Sunday, December 17, 2017

Small Victories

If you do not know, I have begun a journey towards healthy living that is motivated by an event called Do it For the Kids Day.  On March 17th, to raise money for the organization where I work, I will be walking a 2.6 mile marathon.  Since I have not been able to stand more than 3-5 minutes in the past few years without pain, this is going to be a huge uphill challenge.
I have been incredibly blessed by 61 individuals who have chosen to support me by sponsoring me.  Their encouragement has been amazing and the accountability really works.
So here's the good news on all this stuff.   I started seven weeks ago and  I'm losing weight (you can't know now much unless you donate) and getting stronger, but here are some of the small victories:

1)  Putting on my left sock and shoe is no longer the most strenuous and difficult thing I do all day.
2)  Two months ago I woke up with back pain every single morning.   The past several days I have not had that pain in the morning..
3)  Previously, I could not take a shower and stay standing long enough to get dressed.   This past week I have been able to shower, get dressed, and make the bed without having to sit down and rest my back.

4)  The past several years I have not been able to stand long enough to make toast or pop a bog of microwave popcorn.  Last night I popped two bags.

5)   People say my gait is straighter, my speed is faster, and that I look better, but I'm not noticing that too much.
If you are interested in how I'm managing to make progress so quickly, here is my routine, as prescribed by Dave who is donating my training until the walk.  He's a great guy except when I want to punch him.   Check out his website here.
My meal plan is as follows:
Breakfast:  Lean protein and complex carb
Morning snack:  Fruit and lean protein
Lunch:  Lean protein and complex carb
Afternoon snack:  Fruit and lean protein
Dinner:  Lean Protein and vegetable
One meal a week can be a "cheat meal" and one snack can be a cheat snack"
I can tell you that in every single way this meal plan works.  I'm never hungry.  I don't lack energy.  I'm losing weight.   It's a bit of a hassle to remember to pack snacks, but I'm starting to get into the routine.
My workout plan is as follows:
Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle

Tuesday - Cardio -- walking... still not much but more than before (can now go .25 miles without stopping because of pain).
Wednesday:  Day off
Thursday:  Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle

Friday:  Cardio -- walking...
Saturday:  Thursday:  Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle
Sunday -- day off.

Dave prescribes a daily nap and an hour a day to do something you enjoy. I don't often get the nap in, but I try to on weekends!
So -- there you have it in case you were wondering.  
If you haven't sponsored me yet or would like to you can go to this website.  Here you can see all those who have sponsored me and read updates about the programs we are raising money for as well as my progress.  There are even pictures of me.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joyful and Triumphant

Over the next 10 days you will most likely here these words many many times:

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels….

This year I’m choosing to focus on two words when I sing that song and I encourage you to do the same.

I want to focus on being joyful and to remember that the petty things on earth that rob us of our joy are nothing compared to the Joy we can find in Christ.   When we focus on Him and wait patiently for Him, joy WILL find us.

And secondly, I want to focus on the word triumphant.  I confess that this fall there have many days when I have wondered whether or not the enemy is getting ahead.  But regardless of how much I wonder or how I feel, the truth is, he is not and he never will be.  I can be triumphant!   And as I approach the figurative manger to adore the King of Angels, I can do so with a spirit of triumph because the victory is mine.

So come, faithful ones.

Come joyfully.

Come triumphantly.

The King of the Angels is waiting for you to adore Him.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Grounds for Believing

On what grounds do you place your faith?   Have they changed as you've grown older?

When I was a child, my grounds for believing in Jesus were basically because my parents said so.  I grew up, as you may know, with wonderful parents and I completely trusted them -- so when they said that Jesus loved me, I KNEW He did.

As I grew older, though, I had new experiences to add to that foundation.   When I saw him meet the needs of my family members as a teenager, it began to make more sense.  When I went to camps and retreats and watched lives being changed, I believed even more intensely and with a more mature faith.   As a young adult I had many experience that taught me that God was more than just the God of my parents but my God as well.  (Have I ever told you the story of a college football player who got drafted for the specific team I prayed he would?  That was COOL).

During my years in Mexico I saw how God transcended the barriers of language, culture, and socio-economic status and my view of who God was expanded.  Finally, when we began our foster and adoption journey, where a deep faith and conviction that God could carry us through was the only thing we had to hang on to, my faith was redefined.

When listening to the gospel of John (chapter 11) these words jumped out to me as found in the message.  Jesus was telling his disciples that Lazarus had died and that He was going to raise him from the dead.  He said...

You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.

