Monday, October 17, 2016


All of us have fights we are fighting. I talk often about our fight against the enemy…. it is constant and a fight worth fighting.

We also fight with other people. Now we are clever enough not to call them fights. We might say we have a “disagreement” or an “argument” or we might call it a “struggle” but face it, sometimes we are just having a fight. I confess to “fighting” with a couple of my sons this weekend and if I told you about the conversations you would shake your head…. and probably laugh because in retrospect it is funny…. but you would definitely understand why I felt a need to “fight.” As they battle their own mental health issues, I am their target and I confess to fighting against that sometimes.

Maybe it isn’t someone in your family that you fight with, but it could be someone at work, someone at church, a neighbor….. and it eats away at us, but it happens. We can’t control them…. only our response to them, and sometimes it requires a “fight.”

We also fight for things — for justice, to advocate for the vulnerable, to change things.

Or we fight against disease. Or injustice. Or wrongs that we see happening around us.

I am in a constant battle with myself as well. The apostle Paul talks about how he did things he didn’t want to do. Some of you know I’m “dieting” and this is a constant battle. I was inn Walgreens this morning (I was getting medicine for Bart who is sick) and literally stood and argued with myself (internally in case you’re picturing me acting like a crazy person) for two full minutes before I walked away from this gorgeous box of Cheeze-it Grooves. The struggle is real.

We fight ourselves for other reasons as well. We fight our lack of self discipline. We fight our desire to buy things we don’t need. We fight lust for things, people, power. And all of these are fights worth fighting.

But today I’m here to tell you that there is one fight that we do NOT have to fight any more. We don’t have to wrestle with the past. We don’t have to beat ourselves up about things that we have done, sins we have committed, failures, mistakes, etc. We don’t have to engage in that battle any more.

Why? Because it’s already been won…. so shake off those heavy chains, as the song says, and remember, that you are redeemed!

(And if you’ve never watched this video you should — I love how much passion he puts into his music…..)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

No matter how it appears....

Every morning I step outside my door and take a picture. The view is always different every single day…. and it has a different kind of beauty. I’m attaching this picture to “prove it.” (one of the four shots, Danika took, but it’s the same view)> I stole it off her Facebook without permission. Yikes!)

There are some things in the picture that are basically the same every day… the tree doesn’t move, the hill is in the same place…. it’s the same view… but it looks different based on the sun. But there is never a time when I look at this view and worry that the sun is gone — I know it’s there. It’s behind the clouds. Or it’s on it’s way up. Or it’s shining so brightly I can’t look into to take the picture because it hurts my eyes. The sun is always there.

I take this picture every day because it reminds me that no matter how it looks, the sun is still there. And this reminds me that no matter how it appears, God is still there… every day. I start my day not knowing what will happen — some things will be the same…. my job, my family, they won’t change. But the view will change depending on many factors outside of my control…. there will be clouds, storms even, and there may be times when I can’t even see God…. but it doesn’t matter whether or not I see him clearly or He is hidden — He is still there.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


The word legacy doesn’t have a difficult or complicated definition. Basically, it is "something that comes from someone in the past." It can be money, like what you give someone in a will, or it can be an attitude or a way of life.

Last week I found out that the Refresh conference where I have spoken for the last 5 years, has decided to change up their Friday night Respite night and not do comedy and thus, for the first time, I am not going to be going to the conference. I was grieving that loss, I gotta be honest, but I realized something as I was coming to terms with the fact that i am no longer an “up and comer” in the orphan care movement. (And no, I am not writing this because I need encouragement or sympathy — just wanting to make a point).

The leaders in the adoption/foster care/orphan care movement are now parents in their 30s and 40s. Their blogs are written to drive traffic, open opportunities to speak, and get book deals… as well as to support other parents. But they are classier, their use of social media is sophisticated, and there is a different tone. It’s a much different culture than it was 20 years ago. Back then we blogged to survive and connect with others and never thought about whether or not anyone outside of our small group of friends would read it. We didn’t always add pictures or proofread, or write in complete sentences or paragraphs. In fact, Bart called my blog “Barf on a Page.” If you look back to posts on my blog from 2006-2012 you will see so many descriptions of me wallowing in the difficult days of parenting traumatized teens who were making bad choices.

So I have realized that I’m not going to be one of those “brand new speakers” on the adoption circuit. It’s now time for me to shift gears and invest in people who are and who will be. And that is what it means to leave a legacy.

However, I have one more story that illustrates that you don’t have to be an “old person” to leave a legacy. Some of you know that I was the equivalent of a college Vice-President when I was 25. For four years I was Dean of Students at a Wesleyan college in Oklahoma and there I spoke in chapel four times a year. At the very beginning of each school year, I spoke on integrity. I talked about being whole and how your words, actions and thoughts needed to match up.

