Friday, July 29, 2011

Just a Mom, part six - Q & A

A curious thing has happened this week, as each post for this series went up... My stats counter tells me that you're reading the posts; in fact, that more people than usual are reading. Yet the comments are barren.

What does that mean?! Do you disagree with me, but don't want to tell me? (Of course, my mind goes straight to the negative! lol)

Really, though, I want to know... Has this series raised any questions? Anything I can help with? Anything you'd like me to clarify? A specific situation you'd like some suggestions for? A point you'd like to raise for some healthy debate discussion?

Today, I need your comments. Without them, I'll be left with nothing to post next week. Then I'll have to think. And that can be a dangerous thing over summer vacation. So help a sister out!

Fill up these comments with your Qs so I can A them (via video) next week!

Part one - it's okay to want more
Part two - 5 key principles for getting started
Part three - practical tips for getting out of the slump
Part four - it's not about you
Part five - finding your calling

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just a Mom, part five - Finding Your Calling

Part one - it's okay to want more

Part two - 5 key principles for getting started

Part three - practical tips for getting out of the slump

Part four - it's not about you

Today - finding your calling

Tomorrow - q & a (to be answered via video next week)

Let me start by asking you a question. Do you know what it is that God is calling you to do for His Kingdom?

If you don't, or if you're not sure, may I suggest four questions to ask yourself that will help you figure it out?

1. What am I good at that I also enjoy doing?

Seriously, it begins as simply as that! Ask yourself what you do well and also love to do.

As moms, we sometimes lose sight of our other skills and abilities. You may need to think back a ways to something you used to do that brought you pleasure.

Before kids, were you artistic, painting or creating things of beauty? Do you miss it? Is it possible that you could create art as a means of bringing God glory and sharing His love with others?

Before kids, did you have plans of being a social worker, helping families heal and repair? Do you miss it? Is there a way that you can help families now, even if you're not working in the social work field?

Another possibility is that you can't think of anything that gave you great pleasure until you became a mom. Perhaps you are absolutely gifted as a mother or a homemaker, and you find your joy in creating a beautiful home and teaching your children. Can I ask you, then, why you're keeping those skills to yourself? There are millions of us out there who are desperate for a patient mom to mentor us in the fine art of discipline, for example. How can you use your mothering skills to help others for His glory?

2. What am I passionate about?

Is there a certain topic that, when it comes up in conversation, you are utterly unable to resist voicing your opinion? Do you worry that you come across too strongly, simply because you feel so passionately about it?

Some examples... When teen sexuality comes up, do you go wild about the importance of teaching abstinence? If folks are talking politics and it turns to foreign aid, do you lose yourself in ideas of how to help impoverished countries? Are you gripped by the plight of a certain people group - either at home (homeless, abused, drug addicts...) or abroad (the Delits in India, the restavecs in Haiti, the child prostitutes in Thailand)?

Whatever puts a fire in your belly is probably related to your calling. Maybe you can't fly over to Amsterdam and hand out tracts to the drug dealers, but if you're passionate about it you can do something. Learn all you can, educate others, raise funds, send funds, PRAY.

3. What are my spiritual gifts?

Spiritual gifts are special gifts give by the Holy Spirit to believers when they accept Christ. These gifts don't necessarily manifest themselves immediately, though. Sometimes they take years to develop and grow in you.

There are a lot of gifts (I can't give you definite number), but some include: hospitality, healing, prophecy, administration, leadership, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, giving, music, writing, encouragement.

If you feel clueless about your spiritual gifts, I suggest taking a survey to help you get a clearer picture. Two of my favorites are: Finding Your Spiritual Gifts (a printed inventory by C. Peter Wagner) and Spiritual Gifts Test (an online tool).

4. What difficult things have I experienced in life?

You didn't think those hard things in life happened for no reason, did you? No way! We walk through hardship for two reasons: our own spiritual growth and to offer hope and encouragement to others.

When you've suffered the loss of a child, who brought you the most comfort? Likely someone else who had experienced the same thing. Depression? Abuse? Divorce? Teen pregnancy? Ask yourself which of your life experiences may have happened so that you could minister to others.

The hard part is being willing to share openly, so ask God for the courage to share what He wants you to and the wisdom to know how much or little to reveal for each situation.

After you've answered these four questions for yourself, you should have an idea of where God is calling you to serve. If you're still feeling clueless, just jump in and try something! Sometimes you don't know what you're good at until you've experienced it.

I once said those words to my mom, so she decided to try leading a women's Bible study. She's been doing it for at least five years now, leading one group and assisting three or four other leaders as they also facilitate groups!

On a final note, I also want to encourage you to re-evaluate periodically. Maybe every 3 years or so. While your spiritual gifts will never change, over time you may find certain gifts developing more strongly. And though we're all called and commissioned to bring the message of Christ to the ends of the earth, our individual specific roles in that commission may change over time. Sometimes a calling is for but a season...

In 2003, I wrote that I felt called to minister to young women and teens experiencing unplanned pregnancy. I served in various capacities at our local Pregnancy Care Centre for a number of years. More recently, I wrote that I feel called to be an encourager of women, drawing them into a deeper relationship with Christ using my gifts in writing, speaking, and mentoring. Pretty big shift, eh?

