Saturday, September 30, 2017

12 Quick and Dirty Time Mangement Tips from a Mom of 12

If you have a lot on your plate and you're wondering how to get it done, here are some quick and dirty tips off of the top of my head without much forethought or planning.

1)  Don't put a lot of forethought and planning into the things that don't require a lot of forethought or planning.  :-)  If you have a simple task, don't think too much about it.

2)   Decide what time you get your best work done and do it then.   My most productive hours are from whenever I get up until about 7 or eight hours after that.  So I do the most important stuff early in the day and save the less demanding stuff for later.

3)  Ask for help.   Be specific as to what you need and ask whoever you can think of to help.  It's a strength, not a weakness.   Learn to work in your skill set and share or delegate things that aren't there.   My husband and I have done this pretty well over the years (thought he would tell you that he does everything :-)   If I find myself wresting with something that is taking longer than it should, I try to think of who would enjoy doing it who could do it better than me and enjoy it more and then I enlist them.

4)  Learn to ignore things that "really should get done" until you finish what has to be done.   There will always be things that should be done that are trying to grab our attention.  For example, my laptop can barely fit on my desk right now because my grandkids decided it was their desk.  But I am balancing the laptop on the edge of the desk and ignoring that because I have a goal to get this done before I leave for a book signing this morning.

5)  Don't put too many things on your to do list.   Try for three for the whole day.  If you get those done, you'll feel great.  If you can do more, wonderful.  But if your list gets to long you'll just have to copy some of it over again tomorrow.  Pick your top three, do them, and then write three more.

6)  Pick a day of the week to catch up.  I do it on Friday and I call it #FinishWellFriday.  That's my day to take three things that I have been putting them off and get them done before the weekend comes so they aren't hanging over my head.

7)  If you have a lot of "running around to do", be strategic.    Plot out what makes the most sense in regards to time and mile management.    Leaving with a list of errands that are not in order just wastes time.

8)  Spend at least 45 minutes a week doing "Deep Work."    After reading the book I have tried to take 45 minutes a week to set aside all electronics aside and pull out paper and a pen to think, strategize and problem solve.  It can organize thoughts and help you to move forward like nothing else.

9)  Get enough sleep.   Figure out how much you need (usually 7-9 for adults) and then make sure you get it.  Make that a priority.

10)  Break things down into manageable pieces.  Don't try to tackle a huge project all in one setting.  Figure out a way to break it down and do one thing at a time.

11)  Don't over-edit your stuff.   People ask me how I do it all  and I tell them that it's because I don't do it all well.  Pick a few things that need to be perfect and do the rest at 90%.  Most people won't notice and a lot of time needs to be spent to get things from 90 to 100%.  As an example, this blog post has taken me 17 minutes.  You will find errors.  But I think it is good enough.

12)  Laugh.   Break up your tasks with humor and fun.  Short conversations or quick breaks to regroup make it all more enjoyable.   It's ok to enjoy work -- whether you work at home or outside the home.   Everything can be fun if you plan to make it so.

Feedback welcome since I really did write this all in 17 minutes.

Saturday Summary for September 30, 2017

September is coming to a close and yet it is still in the high 80s/low 90s here in Virginia.  It's not bothering me at all that it is still hot.... I can take this weather all the time if it means I don't have to navigate snow all winter!  Last year we had one big storm and I never wore a winter coat once.  I'll take another "winter" like that!

So.... family news?   Nearly every week I hear from most of our kids who don't live with us, but this week I heard in some way from all but two.   Christy is awesome about sending us snapchats of Silas and the twins nearly every day.   Rand checks in weekly when he wants his money transferred.  John and Courtney called this week (they are back together and parenting Isaac together which is really good for Isaac... they seem to be happy together as well right now, which is very cool.  They had been in some pretty rough places and hadn't even been able to communicate in a healthy way for over five years).  I manage Jimmy's money -- and you don't want to hear about how many times that requires a conversation.

I actually heard from Ricardo this week because we need to get his insurance card.  If he gives me his address to send it I'll know where he is.  He flew somewhere to live with a girl but nobody is clear exactly where.... his siblings who took him to the airport think Missouri, but the girl he is "in a relationship with" on Facebook lives in Tennessee.   Mercedes of course is already asking for a guest list for the wedding with no date, and I had to have a conversation with Leon about money this week.

