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 :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Help Me Rise Above

Very seldom will I want to communicate something so bad that I will spend 30 minutes finding the video clips, but do you remember the Grey’s Anatomy episode where Dr. Bailey has to operate on a guy with a swastika on his abdomen? It’s one of my all time favorite parts of any TV show anywhere.

During this she talks about “rising above” and I have remembered these scenes often during my years as a parent and a professional. There have been countless times when I have needed to rise above my circumstances — and when I have had to call on Jesus to help me. Please take time to watch these three clips in order.

Clip One

Clip Two

Clip Three

I encourage you today to use this prayer, “Jesus help me rise above” routinely in your life. There are so many great moments when it can be used.

When one of your children (or a child you work with) is unleashing all of their anger on you, pray, “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When your coworkers have lost their focus and are bickering, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When the members of your church are talking behind your back, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When you have a misunderstanding with your spouse, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When you are advocating for justice and don’t seem to be getting anywhere, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When you are frustrated with the negativity of our society, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When you are tired, sick, worn out, and feel you can’t go on, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When friends turn their back on you, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

When you are discouraged and are not sure you can deal with things one more day, pray “Jesus, help me rise above.”

Thursday when we arrived at Hybels Global Leadership Summit, the opening song was the one below. Listen to it as we all rise above whatever it is we are dealing with today. It’s really awesome... I love the part where it says, “And I’ll do it a thousand times again” because that's really what living a life of faith involves.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

"How's NACAC?" Year Eight: It's About Remembering

Starting in 2005, when presenting with Bart in Pittsburg, I wrote a legendary blog post called, "How's NACAC?" that was quoted in a NACAC publication. It was from the perspective of a parent. Since then I have attempted to blog a post about each year.

In 2006 I blogged from Long Beach, California from the perspective of a professional.

In 2007, Year Three, I blogged from Tampa about "Support from the past and the future".

2008 we somehow ditched NACAC, but in 2009 we were in Columbus,Ohio and I blogged about how NACAC is about connection

In 2010 I wrote from Hartford, Connecticut about how NACAC demonstrates that everything is intertwined..

In 2011 we were in Denver and I referred to NACAC as the resurgence of hope.

And finally, in 2012 I blogged from Washington DC about how NACAC is the re-ignition of passion.

Four years went by and for several reasons we were not at NACAC. But here I am in Nashville reflecting on day one of the conference. Bart and I did a seminar this morning about the "Syndrome of the Empty Nest" and looked out at the faces of a group of people who were at our stage in life. The stage of life where we are still financially and otherwise responsible for adult children.

And I realized, that this year, for me, NACAC is about remembering.

NACAC is about remembering who. We remember who has encouraged us in our journey. We reconnect with those who have spoken into our lives at different stages. We remember, maybe, who it was that talked us into it in the first place. We remember the people who have taught us various things along the way. And in addition, we remember who we are. We see ourselves in the faces of others and we are encouraged by them... by their naiveté because we have been there, by their grief, because we share it, by their strength, because we borrow from it, by their joy, because we have experienced it, by their wisdom, because we have learned from it. We remember the "who"s in our lives that have made our journey so blessed.

NACAC is about remembering what. We ask "What were we thinking" and then remember what it was that brought us here. We remember the lessons learned in the past and the knowledge we have gained here. We remember what we were taught and how it has impacted our lives.

NACAC is about remembering where. We remember where we have been and we remember where we are going. We remember where we were when we heard things for the first time (as I discuss below) We remember where we had dinner with the people we have grown to love, and which hotel we were in when a lightbulb went on in our heads. We remember the various cities we have visited that have hosted the conferences.

NACAC is about remembering the whens. We remember when we had just adopted kids and how that felt. We remember when we struggled and were strengthened. For us it is very personal. We remember the year we met Pat O'Brien in person and began a wonderful relationship with him that has involved a couple trips to New York City and several meals at NACACs since then. (we just had dinner with him last night). We remember the year we finally got to have dinner with Brenda McCreight. We remember when we heard Debra Hage speak for the first time or when we first learned about inducement in 2007.. We remember when we laughed with friends, and cried with them.

