Tuesday, August 31, 2010

M & M Wrap-up

For those of you who have joined me this summer, mediating on and memorizing God's Word...


I pray that, as we move into the fall and some sense of routine begins to return to our lives, we will all continue to seek to know God's Word and bury it in our hearts.

Keep on practicing the verses you were learning this summer, until you know and love them all. Save the index cards you've written them on and revisit them in a few months to see what you've retained. You will be surprised!

How has this summer M & M experience been for you? Enjoyable? Frustrating? A bit of both?

I am considering doing a monthly M & M here (I think many of us - ahem, me - need more time than just 2 weeks to get a verse really memorized). Before I go ahead, though, I am wondering how many of you would join me?

For those new to my blog and wondering what the heck I'm babbling about... Basically, once a month I'll put up a blog post called "M & M." All of us who are participating will put a verse in the comments - a verse that we plan to spend the next month meditating on and trying to memorize. Those who blog can also write their own post linking back here and inviting their friends and readers to join us. There's no "formality" about it, just a bunch of Jesus-lovin' girls encouraging each other to bury God's Word in our hearts.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Just my Imagination?

Did you ever entertain the question, "What if this is all just a big dream?" As a teen, I recall wondering about that a lot. Perhaps the life I was leading wasn't my life at all, but merely a vivid dream that I would soon awake from.

Sometimes, I hear that same concept applied to faith. "What if God is just a figment of your imagination?"

These are good questions. What if? How do we know that we're not all really asleep? Or living in a computer grid world of some sort? Or that God really exists?

Basically, it all comes down to faith, doesn't it?! At some point in our lives, we must all decide what we believe to be true and what we sense to be true in our hearts. Believing that I am awake and alive and living in a real world requires faith. Believing the opposite - that we are all living in a dream, or perhaps we are all living in a fabricated world where others watch our lives on TV, or perhaps we are being controlled by alien forces - requires faith. Believing that a grand explosion turned a minuscule fragment of an atom into living, breathing matter takes faith. Believing in a God that created us, the world, and everything in it - you guessed it, takes faith. (Frankly, I think it takes less faith to believe in a Creator than in some of those other concepts. But anyhoo...)

There are no "right" answers to explain the hows and whys of God. All we can offer is our faith and our testimony. The story of how God has worked in us and changed us is the best evidence we can offer to back up our faith. Our testimony is better than any scientific argument, better than any intellectual debate. Our testimony is OURS, and whether someone believes it or not, they cannot argue against it. They can only choose to accept or reject is as true, on faith.

This leads us to a tough question. Does our testimony offer evidence of that which we believe? Does Jesus really work? Are we actually different because of God in our lives?

Share with me your random thoughts on such matters.

(The concepts listed above - such as living in a dream world, computer world, and movie world - are fantastic imaginative ideas borrowed from the silver screen. Movies referenced are: "Inception," "The Matrix," and "The Truman Show." I'm sure there's a movie about how we live in a world controlled by aliens as well, but it's not coming to me. Also referenced is a theory on how the earth came to be, called the "Big Bang Theory," which is also a relatively hilarious TV sitcom that actually has nothing to do with said theory. The theory referenced which I put my faith in is aptly named "Creationism.")

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fans, Followers, and all that Jazz

If you've been around here any amount of time, you have likely heard about the book I am (slowly) working on, Mommy, why are you Angry? In the event that you're new here - Welcome! Thanks for visiting! I do hope you'll stay a while. - here's a summary:

While most women hope and plan to become a mother, few intend to spend their days feeling frustrated with their children, overreacting, yelling, being short-tempered, and more. Many women experience this ongoing struggle with anger, yet they are frequently so burdened with feelings of shame and guilt that their anger becomes a closely-guarded secret.

By transparently sharing her own prior struggles as an angry mother to five, Tyler will convey two truths every woman needs to hear: “You are not alone!” and “You can have victory over your anger!” With a Christ-centred and practical approach, Mommy, Why Are You Angry? will provide women with the strategies - both spiritual and hands-on - that will help them to find freedom from anger, and thus become the mothers God intended them to be.

I have been incredibly blessed to have the opportunity - two years in a row - to attend an amazing conference for writers and speakers. Over the course of those two weekends, I presented my book proposal to four publishing houses and two literary agents. Everyone liked the idea! Yay! The proposal even made it all the way to pub. board - a bunch of folks at the publishing house meet and talk about all the books they're considering - WooHoo! - before hitting the wall. The wall was, in essence, that I am a nobody. Okay, you don't have to get all worried about my self-esteem! I know that I'm somebody to at least 5 or 6 people! But in the world of book publishing, a previously unpublished author with a teeny tiny blog doesn't amount to the kind of "somebody" they are looking for.

