Join us today for the Interview with Clay Boatright, author of God's Plan, Our Circus...

This is the interview I had with advocate and author Clay Boatright.  

In today’s podcast episode, I interview Clay Boatright.  I ask Clay to share with you how his journey brought him to focus on advocacy without leaving his day job.  I also ask Clay to share with you how he has faith that this is all part of God’s plan.  I also ask Clay about what families with children with disabilities should focus on first.

Join in on the Chat below.

Episode 1360: Interview with Clay Boatright author of God's Plan, Our Circus

[00:00:00] Scott Maderer: Thanks for joining us on episode 1360 of the Inspired Stewardship Podcast.

[00:00:08] Clay Boatright: Hi, I'm Clay Boatright. I challenge you to invest in yourself, invest in others, develop your influence, and impact the world by using your time, your talent, and your treasures to live out your calling. We have the ability to choose our path, but sometimes we need inspiration to find it.

[00:00:28] A great way to be inspired is to listen to this. The Inspired Stewardship Podcast by my friend, Scott Maderer.

[00:00:43] Here we were with our own family, with our challenges, and I use the phrase, I have been blessed. My family was actually blessed with some pretty tough challenges, and some people have a hard time wrapping their head around that. I'm like, no, if God's involved in it, then it's a blessing. And um, but one of the [00:01:00] benefits to me was I got to meet.

[00:01:06] Scott Maderer: Welcome and thank you for joining us on the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent, and your treasures for your true calling. In the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, you will learn to invest in yourself, invest in others, and develop your influence so that you can impact others.

[00:01:39] In today's podcast episode, I interview Clay Boatwright. I asked Clay to share with you how his journey brought him to focus on advocacy without leaving his day job. I also asked Clay to share with you how his faith has brought him to realize that this is all part of God's plan. And I also asked Clay about what families with children with [00:02:00] disabilities should focus on first.

[00:02:03] One reason I like to bring you great interviews like the one you're going to hear today is because of the power in learning from others. Another great way to learn from others is through reading books. But if you're like most people today, you find it hard to find the time to sit down and read. And that's why today's podcast is brought to you by Audible.

[00:02:24] Go to inspiredstewardship. com slash audible to sign up and you can get a 30 day free trial. There's over 180, 000 titles to choose from, and instead of reading, you can listen your way to learn from some of the greatest minds out there. That's inspiredstewardship. com slash audible to get your free trial and listen to great books the same way you're listening to this podcast.

[00:02:52] A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Clay Boatwright has lived in Texas since 1994, where he and his wife, Carol, [00:03:00] raised three daughters, including identical twins with severe intellectual disabilities and autism. With undergrad and graduate degrees from the University of Memphis, Clay managed two 20 years, one in the consumer packaged goods industry to pay the bills, and another as a volunteer advocate for people with disabilities.

[00:03:21] Over the years, Clay developed a deep understanding of the disability industrial complex and served on a host of health and education advisory committees, including board president for both the ARC of Dallas and the ARC of Texas. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Clay to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in Washington, D.

[00:03:41] C., and in 2013, he was appointed Founding chairman for Texas Health and Human Services IDD System Redesign Advisory Committee, which he held for six years. Published multiple times in various media, Clay is often contracted by legislatures, the media, non profit [00:04:00] organizations, and parents of children with disabilities to help understand the challenges that families like his live every day.

[00:04:06] Following Carroll's death in 2020 from ovarian cancer, Clay maintains a close relationship with his daughters and embraces the future with enthusiasm and a desire to help everyone know that God has a plan for their lives. Clay's also recently published a book called God's Plan, Our Circus. Welcome to the

[00:04:27] Clay Boatright: show, Clay.

[00:04:29] Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here. Appreciate it. Absolutely.

[00:04:33] Scott Maderer: I went through a lot in the intro and I always laugh and talk about intros as being our Instagram feed of our life. It always just shows the highlight reel. It never really tells the whole story. Can you talk a little bit about your journey and you're one of those unique people that you do something as you quote day job, but then you also do.

[00:04:57] For a lot of people would be a full [00:05:00] time job on the side as

[00:05:02] an

[00:05:03] Scott Maderer: advocate and working with families and doing all of that work how did you get to the point where you're doing it that way? So to

[00:05:10] Clay Boatright: speak. Sure. No, I appreciate that. It's a fairly simple story. Fairly direct though. So the shortest way to describe it is my wife and I had been married for

[00:05:22] about

[00:05:22] Clay Boatright: eight years when our oldest child, our traditional developing child, Blair was born three years later.

[00:05:28] We had identical twins, Paige and Mia, and Everything seemed okay at first they were born a little bit premature, but then we noticed that they were developing slowly. As time went on, we get to the the 24 month baby visit. We're both at the doctor Carol, my late wife, is holding one twin, I'm holding the other one.

[00:05:49] We go through that developmental milestone checklist. And we, for each twin that we're holding, and we get to the bottom and looked at each other and realized neither one [00:06:00] of us has checked anything off the list. That's not a good sign. So our pediatrician came in, said yes, something's going on.

[00:06:06] So he sent us over to Easterseals. And after an assessment, that's where our twins were diagnosed with what is now referred to as intellectual disabilities and autism. That was a shock to the system. About about two years after that. So when the page of me are about four years old.

[00:06:25] Let me back up on one. So their disability is very severe. Okay. They are now 23 years old. They do not speak. They need help with all what's called activities of daily living ADLs. So they need help, everything bathroom related getting dressed, getting undressed. They can feed themselves.

[00:06:44] and they're mobile, but, and they can play on their iPads, find movies they like to watch, and so on, but that's really about the extent of it. So they did a 24 7 direct care. Right from the get go, we're like, okay, this is going to be a little bit different, and we had some, a lot of challenges at home, [00:07:00] and then as far as what led me to get into the having two careers, was they were about four years old, and it was a Friday night.

[00:07:09] And Page and me were having behavioral meltdowns, and they were just I can't remember what stimulated it, but they were crying, and really doesn't matter. There's something doesn't really matter when the house is on fire at that moment, it doesn't matter where it started, right?

[00:07:22] And the house is right now, but my

[00:07:24] Scott Maderer: goddaughter is not severe, but she has autism. And there are days that she's just. She looks at you and say, how are you doing? She's I'm fine. And it's okay, she's not fine.

