Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Next Chapter

So I started this new blog and I want you to read those entries too.  Of course I do.   I am so excited about reconnecting with bloggers and my blog readers again.  It has been a long three and a half years.

So head on over, and check it out.  Some of it will be review for you, but I would love you to lead the way with comments and begin the conversation.

One of the things that I have found with those of us who are "old" and have been doing this a long time is that we often disappear from the scene and stop connecting with adoptive parents.  It is as though we have concluded that we have "been there done that" and that we don't need to help the next generation of parents.

So let's join together and share the wisdom of the last decade with those who are new to all this..... that next generation.

Come on over to The Next Chapter (but don't forget to keep reading here too!)

Bart is blogging again...

The name of his blog is "Another New Place to Love" and he has already made me cry.

The End of Multiple Eras

I was awake at 3:30 this morning and never went back to sleep. After spending 6 hours with the CEO at my new job yesterday my mind was spinning. I also learned that trying to get anything done with Dominyk here in the evenings probably isn't gonna happen. He tends to talk. Incessantly. to the dogs, to me, to himself. The words that he is saying are innocuous. There are just so. many. of. them.

So here I am at my computer not the last day of 2015 recognizing that it is the end of an era. It's not just the end of a year, but the end of a few really good runs.

Here are the eras that area all ending on this day:

1) The era of living with a lot of people. I mean a lot. Since 1999 we have had anywhere from 5 to 17 people living in our home at once. The months that there were five of us we also had an additional one home on weekends and that period of time lasted less than 5 months. Most of the time we have had between 8 and 17 people in our home. When the kids were little (at one point we had 9 between the ages of 5 and 15) life was a blur of busy chaotic adventure. We spent lots of time at parks and pools and doing things together as a family. Then we moved into the teenage years where life was basically spent in the van with me making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. Had there been internet and a toilet in the van I may not have ever had to get out. It was also the time when drama was high, police came often, bad choices were made, and grandchildren started to appear. And the last segment, over the last several years, has been possibly the most difficult. Adult children were in situations that their choices had created, and yet we were still living with a houseful of them who we were supporting and had no motivation to move on. So even though this was NOT the reason I took this job and we have them set up with good, reasonably priced options to live independently, we did find the answer to the question some of you may be asking "how do you get your adult kids to move out." Answer: Sell the house and move far far away.

2) The era of being close to our grandchildren. We have had so much fun with our grandkids during the past 6 years. Even though all but one of them has had some drama surrounding their little lives, grand-parenting is a great gig. We will now be entering the phase of "FaceTime Grand-parenting" which many people have gotten really good at. We will still see them a couple times a year in person, but we will have to be much more intentional about connecting with them.

3) The pastoring together era. It looks like, for the next six months, we will be living an hour and 20 minutes apart. I will stay in my townhouse 3-4 nights a week and go to stay with Bart in the parsonage on weekends. While I will still be attending church with Bart, I will no longer have options to sing in choirs, ring handbells, be in a praise band, or do midweek activities. I will be plenty busy with PHFS responsibilities, but I will miss the DAILY parts of ministry that Bart and I have done together. In each of our churches there have been folks who have buried themselves deeply into my heart and I will miss them and the opportunity to do that here.

4) The Bethany Era. Wow, what a great run that was. I met and worked with some of the finest people that exist in this world hands down. Locally, we took a struggling, near death branch and as a team turned it around. I got to work with employees who became some of my best friends and I got to hire one of my best friends to be my employee. I was surrounded by people who I loved and consumed by a mission and a passion that trumps all others. On the Regional Director front I had a great team of Branch Directors who I supervised, and was led by a team of passionate folks who continue to wrestle with how to best be a ministry and a business that is authentically Christian in a very fast-growing agency, now the largest adoption agency in the world. And I cannot fail to mention my fellow RDs -- I loved being able to consider myself one of these intelligent, mission driven, authentically faithful followers of Jesus. I am already knee deep in the challenges of the future, but tears come to my eyes as I think about this being my last official day at Bethany and how much I have truly loved that job and those people.

5) The "My Husband is Right Next to Me" era. If you don't know my husband, you are missing out because he is a phenomenal person. He has been by my side supporting and encouraging me every single day for nearly 20 years. He has taken care of things on the home front for most of our marriage, but especially the last three years, so that I could do a big job. Our marriage is stronger than ever, but the era has ended of us being in the same place every night -- or at least it has been paused. I'm a resilient person, and we talk often throughout the day, but I miss him. He reminded me that he hasn't seen much of me the past three and a half years anyway, but he has been my rock every night, even if we only had 5-10 minutes to talk before we fell asleep exhausted.

6) The short era of seeing my mom at least once a week. It's been such a great two and half years of being close to her. But nobody is more excited about our adventure here than she is. She is happy to be where she is and she is an amazing person and seeing her with my kids and grandkids has been such a joy. I hadn't lived in the same town with her since I left for college, so it's been a real treat.

7) The Era of this being my only blog. I am intentionally seeking duller moments. I am hoping that I will experience more psychic space and have more margins in my life to get healthier. So it is my intention to create a new blog called "The Next Chapter" where I will post well-written, thought-provoking, not-an-embarrassment to my employer entries -- and keep this one for family updates, reports on how often I poop, stupid things my kids say, and anything else my heart desires. Stay tuned for the link to that blog.

So as I wind down 2015, many eras are ending. But here are some things that are NOT changing:

1) My God is a God of adventure and He continues to call Bart and I into waters that are always just a little too deep. He invites us into oceans of dependence on Him that allow us to see Him do cool things. He is right there, guiding us and making our lives a great adventure as we follow him into the glorious unknown every day.

2) My kids are still my kids. I still love them. I still try to err on the side of grace. We will still be a major part of their lives from afar (or very very close by in Dominyk's case right now). We will continue to pray for them that God will change the things in them that we have been unable to change and that he will protect them.

3) My mom will remain my role model, my example of what it means to be a person of prayer, and my biggest fan from afar. I will talk to her often -- maybe even more often than I did when I was so crazy busy and lived in the same town she did.

4) My husband will remain my best friend and we will work out the distance thing and our marriage will be stronger.

5) The people around me will change but the tapestry of my life will remain altered by the relationships I have had in Minnesota. I will gain new friends, but keep the old and my life will always be full of good people and good times. As I have told many... I'm not dying or moving to the moon...

6) I will remain in a job that is fueled by my passion and impacts the things that God cares about most. I will remain challenged and enjoy the journey.

Life is interesting. Unpredictable. Exciting. And change, while it isn't always easy, is not always a bad thing.

So as several eras end, new ones begin and I look ahead to the next ones with enthusiasm as I let go of the past.

But I still gotta admit I have tears in my eyes....

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Almost Freaky "Coincidence"

I use the word coincidence here because I fear that I will soon be accused of using the word miracle way too often.

My brothers have chosen a completely different path in life than my parents or I have (a great lesson for me to learn BEFORE I became a parent -- kids have free will and excellent parenting doesn't always equal excellent choices by the children parented). Neither of them are Christians though my mom has prayed for them "War Room style" for fifty years. But my brother Nathan once said, "I do have to admit, there are a lot of coincidences that happen after mom and dad pray."

So this morning, as I finish out my last official week at Bethany (while already in Virginia), I want to tell you about a coincidence that even those who don't believe might admit could be related to divine intervention.