So tell me, do you know what you're called to do for this season of your life? If not, what steps are you going to take to figure it out?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just a Mom, part four - It's Not About You

Part One - it's okay to want more

Part Two - 5 key principles to getting started

Part Three - practical tips for getting out of the slump

Today - it's not about you

Tomorrow - finding your calling

That feeling of wanting more than being just a mom was put in you by the One who created you. But He didn't place that longing inside your spirit for you; He put it there for Him.

You were created to serve God with your life. Each and every one of us was. Yes, everyone. Not just the Christians.

If you're not a Christ-follower, just consider this for a moment... Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of life is? Have you ever wondered why you're here? Have you ever felt like there's more to it? Like something is missing? Just a little fyi, sweet friends, that empty hole was left in you by the God who created you, and it will only ever feel full and complete and satisfied once you know Him and serve Him.

If you are a Jesus girl, but you still feel that achy emptiness, might I suggest that you've only got one piece of the satisfaction formula? Fulfillment comes from both knowing Him and serving Him.

We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to serve. (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For?, pp. 229)

Warren describes two different ways of serving God, and says that each of us has both: a ministry and a mission.

Your ministry is simply serving others. Ministry is asking, "Whose needs can I meet?" and then meeting them.

Your mission is your specific, unique, God-given way of serving. Your mission is the combination of your skills, abilities, gifts, talents and personality with the people group that you have a love and a passion for.

For example, when I "do ministry" it may look like: delivering a meal to a new mom, offering to watch a friend's little ones, joining the women's ministry team in our church, signing up for a Sunday of helping in Sunday school, turning my husband's socks right-side-out when I do laundry (I assure you, that is ministry).

When I think of my mission - the specific thing God created me to do - I see women. A sea of beautiful faces, looking for hope and encouragement, desperate to experience the reality of Jesus in their everyday lives.

Too often, we make excuses to avoid being stretched. We don't want to be too busy (and most of us already feel too busy in filling our roles at home), to deal with the challenges of childcare, to try something new and fail... So we say things like, "I'll start serving at the church when my children are a bit older," or "I would have like to help that person out, but I just can't afford it right now," or "For this season, I need to put all my focus on my children."

Here's what God's Word says on the matter:

Now you belong to order that we might be useful in the service of God.
Romans 7:4 (TEV)

Because of God's great mercy...Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service.
Romans 12:1 (TEV)

Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give My life.
Matthew 20:28 (LB)

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of making excuses.

What's holding you back from serving God?

Head's up! On Friday, I'm going to be asking for your questions. What haven't I addressed in this series? Is there something you want me to elaborate on? Are you looking for more practical tips? Fill up my comments with your questions! I aim to answer them next week via video.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Just a Mom, part three - Practical Tips for Getting Out of the Slump

Part One - it's okay to want more

Part Two - 5 key principles to getting started

Us moms are not often known for our busy social lives. In fact, once we have children, many of us abandon all attempts at a social life. It feels too impossible to get out for the necessities (like grocery shopping), let alone for our own pleasure.

Those of us who get all cooped up, though, discover a few truths. First, being a socially isolated mom is lonely. Second, being a socially isolated mom is hard on our husbands. Third, we were made for community; there is something within us that craves fellowship.

If you are weary of feeling like "just a mom" and desperate to get out and get connected, here are a few things you can try that will help you get out and about:

1. Make friends with other moms.

Nothing is more enjoyable and chaotic than a visit over coffee and the cacophony of children playing together. So next time you spend even a few minutes chatting with another mom and you think to yourself, "I think I like her," just invite her over.

And please, do yourself (and her) a favor by not cleaning your house before she comes over. She will be more comfortable if you're real from the get-go. Why waste time pretending? Just be the real you in your real house with your real children.

2. Help out your mom friends.

Hear a friend mention she's got a doctor's appointment later in the week? Offer to babysit for her! (I know, you're wondering, "How in the world can I add two more children to my day?! I can barely survive with this one!") Here's the deal, though. In order to have good girlfriends, you need to be a good girlfriend. A few busy hours could result in both a lifelong friendship and a girlfriend who offers to watch your kids.

3. Hire a sitter.

I know how tight finances can be after a new baby arrives. And I know it's not easy to leave your precious little one in the hands of a teenager. But you need to do this! Here's why:

- If you take your time with a new sitter, teaching her how you want things done and letting her get to know your child(ren), you will have someone you know and trust to babysit.
- If you never take time away from your little ones, they will object (painfully, dramatically, and loudly) at the age of two and a half when you try to leave.
- If you and your hubby don't leave the house for dates every now and then, he will begin to feel like he's playing second fiddle to the kids.

If there are no creative ways for you to set aside funds for a sitter, go back to #2 and try doing a childcare swap with a friend.

4. Boss your feelings around.

Sometimes, us moms feel guilty for enjoying time away from our kids. We see other mommies who can't bear to be apart from their progeny, and we think perhaps something is wrong with us for not missing them. Can I tell you something about those mommies? They are either: 1. lying, or 2. unhealthily attached.

It is not healthy for mother or child to never experience periods of separation. It can be damaging to your marriage and it totally ties your identity to your child(ren). But that is not who you are! Who you are is:

- a child of God
- a daughter of the King
- a princess and heir in the most royal of families
- a woman with a calling (only part of which is being a mother)
- a woman with needs, dreams, and desires
- a women created by God to have needs, dreams, and desires

So if you feel guilty for leaving the kids, tell your guilt to take a hike. If you feel guilty for wanting and enjoying time away from the kids, give your guilt the boot. The enemy is called the accuser for a reason - he twists everything into an accusation, hoping to cause feelings of guilt, and expecting us to let those feelings dictate our actions.

