Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Building Your Ministry, part one - What Your Team Really Needs from You

Through starting and leading a women's ministry for six years, in a church with a congregation of nearly 2000, I have had a few interesting experiences! Some fantastic, amazing, joyful; others bitterly painful. All of them were used by the Lord to grow me as His daughter and servant and to teach me how to lead His way. Lately, He has placed a burden and a passion on my heart to share the lessons I've learned. My prayer is that these lessons will be helpful to other women in ministry - that you might avoid the mistakes I made as well as use anything I did that worked well. I will share the bits and pieces with you as they come to me, in a multi-part blogging series (the number of parts to be determined by how much I find to say) that will appear in random intervals (whenever I feel inspired to say something). How's that for ambiguous?! ;) Thanks for joining me.

In my early years of leading women's ministry, I had a problem keeping leaders on my team. Attending our team meetings was not a priority on most of their "to do" lists. Being available to serve at ministry events was an "optional" activity, it seemed, for everyone but a few hard core volunteers. Women from the team quit altogether at the drop of a hat - no notice, no explanation.

I wondered, "What the heck can I do to make these women care about this ministry as much as I do?" I believed that the core problem had to do with them. For reasons beyond my understanding, they were just not sold out on impacting women for Jesus. At least, not sold out enough to actually stick with it for the long haul.

There was one woman who left the team early on who always seemed to have a bone to pick with me. I was heartbroken by this, because prior to being in ministry together she was my friend. One day, I gathered up the courage to ask her what happened.

She said, "Tyler, you are really good at being organized, at planning, and at taking care of the details. But I'm not sure you're the right person to be the leader of women's ministry."

I thought to myself, "Of course you'd say that! You have never liked the fact that I am in this role. You have never respected me as a leader. You have a bone to pick with me!"

She continued, "Even though you're good at those things, you're missing an important ingredient. You don't care. You don't have the heart. You don't love us as people. All you are concerned about is that everyone gives as much as you do. When we have life circumstances that get in the way, you only care about how that affects the ministry. You simply don't care about us and our lives."

The conversation continued for nearly an hour, with many tears on both our parts. It was a devastatingly painful conversation. I had always believed that one of my gifts was empathy, yet she was telling me that I was terrible at it. I believed that God had placed a loud and clear call on my life to minister to women, yet she said I didn't have what it takes to be a leader.

I wept and prayed on and off for five days, begging God to heal my broken heart (read: to show me how wrong she was). But the pain in my heart did not ease. On the sixth day I reluctantly changed my prayers and began asking God to weed through her words for me - to show me what words I should ignore, but more importantly to reveal to me the parts of what she said that were true.

Almost immediately, I sensed His answer in my heart. He asked me, "Daughter, have you cared for these women whom I have placed in your charge and under your leadership?" I knew that the answer was no. But I didn't know exactly how to care for them better. Thus began my journey in learning to truly love the women on my team - for who they were instead of for what they did for the ministry. Though Satan intended the cruel words of a hurting woman to beat me down and discourage me, God could use them to grow and mould me.

Lesson #1 - Women need to feel loved. This is not only true in marriage, but in work and ministry as well. If you want to build a team that sticks together for the long haul, sold out for your (God's) vision, you must learn to love them in a way they understand.

Lesson #2 - All advice that is given to you - even that which is laced with vindictive intent - should be sifted by God. He will use every experience (especially the painful ones) to weed out the junk in our lives that prevents us from leading with excellence.

His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~Matthew 3:12
Building Your Ministry, part two - How to Love on Your Team - coming soon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Many Followers Do You Have?

In this internet world, we are quickly growing obsessed with the number of followers, friends, and fans that we have.

We have lost sight of what it really means to follow someone.

I'm sure you will find Ann's thoughts on what it means to follow Christ as profound as I did. And convicting. And inspiring. And just downright true.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Be a Truth Seeker

In our world, there are so many versions of the truth. We hear that "what is true for one person may not be true for another." We are always looking for the truth, seeking what is real, but the world tosses so many easy substitutes our way.

Because of the way God created us, one thing we instinctively seek out is Him - the sovereign God who holds our lives in His hands. The world, though, says that such a God is too hard to find, so it offers us substitute gods (I call them easy, feel-good gods). I'm sure you've heard of them - the god within you (or, you are god), the god in everything around us...

These pretend gods are so appealing to us, because in our hearts (in mine, at least) we are lazy. And these gods are palatable. These gods don't require us to give over our lives in love; these gods don't require us to change our behaviours and attitudes; these gods don't require us to draw a line in the sand ethically. Unfortunately, these gods are impotent. The "god self" has no power to rescue us, to change us, to transform us.

There is one true God, one Sovereign Ruler, one Creator, on Saviour. Truth can only be found in Him. He binds up the broken-hearted, He heals the sick, He delivers the addicted, He convicts the wicked, He has mercy on the weak. He fills our hearts with joy and puts songs of praise on our lips. This power can only be found in Christ. And Christ can only be found in the Bible.

If you are searching for what is true and real, you will find a lot of books and movies out there. Many of them sound close enough to what the Bible says that we easily accept them. Many of them sound just that little bit "easier" than what the Bible says, so we embrace them. Many of them offer promises of freedom/change/contentment from whatever plagues us by following the prescribed steps contained within their pages. But you will not find truth there, you will not find freedom.