So, other than Tony who is living with birth family and Mike who we seldom hear from, I had connections with all of my kids this week!

The kids who live here are struggling some but you wouldn't want details.  The job for Dominyk fell through so I am his only option as a boss (we pay him to do things around the house) and you can imagine how that goes.

Work continues to be good.  Always challenging, always demanding more skill than I have, but I am constantly working to gain news skills and improve as a leader.  There are days when that seems like it's working and other days when I wonder :-)

If you sign up for my newsletter you will be able to see an exclusive video of my adorable kids Carlos and Gabby on snapchat teaching math.  :-)  It's pretty adorable.

The link to sign up is here.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Does it hurt?

Were you ever spanked as a child?  I was.   But the point of this post has nothing to do with whether or not my loving dad ever swatted my naughty butt, or whether it is TBRI friendly, legal, or anything along those lines.   (I totally get why spanking is a bad idea).

But the point I want to make is that when I got spanked it hurt.  I remember the last time my Dad tried spanking me -- I was probably about 13 and mouthy as all get out (I know, I know, you're shocked!)  He swatted my butt for being disrespectful and I laughed and told him it didn't hurt.  Probably not the wisest choice.   The next few swats hurt.

Discipline and correction hurt, even when they are done in the most appropriate ways from the most loving of hearts.  My mom, when I was about 48, said over the phone, "Claudia, I must say that I am very disappointed in your language lately.  You were raised better than that!  I have heard you say, "oh my gosh" several times in the last few months!"   (In my home growing up, gosh and gee and darn and heck were just as bad as the real thing).  So, when she was 86 telling me that she was disappointed at my 48 year old "potty mouth", I didn't agree with her and even found it a bit comical ... but it still hurt a little bit to know I had disappointed her.

Discipline or correction hurts when it comes from a supervisor or a coworker when they are honest to share that you have done something that offended, caused stress, or hurt someone's feelings, even if it wasn't your attention.  It doesn't feel good to know that you caused someone pain.

Discipline or correction doesn't feel good when it comes from a well-meaning spouse who shares how your attitude is causing stress for your child, or how your behavior is reminding them of their mother (no, of course, that hasn't happened to me :-), or how you hurt their feelings by something you said or did.

The reason that this kind of "discipline" hurts, maybe even more than a spanking, is because when we feel like we are trying our hardest, it's still not easy to know that we have not yet attained perfection.   We still have a long ways to go.   And it hurts to know we've unintentionally hurt someone else.

But discipline, when applied from pure motives and a loving heart, is what helps us to get better.  It's what gives us another perspective and allows us to make changes that make our families healthier, our friends healthier, and our workplaces healthier.

In addition to all the other discipline and correction we receive from others, God's going to discipline us too!   And it's going to hurt.  Sometimes he uses circumstances.  And sometimes he even uses the people mentioned above... supervisors, spouses, coworkers, even our children.

What should our response be?

I found these words from Proverbs 3:

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;

 a father’s delight is behind all this.

So that's our set of instructions of how to handle it when God disciplines us, which may be, like it has been for me, almost on a daily basis.

1)  Don't resent it;

2)  Don't sulk;

2)  Remember that His correction is loving;

3)  Recognize that He does it because he loves us --- he wouldn't correct us if he didn't;

4)  Acknowledge that his delight is behind all of this.   That thought is worth a whole new blog post but this is getting long enough as it is.  

So if you, like me,  are in a season of discipline, remember.  It comes from love and your Father's delight is behind it all.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bad Theology?

This morning before leaving the house I was telling Bart that I had decided that I was going to use the words to the song "So let the sun shine in" as a blog post and I read the words to him.  He said that it was filled with bad theology and wanted to discuss whether or not the devil was omnipresent.  I'm thinking "I ain't got time for all that...." but I participated for a while in the conversation.  Then I decided to let it all go and use the song with bad theology.  It makes me smile, reminds me of my childhood and makes a valid point that I just realized when I was thinking about it last night.

Here are the lyrics (bad theology and all):

Mommy told me something 
a little kid should know. 
It's all about the devil 
and I've learned to hate him so. 
She said he causes trouble 
when you let him in the room. 
He will never ever leave you 
if your heart is filled with gloom. 

