Friday, September 30, 2016

#finishwellFriday


Yesterday I was having coffee with a friend here in Danville (yes, I have 2 friends that I don’t work with. Don’t faint). She and I were talking about those nagging things on a person’s to-do list that just sit there because for whatever reason they just aren’t something we want to do. You know what I’m talking about? They aren’t necessarily hard … just things that for some reason or other just aren’t getting done.

We agreed that it would be really smart to put a day on the calendar each month where we took that to do list and put it in order with the thing we want to do least at the very top and then prioritize the list in that way. And then tackle them one by one and get as many done as possible on that day.I decided that the last Friday of the month would be perfect time to do it because I do not want to head into another month with those things on my list. And if it goes well maybe I’ll even do it every Friday ….

So here I am, it’s the last Friday of the month and I’m calling it #finishwellfriday. Since I have worked over 40 hours already this week, I’m going to have a few personal things on my list as well. A couple of examples for my list are to call MN and figure out how to replace the title on my vehicle that we lost…. to negotiate a lease for two of our sons with developmental delays that live in MN … to make sure that our new doctor takes the new insurance that starts tomorrow…. to stick a copy of Robert’s book in the mail for my mother along with some pictures….to read the difference between Exempt and Non-Exempt employees, and to finish an article about the culture of trauma based care that our camp director sent me at the beginning of the month… you’re getting the idea, huh? And, if time allows i”m going to clean up ALL my email (only 58 to go, not bad) and clean off my desk.

I’m sure you are all laughing at me and thinking I”ll never get it done but that just motivates me.

Wanna join me? Wouldn’t it be cool if #finishwellfriday went viral?

Have fun folks…. Comment here or on Facebook if you decide to try it today. Even for a couple of hours.

Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Adoption: A Sacred Journey


In early August Bart and I went to dinner with Dan and Terri Coley of "Show Hope" while we were in Nashville. It was awesome. They are awesome. And as part of our meal we heard their adoption story, complete with an 8 x 10 photo of their gorgeous family that was taken at the beach. There were many moments during the telling of their story where I got goosebumps because there so many "God moments" in their story. It was at that moment for the first time the words "sacred journey" popped into my mind.

As a couple Bart I have been part of eight adoptions involving twelve children. Every single moment of each of those adoptions was guided by God's hand, I am convinced of it. Each of those children, miraculously, was supposed to be ours. From all over the U.S. and even the country of Guatemala, God brought us together. It's a mystery, a very holy one. In our book, "Out of Many One Family: How Two Adults Claimed Twelve Children through Adoption" and it's an amazing one.

As a professional, I have been a part of over 650 adoptions. Each and every story has moments where God clearly shows himself. Every story has a sacred thread. It's what holds them in common. When you listen to someone's adoption story, you can see glimpses of God's hand throughout.

And it makes sense that it is a sacred journey, because it is based on the very heart of the gospel itself. Paul says in Ephesians 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (ASV)

Just as we, relying on God's guidance, chose our children, God chose us before the foundation of the world. He uses the word adoption to describe how we went from being strangers to His very own children... and this brings Him pleasure. Paul says it was to the "praise of the glory of His grace." When I read that it gives me chills.

So it is no wonder that God is at the center of every adoption -- He is wanting us to understand the "good pleasure" of His will. God's adoption of us gives Him pleasure -- and He knows that the only way we can share in that pleasure is to understand what it feels like to adopt someone as your own.

Others have said this more eloquently, I am certain, and I'm not writing this to recruit or to persuade. I'm simply making an observation. I understand the "good pleasure" that God experiences because of the sacred journey of adoption. Jody Landers said this: "A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me."

I would add another thought to that.... the awe that God chose to include me in the most sacred of journeys, one He Himself experienced, shakes me to my core. Regardless of everything we have been through, I would not choose anything else. This nuanced meaning permeating the choices we have made rocks my world every day.

