Hope in the Heaviness
By Kelsey McFaul
Ann Johnson experiences the freedom and joy of stewarding seniors and staff
As executive director of the Village at Orchard Ridge Senior Living, Ann Johnson spends her days stewarding others and caring for their well-being.
“Our mission is to provide a loving, faith-based home that honors older adults. We do that through independent low income senior apartments, and we have 154 of those residents. We also offer assisted living and memory care, where we have 69 residents.”
A resident of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Ann also serves as president of the Idaho Nonprofit Center Board, as council member of the University of Idaho’s nonprofit certificate program, and as a Rotarian. Her background in corporate fundraising is vital to Orchard Ridge’s charitable mission, which is half a million dollars a year.
“Much of our charitable mission goes toward memory care residents who have exhausted their funds. We cover the costs that Medicaid doesn’t cover by creating fundraisers to fill the gap.”
In 2017, Ann was a member of the inaugural Becoming a Steward Leader Experience cohort, an course led by Dr. Scott Rodin, and it transformed her perspective on fundraising and the way she stewards relationships.
“I was very driven coming from the corporate world, where it was important to have measurable outcomes. I still have measurable goals, but my perspective has changed. It’s not in my control. What I can control is how I handle things. I’ve become more aware of how I make my choices and it’s not an immediate reaction; it’s more careful and thoughtful and prayerful.”
Ann and Orchard Ridge care for people on a daily basis, and she’s beginning to see this care in terms of the principles of stewardship, which invites us to surrender control and ownership in four areas of life: our relationships with God, ourselves, others, and creation. For Ann, it’s her relationships with God and others that are experiencing the most change.
“The biggest impact of the Becoming a Steward Leader Experience for me personally was developing a deeper relationship with the Lord. It really lit a fire under my faith and got me to realize I was full of misconceptions and had too much ownership in my own way of leading.”
Stewarding her relationship with God means assessing the way Ann allocates her time.
“My time in prayer and scripture and devotion was so scattered. Now I have a regular time. I created a holy time at my desk in the morning between 8 and 8:30 where I spend time in prayer and with the Lord. It’s a great start to my day and gives my perspective the grounding it needed.”
It’s not just Ann’s relationship with God that’s received more intentional care in light of stewardship. Her relationships with others are also deepening in new ways. She’s started praying with her husband every night and building more connections with her staff at Orchard Ridge.
“In the past, we’ve shared our wins and celebrated what’s good as a staff, but it hasn’t always been God-focused, more people-focused. Now we meet once a week, we talk together and share where we’ve seen the Lord at work. We share each other’s joys and celebrate where we see change.”
Stewarding the spiritual and emotional well-being of her staff is especially important, Ann explains, given the often sensitive and stressful work environment of caring for seniors through the end of their lives.
“It really weighs heavily on our staff when we lose several residents in a short amount of time. They’ve cared for them for several years in intimate and loving relationships, and that loss is really hard to deal with sometimes. If you just focus on the negative and the hurt and the loss, it gets pretty dark and overwhelming.”
By checking in on the emotional health of her staff and creating spaces for celebration and hope in the midst of the heaviness, Ann stewards her relationships with her staff and their relationships with the patients they care for.
“We have such confidence in God’s mercy and His grace through it all. Hope in the midst of stress, strain, and strife help us deal with that. Without that, I think there would be an opportunity for burnout very quickly, in my job or for anyone who works for me. That’s why we find such relief in sharing what’s going on and where we see the Lord at work.”
The spheres of stewardship are intersecting, and it’s little surprise that the freedom and joy Ann’s discovered in her relationships with staff are transforming her experience of her own leadership role as well.
“Stress was a big thing for me. There’s a lot that comes throughout the day that can really weigh me down. But instead of working so hard and trying to make it happen, I know that I’m God’s child and I don’t have to carry all this.
“There is joy in seeing God at work and being more aware of Him at work, in my staff, my residents, or just in me and the people around me–stewardship just opened up my world to know that I rely on God a lot more than I used to.”