Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You Get to Choose

I know there are some of you who are going to say that it's the fact that my weather is so much better here than yours that this post is simply to rub it in, but that's not the case. However, it does make me feel great that yesterday the forecast for today was "sunny with a high of 75." It has changed to cloudy with a high of 73 but it sure beats Minnesota where its snowing with a high of 35. Just sayin.

There's a line in the song "Sunny with a high of 75" that always catches my attention. The song is upbeat and fun, and catchy and I've liked it since it came out, but here's what gets me every time. "It's funny how it seems you enjoy your life when you're happy to be alive."

I have to ask myself the question, "What determines whether or not someone is happy to be alive?" Is it circumstances? Is it the people around us? Is it our health, or financial situation, the actions of those we invest in?" Of course not. Each of us decides.

Viktor Frankl was a holocaust surviver who became a psychotherapist. One of his quotes has guided me for years. After being a concentration camp inmate and being tortured repeatedly, he was able to find meaning in the most brutal of situations, and that meaning gave him the will to live.

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Every day I can choose to be happy to be alive. I might not feel all the feelings that come with happiness as our culture sells it, but I can find meaning in my life and choose to live. In fact, I can choose to live life to it's fullest every day.

If you have been reading my blog for years, you know there were many days back when we had multiple teenagers, where there was nothing that was on my list of "why I should be super happy right now." We had some incredibly bleak days. We still have them, but they are not nearly as often as they were 8-10 years ago.

The bottom line is this: You can choose joy today. You can recognize the truth in the words of someone whose life was way worse than yours. Not me, but Victor Frankyl. If he could wake up and choose to want to live in the horrible conditions of a German concentration camp, you and I can too.

I don't know what you're facing today, but I do know this. You get to decide how to respond to it.

Because it's funny how it seems you enjoy your life, when you're happy to be alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Don't be a dichotomizer...

Many people probably won't click on this Facebook link or read this blog post because I just used a big word. In fact, I added an r to it probably making it not even be a word. The word dichotomize means "regard or represent as divided or opposed." In other words, to dichotomize means to put things into two categories with nothing in the middle, and thus, if it were a word, a dichotomizer would be one who does that -- an "either-or" type person.

About 8 years ago I met someone who taught me about the concept of being a "both and" kind of person. It is possible to find truth in both sides of an argument, to be on the side of two people who disagree and truly believe both of them have good points, and to embrace two very different concepts even though they seem like opposites.

My favorite example is justice and grace. Which of those is God? Is He a God of justice or a God of grace? And the answer of course is yes. God is both a God of justice and a God of grace.

I think that we often get ourselves into trouble when we put things in opposite corners. So and so must be a completely bad person if they did such and such. And if you know how did you know what then that means they are always good. We are all a mix of all kinds of stuff.

I'm not perfect at this. I have to remind myself often not to get stuck in that kind of thinking. Because when it do, it always leads to something that isn't good.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this today. Often I hear that someone reads something I wrote and that it was just for them. So maybe that is you today.

But let me challenge all of us, myself included, to not put someone into a corner that they can't get out of. Let's not label people as "hopeless" or "bad" or "irredeemable." Let's do our best to recognize that because someone steals a few times, it does not make them forever a thief, or if they fabricate the truth occasionally, it doesn't mean they always lie. Let's try to see the good in people.

And where there are issues where we disagree, let's try to see the other person's point. When we stop seeing the other person's point.... when we start believing that if someone disagrees with us, they can't be someone we love, then are world starts to get awfully small.

God, grant us all the grace to open our arms wide enough to embrace everyone that You love.

Help us to imitate you, and to revel in the scandal of your grace.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Use Things, Love People

My children are very different from one another, but this weekend I was able to clearly see the difference between those who use things and love people and those who do the opposite.

Have you ever been used? It’s an awful, icky feeling isn’t it? Giving yourself wholeheartedly to a person or group of people believing that the relationship was mutual, and then finding out that it wasn’t — that you were simply being used by that person or group to further their own agenda. It feels pretty icky.

What I realized recently, though, is that it feels icky for the person who does the using as well. When I look at my children and see their lives, the ones who contribute to our family, honor their parents, and try hard to make a difference in the world, they are a WHOLE lot happier than the ones who do the opposite.

