Monday, April 24, 2017

Joy???


Yesterday's sermon was on joy.  It's kinda funny because there was hardly anyone there to hear it.  Bart was preaching to the smallest number of people I think we've ever seen at this church since we moved here and they looked pretty glum.   But, if you've read my weekly summary, you know that we were pretty glum too.

The thing about joy is that it isn't how we envision it most of the time.  I think we see Joy as skipping through the daisies happy, but it isn't always like that.  Sometimes joy, like in the movie Inside Out, is in the background fighting fiercely with fear, anger, sadness and disgust.   Sometimes joy is at the forefront of our emotions, but sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes we have to go through the hard times in order for joy to prevail and, when it does, be even more meaningful.   In 1st Peter we are reminded:  
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
or, as it says in the message:
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
So Bart's point yesterday, and mine this morning, is that there can be joy in the midst of all of life.   I don't know that I have ever quoted him before in my blog, but John Calvin said:
"Christians rejoice even while they truly sorrow - - because their rejoicing is in the hope of heaven....While joy overcomes sorrow, it does not put an end to it." 
So today, even when I don't feel like joy is winning, I know that joy will prevail.   We have been promised this -- that when we share in His suffering, we will also share in His joy.  

Looking back on my life I have realized that without the pain of suffering, joy is meaningless.  And I've also learned that even in the midst of all of the stuff that life throws at me, joy is just around the corner.   It comes in the morning after a long hard night.  Always.

And it will this time too.

Saturday Summary on Monday

This weekend I just crashed.  I had zero emotional energy.   Maybe it's because my week was hard.  I won't go into details about work, though there were some things that happened in that context, but life at home has been difficult.

First, I had to figure out what to do with Tony who got kicked out of job corps.  I can't even go into details here, but the combination of Job Corps doing EXACTLY the opposite of what I begged them to do, Tony is in Minnesota temporarily living with Rand and Jimmy.  I have some awesome friends that are trying to help me figure this out, but meanwhile there is a lot of stress for me.

In the process of deciding that he could not come home, I asked the other children who live here and they all voted no because of the stress he causes the family system.  They are not wrong, but it seems that since then they have gotten worse in regards to helping around the house.  Bart and I are in physical pain (though Bart's is decreasing by the day) but the kids here seem to be helping with housework less than they ever have.  They all managed to sleep through church yesterday.   It's discouraging.

Salinda did not get the job she applied for so she has been fairly depressed and the situation with Tony had Bart very discouraged for a few days.

We also have some very good friends going through a very hard time right now and I have been trying to support them in my own weird ways.  

So this is a week I don't ever want to repeat, but I figured for those of you who check for a summary you should get one.

There's your summary.  :-)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

If I title this post "Brain Neurobiology" will you even read it?


How much do you know about brain neurobiology?  Some of us who have adopted kids from hard places are learning way more about it than we want to know.   On Tuesday, Brenda Benning from Minnesota was here to train my staff about attachment disorder and it had to have been God's timing to help me personally.  Because that night and all day the next day, the amygdalas of several people in our family were hijacked.  If you are interested in knowing all about what that means, I need to point you to this blog post that I wrote over a year ago.

If you don't have time to read the post on the amygdala hijack, let me explain in very simple terms so that I can tell you about life in my world.   The limbic system of our brains is basically the emotional center of who we are and is responsible for forming memories.  Memories, as you may have figured out, are triggered by our senses and that input comes directly into our limbic system and causes an INVOLUNTARY emotional reaction.

Why is this important?  In being caregivers to children who come into our lives at an older age it matters because we see crazy behaviors and have no idea where they are coming from.  A great example that Brenda gave in her presentation was a child, walking through a department store, with their caregiver.   Suddenly the child is completely dysregulated for "no reason."   Except that, at the counter she just walked by, the cologne that she smells is exactly what the uncle who sexually abused her wore every day.    That child has NO IDEA why she is suddenly freaking out and can't control or stop herself.

It is also important because we have it happen to us all the time.  A situation that is similar to another situation that was traumatic brings it all back.  A song, a smell, a place, even another person can bring back memories that are either frightening, painful, or stressful.     Those sensory inputs are called trauma triggers.   And they come at us all the time.

When the emotional part of our brains receive input that awakens a negative emotional memory -- we head into a "flight, fight or freeze" mode.  Our cognitive brain shuts down and we have to recover and regulate ourselves before we can make any rational decisions.

The trick is knowing your body well enough to know when you have been "triggered."  I know exactly what happens to me.   My extremities get cold, I feel nauseous and my heart rate goes up.   This can happen to me multiple times a week or even a day depending on what is going on in my world (I have experienced a LOT of trauma and secondary trauma in raising my kids and working in child welfare).

There are many times when I am not even recognizing what has happened that has triggered an emotional memory -- but I do know that I am experiencing those physical symptoms and that I need to call it for what it is, breathe deeply, and work my way through it.  I also know that I should NOT have emotionally laden conversations, respond to an email, or make a decision during a time when my body feels that way.

Wow, that was a long explanation to what I'm trying to tell you about yesterday.  So I came home after a great lunch with Brenda to discover a situation that would take a lot of paragraphs to explain.   It involves Tony being kicked out of Job Corp, us not allowing him to come here, and him convincing them to send him near Bart's family, which we had BEGGED them not to do.     We ended up resolving it by asking a couple of his brothers to take him in for a week in the Cities so that he doesn't end up near people who should not have to deal with him, but I have a short window to find him some stability.  He won't last at Jimmy and Rand for long. (Ideas welcome).