So let the sun shine in 
face it with a grin. 
Smilers never lose 
and frowners never win. 
So let the sun shine in 
face it with a grin 
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in. 

When you are unhappy, 
the devil wears a grin 
But oh, he starts to running 
when the light comes pouring in 
I know he'll be unhappy 
'Cause I'll never wear a frown 
Maybe if we keep on smiling 
He'll get tired of hanging 'round. 

If I forget to say my prayers 
the devil wears a grin. 
But he feels so awful awful 
when he sees me on my knees 
So if you're full of trouble 
and you never seem to win, 
Just open up your heart and let the sun shine in. 

So let the sun shine in 
face it with a grin. 
Smilers never lose 
and frowners never win. 
So le the sun shine in 
face it with a grin 
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in.

I know ... the theology doesn't always make sense.   But here was my realization as I laid awake unable to sleep last night.

I have been going back and forth as to how much we can really choose joy and if there are sometimes and some situations in which we really can't choose.  But I'm landing on the side that says that we make deliberate choices on what to focus on, what to allow to permeate our thinking, how were respond to what comes our way.   And when we let the enemy in the room and fill our hearts with gloom, and remain unhappy, and wear a frown, and forget to say our prayers.... we give the enemy a foothold.

And when we just let that sun shine in ... or we could spell it another way ... let the SON shine in, it's hard for darkness and light to be in the same place.

The picture above was taken yesterday morning just a day after this one.  The sun was so bright that I could barely look at it and my phone camera couldn't capture it's intensity.   It was behind the clouds the day before ... and the suddenly BOOM it's there bright and strong.

Maybe it's bad theology that the devil is omnipresent in our lives, but it certainly is truth that we can make conscious choices to recognize the sun when it's there and to open the doors of and windows of our dark places and let it in.

At least that's how I see it.  And apparently Pebbles and Bam Bam Feel the same way!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There is beauty in the mist...

The picture above was taken this morning.   I love walking out of my apartment in Brookneal and seeing the bright sun.  But I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that there is great beauty in the clouds and in the mist.   What a great and powerful reminder to me this morning of that fact that sometimes the best in life comes to us in the mist.... in the clouds.... in those times where we don't fully see the sunshine, but we know it is there somewhere.

You can't tell by the picture, but the clouds and the mist were actually rolling away.   It reminded me of a song I learned as a child that is not on YouTube ... that's how obscure it is.  Think of it!   It's called "When the Mists are Rolled in Splendor" and the chorus goes like this:

We shall know as we are known, as we are known,  Never more to walk alone, to walk alone.  In the dawning of the morning Of that bright and happy day;  We shall know each other better when the mists have rolled away.
Some day the mists are going to be completely rolled away and we are going to understand and know completely what God was doing.   We are going to be at the end of our life looking back and it's all going to be clear to us.   

So if you are in the midst of the mist right now.... and you can't figure out why God is doing what He is doing remember that some day we are going to fully understand.  And between now and then we just have to claim that we are not God -- that we don't understand it all -- but that one day it's going to make sense.

There's beauty in the mist if you look for it.   

Monday, September 25, 2017

Seek Pleasure! ???

If you are a church attender and went to church yesterday, I'm pretty sure that the sermon was not about going out and finding pleasure in life.  It may have been about self-denial, or taking up your cross, or practicing the spiritual disciplines, or finding joy in the struggles, or, or, or.... you fill in the blank.

We often equate Christianity with suffering -- and there is a great deal of truth in that.  But we forget that God created to have a desire to enjoy life -- to experience pleasure (define as a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment).   God gave us the capacity to experience happiness, pleasure, satisfaction in life and He wants us to do just that.

In fact, in Ecclesiastes 9 in the message in the midst of Solomon's not-always-very-positive thoughts, he says that God takes pleasure in our pleasure and that each day is God's gift.

I encourage you to think of one thing today that gives you pleasure and embrace doing that one thing with gusto -- knowing that God will take pleasure in your pleasure.

And while you're at it, sing a happy song.  Hope this gets stuck in your head all day long!

Saturday, September 23, 2017


After several meals where we get stared at and people wonder who we are, I thought I'd love to have a card like this.  And then I thought maybe others would to.  A card that was fun, catchy and not too intense that could drive people to an awareness website or someone's personal blog or website.

