Saturday, December 31, 2016

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

I am so pumped up about 2017 and one of the main reasons is that this week, after checking out a few things on Pinterest, I learned about a couple of tools and rediscovered an old one that I think are going to help me and my team ROCK 2017. So, here is my list of things that I'm excited about in 2017, including those three things, not in any particular order.

1) Bullet Journaling. Please tell me, people, how this could have escaped me?!?! I can't believe this has been a thing for over a year and that there are websites, and Instagram and YouTube channels, and Facebook Groups, and pages of items you can buy for it and I never knew about it. And the thing is, it is SO ME! Not the artsy piece, but the tracking piece. I have been making little boxes in excel spreadsheets and coloring them in as a motivator to achieve goals for several years. In fact, I'm thinking that maybe somehow this whole thing was my idea. Ok, not really, but it could have been cuz I started doing it years ago. Anyway, I have ordered my first one and it's coming in a couple days and I am busy planning how this tool is going to transform my life.

2) Infographics. I've seen a few, but until a couple days ago, I didn't know it was a thing. I didn't know there were websites that made it easy to make them, or full websites on how to. Again, how did I miss this? These are going to transform several things in my life -- marketing my books, inspiring my team, marketing my speaking and training, improving powerpoint I use to influence others.... I messed around and made my first one yesterday and I am so excited about this I can hardly contain myself. I woke up in the night thinking about my next one.

3) Kanban and Trello. Ok, so the kanban isn't new to me, it's something I learned about a couple years ago, but it, combined with Trello has been a great task accomplishment tool for me. Trello is a web site and if you are interested in learning more, let me know and I'll invite you to join. The more people I invite, the more months of free premium membership I'll have. And if you ask me to invite you, I'll also answer your questions about a kanban and how it can increase work productivity.

4) New Hires at work. During the next six months we are going to be replacing some key positions and I am excited about some of the candidates who have applied. We are just a few players short of a "dream team" in a couple of my departments and I am really looking forward to working with some new hungry, healthy, smart people (read "the Ideal Team Player" by Lencioni if you want more information.

5) Our strategic plan at work. We have a strategic plan that we have been working on all fall that we are presenting to the board on January 17. It is slowly transforming us all into better leaders and helping us to execute our wildly important goals with more accountability. (see the 4 Disciplines of Execution by McChesney).

6) My kids making plans for significant progress during the coming year. Please pray for Tony as he heads to Job Corps on January 9th. Pray for Dominyk as he attempts to enroll in Technical College for the Spring Semester. Pray for Salinda as she is waiting to hear back from a great job that she would really love. And pray for Leon and Sadie who both are dating really neat kids who we love and don't want them to lose.

7) Renewed energy, enthusiasm, and plans for the coming year. I have been in quite a funk over the past several months, but I am facing 2017 with a great deal of motivation to make changes in my life and to fill my time with worthwhile things. The whole year of me getting used to my job was one cataclysmic event after another -- things that involved what I interpreted as personal betrayal, situations in which I was manipulated and lied to, and a lot of spiritual warfare. I feel grateful to God for the strength to make it through this and am determined not to repeat some of the same mistakes I made last year. I may have lost a few battles this year, but I'm still standing!

I hope that you are excited about the coming year, but if you aren't, there is one more thing that I am looking forward to.

8) Baby Steps Out 2.0. Five years ago I created a blog for folks that are really in a slump in life -- something to help them get out of the slump. I'm going to bring that back for the first 60 days of 2017. I hope you'll stay tuned. I'm going to blog about it and give an introduction today and then repeat it over the next several weeks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Risk It!

Exactly a year ago today I got up really early and Dominyk, Quin (or golden retriever/lab mix) and Gizmo (RIP) packed into the Equinox with everything we would need for the coming month. We headed for Virginia.

At that point in time we weren’t completely sure that Bart had a church here in Virginia, meaning we didn’t know where we were going to live. We had yet to sell our house and didn’t know if we were going to need to buy one. There were so many uncertainties that we truly felt like Abraham who “left, not knowing where he was going.”

But a year later we couldn’t be more grateful that God brought us here. Sure, 2016 has been a year like none other we have ever had. It has been a crazy ride at work and our family life has had it’s ups and downs. But God has provided so well for all of us, miracle after miracle. We love our jobs, we love our church, we love our parsonage, we have made great friends.

That’s not to say that we don’t miss things about Minnesota (thought the weather isn’t one of them). There are people that we miss, places we miss, and definitely grandchildren who make our hearts ache with how much we wish we could be with them. But God has been incredibly faithful.

I’m sharing all of that with you to say this: If God is calling you to step (or skydive) out of your comfort zone, don’t hesitate. If you are sure He wants try something new, go for it. Don’t let fear hold you back.

I read a quote this morning that resonated with me:

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” Dennis Waitley

As we look towards 2017, ask God what risks He would like you to take.

This song is definitely a song that is my heart beat. I hope you will make it part of your constant life song.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Feel Poured Out?

I read this passage this week and I have been thinking about it for days. I don’t remember reading it ever before, though I must have as I have read the Bible through many times. But this time it really struck me.

Isaiah 58:10-11 says:

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. ESV

I don’t think this was a promise…. In other words I don’t think God is saying to us, “pour yourself out for the hungry, satisfy the desire of the afflicted, so that you will have your light rise, your gloom dissipate, your desires satisfied, your way guided by the Lord, your bones strong, and feel like a well watered garden whose waters don’t fail.”

Instead, I think that Isaiah is letting us know that if we find ourselves at that place — that place where we have poured ourself out for others…. when we feel spent, dark, gloomy, scorched, week, and parched — that God shows up… He shows up to light our darkness and gloom. He comes to satisfy us, to make us stronger, to water us so that we become like a spring of water that never fails.”

I don’t know how you feel about 2016. Maybe you feel like it was a train wreck. If so, claim the words above for 2017. Maybe you have poured yourself out at work or at home for those who are hungry for love or for those who are afflicted. I know it certainly applies to adoptive and foster parents and to those who work in the helping profession.

But guess what? If you are feeling those things, that means that God has, does, and will show up. Count on it.

When things get dry during the coming year and there are times when you feel parched, check out this song…..

God’s river will be there…. to set your feet dancing, to feel your heart with cheer, feel your mouth with laughter….

Upward and onward!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sometimes We All Feel Like Mary

I don’t know what it’s like to be a pregnant teenager. In fact, I don’t know what it is like to be pregnant. I don’t know what it is like to be Jewish, or to live in the years B.C., or to have to ride a donkey for my transportation. I don’t know what it is like to draw water from a well, or to have to travel far away by foot to pay taxes.

None of you know most of the things above, though some of you have been pregnant. Some of you don’t even know what it is like to be a woman. But my guess is, that in some of the most difficult times in our lives, all of share the feelings that the songwriter expresses in today’s song in an attempt to convey Mary’s heart.

“This job is too big for me! Why did you choose me? I’m not sure I can do this! I feel so alone! Are you sure someone else shouldn’t have been the one to do this?”