Three and a half years ago we moved to the Twin Cities. The very first night that we were there we had supper at B-Dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) and I could swear I ordered a Caffeine Free Diet Coke... but since I was up most of the night, I think they didn't hear the caffeine free part. So either God or tons of caffeine kept me up. And God and I had a conversation. It went something like this.

"Well, God, here I am in the Twin Cities. I wonder why it is that you have me here. I know Bart has this great new church, but what about me?"

We went back and forth for a while as I thought about my passion for adoption and the number of churches that are in the Twin Cities. I kept coming back to the question "what does God want me to do?"

I don't often tell people that God told me stuff, but this time it was a pretty clear message.

God said, "You know those 12 kids you adopted? Add zero to it."

"Happy to do that, God! We really want to be done now that we have grandkids."

"No, he said, I didn't mean add zero to your family, I meant put a zero at the end of the 12. I want you to find Christian people in churches Minnesota to adopt 120 kids."

My mind started to spin and I was up the rest of the night coming up with a plan. In my job at that time I typically would place 10-12 kids a year and I figured I wouldn't be ready to retire until beyond 62, so it was a reachable goal. I made list in my head of pastors to call, and I was happy to accept this challenge.

Fast forward three months and I land this amazing job as Branch Director at Bethany. Suddenly I will have the ability to affect a bunch more kids. I jumped in and applied all the passion and energy I had into what I called the "Minnesota 500" program and began the task of finding homes for kids.

By now you know that I have moved on and my time in the Twin Cities is over. And you probably know where this blog post is going. We have software that counts placements and yes, you guessed it, we placed EXACTLY 120 kids into adoptive and foster homes between the day I started and my last day this Thursday. That is one freaky coincidence.

Last night was my first night in my new home. I didn't have caffeine last night and I didn't have a conversation with God. But I am excited to see how He unveils His plan for us here in Virginia as the days go by.

This is indeed a Great Adventure.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's Not Really About the Facts

We have arrived in Virginia. I am sitting at the dining room table that I'm borrowing in the townhouse that I'm borrowing for the next several months. I arrived and was overwhelmed with a great welcome! The townhouse is beautiful -- way more space than Dominyk and I need (which is SO weird). I haven't had too much space in .... well.... since a few months after we were married.

If you don't know the whole story, Bart and I were married in June of 1996. By January of 1997 we had two toddlers and by December of 97 eight and eleven year olds had joined us. By the following Christmas we had added four more kids and ... well, you get the picture.

So extra space is weird. But I digress....

Let me tell you about our welcome. I was greeted with friendly people who were happy to help Dominyk unload. Dinner was delivered. There were flowers and muffins on the table. There was even a surprise from God -- a beautiful sunset.

Our drive today was nearly perfect. If you have not driven through the mountains of Virginia you really need to -- and then keep going for another 90 minutes and visit us! The roads were dry and the weather was perfect. When we finished unloading Dominyk was incredible! He put everything in the room it belonged it. He offered to make my bed and hang the shower curtain. He even fed me dinner. I'm loving the honeymoon!

But if you asked me about yesterday, I would have told you that it felt like it was straight out of Lemony Snicket... a series of unfortunate events ... or Alexander with his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Here's how it went.

First four hours were awesome. I was alone, it was quiet (well, after the first 15 minutes where Dom had a very loud, explosive anxious meltdown, but after that it was great!). The dogs and Dom slept. I prayed. The roads were dry and clear and there was little traffic.

And then we hit Madison, Wisconsin and it all went down hill from there. The roads started to get icy. And they stayed either, snowy, icy or wet for the next 13 hours. There was road construction. There were multiple accidents. It took 6 hours to get around Chicago and I never went over 40. The trip, which should have taken 12 hours, took 16 and a half. I got a donut caught in my throat and threw up all over my only shirt (my extras were packed way underneath a bunch of stuff). The dogs got into a fight in the backseat. Dominyk thought he lost his wallet and obsessed about that for 30 minutes. The Steak and Shake we stopped at had horribly slow service, so we took it to go which was not good for the dogs who hadn't eaten all day. My mediocre milkshake ended up getting spilled on the shirt I had purchased to change into after I puked on shirt number one. And then, once we got to the hotel at 11:00 pm, I ended up slamming my finger in the bathroom door. AND I got a bloody nose and bled all over the new shirt that was already covered in milkshake.

THOSE are the facts.

But you know what? I went to bed happy. I went to bed grateful that I wasn't in one of the accidents. I went to bed thanking God for giving me stamina (I hadn't driven 16 hours straight without help since I was 30!)

And I realized that life is never really about the facts. It's about our response to the facts. I reported the negative things that happened because I thought the whole thing was getting more entertaining by the moment. But all those things that happened didn't steal my joy.

This is true of so many things. Life hands us lemons -- God makes lemonade. I wrote a blog entry five years ago called "My Blog is a Lemonade Stand"

So I guess you could say that I spent yesterday drinking lemonade that God made out of lemons. I pray that God will help you face your next set of negative facts the same way!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015 -- No Room at The Inn -- I mean Restaurant

Happy to announce that it really wasn't Holiday Hell this year. It was a really good Christmas.

We started celebrating at noon on Christmas Eve. Wilson has a Christmas Eve Birthday and Salinda's birthday is on Christmas Day, so we usually celebrate their birthdays at noon. Wilson had requested Fondue, so that's what we had. Very yummy -- a delicious cheese dip with Veggies and bread and then steak and Shrimp. Salinda, John and the kids were fashionably late (an hour?!?) so the meal and gift unwrapping lasted a couple hours. But it was relaxed, fun, and low key.

We headed to the 5:00 service where we lit the advent candle as a family one last time. Mixed emotions, but we got it done. Then we were off to do our traditional Chinese buffet that we have done every Christmas Eve since 1999 when the only place open on Christmas Eve in Luverne was the Chinese place...

Except the one we were going to was closed. So we headed to Old Country Buffet reluctantly to find it was closed. Then we tried Perkins, which was open, but they only had one cook and two servers on duty so they wouldn't serve us and we ended up at the mediocre yet expensive Chinese buffet that many of us hated last year and they let us in.... So we celebrated, open gifts, ate, and by that time it was time for Christmas Eve Service #2.

This morning was very low key. I picked up my mom and we opened gifts after Tony and Taylor (who got engaged last night!!!!) arrived around 11:30. A delicious dinner prepared by Bart at 2 and then we hung out and looked at old pictures this afternoon.

Even though we had one son who hates being named here who skipped church and then slept through Christmas and there is always drama surrounding some grandchildren, it was a great day.

Now two more days of frantic organization and packing and I will be on my way to Virginia.

Merry Christmas to everyone. God is really good to us you know.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Just like 2009 -- It's All About the Baby

Six years ago I blogged a blog entry called "This Year, It's all about the baby". I remember that post, and that year, because it struck me that every single Christmas it should be about the baby.

Right now, that baby from 2009 is turning 6.

She is adorable. Compliant, kind, helpful, generally happy, and very affectionate and loving. She is a super great kid. She now has a baby brother

and she has three male cousins that were born in between her and her brother.

And again this Christmas, at this very moment our daughter-in-law is at the doctor finding out if she and Kyle's identical twin daughters will be born today or if they are safe to stay inside her for a few more days.

And I'm struck that combined with our move, this Christmas, again, is about the babies about to be born into our family. But more importantly it is about THE baby, Jesus, born to deliver all of us. It's about anticipation, the joy of advent, the looking forward to the birth of new life. It's not about stuff.