The thing about book publishing these days is that it's no longer just about having a great message or good writing. Publishers don't like to take risks with their money; they want a sure thing. For a publisher to think your idea (or mine) is a sure thing they are looking for those first two factors plus a large platform. In other words, a whole lotta fans! You see, fans are kinda like "guaranteed sales."

I have been wrestling with this whole platform issue for over a year. There's something about it that feels so...self-aggrandizing. Like me! Follow me! Last night, though, God was not going to let me sleep until we did some business. (I confess, it may have also had something to do with the coke slurpee I had at 9pm.) I felt Him telling me that not only did He give me a message to share, but that He needs me to do some work to let people know I've got a message about the life-changing power of Jesus Christ! I sensed Him asking me why I was resistant to using the social media outlets that have proven to build the platforms of others, social media outlets that He is using to get His message out. It occurred to me that I was not resistant because I didn't want to appear prideful, but I was resisting because of my fear and insecurity. What if no one "likes" me?!

At 2am last night (I guess that would actually be this morning), I sat down and created a facebook fan page. While the page bears my name and my head shot, it isn't a place for people to come and love me and tell me how great I am. No, it's one more small place for me to share what God has been placing on my heart in the hope that it draws even more women to Him. And if I am faithful in telling others of His glory, He will draw as many "fans," "followers," and "friends" as He decides are necessary.

Just like I can't sit here in front of my computer screen and hope that God magically and mysteriously turns my thoughts into the book He's given me to write, I also cannot merely wish and pray a platform into existence. Not only has He given me a book to write and a message to share, He has given me - entrusted me with - the task of doing the work to get that message out there! To let women know that, with God and God alone, they don't have to be angry anymore!

All that to say, Hey, wanna be my fan?!

I'm also making myself available for speaking engagements. So if your church ministry, women's event, or MOPS group is looking for someone... ;)

Sing praises to the Lord who reigns...Tell the world of His unforgettable deeds. ~Psalm 9:11 (NLT)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who's Clothes are These?!

Every now and then, a stroke of brilliance enters my brain. Since these occurrences are few and far between, I must not let a single genius idea pass without sharing it.

For years (about 3 or 4), laundry has been the bain of my existence. One factor that contributes to my overall frustration level is the sorting. Not pre-wash sorting, but the sorting of little pieces of clothing belonging to three girls who are far too close in size! The sorting is particularly difficult when it comes to those itty-bitty undergarments and socks!

About two years ago, I began writing the initial of the owner on the tag or seam of most items (mainly panties and socks, but every now and then on a shirt that I repeatedly found myself mis-sorting). While slightly genius, there was one flaw in the system - what happened when the item was handed down to the next child in line?!

Recently, another problem cropped up. There is no longer any size distinction in tops, pants, skirts (what few they have), sweaters, shoes, coats, and so on between the two older girls! While some styles clearly belong to one girl, there are others that could belong to either. Argh!

Today, I invented the dot system. The eldest girl gets one dot on every single item she owns. (Yes, a bit time-consuming. BUT, since we are doing our typical pre-school year sort, I am already emptying drawers and re-folding all items that still fit.) The middle girl - two dots. The third - three. (While she doesn't necessarily need every single piece of clothing marked the way the other two do, I've decided to dot to completion - it will still come in handy for when other people are folding and putting away laundry. You can thank me later, Grandma!)

The dot system also solves my problem of what to do with hand-me-downs. Just add a dot! Or two.

For the record, if you decide to employ the dot system, you'll need a permanent marker (Sharpie). And you'll want to be careful to put the dots on tags or on thick seams (like at the collar of the t-shirt or top edge of a sock) to avoid bleeding through. Eight-year-old girls are not too fond of having random dots on their clothing that all their friends can see.

I'd have posted a few pictures for you, but I am also sure that girls of any age do not like their undies displayed on the internet for all to see!

Joining in on Works for Me Wednesday this week (hosted by We Are THAT Family).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Motherhood as Ministry

A few of the buzzwords you'll hear in Christian circles these days are Christian service, ministry, servant leader, washing feet.... They come from our Model of how to live and serve others - Jesus. We encourage our leaders to not just be the "boss," but to serve joyfully. We challenge our leaders to find ways to (figuratively) wash the feet of those whom they lead.

Once you establish the mindset of a servant leader, it isn't all that difficult to think of ways to serve those around you. A big part of it is to simply pay attention to their needs and try to meet them. For example, if a woman on my team was ill, I could bring her family dinner one evening; when another ministry is vying for space in the church, our ministry can freely give up some of our space; if I know my husband is tired, I can take care of a job that is normally his....

I can wrap my head around the concept of figurative foot washing when it comes to church ministry, the people I run into day-to-day, events I attend, my husband, friends, even enemies.

