Monday, March 23, 2020

How am I? Part Two

Apparently brutally honest is what people like to read.  Had more visits to my blog when I opened with a promise to be brutally honest than I have in months.

Or it could just be that everyone is really, really, really bored.  Or on social media way too much.  Which, what's the point really?  It's not like anyone has anything new to say and everyone is talking about variations of the same topic.  Yawn.

But anyway, here's how I am.

First of all, not to be alarming or anything, but at this moment I'm feeling pretty odd. It is not the virus, so don't go there. Anybody else have AFib?  I do.  And it means that I am on medication to slow my heart rate.  And lately my AFib has been pretty stable, and my heart rate is getting lower.  According to my google research, my pulse right now is that of a highly trained, super fit athlete.  Except that I'm not a highly trained, super fit athlete.  So I feel pretty weird.   It happened yesterday morning too for a while after I took my medication.  It passed in about an hour.  But tomorrow I may not take it and see if that is what is causing this.  I'm certainly not going to the doctor -- and I'm actually not that sick -- I just feel like my world is going really really slow.   I better perk up a bit before I have to go live.

Which is what I came to the blog to tell you about.  Today at noon EST we are going to be launching CarePortal.   We launched a month ago in Roanoke and that was such a fun event.  Over 100 people there.  Lots of media hype.  Tons of energy in the room.  You know me -- super confident in front of a crowd.

Not so much in front of a camera.   Sigh.

Nevertheless, you should come check it out.   You can go to Facebook and see it on the Vision 30 page or you can watch it live on YouTube.

Come on and check it out.  I'd love to hear your feedback!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Wondering how I am?

Let me be brutally honest for a change.  OK, not for a change.   That's pretty much what you expect from me most of the time.  But I'm on a roll so if you are prone to be annoyed by me, probably just click back to wherever you came from.  (Smiling here.... big smile).

Let me update you on our family before going off and ranting on everything that I haven't been brave enough (or had time enough) to rant about publicly.

Here's an update on what I know about our family, in order by age:

My mom is doing great.  She's in the nursing home and can't leave her room.  She's making the best of it though.   As always, she's positive and resilient and hopeful.  But her room is SMALL.... she shares it with a roommate with a curtain between them.

Kyle and Christy and their three kids are so far healthy.  They are both teachers so they are all alone all day together.   The girls have bad lung issues always, so they are being super careful.  We have FaceTimed them a couple times.

Rand and Amanda are planning their wedding for June 27 but a lot of the pre-wedding stuff is getting cancelled or postponed.  Hopefully the wedding will still be on.

We never hear from a couple of our sons -- M and R.   They wouldn't want to be mentioned.

John is still in prison.  I have been writing him more.  He is due for release in August and hoping to transfer his parole to Virginia.

Jimmy is here and still working full time at the gas station in their kitchen.  He's always great to be around.  Typically happy and helpful.

Salinda and her husband and kids are here trying to make the best of things.  Olive Garden is closed so Salinda is home all the time.  Kids have no school.  Mike's job involves insulating homes that are not yet occupied so his job is secure for now.  The kids are bored but they got a new trampoline and now are going to plant a garden out back.  So that's good.

Mercedes and Matt are fine.... Mercedes work closed down for a few days.  haven't talked to them in a couple days but will try today.

Leon and Danielle are good -- enjoying an introverts dream of social isolation together.  Leon had a very frustrating situation where he was accosted verbally in a grocery store because "YOU CHINESE PEOPLE BROUGHT THIS HERE."  He's not even Chinese.  (sigh).

Tony is ok so far -- I need to check in with him today.  But his girlfriend, a former foster child, reminded people on Facebook that there are kids out there who only feel safe at school and are now at home with their abusers.  Scary thought.

Dominyk is here ... hanging in there.  Still working part time at a grocery store.  

And if you want to know about Wilson you need to email me or send me a private message.

So, off of the family update...

Here's why I haven't blogged much.   Basically it's because Joshua and Caleb almost got stoned.  And every time I have something to say I feel like I'm going to get stoned as well.

You remember the story right -- ten spies checked out the promised land.   And ten of them came back and scared the crap out of everyone.  The giants are big.  This is horrible and we are never going to be able to defeat them.

But Joshua and Caleb said -- oh, it's bad alright, but God's got us.   They spoke words of hope and encouragement and faith -- and the response?  The people wanted to stone them.  It's all in Numbers 14 if you want to read it.

So I have kept quiet because the hopeful, faithful, positive spirit is somehow translated into a lack of caution, or a lack of concern, or a lack of empathy.   But I believe in a Both - And kind of God and I think we as believers can be both-and kind of people.  We can be both careful/cautious/empathetic AND hopeful/positive/faithful.    But our world is so dichotomized that it seems we are asked to pick one thing and can't be both.

