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…..)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

No matter how it appears....

Every morning I step outside my door and take a picture. The view is always different every single day…. and it has a different kind of beauty. I’m attaching this picture to “prove it.” (one of the four shots, Danika took, but it’s the same view)> I stole it off her Facebook without permission. Yikes!)

There are some things in the picture that are basically the same every day… the tree doesn’t move, the hill is in the same place…. it’s the same view… but it looks different based on the sun. But there is never a time when I look at this view and worry that the sun is gone — I know it’s there. It’s behind the clouds. Or it’s on it’s way up. Or it’s shining so brightly I can’t look into to take the picture because it hurts my eyes. The sun is always there.

I take this picture every day because it reminds me that no matter how it looks, the sun is still there. And this reminds me that no matter how it appears, God is still there… every day. I start my day not knowing what will happen — some things will be the same…. my job, my family, they won’t change. But the view will change depending on many factors outside of my control…. there will be clouds, storms even, and there may be times when I can’t even see God…. but it doesn’t matter whether or not I see him clearly or He is hidden — He is still there.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


The word legacy doesn’t have a difficult or complicated definition. Basically, it is "something that comes from someone in the past." It can be money, like what you give someone in a will, or it can be an attitude or a way of life.

Last week I found out that the Refresh conference where I have spoken for the last 5 years, has decided to change up their Friday night Respite night and not do comedy and thus, for the first time, I am not going to be going to the conference. I was grieving that loss, I gotta be honest, but I realized something as I was coming to terms with the fact that i am no longer an “up and comer” in the orphan care movement. (And no, I am not writing this because I need encouragement or sympathy — just wanting to make a point).

The leaders in the adoption/foster care/orphan care movement are now parents in their 30s and 40s. Their blogs are written to drive traffic, open opportunities to speak, and get book deals… as well as to support other parents. But they are classier, their use of social media is sophisticated, and there is a different tone. It’s a much different culture than it was 20 years ago. Back then we blogged to survive and connect with others and never thought about whether or not anyone outside of our small group of friends would read it. We didn’t always add pictures or proofread, or write in complete sentences or paragraphs. In fact, Bart called my blog “Barf on a Page.” If you look back to posts on my blog from 2006-2012 you will see so many descriptions of me wallowing in the difficult days of parenting traumatized teens who were making bad choices.

So I have realized that I’m not going to be one of those “brand new speakers” on the adoption circuit. It’s now time for me to shift gears and invest in people who are and who will be. And that is what it means to leave a legacy.

However, I have one more story that illustrates that you don’t have to be an “old person” to leave a legacy. Some of you know that I was the equivalent of a college Vice-President when I was 25. For four years I was Dean of Students at a Wesleyan college in Oklahoma and there I spoke in chapel four times a year. At the very beginning of each school year, I spoke on integrity. I talked about being whole and how your words, actions and thoughts needed to match up.

Fast forward 25 years…. there isn’t a month that goes by that one of the students who went to school there doesn’t post something about integrity on Facebook and tag me. When they hear the word, they think of me and our time together. Now THAT is a legacy.

We also have several of our own children who have caught the spirit of what Bart and I tried to teach them in regards to helping the less fortunate. It makes me feel pride like nothing else to hear about my daughter offering a ride home to a coworker who has a 1.5 hour walk to work. Or hearing that my other daughter bought groceries for a single mom she knows who was having a hard time. Or seeing that my son Jimmy is the one at work who always wants to make sure that his boss has a cake at Taco Bell on her birthday, even if he pays for it himself. Or when I watch my children being good parents and hear them say the same things we said to them. Or when my son Leon posts on Facebook a link about turtles crossing the road in Minnesota and he comments that he would not only stop for the turtle, but help it cross the road…. and I know he would do it. He’s just that kind of guy.

So whether you are old like me, investing in the “up and comers” or if you are young like I once was a long time ago and investing in your own children or the clients and residents we work with, you can still leave a legacy.

Today as I prepare to head to the “Legacy Luncheon” I am reminding myself to think about what kind of legacy I’m leaving and to be mindful of what my actions are teaching those behind me.

This song sums it up perfectly:


At Patrick Henry Family Services where I work we have a lot of programs whose name contains the word Hope. We have a Home of Hope. We have Foster Hope. We have Heroes of Hope. We have Hope for Tomorrow. Our job is to hold out hope!

Are you familiar with Erickson’s stages of development? If not you can check them out here:

One of the things that I find most interesting in the chart is that children who do not make it through that stage well — the ones who have trauma before age two or have attachment issues — have not mastered the virtue of hope. And how many of our clients and residents do we work with who have missed out on hope? A lot. But then, here we come.

I am blessed to be the daughter of a woman, who like me, is an optimist who always holds out hope to the people around her. If you my friend on Facebook you may have seen the picture of my parents that I took the fall before my Dad died. I relayed that I had spoken to my mother to wish her a Happy Anniversary (it would have been 54 years yesterday), and she said,, “Oh No! I have had a ball all day telling everyone about your Dad. I told them the story of how he proposed, and of our wedding, and the fact that I told him the week he died that he had given me a lifetime of wonderful memories.” Even though they had only been married for 50 years when he died, they had been in love for seventy years!

If you want to hear more of my mom and dad’s love story, you can find it here. And if you want to read more about their journey I blogged about it here:

So last night I was reminded once again by my 87 year old mom that you can choose hope — you can choose joy. You can choose to look at what could be a sad day and “have a ball!”

We are going to come across people this very day who never learned hope — and it wasn’t their choice. But we can hold out hope for them — because that is what we do at PHFS and that is who we are.

Maybe you yourself had a hard beginning to life and didn’t learn hope when you were younger, but here’s the good news! Hope can still be learned because you area follower of the Author of hope….

So this morning as I think about my amazing parents, and about the great work we do here, I can’t help but sing this song:

Claudia Fletcher
Chief Program Officer
Patrick Henry Family Services
860 Red Hill Road
Brookneal, VA 24528


Monday, October 03, 2016

Vocational Ministry: A Sacred Journey

Vocational Ministry is a career in which someone is paid for working full-time in a Christian organizational setting. So guess what? If you work for a Christian non-profit, you are a vocational minister. It isn't just for pastors any more!

I have been paid in several Christian organization for several years and I have also been paid to do God's work (care for the orphan) by non-Christian organizations. And every time I viewed it as a calling... not a job. I have always felt that I am truly blessed to be able to be paid to do what I am passionate about -- and to do what God has asked me to do fun time and not have to fit it in around my career.

Similar to the pastor's wife sacred journey, those of us who work in vocational ministry have a front row seat to God's miracles. It means getting deeply involved in the lives of people who are hurting and see them change. Transformation takes place, with God at the helm, and we get to be a part of it!

I spent six months of my professional life not working in a non-profit organization. I was a temporary secretary at an insurance company. It drove me crazy to walk into a building and to see people around me knowing that they were only there to make money and to help other people make money. These were executives -- not the people who actually met with people to talk about insurance -- they simply crunched numbers. And they made sure that they came in at the last possible moment, took their full breaks and lunch, and left as soon as they could -- packing up to leave 20-30 minutes before the end of the day. I never met a person who was passionate about what they did... which is understandable.

This is not to say that God doesn't call people to work in those kind of organizations. Many are called to be salt and light in places that are anything but "ministries." But I found it to be the most unfulfilling six months of my life.

Grant it, there is a price to pay. The stress is higher when lives are at stake. Work up close and personal with hurting people is a difficult thing. But the rewards are amazing.

If you are a "vocational minister" take some time today to thank God for the privilege. It is truly a sacred journey.