Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

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When Michael Reynolds tossed a Ninja to me at an Inbox Zero workshop last fall, he didn’t know what would happen. That Ninja, trained in the art of email management, is talented with WordPress too. With a new year and new website, I discovered his talent….

To read the rest of this blog, go to MaryBiever.com, its new host location.


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“Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Johnny Cash is my parenting theme song. With a twist. (hint – play while reading this blog)

He sings of making bad parenting choices and his son’s repeating that pattern. That doesn’t have to happen. I don’t repeat the patterns of my childhood.

Instead, I sing, “I’ll be nothing like you – your cat’s NOT in my cradle.”  I deliberately chose a better path.

My family – my children and my husband – have and always will come first.

Struggling to survive the “childhood-that-wasn’t” shaped my character. However, I chose how I would use it. 

Your childhood script can be flipped with hard work.

By the grace of God and with the support of a wonderful husband who’s spent the past 20 years gently loving away the rough edges, I changed. Once a scared but tough survivor who managed on my own since age 18 with long hair and short skirts, I had moved 26 times in 24 years when we first met. Sometimes I had slept on friends’ couches or floors when I was between addresses. 

My husband helped me become a wife and mom. We built our family together – talking, laughing, and sometimes arguing our way through family dinner hours, laundry piles, teen angst, and carpools. We have a good time now.

I have neither anger nor regrets about the past. At the end of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that what man meant for ill can be used for good by God to help others.

How can God use my terrible experiences of a lifetime ago? I can help young people struggling in their own stories, reach their hearts and tell them life can be better. As Corrie ten Boom once said, there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. We are not alone. There is hope.

Because of where I was, my life and family now is doubly precious. Instead of being trapped in past problems, God sent a husband and friends to help me write my own song.

Your cat’s not in my cradle.  I’m not just like you. My kids aren’t just like me.

The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man in the moon…my children had a childhood.

Stories that start sadly can change and get the happy ending. Mine did.

It’s our choices, not the cat in the cradle, that determine the outcome of our lives.

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“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” we sang at the beginning of my friend’s funeral.

When a singer goes to an organist’s funeral, it is a trip with the Ghosts of Church Music past. To the far left is the organist I’ve known for decades. To the right is a lady I sang with from my kids’ choir. Beside me is another singer from a former choir. The pianist and I worked together decades ago on other projects.  There was a time our lives were intertwined.

Sometimes we struggled through music for this performance or the drama of the rehearsal where nothing worked.

We’ve come together to honor the memory of a friend, for whom his music was his life.  Here, in this congregation joined to celebrate the memory of a friend, are the strands of his life and our own. 

As our voices blend at the funeral, I don’t remember the bad rehearsals. I do remember the joy we had when we sang together and things worked – the Hallelujah Chorus. The a capella “Panis Angelicus.”

Our singing is our final tribute, our final farewell to a musician friend. Every line of every song has new purpose. 

It feels like The Sound of Music, when the Trapp family sings “So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye.”

At the funeral, we each sing our own final personal tribute. When the music ends, we wish each other a final good-bye in the parking lot. Our lives, once joined together, have ventured on different paths. 

This good-bye is no more final than the one we said to our friend who died.  Our worlds will touch again in the future. We will sing together again. Hopefully not just at funerals.

Perhaps when I sing my Alleluia and you sing your Amazing Grace, in our separate lives, we can remember each other and sing them together in our hearts.

The So Long Farewell isn’t final.  It’s just awhile –

Till we meet again.

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Squeaky wheels get the grease. I’ve effectively used the same advocacy steps in tough medical, educational, and insurance challenges.

My challenges?

  1. Medical – because of a rare blood incompatibility (PLA1-), I destroy baby platelets. My son’s pregnancy included 4 PUBS, 5 weeks of high dose IvIgg treatments, and a month-long hospital stay.
  2. Educational – 1 of my children needed intensive early intervention.
  3. Insurance – 10 years ago, our home burned, and we had to rebuild.

I used the same steps to get my son medical treatment he needed, obtained needed speech therapy, and rebuild our home.

  1. Assess. Determine the issues, the players, and your resources.
  2. Organize. I use binders with dividers and prep like I’m an attorney getting ready for trial. During my son’s pregnancy, I kept a file of all diagnoses, lab results, and insurance correpondence. We took it to each appointment and procedure. With our IEP meetings, I kept a binder with diagnoses, insurance correspondence, school correspondence, along with applicable state and federal laws. For our fire recovery, I compiled a file bucket for claim information, orders, and contractor estimates.
  3. Plan for meetings. Before tough meetings, write your talking points. Simplify them to 3-4 points and 1 to 2 goals. Keep those in front of you to stay focused. Just before a tough meeting, I pray, asking God to help me do what’s needed.
  4. Delegate. Evaluate your talent pool and delegate. Delegate roles during meetings – who argues, who takes note, and who’s the good cop.
  5. Find experts. During my son’s pregnancy, I found the world’s leading expert in New York, spoke with him, and convinced insurance to cover his consultation. With our speech therapy issue, I found the world’s leading expert (at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN) in his problem, took my son to meet him and be diagnosed, and asked him to help us advocate for services in our local school system. When we disagreed with our fire reconstruction contractor on replacement of a bedroom ceiling, I brought in an engineer friend who backed up my concerns; after it was demolished, they found mold growing in it post fire.
  6. Use the Internet. Tweet, email, and blog to find other resources.

Sometimes, with those you love, your job is to be the squeaky wheel. Your agenda is their health and well-being – not policy, protocol, or bottom lines. Squeak loud, early, and often till you get the needed grease.

