Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not Gonna Let it Happen


If you are wondering where I have been, I went on vacation!  I didn't even take my computer.  Bart and I flew to Minnesota to spend time with my mom, our kids and our grandkids.  We had a great time and made some wonderful memories.

However, as always happens when we are away, a couple things came creeping in from the home front to attempt to steal our joy.   We decided it would be less stressful if we let Dominyk drive Bart's car than for him to be here driving his truck with a bad tire that he was obsessing about.  So of course, he was driving the car when he hit the deer......

And one of our other kids either told a whopper of a lie or is telling the truth which would be even worse.  I had the school calling me.... which hasn't happened in a long time.

But I decided in the midst of all that was happening, that I wasn't going to let it happen -- I wasn't going to let things steal my joy.  

What's poking it's ugly head into your world threatening to steal your joy?  Sing this song a few times today and I guarantee that you will find your joy returning... because it's there, underneath it all, not matter what.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today Is A Gift


I hope that in reading the title of this post you don't skip over it.  I've found out that sometimes the title draws people in and if it seems boring people don't click.  If the title is controversial or intellectually provocative or even rude or annoying people will click.   In fact, the blog post that has the most hits ever in all my 12 years of blogging is one where I simply put the words, "Does this P*** You Off?" and a picture of an angry person at the top and boom ... 6328 hits.  

Anyway, I kinda digressed there.

As I was driving yesterday (I do that a lot) I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the gifts that God has given me.  This is not in the middle of a season in life where everything is perfect...but in the midst of the day to day struggles there are so many amazing gifts packed into every day.   The scenery on my drives in this part of the country is beyond gorgeous.  Every day the sky, the trees, the mountains, the hills, the colors... take my breath away.    I have a husband who, regardless of what he is going through, can always make me laugh and who I love spending time with.   All my grandchildren are gifts.. but it is a special treat to see two of them run towards me when I walk in the door throwing their arms around me.   Their enthusiasm for life and their unreserved love for me are incredible.   My daily needs are always met -- something most people in the world cannot say.  And as I have always been, I am blessed with friendships that transcend boundaries and miles and are deep, meaningful and so much fun.

So when I read an email this morning linking me to this website and the video at the bottom, I watched the whole thing.   The article is about learning the art of gratitude and how important it is for us to teach ourselves to recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives.

If you don't have time to watch the video, at least read these words that are my favorite from the video:
You think this is just another day in your lifeIt’s not just another day ... it’s the one day that is given to you todayIt’s given to you … It’s a giftIt’s the only gift that you have right nowAnd the only appropriate response is gratefulness  If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is.... if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day... then you will have spent this day  very well.

It's #ThankfulThursday.  What do you have to be grateful for?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Unscripted


Do you have a script that you wrote for you life?  Have a plan that you came up with that you figured you would always follow?

I heard a podcast today interviewing sports caster Ernie Johnson, Jr. who recently wrote a book called Unscripted:  The Unpredictable Moments that Make Life Extraordinary.    He talks about how his life began to gain meaning when he went off script.  He speaks of the moment when his wife was in Romania holding a little boy they were planing to adopt.  She called him, told him the little boy had some medical issues, and asked him, "Should we adopt him anyway."  And he said, "yes, bring him home."   He points back to that moment as the time when his life went off script and God began to write the script of his life.

I love that idea -- that when we move out of our comfort zone -- when we go off script and  stop following our plan for our lives and let God take over.

I am glad that I have made choices in my life -- to leave a fairly prestigious job for a 28 year old and sell everything and move to Mexico.   To do foster care as newlyweds.  To adopt twelve kids.  To move across the country when we thought we would never leave Minnesota.   These have all been ways that God has showed up in incredible ways.

Adoption is one way that people can go Unscripted.   I love this video and the family who is in it... and the families I know who have been inspired to adopt because of it.   Thought I'd share it with you.

What's Your Problem?


 

You have problems, right?  I mean I have problems.  I have little problems like how to get my sons to stop peeing on the seat or how to make a spreadsheet do what I want it to.   I have big problems like how to convince people that they want to move to rural Virginia to work on a great staff or how to find housing for a homeless mentally ill son.  

What are your problems?   If you sat down and wrote them all down it might be overwhelming.   But it might be a good exercise at some point ... especially if we wrote lists and prioritized them, recognizing that some of them are quite trivial.


My grandson Carlos is such a great kid.  He's two and a half and just starting to learn to talk, but he is easy to care for because he truly loves vehicles (cars, trucks, tractors, trains) and legos.  He can play with them all day and never get bored.  

