Saturday, July 14, 2018

143 days....Weird Goal, huh?


You may have seen on my Facebook that it is my goal to work out 143 days in a row.

Weird huh?  Have you ever heard of anyone setting a 143 day goal?   Well, as Bart would tell you, I'm not like most people.

Back in late May I started a challenge with a few of my kids and their significant others to go 30 days working out every day for at least 20 minutes outside of home or work.   Amazingly, two of them made it to the end and we are still going!

On Day 43 I posted something about Do It 4 The Kids Day 2.0 and a friend of mine from Florida put on my Facebook this challenge:

"I’ll sponsor you the next 100 days of going to the gym. If you go every single day, with no days off, I’ll give you $2/day. If you miss a day, I’ll give you $1/day for all the days you have made it in a row and the sponsorship stops that day. If you get really sick, I’ll need a doctors note!

Soon someone else said they would do the same thing and right now I have $1100 going to our fundraiser if I make it 100 days straight.  Problem is that I already had 43 days in when I started.

So, I have to go to the gym 143 days in a row to get the reward.

I would love it if you would join them in sweetening the pot.  It's a great cause and a lot of hard work.

The details are here --  You can give online, pledge by putting a comment here or on my Facebook, or you can contact me in any other way to tell me.   Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook messenger, text, phone call, linked in messenger, Twitter... you name it.

Come on, join the fun.   

https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/website/?m=3959138&u=42755#4

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Got Any Mountains?


Yes, mountains are similar to giants but they are also different from them.

Mountains are big things — good or bad — that we must face.  We need to climb them to get to the other side, or as the song said yesterday, we need to tunnel through them.  Or there may even be a third option.

Often when traveling through Virginia Bart and I speculate as to what it might have been like to be the people who came to Virginia first when there were no roads and no tunnels … not even pathways where other people had gone.  It took a special kind of person to have the courage to be the first to go through the wilderness or over a mountain.

Right now at my work many of us are being put into a position where we face mountains.  This is a pivotal point in time at PHFS where we are tunneling through decades of history to get to the other side where we can serve families and children better.   We are going to places where nobody in the organization has ever gone before and it’s tough…. we are having to make the roads and build the tunnels.  We have mountains to climb.  Fortunately, we have several strong and courageous people who are on the team to venture with us to the place God is calling us. 

Do you have a similar situation at home or at work?  Do mountains seem unclimbable to you?      

If you are facing one of the mountains in your journey today, remember that God is asking us to take just one step, one day at a time.   And sometimes, God even moves mountains when we ask him.  Mark 11:23 says:  Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them

So, as you see the mountain ask God what is plan is for the mountain.  Are you supposed to climb it, tunnel through it, or ask Him to remove it?   Either way, it can be conquered.  In fact, with the confidence of children of God we can believe that it will.

Here are a couple of very different songs that talk about mountains...




Monday, July 09, 2018

Got Any Giants?


We all have them.   Things that seem insurmountable.   Maybe they aren’t nine feet tall like Goliath with armor that weighs 125 pounds, but they sure can seem like it some times.   Big huge things that stand in the way between us and the things we want or need.  

I have been sharing with you some of my giants and I had another one added to this list this weekend.  My brother in California was back in the hospital after some seizures and it's hard to be so far away from him and so powerless to do anything.   My mom's situation gets more challenging by the day and Bart still can't put weight on his foot and between all that i'm supposed to do I feel a bit overwhelmed.

It seems that the older we get the longer our list of difficult situations become.  Our parents age, our adult children make choices we wish they wouldn’t, we have grandchildren and siblings to worry about.  Our job responsibilities increase and we have so many things to remember just at a time when we don’t remember quite as well.  :-)

So when I heard this new song from Santus Real I immediately loved it — especially the line “face my giants with confidence.”


Whatever giants are in your path, they aren’t too big for God.   We can count on that no matter what!



Thursday, July 05, 2018

Our Stories


As you know, I have been traveling the road of dementia with my mom and it involves many interesting stories.   Yesterday she asked me to come over and I explained that I was a thousand miles away.   She said, “OK, now I understand.”    I said, “so what can I do to help you from here” to which she responded, “I want you to come over right now and look in my closet.”

Sigh.

