Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's the Little Things

I'm working on a major work project today and don't have time to post this, but I need to share a few of the little things.

1) Dominyk, at the age of 20, can now live alone a few days a week. He can get up, get showered, take a pill, and make it to work on time. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it is huge! The team he works with at PHFS (where I work) reports that he is improving all the time, though the going is slow. He works as a groundskeeper about 30 hours a week and while he has made his mistakes, he is getting better!

2) After 8 years, and 7 attempts, Jimmy passed his permit test today! He finally did what I told him to do and asked to have it read to him and he only missed three. He has money saved for a car so now he will be able to have a license in 3 months and stop relying on others for transportation. I know, for most kids it should have happened years ago. But he hung in there and it is now a success!

3) Tony bought new shoes and foot powder because we were complaining his feet smelled. If you had any idea what a victory that was....

4) My awesome son Leon posted a link on Facebook about watching out for turtles as they cross the road and he posted that he would get out and help them. And that is exactly who he is. He's the guy that would get out of his car to help a turtle. Love that kid.

5) My daughter Mercedes posts on snapchat that she is at the gym at 5 am working out every morning. So proud of her!! She learned that from me? Except she has a much younger, much thinner, much more beautiful body to work with and preserve than I did when I started going to the Y at 5.

6) My daughter Salinda and her two kids moved here and they are doing so well. Gabby loves her school. Several people have generously given us things for her... including the most awesome Barbie mansion ever (including a toilet that sounds like it is flushing and an elevator). She also received 19 barbies and one very happy Ken. Except that he didn't have pants for a while so Gabby wouldn't let him out of the box. But now he has pants and he is allowed to interact with his harem. Carlos is happy as long as he has his cars. And he got a lot for his birthday. Salinda is training this week to work at Olive Garden and likes her coworkers.

7) I am eating meal replacement bars and I have lost 20 pounds in a month. I am pleased.

8) My husband is teaching a class at Averett University that he loves and we are still very much in love with our church.

9) My job is great! I'm loving my position and find it challenging and exciting.

10) God is incredibly good. All the time.

I can't post a link to this to Facebook because I don't want the kids to be embarrassed. How many of you read this when I don't tell Facebook it's here?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On Being 53

So... Happy Birthday to me. I woke up at 5:45 so excited about my day that I couldn't go back to sleep. And it isn't because it's my birthday, believe me. It's because things are really quite good right now.

Let me summarize my family life: We now have 4 kids living with us and two of our grandchildren and Jimmy visiting for a week. Salinda moved in about 10 days ago and it has been so fun having Carlos and Gabby with us. Wilson is a month into his Junior year of high school and becoming quite an integral part of our church youth group. He is looking forward to wrestling soon. He is compliant and helpful most of the time and has an excellent sense of humor. Dominyk is living part time in Brookneal working as a groundskeeper at PHFS where I work. He has matured so much in the past two months. I stay in Brookneal twice a week so he and I get to have some quality time together which is pretty fun (most of the time). :)

Tony has been living with us for two months and started a job at Subway a couple weeks ago. That means we never see him. He works and sleeps and only is home long enough to make a mess. :-) He's getting lots of hours in, though, so it's good to see him happy.

Salinda got hired yesterday and will start training soon at Olive Garden. Gabby is loving her first grade teacher, and Carlos is a very easy toddler who is obsessed with cars. Having them here is awesome.

Kyle and Christy and their three kids are doing very well in Forest Lake. The twins are adorable and Silas, well, Silas is a very busy very inquisitive and smart kid. Kyle is now a master's level 6th grade teacher and Christy is doing a job share teaching kindergarten. Kyle is an excellent provider and worked very hard this summer so that Christy could be home half time with the kids. She's a great mom and she keeps us in the loop with several snap chats a week of whatever the kids are doing.

Sadie is still working as a nanny and a PCA in the Twin Cities and she and her boyfriend Matt (who we love) have been together for almost two years. We hear from her almost every day through texts, snap chat and Facebook.

Leon is in college and living in Mankato. He was here last month to visit and brought the best girlfriend ever! Danielle is so much like me that it makes me smile (except she is thin and beautiful... which makes her not like me in a lot of ways too!) She and Leon have a great friendship in the midst of their romance. He is a PCA for a couple families -- one being our best friends from Mankato which makes me doubly jealous. I'm jealous they get to see him so often, and I'm jealous that he gets to see them on a regular basis!