Here is a wild and crazy thought, though, that I just cannot wrap my head around. How can I wash the feet of my children? As a mother, these children are my primary ministry. My job is not simply to tend to them, but to minister to them in love and show them God's love. I think one of the reasons I can't "get it" is because my job with them is already serve, serve, serve. I cook for them, clean up after them and with them, bathe them, teach them, discipline them, cuddle them, and on it goes.

But do I do all these things out of the love of my heart to serve them and bless them, or are they merely things I do because it's my job to do them? Am I a servant leader to my children, or a dictator?

To be honest, I have never before considered my children my ministry. Raising them is my job - being a mother is my role. So I do what I have to do, often begrudgingly, with irritability and impatience. But if I led my children the way I lead my ministry, with passion and purpose and a vision, it would become God's work. That would be ministry. That would be servant leadership. That would be foot washing.

I think Jesus and I need to spend our time together tomorrow morning talking about how to wash the feet of my children. We'll probably make a list. Jesus and I LOVE lists!

What are some things that you do (or could do) to figuratively wash the feet of your children?

* a re-post from the archives

holy experience

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Want to be Radical?

Anyone else beginning to wonder if they've been getting too comfortable? Lately, God keeps reminding me that I am here for more than just living a good life.

Living out life as a child of the Most High God pretty much demands our radical obedience. Am I the only one who suspects that I haven't been giving it my all?

If you, like me, found your heart pounding out of your chest by the end of that video clip, you can bring yourself even closer to cardiac arrest by reading the first chapter of Radical here. After that, we'll all probably rush out to buy it. Or maybe not...

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Kids Robbed the Bank

I was sharing with some new friends last night about the book and talks I'm working on, Mommy, Why Are You Angry? One of the girls, K, gave me a fantastic suggestion! She encouraged me to remind my readers and listeners to "recognize the paydays."

Being a mom, or anyone who spends a lot of time taking care of children, is what many would call a "thankless job." There is no paycheque to speak of, much of the work done doesn't show tangible results, and days off are few and far between. Raising kids is huge investment of our time, energy, mental capacity, patience, prayers, and finances. But it's more like an investment in today's economy than a few years ago - unbelievably slow-growing, taking years before showing a return.

In order to keep it all in perspective (and help keep our cool), it is so important to watch for, recognize, give yourself credit for, and thank God for those "paydays."

A great report card or meeting with the teacher - cha-ching!
Your pre-teen sits close and lets you snuggle with him for a few minutes - cha-ching!
Your toddler poops in the potty - cha-ching!
Someone shares with a sibling (without a lecture from you) - cha-cha-cha-ching!
Your child asks Jesus to be her "forever friend" - cha-CHING!

We need to take these paydays and store them up in our hearts. Because in the 20-or-so years we spend raising our children to be good and Godly grown-ups, their withdrawals from the bank of mom will far outnumber their deposits. When that one particular child says, "No!" to you for the thousandth time and makes your want to scream and shake your fist - stop for a moment, think back (sometimes waaaay back) to that one time that child said, "Okay Mom," without arguing (cha-ching), then discipline the disobedience with the knowledge that the child truly is capable of willing obedience and all hope is not lost.

This advice was especially helpful for me this week, as long summer holidays with little structure provide enough withdrawals from the bank of mom to put me into overdraft.

What about you? Has it been a long time since you've experienced a payday as a mom (or childcare provider)? What are some great paydays you can remember?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Know it Won't be Fat Free...

Not only is it pretty funny, it's true!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spa Day

Every now and then, a nice, relaxing day at the spa
(aka Mom's room with spa music piped in and the lights dimmed)
is in order.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If I Only had a Brain

Sometimes our job is to plow the fields, getting them ready for planting...
We may be the very first Christians some people meet that they don't hate.

Sometimes our job is to sow the seeds...
We live our lives for Christ, allowing those around us to witness the difference He makes in and for us.

Sometimes we are the rain, the sunshine, or the fertilizer...
We have opportunities to pour out love, shine the light of God's Word, and bring the Truth alive by sharing how God is working in our lives.

Sometimes we get to bring in the harvest...
We may even get to lead someone to accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Sometimes we are the scarecrow, keeping pests away.
We do our best to drive away the enemy when he tries to distract them and help them stay focussed on their growth.

I spend most of my time being a scarecrow. (Feel free to envision my face on the body of Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, singing the famous - and fitting - song, "If I Only had a Brain.") For some reason, when people are afraid, stressed, confused, and losing their faith, they come to me. My job is to wave my arms around and holler until the crows fly away. Wait, I mean my job is to love them, encourage them, bring them back to Christ and His Truths through prayer and Scripture.

Being a scarecrow isn't the most glorious job. The harvesters really have the job that offers the highest dividends. The scarecrow job description is kinda like the spiritual janitor - helping sweep away all the junk and clutter so that the Truth shines through. The thing is, clean-up is a never ending job. Just as soon as you think you've got it all gleaming, someone walks through your hard work with their muddy boots. Or, back to the scarecrow analogy - as the crow flies away it poops on your head. It can sometimes be a rather inglorious occupation.

