How Your Seemingly Small Efforts Can Lead to Remarkable Change

I had a plan to do a 6 mile hike this morning, but it was raining, and so I decided to go later. But Nicole was sick and needed some attention. Then I had to go run an errand. Then Kaitlyn was sick and needed me to get her from school. Then I got distracted. Finally, I headed out late and knew it was too late for a hike, but I could get in a walk up in the La Quinta Cove.

Crisp sky after a winter storm

Crisp sky after a winter storm

It was stunning outside after our winter storm. The snow level had dropped to about 4000 feet. The sun came out, but those storm clouds hovered over the mountains all day. With snow capped peaks and a bright blue sky, it was the rare winter day desert dwellers thrill over.

I was about a mile into my walk when I heard a pup crying. I laughed thinking he was in a yard just up ahead anxiously waiting for his owners to come home. But when I came around the bend where the houses end and the Bear Creek Wash gives away to a steep mountain ridge, I saw a small group gathered. Startled, I realized the dog wasn’t lonely but safe in his back yard. He was lost, stuck, and possibly injured somewhere up that boulder strewn mountain.

None of us could see where he was at. Everyone was clearly concerned, but what could they do? After 10 minutes of hand wringing, I set out across the wash, which thankfully wasn’t running anymore, just a little muddy. It had a steep embankment and I kept willing myself: “don’t fall, don’t fall, crap I fell, I’m good, I’m okay”. I got to the other side and scrambled up a few boulders, realizing it was like a maze. How could I find him? And I’m not exactly the person to be out here, especially as it’s starting to get dark.

Then, a very fit woman and her 20ish son struck out to find the dog, too. Her son climbed and climbed over boulders, but he could hear or see nothing. Those gathered below would give him instruction to go a little further right, or head down there. Finally, when he got to the top of a ridge, he and his mom came to the conclusion the dog was down somewhere below the ridge. The young man peered over and searched in vain because the pup had quit crying. He gave up.

It was getting really dark and we all needed to climb down these slick boulders before any of us got stuck or hurt. There was nothing any one of us could do anymore. Many neighbors heard the little guy out there and vowed to head back out in the morning. Although I left sad for the plight of this lost dog, I was encouraged that so many took pity on him and did what they could to help, especially under the circumstances.

Lost dog on top of mountain

Lost dog on top of mountain

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the parable of the one lost sheep which is found in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

Sometimes we don’t do anything to help others because we don’t know what we can do. Sometimes, we think what we do won’t make a difference. I used to hate when people said: “If this (project, ministry, money) makes a difference in the life of one person, then it was worth it!” I would overanalyze it, thinking, if you invest millions into a project that only made a difference in the life of one person, how wasteful would that be?

Maybe you think about how you can’t do enough to help the multitudes of homeless folk or orphaned children. You wish you volunteered more time at your kid’s school or donated more money to your church or all the good organizations which are in need of financial help. Instead, of all that you can’t do to help, think about what you can do right now to make an impact on the life of one person.

Is there one special friend who is suffering from an illness who needs a few home-cooked meals, rides to doctor appointments, and someone to keep her company? Is there one child you could teach English or tutor in reading? What if you volunteered a few hours each week or month at a non-profit or your place of worship? Could you spare enough cash to support one child through an organization like Compassion?

For 13 years I have supported a girl through Compassion financially and relationally. My small financial investment saw that Meslyn received an education and now she is taking college classes to become a teacher. My letters of encouragement helped her through difficult times with her family and devastating natural disasters affecting her home in the Philippines.

I never missed the money or time I donated. I really wish I wrote more often. But every time I receive another letter from Meslyn addressed to “Mommy Vicky”, I know I helped to change the life of one person by providing for her physical needs, education, and spiritual support. I know one day Meslyn will do the same for other children when she has her own classroom.

Two days after I was up in the cove, my husband showed me a news article about some folks who went to rescue the dog. He was stuck all the way at the top of the mountain, but these relentless and brave individuals were able to bring him down safe and sound. Surely if he had been up there much longer, he would have died of exposure and starvation. It’s the craziest story of that dog climbing all the way up the mountain and getting stuck. But it’s pretty crazy too that some people would devote several days to search and rescue one dog. For this one little guy, his life is different because of the caring of a few good souls.

