Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What is distracting you?

For every task that is out there, there are multiple distractions that can pull us away from accomplishing that task. My months at Patrick Henry Family Services have been a constant series of setting myself straight and marching toward the goal, getting pulled aside and derailed, and asking God to put me back on track. I am guessing that somewhere in your life you experience the same thing.

Maybe it’s a simple household task. You have plans to clean out the garage on a Saturday morning. But someone needs a ride somewhere and a nice cold tea sounds good on the way home so you go through a drive through. You notice you’re on a quarter tank, so why not fill up…. and there’s a discount on car washes today, so you go ahead and do that too. By the time you arrive home from that trip, you’ve lost some resolve and you glance over at your porch where there’s a book sitting next to your favorite lawn chair, and suddenly your spouse is calling you in for lunch and the morning is gone.

Or maybe it’s a habit you are trying to break. You know that routine!

Or it could be a commitment to do things different in your marriage, or to get more involved in church, or to finish a project at work.

I know you know what I’m talking about because it is part of the human condition.

However, in Luke 9:62 Jesus reminds us of this: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I would add that it is not just looking back, but also looking around at the distractions that are there. If I can get sucked into negativity, or spend my time thinking about the latest news at work, or if my mind can be consumed by something that isn’t related at all to what God calls me to do, I can get derailed. I can find myself taking my hands off the plow… or my mind off the task ... to do something else or to think about something else. And the task gets left undone.

I have been having so much fun this summer checking out the pictures that the houseparents have been posting on Facebook. Our kids are having an awesome summer! In their meeting yesterday, i encouraged the houseparents to keep focusing on the kids and what they need… and to not get distracted by all the other junk that can weigh them down.

What is it that is distracting you today from what God has called you to do? Join me in asking Him today, to pull you back to the task at hand. Put your hand back on that plow and don’t look back — or around you. Keep your eyes on Him.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What's in the mirror?

The song I have linked to below has the lines “in the mirror all that I see is your grace looking back at me.” I love that concept. Because there are a lot of things I don’t like when I look into the mirror…. t’would be great if the first thing I saw was God’s grace.

There is another concept that I have loved for years. It’s the idea that the face of a good friend is a mirror. Have you ever had a friend like that? One who if you were troubled, when you looked at them and they saw your expression, their face began to look troubled too? Or when you are extremely happy, their countenance changes immediately upon seeing your smile? Those friends are the ones that truly understand you.

Today I want to combine those two concepts. If we care about others, when they look at us — their friends - we should become a mirror. And that mirror should always reflect grace.

What do people look at when they see you? Do they see judgment? Condemnation? Skepticism? Or do they see love, mercy and grace.

Human nature, our sinful nature, pushes us towards the first three. Naturally, without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are drawn to the negative and we often do not approach people with grace.

It is my preyer today as we begin our week, that we will all see grace when we look in the mirror — and that when others look into our faces, all that they will see is grace as well. In that kind of world, everything comes alive.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Wish you had the perfect boss?

Have you ever wished you had the perfect boss? Or have you ever wished you had a different boss? Sometimes the relationship between an individual and their supervisor isn't always perfect.

Now, I am honeymooning still at PHFS, and I have (in my opinion, you may not want to ask him :-) ... a great relationship with my boss. I have no complaints. He's awesome (and I'm not just saying that in case he reads this).

But that hasn't always been the case. I have worked for some fairly interesting people in my past.

Last night at our church's VBS program, we met the father of our church organist and he said something I had never heard before. Well he said several things I'd never heard before, but one of them that I can't stop thinking about is this:

If you want a perfect pastor, pray for the one you've got.

Wow. We are all quick to want the easy way out -- pray for a switch! Pray to get someone new. But praying for the pastor we have -- or the boss we have -- or the spouse we have -- that's a whole different story.

As a boss, I know I will never be perfect. But I can tell you that when I have people that I lead who are supporting me in prayer, it makes me better. And I think it makes them better too.

So today if you find yourself wishing for the perfect boss... or the perfect spouse... or the perfect pastor.... pray for the one you've got.

It will change them and it will change you!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Excited to be Part of this!

Hat Creek is a GORGEOUS camp and we are excited to have this day together. I will be leading the mom's group. If you have questions, let me know.


Here we go again!

