Posted in Church, Everyday Life, Faith

Welcoming the Unchurched

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What message are we communicating to our unchurched neighbors this Easter?

I hope it’s one of hope and love and acceptance, but when I read some of the church signs I’ve seen recently, I can’t help but wonder.

Signs that suggest that coming to church on Easter is a bad thing – if you don’t show up on other Sundays as well.

Those signs make my heart hurt for those who will read them and feel shamed by them. Perhaps they were thinking about attending church this Easter, but now feel unwelcome. I can’t say that I blame them.

When did we become a people who criticize others when their church attendance doesn’t match up with ours? When did we lose sight of the wonderful opportunity Resurrection Sunday brings? The opportunity to extend God’s love, grace, and compassion to those who aren’t sitting in our services regularly. What a tragic mistake on our part.

I suppose this matter resonates with me because there was a time when I also attended church only on special occasions. I have family members who still do this. I also have family and friends who never attend, not even on Easter. How thrilled I would be to have them join me at church sometime, anytime, even if it’s only once a year.

My challenge to you, my fellow church-goers, is this …

When you notice unfamiliar faces in church this Easter, give them a sincere welcome. Silently lift up a prayer on their behalf. Rejoice in your heart that they are there. Who knows, maybe your kindness will make them feel as if they belong, or at the very least, fill them with the hope of belonging. Maybe your hospitality will tear down the wall guarding their heart, enabling them to breathe easier and hear a fresh word from God.

Maybe they’ll experience enough goodness to bring them back. If not next week, maybe the week after. Or three months from now. Or next Easter. Regardless of when, or even if they return to a specific church or building, the love and truth shown to them on Easter Sunday will not be forgotten.

But before this message can be conveyed within the church, it must be conveyed outside the church. On the signs mounted in our parking lots. In our attitudes as we talk and do business within our communities. In our actions as we choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Let’s work on creating a message that sounds something like this —

Yes, we are open on Sundays. Won’t you please come and join us?

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

Living in Denial ~ Part 2

ground view into trees

We find ourselves in denial at various seasons of life. And whether the issue we’re battling is one we’ve brought on ourselves or one in which we had absolutely no control, denial is  common to both.

Broken relationships. Trouble with the law. Abuse. Failing grades. Serious illness. Job loss. Death of a loved one. Financial hardship. Addiction. Rebellion.  And that’s only the top of the pile.

This is what mine currently looks like —

I muster the courage to step onto the scales only after struggling – and losing the battle-  to comfortably fit into my “big” jeans. The scales confirm it.  Denial has not been my friend.

I’ve admitted to others, and even to myself occasionally, that staying on track with this whole exercise, healthy eating kind-of-lifestyle is not working too well for me.

I don’t deny there is a problem. The difficulty for me is owning up to that problem. To admit it is truly mine, and my choices have landed me in this predicament.  To admit those choices are in reality, tiny little denials stacked up, one on top of the other, finally resulting in large, ugly consequences (such as a closet full of clothes that no longer fit).

Small choices such as skipping a workout here or there, eating that small piece of chocolate cake, or drinking that delicious five hundred plus calorie frappe (yes, you read that right; I was shocked too), all the while ignoring the reality that these isolated events may cost me more than I care to believe. 

The hard truth for me is this:  one or two missed workouts will likely lead to several; one small piece of cake often makes me crave more; and those frappes – let’s just say they can be quite addictive for a coffee-loving girl on a hot summer day. 

So for me to know these truths about myself and to disregard them, choosing to indulge anyway, is extremely risky.  Such behavior usually pushes me down a slippery slope straight into the hands of defeat.

When tough issues are swirling around, denial appears to be the simplest way out. But denial is a master of disguise.  It prolongs the battle.  To win this fight, to finish well, to find victory, sooner or later I must consciously commit to stand up against denial.

I must look this bully in the eye and declare, “Enough!”  I must courageously call my issues what they are … deep-rooted struggles needing excavation. I must be willing to hear the truth –  and allow it to soak into my very being.