She was telling me how upset she gets when she gets confused.  She reported that the night before she had been thinking about her purse just sitting out there with all these people around and what it someone stole her identity?  Then she said that she started to ask if she was still herself.  “Am I still me?  Who am I?  Where am I?”  I asked her if she had figured out the answers to those questions since and she said yes.   I explained that as she was getting older she was going to have times that felt scary and that she just needed to remember that they would pass and that God would take care of her.

She said, “Of course He will.  He had these days planned out for me before I was born!”   I was in awe that even in the midst of such confusion she could come up with profound biblical truth.  In Psalm 139 we read:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.


At the age of 89 my mom is remembering that all of the days of her life — not just the ones where she was young and healthy and productive — but ALL of them even when she is old, and can’t get around, and has dementia— were written in God’s book.

One of my mom’s favorite things to do is sing through the hymnal.   She can sing song after song for an hour — those old hymns and choruses that have sustained her for decades.

I am sure that she sang this old favorite written by Fanny J. Crosby.   You may know that Fanny wrote over 8000 songs even though she was struck blind shortly after birth.

If my mom at 89 can sing this song, and Fanny Crosby could write it, you and I should be able to sing it loudly today…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exOLVgRZT4E


Sunday, July 01, 2018

Personally Battling Indecision -- Which Doesn't Happen Often

This blog has been a place where I have been able to "think out loud" for thirteen years.  Some of you have been reading it off and on that long.   And for those of you who have, I'm sorry.  There were some really ugly years in there.

The past couple weeks I have been stuck trying to decide what to do and I hope by the time I put this all in writing to you I will have a decision made.

You may know that I was the leader of a fund-raiser that ended in March called "Do It 4 The Kids Day."  I started getting healthier last year in order to do a "2.6 mile Marathon" on March 17th.  I worked really hard and did it.  Lost about 20 pounds and got much healthier.  So many people donated to the cause both to encourage me and to help the organization that I serve.  It was awesome.

Because the event was very successful  we decided we should do it annually.  However, we also decided to start having an annual gala and that they could not be in back to back months because they are both exhausting and some of the same staff members are involved in both events.

The easier one to move would be Do It 4 The Kids Day.... mainly because many of our staff did not get very involved last year and  burn out their friends and because the gala is local and involves a lot of the same people.   So we have scheduled it for October 13th.

Here is my dilemma.  More than one person complained last year that I posted about it too much.  I certainly do not want those who donated to feel like they need to again (Though of course, I wouldn't turn away their gift).   So I've been telling myself not to use online media to fundraise.  I don't want my friends to feel manipulated and I don't want people to unfriend me.  I also know that there are many other great causes out there and so throwing this back in the midst competes with donations to things that may be more significant.

However, there are some good reasons to jump in again.

1)  It's a great cause with a new twist -- I have a new position that allows me to head a department that is leading an initiative that may be the coolest thing I've ever done.  I could raise money for this which would allow us to do more to make this vision a reality.

2)  I could use the encouragement to keep going with weight loss/training.  I haven't quit - I've just hit a slump and have been gaining and losing the same 5 pounds for over 5 months.  Having the encouragement of people via their donations was super powerful last time.  I would like to walk a 5K in October and need all the cheerleaders I can get.

3)  I'm in charge of the event again and I feel like I need to lead by example.

4)  I had a lot of fun with it last year and lots of other people did too.

5)  I'm super competitive and I'm losing.

6)  It will only be 3.5 months this time instead of six.

I'm sure you can tell that I've talked myself into it.   Not wanting to annoy people can't be the reason not to do something if there are 6 good reasons to do it.  And I believe that I can trust God to lead folks to give what they feel He would have them give.

Plus, I had my first donation by someone who donated a LOT last time and she was happy to get this started this time.

So....

If I offend you I'm sorry, but the greater good are the families and kids we serve.    I'm jumping in and, as you know, I can't do anything half-heartedly.

So welcome to #DoIt4theKidsDay version 2.0.   I guess if you need to unfollow me until October 15th, I'll understand.

If you'd like to get it over with so you can donate now:

https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/website/home/?e=15867

If you do it today then every time you see me post about it from now until October 13th you can say "Already did it!."

Woo Hoo!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Dream Big or Dream Small?


Are you a big dreamer?  Or do the words "Dream Small" resonate with you?

 1 Corinthians 15:58 says:

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort.

Isn’t that an amazing promise?  We can be CONFIDENT that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (if you prefer the King James Version).  