We never got around to getting a tree. We did manage to buy presents, but they are not creative. There are no Christmas decorations up and from looking around you can't tell that today is different than every other day.

But these words keep ringing through my ears as I anticipate the arrival of my children and grandchildren, the church services tonight, time with my mom, and all the things that are the true meaning of Christmas
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?

It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled
'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
It's a whole lot more. It's about the baby. It's about family. It's about belonging.

And you know that I wouldn't be me, if I didn't point out that there are many kids across the country tonight who will go to bed surrounded by strangers in shelter care, foster parents they are just getting to know, or in a group home. They know they don't "belong" anywhere.

It is my prayer as it is every year, that by next Christmas many more children will have a home and a place to belong.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Emotional Overload

I am taking a break at this moment from cleaning out the drawers of the big desk in my office. I won't be posting a link to this blog post on Facebook because I don't want the powers that be to be annoyed that I am blogging on work time.

Wow. I'm an emotional nightmare! I just have to say it, this transition stuff is HARD WORK. All the other times we have moved it has been the bishops fault. Now, suddenly, it is my fault. It is my fault that my children are homeless and that I am taking their father away from them (even though they all have places to live at a price they can afford). It is my fault that my grandchildren won't live near their grandfather. It is my fault that my office has to transition and that my superiors at Bethany have to replace me. It's my fault that our church is losing their beloved (by most) pastor. I'm the reason for all this chaos and all this pain.

And so nobody really cares to listen to my woes... thus, here I am blogging. But I get whey they don't want to listen to my sadness... because I CHOSE this. I get what I get.

And actually, the waves of emotion come and go. I'm not on emotional overload 24/7. Just probably 17/24/7. I do sleep.

I do need to say here thought that I have had one hell of a good ride (OK, heck) here in Minnesota. I have had so much fun. Going through my desk and cleaning it out has made me smile with recollections of such good times.

I found the snake that was in my bottom drawer when I came to work my first day. I found the nun that I got as a gag gift at a Christmas party. I found the picture of me and Grandma Bethany -- if you don't know that story you should ask me sometime. I found little snippets of things that made me smile with remembrance.

And I found some remembrances of some less than fun times. When you work with people there are always times when you wish for a do-over. But life doesn't allow for that.

I remember as a teenager deciding what was important in life: Loving God, Loving People, and bringing the two together. So whereas again I am on emotional overload, I am confident that over the past three years I have tried my best to do those things.

My children could use some prayer. Each in their own way are grieving. Each are reliving abandonment issues. With the combination of FASD, RAD, Anxiety, Depression and low IQs we have amongst them, some of them aren't doing well and of course, it is all dumped on me.

Last Week I read this article. Be Glad Your Kids Throw Up on You I need to keep reminding myself of this every day. If you haven't read it you should. I wish I had been able to incorporate this into my lifestyle years ago. It would have helped me and even more so my children.

So in the myriad of positive and negative emotions that this transition has caused, I am still very grateful to live a life that takes chances.....

My theme song for this move has been the Toby Mac Song "Way Beyond Me." Here are they lyrics to part of it:

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on You
I'm leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin' it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond …

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own
And the Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great …
Take me to Your great unknown

Monday, December 21, 2015

You can Stop Praying for Us


So by temperament Pastor Bart (my beloved husband) and I are quite different. His approach to life is that if you expect nothing you won't be disappointed. He always anticipates that something is going to be awful.

I, on the other hand, believe that a hopeful approach is more helpful (and more biblical, but I'm not going to say that in writing). I figure if I anticipate that something is going to be awesome, at least the anticipation stage will be fun.

So when I got offered my dream job in Virginia and he agreed to come with me, I told him that God would have something awesome for him. I said that God wouldn't call me to move across the country and then get us there and say to Bart, "Oh, sorry, forgot about you, guess you're screwed."

So we had a few late night conversations in the past few weeks about all this, me, of course, being hopeful and him, of course, expecting bad things because then he wouldn't be disappointed.

So last week we got a message saying that we would soon be getting a call from a DS in Virginia that they had an interim possibility for him. And we began to talk about what that might look like. He was thinking a two or three point charge in tiny towns without a parsonage (or, if there was one it probably wouldn't have running water). I, however, was anticipating an awesome church with a huge parsonage.

As I may have told you, I have a townhouse available to me on the campus of Patrick Henry Family Services where I will be working that all of us can live in indefinitely. SO God had already taken care of that detail regardless of whether or not Bart got a job. I had to throw that in there... you'll see why in a minute.

So, Wednesday night we got the call. It's one of the flagship churches of the district. We can't tell you exactly yet because it isn't final, but it is about an hour and 15 minutes away from where I'll be living. It's a bit bigger than the church we have now. And, by the way, it has a 4,000 sq foot, 5 bedroom 4 bathroom parsonage that is sitting empty that they would love to have us live in.


So I was telling my friend Dennis, who you may or may not know, the story above. I said, "Apparently, a three point charge with no parsonage is the kind of God that Bart serves. My God is a bigger church with a 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 4000 square foot parsonage kind of God. And then I mentioned to him, "Problem is that we will have to live apart 4-5 days a week. To which Dennis responded, "And that's the kind of God Bart serves!"

At any rate, we now not only have one, but two houses to live in without cost until July 1. We both have challenging jobs. And it appears the schools in this town that Wilson can choose from are rated higher than others we have looked at. And the town is big enough that Dominyk can probably find work.

So for 4 weeks Dominyk and I will live in the townhouse. Then Bart and Wilson will live in the big parsonage until Dominyk gets a job and then he will move in with them. And I will have a place to myself a few nights a week.

It's going to be weird... And a huge contrast to our 2,300 sq foot house that has been home to as many as 7 teens/adult children and two grandchildren and Bart and I over the last few years. (I threw in the picture above so you can see what fun we had this weekend. We are going to MISS these kids.

So you can stop praying about a job for Bart and thank God with us.

Next anticipated miracle: Selling our house for a profit.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Virginia is for Lovers

Every license plate tells you that "Virginia is for lovers" as you drive through the rolling hills of Virginia.  I hope it's true because I do not believe there is a life more fulfilling than that of being a lover and I'm moving to Virginia in 11 days.

As I am saying goodbye to a different person or group of people every day I am shocked at the amount of pain that I am experiencing.  People who I didn't know four years ago have woven themselves into the tapestry of my heart and have changed me.  I will never be the same.  As we went through life together I didn't recognize the depth of our relationships and now that I am moving across the country I am suddenly realizing just how much I have invested in loving so many amazing people.

I was kind of a "Jesus freak" Christian as a teenager -- a "radical" Christian and remember reading this quote back then. 
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
I remember at the ripe old age of 14  (only radical Christian types study CS Lewis at the age of 14) making a promise to myself that I would always choose to love completely...  that I would make myself vulnerable and dive into relationships and not hold back.  Because I didn't want my heart to become impenetrable or irredeemable.

And so that is how I have lived my life.  Reckless abandon, deep relationships, getting all tangled up in the lives of the people around me.  Messy, hard sometimes, meaningful, sometimes annoying, always worth it.     I wouldn't want it any other way.

And so I am reminding myself during my last two weeks in Minnesota that it is a good thing that people cry at the thought of my departure.  It is a blessing that I am grieving so much that I'm afraid to start crying for fear that I will never be able to stop.  It is a blessing that I have mattered to people and it is even more of blessing that I have had so many who matter to me.

Who wants to leave a place and have nobody cry?

