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What do you say when you can't find the words?

It is with deep sadness I write to you all. There are certain things in life that are difficult to express; things so hard that words do not convey the matters of the heart. This is one of those occasions.

Josh and I suffered a second miscarriage last week. Last April when we experienced the first loss, it was traumatic, but we were reassured that “it's common” and “it happens more than you think” – both things are true, but not exactly comforting.

This time, however, it hit a bit harder. Losing a second baby somehow cuts deeper and causes me to ask unfair questions like, "What have I done wrong to deserve this?" or, "What have I done to make God angry?" or, even worse, think things like, "I wouldn't be a good mother anyway."

This loss makes me question many things, but I must trust that God has a plan and that I must defer to God’s hopes for us. To be honest, the thought of God’s promises doesn't always motivate me to get up off the couch, or provide relief from the constant ache of my muscles, or give a sense of calm during social situations when I simply want to sit down and disengage, but it does provide the release that NOT ALL THINGS ARE IN MY CONTROL.

You don’t have to know me well to know that I like order and prefer to do things "by the book." I’m a planner and a list-maker.

Through this process of loss, I have to accept that there are things that I cannot possibly manipulate to go my way. I must shamefully admit that my prayer life is terrible. Because of my controlling nature, I’m the last one to "give it up to God in prayer" but I must now lay it all down before the Lord and release these stresses and second-guesses, trusting that God has a plan.

I can find peace in knowing that I have hundreds of awesome “kids” already -- the students live on
LCC’s campus. They are passionate and curious, seeking and learning and growing every day.

Never ceasing to amaze me, they have come around Josh and me though this difficult time offering their own kinds of support. The students and staff of this place show their care by dropping off a simple note of encouragement, a treat left at my office or in my mailbox, and even coming to our apartment to cook a meal. Let me publicly say thank you to those who have reached out with care, support, love and prayers. You have all helped us to begin walking the path of healing.
Flowers, cards, food, teddy bears and more flowers from dear friends at LCC.

Rest assured that we have not suffered through this process, in a foreign country, alone. Our dear friend Ilona Bertasiute has been our fearless guide, translator, appointment maker, compassionate advocate, supportive companion and all-around irreplaceable pal.

Ilona has come with us to every appointment and sat with Josh as I underwent surgery last week. Ilona's mother has even joined the case and assisted with requesting medical records from my last stay in the hospital. In these times of deep anxiety, when being "away from home" is most difficult, we realize where "home" truly is... here in Klaipeda surrounded by our new community who can hold us up when our own legs cannot. I thank God for Ilona's friendship.

I ask that you hold Josh and me in prayer as we pursue information regarding these failed pregnancies. I will have a follow-up visit with my OBGYN next week on Monday, December 8.

She is a lovely Lithuanian woman named Odeta who speaks English and works at the city’s fertility clinic. She is confident that we can find a solution and will again conceive as soon as my mind and body have healed.

Please pray for Josh and me, for Dr. Odeta and for God’s discernment as we enter into the next months of uncertainty.

I pray for hope and for the energy to survive the busy season ahead.



The Difficult Undertaking

Even under the best of circumstances, living in a Residence Hall is a difficult undertaking. The Residence Hall: a unique environment where nearly everyone is in young adulthood (except for a few student-affairs professionals, and staff who live on campus), devoid of children, middle-aged adults and the elderly, and with the exception of small fish, any animals. Yet new students enthusiastically embrace this artificial reality because their goal is simple. They want to escape parents, family members and any kind of adult supervision in their quest for independence and adulthood. 
Students celebrating the first day of classes on September 1 as part of a parade in Klaipeda, LT.

For those who have already experienced university life are painfully aware that, without the right support systems, Residence Hall living can be a recipe for disaster. Why? Because people who are in youthful stages of their emotional, mental and social development often behave in ways that are not socially responsible, civil or respectful—of themselves or others. To envision how easily civilization can turn into chaos when the young are left to their own devices, one only has to remember the boys who devolved into savagery in William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies.

Every year our university’s Residence Halls open their doors to hundreds of new students who will occupy shared-living settings with a population density more concentrated than most urban residential buildings. With the exception of a few encounters at orientation or Facebook exchanges, most of these students don’t know each-other. Nor have most of them ever lived away from their families, except for perhaps a customary summer camp excursion. More and more students are entering university have never shared a bedroom with a sibling, and in some instances have never even shared a bathroom. Outside of directed social group activities or participation on a sports team, most have not had to live or work cooperatively with members of their peer group.

Some students have problems with alcohol and drug use. Others are boisterous, noisy, messy or rude. Some struggle with personal relationships, mental health issues, or hold racial and religious biases that interfere with their ability to connect with others. Others come with even more serious problems, such as a history of stealing or violence that is not disclosed which eventually manifests itself in the close quarters of residential living.

In some ways, residential hall living and the students who occupy these spaces are just a microcosm of the larger world, but with the inherent behaviors and characteristics of youth. Soon after their arrival on campus, new students face the demands and stresses of their academic programs—classes, assignments, exams, and papers—and tensions and conflicts with their roommates and friends. These are the circumstances that, every year, frame the fundamental challenge faced by the residential life staff at universities—how to build healthy communities quickly and effectively so that students can live together productively and harmoniously.

I wish I had a “magic potion” that when dispensed, would enable students in the residence halls to, at a minimum, allow students to get along with each-other. Since this isn’t Hogwarts and no such tincture exists, we must settle for the theoretical model known as “community standards.”

The community standards allow students to utilize a mutually agreed-upon expectation that define how their community will engage and function on an interpersonal level. The model relies on a dialogue to create and maintain standard because peer-to-peer interaction, according to Astin in “What matters in College,” has been found to be the single most potent source of influence on growth and development during the undergraduate years; and the simple act of sharing feeling scan influence and change peer perspectives and behaviors.

With the use of community standards, theoretically, staff members are no longer expected to control but rather guide the community towards individual and group responsibility and accountability.

What sounds great in theory is difficult to implement in practice. On Monday, September 29 I had the pleasure of serving as a guest Lecturer in the Conflict Transformation Models and Practice (CST 310) course here at LCC International University where I shared about the discipline process at our school. We discussed the historical context for LCC’s shift from a judicial approach to discipline, to one of Restorative Justice. I introduced the E.P.I.C. Journey approach to student conduct, compare and contrasted inactive vs. active restoration process, discussed our integration and defined the new mentoring program.

Explaining the practical application of Restorative Justice on LCC's Campus to the students of the Conflict Transformation Models and Practice (CST 310) class.
The last year of research, reflection and networking brought us to the point of change at the beginning of this school year. The previous model used fines and implemented tasks, often unrelated to the violation, to ‘right’ the broken rule. This not only didn’t teach the students anything about themselves or the reason for our standard, but it separated the ‘haves’ (those who could afford such fines) from the have-nots’ (less-fortunate students who would in turn go hungry because they had made a mistake and broken the rules).

I pray that in this school year, we can reach towards what Zehr described in The Little Book of Restorative Justice: “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things right as possible” (Zehr, 37). Let us heal and put things as right as possible.