My take on this whole situation is definitely the words from 2 Timothy 1:7:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
I will not live in a spirit of fear.  If I have a spirit of power, I know God is in control and that I have his power to remain steadfast and hopeful.  If I have a spirit of love then I will care about others enough to practice good hygiene and social distance -- and to find ways to reach out and support others.   And if I have a sound mind, I will do the math and calculate the risks to me and those I love, and not jump to the worst case scenario.

Now, if you want to read further, do so at your own risk.

Here are some things that are really pissing me off as I watch this all unfold.

The amount of selfishness I am seeing blows me away.  I understand if there are people out there who are not people of faith who have a 30 day supply of toilet paper, but I do not understand Christians who are buying way more than they need.  If you are in any way connected with people living in poverty, you know that they cannot hoard stuff.  They don't have the resources to buy more than what they need.  They ride busses, so buying 30 packages of toilet paper just because it is there isn't possible, even if they have the funds.   Taking more than we need does not mean loving our neighbor as ourselves.

The second thing is that I told myself a week ago that the church would find a way to dichotomize and fight on Facebook in regards to this whole thing and I figured out what it was.  The "We cancelled church" people are claiming that the "we still had church last weekend" people are careless and think nothing of others.  And the "We still had church last weekend" people are claiming that the "We cancelled church" people are faithless and lacking in hope.   This makes me sad.  Jesus prayed in the last prayer before he died in John 17 that we would be one so that the the world would know that God and He were one.   Wow are we failing at that.  Makes me crazy to see how we have to dichotomize on every issue and thus become so ineffective.

One of the things that I did in the middle of writing all this was to have a very long conversation with one of my favorite people in the world via FaceTime.  For many reasons I will not say who it was, but it filled my soul and was amazing.  It was like we had lunch without lunch ... like we used to back in the day.

Here are some things that I have concluded about the virus as I conclude this article.

1) We know too much.  Being able to check the internet all the time for the latest just makes us more stressed.   When I was 13 (in 1976) I had the swine flu with my entire family.  I don't remember it now, but my mom told me the other day about it.   But back then we didn't even know what was happening.  We didn't know who else has it.... we didn't know who was dying.  We watched the news to find out a few updates, but the amount of knowledge we had was minimal.  Today people can't stay away from googling everything and then freaking out.


2). What would we all be doing without the internet?  Isolation would be who

2) I touch my face ALL. THE.  TIME.  Who knew?

3)  When we are in crisis we take care of ourselves first.  Then we worry about our companies/organizations/churches and their liability.  And finally, we worry about others.  My neighbor shared the best and most insightful quote with me the other day in a Facebook comment:

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" MLK

Oh how I wish we could all remember this.

4). There are a lot of really stupid people in the world.

5). I am so glad this didn't happen ten years ago when we had 9 teenagers at home.  I would not have survived.

6).  God is still God and He is still on his throne.  He's got me.  If I get sick, He's got me.  If I die, He's got me.    And He's calling me to stand firm and as I Thessalonians 4:13 says, "not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."  

If you've gotten this far, thanks for caring what I think.  If you want a dose of Claudia, I have some free time evenings and weekends to FaceTime folks.  

If you disagree with anything I've said ... spare me the drama and just agree to disagree without comment.   :-).

Hang in there people.   We're going to survive!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Have you ever wanted something so bad that when it didn't happen for a while you stopped believing that it would?  Those kind of feelings are when the word YET comes into play and reminds us of the promises of God.

In Acts 7, Stephen was giving a history lesson to the Jewish council.  It escalated quickly as he gained momentum and began to basically call them murderers, which lead to his death, but I digress.

Early on in his speech Stephen reminds them that “Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live.  But God gave him no inheritance here, not even one square foot of land. God did promise, however, that eventually the whole land would belong to Abraham and his descendants—even though he had no children yet. 

God had promised Abraham descendants — as many as the stars in the sky — and he had no children.   Such a strange promise — and for years, I’m sure that Abraham wanted to doubt God.  I wonder if there were times though, that in great faith, he said to Sarah — we don’t have any children …. yet.

What is it that God has promised you?  Have you added the word yet to your thoughts and statements about that promise.  You might want to because God keeps his promises.

(I know, I know.  I had visions of blogging more frequently, but my life is just.... very.... busy.  Work is so cool and energizing right now, but I have little energy left for much else.  Which is fine.  I like my life to count for something and Vision 30 and CarePortal are going to change the lives of children and families.... so I'm ok with that.  Can't wait to see how God is going to make this all amazing.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

What Can We Learn from Manna


In Exodus 16 we read about manna, God’s answer to the cries (and whines) of the people of Israel in the wilderness after all the miraculous ways God had delivered them from Egypt.   Manna was their morning food (quail came at night)

  1. It would only come once a day —as soon as the dew dried up on the grass each morning.
  2. People were only to gather it right away in the morning and not wait until later in the day.
  3. They were to gather only as much as they could eat in one day and not save it over night.
  4. The day before the Sabbath they could gather two days worth.