Rand continues to work at Holiday in Plymouth and he is Jimmy's roommate at their apartment in Golden Valley. He was recently promoted to shift manager, which is really an achievement for him.

We don't hear from John, Mike, or Ricardo very often at all. Sometimes we hear from their siblings about their whereabouts... John and Mike are still in the Cities and we believe Ricardo is still in Mankato. John's son Isaac and his mom are still in contact with us somehow at least weekly. We seldom here from Mike's son Aiden, but we do get to see pictures on Facebook.

Bart is frickin amazing. He is holding down the fort at home alone 3-4 days a week, making sure people get to work and taking care of the grandkids when needed. In addition, he is pastoring a church that we LOVE filled with great people. He is also having the opportunity to teach a class at Averett University which is down the street from our house. Teaching Ethics is quite fun for him.

And then there is me. As you know, I was hired to be the "Chief Program Officer" at Patrick Henry Family Services and started on January 4th. The idea is that I would hire a person and would then be supervising three programs, each with a director. But that isn't quite how it worked out.

Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up running our counseling program for 5 months and our residential care program for nearly 8 months. It was trying, exhausting and frustrating, but also exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. On July 1st our organization was blessed to hire an amazing man to run our counseling program. He surprises me every day with his strategic mind and gentle spirit (and don't tell him this because I don't want to give him a big head). Then on August 29th, my former colleague and friend accepted the Residential Life position which I have renamed "Director of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes). She is already doing a great job. I also hired another excellent addition to our staff who reports to her and started August 1st -- and she is our Education Support person. Together (even without any other managers in the program at this time) they are tackling some of the stuff I didn't have time to tackle and the school year is off to a great start for our residents. And I can't forget to give credit to our Safe Families Director who was and always has been a great leader and an all around incredible guy who patiently allowed me to run the other programs without enough of my attention during our kick off year of Safe Families.

All that to say that now that I am doing the job I was hired to do and have my team of three EXCELLENT leaders in place to run the program, my job is a dream come true. We are starting a massive 1-3-5-10 year strategic planning process and so I definitely am not going to get bored, but I am excited about the future -- more so than at any other time in my professional life.

So today I'm 53 and I'm surprised at how little I know. When I was in my 20s and 30s I really thought that by the time I turned fifty I would have little to learn. It just may be that I have learned more in the past three years than I did in decades previous because I finally figured out how much I still need to learn. I have been studying things like resiliency, how to be empathetic, strategic planning, and what it means to be a good team player. I am pushing myself to do things that I don't want to do. I am continuing to move forward, realizing that the number of years I have left on this earth to change it and make a difference are way too few, so I need to do it well.

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending time with a great man -- Dr. David Anderson -- who is the founder of Safe Families. We had lunch together with the Safe Families Director and Robert Day, our CEO, and then he and I got to have supper together. I loved being with someone who had actually, without that being his goal, started a national movement.

This blog post is way too long so i may have to write another about everything I'm learning from him, but one of the things that he talked about yesterday was repurposing the family. He mentioned that most middle class Christian families don't really understand their purpose -- they raise their kids and then they are done. But that we have a responsibility to teach biblical hospitality to our children. Safe Families for Children is a way that families can do that. We are getting licensed for foster care again because we realize that we are not done, and when the pilot program for Safe Families comes to Danville, we may very well be their first host family.

Let me conclude with this: One of the greatest blessings of my life is to see our children living out the values we have taught them. When I see them being great parents, it blesses me. When I see them reach out and extend kindness to someone who may not deserve it, I am blessed. When I hear that they loaned money to someone in need, or bought groceries for someone who is struggling, I recognize that in the midst of all of the foibles and errors of our parenting -- regardless of the special needs and behaviors of our children growing up -- that we have done a few things right.

Would I rather be 23 today? No. Would I love to have the body and energy I did when I was 23 today? YOU BET! But the wisdom that comes with age and the experiences of the past 30 years I wouldn't trade for anything.

Happy Birthday to me. I'm happy to be 53.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Upward Spiral

For only the second time in about a month I was up for an hour in the middle of the night last night (from 3:15 to 4:20 to be exact) stewing. Rehashing and rehearsing conversations and trying to figure things out. Once again, I found myself in that place where I am desperate to not only control outcomes but also to control people.

And if you’ve heard me speak before you know I almost always end everything — even my stand up — with the revised serenity prayer:

“Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

So once again, I’m back around to this point of the (hopefully) upward spiral of what we can life. For each of us, whatever our personality, there are things we will wrestle with until we are done with our earthly life. And God, even though we wish He were different, doesn’t take us from point A to point B overnight. In fact, He almost always takes a lifetime to get us to become the people that He wants us to be — and the people we want to be.