So adoptive families and folks with kids with special needs... Check out the front of the card above and samples of the bottom of the card below and imagine writing in a website to direct folks to.  Would people buy them?  How much would they pay?  Is there already something out there?

Would love your feedback....

Saturday Summary for 9/23/17

Last Saturday was the birthday party for Carlos, or 'los, or Little 'Los, depending on what you want to call him.   We had a great time.  

He was all excited about any gift that was car related, but every time he saw something that was clothing he disgustedly threw it on the floor.    We had another four year old who joined us for the party and the whole thing was pretty energy filled.  Lots of disregulation for kids and adults alike, but it was really fun anyway.

It was fun to have Matt and Sadie with us through the weekend... they left Monday afternoon.  But before going, Matt asked Sadie to marry him!  That was a huge answer to prayer for two reasons:  Matt is a great guy in a long list of ways and we are very excited to have our first son-in-law.   But the second reason is that now Sadie can SHUT UP about getting engaged.  (Just kidding honey.... kinda)  :-)  No date has been set so I guess she can obsess about that now.

But seriously, we couldn't be happier for them.  They have a lot of things they have to face every day ... I won't list them all... but their love for each other keeps them hanging in there.  I'm very proud of both of them.

Dominyk has an interview this morning at the Olive Garden where Salinda and Wilson both work.  It would be great if he could get hired for so many reasons.   He has been trying to get on staff their for over a month.... but we figured out how to make it happen :-)   Salinda had taken a few of Bart's frosted buttermilk brownies to work one night.  (If you have had them you will completely understand the rest of this story).  Her boss LOVED them and asked her for more.  We jokingly told Salinda to tell him that  Bart would make him a whole pan if he hired Dominyk.   So last night he told Salinda to tell her dad to start baking :-)

To be blatantly honest, we have some pretty big challenges at the Fletchers because I am gone a couple days a week.  Or actually, it's the opposite.  We have pretty big challenges at the Fletchers because I am here a few days a week.   The reason is this:  Bart concludes that things will never get better.  This is his way of coping with stress.  He will never be disappointed if he thinks things will never change.  However, I can't live without hope that things will change and so when I come home I'm always trying to figure out a way to get my adult children to do what they are supposed to do.   Nothing major -- wash dishes a few times a week, clean a room of the house, and pay for their phone bill if they are on our phone plan.  You'd think that would be a no brainer with kids who are 18.5, 21.5 and almost 25... I also have visions of their lives improving, them being happier, and I tell myself that I can be helpful.   I'll say no more about any of that, but you can imagine how things change when I arrive home and how not-very-excited the kids are to see me.   However, when two of the cutest kids in America run to the door and jump in my arms it does take away some of the sting.

Work is super exciting, super challenging, and very busy as usual.  I'm going to be sharing something cool with you within the next couple weeks about work.

I just finished week one of the nutrition plan that my trainer uses.  There were only a couple times that I didn't follow it, so I'm on the right track.  Did all the exercise he told me to this week with the exception of one day.  I'm heading to his warehouse gym in 30 minutes.  :-)

I'm teaching Sunday school at church and loving it, have started up with the praise band again, and am rejoining the early service choir, so lots of stuff is going on there.

Wow... I guess a lot of stuff does happens in a week of my life! ;-)

Friday, September 22, 2017

God's To-Do List for You

Sometimes things are vague in Scripture.  Sometimes we can read a passage where we aren't sure exactly what Jesus was getting at, or where Paul might confuse us with his repetitive theology.   There are Old Testament passages that make us scratch our heads and say, "What???"

But this verse from I Thessalonians is not at all confusing.  In the Message it says:

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

Pretty clear huh?

It is very interesting that Paul put cheerfulness, prayer and gratitude all in the same verse and concludes that those things are elements of the way that God wants us to live.   

These things go together:  with gratitude, or thankfulness, and prayer, comes cheerfulness.   But what order do they come in?  Sometimes they come in this order:

Something happens that makes me happy so I'm cheerful... so I pray and feel gratitude as I thank God.

But what if sometimes it goes in this order:  We choose to thank God no matter what happens, we then feel grateful, and because of that we can be cheerful no matter what?

We cannot control those around us.  We cannot control what happens to us BUT we can control our response to what happens to us.   Here are three great quotes from Victor Frankl that some up this concept.  