It seems to me that God created us to be fulfilled by doing the right thing. He programmed us, using computer language, to treat others well, to be grateful, to meet the needs of those around us, to be selfish. So when our sinful nature takes over and we do the opposite, that leads us to an empty existence that brings nothing but heartache.

Look at the people around you? Who are the ones that seem happiest? The ones who are constantly making the lives of those around them better, right?

So I concluded that BJ Thomas was right when he wrote, “loving things and using people only leads to misery” makes a whole lot of sense. But I used to think that was in reference to the people who were being used…. but parenting my kids has helped me to understand that the misery is often greater for those who use others than it is for the ones being used.

So, go out and love some people today. It's what you were created to do.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I've Made a Decision

In case you didn't see this on Facebook, I have made the decision to try and get the novel I just wrote published by a real publisher instead of having it be self-published.

So, what that means is that I need to work on a proposal to submit to agents to read.

So, I'm looking for two things.

First, is feedback on this back cover summary:

Well educated, secure and always in control, Dr. Natalie Clark is as confident as she is compassionate. Single and tempted to remain so for the duration of her life, she settles into her role as a missionary doctor in a Mexican orphanage.

Mari, at the age of eleven, has been told all her life that it is her destiny to graduate from college and have a career so that she can support her parents and siblings in Mexico. Extremely bright and yet shy and unsure of herself, she knows the road ahead will be difficult.

Surprised by tragedy, loss, and unforeseen changes, Natalie and Mari find it necessary to dig deep within themselves to find the courage and strength they need to face the battles life has thrown their way.

Little did they know that over the next two decades, their lives would be forever intertwined after their brief chance meeting on a bus ride. Will they recognize each other when they see each other again? As each of them experiences love, grief, and unexpected trails, will the short conversation on the bus make a difference in the way they view the world?

So the question is, if you read the back, would you want to open it and read the book?

Secondly, if you want in on helping me edit the first five chapters, I'm going to create a google doc and let people make suggestions. If you're interested send me an email at maeflye at mac dot com and I'll add you to the document to help edit!

I'm excited to have help making this happen!

Friday, November 25, 2016

How was Thanksgiving?

Yesterday I wrote about the struggle to focus on the positive, but I managed to do it and we had a great day.

I think it is pretty funny that we have this one day of the year when the whole entire day is focused on food. Bart started on Wednesday and made three pies, got the turkey ready, baked some yams, etc.

I worked on getting my novel into the right format -- I finished the rough draft in 16 days... never writing more than 2 hours a day. I guess it was in there because it came pouring out. If I have the least bit of encouragement, I think the book has a sequel. But I digress.

Bart was up early getting the turkey in the oven and preparing a relish tray, baking lots of yummy homemade buttermilk rolls -- my favorite part of the meal -- and working on the perpetual stream of dishes. The kids slept.

Gabby was up early, begging to help, so eventually she and I were allowed to do the deviled eggs. She outperformed me by peeling them faster and neater than I did. She was very excited about this. She is at such a fun age. Is there anyone out there who knows how to stop girls from getting any older than 6? I really want her to be six for a long long time.

Everyone else got up between 10 and 2 and grazed the appetizers as is our custom.

It was fun to see people stopping the kitchen to help wash a dish or two. Dominyk made his famous green olive dip and chipped in to help make the punch.

We heard from John, Ricardo, Rand, Kyle and Christy, and Leon during the day -- Salinda even heard from Mike - so everyone was in touch in some way. Ricky, John, and Rand went to visit my mom, which made her, and me, very happy as I was worried she would be lonely.

Finally around 2 Gabby and I peeled potatoes and helped with the green bean casserole.

By 4:15 we sat down to eat and by 4:32 Dominyk was done and gone from the table. By 5 most everyone else was gone.

Sadie and Matt decided to go shopping and have Christmas with the grandkids early. That resulted in a wild time of Carlos throwing an A+ tantrum while waiting for his bike to be assembled.

Overall, it was a great day. The house is a huge mess, everyone is still asleep except Sadie, Matt and Gabby who just went to spend a couple days in Virginia Beach.

Jimmy goes back to the airport this afternoon......