God chose Mary to literally carry His son … in order for Jesus to be born human, He had to have a mother and grow inside another human. So Mary was chosen to carry His son.

Even though it isn’t in a physical way, God has also chosen us to carry His son… to be the one who introduces Him to others.

Whenever I hear today’s song so many of the words resonate with me.

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Finally, my heart cries out with Mary:

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy

The melody of the song, washes over me every time I hear it. It is beautiful.

And as a Christmas bonus, there have been two Christmases where we were anticipating the birth of grandchildren, and they were great reminders that Christmas is “all about the baby.” If you are new to my blog or don't have a photographic memory, blog entries then you might be interested in checking these out.. The first one was written in 2009 and the second one a year ago.

Monday, December 19, 2016


Christmas is almost here — that day that turns December into a fast-paced, to-do list driven, party explosive mayhem. But as I have been encouraging all of us to do over the past couple weeks, I want to remind us of the power of the word Emmanuel.

Up until the birth of Jesus, God was far off. He didn’t show up often in the Old Testament, and when He did it was a scary thing…. As I mentioned last week, He was a God to be feared.

For over 400 years there was silence… between the writings of the prophets and the coming of Jesus, and all that time the people of Israel waited in anticipation for their Messiah.

And then, suddenly, the angels announced that the wait was over.

Because that far off distant God who should make us tremble in fear, came to us. Emmanuel, one of the names of Jesus, means God with us. God. GOD! with, yes WITH us. You and me, every day, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Within us, next to us, surrounding us.

God’s plan was to come to us through Jesus, and to have Jesus transform us so that WE could be light in a dark world. We are His only plan. He came to shine more brightly in us for the transformation of the world.

Today let the words to the Come to Us wash over you. If you have never heard it, it is gorgeous and you should definitely listen.

You've come to bring peace
To be love, to be nearer to us
You've come to breathe life
To be light, to shine brighter in us

Oh Emmanuel God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us

You've come to be hope
To this world
For Your honor and name
You've come to take sin
To bear shame
And to conquer the grave

Oh Emmanuel, oh God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything

Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us

You are here
You are holy
We are standing
In Your glory

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us
You are God with us
You are God with us

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Ultimate Game Changer

If you happened to have taken time over the past few weeks to do an intense study of the book of Leviticus you would know that the law was NO FUN. I can't even imagine remembering all of the various laws that were supposed to be followed, much less actually following them. There had to have been such a burden following a God who seemed so picky and so ready to punish those who screwed up.

But as you know, the law was there for a reason. The law was there to show us that we are not perfect and that there is no way to be "good enough" to earn God's approval. That was the whole point.

God was making that point because He had a plan. He was going to send Jesus. Jesus was going to pay the price for us so that we no longer have to fulfill the law. We no longer have to worry about being good enough because there is nothing that we can do to make God love us any less OR anything we can do to make Him love us any more. Why? Because LOVE has come.

The tiny baby in the manger is not just a fun story that we retell every Christmas. This child was the ultimate game changer because Christmas began God's plan to free us from the law that resulted in sin and death and set us free.

A God who was perceived as a God of judgment who enforced all kinds of little rules through Christ unveils that He is indeed a God of mercy and grace.

Love has come for the world to know... that hope had begun when the God of glory, who is full of mercy sent His Son,,,

Monday, December 12, 2016

Are we Faithful?

In case you missed it on Facebook, our dog Gizmo died Saturday morning. He died without us having to take him to be put to sleep, which was a good thing, but it was a surprise and we didn't really get to say goodbye. I am definitely not a pet person... in fact, we got him 13 years ago because my sister-in-law convinced me that he would eat that scraps that fell from the table. At that time we had 9 kids ages 7-17, so it was a necessary investment. He did a great job of it too, by the way.

But wow, was that dog ever a faithful friend to Bart. He immediately claimed Bart as his person (if you know Bart, you know why) and he was very much his companion. They spent hours and hours walking together over the years on trails and sidewalks in every town we lived in. Most recently he was a bit too old for the walks (the dog, not Bart), but he was still happy to see us. It was sad to watch him grow so old -- he couldn't really see or hear any more and he had Cushing's disease, so he was always hot, hungry, and thirsty, but he was still right there with us. It was a hard weekend.... I was sad, but I was even more moved by the grief of my husband and children. The dog was as faithful as they come.

This weekend when we were singing "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," I started thinking about who the song was written to. Obviously it was not written on that morning.... so it had to have been written later. So I realized that it was written to us -- to all who would come after as followers of Jesus. It wasn't to the general public, but to us, those who know Him and need to be reminded to head to Bethlehem at least once a year to behold the King of Angels. The reason for the journey: To adore Him.

It's a busy time of year... and we can get all caught up in the wrong things. In the midst of our parties and parades and gift exchanges and the consumption of the best food ever.... I have a few questions to ask of all of us.

1) Are we faithful? Are we, like Gizmo, eagerly awaiting every opportunity we have to spend time with our Master? Do we wait with baited breath for Him to say, "Would you like to walk with Me?" Is our every moment filled with a longing to be with Him and serve Him in whatever ways we can?

2) Are we joyful? I have to confess a lack of joy the past couple weeks. Sometimes the holidays can be overwhelming and the last emotion I'm feeling is joy. But the song calls us, the faithful, to come joyfully!

3) Are we triumphant? Triumphant is defined as "having won a battle or contest; victorious." Are we claiming the victory that is already ours in whatever battle we are facing?

This Christmas, I want to take that trip to Bethlehem as one who is truly faithful. And I want to take in joyfully, putting the stress and the tensions of this time of year to the side and experiencing the Joy that comes to the world because Christ is born. And finally, I want to be triumphant.... recognizing that I am already the victor in whatever battle I'm facing because of this tiny baby who grew up to be my Master, Savior, and Lord.

Join me?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You Get to Choose

I know there are some of you who are going to say that it's the fact that my weather is so much better here than yours that this post is simply to rub it in, but that's not the case. However, it does make me feel great that yesterday the forecast for today was "sunny with a high of 75." It has changed to cloudy with a high of 73 but it sure beats Minnesota where its snowing with a high of 35. Just sayin.

There's a line in the song "Sunny with a high of 75" that always catches my attention. The song is upbeat and fun, and catchy and I've liked it since it came out, but here's what gets me every time. "It's funny how it seems you enjoy your life when you're happy to be alive."

I have to ask myself the question, "What determines whether or not someone is happy to be alive?" Is it circumstances? Is it the people around us? Is it our health, or financial situation, the actions of those we invest in?" Of course not. Each of us decides.

Viktor Frankl was a holocaust surviver who became a psychotherapist. One of his quotes has guided me for years. After being a concentration camp inmate and being tortured repeatedly, he was able to find meaning in the most brutal of situations, and that meaning gave him the will to live.

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Every day I can choose to be happy to be alive. I might not feel all the feelings that come with happiness as our culture sells it, but I can find meaning in my life and choose to live. In fact, I can choose to live life to it's fullest every day.

If you have been reading my blog for years, you know there were many days back when we had multiple teenagers, where there was nothing that was on my list of "why I should be super happy right now." We had some incredibly bleak days. We still have them, but they are not nearly as often as they were 8-10 years ago.

