A Teen Project

By Lauri Burns

A Teen Project

A Teen Project

People ask me all the time, “How do you do it? Work a full-time job an hour commute from your home, run a charity, have foster kids, work out, go to meetings and sleep?” I usually reply, “A few shots of espresso and a carpool sticker.” However, the truth is it’s because 13 angels crossed my path at different times in my sobriety. All were ordinary people delivering extraordinary messages. In 2010, I published my memoir, Punished for Purpose, to give to the world what I had learned. Little did I know at the time, my amazing journey was just beginning.

Many years ago someone said to me, “You can settle for an ordinary life, or you can be unreasonable and live an extraordinary life.” At first, “unreasonable” sounded like a negative thing, but he explained he meant I had to quit coming up with reasons why I can’t do something, and I had to create the possibility that I can do anything!

A few years later I crossed paths with an elderly woman who possessed a great deal of wisdom and psychic intuition. She looked at me with seriousness in her eyes and said, “Lauri, one day you will be a young girl swinging on a swing, and the next day you will be an old lady.” As she snapped her fingers loudly, she continued, “Your life will go by just like that. Make sure you do what you are here to do before your life is over!” For reasons I can’t explain, I knew these and the other messages I received from my angels were of paramount importance.

At the beginning of my sobriety, I started a women’s meeting at my home because I was afraid if they didn’t come to me, I might stop going to them. One night a new girl attended. She shared with the group that her daughter and she were living in a crack house. She said she wanted to get into treatment, but couldn’t leave her daughter at the crack house. Being a single mom with a seven-year-old daughter myself and working on being unreasonable, I offered to watch her daughter for a month.

People in the program had given me so much; I wanted to pay it forward. After two months had passed, the woman hadn’t returned for her child. I called her sober living home only to learn she had relapsed. Here I was: Twenty-six years old, a single mom with a seven-year-old and now, in addition, a twelve-year-old. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of an amazing journey!

Over the next several years the flood gates opened. By the time my biological daughter left for college, I was a foster mom. My daughter had seventeen foster sisters and one amazing brother. Currently I have thirty children, ten grandsons and one granddaughter.

People always ask me, “How big is your house??!!!” The kids usually came to live with me by age 15 or 16, grew up and moved out. They were not all there at the same time.

I have always worked full-time, mostly in the computer field. I worked for a large firm for many years where I was a network engineer, a sales consultant and a project manager. I left this job for a fabulous position as Director of Information Technology for a new firm with an annual salary of $90k. Thirty days after I started my new job, I reported unethical behavior and was subsequently fired.

Although I understood at some level that I was the new person and my employer had no reason to believe me, I found myself unemployed and devastated. Standing outside that office I thought about everything I had learned from my angels over the years. I said to myself, “You’ve put together networks, sold contracts and managed projects. What does any company really have to offer you that you can’t do yourself?” I had about two months worth of savings in the bank. I said to myself, “Lauri, all you need is a fax, a phone and a computer; and you can start your own company.” I made a deal with God that if in one month it didn’t work out, I would get a job.

I figured since I could do almost everything myself, I wouldn’t need a lot of administrative staff; but I would need engineers. I called five of the best engineers I knew. These guys worked for $45 per hour, the company they worked for charged $150 per hour for their services. So I asked them, “What if I charge my customers $125 per hour, pay you $100 per hour; and then I keep $25?” They loved it! I sold my first deal, and the engineers joined me. The next year I made $320k. While the money was nice, the ultimate lesson was stepping out into unknown territory in faith.

After launching several businesses, I decided to create an acronym for the methodology responsible for my success to include in my book, so I could teach it to others. The acronym is M.A.S.T.E.R.: Maintain the belief that you can do it, Add something every day, See the results in your mind as if it already exists, Talk about it with everyone, Eliminate negative people who do not support your goals and develop Relationships with successful people who can help.

In 2007, I started waking up early every morning. I would wake up and look at the clock; it would be exactly 3:00 a.m. I thought my sprinklers were going off and waking me; but I checked, and they weren’t. One night after sharing this at a meeting, a Native American man approached me and said, “You know, my people believe the spirits talk the loudest at 3:00 a.m. God may be trying to tell you something.”

I started praying and listening. Within a month’s time, I had accepted a volunteer position on the local foster care advisory board. At the first meeting I attended, two men reported that they had been following a few kids who had left foster care, but they had lost track of them. I was shocked! Lost them? Did they die? They mentioned the word “emancipation”.

I rushed home from the meeting and Googled the word. Tears rolled down my face as I read the stats. There were 25,000 kids turning 18 each year and aging out of foster care. Sixty-five percent of them were homeless. They walked straight out onto the streets to homelessness. I was devastated.

The next day, with the help of Legal Zoom, I started a charity. Talking to everyone I knew became the core of my project. Within one month, I had $400 in donations; less than a year later I had raised $180,000. Within two years, I had over 100 volunteers and donors. We created a sober college home, a street outreach, a drop-in center and an online National Shelter Database. We established a national text service, so any kid could text the word “shelter” and his/her zip code and find a shelter within 30 seconds of the phone’s GPS location. And remember, I still worked full time. It was easy because everyone I asked for support gave it. We all put in a little and created something really big.

Last November, two men in the program came to me and asked if I knew of a project manager who could launch a charity. They had a vision for a place called Freehab where the poorest people could get free treatment. One man envisioned a huge warehouse with a barracks-type situation. The other wanted to find a closed treatment center. I told them I thought I might be able to help.

I immediately began MASTERing their dream. Within three months, God led me to a treatment center with an attached warehouse that had closed. It was all great until the two men backed out. There I was with a huge facility and little to no money. However, as I thought of the possibility of having a huge facility for aged-out foster youth, I knew what I had to do! I had to begin MASTERing my dream. I recently opened a free drug and alcohol treatment center and on-site trade school (in the warehouse) for 100 kids. Just this week, I gave notice at my full-time job.

I know now, more than ever, that our God has extraordinary plans for the most ordinary people. The truth is that my greatest triumphs rise from the ashes of my darkest days.

Listen to God when He whispers. Dream big, and never say, “This is a bad day”, as it may be the first day of your new, extraordinary life. For more information go to: The Teen Project

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