So of course there were people who obeyed those commands and their experience with manna was quite pleasant.  However, there were those who could not trust God enough for each day and left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.  Ick.

While there are a bunch of lessons we can learn from manna, the one I want to emphasize today is the idea of trust and whether or not we view God’s provision through the lense of scarcity vs. abundance.   Contrast these two people’s stories:

  1. I wake up every day awed by the miracle that God has given us in providing for our needs.  The manna across the camp each day is more than enough for what I will possibly need.  Some days I confess to overeating, because God has said that we can take as much as we can eat.  I am beyond grateful that I serve a God who cares about me and every single day gives me more than enough to get through that day.

2)   Hmmm.   God has said that he’s going to give us enough manna for today, but what if he doesn’t? What if it doesn’t come tomorrow and I go hungry?  Certainly he isn’t serious when he provides unlimited manna during the day that we should only take enough for a day?  I’m going to save some of mine for tomorrow.  if I hold on to it I can be sure that if God fails me tomorrow I won’t go hungry.  …. 

Person one always had enough manna and remained grateful.   Person two work up to a stinky wormy mess.   And my guess is that person two was one of those who was consistently complaining that he wanted to go back to Egypt where there were leeks and onions.

What do you need for God, just for today?   Can you be content in knowing He is giving you everything you need to make it …. one day at a time.

For your listening pleasure, my dad’s favorite (sung at his memorial service)

Or, if you'd rather, here's Keith Green’s song about this story:

Monday, February 03, 2020

A Million Dreams

As you probably have heard, the subtitle or Mr. Day's book is  "An orphan, an orphanage, and a dream to make foster care obsolete."

This is Vision 30 and I'm leading the effort to get others to believe it's possible.  

It's not a surprise then that “every night, I lie in bed, The brightest colors fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake.  I think of what the world could be, a vision of the one I see, a million dreams is all it's gonna take…a million dreams for the world we're gonna make.”  

Can you envision a region where there is no need for foster care?  A place where communities are so healthy that families are healthy… thus no need for foster care?  If so, you’re one of the dreamers.

Because I’m weird like that, I did the math.  If only 273 people will dream with me (I will count myself as the .972603 person) every night for 10 years, that’s a million dreams.  And, according to the song, a million dreams is all it’s going to take.

As I start my Monday, I am praying for the courage that it takes to continue to talk about a dream when "they say it all sounds crazy and they say we’ve lost our minds".  To dream of a day when when, at least in my neighborhood, at list in my city and the surrounding counties, all kids are safe and families are strong.

Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”

I may not be that old, and I’m certainly not a man, but I’m dreaming those dreams.  I hope you will dream with me.

Friday, January 31, 2020


Bart and I have been talking a lot lately about what it was like to be young.  I'm not sure when that switched -- that thinking from "the future is going to be so awesome" to "Wow, we sure miss those days."  It may be because I"m working with some pretty cool younger people at this point in my life and I am motivated  (and exhausted) by their energy.  Or maybe it's just the realization that our kids will never be little again and that even our grandkids are aging.   But we are missing those days... those days when every day is an adventure and life is full of promise.

I recently bought the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman and somehow my "iPod got stuck on replay" last night with the song Tightrope that I had never heard before.  And I realized that this song would have been a song that I sung to Jesus as a young adult:

Some people long for a life that is simple and planned
Tied with a ribbon
Some people won't sail the sea 'cause they're safer on land
To follow what's written
But I'd follow you to the great unknown
Off to a world we call our own

Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go
We're walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We're walking the tightrope
Never sure, never know how far we could fall
But it's all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope.

But as I began to ponder what was, I realized that I got this spirit of adventure from my Mom and that she still has it, at the age of almost 91 there in the nursing home.  This is what she said the other day when I called her, her voice strong and full of joy.

"I just had the most marvelous day!  First of all, my favorite friend who gives me my morning medication saw the hymn book by my bed and we sang together at the top of our lungs!   Then the elevator was fixed so now we can go upstairs!  And, NOBODY here has the flu!  God has answered so many of my prayers today ... all at once!”

As I hung up I realized that just because I am no longer young, full of energy and physical strength, I am still able to have an adventure of a life before me.  There is no ending to that adventure, no matter how old I get.

So today I invite you to whisper an invitation to God to walk on his tightrope .... a life of adventure that is not tidy, nor simple, nor easy -- but has a breathtaking view!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Alone in a Hotel Room

This is when things get dangerous.   This is day two -- and I am getting pretty caught up on my stuff for work and I've started bugging my teams at work with all my ideas.   Think I should blog and give them a break.