This is a chess game – with lifechanging stakes. Sometimes, the survival of a crisis depends on who’s the best advocate.

Advocate. Protect Your Own.

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Early this morning, Forest Hills Wesleyan Church burned in Evansville. Friends of mine and their families have spent a lifetime in that church.  Tonight’s blog is for them and others experiencing loss.

When you lose everything you think you own, it is overwhelming. Almost 10 years ago, we lost our home in a fire. Now I can see good things that came from our loss.

Lessons I learned: 

  1. Grow in compassion.  My children, ages 5 and 7, lost their toys and everything they owned. It gave them both a sensitivity to loss they would otherwise not have.
  2. Don’t love anything that can’t hug you back. Stuff is stuff. You can replace stuff with new stuff. I had a chef’s kitchen before the fire. My replacement kitchen is nice, but I’m not attached to the equipment. A cook makes the food good – not the equipment. 
  3. Good people will help you. We were amazed at the people who stepped forward to help us. Accept their help which will humble you.
  4. Seize the fun. Grab every opportunity to have fun. Two days after our fire, as we waited on insurance adjusters, I took our kids to Holiday World – albeit with borrowed swimming suits and towels. It was our last opportunity to be silly until we rebuilt.
  5. Home is a state of mind more than a state of place.  Our home wasn’t the building but where we lived together. When we spent 3 months living (and running our business) in a 2-bedroom, 800-square foot apartment, we were together, and that’s what mattered.
  6. Rebuild and renew. Don’t recreate the past. It’s gone. Shift rooms and redesign so you build new memories instead of walking into every room and remembering the old ones.
  7. Look for signs of hope. I collect crosses and crucifixes which hang throughout our home. Post fire, during reconstruction, we had white crosses on smoke-stained walls of every room of our home. They impacted those who helped us and carried me when I was most discouraged.
  8. Pay it forward. Once you recover, you will have a lifetime to pay it forward to others in need. 

For today and tomorrow, take it a day, an hour, and a minute at a time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

When you inch forward, you get that much closer.

If God brings you to it, He will help you get through it! Your friends will be glad to help too!

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“Can you substitute cantor New Year’s Eve?” our church’s music director asked when she called earlier this week.  The scheduled cantor was ill.

After I mentioned my cantoring to a friend, he commented, “Once I walked into a church for the first time, and a nun walked up and asked me if I could help the choir sing.  The best way to keep get new people involved is to ask for their help.”

Yesterday, I arrived at 3:30 to review music before the 4:00 service.  It was easy, except the communion song, “Holy is His Name.” I had never heard nor sung it. I struggled with the rhythms, missed some entrances, and we ran out of rehearsal time.

“God, help me not look like a fool,” I desperately prayed.

Five minutes before we began, musician friends of mine from Connecticut walked in.  He’s music director and she’s director of religious education at churches, and they love to sing.  I grabbed them and introduced them to our music director.  “Can you help?” she immediately asked. When she learned he played guitar, she handed him one.  He quickly tuned the guitar he had never before touched.

The beginning of the Mass felt like skiing downhill on a slope for the first time, when you don’t know what will happen till you reach the bottom. We had never rehearsed and had no time to talk.

We began smoothly. I worried about the communion song.  “God, please make this ok,” I desperately prayed.

When we began singing it, I realized they had sung the song before. 

Then the miracle happened.  We had finished the verses and needed more time, so we began to repeat the refrain, “Holy, holy is His name.”  In 3-part harmony, with guitar and keyboard – using music with no harmonies written. It jelled.  My arms were covered with goosebumps from the Holy Spirit by the time we finished.

It was the most profound, moving musical experience I’ve ever had. Unrehearsed, unplanned, and totally from God.

Music gives us a chance to share our souls with the world. Sometimes, we feel the hand of God with each note. This was one of those times.

Have a feeling this is going to be a great year.  When I asked for help, it was given.

If someone asks you for help and you share your talents, great things happen.

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Old dogs can learn new tricks. Middle aged mothers can change their lives.

For a lifetime, I’ve survived sickness and health through fire, famine, and flood. Sometimes just barely. By the grace of God, love of a great husband, and help of good friends.

I’ve spent my life helping family and friends, raising my children, and helping my husband begin and grow his business.

My kids are nearly grown. What will my life be when our nest is empty? 

Four months ago, I went on a retreat, Living Hell to Living Well by Kimberly Delcoco. This was my first ever retreat just for me.

That weekend, I dug into who I am and who God wants me to be – personally and professionally. 

We set goals – short and long term, big and small.  Kim gave us tools so our goals wouldn’t just be a wish list that never happens but would effect real and long term improvement in our lives.

I’ve never had a long range life plan.  Since returning home, with the encouragement of our retreat small group, I’m reaching for my goals.  For the first time since Richard and I started our business ten years ago, we took a real family vacation.

The retreat inspired me to try a new adventure – developing my computer coaching business. I love to empower people to use computers better.  Now, I hope to do it better.

There’s a transition from helping everyone else pursue their dreams to seeking my own. 

Thanks to entrepreneur friends & fellow retreaters who encourage me – Mandy Gregory, Stacy Shanks, and Dana Nelson. And a big thanks to Jennifer Butler Hollander, who’s helping me focus, plan, and organize this new adventure. 

Living well is more fun than surviving whatever comes next. Thanks, Kim, for helping me change my outlook and my life.

My 2011 resolution is simple: keep on adventure I began on the retreat, From Living Hell to Living Well.

My American dream….

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