But you've got victory on your side! Resist the devil (and his accusations) and he will flee!

It is okay for you to want more. In fact, God designed you to want more. He created you in His own image; He created you for fellowship and companionship and relationship. Yes, He created you to mother children, too. But not at the exclusion of all else.

There's one more facet to address in this series - ministry (or service) as a mom. We'll tackle that one tomorrow.

So hey, do you struggle with feelings of guilt when it comes to taking time away from the kids? How do you deal with it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just a Mom, part two - 5 Key Principles to Getting Started

Last week I shared some thoughts on why it's good for us to strive for more than being "just a mom" (part one - it's okay to want more).

Today, I'll offer some principles that will help turn our desire into a reality. Tomorrow, I'll pull out some practical tips on making it happen.

1. Make a list.

Are you surprised that my first suggestion involves list making? Really, though, the list is the most important step.

List all the things you wish you could do but don't have the time for. List all the things you used to do but felt you had to give up. List your personal hobbies, interests, dreams, and goals. Write it all down!

Once your list is written, begin sorting the items on the list according to a few categories: no longer important to me, something for later (whether a different phase in your life or your kids' lives), and important for today. If your 'important for today' list is fairly long, you'll need to rank the items by priority.

On my list of things I'd like to start doing today: writing, building friendships, regular dates with my husband, being involved in my church. For lots of women fitness makes it way onto the list, or a crafty hobby like scrapbooking, or volunteering at the kids' school.

2. Start small.

For most of us, going on a diet doesn't work if we attempt to revamp our entire lives in one day. It's the gradual, consistent implementation of changes that convert our lifestyles and our waistlines. The same is true of finding time for ourselves apart from our children. Slow and gradual just works better.

Choose one item from your list that you'd like to fit into your life and only focus on that item.

When we first moved (nearly two years ago now), building friendships ranked number one. Little by little, I saw that beginning to happen. So then I bumped writing to the top. I'm still working on building friendships, but have reassigned some of my attention to writing.

3. Search for windows.

Windows of time, I mean. In every mom's day, there are little chunks of time that are not filled with motherly duties. Others refer to these as pockets of time or margins. Whatever you call them - they're there. Your job is to identify them.

Not only do you need to find those windows, you need to figure out what's filling them right now. Then decide which matters more to you - the thing you're currently doing that uses up your chunks of time, or the thing you wish you were doing.

Building friendships - I decided that this was something I could incorporate into daily living. I didn't need to set aside a special time or make crazy childcare arrangements. I could invite a new friend and her kids over virtually any day. It just meant that sometimes I had to plan ahead as far as housework. Just because it was cleaning day didn't mean I couldn't have coffee, it simply meant I needed to clean around the coffee date - either before, after, or on a different day that week.

4. Schedule.

If it's important to you, schedule it in. Most moms these days have a day planner or a smart phone or something to keep track of appointments on. Use that same tool for allowing yourself time to add that one thing.

If it's in the calendar, it feels less like wasting time or stealing time (from the ever-present housekeeping needs) and more like time well-spent. Scheduling things, even fun things like singing lessons - if that made the top of your list - makes it feel more intentional and less frivolous. It's a mind-set thing.

Writing - I realized that I spent a lot of time on Facebook and reading blogs. Hours spent entertaining myself that could be spent crafting words. So I gave myself a rule - no reading until after the writing. The first thing I do in the mornings (following my quiet time) is write my blog post. Then I reward myself with a quick skim of FB status updates. After lunch, I try to do a bit more writing-related stuff, then I get to read up on other people's blogs.

5. Don't live by the schedule.

Yes, I did just contradict myself. The thing is, you can't be so married to your schedule that you become inflexible. It's okay to skip a day of knitting - if that's what made your list - in order to babysit a friend's child. Life happens, children get sick, emergencies come up, time gets away from us... The best way to handle life's interruptions is to be flexible.

For example, read Friday's blog post. I was busy packing for a two events - a boy's week at camp and a wedding that our whole family was attending. I realized that writing this post simply could not fit into my morning without me turning into a stressed-out shrew.

So go ahead. Make your list. What's stopping you?

What activity (or activities) make top priority on your list for today?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do blonds have more fun? I'll let you know...

The follow-up I promised to yesterday's post is going to have to wait until Monday. Just in case you were wondering. We've got a wedding to attend tomorrow and I simply must get my hair made more blond this morning. So I'm sorry, you lose out in favor of the blondness. {grin}

In the meantime, I've got two favors to ask you...

1. If you're from Sherwood Park or Edmonton, would you please take a moment to answer my brief survey? (I'm hoping to set up a FREE teaching series for women in the fall, but I need to know what topic you'd like me to focus on.) Let me know that you did the survey, and you'll have the chance to win a Chapters gift card.

And if you would like to share it with some friends (on FB, Twitter, your blog, or by email), please do! Don't forget to let me know that you've shared it, so you get extra entries in the prize draw.