Every now and then, though, the scarecrow gets a blessed reminder about the importance of his job.

Last week, a 12-year-old boy from my old home church was killed in a freak accident. These are the things that can make or break the faith of everyone involed.

So far, two women have contacted me to help them process this situation. One was on her way to be with the family, another a friend with an "overprotective" nature when it comes to her children. They didn't come to me for wisdom or advice; I'm pretty sure they don't think I'm all that sage. They came to me because they needed someone to help them cry out to Jesus and scare away all the fears and worries that were threatening to overtake their minds.

So I grabbed my Bible, took to my knees, flapped my straw-filled arms in the air to keep those nasty pests away, and together we found our Source of peace.

I may not get to bring in the harvest, leading people to a new faith in Christ. I may not get to spend a lot of time with people who don't know Him, preparing the ground, sowing seeds, fertilizing. My job is to tend the fields where the "hard work" has already been done. But I am reminded that each step - each person - in the cultivation process makes a difference in the final crop. Even brainless, straw-stuffed, human-like figurines with sticks up their butts...

* Please, take a moment to pray for the family who is experiencing the greatest sorrow imaginable. Please pray for Mom, Dad, brother, and sister.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Settle?

Alternately Titled: M & M #5 (08/15/10)

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon: on June 30th there were seven women joining me in Scripture meditation and memorization; on July 30th there were none. Where have all the Jesus girls gone?!

I have a tendency toward "all or none" thinking. When I do something I intend to do it the right way every time, fully participating to the best of my ability. The unfortunate thing about thinking this way (I think maybe it's called "perfectionism") is that if I fail in any way, I would rather quit altogether. Somehow, quitting trying is less humiliating than trying and messing up. For example, if I want to lose weight, my plan will be to eat absolutely right every single day AND exercise several times per week. But if I give in to the urge to have that dessert, my mind insists that "I've already screwed up now. May as well just give up completely." and I dive head-first into a massive binge.

I wonder if some of my M&M girls here are afflicted with that same tragic thinking?

Whether you were on holidays and didn't have time to work on memorizing Scripture or you were still stumped by your previous verse and weren't ready to add another, I want you to know that it is never too late to jump back in! It actually is better to try, try again (and keep on messing up) than it is to just throw in the towel. We all know that anything worth having takes hard work and determination to get there. Perseverance says a lot about a girl's character.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. ~Romans 5:3-4

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
~Hebrews 12:1

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
~James 1:2-4

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
~2 Peter1:5-7

Yes, my sisters, this M&M thing is HARD WORK. But the work of burying God's Word in our hearts pays eternal dividends. Do not give up! You CAN do this thing! Don't have your last verse memorized? Write it down once again in the comments and keep on trying! Who's with me in this?!

I don't know about you, but I am not satisfied with "good enough." When my handy husband is working on a job around the house and I hear him utter those words, I get ticked off! Because doing something just good enough to get by means that we are capable of doing "great," but we allowed ourselves to get distracted, grow weary, give up, and settle for less than greatness.

Would you ever stop after eating just one or two M&Ms, when the entire bag is sitting on the counter calling out your name? (I mean, if you're having a non-dieting binge kinda day.) God's Word is more delicious than even the most yummy, non-melty, candy-coated chocolate you can find! (Taste and see that the Lord is good!*)

Let's not settle for being "good enough" Jesus girls; rather, let us encourage one another to strive for greatness! Go ahead, eat the whole bag!

(Ahem. Stepping off soapbox now. grin)

If you managed to tackle your last verse, go ahead and quote it in the comments from memory (or feel free to do so on your blog, but leave a comment here so we all know to come visit you and encourage you).

Here's mine:
But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
~Matthew 6:33

Also for the comments (or your blog) - what verse will you be working on until the end of the month?

Mine is:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
~2 Peter1:5-7

* See Psalm 34:8.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Throwing Fits

Braeden (12) recently spent a week at camp. Camp is always special, but this one is extra-special.

Every summer, since my firstborn was six-years-old, I sign my kids up for camps of various sorts. Sports day camps, arts day camps, vacation Bible schools, and overnight Bible camps. For Braeden, camp has always involved me finding and hiring someone to work as an aide with him, assisting him in both doing the tasks and the social aspect of camp.

If I'm honest, there haven't been too many camp experiences that he has enjoyed. You see, many kids with special needs find large, loud, group situations overwhelming and stressful. Braeden is no exception. In fact, one summer, we left a VBS registration line up with both he and I in tears. Him, because the thought of me leaving him there in all that chaos was terrifying. Me, because the knowledge that he could not go to VBS (like "normal" kids) was devastating.