You can read more about the dog rescue here.

Snow covered Martinez Mountain

Snow covered Martinez Mountain


Rainy day

rainydayRemember that Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley? “El Nino is Spanish for…the nino!”

It seems like El Nino has finally shown up. Pogo and I headed out this morning before the heavy rain hit. For a desert rat, a taste of some cloudy wet weather is a special treat. The desert takes on an incredible fragrant smell after a rain.

I made sure I donned my bright yellow Eddie Bauer rain jacket in case it started pouring. It seems the only people who like to use umbrellas are desert rats, but they’re not very practical. A good rain jacket can be had for nominal cost and will last many years (especially if you live in a desert). You want to make sure you buy one that has a hood, underarm vents so you’re not sweating inside, extra room to zip it closed over a jacket or sweater, and elastic or bungee ties at the bottom and neck to ensure you stay dry.

It looks like I’ll be able to get some more use out of my rain jacket this week.

Bring a companion!

My nerdy silly Nicole

My nerdy silly Nicole

It was another late afternoon before I was able to make it out to walk today. Better late than never, of course, but I really need to stop that.

Or maybe not. Because as I was heading out the door, my daughter Nicole decided to go with me. Wow, really?

Well, since another of my goals is to spend more one-on-one time with my girls, it was a great opportunity to kill at least three birds with one stone (the pup was able to get a walk in too, and he wanted to kill at least three birds himself).

It’s remarkable how fast time flies when you spend it with someone you love spending time with. Do you like to walk alone or with a companion?


Unfortunately, Map My Walk didn’t want to cooperate today, so I’ll need to get in another two more miles to make my count of 1000 miles this year official.

Map My Walk 1/4/16

Map My Walk 1/4/16

Do What You Can, Where You Can

La Quinta Civic Center Park

La Quinta Civic Center Park

So today I was super busy trying to meet a writing deadline when I got an email from the client indicating the project was due at 7:00 A.M. on Monday, not 2:00 P.M. as they originally quoted. Aack! I have too much to do to go for a walk!

Well, that’s what we like to tell ourselves. The truth is, that’s when we need to go for that walk the most. Aside from burning off calories, brisk walking reduces stress, improves creativity, increases strength, strengthens muscles and bones, and reduces the risk of certain chronic diseases.

So, I drove over to the library to get some distraction-free work done. When the library closed at 4:00, I headed out for a short walk around the Civic Center Park and Old Town La Quinta. The park is beautiful with a lake filled with ducks and geese and a fountain in the middle. It is uniquely situated to capture mountain views. What a peaceful place for a stroll!

After a half hour, I felt sufficiently energized to head back to face a late night of work. Well, that with lots of caffeine.

Walk every day in 2016

Winter Sunset over the San Jacinto Mountains

Winter Sunset over the Santa Roas Mountains

One of my goals this year is to lose weight. In addition to diet, I’ll rely on walking and hiking every day in 2016 to help reach my weight loss goals. My plan is to walk at least 15 minutes daily. I’m using Map My Walk to record my walks, and am shooting to achieve 1000 miles by December 31, 2016.

I thought up this crazy idea while I was out on a hike today – my first real hike in months and only the second one since my surgeries. I went out in the late afternoon and was able to catch some beautiful photos of the sunset. Five miles. I feel accomplished.

I’ve been a walker for decades. In 2013, I went back to my love of hiking. It has been a great adventure, but my foot problems got the best of me. In 2015, I had two major foot surgeries. I still struggle with pain as I continue to heal. But I decided this year I want to challenge myself to get out there and walk and hike as much as I possibly can. I’m telling myself it can only get better from here!  🙂

I’ll be sharing my trials and trails with you. Maybe it will encourage you to stretch yourself as well.

Feel free to keep me accountable to walk every day in 2016. I’m shooting to write a little and add a photo daily. And please, friend me on Map My Walk!

