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.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Is this Enough?

Maybe it's middle age.  Maybe it's just the ending of another year.   But I asked myself several times the past few days, "Is This Enough?"

Historically I have been person driven by passion and fueled by meaningful relationships.   I have had a cause ... and still do ... that wakes me up every morning and keeps me going all day.   Between these things and my family, I have always had more than enough to do be fulfilled and enough energy to get it done... most days.  In the past I also had a pretty extensive speaking schedule, traveling across the U.S. to share with social workers and foster and adoptive parents.  I also squeezed in time to write five books, and pursue a variety of hobbies that were often short lived.  (I can be REALLY excited about something for quite a while but then I'm just NOT, and then I can't make myself get excited again).

The past year or so I have been pretty tired by the time my work day is done.  My position is demanding as well as rewarding and often pretty exhausting.   I do not have close friends locally which is a change for me as I have always maintained solid friendships over the years.   I have work connections with really cool people and I love our parishioners, but relationships are few and far between when it comes to friends that aren't tied to either work or church, which is Bart's work.  Most of our children and grandchildren do not live locally and the ones who do  live in my house which means that I see them often enough (sometimes too often).  I find myself, for the first time ever, watching TV, something I've never done regularly.

In addition, I am not asked to speak much any more.  I don't pursue opportunities because I don't enjoy travel much any more (if I ever did) and I have learned that while you may get paid $1,000 for a 20 minute keynote, by the time you make arrangements, plan the speech, get there, and get back home, the hourly rate really isn't that high.  People don't buy or read my books any more.  I don't market them so they just take up space, a reminder of how I am really "yesterday's news."

So I asked Bart the other day, "Is this enough?"  And I think I was also asking this question of God.   The answer came to me, through a television show, surprisingly enough, where a couple was asking the same question.  Their conclusion?  As long as we have each other we have enough.

I am so very grateful for my husband and the life we have built together.  So many folks struggle with this primary relationship and I am so thankful that ours is so solid.  We have been through so much together and yet it brings us closer together instead of driving us apart.

As we discussed this this week and I pondered it for a few days, I realized that maybe my life has always been bigger than it really needed to be.   Maybe it is just getting right sized now.  And it became very clear to me how grateful I am for my husband and family.  I realized that maybe my kids can be my friends.  I reconnected with my brother recently, so maybe I should spend more time talking to him.   I can Face Time my grandkids.   And I can enjoy each work-related relationship to the fullest.  I can get more involved in volunteering which I started this year and am enjoying.   I am the person who gets to choose how full my life is ... I am not a victim of my circumstances.

Finally, I remembered a verse and a song this morning.   The verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9:  My grace is sufficient for thee!   And the song below.  So I have my answer, though it took me a while to figure it out.