Certainly different than other Thanksgivings. Since 2001 we have always had at least twelve around the table. We only had 11, but it was a great day!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Today is About Focus

I must admit that I'm struggling a bit this Thanksgiving. We have never had only eleven people at the Thanksgiving dinner table since 2000. I had recently had relationships that I valued highly end abruptly without an opportunity for me to clear up misunderstandings and I am saddened deeply by that. I am taking time off work to clear my head, but in case you didn't know this about me, I like to work and so I feel a bit lost when my only instructions are to relax and rest.

Bart preached a great sermon a couple weeks ago about having an attitude of scarcity or an attitude of abundance. I must admit that yesterday I was internally really whiny and externally fairly disengaged and sullen. That's not like me. But this morning I woke up determined to change all that somehow. I realized then, that an attitude of gratitude and abundance is really a matter of where I choose focus.

So here are my choices:

I can focus on how sad it is that half of my kids aren't with us, or focus on how great it is to have six of them here.

I can be angry or frustrated about the fact that only two of my seven grandchildren are here, or I can rejoice in the two who are right here in front of my face... adorable, spunky, fun, and focus on them.

I can focus on how many friends I have had to leave or have lost in the past year, or I can start counting how many new friends I have made and smile at the thought of them.

I can focus on the fact that we don't have enough money to make a trip back to Minnesota any time soon, or I can be grateful that we have a huge parsonage, plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, running water, etc. etc. etc. that much of the people who inhabit this planet do not have.

I can focus on how much my back hurts and how it keeps me from helping as much as I would like to with things around here, or I can rejoice that I can see, I can hear, I can walk, and that I am pain free when I sit down.

I can bemoan the fact that I'm a horrible cook and don't enjoy it at all or be super grateful that my husband loves to cook and everything he makes tastes great.

I can be really annoyed that two of the boys that live here never help with anyone, or rejoice that three amazing young adults paid their own way to fly across the country to be with us and have been helpful since the minute they arrived.

I can be frustrated at the state of our country and how torn it is right now, or I can be grateful to live in a place where I have the freedoms that I do.

So it's about what we choose to focus on today. We all have those choices. I'm going to work hard today to remind myself of God's blessings and not to focus on the things that aren't perfect.

Because, after all, there have been many Thanksgivings in our history where we had much less to be grateful for and I was able to do it then!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's it going to take?

I was having a conversation with a very wise woman yesterday. We were discussing love.... and how most people love conditionally. Most people approach life this way: as long as you are on my side, I will love you. As long as we can agree, I will love you. As long as you treat me well, do what I prefer, spend the amount of time with me that I prefer, and hang out with my kind of people, I will love you.

That works, UNLESS you happen to be modeling your life after Jesus. Unless pleasing God is your number one priority. Because if we are striving to be like Him, then our love has to be unconditional.

Unconditional love is God's specialty. And we who carry the name Christian -- those of us who are bold enough to name ourselves after a man who loved this way all the time - Jesus Christ -- need to practice what He preached.

I know this sentence is going sound weird, but unfortunately I think we have gotten fairly good at this unconditional love thing. I say unfortunately because it has taken a lot of tears, a lot of hurt, a lot of anger and a lot of hard day to get here. Bart and I have had said the words "i love you" over and over again to children who have embarrassed us, stolen from us, lied to us, threatened to kill us, and told people we were beating them. We have had to learn forgiveness and unconditional love because the alternative is a life of anger and bitterness. And we couldn't let ourselves choose that.

In the book a wrote a while back, "A Glimpse of God's Heart: How Trying to Change My Kids Changed Me" that you can buy here I write about how parenting my children taught me about what it must be like to be God. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for him to continue to love him when we fail Him, neglect Him, ignore Him, and misrepresent Him on a daily basis?

I haven't blogged much this past week or so because I've been writing a novel (wrote the rough draft in 16 days -- BOOYAH). But the more I think about the current condition of our country, there is only one real answer. Unity that comes from unconditional love. We need to stand up and be the hands of feet of Jesus..... and his message was inclusion, unity, grace, forgiveness and love.

Hands that are open
Reaching out for broken hearts
‘Cause that’s the only way this world
Would ever know who You are

Love is the Evidence.