But most of all NACAC is about remembering the whys. It is about remembering why we decided to do this in the first place. It is about remembering that kids grow better in families and that every kid should have one. It is about remembering that we did not adopt our children to abandon them. It is remembering that God called us to do this and so we will continue to take steps forward. It is about remembering the white hot why that has guided us throughout our journey.

So as the years go by, NACAC becomes a time of remembrance. It is a time to remember our own children and why we adopted them in the first place, but it is also a time to remember those kids still out there... over 100,000 of them, who still need permanency. And together, as parents and professionals, we join together to head into another year of making sure that as many of these kids as possible can join a family and make a connection with their permanent parent(s).

Tonight we had dinner with Dan and Terri Coley who work at Show Hope and we heard their whole story for the first time. And after dinner I mentioned to Bart how sacred this adoption journey is. Each of us who has chosen to care for kids from hard places is somehow intertwined in a very real way with the heart of God -- even if we don't describe it that way. This is truly a God-ordained path that, while not for the faint of heart, is miraculous.

So tonight I am grateful for NACAC. I believe the is our 10th year of attending... because there were at least two that I didn't blog about. The people that I have met, the places I have been, the experiences I have had, have been amazing. And NACAC has allowed all this to be possible.

So again I end my first day of NACAC grateful for the sacred journey of my life and the way that NACAC has been woven throughout the pathway we have traversed and allowed us to remember the important things along the way.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Second Layer of Faith

This past week I had a chance to spend time with my daughter in law who is a phenomenal mother. Watching her with my grandkids was an amazing experience. She is so patient (she has twin girls who are 5 months old and a 3 year old who is beyond busy). I was exhausted just watching her with them, but also in awe of how attentive she is to their needs. My son is also a great dad and it is a joy to watch them parent.

She and I had a chance to visit and we started talking about resiliency. How is it, she asked me, that you can hang in there with everything that happens in your family and job? How do you maintain faith when you pray and answers don't come? My response to her was a new thought to me (and that seldom happens any more) so I need to share it with you!

I told her that there are two kinds of faith. There is the level that says that we know that God can answer our prayers. We believe that He has the power to do so, and we trust that He will answer in His time.

But there is a deeper level of faith that I have just recognized in the past few years. It's the level of faith that says that I believe that God will change ME so that I will be OK even if He doesn't make the changes I'm requesting. It's the faith that believes that even when God doesn't do the things we ask, that He has things under control. So we continue to ask, knowing He has the power to answer our prayers, but we rely on HIS wisdom and HIS power to protect, strengthen and comfort us even when we don't see answers, even if things never change, and even during the times when things aren't going our way.

I spent many years living in that first level of faith. It's not a bad place to be. But I think the second layer that I have discovered lately, is a much more settled place to be. I'm not always worrying about how or when God will answer my prayers... I just live in the calm place of assurance that He has it under control.

It's a good place to be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I’m an extrovert so when I am alone for several hours without being able to process verbally I start to drive myself crazy. My thoughts spin around in my head with nowhere to go and I get tired of myself really fast.

The last two mornings have been ridiculous. Little dumb things … For example, I dropped my phone six times when i was getting ready to leave the house on Monday morning. Yes, six. I counted because it was so annoying. I was trying to pack and couldn’t find stuff. One of the items I dropped my phone I reached down to pick it up and pulled something in my back, causing me pain all day. I got the lace on my shawl caught on the bathroom door hook at the convenience store where I stopped for donuts that actually didn’t have donuts…. WHAT?? I thought this was Krispy Kreme territory….