This is where I begin to win again.

But I’ll need a little help (perhaps a lot of help) along the way. And despite my stubbornness and blindness to the truth at times, I know exactly where to look …

Care to join me, my friend?

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

Living in Denial ~ Part 1

brick wall

Somewhere along my journey, I became a little too acquainted with denial.

It began several years ago when financial ruin stood hovering over me like an angry wolf.  I felt paralyzed by fear.  Fear of being unable to pay this or that bill. Fear of losing my home, vehicle, and much of everything else. Fear that losing these things would somehow make me, as a person, less valuable, less loved. This fear gripped me tightly, threatening to strangle the very life from me- life as I knew it anyway.

Some days the best I could do was breathe. And go through the motions. And hope for a miracle.  My current reality in no way resembled the visions I had conjured up in my mind of a beautiful future.  No, this was a hard place. Harder than anything I had ever experienced. And humbling, oh so humbling. Learning to accept help from others. Sometimes needing to ask for help from others.  This is not where I wanted to be. This was not my idea of living.

So how did I respond? 

I unconsciously created a wall of defense around myself. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that wall was called denial, and it was my coping mechanism. I began to deny or ignore everything I considered too difficult to deal with -anything I could not tolerate -anything which led me to anxiety.

At the top of my list was the tall stack of bills accumulating in my mailbox.  I had no means to pay them so I left them stranded in the box, hoping somehow they would not only vanish, but actually fail to exist. Wishful thinking, I know.  But see, that’s what you do in denial.  Intellectually, you know ignoring the bills will not make them go away. Yet emotionally, you live as if you don’t know.  You live as if ignoring your issues will eventually give you the results you want. And if you live in denial too long, you risk making a bigger mess of things. 

That particular season of hardship and denial passed, but I still find myself running back into the arms of denial from time to time.

Lacking courage to face reality.

Refusing to see truth.

Failing to choose honesty before my bump-in-the-road problem grows into a huge-impassable-mountain-of-a-problem.

Going about my daily routine appearing normal to outsiders, knowing all the while a quick peek inside my head would reveal my true state:  curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears, eyes closed tightly, humming something – anything – to drown out the noise of harsh truth surrounding me.  

And I wonder to myself …  Can anyone else relate?

 

Posted in Everyday Life

Flea Market Finds

 

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I visited one of my favorite flea markets today (which happens to be another one of my absolute best-loved things to do).  I could walk around in there for hours at a time, scouting out this and that, until I finally make a decision as to what I just can’t live without. I know some of you can relate.

Since I prefer not to pay full price for anything, bargain hunting is a must. I think of it as a treasure hunt and oh, how I enjoy the hunt! It exhilarates me to come across a sweet deal such as the authentic brand new Coach purse my daughter found for a meager $15.00 a few months ago.  Or the dainty little vanity table that sits perfectly in my youngest daughter’s bedroom. Or the portable basketball goal that all my boys (despite their age) have enjoyed.  

And picture frames galore!  Some fancy, some cute, some fun, some plain and simple.  All inexpensive, great finds for someone like me who is attempting to create a wall collage capturing the darling faces of some much-loved people. Now to only get them added to the wall… a daunting task, but exciting just the same.

Of course, not all my good deals turn out as well as expected.  Some are not near as appealing once I arrive home with them.  Like the barstools that managed to hide their wobbliness from me, or the plastic container whose lid refused to seal tightly, or the work of art that failed miserably to coordinate with my décor. Oh goodness, what’s a girl to do?

What any true thrift shopper does. We learn from our mistakes.  We prepare for our next hunt.

Yes, next time we sit in the bar stools before purchasing them.  We snap the lids on and off to check for a proper fit prior to throwing them into our shopping carts.  We carefully consider that artwork before we decide to tote it home.  And we keep rummaging for those bargains, and celebrating when we happen upon them.

So ladies, save up a few extra dollars, throw a few close friends into the mix, and grab a cup of fancy coffee along the way.  I’d say you’re well on your way to experiencing a delightful day!