The miracle that Jesus did in raising Lazarus from the dead was another stepping stone in the building of the faith that the disciples had in Jesus.   This was something new for them -- and had much more power than a piece of history that was told and retold to us as our faith was developing.   It obviously would have a huge impact on their faith.

We aren't asking Jesus to bring someone to life.... but hasn't he been able to bring to life multiple things in our lives over the years that have given us "new grounds for believing?"   Is your history, like mine, full of times where you thought things were dead... you had given up .... but Jesus came and breathed new life?  Relationships?  Dreams? Plans?  Visions?   Dead in the water until Jesus showed up?

You may be facing one of those today.   You may be almost out of hope that anything will ever change in that situation.   But you have been given new grounds for believing over and over again in your journey.   Look back at those and remember that nothing is to difficult for God and that even when something is completely dead, Jesus has conquered death -- not just physical death -- but the death of relationships, plans and dreams.

If you look back, you will see times when God gave you new grounds for believing.  So as you look ahead, pay attention to the situations in which He offers you even more opportunities to build your faith.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Ultimate Game Changer

Have you ever had a brilliant idea and then realized that your brilliant idea was one that you have had before and that you have already blogged about it?   If not, you either aren't a blogger, you aren't as old as me, or you don't have brilliant ideas :-)

I was listening to the radio last night and heard a song and though to myself, "Wow, Christmas was a game changer.  Because of Jesus' birth people can live forever!"  I know, not a novel thought, but it stuck me in a new way.   But this morning when I was looking for a quote I realized that last year I had a blog entry called the same thing.... and it was about Christmas.   Brilliant idea, already had it, already blogged it, been there, done that.  But it's worth repeating.

I'm not a grinch in the truest sense of the word, but I am not one of those people who love Christmas... at least not the parts of it that are commercialized and trivialized and become annoying.   I'm sort of like a post-revelation grinch.... because he said after he saw that without all of the commercialization, Christmas still came.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? 
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. 
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 
The song that inspired this brilliant concept this year has a chorus that ends "And man shall live forever more, because of Christmas Day.  Think about it.  It is THE ultimate game changer.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Where's Your Tent?

I gotta tell you, we have had a tough fall at the Fletchers.   So many things have happened that are not tragic, and one of them would not have thrown us off.  But the culmination of a whole bunch of things in a row has us feeling pretty discouraged some days.   We have to rally ourselves again and again to stay positive and trust God.

While listening to the book of Acts, Chapter 2,  in the Message I heard these words:
I saw God before me for all time.    Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;    I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I realized at that point that that is the answer as to “how do you do it?”   People have asked me that question in multiple situations over the years as our number of children and their number of challenges have grown.   The answer is this:

I look for God and see that he is before me for all time.  He is what I see ahead and I know that He can handle anything I'm facing.    And I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope... and it's staying there, regardless of what kind of darts the enemy may throw may.  

When things get dark or dreary at home, work or church, and I start to ask God all kinds of questions about the here and now I remind myself of these things.  That he is before me and that there is always hope.   The hope that never disappoints…. the hope that is found in Christ.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Do you hear them?

Christmas can be a great time, but Christmas can always be a sad time.   Holidays are super hard for people who are missing a loved one or whose families are not getting along.    Society has created expectations for the "perfect Christmas" that nobody can achieve, no matter how hard we try.  So today I want to ask you, "What do you hear when you hear Christmas bells?"

Do you hear the joyous sounds of expectation for the celebration of a newborn king?   Or do you hear the pain of regret, the music of sadness and grief?

You may know that the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" was originally a poem written by Longfellow on Christmas Day 1864.    What you might not know is that  it was written from the experiences of his life at that time involving the tragic death of his wife and the crippling injury of his son Charles.

When listening to this song the other day, I realized that this is the true beauty of Christmas.... that God's son entered this world as a baby to meet us where we are.  At the very heart of Christmas is a God who saw humanity and wanted to get close to us.  God wanted to become man so that he would know what it was like to be us.... not just when we were experiencing the peaks of joy -- but also when we were in our deepest valleys.

Emanuel.  God with us -- not just on the days when we are excited about life and feeling on top of the world -- but God with us ALL of the time.

So wherever you are, let these words speak to you as a reminder of what Christmas is all about -- that God is not dead or asleep but instead is with us, ensuring that the wrong will fail and that right will prevail and that the end result will always be peace on earth and goodwill to man.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day​
Their old familiar carols play,​
And wild and sweet​
The words repeat​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

And thought how, as the day had come,​
The belfries of all Christendom​
Had rolled along​
The unbroken song​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Till, ringing, singing on its way,​
The world revolved from night to day,​
A voice, a chime​
A chant sublime​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Then from each black accursed mouth​
The cannon thundered in the South,​
And with the sound​
The carols drowned​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

It was as if an earthquake rent​
The hearth-stones of a continent,​
And made forlorn​
The households born​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

And in despair I bowed my head;​
"There is no peace on earth," I said;​
"For hate is strong,​
And mocks the song​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"​

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ​
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!​
The Wrong shall fail,​
The Right prevail,​
With peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Monday, December 04, 2017

What needs to be torn up?

