Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Come on everybody dream along!

If you went to Bartlesville Wesleyan College you might remember a group called the "Freedom Singers."   They sang a song called, "The Dream Never Dies Just the Dreamer."  In fact, for some reason, the introduction to that song that I memorized from the album back in 1981 or 82 is still stuck in my mind, bound there forever.
Traveling nearly 20,000 miles a year we come across many people who have sacrificed their dreams and settled for less than the best in their lives.  They're the ones who didn't listen to words of the Master when He said, "All things are possible to them that believe."  So don't you dare listen to the man who walks around with his head to the ground, muttering something about dreams not coming true... cuz he's wrong!!!
and then they broke into song.
The dream never dies, just the dreamer.  The dream never dies if it's strong.  The dream never dies, just the dreamer, so come on everybody dream along.   
You may remember another song by someone a bit more famous that said,
"You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one."
I am definitely a dreamer ... I have weird dreams, very seldom scary, always interesting, but a bit strange.  I can't even tell you some of them because you might be in them in ways that would be an embarrassment to you forever.

But I also have dreams while I am awake.  I like to believe that I dream the things that God dreams of and thus He will use me to make those things come true.

I dream about things in my family -- that my daughter will get a better job, that my son will get help and be on the right medication, that my grandchildren's parents will win the sweepstakes so they can afford to visit us weekly (ok, so that's not really possible, but hey, a girl can dream.)

I dream about lots of things at work.   So much so that I drive people crazy sometimes.  In fact, one of my favorite moments when I worked at Bethany was when my admin was getting ready for our annual gala which is tons of work.  I walked in the day before that event and said, "Hey, I was thinking we should do something like this in the Spring as well.  We could...."

She interrupted me and said, "If you bring up ONE more new idea about ANYTHING before this gala is over, I'm going to stab myself in the eye with a pencil."  Point taken.

But I also dream about big huge things, like every child having a loving family, about there being no need for county run foster care in this country because Christians step up to the plate to take care of children and mentor families who are stuck in poverty, like all parents parenting kids from hard places having the knowledge and support they need to parent their children well.

I also dream of a day when all kinds of other social issues are resolved like hunger, and world peace... but I know I only have so much energy and where my influence is.... so the dreams above are the ones that drive me.... because those are ones I am positioned to do something about.

The clincher is this....  if we are going to allow ourselves to dream the things that are aligned with God's plan, He might actually ask us to step up and DO something....  Just sayin...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Joy will find you....

You might be depressed.  You might be feeling overwhelmed.  You might be in the midst of something difficult, but you should take heart.   Joy is looking for you.  That's the way God rolls.

Today is Leon's birthday and when I was looking for pictures to put on Facebook to say Happy Birthday, I realized that for the years he has been the "joy that seeketh me through pain."   For over nine years we have had very few times when we were upset with each other and those things passed over quickly.   He has been a constant source of peace and joy during the most difficult things that our family has been through.  

Leon and Wilson came to us in the midst of some very difficult parenting years... and it was as though  God sent them because God, the author of joy, was seeking us.

Seeing pictures of his face reminded me of this song this morning
O Joy, that seekest me through pain,I cannot close my heart to Thee;I trace the rainbow through the rain,And feel the promise is not vainThat morn shall tearless be. 
So, if you are going through those hard times -- do not close your heart to the joy that is seeking you through your pain.    Look for it, it's there.  Take time to find it.

I am so grateful that God is faithful to break through during even the hard times, with joy.  And today especially I am very thankful for all the joy that this boy/man has brought to our lives.

I know you want to listen to the song, too so you can get it stuck in your head!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Active Hope

I'm not sure that I had ever heard those two words put together before until I read this article this morning.     There are some profound thoughts in the article, but the thought of Active Hope is one I will be referring to in my own mind most likely for the rest of my life.

Here is how it is defined in the article;
Active Hope involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active role in bringing them about. We don't wait until we are sure of success. We don't limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. Instead, we focus on what we truly, deeply long for, and then we proceed to take determined steps in that direction. This is the second thread we follow.
In any situation,
We can rise to the occasion with wisdom, courage, and care, or we can shrink from the challenge, blot it out, or look away. With Active Hope we consciously choose to draw out our best responses, so that we might surprise even ourselves by what we bring forth. 
I love the hope that Scripture talks about -- hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5).  I love Paul's question, "Who hopes for what he already has?  We wait in hope with patience... for things that we don't have and can't see.  (Romans 8).   I love the idea that hope has no data.  