But Legos frustrate him sometimes.  The first few times I heard him let out a piercing scream and burst into tears I hurried into the next room to find him heartbroken that he had built the tower too high and it had fallen.  Now I know what that cry is like and I just send reassuring words over to the next room.  "It's OK, buddy, you can build it again."

Combining his two favorite things, vehicles and legos, he has some legos that fit together to form a train.   However, he hasn't quite mastered how to fit them together.   But he quickly figured out how the problem of not being able to fit the pieces together could be solved.  He brings them to grandma or grandpa.   Multiple times a day.  We put them together effortlessly and quickly.   No tears, no crying, no frustration.   And he does it immediately.

You know where I'm going here, right?   What if we realized that God knew how to put our pieces together?  What if instead of getting frustrated and trying to force them together and having our own little tantrums we just took the pieces, the problems of our lives, to Him immediately?

I think this practice would lead to a more peaceful life -- one free of screaming crying lego meltdowns.   And that would be a good thing.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Summary



I started this post with a whiny paragraph but I deleted it.  Be grateful :-)

Good and exciting things are happening at work.  I still love my job and am energized by the mission and the ways that God is working in and through staff and clients as well.   While progress is never as fast as I wish it were, we are heading in the right direction -- we have a plan, we know how to implement it, and we are increasingly adding gifted people to our staff.  In fact, one of my favorite people is going to come serve as the Chief Operating Officer at PHFS in just a few weeks.   We have worked together before, so we get to skip all of the "get to know you" stage and jump right in to getting things done.  I'm very grateful that God has chosen him of the job and that He listened to God!

Personally I'm in a slump.   My back procedure that I had 9 days ago has provided very little pain relief.  I had such high hopes!  It has, however provided me with many side effects including battling with high blood sugars, sleeplessness, anxiety and feeling just a few steps away from everything.  It's an odd feeling and makes makes me second guess myself -- a feeling I'm not familiar with.   My health is deteriorating and I have zero motivation to make improvements when I am in pain.

On top of it all at 10:17 on Tuesday morning my throat started to hurt and then I ended up with the sniffling, sneezing, headache, sinus, cough... you get it.  I won't go on.

The week with the family has been fairly uneventful form our perspective.  There have been moments where I've been shocked at the absurdity of some of our kids choices and behaviors, but that's pretty much been a daily feeling for 20 years.  You'd think we get used to it.   Sadly, the days are gone where I can tell you in great detail about their antics..... but they can all read and they might click here.   To their defense, some of them are doing VERY well.



The grandchildren are delightful and we love having them here.  Carlos is learning some new words and has added thank you, sorry, and a very cute version of "Love you" to his vocabulary.  Gabby is as delightful as ever.... always pleasant and cooperative with us and mature and smart beyond her years.

I had a chance to hang out with a couple of my friends here in Danville this week for coffee which is always fun.  Also had a great time with coworkers at a training on Monday... really good stuff about trauma.  We also had Venezuelan food for lunch.   Yum.   And Wednesday we had all staff meeting with a couple of powerful, very moving presentations.  

So in looking back it was a pretty good week.... Guess I don't have as much to whine about as thought!  Hope your week was good as well.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Results of That Survey I've Been Begging You To Take

In case the categories are hard to read in the graph, here they are again:

I am/was worried about the effect it would have on my children. 31%
I don't know and never knew there was a need. 23%
I don't/didn't want the county or state getting involved in my life. 19%
I am/was worried I would get too attached to the kids in my care and couldn't give them back. 29%
I hear/heard horror stories about kids in foster care and didn't want the hassle. 12%
I don't/didn't feel that God was calling me to do it. 16%
Life Situation Incompatible (No Time, Energy, Resources) 40%

First of all, thanks to everyone who helped me get to 1000.  

Secondly, this obviously is not official research, but I think it is pretty representative of our world today.

Finally, stay tuned!   Once we have Licensed Child Placing Agency status at Patrick Henry Family Services I am going to be able to tell you some exciting news about how the program we are starting is going to address several of the concerns above.  

I'm so excited!