P.S. While I started this endeavor on January 2nd, fortunately, I did get out to walk in my neighborhood yesterday. Here’s proof:


Map My Walk 1/1/16

Map My Walk 1/1/16

Conquer Your Goals in 2016 With These Proven Tips

It’s the first day of a brand new year. Are you excited you take on 2016 or are you in fear of what lies ahead? Do you have fabulous plans for the future or are you still commiserating about your failures in 2015? Did you prepare a list of goals or will you “go with the flow” one more year?

Courtney of Gribbin

Courtney of Gribbin

Just today, I was out for a walk with my little dog. We often walk past an apartment complex for retirees. I see the same friendly gentleman almost every time, standing in the parking lot with a glass of beer in his hand. It doesn’t matter if it’s 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 at night, he has a glass of beer. Today I wished him a happy new year, which seemed to surprise him. “It doesn’t matter what you plan,” he replied, “whatever’s gonna happen will happen”.

I find his attitude sadly fatalistic, but truthfully, don’t many of us tend to surrender to the same thought process? We think it doesn’t matter what I do, my marriage isn’t going to get any better. Or, I work so hard at this job, but all I can expect is a measly 3% raise every year. It could be you’ve given up trying to lose those extra pounds because you try year after year only end up heavier at the end of the year.

The life you live is your story. What do you want your story to say? Is it a drama with wars waging between you and your spouse and unrealistic expectations at work? Is it a slapstick comedy – the one where the car engine blew up on vacation, and the dog destroyed your new landscaping digging up all the irrigation, and your parents came for a surprise visit on the day before your long planned 10th anniversary celebration, and the kids needed 27 trips to urgent care this year? Or has your year been a tragedy, filled with one heartbreaking loss after another? No matter your past or stage in life, you can design an exciting life story.

I know what it’s like to experience continued failure and not meet my goals. There’s not one of us who haven’t experienced failure, no matter how high-achieving someone may be. But there are some steps you can to ensure success this year. Here are 20 easy steps you can take to rewrite your story and make 2016 your most inspiring year yet.