I can’t wait to see what turns up next! Perhaps we’ll run into one another at the local flea market. I’ll smile at you, you’ll smile back.  And we’ll recognize the blessings in it all. 

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

When Under-Achieving Happens

 

roadWhen an over-achiever (that would be me) falls prey to a season of under-achieving (that’s where I’ve found myself too often lately), it is very easy to feel like a failure.  A failure in so many areas we work so hard to perfect.

For me that equates to failure as a wife, as a mother, as a homeschool teacher, even as a ministry assistant to my husband, and in so many other ways as well (does diet and exercise ring a bell?).

I’m always second guessing myself over rash decisions I’ve made.  Mentally beating myself up because I forgot to pay the electric bill, or to defrost the chicken needed for dinner, or to wash my husband’s work clothes (and it’s now 7:00 a.m. and the poor guy has no clean pants for work).  Talk about making a girl feel like a lousy wife… ughhhh!

And then there’s that Christmas tree, over a month post-Christmas, still perfectly perched in a corner of my living room, fully decorated, screaming for me to please stop long enough to pack it up and put it away.  Oh the shame!

These things are only the first to enter my thoughts.  I could go on and on about what I should be doing right now, yet I know in my heart I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing at this moment.  I’m taking time out of the busyness around me to write this blog post because it somehow helps me sort through the boggled feelings surfacing in my mind. I pray that maybe, just maybe, it will help you to know you are not alone in your struggles either.

As nice as it is to think about taking a break from my hectic schedule, the reality is I will continue to be busy for a long while.  Yes, as long as I have a family to care for, and a home to keep up, and school to teach, and church to attend, and a blog to write, I will not escape busyness.  But there are some things I can implement to help me through this season of busyness, and to alleviate these feelings of failure and disappointment pointed toward myself.

I must continually remind myself that although I may not be running every single race at full potential, I am not a failure.  I am still moving forward, one tiny step after another.  My progress may be slow. It may seem non-existent at times.  But I am still in the race.  I have not given up.

Friends, if you’re not accomplishing what you know you should; if those important things are not getting done, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Rethink your strategies. Give yourself some much needed grace. And most importantly, pray for strength and wisdom (we’ve talked before about the importance of sitting at the feet of Jesus).

Oh, and it never hurts to throw in a good cup of coffee with a trusted friend.

Smiles and hugs to each of you today.  Never give up!

Posted in Everyday Life

Who Am I?

 

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I am a wife.

  • A wife who was only a girl when she first fell in love with her high school sweetheart.
  • A wife who loves that boy now more than she ever could have then (although that seemed impossible at the time).
  • A wife who hopes to grow old by his side, still holding hands, still snagging a hug every chance she gets.

I am a mom.

  • A mom of five precious blessings ranging in age from twenty-three down to four (yes, you read that right).
  • A mom who views motherhood as one of the biggest challenges and greatest blessings in her life.
  • A mom who knows that, on her own, she can never be the mother her children need.  Oh, but God. He is the only way, the only hope, the only possibility of her ever pulling off a job well done when it comes to this monumental task called motherhood.  And this is her daily prayer.

I am a writer.

  • A writer who has kept her words silently tucked away for so many years, partly due to busyness and partly due to fear… fear of saying the wrong things or of having nothing to say at all.
  • A writer who desires to encourage and uplift other women as they walk this sometimes arduous journey called life.
  • A writer who prays over her words, hoping they will help someone.

I am a Christian.

  • One who knows that although this wasn’t the first thing on her “Who Am I” list, this is the very foundation, the very core, of who she truly is and of every role she plays.
  • One who wants so much to please Christ in all the little, mundane parts of her day. Enough so that even when she fails, she keeps on trying.
  • One who knows she doesn’t deserve to be called a child of the King, yet because of Christ and His great love, that is exactly who He considers her to be.