(In case you don't know who he was, Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor.  He chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.  

Here are three of his most famous quotes:
Our greatest human freedom is that, despite whatever our physical situation is in life, WE ARE ALWAYS FREE TO CHOOSE OUR THOUGHTS!
When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves. 
The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.
Whatever you are facing today, choose to be grateful.  Pray and give thanks to God and it just may be that you arrive at cheerfulness (or the ability to rejoice).    

If Victor Frankl could choose his thoughts in a concentration camp prison, we can choose to be grateful today... and it will lead to joy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pick yourself up by your own Bootstraps!!! Now!

If you know anyone with mental health challenges or someone living in poverty, you probably hate this phrase as much as I do.  According to the Phrase Finder website, it means to
Improve your situation by your own efforts.
The origin of this descriptive phrase isn't known. It refers of course to boots and the straps that some boots have attached to help the wearer pull them on and to the imagined feat of a lifting oneself off the ground by pulling on one's bootstraps. This impossible task is supposed to exemplify the achievement in getting out of a difficult situation by one's own efforts.
The reason that this phrase is so distasteful to me can be explained by taking a look at two of my boys who will remain unnamed.  Both of them have IQs in the 70s.  They are hard working, easy to get along with, people pleasers who would do anything to help anyone.  They both have jobs and they work as much overtime at the gas station and fast food place that their bosses will give them.   I manage their money for them, and they live independently, but they will never be able to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and find a position that makes more than $15 an hour, probably for their whole lives.  

Most of us would agree that these guys shouldn't be expected to do that.  But the truth is, according to Psalms 49:7, none of us can really do it.  It says:
Really! There’s no such thing as self-rescue,    pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.The cost of rescue is beyond our means.   
Aren't we as humans often bound and determine to push for "self-rescue?"  If we just try hard enough we can get ourselves out of any mess we get ourselves into.  When we finally reach the end of all of the things we can think of, we go to God and admit to Him that we need some help.

But what if we recognized that the cost of rescue is beyond our means?  That Jesus paid that price and that He is the only one who can save us.... not just initially when we first come to know Him ... but every time we get into a mess.  He must be the one to save us -- we can't save ourselves -- not from the wages of our sin or from the daily struggles we find ourselves in.

Sometimes the song I choose doesn't exactly fit the message of the blog post... but this one clearly does.  
Savior, please keep saving me...

(If these these seems familiar, I used this verse for post on July 26th.  Apparently I have some issues with this or someone needed to hear it again because I wrote the whole thing before I realized that I had already written about it!)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Good and good for you....

Do you ever get tired of being crabby?  Sometimes after I have felt down for a few days, I just get tired of myself and decide I need to be done because I don't like being around myself any more.

In Proverbs 17 it says (yes, in the Message)

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;    gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

Isn't that something?  Not only do the people around us appreciate it when we are cheerful, but it's good for us too!

Whenever we can, it seems we should remember this statement and if we have a choice -- which I indicated the other day that we don't always have) -- we should choose joy.   Choose cheerfulness.

Or in the words of some dudes in a generation way beyond mine, we should shoot for more heart... and less attack.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Best Way to Start Each Day

Buried inside the 21st chapter of Jeremiah is this verse (as translated in the Message):
 Start each day by dealing with justice.  
That also reminds me of the verse in Malachi 6:8 -- one of my favorites.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.    And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
How do we deal justly?  I think that is a question that all of us probably wrestle with.  We deal with justice when we treat others fairly, when we stick up for the underdog, living in ways that are morally right and fair.

I am not sure how this applies to your life today, but you do.   Who in your life needs you to deal with them justly?  What issue in our society requires your response to stand up for what is right?  Where is God calling you to step out and make a difference.

And now a song from my teen years:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Summary for September 16th


I suppose somethings happened this week.   Let me see if I can remember them :-)

  1. I worked just two days but they were packed days!  Back to back meetings both days .... but good ones.
  2. I took a couple of days off!  That is unusual!  But Matt and Sadie were here so I wanted to hang out with them.    We have had some great conversations.
  3. Carlos turned 3.  
  4. I turned 54.   I think I'm OK with that.   While the other alternative (heaven) looked pretty good at some points over the last couple weeks, I guess God wants me around a while longer.  
  5. I got to spend a lovely two hours with my friend Betty.  We had a lot of fun talking about Tom and catching up.   
  6. I announced that I will be doing a Treadmill 5K on March 17 to raise money for the organization I work for.  I am going to start training for that today and I am not excited about it.  Well, I take that back.  I'm super excited about raising the money... not super excited about the training or the walking!