[00:07:35] Clay Boatright: That does not sound like a

[00:07:36] Scott Maderer: fine. That wasn't actually a fine. We're moments from a meltdown.

[00:07:40] Got it.

[00:07:41] Clay Boatright: And then I say you're, you get to a point, you can see it coming when you see the bus coming that helps a lot. That does help. Yeah. So they were not doing well. Our oldest daughter, she was upset. Cause it's just, my my wife I knew Carol for 33 years. I think I saw her cry twice in 33 years.

[00:07:58] She, she was more the kind of [00:08:00] person to take you out back and whip you up than she would be to actually cry about anything. So she she was not happy. She was very upset. So in that situation, it's Friday night, everybody's having to come apart. I did what any good father, husband, leader would do in that situation.

[00:08:17] I went to bed.

[00:08:19] Scott Maderer: I was going to say you left the house. Exactly.

[00:08:21] Clay Boatright: You know what? Everybody's safe at the end of the day, they're safe. And whatever this is, hopefully it'll be gone tomorrow. So I went to bed. And and I'm laying in bed and praying and I call it praying. I'll be honest with you.

[00:08:35] I was mad at God. You were griping? I was griping. I was mad at God. And I remember clearly asking God why did you do this to Paige and Mia? Why did you create them or allow them to have these disabilities? Why did you do this to them? And to be blunt? Why did you do this to me? This is not what I signed up for.

[00:08:57] What did I do? Why did you do [00:09:00] this? That was the question that was on my mind as I fell asleep. Now, I don't usually go to sleep mad. The few times I have, almost like the emotions marinate overnight, and I'll wake up even madder the next morning, but that Saturday morning, I woke up and it was totally different.

[00:09:17] I felt energized. I felt excited. It was like fresh air in my lungs. I was ready to take on the world. And the very first words that entered my mind were to help people like Paige and Mia, which I immediately interpreted as to help people with severe disabilities like they had. Keep the context at the time.

[00:09:38] I was working in sales research and marketing research was my paying career. That was focused on the career, trying to raise the family, you pay the bills, all that kind of stuff. This will sound bad, but it's true. Helping others. Really wasn't top of the list. It was like helping my own family was top of the list.

[00:09:59] You, [00:10:00] you,

[00:10:00] Scott Maderer: you do it if the opportunity presented itself in a convenient way, but it wasn't necessarily something

[00:10:05] Clay Boatright: you sought out to do. Yeah, and the odds of it presenting itself in a convenient way was zero. Yeah. I thought about that and it immediately hit me. There's no way I would have cooked that up on my own.

[00:10:20] As sure as you and I are having this conversation, there was zero doubt in my mind. I fell asleep. asking God a question, and he sent the Holy Spirit and answered it. My question was, God, why did you do this? The answer was, to help people with severe disabilities, like my twins had. So two great things happened at that moment.

[00:10:41] Number one was, it happened. Number two was, I have the the fact that I realized it. I had the wherewithal to realize what had happened. So I'm laying there in bed. It sounds weird to say out loud, you got to talk to me. That's a strange thing. [00:11:00] But clearly something had happened and action had to be taken.

[00:11:04] So this is 2004 and I did what people then and people now, millions of people do every day when you have questions that need answers. I googled it. So I caught up and went to the computer, family computer, and typed four words. And please forgive me that this is the nomenclature from 2004 and the words have changed since then.

[00:11:23] Back then the diagnosis was mental retardation. So I typed mental retardation, Dallas, where I live, help, enter. And up came a website for an organization I had never heard of before called the Arc of Dallas. The Arc system in the United States is the oldest series of nonprofits serving people with developmental disabilities.

[00:11:42] Looked at their website. I said that looks like a. group of people that helps folks like Paige and Mia. And to make the next 18 years, compress it into 45 seconds, I reached out to them on Monday. I was on their board of directors two weeks later, became their next board president. I'm learning I'm learning, [00:12:00] I'm meeting other people, I'm hearing issues families face, learning about services here locally.

[00:12:05] Couple years later, I was on the board of directors and became board president of the state organization. So I'm meeting legislators and I'm going down and I'm testifying on health and human services bills at our capital in Austin. I'm meeting with the, I became friends with the executive, executive commissioner of health and human services down in Austin.

[00:12:20] So I'm learning the system and I'm continuing to meet other people and just casually meeting families and telling them what I'm learning and spread it, spreading the word a little bit that way. And wound up eventually, seven years after the Friday night President Obama appointed me to a presidential advisory committee in Washington for two years.

[00:12:40] After that, was centered back in in, in Austin and served as the head, the chairman of a committee to help redesign our our support system here in Texas. I go through all that to say, that became my second career. So I mentioned I was a sales and marketing research guy that paid the bills. The [00:13:00] second career, which was about 30 to 40 hours a week, was the advocacy work working system advocacy, and then also helping individual families.

[00:13:09] So that's the, that's a very long winded answer to your simple question. How did I wind up? Having a day job on a night job. There isn't a simple answer to those kinds of questions. And something, and I say this humbly, and I hope it comes across this way I've been very blessed to know thousands of people.

[00:13:25] I've met many people. 95% of the people I know and who know me have no idea what I do for a living. Absolutely zero. But everybody knows what I do for free. And it's not because I'm doing it for free, but it's because I went to bed mad at God on a Friday night. And he, unbeknownst to me, he had a plan that I was going to take a hard right at the next intersection and I did and that's part

[00:13:56] Scott Maderer: of it though.

[00:13:56] You, that's right. You listen. Exactly. And I [00:14:00] call, I wanted to call that out too, because I've had this conversation with people of Oh, I, I've if I found my passion, I should, that should be my career. And it's maybe. But not necessarily too, because you, your quote career, like you said, the thing that pays the bills.

[00:14:17] Isn't actually, I hear the passion in your voice when you're talking about the advocacy work. That's where your passion lies, not saying that you don't like your job or you hate it or anything like that. That's not what I'm saying, but it's, that's not your prime passion. Would you agree with that? Or?

[00:14:31] Clay Boatright: Oh, absolutely.

[00:14:32] Absolutely. And for a lot of people, and when I say people, I usually mean men for a lot of men, that's unusual because so many men, we get our identity out of how we pay our bills, how, what we do for a living. We refer to it as what we do for a living. I refer to it as how I pay my bills. That's not to minimize it, but at the end of the day, that's what it is.

