Friday, May 28, 2010

Toothless Wonders

Megan - age 7 yrs, 1 mo; teeth lost = 7

Abbey - age 8 yrs, 4 mo; teeth lost = 5 (Finally!)

Our new favourite family pastime is to make them say words with lots of "s"es and giggle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Something Beautiful

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire
'Cause I just want
Something Beautiful
To touch me

I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees
Waiting for
Something Beautiful

~written and performed by Need to Breathe

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maturity, does it equal boredom?

Do you ever wonder what happens to us when we become "mature" Christians? What changes? How do we get there? How did others get there?

A few things come to my mind when I think "mature" Christian:
- long walk with God
- enduring in faith through life's ups and downs
- in the Word every day
- praying for hours at a time
- faith that is calm (in contrast to the "fiery" and exuberant faith of a new believer)
- serene
- bored and boring (yes, I said it!).

There is a part of me that admires and aspires to be like the women I know who have walked with God for what seems like forever. But there is this tiny part of me that whispers, "Please Lord, don't let it be boring!"

Maybe you remember my prayers for the year of 2009? I prayed for God to unsettle me. I asked Him not to let me get too comfortable. He answered, and answered, and answered, and answered again!

This year, I began praying that the Lord would consecrate me (make me holy and set apart for His purposes). I didn't want to settle for a faith that was simply "good enough." But in the back of my mind I was also reminding Him that I didn't want to be bored (or boring).

For a short time, I let my heart drift away from His. I was bored AND boring. I had created my own little self-fulfilling prophecy (think that it will be lackluster and you will surely end up disinterested). But I was not, as I feared, uninspired because of maturity. I grew apathetic because I was slowly emptying of that which fills me - His Spirit. What little of Him I had inside of me was seeping out through my many cracks. As those cracks are pieced back together, and I feel the filling up happening again, things* are happening.

Guess what - deciding to be a "grown up" in the faith is far from humdrum! No, I sense that I am about to embark on an escapade of God-sized proportions!

I suspect that maturity is not tedious at all, but that it comes from maintaining a sense of peace, faith, and trust while riding life's ups and downs, over and over again. I am beginning to realize that the quest to become established and settled is probably one of the most adventurous journeys we can embark on!

No one is ever bored on a roller coaster! Some people - those familiar with its nausea-inducing motion - may appear a bit blase as they take their hundredth loop-de-loop, but we must be careful not to mistake their composure for apathy. If we were to hook them up to a biometrics machine, the heart rates of the experienced rider would be no slower than the shrieking 13-year-old boy's in the front row. Their composure is gained by holding fast, practicing lots, and the total faith (that comes with much experience) of knowing that they will not fall.

* things defined: life's ups and downs; stretching; growing; finding oneself in need of God's amazing provision; praying; seeking; obeying in spite of obstacles and doubt

In other words, not a single prayer said on our behalf would be wasted right now!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Family Funnies

Our family had a fantastic long weekend in the mountains! We drove, we hiked, we toured a town of days gone by, we hot tubbed, we rode a train, we visited the world's largest cuckoo clock, we toured a mine, we swam, we ate too much and slept too little. (At this juncture, I would like to post some pictures of our family fun. Unfortunately, my computer's card reader is not in the mood to read my camera's memory card and the USB cord for my camera is playing hide-n-seek. You'll have to settle for a cute little story instead.)

Shea: Dad! Look at that mountain! It's so big! The trees are higher than the sky!

Abbey: Sometimes, when the trees are waving in the wind, it kinda looks like they are worshipping God.

Mom: I bet they are! It says in the Bible that even the rocks cry out to worship the Lord.

Megan: Mom, what about the rocks that aren't Christians?


Malakai, at age 2 1/2, is really becoming a talker! Here are our two favourite sayings of his:

Shake a booty! (said in a sing-songy way while bopping his head up and down)

I nu no. (I don't know. His standard reply to any question beginning in "Where is....")


This post is linked up to Tiny Talk Tuesday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Tragedy of the Unopened Gift

In his book If You Want To Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg speaks of those people who stop growing and allow themselves to become stagnant "boat potatoes." He quotes Gregg Levoy's description of the "common cold of the soul."

