Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Summary

Wow.  It has been a week.   I can't and won't go into detail about work, but it was sure challenging.

Home life has been pretty stable.  Tony is still living with Jimmy and Rand but he got a job at Culver's and starts Monday.  We are working on a permanent housing situation for him.  Bart's neck is getting better by the day.    Salinda's week has been fine other than car trouble and Wilson continues to go to work regularly without complaining.

 Dominyk is in Brookneal this weekend and worked yesterday.  He will work again Monday and Tuesday and then comes back for his last class this week.  Then he will be moving up to Brookneal and plans to spend most of his summer up there in the apartment.   We'll see how that goes.

Probably the highlight of my week is that I wrote a couple of blog posts that I thought were pretty good.   I seldom think that they are anything special, but I thought they were borderline inspired.  If you missed them, check them out.    Monday I referred to Bart's sermon Sunday about Joy    Wednesday I tackled the topic of what it means to be wrecked.    And yesterday, I asked the question Why do we keep taking it back? when we give things to God.

It seems like this has been a very very long week, but really there isn't much to report!   Hope your week was more interesting but in a good way :-)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Why do I keep taking it back?

Are you like me?  Do you give things to God and then take them back?  My mother and I have been talking about this being an issue for her all of her life and she is about to be 88.   "Relinquish" is her favorite word.  And yet it is so hard to do.

Remembering that God is God and I am not seems to be a recurring theme.   Here are some ways that we as humans can forget that God is God.

1)  We try to control things.  Our minds spin from one thing to another in an attempt to make things happen the way that WE think they should happen.  We manipulate and position ourselves and others to make things turn out a certain way.

2)  We think we know best.   Without consulting God we decide what the best thing is for us and we want that ... we seek that ... we do everything we can to make it happen (see #1).    The problem is that we want what is easiest, what is comfortable, what causes us the least amount of pain.  But the reality is that God has one goal -- and that is to make us like Him.  And that seldom happens when everything is easy, comfortable and pain free.

3)  We worry about the future.   We forget that God knows the end from the beginning and that He can see not only our present but the future as if it was the past.  

4)  We tell him that we trust Him, but we act like we don't.   Read that again.

Putting things in God's hands and then taking them back is what we do as humans.  But it is my prayer that as we all mature we will leave things in His hands more often than not.

This song speaks directly to this so I need to share.  It's brought me to tears this morning.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Here Comes the Sun!!

Thanks to those of you who have sent encouraging texts and emails.  As you can tell, I use my own life as a frame of reference when I blog.  Not because I want to make it all about me, but because on any given day, there is someone out there who is right where I am and can be helped our encouraged by my words.

Yesterday I posted the above picture on Facebook and wrote "After two days of cold and rain I walked outside to birds chirping loudly, blinding sun, and soothing warmth. God's metaphor."    

Since the day before it looked like this it was especially meaningful.

Just like I have been blogging the past few days about how God brings us through things to the other side and joy comes after suffering, the sun comes after the rain.

Just thought you'd like to know.  The sun does come back.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


What wrecks you?  What takes you to a place where your biggest emotions are completely present?  What takes you to the very end of yourself and your strength until you have no words?

I read this awesome blog post called Foster Care Will Wreck You this morning that a friend put on my Facebook timeline.  I had never seen the blog before but the article is well worth the read.

It got me thinking about the word wrecked.  Wrecked is different than ruined ... and being wrecked, in the light of the gospel, is not a bad thing.

I have several friends and some coworkers who are going through some really tough stuff right now.  I guess we have been too.   I know that they feel wrecked, like we did last week at our house.

You know the feeling -- it is that "sit and stare into space for a very long time because I have no idea what to do" place.  Those "there are no easy answers and this seems impossible" thoughts rushing through our minds.  Emotions scream "I can't take this any longer.  Please make it stop" and our bodies physically react to the stress.  We find tears just behind our eyelids wanting to escape for days at a time.   We can't see the answers and we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we cannot in our own strength handle our present circumstances.

But that is where being wrecked leads Christians to a new place.  There's a line in an old song that says, "When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, the Father's full giving has only begun."

Because, my friends, there is a timeless truth that none of us want to embrace, but it is true regardless.

If we never get wrecked we will never be rescued.  And during the times when God steps in to rescue us we experience new levels of joy and blessing that can never come without the wreck.  It also gives us the ability to recognize when others are wrecked and step in to help them as well.

I love the line in the blog post that I linked above that says.