  1. Resolve your mistakes and losses in 2015. Acknowledge what went wrong and your part in it. Getting it down on paper ensures you admit where you failed and helps you to see what you can do differently.
  2. Review your wins for direction. It may have been a tough year, but not everything went wrong. Acknowledge the things you did right, the new habits you created, and celebrate the things that went well. This will give you the confidence you can do even better.
  3. Reignite your passions. What did you love to do as a kid? What did you convince yourself you needed to give up in order to become more responsible? Maybe it’s time to go back to the hobbies or creative work you once enjoyed and see if it’s time to pick them up again. For me, it was getting back to the hiking I loved as a kid and young adult. It makes me supremely happy, draws me closer to God when I’m outside, and reawakens my imagination.
  4. Readdress your priorities to make sure your goals are aligned with your season of life. You might be able to do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. If you have young children and bills, it’s probably not the time to set out on an adventure across the world. I have more freedom to seek out my own interests now that my teen girls are older, yet they still need my input and direction as they transition into adulthood and pursue college.
  5. Rediscover something that challenges you. Your goals need to scare you a little bit. That book you’ve been wanting to write? Yes, it’s scary to think what others might say about it. But if your goals are not daring enough, they will not interest you enough to follow them through.
  6. Refine your goals so they have a clear plan of action with a deadline. The old saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” You don’t need to have all the steps laid out. Plan the next right step to take and each succeeding step will become apparent to you.
  7. Regard your goals as commitments and appointments with yourself. People will want your time and things will come up. Schedule your next goal steps in your calendar so when something comes up you can truthfully say you have another commitment. What gets scheduled is what gets done.
  8. Record your goals in a document that you can easily review in order to stay on track. Try Evernote, Excel, or even a notebook. Include your wins – the milestones achieved, like losing your first 10 pounds, and check it off when you finally complete your goals.
  9. Recognize the difference between a goal and a habit. It’s often necessary to establish habits in order to achieve your goals, but the habit itself may or may not be a goal. In order to realize your goal of writing a novel, you could decide to develop a habit of writing 500 words every day. But, you might also decide this year to write a thank you note to someone every day which would be a habit and also a goal.
  10. Replace your excuses with reasons why these goals are important to you. Write out your motivations and review your list weekly. Being convinced to run 5 days a week in order to live a long healthy life and enjoy your grandchildren is a powerful motivator only when you are regularly reminded.
  11. Rebel against convention. Who’s to say you’re too old to bike across the country or too young to start a business? Doing the same old thing led you to a sad, unfulfilling place. You can be that person who does the remarkable.
  12. Reduce your huge list of goals. It’s better to have a smaller list you can focus on and add to it as you complete each goal. There are only so many hours in the day – can you really read a book, run 50 miles, add 10 new clients, date your spouse, volunteer at your favorite organization, call your mother, declutter a room in your house, and write a chapter of your book every week? Better to narrow it down to 5-10 goals then add other goals later.
  13. Reject attempts to get you off track. The friends who invite you out to happy hour when you’re dieting or abstaining from alcohol can easily derail you, but they aren’t the ones responsible for you meeting your goals. Choose options to enjoy their company in ways that align with your needs and priorities, such as meeting at the park for a walk or game of tennis.
  14. Report to a few trusted family members or friends who will support your goals and keep you on the hook. Sometimes, loved ones may not always support our goals. If your goals are truly aligned with your priorities and where you are in life, you may need to find someone else to encourage and hold you accountable along the way. Just don’t resort to spilling it all out on Facebook or someone you know might decide to belittle you and your goals, leading to discouragement.
  15. Readjust your goals if they become impossible to accomplish or even too comfortable. If you become ill with the flu the week of your marathon, you might not be able to run it, but you could schedule another later in the year, or run 2 half marathons. The Couch to 5K program got too easy? It’s time to up your game to the Couch to 10K program.
  16. Regain momentum if you get off track. Things happen – we experience unscheduled catastrophes and have unplanned expenses. A family tragedy or emergency will have to take precedence, but it doesn’t last forever. Get back to your goals and routine as soon as you possibly can.
  17. Recruit professional help. Hire the best coaches and trainers you can to lose that weight, regain your health, or take your business to the next level. Can’t afford a coach? Find a group to join to reduce the expense or look for free resources. With an unlimited supply of videos, websites, e-books, or online communities on the internet, there’s no excuse to not find the expert guidance you need.
  18. Recharge with adequate rest, nourishing food, and time spent with those who love and support you. If you get off track or out of balance in your goals in pursuit of too many work or business goals, you may become too exhausted and drained to pursue other goals and responsibilities.
  19. Remain steadfast in your commitment. There will be days it feels too hard, you’re unsure of the next step, and the cost feels too high. Getting out of debt may require forgoing vacations, passing up eating out, and partaking many meals of beans and rice. When the sacrifices feel the greatest is when you can be sure you are closest to a breakthrough.
  20. Reward yourself! Celebrate big and little wins before moving on to the next goal. This is easy to overlook, but imperative to recognize we are advancing on our goals. Did you pay off one of your debts? It’s time for a modest dinner out or a trip to the movies. Did you lose 10 pounds? Buy yourself that FitBit or a new workout shirt. I accomplished a writing goal this week and celebrated with a glass of wine and a relaxing evening at home with my husband.

Before the week or month gets away, take the time to examine your life, establish your priorities and determine what you want your future to look like. If you need help, I encourage you to look into Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever program. I’m not an affiliate so receive no benefit if you sign up. But as someone who has completed the program for the past 2 years, I can tell you it’s an excellent resource to bring closure to the past and get clarity on what you want to accomplish in 2016. What goals will you be pursuing this year?

How the Holidays Hurt Adopted and Foster Children

7 Practical Tips to Help During the Holiday Season


Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

The holidays are supposed to be the best time of the year, right? Most of us have wonderful memories of past holiday celebrations – brightly decorated Christmas trees, the lighting of the menorah candles, Christmas eve midnight mass, and fun times with family and friends.