We are deeply entrenched in implementing Care Portal and our Vision 30 which you're probably tired of hearing about.  We have a lot going on and we are excited about where this is all heading.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, we still have two unemployed adults.  This has varied in the past 6 months anywhere from 2 of 5 being employed to everyone employed.  Right now we are 3 of 5 working and 2 looking (with help from others who are looking).

But I want to vent -- and this is where blogging always came in handy.   My topic:  The criminal "justice" system.

We have a felon who lives with us.  Most of you know the story.  It's tragic in so many ways.  But here's the deal.

As a felon it's really hard to get a job and it's really hard to find a place to live.  The housing part is supplied by us but that means that we can't do foster care, be a Safe Family host family, or adopt again (not that that was on our radar ... We Be Tired!)   There are other implications as well in this situation that I won't explain for the sake of his privacy.

Getting a job has been nearly impossible... even though he has a very dedicated advocate at CareerWorks helping him.  He has had two jobs, but the first one there was some confusion when he was hired (the agency that helped him find the job forgot to tell them he was a felon) and then the second was seasonal.  Now he is unemployed.

But here's the catch.  He has one group therapy he has to attend on Monday afternoons and another one on Tuesdays at noon.  Every few days he has to go down to the probation office (20 minute drive from our home) and do a UA (or, as we say, pee in the cup).    Each of the group therapies has a fee $20 a week for one, and $30 a week for the other.

So, tell me how someone who, for example, did not have a loving supportive family, would ever be able to stay out of jail?

You have to have at least $50 a week to pay for the classes.

You have to have transportation 3-4 times a week to the Probation office.  You can take the bus, but without a job how would you pay for a bus pass?

You have to find a job that will hire a felon and allow you to leave work early at least one night a week and then take off for a Monday afternoon and a Tuesday at noon meeting.

You have to find housing -- a place that will rent to felons -- and yet with no job you can't pay the rent.

If you have a history of trauma or issues with pre-natal exposure it is really tough to remember all this stuff and get there on time, particularly if you don't have transportation.

So here's where I'm heading with us.  It is kicking Bart and my collective butts to keep this son from returning to jail.  He is one of our easiest kids but he's spacey and distractible.  So I ask the question of what happens to those kids who age out of foster care without a family?

I'm afraid the answer is that if they get arrested once, they may never figure out a way to stay out of jail for more than a few weeks.  Ever.

Our son John, after 11 years of being in and out of jail, is currently in prison and has been for about 2 years.    If I told you his offenses you would be shocked that this could equal the time he has spent there.  He is applying for a transfer of Parole to come to Virginia, but if that isn't granted, he will more than likely be back behind bars within a few weeks.

It's not just.  It's not rehabilitative at all.   It doesn't go well.  It's infuriating.  I'm pissed every time I think about it.  If I had another lifetime to live I would dedicate it to reforming the criminal "justice" system.  But I have to deal with this life's passion now.

So the primary answer?  We work together to keep kids from ever entering foster care.

If they end up there, we do everything we can to see the put in a healthy permanent alternative family.

We don't let them age out -- either by not letting them enter, or by adopting them before they reach 18.

Maybe you see why I live, think and breathe Vision 30 from when I awaken until I go to bed, and sometimes even in my sleep.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I thought you were going to start blogging, again, Claudia. What's with that?

OK, OK, so I got busy and distracted and and and basically I'm not in the habit.

However, this morning I was awake at 4 and at work by 6 so I thought I'd stop by and tell you why I'm too busy to blog.

I am 100% absorbed with the mission of our organization at this point in time.  It's called Vision 30 and basically it's our plan that by 2030 every kid in our region will either be safe in their own home or, if not, be in another setting where their caregivers are supported by a local faith community.  So, to say it in less politically correct terms, we are working so that the church takes back the job of orphan care and makes it their responsibility, not the governments, once again.

Now there are lots of people who follow me on Facebook that would take offense to all kinds of things there, but let me tell you, this is one amazing dream and, if you know this part of the country, doable.  There is a church every 6 blocks here and it's time for the church to start being the church.  Not just taking care of foster kids, but taking care of the families in our community so that they can become healthy.

One of the coolest tools we have come across is CarePortal and I get more excited about it's potential by the day.

We have becoming the Implementing Partner to bring it to Virginia -- for the first time ever -- and will have our first launch on February 19th in Roanoke.

If you have not checked it out, it is well worth your time -- and if it isn't in your community, it should be!   This is the map on the website.  Check it out and then look at the open requests and the impact page.   If you care at all about this topic, you'll find it inspiring.

So, I didn't come in at 6 to blog.... but now you know why I've been busy!  I am pretty consumed with this stuff and I love it.