2. I'm looking for some guest posts on this here blog, so that I can enjoy my summer vacation and do absolutely NOTHING. If you're interested in guest posting, just email me your post by August 3. No major guidelines, as long as you're writing for an audience of Christian women.

And hey, have a fantastic weekend!

P.S. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, why don't you click on over and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. You'll thank me later for helping you kill two minutes. {wink}

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just a Mom, part one - It's Okay to Want More

A question I often hear, especially from young moms with one or two little (busy) ones, is some variation of "How do you do it all?" What they mean is, "How can you possibly be involved in other things, like ministry or writing or a small group or (fill in the blank) when you've got five kids? I can't imagine being able to do anything else. It's so busy with these little people!"

When I'm asked that, my heart fills with a mixture of compassion and excitement. Compassion... because the long, lonely, overwhelming days of being a new mom are never far from my memory. Excitement... because I love watching the thrill overtaking the face of a new mom who discovers she is not (and was not meant to be) just a mom.

I realize that what I just said may ruffle some feathers, but before anyone gets too worked up let me add this... I do believe that motherhood is one of the most important, profound, blessed callings. I also believe that many of us have a tendency to fill our lives with other stuff and neglect the importance of interactive, intentional parenting. What I'm saying is not to oppose the importance of mothering, but to enhance it.

For many of us, those first years of motherhood are a time of isolation and loss. We begin to question... Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Will the rest of my days be marked by an endless cycle of changing diapers and sweeping floors? In my experience, even a woman who's always dreamed of becoming a mother experiences some level of identity crisis when her child(ren) are young.

So when a mom of young children asks me how I do it, I try to encourage her with these five thoughts:

1. It is less a matter of how I do these other things than how I could survive without them.

There's is nothing more refreshing to an overwhelmed mom than hearing someone honestly say to them, "It's okay to want more. Don't feel guilty. I want more, too."

2. Grandma always said, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!"

In twenty or so years, these children of mine won't need me (at least not the way they do right now), and if they are my everything, I will eventually be left with nothing.

3. Doing things other than being a mom helps me be a better mother.

Spending a couple hours in a committee meeting with six other women as we plan our church's women's retreat, for example, fills me up. I feel energized and rejuvenated, both by the fellowship and the sense of purpose. So when I come home to my family, my joy spills over into how I interact with them.

4. Being a mom doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't serve in my church and my community.

In His Word, God calls us to show a special love to fellow believers and to take care of widows and orphans. Nowhere does it add, "unless you're busy being a mother." Having small children changes how we do ministry, but it does not make it impossible.

5. Being involved in other things is a beautiful example to my children.

It is good for my children to see me serving God and others. Seeing that the world doesn't revolve around them helps to tame their selfish nature. Sacrificing a small amount of time with mom teaches them that it's better to give than to receive. Observing my passion in ministry inspires them to ask God how He's calling them to serve.

Ultimately, we all make time for things that matter to us. We find time to go on Facebook, read blogs, and watch our favorite TV shows. We shuffle our schedules in order to get to the gym, create scrapbooks, or even attend appointments. It's not impossible or insurmountable to get out of the house and get involved in something. But it does require making a choice, making a plan, and being a little creative.

Tomorrow, I hope to share a few creative ways to get out of the house and allow yourself to be more than just a mom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Man in the Mirror

Braeden has this teenage boy thing he does every time he's in the bathroom - he stops and admires himself in the mirror. His self-admiration is usually accompanied by a self-conversation.

The other day as he was getting in the shower, I overheard him chatting. Like any self-respecting mother, I decided to pause outside the door and eavesdrop for just a moment. I heard him telling his mirror self, "You are just like Justin Bieber! You are Justin Bieber!"

I chuckled and told myself I had to remember that one.

After the shower, Braeden approached me with a question. I didn't have an answer for him, so I sent him to his Dad. (I probably could've answered, but I knew it would be more fun if Pat and I could chat and giggle about it later.)

"Dad," Braeden said, "I need to ask you something."

"What's up, Buddy?"

"I need some tips."

"Huh? Tips? What do you mean?"

"Tips. About girls. How do you get girls to like you? You know, like Justin Bieber."

I realize that Braeden may not appreciate me sharing this (and no, I didn't ask his permission). But seriously, how stinkin' cute is that?! I simply must keep this story on hand for future blackmail humiliation use!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Missing Piece

I couldn't sleep last night. I'm sure it was partly due to the cup of coffee I had during our meeting (I really ought to invest in some decaf, people). Largely, I think my inability to sleep was the result of great joy. Joy because of a meeting.

Those of you who abhor meetings are gagging a bit right now. That's okay. I am fully aware of my nerdiness.

The meeting consisted of a small group of women who barely knew each other taking a few tiny steps in planning our church's first women's retreat. I felt the anticipation as I set out fresh cut veggies that the staff of my local supermarket had slaved over. Joy and fulfillment overtook me as we met, discussing and praying over our first major decision. And after everyone left, it was like a missing piece of my soul clicked into place.

Those of you who hate event planning are gagging even more than the meeting-haters. I understand. It's not for everyone. In fact, I'm not even sure it's for me.

It wasn't the meeting that stirred my passions. Nor was it the planning. It was the act of leading, mentoring, guiding, and pouring into other women. I hate to be cheesy and mis-quote an overused line from a movie I've never seen, but I feel God's pleasure when I am leading.

