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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Reasons to Be Thankful

It's Thankful Thursday.  Here are Three Reasons I'm thankful today.... and three reasons you should be too.

1)  God answers prayer.  I had a meeting this week where I gave a presentation.  The results of that meeting were far above and beyond anything I could have imagined.  We had so many people praying for us.... our Sr. Leadership team walked a way knowing that God has answered prayer.    Remember my friends I told you about whose son turned 14 while in a coma because of sepsis to the point that we all, thousands around the country, prayed that God would spare his life.  Well, this picture shows what happened with that :-).

And just so you know, God answers prayer by saying no sometimes to.   I can't imagine how different my life would be had he answered all my prayers with a yes.   Being married to David Cassidy from the Patridge family (or any of the other guys I asked God for over the years) for example, would probably not have gone well.  

2)  Because I'm choosing to be.   I could easily find so many ways to complain if I wanted to.   There are a multiple of challenging things facing our family right now, and work has it's issues, and Bart and I are both in pain so much we have to help each other put on socks some days, but I chose to focus on the good.

3)  Because God is good.  All the Time!  If you have been to any of the churches we pastor, you know that this is the way we begin almost every Sunday.

Come on... Sing it with me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Needed to Self-Regulate!!

Have you ever gotten a phone call in the middle of the night that was not good news?  Then you know that those things are trauma triggers like none other.   I got one this morning at 2:00 a.m. and I have not been back asleep (except for possibly about 20 minutes between 4:30 and 5:00).  The news isn't the important part of this story -- if you are curious it was Dominyk saying Tony is going to get kicked out of Job Corps.  There were also texts from Tony begging us to let him come home.  So, if you know how things went the last time he was home, you know why this made me not be able to fall back asleep).

But the point of my post is that after I got done yelling at Dominyk that a 2 a.m. call to tell me this was NOT necessary and that I could have made it just fine until morning without knowing that, not to mention that his Dad is in the same house with him while I am 60 miles away.... anyway, I digress.

After I got done yelling and got back into bed I had a sudden realization of what it feels like to have your amygdala hijacked and to be in a complete state of fright, freeze, or flight.  I had NO ability to think straight.  My typical response to something like this is to process it with Bart but he was asleep miles away.   I used de-escalation techniques, reminding myself that in 15 minutes or so I would be calm again.  The thoughts were racing through my head.  My engine was definitely in the red zone.

(If you want to learn more about the graphic above, what it means to have a red engine,  and how to teach self regulation to kids, this article gives a good overview).

While I was lying there recovering from the aftershocks of a major trauma trigger, I started thinking about our children.   I thought about how many times when they were growing up and in the "red zone" I thought I could help them learn something.   My lectures that I found so very brilliant, were not registering at all because learning can't take place without felt safely.  Oh if I had known that twenty years ago.

So what did I do?  I tried everything I could think of to go back to sleep.  I stayed away from electronics for a while and tried every trick I know, including counting backwards by fours starting at 413.   I thought about happy things.  I mentally walked the campus I lived on in boarding school, I mentally walked the college campus.   I thought about work, which, by the way, was awesome yesterday.... the presentation I made finally helped me to understand something they have heard for 7 years, but it hadn't clicked until yesterday.

I finally gave up on that and decided to read a few chapters of a book.  I tried to go back to sleep again.  I played all my Candy Crush lives and all my Lexulous turns.  I even unfollowed unwanted instagrammers.   I finally gave up and got up at 6.

It was a good lesson for me though... and a good reminder.  The next time that I come across my child or another child whose engine is red, I'm going to try and remember that feeling and think about what I would want someone to say to me.

Now if I can just stay awake for the rest of the day that would be great.  :-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Love and Fear

My husband is preaching a sermon series about this very topic and it made me remember a quote I heard from an old friend once.  I put it on my Facebook the other day:
There are only two feelings, Love and fear:
There are only two languages, Love and fear:
There are only two activities, Love and fear:
There are only two motives, two procedures,
two frameworks, two results, Love and fear,
Love and fear.(Micheal Luinig)
I  believe there is a great deal of wisdom in that.  We often think that the opposite of love is hate, or maybe indifference, but what if the opposite of love is fear.  It would make sense then, that in 1st John we are reminded that there is no fear in love and that perfect love casts out fear.

