Monday, July 30, 2018

A Very Personal, Very Hard Update to Write

I have a son in prison and he will be there for a while.  He called me and told me I could write a blog post about him if it would help others.   It would take a whole book to write the whole story, but I want to share a few pieces with you today.  Summarizing it will be tough but reading this may explain to you why I am so incredibly passionate about where I work.

Our son, John, just turned 28 this past July.   We adopted him when he was 8 years old.   He came to us with a history of trauma and we really had no idea how much it had affected him or how to help him heal.  By the time he was fourteen we didn't feel like the other children in the house were safe with him there.  He would never hurt them -- I was his target -- but I was afraid they were going to get hurt if they were between us when he was angry with me.

We decided to ask our county for help and the help they gave us was to file a "Child in Need of Protection or Services" petition against us staying "abandonment" as their grounds.  He went into foster care and then began a journey of four years where he was in and out of foster care, residential treatment, and our home, though his time at home were never for very long.  He manipulated the system pretty well.

He was in and out of facilities that were not good for him.   He told me last night that several of the guys he lived with in  one facility sued the facility and won because of the maltreatment the kids received.  None of the facilities worked with us -- other than to allow us visitation -- and many of them seemed to work against us.

He finally landed in a really good place before his 17th birthday.  It was a Christian boys ranch, similar to where I work now.   He was doing great there... so great that our plan was that he enter their independent living program.

Except that the county had a policy.   You have to "try" a "least restrictive environment" after twelve months in an institution.   While I understand the policy, in his situation this was not a good plan.  I argued my way up the chain of command at that county and lost.

The rest of the story doesn't go well.  He was put in foster care which lasted three weeks and then his caseworker told us that he was going to put him in a residential facility that was typically for juvenile delinquents "for a couple weeks."  This was the institution I mentioned above that was recently sued. I read the article today -- I won't like it.  Too sad.  Too ugly.  Too disturbing.

His two week stay lasted about 4 months until I fought for a different alternative right before his 18th birthday.  That's a story in and of itself.

The next several years have been very hard for John.  The most recent violation of his probation has been heartbreaking.    He is such an amazing human being with such a tender heart and yet his mental health issues and battles with alcoholism have him in prison now for the next couple years.  We have no idea what would have happened to John if the county had made other choices,  but he truly believes had he stayed at the Boys Ranch he would have ended up with a completely different outcome.

The organization where I work will take children without counties being involved.  Parents can place their children with us on a voluntary basis and we have a sliding scale... nobody is turned away because of their inability to pay.   During the journey described above we were paying hundreds of dollars a month for the mediocre care John received and had no choices.   Here, at PHFS, parents have choices and have input into what is happening with their children.

Most recently, we are on a journey to become a "Teaching Family" Association.  As I went through the training (all directors and managers go through it), I learned about how to teach five basic skills:  Greeting skills, Following Instructions, Asking Permission, Accepting No As An Answer, and Receiving Feedback   All of the children in our cottages will leave with those five skills.

I hate to confess that many of my children did not have those basic skills when they left our home, especially those who had to live other places.   I look back on the journey we had with John and had he been able to be in a place that worked with us to discover what was best and that taught him those skills, he would certainly have had a better chance.

The other day I came across this blog entry, written ten years ago.   It tells the story of when we went to visit John when he was at the facility who is being sued.   I just reread it and it made me cry.

So in case you didn't know why I go a little overboard in fundraising for the place I work, it is because I know what it is like to be the parents, desperate for someone who can honestly help.  And I know that at PHFS we are able to help.

This story may impact you because you have been there, or because you worry you might some day.  It might be because you know a family who has struggled with a teen and have shared their journey.  If it has an impact, I encourage you to give.

We have chosen not to take state money because it impacts the way kids are are treated and how decisions are made (you read above how county policy about paying for residential treatment derailed my son).  

I know I've asked a lot and in many different ways, but if we can raise enough to help just one family avoid the pain we have gone through.... if I can make the difference in one life so that a young man is not wasting away in jail.... it's worth any price.

As I hung up from talking to John last night, we both knew what we knew ten years ago:  regardless of everything that had happened in the past, and with everything that will happen in the future, there is always love.

Ok, I need to stop now because I'm making myself cry.  But think about it.

Here's the link if you want to donate:  I'd appreciate It, but more importantly, so would a family.

Got Rhythm?

I don’t.   In fact, I grew up with parents who believed that dancing was a sin.   As my husband shared with the congregation yesterday, I took a note to third grade saying I couldn’t square dance in PE.   So dancing has never been my thing and I’m not thinking it ever will be.

But in 2nd Samuel 6:14 we learned that "David danced before the LORD with all his might.    This verse describes a specific time in his life, but there were many times where David’s life was like a dance to God.  

Dance is a great metaphor.   I remember way back in 2000 I heard Deborah Hage speak.  She is the parent of ten adopted children (we had 4 or seven at the time I believe) and she was my hero because her kids were almost grown and she was still alive!   She ended her presentation (and she ends one of her books) with the words from Garth Brooks:

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance.

I started at that time to view life as a dance — and to remember that if you miss the pain, you also miss the joy and the rhythm that make up the good parts of life.  .

As I was writing this I thought, “Wow, I haven’t read her Christmas letters for a while” and went to her website to see what was happening in her life.   I was shocked to find that her husband had died and read this amazing letter.    

