Saturday, October 7, 2017

Boldly go

When things aren't going well, my first response is can I fix it!  I am action oriented and quick to tap into my resources to solve the current problem, heal a hurt, mend a break or comfort a broken heart.  Sometimes the issues, hurts or problems aren't even mine to fix.  I often bring my own understanding into the situation I'm trying to help, but my voice sometimes drowns out the voice of God.  These are the areas I wrestle with, especially when advising my children.  I struggle with a need to be active and busy, showing noticeable progress along the way.  In an emotionally charged situation where your anger and fear are fueled by frustration, it is tempting to keep moving forward thinking your assistance is good and just, but losing sight of God.  Being still in prayer may not seem immediately like you are closer to a solution, although I am reminded that praying IS active and should always be our 1st response, not our last resort.

Jeff's message last week was for me, as we have all felt so often.  I recently heard from my son away at college who needed guidance for a situation he found himself in brought on by a poor choice.  It was my first instinct to 'fix' the situation, but paused before my actions created more damage.  I was feeling the miles between us and the distance left me feeling helpless.  I prayed and asked God to be 'at the center' as this situation could derail the potential for so much good.  God is a big God and I know he was beside my son, as He has always been.  I texted him and told him that God wants to be in the details, so make sure He is part of your conversation.  Things worked out well in this case, praise God.  May I always remember less of me, and more of you God.  And I will keep praying in the valleys.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The "F" word

I've banned a particular four letter word from my house.

I hate it, the sound of it makes me cringe,
it's like nails on a chalkboard.

Some families have no problem with it, it doesn't offend them, or drive them to the brink of sanity. . . . but I want it banned.

 Ok if I am totally honest I keep telling the ranting, raving humans who inhabit my world that the word is banned  . . . .yet they continue to use it.

It's the ugliest of all so forgive me in advance . . . . . it is the despicable, hope bashing, entitlement ending word FAIR.

The teen and preteen use it in response to just about anything; rain when they wanted sun, "unequal" gifts, a grade they felt they didn't deserve. But most often it is in response to a punishment they received or lack of punishment doled out to their sibling.

It doesn't matter what provoked it, my response is always the same.


If there is one thing I want them to understand it is that.  Nowhere, in the rule book of life does it ever . . hear me . . EVER say life is fair.
We live in a horribly broken world. And unfair happens far more than fair.

Yet we crave fairness, partly I think because we are created in God's image.  A God of justice, a God of love, compassion, mercy and grace. But being the fallen humans we are we pervert His eternal justice to an earthly version. This version is flawed from the start because it assumes our actions beget the reaction. But they don't always do they?  Jobs lost, cancer diagnosis, children die, ISIS murders; these are often beyond our control.  No matter how hard we work, how well we eat or exercise, how cautious we are, how loving we are, we cannot change everything. And it makes us want to yell from the mountain top, "It's not fair"!

Because it isn't.

Something in us instinctually knows we were created for more than what this world can offer.  It craves the perfection of our Creator. It longs to be made whole, no pain, no fear, no disappointment or sadness, no illness.  This side of heaven we can only have glimpses of that. Instead we hang onto faith. Hebrews defines faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. We hope for a day when wrongs are righted, when evil is quelled, when Jesus comes and leads us home.

Until then we look for where He is moving.  We watch and wait. Knowing that He is moving despite the evil, injustice, and unfairness surrounding us and will bring beauty from ashes.

Life isn't fair.
And God isn't either, He is better than that, He is just.

There is consequence for my sin, I am separated from God - could not stand in His presence.  No matter how much good I try to do I could never balance the bad I do. But God allowed my sins to be paid for, wiped clean, by someone else. It isn't fair that Jesus paid the price for my sins.  Nor is if fair that I can stand before God clean in his sight.

And I thank God He is not fair .  . . . I could not bear the weight if He was.

Monday, November 10, 2014

So you wanna be leader . . . . People not Programs

Focus on people not programs.

It can almost feel counter-intuitive at time, at least for those of us who have been trained to think in terms of a profit/loss product oriented world.  Programs are created to create profit: programs serve to support the bottom line. But when your bottom line is helping people know and follow Jesus, then bottom line, programs are about people.  That sounds simple right?  Makes sense?

But us church types we do love our programs!

We love our traditions.

 God help the person who comes between  a church and their potluck.

We are great at creating programs and honestly most of them are successful for a time. A church I used to be a part of had a pancake dinner once a year.  When it started it was a great outreach, people from all over the community attended.  They had an opportunity to meet volunteers, feel comfortable and welcomed in the building, and hear about up coming events.  But gradually, as the years ran on, it became more of a dinner hosted by volunteers for their families.  No one new was coming and the vision for the dinner had be lost.  Not to mention it had a heavy demand for volunteers.

