Category Archives: Religious Ramblings

This Parenting Gig

Being a parent has to be one of the hardest things any of us ever do. Children require an enormous amount of patience and love and money. They are loud and messy and demanding. And when your sweet darling angel says “Mommy” 763 times in the span of 9 minutes you feel like you’re going to lose your mind. (or so I’ve heard)

If that’s not enough, the knowledge that you are raising a person and are largely responsible for their mental, emotional and physical well-being is THE. MOST. TERRIFYING. THING. EVER.

I remember being about 8 months pregnant with Mikayla and thinking, “I can’t protect her out here.” In my sleep deprived, hormone imbalanced state I believed the illusion that I was in control – that as long as my child was in my womb I could keep her safe. Of course, this wasn’t true. Any number of things outside of my control could have threatened her. What I didn’t know then is that Mikayla would have Williams Syndrome. During the time when I believed I was in complete control, a few of her genes didn’t split correctly which resulted in a lifetime of challenges far outside my grasp of control.

I learned from this experience that we get it backwards. We think being a parent equates to ownership of our children. The belief that we are in control leads to a lot of stress and frustration and fear when life doesn’t go our way. In reality, we are stewards and not owners. Our children belong to God and are given to us to love, care for, teach, feed and answer whenever the precious dears ask a question, even if it’s 763 times every 9 minutes.

We only have our children for a short time to equip them to go out into the world and live as successful contributing members of society who love Jesus and strive to follow Him. They are not ours to fulfill our wishes or dreams.

This is not an easy thing to remember. My nature is to desire control and ownership. I forget that parenting is an act of worship and that my role is not to control every possible outcome of my child’s existence but to love her and teach her about God and pray that she will fall in love with Him. I don’t always do this well. But, when I do remember that she belongs to God and not to me, that God is in control and not me, a sense of peace and reassurance washes over my soul. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to control everything. I don’t have to be anxious about her health. Because I know that God loves her and parents her far better than I ever could.

I may have an easier time remembering my lack of control than most parents. Because every time Mikayla and I go anywhere she insists on having an elaborate conversation with every single person we encounter. There are so many cashiers and store managers and bag boys that know my child by name and we talk to THEM ALL. EVERY TIME. If I were actually in control, this would never happen.

What aspects of parenting do you struggle to remember? How do your children remind you?

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I Love Teenagers

I love teenagers. I realize that’s not something everyone can claim. But, for me, it’s very true. As a college freshman I took my first position as a Volunteer Youth Leader. And for about seven years the youth group was my home.

Teenagers are a fascinating bunch. They experience drama and issues and emotions that are completely unfathomable by the majority of all other people everywhere. They are unbelievably passionate. They can do amazing and impossible things because they haven’t lived long enough to believe the lie that they can’t. 

When I was pregnant with Mikayla I was very, very sick the entire time. It was like morning sickness except it lasted all day, every day, for 9 months. Seriously. Even medicated, I was severely ill through the entire pregnancy. I had to step down from my role as a youth leader because I physically couldn’t be there – unless I carried a vomit bucket with me and let’s be honest, nobody wants to see that.

Once she was born, life got really crazy and for the last five years I’ve been out of the youth group scene. This year I felt like it was time to jump back in. Part of me is a little terrified because I feel somewhat disconnected. Part of me wonders if I’ll maintain any amount of the little sanity I have left. But mostly I’m so excited to be part of an amazing group of leaders working with fabulous teenagers.

We met for the first time this week and our youth pastor shared a short video that presents the Gospel. I thought it was unique and more or less amazing and wanted to share it here with you.

After the video, tell me what you most love (or fear) about teenagers.

Ministry to the Minister

Today I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from Lisa Taylor at Barnabas House of Oklahoma. Lisa and her husband followed God’s leading to build a place for pastors and their families to come away and rest, a place to feel restored, refreshed, renewed. Her heart for pastors and ministers is evident and I’m honored to have her guest post today to share that heart with you. Read Lisa’s blog to learn more about Barnabas House or follow her on Twitter @barnabashouseok. 