So again today I relinquish control. I recognize this point in my circular growth and I thank him for reminding me quicker this time. I need to recognize my progress and not beat myself up…

It’s time to surrender once again.

Yesterday I heard this song listened to it again this morning.

It’s so appropriate!

This is where it begins
This is where all the worry ends
This is where I say I don't need to have control
This is where I admit
I don't know how to handle it
Life in all of this chaos
You're my only hope
And all that I have to offer
Is the white flag of surrender
Take me to the middle of your heart!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

He Loves Me.... Still

If you know me very well, you know I’m not lacking in self-confidence. I blame my mother…. I’ve told her often that she and my dad over did it on the self-esteem building stuff. But even if I don’t mention it, I have lots of times when I am annoyed with myself, frustrated that I can’ t do better or be better, wonder why I can’t get it together and do things right.

I also raised a whole bunch of kids who haven’t been able to get it together. They struggle — boy do they struggle — to get through every day. Their early trauma, prenatal exposure to alcohol, attachment issues, and mental health diagnoses have challenged them so much that they often can’t pull it together no matter how hard they try.

In 2003 when the movie “The Fighting Temptations” came out, I fell in love with the movie because of one message. That God still loves us — no matter WHAT. Do you know the movie? It’s a movie about a gospel choir. (There are swear words in in it (and when I bought my parents the movie and forgot that part my mom and dad though it was horrible and wouldn’t even watch it all the way through… but I digress). In the film, there aren’t enough people left in the church choir so they recruit from the prison. Since that was about the time that some of my kids started going to jail, it especially moved me.

Knowing that God loves us no matter what causes me to do to things:

1) It causes to me to see myself differently. I recognize that even when I’m not good enough, He still loves me. It gives me the courage to get up after I’ve fallen flat on my face and live another day. The knowledge that He loves me unconditionally helps me to look past my imperfections and see myself as He sees me. It pulls me into a stronger relationship with Him when I realize that there is NOTHING i can do to make Him love me more than He already does.

2) And maybe even more importantly, it causes me to see others differently…. through the eyes of grace. It helps me to believe that people are doing as well as they can and that I need to offer them second chances. It helps me to look beyond their behavior, to really SEE them, and to know that God still loves them.

BrenĂ© Brown in her book “Rising Strong” talks about whether or not we believe people are doing the best they can given the circumstances they are in and the history of their lives. She did a lot of research and you know what she concluded? She concluded that the people who are the recipients of the kind of grace that believes that everyone is doing the best they can aren’t affected very much by that grace because often they don’t know it is there. But the people who HAVE that attitude about others live a much higher quality of life. Isn’t that interesting? If I believe that everyone around me deserves my support instead of criticism it makes MY life better.

In 2003 I taught my kids this song from the movie (It’s one of the few soundtracks I’ve ever purchased — all the music is awesome). We played this song every day on the way to school for over a year. I wanted it ingrained in there heads. I know that some of it still listen to it often. And it moves me every time I hear it. It is especially moving to see this video because it shows the prisoners singing the song…

I hope you’ll take time to watch it today, but also to incorporate this truth into your lives and let it effect the way you see yourself AND the way you see others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Have a New Job

Actually my job isn't new, but it kinda is. Let me explain.

Last November I was interviewed for a job as the "Chief Program Officer" at Patrick Henry Family Services. I was told that I would be supervising three people, one of whom I would be hiring once I arrived. I would be doing some of the things that I enjoy most -- vision casting, overall leadership, big picture decision making -- and I would only have three direct reports and an admin.

My first official day of work was January 4 and by the 11th I knew that I was not replacing the Director of Residential Care position any time soon. The system I inherited (as you will recall from my posts back in January and February) was dysfunctional and bringing someone into that would be setting them up to fail. So I started digging in and figuring out how to "fix" things.

My second month we had to part ways with the Director of our Counseling program and so then I was doing his job as well. It took until July 1 to find a good replacement for him -- and we REALLY did. In just two months that program has made great progress.

In the meantime, we had our ups and downs in Residential Care, and without going into detail, by August 11th the managers had quit and almost 20 people were reporting directly to me. To say I was drowning was a bit of an understatement AND I was supposed to go on vacation.