Then yesterday morning, I stepped on a tiny piece of glass that Dominyk didn’t sweep up when he broke my blender the last time we were in Brookneal, and I couldn’t find a couple things I needed, and my back was still hurting, and and and and… see? I was just pathetic. My never ending internal loop of whining was driving me crazy.

In addition to all of the petty junk was the heavy stuff that has been weighing on me for weeks interweaving itself with the broken record of internal whining. You have only had to read a couple paragraphs of it… but in my head it was going on forever.... and I was going crazy!

When I finally got out to the van to drive to Lynchburg, I knew that there was only answer to the whiny loop — Christian music. So I turned it on and the first song that I heard started with:

This is what we’re here for.

And I immediately knew that the song was not going to say.

So I want to share with you some answers to the question "What am I NOT here for?"

1) I am not here to control the world, fix things, or make sure that everyone is OK everywhere. That’s God’s job. (OK, OK, I know that this is a constant theme for me).

2) I am not here to focus on the distractions. Another theme for me, but there are so many ways that our focus can be diverted to other things that really aren’t the center of what we are called to do.

3) I am not here to whine!!

4) I am not here to be ruled by discouragement, doubt, or anxiety. I am victorious in Christ.

5) I am not here to worry about the future or dwell on the past.

And as the song went on I was reminded of why I am here… and suddenly the whine loop was replaced by these words that stuck in my head all day. A much better alternative!

This is what we're here for.
To show the world how You love it.
This is what we're made for.
To lay it all down like You did.
When we feel useless, You still use us.
Help us not forget.
This is what we're here for.
This is what we're here for.

Listen to it with me. I think you’ll like it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Discovering your White Hot Why

Last year at Bill Hybel's leadership summit he talked about the 5 intangibles of leadership. He borrows from Simon Sinek's Ted Talk where he talks about being driven by your "why." He suggests that every leader should know and be driven by their "white hot why."

As you can tell by reading between the lines, my professional life has not been easy the past six months. In fact, you wouldn't even have to read between the lines but simply read my blog and you would know. Even though I am unable to give details, let me tell you... this is like nothing else I've ever been through. And I'm no stranger to difficult situations (those of you who read this blog between 2006 and 2012 know that we have lived through a LOT of challenges.

This past week Bart and the boys and I joined the residents of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes for their annual beach trip. We were in Outer Banks, NC ... one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We spent a day with all the residents, and then three days and three nights with the girls. I needed it, desperately, to clear my head and to hang out with the kids. Because they are my white hot why.

As "Chief Program Officer" I am several steps away from direct service to our kids, and sometimes I get caught up in personnel issues, spreadsheets, big picture decision making, and all the other things that senior management is thrown into in a given day. The more I feel myself drowning in that, the more I forget why I do it.

This week I came face to face with my "White Hot Why" as I did life with these kids. We laughed a lot. I watched them interact. I watched their house parents deal patiently with them. I observed them play together and work together to get things done like packing vans and keeping rooms clean. I heard snippets of their stories.

Literally on my way back before I even got home, I was smacked in the face with more distracting stuff, but I am not going to let it sway me because I was reminded that I am driven by this "white hot why." God didn't call me hear to deal with spreadsheets, and monthly reports, and employee performance evaluations.. even though that is part of what I do. He called me here to make sure that these beautiful lives were being cared for to the best of our ability.

In my past jobs, the kids and families that we worked with have always been that "why" for me. In our families lives my kids and grandkids have been my "white hot why" for everything we've done.

What about you? What burns inside you, driving you to do and be your best? What is your purpose? In addition to serving Jesus, to the best of our ability, we each need that "why" that drives our lives. If we have it, we can rise above ANYTHING that comes our way.

If you don't have one, I'm going to pray that God reveals to you why you are where you are. I'm asking Him right now to instill in you a "why" that burns so hot and bright inside you that it carries you through whatever each day brings.

Thanks, PHBGH kids for letting me live life with you and for being the white hot why that moves me through each day.