Monthly Archives: August 2016

So how did I end up writing a book…of all things!

typewriterNot on my bucket list–no way! Not a fond dream or even a distant fantasy–never! Yet I’ve spent 13 years writing a book. I was working one of those 60-70 hour a week jobs and had a husband and four children and grandchildren. I didn’t even have a housekeeper to help. There was not a free moment in my life. So how on earth did this book writing gig happen? Better yet. . .WHY? Did I lose my mind?

Let’s go back 25 or so years. I had just turned 40 and was working for James River Corporation. We had adopted an inner city high school and had done great work with the staff to turn around their teen pregnancy issues. Once those young people began to see that there was a life beyond poverty, they wanted jobs–good jobs. But there was a great divide between them and the path to education, training and experience that would lead to those good jobs and the life they wanted so deep in their souls.

My CEO heard about our work with them and called me into his office. We had a good conversation and he challenged me to bring him the answer for solving this problem for these kids. He had a heart for them, but he also said that with a retiring workforce and the dramatic expansion of technology, workforce development was going to be the #1 issue in our country. IF I could solve it for this inner city group of kids, I’d solve it for our business and our country. Could I just say that this concept was way above me. I just needed help getting some inner city kids a chance at life.

I went home that night and was completely overwhelmed. My husband was stirring the spaghetti sauce on the stove. As I set the table I told him of the challenge given to me and that I had a week to get back to him with a plan. Weren’t there government agencies working on this sort of thing? A week? Me? That was just insane. Would he fire me if I couldn’t deliver? In frustration I exclaimed, “You’d need the wisdom of Solomon to figure this whole thing out.” Not taken aback as he listened to my rant, my husband Hank said, “Well, I’ll finish getting dinner on the table so you can go upstairs and tackle Proverbs.” He was being flip, but I had not an ounce of humor left in me. So I went upstairs; I needed to get alone–alone with God. I got down by my bed and poured my heart out to God. I told Him I needed wisdom, buckets of it, and I needed it now. I didn’t need it for me, but those kids needed help and my boss had promised money and support they would need IF I could figure this out. I couldn’t afford to fail. Their futures hung in the balance. In humility and tears, I begged God for wisdom.

As I got up off my knees and dried my tears. It was if God told me to take my husband’s advice and get into Proverbs. I picked up my Bible and started in Proverbs 1. There were all those big words that all seemed to mean the same thing. Why all those words? What did they really mean? Not having anything else concrete to try, I decided to look closer at them. I put each of those words on the top of a page from a yellow tablet. Then I began to read. If one of those words showed up I wrote out the verse and reference on the corresponding page. It took all night. That was ok. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep that night anyway. At least this activity kept my mind busy.

When I finished Proverbs, I had filled yellow pages everywhere. So I began to read them, one after the other. Suddenly it jumped right off the pages. There was a progression to wisdom: knowledge, then understanding and finally wisdom. I was so excited. I had my answer for my boss. I got to my typewriter (yes, this was before we had personal computers in our home) and typed out a proposal. In essence it said, IF we gather all the knowledge holders together, we will find understanding; and once we all move to understanding, we can find wisdom for these young people.

My CEO loved the concept and agreed we should move quickly. He opened doors for me to the President’s office–yes, the President of the United States. He in turn introduced me to the Secretary of Education who invited me in to talk with him and his staff. We sat at a big table in the Department of Education in downtown DC. They were excited because indeed they were that government agency working on this, and to have a Fortune 100 company and a local school willing to pilot ideas was just what they needed. Next thing you know we have the blessing of the Governor of Virginia, who gave us the Commissioner of Labor & Industry and the Superintendent of Schools to serve on our little ad hoc group. We already had a local school but the school board got involved. The university gave us a rep to join the table.  And we began to meet. As word spread, other knowledge holders joined in the conversation. shared knowledge, we grew in understanding, we created and implemented strategies we thought would work. . .and they did. Right action. WISDOM!

I was the Joseph in the room. I didn’t have doctoral degrees after my name like ALL of them. I had a Bible college degree. I didn’t have some big title or fancy office. I was even new to the area. But I had a very BIG GOD.