To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed,
Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed -
Until weeks become months
And months turn into years,
And one day you're looking back on a life of
Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered,
Lives you never touched,
And you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,
And forgotten dreams,
And you realize there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself -
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling.
You never got out of the boat
Ortberg goes on to say, "there is no tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are You Burying Your Talents? Or Do You Even Know What They Are?

I am surprised by the number of Christians who have no idea what their spiritual gifts are! (This is coming from a girl who LOVES to fill out quizzes, personality tests, and so on. I mean, don't we all love to do those? Or is it just me?) We all seem to be aware that God gives us certain gifts when we accept Christ, but many believers (even many long-time believers) don't seem to be too interested in finding out what they are. Or perhaps we are interested, but no one has given us the tools to figure it out!

I believe that it is vital for us to try to understand our gifts (to the best that we can in our limited human knowledge), so that we can ensure we are using them to serve in Kingdom purposes.

To that end, I have a link to a spiritual gifts inventory for you. :) As far as I can tell, this online one seems to be the most similar to the paper one that is typically used in evangelical churches. If you do go complete this inventory (whether to discover some of your gifts for the first time, or to re-evaluate after a few years and see which ones are showing up stronger over time), I'd love for you to post your top few (or several) in the comments.

In fitting with my series on Building Your Ministry, I would also strongly recommend you have everyone on your team do a spiritual gifts inventory of some sort! You will find that your team will be empowered by the knowledge of their gifts, and both you and they will be able to evaluate if they are serving in the right area. Nothing is worse than working outside of your area of gifting - that kind of experience makes a girl feel utterly discouraged and worn down by her ministry. Wait, one thing is worse - that would be not using those gifts for the glory of God at all!

Before you complete the survey, here are a few things to think about:

- In school, how did you BEST complete multiple choice exams? Did you do best going quickly and with your gut instinct, or slowly and thoughtfully? It’s best to view this in the same way. (I told one friend to go with her gut – like I tend to – and her results were fairly skewed, but when she went back and did it her way – methodically – the results made much more sense for her!)

- Are you an “all or nothing” girl? Or do you tend to be more “middle of the road?” (Some of us will have a few gifts that we score VERY high on and a few that are VERY low, while others will see less of a range between the top and bottom numbers. For example, if I recall correctly my top score was 29 or something ridiculous! My best friend’s top score was 15. The score does not measure the strength or intensity of the gift! The actual number does not matter as it compares to others; only use the numbers to gauge which of your gifts appears to be strongest and which are weakest. What matters is – which gifts come in the top half of your scoring?)

- Over time, our spiritual gifts may appear to change. The truth is that God imparts every spiritual gift He intends for us the moment we accept Christ. Our gifts remain for our lifetime. BUT, we may not discover some of our gifts at first. It is through relationship with God and serving Him that we grow spiritually and develop the gifts He has given to us. (An example from my life: Six years ago I completed a spiritual gifts inventory and found exhortation and pastoring to be smack dab in the middle. This led me to think I wasn’t really gifted in those areas. Now, they are among my top few. I believe that God gave those gifts to me, but until I spent some time in ministry using those gifts and developing them, they didn’t show up as strongly. You might find that evangelism sits in the middle for you, and if you’re like me you’ll breathe a sigh of relief! LOL! But then God may put a few people in your path who need to know God… Do the questionnaire again in a few years and you may find that evangelism is higher.)

Well, go ahead! What are you waiting for? I assure you, reading the list of spiritual gifts beside your name will be encouraging, inspiring, and FUN!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. ~James 1:17

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Building Your Ministry, part two (continued) - How to Love on Your Team

If it feels like we're starting in the middle of a post, it's because we are! A really, really long time ago, I addressed point #1 - invest time. As promised, we'll tackle points #2 and #3 here (if I can remember what they are!).