If you want a self-help book to quit yelling (I know I do), there is only One Book that offers the secret to really changing. If you want to quit smoking in ten days, the Bible is the Only Book that promises (and means it) real power to change. If you want to find a way to get over the pain and loss of a divorce, the path to truly healing those hurts and finding peace and joy is offered (with an absolute guarantee) in the pages of The Good Book. Any other book you read, podcast you listen to, or movie you watch - unless it directs you back to the pages of the Bible - is offering a cheap alternative that will only bring temporary freedom.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.
~Ephesians 1:18-20
No cheap alternatives here. No simple fixes. No feel-good solutions. But for those of us who believe, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Real, true freedom from the real (and only) truth source.

* This is a re-post from the archives.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let it Come Through Us

Hearing this song today reminded me of the great need in Haiti and how we can help.

As time passes, I pray that the people of Haiti will not be forgotten, but will continue to experience an outpouring of love and generosity from those of us who do not need to beg for our daily bread. May we not take our daily bread for granted...

2008 Copyright Shaun Groves (ASCAP)

O, God, what do we see and hear?
Your kingdom coming
O, God, what do we see and fear?
Your kingdom coming
Let it come to us
Let it come through us

‘Til the sword is spared
And the bread is shared
And the dying’s done
Let your kingdom come
‘Til the rich ones give
And the poor ones live
‘Til the weak are strong
Let your kingdom come

O, God, what do we pray down here?
Your kingdom coming
Let it come to us
Let it come through us


Mercy come, justice come
Healing come, peace, Lord, come
Mercy come, justice come
Your will be done through us on earth
O, God, what do we need down here
Your kingdom coming

Let it come
O, let it come


Shaun Groves' song, "Kingdom Coming" and others are available for free download on his website. You don't want to miss the story of why he now speaks and sings for FREE...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Really Random Facts

I was over at the LPM Blog this morning, and we were asked to participate in a little fun - post 10 tidbits about ourselves. Of course I did it, because I am a "joiner." After I commented, listing the same 10 things about me I think of whenever one of those posts comes up, I read through a few of the comments. Man, people are so much more creative than I am! Seriously funny things in there. I found myself reading a number of them and saying, "Me, too! Why didn't I think to put that down?" So I decided to steal all the good ones that apply to me and share them with you (because you all really want to know ridiculous, random things about me, right?) In addition to being a "joiner," I am apparently an idea thief. ;)

* I have an odd affinity for shopping for school and office supplies. (In fact, it's the only kind of shopping I enjoy.)
* I am completely directionally impaired. Sadly, it was only a few years ago that I learned the sun rose in the East.
* Using multi-coloured pens (or in the computer age, colour-coded labels) on my calendar makes me very happy.
* I spent most of my teenage years pumping gas.
* At the young age of 32, I have just discovered what eyeliner can do for me!
* At the slightly younger age of 31, I finally quit biting my nails to the quick. I do, however, continue to gnaw away at the cuticles.
* Do not read over my shoulder. Ever. Especially if I'm writing. Actually, if I'm writing you are safest to back out of the room and go far, far away. You may not ever read anything that is in progress!
* Toilet paper belongs OVER the roll. If I use your washroom, you will discover that I have corrected the roll for you.
* I still periodically have nightmares starring the alien from "Signs."
* I used to bite my toenails. The only thing stopping me now is Pat's disgust and my children's big mouths.
* I love making "To Do" lists. I usually add tasks to my list that I have already completed that day, just so I can cross something off right away.
* It is a bad idea to talk to me in the early morning before I've had coffee. I just can't help myself from glaring at you.
* As a child (an only child until the age of 12), I would entertain myself by pretending I was the narrator/star of a show on Discovery. I especially enjoyed narrating my cooking show while in the bathtub.
* If you touch my feet - even accidentally - I will kick you. I'm sorry; it's as instinctive as the sucking reflex in babies.
* The one thing I have always wanted to buy is a label maker.
* I never make my bed.
* I do NOT like new foods. Until my teenage years, I had never ordered anything but a grilled cheese and fries (with gravy on the side) from a restaurant.
* When I finish reading a good fiction novel, I will begin to panic slightly if there is not another book in my house.
* Though I have a degree in psychology, when asked about post-secondary education I almost always advise against a 4-year program.
* I cannot wear yellow or green or anything with those undertones. They make me look deathly ill.
* I cannot wear purple (or use it to decorate my house) simply because I hate it that much!
* In my first year of driving I hit a dog, a deer, and another vehicle. I also got 2 speeding tickets.
* Since then, I have backed into a concrete barrier and a fence. I have also gotten many more speeding tickets (thanks to the modern-day miracle of photo radar).

There you have it - 23 things about me that you have not likely ever found on this blog before. All true facts. As Amanda Moore has been known to say, "You are dumber now!" You're welcome.

If you can't resist finding out more useless information about yours truly, you will locate said facts here, here, and here.

Oh, and to answer the question in this post, Deb got it right! The thing that 5 out of 6 Canadians under the age of 18 have never used is....POSTAGE STAMPS! Go over and visit Deb's brand, spankin' new blog - Invisigirl - and cheer her on in this new adventure. 'Kay?

Here's the funny thing: The prize I had in mind was a book that I accidentally ordered and am too lazy to return. Given the fact that Deb accidentally ordered the same wrong book (on my advice), I am guessing she won't want a second copy. Deb, in lieu of that really great prize, you are the lucky winner of a visit from me and five raucous children in just two days! ;)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stirring up the Embers

There has been a crazy dream stirring up in my heart. The first little spark of that dream appeared several years ago - a hint of things to come. Recently, I have sensed God blowing on the embers and fanning the flame.