These inner city kids graduated and went to college; they got good jobs. They were on the path to success and we were so excited. Our efforts started spreading to other inner city schools in the region and other companies started getting involved in the strategies and even provided financial support. The school dynamics changed; the community began changing. It was working and spreading. Long story short and compressing years of work, Congress provided School to Work funding for states to allocate to localities, and our team was invited to Pittsburgh to meet with two reps from each state’s education department to do a show-and-tell of of our pilot. So for two days we spoke, distributed PowerPoints, and answered thousands of questions. They were told IF they would come back to the Department of Education with their state’s plan for implementation of these strategies, their allocation would be released for distribution to their local school districts. I had gotten down on my knees and asked for Wisdom, followed God’s plan, and it impacted a nation. This is my Joseph story.

I gave God my heart. I believed Him for a miracle. I followed His plan and God did the rest. Miracle after miracle–too many to put in a blog. Watching God do all of this simply because I asked amazed me day after day. Oh, what a great God who is ready to answer prayer and work for and through us.

This story continues. . .next blog. God began to reveal more and more of Himself. And I’ll share Him with you. Don’t miss it. Get your family and friends to join this story–it will change their world as it has mine. But for today, let’s share our Joseph stories with the world. Has God done something totally impossible for you? Maybe He opened doors you couldn’t budge. Let’s testify of our great God. I’d love to hear your story before we continue on with mine. Start testifying in the comment section. Let’s brag on our great God.  (And if you have a dilemma and you need God to show up, we’ll pray with you.)
Let’s start community.

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MILESTONES

STONES

Milestones serve two purposes for me:

  • Mapping out the journey ahead. When planning a trip, a project, or even just my day, I set out markers that let me know I’m making progress. Sometimes this looks like a to-do list. I’m pretty good about this exercise because I love to check off things I’ve done. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve even been guilty of adding things I’ve done to the  list just so I can fell the rush of checking it off. This type of marker keeps me focussed and eliminates distractions so I don’t get lost on my way
  • The second purpose of a milestone is for remembrance. How far we have come? What twists and turns, valleys and mountain tops, rivers and gulches have we made it through? Sometimes a task on my journey seems difficult and endless. Each step forward seems inconsequential to the whole. But if I set milestones on the journey I can look back on, then when the going gets tough and discouragement becomes my companion, I know that with consistency and perseverance I will get to the goal.

I need to visually see that I am making progress. Without these trusted tools, I feel I’m treading water. . .standing still. In the New Testament Jesus instituted baptism and The Lord’s Supper as reminders of His faithfulness. He understood we need reminders for our journey. I’ve been thinking of setting markers of my faith journey with God. In the Old Testament, we find our heroes of faith setting markers. Most often these took the form of an altar built to remember God’s faithfulness. I think this might be a tradition we should resurrect in our homes and churches.

I was blessed to be part of a simple ceremony when a young man completed a recovery program. Friends gathered for food and camaraderie in celebration of the impact this young man had made on their lives. Each was asked to bring a stone inscribed with a memory dear to them and the guest of honor.  As each presented their stone, the tears flowed. The stones were received with hugs and tears and were set in a pile. As the last stone was set, we gathered around this dear one and prayed for his future as he departed. We asked God to be with him and to use our stones to remind him of his commitments, of his progress, our love, and of God’s presence. As he left, suitcases were loaded along with his precious stones. I have a feeling those stones will be present in his home for a lifetime. Remembrance.

Life isn’t easy. The journey includes many hurdles we have to overcome. As I look back, my stones would represent the times He has taught me to trust Him more.  They would be my markers of increased faith in His faithfulness to me: when I thought I could not go on, when my burden was too heavy to bear, when my sorrow overwhelmed and threatened to pull me under, when enemies surrounded me, when I was lost and confused, felt rejected or failed, when my heart hurt and felt it would burst (or at least drown in my tears). Oh He has been faithful to gently put His arms of love around me. He has been the lifter of my head and has set my feet on a solid rock.

I’m thinking of adding a pile of carefully selected and inscribed stones on the front porch. I want them to be a sign not only to me, but to my children and to all who enter in, of the faithfulness of God.

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LOCAL CUSTOMS

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Families have traditions for all kinds of things; so do communities. It  has been fascinating to see the commonalities and the divergencies of local cultural as we settle into our new locale.