When I first heard the title of the song I’m sharing today, it annoyed me.   “Dream Small” goes against my personality, my way of living life and the way I’ve always been taught.   I’m a big dreamer and live by the motto, “The bigger the mountain, the better the climb.”

But I realized after hearing it a few times that those of us “big dreamers” need to remember to do the small things.  Sometimes we get caught up in all of our big dreaming that we miss out on the folks around us.

A coworker of mine stated this a few months ago and I've kept the quote:  "if could get everyone to understand that “it's not how much we do, but how small we can do, to touch a life and make a difference”  

So for those of you who are really good at the small things that make a huge difference, THANK YOU.  Realize that none of those things are going to be wasted.

And for those of you who, like me, prefer big things, let’s be more mindful of the small things that we could and should be doing that might have a greater impact than the big things.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Guide Me, Hold Me, Feed Me, Lead Me


This entire week I have had one song stuck in my mind.   It came from the VBS program at our church and it’s the intro to the song “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah” that the kids sang.  I’m attaching a video of by far the cutest kid ever (aka my grandson Carlos) at his debut. He’s only three and this is the first time he sang in front of people.  I think he did pretty well.

But this catchy intro hasn’t left my mind.  “Guide me, guide me, won’t You guide me, guide me, guide me, all the way…

The hymn the kids sang has some requests of God — imperative verbs if you know grammar.   As I was listening to the song I thought about how all encompassing those things are.

We need God to guide us.  Sometimes we just need a nudge here or there as we make choices in life.   When we feel competent, strong, decisive and capable, we still need to remember to ask Him to guide us.

We need God to hold us.   When life falls apart, we need to be held.  We need God to pick us up out of the mess we are in, either by our own making or the situations around us.   When I think of God holding us, I think of one of my kids when they were little or one of my grandkids who when they fall down, they simply need an adult to hold them and tell them it will be okay.   

We need God to feed us.  Not only does the hymn writer say “feed me” but he said, “Feed me til I want no more.”  We need God to fill us up with Himself until there is no room for anything else.

Finally, we need God to lead us.   There are times when we have no clue where to go or what to do and we simply need to ask Him to show us the way and then, if He is going to lead, we need to follow.

On this #ThankfulThursday I am so grateful for a God who can step in during whatever I’m going through and do what is needed, whether I need guiding, holding, feeding or leading.



Monday, June 25, 2018

Expectations Kill


All my life I thought that Proverbs 31 was written by a man to honor his wife.   OR something like that.   Maybe you are a detail person and you noticed the beginning of the chapter, but I didn’t. 

I often tell a very funny story about Proverbs 31 that involves a night club dancer in Vegas and a tattoo.  You should ask me to tell it to you sometime.  But I digress.
 
I just noticed this past week that the chapter introduction says "The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.

I’m not sure how I feel about Lemuel’s mom.  She sure did paint a picture of a virtuous woman that Christian women have been comparing themselves to for thousands of years.   I wonder if she felt she was that woman or if she was simply wishing her son would find someone like that.  But it has sure messed up expectations since!

Check out the chapter sometime if you haven’ t already…. she never sleeps — she is up early and her lamp doesn’t go out at night.  Her husband has full confidence in her.  She dresses well, keeps an impeccable house, and also is shrewd in her business dealings.  She’s never idle, her husband praises her, and this one always cracks me up, “her children rise up and call her blessed.”  My kids rise up and call me things, but I’ve never heard the word blessed!

Our expectations for ourselves and for each other can kill us.   If we head into marriage believing we are going to be the “Proverbs 31” woman — or if a man goes into marriage thinking he’s marrying one, we are in big trouble.  Because we will never measure up.  

But that is where grace comes in.  Grace that we offer not only to the people around us but also to ourselves.   None of us can be perfect — that is God’s job.

So give yourself a break today.  Do your best and leave the rest to God.  He’s not expecting you to do anything more than that!



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Is it really?


I’m sure glad this sentence isn’t a Bible verse.  Some people think it is, but it isn’t.   Because there are many days when my house is not clean!

As you probably know, I am not the one who cleans here.  Historically I have been the one who coordinates the unwilling servants (aka children/teens) to do chores, but Bart has always preferred to do the cleaning… and most of the housework.  With his foot in a cast and strict orders of “no weight bearing for 12 weeks” I’m the one doing the cleaning.  And there are only two kids here, both adults, and they don’t really do chores, though they have been fairly helpful.

