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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What are We Going to Do Now?

If you have been a reader of my blog for any amount of time, you know that never created the blog to be anything other than a dumping ground for the thoughts in my head in regards to my children. I avoid politics like the plague. Lately my children aren't taking up enough of my thought space, but I don't think that is the reason that I am so troubled by the last few months. I think it is because my fellow parents of transracially adopted children see life through different lenses than we used to when we were "just a white family."

I want to make sure and post that I am not trying to start an argument and I would prefer not to have those of you who disagree with me further alienate people I love with your comments.... I'm just trying to be the voice of reason somewhere in the middle of all this.

I understand why people voted the way that they did. I understand that there are many fine people who voted for Trump (one of them could be me, because I have not yet revealed to many who I voted for). What I am having trouble understanding is that in voting for Trump it appears that most people are acting as though they no idea that it would cause people to be afraid or feel threatened if he were elected.

It seems pretty dismissing to me to simply cry, "Sore Losers" when so many are fearing for their safety. Saying things like, "They shouldn't be afraid, that's dumb" really isn't helpful. Fear isn't necessarily rational. If you are really interested in why people are afraid, Shannon, a fellow adoptive parent, wrote this on her blog yesterday. I thought she summed it up very well.

Let me try and make this make sense to you. Let's say you have red hair and there was a candidate out there who talked about getting you out of the country because of your red hair. If half of the country voted for that candidate, as a red head it would be easy to conclude that all those who voted for him must agree with him and want you gone. Think about how that would make you feel. It wouldn't be that easy to get up the next morning feeling positive about your future, or comfortable with the people around you.

But I'm getting off the point that I was attempting to make today. My point is that we, as a church, let this happen. Christians allowed us to end up with two candidates and most people said that they weren't pleased with the choices they had. It wasn't as though someone from another country dropped the two of them off and said that we were forced to vote for one or the other. WE let that happen. As a nation we CHOSE them as the two best people to run for the presidency of our country.

My wise husband said that this election is not the cause of serious issues in our country, it is a symptom of something that has been an underlying theme for a long time.

So that happened, and we had this horrible election season while Christians on either side became less and less tolerant of the other. I have talked to many on both sides who absolutely CANNOT understand how anyone could vote for the other candidate. And so we have growing division between us.

And now that the election is over, we point fingers at each other and fail to take a moment to try to understand the other side. We are still so busy arguing that that is ALL we are doing.

If there was ever a time where our country needs the church it is now. People are hurting, people are afraid, people are angry, and people are confused. What we have to offer is exactly what they need. As Christians we are supposed to be people of love, grace, mercy, peace and hope. Those are exactly what we need.

So instead of continuing to talk about how one side or the other was stupid, or insensitive, or naive, or selfish or whatever words you have come up with, what if we literally spent our time trying to figure out how we can unify the church and how we can bring healing to our land?

We can say that God is on the throne, but if we are going to talk about that, shouldn't we pay attention to what we are told to do in Scripture: To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him? (Micah 6:8)

I know I don't have all the answers. But I do know the following:

1) I need to find ways to show the world that all white Christians do not hate. Period. All Christians do not hate people of color, immigrants, and a whole other long list of people that our president elect has said hateful things about over the past several months.

2) I need to seek to understand rather than to be understood.

3) I need to continue to work tirelessly for organizations that minister to those who are less fortunate than I, that demonstrate racial reconciliation, that care for the marginalized, and that are motivated by love and grace.

4) I need to find ways to work towards unity in the church.... the song "They will know we are Christians by our love" is one I wouldn't be singing today for fear that anyone outside of the church who heard me would laugh at the thought. We are completely doing the opposite of the words of Jesus' prayer in John 17:
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 believe the opposite is true: If we are not one, the world will not believe that God sent Jesus to earth. Lack of unity in the church is the opposite of evangelism.

5) I need to humble myself, pray, and seek God's face more than I ever have before.

Wake up Church! We cannot afford to spend another day arguing on Facebook or Twitter. It's going to take all kinds of small actions by each of us around the country to make a difference and we need to start doing them RIGHT now. Write a kind note to someone you disagree with to tell them you still love them. If you are white, find a ministry where you can volunteer to work with people who are very different from you so that they can see that you are not the stereotype that they have formed during the election season. Give to an organization that helps those who are hurting. Find groups in your community that are working towards racial reconciliation and join them in seeing that become a reality.