Part 1
Part 2a

In developing a new ministry or in building up a ministry that's already running, a team of committed volunteers (and/or staff) are needed to make things happen. Finding people to join your team may not be as difficult as you think (but that's for another post on another day); but keeping people committed to the team, the ministry, you (their leader), and of course to the work God is doing through the ministry - well that task, it takes hard work!

How to make your team feel loved...

#2 - Pay Attention:

If you are a wife, you already know how important this is. Because the first time your husband does NOT pay attention to the details of life, it hurts! Has your man ever forgotten your wedding anniversary or your birthday? Ouch! Women like to know that they matter. Don't we?

One quick and easy way to show your team that you are paying attention to their needs is to spend five minutes putting their important dates into your calendar - birthdays, anniversaries, vacation days, surgeries, kids' milestones (such as weddings or graduations). Then, let your team know you remember these dates. It only takes a minute to send a greeting card by email. Sometimes, you may want to do something a little "bigger" and get your team in on purchasing a joint gift or throwing a party (big # birthdays and anniversaries, baby showers, etc.).

It's also important to pay attention to what's happening in the lives of your team. At the end of the meeting, when you take prayer requests (isn't that always the way?!), and someone on your team asks for prayer for a sick child or marital struggles, don't just pray for it and forget about it. Check in with her in a few days or a couple weeks (depending on how long-term the need may be) and ask how it's going. Let her know you've been praying. That small act of remembering her needs will make her feel absolutely treasured by you!

As a leader, it's also vital to learn specifics about the women on your team. What is her love language (in other words, what's the best way you can encourage her in her own language)? What are her spiritual gifts (and do you have her serving in a role that's using them)? What are her strengths, skills, and abilities (how can you help her develop these further)? What are her limitations (and how can you help her overcome them or work around them)?

#3 - Listen AND Hear

A new friend of mine is involved with the women's ministry of her church. She is passionate about meeting the needs of the women and drawing them to Christ, and she is chalk full of fantastic ideas on how to make that happen in the particular area of ministry that she serves in. God has called her to this ministry, of that I have no doubt!

My friend, though, is dangerously close to calling it quits and stepping away for good.

You see, when she voices her ideas in meetings, she is discouraged by the "old hats" on the team. They always have a reason why her idea just won't work. Half the time they won't even let her get the whole idea out before they shut her down and move on. When she sends an email, IF she actually receives a reply from her team lead (it's about a 50-50 split), the standard reply is, "Thanks for your input."

How to listen:
- Make eye contact.
- Let the person complete their thought.
- Even if your gut reaction is to reject the idea, take time to consider it.
- Reply to emails promptly.
- Use more words than necessary (while many of us are "get to the point" kinda gals, more often than not our team feels shut down and/or rejected by brief and abrupt conversations or emails).
- Always thank people for being willing to share ideas.
- Remember to whom the credit goes for a great suggestion (record it in your meeting minutes, so everyone knows who is responsible for innovative thinking).

How to HEAR:
- Always follow-up! If you have said you will consider an idea, make sure you get back to your team member once you've made a decision.
- Ask, "What do you think?" Then actually pay attention to what she thinks.
- Wherever possible, allow your team members the freedom to make their own decisions in ministry. (Experiencing our own successes builds confidence. Experiencing our own struggles builds character.)
- Remember that ministry is not just about the women in the congregation and community. As a ministry leader, your greatest ministry is to your team. Your job is to meet their need for validation, mentoring, and encouragement!
- Don't forget that God placed each woman on your team with you for your growth, too! Each of them is there to bring wisdom and discernment. Overlooking their thoughts, feelings, and ideas could just as easily be ignoring where God is leading you!

Want to build a leadership team for your ministry that endures? A team that sticks together? A team that is sold out for your ministry's vision? A team that is loyal and steadfast? Invest time in each member of your team, pay attention to the small details, and learn to listen AND hear what they have to say.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. ~Romans 12:10 (NLT)

Coming next in the series - part three, A Leader's Heart.

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure (or at the very least, a five-minute diversion from housework)

My first video submission for the BLAST course is officially complete! I submitted it last month, and for 30 whole days my fellow cyber-classmates viewed it and offered me their encouragement and suggestions. I am now going to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and share it with you...