But today I am reminded that hope also involves action -- us playing an active roll in bringing about the outcomes we hope for.   I'm holding on to that.

Whatever it is you hope for today, I challenge you to turn your hopeful ideas into active hope.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Summary for March 18

Whew.  This week was a whirlwind.

As you know, some really cool things are happening at work.  We are about ready to do something that has yet to be done anywhere, ever, to my knowledge.  I'm very excited about this -- so excited that it is hard to do anything but work on this BHAG.....

So... on Tuesday I got to present the powerpoint I had been working on for weeks to the Executive Committee of our Board, and it couldn't have gone better.  It was one of those "once in a lifetime" things, where I saw lightbulbs going on one by one across the room.  Can't say I've ever seen that before.

I went back to my little apartment in Brookneal that night very grateful for God's help -- many were praying.  And I went back very tired -- it was an exhausting day.   I went to sleep around 10 and at 2 the phone rang.  Tony had called Dominyk and had him all worked up suggesting that he had been kicked out of Job Corp and needed a ride home.   We had told him he could NOT come home.  Sure enough there were texts from him no my phone that he had sent at 1:30 saying that he wanted to come home.   He "might" get kicked out and wanted to know if he could move back in.  The answer is NO.   Our family system can't support it.   I didn't go back to sleep that night -- so I was up at 2.  He argued with me periodically all morning in a not very nice way via text reminding me of why he absolutely can't come home.   That was a low point ... But I already wrote all about it this week so I won't bore you.

Thursday Bart did a book talk at the library and in spite of his neck pain did a great job.

Friday I had such an awesome couple meetings at work.  I am so energized by my team and by what we are doing.   Talk about right people and right people in the right seats on the bus ... I've never seen anything quite like it and it gets better by the day.

I'm sure none of them read this so I can brag on them without them ever seeing it, but the four people who report directly to me are so incredibly gifted.   We also have a great deal in common as three of us have parented kids from foster care or have adopted kids with special needs, so it is good to feel like I'm with people who understand me.   If they were not my direct reports, they would be some of my best friends -- and you know the kinds of awesome friends I have if you are one of them!  I am blessed every day to work with the people I work with, both as "My team" and the group of men I work with in Sr. Leadership.   I can't stop being thankful for this.

We are having an introverts weekend here.  Bart's shoulder and neck pain are keeping him home.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, he says it hurts less when he is cleaning than when he is sitting, so the house is getting cleaned.

My back however, does NOT feel better when I'm cleaning and I"m not just saying that.  :-)

Speaking of backs, I got the results from my MRI this week, though the follow up appointment isn't until April.  Turns out I have a disk that is sticking out a bit and a lot of arthritis on the joints in my back, so they recommended I not try and exercise for a while.

Oh well, at least I got a nice T-shirt for $20 a month at Planet Fitness....

That's about it for this week.  Sorry my personal life isn't more exciting -- but work.  Have I mentioned how awesome it is?  How exciting?  How cool?

Oh yeah, maybe a million times.  Sorry.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I Did It All By Myself!

Ever been really proud of yourself?  Ever knock it out of the park with a project?  It's a great sense of satisfaction when you know that you did something well.  However, there is the temptation, always, to forget that God should be getting some credit.

I love the story of Gideon for so many reasons..  Judges 7:2-3 in The Message reads:
God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me."
Wow.  Human nature sure hasn't changed much over the millennia has it?  It seems that way back in the day, people were concluding that they did things on their own strength and not remembering that God was the one who should get the credit.   Sound familiar at all?

When I recruit people to adopt teenagers, I always say, "If you only accept the challenges in life that you can do without God's strength, you never get to see Him do the cool stuff.  It's only when you take on something that is way too hard for you that you can live the adventure filled life that God calls you to live."  (And obviously, adopting a teenager is something that is very hard to do without a lot of help from the Almighty!)