Fast forward 25 years…. there isn’t a month that goes by that one of the students who went to school there doesn’t post something about integrity on Facebook and tag me. When they hear the word, they think of me and our time together. Now THAT is a legacy.

We also have several of our own children who have caught the spirit of what Bart and I tried to teach them in regards to helping the less fortunate. It makes me feel pride like nothing else to hear about my daughter offering a ride home to a coworker who has a 1.5 hour walk to work. Or hearing that my other daughter bought groceries for a single mom she knows who was having a hard time. Or seeing that my son Jimmy is the one at work who always wants to make sure that his boss has a cake at Taco Bell on her birthday, even if he pays for it himself. Or when I watch my children being good parents and hear them say the same things we said to them. Or when my son Leon posts on Facebook a link about turtles crossing the road in Minnesota and he comments that he would not only stop for the turtle, but help it cross the road…. and I know he would do it. He’s just that kind of guy.

So whether you are old like me, investing in the “up and comers” or if you are young like I once was a long time ago and investing in your own children or the clients and residents we work with, you can still leave a legacy.

Today as I prepare to head to the “Legacy Luncheon” I am reminding myself to think about what kind of legacy I’m leaving and to be mindful of what my actions are teaching those behind me.

This song sums it up perfectly:


At Patrick Henry Family Services where I work we have a lot of programs whose name contains the word Hope. We have a Home of Hope. We have Foster Hope. We have Heroes of Hope. We have Hope for Tomorrow. Our job is to hold out hope!

Are you familiar with Erickson’s stages of development? If not you can check them out here:

One of the things that I find most interesting in the chart is that children who do not make it through that stage well — the ones who have trauma before age two or have attachment issues — have not mastered the virtue of hope. And how many of our clients and residents do we work with who have missed out on hope? A lot. But then, here we come.

I am blessed to be the daughter of a woman, who like me, is an optimist who always holds out hope to the people around her. If you my friend on Facebook you may have seen the picture of my parents that I took the fall before my Dad died. I relayed that I had spoken to my mother to wish her a Happy Anniversary (it would have been 54 years yesterday), and she said,, “Oh No! I have had a ball all day telling everyone about your Dad. I told them the story of how he proposed, and of our wedding, and the fact that I told him the week he died that he had given me a lifetime of wonderful memories.” Even though they had only been married for 50 years when he died, they had been in love for seventy years!

If you want to hear more of my mom and dad’s love story, you can find it here. And if you want to read more about their journey I blogged about it here:

So last night I was reminded once again by my 87 year old mom that you can choose hope — you can choose joy. You can choose to look at what could be a sad day and “have a ball!”

We are going to come across people this very day who never learned hope — and it wasn’t their choice. But we can hold out hope for them — because that is what we do at PHFS and that is who we are.

Maybe you yourself had a hard beginning to life and didn’t learn hope when you were younger, but here’s the good news! Hope can still be learned because you area follower of the Author of hope….

So this morning as I think about my amazing parents, and about the great work we do here, I can’t help but sing this song:

Claudia Fletcher
Chief Program Officer
Patrick Henry Family Services
860 Red Hill Road
Brookneal, VA 24528


Monday, October 03, 2016

Vocational Ministry: A Sacred Journey

Vocational Ministry is a career in which someone is paid for working full-time in a Christian organizational setting. So guess what? If you work for a Christian non-profit, you are a vocational minister. It isn't just for pastors any more!

I have been paid in several Christian organization for several years and I have also been paid to do God's work (care for the orphan) by non-Christian organizations. And every time I viewed it as a calling... not a job. I have always felt that I am truly blessed to be able to be paid to do what I am passionate about -- and to do what God has asked me to do fun time and not have to fit it in around my career.

Similar to the pastor's wife sacred journey, those of us who work in vocational ministry have a front row seat to God's miracles. It means getting deeply involved in the lives of people who are hurting and see them change. Transformation takes place, with God at the helm, and we get to be a part of it!

I spent six months of my professional life not working in a non-profit organization. I was a temporary secretary at an insurance company. It drove me crazy to walk into a building and to see people around me knowing that they were only there to make money and to help other people make money. These were executives -- not the people who actually met with people to talk about insurance -- they simply crunched numbers. And they made sure that they came in at the last possible moment, took their full breaks and lunch, and left as soon as they could -- packing up to leave 20-30 minutes before the end of the day. I never met a person who was passionate about what they did... which is understandable.