Don't get me wrong this event was still fun and people enjoyed it, but as a leader you have to be willing to stop and look at events and decide if they are meeting your vision and if they are worth the cost.  The cost is not just financial.  If it is no longer meeting the vision and it is costing the organization (financially or in volunteer and leadership energy) then it may be time to say goodbye or at the very least rework that program.

The financial bottom line is often easy to see but what about the other two criteria - volunteer/leadership time, and meeting the vision?  Volunteers and staff only have a limited amount of time and energy to give.  We need to be sure that the asks we are making are the best asks to maximize their time and talents. And the vision? Well, sometimes we are so far down the road of, "but we've always done it", that we don't even know what the vision is.  Or, we as leaders have not done our job of recasting that vision a new, again and again and again.

 Let me be clear, we should not do ANYTHING without a clear vision: not a service, not a potluck, not a fundraiser, not a performance, not a study, not a single event.

Will it be hard for some of us to let go? Yes, no doubt, but if we do our job as leaders in casting a clear vision and reminding them of our goal, they will understand.  Not only understand, but they will embrace and champion whatever changes need to be made to reach that goal again.

All of that to say, the time we spend pouring into our volunteers is crucial.  We make conscious decisions to build them up, help them reflect God's love in their own unique way. When they see God's love in us, by the way we love them, speak truth to them, and honor their time and talents; they will do the same for others.  It is tempting and easy to make the quick decision without bringing those around us along.  It takes time, thought and prayer to pour into people.

Programs.....they're easy, people...... that's the challenge!

Monday, October 27, 2014

So you wanna be a leader . . . . .

 So you wanna be a leader . . . .  . or perhaps I should say, "So you find yourself leading".  True leaders can't help it, either they naturally without even meaning to, step into a roll of authority within a group or quickly those around them recognize leadership and ask them to serve  put them there! Keep in mind not everyone in leadership is a leader. There are many reasons people end up in leadership (but that is a whole post unto itself)!  The next few posts will be some truths I've learned (some the hard way) about leading.

1. When God says jump, JUMP!

Have you ever bungee jumped?  Me either.  But I can imagine standing at the top of the platform, wind  rushing at my face, legs barely holding me up as I peek over the edge, fighting the urge to throw up.  I would be checking every harness and safety measure time and time again and ultimately would probably need a push to actually get off that ledge. While I have no intention of bungee jumping, this is pretty much how I feel when God whispers a new plan into my heart and says, "Jump".

The first time I hear it, I ignore it.

The second time my reply is, "No thanks God, I don't want to jump today, or well . . . .  ever."

The third time I am ready for it. I've already prepared my list of reasons why I am not qualified, don't have time, and am generally just the wrong person to ask to make this jump.

But God is persistent, And eventually I am strapped into a harness peering over the edge of a platform trying not to throw up. But if I have learned anything up on that ledge, it's that God provides! When He has called you into that next step, that new jump, He will meet your needs.  He will surround you with the people you need, the vision to cast, the resources to succeed.  Remember it's His jump, He knows what He's doing and we are just along for the ride.

I am trying Jump more quickly these days  I have the advantage of remembering how faithful He has been.

So, I am trying not to argue quite as much.

Hoping my stomach and legs won't give out as I stand, toes just over the edge, on my platform.

I can trust my harness will work, the ride will be exhilarating, I will finish braver, wiser and knowing God in ways I didn't before.

Is He whispering to your heart?
Is He leading you to lead others?
Has He placed that burden on your heart?

Are you ready . . .JUMP!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do you remember your dreams?

Do you remember your dreams?

No,  I don't mean the kind of dreams you have after binge watching The Strain and then trying to sleep . . . .
not that I would know anything about that.

I mean the kind of dreams you had when you were young and going to change the world.  The kind of dreams you had before life came along and took over; before you had lunches to pack, car pool to drive, work to get to, 8000 after school activities to chauffeur the kids to, laundry to fold, house to be cleaned, you get the picture.

I am starting to remember. . . It's like waking up and knowing you had a dream; things are familiar, you just can't pin it down.  I've at least begun to remember that a long time ago, I think, I had dreams.

This morning was our church's first MOPS meeting of the year.  And I watched as over fifty mommies wrestled to get their preschoolers, kindergartners and newborn babies into their classrooms. Then they took a deep breath, emotions brimming over the edges of their hearts, as they headed into the MOPS meeting.

Each mom carrying a different chaotic blend of emotions:
anxious to meet new friends
nervous they won't fit in
wondering if any other moms didn't get time to shower that morning
grateful for a hot breakfast they didn't have to cook
worried that their little one won't stop crying.
guilty for taking those two little hours, once every two weeks. to themselves
Some moms in tears from the sheer relief of not having anyone hanging on or demanding something from them.