I cannot even begin to describe the layers of trauma that are associated with this situation for Bart, for me and for the other kids here who lived with him for 7 months last year.  But having just been reminded of all of this brain stuff, I was at least able to remain calm when others were not.   I'm grateful for that, because typically I am NOT the calmest person in this house.  :-)

If you have not heard about any of this stuff, it's fascinating.  There are a ton of resources out there about trauma and how it affects the brain   Check out Bruce Perry or the work of Karen Purvis.  Transformational stuff.

I wasn't intending to write all that, so if it was for you -- I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Do Overs


Over the twelve years that I have blogged, I have tried to be realistic and authentic.  I have tried to "tell it like it is" in regards to my children, their issues, and the way that I parented.   I still aim to do that, but as I get older it gets more difficult.

Lately I have been doing a lot of learning about trauma, the way it affects the brain, and how to parent kids with that history.   Yesterday, my friend Brenda Benning from Minnesota, was here teaching my staff about Reactive Attachment Disorder and what happens when that is part of the mix for a traumatized child.

Last night we had to make the decision to not let our son, who apparently is being discharged from Job Corp, come home because his presence in our home causes so much chaos and stress.   It was a very hard decision and Bart and I are very sad.

Those things combined have led me to a land that I wouldn't necessarily call regret, because I don't believe in wasted emotion -- but there certainly is a level of grief that we didn't have the tools that are available now.   The way I parented  (I say I instead of we, because Bart was intuitively better at doing the right thing than I) was not what some of my kids needed.   I know it is impossible, but I sometimes wonder how it would turn out if I could have a do-over.

But also over the twelve years that I have blogged, I have tried to be hopeful and positive and faithful to what I believe God is saying to all of us.  I've also hoped that my stories are once that you can relate to and find things in your own life and that my authenticity can help you figure things out, ending up at a place of hope and believing God to keep His promises.

I'm sure that you can name a situation in your life that you would like to do over.  Whatever that is, I want to encourage you that what you learned in that situation was part of God's plan to form you and change you.  We are a constant work on in progress.

Two things have been a big encouragement to me in the midst of all this.  One of them is Bart's sermon illustration on Easter.  He closed with this illustration:

When the house lights dimmed and the piano concert was about to begin, a mother returned to her seat and discovered that her child was missing.Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.  In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."  At that moment, the great piano master Ivan Paderewski made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit.  Keep playing.  Don't stop."  Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was  so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played that night. Only the classic," Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." 

If you want to check out the commercial based on this story it's awesome -- just click here.

Bart concluded his sermon with the words, I hope that you can hear God's whisper in your ear.  "Don't quit.  Keep playing.  Don't stop."    Those words have been in my head hourly this week as I picture my mediocre efforts as those piano notes but also picture God's around me turning my feeble attempts into a masterpiece.

The second is this song because I could have written the lyrics.  No matter how old I get and no matter how hopeful and positive I try to be, I still have those times when I don't FEEL like an overcomer.

I trust that this song will help you as much as it has me this week:




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Do You Wish For?


One of my favorite jokes as a kid goes like this:

There was a man walking down a beach and he saw a bottle.  He picked it up and rubbed it and a genie came out.   She said to him, "You can have three wishes!"  He thought carefully and decided to test and see if it worked.  First, he said, I'd like to have a million dollars.  Instantly he was surrounded by stacks of bills.   Desperately looking around at his situation, realizing he was on the beach in the middle of nowhere, he wished for a Maserati Gran Turismo Convertible (after all, he needed to drive the $1,000,000 in bills off the beach in style).   Sure enough it appeared right there on the beach.  He then had so many ideas for his third wish that he couldn't make a decision so he asked the genie if he could save it.   She said, sure, as soon as you're ready, say it out loud and your wish will come true.

He piles the bills into the Maserati, let the top down, turned the key and off he went down the road.  He was so elated he felt like singing, so he began singing the song that had been stuck in his head all day.  "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener......"

If you had one wish, or one request that you knew was going to be granted, what would it be.  I thought about this of and on for several hours the other day.  My first thought was a new, healthy 25 year old body.  (Wouldn't want to go any younger, because I would want my brain fully developed).  Then I thought about wishing that all of my children were financially and emotionally independent, but then that took me to the idea of it I wished to be a billionaire it wouldn't matter if they were.  But both of those wishes seemed a bit shallow.

The reason I had been asking myself that question because I was reading 1st Kings 3.  Verse 5 says:
  "At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon replies in verse 9:
"... give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong."
And God's Response (in the Message... I like the way it reads here):
God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response. And God said to him, “Because you have asked for this and haven’t grasped after a long life, or riches, or the doom of your enemies, but you have asked for the ability to lead and govern well, I’ll give you what you’ve asked for—I’m giving you a wise and mature heart. There’s never been one like you before; and there’ll be no one after. As a bonus, I’m giving you both the wealth and glory you didn’t ask for—there’s not a king anywhere who will come up to your mark."
That whole interchange is amazing.  God says, "What do you want?"  Solomon basically says, "I want the tools I need to serve you better and lead your people."  And God says, "Done.  Plus I'll give you all those things that you didn't ask for too!"

It is my prayer that my number one request of God is for wisdom to serve Him well.

The whole interchange reminds me of something that Jesus said in Matthew 6:33:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
That's my plan.  I hope it's yours as well.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Summary for April 15th.