Family update:  Salinda's husband Mike was laid off before Christmas, but got a new job and starts today.  Dominyk is making progress on getting hired.   There are some leads for Wilson (but dang, that's a tough one).

I better stop blogging before I run out of energy.  Gotta spend it elsewhere :-)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Would you do it again?

Getting together with Cindy last week was amazing.  We talked for three straight hours and probably could have gone another three if her kids hadn’t kept interrupting us by text.  :-). Still so much responsibility for us even with adult children, huh?

One of the questions that she asked me half way through the conversation was, “Would you do it again? knowing what you know now?”

My answer was yes but that I would have done it much differently.  I may write more on that later explaining why and expounding on what I would have done differently in another post.

For those of you who have raised most of your kids to adult hood, I would love to hear your answers to that question.  I’ll let Cindy post her if she wants to.

Would you you do it again?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

On being a Fixer when Things are UnFixable

I am a fixer.  It's the way I am wired.  I'm the one that people have called on for most of my life to tackle the hard things and make them right.  Most of the time I don't mind.... because most of the time I can help someone find a way out of a difficult situation.  I have multiple ideas and plans and suggestions and typically one of them works.

Except when situations are unfixable and as my adult children (some not all) live with the consequences of their choices their road gets more and more difficult.  When mental health issues are complex and the resources simply non-existent.... when relationships are complex with the "other side" of the family when grandkid's parents aren't together .... when the criminal "justice" system make it virtually impossible for someone to come out the other side of a mistake... those are things that even with all my resources I can't fix.

And it's hard.  I go back and forth from trying to help and getting blamed for it, to trying to stay out of it and worrying.   I get pulled into things I have no desire to be involved in and I get left out of things that I would have had a good solution for.  I give an opinion that is actually followed and if things don't turn out well, I'm to blame.  Or give advice that is ignored but I am still the emotional dumping ground when things go downhill.

I would love to hear answers from anyone who has them of how to reconcile all this because I think I'm stuck.

And I'm not having fun.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Keep Watering Camels

In Genesis 24 we hear the story of Abraham’s servant who had the job of going to get a wife for Isaac.  He must have been intimidated with that responsibility because he developed a plan to get God’s help.  He told the Lord, " Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say,‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac.  By this  I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

And that’s just how it happened.  Rebekah showed up, the servant asked her for a drink, she gave him one and offered to water his camels.   And the rest, as they say, is history.  She shows up in the lineage of the Messiah himself, married to Isaac and daughter-in-law to Abraham himself.   

It’s in ordinary faithfulness that God finds those He appoints for big things.   That theme is shown time and time again in Scripture…. the disciples out fishing, for example, or David  taking care of his father’s sheep.   When we do the little things now where we are, that’s where God shows up to offer us bigger, better, more.

So if someones stops by today with their camels, you know what to do.   And while that, of course, is a metaphor, I’m pretty sure you can translate it to your life in some way today.

What a Difference a Decade Makes

I am sitting at my computer at 6:38 in the morning.   Ten years ago this would have been a very real probability as well.  But what makes today different than a day ten years ago?  What is still the same?

I drove to work this morning from our beautiful but smaller home that I share with 9 other people, three of them under 10.   Ten years ago I was living in a much bigger home that was shared by all kinds of people.     Our children were ages 11-23.  Most of them lived at home.  Sometimes we had as many as 20 people there overnight if you included significant others and the first grandchild.  Drama was at an all time high causing me much stress.

Right now I am sitting in my beautiful office with a mountain view in what is known  as the "Chief Officer Suite."  Ten years ago I had just started my second job as an adoption social worker, writing home studies and placing kids.  I was also knee deep in matching, one of my favorite things, with my Adopt America job.  And I worked from home.  A small 8 x 10 office in the basement.  I worked from the time I woke up until I went to bed, taking breaks only for dinner and to drive our old purple van, as the kids call it (it was really maroon) all over town.  One day I never left that town of 45,000 people and was in the van for eight hours.  I remember thinking I could have driven to Chicago.

Ten years ago I was the focal point of the anger and a repository for teenage angst.  That hasn't changed as much as I wished it had -- just that fewer people live with me so the anger needs to come by text or over Facebook messenger and back then it was direct and in my fact.  And it's not teenage angst, it's young-adult angst which may be even worse because as responsibility grows, stress grows. When I had lunch with Cindy last week I realized that she has 4 times as much as I do and her phone was buzzing the whole time.  I can't imagine how exhausting that would be ... I'm tired enough as it is.

This morning the house was silent.   Bart and I were the only ones up.   That would have been true ten years ago but I would have been facing, in just an hour or so, the dreaded morning routine complete with bickering, arguing, and complaining about a myriad of things.   At my house this morning Salinda will get her kid off to school while the three adult males, two currently unemployed and one who doesn't work until this afternoon will sleep.  One until about 9, the other until 11, and the third possibly until 3 or 4 his afternoon because he was up gaming all night long and blew off his kitchen responsibilities.  I may rant about that another time.