The bottom line is this: You can choose joy today. You can recognize the truth in the words of someone whose life was way worse than yours. Not me, but Victor Frankyl. If he could wake up and choose to want to live in the horrible conditions of a German concentration camp, you and I can too.

I don't know what you're facing today, but I do know this. You get to decide how to respond to it.

Because it's funny how it seems you enjoy your life, when you're happy to be alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Don't be a dichotomizer...

Many people probably won't click on this Facebook link or read this blog post because I just used a big word. In fact, I added an r to it probably making it not even be a word. The word dichotomize means "regard or represent as divided or opposed." In other words, to dichotomize means to put things into two categories with nothing in the middle, and thus, if it were a word, a dichotomizer would be one who does that -- an "either-or" type person.

About 8 years ago I met someone who taught me about the concept of being a "both and" kind of person. It is possible to find truth in both sides of an argument, to be on the side of two people who disagree and truly believe both of them have good points, and to embrace two very different concepts even though they seem like opposites.

My favorite example is justice and grace. Which of those is God? Is He a God of justice or a God of grace? And the answer of course is yes. God is both a God of justice and a God of grace.

I think that we often get ourselves into trouble when we put things in opposite corners. So and so must be a completely bad person if they did such and such. And if you know how did you know what then that means they are always good. We are all a mix of all kinds of stuff.

I'm not perfect at this. I have to remind myself often not to get stuck in that kind of thinking. Because when it do, it always leads to something that isn't good.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this today. Often I hear that someone reads something I wrote and that it was just for them. So maybe that is you today.

But let me challenge all of us, myself included, to not put someone into a corner that they can't get out of. Let's not label people as "hopeless" or "bad" or "irredeemable." Let's do our best to recognize that because someone steals a few times, it does not make them forever a thief, or if they fabricate the truth occasionally, it doesn't mean they always lie. Let's try to see the good in people.

And where there are issues where we disagree, let's try to see the other person's point. When we stop seeing the other person's point.... when we start believing that if someone disagrees with us, they can't be someone we love, then are world starts to get awfully small.

God, grant us all the grace to open our arms wide enough to embrace everyone that You love.

Help us to imitate you, and to revel in the scandal of your grace.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Use Things, Love People

My children are very different from one another, but this weekend I was able to clearly see the difference between those who use things and love people and those who do the opposite.

Have you ever been used? It’s an awful, icky feeling isn’t it? Giving yourself wholeheartedly to a person or group of people believing that the relationship was mutual, and then finding out that it wasn’t — that you were simply being used by that person or group to further their own agenda. It feels pretty icky.

What I realized recently, though, is that it feels icky for the person who does the using as well. When I look at my children and see their lives, the ones who contribute to our family, honor their parents, and try hard to make a difference in the world, they are a WHOLE lot happier than the ones who do the opposite.

It seems to me that God created us to be fulfilled by doing the right thing. He programmed us, using computer language, to treat others well, to be grateful, to meet the needs of those around us, to be selfish. So when our sinful nature takes over and we do the opposite, that leads us to an empty existence that brings nothing but heartache.

Look at the people around you? Who are the ones that seem happiest? The ones who are constantly making the lives of those around them better, right?

So I concluded that BJ Thomas was right when he wrote, “loving things and using people only leads to misery” makes a whole lot of sense. But I used to think that was in reference to the people who were being used…. but parenting my kids has helped me to understand that the misery is often greater for those who use others than it is for the ones being used.

So, go out and love some people today. It's what you were created to do.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I've Made a Decision

In case you didn't see this on Facebook, I have made the decision to try and get the novel I just wrote published by a real publisher instead of having it be self-published.

So, what that means is that I need to work on a proposal to submit to agents to read.

So, I'm looking for two things.

First, is feedback on this back cover summary:

Well educated, secure and always in control, Dr. Natalie Clark is as confident as she is compassionate. Single and tempted to remain so for the duration of her life, she settles into her role as a missionary doctor in a Mexican orphanage.

Mari, at the age of eleven, has been told all her life that it is her destiny to graduate from college and have a career so that she can support her parents and siblings in Mexico. Extremely bright and yet shy and unsure of herself, she knows the road ahead will be difficult.

Surprised by tragedy, loss, and unforeseen changes, Natalie and Mari find it necessary to dig deep within themselves to find the courage and strength they need to face the battles life has thrown their way.

Little did they know that over the next two decades, their lives would be forever intertwined after their brief chance meeting on a bus ride. Will they recognize each other when they see each other again? As each of them experiences love, grief, and unexpected trails, will the short conversation on the bus make a difference in the way they view the world?

So the question is, if you read the back, would you want to open it and read the book?

Secondly, if you want in on helping me edit the first five chapters, I'm going to create a google doc and let people make suggestions. If you're interested send me an email at maeflye at mac dot com and I'll add you to the document to help edit!

I'm excited to have help making this happen!

Friday, November 25, 2016

How was Thanksgiving?

Yesterday I wrote about the struggle to focus on the positive, but I managed to do it and we had a great day.

I think it is pretty funny that we have this one day of the year when the whole entire day is focused on food. Bart started on Wednesday and made three pies, got the turkey ready, baked some yams, etc.

I worked on getting my novel into the right format -- I finished the rough draft in 16 days... never writing more than 2 hours a day. I guess it was in there because it came pouring out. If I have the least bit of encouragement, I think the book has a sequel. But I digress.

Bart was up early getting the turkey in the oven and preparing a relish tray, baking lots of yummy homemade buttermilk rolls -- my favorite part of the meal -- and working on the perpetual stream of dishes. The kids slept.

Gabby was up early, begging to help, so eventually she and I were allowed to do the deviled eggs. She outperformed me by peeling them faster and neater than I did. She was very excited about this. She is at such a fun age. Is there anyone out there who knows how to stop girls from getting any older than 6? I really want her to be six for a long long time.

Everyone else got up between 10 and 2 and grazed the appetizers as is our custom.

It was fun to see people stopping the kitchen to help wash a dish or two. Dominyk made his famous green olive dip and chipped in to help make the punch.

We heard from John, Ricardo, Rand, Kyle and Christy, and Leon during the day -- Salinda even heard from Mike - so everyone was in touch in some way. Ricky, John, and Rand went to visit my mom, which made her, and me, very happy as I was worried she would be lonely.

Finally around 2 Gabby and I peeled potatoes and helped with the green bean casserole.

By 4:15 we sat down to eat and by 4:32 Dominyk was done and gone from the table. By 5 most everyone else was gone.

Sadie and Matt decided to go shopping and have Christmas with the grandkids early. That resulted in a wild time of Carlos throwing an A+ tantrum while waiting for his bike to be assembled.

Overall, it was a great day. The house is a huge mess, everyone is still asleep except Sadie, Matt and Gabby who just went to spend a couple days in Virginia Beach.

Jimmy goes back to the airport this afternoon......