When I take a look around me the past several months I can see how the world has become captive to fear.    This means, that more than ever before, those of us who know the Author of Love should be able to help cast out that fear.   But not if we are overcome by fear ourselves.  We often forget the rest of the verse in First John that says he that fears is not made perfect in love.

Whether your challenge is with the big heavy issues of our world, or something small and comparatively simple in your life, is fear more prevalent than love in your heart?  If so, come to God today and ask Him to perfect you in love so that you can be fearless.

I want to leave you with a quote that was in the link I posted yesterday in case you haven't read it.  You should read it.  I have read and reread it several times over the past few days.  Interestingly, the author is a "post-trauma specialist" which fits right in with what we are studying and learning about in our quest to provide trauma informed care.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But...that is not what great ships are built for. --Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I can't stop listening to this song....

Monday, March 13, 2017

I couldn't say it better so I'm not going to

I have not blogged about it much, but the past several months in our country have been very troubling to me.     I have tried to put relationships over politics and opinions and sometimes I have had to keep my mouth shut.    And as the Queen Grandmother said in the Crown (a series about Queen Elizabeth that Bart and I have been watching on Netflix)"

To do nothing is the hardest job of all and it will take ounce of energy that you have.To be impartial is not natural not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown.And the minute you do, you will have declared a position. A point of view.
And that is the one thing as sovereign that you are not entitled to do.
The less you do, or the less you say or agree or smile--- the better" 
Obviously I am not sovereign, but I have realized more and more lately that in order to protect people and relationships, that doing and saying nothing is the hardest job of all.   I am getting way off the point here, and I am NOT saying that those of you who have made your opinions known are wrong in doing so, but I believe for now, at this point in time, with the circumstances in my life, that God is asking me to keep my mouth shut.  That doesn't mean that I don't occasionally slip up, but as a general rule I try and do the right thing without saying much.

BUT, I read something today that is so good ... it sums up so much of what I've been feeling and wanting to say lately, that I had to put it here....

Check this out.  It's well worth the time to read it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Summary

Wow.   I missed my "Saturday Summary" yesterday!  I had a huge presentation I was working on from 6:30 to 8:30 and then we took off.  More on that in a minute.

So, how was my week?  Well as usual, work slams me from Monday early morning until Wednesday night.   I try to pack as much into that as I can and literally work from when I wake up until I go to bed while I am away from the family so that I can feel less guilty about taking time for them while I'm hear.   We have a bunch of big stuff coming up -- some really cool stuff -- that is involving a lot of deep thinking.   So I have been off thinking about the Virginia system and learning acronyms like VDSS and LDSS and CSA and CPMT and CSB and CANS and and and.....

On Thursday I got to work from home, but spent most of the day at the church so I could focus.  I was working on the presentation I finished yesterday morning.

On Friday I went to a Regional CPMT meeting and learned all kinds of interesting things.  

On the family front, my phone is grand central station.  I learn all kinds of things.  I get great snap chats of some of my grandkids.  I hear from Mercedes nearly every day -- and -- BIG NEWS -- she just got a new job.   It's full time with benefits and her first "real" job.  With a desk.   She's excited and I'm proud of her.  She had a very diligent job search when she decided to stop being a nanny and put a lot of effort into it.  It paid off!

I got texts from Tony thanking me for the letter I sent.... Jimmy texted me that he cut his finger.   Rand let me know he was going to buy groceries.  

On the home front here, Dominyk has been on a weird schedule, forgetting to take his meds, which always makes it tumultuous between he and I.  Wilson seems fine -- is planning to take his permit test next Friday and applied for a job where Salinda works.  We'll see what happens there.

Salinda got a couple pieces of bad news this week and I feel really bad for her.  She has done such a great job of putting her kids first, but her job is discouraging.  Please help me pray that she will get the job she just applied for as I think it would be a really good fit and could improve her life greatly.

Yesterday Bart and I took a day to visit the Andy Griffith museum in Mt. Airly, NC.  It was on our 2017 bucket list.   Which actually shouldn't really even be called a bucket list, but whatever.  So we drove there, looked around, hand some lunch... the drive was beautiful -- nice and sunny.

And today we went to church.

I've been feeling a little glum this weekend.  I think the main reason is because my children make choices that I know are going to make them suffer, and I warn them not to make them, and then they do, and then I have to watch them suffer.   It's one of the hardest thing about parenting kids from hard places, I think, as they reach adulthood.

Big week coming up at work.... Gotta stop being glum-- work to do.