I would have faced a day of emails and possibly a home visit or two ten years ago.   Today I have meetings -- that's pretty much what I do.  I go to meetings.  And I will spend some time at my desk.  I do love my job!  Even though I don't want my opinions associated with where I work, I do love our mission and the work we are doing.

I have a new granddaughter.  She has a ten year old sister.  That ten year old sister was a newborn ten years ago and my relationship with her mother was so strained.   I loved that baby, but I was scared to death to do something or say something wrong and I was guarded.  Not so with this new baby.  Her mom is married.  She is settled.  She gets along with me about 95% of the time.  I never worry that I will do anything wrong with the baby.  I just love on her and kiss her and talk in that silly baby voice.   And, to Gabby's annoyance, I remind everyone often that science has shown that you can't hug and kiss a baby too much.

I couldn't sleep past 4:30 this morning.  Lately when I can't sleep it is simply because I am old.  Ten years ago it might have been a middle of the night police visit or a kid sneaking in or out.   I prefer this lack of sleep.

Life is calmer, that's for sure.  There is less stress.   In some ways there is less responsibility, in others more.  We have been to the brink of hell and back many times in the past decade, and yet God always pulls us through.   I know he'll do it again.

I'm more tired.  I'm older.  My body doesn't have the energy it once did to keep up with my mind.  But I'm still hanging in there and my mind is speeding as always.  

Oh yeah.   Today I started another diet.  I probably did that ten years ago too.  But I have realized that  struggling with my weight for decades isn't a bad thing.  It's better than not struggling.  I watch "My 600 pound life" to demonstrate what happens when people just stop struggling.

I better start working.   I've missed this, though.  It feels good to do a brain dump and "think out loud."  At least I don't have to worry about whether or not my blog will lead to book sales because I already know it doesn't :-).

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Facebook Message Conversation with Kari

This will remind you of the old days.

Me:  Hey, media whore.  Did you see you made my blog .... again.  Like old times.

Kari:  Haven't had a chance to read it but I saw you were blogging.  Who is the whore now?:?

Me:  Oh.  It's not whore-like.  No selfies of me kissing anyone for example.

Kari:  Spice it up!!

Me:  I've always left the spice to you.

Kari:  Sugar and Spice.  Our new girl band name.

Me:  I"m sugar?  Gag.  I think not.  You may have to be both.

Kari:  (That goofy emoticon with a big smile and tears of laughter pouring out of the eyes).  Your'e more savory, huh?  Bacon.  Bacon and Spice.

Me:  Hmmmm.  Bart says Hot and Heavy.  I think I'm "heavy."

Kari:  Mike is laughing.

Me:  So is Bart.  Dorks.  This is probably going on the blog.  Like the old days.

Kari:  (That goofy emoticon with squinty eyes and small tears coming out of a huge grin).


A few minutes pass.


Kari:  Heavy and Hot Flash.  Perfect name of middle age girl band.

Me:  Bart is laughing.

I thought I'd try and give you a visual of the band....


If you've been keeping up with. us since we moved to Virginia, you know that we have a new house in Lynchburg that is awesome ... the nicest home we have ever lived in.   In fact, we got back from the first trip ever where our master bedroom and bathroom are nicer than the 3.5 star hotel we stayed in (good deal on Priceline).  :-).  It's really nice to be here.

Ten of us live here.  Salinda, her husband and the three kids live downstairs in a basement apartment.  Wilson, Jimmy and Dominyk each have their own room upstairs, and Bart and I share an office upstairs (though I don't spend much time in it.... I get tired of being behind a computer all week long so I don't come up here much except on Saturday mornings to do the powerpoint and bulletin for church.  Today is an exception though as I have a project I'm going to be working on that I may or may not tell you about.

Our weekends are pretty simple.  Salinda works (serving at Olive Garden) and often when she is home Carlos hangs out with grandma.  It gives Gabby a break from him and Mike (Salinda's husband) can take care of the baby in peace.  (Carlos is a LOUD kid).  His favorite thing to do is sit on the love seat next to me and put his head on my shoulder.  Here's some pictures just for your eyes (his hair hadn't been combed so Salinda is not about to let me post his picture on Facebook.  Sundays are pretty awesome because everyone that can be in church is in church.   Salinda's family sits with me and it's such a joy.  I get to hold this baby during the sermon.   The adult males sit in the back row.   Yes, I'm shaking my head.

Moments like these make it all worth while.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

To All The Parishioners I've Ever Loved Before

Twenty five years of pastoral ministry has brought me in contact with several amazing groups of people.  Of course, there have always been a few people that didn't appreciate me (or us) fully at all times, but when I speak in generalities I can truly say that some of the best people on earth have been parishioners that I have grown to love.