[00:14:54] And what the paying job did is it I don't dismiss the fact that it put a roof over [00:15:00] our head then put food on the table I mean did all the important stuff. So it had a vital role Obviously put

[00:15:04] Scott Maderer: gas in the car when you got a drive from Dallas to Austin.

[00:15:07] Clay Boatright: That's exactly right. It's exactly right and It under wrote if you will the passion side of the equation so it actually had a very good balance between the two and After several years, I also started to appreciate the fact that I did have these two parallel careers, because on any given day, one would really suck and, but then I had the other one to, quote, fall back on, or to offset it as opposed to I would say most people, where we have all of our eggs in one basket, and that can be rather agonizing.

[00:15:42] So it was nice to have a balance of the two. It didn't, and I don't, I think I'm, I was Lucky, blessed, whatever, however you want to look at it. Over the years, the two never ran into each other. I never sacrificed one for the other, or never had to make an excuse of using one for something with [00:16:00] the other.

[00:16:00] Which was nice. You mentioned

[00:16:05] Scott Maderer: earlier laying in bed, having that moment of prayer and hearing that voice that when you woke up in the morning and realizing that you quote, you'd gotten an answer to your question, maybe not completely, maybe not in full, you didn't see all the ways it was going to play out, but you'd got an answer to your question.

[00:16:21] How has your faith journey been throughout all of this journey that you're on and the work that you do, the advocacy work and other work that you're doing? How do you feel like that has intersected with that

[00:16:34] Clay Boatright: journey? Oh, it's been huge. My, my faith has strengthened so much more as a result.

[00:16:42] And not just my faith in God and my faith in Christ, but also my greater understanding of other people. So you get into the disability world. And so I live in, in, at that point Plano, Texas. Okay. Which is just north of Dallas. And there's something up [00:17:00] here called the Plano bubble. Okay.

[00:17:02] And it's a very nice community, very comfortable, affluent. It's a nice area. But there's a lot of people who are born and raised there. My daughter, oldest daughter, prime example born and raised there. It's a very comfortable life. And you don't fully realize that outside of the Plano bubble, it's a little different.

[00:17:20] There's like people dealing with some real stuff out there. And not all that far from where Plano is. No, not at all. Drive 20 minutes South and you're right in the middle of it. And So it's easy to become almost anesthetized to the challenges that other people have. Now here we were with our own family with our challenges.

[00:17:40] And I use the phrase that I have been blessed. My family was actually blessed with some pretty tough challenges and some people have a hard time wrapping their head around that. I'm like, no, if it's, if God's involved in it, then it's a blessing. And, but one of the benefits to me was I got to meet people who were very different than [00:18:00] myself and understand their stories, not just from a disability standpoint, but from a different economic, socioeconomic strata, different backgrounds and so on.

[00:18:10] It enabled me to broaden my own exposure. in a huge way and in a very sensitive way. Certainly professionally we meet people with different backgrounds and so on and then that's fine. But usually in that context, it's still the focus is on what say the business issue we're dealing with. I was meeting people in a very raw state when people who have children who will always need 24 7 care or who even if they don't need 24 7 care, they're going to have unique challenges on how to maximize their God given potential.

[00:18:42] That's a very raw environment than what. the environment. We normally people meet people who maybe have different backgrounds as us. So that was very beneficial. There was a Bible verse that I came along came along. It was Chuck Swindoll, who's the pastor of Stonebriar Community Church.

[00:18:59] We [00:19:00] we attended there for a while. Fairly well known pastor. He's published quite a bit and he has a grandson with autism and he did a a sermon one time on, on disabilities. And as part of the the sermon, he described a particular Bible passage, which really resonated with me in a huge way.

[00:19:16] It's John 9, 1 through 3, and John 9, 1 through 3 goes this way. It's as he, being Jesus, as Jesus went along, he came across a man blind from birth. The disciples asked him, Who sinned, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind. Is it his fault or is it his mom and dad's fault?

[00:19:37] Scott Maderer: Cause

[00:19:37] Clay Boatright: it's gotta be one of them. Exactly. And that was a very common thought at the time. And you know what? It's a very common thought now. And every single parent that's had a child with a disability has asked that question. What did I do? How did I cause this to happen? Exactly. The verse follows up with neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus.

[00:19:59] This happened so [00:20:00] that the work of God might be seen in his life. And that landed on me in a huge way, because on several levels, number one, it says this happened so that, and it means there's a purpose. First off, as we were just discussing, neither, nobody sinned. This is not a punishment for a sin.

[00:20:19] Okay, that's number one. Number two, this happened so that, that means there's a specific purpose. What's that purpose? For the power of God to be reflected in the man's life. Take that by extension his family's life. It, the Yaha to me was tying into my Friday night, Saturday morning revelation on God, why'd you do this?

[00:20:40] To help people like my twins. Same type of thing. To see, it's, people are often have disabilities, are born with disabilities, and we take it even broader. When you look at each one of our unique challenges, okay? use the word disability or not. We all [00:21:00] have a unique challenge that we, maybe on a day, don't wish we wouldn't have.

[00:21:05] Each one of those is an opportunity for God to be seen in our life in some way, either through service of others, or achievements of something, or to bring value to serve others in different ways. There's a whole host of ways that God can be manifested in something that we consider a challenge. So that was a huge way.

[00:21:23] So in terms of going through the the disability conundrum and the advocacy and all that kind of stuff, it was also that re that understanding or that greater deeper understanding of, no there's purpose. In all of our lives, regardless of what our IQ is, regardless of how high we can jump or fast we can run, there's purpose in all of our lives, which is a direct tie into God.

[00:21:51] Scott Maderer: I think too, I want to go back. So when you lay down that night, like you said, and you were feeling angry at God[00:22:00] the, I think in that story too, is that recognition that quote, God is bigger than. Us God is bigger than our anchor. God is bigger than our feelings. God is bigger than, if that makes sense. Yeah. Oh, abso oh, absolutely. And yeah, see, the great thing about God, he's got pretty broad shoulders. He can handle us being mad at him. He doesn't, you know that he, that's not gonna rock his world. Get Friday. Yeah. Yeah. So he is good with that. But a phrase I often use is God is smarter than we are.