This is not to say that God doesn't call people to work in those kind of organizations. Many are called to be salt and light in places that are anything but "ministries." But I found it to be the most unfulfilling six months of my life.

Grant it, there is a price to pay. The stress is higher when lives are at stake. Work up close and personal with hurting people is a difficult thing. But the rewards are amazing.

If you are a "vocational minister" take some time today to thank God for the privilege. It is truly a sacred journey.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Yesterday I was having coffee with a friend here in Danville (yes, I have 2 friends that I don’t work with. Don’t faint). She and I were talking about those nagging things on a person’s to-do list that just sit there because for whatever reason they just aren’t something we want to do. You know what I’m talking about? They aren’t necessarily hard … just things that for some reason or other just aren’t getting done.

We agreed that it would be really smart to put a day on the calendar each month where we took that to do list and put it in order with the thing we want to do least at the very top and then prioritize the list in that way. And then tackle them one by one and get as many done as possible on that day.I decided that the last Friday of the month would be perfect time to do it because I do not want to head into another month with those things on my list. And if it goes well maybe I’ll even do it every Friday ….

So here I am, it’s the last Friday of the month and I’m calling it #finishwellfriday. Since I have worked over 40 hours already this week, I’m going to have a few personal things on my list as well. A couple of examples for my list are to call MN and figure out how to replace the title on my vehicle that we lost…. to negotiate a lease for two of our sons with developmental delays that live in MN … to make sure that our new doctor takes the new insurance that starts tomorrow…. to stick a copy of Robert’s book in the mail for my mother along with some pictures….to read the difference between Exempt and Non-Exempt employees, and to finish an article about the culture of trauma based care that our camp director sent me at the beginning of the month… you’re getting the idea, huh? And, if time allows i”m going to clean up ALL my email (only 58 to go, not bad) and clean off my desk.

I’m sure you are all laughing at me and thinking I”ll never get it done but that just motivates me.

Wanna join me? Wouldn’t it be cool if #finishwellfriday went viral?

Have fun folks…. Comment here or on Facebook if you decide to try it today. Even for a couple of hours.

Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Adoption: A Sacred Journey

In early August Bart and I went to dinner with Dan and Terri Coley of "Show Hope" while we were in Nashville. It was awesome. They are awesome. And as part of our meal we heard their adoption story, complete with an 8 x 10 photo of their gorgeous family that was taken at the beach. There were many moments during the telling of their story where I got goosebumps because there so many "God moments" in their story. It was at that moment for the first time the words "sacred journey" popped into my mind.

As a couple Bart I have been part of eight adoptions involving twelve children. Every single moment of each of those adoptions was guided by God's hand, I am convinced of it. Each of those children, miraculously, was supposed to be ours. From all over the U.S. and even the country of Guatemala, God brought us together. It's a mystery, a very holy one. In our book, "Out of Many One Family: How Two Adults Claimed Twelve Children through Adoption" and it's an amazing one.

As a professional, I have been a part of over 650 adoptions. Each and every story has moments where God clearly shows himself. Every story has a sacred thread. It's what holds them in common. When you listen to someone's adoption story, you can see glimpses of God's hand throughout.

And it makes sense that it is a sacred journey, because it is based on the very heart of the gospel itself. Paul says in Ephesians 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (ASV)

Just as we, relying on God's guidance, chose our children, God chose us before the foundation of the world. He uses the word adoption to describe how we went from being strangers to His very own children... and this brings Him pleasure. Paul says it was to the "praise of the glory of His grace." When I read that it gives me chills.

So it is no wonder that God is at the center of every adoption -- He is wanting us to understand the "good pleasure" of His will. God's adoption of us gives Him pleasure -- and He knows that the only way we can share in that pleasure is to understand what it feels like to adopt someone as your own.

Others have said this more eloquently, I am certain, and I'm not writing this to recruit or to persuade. I'm simply making an observation. I understand the "good pleasure" that God experiences because of the sacred journey of adoption. Jody Landers said this: "A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me."

I would add another thought to that.... the awe that God chose to include me in the most sacred of journeys, one He Himself experienced, shakes me to my core. Regardless of everything we have been through, I would not choose anything else. This nuanced meaning permeating the choices we have made rocks my world every day.

Adoption. It is by far one of the most sacred of all journeys.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ministers Wife/Clergy Spouse: A Sacred Journey

A little over a week ago I was sitting in church in our first service where I sing in the choir. The five of us (yes, we're a small ensemble, but we still call ourselves a choir and wear robes), were sitting on the front pew instead of in the choir loft that morning, so between Bart's times up front he sat beside me. This is a rare treat which you know if you are a pastor's wife, so I reached over and grabbed his hand during the prelude. And I started to think about how blessed I am to have this title.