We are now on our sixth appointment as a clergy couple, four in Minnesota and two in Virginia.  It all began in 1995 when Bart was appointed to the Belgrade-Hawick two point charge in Central Minnesota.  We had some very good people who took care of us so well.  Bart arrived as an engaged single seminary student and left married with 7 kids.  The people there were so patient with all of our changes and embraced our children, even though at times they we not lovable.

Then we moved to Luverne where we were for 7 years.  Oh did we develop some friendships there.   Deep, significant friendships with folks, many of them whose kids were the same age as ours (we arrived with 7 kids ages 3-13 and left with 10 ages 10-20).  We watched (and helped) each other raise our kids through middle school and high school.  Our eldest graduated from high school there.  When we left.... oh my goodness the tears.   I was sobbing that last Sunday.  I wasn't sure I would make it and grieved the loss of those folks for years.

Loss?  You may ask?  How can it be a loss when you just go to another church full of new people and exciting fresh starts?  Well, I've been thinking about that a lot the last six months.... so keep reading and I'll explain what I've concluded about all that.  

But back to the next appointment.  Mankato.  The years where we had way more teenagers than anyone who knows how to plan well would ever have.   Just as happened in the other churches, we were introduced to loving, caring supportive people who put up with all of the shenanigans, illegal activity and unplanned pregnancies of that era.  I found myself again loving people profoundly and  they loved me well.  When we returned to the church this past year for their 125th anniversary I was reminded once again of the intensity of my feelings for some of those folks.  My closest and dearest friend, Sue, I met in that church and she died this year., way too young.  I miss her so much.

Six years later we were in Twin Cities where we began pastoring the Brunswick United Methodist Church.   The singing group Testify and my Saturday morning women's group were lifesavers.  I had never been good enough to be in a band before, but I was welcome and those people and playing with that group was one of the highlights of my life.   I did life with those folks -- weekly, daily sometimes.  They were my people.  Other people in the congregation became deer friends as well.

But then God interrupted it all and found this job offer for me across the country.   Surprising to me was Bart's decision that we move and we ended up in Danville, VA uncertain as to whether or not people in Virginia would be as loving or accepting as those in Minnesota.  And of course, they were.   Three and a half years later and it was time to go yet again and we found ourselves in a familiar place.... saying goodbye to people we loved.  Again a couple of my absolute favorite people, Tom (that I wrote a blog entry about) and later his wife Betty,  both died before we left and they are folks I miss every day.

Many times as we have moved I have fantasized that the relationships would continue, especially if we moved less than a hundred miles away.  But it doesn't quite work like that and I've been struggling  with that lately as we are at our new church.

After much thought I have a theory.  With pastors and their spouses relationships work a little bit differently.    When we are appointed to a church we have a special pass into people's lives.  People who already have enough relationships between their family and friends and don't need any more -- give their pastor and his/her family an open door.   We share life with hem as they experience high highs (birth, baptisms, confirmations, weddings) and low lows -- job losses, children's rebellion, illness, and death.  We dive into the depths and do life with them while we are there.   And then we move on.  And whereas I view them as some of my best friends in this life, I was their pastor's wife.   A friend yes, but as I move on it's time for them to invest in a new pastor and his/her new spouse.   I don't say this to complain nor am I resentful.  I have just had to recognize that this is the way things are.   We are there to love and be loved for a season.  The love doesn't end -- and if we go back to visit, as demonstrated when we returned to Mankato after being gone for 7 years, it's still palpable.  

We have moved again and now there are lots of loving amazing people in our new church.  But I ask myself, will they just become like all the others ... people who I have loved so deeply who within months after we leave have moved on to the next clergy couple, investing in them, and connected to me only through an occasional Facebook like or post?   If I invest now, will it be worth it?

I wish time and distance wasn't an issue.  I wish that I could simply say "beam me up Scottie" and be out to lunch or dinner with each of these folks from our prior five churches.  I wish we could talk about the "good old days" and catch each other up face to face.  I wish I had time to explain to them how much they meant to us and to our kids and to our kids kids.   But now the list of these people is so long I'll never have time to make it happen.  And many of them are no longer living so that would be impossible.

As I was thinking about this the other day I realized that this is pretty much the definition of heaven.   In heaven there will be no time.  There will be no space constraints.  I don't know whether we will remember much of what happened here, but I do hope we remember enough to do what I mentioned above... spend an eternity investing in relationships that never have to end.

Today in the book "Invited" by Leslie Verner, she asks the same kinds of questions.  She asks if it is worth investing in new relationships when you know that they will be over.  If we know a friendship is for a season, should we bother?  