[00:22:37] Clay Boatright: And we need to get over it. We really do. Cause a lot of times and yes, we can intellectually say we know God is smarter than we are, but at the end of the day, we'd really like for him to do whatever we want him to. And that whole being God thing. No, he doesn't have to that he gets the prerogative of playing the God card and we need to be comfortable with that.

[00:22:58] So our job is not to [00:23:00] tell God what we want. Our job is to listen and say, okay, God, there's some. In my situation, there's some crazy goofy stuff going on here. What do you want me to do? That's the real question. How did we should respond? So how

[00:23:14] Scott Maderer: did that fit in with you and your wife, as y'all were navigating your twins disabilities, how did y'all see that and come to feel about it in terms of what was the plan?

[00:23:28] What was it that God wanted

[00:23:31] Clay Boatright: to come out of this? My wife and I, the way we handled our family situation was she would have liked to have

[00:23:40] gone

[00:23:41] Clay Boatright: back to work if our kids had all been traditional developing, she would have gone back to work probably when they were school age.

[00:23:47] But with Paige and me as disability, that, that didn't allow for that. So she wound up staying at home. And she handled all the home activities, all the doctor related stuff, all the insurance things, whatnot, that, that was [00:24:00] her field paying the bills and those types of things. I handled, if we used to joke, I made the money, she spent the money.

[00:24:07] So I had the career to, to generate the income, but then also doing the advocacy piece. And then with the advocacy piece. I was learning about things about the system that would benefit our own family as well. So that's how that worked. I attended every doctor visit, went to every all that kind of stuff.

[00:24:26] So I was a pretty heavily involved father. And so it was the separation of responsibilities is how we handled the day to day. I think Carol she appreciated the advocacy work. In some ways, I think she viewed it as my hobby. But she but she understood the benefit and it became more meaningful to her when I discovered something that directly benefited our family.

[00:24:50] Then she's okay now I get, now you can go all those, you can go to all those meetings. It's fine that way. But I will say that [00:25:00] I talk about the stages of grief when we went through with with our twins. And a lot of families do this when they're reconciled with a disability.

[00:25:10] And the ultimate, the end stage, hopefully, is acceptance. And I got to acceptance much faster than Carol did. I think some of that is pe people work through issues at different rates, at different paces. And also I think the motherhood thing I she never quite got over the, okay.

[00:25:35] As the mo, as the mother. I know I must've done something wrong. Even though we would talk about it, and we, and I'd, we'd always try to convince her, intellectually she could hear it, but a bit in her heart, and part of that challenge was the fact that, to this day, and when I say this day, last week when Pejimia had a doctor appointment on something Pejimia have always, that come back from a medical[00:26:00] any kind of medical test, as normal.

[00:26:04] So every genetically, everything is fine by a much you doing says everything is fine. Meanwhile, clearly it's not. And that was something that was extremely frustrating for Carol was to never understand from a medical standpoint, or what environmental was there an environmental issue that was the cause?

[00:26:23] What was the cause? And then we've had a series of various health issues over the years with them, which was the same thing, but doctors couldn't figure it out. And I always viewed it as the science hasn't caught up yet. Okay. The science just hasn't caught up yet. That was easy for me to say, but Carol had a bigger challenge for that and which added to the I must've done something wrong.

[00:26:48] Scott Maderer: This, all of this thing that you're talking about you, here you are with a career advocacy work and. the [00:27:00] twins, other child, wife I can keep going. How did you manage to figure out a way to do all of that from a time perspective, just from an energy perspective how do you do that much?

[00:27:18] Clay Boatright: So there's something I discovered along the way. We were talking about passion earlier in the conversation is when you're working on something you're truly passionate about. And I equate the word passion to something God has embedded in you. Okay. You can be passionate about football.

[00:27:36] At the day, you just really like football and you may dive into it but I'm talking about things that God's kind of coded into you. And I did not know he had coded this desire on the advocacy piece until I got into it. But when you're doing something, you're passionate about it. You it's a never ending source of energy.

[00:27:56] The well doesn't run dry. [00:28:00] And think about it. Think about things that you maybe you're not passionate about, or you don't care that much about what happens. You act, you get tired and you're very quick to say, is it over yet? Do I have to do this? I'm going to look, I'm going to make up an excuse why not to do it.

[00:28:15] That's what you do on the things that you're not passionate about. Things you are passionate about. Who needs sleep? Sleep is grossly overrated it's like you just energies comes out of nowhere and that's how I think I was able to do it both in parallel was the it was this, the, that never ending source of energy that came on the the advocacy side, because also there was a I'm going to say immediate turnaround.

[00:28:42] In some ways it worked. When I was working directly with families and I could help them see things or learn something about the system or come up with ideas that they had not thought about before and so on. There is an immediate gratification out of that. Because you can see an immediate benefit that you're bringing to someone.

[00:28:59] [00:29:00] And I and what I did for a living did not, that was not the type of job where you had that. It was more long haul type things. So there was that

[00:29:11] Scott Maderer: You've also, in all of that, put a book out as well. Tell us a little bit about the book and where that came from.

[00:29:19] Clay Boatright: I appreciate that.

[00:29:20] So yeah, God's plan, the title of the book is God's Plan, Our Circus. God's plan, our circus. And the not our monkeys, but our circus. It's very exactly. And So for years, I referred to our family as the Boatwright Circus, just because it was crazy. It made no sense. I was a fairly avid Facebooker, so I would put stuff on Facebook of this goofy things.

[00:29:45] And it wasn't just more to say, Hey, look at my crazy family. But in large part, it was to help other families with disabilities, which made up the bulk of my Facebook friends. Let our friends know, you know what guys, you're not the only ones dealing with nutty stuff. You're and a lot of times [00:30:00] you just have to laugh at it.

[00:30:01] Again, the book, God's Plan, Our Circus, the subtitle is a family odyssey through autism, death, and reinvention. Fairly heavy subtitle, particularly compared to the main title. So the family odyssey being autism as I was describing, that'd be Page and Mia. Death would be the passing of Carol's death.

[00:30:24] And then the reinvention was me. And writing the book was cathartic in a lot of ways, but the main point was to show a, was to hopefully inspire people going through very unique, difficult challenges that they didn't sign up for, that there is a way to get through it. And it's all about the perspective that you can choose to have.