Today is my staff going away party.  These people hold a very big part of my heart.  We have transformed a branch together.  We have worked side by side through really hard and intense times and we have celebrated sweet, God ordained moments.  We have seen pain and grief so deep that it is hard to explain and we have watched miracles unfold in front of our eyes.   We have worked as a team... we have invested in one another, and, even though it is not work appropriate, we have loved one another.  Deeply. 

The members of my board have become dear friends.   The families that I have worked with here in MN over the years.

And then there are my beloved friends at church who I have worshipped with, made music with, cried with, laughed with.   And there are my UEC connections.   And of course, my mom, my kids, my grandkids.... the lady who serves me my ice tea at McDonalds every morning on my way to work... the list is endless.

I'm reminding myself today as I anticipate the pain that this is a decision I made as a teenager.... that this is the way I want to live.  That I never want to fear the pain so much that I don't ever get the joy that comes with relationships that are deep, invested, meaningful. 

The pain that I am experiencing now is a byproduct of the life I have chosen.   And I will leave here and the day I arrive in Virginia I will dive in and do the same thing all over again.  Because this is who I am, this is the life I have chosen, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


Up to this point I have not announced anything publicly so I guess this is the big announcement. We are moving.   And the transition is much harder than I thought it would be.  Ending well is harder than it looks.  So I thought I'd blog and answer some questions about the move.

WHAT you might be saying?

Yup I'm leaving my beloved Bethany and Bart and I and Wilson and Dominyk are moving to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  You aren't as shocked a we are, let me tell you.

I have a new job.

What is the job you ask?

I will be serving as Chief Program Officer for Patrick Henry Family Services.  The Chief Program officer is one of the four chief officers that run the organization.  (CEO, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Advancement Officer plus me).  My position will be overseeing three main programs.  The directors of the following programs will report to me:  A residential boys and girls home, the Hope for Tomorrow Counseling program, and Safe Families.  There is also a gorgeous Camp and Retreat Center that I will be involved with.

How did it happen, you ask?

On September 23rd I told one of my favorite people that it was my plan to never leave Bethany and to retire from my current position.   But on October 1 the CEO of PHFS, a guy my age who spent his childhood in 57 foster homes, sent me an email out of the blue asking me to apply for the position.  He had found my profile on Linked In and thought I would be a perfect candidate.  Sixty percent of the children who live at the boys and girls home come from failed adoptions and the goal is to become a child placing agency so that the can find homes for those children.  He is a dreamer and loves change (makes me look like an amateur) and will be fun to work for.  I prayed a LOT about this and finally, a month after he contacted me, Bart and I flew out for my interview.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Why do you think it’s a good fit for you?

  •  It is a Christian organization and leadership values what I value
  • I have always dreamed of working at a group home to help them do it better than what we saw when a couple of our boys went from one to another when they were teens.
  • There is enough to do to keep me busy for years.
  •  I would not be managing a budget and ALSO fundraising for it.  
  •  I will be a primary decision maker.  Nothing will happen in the organization without my      opinion.  I’m sure nobody is surprised that this appeals to me. 
  • It will allow Bart and I and our youngest son to move far away from some of the drama and hopefully jump start some of our older children to more independence.
  • There are some cool opportunities and possibilities for Bart there.
  • They offered me a lot of money and a company car.  (OK, so this isn’t the primary reason, but it did help me make the decision)
When will you be leaving?

I start my training on December 30th so Dominyk and I will leave with both dogs on December 28th.   I have told Bart several times, "If Dominyk calls you from somewhere in Ohio on December 29th saying that I dropped him off with a cardboard box and a marker, he is NOT lying."    His OCD has been a bit out of control and I think about the 45th time I hear, "mom, mom, mom, mom, how much longer" I might lose it.   But anyway, assuming I don't kill him or drop him off, he will be working on the campus for a few weeks until Bart and Wilson join us.

After Wilson finishes his semester, he and Bart will be driving down preceded by the moving truck (we think).  

What will Bart be doing?

He wishes he knew!  The DS at the United Methodist Church in the Lynchburg area knows that he is hoping for a church.  He has applied for an innkeeper/chef job at the retreat center, and now we are just waiting.  I believe that God has orchestrated this whole move and that He has a plan.... but it would be nice to see a little bit more of it about now.

How can we pray for you?

1)  Pray that Bart gets the perfect job for him.
2)  Pray for our adult children as they move out on their own (miraculous answers to prayer on this one I should tell you about sometime).
3)  Pray that we can sell this house in time for the move/
4)  Pray that we can find the perfect house in our priceline (and if you want to throw in a little extra, I really want a porch and a main floor bedroom).
5)  Pray for the people and jobs we are leaving behind.

Why is this transition so hard?

Dangit, we LOVE these people!   When we moved to the Twin Cities we decided we weren't going to move again.  We settled in.  We developed meaningful and lasting relationships.  I planned to retire from Bethany and I invested everything I had in my branch, my region, and my friends at the national office.   We have 12 kids here and only 2 want to come with us.   We have 5 grandkids here and 2 more coming (identical twin girls being born within the next month!!!)

Everyone we tell is shocked.  Most of the people we tell are sad.  (Some aren't, but they are pretending to be).  When I am at work I kinda feel like I shouldn't be, but I have a lot to do to get things transitioned.   Another really hard thing for me is that one of the best friends I have ever had is going to be having the interim director job and he is walking around being Mr. Charming to everyone when he was NEVER charming around me :-)

At home the kids are anxious -- abandonment issues resurfacing, stress is high, and we are doing a lot of child care for Gabby and the baby.  Gabby is fun, helpful, and very easy.  Carlos is 15 months old.  Need I say more?  He is a very big, very busy boy.   We are trying to pack with him here ... so stress is high at home.

I am thrilled about the next chapter.  I loved the last one.  But this page between the chapters is making me an emotional nightmare.

But there are a few things I have learned over the past several decades.

1)  God is good.  All the time.  And His ways and His plans are good.
2)  If we follow His plan, it all works out in the end.  If it hasn't all worked out, it's not the end.
3)  Whenever you move to a new place old friends don't stop being friends.
4)  Love multiplies.  Wherever you go there are lots of strangers waiting to become your closest friends.  The people that we met during my interview trip were amazing and we can't wait to get to know them.

I keep telling Bart that all of these awesome people that we are having such a hard time saying goodbye to were strangers to us 4 years ago.

So even though this transition is tough -- maybe the toughest I've made since I left BWC in 1992, I know I'll be where God wants me to be.  It's my dream job.  Virginia is beautiful.  Winters will be mild.  Friends, kids, and grandkids will still be able to text, Facebook, and Facetime -- we aren't going to the moon and they do have internet in Brookneal.

AND some of you will be closer to us than ever before and those of you who aren't -- we encourage you to visit the area on your next vacation.  We will be 3 hours from Virginia Beach and 3 hours from DC, 7 from Nashville, 7 from Atlanta, and only 2 from Raleigh/Durham NC....

If you haven't gotten this far, thanks for reading.   Now the secret is out!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It Always Leads to Hope

On Sunday when speaking at a church on behalf of kids needing families, I used the text of Psalm 68:1-6.   The last two verses are the most common for people involved in orphan ministries: 
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families
But I talked for a while about the first part as well, in verse 3:
But may the righteous be glad
    and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful
I talked about how that sounds a little bit pushy -- and not even fair -- that we are commanded to be happy and joyful.   Sometimes life isn't that way.  It just isn't.  And it's easy to be resentful when we hear others -- even God -- telling us to be happy.