Her answer is yes and she gives a profound example.  She equates our love as sourdough bread starter.  God's love is the essence of the starter.  No matter how many times we pull some of the starter out to give to someone else, the love grows back.  There's always enough to invest in others, no matter how much time we get with them.

So if you are one of the parishioners we have loved before -- know that you are still loved.  The time you invested in Bart and I and our kids and grandkids will never be forgotten.  You might be surprised at how often you are thought of  and talked about in our home.  We often long to reconnect, but know that the space in your heart now needs to go to your current pastor.  Love him/her as well as you loved us.  I know you will because that is just the kind of people that you are.  Thank you for giving us that special pass into your hearts and lives for a season.  Can't wait until we have all eternity to catch up.  

A Return to Blogging as it Used to Be?

A couple of things happened this week that caused me to thinking about returning to blogging the way it used to be.  Let me tell you about them.

First of all, I had the most amazing three hours over lunch on Wednesday with my friend, Cindy Bodie.  She and I started blogging together back in the day. You'll remember.  In 2005, I helped create her blog and we read each other -- and several other's faithfully.  People like Sheri and Kari and many others who have since disappeared from the blogosphere but can be found on Facebook.

You see, this was blogging before blogging was cool -- before it had awesome graphics and before Word Press became THE way to blog.  It was before people used blogging as a way to get people to read their writing so that they would think "Oh, I hope they write a book" and then when they write a book people buy it.  There are a zillion articles now on how to set up a blog schedule.... Pinterest is full of ideas.  Blogging has become an industry.

But ask Kari .... or ask Cindy.   Blogging back in the day was barf on a page.  We didn't write it for other people when we started.  We wrote it because it was survival.  It was our way of making meaning from things that had no meaning.  It was a safe place (which is odd, because the online world feels anything but safe now).  Blogging was for me.  It evolved into a community, but when I started blogging was for me.

Fast forward to 2012 when I got a job working for a huge, fairly famous adoption agency.  My name became associated with them and I got more careful.  A lot more careful.  Also at this point, my children were starting to resent my being so open about them.   They were not interested in my feelings about them being shared online much.  And they certainly didn't want their details out there for all kinds of people to see.  In fact, it wasn't just about my kids any more because now there were baby mamas and baby daddy's and their families and ex boyfriends and girlfriends and a whole lot of relationships that kept getting more and more complex.   When I moved to Virginia I started posting devotionals which hardly ever get read any more.   So what's the point of blogging now?  I miss the old days, but can I really recreate them?

In visiting with Cindy, I realized that my blogging evolved about a decade ago from a way for me personally to figure out my inner chaos to something I wanted people to read.   Back in the day I would have 400-500 readers a day and the more views I had the more impressed I was with myself.   Now it's a good thing that this does not define me because I seldom hit 100.

Today I read the book "Invited" by Leslie Verner.  So much of what she said resonate with me and the person I remember being back in the day.... back when adopting and being a foster parent was a dream.  Back when I thought I may have been called to be a missionary.   Back to when life looked like a wide world full of possibility and I just needed to figure out where I fit.  And much like her journey, mine has led me to a place where life looks a lot different and I am asking myself, as I did did a couple weeks ago, Is this Enough?

When I finished the book I headed over to her blog which is called Scraping Raisins.   She is just a little younger than I was when I started blogging in 2005.   Her blog is polished.  Her blog is accompanied by Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.  Her blog looks really nice.  Even though she is sharing her inner thoughts as I did, they are very well written and nothing like my blog which Kari once reported was "like a car accident .... you don't want to look at it, but you can't help yourself."

As I looked at her writing I remembered that feeling when I wrote my blog for me.  I remember the way that it connected me with other people who were in my same situation.  I remember the way it all was before I wrote my books that now nobody buys... when blogging had no purpose other than to get it all out.

Maybe there is another audience now.  Maybe there are women my age who are not feeling polished or professional.  Maybe there are burned out old adoptive parents who jumped into this space with hearts full of love and a desire to change the world but have arrived at a place where their world has changed instead.   For better or for worse.  Maybe there are people out there who are, like me, tired, spent and wondering "Is this Enough?"

Maybe me sharing some of those thoughts with the world on this blog might be helpful to some of them.... but what if it simply is enough for it to be helpful for me?

Maybe I'll post some pictures, maybe I won't.  I have decided that I will rarely tell Facebook that I am writing so that people come here themselves and I don't have to feel the rejection of knowing that over 2000 Facebook friends have seen my post but don't care enough about me or what I have to say to click once.

So if you've been here all along, thank you.  If you've come because of an old Facebook link to this page, bookmark me because I'm not going to draw attention to the blog publicly as to not have my children, coworkers, or others upset.

This will be me.... unleashed ... like I was 15 years ago.   Let's see how it goes.

You'll have to comment here because this isn't linked to Facebook.  I know.  Weird.  Archaic even.