Well... it has been a week.  I am having a hard time getting going this morning and it's been an exhausting week.  At least it's not been exhausting because of major drama though so for that I am grateful.

One of the reasons it has been tiring is that I decided to commute every day rather than spend a couple nights up in Brookneal which is usually what I do.  I didn't want Bart to be here alone trying to watch the grandchildren when he couldn't lift them and for the first part of the week he still needed help getting socks and shoes on, etc.

But commenting every day meant that twice this week I spent 3 hours on the road, making for very long days.  I'm not complaining about the drive though because it is SPRING in Virginia and gorgeous.  There is one spot coming up 29 where I literally gasp at the beauty every time I drive through there.

Bart is healing nicely.  He is so happy to be pain free in his arm and neck -- first time in about 2 and a half years.  He still has post-surgical discomfort, but he is getting closer to being completely well than he has been in a long time.  That makes me happy for him.

I scheduled a steroid injection for my back on May 4th.  I can't imagine a life free of back pain, and I'm not sure this will do the trick, but it's to the point that doing the dishes takes over an hour because I can't stand longer than 3 minutes.  (Translate -- I seldom clean the kitchen).  Since I can't exercise, I can't take weight off very easily, thus more back pain.  Vicious cycle).

Other news this week:  Dominyk's truck broke down which caused great stress and turbulence, but I was very proud of him for fixing it himself.

Salinda heard back from the prison where she applied and they are wanting to run her background checks so we are hoping this means they are going to hire her.

I tried to do our taxes by myself yesterday and it was an epic fail.  I emailed our accountant to file and extension so that she can do them again.

Carlos starts speech therapy Monday.  He had an evaluation and it has been determined that he should have some assistance there.  We are hoping it helps.  

Gabby remains awesome.  Helpful, pleasant, fun, polite.   She's an amazing kid.

We are making huge progress at work towards doing something REALLY cool, but I can't announce it until it's official.  Today I am working on a very important presentation that I will give on Tuesday that may take us where we need to be.  I'm also going to watch a baseball game on TV.  Long story.

I'm still bullet journaling but I've gotten really thrown off in April.  Wish I could report differently.  It's still useful but I'm not using it to it's full capacity and thus feeling off.

Wow, I feel like I'm blogging the way I used to blog back in the day.  Just for  the fun of it, I found a cute little post from over 10 years ago ....   This is the way my blog used to be.

Check it out here.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Those Crazy Emotions


Do you have a situation in your personal life or at church that troubles you?  Or maybe even at work?  One day you are SURE that God has told you to do something, or that you have recovered from a past hurt and forgiven, and suddenly the enemy rears his ugly head.   Doubt, indecision, anger, anxiety all come crushing in and you wonder if you’ve made any progress at all.  Or maybe you can’t even put a finger on why you are feeling anxious or stressed, but you can’t shake it.   I’ve been there for sure!

Yesterday I listened to a leadership tips video that talked about the ambivalent feelings that happen during a transition.   He mentioned that during any good process of change you have days where you feel the adrenaline of the new, and then there are days when there is self-doubt and questioning about everything.  I have certainly had those feelings during the past few months. 

A couple of the keys that I have found is that my “Deep Work Wednesdays” often turn into “Frantic Freakout Fridays” where my head is spinning about how to implement the ideas and then I go until I drop.   I’ve never been great at pacing myself, so I think maybe God is trying to help me learn the discipline of being deliberate.  

There is a new song out by Mercy Me that talks about times when emotions run crazy.   I won’t tell you any more, cuz I want you to listen to it!  Enjoy!  

Monday, April 10, 2017

I'm Going to Bless you!

"Is there anything we can do?"   Those are such great words!  We have heard them so many times during Bart's hospitalization and surgery.   I have realized that we should say them more and do more.  Not just in times of hospitalization.

But I almost always said no.  But there were others who didn't ask.  They just said, "We are going to bring you dinner at such and such a time."

Let me tell you this -- I could get used to this.   Having dinner delivered warm at supper time is AWESOME.   The food has been delicious and there is virtually no clean up.   I'm hooked.  Trying to figure out a way to make this last a long time :-)

It also got me to thinking that maybe we shouldn't wait until someone is sick or someone dies to do stuff like this.   I was looking over our lives and realizing that there were times that were tougher than these -- but because nobody was sick or dying, nobody thought to reach out.   But then again, people probably didn't know.... It goes back to us not being authentic in sharing our needs with others. 

So, at the risk of forgetting someone, THANK YOU to Margaret Milam, Martha Jo Hodges, Sam Newell, Michelle Larking, Dave and Nikki Parish, Charley and Carol Majors for bringing us meals this week.  And thanks to Joyce and Tom Underwood and Cathy Hawkins who have said they are bringing some soon.

You are a blessing!

I'm thinking that maybe, out of the blue sometime, I'm just going to text someone and say, "Bart and I are bringing dinner."   Not because they are sick or in the hospital, not because somebody died, because maybe they're just having a hard day and nobody knows.

We're Being Summoned


Jury Duty anyone?  It seems that the word summoned is now only used in reference to court.  Now, I'm not being summoned and have only been once, but being married to a pastor in a small town got me off the hook.

But the word summoned can be used in other contexts.  Yesterday this word was sung during the story of the life of Christ by he children at our church (including my beloved granddaughter who represented La Raza well (sorry, inside joke) by standing very still while the boys around her weren't.