Yet, we know some people who don’t enjoy the holidays so much. Grandma gets a little melancholy right after Thanksgiving, ever since Grandpa passed. And we wonder why Uncle Joe drinks too much when we get together for Christmas. The month of December can bring about some sad feelings for those grieving for a loved one who has passed or experienced a terrible loss, particularly around the holidays.

Yet we don’t always realize the same sadness can apply to children. We expect children to have fun and look forward to the holidays with happy anticipation. We assume they are always resilient and able to easily forget and overcome difficult experiences when Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah arrive.

Instead of enjoying festivities, they are often struggling with fear, grief and loss with those feelings manifested in tantrums, outbursts, disrespect, and defiance.

To begin with, any child who has lost his family of origin, cannot help but continue to think about them. It seems every other family is “normal” and happy and having fun together. The foster child knows his life is far from fun right now. He misses his family the all the things they did together at Christmas time and the special foods they ate. The adopted child can’t help but think about what her birth family is doing now and wonders if they are missing her. She may worry how her mom is and hopes she is okay and not lonely without her.

Adopted children also experience guilt for loving their adoptive parents and enjoying the life they now live. They have a pervasive fear they could lose the things they have and their new family. After all, if the first mommy and daddy went away (and other parents if they have been in foster care), what’s to keep this mommy and daddy from going away or getting rid of them too?

Finally, any child can become easily overwhelmed with all the activity and busyness of the season and end up in a meltdown from fatigue or too much sugar. But for children who have experienced trauma and loss early in their life, they become easily dysregulated and inevitably resort to blow-ups. A child with a traumatized brain can only handle so much activity and excitement before she becomes overloaded and experiences a breakdown.

If you have an adopted or foster child in your home and experienced difficult holidays in the past, you might be wondering how to be prepared this season. And if you are a relative or friend of an adoptive or foster family, you can learn how to better support your loved ones.

Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo


1. Expect that children are going to have a difficult time. Acknowledging that they experience grief and loss and are affected by a traumatic past will help you to be prepared for the inevitable emotional outbursts.

2. Lower your expectations. Put a limit on activities. Kids may not be able to handle big Christmas parties or noisy family gatherings without becoming dysregulated. Choose a few special activities for the season and focus more on quiet family bonding time.

3. Keep up with your normal routines as much as possible. While the holidays are a fun break from the typical routines, schedules help a traumatized child to feel safe and secure because they know what to expect.

4. Don’t force your child to participate in an activity if they are uncomfortable or insist he spend time with a relative or neighbor if he doesn’t know them well. If he seems afraid, spend time helping him to feel safe again. It’s not rebellion when a traumatized child is triggered into a rage by something or someone that reminds them of something fearful in their past.

5. Redirect their wild or disrespectful behavior before they have a meltdown. If she does end up in a meltdown, remove her from the situation and give her the opportunity to work out her emotions. Ask her what she help her to figure it out. Be the safe person by using a calm tone without injecting judgment or anger or shame.

6. Limit the number of gifts you give your children and ask your family to as well. Don’t use gifts to fill the hole in their heart due to the loss in their lives. Some children equate things or performance with worth. Instead, give meaningful gifts that help your children to feel safe or facilitate permanence – a picture of you as a family or even of their family of origin. Or give experiences like a zoo membership, enrollment in a dance or art class, or a magazine subscription.

7. Create new family traditions. Baking cookies facilitates cooperation and together time. Participating in Advent readings or Jesse tree shares your faith with your child and helps grow theirs. Take family pictures every year in ugly Christmas sweaters. Share a special treat reserved just for Christmas morning or Hanukkah. These traditions build the bonds of family and attachment.

Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

Picture courtesy of Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

Over time and with experience, the holidays can be less of a source of pain and stress for adoptive and foster families. With each year, your children will grow in attachment and bonding. Keep at it – you’ll build new positive memories and help your children to heal from the past.