The title differs wherever we've been. I've been called the pastor's wife, the preacher's wife, a clergy spouse, and now I"m the minister's wife. But the title is just a tiny piece of it. Because I like numbered lists, here's why being in this position is amazing.

1) The People. My life is FULL of love and good friends who have been part of our congregations. Because of the way the United Methodist Church does things, we are only "officially" in their lives for a season, but they become part of us and we become part of them. It's a unique relationship and maybe shouldn't be defined as friendship, though over the years I have considered many of our parishioners some of my best friends of all time. (I know, I kinda crush over boundaries sometimes). But we have laughed together, sobbed together, played games together, raised our kids together, and grown together in every way.

2) The Community. The sense of community in a church when it is being done the way Jesus intended is a beautiful thing. To be witness to the ways that people care for one another, the ways that they share life, is phenomenal. And being part of that community -- to care and be cared for -- not once, but multiple times in different settings, is such a blessing.

3) The Variety. I know this is going to sound weird, but moving every 4-7 years has been a good thing for us and our family. We started our journey in a two point charge where in one church 30 was a HUGE Sunday (lowest attendance ever was 5 and we were two of them). The town had 450 people and was in the middle of the state and in the middle of nowhere. But there were a few of those people who captured our hearts. We were not only able to minister in those two churches, but in a migrant camp 7 miles down the road where I used my Spanish and many adorable South Texan children stole our hearts. We also went there as an engaged couple and left married with 7 kids which most can't claim.

We then moved to a town of 4500, a county seat in rural southwestern Minnesota, right in the heart of farm country. Many a Sunday I overheard the farmers discussing how much rain was in the gauge that morning. I have to confess that those were some of our best years. The church was great, and still is. The people amazing. There was group of people with kids the same age as ours (we had 7 when we moved there, 10 when we left). That part of the state was close enough to South Dakota to be super friendly (OK, Minnesotans, don't get too mad at me, I'm speaking in jest.. kinda). :-> I don't know if it was this was where our kids were young enough not to have big problems, or what it was, but those were magical fun days spent at parks and pools and sledding and trick or treating and go cart riding..... fun times.

Then came the college town, a town of 45,000 people. Again, great people.... in fact some of our best friends of all time are people from there that we still keep up with. Our kids got in trouble there ... a lot of it ... as they became adults and they were dark years, but I still have many great memories of that place.

Then there came the City -- with all it brings. Need I say more? I could go on about our 3.5 years there for paragraphs.

And now we're in Virginia... completely different and yet the same. And you know some of that story.

The variety hasn't just been in the different places we have lived, or the different kinds of people who lived there. The churches have been different as well. Worship has been unique. We have had two services, one service, traditional, contemporary, combined. Music has been led by organ (even played by me at one church AAAGH), piano, You Tube Video, a great praise band that I got to play in and miss tremendously), and purchased UMC organ CDs. We have had services where we used every piece of liturgy that could be found, and others where we never spoke a word of it. We have had printed bulletins and projected hymns. We have sung the oldest of songs and the very newest. Each church has had it's own preferences and it's own style.

4) The Similarities. But in the midst of the variety, there has been sameness. We have worshipped the same God, we have experienced the same sacraments, and we have recited the same words together.

5) The Front Row Seat to God's Faithfulness. I think this is the most outstanding and important blessing of being a pastor's wife. (that's my favorite of the titles, by the way -- because a pastor is a shepherd and that is exactly what Bart does). We have been able to be intimately involved in the lives of the people he has shepherded in the very best and the very worst moments of their lives. We are there when they get married, we are there when they say goodbye to a loved one. We are there when they announce the birth of a grandchild, and when they share that they received word that they have a terminal illness. We are there to baptize or confirm their children, and to hear the heart break when those children later rebel. And in and through all of this we see miracles from the front row. We join people as they wrestle with the hard task of living and the difficult challenges that come their way. We see God heal and we weep with those who for whatever reason, He does not heal. We see God change lives and watch people change and grow because HE has taken over as the one in charge of their lives. The depth of this privilege is not wasted on me.

I love it that God chose me to be a pastor's wife because I have been able to live life at the extremes -- watching it play out step by step in the lives of others but also in us as we do life with people. And on occasion it is more than being on the front row, it is diving in and being in the play itself, experiencing all of the emotion -- the joy and the pain -- WITH those we serve. And, because of that, being ever aware of God's faithfulness to His people.

So in looking back I wouldn't trade this for anything. I daily have enjoyed for twenty years the incredibly privilege of what this title means... and I'm so grateful that he has called me to this sacred journey. It has made me a better person.