Like I said, it's a wild and crazy dream...

You already know about the writing. It's a passion of mine. Writing what I see, feel, hear, and learn makes it real. If it's not written down, chances are it will slip away into the recesses of my mind. I have many stories - a lot of life lived for such a young thang (teehee) - but one particular account has been burning to be told, the anger story (and how God is writing the ending). Once it is permanently etched in the hard drive of my computer, though, I have no doubt that God will blow His wind on other stories. Tales of starting out a young marriage in a faith dichotomy, a young girl looking for love in all the wrong places who eventually finds what she was looking for in the only One who can provide it, walking through post-partum depression and surviving, an ill-equipped and inexperienced "baby" Christian starting a women's ministry that somehow (in spite of her and all because of Him) thrives... There are volumes just waiting to be poured out!

Chronicling God's work on paper (or hard drive), however, is not the only way to get a message out there. Though I resisted, I have long sensed God pulling me to share the message not only through my fingertips, but with my mouth. It is a terrifying prospect, accompanied by many conflicting emotions. Fear of failure. Fear of letting God down. Fear of fumbling so much that the listener can only focus on my ineptitude and doesn't see God's greatness. Fear of being good at it. Fear of growing prideful. Fear of public scrutiny and harsh judgement. Fear of letting all my baggage lay on the ground in front of others. F-E-A-R.

I can let fear win, or - with Christ's strength - I can conquer it. Here are some things that have inspired me to go with the latter:
* When Moses refused God's call and asked Him to send someone else, "The LORD's anger burned against Moses." (Exodus 4:14) I would rather not be the one to incite God's wrath.
* I was told that, when God calls us to "minister to the masses," we have a responsibility to pursue our calling and fine-tune our gifts/talents/abilities so that we can effectively reach a great number of people. (Thanks, Shannon Ethridge.)
* A friend, with similar passions and fears, is walking alongside me. (Having a friend on the journey always makes it easier, doesn't it?)
* A verse was given to me at the time of my greatest doubt. Proverbs 1:21, "At the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech..."
* A couple other friends are cheering me on: this one, this one, this one, and most importantly - this one.

One tentative step at a time, I will move forward, laying down the kindling, striking the match, then stepping back to let the wind of God to fan the flame.

On her blog, Lysa TerKeurst (of Proverbs 31 Ministries in North Carolina) is giving away a scholarship for someone to attend the She Speaks conference (scholarship money from Cecil Murphy). She Speaks offers amazing teaching, practice, and peer critique opportunities for speakers, writers, and ministry leaders. On a little side note - if you have those passions in your heart and would like to develop your gifts, you absolutely MUST check it out!

I don't know if God has plans for me to attend that conference this year, but I do know that it cannot be done on my own strength (or finances - my priority for this year is to get my hubby back to Haiti, where his heart was left last fall). So I'm adding this post to the long list of women who would love to attend She Speaks, and leaving it in His hands. Trusting, too, that if He provides the scholarship He will also (somehow) provide the flight. And if not, resting assured that this step is not His next step for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do You Know?

Question on the radio today...

Five out of six Canadians under the age of 18 have never used ____________.

Have fun guessing! I'll let you know the correct answer tomorrow. If you guess correctly, I'm sure I'll have to send you a prize of some sort. ;)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit - 03/20/10

Worshipping with 100+ sisters in Christ while on a weekend retreat.


Alberta, Canada

To see an ordinary Saturday morning in Louisiana, go here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

True Confessions

The Tooth Fairy in this house is likely the most negligent TF you've ever heard of.

Megan has now lost 4 teeth.

The first one was easy to remember, because TF put a post-it note on the fridge to help remind her to exchange tooth for money. The second was special because the doctor pulled it out under anaesthetic just before removing her tonsils and adenoids. (TF has a special place in her heart for these kinds of situations and pays double for those teeth.)

Tooth #3, which was lost at school on Monday, was a little trickier. Now, before we get too down on TF, she did have the foresight to stop at the store and get a loonie (that's a Canadian $1 coin, for my US friends) that day. But that loonie was left, forgotten in TF's wallet until 3am, at which time a groggy Megan woke up and came to inform said TF her Mother that TF had not yet come to do the exchange. The issue was dealt with the moment Meg fell back asleep.

Wednesday, while at school, Meg yanked out tooth #4. TF, once again, wisely ensured that she had a loonie on hand.

This post was written on Thursday morning at 6:55am. It was inspired by two big, brown, tear-filled eyes and a forlorn little girl's early-morning voice squeaking out, "The Tooth Fairy didn't come. She forgot about me!"

But before you feel too bad for her (or too judgemental about TF's slacking off around this house), you can know that she was reassured by these words, "Oh dear! You know, this isn't the first time that the Tooth Fairy has fallen asleep on the job. Just ask Braeden - I think the Tooth Fairy fell asleep and forgot about his lost teeth two or three times! But you know what she did? When she woke up in the morning and realized her terrible mistake, the Tooth Fairy always came while Braeden was at school. And with his money she would leave him a not of apology. So go make sure your tooth is still where it should be, because when that Tooth Fairy wakes up - is she ever going to feel foolish!"

Meg smiled, giggled a bit, and asked her mother to make sure that NO ONE enters her room while she's at school today.

Phew. Another bullet dodged. This double-identity stuff can get pretty hard core!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Writing on the Wall Headstone

Since this is the post that seems to be found on people's google searches over and over again, I decided it was time to revisit it - with a couple revisions. (Interesting how many people search "caption for life" on a regular basis.)