Are you ready for Christmas?  The Christmas season is upon us whether we are ready or not and whether or not we fully appreciate the season.  

But as my husband who loves the church calendar will tell you, this is not Christmas … this is advent — a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus.  

Yesterday morning he preached from this passage from Isaiah 64:

“If only You would tear open the heavens and come down! “

He mentioned that sometimes God has to tear open some things in our own lives before we are ready for what God has for us during advent.

I invite you to join with me as we ask God to open the heavens and tear whatever needs torn open so that He can truly enter our hearts this Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Building Muscle

If you are my Facebook friend, you may have noticed that I am on a mission to get in shape for a 2.6 mile marathon I’m planning to walk on March 17th to support the organization where I work.  I say that tongue in cheek because if you are my Facebook friend you are probably so tired of reading about it that you may have unfollowed me by now.

Now that I have a trainer, I’m finding that there is a science to building muscle.  It involves repetition, very slow increases, and consistency.   It has to be intentional and it is often painful, though if you are doing it right, never too painful.

In talking to my BFF yesterday, who might want to remain anonymous for many reasons, we were talking about resiliency.  She and her husband are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met, but they have also been through more crap than you can imagine.  I seriously could write a book about all of the hard things they have gone through in their lives.   Because of this they are also the most resilient people I know.   No matter what they go through they still get up the next morning and continue to be thoughtful, giving, kind, generous, loving people.   Every.  Single.  Day.

I’m concluding as I get older that resiliency is like a muscle and it is only built through hard times.   When God brings us through a crisis that seems overwhelming, we have one more memory to build our foundation of endurance and faith.   The more we go through hard things, if we trust in Him and allow Him to make us stronger, the more resilient we become.

I’ve also been thinking about how our tendency as parents is to rescue our children from the things that God may have in mind to make them more resilient.   We have rescued our adult children from their hard times on multiple occasions and I am questioning whether or not this is hampering them from developing the incredibly important muscles of resilience.

When I first went to the gym, I never said to myself “I am so happy that my arms feel like they are going to fall off right now.”   But when I saw the results of the pain that I went through, I feel pretty good about what I did to get to where I am.  That’s building physical muscle.  It’s how it works.     

Now, I am replacing that language as I have made progress and I often do say to myself, “Wow, my arms are hurting.  I bet I’m building muscle.

So if you are going through something difficult in your life, it may not be your first response to say, “I’m so glad I’m going through this hard time.”  But it may be that once you are over on the other side you will be pleased with how you got to where you are.  That’s building spiritual muscle and resiliency.  It’s how it works.

The same is true in my spiritual life.   Having gone through the hope cycle multiple times in my life: (suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope) I can recognize what God is doing.  I can sometimes even say to myself, “Wow, God must be working in and through me right now.”  

I had a coworker share this song with me and I love it because it talks about dancing in the deep while God calms the storm.     This is my prayer in my own life … that I will become the kind of person who well step out into the sea and dance in the deep, knowing that God is building spiritual muscle in me and that I am becoming more resilient by the day.   

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Have a story?

Usually I write a lot of words.  Sometimes too many.   But today I just want you to watch this video -- not just have it on in the background.  There are some pictures with printing on them that are totally worth the 4 minutes it takes to watch the video.

Today is #ThankfulThursday and I am so grateful for the elements that have made up my story, because without them I wouldn't be the person I am today.

I am also grateful for the opportunities God has given me to speak into the lives of others as He writes their story.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Scarcity or Abundance?

I grew up in a home where my parents had a spirit of abundance.    Funny thing is, we were dirt poor but I never knew it.  I mean I knew we weren't rich, but I had no idea how little we really had until I got older.   My mom made all of our clothes or we got them at Value Village (similar to goodwill)  -- the only thing we bought at the "real" store (Kmart) were undergarments (OK, so I admit I am feeling like an elderly person writing this and the word undergarments seemed appropriate).    We never had store bought snacks.... everything was homemade.  (Did you know that you can trade one homemade cookie for six oreos at lunch if you have friends whose don't have parents who bake?)   I know that my parents got "commodities" monthly -- big blocks of not that great cheese are one of the things I remember.  We drove very old vehicles -- I should say one vehicle at a time, we never had two.    We lived in a "Fixer Upper" that, I kid you not, my parents bought for $9,000 in 1973 and fixed up with a inner city development loan from the government.