Boldly


Four Years ago today I posted this on Facebook:
Last night between 10:15 and midnight Minnesota time I had a dream. I dreamed I went to see my dad at the Hospice care center but he wasn't there. I drove away and turned a corner and suddenly saw a wide white beach. I could see my dad at a distance...first in a wheelchair, then standing, and then taking off running, turning somersaults and doing cartwheels in the white sand. It was warm and sunny and he looked so happy.  
This morning during church I got a voice mail from my mom saying, He did it Claudia! He made it to heaven to see his mother for Mother's Day! He is rejoicing and so am I!"
She went on to explain that he died peacefully in his sleep last night at 9 pm their time... The same time I was having the dream about him turning cartwheels in the sand.  
I called my mom back immediately to see how she was and she said,"I'm delighted he is in heaven. He is free!" 
I'm not quite as strong as my mother, but I'm so glad I got to spend so much great time with him the last two weeks and I'm so privileged to have had such a kind, loving, gentle, compassionate earthly father. Enjoy your first day in heaven dad! Bet you're having a blast catching up with all your old friends!
As I look back on those weeks, I'm still grateful for the time we had together.  We listened to old hymns "Arise, My Soul Arise" and "And, Can It Be" were the two he wanted to listen to over and over again.
My dad was a timid man, soft-spoken, introverted, shy even.   He had a wicked good sense of humor though, so when he did speak we listened.
But it brought tears to my eyes those weeks four years ago and it still does today, that one of the songs he wanted to hear in his last days of life has these words:
Bold I approach the eternal throne,And claim the crown,Through Christ, my own
My dad was such a godly man.  and I just love it that he KNEW that he would be transformed into one who could boldly approach the throne of the Almighty God.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It's All I Can Do...


Have you ever been overwhelmed by God's goodness.... It might happen in the most unlikely moments when things aren't going quite the way you want them to and then suddenly...BOOM it hits you?  "I don't deserve ANYTHING God has given me."  

That happened to me this morning.   I tell my staff that Thursdays are #ThankfulThursday, but I did not wake up feeling grateful.   I must confess that my feelings were nothing like that.

One email that I read this morning is all it took to turn things around.  The story in that email and the recognition of the work that God is doing to work in people's lives all around me...and I was in a completely different place.  Suddenly I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.

Sometimes it takes us by surprise, and sometimes we have to focus on the good things that are there, but once we recognize how much God has done for us, we can't help but thank him.




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What am I supposed to do now???

We all find ourselves in situations where we have no clue what to do.   It's a common theme in my blog posts I'm sure...    I always want to move ahead and fix everything and the less that all of what I'm trying to do works, the more frantic I am to make it work.   And the more frantic I get, the less it works.

You ever been there?

I heard this song (Still by Hillary Scott) for the first time yesterday and the lyrics are the story of my life:

I believe that You are God alone
But sometimes I still try to take control
'Cause I get scared when I can't see the end
And all You want from me is to let go
You're parting waters
Making a rain for me
You're moving mountains that I don't even see
You've answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still
I bring my praise before I bring my need
'Cause there's no fear You've not already seen
I rest my heart on all Your promises
'Cause I have seen and know Your faithfulness
You're parting waters
Making a rain for me
You're moving mountains that I don't even see
You've answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still
And know that You are God
Be still
And know that You, trust that You are parting waters
Lord, You whispered my name
Oh, You answered my prayer
You're moving mountains
You're parting waters
Making a rain for me
You're moving mountains that I don't even see
You've answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still
Be still,

That's what I'm supposed to do now.  That's what your'e supposed to do now.  Be still.  

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Seeing Clearly


The past few days have been a bit of a fog for me.  I don't do well with oral steroids, and apparently injected steroids aren't much better.  I feel incredibly foggy and am not tracking well.  It's strange for me.

In fact, Friday I was in a meeting and trying to figure out a scheduling issue with a  group of people staring at me.   I couldn't for the life of me put it all together.  Finally, I turned to my dear friend and coworker Micheal, and asked him for assistance.  He responded, "Oh, I stopped trying to figure this out a long time ago.  But this is very entertaining."

The foggy feeling has lasted through the weekend.   It got me thinking about these verses from 1 Corinthians 13 today (The Message):
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
On good days, we think we see things clearly in our world.  We think we understand what's happening.  But in reality, it's all foggy.   We see things through lenses of imperfection.  Fortunately, a day is coming when we are going to see things clearly -- the way God sees them, and we will know Him perfectly.

I'm looking forward to the day when my health returns to normal.... but even more so, I am looking forward to the day when we no longer are seeing through the fog of our earthly eyes, but we are seeing things perfectly.

We're going to see a bright, bright, sunshiny day.


Sunday's Saturday Summary

Another week that was fuzzy and strange here at the Fletchers.

Work had it's ups and downs, most unsharable.  And on Thursday I had my back procedure that has been scheduled for a while.  An epidural steroid injection.  It derailed me for days and still is.  Blood sugars over 600 for a day that I barely could lower with insulin.... and I was edgy and jumpy and my mind went blank multiple times.  I was unlike myself and had not filter.  It wasn't fun.   And the sad thing is that I'm not sensing much in regards to pain relief.