5 Ways You’re Hurting the Homeless and 10 Ways You Can Help

This week is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, a week designated to bring attention to the plight of the homeless and those struggling with hunger. It always falls on the week before Thanksgiving, a time we reflect on all we have to be grateful for.


Photo courtesy of @ronniechua/

Photo courtesy of @ronniechua/

You already know homelessness and hunger continue to be a crisis in our country. In 2014, the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey found requests for emergency food assistance increased in 71% of cities surveyed.

The survey indicated that 28% of the homeless population were severely mentally ill, 22% were physically disabled, 15% were victims or domestic violence, and 3% were infected with HIV. Not surprisingly, the leading cause of homelessness was reported to be a lack of affordable housing, especially for families with children. For instance, in L.A. County, the average monthly rent is over $1,700 with more than half of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

If the travesty of hunger and homelessness is troubling you, you may be driven by compassion to help. But it’s important to know which things we do that aren’t helping the homeless.

  1. Don’t give them cash or any resource that can be used to purchase or trade for drugs or alcohol. Ask them if they are hungry and need food before you buy them a meal because the homeless are not always hungry.
  2. Don’t accompany them in a store. Homeless often have to resort to theft in order to support their drug habit and they could use you as a cover or accomplice to steal from a store.
  3. Don’t put them in your car or give them a ride anywhere. If you suspect they are in danger, call 911 immediately, but don’t get involved, or else you might also become a victim.
  4. Don’t let them know where you live or bring them to your home, otherwise you put your possessions and family at potential danger.
  5. Don’t ever enter a homeless camp to deliver food or help. These individuals have learned to distrust others and will not welcome your intrusion. The camps are usually a hotbed of drug activity and prostitution. Frequently, they contain a drug producing operation, and you put yourself at serious risk by entering, regardless of your motives.

Understand that a homeless person who has been living on the street for a while has become adept at survival. He can be very persuasive at convincing you to help him in ways that are actually counter-intuitive to what he needs most, but what he wants at the moment. Addiction and mental illness, which are prevalent in the homeless population, will keep a person from making good choices, of course, and may drive them to desperation.

So what can you do to help combat homelessness and hunger in your community?

  1. Find out who the existing agencies are in your community that serve the homeless and poor and partner with them. Give them a call to find out what needs they have and how you can help.
  2. Give a cash donation to agencies that are serving the homeless and hungry. Most organizations are non-profit and exist due to the generosity of donors. A small monthly donation will help keep them operating.
  3. Donate your unneeded goods to your local organization. These organizations are in need of your gently used or outgrown clothing, for men, women, and children. Especially needed items are blankets, coats and jackets (particularly in colder locales), socks, gloves, and hats. Even your old worn sneakers are desperately needed as homeless often lack shoes.
  4. Buy and donate toiletries. Round up those samples you received in the mail and the hotel bottles. Hit the dollar store to purchase a few extra items, especially razors, shaving cream and deodorant. Clean out that stockpile of shampoo and toothpaste you amassed from couponing and drop it off at your local shelter.
  5. Volunteer at you local shelter or food bank. Most kitchens can use help to put together food boxes for the poor or toiletry kits for the homeless. The soup kitchens often receive plenty of volunteers during holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but they can use your help throughout the year. Get some friends to serve on a schedule of once a week or month.
  6. Mentor or sponsor an individual in a recovery program. There’s never enough staff to meet the demands of all the clients in a non-profit recovery program. Your mentoring relationship will encourage and help direct a man or woman seeking to stay sober and choose a better life.
  7. Teach a class or workshop at a shelter or recovery center. For individuals who have long been homeless or in an addiction, they lack normal life skills. Your knowledge in education, personal finance, job hunting, or parenting is in great need. You don’t have to be an expert, but you have a lot of life skills to share.
  8. Carry water bottles or Zip-lock bags of snack items like granola bars or cans of beanie weenies to give to a homeless person that you meet on the street and are in immediate need. If your local mission or shelter has a business card with directions and a phone number, include that as well.
  9. Hold a donation drive at your place of work, worship, or kid’s school. Rally others to donate socks, underwear, or toiletry items and donate it to your local shelter.
  10. Finally, recognize that some people want to be homeless. You don’t have to respect their illegal or immoral choices, but you do have to respect their right to be homeless if they choose that lifestyle. Addiction and mental health battles are not easily overcome, and it will take time for individuals to choose a better path.