"because your heart has already been shattered into pieces, it has made it easier to share."

So if something is wrecking you today realize that God is working.  Good things will come of this, even if you can't see it now.

If you're in a good place, listening to this song may not have an impact on you today.  But if you are in the process of being wrecked as God prepares for your rescue, it will bring you to tears.  It did me today.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Yesterday's sermon was on joy.  It's kinda funny because there was hardly anyone there to hear it.  Bart was preaching to the smallest number of people I think we've ever seen at this church since we moved here and they looked pretty glum.   But, if you've read my weekly summary, you know that we were pretty glum too.

The thing about joy is that it isn't how we envision it most of the time.  I think we see Joy as skipping through the daisies happy, but it isn't always like that.  Sometimes joy, like in the movie Inside Out, is in the background fighting fiercely with fear, anger, sadness and disgust.   Sometimes joy is at the forefront of our emotions, but sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes we have to go through the hard times in order for joy to prevail and, when it does, be even more meaningful.   In 1st Peter we are reminded:  
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
or, as it says in the message:
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
So Bart's point yesterday, and mine this morning, is that there can be joy in the midst of all of life.   I don't know that I have ever quoted him before in my blog, but John Calvin said:
"Christians rejoice even while they truly sorrow - - because their rejoicing is in the hope of heaven....While joy overcomes sorrow, it does not put an end to it." 
So today, even when I don't feel like joy is winning, I know that joy will prevail.   We have been promised this -- that when we share in His suffering, we will also share in His joy.  

Looking back on my life I have realized that without the pain of suffering, joy is meaningless.  And I've also learned that even in the midst of all of the stuff that life throws at me, joy is just around the corner.   It comes in the morning after a long hard night.  Always.

And it will this time too.

Saturday Summary on Monday

This weekend I just crashed.  I had zero emotional energy.   Maybe it's because my week was hard.  I won't go into details about work, though there were some things that happened in that context, but life at home has been difficult.

First, I had to figure out what to do with Tony who got kicked out of job corps.  I can't even go into details here, but the combination of Job Corps doing EXACTLY the opposite of what I begged them to do, Tony is in Minnesota temporarily living with Rand and Jimmy.  I have some awesome friends that are trying to help me figure this out, but meanwhile there is a lot of stress for me.

In the process of deciding that he could not come home, I asked the other children who live here and they all voted no because of the stress he causes the family system.  They are not wrong, but it seems that since then they have gotten worse in regards to helping around the house.  Bart and I are in physical pain (though Bart's is decreasing by the day) but the kids here seem to be helping with housework less than they ever have.  They all managed to sleep through church yesterday.   It's discouraging.

Salinda did not get the job she applied for so she has been fairly depressed and the situation with Tony had Bart very discouraged for a few days.

We also have some very good friends going through a very hard time right now and I have been trying to support them in my own weird ways.  

So this is a week I don't ever want to repeat, but I figured for those of you who check for a summary you should get one.

There's your summary.  :-)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

If I title this post "Brain Neurobiology" will you even read it?

How much do you know about brain neurobiology?  Some of us who have adopted kids from hard places are learning way more about it than we want to know.   On Tuesday, Brenda Benning from Minnesota was here to train my staff about attachment disorder and it had to have been God's timing to help me personally.  Because that night and all day the next day, the amygdalas of several people in our family were hijacked.  If you are interested in knowing all about what that means, I need to point you to this blog post that I wrote over a year ago.

If you don't have time to read the post on the amygdala hijack, let me explain in very simple terms so that I can tell you about life in my world.   The limbic system of our brains is basically the emotional center of who we are and is responsible for forming memories.  Memories, as you may have figured out, are triggered by our senses and that input comes directly into our limbic system and causes an INVOLUNTARY emotional reaction.

Why is this important?  In being caregivers to children who come into our lives at an older age it matters because we see crazy behaviors and have no idea where they are coming from.  A great example that Brenda gave in her presentation was a child, walking through a department store, with their caregiver.   Suddenly the child is completely dysregulated for "no reason."   Except that, at the counter she just walked by, the cologne that she smells is exactly what the uncle who sexually abused her wore every day.    That child has NO IDEA why she is suddenly freaking out and can't control or stop herself.

It is also important because we have it happen to us all the time.  A situation that is similar to another situation that was traumatic brings it all back.  A song, a smell, a place, even another person can bring back memories that are either frightening, painful, or stressful.     Those sensory inputs are called trauma triggers.   And they come at us all the time.