Adoption. It is by far one of the most sacred of all journeys.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ministers Wife/Clergy Spouse: A Sacred Journey


A little over a week ago I was sitting in church in our first service where I sing in the choir. The five of us (yes, we're a small ensemble, but we still call ourselves a choir and wear robes), were sitting on the front pew instead of in the choir loft that morning, so between Bart's times up front he sat beside me. This is a rare treat which you know if you are a pastor's wife, so I reached over and grabbed his hand during the prelude. And I started to think about how blessed I am to have this title.

The title differs wherever we've been. I've been called the pastor's wife, the preacher's wife, a clergy spouse, and now I"m the minister's wife. But the title is just a tiny piece of it. Because I like numbered lists, here's why being in this position is amazing.

1) The People. My life is FULL of love and good friends who have been part of our congregations. Because of the way the United Methodist Church does things, we are only "officially" in their lives for a season, but they become part of us and we become part of them. It's a unique relationship and maybe shouldn't be defined as friendship, though over the years I have considered many of our parishioners some of my best friends of all time. (I know, I kinda crush over boundaries sometimes). But we have laughed together, sobbed together, played games together, raised our kids together, and grown together in every way.

2) The Community. The sense of community in a church when it is being done the way Jesus intended is a beautiful thing. To be witness to the ways that people care for one another, the ways that they share life, is phenomenal. And being part of that community -- to care and be cared for -- not once, but multiple times in different settings, is such a blessing.

3) The Variety. I know this is going to sound weird, but moving every 4-7 years has been a good thing for us and our family. We started our journey in a two point charge where in one church 30 was a HUGE Sunday (lowest attendance ever was 5 and we were two of them). The town had 450 people and was in the middle of the state and in the middle of nowhere. But there were a few of those people who captured our hearts. We were not only able to minister in those two churches, but in a migrant camp 7 miles down the road where I used my Spanish and many adorable South Texan children stole our hearts. We also went there as an engaged couple and left married with 7 kids which most can't claim.

We then moved to a town of 4500, a county seat in rural southwestern Minnesota, right in the heart of farm country. Many a Sunday I overheard the farmers discussing how much rain was in the gauge that morning. I have to confess that those were some of our best years. The church was great, and still is. The people amazing. There was group of people with kids the same age as ours (we had 7 when we moved there, 10 when we left). That part of the state was close enough to South Dakota to be super friendly (OK, Minnesotans, don't get too mad at me, I'm speaking in jest.. kinda). :-> I don't know if it was this was where our kids were young enough not to have big problems, or what it was, but those were magical fun days spent at parks and pools and sledding and trick or treating and go cart riding..... fun times.

Then came the college town, a town of 45,000 people. Again, great people.... in fact some of our best friends of all time are people from there that we still keep up with. Our kids got in trouble there ... a lot of it ... as they became adults and they were dark years, but I still have many great memories of that place.

Then there came the City -- with all it brings. Need I say more? I could go on about our 3.5 years there for paragraphs.

And now we're in Virginia... completely different and yet the same. And you know some of that story.

The variety hasn't just been in the different places we have lived, or the different kinds of people who lived there. The churches have been different as well. Worship has been unique. We have had two services, one service, traditional, contemporary, combined. Music has been led by organ (even played by me at one church AAAGH), piano, You Tube Video, a great praise band that I got to play in and miss tremendously), and purchased UMC organ CDs. We have had services where we used every piece of liturgy that could be found, and others where we never spoke a word of it. We have had printed bulletins and projected hymns. We have sung the oldest of songs and the very newest. Each church has had it's own preferences and it's own style.

4) The Similarities. But in the midst of the variety, there has been sameness. We have worshipped the same God, we have experienced the same sacraments, and we have recited the same words together.