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

~Proverbs 22:1
Have you ever been in a course where everyone is asked to participate in one of those "life application" activities that involves capturing the essence of your character - who you are and how you lived your life - in short captions? Basically, it's a slightly morbid exercise in selecting the phrase that you would like to see embossed on your own gravestone. Then, of course, the instructor usually makes everyone read it for the rest of the class...

I recently told my husband that if we were to develop a family mission statement I would like it to include the phrase "radically obedient." Because obeying the Lord as soon as He speaks, without question, even when it seems insane (like Noah or Abraham), is a trait that I want to characterize our family's faith journey. That is how I would like to be remembered.

After much contemplation, I've decided that I would like my gravestone to say:

God led, she followed.

Except that I probably won't be the one who actually gets to decide what is written at the head of my burial site. No one says we can't offer suggestions in advance, though! ;)

What would you like your stone to read?

For inspiring this post, I'd like to thank Linda Ellis for her poem, "The Dash."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Big Guy

My first baby is twelve today. Hard to imagine that I have a pre-teen when I feel barely older than 20 myself! Happy birthday, Braeden!

Here are some signs that you - my firstborn - are growing up:

* I frequently find you leaning forward, staring at your reflection in the mirror above the bathroom counter. When I ask what in the world you are doing, your reply is always, "I'm looking to see if I have hair on my face yet. Right here, Mom (pointing above your upper lip), do you see it?"

* Family outings, while still enjoyable once you're there, no longer hold much appeal for you. It takes a great deal more effort than I'd like to get you to come along. I am just thankful that you still seem to have a good time when we arrive!

* Your love for video games and all other things electronic surpasses your love for your dog. Poor Daisy!

* I notice your shoulders broadening and your waist getting thicker with each new clothing purchase. Those ribs of yours don't stick out at all anymore!

* Every now and then, you seem to actually care if your hair is messy!

* You are a fierce protector of your younger siblings, and there have been a few times recently where I've had to remind you which one of us is the parent of those 4 little monkeys.

Son, I am proud of you! You truly are growing up, and if I'm completely honest, I have hardly a glimmer of sadness about it. I enjoy seeing you emulate your Dad in many things. I love to watch you lead your sisters with pride and confidence. And I especially love the fact that - even though you are "almost a teenager" (your words), you still gladly hugged me and said, "I love you, Mom!" when I dropped cupcakes at your school today. ;)

I almost forgot the #1 sign that you're growing up - you almost never let me take your picture anymore!

Monday, March 15, 2010

NOT Me First?

Today's society has a "me first" mentality. Every time I have the television on, Loreal reminds me that "I'm worth it!" We live in a day and age where the woman who has NOT had a professional massage or pedicure is an anomaly (no judgement here, I happen to love both of those services and a couple others). Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with messages (and just a general mindset) of "me, me, me, me." I deserve to be happy!

However, the Bible's message speaks in drastic contrast to the message of society...

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. ~Luke 6:29-30 Msg
When I see some jerk one who has treated me badly getting their due, should I be happy with their suffering or if [my] enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink? (Romans 12:20a)

How about if I have one of those friends that we all call a "taker?" You know the relationship - one friend is always making the phone calls, arranging time together, helping the other, nursing the other through crises; the other friend never calls unless s/he needs something, can't be bothered to spend time together unless it suits him/her, isn't available for the first friend's times of crisis... The world would tell me to give up, get rid of that friend, move on and find someone who will make the relationship mutually beneficial. The Bible tells me to give to everyone who asks of [me], and if anyone takes what belongs to me (or what I think I deserve) do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30)

When someone steals from me, should I hire a good lawyer and sue or if someone takes [my] cloak, do not stop him from taking [my] tunic? (Luke 6:29b)

If my husband has hurt me, should I, in turn, find a way to hurt him back? Or maybe just give him the silent treatment for a while? Or if someone strikes me [on] the right cheek (figuratively, of course), turn to him the other also? (Matthew 5:39)

It is totally confusing! But the Bible, in contrast to the general population of the rest of the world, seems to be telling us to put other people (even our enemies and those who have hurt us repeatedly) before ourselves. Over and over again, we find Jesus quoted instructing His followers to give up their own rights - to sacrifice. I don't know about you, but I am not particularly fond of personal sacrifice.

It was pointed out to me recently that the root word of sacrifice is sacred (thanks to Jill Savage, Real Moms Real Jesus). Being a word girl, I pulled out my thesaurus to help me understand what sacred really means: holy, blessed, revered, sanctified, consecrated. I realized that sacrificing does not simply mean "doing the right thing" out of obedience to Jesus. To sacrifice is to make myself holy. (Not to be mistaken for holier than thou!) Sacrificing by not doing what we really want to do, by putting others before ourselves, by forgiving even when we haven't been asked (and even when the person is not repentant) is more than just obedience to the Word of God - it is an act that will set me apart from this unholy world and make me sanctified...consecrated.

Personal sacrifice is more than a "What Would Jesus Do" mentality. Rather, it is a way of thinking that says, "I want to be made holy, and I am willing to put myself aside in pursuit of this holiness." Sacrifice cries out, "Purify me, Lord Jesus! Wash me clean of all my selfishness to the point that all I care about is being a beautiful representation of who You are!"