But today I am here to report that yesterday was the first day for our new Director of Residential Care. Since our program is changing a bit and that title has been jinxed, I changed it to Director of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes. She is a former coworker at Bethany and a spiritually strong, very experienced, all around awesome person.

So yesterday I led my last meetings as "Director of Residential Care." It was a bittersweet time because I have grown to love that team and we have gotten very close as we have gone through all these valleys together.

The spirit in the room was SO different that our first meeting back in January. That meeting everyone looked scared to death -- scared of me, scared of the future, scared of change. Even though you know I'm hilarious, I don't remember anyone laughing at my jokes.

Yesterday I got to witness the change in the staff as my people laughed and joked and carried on. I watched how engaged they were and how committed they are to the children and teenagers we served. I was happy to pass on my people to Mary Beth and allow them to become "her people", actually "our people."

So, today I start my new job as ONLY the Chief Program Officer and nothing else and I couldn't be more thrilled with the possibilities of the future. We are heading in a great direction.

If you are in the middle of tough time I want to assure you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. God is with us through every dark time and He will bring us through.

This song is so new that there is only one YouTube out there -- but it's a great one!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Every Job Has it's Weeds

Our son Dominyk has been working for the Physical Plant department at Patrick Henry and has been back at the job for about 4 weeks. And most of the time he has spent weed whacking. Literally. And since he has OCD he likes to complain about it, repeatedly. However, he is doing it, so we at least are doing well there. I can listen to the complaining, because, as I started to think about it, all of our jobs have weeds.

Weeds are the pesky little things that you have to do to keep your job. For example, when I was an adoption worker I loved being with the families. I loved being with the kids. However, I did not love case notes. But I did case notes because that was something I had to do to keep my job.

Sometimes upper level management likes to refer to the "weeds" as getting down into the details that are in job descriptions of someone else. This does not mean that their work is not valuable -- it means that if we are going to do our job of big-epicture visioning and planning, that our mind should not be tied up with something that someone else is better at. And I can imagine that from their perspective it isn't much fun to have us poking our nose into things that really belong to someone else.

But as I was thinking about Dominyk's literally weed whacking -- and the figurative weed whacking that I have caught myself doing over the past months -- I realized that not only do all of our lives include weeds, but our lives do as well.

For example, Bart loves to cook and we love to eat the food he cooks. However, none of us get excited about cleaning the kitchen. I love having a meeting with a bunch of cool people at church, but I am very grateful that someone else sets up the tables and makes the coffee. We like having clean teeth, but I don't know many folks who look forward to the dentist. It's all those weeds.

So we just keep going. We keep fighting the good fight. We do the fun stuff and we do the not so fun stuff. And in the end a great deal of the satisfaction we have comes from the fact that we persevered.

Friday, August 19, 2016

All things New?

I am a person who is always full of hope. Well maybe not always always, but most of the time. And it can be fairly annoying to have me around if you are planning on being depressed forever. But sometimes even I get tired because life seems to be so cyclical.

I heard the words "Go makes all things new" and I think to myself, "Yeah, I've heard that one before and things just got worse." In fact, Bart always says, "Show me the data." And I remind him of Romans 8:24 that says, "Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?"

So I got to to thinking today, that maybe the point of God’s promise to make all things new isn’t just a one time event. What if God makes things new over and over and over again? Look at nature. Look at seasons. Grass is green and everything is lucious and trees have leaves and then autumn comes and then winter and then…. grass isn’t all that green and the leaves fall off the trees. But we never doubt the fact that spring will come and God WILL make everything new. The grass will turn green again, and the leaves will grow back not the trees, and it will get warmer.

Because God doesn’t just make things new once. In fact, in our lives sometimes He has to make things new very often. If you have raised children you know that every day needs to be a new day for some kids. This might be why he promises that His mercies are new every morning.

And so I ask you to believe with me again that me moving into the role I was hired for (Chief Program Officer) and hiring a new Director for Residential Care will be a time when God makes things new. Hopefully it will have a benefit on the whole organization as I will be free to provide more support to Safe Families and HFT and be a better part of the entire PHFS team.

So as I'm completing this dark cold season of turmoil and strife, I am filled with hope that spring is here again…. and that once again God will make all things new.

So I invite you to believe that with me. One more time trust people and invest in them — even though in the past you have done so and they have betrayed you or quit and left. One more time believe that the enemy will be conquered even if there have been times when it seems like he has been winning. One more time believe in yourself and the fact that God not only has the power to make all things new — He has the power to make you and I new as well.

Now is definitely not the time to give up. Trust me on this one :-)