paperwork in his post.  Of course I have paperwork in my behavioral support position, but most of that falls to supervisors and teachers.  I take data, sometimes I graph it, and I pass it on to my friendly neighborhood Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  The BCBA creates programs based on how the students have responded to the interactions I documented.  I enjoy the data because it shows if what we are doing is making a difference.  I have an ongoing conversation with the BCBA and classroom teacher regarding what is working and why.  A few minutes here, a few minutes there, they give me pointers and feedback.  I process this information and develop my response to each of the student’s actions, based on a series of priorities: safety, meeting basic needs, communication, behavior for learning, and the actual skills.  

The skills my students are learning can be very different from the general population.  They might be learning to sit in their seat or initiate a social interaction.  They might be learning to use their words instead of a tantrum to get their way.  We are fortunate to have a series of experts who help advise us about their needs: occupational therapists, speech pathologists and the like.  I like to pull on their expertise any time they are visiting the classroom.  Quick pointers are incorporated into the body of information I use to interact with our students.  We also have monthly trainings, and other periodic meetings which help me understand the science and theories behind our programs.  

Finally, I am learning through observation.  I get to work with a team of incredible people, each with different strengths.  As I watch, I learn, often things which cannot be explained.  Our students depend on us to be consistent, so I must develop my own style in a way that meshes well with the others on the team.  

At any given point in time, I am assimilating this information to determine my own responses.  Pushing a child on the swing?  I’m also thinking about what the BCBA just shared with me about communication and behavior; I’m drawing out concepts I can generalize to interactions I will more than likely need in the next hour.  The child just screamed and hit me?  In my mind I am running through the events that lead up to the outburst, the child’s specific behavioral plan, the instructional methods utilized in that particular classroom, the needs of the child in the moment, and our general training for responding to a child in distress.  

I am also calming myself, assessing my own needs, and resources to get support.  A child acting out aggressively will spike your adrenaline the same as any other.  Different situations affect us all differently, and there are some things I have gotten used to.  Some things you cannot help, it simply is a physiological reaction to stress, so being able to take care of yourself is essential.  

I think I don’t always respond as quickly as others would have me do.  Perhaps they were watching and saw something I didn’t.  Perhaps they were not watching and simply think I should react like they would.  Other times, people come along side me and ask, “What are you thinking?” or “What do you need?”  I learn more from these interactions than anything else.  My gratitude to the instructors who have taught me by supporting cannot be measured, and I hope that as I grow and develop I can establish and maintain a similar culture of support in my work.  

I go home and rest or run or talk with friends or dance or pray.  I make art, make music.  I veg out and watch TV (Bones or Sherlock).  I keep the routines that keep me going.  I have learned to be honest when I am spent, learned how to say “no” by necessity, and how to adjust when things get off kilter.  I am blessed with friends who can respect these needs, even if they don’t entirely understand.  

And of course, I care deeply for the kids.  Sometimes I think that’s the actual magic.  I find out what’s important to them and meet them where they are.  It’s worth it to me.  They’re worth it.

The title of this update might be longer than the actual update.

Okay, maybe the title isn’t longer than the update, but I wanted to tell you quickly about all the things I am doing this fall.  In short, I am going to school…school…and more school.

We have completed two full weeks at the elementary school where I work.  I am looking forward to learning a lot this school year, both in my work and in my own education.

I am taking statistics through the local community college.  It’s been a few years.  Seven, to be exact.  Statistics is only the beginning, and is a prerequisite for most speech language pathology programs.

To ease myself into grad school, get some ideas about the current research and leaders in my field, I am taking a course on Autism through UC Davis Extension.  It is a master’s level course which is geared toward all students, from parents to post doctoral studies, so I figured it was a perfect place to dip my toe in the educational pool.

And perhaps the most exciting part to me is that I have decided to take the a 9 to 12 month course in Reconciliation through www.gracebridge.org.  I am hoping to find a few friends to take the course with me, so if you’re interested, check it out and drop me an email.  (You can check out some of the modules through their guest login.)

The YWAM base here is running their first Basic Leadership School, which starts today and runs along side the Discipleship Training School which starts next week.  I’m hoping to connect with those schools over the next few months.
So many schools, I might be a fish.

What does this new season bring into your life?

The Big Update

  • 2 years, 9 months, 3 weeks, 4 days since arriving in Pismo Beach for my Discipleship Training School.
  • 2 years, 2 days since moving to Grover Beach to staff with YWAM Pismo Beach and Central Coast.
  • 2 months, 1 week, 4 days since my last day working with YWAM.
  • 1 month, 1 week since beginning work with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education.
  • 2 weeks since moving into my new apartment.

I live in a world in motion. After living in 9 different states since graduating high school and gaining experience in four different professional fields since graduating college, you would think I was accustomed to change. Still, this most recent change took me by surprise. It wasn’t my plan, but as I’m fond of quoting in Proverbs, “Beth makes her plans, but the Lord directs her steps.” Or something like that.*

Starting in June of this year, I began praying about recommitting to YWAM this fall. A friend drove me home one evening, and as we sat looking at the community house that has been my base of operation for two years, I imparted to her, “I’m not sure if I’m staying with YWAM this fall.”

“What else would you do?”

I hadn’t give it any other thought. I had only been praying in earnest a few weeks, and I simply did not have peace about recommitting. My mind, usually full of thoughts and ideas, was completely blank. And then out of the thin air I said, “I don’t know. Maybe become a para (educator) in a special needs classroom?”

“Oh you’d be good at that,” and then my friend shared with me how to become a substitute teacher. I wasn’t sure if she had heard me correctly, but the Holy Spirit prompted me to look into her advice. It was as good a plan as any.

On July 8, I went online to determine the cost of taking the CBEST, a test required for the substitute license in California. I learned two things: the cost was $41 and the deadline was 5:00 PM that day. Between the cash in my wallet and money in my account I had $42. With the entire leadership team out of town, I had to make a decision. So I biked to the bank and deposited the money, got my application in under the wire at 5:00 exactly.

When the leadership team returned, I spoke with Lori, and they released me from my YWAM duties to begin looking for work that week. Despite assurances that, “They’re always hiring,” I could not find any open substitute positions. I did, however, find the position I had described to my friend, a para-educator in a special need’s classroom, or in this county called an instructional assistant!

Throughout the application process I kept wondering about where I would be placed if I got the job, who was filling the position in the mean time, what affect that would have on the students, and when I would get to start. Since I have been working it is clear that I am in the right place. It is a good fit for me, and it seems like I am a good fit for the classroom, like my unique contribution is what my team was needing.

I worked with people with special needs all through college, and it feels like I have picked up where I left off. In the bigger picture of my life, this move makes more sense than I can fathom. I still believe in the call that God put on my life that lead me to YWAM, it just seems like the path to that call is different than anticipated. One of the clear indicators came when I was re-reading Loren Cunningham’s book Is That Really You, God?  He spoke of the two year stint in YWAM being designed to give people a sense of purpose and direction when they returned to work or school. A clear sense of purpose lead me into YWAM and through my experiences I have a better idea of how to steward my resources in the direction of that purpose.  Following that direction meant stepping out of YWAM, and so here I am.

Please continue to pray for me as I settle into my new place and position and seek supplementary income. God really does provide for all our needs, and I am learning, often the provision is already in our hands, we only need eyes to see it and a heart to trust.


*YWAM Pismo Beach and Central Coast will no longer be processing support for me as of October 31, 2011.  Thank you for your generous support over the years.


It’s been a while since I last shared news…because there was no news to share. Lots of things were in the works, nothing was official. Well, the time of officiality is upon us. I have news.

As many of you already know, this October marks the end of my original two year commitment to YWAM Pismo Beach. I originally saw myself on staff with YWAM indefinitely, but as it says in Proverbs, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” And my next step appears to be out of YWAM and into employment in the Central Coast. I have several applications out and have had a couple interviews. Please pray for me as I look for the doors God is opening, that I would remember His faithfulness, and that I would have peace as I continue in this application process. Also pray for me as I transition into a different role in my community.

Thank you all for your loving support and encouragement throughout my adventures these last few years.  I know there is more to come.


Exciting times here at YWAM Pismo Beach and Central Coast.