I talked about the whole concept in my staff meeting this morning as well and referred to the verses in Romans 5.  I talk about them a lot and have over the years.  I call it the "Hope Cycle." 
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings for we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint.
I quote these verses to adoptive parents when I speak.  I repeat them to myself often and I have for years.  But this afternoon something else hit me.

The unasked question is answered.   When Paul says, "We rejoice in our sufferings." the question is "Why in the WORLD would I do that?"   And then he answers:  because it always leads to hope.

Yup, that is it folks.  It's a cycle.  And if we are faithful each season in our lives has that result.  Something comes our way that causes us to suffer.   And if we think it through we realize that that suffering is the beginning of a path that ends well. It ends with hope that doesn't disappoint.

I have a very dear friend who I have known for almost 30 years.  He is one of the finest men I know.   Yesterday I read on Facebook that he has been diagnosed with cancer.  The words he wrote are what led me to the realization that I just explained to you -- he reflected on the past and moved with confidence toward the future recognizing that God doesn't always bring us the easy stuff -- but that each bout of suffering ultimately leads to hope.

Another one of the greatest men I've ever known died Christmas Day 1990.  He had battled pain and chronic health issues since he was in his twenties and died when he was younger than I am now.   One of his favorite quotes was this:

God sees, God knows, God cares
No pain this thought can dim.
God always gives the best to those
who leave the choice with him.

Today wasn't a great day.  I'm in the middle of a season in my life that is far from easy.   But I'm choosing to rejoice in my sufferings.  Not just because God has asked me to, but because I know that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."  This journey that I'm on -- this journey that begins with suffering will ultimately lead to hope that does not disappoint -- is similar to ever other journey of my life.   And I know from experience that no matter how bad it seems, it's all good.

The little boy pictured above is named Silas.  He is our 4th grandson and is now two.  He is a great example of the truth I'm writing about.  But that is another story is for another day.


Monday, June 15, 2015

I'm not getting rid of the dog

I feel like I am supposed to share this, though I'm not sure that everyone is going to appreciate it.  But something hit me in the middle of the night last night.  Or more accurately, something bit me and then something hit me.

I got up to go to the bathroom, as I often do, many times, and I came back to find our dog, Quin, on our bed.  He is a rescue dog and we have had him for two years.   This dog loves me -- unlike our other dog who pretty much ignores me all the time.   Quin is a gorgeous dog -- I found him online, and we have never regretted our decision.  He is gentle and patient, hardly ever barks, and is always eager to see me.  I'm not a dog person, so for me to tolerate, much less enjoy, a dog is surprising.

Quin's habit is to sneak in our room while I'm in the bathroom, wait until I get back into the bedroom and get settled and then jump off the bed and beg to be let out.  So I reached over and nudged him to get him to jump off the bed and head out into the hallway.   I startled him in the dark, and he bit me.  It hurt.   It didn't break skin, but I have bruises this morning.

As I was falling back to sleep I realized that I was not blaming the dog -- I was blaming myself and trying to figure out what I could do differently the next time to keep that from happening.   And then it hit me.   I wish I would have done the same thing with my children during our roughest times.  But instead, I blamed them, wondering if they were safe to live at home.

I never thought once about this being Quin's fault.  He responded as one would expect a rescue dog, who has had who knows what happen to him, to respond.   He acted out his fear.

Are children that much different?   Grant it, I don't encourage children biting their parents, but what if our response to our children's aggressive behavior were more along the lines of "how can I change what I am doing to stop that from happening again?"

I know there are a lot of kids who have behaviors that come out of nowhere.  But many, many times they start with something small and escalate because of the way we, as parents respond.   Things get escalated to the point where someone is in danger and then our conclusion is often to blame the child and wonder if we are safe with them.

Maybe I'm entirely out of line here, but I think I'm on to something.   If I had it to do over again, and I've said this to many of you, I would have found a different answer than residential treatment or foster care for a couple of our kids.  I don't get to do it over again, but if I could I would change MY response, because even a decade later their behaviors haven't changed much.  I never was successful in "fixing them."    Fortunately my behaviors have changed as I've come to the realization that I can change only my response to their behaviors.

I'm not going to send Quin away because he bit me.   But I'm certainly not going to tap him on the head in the middle of the night again.   I envision a world where adoptive parents have the same response to their children as I did to Quin last night, as my hand screamed with pain, and plan a way to stop it from happening again.  I envision a world where we all have the  support, skills, and training necessary to FIRST respond by wondering what we can do to change.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change
the courage to change the one I can
and the wisdom to know it's me.  (anonymous)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

How it works exactly....

So I started my brilliant idea yesterday and obviously my lack of attention to detail is not helping people figure out how to participate in this Stronger Beginnings Challenge.  So, here is how it works.

1)  You pick some people you want to honor.   Examples of 15 different categories can be found in this blog post from yesterday.

2)  You go to the Stronger Beginnings Approach Go Fund Me website and make a donation.  You start by hitting donate, then you put in your amount (at least $5) and your information as well as credit or debit card info.   Then in the comments section there you put who you are honoring.  Example from my first tribute:
I'm giving to Bethany in honor of some of my first friends in the adoption journey... those who have been parenting kids from hard places for as long as I have. Meg McDonald, Michele Hutton, Paula Lee Dunham.

3)   After it processes your donation, hit "Share" and it will take you to Facebook.   Add to the Facebook post the words above.   Then challenges those people to spend 5 minutes and $5 to honor some people in their lives.

4)  Remind them and show them how if they need help.

Make sense?  Questions?

Monday, June 01, 2015

Why I've Been Awake since 3:15 a.m.

This morning I woke up at 3:15 a.m.  It wasn't an emergency.  No police, no appendicitis attacks, no kids sneaking in or out -- just an idea that wouldn't go away.

You may have noticed on my Facebook that Bethany has started a Go Fund Me campaign to support our Stronger Beginnings Model.  A couple who are on my board -- and who are amazingly awesome -- have agreed to help raise money for the campaign.   I have been trying to figure out a way to give the campaign a jump-start and instead I have come up with the idea for a movement.  Yes, if you know me, you are probably not surprised that I am envisioning a movement.

But what would it be like to have a list somewhere of people who love children?  I place where I could put my name that signifies things like "I believe kids grow best in families.  I believe that they are entitled to the best start possible."  

As I began thinking about this I thought of all the groups of people out there who believe this to be true and have an impact on children.  I thought it would be so cool to honor them in a tangible way.

So I am going to donate money to Bethany for each category of people I want to honor and tag them on Facebook and see if there are people in that category -- or another -- that they want to honor.  And, of course, if it took some of the pressure off of me and my current deficit budget because we have started this new approach -- that would be a nice by-product.

 I know that 90% of my readers would hand me a five dollar bill if I asked them to -- even if it was to buy myself my favorite Starbucks drink (Trenta Shaken Tazo Tea, Unsweet, with Extra ice).   So maybe, just maybe they will be willing to take 5 minutes and donate that $5 to Bethany in honor of someone important to them.  

So, here are the categories I have thought of and I would love to have you pick one and join in on the fun.

1)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of my mom and in memory of my dad who gave me the best start possible.   So many people knew and loved my parents for the investment they made in the lives of children over the past 80+ years.  I know that they have many friends who have parents who did the same for their children.

2)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of my husband and others out their who have been a true partner in parenting.  Without him my children would not have made the progress they have and I would be a complete wreck.