The entire taping took almost 3 hours. Several times I stopped taping partway in because I ran into a mind block and just stopped talking. Then I discovered my webcam had an annoying audio delay, so my mouth was not working with my voice. I started again on our hand-held video camera, and did the same stop-and-start thing as when I first began taping. On the taping that I thought would be my final time through, when I had but two sentences left to speak, my office door swung open and a little voice asked, "Mom, can you get me a drink?" Ack! Taping was complete and (slowly) loading on youtube just minutes before the bus brought kids home from school!

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Did It!

I did it! I'm going!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Random Excuses for Neglecting my Blog

- It has been warm and sunny. Given our long Alberta winters (and the fact that we had snow AGAIN just last week), I'd rather be sitting out in the sunshine.

- I have been earnestly seeking God in my mornings, but still sleeping in later than I'd like, so after my God time I have no blog time left.

- We have been RV shopping, both online and in person. I never realized what a stressful decision this would be!

- We have been busy moving a new (to us) play centre and playhouse into our yard, and then busy watching the kids make it worth every single penny. (I use the term "we" loosely. Several strong men did the heavy lifting, but I was a darn good supervisor!)

- My mom has been making me do yard work. (ugh)

- I spent the entire day yesterday having Bible study with friends followed by coffee with friends. We were having the best visit ever, and I even forgot to take Malakai home to nap!

- Pat and I have been completing application forms to go to Haiti with our "old" church (October, 2010).

- I've been planning our family getaway to beautiful British Columbia, researching things to do while we're there. And yes, I have been mapping out the drive and planning all of our stops. It's a disease!

- I have been enjoying some darn good reading:

* This Present Darkness (Frank Peretti) - For years, I have heard friends rave about this book. I avoided it, though, because I wasn't too sure how my imagination would handle a novel about the battle between the spiritual forces of good and evil (angels and demons). All I can say is WOW! What a fantastic story!

* If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat (John Ortberg) - Another one I've been putting off, but was assigned to read for my BLAST course. I'm not finished yet, but Ortberg grabbed my attention from the first paragraph. What a call out for Christians to get moving in their faith!

* Take Three (Karen Kingsbury) - I have never read a Kingsbury novel that hasn't left me with a huge lump in my throat. Somehow she is able to weave together story after story of brokenness and reconciliation and make each one completely unique. I've been following the Baxter family for years (like my own little soap opera, but with God and without the mass adultery). I don't know what I'll do when/if the Baxter family stories end.

What have you been busy with in the past week or two?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Girls Like Tough Guys

All the ladies are going to love this one. Cute and tough.

For inquiring minds - Kai's shiner is totally self-inflicted. He stole the grate/cover off the bottom of my fridge, then ran away. While running from one room to the next, he tripped over the floor edging (from lino to hardwood). Unfortunately, he was holding the grate thingie back-side-up, with the little, metal clips pointing right at his face. Fortunately, the clip caught him under the eye and not in the eyeball. As an added side-benefit, he hasn't touched my fridge since!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Help Me Rediscover You

This song is speaking to me right now. And it's always nice to hear a Canadian group come out with a few big hits. ;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to Repair a Cracked Vase

The fall was a time of some major highs and lows in our family.

Pat gets offered a promotion - high.
We need to move - low.
Asking God to provide and seeing it happen - high.
Settling into new everything - low.
There were, of course, many others, but you get the picture.

Through the entire roller-coaster ride, we leaned hard on God. It was a new thing in our marriage - to pray together - but we pushed through our discomfort and did it, daily. Regardless of my emotions, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit over every moment of every day.

We are settled into our new life and its routines. The kids seem to be comfortable at their new schools. We have decided to make our new church our "home" church. Along the way we've even had a few free moments to make some friends.

But there's an underlying sense of...something. Sadness? Emptiness? Unfulfilled-ness? (Yes, I do realize that's not a word!) There's this thing that's nagging at me. God feels far away. I know that He didn't take a step back from me, which means I'm the one that moved.