Certainly different than other Thanksgivings. Since 2001 we have always had at least twelve around the table. We only had 11, but it was a great day!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Today is About Focus

I must admit that I'm struggling a bit this Thanksgiving. We have never had only eleven people at the Thanksgiving dinner table since 2000. I had recently had relationships that I valued highly end abruptly without an opportunity for me to clear up misunderstandings and I am saddened deeply by that. I am taking time off work to clear my head, but in case you didn't know this about me, I like to work and so I feel a bit lost when my only instructions are to relax and rest.

Bart preached a great sermon a couple weeks ago about having an attitude of scarcity or an attitude of abundance. I must admit that yesterday I was internally really whiny and externally fairly disengaged and sullen. That's not like me. But this morning I woke up determined to change all that somehow. I realized then, that an attitude of gratitude and abundance is really a matter of where I choose focus.

So here are my choices:

I can focus on how sad it is that half of my kids aren't with us, or focus on how great it is to have six of them here.

I can be angry or frustrated about the fact that only two of my seven grandchildren are here, or I can rejoice in the two who are right here in front of my face... adorable, spunky, fun, and focus on them.

I can focus on how many friends I have had to leave or have lost in the past year, or I can start counting how many new friends I have made and smile at the thought of them.

I can focus on the fact that we don't have enough money to make a trip back to Minnesota any time soon, or I can be grateful that we have a huge parsonage, plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, running water, etc. etc. etc. that much of the people who inhabit this planet do not have.

I can focus on how much my back hurts and how it keeps me from helping as much as I would like to with things around here, or I can rejoice that I can see, I can hear, I can walk, and that I am pain free when I sit down.

I can bemoan the fact that I'm a horrible cook and don't enjoy it at all or be super grateful that my husband loves to cook and everything he makes tastes great.

I can be really annoyed that two of the boys that live here never help with anyone, or rejoice that three amazing young adults paid their own way to fly across the country to be with us and have been helpful since the minute they arrived.

I can be frustrated at the state of our country and how torn it is right now, or I can be grateful to live in a place where I have the freedoms that I do.

So it's about what we choose to focus on today. We all have those choices. I'm going to work hard today to remind myself of God's blessings and not to focus on the things that aren't perfect.

Because, after all, there have been many Thanksgivings in our history where we had much less to be grateful for and I was able to do it then!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's it going to take?

I was having a conversation with a very wise woman yesterday. We were discussing love.... and how most people love conditionally. Most people approach life this way: as long as you are on my side, I will love you. As long as we can agree, I will love you. As long as you treat me well, do what I prefer, spend the amount of time with me that I prefer, and hang out with my kind of people, I will love you.

That works, UNLESS you happen to be modeling your life after Jesus. Unless pleasing God is your number one priority. Because if we are striving to be like Him, then our love has to be unconditional.

Unconditional love is God's specialty. And we who carry the name Christian -- those of us who are bold enough to name ourselves after a man who loved this way all the time - Jesus Christ -- need to practice what He preached.

I know this sentence is going sound weird, but unfortunately I think we have gotten fairly good at this unconditional love thing. I say unfortunately because it has taken a lot of tears, a lot of hurt, a lot of anger and a lot of hard day to get here. Bart and I have had said the words "i love you" over and over again to children who have embarrassed us, stolen from us, lied to us, threatened to kill us, and told people we were beating them. We have had to learn forgiveness and unconditional love because the alternative is a life of anger and bitterness. And we couldn't let ourselves choose that.

In the book a wrote a while back, "A Glimpse of God's Heart: How Trying to Change My Kids Changed Me" that you can buy here I write about how parenting my children taught me about what it must be like to be God. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for him to continue to love him when we fail Him, neglect Him, ignore Him, and misrepresent Him on a daily basis?

I haven't blogged much this past week or so because I've been writing a novel (wrote the rough draft in 16 days -- BOOYAH). But the more I think about the current condition of our country, there is only one real answer. Unity that comes from unconditional love. We need to stand up and be the hands of feet of Jesus..... and his message was inclusion, unity, grace, forgiveness and love.

Hands that are open
Reaching out for broken hearts
‘Cause that’s the only way this world
Would ever know who You are

Love is the Evidence.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What are We Going to Do Now?

If you have been a reader of my blog for any amount of time, you know that never created the blog to be anything other than a dumping ground for the thoughts in my head in regards to my children. I avoid politics like the plague. Lately my children aren't taking up enough of my thought space, but I don't think that is the reason that I am so troubled by the last few months. I think it is because my fellow parents of transracially adopted children see life through different lenses than we used to when we were "just a white family."

I want to make sure and post that I am not trying to start an argument and I would prefer not to have those of you who disagree with me further alienate people I love with your comments.... I'm just trying to be the voice of reason somewhere in the middle of all this.

I understand why people voted the way that they did. I understand that there are many fine people who voted for Trump (one of them could be me, because I have not yet revealed to many who I voted for). What I am having trouble understanding is that in voting for Trump it appears that most people are acting as though they no idea that it would cause people to be afraid or feel threatened if he were elected.

It seems pretty dismissing to me to simply cry, "Sore Losers" when so many are fearing for their safety. Saying things like, "They shouldn't be afraid, that's dumb" really isn't helpful. Fear isn't necessarily rational. If you are really interested in why people are afraid, Shannon, a fellow adoptive parent, wrote this on her blog yesterday. I thought she summed it up very well.

Let me try and make this make sense to you. Let's say you have red hair and there was a candidate out there who talked about getting you out of the country because of your red hair. If half of the country voted for that candidate, as a red head it would be easy to conclude that all those who voted for him must agree with him and want you gone. Think about how that would make you feel. It wouldn't be that easy to get up the next morning feeling positive about your future, or comfortable with the people around you.

But I'm getting off the point that I was attempting to make today. My point is that we, as a church, let this happen. Christians allowed us to end up with two candidates and most people said that they weren't pleased with the choices they had. It wasn't as though someone from another country dropped the two of them off and said that we were forced to vote for one or the other. WE let that happen. As a nation we CHOSE them as the two best people to run for the presidency of our country.

My wise husband said that this election is not the cause of serious issues in our country, it is a symptom of something that has been an underlying theme for a long time.

So that happened, and we had this horrible election season while Christians on either side became less and less tolerant of the other. I have talked to many on both sides who absolutely CANNOT understand how anyone could vote for the other candidate. And so we have growing division between us.

And now that the election is over, we point fingers at each other and fail to take a moment to try to understand the other side. We are still so busy arguing that that is ALL we are doing.

If there was ever a time where our country needs the church it is now. People are hurting, people are afraid, people are angry, and people are confused. What we have to offer is exactly what they need. As Christians we are supposed to be people of love, grace, mercy, peace and hope. Those are exactly what we need.

So instead of continuing to talk about how one side or the other was stupid, or insensitive, or naive, or selfish or whatever words you have come up with, what if we literally spent our time trying to figure out how we can unify the church and how we can bring healing to our land?