We knew not to ask for extras because there wasn't money for them.  Because we knew how it worked.  When pay day came, tithe came first.  Then there were the missionaries we were supporting, that was next.   The major bills were paid and whenever that was over, the rest was for food, gas, and once and a while a special treat like a trip to Baskin Robbins or the "Pop Shoppe" where we would buy a case of very cheap pop in bottles that had to be returned.   

Never once in all of that was I ever hungry.  The clothes I head weren't my favorite but I never had to go to school wearing used undergarments.   (I remember lusting after a $6.99 peach velour top at Kmart and begging for it for several weeks until I realized I didn't need it).   Our family vacation was an annual trip to the church convention and we drove, sleeping in the back of the station wagon and camping in tents at KOAs.   We didn't go to restaurants on the way -- we had our government cheese sandwiches in a cooler and those little boxes of cereal which we only had on that trip.   Every labor day, when it was free admission, we went to Elitch Gardens, our local amusement park, and decided how to spend the tickets that my parents could afford that year.

We went out to eat exactly six times a year.   We went out for each of us kids birthdays, mother's day and father's day and we went out to eat on the one day that we went Christmas shopping at the mall... the only day we went to the mall.   We met in the middle and split up so that we could go with one parent or the other to buy for each other.    Our gifts were small but we spent a great deal of time picking out just the right thing.  

The other interesting piece of it all, was that if someone needed something, my parents always found a way to help them.   We had people over for Sunday dinner regularly and there was always a neighbor who needed a ride or needed a loan.   My parents never told them no -- they found a way to help in whatever way they could.  

In the midst of all that, I grew up hearing my mom sing.  She singed while she cleaned (and there was a lot of cleaning to do as she ran a home day care with 6 kids plus the three of us until I was 14). She singed while she cooked and baked.  She sang while she "mended" and sewed.   And it wasn't just that she sang, but what she sang.

"He owns the cattle on a thousand hills..."

"I've got a mansion, just over the hill top..."

"I'm a child of the king..."

Her spirit was always upbeat and positive.   She was always so positive.  I am sure there are days when she and my dad had conversations about how hard it was to figure out how to pay bills, but we never heard them.    If there was a need, they prayed.   And as they prayed, I watched God do miracles.

One day we sat down to supper and my mom said, "we are out of grocery money so we are going to have to be very creative the next several days" and during family devotions we prayed, as always that God would provide.   Literally that evening a friend from church came over and said, "I feel like God was asking me to bring you groceries."

Another time that I remember vividly was when our old station wagon finally died.    My dad announced that it was unrepairable and that we had no money in savings to buy another one.   Again as a family we prayed.   The next morning an acquaintance down the street called and said, "You wouldn't happen to need a vehicle would you?  We have an old one in the back that runs well and we just want to get it off our property.  We would sell it to you for a dollar.".   

My mom and dad had a spirit of abundance, gratitude, faith and a willingness to share.  

I contrast that spirit to the one that I have had lately.  We have had so many financial setbacks in the past year that I can't even name them.  All of our kids are needing our money and it seems that no matter how much we make we can't get ahead.   I have scrambled and pushed and tried everything I can think of to fix some of these problems... but I haven't prayed nearly enough, and our answers have been desperate borrowing of dollars and not trusting in God.

Last night after a particularly frustrating day where everything seemed to culminate, I was reminded of one more song that my mother used to sing.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

I realized that last night I was there.  I had reached the end of my hoarded resources.  I have been living with a scarcity mindset and that limits God.  I’ve been relying on myself, and that means He can’t step in and do the cool stuff.

I don’t know what is going to happen with many of the situations I’ve been trying to fix.  But I do know that I serve a limitless God.  I am a child of the King who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and I’m going to inherit a mansion some day that’s just over the hilltop.   

I regret that I have not been modeling this for my children lately and I need to do a better job.  

I’m not sure why I shared all that today…. maybe it is because you are struggling with the same thing.   Or maybe it was just because I needed to.   If it’s the latter, thanks for listening.  :-)

Monday, November 27, 2017

I thought I had my PhD

Twelve children that transition to young adulthood without fully developed brains (the brain isn't done growing until a person hits age 25) means a lot of mistakes.   It also means that parents have a lot of forgiving to do.   I used to tell people that Bart and I had PhDs in forgiveness, and that we were well beyond the 490 mark for some of our kids (you know, 70 x 7?).