Last year (2009) I memorized 24 Scripture verses; this year, zilch. Last fall our family was a family of prayer - Pat and I prayed together, we prayed with the kids, we prayed with friends, we prayed over every single decision; this year, at least we still pray at mealtimes and bedtimes with the kids. Last year I committed to getting up at 5:30am for my quiet time with the Lord and I rarely missed a morning; this year I rise a little bit early on random days and try to squeeze in a few minutes. I used to be responsible for mentoring many other women in their walk with the Lord, and I took that calling seriously; without that level of accountability I have allowed myself to slack off.

Just as it is no surprise that I gained back all my lost weight when I decided to "take a break" from exercising and eating well, I shouldn't be surprised that taking a break from vital spiritual habits has placed distance between me and God.

So here I am, working to piece together the fragments of my faith. I am like a vase that developed a hairline crack, and as time wore on little shards of clay fell out here and there. Not broken, not destroyed, but fractured and in need of repair.

How to Repair a Cracked Vase:

Step one: Pick up the section of the vase that seems easiest to fit back into place. For me, this means returning to the basics of Scripture memory.

Step two: Be generous with the crazy glue and hold it there until it dries. I need to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work settling the Word of God in my heart and mind.

Repeat steps one and two until each segment and sliver of clay is picked up off the floor. A few of the larger chunks I can see are morning time, praise, and prayer. It's the smaller fragments, though, that will take great concentration to fit back into place. Things like a hunger for God's Word, peace in my soul, and sensing those little nudges from the Holy Spirit.

While the vase may never be restored to its original beauty, it will be whole again. The shadow of those cracked places will forever be a reminder of what caused the vase to crack and the hard work invested in its repair. And those cracks, they will serve to let the Light shine through a little bit more than it did before the fracture happened.

holy experience

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Do Something Small

There are some days when my "to do" list gets so long that I don't even know where to start. This usually happens because I skip a day or two of doing the regularly scheduled tasks. Last week, I pretended that I didn't need to do housework. This week, I looked at my house, looked at my list, and felt frazzled.

I spent my morning running errands (read: avoiding housework), but when I arrived home the disaster was still here to greet me. I still wasn't sure where to start. Laundry was logical, because there's always laundry to be done. But making the decision between bathrooms and vacuuming froze me in my tracks. I did neither.

I decided instead to start with something small. The shoes at the back door had been getting on my nerves, as they were randomly tossed into a huge 60-shoe pile. They were not paired up, they were not in rows, and there was no sense of order. I spent less than 5 minutes putting the shoes in order and instantly felt less frazzled.

I still wasn't ready to tackle an hour-or-longer job, so I headed to the kitchen. I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I tidied the counters. I took out the garbage and recycling. This took me about 15 minutes. I looked around and smiled. The sense of urgency and the weight of an overwhelming "to do" list had disappeared.

I even managed to get a couple more tasks done, with no small thanks to my blessing of a childcare provider who also doubles as a laundry putter-awayer.

Yesterday I remembered a few important things about myself. If I feel stressed inside, I need to take a look around me for the source of the chaos. If I don't know where to start, I should do something small but satisfying. Hard work is always easier with a little help. And I don't need to accomplish everything in order to feel that I've accomplished something.

These same truths can be carried into our spiritual lives.

Feeling stressed or anxious? Look around to find the source of the chaos. Is there a Bible sitting on a table covered in dust? Is the TV constantly tuned in? How long has it been since a prayer was uttered?

Don't even know where to start? Start small - say a prayer, open that dusty Bible, read a verse or two, think about what the words mean for you today.

Wondering if it will be too hard to get back on track? Find help! Join a Bible study group so you don't have to go it alone.

Then enemy loves to make us feel too busy. He knows that if we become overwhelmed we will lose sight of the small things. Many of us have a tendency toward "all or nothing" thinking - if I can't get it all done, if I can't do it all right, I may as well not bother. Just remember, you don't have to accomplish everything in order to feel that you've accomplished something. Choose just one small thing, and maybe another. That little accomplishment will be enough to push back the enemy and draw you toward God's peace.