I love writing, speaking to groups is a thrill, and organizing gives me a sense of accomplishment...but nothing brings the soul satisfaction that comes from mentoring other women.

This surge of joy has me realizing something... In pursuit of writing and speaking and platform-building, I allowed myself to become too isolated. In my isolation, I not only drifted from the experience of fellowship with women, I slipped away from fellowship with God. This morning, I awoke with a burning inside - a desperation - to spend time in the presence of Jesus.

Don't get me wrong, I am wildly in love with writing (and speaking is growing on me more and more). I remain certain that God has called me to minister to women in those ways. I realized, though, that I cannot allow the far reach of that type of ministry to supersede the intimate reach of personal mentorship of women right here in my community.

They're not exclusive. In fact, they are intrinsically intertwined. If I'm not involved in intimate and personal ministry, I cannot succeed in ministry that reaches far and wide. Losing the intimacy distances me from the tangible needs of real women. Losing the intimacy distances me from the heart of my Father. And I find the reality of my relationship with Him falling short of what I know it can be.

I thought that this season in my life might be about teaching me to lean on Him and Him alone for my fulfillment. I thought maybe I needed to learn more about being rather than doing. I think I was wrong. The sweetness of joy that comes from doing life with others is a vital aspect of being His. For me, they can't be compartmentalized.

Do you have a thing that you do, something that draws you closer to God by doing it? Something that, if missing from your life, would leave you wondering why it's so hard to connect with Him?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Undoing

Did I mention that we're going to Grand Goave, Haiti this winter?

(On the map, look left of Port-au-Prince. See Petite Goave? It's somewhere near there.)

Pat went in the falls of 2009 and 2010. He fell in love. So did I.

My heart split wide open for the Haitian people by sharing in Pat's experience. I think perhaps this trip will be my undoing.

I think I probably need to be undone.

Is there a place or people group that you love beyond all reasonable explanation?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Pitch

In the wanna-be author world, there are three things of utmost importance:

1. Great writing
2. A growing platform
3. A fantastic pitch.

I'm working on #s 1 and 2 daily, but #3 is one that only gets used when you actually have the opportunity to meet with Agents and Publishers. Since my last meeting with anyone in the publishing world was at She Speaks nearly a year ago, my pitch has gotten a little rusty.

Thankfully, Brooke McGlothin is having a little big contest that's making me brush-up my elevator pitch! (An elevator pitch is the short version of your pitch - about 1-2 minutes in length - that you can use when you bump into an Agent, Editor, or Publisher in public. Except not in the bathroom. That is a big no-no!) And how handy is it that Rachelle Gardner outlined a good pitch for us in her blog today?!

Imagine the put-together me standing next to you as we ride an elevator to the 15th floor, with one or two stops along the way. Here I am...

(Cue music to Aerosmith's Love in an Elevator, because that's the song in my head as I write this.)

Hi, my name is Tyler Rowan, and I am so glad I bumped into you because I am seeking an agent to represent me.

I'm writing a Christian non-fiction book that I'd love to tell you about. Do you mind if I walk with you for just a minute?

My book is called Mommy, Why Are You Angry?: Breaking Free From Anger, One Mother To Another.

By transparently sharing my own battle as a (former) angry mother to five, I hope to 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 both spiritual and hands-on strategies to help them find freedom from their anger and become the mothers God intended them to be.

I've been blogging since 2008 and have a steadily growing platform that I'm very committed to. One of my articles was recently published in P31 Woman magazine, I have a number of articles pending with other magazines (including MOMSense, a MOPS publication), and my writing is being regularly featured on Family Life Canada's website (a division of Power to Change). I was also published in a psychological journal while pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in University.

May I leave you a copy of my one-sheet?

Thank you for taking the time to hear me. I hope that I've caught your interest and will hear from you in the near future!

Tell me what you think - really, honestly, tell me! Does it catch your interest? Do you want to hear more? Is there anything you'd change/delete/add? (To answer your unspoken question - yes, the book title really does appear in red, even when I'm speaking.)

And just in case you happen to know someone in the publishing industry, please be assured that you are more than welcome to pass my elevator pitch along! In fact, I encourage it. There may even be chocolate or wine in it for you...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Preventing Road-Trip Rage

If you have small children and have attempted to journey any farther than a couple hours in your vehicle, you know the definition of road trip rage.

When will we be there?

Stop looking at me!

Mooooom, she's on my half!

How much longer?

The DVD player's dead!

He's not sharing the markers!

Are we there yet?

Moooooom, he keeps breathing on me!

You try counting... 1 -2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6- 7- 8 - 9 - 10... But all that does is give you more time to think about what to say as you lecture/yell/scowl/threaten the little beings in the back seat (or in my case, back seats).

A couple years ago, we tried something that has forever changed how we approach road trips. (Which is good, because we can't afford to fly seven people next door, let alone anywhere fun. Which means road trips are likely to be our means of transportation for a long, long time.)

We began our road trip by handing each child a roll of quarters in a Ziploc baggie. They were informed that they each had $10 in their hands, and it was theirs to use for buying a souvenir once we reached our destination. They were also informed that we would "match" their $10, ultimately giving each kid $20 for a keepsake (because we all now how far ten bucks goes at Disneyland).