When the emotional part of our brains receive input that awakens a negative emotional memory -- we head into a "flight, fight or freeze" mode.  Our cognitive brain shuts down and we have to recover and regulate ourselves before we can make any rational decisions.

The trick is knowing your body well enough to know when you have been "triggered."  I know exactly what happens to me.   My extremities get cold, I feel nauseous and my heart rate goes up.   This can happen to me multiple times a week or even a day depending on what is going on in my world (I have experienced a LOT of trauma and secondary trauma in raising my kids and working in child welfare).

There are many times when I am not even recognizing what has happened that has triggered an emotional memory -- but I do know that I am experiencing those physical symptoms and that I need to call it for what it is, breathe deeply, and work my way through it.  I also know that I should NOT have emotionally laden conversations, respond to an email, or make a decision during a time when my body feels that way.

Wow, that was a long explanation to what I'm trying to tell you about yesterday.  So I came home after a great lunch with Brenda to discover a situation that would take a lot of paragraphs to explain.   It involves Tony being kicked out of Job Corp, us not allowing him to come here, and him convincing them to send him near Bart's family, which we had BEGGED them not to do.     We ended up resolving it by asking a couple of his brothers to take him in for a week in the Cities so that he doesn't end up near people who should not have to deal with him, but I have a short window to find him some stability.  He won't last at Jimmy and Rand for long. (Ideas welcome).

I cannot even begin to describe the layers of trauma that are associated with this situation for Bart, for me and for the other kids here who lived with him for 7 months last year.  But having just been reminded of all of this brain stuff, I was at least able to remain calm when others were not.   I'm grateful for that, because typically I am NOT the calmest person in this house.  :-)

If you have not heard about any of this stuff, it's fascinating.  There are a ton of resources out there about trauma and how it affects the brain   Check out Bruce Perry or the work of Karen Purvis.  Transformational stuff.

I wasn't intending to write all that, so if it was for you -- I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Do Overs

Over the twelve years that I have blogged, I have tried to be realistic and authentic.  I have tried to "tell it like it is" in regards to my children, their issues, and the way that I parented.   I still aim to do that, but as I get older it gets more difficult.

Lately I have been doing a lot of learning about trauma, the way it affects the brain, and how to parent kids with that history.   Yesterday, my friend Brenda Benning from Minnesota, was here teaching my staff about Reactive Attachment Disorder and what happens when that is part of the mix for a traumatized child.

Last night we had to make the decision to not let our son, who apparently is being discharged from Job Corp, come home because his presence in our home causes so much chaos and stress.   It was a very hard decision and Bart and I are very sad.

Those things combined have led me to a land that I wouldn't necessarily call regret, because I don't believe in wasted emotion -- but there certainly is a level of grief that we didn't have the tools that are available now.   The way I parented  (I say I instead of we, because Bart was intuitively better at doing the right thing than I) was not what some of my kids needed.   I know it is impossible, but I sometimes wonder how it would turn out if I could have a do-over.

But also over the twelve years that I have blogged, I have tried to be hopeful and positive and faithful to what I believe God is saying to all of us.  I've also hoped that my stories are once that you can relate to and find things in your own life and that my authenticity can help you figure things out, ending up at a place of hope and believing God to keep His promises.

I'm sure that you can name a situation in your life that you would like to do over.  Whatever that is, I want to encourage you that what you learned in that situation was part of God's plan to form you and change you.  We are a constant work on in progress.

Two things have been a big encouragement to me in the midst of all this.  One of them is Bart's sermon illustration on Easter.  He closed with this illustration:

When the house lights dimmed and the piano concert was about to begin, a mother returned to her seat and discovered that her child was missing.Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.  In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."  At that moment, the great piano master Ivan Paderewski made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit.  Keep playing.  Don't stop."  Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was  so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played that night. Only the classic," Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." 

If you want to check out the commercial based on this story it's awesome -- just click here.

Bart concluded his sermon with the words, I hope that you can hear God's whisper in your ear.  "Don't quit.  Keep playing.  Don't stop."    Those words have been in my head hourly this week as I picture my mediocre efforts as those piano notes but also picture God's around me turning my feeble attempts into a masterpiece.

The second is this song because I could have written the lyrics.  No matter how old I get and no matter how hopeful and positive I try to be, I still have those times when I don't FEEL like an overcomer.

I trust that this song will help you as much as it has me this week: