Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Hands and Feet – a Guest Post

Whitney is a member of a group that I’m part of on Facebook.   I describe it as a group of 2,200 people who are not happy with the status quo.   The “where” and the “how” varies but we all believe things could be better.

Whitney recently shared this with the group and I asked her if I could share it with more people.   She agreed to let me do that.   So, without further ado, here’s Whitney……


My kids go to a small new classical charter school. No busses. Most of the students have highly involved parents who are fed up with the public school system. A (15) has a girl in her class who started mid-year. D doesn’t quite fit the “mold” at the school. She’s outspoken, more mature, a little rough around the edges, her uniforms get her demerits regularly because she does her own laundry and doesn’t iron. I’ve gleaned through conversations that she has a high school boyfriend. They have sex, and she sometimes shares her worldly wisdom with A and the other girls. She’s a latch-key kid. 


Over the last several months, I’ve given D a ride home several times. Her mom is a single mom, her dad died years ago, and it’s just the two of them. Her mom works 3 jobs. D is always grateful for the snacks we have in the van because they don’t really keep food in the house. She waits til her mom comes home with take-out. She left her “lunch bag” (a plastic grocery sack) in the van once – it had a half-eaten package of dry ramen noodles. On our last ride home, she nonchalantly mentioned that her mom’s car had been repossessed the night before. 


After maybe 10 rides home, her mom, S, finally texted me to introduce herself and thank me. She asked if I’d bring D home with me sometimes after school so she wouldn’t be home alone. One of these times, I finally got to meet her mom. She’s like 30 years old. She could be my daughter. She’s a fun, sweet, overwhelmed girl doing her best and she’s so grateful and gracious and happy that A is D’s friend and that I am willing to help out. 


S texted me a few days ago. She has to go out of town for training for work, and asked if we could keep D next weekend and drive her to school on Monday.  I said we had J coming home, we had a full house because we were getting ready to go on vacation on Monday, we were running a 5k as a family, we’d be packing and cleaning and running around, we had hair and nail appointments, dress fittings, it’d be a total madhouse, but if she was okay sleeping on an air-mattress and watching us possibly melt down, she was welcome. 


See, when I was 30, I’d been a single mom for 10 years. I had passed J around from sitter to sitter, moved from apartment to apartment, switched jobs and boyfriends countless times, prepared bologna and macaroni 19 different ways, passed her off to friends, family, neighbors, day cares so many times that my broken, bruised heart had callouses and her lonely, longing face was blurry to me. 


Yeah. I’ll take this little girl into my home and feed her and hug her and include her in our impromptu dance-parties and sing-a-longs. She’ll run a 5K with us, I’ll include her in my grocery runs, and I’ll bring her to church on Sunday. She’ll have a mani-pedi. I’ll listen to her giggle, I’ll cover her up while she sleeps,  I’ll strip and bleach and iron her uniform for Monday, and I’ll send her to school with enough lunch to last all week. Yeah, I’m busy, but I remember feeling how you feel and I KNOW how important this village is. 


I don’t know where their family and friends are. I don’t know why I’m the best option for them right now. I do know that I’m grateful I’m here for them. I’m grateful that my crazy, disorganized, overwhelming life full of struggles and chronic illness is still together enough to be a blessing to others. I have had a soft-spot for single moms for 27 years. I used to tell myself and God that once we *finally* got my life together, we’d bless single moms every chance we got. And God saw us through, and He holds me to that promise.


As much as I’m DYING to get my business up and running and making a profit, I see more and more that this kind of thing is my real hustle. It may not put dollars in my accounts, but I get to make deposits into the lives of people every day. My people. God’s people. 


I know this borders on cheesy and braggy, but I can’t help it. I don’t deserve my blessings – if I did, they wouldn’t be blessings. 


I’m a health and wellness coach, a writer, and a speaker. But my best and most important coaching and speaking is done at home. My best training came from my own kitchen. This business of mine is first and foremost a ministry and I’ll give my content away all day for the rest of my life if I can bless anyone as profoundly as I’ve been blessed. 


Compensation for content and work performed takes several forms. Be encouraged, friends. When people trust you and depend on you, that responsibility is a blessing. You’ve earned something so much more valuable than what your accounts receivable statement shows.


Sunday Best – What if We’ve Got It All Wrong?

I’ve grown up in the church my entire life.   

So I’m very familiar with the term, “Sunday Best.”   It’s the really nice clothes, nice shoes, fancy tie, fancy dress that you save for Sunday.   You don’t wear it out to eat on Friday because if you spilled on it, you couldn’t get it dry cleaned in time for Sunday.

In certain cultures and societies, they call them,  “Sunday go to meeting” clothes.

Well, who are you meeting?   The minister?  As a preacher’s kid and a preacher’s brother, trust me, they are good guys but you don’t need to get dressed up for them.

The rest of the congregation?   Well, I think that might be part of it.  You get dressed up because you want to impress the Elders and the Joneses and the other “important” people in your church.   You want to make it look like you’ve got it all together.

I think that’s a big part of it.   We get dressed up because we want to send a message to the rest of our fellow church members that we’ve got it under control.   We’ve got it happening and we’re good.

But what’s a bigger part of it?  I think the biggest part is that we dress up on Sunday to go to church because we think it shows reverance and a realization of how big and important God is.   We get dressed up just like someone would get dressed up to go see the Queen of England.

But is that what God really wants?  Does he really want us to spend time and money to try to impress him?  (Like that’s going to work!).   

Or instead, does He want us to come as we really are?   Does He want us to come with the scars from the week?   Does He want us to come wearing party clothes because it’s been a wonderful week?   Does He want us to come in a baggy sweatshirt and jeans because that’s all the energy we had this morning?

There are many instances in the Bible where God’s people were in mourning and wore ripped up dirty old clothes and sat in ash heaps while they mourned and cried out to God (Job, Mordecai).   There are other times where they wore festive party attire and sang and danced before the Lord in joy (the return of the Ark of the Covenant.)

No, I think we’ve got it all wrong.   God doesn’t want us to dress up in our “Sunday best” to impress others or to impress Him.

God wants us to come to Him, struggling, limping through the doors to the church, as we are, as we hurt, as we feel pain and He welcomes us.

“Come here my child, I am yours and you are mine – no matter what this past week has done to you, for you or inspite of you.”

God also welcomes us in our joy and our celebrations. 

“Come here my child!  Isn’t it amazing what I’ve done in your life and the lives of your loved ones this week?  Let’s have a party and celebrate.  The lost was found, the blind was healed, the lame walk!”

We’ve got it wrong.  We don’t need to wear our Sunday best, we need to wear our Sunday real clothes.

And come to our Father as we are.  No false pretenses, no sugar coating, just real, raw belief in an almighty Father who has us all in His hands.

Maybe we can start by asking our churches to designate one Sunday a month a “come as you feel” Sunday.   Come as you feel – tired, worn, wounded, grateful, celebratory – whatever it is,  let what you wear to church be a mirror to see into your soul.

Many of us would be blessed by knowing we are not alone.

TJV

A Few Thoughts on Building Bridges

So, there is this church leader who made some comments this week about how it is more Christian (not to be confused with Christ like) to build bridges than it is to build walls.

It touched off a firestorm of controversy and media frenzy because many people felt it was aimed at a US Presidential candidate (and I use the term loosely).  

I want to share a few thoughts on another way that the church can be more Christ-like by building bridges. 

Orphan Care – Orphan Care is what you’d call a hot button issue in the church right now.   How can you not want to help poor vulnerable children?   Of course you do and of course we must, as a church follow the call of James 1:27 and “care for the orphans…..”

But wait a minute, I want to ask you a couple of questions about that:

  • Yes, the church must care for orphans, but is the church really willing to look at the communities where these kids are hurting and do what it takes to meet their need right there?    Are we willing to build a bridge to the hungry and the hurting and the struggling to help them and their kids?   Even when it’s messy?
  • Is the church really willing to take on what is necessary to help the kids after they have been adopted?   Have you ever noticed how, when someone says, “We’re going to adopt,” everyone is so happy for them and so excited and so impressed and so…….   But is the church willing to accept the fact that most adopted kids have been through more than any of us would wish on anyone and consequently they are going to have some battle scars – and those scars make parenting them hard – often way harder than adoptive parents had ever imagined.   Are we, as a church, willing to build a bridge and come alongside those parents who are struggling?   Even if we can’t solve it, just to sit there with them in their pain?
  • Is the church willing to build a bridge to the adoption community and essentially say, “We don’t know what we don’t know, so tell us how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to your children, to you, to the children of our community?”   Unfortunately, the number of people I’ve talked to who say that their church is willing to do that on a long term basis (after the honeymoon period is over) is very very small.