Yet I keep trying. (No, I've never dragged him kicking and screaming into VBS.) Trying different camps, with different focus, having different aide workers. Because camp is an experience I don't want Braeden to miss out on. I always knew that if we found the right one, he would love it as I did in my childhood.

I spent so many years attempting to give my son a normal experience, when what he really needed was a special experience. Camp Rehoboth: Bible camp just for kids with special needs. Rehoboth means room. Turns out that is exactly what Braeden needed - room to move, room to grow, room to simply be.

He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land." ~Genesis 26:22

I don't know about you, but I am learning that I spend far too much time and energy trying to make things "fit." I want to fit in. I want my kids to fit into the roles their teachers have for them. I try to fit everything into its perfect place in the house. My schedule is all about fitting tasks into time. Fit here, fit there, fit everywhere. (About makes me want to have a fit!)

Sometimes, we all just need a little room.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sometimes God Sits on a Shelf

We say grace at meal times. We do prayer requests at bedtimes. We stick the Word up on our wall to guide our discipline. There are other things, but these are more for my growth than theirs.

But do these things make God real in the lives of our children? Or do they see God as a book on a shelf that Dad and Mom pull out for these certain circumstances?

Ann's post about The Spiritual Practice of Parenting has me thinking. How could we bring the Word of life into our day-to-day with the kids?

What does your family's spiritual "routine" look like? Are there things you do to bring the Word to life, to make God real and tangible in your own life? If you are a parent, what things do you do to help your children's faith become their own?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Women's Ministry that Wins

A (long) while ago, I started a series on here called "Building Your Ministry," in order to share what God has taught me about "doing ministry well" over the years. Until our family relocation nine months ago, I spent just over six years as leader (and founder) of the women's ministry in our church. My leadership journey was not without its bumps and bruises, but my prayer is that other women in ministry will be able to benefit from both my mistakes and my successes.

I believe that, eventually, I will write a book on this subject. It's one of the two big ideas that I find constantly rattling around in my head. I also believe that, as one facet of my writing/speaking ministry, I would like to do some consulting for women's ministry teams.

Because this little blog series has been so sadly neglected over the past few months, I find myself re-evaluating and re-thinking. But rather than come up with my own "plan," I wanted to ask YOU what you think I should do. So here are a few questions for ya:

1. Do you like the name "Women's Ministry that Wins?" (If not, I am wide open to suggestions - titles are not my forte.)

2. Would you like to see posts on this subject on my blog? (If not, do you think I should start a new blog solely for this topic?)

3. If I am putting up WMW (that looks catchy, doesn't it?!) posts on this blog, should they be scheduled? As in: weekly on a certain day of the week, monthly, etc.?

As an added bonus question, while we're on the subject of this blog and the content here:

4. What are your favourite kind of posts to read here? (If you can think of the titles of a couple of your faves, that would help, too!)

Thank-you, friends! You have no idea how valuable your feedback is to me. After all, you're the ones who encourage me to keep on writing out my random ramblings. So what you think and what you like really matters to me. :)

Building Your Ministry, part 1 - What Your Team Really Needs from You
Part 2a -
How to Love on Your Team
Part 2b -
Related Posts

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Potty Training and Jesus

Potty Lessons

Each time I potty train a child, it feels like the first time. As though I've never done it before, I don't know where to start, and I am terrified! Not so much terrified that my child will still need diapers in college, but terrified of all the hard work, the messes on floors, and the inevitable frustration that comes when a child just won't "get it."

But eventually, in spite of my complete lack of confidence, each child does reach a place of fairly consistent success. I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but there is a good chance we have found that joyous place with Malakai (2)!

He was awesome with the peeing in the toilet - virtually no accidents even from day 1. But the pooping thing - he was not getting it. Every single day I was greeted with the foreboding words, "Mama, I poop-ah in my undawayre." Then, to add to the adventure, Kai decided that it was probably easier on him if he simply whipped down his pants wherever he was to go pee (yard, basement, sister's bedroom, Grandma's house, trampoline, etc.). I do believe we mastered the willful urination on public property with a handy little happy-face/ sad-face system. Butt, the other end of things remained problematic (pun intended). That is, until yesterday. And again this morning - twice in a row. Successes in succession give a Mama hope!

So you're probably wondering what all this has to do with Jesus. While I know it's crazy to take a spiritual analogy from potty training, I just can't help myself!

Jesus Lessons

How to "train" ourselves for successful spiritual growth:

1. Keep practicing.
- In potty training and spiritual growth, the old saying is true, "practice makes perfect."

2. Rewards.
- Kai has a package full of matchbox cars on top of the refrigerator. In order to get a car, he first has to poop on the toilet. Just as Kai needs to do his job BEFORE he receives the reward, so too should we put our time with Jesus before the things we do for ourselves. (For me, I don't let myself sit down at the computer until I've had my quiet time.)