For anyone who has read to this point, thanks for caring about my life enough to read this.  :-)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Just Not Strong Enough

Are you like me?  Do you have some days when you feel really confident about your skills and abilities but others when you aren't so sure you're strong enough to do what is ahead of you?

Today the task before me seems daunting and I wonder if I have what it takes.  Today I am working on a powerpoint that may be the most important presentation I ever give or have ever given.  The executive committee of our board is going to meet on Tuesday, and I am going to need to try and switch a paradigm that has existed for 56 years.  The paradigm they possess is older than I am and it MUST change.

I care deeply about this for many reasons, some of them personal and some of them professional.  I am very passionate about kids being in homes instead of institutions, kids being in a permanent healthy family on their 18th birthday, and the least restrictive setting for every child.

I need to convince a group of people, some who have been on the board for decades, that we need to "close the orphanage" and join the orphan care movement.   There are so many nuances and so much to communicate and I need to do it just right.

So, if you think about it, pray for me today as I work on this powerpoint.... And pray for our board that they will realize how great the need for change is and that they will choose to do what is best for children.

And if you are having a day like mine, I think this song might be a great reminder for us both:

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Do you want to live a three verse life?

If you could choose to told that you were like any Biblical character out there, who would you choose?  Obviously, Jesus is the first answer that comes to mind for most of us.

That reminds me of a story about a little four year boy who was up front for the children's sermon and the pastor held up a picture of a squirrel.   He asked, "What is this?" and little boy said, "I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure looks like a squirrel to me!"

So, yes, the answer is always Jesus.  But if He were not in the running, who would you choose?  There are obviously some we'd rather not be identified with.  Nobody wants to be told that they remind someone of Jezebel, or Judas, or Pharaoh, or Pontious Pilate, or Judas.

Would you like someone to tell you that you remind them of Moses, or King David, or the Apostle Paul?  How about Queen Esther or Solomon? There are so many great ones to pick from.

But yesterday I decided that I didn't want to be like Abdon.  Here is all that the Scripture says about him in Judges 12:
Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years (from 1063BC-1058BC, in case you were wondering). 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
That's it.  His whole life and the eight years he was a leader all summarized in four sentences.   Basically he had a lot of kids, he had a lot of donkeys, and he died.

To contrast that, the next THREE chapters of Judges are about Sampson.   All the great things he did and all the stupid things he did, but at least his life was worth three chapters instead of three verses.

If an account is being written of our lives here on earth, I want mine to say more than that.  Even if it isn't all perfect, I want to do something with my life.   

I want to live a three chapter life.  I want my life to count. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Selfish, Selfless, or Otherish?

Don't be selfish!  Be Selfless!  Ever heard that?  Well I read another take on that recently that I thought was worth pondering.

In his book, "Give and Take", Adam Grant introduces the term Otherish.   He observes that those who are "selfless" and do not take care of themselves often become very worn out, and can get resentful.  Also, in neglecting themselves, they may not do their jobs as well as they should and their health may not be the best.

In one of my books I also pointed out that this song I sang at church may not be accurate:

Jesus and Others and You, what a wonderful way to spell JOY,
Jesus and Others and You, in the life of each girl and each boy,
J is for Jesus for He has first place,
O is for others you meet face to face,
Y is for you in whatever you do,
so put yourself last and spell JOY.

(I'm kinda proud of myself for still having retained that in my brain for nearly 50 years.)

In my book I suggest that always putting things in that order can spell exhaustion or resentment, and not always spell joy.

Otherish means that you take care off yourself, but you are always on the lookout as to how you can add value to other people and how you can help them on their journey.  It doesn't mean always saying yes, or becoming a doormat, but it means paying attention to how you can invest in the lives of other people.

Self-care is important.   Being self-less is good.  But I think the point in Scripture is where focus is.   Our focus cannot continually be on ourselves or we will end of living pretty sad lives -- whether the focus is on how much I do for myself, or the focus is on how much  I am doing for others, if the focus is on me and what I'm doing I'm missing the point.

I guess it comes to balance, something I'm not good at, but working on every day.

Try using the word Otherish in your mind for a while.  I've been doing it for the last month or so when I'm tempted to use the world self-less and it reminds me to take care of me, but invest in others.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

2 Months of Bullet Journaling....

So.....   two months into Bullet Journaling and I still love it.   I've probably decreased my obsession a bit, but I feel good about the way it makes me live intentionally.