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If asked to describe myself, these positions I hold as a Christian wife, mother, and writer would be the first to come to mind.  But I am so much more — and so are you.

We wear so many hats these days and fill so many shoes, it’s no wonder we become confused as to who we really are and what it is we should be doing.  Allow me to encourage you, sweet sister, to think about who you are today.

Are you who God created you to be, or have you become someone else?

Take a few moments to strip away all the extra baggage,  get real with God, and focus on what remains when all else is pushed aside.  Make adjustments as needed. And, by all means, begin again. One step after another until you find yourself doing what it is you were meant to do; being who it is you were meant to be.

I can’t wait to see you there!

Posted in Everyday Life, Family

Living this Life as Family

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Here we go again, heading out on a four hour road trip to watch our two oldest boys play basketball.  The time, effort, and money expended to participate in this sport seems silly to some people, but to our family it is anything but silly.

You see, basketball is about more than ballgames to us. It’s an opportunity for our children to become physically active, to form healthy, lasting friendships, and to learn important life lessons.  It also enables us to develop a common interest within our family unit, bonding parent to child and one sibling to another.

I must admit, there are occasions when a game is cancelled at the last minute and I, unlike my children, feel thankful for a night off.  But when it comes down to it, I honestly delight in these times.  I love watching my children on the court, supporting them in their finest moments, and encouraging them through each disappointment.

I am proud of my husband for coaching them and for choosing to be involved in their lives.  I am grateful to be seated on those not-so-comfortable bleachers, cheering them on.  And I’ve learned that whether we’re coaching or sitting quietly in the stands, our very presence speaks love to our children.

Having one already graduated and another on the brink of it, I find myself reminiscing over years gone by.  At the same time, I am trying hard to cherish the moments that lie ahead of me.  I am very much aware of how quickly these days will pass, and I pray I don’t miss them.

So I run myself ragged at times, sorting through mounds of laundry, throwing a good deal of it into four or five separate suitcases, checking and double-checking that uniforms are clean and basketball shoes have made their way into the car.  And off we go on another adventure, enjoying life together as a family, and playing a little basketball along the way.

Please don’t miss the point here, my friend.  Basketball may never be your thing.  But family – now that’s something that always should be.  So do some searching, discover what your family is most interested in, and be intentional about taking part in those things.

As you do so, you’ll find yourself laughing, loving, and supporting one another, cultivating strong relationships between those special people who live within your home.  Relationships that may cause you to do something silly.  Like drive for hours to watch your kids play basketball.

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

Are You Thankful?

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say, ‘Thank you’”?  – William Wardsingle flower

Most nights we rally our children together, each of us sharing our “thankfuls” — the one thing we’re most thankful for that day. I must confess this is not something we’ve always done.  In fact, we introduced this routine of thankfulness only a few short months ago.   It has been an excellent addition to our family prayer time, so much so that I regret having not started it sooner.

Our youngest child especially loves this time.  He thinks hard about his day before deciding what one part has made him the most thankful.  We are often pleasantly surprised at what he comes up with, and consider ourselves beyond blessed to be privy to what our children hold as the dearest piece of their day.

Some of our thankfuls may appear small, casual, or seemingly unimportant. They may include a sudden stop for ice cream or a much needed cup of fancy coffee.  These are small-scale, yes, but we are blessed by them just the same.  Some are much bigger and more important.  Those such as our sweet grand baby recovering from a major surgery and finally arriving home after a two-month hospital stay. Yes, that’s one of those huge thankfuls that is difficult to wrap into words.

But whether trivial or magnificent, it is crucial that we recognize and reflect on these happenings before turning in each night.  We must push ourselves to consider all that has occurred, and to hunt diligently for something we can be grateful for.  We need to realize that even on the most difficult days, there is always goodness lingering about, hoping to be discovered.

What a beautiful concept!  What a wonderful way to close out each day.  And what better way to live a life full of meaning and purpose than to live daily with a heart filled to the brim with thankfulness.

Thankfulness.  Appreciation. Gratitude.