3. WANT it.
- Those of us who've been around children or parents have likely heard someone offer the following potty training wisdom, "He'll potty train when he's ready." Practicing and rewards will only get Kai so far; eventually he needs to go on the toilet because he wants to, because he knows it's best, and because it feels good. This will happen the more times he does it. At first our quiet time and Scripture memorization may feel like "hard work." We will need to try over and again to get it right. We will need to reward ourselves for doing well. But one day, we will find ourselves growing! Then we will WANT to have our time with Jesus, we will DESIRE to know His Word in our hearts, and doing things otherwise will feel unnatural.

You know what else potty training has to do with Jesus? It is only through Him that we parents find the strength to persevere through the puddles in every room of the house and the nasty underpants clean up to reach the finish line. Only through Him that we keep our sanity!

I press on toward the goal to win the prize... ~Philippians 3:14a

Monday, August 9, 2010

Socially Promiscuous

I was recently seated around a table full of good, Christian folk. I didn't know anyone there personally and I was in a quiet, contemplative mood, so I had the unique opportunity to simply watch and listen.

What I saw and heard made my heart hurt. Back-biting, gossip, whispers and snickers at the expense of someone just across the table, snide comments about people not present, to name a few.

At one point, a very friendly (and highly inebriated) couple wandered our way. I watched as the circle around the table closed in on itself - not literally pulling their chairs in, but just as blatantly turning their heads toward one another in avoidance. A couple of the men at the table engaged in conversation with the young couple, discovering that it was their wedding night and they were out celebrating. I overheard someone murmur (about the men talking to them), "Don't feed the animals." The ache in my heart grew.

Momentarily, righteous anger stirred inside me. Is it any wonder that society in general finds Christians to be judgemental and hypocritical? I'm not saying we all are all the time. But surely each one of us has been at one time or another.

But just a quickly I felt a pin prick in my spirit that deflated my self-righteous attitude. Are my conversations with good, Christian friends any different than what I was witness to here? Don't I, too, respond with avoidance, judgement, and fear when approached by people I don't understand?

I don't want to be the kind of Christian that proves an angry, God-hating society right. Rather, I want to be a true Jesus-girl, loving as He did (and still does).

Jesus, to the woman caught in adultery, said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin." (John 8:3-11) He hung out with partiers, thieves, adulterers, and all sorts of sinners. (Matthew 9:10-13, Luke 7:34) Jesus would rather offer love, grace, forgiveness, and hope than judgement. He would rather be condemned and ridiculed for associating with society's reprobates than be proclaimed "holier-than-thou" based on the company He keeps. Jesus is socially promiscuous.*

I hugged a homosexual once.
I told him of my love.
A love that flows from deep within,
And it's a love from God above.

Although I am not gay myself
I surely must confess, that
Though I don't agree with him
I love him nonetheless.

I ate lunch with a prostitute.
From her I would not buy.
And though the world just shook its head,
I simply asked her, "Why?"

More than myself I loved this girl.
More than my very life.
Forgetting all that she had done
I looked beyond her strife.

I kissed a politician's baby.
I let him kiss mine, too!
I will not likely vote for him -
I do not share his views.

But no matter what he says or does,
No matter if he wins,
No matter if he ruins my life,
I pledge my love to him.

I say, "I'm not a perfect man,
And I've nearly sinned my fill."
And God who knows all things about me
Says that He loves me still.

God loves my soul, a soul so black.
And I know this much is true -
God loves every other soul
No matter what they do.

*Quote courtesty of and poem written by our guest pastor last Sunday, Rob Chartrand of Crosspoint Church.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Heart is in Haiti

Last year, after Pat returned from Haiti, we decided that we would plan to go every year - together. Yes, this will cut into Pat's vacation time from work. Yes, this will cut into our finances (even if we raised funds for the trip, there are still child care expenses - 5 kids, 2 weeks...). Yes, this will likely mean that we could no longer do couple's getaways that were any longer than a weekend. But to be a part of the mighty work God is doing in Haiti - all those sacrifices are worth it!

One thing we didn't account for - what if God's plans are different than ours?

The most difficult decisions to make are always those which have us choosing between two (or more) options, all of which are very good. In June, I was invited to speak in a breakout session at a well-known local women's conference. The date of the conference was smack dab in the middle of this year's Haiti trip. One of the hardest decisions of my life. Ever.

We prayed. We discussed. We made lists. (Okay, I made lists.) We asked others for prayer and wise counsel.

Ultimately, God made the decision for us. The conference coordinator needed an answer, and we had not yet heard back as to whether we were accepted on the team to go to Haiti and serve with Haiti Arise Ministries. With a mix of joy, fear, and a bit of sorrow, I accepted the invitation to speak.