Some of the common things we’ve noticed include:

  1. Pride in their community. When we lived in Montpelier, they touted that they were the center of the universe. Here in Lascassas/Murfreesboro, they raise statues to the fact that they are the dimple of the universe.
  2. Sports fans abound everywhere. The local Cracker Barrel carries the local team duds and paraphernalia. Big, bright, orange jerseys have made their way into our wardrobe. Given Central Tennessee has at least two SEC college teams, an NFL team, and an NHL team, we are full up on the sports front. In Richmond, they cheered passionately for a favorite team from DC or North Carolina. But here in Nashville, they just cheer for home teams.
  3. There are streets and/or suburbs that everyone argues over their pronunciation. You’ve got to get with a true local to get the scoop. We have finally learned how to pronounce the name of our city–Lascassas (as if figuring out how many “s”‘s it needed weren’t enough).  Just think of the most southern, drawling way possible to say it….LASS CASS US–emphasis on the second syllable.

Some of the differences include:

  1.  In Richmond, the RIVAH and the Outer Banks were big doings. No one here has a clue what that is all about.
  2. Seafood abounded in Virginia…the closer to the shore, the more likely it was to be on the daily menu (even part of your breakfast menu). In Tennessee we like seafood, but steak is the meat of choice (we are closer to Texas where beef is the ONLY choice).
  3. The houses in Tennessee are all bricked all the way around. It is just standard regardless of the size of your home. In Virginia, siding and a Williamsburg influence was standard–dormers optional. You might get a brick front, but you’d be hard pressed to talk a builder into including brick on all four sides. I might mention that builders here are also more customer focused. We showed up to find they had painted the entire inside of our home in my colors, built us a Christmas closet because they heard I had a lot of Christmas decorations, enlarged the patio because we had mentioned we love to live outdoors, enlarged our driveway because we have three cars to park, upgraded my hardwood and even put it in my closet, and gave me a custom island that I’d shown them a picture of. . .just because (no charge). The builder stops by fairly often just to make sure we still love our home and there’s nothing we want him to do. Who does that? Business is just done differently in the Boro.
  4. Virginians fly flags–cute, celebratory flags on their front porches, by their mailboxes, in their gardens. In Tennessee you erect a flag pole and fly the American flag AND the confederate flag–they are Southern to the core. It’s about the Mason Dixon line, not about a war. In Richmond, they were still fighting the Civil War; they even burned confederate flags. While Tennesseans don’t fly a birthday or Christian flag by their door, I’ve noted my Christian friends have carefully selected a meaningful verse of Scripture or a verse from a hymn and have had it engraved on rocks in the garden, carved into a wood sign or cut out of metal for the walls. And, many have had their choice created in those rub off letters they can put on their walls. My next door neighbor chose “He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.” It just touched my heart. So I’m looking for the Holy Spirit to give me my special verses to add to my home–I have just the right spots all picked out.
  5. Virginians pride themselves in their ancestry. There’s a hierarchy of First Families of Virginia. And, if you aren’t in that bloodline, well. . .you are just a “come hither.” You may have money but you don’t have bloodline. Here in Tennessee they are rednecks and proud of it. The uppity folks that come from elsewhere are considered money grabbers; they don’t know anything about real roots and family. It’s not about money, it’s about commitment. Neighbors and friends may not be in your bloodline but they can most definitely be in your “family.”
  6. In Virginia everyone has those stickers on their cars that are nothing but three letters. No one in Tennessee would have a clue what that was all about.

All of this made me think about heaven. What will be the commonalities there to life here? What will the new customs be like? For starters:

  1. There won’t be any hospitals, rehab centers, urgent care facilities. The medical community will be out of work.
  2. There are no cemeteries; no funeral homes. Praise God!
  3. There are no clocks there. No rising and setting of the sun for He will be our light.
  4. There won’t be any race issues. We’ll all be born of the same Father and love will abound.
  5. There are no jails, no police.
  6. Money won’t be an issue. The streets are made of gold so even the street sweepers are sweeping up gold dust.
  7. Praise God we won’t have elections. No commercials, no placards in yards, no billboards. We’ll all just praise the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, there will be no politics. We’ll just do things His way.
  8. There are no slums. Mansions abound
  9. There’s no night there. We won’t need to sleep 1/3 of our life away.
  10. Everyone will know everyone. And we’ll have an eternity to sit and chat. How fun will that be?
  11. There will be beautiful music everywhere–praise music! So Music City. ..get ready to be replaced.

I was shooting for a top ten–I’ve always been an overachiever. Share your local doings. And what would you add to the list about heaven?

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