However, they were warned that their souvenir fund would be reduced, one quarter at a time, for bad behavior. I listed some example behaviors that they'd have to pay me for: whining, arguing, disobedience, asking the same question every 10 minutes, etc. For any behavior that was out-of-line, they'd have to pay Mom. With the exception of being unkind to a sibling - then they'd have to pay that sibling.

Within the first hour or two on the road, each kid had probably lost a dollar. But for some of them, that was all they lost.

As I collected more money, I also began discreetly paying out quarters. If I saw kind, unselfish behavior toward a sibling, I slipped a coin into that child's Ziploc baggie.

When we arrived at our destination, one child was able to purchase a memento that cost $20. Another child had to search high and low to find a trinket that cost about $9. The child with $9 whined about the unfairness of it all, until I collected another quarter AND took back one of mine, leaving only $8.50.

Can you believe that a Mini Mouse on a key chain (two inches tall) cost over $8?!

If you don't want to rage while you're on a road trip, try it out! You'll be surprised how easy it is to keep your cool (even when the kids aren't). And if the kids are particularly bratty, that's more money back in your purse. It's win-win.

Want to find other handy tips? Visit Works-for-me Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Share the Love

Ever struggle with jealousy when you see others succeeding where you're struggling? No? It's just me? Well then, you probably won't need to read this post. But I sure did!

When Grown-Up Sibling Rivalry Rears Its Ugly Head

If you're a developing speaker (like me), you've probably wondered the same question I posed...How in the world do I generate word of mouth when I'm speaking only a few times a year? Sheila answered my question in one of the most informative blog posts I've ever read!

How to Use Photos to Get the Word Out

So how 'bout you go check out these posts, mkay?!

Because I got nothin' for ya today. Nope. Lazy day. Baking cookies via a big, rolled tube of dough and watching TV.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Survey for Local Gals

If you're from Sherwood Park, Edmonton, or the surrounding area, I need your help!

I am in the process of developing a FREE Bible-based teaching series for women in Sherwood Park. In order to best address the needs of the women in our community, I'm asking for your feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey.

Please pass it along to other women from the community, too. (You can share using this link:, or just send them to this blog post.)

Once you've completed the survey, just let me know (in the comments of this post, via email, on Facebook, by text, or whatever) and you'll be entered to win a Chapters gift card! And if you send the link to friends or share in on Facebook or Twitter, let me know and you'll gain extra entries.

Would you consider taking a few minutes to answer my survey?

Click here to take survey

* If you attend the series (hopefully coming this fall), I guarantee you'll find it time well spent. It'll be worth it just for the funny faces I make while speaking!

Helping our Kids Experience a Living and Active Relationship with Jesus Christ

Being a parent can often feel like being a referee. Or a cat herder. Or a paramedic. Or a prison warden.

Parenting is a game of reaction. Something happens, then we react. We pray our reactions stop bad behavior, encourage good behavior, and help our children to grow into good and Godly adults.

I've been using this method for years with generally good results. At times, if I think my current reactions aren't getting the above results, I'll experiment with different types of reactions (aka new methods of discipline). Most things I try seem to produce the three results mentioned above.

The other evening, after a long, late-night conversation with one of my children about some stuff that child is struggling with (fitting in, bullying, lying, swearing, over-emotional reactions), I wrote these words:

My children are desperate to experience God as a reality in their lives. They need to see that Jesus works and He can truly help them in life's struggles.

With those words, my parenting goals shifted. I'm no longer solely focused on increasing good behavior and decreasing bad behavior, hoping that we all survive until they reach adulthood. My number one priority as a parent must be helping my kids experience a true and personal relationship with Jesus Christ in their everyday lives.

Sure, I'll still need to react and run interference. Discipline and encouragement cannot be abandoned. But there's a new element that needs to take precedence, and it cannot just be reactionary. I need to turn in my striped referee shirt and whistle for a t-shirt labelled "Coach."

We can't help our children experience Jesus personally with phrases like, "Do you think that Jesus would like the way you're treating your sibling right now?" That makes Jesus look like us - reactionary. We don't want Him to be a "watchdog" over our kids' behaviors; we want Him to be a resident of their hearts.

Teaching Jesus - at a heart level - needs to be proactive, planned, and interactive.

Proactive - Acting in advance rather than reacting.
Planned - Regularly scheduled.
Interactive - A dialogue or conversation rather than a monologue (commonly referred to as a lecture).

Here are three things we're going to try at home to help our children experience the reality of Jesus working in their lives:

1. Learning together. This week we will begin working through the Kids of Integrity curriculum (by Focus on the Family) together. Our first lesson (chosen by the earlier mentioned child) - honesty.

* On a little side-note, KOI is giving away an iPad 2 to those who sign up! Use my link to enter the contest, and you help increase my chances of winning. :)

2. Visioning together. Anyone who has ever led a team knows how much stronger the team becomes if everyone "buys into" the organization's vision. I think the same is true of a family (is there any team more important than family?). So I would like us to develop a family vision, mission statement, values, etc. based in Scripture.

How will this look in practical terms? We'll start with a family meeting, do some brainstorming, and go from there.

3. Following the Holy Spirit together. If I had to name one single thing that grew my faith, it would be the experience of "hearing" the Holy Spirit, listening, and then experiencing the results of that obedience. I want to be more intentional about sharing our obedience with our children, and inviting them to participate in it.