I remember those days well  - you will survive, I promise, and MOPS can help!
My dreams during that season of life generally revolved around sleep: will they sleep, can I sleep? With the occasional dream of an uninterrupted adult conversation thrown in for good measure.

But now, in this season, I am beginning to ask God once again to reveal His dream for me.  Psalm 37:4 tells us to, "Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart".
 I want the desires of my heart to be HIS.  I want to pursue and be passionate about the dreams He has put before me.

 So I am asking Him daily, what is it today Lord?

And trying to be faithful.

While I am not always sure what the big picture looks like, Psalm 37 gives me a good place to start.

The first eight verses all begin with basic instructions:

Do not fret
Trust in the Lord and do good
Take delight in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath

So while I wait for the hazy,distant dream to become a vivid desire of my heart, I know what God has laid before me for today.

A day to trust, love, and follow Him, waiting patiently, and knowing He has the future in His hands.

Do you remember your dreams?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Middle

So my family has a new favorite TV show, The Middle.  I have enjoyed it for years but in the past few months the rest of the crew has gotten on board. So we have been binge watching The Middle almost every night (the eldest just started another episode while I type).
Yes, currently our DVR has over 30 episodes of the show either waiting to be watched, or re-watched . . .don't judge!

We are huge Patricia Heaton fans and really the show just cracks us up.  The Heck family is just dysfunctional enough to make you feel pretty good about yourselves, but close enough to reality for us to relate.

And I love it because, yes you guessed it, they're messy!  They forget things (birthdays, anniversaries, . . . sometimes children). They mess up, mix up and sometimes give up, but never on each other.

Instead they wrestle with the same cultural myths we so often judge our own lives by:
The Perfect Family
The Perfect House
The Perfect Job
The Perfect Kids

They, like the rest of us, drop the ball, get distracted by the little things, struggle to make ends meet, are plagued by the "what ifs" in life, and worry about what others think of them.  How often do we as families get caught up in that?
What if Johnny gets cut from the team?
How are we going to pay for that insurance bill?
Do we live on the right side of town, will they like us?
Do we spend out of our budget to keep up with our neighbors and friends?
Do we sacrifice peace for prestige?

Matthew 6:25- 34 pretty much lays out where God stands on these issues (my thoughts in itallics)

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 
Ugh no! and yet how much time do I spend worrying? There is a new app called Sleep Cycle. It charts your sleep habits, REM, etc and then tells you how much time each night you spend spend in each. It also tells you how much of your time is spent in bed. I have been using the app for 9 days and have currently spent the equivalent of 3 days in bed. This is depressing enough (especially since I am still exhausted) but I was wondering what would happen if I could chart how much of my time was spent worrying? I am pretty sure I DON'T want to know.
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  
Ouch, so little faith. I don't mean to be without faith. But if I am honest, when I am worrying, faith doesn't even factor into the equation. Because if faith was in the equation, then well, there wouldn't be a need to worry. God has always provided and He promises he always will. But I have to sacrifice my idea of perfect, for His.
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I am pretty sure the Hecks would agree with that; today's troubles are enough for today.
 So I will continue to enjoy watching them battle their everyday battles, ones I can relate to (sometimes too well).  But in my own life, when I am feeling defeated, overwhelmed, discouraged I am going to cling to His promise.  Seek Him first, live according to His priorities, and He will give us all that we need.

Gotta run - the family has started an episode without me!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Magic List

Summer is almost over and I just wanted to share that this summer I discovered the magic of lists.

  Not the kind of lists you make to remind yourselves of things (although I use the notes on my iPhone PLENTY for that).  I have lists titled : To Do at Work: To Do at Home, People to call, Ideas, Agendas, VBS, just about anything you can imagine I have listed.

I also don't mean the kind of list that keeps track of the books you have or want to read.
 I LOVE Goodreads app for that  . . . .  I am embarrassed to tell you the number of times I've brought a book home from the library, gotten a chapter in and realized I've read it already, grrrr.

No I am talking about the kind of list that makes a mothers heart happy  . . . . .
 the "Complete While I am at Work"list.

This is the first summer the girls have spent any time at home alone while I was at work *GASP* yes I left them home! Not everyday but two or three days a week. Kid  #1 is now officially old enough to babysit and I arrange my schedule to be home in time for the pool!

 Anyway . . . .

I have taken to leaving a note on the table when I head to work first thing in the morning.
 It looks something like . . .

It is lovely to come home and have these things done without arguement, without eye rolling, without huffing and puffing.

Now you will notice I have become specific.
 I must tell them to eat breakfast or when I get home at noon, they are STARVING.

 I learned that saying "unload the dishes" did not automatically lead to them load the dishwasher with the dirty dishes overflowing from the sink.

 I had to add that.

But hey .  . . it's a learning process right?

Ahh summer note how I will miss you when the bus comes to pick up my sweet girls in only seven short days. . . . . .