Have you ever caught yourself saying this phrase to yourself or out loud? Something happens in your life that seems very similar to something that happened before and that is your first thought. You have an argument with your spouse that seems a lot like one you had about 7 years ago. Your kid gets in trouble at school just like he did last school year. Someone in your church is making a complaint against your pastor just like that one guy did in 2009. Your doctor tells you that your symptoms are just like the ones from a three years ago. Your group of friends start arguing and one of them is hurt and pouting and you say to yourself, “Seriously??? This is SO Jr. High!”

We have an emotional memory. It’s called our amygdala. If you don’t know anything about it, you can what I wrote about it here.

Our amygdala, or our emotional memory, triggers us to something from the past that is similar to something we are going through now. Physiologically, it creates certain feelings in us. And it causes us to think to ourselves, “This is going to turn out the same way it did the last time” and we have those emotions: the anxiety, the fear, the frustration.

But here’s the thing…. God has done some work in us and in our situation since the last time this happened. If we are following Him daily, He is changing us. If we are praying, He is changing our circumstances and other people. The result doesn’t have to be the way our amygdala cautions us it will.

There’s a very good chance that this will be different, because God has intervened.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

It's Day One!

I love mornings. I know some of you are already groaning. But I love the promise that each new day gives us. We can start again.

It makes me smile that we make such a big day about January 1st because it is a new year. Yes, it is a new calendar year, but isn’t every day the beginning of a new year?

One of my all time favorite hymns and comes from a verse in the book of Lamentations. This also makes me smile because we believe that Lamentations was written by weepy Jeremiah. In fact the world Lamentations means "the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping:”. But even Jeremiah in the midst of his sorrow, reminds himself of a few things. Pay attention to the progression in this from utter despair to hope:

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

The hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness comes from this verse, but also the idea that every day is a new day — God’s compassions are NEW every morning.

To me this means several things:

1) We can change now. Today doesn’t have to be the same as yesterday. We can be a new person if we want to. We aren’t bound by past failures and we can form a new habit today.

2) Others can change too. We might not be able to make them change, but what if changing our own approach to them were to assist them in their change.

3) God is as faithful as the sun coming up. His love for us and for those around us is right there when we wake up.

4) I don’t have to drag yesterday into today. Whatever attitudes I had yesterday, or the day before, don’t have to define me. Today is a day full of opportunity to look at things in a new way.

As I was heading home last night from the bonfire where I took the pictures above, I heard the song that inspired this post, and I reminded myself that each and every day is the first day. I woke up this morning with a renewed hope and determination to stay positive because God’s compassion is new EVERY morning.

Enjoy today and remember …. it’s Day One of the best of your life!

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Not Yours to Fix

I am fortunate enough to have a great husband and a great boss. They are similar to one another -- in fact they have the exact same Myers Briggs profile. They are both very bright, very insightful, and incredibly compassionate people, so when they both tell me something within the same week, you'd think I would listen.

The message they have both recently given me is that it's not my job to fix everything. Ugh.

You see, I am the fixer. My kids expect me to fix things. My employees historically have expected me to fix things. I tackle big problems with gusto and I work hard to figure out what to do and do it to the best of my ability. Motivated by the fact that I really do care a LOT.... I want to dive in and get things done. I want to move beyond the current issue ... and find the next thing that needs fixing.

This morning I obsessed on my way to work about the same things I've been obsessing about for the past couple weeks. I obsessed about all the things that I needed to fix ... AND about the fact that two men that I respect very much are both telling me that everything isn't mine to fix.

So no, I haven't been listening to them. I confess.

But today I realized that it is God who makes all things new ... not Claudia Fletcher. It is HE who works through us to change things, to make things make sense, to change hearts. And my job is simply to sit back, be a "non-anxious presence", and pray.

Not my favorite thing to do, but in the six months I have been in my job it may very well be that I have made things worse in my intense desire to fix them fast. I need to be patient and let God work.... even if His timing is oh so much slower than mine.

So today, after I got to work, I had the privilege of watching a magical day unfold. I sat in front of a full staff -- 12 houseparents -- all eager to do a great job. I got to hug teenagers and kids who were happy to be back from more chaotic settings as they just had their summer home visits. I got to eat lunch in a room full of people .... kids who come from hard places and those who love and care for them... and I was in awe of the progress GOD has made here. I sent them all off to the pool and greeted them as they came back with sun kissed cheeks and big smiles. I heard multiple staff people tell me that it was a great day.

