Thursday, May 25, 2017

Are you thankful for the good things?


When you make a list of the things that you're grateful for, what is on that list?   Are they all good things?  Typically that's the point, isn't it?  That we are grateful for the good things in our lives.

But what if we started being grateful for the not so good things?  What if we recognized that we would never appreciate the sun if it never rained.... that we would not appreciate food if we were never hungry... that we would not appreciate the lack of physical pain, if we never had any ... that we would not appreciate friends if we had never been lonely.  You get it ... .this list could go on and on.

This song makes the point that we should be grateful for seasons in our lives when there is something lacking -- for the lack of something helps us appreciate it more.  But I think there is another point to all this as well:  When we are grateful for ALL that God gives us, the good, the bad, and the really bad, it demonstrates that we trust Him to know what is best for us in the long term.  He stands at the end of our lives, looking back, orchestrating the things that make us most like Him... which is His goal.  And if making us more like Him involves some things that aren't "good" from our vantage point, then we need to trust Him to know what he's doing.  The hard seasons in our lives are things God can "work together for good" (Romans 8:28).

Listen to the song.  Maybe it will change your #ThankfulThursday list for this week.




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.