3)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of single moms, especially the single moms who are raising my grandchildren.   Their lives aren't always easy, but they are working hard to give their children the best start possible in the situations they are in.

4)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of my children who, though they may not have had the strongest beginning, are working hard to overcome their past, move forward, and have a stronger future.

5)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of adoptive parents whose parenting journey would have been so much different had their children had a strong beginning.  I honor them for the tremendous gift they have given their children from "hard places" -- I honor them for their resiliency, their tenacity, and their strength.

6)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of some of my first friends in the adoption journey... those who have been parenting kids from hard places for as long or longer than I have.

7)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of adoption professionals who work with expectant parents, who prepare adoptive parents, who support those who are in the trenches.

8)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of educators.   Teachers who invest in children regardless of their abilities, recognizing that children did not choose their own beginning.

9)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of pastors, youth pastors, children's pastors, and other leaders in the churches around the world who invest in the lives of our children.   Their contributions to the lives of all children and their parents is unmeasurable.

10)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of those who are using their careers to support orphan care.  Social entrepreneurs who are finding ways to use their gifts and abilities to make a difference in the lives of children whose beginnings were not what anyone would have hoped.

11)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of my coworkers at Bethany.  Their dedication to children is unparalleled and I am blessed to know them and to be part of the bigger Bethany team.

12)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of bloggers who have influenced the world by sharing their stories... especially those early bloggers who blogged only to help others -- before it became a method of self-promotion.

13)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of folks who may not be working in adoption, but who strive for those early beginnings for children that are so important -- people who work to prevent child abuse, fetal alcohol and drug exposure, domestic violence -- people who work as nannies or in preschools.  

14)  I'm giving to Bethany in honor of really cool young people who love children... who are great aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends.

15)  I'm giving in honor of my Bethany board and their commitment to us as a staff and to making a difference in the lives of children.

I think I better stop or Bart might suggest that I'm giving a bit more to Bethany that I need be in our current financial situation (we already have a monthly pledge, so this is above and beyond).

I bet you have a person you would like to honor in one or more of the above categories.

If not, maybe just encouraging me with a $5 donation would be enough to get you to do it.   :-)

Here is the link:  Bethany's Go Fund Me Campaign

If you do, please share with your online network and tag someone you want to honor, encouraging them to do so as well.  And just so you know, I'm not going to tag everyone in every category -- so if you fit any of the above, consider yourself tagged now :-)

This is what I intend to post along with the sentences above.  And yes, I'm going to give 15 times. 

5 minutes and 5 dollars is all it will take to honor someone important to you and declare that you believe children deserve the best beginning possible and that children grow best in families.  Please join this list by giving to this Go Fund Me campaign and then tagging others to do the same.

One more thing -- if you read the description of the Stronger Beginnings Approach and listen to the video and for some reason do not agree with our approach, just designate that you would like the donation to go to one of our other programs:  International Adoption, Post-Adoption Support, Older Child Foster Care Adoption, or Post-Adoption Counseling and Services.

As you know, this is more than a job for me.  This is my life's passion and the reason I get up every morning.    Thank you for being some of the first ones to join this movement  :-)

You can check out some of these posts on Facebook today and see how it's going, but I would love to see you do this before I tag you.... and that would make you one of the originators of the movement that woke me up at 3:15 a.m.  :-)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Those Arguing Voices in My Head

This is not a blog post that I'm going to put a link to on Facebook, or even tell anyone I'm writing.  If people find it, they find it., but it's more for me than for anyone else.

I find it ironic that my supervisor suggested on Friday that I take the whole weekend off and not work.  He said I needed time to regenerate.  Little does he know that unlike his home, my home is not a place of regeneration right now.  We have 7 boys living at home and one girlfriend that comes often not necessarily without our permission.   Their ability to get a rise out of me has waned because I'm tired, but there are times  when I get sucked into a stupid argument.  This last one with the person whose name I never mention on the blog but who always brings my blog up when he is mad was the one who I ended up arguing and it didn't end well.   Actually, it didn't end.

I mean it ended -- he stormed out and left me in the wake of his fury.  But it hasn't ended in my head.   Come backs to every comment he made have been running through my head for the 40 hours since the argument.   I can't stop the madness!

I haven't read Cindy's blog regularly for a couple years -- time constraints and not taking time to do anything that's only for me -- but I went back to check it out this weekend.  Her post Yelling Weeds means that for 10 years now we have been living parallel lives.  The stage of inconsiderate entitlement are upon us, and budgeting our money to help supplement the needs of underemployed or unemployed adults may be the most frustrating stage of all. 

Today I don't have lots of nice answers.   In fact, I'm asking a question of all of you who have gone through this:   How do you stop the voices in your head??

Friday, May 15, 2015

What if they don't?

If you used to read my blog 5-10 years ago you would have heard the day to day dumpings of my over-filled brain in multiple posts a day.  Even now going back and reading it brings back some of those same emotions and the anger and frustration that accompanied me day to day during the darkest period of our lives.

But right now I'm at a different place.   Back then I was grappling with a consistent need to fix things and I repeated in my head-- "They WILL heal.  They WILL get better.  They WILL change."   But then we came to a point that I had to ask myself the question, "What if they don't?"

And in several cases, they didn't.  They got worse.   So here I am, my last child with special needs 2 weeks from graduation (hoping and praying it will happen) and only one more child in school.  Our kids, as you know, are now 16-28.   We have 5 grandchildren, one that was born to married parents.  And I think I can answer that question for you ... at least from my perspective.

If they don't heal, get better, or change and if things don't get immediately better but actually get worse before they get better, this will happen:

1)  You will continue to love them and whoever they are connected to.   You will find the strength to keep loving them.

2)  You will forgive more easily and more quickly each time.  You will find it in your heart to have the grace you need when you need it to keep on forgiving . . . way beyond 70 times 7.

3)  You will stop getting sucked in every time.   You will get to the point that you realize that kids, especially teenagers, argue for sport... and that you don't have to take the bait every time.

4)  You will stop worrying so much.  Everything you worry about will happen and you will make it through all that stuff you worried and the result will be realizing that you DO have the resiliency and the strength to deal with whatever comes your way.

5)  You will get tired and start budgeting your emotional energy.  You'll realize that getting all worked up takes way too much energy and so you will choose not to go there whenever possible.

I know some of that sounds a bit cynical, but that wasn't my intention.  My intention was to give you a "light at the end of the tunnel" boost.   But my message is ... hang in there.  If they heal, if they change, if they get better -- that's awesome.  But if they don't, you're still going to be fine.

Older.  Tireder.  Wiser.  Stronger.  But fine.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why YOU?

I just got back from a meeting and in that meeting there was discussion about the changes in the law in Minnesota regarding Child Protection.  These changes are causing the numbers of children coming into foster care to grow quickly.

Years ago I would have blogged about 591 of my opinions about these change, but because of many reasons I will keep them to myself.  However, I do want to address the fact that children have been removed from their birth families and there are not enough foster homes to go around.  This means that sometimes there are kids sleeping in sleeping bags on office floors.  There are kids way too young for this kind of experience being placed in group homes or other kinds of institutions until a foster home becomes available.   Foster homes are full in many counties and there is no place to put the children.  We need to do something.   There is a reason why there is a lack of foster families out there -- recruiting people to do something this selfless and hard isn't easy.  But I am determined to do just that --  because this isn't just a professional thing, it is very personal.