Instead of always telling my kids, "Just a minute" when they ask (the 100th time) for juice or a snack, I can sacrifice my own agenda and whatever I'm doing to immediately tend to their needs. (Maybe not always, but more often than I do.) Rather than be annoyed that someone didn't put the garbage out like he was supposed to, and make sure I let him know that he forgot, I can simply choose to take care of that task - even if it means sacrificing a few minutes of my time. When I see that girl who was mean to me for years and years, instead of stewing and brewing about her, I can sacrifice my pride and offer her a friendly greeting. I can even go so far as to sacrifice my thoughts and dedicate some precious prayers to her and her family.

Sacrifice won't be easy or comfortable. It pretty much flies in the face of societal norms. Some people may call us doormats or losers. But sacrifice will bring about a sacredness to our lives. Personal sacrifice will consecrate us for His purposes. For today, I will choose the sacred.

What about you? Is there an area in your life that you feel called to an act of sacrifice?

This post has been linked up to Rachel Olsen's devotional carnival.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit - 03/13/10

7:55am, Alberta, Canada

My heart is happy to see the snow melting! Check out the progress from last week. (Apparently, our hilly little back yard gets a fair bit more sun than the neighbour's.)

Head on over to see Saturday morning in Louisiana. Feel free to join in with images from your own Saturday morning - wherever you are - and leave a link to your SMV post in the comments. :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Is it Politically INcorrect to Treat My Kids Like Dogs?

As I begin to seriously consider diving back in to the adventure of potty training, I am reminded of some of the best parenting advice I ever stumbled upon... (Taken from "Dogs for Dummies.")

Here are the top 5:

#1 - Resolve that you must train your dog child, and that training is not a one-shot deal, but an intrinsic and ongoing part of the promise you make to your dog child when you bring her into your life.

#2 - Never let your puppy toddler do anything you wouldn't want a grown dog teenager to do.

#3 - Remember that preventing bad habits is easier than fixing them later.

#4 - If you want your puppy kid to learn, you need to be consistent about what's acceptable behavior and what's not. Follow through with the ground rules, every time. No letting things slide because you're tired [or] because he's cute.

#5 - If your puppy two-year old has been running around for a long time and just seems bratty, he may be tired. If that's the case, put him down for a nap in his crate crib. Ignore his fussing. Chances are he'll be asleep in a few minutes.

Good stuff, right?

In short form, here is the puppy housetraining method:
- Use a crate/cage/kennel.
- Puppy stays in kennel all the time, unless under your direct supervision.
- Bring puppy out frequently to visit the bathroom zone, to drink, to be played with, and to bathroom again.
- Lock puppy in crate.
- Feed and water puppy on a strict schedule so that you can predict when it needs to "go."
- Praise with exuberance when puppy does what you want and where you want.
- As time goes on (a couple weeks, at least), your puppy will begin to tell you when it needs to go outside, and you can gradually lessen the amount of crate time and supervision.
- If puppy regresses, go back to the basics.

So, do you think I can move Daisy out of her crate for a couple weeks and move Kai in (with his potty, of course)??? ;)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oh, How the Times Have Changed

Long, long ago in a land far, far away...

I had a little webspace called "Bebo." It was an interesting combination of personal profile information and status updates (akin to facebook) and a blog (you know, like here). I believe that My Space existed at this time, but fb was a relatively new phenomenon.

Here is what I posted on my Bebo blog on November 7, 2007:


Okay, I object! We already have one fantastic place to post all our info and blog - do we really need another? I don't do well with change, girls, and I'm also very loyal. The bebo folks have worked hard to develop this site and I don't want to turn my back on them (lol). All these facebook invites are stressing me out - is everyone abandoning bebo? Boohooo......

P.S. I still haven't totally got the bebo technology down - remind me how to invite friends (I tried, but it will only let me choose friends from my hotmail account - how do I invite friends from my contacts in outlook?)?

Three short years later, and I have 200+ "friends" and am taking a much needed break from fb for Lent due to my continual wasting of time there.

I guess it just goes to show - the new, shiny technology always wins out (no matter how loyal we claim to be). In three years you'll probably find me sitting with a (ahem, cough, sputter) Mac. *shaking head vigorously *

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Blazing Offering

I awoke to these words on my radio this morning...

...Let my whole life be
a blazing offering,
a light that shouts and sings
the greatness of our King!

Glory to God,
glory to God,
glory to God,

Take my life and let it be
all for You and for Your glory.
Take my life and let it be Yours...
(by Fee)

I was struck by the war that rages in soul every day.

My heart longs for every part of my life to belong to God and to be for His glory. I offer Him the junk in my life that He has redeemed, and I freely share what God has done for me and in me. Even as I sit in the midst of life's trials and turmoil, I know and expect that God will use the situation to bring glory to His name. (More often than not, it's this knowledge that brings me through to the other side.)

But when there are good times, times of relative peace, it can be so easy for me to forget who gets the glory. If life is steady and stable for long enough, my prideful heart begins to believe that I am self-made woman. I give thanks to God a little less, and think of "how well I'm doing" a little more.

I have struggled with depression off and on for years. If I track it in my life, I can see evidence easily as far back as fifth grade (that's about age 10 or 11). At it's worst - as it was for the year after Megan (almost 7) was born - I have been nearly incapable of functioning without medication. At it's best, the depression is manifested in my life as angry outbursts, irritability, short-temperedness, and hyper-emotionalism (essentially, an unending case of really bad PMS).

As I walked through the fog of post-partum depression almost seven years ago, I continually promised God that when He brought me out of the darkness I would not forget who rescued me. In seventh grade, as I lay on the floor convulsing, my body filled with a mixture of drugs from over 80 pills of unknown origin, I made that same promise. For the most part, I believe I have kept my word. If not for the love poured out on me by God the Father, the pursuit (of me and my life) by Jesus Christ, and the healing ministering of the Holy Spirit I have no doubt that I would still be in the pit.