Change will happen when we bring dignity to the homeless one person at a time — not a whole city or homeless camp. Strike up a conversation with that homeless gal you see at Circle K every time you stop for gas. Encourage her to get help and remind her where she can go. And if you don’t see her at the Circle K anymore, it might be because your words and kindness motivated her to finally get the help she needed to recover.

What National Adoption Month Means for You

Children Playing


In 1995, President Clinton declared November National Adoption Month. The purpose is to bring attention to adoption and foster care and facilitate more adoptions of waiting children. Every year, the first Friday before Thanksgiving is designated as National Adoption Day.

Since 2000, over 54,000 adoptions have been facilitated by National Adoption Day. This year, on November 21, an estimated 4500 adoptions will be finalized in more than 400 locations across the country. Courtrooms in every state will become filled with families joyously celebrating their adoptions in a festive atmosphere filled with balloons and streamers and pictures of lots of happy faces.

But, the sad truth is, there are still more than 100,000 kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. The average wait for a child to be adopted from foster care is four years.

Each year, 23,000 children age out of the foster care system without being adopted.

No family to spend Thanksgiving celebrations with. No-one to visit during the holidays. No dad to help you but your first car. No parents to guide you to college or a career. No mom to call or bring you soup when you are sick. No home to go to back to when you lose your job and have nowhere else to turn.

Young adults who age out of the foster care system without being adopted are at a far greater risk of dangers and far less likely to succeed at life.

  • 25% will become incarcerated
  • 50% will struggle with substance abuse
  • Girls are 2.5 times more likely to end up pregnant by age 19
  • More than half will be unemployed three years out of foster care
  • 1 in 5 will be homeless within a year of emancipation
  • Only 57% will graduate from high school or receive a GED
  • Less than 3% will go to college and earn a degree

I know not everyone can or should adopt a child from foster care. But many more of us can and should seriously consider it. We need to think more about kids who need a family rather than adults who want to satisfy their desires for a cute little baby.

We need to better facilitate the adoption of foster kids so 23,000 are not dumped on the street with little to no support and without a family to call their own. We can lower these numbers by making the following changes in foster-adoption:

  • Encourage single adults to adopt
  • Allow more gays and lesbians to adopt
  • Facilitate cross-racial adoption
  • Continue adoption tax credits and subsidies to adoptive families
  • Strengthen families of origin so children can go back to a home they know
  • Provide specialized healthcare for children post-adoption
  • Educate adoptive families how to best meet their children’s needs

I get that these may not be acceptable solutions to some. But if one family in every three churches in the country stepped up to adopt, this crisis of 100,000 waiting kids without a family can be eliminated. Is it time to for your family to think about adoption?

Here are some resources for you to start your journey:

Yes, Even Single Moms Can Achieve Their Goals

Mom thinking about her future


Moms seem to feel obliged to “do it all”. We have a hard time letting things go and get caught up with how things “should” be. You want to make sure your girls’ hair is nicely styled, you stress to prepare healthy home cooked meals, the kids need their extracurricular activities, and of course, you should volunteer at the school.


When you’re a single mom, it might seem like your obligations have multiplied rather than just doubled with the loss of your spouse. And that may be true because now your kids have extra emotional needs, now you have counseling or court appointments, and now an affordable home means a longer commute to work.


Moms tend to feel responsible for their kids, jobs, and others, but usually not their own needs. You have a hard time saying no or asking for help. Maybe you got negative responses from your partner or kids. Maybe, you set standards too high and don’t like how your kids do things, so you’d rather do it yourself.


And then, overwhelmed, you get lost in procrastination or activities that don’t matter. You get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses because there’s just so much pressure to look or act a certain way. You spend time shopping for things you don’t need, watching TV shows and internet videos you don’t have time for, or volunteering at school with resentment for the intrusion on your time.


