Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Heart Full Of Thanks

It’s the THANKFUL month! We normally think more about what we’re thankful for in November because, well, we’re supposed to.  But truly thanksgiving is a heart issue that we should practice year-round. 

Opportunities to be thankful are in the mundane things of life.  And by expressing those things to each other, we’re encouraged to be thankful in our hearts day to day. 

When I was in high school, I had several cars.  I started with a great car I bought for $800 cash and wrecked it 5 months later. The car situation took a drastic downward turn after that!  In fact, my younger sisters passed on driving anywhere with me.  That experience led me to car thankfulness.  Still to this day, I’ll be driving down the road and thank the Lord for a car that runs. 

Our experiences in life drive us towards thankfulness.  And it’s also modeled.  A thankful heart is contagious.  Saying “thank you” breeds thankfulness.  Stopping and saying “thanks” turns an ordinary moment into a God moment.  Because we honor the Creator of all things and give Him glory by simply saying “thank you.”

As you look at the beautiful, changing leaves, mutter, “Thank you, Lord!” When your fireplace provides heat and beauty to your family sitting around the den, “Thank you, Lord.” As you gather with friends, eat good food, watch football, dress in layers, and meet new neighbors, “Thank you, Lord.  You are good!”

Thankfulness is a heart issue.  And God’s in the heart changing business.  Thank you, Lord!

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life!”   
Proverbs 4:23

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

If Satan Loves To Isolate, Then God Is In Community

Are you in community? It’s an IN word right now, isn’t it? It just rolls off your tongue...

It’s biblical.  Did you know that? We are to be IN fellowship with other believers.  It’s good for us.  We were created FOR community. 

Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

All of this took place after the church was established, and THEN what happened as a result of their obedience? Shock and awe.  That’s right.  They were AWED by the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  (Acts 2:43)

So we (the church) have these marching orders:  Study the word.  Fellowship together as believers, break bread, and pray. 
Our marching orders are COMMUNITY. 

October is such a great month for community.  It’s chilly outside, there’s chili inside, and our hearts are full. 

And yet when we experience heartache or trouble, we lean towards isolation. 

Isolation makes us a sitting duck for the enemy’s attacks.  And he will pounce.
When we’re down and out, feeling less than, hurting, needing help, we MUST reach out to our people.  We need them, and they need us.  We were created for each other.   

Do you have community? Do you have a body of believers with whom you fellowship? If the answer is no, then do something about it.  Pray for God to bring you to a place (church body) for you and your family.  There’s a place for everyone.  And there’s no perfect place.  We were created for community.  Not for isolation. 

I heard it said recently, “When things are going bad, God is up to something good.”  I like that perspective.  God cares.  And He gives us each other to remind us. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sometimes Community Means Making The First Move

Something a bit unusual happened to me today. I received an invitation to coffee from a new mom at our school. We’ve attended this school for five years, her kids have been there for a hot 30 minutes, and she invited me to coffee, though we’ve never met. Something seems backwards here.
She wants to connect though. So she is willing to make the first move. There aren’t enough words to express how much I love this.

My husband and I are both connectors of people. We’re always planning, initiating, inviting, hosting, introducing, and glad-handing, everywhere we go. Often when we’re guests at an event, people mistake us for the hosts. It’s just the way God made us, and it serves us well in ministry. A few years ago, though, I honestly began to resent this aspect of God’s design for our lives.

Instead of being the pursuer, I wanted to be pursued.
Instead of being the inviter, I wanted to be invited.

Instead of being the planner, I wanted to be the guest.
I was lonely. In need of community. And feeling sorry for myself. But then I recalled Paul’s words in Romans 12:6:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

I may have wished to be pursued, but God made me a pursuer. If I wasn’t willing to lean into this gift and practice hospitality, wasn’t I missing an opportunity to be a reflection of God’s image in the world?
Now fall is upon us. And with it, comes so many opportunities to practice hospitality and build community.

So we can do one of two things.
We can sit around waiting for an invitation, or we can be bold enough to make the first move.

What we can’t do is listen to the voice of Satan telling us no one invites us because no one likes us. It’s not true! Despite the fact that my husband and I are rarely invited by others, when we invite them, they most always say yes!
So if we’re wanting to connect with our neighbors…If we’re feeling isolated from friends…If we need a Girls Night Out, or we’re just wishing for a coffee date to connect at the new school, are we going to sit around a whine about it? Or are we willing to make the first move?

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:13

Monday, October 2, 2017

Do You Need To Kick-Start Your Community?