We will not be able to offer our summer DTS due to lack of student enrollment.  Before last year, our DTS’s ran in the winter/spring, so while it is disappointing that we will not do two DTS’s this year, it is not unusual for us to have the summer to focus on the Central  Coast.  This comes as a surprise to us, but not to God, so I’m excited to see what He has planned for us.

The justice DTS arrived home very late last night.  This next week they will regale us with tales from their international escapades, while we prepare them for the next step in their lives.  It’s a very important week.

Transitions are always hard.  We will need God’s grace as things are changing around here.


I saw the sun rise three times today.  Third time’s a charm, Mr. Sun.  Actually, I lost count after the fourth or fifth time the sun rose from behind a peak, only to be obscured again as I drove through the hills from San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach.  I dropped my housemate Tyler off at the train station early this morning.

Things are pretty quiet around here.  Most people are gone on outreach or vacation and support raising trips.  Will and Lori are having a new baby girl any day now.  We received a new staff woman, Jael, from the Netherlands a couple weeks ago and now she is away on her new staff outreach.  Our most recent addition is a friend from the surf DTS which ran at the same time as my DTS, Hoover.  We set him up in the guy’s room at our house, and he’ll start training next week.

Other than that, I am enjoying the newly redecorated office, painting a couple walls in the office, making a lot of art, playing violin in a musical, preparing for the next DTS and praying that God sends us more students so we can HAVE a DTS this July.

Like I said…quiet.

Spring Cleaning

This week the speaker on the DTS, Donna MacGowan, spoke on Fear of the Lord.  Due to me being sick, I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked, so maybe some of our amazing students can fill me in on how God moved in their lives this week.

Fear of the Lord is a topic we like to have on every DTS.  It is about honoring God in every area of your life, submitting all things to His loving discipline, and ridding yourself of the impurities, however great or small, that God brings up.  I say the words, but so many of my friends have been so hurt by churches that meant “Fear of Leadership and Our Opinion” rather than “Fear of the Lord”, that I know some of these words land in tender spots.  Many of you know that I have struggled long and hard with some of these battles, and the only freedom from other’s opinions can be found in a healthy reverence for God.  If it helps, I have been thinking of it as spring cleaning.  And God has been doing some spring cleaning in me.

Tom Gaddis, the pastor at Father’s House Church, mentioned last week that “When words are many, there is much sin…”  He himself was feeling convicted of some things, and something in my spirit stood up and took notice of this Proverb.  “Hey…I talk a lot…I ought to keep that in mind.”  I have been finding myself, for the past several weeks, with my proverbial foot in my mouth…and some times are more serious than others.  I have been confronted internally for things I have said to others, and have had others confront me regarding thoughts about myself I have verbalized.

I keep thinking of this kneeadable eraser I have.  It is a grey, sticky, elasticy putty.  It turns black when I use it to erase charcoal or graphite, but as I pull it and fold it and squish it back together, the black marks magically disappear.  Due to it’s stickiness, it also collects carpet fuzz.  And hair.  And sand.  And wood shavings.  And pretty much any other small debris it touches.  So in college, when I was doing more charcoal drawing, I would sit and pick all the little fuzz bits out.  You have to stretch it like bubble gum, then fold it in on itself over and over again to even find them.  That’s how I feel now…like God is stretching and then folding me and picking out all the dirt.

I wish I could say it was wonderful and refreshing, but it’s actually a little awful.  Sometimes I wonder why God and others even trust me, and I could sure use an angel to come burn my mouth with a coal*.  I am painfully aware, after many tries, that I cannot pull myself out of this one.  Repentance (rising above) is going to take an act of God.

Fortunately He has already acted.

Here I am, back at the cross, to be made new.  Forgiveness for sins isn’t just wiping the slate clean…it is changing my very nature, one foolish, careless thought and word at a time.

The people in my life have been so gracious and God has been so faithful to push me back on the path each time I stray.  I am not thrilled about this season, but I am grateful for it.  A thoughtless word and a sharp tongue can do so much damage, and my life is primarily about loving people.  Among other things, I am staffing the DTS this summer.  I know I won’t be “all better” by then, but I know this season is a very timely preparation for leadership.

Pray for me.


*From Isaiah 6,  “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. … And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

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