My life has been impacted greatly by foster parents -- the foster parents who, for a time, took care of the children who are now legally mine.  We hear many horror stories about bad foster homes in our society -- and I have children who reported less than ideal situations while they were in foster care-- but I also have kids that had great foster parents.  The children who will one day become adopted children are being impacted this moment day because of a lack of good foster parents. 

I'm excited that Bethany is offering this program and I believe that we will be able to do a great job of preparing, training and licensing families.  I talked about that in this post.  But most importantly, I am passionate about kids having a good experience in foster care across the country, whether or not families use Bethany to license them.

So, I'm asking you, if you're between the ages of 21 and 80 to ask yourself (and God if that is something you do) if you should be a foster parent.   You may be asking, "ME?? Why Me??"

Here's my answer.
  • You would understand what you were getting yourself into and would do it anyway.  You would do the research, pay attention in training, and have a clear idea of how difficult the task is.  But you also know that just because something is hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, and you would head into it with eyes wide open.
  • You would put your needs behind the needs of the kids and love them.  You would let them attach to you because you knew it was good for them even if you knew you would hurt when they had to leave.
  •  You would understand the value of birth family connection and work hard to make sure that these people that the kids love, imperfect as they might be, are their people.
  • You would treat them just like your other kids.  You would let them be in sports and celebrate their birthdays and bring them with you on family vacation because you would understand that even if it was only for a few days, weeks or months, that they were a part of your family.
  • You would make a commitment to them that would last a lifetime, even if they were only in your home for a while.  You would make sure they knew that they were welcome to contact you and that they always had a home away from home, wherever they would go.
  • You would arm yourself with a circle of supportive friends who could help you so that you had everything you needed to practice self-care and remain resilient for the children.
  • You would understand that it might be impossible to fix the children, but that you could change your response to them and thus help them in their journey.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.   You may have a long list of reasons why you couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't be a foster parent.  One of those reasons might be all of the things you have heard about bad foster parents.  But you should do it because you wouldn't be like that.

Another reason that you may have being saying you can't do it, is that you have concerns about working directly with your county.  But now that excuse is gone and I can assure you that working with Bethany you would have the support you hope for in being a foster family.

Scared kids, being removed from their birth families, need a place to go.   Your home could be that place.  

Meetings are being held where I personally can tell you more.  Come.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Embracing that Scary Sacred Place

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God

Those paragraphs are from Romans Chapter 4 and I used them with my staff during devotions yesterday. Before I go further let me give you some context.

A year ago at this time Bethany lost a state contract and we were in the middle of a financial crisis.   Things were not in a neat little package that I could handle.  I challenged my staff to believe with me -- to have that kind of faith that Abraham had.... and we prayed and we worked hard and God did miracles and we ended an impossible year in the black.

Skip forward to now.  We have all kinds of awesome things going on at Bethany.  Staff are busier than ever.  We have just received a different kind of contract that will allow us to recruit and train families for foster care.  We have started a very different approach to expectant parent advocacy (formerly known as pregnancy counseling) that we feel is so much better for the baby and also for expectant parents and adoptive parents.   We are placing more kids than ever before from foster care into adoptive homes.  We have more work than we can handle but because of several factors, we are once again behind budget.

I realized yesterday, and told my staff, that this place -- this sacred scary place -- is where God wants His people to live.  He doesn't want us stuck in that safe spot where everything that we have to deal with can be easily handled by us.   Lysa TerKeurst said this when I heard her speak a couple years ago and it stuck with me:  "Most of us want to be people of faith without living a life that requires any."

Parenting my kids is very hard -- I really can't do it without Him.  Managing our family finances is very tricky when we are helping out so many of our adult kids, so without God's provision we won't be able to make it.   And my job at Bethany is so stretching, so challenging, that it requires miracles on God's part to give us the strength, the power, and the financial resources to push back the darkness on so many levels.

The temptation is to flee from this place, or to resent it when we find ourselves here.   "I never signed up for this" is a phrase that has gone through my mind many times.   There times when I fantasize about letting it all go and finding a life where things are neat, and tidy, and I can handle it all on my own.

But the older I get the more that I realize that very few people of faith are living in that nice, neat, tidy place.  God stretches us -- suffering, perseverance, character, hope (Romans 5) -- because He wants us to learn reliance on Him.

Today you might be at a place where you feel like you are at the end of all that you can do.   It's too hard, to challenging, too difficult, too uncomfortable and you just want it all to stop.   It's at that point that God can jump in and do the cool stuff.

I am confident that now that I, and many of our staff, have reached the end of our own strength, that that is where God is going to start showing us HIS strength. 

Two songs come to mind.  One you may have heard -- Strong Enough by Matthew West.

Well, maybe
Maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up
'Cause when I'm finally
Finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up
And reaching out
I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough for the both of us.

The second you probably have never heard.  It's by Annie J. Flint and it's called "He Giveth More Grace."  Verse two says:

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Like Abraham, I am committed that when everything seems hopeless, I'm going to believe anyway.  I'm going to DECIDE to live not on the basis of what I see I can't do, but on the basis of what God said He would do.

That's the scary sacred place -- that place when God steps in to do the things that would not be called miracles if we could do them without him.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Just because you're heading down the road to crazy doesn't mean I have to come

Just recently I have become very aware that the subconscious goal of everyone who is heading down the road to crazy is to take someone with them.   I've known this for a while and expressed in different ways after a 2007 seminar that I blogged about in a post about Inducement.  The link in the blog post is broken but you can read the concept here:   Inducement.  The idea is that we subconsciously want the people around us to share the feelings that we are having.  We don't try to do it -- it just happens automatically.

Think about this scene. Dad comes home from work and he is not happy.  Long day.  He's anxious, irritated, and just mad at the world.   He walks in and without saying a word, throws his briefcase into the recliner, kicks the dog out of his way, and marches up the stairs to change his clothes.  He mutters under his breath. 

As he goes upstairs everyone in the house is now sucked into his feelings.  Kids and Mom, who were perfectly happy just moments before, are now anxious.  They are irritable, Even the dog is on edge (of course he is, he just got kicked :-).

Today I was having a conversation with a young woman who has been doing foster care since she was twenty one.  So she's still young, but has been caring for kids in care for over 20 years.   She's got the perfect personality to be a foster parent because her face is calm, cool and collected no matter what is going on.   She said these words to me in regards to her 13 year old adopted daughter:  " Just because she's going crazy doesn't mean I have to join her."

That reminded me of something I've been saying over and over again to myself (not often outloud)  about the people I love.    "Just because you're heading down the road to crazy doesn't mean I have to come."   Tonight we did a little informal marriage counseling session with a couple where I said those same words.

Now that I 'm over 50 it takes way more energy than I have to get worked up.   It used to be that if someone wanted to suck me in to their own emotions, I would dive in. My approach to people was basically,  "You're angry?  That makes me MAD.  You're sad... wow, that depresses me.  You being worried about something?  Well that makes me anxious."   But now I realize that I don't have the emotional energy to head down the road to whatever brand of crazy my kids, my friends, my coworkers, our clients, or even my husband happens to be on.

I'm going to stay right here thanks.  When you're ready to return from crazy land -- or angry land -- or anxious land -- or depression land -- I'll be happy to hang out with you.  But loving you doesn't mean I have to go with you.  In fact, it might be that my best expression of love would be to remain immovable and steady.