[00:30:46] So yeah, I mentioned Carol's passing when time goes on and we're raising the kids our oldest daughter went off to college and then got a full time job after that, the twins, [00:31:00] we were able to get a great group home set up for them near, near our house. So we were still connected and involved in their lives, but we weren't having to do the heavy lifting Once we got the twins out of the house, Carol went back to work for the first time in 20 years.

[00:31:15] Kind of wanted to restart a career and have adult conversations and adult stuff. Was very excited about that. And six months later she was after she started back to work, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And they did surgery, they thought they got it all, they didn't. Went through 18 months of chemo and ultimately passed away.

[00:31:33] And so that, I talk, I share about the challenges of that in the trials and tribulations as well as some of the funny things that happen when you're going through a severe illness. A second testimony, I shared with you the Friday night, how I wound up with two careers. The second thing, which is particularly, I think very important, is when so Carol died [00:32:00] February 11th, 2020.

[00:32:02] Okay. February 11th, 2020. Think about that for a moment. She never heard the words COVID 19. I was going to say

[00:32:08] Scott Maderer: that's literally right before COVID

[00:32:10] Clay Boatright: became a thing. Yes. And Blair, our oldest daughter and I, we've, I shouldn't say we've laughed about it, but we've talked about how knowing Carol. I think God, I know for a fact, he did God, God did Carol a favor by bringing her home.

[00:32:24] So she didn't have to deal with that craziness. She would have thought the world had lost his mind and that's probably a topic of discussion for another day. But so she died February 11th. Three days later was Valentine's day. So Blair had come back home. She was working in Nashville, come home for her mom's service.

[00:32:43] And she and her boyfriend, who's now her husband wanted to go out for Valentine's. I'm like, sure, go ahead. I go, I'm in my house, the five bedroom house I raised my family in, all by myself. This sucks. So I go across the street from our house to a grocery [00:33:00] store. And I walk in there just looking for something to dinner, for dinner.

[00:33:03] And I'm feeling all sad and depressed. I'm all doom and gloom. Okay. My. My best friend, arguably my only real friend for 33 years. It's just died. Died in our bed. I'm all alone. I have no clue what to do next. It's a, it was a very stark, dark, lonely, gloomy life sucks. And that's how I'm thinking. And that's my perspective as I'm walking through the store.

[00:33:39] And then I get to it's aisle nine, haircare aisle. Don't know if that's relevant, but that's where it happened. I'm in aisle nine. And all of a sudden, everything changed. It was like, in the blink of an eye. I went from being sad, morbid, and depressed, and woes me, to that same feeling I had that Saturday morning, [00:34:00] 20, almost 20 years earlier, upbeat, excited, ready to take on the world.

[00:34:07] I'm like, what the, what happened? There is zero doubt. That God revealed to me at that moment, two things. Number one, Carol was doing great. She was doing a lot better than the rest of us. She as a Christian was experiencing what all Christians hopefully aspire to, to have eternity with God. So she was doing great.

[00:34:33] And I viewed that as God releasing me from having to mourn my wife. Did I miss her? Of course I did. Would there be what I call sneak attacks, where you're going along fine, and all of a sudden, wham! Yeah, you go through the stages of grief, nonetheless. Yeah, would those happen? Absolutely. But, from a grief, true grief standpoint you don't have to grieve for someone who's doing better than you are.

[00:34:59] Agree for [00:35:00] yourself, but you don't have to grieve for them. So there was that. You're grieving for the

[00:35:03] Scott Maderer: loss of the partnership and the relationship. You're not grieving for their condition or their state or.

[00:35:08] Clay Boatright: Yeah. What's the old saying funerals are for the living, not for the dead. And they are.

[00:35:11] So there was that. Literally, I'm going to go.

[00:35:15] Scott Maderer: host one at our church tomorrow. It's the 17th that we've had this year. We, yeah, they are for the

[00:35:22] Clay Boatright: living. And that's why I appreciate the celebration of life angle that we tend to have with the more modern. So anyway, so Carol was doing great.

[00:35:31] The second revelation, aha, had to do with me. And this is the end of the subtitle as I said, it's autism, death and reinvention. So this is where the reinvention So the second thought that kind of God showed me was okay. At the time I was 55 years old. I'm 58 now. So I was 55 years old, had been married for 30 years.

[00:35:56] So think about it. God [00:36:00] willing, and I use those words literally, I may still have another 30 ahead of me. So from this whole adulting thing, I'm really only halfway there. All right. A lot of opportunity ahead. Second was, for the first time in my adult life, I had virtually no obligations and responsibilities.

[00:36:20] I was barely responsible for myself. Harold was in heaven. Twins were in a great group home, being taken care of. Yeah, I was their guardian, but I didn't have to do the heavy lifting. Blair was set up and out of college, working full time in her career. They're all doing great in a

[00:36:37] Scott Maderer: relationship that looked

[00:36:39] Clay Boatright: good.

[00:36:40] Exactly. Exactly. Her relationship is good. So she's cooking with gas. She's doing great. And so I have virtually no obligations to responsibilities. And again, I say this humbly, I can literally do whatever I want.

[00:36:57] How often does that happen? [00:37:00] And it hit me. It's why exactly am I sad and depressed? Now, the million dollar question, and it's still to be answered, is okay, God, you've presented me with this opportunity. And I think the book is part of that to help share a story that when people read it who are going through tough times and they hear about our craziness and our challenges can maybe look at it and choose to draw some parallels and say, you know what it is about there, there is opportunity and humor and faith, the things that I embedded in the book, the As part of that process I would think about it more and dwell on it and pray on it and I realized, okay, I in the store, I launched at that moment, what I call Clay 2.

[00:37:55] 0. Okay, so there's nothing wrong with Clay 1. 0 but it was very [00:38:00] traditional husband and father, church every Sunday, raise the kids, do do stuff you're supposed to, the advocacy thing. Now it was very different. My circumstances were hugely different. It was truly starting over from scratch.

[00:38:12] So the Clay 2. 0 would be very different than 1. 0, but having the 1. 0 as a foundation. I suspected that God probably didn't want me to do this all by myself. So a few months after Carol passed, I and this now becomes the final chapter of the book, which is the true comic relief of the story.