Today we are having a party for Carlos  and then next week I have a jam packed week of work with LOTS of meetings.   Hope your week was good!

Another edition of my email newsletter should come out today.  If you haven't signed up you can do so by emailing me at maeflye at mac dot com or going to our website at

Have a great week ahead!

Friday, September 15, 2017

How Bad Do You Want It?

One of my coworker tells a funny story of being at the grocery store.  It goes something like this.

One clerk says to the other, "I saw this job posting and I want the job in the worst way."

Other clerk responds, "Well, all you have to do is put in an application.  They have lots of spots open."

First clerk:  "I ain't got time for all that!"

That story cracks  me up every time I think about it.  But doesn't it describe human nature perfectly?

I gotta lose some weight!   ---  Well, it's not that hard... Exercise and eat right.   ----  I ain't got time for all that!

I really need to improve my marriage.   --  What about a marriage retreat?  -- I ain't got time for all that!

My relationship with my kids is in a bad place. -- Why not spend more quality time with them?  -- I ain't got time for all that!

You get the idea.

It also happens to us spiritually.   What would it look like if we were to really put God first?  To seek him with everything we have?  To study His word, pray without ceasing, serve those less fortunate as if we were serving him?

But unfortunately, "We ain't got time for all that!"

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says in the Message:
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.   “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.   “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”
When you want to find God than anything else, you won't be disappointed.  That's quite a promise.   It's one I'm holding on to today. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Is it ALWAYS a choice?

Attitude is a choice.... at least that is what we are told.  I have often told myself that over the years.

But this past week I realized that sometimes we can't choose.  Sometimes what life brings us is so hard that we can't just "put on a happy face."

As you know, last week was one of those weeks for me.  My grief was so very present that I could not pull any energy or joy out of my spirit.  I was in a fog and the death of my friend, combined with some very complex emotional issues in our lives knocked me on my butt.  And I couldn't do anything but ride it out.

Yesterday in our "All Staff Meeting" my boss and friend, the CEO, shared an excellent devotional from Ecclesiastes 3 about our time on earth being one where we taste both the high joys of heaven and the lows of hell all here on earth.  Horrible things happen to us that we don't deserve... and amazing things happen that we don't deserve.   And until we get to heaven where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain -- our life on earth will involve a mix of the sublime and the horrific.  It is just what life is.  

One of the things that I am learning as I age (and yes, it is my birthday today) is that embracing the full spectrum of life -- the good and the bad and allowing yourself to experience it all -- that is where the riches pieces of life lie.  One of Bart's favorite quotes, and mine as well is from Annie Dillard.  She says,
“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.”
I have truly discovered the truth of these verses as we have journeyed through the ups and downs of raising our children --  that this caring, this life together stuff, is the very essence of what God intended for life to be.

Recognizing the meaning in the journey isn't the simplest thing to do, but it provides a life that is full and rich and settled.  Knowing that even if outcomes aren't exactly as we hope, that what we have learned along the way in and of itself has value.

Last night we played "Name that Hymn" after Wednesday night supper at church.  I totally kicked butt. And I was obnoxious about it.  And Bart was pretty embarrassed.  But I made myself laugh and made some others laugh and definitely established myself as the reigning queen of the game.   And I could feel some joy returning.

So is happiness a choice? Sometimes it is, but many times it isn't.  But here is the choice we do have:  To embrace the life we are given -- here in our earthly bodies -- the highs and the lows -- the joy and the suffering -- and life it all.   Going to the hard places, but going there together.... wrestling with the tough stuff together -- and then discovering that "complex and inexplicable caring for each other."

Choose that today.   It's my choice ... to fully grapple with the hard times in life ... and when the good stuff happens, to allow myself to embrace that as well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Is God Watching Us from a Distance?

You may remember Bette Midler's song, "From a Distance" where she says that God is watching us from a distance.   I am sure there are many times when it seems like that is the truth -- that God is not paying attention, that He is ignoring us.