(By the way, if you're interested in adopting a teenager and you live near Lynchburg, Virginia, you may have an opportunity to do that through Patrick Henry Family Services within the next year or so.  Just sayin').

In the verses above it's pretty clear to me.    God said to Gideon as He says to us, "Your challenge is too small.   If that's all you do with your time, with your energy, with your resources, with your life, then you'll take all the credit and forget all about me."

For years I have committed myself to seeking to do things for and with God that I can't do alone.  It's been the hardest, most rewarding, worst, best life a person could imagine.

If you're living in the shallow waters, come on.... jump in.   It's in the deep waters where the cool stuff happens.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Reasons to Be Thankful

It's Thankful Thursday.  Here are Three Reasons I'm thankful today.... and three reasons you should be too.

1)  God answers prayer.  I had a meeting this week where I gave a presentation.  The results of that meeting were far above and beyond anything I could have imagined.  We had so many people praying for us.... our Sr. Leadership team walked a way knowing that God has answered prayer.    Remember my friends I told you about whose son turned 14 while in a coma because of sepsis to the point that we all, thousands around the country, prayed that God would spare his life.  Well, this picture shows what happened with that :-).

And just so you know, God answers prayer by saying no sometimes to.   I can't imagine how different my life would be had he answered all my prayers with a yes.   Being married to David Cassidy from the Patridge family (or any of the other guys I asked God for over the years) for example, would probably not have gone well.  

2)  Because I'm choosing to be.   I could easily find so many ways to complain if I wanted to.   There are a multiple of challenging things facing our family right now, and work has it's issues, and Bart and I are both in pain so much we have to help each other put on socks some days, but I chose to focus on the good.

3)  Because God is good.  All the Time!  If you have been to any of the churches we pastor, you know that this is the way we begin almost every Sunday.

Come on... Sing it with me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Needed to Self-Regulate!!

Have you ever gotten a phone call in the middle of the night that was not good news?  Then you know that those things are trauma triggers like none other.   I got one this morning at 2:00 a.m. and I have not been back asleep (except for possibly about 20 minutes between 4:30 and 5:00).  The news isn't the important part of this story -- if you are curious it was Dominyk saying Tony is going to get kicked out of Job Corps.  There were also texts from Tony begging us to let him come home.  So, if you know how things went the last time he was home, you know why this made me not be able to fall back asleep).

But the point of my post is that after I got done yelling at Dominyk that a 2 a.m. call to tell me this was NOT necessary and that I could have made it just fine until morning without knowing that, not to mention that his Dad is in the same house with him while I am 60 miles away.... anyway, I digress.

After I got done yelling and got back into bed I had a sudden realization of what it feels like to have your amygdala hijacked and to be in a complete state of fright, freeze, or flight.  I had NO ability to think straight.  My typical response to something like this is to process it with Bart but he was asleep miles away.   I used de-escalation techniques, reminding myself that in 15 minutes or so I would be calm again.  The thoughts were racing through my head.  My engine was definitely in the red zone.

(If you want to learn more about the graphic above, what it means to have a red engine,  and how to teach self regulation to kids, this article gives a good overview).

While I was lying there recovering from the aftershocks of a major trauma trigger, I started thinking about our children.   I thought about how many times when they were growing up and in the "red zone" I thought I could help them learn something.   My lectures that I found so very brilliant, were not registering at all because learning can't take place without felt safely.  Oh if I had known that twenty years ago.

So what did I do?  I tried everything I could think of to go back to sleep.  I stayed away from electronics for a while and tried every trick I know, including counting backwards by fours starting at 413.   I thought about happy things.  I mentally walked the campus I lived on in boarding school, I mentally walked the college campus.   I thought about work, which, by the way, was awesome yesterday.... the presentation I made finally helped me to understand something they have heard for 7 years, but it hadn't clicked until yesterday.

I finally gave up on that and decided to read a few chapters of a book.  I tried to go back to sleep again.  I played all my Candy Crush lives and all my Lexulous turns.  I even unfollowed unwanted instagrammers.   I finally gave up and got up at 6.

It was a good lesson for me though... and a good reminder.  The next time that I come across my child or another child whose engine is red, I'm going to try and remember that feeling and think about what I would want someone to say to me.

Now if I can just stay awake for the rest of the day that would be great.  :-)