Lately, though, I have been doing well. I began a low dose of medication shortly before we moved, as I am well aware that life change is one of the main triggers of depression. Even as I wrote those words, I felt a bit like patting myself on the back. Good job, Tyler. You're doing so well! And what foresight you had to prevent another bout of depression before it could get a grip on you. Way to go! All that hot air in my head starts crowding out the still, small voice that reminds me Who my Deliverer is...

If I do not learn to give God all the glory, even in the good times, I have little doubt that they will be short-lived. Not so much because pride deserves to be humbled (though I believe that it does). More so that God can keep me close to Him, loving Him, relying on Him, and giving Him glory and praise. So before the enemy fools me with all this baloney about "how well I'm doing," I will put myself back in my place - on my knees, looking up to the only One responsible for life's good times.

I thank You, Lord, for whispering to my heart and reminding me that a move could trip off depression in me. I praise You, Father, for the miracle of modern medicine - for doctors who care and medications to treat so many of our illnesses. I give You - and only You - Christ Jesus, the credit for this blessed state of peace in my life. Lord God, You heard my prayer (for just one good friend in this new home) and answered! Thank-you is so much less than You deserve, but I humbly offer it anyway. May my whole life be a blazing offering, all for You and for Your glory. Glory to God! Glory to God! Glory to God forever!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Will everyone think I'm weird if I change my name?

A Word from God, via Beth Moore.

When we're in a difficult and/or stressful situation, we need to be like Daniel...

Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. ~Daniel 6:10b (emphasis mine)
No matter what you are facing, God CAN deliver you! Just as He brought Daniel safely out of the fiery furnace and the den of lions, He can deliver us out of our trials. None of us has encountered a situation which God is unable to change. You (or I) do not have the one and only situation that He cannot change!

Struggling in a marriage that has been a mess for thirty years? Dealing with a child that has chosen the wrong path? Finances in turmoil?

Stop worrying about how, when, or whether God will change your mess. Instead, remind Him (and yourself) of all the times He HAS ALREADY brought you through and praise Him! Build your faith and keep believing Him for your deliverance.

Our faith to believe that God can deliver us is strengthened by giving Him thanks and praise. He has already delivered us from many circumstances and trials. We need to thank Him - listing as many of those struggles as we can think of - and our worry will be replaced by faith.

I want to be a Daniel! Don't you?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Natter, Natter, Natter

Does your husband have little habits that make you crazy? Small things that, when added up, grate on your nerves? Things like leaving his dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is RIGHT BESIDE the sink... Or squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle... Have you tried asking him, telling him, begging him, and nagging him a million different ways, to no avail?

For women - especially those of us who show our love by doing acts of service - a bunch of little thoughtless things can add up to a big blow-out. After all, we've have asked them to change their habits before, and by continuing to do that thing they are obviously communicating to us that they really doesn't care about what's important to us. Right?

If you've read this blog a while, you know that I am not about to go on a big man-bashing trip here. (So sorry if I got anyone's hopes up.) All of the above was said just a little tongue-in-cheek.

One of the things I've discovered about my husband (and it's probably true of yours, too) is that he simply doesn't hear nagging. It's not that he's ignoring me, exactly. It's more like his brain hears a certain tone of voice and certain words that he's heard before, and the brain just shuts down. No matter how long I nattered and nagged, those annoying little habits did not seem to change! (Ahem - the laundry continued to land randomly on the floor and not in the dirty clothes hamper - cough, cough.)

Eventually, and quite by accident, I stumbled across the secret to getting through to him.

First, I had to work out my own "issues" of not being heard, and choose to believe that he was not intentionally trying to irritate me. I needed to decide that, no matter what my emotions were trying to tell me, I would believe that Pat had only good will and good intentions toward me (and any actions that didn't fit with his good will were accidental).

Once I got over myself, I would often find myself chuckling and shaking my head as I gathered up the laundry strewn about our bedroom floor. It was kinda funny, when I wasn't feeling defensive about it. It occurred to me that maybe he would find it funny, too. So the next morning, rather than nag yet again, I tried humour.

I very solemnly approached my man and said, "Sweetheart. I owe you an apology." He looked at me with a mixture of question and shock in his eyes (apparently hearing me apologize was not a frequent occurrence). I continued, "I have recently realized how very selfish I am. You see, I just like to have things my way all the time. And I am continually putting that darn laundry hamper at least three feet away from where you really want to put your dirty laundry." By the end of it, I was giggling (I've never been able to deliver a punch line straight-faced). Pat laughed, too.

You know, now that I think of it, I haven't had to pick up his dirty laundry off the floor even once since then.

This post was written as a contribution to Marriage Monday.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit - 03/06/10

7:35am in Alberta, Canada
Dirty, half-melted snow. We're holding onto hope that the melt continues, but being realistic enough to keep in mind that there will be another dump of the white stuff before March's end. (And yes, we can see into our neighbour's house. Either the house is vacant or the new neighbours are hiding out after hearing the noise brought on by five kids and a dog.)
To see what Saturday morning looks like in Louisiana, go visit 40 Shades of Pink.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Does Passion Equal Pride?

Periodically, I will skim through the archives of my blog so I can evaluate whether I've been growing as a writer. Today, I found this post (below), which served to remind me of a truth I have been in need of.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. ~Philippians 2:3
How do I know that I am moving ahead in the right direction? Am I following the plans God has for me? What if I heard things wrong?