For example, the next time one of my kids wants to give away their favorite toy, I will not suggest they take some time to think about it. Instead, I will praise them for listening to God and help them obey immediately. Or when Pat and I feel led to do something for someone, we'll share the story with the kids over dinner. And when we're in need of provision, and God provides, our whole family will praise the Lord together.

What do you do to help your kids (or the kids you have influence on) experience a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ?

Or, like me, have you been stuck in reaction mode for too long? If so, what is one thing you could begin to do that would take you from reactive to being proactive, planned, and interactive?

Friday, July 8, 2011

When You Want to Help Everyone

I'm an idea girl. I hear something, which triggers another something in my heart and my brain, then I say, "Hey, we should...."

I overheard a conversation between two moms at school. One was talking about how she has left the church and won't be returning. The other encouraging her to try a new church, offering her hope and resources. Hey, we should study The Purpose Driven Life together!

I meet a young mom who's feeling overwhelmed with the demands of caring for her two small children. Hey, I should offer to babysit for her sometimes!

I listen to the stories of the struggles of a few of my single mom friends. Hey, we should pay her rent this month!

A couple shares a few tidbits that lead us to believe their marriage is struggling. Hey, we should do some marriage mentoring with them!

I overhear a group of women talking about how they long to spend a weekend on retreat growing closer to God and other women from the church. Hey, we should plan a retreat!

Ideas come to me like flashes of lightening. But the reality is...I can't help everyone. I don't have time to do everything I want to do. I can't afford to do everything I want to do. And I'm not called to do everything I want to do.

Can anyone else relate to this desire to do something to help everyone?!

So how do we decide what good things to do?

1. Don't blurt.

My biggest downfall is my big mouth. I think "Hey..." and then I say it. Once a word has been said, it's very difficult (not to mention humbling) to retract it. When an idea comes, I'm learning to say, "You know, I have an idea here. Let me take some time to pray about this and if God prompts me I'll share this idea with you."

2. Do pray.

A few years back I prayed, asking God to give me His eyes and His heart for the people I encounter each day. I'm pretty sure that's why I wish I could help everyone. Even though feeling deep compassion for everyone you meet brings a bit of confusion, I strongly recommend doing it. Because if we don't have His eyes and heart, we'll miss out on every opportunity. I'd rather accidentally over commit and try to bless too many people than do nothing at all.

3. Ask Him each time.

I am learning to take each of my "Hey, I should..." to God. I'll pray, asking Him to show me if I can be a blessing to this person and how. The funny thing is, He often prompts me to just pray. Not just for that person, but with that person. Right then and there. While our society tends to put a lot of emphasis on practical help, our God puts His emphasis on spiritual help.

4. Obey.

When I ask about those things that stir up my heart, sometimes God tells me to do something practical. Like babysit her kids or invite them to a marriage Bible study. Sometimes, like I said, those ideas are impractical. I don't have the time, money, or energy to follow through on them. Yet God tells me to do it anyway. It's when we need to tap into His strength to bless others that we can truly experience His power in our lives.

5. Wait.

Other times, when I ask God, He tells me to do nothing. Nothing. It's hard to stand back when I think I can be a help, but sometimes it's not my job. When we step in to fill a gap that God hasn't called us to fill, we are stealing the blessing of obedience and service from someone else.

Have you learned any lessons about doing things that God hasn't asked you to do? Or maybe not doing things that He has called you to?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My summer to do list

1. Spring cleaning. Is it okay to call it that when it's summer? And can I still have it on my list if I'm hiring someone to do it?

2. Paint house. I'd really like to do the main floor and the master bedroom. (The kids can wait; they always get the cool paint jobs before me.)

3. Stain deck. We're all tired of getting slivers in our feet. And apparently not one of us learned our lesson about wearing our shoes.

4. Write 1 article per week (when I'm not on vacation) for guest posting and/or magazine submission.

5. Go to the beach.

6. Get the dog's hair cut. Short.

7. Attempt to do something to help our weed-infested back yard.

8. Lose weight.

9. Find lots of cheap/free things to do and spend our pennies on our vacation. We'll be driving to Manitoba to see relatives, camping along the way.

10. Begin to learn French as a family.

11. Read The Purpose Driven Life again. (Last time was in 2003/04.)

12. Do Love & Respect with our small group. (Pat and I last did the series five or so years ago. It was so fantastic that we've decided to do it again! Time for a refresher...)

13. Search for a new freelancing gig. My previous gig, writing content for an Australian credit card website, seems to be petering out. And quite frankly, I'm missing the extra cash.

14. Determine my next strategic step in growing my speaking/writing/coaching ministry. (Read: figure out how to get more bookings. Hey - do you know a women's ministry leader? Maybe you can pass on my name and contact info. *wink*)

15. Be joyful always. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16. I find it easy to get caught up in the frustrations of having five kids home and running wild for nine weeks, so this summer I am resolving to change my attitude.

An ambitious list? Sure. Impossible? No. And it helps that my goal is to do what I can. If summer ends and there are five items left on my list, so be it. They'll just get added to the fall list. :)

What are you up to this summer?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Confessions of a Conditional Forgiver

I am a confronter.

I am not one to let problems sit and simmer until I feel ready to blow. I am not one to push issues aside and pretend they don't exist. I prefer to deal with stuff head-on.