It's a hard lesson to learn, and not one that I'm learning quickly, but God has a way of making all things new. Not always according to how or how fast I think He should, but the best way -- better than anything I can do.

And so tonight I'm going to attempt to let Him tackle the big things. I'm going to once again place everything in God's hands and hopefully leave it there for at least a few days before I grab them back again for a few more sleepless nights. Gotta be honest, God's got a lot of fixing to do in me as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

When the Weeds are Poison Ivy

A spur of the moment decision, I decided to join Bart in Roanoke last night and I'm sitting in a brand new Hampton Inn hotel room for a few hours before I join him for lunch. I'm excited to have this time alone. For some reason, hotel rooms have always been a place where I can get a lot done.

Have you ever heard the phrase "stay out of the weeds?" when it comes to Senior Leadership in an organization or a church? The idea is that you have to have a "balcony view" of things in order to plan well and make good decisions. If you get into the weeds, you get distracted and burdened, and you lose perspective.

Last night as I lay in this very comfortable hotel bed, I tossed and turned for hours, being awake from 2-5 a.m. as I pondered the many weeds of the organization where I am currently employed. You have seen on this blog that there is a lot of dysfunction here and the rumor mill and the gossip continues to be a huge issue and hurts people that I love. In fact, I'm guessing that my honeymoon is over and people are spending a lot of time discussing my weaknesses and "poor choices" over lunch. As I lay awake at 3 a.m. I realized that in dysfunctional organizations, there is poison ivy in the weeds.

How does this play itself out? Well, you leave your balcony and go deal with an issue and you find yourself wandering around in the weeds as you start to sort out how to best handle the crisis de jour. Sometimes you can take a walk and you don't run into this icky weed, but more often than not you come into contact with some poison ivy in the weeds.

Emotional poison ivy.

So, it sticks in your head. And just like physical poison ivy, you know you are supposed to leave it alone. You know you aren't supposed to scratch it, that you're supposed to ignore it, but it often screams out to you. So you obsess, you lay awake at night, you practice conversations in your head that you should have with people, and before you know it, poison ivy has taken over your mind. And at that point, being able to see the big picture and have hope for the future fades away and the weeds suck the life out of you.

OK, so I said you, but right now I'm talking about me.

But if you have been part of a dysfunctional family, church, or workplace, you know exactly what I'm talking about. When you focus on the weeds in that setting, they are poison ivy and they take over everything. And progress, hope, the future, good planning, good leading, good parenting, all become hampered by the fact that the poison ivy is driving you crazy.

So, other than staying out of the weeds, what is the calamine for emotional poison ivy? Prayer for sure. Having conversations with people who do not have poison ivy but who have in the past and can talk you through it. Sleeping pills. :-)

If you know what I'm talking about with this and would like to give me suggestions of how you deal with emotional poison ivy, my ears are wide open!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weighing In

Fortunately for your sake, I am not physically weighing in. In fact, if we were to start talking about my weight I would get suddenly very crabby because that whole issue is frustrating me to no end lately.

I'm actually going to weigh in on my opinions on all of the outrage and polarization that is happening across our nation in regards to many issues. I am not going to link this post to my Facebook, because I don't want to start an argument. I simply want to point out a few things. I do NOT consider myself a liberal. But I cannot align myself with conservatives either. And if I say I'm in the middle that makes both sides respect me less.

But here is what I know:

1. We are breaking the heart of Jesus. When He prayed for us in John 17 (yes, that's us -- all who would believe in Him in the years to come, He said this:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

He had a plan as to how the world was going to know about Him.... and it was through our unity. Across the church today, where we are being polarized by a different issue every day, we are demonstrating the opposite of unity to the world.

2. If the song "They'll Know We Are Christians by our Love" is true, they're never going to know. Love is what is supposed to characterize us. Love is what we are supposed to be demonstrating. It's supposed to be our trademark. Yes, the Bible says that the world is going to hate us.... but it certainly doesn't say that we are supposed to hate the world. Sometimes people have gotten that a bit messed up.

3. Grace wins. And it should be given to everyone. To those who disagree with us, to those who have been harmed, to those who do the harming. This is where polarizing does so much damage. If I love one side, I hate the other. I can't offer grace to both... but this is what I believe God is calling us to do....