During the section of the story where Jesus calls His disciples, they sang this song.  I think that it is a song that is so appropriate for our lives...for all Christians really... but especially for foster and adoptive parents . I've bolded the lines that really speak to me.
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name.  Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?  Will you let my love be shown?   Will you let my name be known?  Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me? 
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?  Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?  Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?  Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me? 
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?  Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?  Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen, and admit to what I mean in you and you in me? 
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?  Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?  Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,  Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me? 
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.  Let me turn and follow you and never be the same  .In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.  Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
What great words to start a Monday.....

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sunday Summary


Wow.... This has been a crazy week.    It seems like a year ago that I did the last weekend summary email.  But no, it has only been 8 days.  It's kind of a blur but I'll see what I can do in recounting it for you.

Monday I drove up to Lynchburg for a couple meetings and MY orthopedic appointment about my back.  Found out that I have a slightly herniated disk and a lot of arthritis in my back.  She is suggesting a steroid injection.  So I will be scheduling that tomorrow.  My back has hurt since 1989 and it has gotten worse instead of better to the point that I can do very little that requires standing or walking.  My life has become all about avoiding pain and it's really no way to live.  So I'm hoping that the shot will at least allow me to have relief enough to make some lifestyle changes.

Tuesday I worked in the morning and then we left to head to Bart's surgery.  It was scheduled to start at 3:30 with a 1:30 checkin.   That's not quite how it went.  We were 15 minutes early.... and so we were shuffled around the hospital signing stuff and getting Bart prepped for surgery.  He finally was rolled back into surgery around 4:30!  The doctor had said a 90 minute surgery, but at 4:30 he told me 2 and a half hours.  So around 7 I started to panic.

Fortunately I had suggested that my friend/coworker come have our weekly meeting at the hospital.  Mary Beth was awesome as we waiting until 8 to hear that he was finally done.  She "held the emotional space for me" (whatever that means) and I survived.  I also had a severe other friends texting me which helped time go buy faster.  It was almost 10 before he was settled in his room.

That night was a long one.  The bed was broken so Bart had to stay in one position.  His oxygen thingy was loose so it kept beeping.  The "couch" aka rock that I  was supposed to sleep on was awful, but we made it through the night.  The next day I was exhausted and Bart was not that coherent so that is a blur.  We were waiting for a "mid-afternoon visit" from the Dr. that didn't happen until 7:15.   It was supposed to be news of the discharge, but instead it was "you need to stay another night."

Since I had nothing with me and Bart said he'd be fine without me, I decided to drive to Brookneal and spend the night in my apartment there.  I slept so well!  Was back at the hospital by 8 a.m. and Bart had already been told he would be leaving soon.  We were discharged around 11 and home by 1.

I then began playing "nurse" and you can imagine how well that went.  I think I did better than Bart anticipated, but there were still times when it wasn't pretty.

Friday I went to an all day training which worked out fine... We paid Dominyk to assist Bart and to leave him alone.... so they made it through that day.

By yesterday Bart was ready to go for a little drive and he thinks by tomorrow he will be able to go to work for a little while, but he is laying low today.

Other news at the Fletchers:   John had his court hearing.  It was rescheduled for the 17th and he has a bed at MN Adult and Teen Challenge if they can get court over with.

Wilson worked a lot this week and poor thing was so tired on Friday night he laid down on the couch and fell asleep -- Olive Garden outfit, apron, and all and stayed there until morning.

Salinda had her interview at the prison.  Please pray that she gets the job.

I'm still excited about things at work, but feeling a bit disjointed right now.

Not sure that anyone cares about any of the above, but I'm now finding that my blog is a great history of our family that is searchable... .what blogs were intended for -- web logs.  Get it?   Many times when I am trying to remember an event or something funny that happened or a picture, I can search here.

So when I am thinking about Bart's neck surgery three years from now and wonder how it went.... this post is here :-)


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Healing


The day has come for Bart's neck surgery.  We will be glad to have it behind us.   There's always stress caused by surgery -- the idea of someone you love being unconscious is unnerving.  And there's also that thing where the anesthesiologist has to remind you of the possible complications including death.   That's always fun.

I was thinking today of how much we pray for each other when we are in need of physical healing.  For some reason, this seems to be an acceptable prayer request.  "Can you please pray for so and so?  He's having surgery today" would be something that most of us feel comfortable doing.   But physical healing isn't the only thing out there.

I've often wondered what it would look like to be in a place where things like this could be said.

  • Please pray for my son who is in jail right now.  He's supposed to having court soon and is hoping to get into Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge as an alternative to prison; or
  • Please pray for my son who is begging to come home after Job Corps, but who cannot live with us because of his mental health issues; or
  • Please pray for my daughter today as she has to file for child support for her youngest child.
Those three things are all true in our family today.   But I would not feel comfortable having those things on the prayer chain at church or putting those as prayer requests in the bulletin or even mentioning them to many of my acquaintances.

The reality is that sometimes physical healing is  the simplest kind of healing that we ask for.   Emotional healing, spiritual healing, and psychological healing is way more difficult and can take a lot longer.

I wonder if we could be more open about the other kinds of healing that are needed and if more people prayed about those things, if we would see results?  Or feel more supported?  Or ... the possibilities are endless.  

Today I'm reminding myself that yes, I will pray for healing for Bart's neck, but that I need to pray more about other kinds of  healing that my friends and family need that I know that are more complex.   

Because Jesus is the healer -- not just of our bodies, but our hearts, souls, and minds as well.




Monday, April 03, 2017

Hmmm.... What Should I Do Today

Do you like lists?  You probably can tell that I love them.  I like writing down what I need to do and then having the satisfaction of crossing each of those things off the list one by one.