[00:38:37] Of dating in your mid fifties, okay, so I last time I had a first date was in 1986. Okay, I was 21 years old at the time, which means I was an idiot, right? I'm now 55 trying to date with the dating experience of basically a teenager. There are these things called dating apps that we did not have back in [00:39:00] 1986.

[00:39:00] That's a totally different thing. You having to maneuver. Oh, and there's a pandemic going on, by the way. So I started meeting people, started hearing stories, started learning about challenges, starting to realize, wow I thought I had a tough time. There are people out there dealing with some really tough stuff.

[00:39:16] So I'm expanding those horizons, expanding my knowledge base. And towards the end of the book, I share a conversation I had with a woman who once I wrote it and I went back and re read it, I said this is really an underpinning of the entire story. And the story of what I'm wanting to share with people.

[00:39:36] So she and I were talking and she said Clay, tell me your story. So I gave her the top line. And when I was done, she said Clay, we all have experiences and challenges and baggage and drama. And I paused for a moment. I said yes and no. We all have experiences and challenges. That's absolutely true.

[00:39:57] There's no getting away from that. We all have experience and challenges. [00:40:00] But baggage and drama are optional. It's all in how you choose to look at it. And happiness is a choice. That's what I told her, happiness is a choice, and when I wrote that, went back and re read it, I said, you know what, that's really been an underpinning of how I've tried to approach everything in terms of raising my family, raising my children with disabilities, doing the advocacy work, caring for Carol when she was going through the throes of chemotherapy and the pain and challenges there, working through the challenge of her death.

[00:40:32] Each one of, at every moment along that 30 year span of time, I had a choice. I could be sad and depressed, morbid, or I could look for the upside. Choosing happiness, choosing the positivity, looking for the opportunity, that was 100% in my control, if I wanted to take it. And that's what made all the difference.

[00:40:56] And we talked about how'd you get through it? That's exactly how I got through [00:41:00] it. And that's what I'm trying to share with other people is it may be hard to see it when you're in the, when you're in the challenge when you're in, when you're in the thunderstorm, it's hard to remember there's sunlight on the other side of it.

[00:41:12] But there really is focus on that sunlight. Don't focus on the storm. That's on top of you.

[00:41:18] Scott Maderer: So when you're doing the advocacy work and you're talking to folks families that have disability in the family, that sort of thing what are some of there's someone listening right now that's in that situation.

[00:41:32] I can almost promise you that just statistically there's somebody listening right now that's, that has that. If you could talk just to that lister, what are some of the things that you've learned over the years that you think are. The most important for them to maybe concentrate on to begin getting through it or to find help to make progress on how they feel and what's going on in their life.

[00:41:57] Clay Boatright: We're talking about specifically families [00:42:00] with disabilities going through that there, there are several things. In the book, I have a chapter called the five, top five must do's for a family with disabilities. And it's interesting in, in, in the book, nowhere do I tell anybody what they should do because every walk is unique.

[00:42:17] I share our story. People choose to draw parallels. Hopefully it creates some new ideas but in this one chapter, there's five things I say, Hey, here's what you need to go do. Number one is get help at home. Get help at home. Far and away. That's the number one thing. I use the phrase martyrdom.

[00:42:38] This idea that we're going to handle it on our own. I'm going to take care of it. I don't need any help. Yeah. Martyrdom is not sexy. It is not sexy at all. So get over it. Yeah. Pay for it. If you need to ask parent, grandparents, ask friends, get help at home. That was huge. And I've got it.

[00:42:56] If you want, I can share a story on how that changed our lives. Once we had people helping us [00:43:00] with those ones. Number two is based depending on the level of the individual's disability. There are things called Medicaid waiver lists, so without going through the full dynamics we as a country have chosen to use the Medicaid system as the mechanism to help pay for a lot of the services that people with disabilities need.

[00:43:21] Most states have waiting lists to get these services, so get on those waiting lists as soon as you can, and there's mechanisms to find out where, how to do that within each state, so get on the Medicaid waiting waiver waiting list. Number three is take advantage of all community sponsored programs.

[00:43:40] Churches have done a great job of creating say, Friday night friends type programs. Or there's an organization called Johnny and Friends, which hosts summer camps across the country for families with disabilities. Church, we're talking about church.

[00:43:59] [00:44:00] Churches, in theory, we think, are open to everyone, right? Open to all families. Yeah, if you've got two children with severe disabilities. Maybe not because they don't know what to do with you. And it, we started, it became a requirement for us to be able for us to go to church. We needed a church that had a disability ministry.

[00:44:21] So yeah, that it was clearly an outreach on their part, but it enabled us to stay in touch with which with God, which was huge. So yeah, fine. So finding a church home that's vitally important. And then number five is get involved. There's when I wrote the book, I have what I call, The five hour sentence and it's a sentence which it took me forever to figure out how to word it without sounding totally rude and obnoxious.

[00:44:49] And it I'm going to be, I'm going to use a colloquialism at first. The point I was trying to make. was get off your butt. [00:45:00] Okay, that's what I was trying to say. And the net was, or how I chose to word it finally, was that I have met so many parents, particularly fathers, who said they didn't have time to get involved and to serve because of their, because of work.

[00:45:18] They just didn't have time. I'm like, really? And I would not say that I wouldn't be so obnoxious as to say this back to somebody, but Yeah, I felt comfortable putting it in the book. I didn't have one child, I had two children with severe disabilities. At a level that would scare the holy crap out of most people.

[00:45:38] I also was the sole breadwinner of my house. Also was able to do a lot of the advocacy work. Now granted not everyone is gonna have a Friday night experience like I did. To get inspired by it, but what I learned through that is when we get involved, A, we learn things [00:46:00] selfishly to help our own families, okay?

[00:46:03] So if for no other reason than to help yourself. Get involved and understand what's going on in the community and understand learn from others, learn from our peers. You can only learn from your peers if you're talking to your peers, right? So get out there, but also other people may benefit from our stories and maybe benefit from what we've learned.

[00:46:21] So there's a give and take going on there which is hugely important and the excuse of well, I just don't have time. I'm busy. Okay, Scott, think of all the people you know. Do you know anybody who's not busy? No. Everybody I know is busy. Maybe if you're 85 years old, it's the most

[00:46:41] Scott Maderer: common answer to the question.