We can say that God is on the throne, but if we are going to talk about that, shouldn't we pay attention to what we are told to do in Scripture: To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him? (Micah 6:8)

I know I don't have all the answers. But I do know the following:

1) I need to find ways to show the world that all white Christians do not hate. Period. All Christians do not hate people of color, immigrants, and a whole other long list of people that our president elect has said hateful things about over the past several months.

2) I need to seek to understand rather than to be understood.

3) I need to continue to work tirelessly for organizations that minister to those who are less fortunate than I, that demonstrate racial reconciliation, that care for the marginalized, and that are motivated by love and grace.

4) I need to find ways to work towards unity in the church.... the song "They will know we are Christians by our love" is one I wouldn't be singing today for fear that anyone outside of the church who heard me would laugh at the thought. We are completely doing the opposite of the words of Jesus' prayer in John 17:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I believe the opposite is true: If we are not one, the world will not believe that God sent Jesus to earth. Lack of unity in the church is the opposite of evangelism.

5) I need to humble myself, pray, and seek God's face more than I ever have before.

Wake up Church! We cannot afford to spend another day arguing on Facebook or Twitter. It's going to take all kinds of small actions by each of us around the country to make a difference and we need to start doing them RIGHT now. Write a kind note to someone you disagree with to tell them you still love them. If you are white, find a ministry where you can volunteer to work with people who are very different from you so that they can see that you are not the stereotype that they have formed during the election season. Give to an organization that helps those who are hurting. Find groups in your community that are working towards racial reconciliation and join them in seeing that become a reality.

I'm not sure that there has ever been a time in history where God's people need to figure things out and fast. Half of this country is now defining white Christianity by the things said by Mr. Trump over the past year. That is NOT ok with me and I really hope that is not ok with you.

All i'm asking of you is to take a few minutes to stop and think about what God is calling you to do to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

THIS is what I was trying to say

We Were Made For These Times - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

It's Up to Me

I sincerely hope that I never go through another election as awful as the one that just ended. The ugliness that it unveiled in our country, and as I have said many times the past few days, in our church, shames me.

Two things remain true however:

1) God is still God. That is never going to change. And he is asking us to pray for our leaders and to merciful to them. I can trust Him to sort through the mess that we are in as a nation and help us to find answers.

2) When it comes to the day to day lives of the people around us, we have more power than the President of the United States. I am not negating that presidents have power to make decisions that effect us, but they aren't the ones who care for the people right next to us on a personal level.

There are very few people who can say that they were personally touched by the president. Think back on your life. Who are those who mean most to you? Who have had the most profound effect on you? Who was there to hold your hand when you cried, or wait with you when a family member was sick? Who helped you out when you were broke and needed a loan until the next paycheck? Who gives you advice, a ride, a meal, a hug, a smile, a kind word, a genuine laugh?

Those things come from the members of our family, our friends, our neighbors. Sometimes they come from our coworkers and even from the people we serve in our jobs. Those are the people we point to as our mentors and heroes.

There are very few sentences in the world that are made up of only two letter words. This is my favorite:

If it is to be, it is up to me.

It is up to me, or someone like me, who offers a ride home to the mentally ill woman in Danville who waits outside the church door on Sundays because she knows that someone will give her a ride or some money for lunch.

It is up to me to who provides a listening ear to someone who is in crisis and helps them sort through their feelings.

It is up to be me who does all the things I listed above.... to hold hands, to wait with people in hospital waiting rooms, to loan or give money to people who need it, to give advice, a ride, a meal, a smile, a kind word, a genuine laugh.

I can't expect the government to do those things for people. It is the church, and more significantly, it is me who needs to do these things.

If there was ever a time that our country needed help, then it is now. It's time to start being the church that God intended for us to be and, even more importantly, the people he called us to be.

Let's go through today reminding ourselves that any change that we want to see is our responsibility.

Repeat after me: If it is to be, it is up to me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I Can't Take It Anymore: My Opinions on The Election

I have kept my mouth shut the entire election, and I just can't take it any more. I've got to speak out.

If you think I'm going to tell you who I voted for, you're wrong. I don't want to know who you voted for either.

But I do want us to take some time to ask ourselves some pretty serious questions.

2nd Chronicles 7:14 tells us:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

I have to ask myself whether or not the opposite is true....

What if we, His people, who loosely call ourselves by his name, are everything but humble and spend more time posting our opinions on like than we do praying and seeking God's face, will God NOT do as He promised.

I have seen so many people this election use the name of Jesus and their perception of His agenda to bash another candidate, that it shames me. Christians have made it very clear that somehow my very faith is dependent on who I voted for in this election.

I am saddened that my children have heard one person in the media present their views strongly about one issue that a candidate supposedly is either for or against and they are going to vote based on that. I am saddened that religious leaders have endorsed one candidate or the other when they insinuate that all Christians will vote that way.

I have not seen humility. I have not seen people who admit to honestly praying and seeking God's face as their primary focus. I have seen pride. I have seen hatred. I have seen anger.

And that is unacceptable to me. It would be one thing if the pride, anger and hatred had come from people who do not claim to be Christians. We expect that of those who don't know Jesus. But the fact that it is coming from within the church blows me away.

And so, if you have not done so yet this election season, maybe it's not to late.

Do this with me:

Humble yourself.
Seek God's face.
Turn from any of your wicked ways.

Fortunately, there is another verse that comes into play here.

Romans 3:3-4 says:

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not!

That is a huge comfort to me.

Because it would be a shame if God said, "If my people, who are called by my name, do not humble themselves and don't take time to pray and seek my face,


Because if that is the case, "Lord, help us all."

Monday, October 31, 2016

Last Day before I can Begin the Novel!

So today is the last day before the NaNoWriMo writing experience. I'm really excited to try fiction and to get things going, but the rules say you can't start until tonight.... I've been thinking a lot about my characters and what is going to happen when I start writing.

Have you written a novel? I can't imagine how it all plays out when someone tries to write on the side of their real life. I mean, do they, can they focus, or do they get lost in their head all the time? I'm guessing I have plenty to distract me from the characters in my head .... like the real characters I deal with every day, but it will be interesting to see how this goes.

Has anyone decided to join me?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My Next Big Thing

As you know, I am a person who wants to get everything I can out of life. And so I'm always looking for the next thing that will bring meaning, excitement, depth, etc. I'm also always looking for a challenge.

And so yesterday, when my friend Michelle mentioned NaNoWriMo to me again, I started thinking about how many I COULD write a novel. Since about 2008, I have had a novel in my head and apparently in 2016, that novel is going to all come out in November. One month, 50,000 words, that's the challenge. Michelle's going to write one....

Anybody want to do it with me?

Or is anyone interested in proofreading it for me once it's done?

My last two books I had volunteer editors and that worked very well :-)

More importantly though, I would love to have you participate with me for NaNoWriMo. Because as they say, the world needs your novel. Let me know your screen name in the app and we can be buddies... Just check it out here.

You have novel in your head, you just don't know it until you start writing.

I'm super excited to begin.......The rules say you have to wait until midnight on October 31st to begin.... and I can hardly wait! (except that I will wait until early November 1st. I don't stay up til midnight any more!)