Two days later, we received an email letting us know they were checking references for Haiti. Sigh.

Pat will be going to Haiti again this fall, helping to rebuild the trade school that they helped complete last year (following the earthquake, it was deemed structurally unsound - is that a word? - and had to be demolished). And while I know that God orchestrated each detail, as the planning gets underway for Haiti I can't help but feel a little left behind.

As I was praying for the team this morning and for the people of Haiti, I shared my sorrow with God. He reminded me that Haiti is not going anywhere, and there will be a need for teams to continue going in for years to come. Then He encouraged me with the words shared by Angela Thomas at She Speaks:

Sometimes, it's not your turn yet. Become a woman who is ready, so that when God says, "now" you can jump right in.

This year, it is not my turn to be by my husband's side in Haiti. But I will continue to prepare my heart, because when God tells me it is my turn I sure don't want to be the one telling Him I'm not ready!

I humbly ask that you would join me in praying for Pat and the rest of the team as they prepare for this trip. If you feel called to contribute financially, please send me a private email and I will forward to you the support letter and forms (all contributions are taxable donations and will receive a receipt from the church).

Here's a video Pat made from the (thousands) of pictures of last year's trip.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mommy, Why Are You Angry?

Here is the video of my first sample talk for my She Speaks peer evaluation group. It's not my best - nerves, nerves, nerves - but I hope there are some words of encouragement for you in spite of the less-than-fantastic delivery.

(P.S. I am totally open to critique and suggestions! Anything you can offer to help me become a more effective message deliverer for Jesus is a gift. As long as it's wrapped up in love. I'm all about the loving suggestions for improvement!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Didn't Cry

We were in the washrooms at the airport - my new friends Angela, Shannon, and I. The bathroom attendant was an outgoing woman named Celese, inviting us to "Choose [our] own seat and relieve all [our] pressures." As Angela waited for Shannon and I to finish our business, she chatted with Celese.

It came into the conversation that we had just left a Christian women's conference. Celese exclaimed, "I knew you were sisters! When you came in I could tell there was something different about you girls! The whole atmosphere in this place changed when you girls came in - you smiled and talked to me. I've been here doing this all day now, and hardly none of these women even looked my way." At her words, my heart soared (we brought Jesus with us and she felt it!) and broke (this friendly woman had been met with rejection for hours).

I came out of the stall in my freshly donned exercise pants and tank top (after all, I had no intentions of spending seven hours of flying plus two hours of layover in slacks and a blouse). I stepped out bearing my brightest smile for our hard-working friend. She looked at me, reached her hand out, and began to rub my tummy!

I tried to step away and save both myself and her the embarrassment, but it was too late. She rubbed and exclaimed her excitement about my "condition." Fiercely keeping that smile planted on my face, I told her, "No, no. I'm not pregnant. I'm just chubby." She didn't believe me, so I said it again. In an awkward moment (for both of us, I'm sure), she took her hand from the jiggly fat stores on my belly and stepped back. Though her comment stung, I did not want to allow my typical reaction (shutting down and being angry and upset) to creep in and mar her impression of what Jesus girls are like.

As my two new friends and I strolled the concourse looking for a lunch location, my emotions warred within me. My typical reaction would be hurt, defensiveness, anger. My typical reaction would typically lead me to stuff my face in an an effort to dull the emotional ache. My typical reaction would be a dialogue in my head convincing myself that I should give up any efforts to be healthier, because they just don't seem to get me anywhere.

But the words of Lysa TerKeurst echoed in my head, "Typical reactions will give us a typical reach. God-honoring reactions will give us a God-sized reach." So I took those thoughts and feelings that were running through my mind and body and asked myself (and my Jesus) if there was anything true or beneficial that I needed to take from that whole uncomfortable experience.

In the few minutes it took us to get to a restaurant and find our seats, I was able to put those nasty thoughts and feelings aside. I turned them over to Jesus and said, "Here - you take these. I don't need them or want them. They're no good for me." And He did! When we ordered our meals, I felt virtually no temptation to order the hugest, greasiest burger on the menu. There was no aching void inside of me crying out to be filled. It was already full to overflowing!

I have been on a journey these past few weeks - a journey to eat better, get healthy, lose weight. But this time I am not walking into battle unarmed and alone, I am stepping onto the battlefield with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I have the privilege of being one of thirty women given the opportunity to review and "test drive" Lysa's new book, Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food (releasing in December, 2010). All I can say is that it is really helping!

How do I know that it's helping? Well, it could be that I have successfully lost six pounds so far. Or maybe that there is a difference in my desire (the book has helped me to find my "want to"). But honestly, the biggest indicator to me that this book is helping me is the fact that those words in the airport did not damage me. They did not define me. They did not influence my actions and reactions for days or weeks to come.