[00:46:42] So how's it going?

[00:46:43] Clay Boatright: Oh busy. Yep. And you run, I used to run to this and work all the time. He asked me, Oh man, it's great. I just got so much going on. It's just so busy. I'm like, yep. So is everybody else. And this is again, the. Obnoxious Clay for a moment. I don't give people extra points for being busy.

[00:46:59] That's table [00:47:00] stakes. That's that's just showing up in the game is being busy. But how do you go above and beyond that to truly add value? There's a my favorite verse in the Bible. It's it's not one of the top 20. It's not one that's on anybody's memorization list. A little obscure.

[00:47:18] It's 1 Peter 4. 10. Okay. 1 Peter 4. 10 goes this way. Each one should use the gifts. e, or she, have been given to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. Each one should use the gifts he or she has been given to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

[00:47:42] And I love that verse because it's one of those that if you just ignore the rest of the Bible and just do that, life would be so much better. And I like it because it says so much. It says, okay, each one, it's everybody. Who's that? It's everybody. Each one. Got it. Should do what? Should use the gifts.

[00:47:59] He or [00:48:00] she had been given. Okay. That tells us that we've all been given unique gifts by God. Where do our gifts come from? They come from God. We've all been given these unique gifts by God. Okay. For what purpose? To serve others. Very straightforward. Got it. Use our gifts to serve others. Why? In order to bring God's grace to those around us and God's grace in its various forms.

[00:48:24] So when we think about it, when we, I, or when we identify the gifts that God gave us and we use those to serve others. We are quite literally bringing God to the people around us because we're using the gifts he gave us in order to serve them. That's huge. That's huge. That's a lot more, that's a lot more important than the sales meeting you've got tomorrow.

[00:48:51] I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the sales meeting. I'm not saying you shouldn't earn an income to pay for your family. Of course you do, but you figure it out. You figure out [00:49:00] how do I use these gifts. To serve others. One small

[00:49:05] Scott Maderer: tweak that I've used with with folks over the years.

[00:49:09] And I work in the area of productivity. Everyone calls that time management. I hate the term time management, but productivity, energy management, those I'll go for, but not time. Cause time, we just, we time is we don't get to manage it is. But what I challenge people whenever, anytime you say I'm too busy to do that, just change the words to, that's not a priority.

[00:49:32] Okay. Exactly right. And see if you still feel comfortable with it. Because like I, oh, I don't have time to go to my daughter's soccer game. Yeah. It's not a priority for me to go to my daughter's soccer game. One of those sounds heroic. The other one sounds You're exactly right.

[00:49:51] Clay Boatright: Exactly. And I, it's, and I'm great. You, I'm delighted you said that. 'cause I've thought about this for years and years is first off time is a [00:50:00] commodity that we cannot get back once it's gone. But each one of us, is in absolute control of where our body is. At any point in time.

[00:50:12] So what we're doing, we, each one of us, is in control of that. And when people say, no, but my boss said, no, okay. You're choosing to do what your boss said. And technically

[00:50:24] Scott Maderer: you can't say no. There may be a consequence,

[00:50:25] Clay Boatright: but you can say no. That's exactly right. That's exactly right. Because there's a place.

[00:50:31] For people, that's a very small number of people who are not in control of where their bodies are and what they're doing at any moment. There is a place for people in that situation. It's called prison. Prison. Okay? So unless you're quite literally in prison, you're, you are in control of where you are and how you're spending your time at every moment.

[00:50:52] And to your point, Scott, it really becomes prioritization. Yeah. One of the things, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this. Something drives me [00:51:00] crazy and I have trouble articulating it. This whole work life balance, I have no idea what that means. It's like we're having to trade off one to me.

[00:51:10] Our lives are, it's more like a sphere instead of a counterweight of one versus the other. It's more like a sphere with various elements in it. And at any point in time, we're. And we're having to work the job, the employment area. And then we walk over here and we're in the family thing. And then we walk over here and again, we're in control of where we are walking within that sphere at all times.

[00:51:33] And, but this whole view that there's a trade off between work and family I can't, I cannot wrap my head around that. For

[00:51:42] Scott Maderer: one thing, a lot of times the people use the word balance and what they actually mean is equality and balance doesn't necessarily mean equal across all components, right?

[00:51:53] You can have an object that is balanced and yet is bigger on one end than the other. It's just the balance [00:52:00] point is a different place. So I talk about that. And the other thing is recognizing that balance, like you just said, walking along the different points of the street, balance is an active process.

[00:52:09] If you don't believe me, stand on one foot, close your eyes and see how long you can stand still. And the answer is not very, you'll start walking back and forth to keep your balance. Because it's balance is an active process. I agree with you. I don't think it's work life balance. I think it's work life harmony, for lack of a better word, where, because that means, hey, right now it's going to be a little off center.

[00:52:32] Maybe I'm going to have to work a little bit more than I would, but if I don't communicate that to the important people around me and establish a plan and then it ain't going to be harmonious it's going to create friction. So it's, the aim isn't balance in terms of equality, it's more harmony in terms of are we all on the same page and kind of going the same direction and pulling the cart the direction that the cart needs to go in[00:53:00] whatever that looks like

[00:53:02] Clay Boatright: at the time.

[00:53:03] Yeah. That makes sense. You're right. Harmony is a much better word. I like that word balance. That is a much better way to frame it up. Very good point. Yeah.

[00:53:10] Scott Maderer: I've got a few questions that I like to ask all of my guests, but before I ask them those, is there anything else you'd like to share or that you'd like to make sure the listener hears?

[00:53:20] Clay Boatright: I think the the most important thing, and I alluded to it a few moments ago, is the realization that God has a purpose for each one of us, and that purpose, He gave, He coded into us unique skills and talents, and I think part of our challenge is to find within ourselves as well as help each other identify what are those skills and talents and then how do we bring those to fruition specifically in the ways of serving others.

[00:53:49] Because we will benefit ourselves in the process of that as well as we can serve. So that and not to, and we, that, so that would be the biggest thing is help identify that. [00:54:00] Also on my Facebook page for a hundred years I've had life is too important to be taken seriously. Yeah, stuff happens.