What REAL Freezer Meal "Cooking Days" Look Like

You may have seen great websites like Stock Piling Moms that show beautiful smiling women who have successfully prepared multiple meals in just a short period of time. Well, I did, and I got sucked in. In my ever-so-positive world, I envisioned Bart and I sitting together simultaneously doing his favorite thing -- cooking -- with smiles on our faces and our very engaged children and grandchildren participating with joy.

So, now I'm going to show you what I would put on their site IF they allowed imperfection and reality on the site. Yes, it is true. We did make 20 meals in less than 4 hours (if you don't count preparing, shopping, etc.) And it wasn't a completely horrible experience. But this is how it really went.

The night before the "event" Bart and I had bought some of the meat and I had made a list of the recipes. Instead of writing on Zip Lock Bags, he decided that we would print labels for the bags, instantly making us cooler than the "stockpiling moms" chicks. So we took the cooking instructions and made labels and we even made a ratings sheet to put on the fridge to put the date when we would eat the meal and if we liked it or not (Also making us cooler).

I also prepared the children. Wilson needed to earn a lot of money for his phone bill, Dominyk wanted a favor, and Gabby always is up for anything if it involves me and grandpa. So I had my crew. I told them we would start at 11.

At 11, Bart was home with all of the groceries and in the office making labels. Gabby helped me get the groceries out of the car and we organized the items on the table. Then Bart helped us find the ingredients that were already in our cupboards and then he said he was "feeling off" and went to read a book in the bedroom. Gabby and I looked at each other, the stack of 20 recipes I had printed, and the large assortment of ingredients and sighed.

I texted Dominyk and Wilson and by 11:45 they had appeared. I sat in my chair and we began. Bart came through on his way to changing laundry and I asked him to take a picture. He vetoed my idea to follow the instructions on the site and said I should just go one recipe at a time so I didn't confuse anyone. Check this out. Am I completely NOT like the perfect people on the website? I didn't even comb my hair! And Wilson and Dominyk were less than thrilled to pose. Fortunately, though, Gabby is always up for being in a picture and she had the perfect shirt on!

3 hours and 37 minutes of chopping, measuring, etc. Wilson became the meat guy -- he was very careful to wash his hands between meats. Then he helped me chop. Dominyk helped measure, and Gabby was the fetcher. Surprisingly we had a good rhythm going. Dominyk lasted an hour and 20 minutes. Wilson made it through the whole time (but did I mention he was being paid?)

At that point I decided to send Dominyk to get lunch for us. This was a fiasco that would be traumatizing to recall in detail, but let's just say unmedicated agitated young men should NOT go get lunch if the person behind the counter doesn't know what they are doing.

So, in the midst of Dominyk obsessing about the fast food joint and the person behind the counter, we attempted to cook meals and supervise a quite active two year old who insisted on racing his cars on the table. At one point he escaped from the house and ended up the street riding his trike, but I'm not going to print that. :-)

When the last bag made it to the freezer, I forced them to help clean up, Wilson is the only one I could force to be in the last picture because he was being paid....

How much did we spend? I think we're supposed to tell you that. But I lost the stupid receipt. I know Bart spent about $200, but he bought Halloween Candy and frozen pizzas for the kids so it may have been closer to $175, plus the meat the day before, plus the stuff in the pantry that we already had, so honestly, I have no clue.

At the end of the day I was super tired. I had chopped more things in one day that I have ever chopped. My muscles hurt. My shoulders and neck ached.

It didn't turn out anything like I planned. This was going to be Bart and I enjoying some time together... But it didn't end horribly either. I just didn't realize I would be that tired.

In fact, the after pic shows what EVERY after picture should look like. Wilson so done that he refused to look at the camera. Me so tired I'm about to fall off the chair.....

When we were done at the end of the 3 hours and 37 minutes, we had 20 meals in the freezer. We decided to do these twenty meals if you're interested. I'll let you know if they taste like crap.

But this, my friends, is what REAL freezer meal "cooking days" look like.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why are you so worked up????

The last two days I have written blog posts using the word "p*****" that have gotten a lot of attention. If you haven't read them yet, they are here and here And I'm forcing myself to take some hours off today because I'm just all worked up about these issues.

So today I'm going to try and answer the question "Why are you so worked up?" And I'm going to attempt brevity. Wish me luck.

1) It's part of my temperament. I tend to believe things, believe them strongly, and I'm pretty out there with my emotions. In fact recently I took one of our 21 year olds to try to get him psychiatric services. (yeah, we have three -- which, I might point out is much better than 3 13 year olds, but I digress). On the way there he was arguing with me and pushing my buttons. He kept saying, "I don't know why you are so worked up!" (I think he may have forgotten the fact that he had, in last six weeks, stolen our credit card, taken the car without permission and run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, staged a break in of our home compete with calling the police to come, and setting off the church alarm when he fell asleep in his dads office and then talking to the police about domestic violence laws right there, the perfect example of a pastor's son. Those are just 5 of the 31 things I had on my list that his manic episodes had brought to our family. But There goes the brevity. I shouldn't have started talking about that.

Anyway (Good grief Claudia!!) While we were sitting in the parking lot and I was gently reminding him of his misdeeds -- ok, so maybe I was screaming loudly in his face, he says, "I am NOT going into the emergency psychiatry place until you calm down. They're going to think you're crazy." Sigh.

2) I have been intensely involved in church since my conception. Yes, my parents were pastors in a storefront church, and had a tiny apartment in the back, so I love to tell folks that I was conceived in church. But since then I have probably not missed more than 30 Sundays in 53 years. I married a pastor and have loved the journey. love the church and all of it's good points, but I really think that we have missed it. We have failed to be Christ's body in regards to vulnerable children in our country and it greatly pains me.

3) I have been professionally involved in adoption from many different angles. From 2003 to 2012 I worked with the Adopt America Network to find homes for kids in the foster care system. In 2006, I wrote this post and I was equally passionate then. I also have spent years recruiting and then supporting adoptive families. The fact that we as a nation, and particularly we as a church, did not care for these families and children before they got into the system has caused intense heartache and pain for so many good families. I could spend hours writing about how in-tact healthy families are destroyed because they chose to do what they felt called to do -- take care of hard kids. But herein lies the rub: What if the church had been there for those birth families BEFORE they went into foster care. What if they had never entered the pipe in the first place?

4) Finally, I have raised 12 of the kids that I talk about as a category -- kids who were in foster care or an orphanage. I have met some of their birth families. I have seen how being connected to a church could have completely changed the trajectory of MY children's lives. I watch my kids suffer, now as adults, from the things that happened to them. But there are two things that come into play here: What their birth parents did -- and what the church did NOT do.

So I have reasons to be worked up. And my job gives me an opportunity to do something about this. And so I can't stop being worked up and I have to force myself to stop walk away from my desk.

Because out there, right now, a child is being born. And the next 18 years her future will depend on how well we as the church take care of her and her family. And if we fail to do that, it's on us. We can't just say it's on her parents if we sit by and do nothing.