5) The Front Row Seat to God's Faithfulness. I think this is the most outstanding and important blessing of being a pastor's wife. (that's my favorite of the titles, by the way -- because a pastor is a shepherd and that is exactly what Bart does). We have been able to be intimately involved in the lives of the people he has shepherded in the very best and the very worst moments of their lives. We are there when they get married, we are there when they say goodbye to a loved one. We are there when they announce the birth of a grandchild, and when they share that they received word that they have a terminal illness. We are there to baptize or confirm their children, and to hear the heart break when those children later rebel. And in and through all of this we see miracles from the front row. We join people as they wrestle with the hard task of living and the difficult challenges that come their way. We see God heal and we weep with those who for whatever reason, He does not heal. We see God change lives and watch people change and grow because HE has taken over as the one in charge of their lives. The depth of this privilege is not wasted on me.

I love it that God chose me to be a pastor's wife because I have been able to live life at the extremes -- watching it play out step by step in the lives of others but also in us as we do life with people. And on occasion it is more than being on the front row, it is diving in and being in the play itself, experiencing all of the emotion -- the joy and the pain -- WITH those we serve. And, because of that, being ever aware of God's faithfulness to His people.

So in looking back I wouldn't trade this for anything. I daily have enjoyed for twenty years the incredibly privilege of what this title means... and I'm so grateful that he has called me to this sacred journey. It has made me a better person.

Monday, September 26, 2016

It's Too Much!


So, what's going on with me? I had the stomach flu all weekend. Fun. Not. But it's over now. A quick bug. I got to watch a lot of Netflix.

OK, so as I used to do when I blogged all the time I am going to go down a serious rabbit trail here, so beware!

I watched Cedar Cove ... binge watched it. I had in book form on planes for years and loved them but have you binge watched it? I realized after multiple episodes that the scenes are just too dang short in video format. They shift from sub plot to subplot so rapidly that it makes me tired. And there's just something out of sync about so many doors opening and shutting for 45 second conversations. It makes my head spin sometimes. But it is way better than binge watching scary shows like Lost or Wayward Pines or gross shows like Greys Anatomy where there is blood and tons of sex. On an empty stomach those don't go well. But my head was hurting and I got dizzy trying to count the number of times someone went into Olivia's chambers). Ok, done with rabbit trail.

Today I have something really important to me that I want to share with my reader's on Facebook. I want them to give a small amount to help a little boy I know. I love this kid and I want him to have permanence and I can't tell you anything about the story because it is work related and private. But I have hugged this kid. His face lights up when he sees me. He belongs with his potential parents and we have already overcome so much to get him to where he is now. And I can't share any of the story with you.

I have answers to questions that you might have about the whys and the hows .. and I can't share them, and that's hard for me. But I know that if you knew him, you would find a way to help him stay with these parents forever.

The problem is that Facebook is just crowded with SO MUCH STUFF. So when you really have something that matters a LOT to a few people, you can't compete. You can't compete with the never ending pictures of two political candidates whose faces I have seen more times than any other politicians I can remember (or at least it seems that way(. I can't compete with all the issues of the day that dichotomize society and I have a hard time figuring out how to express any opinion on anything without getting labeled. Why can't I honestly, for example, care about all black people and all police officers at the same time and recognize that sometimes each of those groups have people who do bad things? We are being forced to choose between ridiculous dichotomies by social media. Whether or not I am a Christian is now apparently determined by how I post about issues on Facebook.

Wow, I'm digressing a ton. But you get the point. I have hundreds of friends that if I asked for five bucks they would hand it to me without asking why. How can I get them to see that this is a worthy cause if they won't even read the post because it is buried in so many other links to so many other things?

My news feed is probably overcrowded. I have 1700 plus friends. But there's just too much out there for people to sift through.

Here's the cause....

Go there. Give. Share. Bart and are waiting until we can give more than $15 or $20 but you'll see our names there soon.

Trust me... Let's get this done already and not get stuck on ask questions like "why can't they pay for it on their own?" or "I know lots of people who are adopting, why should I help this kid?"

Let's just do it for the sake of this kid whose eyes light up when he sees me and runs to give me a hug. Because when it comes right down to it, the child is always the point.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's the Little Things

I'm working on a major work project today and don't have time to post this, but I need to share a few of the little things.