In fact, we have one son who, in the last 5 months has hit a deer driving Bart's car and gotten into an accident in a mall parking lot with my car that caused 8900 worth of damages and a 36 day old insurance battle which is still ongoing.  I still don't have my car.    He has also been put on hold at work twice as two different vehicles he drives have stopped running...(they were "his" vehicles, but he doesn't have any money.   He also left his stuff too close to the heater and started his room on fire.  Fortunately, our daughter was home or the parsonage would have gone up in flames.

This has been a great opportunity for us to practice forgiveness and we have always prided ourselves in offering grace and forgiveness and doing it well.

But I ran across this on Facebook the other day and it smacked me right in the face.   It said:

Forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

1)  I will not dwell on this incident.

2)  I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.

3)  I will not talk to others about this incident.

4.  I will not let this incident send between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Ouch.   I may have not forgiven as easily or as well as I had thought.

I took a screen shot of the four questions.  I think I need to read them often.   I guess I don't have my PhD after all, but I need to work on getting it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Saturday Summary on Black Friday: 6 days late or a day early?

So, why in the world am I writing this today?  One reason is that I absolutely do NOT do Black Friday.  My goal is to not leave the house at all today.   That gives me time to do some things I might not have time to do tomorrow.  So, you could consider this a day early if you'd like.

Before I forget, we are having a Black Friday sale in our online store and you can save $7.00 on anything there for today only using the coupon BlackFriday.

So anyway, that explains why I am writing today instead of tomorrow but it certainly doesn't explain last weekend.  Let me tell you why I didn't write last week.  It mainly comes down to this.  If things are crazy at home, but work seems pretty level, I do fine.  Same thing is true if work is crazy but home is stable.  But when they both blow up at once, I can get down for the count emotionally.  The other reason was that I have begun to feel invisible.  Let me explain that first and then I'll get to the rest of the stuff.

I have discovered that it is very difficult to do a lot of online "marketing" because after a while it can make you feel invisible.  Between trying to sell the book and raising money for #Doit4thekidsday and not getting responses when or how I thought, I started to get really wacked out.   It was a weird feeling.   (you should really check out that campaign if you haven't already.  It really is meaningful and important and I believe in what we are doing with every ounce of passion I have).

So by the weekend I needed a break badly from all things online.  I didn't want to set myself up for any more rejections and so doing my weekly newsletter which involved writing this just didn't happen.  In fact, I didn't even touch my computer for 2 full days which hasn't happened in I don't know how long.

I can't go into detail about why work was crazy but I had every trauma trigger I have firing like crazy for days.   I didn't sleep for a few nights in a row.  It's all stuff involving the dysfunctional system that I walked into, but let's just say I thought I had made more progress than I have.

And then there is home and the jinx of Dominyk.   He even has been talking about how he feels like he he has "bad juju."     Since May he has hit a deer and totalled Bart's car, got involved in an accident in the mall parking lot that has resulted in $8,900 of damage with insurance still not paid out (lots of complications -- the accident was 34 days ago, very annoying), been taken off the schedule at work twice as a Pizza Hut Delivery driver because his truck died and then the old car he purchased died.  He also left stuff by the heater causing a fire in the parsonage that caused several trucks to come to the house and it made the paper and the TV news.  That was pretty fun for Bart.  I also made the mistake of going into the Sprint Store with him Wednesday where I spent 5.5 hours trying to get Jimmy a phone and get his upgrade.

If you know Dominyk he tends to obsess and talk a lot and so all of his anxiety and stress over all this has consumed a great deal of my time and emotional energy.    Thus .... no Saturday summary last week.

I have had some great success with my weight loss and if you sponsor me for Do it For the Kids Day you can join a Facebook group called "Biggest Givers and Biggest Losers" that will tell you of my progress.

So there you have it.  Not a lot of detail, but a lot of stress.  Hopefully we are coming out of the end of that season as we hit December!

Hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving yesterday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

People are Strange....


I was listening to a great presentation recommended by a friend last night called “Gracism.”  Totally worth the 56 minutes.   You can check it out if you want.  

The speaker, Dr. David Anderson (not the Safe Families guy but an equally effective presenter), quoted this African parable:

When I saw him from afar,
I thought he was a monster.
When he got closer,
I thought he was just an animal.
When he got closer,
I recognized that he was a human.
When we were face to face,
I realized that he was my brother.

It reminds me of a song that my brothers used to sing when we were teenagers.    You can check it out here if you dare.   (My brothers are strange people).   
Since my teen years I have recognized that as long as people are at a distance, we can develop our own story about who they are.  It takes courage for us to get close enough to someone to understand them.  Once we take those steps with an open heart, eager to understand, miracles happen.

Because after all each of us is worth more than gold….