4. Finally, we have become a society where our opinions are only expressed in writing for the world to see. We don't have conversations about important things any more.... we simply post a link to our Facebook, or retweet something. We believe we are taking a stand, but really we are hiding behind the opinions of others and the computer screen. (Of course, you could say I am doing the same thing here, but if you are around me in person, you know I don't shy away from crucial conversations).

It's time for the church to find things we have in common, and unfortunately, grace and love don't seem to be those things. So maybe it's time for all of us.... the left, the right, and the middle to come together and realize that this polarization is killing us. It's time to remember that Christian has the word Christ in it and that Jesus was the embodiment of love, compassion and grace... to everyone, not just a few.

And equally important to us understanding that everyone in the world needs our love and grace, we need to recognize that fellow Christians also do, regardless of whether or not we agree with them.

I shouldn't have to be considered a liberal if I post "Love wins" to my Facebook. It pretty much sums up the philosophy of the man whose name I carry every time I call myself a Christian.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time online doing what I want to do this weekend. It's great to get away and be able to do whatever I want.... and one of the things that I have been doing is reflecting.

Since I have been online a bit I have been thinking about this blog, and the history of my online presence. Back in the day .... this blog started in 2005 ... Cindy, Kari and I, (along with a few others that I can remember... but won't mention for the fear of leaving them out)... started sharing our lives on line. I think we were some of the first to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting tough kids with special needs. I blogged daily. I blogged multiple times some days. I blogged about funny things. I blogged about hard things. I blogged to lesson my anxiety. I blogged about things I was really passionate about.

Bart referred to my blog as "barf on a page" as I seldom edited, it was full of errors, and I basically just did a brain dump to the world. The support I received from reading comments and the blogs of others kept me sane.

Some of the blog posts I wrote were brilliant... Some were definitely not. Some borderlined on inappropriate. But what was important is that it was my place of support. Since then, I got busy and didn't blog much. Cindy closed down her public blog. Kari went to using Facebook as her primary posting mechanism. We are all still friends, but the daily glimpse into each others lives isn't the same.

Now there are some amazing bloggers out there who are doing a much better job of blogging. Their kids are the ages of the kids ours were back then.... but they are much smarter and sophisticated. They started their blogs with the idea that they would be read by others (I know, a novel thought). Their blogs look great (technology has come a long way). They proofread and think through their posts. They are followed by many more people than we are.

But I am thrilled to see the blogs of people from that next generation out there challenging us and each other, encouraging their peers, and sharing the passion that I have in a way that relates much better to the younger target population. Folks like Lisa Qualls and her blog One Thankful Mom. This woman I have met in person and heard her speak, met her children. They have a phenomenal story and she inspires me daily.

I spoke to Shannon Dingle, from Dinglefest, on Facebook this afternoon, after devouring several of her blog posts. Her writing is amazing. She spoke at Refresh last year, but we didn't get to meet. We are now two hours apart and I'm determined to meet her.

One of the most popular bloggers of late is Mike Berry of Confessions of an Adoptive Parent. He podcasts, blogs, speaks, writes books.... and does it all in such a more polished way than what we did 10 years ago. He also was at Refresh.

I'm sure there are many more. Many of them are my Facebook friends. All of them are folks that I admire.

It seems weird to be a generation removed from those in the trenches and to kinda be an outsider to the cool group now.

But maybe the picture above is worth it.... the grandparent club isn't a bad one... maybe not as cool, but definitely has it's perks!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Changing Things Up a Bit

The past five months have been a blur. Having moved away from the daily drama of our adult children and starting a new job in a place where I knew no-one has been a bit challenging.

Bart is deliriously happy here and it's unusual for him to be happier than me. VERY unusual. So he asked me last night, if I needed to see a therapist. I told him NO. I explained that on the 1-10 happiness scale I am almost always a 9 or a 10 and lately I have been a 7 or an 8. Certainly not therapist worthy. However, I decided to take some time today and figure out why I'm not a 9 or a 10 and what I could do about it.