Last month I gave you a list of some of the ideas.  I'm continuing many of them, but you might be asking, "So, what have you added this month?"  Well, I'm glad you asked. Let me tell you.

  • At church we are finishing up a book on writing Psalms, so I have a page for each of the 8 Psalms I'm going to write (two of them are done) based on the book.
  • I have started dedicating a page to any non-fiction book I've read.  After I finish the book, I look up a summary online and outline it.  The page from the book Switch is the page that turned out the best, so you can see that above.  It also may encourage you that you can do bullet journaling without a bit of artistic talent.
  • Bart and I have begun a challenge to cook a meal from 21 different countries this year, so I have a page for that.
  • I made a list of restaurants we want to try.  After only a year here we are stuck in old patterns and there are so many more places to check out that we haven't yet experienced.  
  • I also started tracking all of our expenses to compare from month to month.   It's been quite insightful.
  • I added a page for every one of Covey's 7 Habits so that I can jot down ideas of ways that I am practicing those habits.
  • I also have a couple other pages to help me track the way that I want to add value to others around me.
  • I made a wish list to counteract Frugal February.  Something has to be on the list for a least two weeks until I buy it ... to make sure I really want it.  
  • I also started a page to track the TV series Bart and I watch together.  Too often I find myself sitting there watching him flip through channels which basically means that as soon as I"m interested in something he switches it.  So I told him we will pick series together and then if he wants to just graze through the 300 channels, I'll go do something else.
  • Every weekday at work I send a song to my staff.  I have a page now that lets me put ideas of those songs there so I don't forget to include them.
  • I made a goal page for February and met every goal!
  • I have also kept track of how many miles I drive just because it's a lot and tracking it makes me feel smug somehow.
I am still loving Bullet Journaling!  It keeps me motivated.  For example, I have read 12 books in 2 months and am almost done with another one.   I would never have done that if I didn't have the reward of coloring in my books on the shelf!

Have you started your bullet journal yet?

Saturday Summary 3.0

Wow.  It's been quite the week.   Not as eventful as a pacemaker for my mom and an unexpected sister-in-law, but it seems like several things have happened.

First of all, my friends in California that I've been mentioning is still in ICU.   Please keep praying for him and his parents.  This picture may help you remember.  You can also support his parents with their extra expenses here if you're interested.

My work week included presenting at the Residential Care staff meeting which I had not done since I hired a director for that program back in August.  It was a tough but good meeting.   Tuesday was full of meetings from start to finish, Wednesday Bart and I had a fun lunch together and then we had an imperfect Ash Wednesday service.   Oh No.   

Thursday I got to work from home and yesterday I had meetings in Lynchburg.

Personal stuff included date night on Thursday night Bart and I headed to go bra shopping (I know, I know, TMI, but true), get haircuts, and try a cool new restaurant.    Last night we had so much fun with a couple of our favorite 70+ year olds from church.   They are adoptive parents which has made getting to know them even more fun.

I have had contact with our son John who called us from jail.  Please help us pray that they will let him fulfill his prison sentence at MN and Adult Teen Challenge.  He reports that he has a spot and that it is a 13 month program that you leave alcohol and drug with a job, a GED, housing, a vibrant faith.  If anyone can help him, they can, so pray that this becomes reality (if you're looking for something to pray about).

I also booked tickets for a trip to MN in May.  We are only going to be able to afford a few day stay (this is what happens when you have a husband who only wants to stay in hotels). so I'm not sure how many folks we will be able to see outside of family.

In the last eight days I have been able to have lunch or dinner with all three of my "direct reports" -- three of the most amazing leaders I have ever worked with.  I love hanging out with them and feel privileged to be their "boss."

Finally, I made it through Frugal February not spending anything other than a few pictures I ordered for my mom.  My rules were nothing but essentials and I made it.  But boy, March 1st came along and I ordered some new markers that I am very excited about :-)

Stay tuned for a report on my 2nd month of Bullet Journaling.  :-)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety come to us in many forms.  It can come as a result of earlier experiences that trigger a reaction in us, warranted or not, that almost paralyses us.

It can come from a life event -- such as being experienced by some friends of mine whose son, who just lived through his 14th birthday unconscious, is lying somewhere between life and death very sick with an infection.   For two weeks now they have sat in the hospital begging God to spare their son's life.   They have kept Facebook updated with such real, gut-wrenching posts about the fear that creeps up on them that they have to pray through.  Thousands of people are praying for him and he is making slow progress, but there have been some dark days.