1) Dominyk, at the age of 20, can now live alone a few days a week. He can get up, get showered, take a pill, and make it to work on time. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it is huge! The team he works with at PHFS (where I work) reports that he is improving all the time, though the going is slow. He works as a groundskeeper about 30 hours a week and while he has made his mistakes, he is getting better!

2) After 8 years, and 7 attempts, Jimmy passed his permit test today! He finally did what I told him to do and asked to have it read to him and he only missed three. He has money saved for a car so now he will be able to have a license in 3 months and stop relying on others for transportation. I know, for most kids it should have happened years ago. But he hung in there and it is now a success!

3) Tony bought new shoes and foot powder because we were complaining his feet smelled. If you had any idea what a victory that was....

4) My awesome son Leon posted a link on Facebook about watching out for turtles as they cross the road and he posted that he would get out and help them. And that is exactly who he is. He's the guy that would get out of his car to help a turtle. Love that kid.

5) My daughter Mercedes posts on snapchat that she is at the gym at 5 am working out every morning. So proud of her!! She learned that from me? Except she has a much younger, much thinner, much more beautiful body to work with and preserve than I did when I started going to the Y at 5.

6) My daughter Salinda and her two kids moved here and they are doing so well. Gabby loves her school. Several people have generously given us things for her... including the most awesome Barbie mansion ever (including a toilet that sounds like it is flushing and an elevator). She also received 19 barbies and one very happy Ken. Except that he didn't have pants for a while so Gabby wouldn't let him out of the box. But now he has pants and he is allowed to interact with his harem. Carlos is happy as long as he has his cars. And he got a lot for his birthday. Salinda is training this week to work at Olive Garden and likes her coworkers.

7) I am eating meal replacement bars and I have lost 20 pounds in a month. I am pleased.

8) My husband is teaching a class at Averett University that he loves and we are still very much in love with our church.

9) My job is great! I'm loving my position and find it challenging and exciting.

10) God is incredibly good. All the time.

I can't post a link to this to Facebook because I don't want the kids to be embarrassed. How many of you read this when I don't tell Facebook it's here?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On Being 53

So... Happy Birthday to me. I woke up at 5:45 so excited about my day that I couldn't go back to sleep. And it isn't because it's my birthday, believe me. It's because things are really quite good right now.

Let me summarize my family life: We now have 4 kids living with us and two of our grandchildren and Jimmy visiting for a week. Salinda moved in about 10 days ago and it has been so fun having Carlos and Gabby with us. Wilson is a month into his Junior year of high school and becoming quite an integral part of our church youth group. He is looking forward to wrestling soon. He is compliant and helpful most of the time and has an excellent sense of humor. Dominyk is living part time in Brookneal working as a groundskeeper at PHFS where I work. He has matured so much in the past two months. I stay in Brookneal twice a week so he and I get to have some quality time together which is pretty fun (most of the time). :)

Tony has been living with us for two months and started a job at Subway a couple weeks ago. That means we never see him. He works and sleeps and only is home long enough to make a mess. :-) He's getting lots of hours in, though, so it's good to see him happy.

Salinda got hired yesterday and will start training soon at Olive Garden. Gabby is loving her first grade teacher, and Carlos is a very easy toddler who is obsessed with cars. Having them here is awesome.

Kyle and Christy and their three kids are doing very well in Forest Lake. The twins are adorable and Silas, well, Silas is a very busy very inquisitive and smart kid. Kyle is now a master's level 6th grade teacher and Christy is doing a job share teaching kindergarten. Kyle is an excellent provider and worked very hard this summer so that Christy could be home half time with the kids. She's a great mom and she keeps us in the loop with several snap chats a week of whatever the kids are doing.

Sadie is still working as a nanny and a PCA in the Twin Cities and she and her boyfriend Matt (who we love) have been together for almost two years. We hear from her almost every day through texts, snap chat and Facebook.

Leon is in college and living in Mankato. He was here last month to visit and brought the best girlfriend ever! Danielle is so much like me that it makes me smile (except she is thin and beautiful... which makes her not like me in a lot of ways too!) She and Leon have a great friendship in the midst of their romance. He is a PCA for a couple families -- one being our best friends from Mankato which makes me doubly jealous. I'm jealous they get to see him so often, and I'm jealous that he gets to see them on a regular basis!