Tony seems fine at Jimmy and Rand's for now.  He started a job.   We met Salinda's new male friend who came to church today and then had lunch with us.  Dominyk has moved up to Brookneal.

We are planning to be in Minneapolis in a couple of weeks, but won't have much time there at all and that's disappointing because there are several people that we would like to see.

Gabby has been asked to be part of a gifted and talented program at school (have I told you that) and Carlos has started using the words "Thank you" and "sorry" this week.  He's so cute.

Bart's neck gets increasingly better by the day.   Church was fine this morning (the steroids make it hard for me to focus I guess... I couldn't follow much).   But it's always good to be there.

the content and the organization of this email are indicative of how well I'm doing with steroids in my system.

Impressive eh?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Ever ask God, "Are you SURE?"

Have you ever had a time when you thought you heard God ask you to do something that didn't seem to make sense?  Ever said, "God, I think what I hear you saying is ..... but SERIOUSLY?  Are you sure?

This happened to Elijah in I Kings 17.  Starting in verse 8 it says:
God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.”  
So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”
She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”
I bet Elijah was thinking, "Did I hear wrong?  Why would God tell me that he has a widow to feed me, and then send me to someone who is going to die of starvation if she shares her food with me?"

But you may know the rest of the story.  If you don't you should read it.   The widow obeys and because of it she has a food supply that never dries up.  And it gets better and more complex after that.  But the bottom line is that God had a plan ... not only to bless Elijah but to bless the widow as well.

God's plans don't look like ours.   We don't have ultimate wisdom, unlimited resources, and we aren't all powerful.  But with that combination, He has a plan much different than ours.

His plan doesn't just include us - but He has a plan where He uses us to change the lives of the people around us.   We can't see the bigger picture, but He can and His instructions for us are to obey so that the Master Plan can come to be.

But here's the catch:  the adventure is in seeing what that plan is, but if you don't take those first steps of obedience you'll never see it.

Who wants to miss out on an adventure? Not me.  That's for sure.

Monday, May 01, 2017

When God Shows Up


Have you ever had God show up?  Like when you least expected it did he surprise you by being there to give you direction? Have you felt His presence strongly in ways you didn't imagine?  The same thing happened to Elijah in First Kings 19.
He was tired and overwhelmed.  In fact, he was REALLY tired and overwhelmed.  In 1 Kings we read:
He (Elijah) came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.
He fell asleep and then an angel wakes him up to see that there is food next to him.    He eats, but he's still tired so he goes back to sleep.  An angel wakes him up again and tells him he needs to eat again because it's time to go on a journey.  He travels 40 days and 40 nights and then crawls in a cave to go back to sleep.   Finally, he wakes up and God asks him, "why are you here?
Elijah replies:  
I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
He is told:
“Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GodGod will pass by.”  A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.  When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice spoke.
I realize that is a long story but there are several things to learn from it.

1)  When we are overwhelmed, God knows what we need.   The needs are basic.  Food, shelter, water, sleep.   He took care of those things before He asked Elijah to do more.

2)  Even when we are at the end of ourselves and ready to be done, God still calls us to move forward.

3)  Even when we are faithless, God is faithful to speak to us.   Elijah had himself convinced that even though he was "working his heart out" that God was not paying attention and believed he was going to die.  But God knew different.

4)  When God shows up, He doesn't always do it in the ways we most expect it.   We look for him in hurricane winds.  We look for Him in earthquakes.  We look Him in raging fires.   But when he shows up it is sometimes a "still, small voice" or, as translated above, "A quiet soft voice."

So, are you feeling overwhelmed and wishing you were dead?  Try this.  Imagine God saying to you.... Have some healthy food and water and get some sleep.   Then do that.   It may take while to establish healthy sleep and eating patterns, but put in the time to do it.   Then go for a long walk.  :-)

Then, once you have those basic needs met, admit to God that you are the end of yourself.

And then, listen, with a still, small voice.  You'll be amazed at the plans He has for you.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Noiseless, Patient Spiders


Seems like lately Bart's sermons have been so good that I am writing a blog post about them every Monday!  Yesterday he talked bout love -- and how we are all connected.

He started by reading a Walt Whitman poem that my friend Michelle shared with me yesterday called a noiseless, patient spider.

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
  
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

I know that is pretty heavy stuff, but it is good.   Our souls, like a spider, are casting out filaments hoping that they will reach others to make a connection.

He also read this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
 “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be ... “ 
I'm not sure that explaining those two things further would make them more meaningful.  In fact, I think they would have less than an impact if explained.

So read them again :-) 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Summary

Wow.  It has been a week.   I can't and won't go into detail about work, but it was sure challenging.