[00:54:11] Challenges happen all the time, but as I described a moment ago, it's our choice on how we choose to look at it. And we're gonna let it suck us down. And that's what I would really want to convey to people is as hard as it is, as difficult as it is force yourself. Talk to your friends, talk to your pastor, talk, watch a goofy TV show, do whatever you do, but something to help you wipe away some of the fog and look for the upside and look for the opportunities, even in the darkest situations.

[00:54:45] Cause that's where your ultimate success will come from. Your success is going to be coming from the positivity, the upside, the growth, et cetera. It's not going to come from swimming in the sewer.

[00:54:58] Scott Maderer: So my brand is [00:55:00] Inspired Stewardship and I run things through that lens of stewardship and yet that's one of those words that I've learned over the years means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So when you hear the word stewardship, what is, what does that word mean to you and what is its

[00:55:13] Clay Boatright: impact been on you?

[00:55:16] So with stewardship, I'm thinking a lot of people, when they hear stewardship, pull out their checkbook, right? My old joke is

[00:55:22] Scott Maderer: I'm trying to claim the word stewardship from we're starting a building campaign and we need your donation. Cause that's usually what it means in church.

[00:55:31] Clay Boatright: Exactly. And in the business world, in the business world a lot of you're in trouble when you're, when your senior vice president tells your vice president, I need your department to create a stewardship report.

[00:55:43] And I need to know exactly the value you're bringing to the corporation. Whenever you're asked that question, you know you're in trouble. So that's a tough one. Now, I view stewardship much more ecumenically than financial. To me, stewardship is, how am I [00:56:00] utilizing the assets? Which may be financial, it may be the skills and talents that we were talking about a few moments ago.

[00:56:07] The things at my disposal, how am I using those to the benefit of others, and the benefit of others with the understanding that it's in response to God's call in some way. We use the, I'm almost reluctant to say the word God's call because it sounds holy, totally all that stuff that kind of freaks people out.

[00:56:30] But it really is. It's the first Peter 4, 10 verse I quoted a moment ago. It's using it's stewardship is using the assets that I have. to benefit others, which is arguably or not arguably the most important thing I can do.

[00:56:47] Scott Maderer: So this is my favorite question that I like to ask everybody.

[00:56:50] Imagine for a minute, I invented this magic machine and I could pluck you from where you are today and transport you into the future, maybe 150, 250 years. [00:57:00] And through the power of this machine, you were able to look back and see your entire life, see all of the connections, all of the ripples, all of the impacts you've left behind.

[00:57:09] What impact do you hope you've left in the world?

[00:57:16] Clay Boatright: I hope that first, that if, that I was able to help people like I described a moment ago, look for the opportunities, not to get sucked into the depth of their challenge, but look on how to take that. And use it for good to to not only their benefit, but to the benefit of others.

[00:57:39] I saw a a quote the other day, which it resonated. It may be a little pop psychology, but it resonated. And it said that a person's legacy are the people they've helped. Okay, it is a perspective and I thought about that and I wrote this book and I put it together and I [00:58:00] hope people buy it.

[00:58:00] I hope it inspires, I hope it inspires people but it hit me the other day that if I went through this whole process of at the end of the day one person reads it and it Gives them some ideas that they didn't have before or it brightens their day you know if I can make someone if I can make someone smile and The ripple of that ripple effect of that as it takes is they encounter people Their families or people at work If I was able to bring a smile to someone's face through something I wrote or something I shared that ripple effect can be huge But if one person benefits from it then Okay.

[00:58:37] Maybe I added a little value. So what's on the

[00:58:40] Scott Maderer: roadmap? What's coming next for you as you finish

[00:58:42] Clay Boatright: out the year? Again trying to get the word out of the stories that I've been sharing looking for opportunities to hopefully do some public speaking. And I think within my. This two [00:59:00] dual career of paying the paying the bills career, as well as the advocacy career.

[00:59:05] And then the various challenges that I've described, I think there's an angle within corporate America for that. And the other is a right now. with mental health issues being as prominent today as they were much more than they ever have been in the past. I think companies have a heightened awareness that, hey, you know what, we, everybody's dealing with something and to the extent that we can help our our employees deal with the challenges that they have either through practical things like.

[00:59:34] time away or time leave and so on, but connect with resources to help them manage through it. I think there's a benefit there. So I'm looking for ways to bring that forward. I'm, I mentioned earlier I'm blessed in that I I don't think anyone's going to come take the house anytime soon.

[00:59:49] So I'm able to put my, my, my time towards things of that nature which is pretty nice.[01:00:00]

[01:00:02] Scott Maderer: You can find out more about Clay Boatwright over at. Clay Boatwright. com. Of course, I'll have a link to that over in the show notes as well. Clay, anything else you'd like to share with the

[01:00:12] Clay Boatright: listener? Biggest thing is again, thank you. Thank everyone for your time today. Thank you for the reference to to clayboatwright.

[01:00:21] com. You can buy the book on there. It's also available on amazon. com as well as barnesandnoble. com. Also, if you come against the website, you'll see ways to contact me. If people are having issues, we mentioned earlier. Folks families with disabilities, want to bounce some ideas around, please feel free to reach out.

[01:00:39] I'd be honored to chat.

[01:00:41] Scott Maderer: Absolutely. Thanks so much for that.

[01:00:50] Thanks so much for listening to the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. As a subscriber and listener, we challenge you to not just sit back and passively [01:01:00] listen, but act on what you've heard and find a way to live your calling. If you enjoyed this episode please do us a favor, go over to inspired stewardship.

[01:01:13] com slash iTunes rate, all one word, iTunes rate. It'll take you through how to leave a rating and review and how to make sure you're subscribed to the podcast so that you can get every episode as it comes out in your feed. Until next time, invest your time. Your talent and your treasures develop your influence and impact the world.

In today's episode, I ask Clay about:

  • How his journey brought him to focus on advocacy without leaving his day job... 
  • How he has faith that this is all part of God’s plan...
  • What families with children with disabilities should focus on first...
  • and more.....

Some of the Resources recommended in this episode: 

I make a commission for purchases made through the following link.

I use the phrase our family was blessed with some pretty tough challenges, and some people have a hard time wrapping their head around that but if God is involved then it’s a blessing. – Clay Boatright

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About the Author Scott

Helping people to be better Stewards of God's gifts. Because Stewardship is about more than money.

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