The numbers on the scale - they don't define who I am. The hurtful comments of others - they don't define who I am. The fit (or lack of fit) of my clothes - that doesn't define who I am. Comparison with others - that doesn't define who I am. Who I am is defined by only one thing: Whose I am. I am His, and that is the only thing that will determine my identity AND my reactions.

Monday, August 2, 2010

When God Messes Up Your Plans

I am a planner and a list-maker. I like to know what is ahead, what my next step should be. I do not like it when my plans get messed with! (Some people may refer to that tendency as “control issues.”)

This weekend, I breezed into a luxurious conference hotel with big plans. As my heeled sandals tapped out their little clickity-clack tune, I ticked items off the checklist.

Click – Attend meetings to pitch book proposal.

Clack – Take copious notes as I learn everything I need to know about speaking and writing and building my ministry.

Click – Have a Jesus weekend, experiencing Him in fresh new ways.

Clack – Network with people in the industry.

Clickity-clack, clickity-clack.

Day one ultimately went as planned. I had a fantastic meeting with one editor who accepted my proposal. The literary agent I sat down with also invited me to send her my proposal. I learned so much about marketing, speaking, and writing in so few hours that I wondered if it really might be possible for someone’s brain to explode. The hours I spent in sleep that evening were too few, yet I awoke energized, confident, and ready to clickity-clack my way through the plans for the next day.

A little-known secret at writer’s conferences is that you can often get squeezed in to see more editors than you were originally scheduled to meet with if you stop by to inquire about cancellations. This is how I scored another agent meeting for that afternoon. I just love it when things go according to plan!

It was during the morning session that I began to suspect that something was amiss. I jotted these words on my outline, “Do not allow serving God to take precedence over knowing the God whom you serve.” Those words – they bugged me.
Do I do that?
No, of course not. I know Jesus! I’m close to Him. The writing and speaking I am called to do is for Him and because of Him. Jesus and I, we’re like this
– I crossed my middle finger on top of my index finger and looked at my hand.
Aren’t we?

Just in case, I figured I better head to the prayer room. After all, I am fully aware of the risk of heading off into ministry on my own strength. Falling on your face tends to be the result of those efforts. I prayed, Lord, I want You more than I want to serve You. I want to know You, be close to You, be able to say that we are tight.

It was a good prayer to pray, to ensure that things were right between me and the Lord. I fully expected to pray that very good prayer and go about my plans for the day. That is the moment God decided to completely mess up my plans.

Immediately, I was aware of a hollowness in my heart and an insincerity in my prayer. If my prayer were true, why had I neglected my quiet time with the Lord for the past two weeks as I prepared my book proposal? I knew I was a fraud. The good thing was to say that I wanted Jesus more than anything. The right thing was to show it.

The empty void in my heart bubbled up into my throat. Tears overtook my eyes. My chest shook as sobs wracked violently from my body. I fell to my knees, planted my face on the seat of a chair, and let God mess with me.

I am not sure how long I knelt in worship and repentance. It was long enough for my feet to tingle with numbness and copious snot to run down my face. It was long enough for God to turn my heart into one that truly did desire Him more than anything I could do to serve Him.

A whisper danced across my soul, and my Jesus asked me the question that cinched the deal and messed with my plans – not just for the day, but for everything. Tyler, do you really want Me more than anything? Do you want Me more than you want to sit down with that agent this afternoon? Do you want Me more than you want a publishing deal, a speaking ministry, and fancy networking relationships?

I stood, wiped the tears and snot from my face, waited for the feeling to return to my legs, and strode purposefully from that prayer room to the table perched outside the agent’s door. I confirmed that my name was indeed written down at the two o’clock time slot. It was. And I heard the devil ask me, “Surely He did not say that you could not have this meeting. You know He wants you to do all that you can to get His message out there.” I smiled at the girl behind the table, thanked her, and walked away – convinced that God just wanted my willingness and that I didn’t really have to give up that appointment.

Three clickity-clacking steps later my feet stopped moving. Something burned inside me. I was so uncomfortable! Love for Jesus and desire for significance warred within me. The bubble crawled up my throat once again. I turned back, ashamed, and asked the sweet lady to cross my name off the list as tears streamed down my cheeks. She asked, ”Are you sure?” “Yes,” I choked out, “God told me to cancel it.” She smiled and nodded. I could see in her eyes that she understood; God must have messed up her plans a time or two as well.

I have no doubt that if God intends for my book to be published He is able to make that happen, regardless of how many editors and agents I meet with. Ditto that for speaking engagements, networking opportunities, and ministry growth. So I'm going to let Him take care of that stuff - that's His job. My job is just to love my Jesus more than anything else.

Thank-you, Lord, for loving me enough to mess up my plans.

To see the verse the Lord gave me for my M & M these next two weeks, go here.

holy experience