Rand continues to work at Holiday in Plymouth and he is Jimmy's roommate at their apartment in Golden Valley. He was recently promoted to shift manager, which is really an achievement for him.

We don't hear from John, Mike, or Ricardo very often at all. Sometimes we hear from their siblings about their whereabouts... John and Mike are still in the Cities and we believe Ricardo is still in Mankato. John's son Isaac and his mom are still in contact with us somehow at least weekly. We seldom here from Mike's son Aiden, but we do get to see pictures on Facebook.

Bart is frickin amazing. He is holding down the fort at home alone 3-4 days a week, making sure people get to work and taking care of the grandkids when needed. In addition, he is pastoring a church that we LOVE filled with great people. He is also having the opportunity to teach a class at Averett University which is down the street from our house. Teaching Ethics is quite fun for him.

And then there is me. As you know, I was hired to be the "Chief Program Officer" at Patrick Henry Family Services and started on January 4th. The idea is that I would hire a person and would then be supervising three programs, each with a director. But that isn't quite how it worked out.

Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up running our counseling program for 5 months and our residential care program for nearly 8 months. It was trying, exhausting and frustrating, but also exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. On July 1st our organization was blessed to hire an amazing man to run our counseling program. He surprises me every day with his strategic mind and gentle spirit (and don't tell him this because I don't want to give him a big head). Then on August 29th, my former colleague and friend accepted the Residential Life position which I have renamed "Director of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes). She is already doing a great job. I also hired another excellent addition to our staff who reports to her and started August 1st -- and she is our Education Support person. Together (even without any other managers in the program at this time) they are tackling some of the stuff I didn't have time to tackle and the school year is off to a great start for our residents. And I can't forget to give credit to our Safe Families Director who was and always has been a great leader and an all around incredible guy who patiently allowed me to run the other programs without enough of my attention during our kick off year of Safe Families.

All that to say that now that I am doing the job I was hired to do and have my team of three EXCELLENT leaders in place to run the program, my job is a dream come true. We are starting a massive 1-3-5-10 year strategic planning process and so I definitely am not going to get bored, but I am excited about the future -- more so than at any other time in my professional life.

So today I'm 53 and I'm surprised at how little I know. When I was in my 20s and 30s I really thought that by the time I turned fifty I would have little to learn. It just may be that I have learned more in the past three years than I did in decades previous because I finally figured out how much I still need to learn. I have been studying things like resiliency, how to be empathetic, strategic planning, and what it means to be a good team player. I am pushing myself to do things that I don't want to do. I am continuing to move forward, realizing that the number of years I have left on this earth to change it and make a difference are way too few, so I need to do it well.

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending time with a great man -- Dr. David Anderson -- who is the founder of Safe Families. We had lunch together with the Safe Families Director and Robert Day, our CEO, and then he and I got to have supper together. I loved being with someone who had actually, without that being his goal, started a national movement.

This blog post is way too long so i may have to write another about everything I'm learning from him, but one of the things that he talked about yesterday was repurposing the family. He mentioned that most middle class Christian families don't really understand their purpose -- they raise their kids and then they are done. But that we have a responsibility to teach biblical hospitality to our children. Safe Families for Children is a way that families can do that. We are getting licensed for foster care again because we realize that we are not done, and when the pilot program for Safe Families comes to Danville, we may very well be their first host family.

Let me conclude with this: One of the greatest blessings of my life is to see our children living out the values we have taught them. When I see them being great parents, it blesses me. When I see them reach out and extend kindness to someone who may not deserve it, I am blessed. When I hear that they loaned money to someone in need, or bought groceries for someone who is struggling, I recognize that in the midst of all of the foibles and errors of our parenting -- regardless of the special needs and behaviors of our children growing up -- that we have done a few things right.

Would I rather be 23 today? No. Would I love to have the body and energy I did when I was 23 today? YOU BET! But the wisdom that comes with age and the experiences of the past 30 years I wouldn't trade for anything.