So tell me, friend, what are you appreciative of today?  Does your answer come quickly, or is it tough to find?  If you’re having problems pinning it down, don’t give up the search. It may be buried deep beneath the day’s troubles, but I promise you, it is there. Pursue your hidden gem.  Refuse to say goodnight until you have settled on the one thing you can be thankful for today.  And don’t stop there.  Continue your quest, day in and day out, and you will also encounter the sweetness of life where thankfulness abounds.

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

A Poem About Life

sunrise

Deep in thought as I sit,
Pondering this life as it is.

It’s often not easy; sometimes not fun.
Yet it’s what we must do until our time here is done.

I wake up each morning, head into my day.
May I never rush on without taking time to pray.

So many decisions lie waiting for me.
How will I choose rightly if Him I do not seek?

So I spend time with Him as my day begins,
And I keep right on with Him until it’s at its end.

I pray for my husband as he guides our way.
I pray for my children, that they will not be led astray.

I pray for extended family, and for my friends too.
For those who are sick; for those who know not what they do.

For my church family, those we are called to serve.
May I point them to Christ with each action and word.

May I never forget what He has done for me.
May I always remember it’s His grace that sets me free.

I am not worthy. I am not good.
I am sometimes broken, other times misunderstood.

Yet I am here, day in and day out.
A vessel for Him, with a message to shout.

A loud voice, no, but a voice just the same.
Telling others of His love, speaking His name.

Still deep in thought of what is to come;
Of life after this…  A victory won.

Beauty. Delight. Days filled with peace.
Like a perfect vacation.  A day at the beach.

No worries. No sickness. No more goodbyes.
That’s what awaits us when we meet in the sky.

So in little ways and big may I reflect His love,
Because when this life is over, it has really just begun.

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

Don’t You Worry

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.    Matthew 6:34

It seems we never cease thinking about tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and then the next one.  We are a driven people, always planning our next move. Whether it’s big plans such as college, career, or marriage, or it’s small plans such as what’s for dinner or what movie we’ll rent for the weekend.

Unfortunately, worry often runs alongside those plans.  Will we snag the right guy?  Will we land the perfect job?  Will we birth healthy children?  Will we encounter happiness and, if so, will it be ours for the keeping?

I can’t help but cringe a bit when I read Matthew 6:34. “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Yikes!  Isn’t that so very true?  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty to deal with today without fast forwarding into tomorrow.  Yet that is exactly what I tend to do.

I rush through the moments of my day, looking straight into tomorrow’s twists and turns.  Particularly when my tomorrow has the potential to terrify me.  That tomorrow which requires me to say goodbye to a precious loved one.  Or to face a risky medical procedure or tough diagnosis.  Or which bears the possibility of losing a source of income or the weariness of a strained relationship.

I don’t like those tomorrows, but sometimes they are our reality.

So how do we push through those worries and truly focus on what lies before us in the here and now? How do we spot the flowers sprinkled throughout the weeds?  The sweet blessings scattered about our lives?

The only absolute I know is this:  We must turn to the One who is acquainted with all our tomorrows. One who is never surprised or unprepared. One who is there to catch us, to carry us, to bring us through our hardest of days. One who loves us. Oh, how He loves us! One who desires to mold our anxious hearts into peace-filled vessels. One who fills us with hope that at the end of difficulty, pink flowersthere is an abundance of beautiful.

Learning to depend on someone other than yourself. Someone greater than yourself.  Learning to trust. Learning to lean. Learning to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

This is the key to a life filled with so much peace and joy that there is simply no room for worry in your delicate heart.  It is attainable.  It is possible.

And when that stubborn worry tries to wiggle its way back into your heart, call on your prayer warriors to stand in the gap for you.  United in prayer, we will conquer this thing called worry.  We will remind each other to count our blessings.  We will point out those hidden flowers to one another.  We will laugh together and sometimes cry together.  Yes, my friend, I’ll pray for you and you’ll pray for me.  And the worries of tomorrow will fade into peace today.