The one thing I hate most about cleaning is that it just gets dirty again.  Super fast it seems.  So what is the point in cleaning in the first place?  Keeping it clean I suppose would be an option, but we have 8 and 3 year olds here who while they do pick up their toys, are not capable of “keeping things clean.”  

I know, I know, a bunch of personal Claudia stuff again, but it leads to a point.

In Psalm 51 David prays, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.”     This is a prayer that we often pray as well.  But I wonder if God ever feels the same way about me as I do about cleaning the house.  I wonder if sometimes he thinks, “Good grief!  I just cleaned your heart the other day and it needs cleaning again already!?!

The bad news is that our hearts do get cloudy and need cleaning.  Often.   But according to Psalm 145:8 God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. That means that no matter how many times our hearts need cleaning, no matter how many times we need to have a “right spirit renewed” He is there to answer that prayer.

And that, my friends, is good news.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Peace


This morning I had a lovely drive from Danville to Lynchburg.  The weather was perfect early this morning and there is one spot on my drive that is absolutely breathtaking.  You head around a curve and suddenly a glorious landscape of trees and hills bursts into view.  God unveiling his majesty to me, personally, on every trip. :-)

I arrived and I'm the only one in this whole section of my office building.  I’m alone and it is completely quiet.

And oddly those two things have calmed my frantic spirit.    The beautiful drive and the quietness of the office have reminded me that Jesus is the one who can calm every storm.

Remember what happened to Peter when he looked at the waves instead of looking at Jesus?  That’s what has happened to me the past few days.   I have been focusing on the wrong things and it has robbed me of my peace.

Are you with me?  Is your life, like mine, turbulent?  Feel like the storm is about to overtake you.

I pray that we will all be able to take a minute to focus on Jesus and allow him to speak peace to us.  

I love this line of the song I’m sharing today:

I don’t want to fear the storm just because I hear it roar.

Here’s to a day where we can cease fearing the storm because we know the One who can calm it in an instant.


Peace to you today.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

What if???


It takes a lot for me to feel maxed out.   I have been through a lot of things in my life and am thus pretty resilient.  But lately, I’m maxed out.

You probably have seen me whining on Facebook about picking up all the household stuff.  Bart always has done the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping.  My role has been taking care of our calendar, our social life, all of the kids schedules and their therapy, IEP, school activities.  I am responsible for all phone calls as Bart hates the phone.   And I work.  A lot.  I love to work.

But now, I am doing all of the things I always do and all of the things he always does and that is a LOT.   In addition, my mom, as you may know, is not doing well.  They are thinking of sending her to the care center, which I know she does not want.   But she may need it and I’m not there in person to navigate the decision.  Because she has been so confused lately, I’m not even sure I can trust what she says to be true — which is awfully weird because she has always been my source of truth since the day I was born.

I also have a few situations with some of my kids that are tenuous.  I won’t go into detail but they involve kids living with birthparents, a son in prison, and citizenship issues for our boys adopted from Guatemala.

I need to do our taxes and have a huge insurance battle to fight in regards to Bart’s foot.

And work is so exciting lately I can’t stay away from it.  So by the end of each day my mind is spinning.

I feel the most maxed out when I start projecting into the future.   When I start thinking, “What if….” my anxiety takes over.

What if my mom needs to move and I can’t leave Bart to help with getting her stuff packed?  What if her last lucid days I’m 1000 miles away?  What if Bart’s foot isn’t fixed and this is our new normal?  What if I can’t figure out the issues of citizenship and my kids can’t have access to the things that are rightfully theirs since their adoption provided guaranteed citizenship?  What if things explode with my kids who are living with birthparents and they want to come back here?   and on and on and on.

Jesus clearly tells us to stop doing the what if.  He says in Matthew 6:34:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If you’ve been playing the “what if” game, STOP IT.   Take it one day at a time.  God’s got you.  And Jesus specifically told you not to.  

And here is our friend Amy who has been around for decades reminding us to “consider the lillies of the field”


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Isn't it enough?


Ever go through a season where it seems like every thought in your head is whiny?  Where complaining and negativity drown you inwardly, even if you are gracious enough to share it with the world?  Or possibly you are sharing it with several people.  I’ve been whining to 1800 on Facebook about having to do housework while Bart is recovering from surgery.