Today was a hard day at work and I didn't follow my own advice.  I'm annoyed right now because I am exhausted.   Someone hijacked my world and headed toward crazy and I jumped right into their vehicle and went there with them.   It's been happening more often than I want it to lately, which probably means I need more rest... or more space... or more self care.

Or maybe I just needed to blog.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Ever since we adopted our first older children out of foster care, I have seen ways in which foster care is not being done right.   From a county or agency stand point, there seem to be more failures than successes.   And I've always wanted to do something about it.

Right now in Minnesota there is a huge need for foster parents.   I could go into detail as to why, but I'm running out of time.   But the fact that there is a huge need has given Bethany -- and hopefully many of you -- an opportunity for something unique.  (if you don't know anything about Bethany, check out the new website, just revealed this past week.

Bethany right now is recruiting people to do foster care for Bethany.   That's right, Bethany will be the licensing agency and we will work with counties who will place kids in Bethany licensed homes.  Bethany social workers will be here to support foster families throughout the journey.

This is brand new and we are very excited.   We are beginning with the Metro Area and Mankato, but are looking to expand to the Willmar area and possibly even Duluth.    We have met with some key individuals, have a contract to provide the services, and now all we need is for families to sign up.

Here are the options (cutting and pasting from a Bethany document I wrote):

Shelter Foster Care - We are building a program to offer foster care to children immediately after they are removed from their current home situation. This care can extend anywhere from 72 hours to 90 days and will involve transportation to school, visits, doctors appointments and possibly court hearings. Preferably famiies would be within 45 minutes of the metro and need to be open to placements at very short notice.
Respite Homes - Adoptive parents sometimes need a break to rest, recover and regroup when parenting challenging children. Respite homes develop a relationship with a family to provide care for their children on an as needed basis, typically a weekend a month or possibly a night of the week on a weekly basis. For Respite Home Care, there is no requirement that one of the adults be a stay at home parent, so this provides flexibility within your family structure.
Traditional and Therapeutic Foster Care: Traditional and Therapeutic Foster Care are longer term placements and can last anywhere from a few days to a few years.
There is no financial cost to be licensed for any of these programs and there is a stipend that varies depending on length of stay, type of care given, and the needs of the child. Interested families will be required to attend training that fulfills the statutory requirements of the MN Dept of Human Services as well as the State of Minnesota.

I am sure many of you are thinking that I'm nuts to even think that people would want to do foster care, especially after they have adopted.   But those of us who have BTDT are the best.

Here is what will make Bethany foster care unique from working directly with your county:
  • We recruit and train in a Christian environment
  • We have adoption-competent, well-trained, trauma-informed Christian staff
  • We aim to support our families better than anyone else
  • We want to offer a continuum of care for kids in Bethany homes from time of removal to reunification or adoption finalization.
  • We will work to engage the churches our families attend to supporting our families

You can be cynical in your comments if you'd like, but I hope that some of you might actually join me in getting excited about how powerful it would be to have excellent foster homes throughout the state with training and support guided by me and my awesome staff, which now includes Brenda Benning (not like I"m name dropping or anything).

Yeah, I'm kinda excited.  We are having meetings at our Plymouth Office on May 21st at 7 and in Mankato at New Creation World Outreach Center on May 28th at 6:30 (see brochure above).  Let me know if you have questions.  You can comment here or email me at


I have decided to start writing down a few of the things that I am learning at this stage in my life.  I am recognizing that many of us who started blogging together ten years ago, are also in this stage, so maybe even if my blogs aren't always about IEP meetings and juvenile detention hearings, some of what I might right resonate.

I'm not sure when it all happened... I think maybe some time in the last year, but suddenly I am aware of the precious value of time.   I never ever have enough of it.   I used to think that I was busy, and I have always been a busy person, but never before have I had to make choices between so many things that I love to do and having time to do them.   Time has become way more precious than money.

There are so many people now in my life that I love to be with .... but not the time in our schedules to see each other.

There are so many projects I want to work on, personally and professionally... but not time in the day to get to them.

There are so many dreams to dream, so many ideas to pursue -- the world is wide open with opportunity... but the days are too short.

I remember tapping my finger on the table, not being able to wait to get to the next thing, and wishing that things were over.  Now I just tell myself that I'm half way through life now and the last thing I want to do is speed it up.

I want time to be able to spend with people I love.. time to influence my children and grandchildren... time to expand Bethany in MN, SD and WI, time to build programs and plans, time to sort through old photos, organize my digital music and photo libraries, create slideshows, do a little digital scrapbooking, sit in the sun, get my body into shape, etc. etc. etc., and yet time speeds by, marching more quickly by the day.

I realize that I'm getting old.  But one of things that I didn't imagine as I was aging was how much I would love life and how many things out there I would want to do at an age where energy and time were more limited than any.

This morning my mom said she was looking for ways to fill her morning and I was thinking how I had ten times more to do this morning than I had time for.   Somehow I wish she could give me some time. 

Time and weight.  Too bad we can't willingly share it between ourselves huh?  I know several people who could use a few of my pounds.    And I would love to have the time that some folks have that they appear to be trying to fill.

Anybody else at this stage of life?

Youth Camp Let Down

I came back from my week in Nashville feeling like I felt when I got home from camp as a teenager.  I was so sad it was all over and knowing that coming back to the real world was going to be hard.

I had been at two events in one week:  The Bethany Annual Leadership Conference and CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans).   I left feeling so incredibly blessed.   Here's why:

1)  I love being a part of something so big (Bethany) that is doing so much good in the world to serve God and children.  Over 100,000 children served each year in 15 different countries and 36 states in the US.  A team of over 1400 people work together to pursue our vision with vigor:  Bethany envisions a world where every child has a loving family.   Hearing the stories of coworkers around the world and how lives are changed daily is awe-inspiring.  And it is clear that it is done for the glory of God.

2)  Even if it was just for a few minutes I had a chance to connect with people from my past and present who I love very much at CAFO.    Friends from college, friends from here in Minnesota, my friends who I have gotten to know through REFRESH (a conference in Redmond Washington every February).  I could tell you stories about each of these people, but when I come to a place where so many people I know and love gather together, I am reminded me of the incredible relationships that have colored the tapestry of my life over the years.  Daily I am amazed at God's blessing to me in the form of friendships and incredible people over the year who are still a part of my life.

3)  I recognized how much I have changed over the past year.   A very new Regional Director a year ago, I have learned so much in 12 months.   I have studied leadership, learned through hard times and good times, and continue to be amazed at how much more I have to learn.   Being able to see progress is a good thing.

4)  I hope he never sees this, but my Assistant Director at Bethany, who is also one of my best friends, made the trip even better.   I had been excited for him to meet people we had talked with, about, and to over video conferences and phones for the last six months.   I knew that he would impress him and that they would love him, and I was right.   We had a great time and it was fun for me to watch others recognize the brilliance that I've seen in him for a long time.  (and if you know him, and happen to be reading this, please don't tell him I said any of this or it will totally ruin my reputation :-)

5)  Finally, I am feeling blessed by the incredible depth of love that I have for my coworkers at Bethany.   Both here at the local office, and Bethany natural, there are people who I have grown to love so quickly.   I know there are many folks who have jobs where they work hard and too much.   I have one of those jobs.  But I also have four things on top of that:  I have a job where God is first and where everything that we do we do for Him; I have a job where I get paid to do what I am passionate about;  I have a job that changes the world, and I have a job where when I say goodbye to my co-workers I hear the words, spoken or unspoken depending on the person, "I love you."  

It just doesn't get any better than this.