October is the beginning of the holiday season. Pumpkins, lattes, gatherings ‘round the fire…aaaahhhhhh. It seriously is MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR.  I love FALL so much that when Brad and I got engaged in December 1985, I begged him to wait until the FALL to get married! And he said apprehensively, “okay.” October 4th will be our 31st anniversary!
Yea US!

With the coming of the holiday season comes opportunities to gather, reflect, celebrate and open OUR doors. 

In Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” he devotes an entire section to COMMUNITY.  We were created for each other.  We need each other. 

         "We discover our role in life through our relationships
with others."
Rick Warren
Community.  It’s vital. But it’s not always pretty.  And it takes work. 

Why does community take work? Relationships are hard.  And when we do community right, the masks come off, and we discover that no one has it all together, that no one has a perfect life, and that no one doesn’t have baggage. 

But that’s the good stuff.  We are more alike than we think we are.  Relationships are messy.  But they're OUR mess! Let’s get messy!
Here are some ideas to get you started:

Invite someone over today.  Put a pumpkin on the front porch.  BAM! You’ve decorated for FALL! Put a pot of coffee on and serve it with PUMPKIN SPICE creamer! BAM! A FALL LATTE is served! See? That was so easy! Don’t try to be THE PIONEER WOMAN overnight.  Just invite.  Open your doors.  And fellowship.

Get involved in your church home group, Bible fellowship class, or small group.  Don’t just sit back and WAIT for someone to call you! Call them! Plan a get together.  Most likely, everyone is looking for friends but everyone is waiting on a call.  Be proactive!

Plan a get together for your kids and their friends.  Buy a dozen pumpkins and host a pumpkin carving party! Serve cider and a place for fellowship.  This shows your kiddos how to be hospitable and form community.  My friend, Sara, hosts one every year for her kids and their friends.  It’s become a tradition! I love it.

Bake some pumpkin bread and bless your neighbors.  Our Bible fellowship class is learning how to be a good neighbor right now, and Becky is leading the way.  Her blog is full of “good neighboring” ideas.  Check it out, here! 

Enjoy this month of cooler weather, sweaters, s’mores and more…and be a blessing!

"A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree." 
Proverbs 11:28 (MSG)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Teaching Contentment At The American Girl Store

As a little girl, our daughter was never really into dolls. She was more of the tree climbing, dirt wearing, always up for an adventure type. Different from most of her friends, she spent the bulk of her free time outside, climbing to heights unknown and rolling in whatever dirt she could find.
So when she was invited to the American Girl Doll store for a birthday party, I was curious to see how she would respond. All the little girls had their American Girl Dolls in tow, sidling them up to the table in high-chairs, combing their hair, and introducing them to one another. And our daughter brought “Diamond,” her one and only doll that she dug out from the depths of her toy box. Hair amuck and half-dressed, it was obvious how long it had been since Diamond had seen the light of day.

The party rooms at American Girl Doll are in the back of the store.

Making it past all of the merchandise and to the party room was a non-event. But after sitting with 15 little girls who were doting on their American Girl Dolls for 90 minutes, getting back out to the car was an entirely different story.
Suddenly, our daughter wanted what she did not have. Sage, the American Girl Doll who was the star of her favorite movie at the time.

When she asked me if we could buy it, my first instinct was to say yes. She rarely asked for anything, we never bought her toys, and she was a good kid. But then, my common sense returned.
I knew our daughter.

And she didn’t play with dolls.
“Yes, you can have Sage,” I said. “If you pay for it with your own money.”

“How much money do I have?” she asked.
It just so happened that a few months prior, we had opened a bank account for her. She had accumulated some birthday and allowance money, and we wanted to begin teaching her some very basic things about personal finance.

So I pulled up her balance on my bank app and used my calculator to subtract the amount of money it would take for her to purchase Sage. And then I explained:
“You have ________ money now. If you buy Sage, you’ll spend ________. And that will leave you with ___________.”

I could see her wheels spinning as she thought about it for a few minutes. And then she decided she didn’t need Sage after all.
No fit, no fight.

We left the American Girl Doll store without Sage, and Diamond went right back to the depths of the toy box!
I don’t think it’s wrong to buy things for our children, nor do I think it would have been wrong for me to have purchased a doll for our daughter under these circumstances. But I do think I would have missed an opportunity to teach her a valuable lesson regarding contentment.

She wouldn’t have given contentment a moment’s thought if Sage had been purchased on mommy’s dime. But by allowing her the freedom to make the purchase with her own money, she began to ask herself an important question:
Do I need or want this doll badly enough to use my own money to get it?