Happy Birthday to me. I'm happy to be 53.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Upward Spiral

For only the second time in about a month I was up for an hour in the middle of the night last night (from 3:15 to 4:20 to be exact) stewing. Rehashing and rehearsing conversations and trying to figure things out. Once again, I found myself in that place where I am desperate to not only control outcomes but also to control people.

And if you’ve heard me speak before you know I almost always end everything — even my stand up — with the revised serenity prayer:

“Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”


So once again, I’m back around to this point of the (hopefully) upward spiral of what we can life. For each of us, whatever our personality, there are things we will wrestle with until we are done with our earthly life. And God, even though we wish He were different, doesn’t take us from point A to point B overnight. In fact, He almost always takes a lifetime to get us to become the people that He wants us to be — and the people we want to be.

So again today I relinquish control. I recognize this point in my circular growth and I thank him for reminding me quicker this time. I need to recognize my progress and not beat myself up…

It’s time to surrender once again.

Yesterday I heard this song listened to it again this morning.

It’s so appropriate!

This is where it begins
This is where all the worry ends
This is where I say I don't need to have control
This is where I admit
I don't know how to handle it
Life in all of this chaos
You're my only hope
And all that I have to offer
Is the white flag of surrender
Take me to the middle of your heart!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

He Loves Me.... Still


If you know me very well, you know I’m not lacking in self-confidence. I blame my mother…. I’ve told her often that she and my dad over did it on the self-esteem building stuff. But even if I don’t mention it, I have lots of times when I am annoyed with myself, frustrated that I can’ t do better or be better, wonder why I can’t get it together and do things right.

I also raised a whole bunch of kids who haven’t been able to get it together. They struggle — boy do they struggle — to get through every day. Their early trauma, prenatal exposure to alcohol, attachment issues, and mental health diagnoses have challenged them so much that they often can’t pull it together no matter how hard they try.

In 2003 when the movie “The Fighting Temptations” came out, I fell in love with the movie because of one message. That God still loves us — no matter WHAT. Do you know the movie? It’s a movie about a gospel choir. (There are swear words in in it (and when I bought my parents the movie and forgot that part my mom and dad though it was horrible and wouldn’t even watch it all the way through… but I digress). In the film, there aren’t enough people left in the church choir so they recruit from the prison. Since that was about the time that some of my kids started going to jail, it especially moved me.

Knowing that God loves us no matter what causes me to do to things:

1) It causes to me to see myself differently. I recognize that even when I’m not good enough, He still loves me. It gives me the courage to get up after I’ve fallen flat on my face and live another day. The knowledge that He loves me unconditionally helps me to look past my imperfections and see myself as He sees me. It pulls me into a stronger relationship with Him when I realize that there is NOTHING i can do to make Him love me more than He already does.

2) And maybe even more importantly, it causes me to see others differently…. through the eyes of grace. It helps me to believe that people are doing as well as they can and that I need to offer them second chances. It helps me to look beyond their behavior, to really SEE them, and to know that God still loves them.

BrenĂ© Brown in her book “Rising Strong” talks about whether or not we believe people are doing the best they can given the circumstances they are in and the history of their lives. She did a lot of research and you know what she concluded? She concluded that the people who are the recipients of the kind of grace that believes that everyone is doing the best they can aren’t affected very much by that grace because often they don’t know it is there. But the people who HAVE that attitude about others live a much higher quality of life. Isn’t that interesting? If I believe that everyone around me deserves my support instead of criticism it makes MY life better.

In 2003 I taught my kids this song from the movie (It’s one of the few soundtracks I’ve ever purchased — all the music is awesome). We played this song every day on the way to school for over a year. I wanted it ingrained in there heads. I know that some of it still listen to it often. And it moves me every time I hear it. It is especially moving to see this video because it shows the prisoners singing the song…

I hope you’ll take time to watch it today, but also to incorporate this truth into your lives and let it effect the way you see yourself AND the way you see others.