We all ask ourselves (and others) these questions at times. We feel that God has given us a vision, a dream for the future. But then we wonder and doubt and second-guess. Perhaps we are actually allowing our dreams to be guided by our own desires.

Paul gives us a foolproof "check stop" for us to assess our motivations with in Philippians 2.

Imagine for a moment the fulfillment of the dream in your heart - maybe you envision being an author, a mother, a missionary - let the entirety of that dream take over your imagination. Now, where are you? How do you feel? What are others around you doing?

Are you at the front of the crowd, admired and praised by all? Do you feel like a super-hero? If so, chances are that what's on your heart is not where God is calling you to go.

We are commanded to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. These are tough words. No one wants to admit to selfishness. But pride is one of the enemy's greatest tricks. The evil one whispers lies in our ears, convincing us that we need to be (deserve to be) recognized for the work that we do. But first Peter 5:5 tells us that God opposes the proud. Ouch! If we move forward with our own agendas and wrong motivations, GOD WILL OPPOSE US.

If, on the other hand, when you envision the pursuit of your dream, the picture you see has less to do with you personally, and more to do with Christ, His Kingdom, and lives're probably headed on the right track. Don't get me wrong here, this is not to say that God calls us to anonymity and ambiguity, forever serving without joy.

Simply because something excites us, stirs up our passion, and fulfills a life-long dream does not mean it can't be from God. This is another one of those lies fed to us by the enemy of our souls - he tells us that "if it's fun and brings us pleasure, it must be based in selfishness. Serving God should be a sacrifice." The truth of the matter can be found in Psalm 37:4, delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. We have His blessing to be passionate and completely fulfilled in our service!

If you are unsure whether your dream is of God or not, ask Him to reveal to you the motivations behind your vision.

Is the song of your heart to adopt dozens of children from all across the globe? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your motives. Supermom = wrong motives. Pouring out Christ's love and raising Christ-followers = His motivations. Do you have a passion for speaking and teaching in front of large groups? Be like Beth = wrong motives. Be a part of something beautiful in changing lives for Christ = His motives.

Do not allow yourselves to be confused! Saturate your minds with God's Truth, and the enemy will not be able to trip you up. Don't go to others to find out if your desire comes from self or God - go to Him! God already knows the vision He has placed in our hearts. We don't need to "figure it out." He created us, He predestined us, and He will reveal Himself to us through His Word.

In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. ~Ephesians 1:11

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Now THIS is Customer Service!

Dear Tyler,

We hope you are enjoying your Dyson vacuum.

To help keep it working at its best, please make sure you wash the filters every now and then. We recommend you wash the filters on your DC25 every 3 months.

If you'd prefer one of our experts talk you through it, call us toll-free
at 1 877 397 6622.

Dyson Customer Service is available from 8am - 7pm Monday - Friday and 9am - 5pm on Saturday (EST).

To help you remember, we will send you this wash day reminder every 3 months. Washing your filters regularly will help to keep your machine working at its best.

Thank you,

Dyson Customer Service
Toronto, ON.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

(A Cheesy) Wordless Wednesday

(If I didn't have a blog, I never would have paused - laughing - to take a picture. His hindquarters are very happy that mommy has a blog.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

All the Reasons Not to Tithe

One of the lessons I've learned over the past couple years, the importance of tithing regularly and consistently. Prior to learning this lesson, though, we had a number of reasons excuses to NOT write a cheque every pay day.

Excuse #1 - We can't afford to give money to the church.

Looking back, I can see a number of things that we were able to "afford" that were not necessities. We managed to eat out with regularity. We had cable. We were able to "purchase" new furniture (on credit, of course). I believe that we all truly CAN afford to give money to the church and/or other important Christian causes; it's just a matter of choosing our priorities.

Excuse #2 - We will start to tithe when we CAN afford it.

For years, we told ourselves (and God) this one! But what exactly does it mean to be able to afford something? For tithing, it seems to mean that we have enough extra cash on hand at the end of the month to give. Interestingly, deciding to "afford" other things is as easy as being approved for a store credit card and promising to pay it later. Being able to "afford" to pay for entertainment is as simple as paying for it when we want it and sorting out what other area gets less next week.

It's like saying, "We'll have a baby when the time is right." Is there ever a truly right time? Are we ever the right age? Established enough in our work? Do we ever have enough of a nest egg in the bank? Perhaps there are some situations where it's actually wiser to not waste time waiting for the right time.

Excuse #3 - God wants us to pay our bills and put food on our table, so He understands why we can't donate our grocery money.

True, God wants us to pay our bills. (Matthew 22:21) But make no mistake about it - when we withhold money from the Lord, He does NOT understand! When we choose not to give back to God from what He has given to us, we are stealing from Him. (Malachi 3:8, Acts 5:1-10)

Excuse #4 - The church is just after my money anyway; they're getting rich off all of our contributions.

I suppose a couple bad televangelists ruined it for churches everywhere... The fact is that the local church CANNOT operate without our regular giving. Our giving pays the (modest) salaries of the pastoral staff, it pays the heat and electricity, it helps keep our preachers learning and growing, it funds our ministries. We are willing to pay to go to the gym, for our kids to go to school, to live in our houses. Why then, should we not be willing to pay for the privilege of attending our churches? Not that the church charges us to attend - but shouldn't we be willing?

Excuse #5 - My spouse doesn't believe in tithing.