It’s a crazy train with no exit in sight. So, you cry about having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. And then you pick yourself up again, committed to getting it together because people are depending on you. Determined, you search for some new planner or app to better organize your life. You try a new system to be more efficient. You set new goals and reprioritize. But still, you struggle with getting it all done and wonder if things will ever change.


You can’t create more time. You can only be responsible for yourself and your choices. You have the power to decide what you want to spend your time on. Sure, you have to work to pay the bills. And certainly, things come up beyond our control. Kids need to be fed and have clean clothes. But there’s so much in your day that you get to choose what you’ll spend your time on.


If this is a struggle for you, you can take back control. It will involve time for some soul searching and planning. Preferably, you want to find several uninterrupted hours. Choose a time when the kids are away for the weekend, in school on your day off, or ask someone to watch the kids. If it’s impossible to get a block of time away, schedule an hour a day for the next few days when the kids are asleep.


Next, find someplace to go that’s inspiring, but allows you to work without distractions. If the piles of laundry at home distract you, head out to the library, a lovely park, free museum, or a coffee shop. Bring a notebook, laptop computer, or your mobile device. I like working with paper and pen because it is simple to get started, but choose what works best for you.


Now, take some time to think about what your priorities and values are. What to you want most in life? Accept that there are seasons to life. Young children demand much time, but it won’t be forever. Finances dictate what you do today, but you can improve your situation. You get to decide what you want your life to look like and in what direction you want to head.


Do you want to go back to school? You might not have the funds to pay for a college degree, but with abundant free online college courses, there’s nothing to stop you from learning on your own. Do you wish you could work from home and not have to put your children in daycare? The internet allows you a multitude of opportunities that weren’t available 5 or 10 years ago. Do you dream of owning a home? Maybe you can alter the vision of a custom 2,500 square foot house to a cozy 2-bedroom condo that will cost you half as much.


Now, take that dream list and analyze it. What is really the most important to you? What are you willing to give up in order to have what you want? If soccer is not that important to your son, but it uses up all your free time together, why are you doing it? If you hate your job, how long are you willing to stay at it? What can you do today to get started in a new field?


Decide that no matter what has happened in the past, today can be different. Your past does not dictate your future. Choose to be grateful for your life and what you have been given. You may have gone through some really terrible times, but thank God for the gifts you’ve been given – your beautiful children, a place of your own to live, a boss who supports you, or a mom or friend who helps whenever she can. Then, commit to doing things differently.


Don’t start with overhauling your whole life, but pick 3-5 areas for change, so you don’t get overwhelmed, but can have some traction fast. Limit your list to simple goals you can achieve over the next 90 days. You want to see success at something sooner rather than a year from now. Set SMARTER goals. SMARTER is an acronym for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound, exciting, and relevant. Instead of saying you’ll “Learn a new skill”, a SMARTER goal would be “Sign up for the online writing course at Udemy and complete it by December 31”.


Once you have a few goals in place, decide what steps you can take this week. Accomplishing that big hairy goal can be overwhelming. You don’t have to see the end of the road to take the first step. Do you want to lose 30 pounds? Then maybe the first step is an appointment with your doctor for a physical and advice on losing weight. Or you could clean the junk food out of your house. Or you could decide you will start walking for 10-15 minutes every day. Take a step that is doable for you and don’t be embarrassed it’s too simple. This way, you’re more likely to stick to it.


Next, you have to decide what you’ll cut from your life that is getting in the way of your goals and living the life you want. Do you and the kids have too much stuff that overwhelms you? Clean out the closets and cupboards and sell it or give it away. Are you volunteering too much? Choose 1 or 2 things that mean the most to you and fit in this time of life, like working in the Sunday School class your child attends.


Finally, share your dreams and goals with a few close friends or family members who can support you and hold you accountable. You might find they need the same help from you in their life. Achieving just 1 or 2 goals or developing new habits that move you towards achieving your goals will huge impact your satisfaction with life. Decide today to do something different. Then, you’ll find much more meaning and satisfaction with your life.