Baby dedication, hospitalization, wedding, family crisis, worship services, funeral, youth camp, wedding – 24/7, 365 days a year. Like the shepherd guards his flock, feeds them, and tends to their wounds, your minister willingly lays down his life for his congregation. His family likely serves by his side as well – women’s ministry, Sunday school, youth ministry, nursery, worship team, dorm monitor, vacation Bible school, and sound booth – the list goes on and on.

I know you love your pastor. You wouldn’t be at your church if you didn’t. So how can you show your appreciation for the commitment he makes daily? In my experience these tireless servants rarely share their needs and wants. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. A big gift on Pastor Appreciation Sunday each year is a wonderful thing, still there are ways you can bless them throughout the year. Here are some practical and even some frivolous suggestions to let them know you care:

  1. Gift cards – restaurant, grocery store, home improvement store, gas station, etc. That way you can be sure the gift is just what they need.
  2. Volunteer – be specific, there’s always something that needs to be done.
  3. Cash – it’s always the right size and color!
  4. Tickets – movie, play, sporting event, concert, amusement park. These things are often the last things a pastor’s family gets to attend.
  5. Babysitting – if your pastor has young children, a night or weekend of childcare is sure to be welcome.
  6. Spa services
  7. Housecleaning services – but let them know it’s not because you think their house is dirty!
  8. Car detailing and maintenance or repair.
  9. Lawn care.
  10. Weekend get-away.
  11. Sponsor their attendance at annual denominational convention.
  12. Fresh vegetables, eggs, etc. from your own garden.
  13. Card or letter of encouragement sent regularly.
  14. Fresh flowers from your yard, grocery store, or florist.
  15. Home repair and maintenance.

Be creative! Gestures of gratitude don’t need to be expensive to be valuable. Think of the things your family enjoys – your pastor and his family probably enjoy them too. You may certainly ask them for suggestions, but don’t be surprised if they are reluctant to say.

Much like you want to hear and see your spouse’s love for you daily, your minster wants to know that you care. Be God’s hands of love to them – it will make a difference in your life as well as theirs.

Simple Joys of Childhood

I know I’m getting “old” because I often gauge my enjoyment of activities by how much clean up will be involved. Kids don’t think about the mess, they just play. I, on the other hand, worry about getting mud stains out of clothes or wonder if that bug is poisonous if Mikayla eats it or am annoyed if my day is inconvenienced by an unexpected downpour.

Sometimes, I think I should be more child-like.

Instead of tapping my foot in frustration as the train s-l-o-w-l-y goes by, I should marvel at how it works and where it’s going and what it’s hauling.

Instead of worrying about the mess I should jump in the mud puddle too.

Instead of cringing away in disgust I should catch bugs and frogs and be amazed at God’s infinite imagination.

Instead of watching from the doorway I should play in the rain. Who cares if it means a little extra laundry.

Instead of being too busy I should take note of people I encounter and make an effort to smile and be friendly.

I should be more like a child (well…except for maybe the frogs).

Spend vs. Invest

Spending or Investing. We all understand that concept when its applied to money. You “spend” money by going out to eat. You “invest” money when you buy a house or give to charity. The acts are similar – money is leaving your bank account. However, the intent and the outcomes are quite different. When you spend money you aren’t getting anything substantial in return. Sure, eating at a restaurant provides you with a meal but a few hours later you’ll need to eat again. There’s no long-term benefit when money is spent.

On the other hand, when you invest money you expect great and lasting benefit either for yourself or for others. By investing in a charity, for example, you understand that the money you give will be used to greatly impact the lives of others with lasting (maybe even life-long) benefits for that person. Or, when you invest in your retirement account you’re setting aside money that will one day sustain your life or your family.

You get the idea – investing has long lasting benefits, spending has only temporary benefits. But what if the idea of spending vs. investing is applied to something other than money? What if we looked at our time as a commodity that can either be spent or invested?

You spend time watching TV or reading a book. You spend time cleaning the house or mowing the yard. You spend time shopping or daydreaming or surfing the web. Are these things necessary? Yes, sometimes. But we should be aware that these things are not the MOST important. Washing laundry is necessary, for sure. But it doesn’t have significant, long-term benefits.