We all have rhythm.  It may not lead us to be great dancers, but our lives have a series of dance moves.     But I am comforted by the fact that Jesus is the Lord of the Dance…. He is the choreographer, so to speak, and knows what moves and routines will be required of us.  He’s in charge and, as I remind you often, He’s got us.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Got any Stress?

I found this on some random website:

"Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work, or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don't get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it."

So the answer is, yes, we all have stress.  Life is full of stressors and it’s going to come and go, ebb and flow, as we journey through life.   When we are stressed we are not sinning and there is no commandment that says “thou shalt not be stressed.”   It just is what it is.

BUT, there are some things we can do when we are stressed that help.

1)  Doing everything we can to stay as healthy as possible is one thing.  Eating right — avoiding processed foods and sugar, sleeping, getting exercise, and staying hydrated are all things that make us stronger.

2)  There’s also a need to do things that we enjoy and find fun.   If we give up all of the things that we enjoy for the sake of the greater good, we end up burned out and can’t do the important things because we are too tired.  So whether it’s reading, or playing candy crush, or going to movies, or doing a craft — take time to do things that you enjoy.

3)  Don’t allow yourself to feel like you are doing something wrong or that you SHOULD be coping better — that just adds more layers of stress.

4)  Spend time with people you truly enjoy who replenish you.

5)  Remember that God does not call us to DO more or better, He just asks us to BE better.   When we are concentrating more on who we are than on how much we get done, we can find ourselves experiencing less stress.  

I don’t recommend watching this whole video, but having it on in the background might lesson your stress.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Got Any Shame?

If you do, you’re unlikely to share it with anyone.   Shame is something that we tend to carry deep inside us and don’t often disclose to anyone.   It’s those feelings we have when we go back and remember something stupid or horrible that we did and  can’t ever fix.   I was thinking about something this morning where a mistake of mine hurt someone and things will never be the same with them.  Even though it was over five years ago and I have reached out many times apologizing and asking for forgiveness, that relationship will never be what it was.  And I still fill twinges of shame for the things that I did that hurt them and changed something good into something uncomfortable.

Shame isn’t a sin.  It’s an emotion, like guilt, that helps us to remember not to do those things again.  It’s healthy…. unless we take it too far and live in the “shame space” constantly.   It isn’t healthy to dwell on past mistakes and it isn’t God’s plan for us.

Consider this:

What if you had a friend who got a speeding ticket?   They felt horrible and were broke and couldn’t pay it.   So you went down to the police station and paid it for them.   They said thank you and appeared grateful, but every day they kept talking about how they were trying to save money to pay that ticket.   Each time you reminded them that it had already been paid.   What if finally, they had the money, and they kept heading down to the police station to attempt and pay that ticket no matter how many times they were told that it had already been taken care of?  How long would you be patient with someone who could not accept the fact that they were free and clear of their wrongdoing?

This maybe how God feels when we continue to carry our guilt and shame when He took care of it long ago.  The price has been paid.  We can move on.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Got Any Burdens?

What is a burden?  I looked it up to see the actual definition.   It simply means “a load, typically a heavy one.”

You’ve heard the phrase “Work load?”   It could easily be referred to as a “work burden” by definition, but that seems a bit negative.  But by definition it's simply true.  We each have a work burden and sometimes it is heavier and sometimes it’s lighter depending on the time of year or the situations around us. 

We also have family loads — and I’m not referring just to laundry (although when we were building our family I probably should have thought through that a little bit more than I did since I hate laundry.  There was a season that we did seven loads every single day. Ick!)   But our family burdens go in cycles as well.  There are times when the load is heavy, and times when it is lighter.

What other loads do you carry?  Do you have responsibilities at church?  Are you a volunteer somewhere?  Do you have responsibilities in your neighborhood?  

When our loads become heavy, we start to see them as burdens.  And while load is a neutral word, burden isn’t so much.

So what happens when our loads get heavy and become burdens in our minds?   From a practical standpoint it may be time to decide that some stuff has to go.  It’s OK to say no and to start lightening your load so that it doesn’t become a burden too heavy to bear.

The answer I offer today, once your load is as light as your life allows it to be,  is to simply find times to rest…. to allow God to renew your spirits and replenish your strength.   In Isaiah we are told that if we will wait upon the Lord our strength will be renewed and we will mount up with wings like eagles.    

Find time for some quiet moments with God to simply be, listen, and receive strength can change our perspective what seem like heavy burdens can become bearable loads once again.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Got Any Storms?

There are a lot of biblical metaphors for hard things in life.  Mountains, rivers, giants....

Today I ask, “Have any storms?”

Are you in a season of your life where everything seems to be coming at you at the same time?  Sky is black, rain is falling hard, wind is thrashing you from here to there?   

It Matthew 8 the  disciples found themselves in such a storm.   They were all upset fearing they would drown but Jesus he was asleep.  This part of the story always makes me smile because I can picture the disciples yelling at each other and expressing their thoughts “We’re all gonna die!!!!!!!”  And I can just see Jesus, waking up groggy, and thinking to himself, “Good grief, guys, what’s the big deal?”  And the words He actually said were (my paraphrase) “Where’s your faith?  Why are you so afraid?  I’ve got this!"

Rembrandt captured it well I think:

And He proceeds to calm the storm.

If you’re in that situation today — afraid of the storm — picture yourself waking up a perfectly confident Jesus.   Listen to him say to you, “Why are you so afraid?  I’ve got this."

And then whether He calms the storm or calms you, be grateful that we serve One who can do either and do it well.

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.

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.”


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…

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.


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:

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!