But if you look in Scripture, you'll find a different answer to the question.  .  In Psalm 34, we read in the Message,
"If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath." 
In Psalm 145 we read,
"The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.
and James 4:8 says,
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."  
Apparently God is not watching all of this from a distance.  He is right there,  near to those who call upon Him in truth, near to those who draw near to Him.

If you look for Him, you'll find him.


In our Sunday school class yesterday, we talked about this verse.   I was a little unhappy about the timing of that particular verse since the whole class was grieving the loss of my friend Tom (you can read about him here if you'd like)  in one way or another.  But since I was teaching and we had just begun the sermon on the mount, I didn't have a choice.  I miraculously held it together as we came up with some really cool concepts, amidst a few tears, that I want to share with you:

1)  Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are they who have bad things happen to them that cause them to mourn, for they shall be comforted.  He said "Blessed are they that mourn."  Bad things will happen.  That is life.  

2)  We are fortunate at blessed if we can mourn -- if we are emotionally healthy enough to be able to share our pain and our grief with others.  When we do that we will be comforted.

3)  We are blessed if we have relationships that cause us to mourn when they are over.  Many people live lives void of the kind of friendships, marriages, or family relationships that lead to heart wrenching grief when they are over.    So I think Jesus was reminding people to be grateful that the relationships were there in the first place.

4)  There is a purpose in our mourning, another reason that we are blessed.  We are comforted by God when we mourn so that we can comfort others.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says:  
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort ourselves receive from God.
We have a privilege and a responsibility of taking what we learn from being comforted by God into the lives of others when they are mourning.

I put this quote on my Facebook yesterday... it is from this article if you would like to read it.   I found it incredibly profound and I ended Sunday School with it.  
Engaging in the full range of experience -- living and dying, love and loss -- is what we get to do. Being human doesn't happen despite suffering. It happens within it. When we approach suffering together, when we choose not to hide from it, our lives don't diminish, they expand."

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Saturday Summary for September 9th

This has been a very long, very full week and I'm only reporting on half of Monday and Tuesday through Friday.   But it has been an exhausting few days.

Some quick family things:

  • Dominyk's truck tires are shot and he reported to me that he was having a mid-life crisis;
  • Tony sent me a porn video on Facebook Messenger by accident.  Frightening to wake up to;
  • Salinda's car broke down (I may tell this story exclusively on the email newsletter -- that alone would make it worth signing up for);
  • John has been reported by his son's mom who he is currently living with that he is an awesome father and provider and that makes me proud.  I have been praying and listening to this song about him for years.
Work has been fine If you have been reading the blog all week you know that I have been a bit discouraged about slow progress on some relational parts of my job.  I recognize that I focus on that a great deal, but I am so convinced that the enemy attacks relationships first that I am sad when we seem to be moving backwards instead of forwards.

But if you asked me "What have you been doing this week, my main answer would be "grieving."  On Monday my friend Tommy died and I have thought about him and his wife Betty every 7 minutes (at least) all week and shed more tears than I have since I my dad died 4 years ago.   I'm going to try to explain why without making this post a zillion words long, but I may not be able to with less than a million.

Tom was the head usher at our church and he and his wife, Betty, both in their early 70s, instantly clicked with Bart and I when we came to Mt. Vernon.  Because they are adoptive parents we had an immediate connection, even though their boys are much older than our kids.  There was also something unique about my friendship with Tom.... Bart says it was because we are so much alike:  A tad bit gruff, addicted to humor and poking fun at others, workaholics that will not and can't be stopped from completing whatever mission is set before us, tenderhearted but tough, and almost always misunderstood.

From day one Tom and I went back and forth and I stood up to him and got the upper hand at least half the time, something that I'm not sure he was used to.  We started having dinner with Tom and Betty once a month and had some of the best times I have ever had.  (Note:  We try not to let everyone at church know when we have social relationships outside of the church with people in the church because it causes misunderstandings.  Clergy boundaries say you shouldn't have any because it is impossible to have relationships with everyone.... but once and a while you make an exception or two.   There are many people at Mt. Vernon that we would love to have dinner with once a month, but there just isn't time).