One of my favorite stories in all of Scripture is the story of the Isrealites who wandered in the dessert for 40 years.  The reason it is one of my favorites is because it so thoroughly points out that humanity has been the same through the ages.   The same attitudes, challenges, and mistakes that we make on a daily basis they were making thousands of years ago.

I thought this verse was particularly profound in Numbers 16:

Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?

It is Moses’ response to the Israelites when they were rebelling against what God had told them.  And it isn’t he first time Moses uses these words with people.  When they complained and whined he would ask them, “Isn’t it enough that God has ________

If have something that you are whining about today I encourage you to write your own “Isn’t it enough” statement and go back and look where God has brought you.  Start it with your name and the words, “Isn’t it enough?"

For example, Claudia, isn’t it enough that Bart got you both to and through Bart’s surgery without a hitch?  Isn’t it enough that I have given you strength to get the tasks done every day so far?  Isn’t it enough that I provided you a husband who has done the laundry and cooking and cleaning for 22 years and is only taking a 12 week break?

Often when we put things in perspective it helps the whining to stop.  Try it and see if it works!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ever feel like Mishmannah or Makbannai?


It’s my guess that you have never heard a sermon preached from 1 Chronicles 12.  It is just full of names of people we had never heard of before.

For example here are verses 8-15:

Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the wilderness. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains.

9 Ezer was the chief,
Obadiah the second in command, Eliab the third,
10 Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth,
11 Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh,
12 Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth,
13 Jeremiah the tenth and Makbannai the eleventh.
14 These Gadites were army commanders; the least was a match for a hundred, and the greatest for a thousand. 15 It was they who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks, and they put to flight everyone living in the valleys, to the east and to the west.

And there were plenty more names in 1 Chronicles.  But here is what hit me when I was listening to these verses:   Each of them did their part. Similar to the book of Nehemiah that talks so much about teamwork, David was an amazing warrior because of his army — each individual person who was willing to risk it all for the sake of the cause.

Maybe you feel like Mishmannah or even Makbannai some days.   Whether it’s at work, at church, or even in your family — you can sometimes feel like you are the fourth or even the eleventh in the line of power.  (That can happen when you have 12 kids :-) — but it can also happen in a large extended family situation).   

As I read through the names above it strikes me that even though there was a pecking order, they were all considered important.  They were all said to have the same characteristics.  Even Mishmannah the fourth and Makbannai, the eleventh, were reported to be brave, to be ready for battle, to handle the shield and the spear.  They had the faces of lions — and were swift as gazelles.   It wasn’t just those who were “high up” in the chain of command that were awesome.   It worked because everyone was all of those awesome things and were willing to play the role God, and David, had given them.   And everyone faced the same enemy.

I don’t know what application that has for you, but I believe we it’s important that we all remember that we have roles to play that God has assigned us and that someone's role doesn’t make them any more or any less valuable than anyone else.   If we are fighting in God’s army and totally committed to him, we are ALL brave …. we are ALL to be ready for battle…. we should ALL have the faces of lions.

Two songs this morning, possibly repeats, but equally awesome.



Friday, May 25, 2018

Seriously?


“Seriously?” you might be saying.   “I have stories for you about how love has failed.  Let me tell you about them.”

I can imagine that is your response because it is mine too.   There have been times in my life where I have loved well.  I have poured myself into a friendship, a romantic relationship, or a family member until I couldn’t do more.  I look back and I feel that I couldn’t have loved much better.  But it didn’t turn out like I thought it might so, doesn’t that mean that love failed?”

I believe the answer is a resounding no.    Why?  Because the story isn’t over yet.    

One of my favorite quotes by Tracy McMillan says, ““Everything works out in the end. if it hasn't worked out yet, then it's not the end.”

Our perspective is such an earthly one.   We see endings and beginnings within the constrains of time as we know it.  But that’s not how God sees things.

We may never know how the story ends until we have the perspective of eternity.  And we may not be able to understand the realities and impact of our loving until we reach heaven.  But I believe with all my heart that if we love like God loves, it never fails.

Today I was trying to decide between two songs and can’t.  Both of them are repeats.  So here they are.

The first reminds us of God’s eternal perspective:


and the second talks about God’s love and how it never fails.