I'm not sure that there has ever been a time in history where God's people need to figure things out and fast. Half of this country is now defining white Christianity by the things said by Mr. Trump over the past year. That is NOT ok with me and I really hope that is not ok with you.

All i'm asking of you is to take a few minutes to stop and think about what God is calling you to do to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

THIS is what I was trying to say

We Were Made For These Times - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

It's Up to Me

I sincerely hope that I never go through another election as awful as the one that just ended. The ugliness that it unveiled in our country, and as I have said many times the past few days, in our church, shames me.

Two things remain true however:

1) God is still God. That is never going to change. And he is asking us to pray for our leaders and to merciful to them. I can trust Him to sort through the mess that we are in as a nation and help us to find answers.

2) When it comes to the day to day lives of the people around us, we have more power than the President of the United States. I am not negating that presidents have power to make decisions that effect us, but they aren't the ones who care for the people right next to us on a personal level.

There are very few people who can say that they were personally touched by the president. Think back on your life. Who are those who mean most to you? Who have had the most profound effect on you? Who was there to hold your hand when you cried, or wait with you when a family member was sick? Who helped you out when you were broke and needed a loan until the next paycheck? Who gives you advice, a ride, a meal, a hug, a smile, a kind word, a genuine laugh?

Those things come from the members of our family, our friends, our neighbors. Sometimes they come from our coworkers and even from the people we serve in our jobs. Those are the people we point to as our mentors and heroes.

There are very few sentences in the world that are made up of only two letter words. This is my favorite:

If it is to be, it is up to me.

It is up to me, or someone like me, who offers a ride home to the mentally ill woman in Danville who waits outside the church door on Sundays because she knows that someone will give her a ride or some money for lunch.

It is up to me to who provides a listening ear to someone who is in crisis and helps them sort through their feelings.

It is up to be me who does all the things I listed above.... to hold hands, to wait with people in hospital waiting rooms, to loan or give money to people who need it, to give advice, a ride, a meal, a smile, a kind word, a genuine laugh.

I can't expect the government to do those things for people. It is the church, and more significantly, it is me who needs to do these things.

If there was ever a time that our country needed help, then it is now. It's time to start being the church that God intended for us to be and, even more importantly, the people he called us to be.

Let's go through today reminding ourselves that any change that we want to see is our responsibility.

Repeat after me: If it is to be, it is up to me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I Can't Take It Anymore: My Opinions on The Election

I have kept my mouth shut the entire election, and I just can't take it any more. I've got to speak out.

If you think I'm going to tell you who I voted for, you're wrong. I don't want to know who you voted for either.

But I do want us to take some time to ask ourselves some pretty serious questions.

2nd Chronicles 7:14 tells us:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

I have to ask myself whether or not the opposite is true....

What if we, His people, who loosely call ourselves by his name, are everything but humble and spend more time posting our opinions on like than we do praying and seeking God's face, will God NOT do as He promised.

I have seen so many people this election use the name of Jesus and their perception of His agenda to bash another candidate, that it shames me. Christians have made it very clear that somehow my very faith is dependent on who I voted for in this election.

I am saddened that my children have heard one person in the media present their views strongly about one issue that a candidate supposedly is either for or against and they are going to vote based on that. I am saddened that religious leaders have endorsed one candidate or the other when they insinuate that all Christians will vote that way.

I have not seen humility. I have not seen people who admit to honestly praying and seeking God's face as their primary focus. I have seen pride. I have seen hatred. I have seen anger.

And that is unacceptable to me. It would be one thing if the pride, anger and hatred had come from people who do not claim to be Christians. We expect that of those who don't know Jesus. But the fact that it is coming from within the church blows me away.

And so, if you have not done so yet this election season, maybe it's not to late.

Do this with me:

Humble yourself.
Seek God's face.
Turn from any of your wicked ways.

Fortunately, there is another verse that comes into play here.

Romans 3:3-4 says:

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not!

That is a huge comfort to me.

Because it would be a shame if God said, "If my people, who are called by my name, do not humble themselves and don't take time to pray and seek my face,


Because if that is the case, "Lord, help us all."