Yesterday in early service, our little choir sang the song "Grace Alone."  I was inspired by two thoughts:

1)  Everything good that we do is by God's grace.  We are alive by His grace.   We are given our circumstances and our families and our jobs by that same grace.  And grace is what compels us to do the good things we do for others all day long.

2)  We have a standing daily to-do list:
  • Make promises.
  • Pray.
  • Take steps of faith.
  • Make a difference. 
  • Climb mountains.
  • Shine hope.
  • Leave blessings behind.
  • Reach souls.
  • Teach.
  • Share His peace.
  • Say loving words.
  • Wipe away tears.
  • Turn sorrow to praise.  

Not a bad list for today.   As we do these things, let's realize that it's all because of God's grace.


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Today's Sermon Illustration


This morning Bart spoke from Luke 14 about the Great Banquet.   And he told the story of what happened to our family way back in Thanksgiving of 2005.

I realized he left out a few things this morning, so I went back to my blog to read what I wrote.  It remains a powerful story that still brings tears to my eyes.  I wrote this on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving:
Bart came home from our ecumenical service with news that one of the local legends, a 40ish mentally ill man in our community approached Bart directly at church last night with a question. A little background: he had lived with his mother all his life and then a couple years ago she died. He has a county social worker and if he is on his medications he is doing fairly well. When he gets off them, he forgets to bathe and has all kinds of interesting behaviors. Right now he seems to be in a pretty good place, but he still has interesting behaviors.    
Apparently, in front of the other pastors before church last night, this man asked Bart if he could come to our house for Thanksgiving Dinner. He said, “if you are going to be here, could I eat dinner with your family? I’m so lonely and I don’t have anywhere to go.”
Bart told him he would talk to me, so when he got home Bart told me the story. Bart had preached from Matthew 25 on Sunday, one of our favorite passages. Bart shrugged his shoulders after telling me the story and then said, “Jesus has asked if He can have dinner with us tomorrow.” 
Tears came because yes, this is indeed the case. This man would definitely be referred to as “the least of these.” And tears also came because I married a man who so completely shares my passion for reaching out to the least, the lost, and the left out. And tears came because he is so able to clearly see this truth  And because we will be very stressed out worrying about how our kids will respond.  And because it will involve more pressure for him in preparing the meal.  But he is still said yes.
And then I wrote these words the next day, after we had finished our Thanksgiving dinner.
I was so incredibly proud of all my kids today. They were appropriate at the meal and treated our guest with respect. They expressed to him that they were glad he could be with us. They used all the manners they had and really did well. And our guest was so very very grateful. Said thank you at least five or six times before the meal, another 10 during the meal and four or five more times on the way home. He even called an hour later to say thank you again.   He showed our kids what it means to be grateful.
This was probably the calmest and best Thanksgiving Dinner we’ve ever had. 
Guess good things happen when Jesus comes to dinner. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Saturday Summary


Since I didn't write my Saturday Summary until Tuesday last week it seems like it's been a short week!

Here's the latest:

Wilson started his job. He has to dress in all black and he looks super cute.  He worked Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and seems to be doing well.

Bart's surgery is Tuesday.  It all happened super fast.   We went to his pre-op appointment yesterday.  He spent time looking up the risks of the surgery online last night.  Probably not a good idea.  He's anxious and a bit crabby and I'm supposed to be really nice right now and that pressure makes me super crabby.

Work continues to go well, though I'm slowing down the pace a bit so people can recover and/or catch up with me :-)  Bart's surgery will help me do that.

And we bought an Instant Pot.

How's that?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Finishing Well


The words "finish well" can be used in many different cases.  They are often used when a person leaves one job to go to another.   It is particularly challenging when you want to are looking forward to your next season of life but you want to honor those who have been your coworkers and friends by leaving in the best possible way.

Finish well can also be used to refer to how we end life.  As a pastor, Bart has helped many families say goodbye to loved ones and has watched many people end life well.   As his wife, I have been part of that journey.  My dad, who went to heaven nearly 4 years ago, ended his life very well at the age of 90.  It was a joy to be with him those last few weeks of his earthly journey.

I have coined this term: #FinishWellFriday as an attempt to get myself to do the things that have been hanging over my head on Friday's before the weekend.   I also invite others to join my in that quest.

Finishing well takes intentionality.  It takes taking time to define what "well" means and what things would be part of ending well.  This is easy to do when it comes to a list of three things on Friday, but it is my goal to make the same kind of internal list that drives me to finish life well.  I am reminding myself to ask these kind of questions:

What do I want to be known for when I finish this life?  What do I want people to remember?  What do I want them to say about me?

Because in answering those questions I will know what to do today, this week, this month, this year.

Join me today in #FinishWellFriday.... and maybe spend some time thinking about #FinishWellForever.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Slow Down....


Do you ever feel like life is just going WAY TOO FAST?   Do things just seem they are spinning around you at a rapid pace?

If you know me well, you know that my mind is always spinning.  My physical activity, or lack thereof, is no indication of what is going on in my brain.  I am in a constant flurry of mental action during every waking moment and often in my dreams.   For example, I spent all of last night in a never episode of Lost minus the blood.  There was no fighting, but the constant issue of food appearing in weird places was the theme.  I should not have started counting calories.  It's warping my psyche.  Anyway, I digress.