First and foremost, I believe that God calls us to honour our husbands. So if he is against giving money to the church, we need to respect his wishes. That said, if we feel called by God to tithe, we need to get creative! Give by bringing snacks for Sunday school, by purchasing a couple extra Bible study books to give to other women, get a sponsor child (or two), volunteer.

Here's the short version of our story...

I wanted to tithe (specifically - as in, give 10% of our pay to the church). Pat grew up believing that the church was after money, so he wasn't fond of the idea. I used his reluctance as an excuse to give nothing.

Later, we both wanted to tithe, but we had managed to get ourselves deeply into debt. There wasn't enough money to pay the bills and keep the creditors from calling, let alone to just "give it away." I had a fancy budget spreadsheet with a bright, glaring, red -$800.00 at the bottom of every month. Whenever there was extra, we wrote a cheque for the offering. But $100.00 here and there just didn't feel right. In our hearts, we really wanted to tithe regularly; we simply could not see how that would be possible.

A strange and miraculous thing happened. A couple who we barely knew approached us one day and handed us a fuel card. I'm sure you're thinking what I was, "Oh, how nice. A gift card." Nu-uh - it was a credit card for fuel. They felt that God had called them to pay for our vehicle's gas for the next year! For the record, I think it's important to note that they were not a family of exceptional means. They were a larger-than-average family with a relatively average income, carrying an average mortgage and vehicle payment of their own. It was as though God said, "See! If you want to tithe, just do. They are doing it. You can do it, too. Trust Me."

Because of the generosity and obedience of that family, we made a choice to start giving back to God first, paying the bills next, and using the remainder for us. We also made the choice that - when we feel that tug inside telling us to give something to someone - we will do so immediately, without looking at the bank account balance first.

I won't lie to you and say that it has been easy or perfect. There have been months where I've been required to shop for groceries with creativity and faith. We have had to wait and save up to get new glasses. Many times we have told the kids that they must wait for something they want until the next pay day (or the next month, or the next birthday).

Yet we have not suffered. In those tight months, God provided for us through anonymous grocery gift cards, unexpected funds deposited in our account, and a million other "coincidental" ways. He has not only provided, but poured out financial blessings. God used this move to bring us one step closer to freedom from the yoke of creditors (yet keeps things tight enough to keep us from becoming prideful). He has given us opportunities to be a blessing in the lives of others, as that family was to us.

And for the record, the bottom of my fancy budget spreadsheet no longer shows a red minus sign, but a beautiful black zero. Every single month, even when unexpected expenses crop up.

(I promise you, this really was the short version of the story!)

So if you have reasons excuses about why you are not tithing, don't bring them to me. Our family is a living proof argument against every single one of them!

If you are curious how God can use you, work through you, and bless you through giving generously, check out The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Morning Randomness

"Date night" ideas from the comments - kidswap (Mrs. Maker), home date (The Wagner Family)...

I have friends who do kidswap once per month. Couple #1 goes out, dad of couple #2 stays home with his kids, mom of couple #2 goes over and watches #1's kids. That way everyone gets to bed on time. Works for them!

I've heard of at home dates before, but never quite how The Wagner Family does it. This could also work for those couples who are struggling to find time to really talk to one another throughout the week. Just a bit of kid training involved to get it going.

Other, "cheaper" date night ideas: coffee shop, browse at local bookstore, cheap theatre, wander the shopping mall together, do grocery shopping together. And, when the kids get old enough to leave at home for short periods of time - a great idea from some friends of ours - don't just pay the oldest for babysitting. Pay everyone for being good! A mom I know has 3 kids, ages 12, 10, 7. She pays each kids $2 for behaving while they're out. If anyone doesn't behave, that child must pay his/her $2 to the others.


Words I've been chewing on thanks to Beth Moore's study, Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy.

[People today] believe in so much of everything that one would be hard-pressed to tell if [they] believe in anything. (pp. 11)
When I encounter others, can they tell what I believe in?

One of God's most serious charges against His people was the abuse of His temple. (pp. 15)
My body is His temple - have I been guarding it or abusing it?

Whether or not we are conscious of it, you and I are daily being indoctrinated and "trained" by our culture. (pp. 20)
What habits am I picking up from this culture that I need to get rid of?

Satan never wastes a fiery dart by aiming at a spot covered by armor. The bull's-eye is located dead center in our inconsistency. (pp. 25)
What area of my faith and commitment to God am I most inconsistent in?

Rule for victorious living: when the stakes are high, bow down low. (pp. 37)
Sounds simple, so why is it so hard to remember?

Image building is any way we intentionally make ourselves seem different - and usually more - than we really are. The inspiration for building and image doesn't come from the Spirit. (pp. 49)
I pray that I can be the same person in the privacy of my own home that I am on Sunday mornings, the same person with telemarketers and door-to-door canvassers that I am at Bible study.

Nursing inferiority can be just as self-consuming as seeking superiority. Constantly thinking little of ourselves is still thinking constantly of ourselves. (pp. 52-53)
False humility is kinda like wrapping pride up in another package. Lord, guard my heart!

Sometimes we don't recognize ourselves until we judge another and hear the Holy Spirit resound within our hearts, "You are that person!" (pp. 87)


I need groceries. My house is in desperate need of some TLC. And all I want to do is sit around, drink coffee, and lurk on facebook (which is, fortunately, locked up tightly for Lent). I should also really think about fitting some daily exercise into my routine.

Tough decisions...


In a couple weeks, I will be starting an online class/mentoring program called BLAST (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers) with Shannon Ethridge. I am excited and nervous all at once!