Investing your time in playing with your children or in listening to a friend or in date night with your spouse – those things are the most important. Investing time in people, investing time sharing the love of Jesus with those that don’t know Him, investing time volunteering for your church all have long-term impact. Significant, long-term impact.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t mow your yard. I’m just saying we should be more mindful of where our time goes. Do we spend the majority of our time or invest it in things that really matter?  I personally spend a lot more than I should. And, I don’t invest nearly enough. I want to change that. I want to make a conscious effort to be a good steward of the time I’ve been given.

Life Lessons from Eeyore

Mikayla is a huge Winnie the Pooh fan so I get the pleasure of watching that lovable old bear fairly often. The latest Winnie the Pooh movie was released last year. It is a very cute movie and well worth watching especially if you have little ones.

The main plot (though there are several other plots throughout) is that Eeyore has lost his tail and everyone must help him find a new one. Eeyore is quite depressed through the whole ordeal – which is really nothing new for Eeyore. They try just about everything imaginable from a coo-coo clock to a yo-yo and even an anchor and can’t find a suitable replacement tail.

In the end, Pooh finds Eeyore’s original tail. Owl had been using it as a bell ringer without realizing it already belonged to someone. Christopher Robin uses a nail and hammer to reattach the tail to Eeyore – which seems harsh, but we’ll just go with it. Eeyore tries it out to make sure it will work properly and notes that it swishes well and the bow is nice – all while remaining somewhat depressed.

Pooh asks, “Are you happy Eeyore?”

I love Eeyore’s response. He’s honest about how he feels even though it’s not what Pooh wants to hear. He says, “No. But I sure am glad you found my tail.”

He did want his tail back, and he’s glad to have it reattached. But, he’s not happy. He’s still as depressed as ever.

And Pooh loves him just the same.

Children have this unique ability to love unconditionally, without judgement or fear. Somewhere along the way we tend to lose that gift. When our friends don’t act or feel the way we are comfortable with, we aren’t sure how to treat them. As a result, those who may act or feel differently than the norm try to hide or disguise the way they feel rather than being honest about it.

I hope I can be like Eeyore, honest and truthful about who I am and how I feel. And I hope I can be like Pooh, loving others just as they are.

Remember Your Dream

A few days ago I read online about someone’s dream coming true. I honestly don’t remember who or what it was exactly – just that something exciting had happened. The point is, someone (who I don’t know in real life) shared exciting news, someone’s dream was becoming a reality. I should’ve been happy for them. I should’ve immediately thought, “Wow, that is so great. I’m glad they are seeing good things happen with their dream.”

Instead…I felt jealous. My immediate, gut reaction was jealousy. What is wrong with me?!

I was honestly surprised by my reaction and promptly rebuked myself. As I thought about it, I realized their dream isn’t my dream. It’s not like we were in a competition for one dream and they got to it first. There’s plenty of dreams to go around. The good things happening to them are not things that I even want to happen to me. I’m free to be happy for them without feeling like I’m missing out.

I just needed to remember my dream.

I’m one of the lucky few who gets to live out my dream every day – or most of my dream anyway. I get to be home with my child rather than working 8 hours a day (thanks to my hard-working husband!). I get to write and read and organize stuff. Dream. Come. True.

I don’t have a full-time chef…yet. Some dreams are still just dreams.

I am so thankful for the day to day. I don’t want to take it for granted. I don’t want to forget my dream and feel jealous of someone else’s. I want to know my dream and be thankful for the privilege of actually living it out.

How do you live your dream? What’s something you get to do every day that’s part of your dream?

The Toddler Teacher

When Mikayla was first diagnosed with Williams Syndrome we had several well-meaning friends say things like “it’s just not fair” or “God gives special children to special people”. I understand the intent behind comments like these. And, I feel that saying something with a heart of love is better than saying nothing at all. Still, if they only knew how much I have learned – how much everyone could learn – from such a sweet, loving, happy person they would’ve said something different.