A year ago this week, my back went out.  This is usually a sign from God that my stress level is too high and I am pushing myself too hard.  This year, God is slowing me down in a different way.  Bart is having neck surgery and I'm going to have to play nurse.  Not in my skill set for sure.

For those of you who haven't known what is going on, Bart hurt his neck a couple years ago pulling a Christmas tree that got caught in a door.   He never saw anyone for it (although, as I'm sure you know, he was encouraged to do so by his never-nagging, always-caring wife).  Fast forward to last November when you might have known about him falling out of the bathtub and landing on now dead Gizmo, though his landing on him had nothing to do with the dog's death.  Anyway, he hurt his arm and shoulder, and once again, despite the gentle nudging of his loving wife, he didn't go to the doctor... until about a month ago when we both finally went.  Him for his shoulder, me for my back.

The results were awesome for him.  Temporarily.  He got a shot that immediately fixed his shoulder pain, but then his neck started to hurt.  He followed through with physical therapy for his shoulder, and after the first appointment he was in more pain than I have ever seen him in.  So by the second physical therapy appointment last Wednesday, when he described his pain and everyone went into "Oh crap we are going to get sued" mode, things started happening fast.  They got him in to see the shoulder doctor in Lynchburg who is booked solid for months by 8:00 the next morning.  The following morning he had an MRI and then on Monday he saw the neck specialist.  His pre-op is tomorrow and surgery is Tuesday.

The surgery involves cutting his throat as they are going to approach the neck that way, so we have made several jokes about him getting his throat cut.   I know, we're weird.

I realized yesterday that there are times in life when God wants us to slow down.  He knows we need it and may try to gently nudge us, but sometimes we don't listen.  So while I don't believe God causes bad things to happen, he uses those bad things to get our attention and make sure that we are taking time to be still, slow down, and recognize that He is God and we are not.

My typical response to all this is to get even more stressed out and internally spin more than ever.  This time  I'm going to try something new.   For next few days I'm going to remind myself to be still.  I'm going to consciously choose to stop spinning and learn what God wants me to during this time where speed will not be helpful.

But if Bart says to me one more time when I'm helping him with some routine chore, like putting on his socks, "You didn't do that right..  You really shouldn't change careers you would be a horrible nurse" I might have to smack him.

Because, after all, just because you have a pain in your neck, doesn't mean you have to be one.

That was clever.  I'm funny.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ever Ask "WHY is this happening to me?"

All of us have times when we question God and say, "Why is this happening to me?"  Our first thoughts are often "This is NOT fair!  I don't deserve this!"

As I began memorizing Philippians I came across these verses in chapter one.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Paul was probably had the same feelings we do.   It wasn't fair.  He didn't deserve prison.  After all, He had made a decision to follow Jesus!  Should things have gotten better instead of worse?

He was probably asking himself the same question, too.  "Why is this happening to me? But he paid attention to what happened and he had his answer.   He watched what happened to the people around him as he responded the right way to the "chains" he was in.   

  • It advanced the gospel.
  • It became clear to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike,  that He was in his situation for Christ.  (I think it is interesting that the word is FOR Christ, not because of.  It was almost as if Paul was considering his time in prison as a gift to Christ.)
  • Christians became more confident in the Lord and proclaimed the gospel without fear.
Wow.   What a perspective.  What if we practiced the habit of looking for the ways that our response to the difficult things we face can be an example to everyone around us and actually further the cause of Christ?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Who are you afraid of?


Is there someone that you are afraid of?   Maybe it's an intimidating neighbor, or a boss who is overbearing.   Or maybe being around people who are old makes you nervous, or small babies.  For me I've noticed that unpredictability makes me feel fearful.   I do ok, for example, with some mental health issues, but the ones that cause behavior that is sporadic and changes without warning often scare me.

I have read the story of David, Saul, Jonathan, Goliath, etc, many times over the years, but yesterday, as I was listening to it again, I was blown away by one small part of the story.   Remember when Saul was going through that dark spell and David was playing his harp for him and suddenly Saul grabs his spear and chucks it at David?  Twice.   And misses.  In my way of thinking, the next sentence should be 'And David feared Saul."  I mean GOOD GRIEF, the dude was nuts.  He was throwing spears out of nowhere right at his head.   But instead, the next words in Scripture (the Msg, I samuel 18:12) are, "
Now Saul feared David. It was clear that God was with David and had left Saul. So, Saul got David out of his sight by making him an officer in the army. David was in combat frequently. Everything David did turned out well.  

The lesson in this for me, is that if God is with us, we need not have fear -- not even of the mentally ill, or unpredictable.  Not even of those who are trying to kill us.  Because when they see that God is with us, they will fear us instead.

After all, we've got angel armies on our side.

Saturday's Summary on this Very Early Tuesday Morning


Wow Blog, have I neglected you!  I'm sure this is the first time in 2017 that I have gone this long without blogging.  I owe you an update!

It was a very packed week at the Fletcher's last week.  Several things happened.

1)  Wilson got his permit!  At 18 1/2 he finally got motivated enough to take the test and he passed on the first try!  We have been going back and forth on this since he was 15.... and he was finally ready.

2)  Wilson interviewed last week and found out at the end of the week that got the job!  Yes, it was a big week for Wilson.  He is going to bus tables at the Olive Garden where Salinda has been working since September.  He starts his orientation today.   That is also huge news.  We have been trying to get him to find a job since he was 16.