Mental Illness – I think it’s improving, but I think this is another area where the church needs to do a lot more in building bridges to people in their family, in their community.    There are a lot of people who are struggling.   They are struggling with mental illness and in many cases, if not most, they aren’t able to talk to people in their church about it.    “How are you today?”   “Fine.”    We need to be more comfortable with saying, “No, I’m not fine” and in order to do that, the church needs to be more comfortable with building a bridge and meeting the people who are not fine where they are at.

But what?   You say you don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling with depression?    You don’t know what to say to someone who just had to admit their child into an inpatient mental health facility?   May I offer a couple of suggestions on what to say?

  • I’m sorry you’re going through this struggle.
  • Can we pray about it right now?
  • Nothing – don’t say anything, just be there.
  • Would you like to talk about it or tell me more?

If people in the church can step out of their comfort zone and become uncomfortable while welcoming the hurting, it builds a bridge and that’s the type of bridge building I believe Jesus wants us  to do.

It’s not easy.   Actually, it’s very hard and it’s way outside of most people’s comfort zone, but it’s two places where the hands and feet of Christ really meet the needy and the struggling.

May we all build bridges in our lives and in our churches to meet and reach those who are struggling, and in reality, we’re all struggling.

TJV

Scars

Some you can see

Some are invisible

Some fade with time

Some hurt more as time goes on

Some cause pain in others

Some cause pain in ourselves

Some heal

Some don’t

We all have them

So be kind to those you meet today

You never know what scars they are wearing.

And ask God

 to help their scars and your scars and my scars

to fade with time

TJV

Adult Adoptee–Perspectives From Someone Who Has Traveled That Road…..

Yesterday, I introduced my friend, Kristy.   If you didn’t read it, go back to the post below this and read it.

Without further ado, here’s what she wanted to share:

I am a 42-yr old adoptee who has felt many of these same emotions over the years. In high school, I went to a Pastoral Counselor to talk about other issues but he quickly realized that I needed to acknowledge that my adoption had affected me in a profound way. He had devoted much time into the care of working with adoptive families and he shared something that helped me get a grasp on this crazy beast. He said, “to understand adoption you first have to understand LOSS. The entire triad experiences loss: the birth family, including parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc LOSE this wonderful child from their lives; the adoptive family, often comes to adoption because they have LOST the ability to have their own biological child; and the adoptee LOSES their heritage. Until you come to grips with the loss you can never find the joy.”

I never had a moment when I learned that I was adopted, it was always discussed openly and freely. My parents always spoke about it in terms of CHOICE, that they had chosen me. Even though they grieved the loss of 3 children who died and one who survived but was severely disabled, they made me feel valued and loved. It wasn’t until I began to understand the losses they had endured, that I was able to deal with the losses I felt. After my pastor talked with me, I went to my mom and dad and for the first time asked them what it had been like to lose those children. Through the grief, tears, anger, and confusion as to why it happened, I was able to understand them BUT also my own grief. When I shared with them how I too felt those same emotions, but over the loss of my heritage and identity, we had an incredible break through. For the first time I felt at peace with being adopted and felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Simply because they too, understood MY LOSS and they grieved WITH ME.

Even though my parents and grandparents were incredible it was often other family members who would speak about how “lucky” I was to be in this family, as if I “owed” my parents something that I could never repay. Or when I became the family historian, others couldn’t understand why the adopted one was doing that.

Thankfully my grandma was incredibly wise. I will never forget in 4th grade when the dreaded family tree was a requirement and I stood up in class and threw my papers across the room and yelled, “I am NOT doing this! I have NO family tree!!!” When I went home crying, my grandma consoled me and in her matter of fact voice and a twinkle in her eye, said, “Well then, let’s make one up!” So we did. With my closed adoption, all I know about my birth parents is one small paragraph of info, which includes their age and ethnic origins, Italian and German. So we created a fantastical family tree that celebrated being Italian and German, even though my families heritage is 100% Dutch. Several months later, she gave me a gift, and it is still one of my most prized possessions. It says KISS ME I’M ITALIAN. That showed me that she loved me…loved ALL OF ME! She wasn’t trying to make me Dutch or ignore my heritage. She embraced my being Italian and loved ME.

Sorry this is so long but I feel so strongly about the enormous blessing I received when I finally understood that the loss I felt was real and ok. I didn’t have to feel “guilty” for having those feelings. AND that my parents ALSO FELT LOSS!! That was HUGE for me. Once we were able to talk about the loss that we both endured, we were able to celebrate the JOYS of being adopted into this family.

I know that each one of us has a unique story that needs to be celebrated. We don’t have the corner on loss nor is our loss more or less significant than others. Understanding, grace and forgiveness can go a long way to a happier life.

Kristy

Older posts