I fully believe God created Mikayla exactly the way He wanted her to be. I believe He gave her to me because I need to learn from her – not because I’m special in any way but because I’m judgmental and biased and impatient and unloving. Mikayla, like other children with Williams or any number of “disabilities”, was simply born with the gift of loving people. She loves anyone and everyone without bias or prejudice or judgement.

I’m pretty sure this is what God wants from all of us – to value people simply because He values them and not because of their accomplishments or appearance or wealth. I think He put Mikayla (and other children like her) into our lives to be an example – to show us how to be loving and kind and accepting to all people.

Not a mistake, not unfair, but a teacher and a blessing.

Thoughts for a New Year: Know Your Tribe

Last year I read a book called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. It’s more or less a story of Shauna’s life – the lessons she’s learned, the struggles she’s faced, the friendship and food she loves. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking book and one that I think every woman should read. One idea she gives is to “know your tribe” – more on that in a minute…

The world we live in is busy. “Busy” is the new normal. Everyone is busy and we’ve forgotten what its like to just be. Work, school, family, church – demands are placed on our time and energy from every direction. Here’s the thing – we only have a limited amount of time and energy.

Yeah, yeah, 24 hours in a day. We know, we’ve heard it before. That’s why we have smartphones and 3G – so we can be constantly working and focused on something every minute of every day. It’s called multi-tasking.

Fine, you’ve figured out a way to squeeze more time out of your packed schedule. But you still have a limited amount of energy and no matter what tricks or supplements or energy drinks you use to stretch your body, eventually your energy will run out. No one has an endless supply.

Our time and energy should be treated as precious resources. Saying “yes” to every opportunity or request that comes your way is guaranteed to send you on the fast track to burn out. But, how can you say “no” when people are counting on you? You are needed. Your skills are valuable. You have responsibilities.

Here’s a tool to help determine when to say “yes” and when to say “no” – know your tribe. Your tribe is the community of people most important to you. The people with whom you spend time, talk to regularly, love unconditionally and share meals with often. They may be family members, maybe not. They may live next door or five states over. And your tribe will probably change as you go through different seasons of life. These are the people for whom you would drop everything at a moments notice.

When your tribe needs you, say yes. When your tribe has a question or a need or a demand on your time, say yes. That doesn’t mean you say no to everyone else. But for everyone else you check your calendar – if you have the time and energy available great, if not they will survive without you.

As we kick off 2012 with a list of resolutions and goals and a desire to live more meaningful lives, take a moment to figure out who’s in your tribe. Then make sure you’re saying “yes” to opportunities and obligations that are important and meaningful to you. Value your time and energy, spend them on the best this year has to offer.

Also, if you have a spare moment, check out Shauna’s blog and especially her recent post Present over Perfect.

Thoughts for a New Year: Living a Good Story

I’ve written before about living a “better story”. It’s a phrase from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, a book that talks about how life would be different if we lived each and every day with purpose – as if our life were being made into a movie and each moment were worthy of the big screen.

This is a wonderful and exciting idea. The first time I read this book I followed it by running a marathon with the H2O Runners team to raise money for clean water in Africa. It was an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime, painful story.

Here’s where this idea gets fuzzy – laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning toilets, vacuuming, washing the dog, cooking, going to work, paying the electric bill. Day to day to day to day life is generally made up of boring, un-story-like stuff.

How do we make the boring, routine, day to day stuff of life worthy of a good story?

Laundry has to be done. Toilets must be cleaned. Full-time jobs to provide food, clothing… How do we live every day in a way that is meaningful and memorable with a lasting impact on our lives and others?

Maybe that’s asking too much. Maybe living literally every single day to its fullest is impossible. Maybe we intentionally set aside time in each day to focus on our dream or our goal or our ministry as well as time to dust or wash windows or go to work.

Maybe we turn off the tv and iPhone and instead spend time painting or writing or wood carving. Maybe we take a look at our daily lives and after all our obligations are fulfilled we spend the rest of our day on things we love, things we are passionate about, instead of just doing ordinary, less-meaningful stuff.

Maybe…