3)  We bought a third vehicle.  A spanking new to us 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis that our agency was selling.  It's actually in very good shape and we got it for very cheap.  This will mean that Bart can have his vehicle back.  We are hoping that Salinda will choose to buy it from us at some point, but if not, it is still worth the hassle.... and Salinda's insurance went down.  

4)  We had dinner with Garrett and Kelsey!  Garrett used to be on Bart's staff at our last church before we moved here and they got married last summer.  They were out here for vacation and Wilson and Bart drove up and we all met for dinner.  It was fun to see them again.  Garrett is unique.  I'll just stop with that.

5)  Bart went to the doctor twice and I went with him.  He hurt his neck a couple years ago and his shoulder back in November. He went to the doctor beginning of March for his shoulder and got an injection that immediately stopped the pain.  But being the good follower of directions, he went to physical therapy and ended up coming out of there with extreme pain.  An MRI showed two herniated disks so he will be having neck surgery soon.   See?  I told you it was an eventful week.

6)  I went on a retreat with some of my friends that was perfect.  We had a very relaxed, no pressure schedule, that changed as we went along.  We were at Hat Creek Camp, which is a ministry of PHFS where I work, and it is so lovely there.   I really had a chance to relax, so that was awesome.

7)  Salinda has an interview at the prison where she applied!   She has always wanted to work in the criminal justice field, and Olive Garden has been super depressing.  So please pray for her that this job will work out.  The interview is on April 7.

Meanwhile, at work things are spinning along at a rapid pace.  I'm trying to put the puzzle together of what things should look like here as we shift paradigms and move into the future.   The learning curve is steep .... Virginia does things way differently than Minnesota.  So we are talking about things like the CSA and the CPMT and the CSB and the FAPT.   Yup, learning curve is steep.  But we are making rapid progress.

If you've been following my story, you know that last year was a super rough year for me as I was dealing with a lot of very stressful things and no progress was made on any of the goals that were set for me when I came.  But this year has started off with a LOT of progress and I'm exited.

So excited that I have been waking up pretty early..... thus your Saturday update is being posted at 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Hope your week is full of good news!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Come on everybody dream along!


If you went to Bartlesville Wesleyan College you might remember a group called the "Freedom Singers."   They sang a song called, "The Dream Never Dies Just the Dreamer."  In fact, for some reason, the introduction to that song that I memorized from the album back in 1981 or 82 is still stuck in my mind, bound there forever.
Traveling nearly 20,000 miles a year we come across many people who have sacrificed their dreams and settled for less than the best in their lives.  They're the ones who didn't listen to words of the Master when He said, "All things are possible to them that believe."  So don't you dare listen to the man who walks around with his head to the ground, muttering something about dreams not coming true... cuz he's wrong!!!
and then they broke into song.
The dream never dies, just the dreamer.  The dream never dies if it's strong.  The dream never dies, just the dreamer, so come on everybody dream along.   
You may remember another song by someone a bit more famous that said,
"You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one."
I am definitely a dreamer ... I have weird dreams, very seldom scary, always interesting, but a bit strange.  I can't even tell you some of them because you might be in them in ways that would be an embarrassment to you forever.

But I also have dreams while I am awake.  I like to believe that I dream the things that God dreams of and thus He will use me to make those things come true.

I dream about things in my family -- that my daughter will get a better job, that my son will get help and be on the right medication, that my grandchildren's parents will win the sweepstakes so they can afford to visit us weekly (ok, so that's not really possible, but hey, a girl can dream.)

I dream about lots of things at work.   So much so that I drive people crazy sometimes.  In fact, one of my favorite moments when I worked at Bethany was when my admin was getting ready for our annual gala which is tons of work.  I walked in the day before that event and said, "Hey, I was thinking we should do something like this in the Spring as well.  We could...."

She interrupted me and said, "If you bring up ONE more new idea about ANYTHING before this gala is over, I'm going to stab myself in the eye with a pencil."  Point taken.

But I also dream about big huge things, like every child having a loving family, about there being no need for county run foster care in this country because Christians step up to the plate to take care of children and mentor families who are stuck in poverty, like all parents parenting kids from hard places having the knowledge and support they need to parent their children well.

I also dream of a day when all kinds of other social issues are resolved like hunger, and world peace... but I know I only have so much energy and where my influence is.... so the dreams above are the ones that drive me.... because those are ones I am positioned to do something about.

The clincher is this....  if we are going to allow ourselves to dream the things that are aligned with God's plan, He might actually ask us to step up and DO something....  Just sayin...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Joy will find you....


You might be depressed.  You might be feeling overwhelmed.  You might be in the midst of something difficult, but you should take heart.   Joy is looking for you.  That's the way God rolls.

Today is Leon's birthday and when I was looking for pictures to put on Facebook to say Happy Birthday, I realized that for the years he has been the "joy that seeketh me through pain."   For over nine years we have had very few times when we were upset with each other and those things passed over quickly.   He has been a constant source of peace and joy during the most difficult things that our family has been through.  

Leon and Wilson came to us in the midst of some very difficult parenting years... and it was as though  God sent them because God, the author of joy, was seeking us.

Seeing pictures of his face reminded me of this song this morning
O Joy, that seekest me through pain,I cannot close my heart to Thee;I trace the rainbow through the rain,And feel the promise is not vainThat morn shall tearless be. 
So, if you are going through those hard times -- do not close your heart to the joy that is seeking you through your pain.    Look for it, it's there.  Take time to find it.

I am so grateful that God is faithful to break through during even the hard times, with joy.  And today especially I am very thankful for all the joy that this boy/man has brought to our lives.