Sometimes I, I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone’s alright, when I know they’re not
This world needs God, but it’s easier to stand and watch
I could say a prayer and just move on, like nothing's wrong

But I refuse

‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse to
Sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose not to move
But I refuse

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Sincerely Hope this P**** You Off!

Yesterday I wrote a blog post called "Does this P*** You Off!" that had more hits than any other post I've ever written. I mean, it topped the times that I announced the gender of an upcoming grandchild, pictures of my son's wedding, pictures of new kids we were acquiring -- this caused more people to read my blog than any of that. And I didn't even proofread it.

I am not a blogger who cares what drives traffic, but I think using a naughty word got people's attention and made them click yesterday, and so I thought I'd try it again today. I say that in jest... mostly.

I realized yesterday that I am I'm often pleased when people get angry. There is definitely an upside to anger.... because anger is a motivator for change.

I was talking to our Patrick Henry Family Services Director of Administration yesterday about the blog entry I wrote and he told me a story of when he did a lot of work with colleges. They would ask him to come in, represent his ministry, and help kids figure out what to do with their lives. His advice would be much different than those who said "find something that gives you joy, and you will be happy at work for a lifetime." His advice was to find something that p***** you off, and then you'll have passion enough to work for a lifetime.

There is great truth to that. Passion stems from anger.

I have often quoted Richard Stearns who said, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." But today I'm going to suggest that we might want to pray "Let me be angry about the things that make God angry." (No, I"m not going to use the word p**** and the word God in the same sentence, so you can relax). :-)

I was thinking about this this morning -- what made Jesus most angry when he was here on earth? Was it the "bad" sinners? Not at all. That's who He hung out with. He called church people "Vipers" and "Whitewashed walls" and "hypocrites." Jesus was angry at religious leaders way more than he was ever angry with prostitutes, drunks, and in that day, the lowest of the low -- tax collectors.

There is one time in Scripture where we see Jesus super mad. Where was he? At a bar? No.... He was at the temple -- the church of that day incredibly angry at what it had become.

So there are two points to this post that I want you to get:

1) It's great when you are angry if you are willing to do something about it. Fortunately, for my sake at this point, Bart and I can tell you that have adopted 12 children so I can talk as much as I want to about this issue and nobody is going to accuse me of not acting on my anger that there are kids without families. But there are many many issues that I say make me angry -- but not enough to do something about it. I'm angry that there are kids starving, that there is genocide being practiced in Africa, that there are women being mistreated in the middle east. But obviously only a little bit because other than sponsoring children through Compassion and World Vision, I haven't done much about that in my life.

I have been very careful not to touch anything political this election because I do not want to know how people are voting -- because the way people are defending their candidates of choice and slamming the other makes me lose respect for people on either side. But I'm going to say one thing that might start up way more "political debate" that I want to. Bart and I began fostering and adopting because we were frustrated (yes, p**** off) that so many Christians claimed to be pro-life but were really only pro-birth. They were more than willing to demand a child be brought into this world, but had no intention of providing quality of life to that child. And I'm not talking about whether or not someone is willing to adopt a newborn.... although that is an awesome thing ... but I'm talking about what happens to that child when they are 5, or 10, or 15, or an adult. It is not enough, in my seldom humble enough opinion, to say that Christians must be pro-life if Christians are unwilling to take care of those same fetuses once they become children and teenagers and adults. Don't get me wrong, I am pro-life -- but I define it as way more encompassing than pro-birth. Thus, my family of 12 adopted children. Thus my advocacy for those caught in the system. Thus my rant in my blog post yesterday.

So my question to you is this: What makes you angry enough to actually do something about it? And I don't mean write a post on Facebook, although that is a start. And I don't mean donating money (though if you have some you want to go to a worthy cause I can tell you about one in particular that is super important to me right now). It means going all in -- being angry enough to say "This is something that I'm going to sacrifice for. THIS is my passion. THIS is my issue." I'd love to hear what that is... because it certainly doesn't have to be mine. But I hope it is something. I LOVE it when people get P**** off enough to do something.

2) I think the church still makes Jesus mad. I think the church breaks God's heart. Because I think we are missing it. I think God shakes his head as we polarize about issues and spend more time fighting over them than we do loving the people we are fighting about. I think Jesus gets angry when He sees what "his Father's house" has become -- maybe not a den of thieves -- but certainly a group of people who often care way more about themselves than the world around them. That wasn't ever His plan for the church. I can see Jesus today bursting through the beautiful buildings full of people who are very concerned about themselves, their children, and their own comfort and turning over cookie trays and coffee stands and screaming at people who have never taken time to look outside the walls of the church to the hurting world that God has called them to serve. And now I'm probably really crossing a line, but I think God weeps as he sees people on Facebook using His name to spread hateful words about people, whoever they might be. This is never how people who use name "Christian" were supposed to act.

I want to share a story again that I shared in a blog entry in January. When I was a teenager I heard John Ott speak at a Wesleyan convention (was anyone there?) and he told this story that I have never forgotten. My husband, the skeptic, says that it is just folklore, that it never really happened, but I've never let his need to remind me of that ruin the concept of a great illustration.

Story is told that Alexander the Great, one of the greatest warriors of all time, was holding court one day when some military officials escorted before him a young soldier. This young soldier was caught running away from battle. Alexander the Great said, “Soldier, tell me your name.” The soldier replied “Alexander.” Alexander the Great said again, “Soldier what is your name?” The Soldier replied “Alexander.” Once again Alexander the Great asked, “Soldier, what is your name!?” The soldier replied “Alexander.” Alexander the Great then said, “Either change your conduct or change your name.”

I can still see in my mind's eye John Ott in front of hundreds of teenagers in his big booming voice and a finger point at us all saying, "God is standing before you having this conversation.
'Child, What is your name?'
'Child, What is your name?'
'Child, Either change your conduct or change your name."

So yesterday's post about the map and the epic fail of the church to step up and do something has been resonating in my heart since I wrote it. It blends in with my deep grief lately over people who use the name "Christian" and act nothing like Jesus.

Yesterday almost 2000 people read a post where I asked them to contact me if they were willing to do something to address the disparity in a map between the number of churches in a particular state and the number of "legal orphans" in that state. Not one of them contacted me. They were willing to click, to read, to share. And grant it, those who did are probably as passionate about this as I am and have already given their lives to this cause.

But we live in a culture where we claim to be SUPER DUPER with our words, spoken and written, when in reality we aren't really even angry enough to leave our recliner.

Lately I confess that I have been angry. Really angry. I hope you are too. Because maybe if we all get angry enough, we will do something.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Does this P*** You Off?

The first time I saw this map, it ticked me off. OK, it pissed me off. (Some of you may be more angry that I used the word pissed than you are about what is represented by the map, which also grates on my nerves, but hey, I try hard not to say anything controversial online any more but sometimes it just slips out.) I posted this old Tony Campolo quote on Facebook once:

“I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

I loved his point. I did not love the many comments I received scolding me for using the word shit. I don't think they got the point. And I wasn't even using the word. I was quoting. It's different. :-)

But I digress.