By allowing her the freedom to answer this question for herself, I gave her the opportunity to choose contentment. Contentment is a choice, after all, and it's a life skill we must all learn.
And if she had decided to purchase the doll with her own money? I'm guessing there would have been lessons of a different kind in that too!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

An Alternative To The "Life Isn't Fair" Lecture

I often describe our children as characters from Winnie The Pooh. We have two Tiggers and one Eyore. Each of them uniquely made in the image of God with their own sets of strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. They’re as different as the colors of hair upon their heads!
With our Tiggers, there’s boundless amounts of energy, which means they’re always up for an adventure, but they also have trouble sitting still. They’re everywhere, all the time.

With our Eyore, there’s a need for lots of downtime, which means I always have a snuggle buddy, but the motivation to stay active is harder to capture. We have to drag this kid outside if it’s the least bit warm.
The differences exist in the emotional realm too. Our Tiggers tend to be optimists, and our Eyore tends to be a pessimist. And though our culture would likely place more value on being an optimist, rest assured both tendencies bring opportunities and challenges to the table.

I recall a season not too long ago when our Eyore was in a constant state of discontent. It was score keeping at its finest, and the number of times I heard the phrase, “that’s not fair,” I don’t even know. We’re talking about injustices like the size of a dessert serving, the number of pages read from a bedtime story, the amount of free time given between homework and dinner.
You get the picture.

My frustration was at an all-time high one evening, when this kid bounded down the stairs to report yet another injustice in the story of life.
I took a deep breath as I prepared to launch into a speech about life and fairness, when I had a Holy Spirit moment.

In a parenting class my husband and I took years ago, we spent some time discussing how to deal with the hard days. You know the kind. The kind when our children wake up, saying to themselves, “I think today is a good day to die!”
And they fight us at every turn.
He suggested that on these very hard days we take a time out to be still and to meditate on all the things we’re thankful for about the children we’re struggling with. He proposed that engaging in this exercise would lead to a deeper sense of gratitude, help us channel our frustration, and address the issues with our children in more positive ways.

I’ve done this exercise a thousand times, and it works like a charm.
As I stood face-to-face with our Eyore at the bottom of the stairs, it occurred to me that if this exercise can work for parents, why wouldn’t it work for kids?

So instead of launching into a speech about life and fairness, I went to our office and came back with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. I instructed our Eyore to find a quiet place to sit and to write ten statements of gratitude.

“I am thankful for …”
Our Eyore was gone for a long, long while. But by the completion of this task, this kid’s disposition had completely changed! Because we took the focus off of what we didn’t have and redirected it towards our blessings, we created an opportunity for this kid to discover that the purported "injustice" was really no big deal.
And that made all the difference.
A good exercise to do any day of the week, and certainly more productive than listening to a lecture from mommy!

So if you have an Eyore in your family, or if you find yourself in an Eyore kind of moment for that matter, consider taking a stab at this exercise. It’s never a waste of time to count our blessings, and I’ve found it to leads to a greater state of contentment every time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

To Moms Who Can't Wait For This Season To Pass

A mother's thoughts...
0 – 3 months:  I can’t wait until he sleeps through the night.

6 – 9 months:  I can’t wait until she starts crawling.

9 – 12 months:  I can wait until he starts climbing up the stairs.

2 – 3 years old:  I can’t wait until she starts preschool. 

3 years old:  I can’t wait until he is potty trained.

5 years old:  I can wait until he starts kindergarten.

8 years old:  I can’t wait until she can do her own math homework.

12 years old:  I can wait until she’s a teenager.

15 years old:  I can’t wait until she can drive herself.

16 years old:  I can wait until he graduates high school.

19 years old:  I can’t wait until she comes home for the summer.

25 years old:  I can’t wait until I’m a grandmother.

It seems we’re always in the I Can/I Can’t Wait time of life. I can’t imagine this is what God had in mind when He gave us life.

What we don’t see while we’re wishing away each stage is the days releasing from our grip at lightning speed. 
Tick tock. 
Tick tock. 

We have today.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds. 
So rest easy sweet mama.  Today is your day to love and be loved.  Today is your day to kiss a boo boo and read a bedtime story.  Today is your day to hug a middle school-er who didn’t get invited to the party.  Today is your day to remind a 6 year old that Jesus loves her.  Today is your day to take a Big Gulp to a high school-er who didn’t make the A Team.  Today is your day to help finish a project that should have been started weeks ago.  Today is your day to skip a GNO because your hubby got looked over for a promotion.  Today is your day to celebrate a 100 on a spelling test. 
Today is your day.

Live today.  Love today.  Choose contentment.  Tomorrow will be here before you know it.