I know you want to listen to the song, too so you can get it stuck in your head!




Monday, March 20, 2017

Active Hope


I'm not sure that I had ever heard those two words put together before until I read this article this morning.     There are some profound thoughts in the article, but the thought of Active Hope is one I will be referring to in my own mind most likely for the rest of my life.

Here is how it is defined in the article;
Active Hope involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active role in bringing them about. We don't wait until we are sure of success. We don't limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. Instead, we focus on what we truly, deeply long for, and then we proceed to take determined steps in that direction. This is the second thread we follow.
In any situation,
We can rise to the occasion with wisdom, courage, and care, or we can shrink from the challenge, blot it out, or look away. With Active Hope we consciously choose to draw out our best responses, so that we might surprise even ourselves by what we bring forth. 
I love the hope that Scripture talks about -- hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5).  I love Paul's question, "Who hopes for what he already has?  We wait in hope with patience... for things that we don't have and can't see.  (Romans 8).   I love the idea that hope has no data.  

But today I am reminded that hope also involves action -- us playing an active roll in bringing about the outcomes we hope for.   I'm holding on to that.

Whatever it is you hope for today, I challenge you to turn your hopeful ideas into active hope.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Summary for March 18


Whew.  This week was a whirlwind.

As you know, some really cool things are happening at work.  We are about ready to do something that has yet to be done anywhere, ever, to my knowledge.  I'm very excited about this -- so excited that it is hard to do anything but work on this BHAG.....

So... on Tuesday I got to present the powerpoint I had been working on for weeks to the Executive Committee of our Board, and it couldn't have gone better.  It was one of those "once in a lifetime" things, where I saw lightbulbs going on one by one across the room.  Can't say I've ever seen that before.

I went back to my little apartment in Brookneal that night very grateful for God's help -- many were praying.  And I went back very tired -- it was an exhausting day.   I went to sleep around 10 and at 2 the phone rang.  Tony had called Dominyk and had him all worked up suggesting that he had been kicked out of Job Corp and needed a ride home.   We had told him he could NOT come home.  Sure enough there were texts from him no my phone that he had sent at 1:30 saying that he wanted to come home.   He "might" get kicked out and wanted to know if he could move back in.  The answer is NO.   Our family system can't support it.   I didn't go back to sleep that night -- so I was up at 2.  He argued with me periodically all morning in a not very nice way via text reminding me of why he absolutely can't come home.   That was a low point ... But I already wrote all about it this week so I won't bore you.

Thursday Bart did a book talk at the library and in spite of his neck pain did a great job.

Friday I had such an awesome couple meetings at work.  I am so energized by my team and by what we are doing.   Talk about right people and right people in the right seats on the bus ... I've never seen anything quite like it and it gets better by the day.

I'm sure none of them read this so I can brag on them without them ever seeing it, but the four people who report directly to me are so incredibly gifted.   We also have a great deal in common as three of us have parented kids from foster care or have adopted kids with special needs, so it is good to feel like I'm with people who understand me.   If they were not my direct reports, they would be some of my best friends -- and you know the kinds of awesome friends I have if you are one of them!  I am blessed every day to work with the people I work with, both as "My team" and the group of men I work with in Sr. Leadership.   I can't stop being thankful for this.

We are having an introverts weekend here.  Bart's shoulder and neck pain are keeping him home.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, he says it hurts less when he is cleaning than when he is sitting, so the house is getting cleaned.

My back however, does NOT feel better when I'm cleaning and I"m not just saying that.  :-)

Speaking of backs, I got the results from my MRI this week, though the follow up appointment isn't until April.  Turns out I have a disk that is sticking out a bit and a lot of arthritis on the joints in my back, so they recommended I not try and exercise for a while.

Oh well, at least I got a nice T-shirt for $20 a month at Planet Fitness....

That's about it for this week.  Sorry my personal life isn't more exciting -- but work.  Have I mentioned how awesome it is?  How exciting?  How cool?

Oh yeah, maybe a million times.  Sorry.


Friday, March 17, 2017

I Did It All By Myself!


Ever been really proud of yourself?  Ever knock it out of the park with a project?  It's a great sense of satisfaction when you know that you did something well.  However, there is the temptation, always, to forget that God should be getting some credit.

I love the story of Gideon for so many reasons..  Judges 7:2-3 in The Message reads:
God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me."
Wow.  Human nature sure hasn't changed much over the millennia has it?  It seems that way back in the day, people were concluding that they did things on their own strength and not remembering that God was the one who should get the credit.   Sound familiar at all?

When I recruit people to adopt teenagers, I always say, "If you only accept the challenges in life that you can do without God's strength, you never get to see Him do the cool stuff.  It's only when you take on something that is way too hard for you that you can live the adventure filled life that God calls you to live."  (And obviously, adopting a teenager is something that is very hard to do without a lot of help from the Almighty!)

(By the way, if you're interested in adopting a teenager and you live near Lynchburg, Virginia, you may have an opportunity to do that through Patrick Henry Family Services within the next year or so.  Just sayin').

In the verses above it's pretty clear to me.    God said to Gideon as He says to us, "Your challenge is too small.   If that's all you do with your time, with your energy, with your resources, with your life, then you'll take all the credit and forget all about me."

For years I have committed myself to seeking to do things for and with God that I can't do alone.  It's been the hardest, most rewarding, worst, best life a person could imagine.

If you're living in the shallow waters, come on.... jump in.   It's in the deep waters where the cool stuff happens.