When we had dinner in the middle of this summer, we had no idea it would be the last time.  We would have had dinner again in August, but he was recovering from knee surgery.  We had an especially lovely evening at a place we had never been before and left full of joy.   On the way home Bart said, "We better be long gone from Danville before either of them needs someone to officiate at their funeral.  I do NOT want to bury either of them."   The thought was unthinkable for me too.

So on Monday, when Tom was in physical therapy minutes after happily harassing a fellow parishioner and had a massive heart attack and died, we were plunged into a grief I have not experienced often in my life.   I was absolutely not ready to say goodbye to him.   We had plans.  Lots of them.   Here are a few:
  • We were going to have dinner every month for another 10-15 years. At least that was my plan. Those dinners were so fun -- one of the highlights of every month.   In fact, I often considered making it twice a month, but Bart has this thing about me being too pushy :-)
  • This summer I became a Reds fan.  That in and of itself is a really long story, but you can't be a Reds fan without hating the Cardinals.  And everyone who knew Tommy knows that he was a Cardinals fan.   We had plans for multiple seasons of harassing each other about baseball.   In fact, the last text he sent to me through Betty congratulated me on a win, expressing admiration for me for being such a strong woman to endure so many losses, and saying I deserved "that one win."  :-)
  • Tom had season tickets to the Danville Braves and next summer was going to be our summer.  I was going to use that second ticket that Betty seldom wanted for multiple games.
  • I hadn't told him this, but I was gong to declare myself a Redskins fan this winter so we could be on the same side at least one season of the year.
  • He was going to remodel the parsonage kitchen which I can't really call "my kitchen" because I don't cook.  We had talked several times about how he was going to raise the money to remodel it and that he and his "guys" at his company would do the work.  I knew that it was going to be an amazing kitchen because everything he did he did well.
  • He was going to help me keep Dominyk in line at church.... a constant joke and struggle.  One particular day involved Tom allegedly using a bad word to encourage Dominyk to remain in his seat which Dominyk found hilarious and Tom denied completely.
  • I was going to hug him a bunch more times ... at least twice a week.  Tom hated hugs.   But I was teaching him to love them by practicing often.   It started out feeling like I was hugging a cactus, and then a piece of plywood, but finally by this summer I was hugging a human.  And I don't think he was hating it any more ... at least not every time.  :-)
  • He was going to hand me several more packets of copies from Sports Weekly with things circled in red and pages of jokes he had found particularly funny that he would hand me every few weeks.
  • Tommy and Betty were going to come to dinner at our house a few times.  We had talked many times about how they needed to come and sample Bart's cooking.  We were excited about this -- I was waiting for his knee to heal because I knew he would insist on coming in the front door and walking up the 24 steps instead of going to the back.  Stubborn.  :-)
  • After church every Sunday for years to come he was going to come over to my pew, say something borderline rude but hilarious, give me a hard time, and make me laugh.   Yesterday at the funeral I sat in my regular spot for the last time.   I am moving to the other side of the sanctuary because being there in that place will make church too sad for me.
In the midst of my grief I do know these things:  God is gracious and we are all going to be fine.  Tom would hate it if we didn't move on and love life to the fullest.   My grief is that it all ended too soon and that I only got to have this man as my friend for 20 months while others knew him for decades.  

Betty is now going to find out that I loved them both equally -- something she always joked about, saying I loved Tommy more -- because it simply wasn't true and she's stuck with me now.  

You can read his obituary here to find out the ways he impacted everyone else, but I needed to write about how he impacted me.  I was hoping that the funeral would give me personal closure but apparently I needed to write all that above.     

Tom Leggett was a good man.  He lived his faith in countless ways.  He made every day more fun for the people around him.  He was fiercely committed to his wife, family, friends, community and coworkers to a degree that isn't seen often.  He changed lives, he made a difference in the world, he lived well.   

If heaven is how I imagine it, Tommy is having a ball connecting with everyone who went before him.   I hope he's had a chance to meet my dad, because they will really hit if off.  And I imagine that if there are jobs in heaven, Tom will be the head usher up there -- the first person everyone meets .... just like he was the first person people met at the door as they walked in to church at Mt. Vernon UMC for 46 years.

I'm looking forward to that day when he greets me in heaven.   May his body rest in peace and may his soul have an eternal blast as he is reunited with his Savior and all of those who were waiting for him in heaven.  Heaven suddenly became an even better place on September 4th.