Fear and anxiety can come from our subconscious.   This past week I have had two very vivid dreams about two experiences I had in the last year that were some of the most horrible things I've ever gone through.  I relived them in my dreams and woke up very anxious.

Being afraid is not a sin.  Being anxious is not a moral evil.  Some personalities are more prone to it and others have legitimate brain chemistry challenges.     So if you feel guilty when you experience fear or anxiety, let yourself off the hook.

When I am feeling anxious or afraid, I try to do these things:

1)  Regulate myself.   Breathe deeply, go for a walk, change what I'm doing physically (if I'm seated, stand, if I'm standing sit) to combat the physical things happening in my body.

2)  Think about what I'm grateful for to combat the cortisol.

3)  Think of times in Scripture where fear showed up and it was taken care of.  Jesus calmed the sea, and thus calmed his disciples.  Angels, when they showed up and scared people senseless with their presence, said 'Fear Not."  In fact, over 100 times the words "Fear Not" appear in Scripture.

4)  If all else fails, I remind myself that this is a season -- that God has gotten me through things in the past, and He will get me through this.  I just have to walk through it.  I remind myself that God is, as he told Joshua in Joshua 1:9, with me, wherever I go.    Pray, give it to God, and wait for the peace to come.

After all, God promised us this in Isaiah 43:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;    I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,    they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire,    you will not be burned;    the flames will not set you ablaze.For I am the Lord your God,    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Don't Forget You're Human!

Last night was Ash Wednesday as you may be well aware.  I grew up in a church where Ash Wednesday signified the beginning of the season of lent but nothing more than that.   We chose what we were going to give up and lent started.  We didn't have a special service.

But becoming a United Methodist meant that I would start get ashes put on my head once a year and the words would be spoken, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."   A sobering reminder for sure.

But there is also comfort in being reminded that we are only human.  We aren't God.  He made us out of dust -- and we are going to go back to dust.  So remembering that He made us and thus we are not in smarter or stronger than He is a good practice.

A couple days ago I wrote about Joshua who was an amazing, faith-filled courageous leader and in Joshua 6 he leads his army in an unusual victory that involved marching and blowing trumpets and such.     Interestingly, just three chapters later we hear about a major screw up.  The Gibeonites tricked them and Joshua signs a treaty with people that God had told him not to.   You can read about it in Joshua 9 if you're interested.   The key phrase says that before he made this major decision he
did not inquire of the Lord."

So, Joshua made a HUGE decision that impacted a large number of people without even asking God just three chapters later.   Human.  Dust.   

So we aren't either courageous faith-filled leaders or cowering, "forget-to-ask-God" big mistake makers.  We are both.  Just like Joshua.

It's ok to be human.  We're all going to make mistakes.   And when we do, there's grace.

So today if you are discouraged because you feel you've screwed up, give yourself the grace that God gives you.

And if you're feeling all arrogant, like "you've got the power" then remember that you're dust.

Because even heroes make mistakes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Something Significant I am Learning to Do

The last few weeks you have seen me posting something on my Facebook on Wednesdays.   I hash tag it #DeepWorkWednesday.

A the beginning of the year I read the Book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.   I tell about my first experience trying #deepworkWednesday in this post.

The hypothesis of the book Deep Work is “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.  As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will THRIVE.”

So, since I want to Thrive, I have started practicing "Deep Work" every Wednesday.  For at least 45 minutes.

The definition of "Deep Work" is 
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit.
We have really gotten away from Deep Work in our society, mainly because we are so addicted to our phones and the internet that "distraction-free concentration" never happens.   We have lost our ability to focus and it's scary.

I am THE WORST offender of this.   I can barely go three minutes without looking at my phone -- making sure there are no notifications or emails. I  admit that some of this is caused by anxiety, but a lot of it is habit.

So taking those 45 minutes a week has been hard for me.  But I'm learning to do it.  And it is my goal to practice more of it as time goes by, scheduling more blocks of time for me to think.

So, want to join me?  Each Wednesday on Facebook I will hashtag it.  I would love to have you experience this and let me know how it goes.

Combining my new bullet journaling habits with #DeepWork Wednesday, I offer you this sheet to use Deep Work time to reflect on your last month.  :-)

Let me know how it goes.