So, why does this map piss me off? It's because somehow we as a church have decided that this caring for the most vulnerable of children is no longer our responsibility. Somehow we have decided that the government can raise our children and in case you haven't heard, they aren't doing a very good job of it. I'm pretty sure Jesus is confused as to how we got to the point of thinking it wasn't our problem.

I love the orphan care movement and the fact that we are trying hard to remind the church that it is time to step up.

So, in case you don't know what the map represent, the number at the bottom is the number of churches that are in the state. The number at the top is the number of legally free children there are available for adoption. These are legal "orphans" right here in our country.

So for example, when this map was created in Minnesota there were 5628 churches and 983 children waiting for adoption. So for every ONE child needing a home there are FIVE churches full of people who could adopt them. Those statistics haunt me, motivate me, and make me scream internally sometimes.

One of the reasons I moved to Virginia was because of the fact that Virginia is 50th in the nation at getting kids adopted out of foster care. After moving here I saw this map. There are over 10,000 churches in this state!!! And yet more kids (percentage wise) age out of foster care here in this state than any other.

What in the world are we going to do about that? It has to change!

I love this graphic from a satirical article found in the Babylon Bee. The article, "Report: 95% Of Christians Agree The Other 5% Should Keep Adopting" both made me smile at how clever it is but also made me profoundly sad.

I remember a very significant conversation that I had with Andrew and Michelle Schneidler when I spoke at Refresh the first year. Andrew compared foster care to a pipe. "There are two ways to keep kids from aging out of foster care without a family", Andrew pointed out to me. He went on to explain that we could either find homes for kids who were already in the system -- those in the pipe -- or we could prevent them from entering the pipe in the first place.

I spent the first 16 years of my adoption career working on the first issue... getting kids adopted from foster care and supporting families in their journey. And now I have the privilege of working for an organization that changes that statistic from the other end -- keeping kids from entering the system in the first place. But neither of those things can happen without the mobilization of the church.

There are so many ways to be involved, wherever you are, in this issue, and they don't all involve taking care of a child. If you want to know more, send me a FB message or make a comment on the blog, or email me, or text me, or send me a snapchat, or tweet me, or tag me on instagram, or pick up the phone, or even send me a letter... anyway you can contact me -- and I'll let you know of ways you can help.

OK, Nice to have all that off my chest this morning. :-) (Hope I didn't cause you too much concern by using a few naughty words to make my point).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Does "All" Mean?

I'm sitting in my one room efficiency apartment on the Brookneal campus. (I gave my three story townhouse to a wonderful new employee who is making much better use of it than I). I am eating trail mix, waiting for Dominyk to come home and start obsessing about how hard he worked all day, and listening to All Sons and Daughters Radio on Pandora. It makes me miss Sonia, but she will never read this and you don't even know her so I'm not sure why I wrote that, but she introduced me to All Sons and Daughters a few years ago.

The hymn "I Surrender All" as performed by Jason Lavik came on and I started thinking to myself, "I have been singing that song for decades!"

I remember singing those words as a preteen and meaning them with all of my heart. When I sang, "I surrender all" at 12, I meant it. I was surrendering my future... and all of its unknowns to God. I surrendered my nuclear family, my Jr. High grades and the drama in my youth group, and my simple and naive heart...

And I sing it tonight. I realize as I sing that my "all" has certainly changed over time. Tonight when I sing "I surrender all" I surrender my deteriorating health. Nothing major but I have diabetes, and heart issues, and back pain, and I sometimes can't sleep.

I surrender my marriage and the man to whom I am married -- my best friend, the one who makes me laugh every day, who is smart, and kind, and witty, and so supportive of me that I could literally not live a day successfully without him in my life.

I surrender my children, all twelve of them. I leave their future in God's hands. I surrender a daughter in law, and a boyfriend, and a girlfriend, and two baby daddies, and two baby mamas. I surrender my desire to fix, control, and change them.

I surrender my seven precious grandchildren. I give them to God as He gave them to us.

I surrender my mom... alone in an assisted living facility over 1000 miles away, and yet at 87 the one who often cheers me up by her cards and letters.

I surrender my speaking "career" and my writing "career."

I surrender my job and all that it entails: my coworkers, the residents, the counseling clients, the families of the children we work with, my peers, my boss, the future we have planned, even the "strategic plan."

I surrender my church.... my husband's role as pastor, my position in the small "first service choir", my Women's Bible Study, my young adult praise choir, and the young adult Sunday school class that they graciously let me attend even though I am a grandma.

I surrender my friends. Hundreds of them that I've met over the years. High school, college, Master's program, and my jobs, and all the churches we have pastored.

And I still surrender myself my future and all of it's unknowns to him. I still surrender my mom and brothers... and my dad's memory. My youth group drama and Jr. high grades are far behind me. And I still surrender my heart, though it seems much more complex now and is certainly no longer naive. But I still mean it with all of my heart.

I had no idea back then what it meant when I decided to follow Jesus and to surrender my future to him. But looking back I am so glad that I gave it all to Him. The path He has chosen for me has been a good one.

I love these verses from Psalm 16:5-6

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I hope you'll take time right now to listen to this song and to reflect on times you've sung it before. And I hope that you'll join me in thanking God for the things He has brought your way because you sang in earnest, "I surrender all."

Monday, October 17, 2016


All of us have fights we are fighting. I talk often about our fight against the enemy…. it is constant and a fight worth fighting.

We also fight with other people. Now we are clever enough not to call them fights. We might say we have a “disagreement” or an “argument” or we might call it a “struggle” but face it, sometimes we are just having a fight. I confess to “fighting” with a couple of my sons this weekend and if I told you about the conversations you would shake your head…. and probably laugh because in retrospect it is funny…. but you would definitely understand why I felt a need to “fight.” As they battle their own mental health issues, I am their target and I confess to fighting against that sometimes.

Maybe it isn’t someone in your family that you fight with, but it could be someone at work, someone at church, a neighbor….. and it eats away at us, but it happens. We can’t control them…. only our response to them, and sometimes it requires a “fight.”

We also fight for things — for justice, to advocate for the vulnerable, to change things.

Or we fight against disease. Or injustice. Or wrongs that we see happening around us.

I am in a constant battle with myself as well. The apostle Paul talks about how he did things he didn’t want to do. Some of you know I’m “dieting” and this is a constant battle. I was inn Walgreens this morning (I was getting medicine for Bart who is sick) and literally stood and argued with myself (internally in case you’re picturing me acting like a crazy person) for two full minutes before I walked away from this gorgeous box of Cheeze-it Grooves. The struggle is real.

We fight ourselves for other reasons as well. We fight our lack of self discipline. We fight our desire to buy things we don’t need. We fight lust for things, people, power. And all of these are fights worth fighting.

But today I’m here to tell you that there is one fight that we do NOT have to fight any more. We don’t have to wrestle with the past. We don’t have to beat ourselves up about things that we have done, sins we have committed, failures, mistakes, etc. We don’t have to engage in that battle any more.

Why? Because it’s already been won…. so shake off those heavy chains, as the song says, and remember, that you are redeemed!

(And if you’ve never watched this video you should — I love how much passion he puts into his music…..)