Home life has been pretty stable.  Tony is still living with Jimmy and Rand but he got a job at Culver's and starts Monday.  We are working on a permanent housing situation for him.  Bart's neck is getting better by the day.    Salinda's week has been fine other than car trouble and Wilson continues to go to work regularly without complaining.

 Dominyk is in Brookneal this weekend and worked yesterday.  He will work again Monday and Tuesday and then comes back for his last class this week.  Then he will be moving up to Brookneal and plans to spend most of his summer up there in the apartment.   We'll see how that goes.

Probably the highlight of my week is that I wrote a couple of blog posts that I thought were pretty good.   I seldom think that they are anything special, but I thought they were borderline inspired.  If you missed them, check them out.    Monday I referred to Bart's sermon Sunday about Joy    Wednesday I tackled the topic of what it means to be wrecked.    And yesterday, I asked the question Why do we keep taking it back? when we give things to God.

It seems like this has been a very very long week, but really there isn't much to report!   Hope your week was more interesting but in a good way :-)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Why do I keep taking it back?


Are you like me?  Do you give things to God and then take them back?  My mother and I have been talking about this being an issue for her all of her life and she is about to be 88.   "Relinquish" is her favorite word.  And yet it is so hard to do.

Remembering that God is God and I am not seems to be a recurring theme.   Here are some ways that we as humans can forget that God is God.

1)  We try to control things.  Our minds spin from one thing to another in an attempt to make things happen the way that WE think they should happen.  We manipulate and position ourselves and others to make things turn out a certain way.

2)  We think we know best.   Without consulting God we decide what the best thing is for us and we want that ... we seek that ... we do everything we can to make it happen (see #1).    The problem is that we want what is easiest, what is comfortable, what causes us the least amount of pain.  But the reality is that God has one goal -- and that is to make us like Him.  And that seldom happens when everything is easy, comfortable and pain free.

3)  We worry about the future.   We forget that God knows the end from the beginning and that He can see not only our present but the future as if it was the past.  

4)  We tell him that we trust Him, but we act like we don't.   Read that again.

Putting things in God's hands and then taking them back is what we do as humans.  But it is my prayer that as we all mature we will leave things in His hands more often than not.

This song speaks directly to this so I need to share.  It's brought me to tears this morning.

 


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Here Comes the Sun!!



Thanks to those of you who have sent encouraging texts and emails.  As you can tell, I use my own life as a frame of reference when I blog.  Not because I want to make it all about me, but because on any given day, there is someone out there who is right where I am and can be helped our encouraged by my words.

Yesterday I posted the above picture on Facebook and wrote "After two days of cold and rain I walked outside to birds chirping loudly, blinding sun, and soothing warmth. God's metaphor."    

Since the day before it looked like this it was especially meaningful.





Just like I have been blogging the past few days about how God brings us through things to the other side and joy comes after suffering, the sun comes after the rain.

Just thought you'd like to know.  The sun does come back.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wrecked?


What wrecks you?  What takes you to a place where your biggest emotions are completely present?  What takes you to the very end of yourself and your strength until you have no words?

I read this awesome blog post called Foster Care Will Wreck You this morning that a friend put on my Facebook timeline.  I had never seen the blog before but the article is well worth the read.

It got me thinking about the word wrecked.  Wrecked is different than ruined ... and being wrecked, in the light of the gospel, is not a bad thing.

I have several friends and some coworkers who are going through some really tough stuff right now.  I guess we have been too.   I know that they feel wrecked, like we did last week at our house.

You know the feeling -- it is that "sit and stare into space for a very long time because I have no idea what to do" place.  Those "there are no easy answers and this seems impossible" thoughts rushing through our minds.  Emotions scream "I can't take this any longer.  Please make it stop" and our bodies physically react to the stress.  We find tears just behind our eyelids wanting to escape for days at a time.   We can't see the answers and we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we cannot in our own strength handle our present circumstances.

But that is where being wrecked leads Christians to a new place.  There's a line in an old song that says, "When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, the Father's full giving has only begun."

Because, my friends, there is a timeless truth that none of us want to embrace, but it is true regardless.

If we never get wrecked we will never be rescued.  And during the times when God steps in to rescue us we experience new levels of joy and blessing that can never come without the wreck.  It also gives us the ability to recognize when others are wrecked and step in to help them as well.

I love the line in the blog post that I linked above that says.

"because your heart has already been shattered into pieces, it has made it easier to share."

So if something is wrecking you today realize that God is working.  Good things will come of this, even if you can't see it now.

If you're in a good place, listening to this song may not have an impact on you today.  But if you are in the process of being wrecked as God prepares for your rescue, it will bring you to tears.  It did me today.



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.