On the other hand, I am also very quick to forgive. Once something is out on the table and has been discussed, I'm ready to let go and move forward.

Recently, I've been feeling like God keeps telling me to skip step one and move right to step two. Forgive, let go, and move forward - no confrontation. But my human nature fights against that, telling me that in doing so, I'm avoiding the issue and letting those who hurt me off the hook.

It's not like I think they need to be punished, but that if someone causes a hurt they need to be made aware. After all, if they don't know they've hurt me, what's to stop them from doing it again?

The family member whose neglect of both me and my kids ought to know that we feel ignored, right?

The family member who has nothing to say to me on Facebook when I share my life, but insists on commenting when I post anything that is not agreeable - that person should at least know that all negative and no positive hurts, right?

The friend(s) who don't seem to be as interested as putting in the effort as I am to maintain our friendship need to be told that my feelings are hurt, right?

The friend who inadvertently betrayed my confidence and shared a private hurt publicly - that friend doesn't deserve to be shamed or anything, but really should know that I feel betrayed, right?

I mean, if people never even know that they've hurt someone, how can they prevent it from happening again? Right? Am I right, here?

Some folks won't forgive until they believe a person has truly changed. Some people won't forgive unless there's restitution. Some won't forgive until they get an apology.

I've always prided myself on my forgiving nature. I don't require changed people, restitution, or even an apology. I just want the person to know how I feel. Then I can forgive, no problem!

I've always been told that being willing to confront, in a loving way, is a good thing...Especially as compared to being non-confrontational or an avoider. In fact, learning to confront others in a way that does not leave them feeling hurt or attacked but provides them with new awareness and insight is a skill! At least, that's what I've been told. And that's what I've believed.

But in God's eyes, unforgiveness is unforgiveness. In His Kingdom, forgiveness is not supposed to be conditional.

I realize that I've been using my skills in confrontation as a means of putting conditions on my forgiveness.

So how do I move into free forgiveness? The kind of forgiveness that is offered without any conditions? Without any confrontation? Without any "letting people know" anything?

Here are three truths I'm trying to remind myself of, as I bite my tongue (and hold my fingers) and learn to unconditionally forgive:

1. Offering forgiveness does not let someone off the hook. My job is not justice or even creating awareness. Those are God's jobs. He will convict when someone does wrong. He will ensure that justice - His way - is served. Whether I forgive or not, He will deal with each person how He sees fit.

2. Offering forgiveness does set me free. The only person held captive by my unforgiveness is me. My emotions are tangled up. My tension level is high. My stomach is in knots. The unaware offender is, well, blissfully unaware. And those who offend knowingly are fooled into believing that they feel better for it. I'm the only one here who is stuck, hurting.

3. I have been commanded to forgive. Not everyone knows and loves God, which - in some ways - makes their hurtfulness less wrong. But I do know and love God. And if I choose to wallow in unforgiveness, I am wrong. Wrong with people and wrong with Him. If I want to be right with my God, I must forgive without conditions.

Forgiveness is not like writing a blank cheque, allowing someone the opportunity to take whatever they want. Forgiveness is more like taking someone's IOU and stamping it "paid in full," releasing them of the debt they owe. And if we refuse to forgive the debts owed to us by others, how can we expect our debt to be forgiven by the One who paid for us?

So for today, as I wrestle with my desire to confront, I will take my confrontations to God. I will remind Him of His job - to convict, to serve justice. I will pour out my hurt feelings and frustrations to Him and allow His awareness of my feelings to be my comfort. And I will try to let go - not to forget or avoid or pretend, but to just forgive.

Is there a hurt that you're struggling to forgive today? I would love to pray for you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's been thirteen whole years, baby!

In honor of our thirteenth wedding anniversary (yesterday), the top thirteen things I admire about my husband.

13. He is so much fun to hang out with. Never a dull moment! (Just this weekend we went tubing behind a boat like we were kids. A few weeks ago we discovered geocaching. We've started camping - for fun. Need I say more?!)

12. His smart-alec sense of humor keeps a smile on my face.

11. He makes his daughters feel beautiful AND smart.

10. He builds up his sons' confidence. He not only teaches them new things and spends guy time with them, but he's quick to let them know he's proud of who they are.

9. He is a gifted encourager, always able to convince people to "keep on keeping on."

8. He is extravagantly generous with his time, his money, and his possessions. If you need help, he's the guy to call.

7. He looks for ways to show love to me, such as buying me a lounge chair for our camping weekend. (It's not his fault the lounge chair didn't end up being all that comfortable, lol.)

6. He watched a chick flick with me last night and didn't make a single smart-alec comment.

5. He vacuums the house nearly every week because he knows it's my least favorite job.

4. He agreed to try Weight Watchers with me, even though the meetings are nerdy.

3. He's handy around the house and can fix up most everything that breaks down.

2. He loves God and is always looking for ways to grow spiritually.

1. He is the hardest working, most passionate, unselfish guy I know. If he's going to commit to something, he goes all the way with it. (Which is why he's so deserving of the promotion he got on Friday!

And, here are a few camping photos. Just because. (Apparently I did not pull out my camera or my phone while at the actual campsite. So here are some photos from the beach.)

Click to enlarge. If you are receiving this post via email, you may need to visit my blog in order to see all the photos.