There is really only one thing that I need to stop doing and that is to stop obsessing about things I can't control or fix. These have all been work things, interestingly, because I learned that lesson with my kids a long time again. But obsessing about work has consumed the last five months of my life. I am continuously thinking about how to change things instantly that are going to take years. And so I need to relax, take a step back, and find some more fulfilling ways to spend my time. Here are some of the ideas I am coming up with.

1) Spend more time with a variety of people. I haven't had time to develop friendships since I have been there and "candidates for friendship" have been pretty slim. Don't get me wrong, I love the people I work with, but friendship with your subordinates only works to a certain extent. No matter what kind of a friend I am, I will always be a boss or a bosses boss and I will always have the authority that comes with my position. This typically makes in depth friendship extremely difficult if not impossible. So I need to make some friends. We need friends as a couple (and we are slowly developing those at church -- but then again, Bart's the minister, so it can only be so close). I'm working on reaching out to people I have known in the past who now live close by.

2) Spend more time on social media. I know this is going to make you cringe, but this is a connecting point for a lot of my staff, for my kids, and for my old friends. If I can't have "real friendships" I can at least have online ones that are healthy. I can also promote my speaking and writing which leads me to points 3 and 4.

3) Spend more time in my "sweet spot" which is int front of a group of people, sharing my passion or making people laugh. I'm now starting to receive invitations from the Speaker's Bureau at Patrick Henry Family Services.

4) Write more. I need to blog more consistently and to possibly finish my 4th book so I can begin work on a 5th. Robert Day and I are talking about writing one together.

5) Take more pictures and go back to my hobby of digital photography/Photoshop. I recently got a Creative Cloud membership and so I can go back to doing that.

6) Manage a website again. I got it set up last weekend, now I just need to expand it. That has always been fun for me and I took a 4 year break from that. Want to do it again.

7) Spend less time alone in Brookneal. I need to make sure my typically alone times are filled with other options. Being alone makes me crazy.

8) And finally, do more for children. I know you may be thinking that we have done enough, but we don't think we have, so ... big announcement ... which I may make again .... we are going to do foster care again. We have signed up to start the process with the City of Danville.

I'm excited already to take steps toward greater joy and fulfillment in my life. If you are feeling a bit less than a 10 on the happiness scale, a day thinking up a plan to be happier might be just what you need!

My Idea of a Fun Day in San Antonio

So for at least the fifth time I am in San Antonio, Texas for the purpose of speaking to CPS workers about adoption. I was here in 2005 and again in 2010. And apparently a couple times in between. I really should compile a list somewhere.... But I digress.

Bart is with me. We are celebrating 20 years of marriage, which seems impossible, but tis true. My back prevents me from much sightseeing and I don't enjoy it much anyway (show me a post card, tell me the story, and I'm good). So when he goes off exploring I get to have a day to myself, free of interruption, far far away from everyone.

So what is my idea of a good day? It's a day where I tell myself I can do whatever I want. That means I can work, if I want to work. I can binge watch Netflix if I prefer. I can sleep or play candy crush until I'm dizzy, or I can spend hours on Facebook. I can pray, reflect, read my Bible or a good book. The possibilities are endless.

So today I started by turning off the air conditioner. Bart is impossibly hot at all times and forces me to live in below zero temperatures. Then I began by taking care of a couple of work things that were nagging at me. Then I spent a bit of time on Facebook, and I did some marketing of our new website. I went shopping on Amazon.com and bought Bart some fun stuff for his birthday. I also cleaned off my phone some so I could install all my apps updates. That's been bugging me for a while.

Other things on my list today are to figure out how to make my life more meaningful (I will most likely blog about that in a while), call my mother, finish my presentation for Friday, possibly make more improvements to our website, plan our trip to MN this summer, organize my work laptop hard drive appropriate (I've never filed anything and it's been 5 months), do some more marketing of speaking and writing, and plan some social engagements for the summer to fill in our empty spots. Whew. If I get tired or bored with any of that I will watch Lost on Netflix (I'm almost done... not sure why I decided I needed to start watching it. 117 episodes of mistrust and blood... but now I have to finish). And there are always those Candy Crush lives to play.

The day will go by way too fast..... but that is my idea of a fun day. If I could walk without pain, I would probably be spending my day differently, but as you know, I'm a lemonade maker.

more to come today ... if I don't wear myself out!

Saturday, June 04, 2016


We finally have a new website up and running to promote my speaking schedule and our books.

Check it out and let me know what you think!