Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Stepping Back From the Drama

Commercials present an idyllic view of the holidays, but for most of us, this is a fantasy.  We may wish we could attain it, even running ourselves ragged in our efforts to do so, but we never seem to hit the mark. When that happens, we are often left feeling defeated and saddened. Then there comes the dinner table with all those relatives we may or may not get along with: Crazy Aunt Bertha who’s convinced the world is going to end. Angry Uncle Wilbert who feels personally affronted when someone takes the last drumstick. Sassy Sally who rolls her eyes at every other statement, and of course, all the relational baggage that comes with living in a fallen, sin-cursed world–relational baggage that is magnified during the tense, stressful holiday season. Is it any wonder so many struggle with depression during November and December? And an even more important question–what can we do about? How can we make it through to January first without going completely insane and dragging our loved ones with us? Imagine hosting a dinner party for the most talked about personality of our day. Would that stress you out a little? Cause your stomach to convulse and sweat to build, quite glamorously, along your hairline and on your upper lip? Now imagine tossing sibling drama into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that’d about make me want to cry, and then I’d really have a mess on my hands–the mascara streaked tears kind. But what if I learned to step back and disengage? You may be familiar with the Mary and Martha story....

when kids are pushing your buttons (like, all of them)

I was about to flip out, and that’s the ugly truth of it. I was in front of a little dude who was pushing all my buttons, simultaneously, and we were dancing on the edge of a power-struggle, the kind that renders everyone a loser. For those of you who work with children and students “from hard places” (as Dr. Karyn Purvis describes), you get this scenario. Or, maybe I should just stop at “who work with children and students.” Period. Anyway, as flashes of angry words exploded in my mind, (ones I’d have momentarily enjoyed expressing, to be honest) I felt a strong sense of clarity. I’d like to think it was divine intervention. Two calming and gentle words doused my frustration: “Not today.” This child, broken up by early rejection and thus defensive beyond belief, was not going to trigger me – not today. Yes, I wanted respect and eye-contact and verbal responses and a host of other things that would satisfy me – the Self that commands rather than connects and that is authoritative rather than his advocate. But, I was making loving him about his behaviors, and it’s just not about that. It’s about relying daily on a Source for love that is beyond our feelings. It’s about getting ourselves, our tendencies, and our triggers under control so that healing, hope-filled, life-changing Love can get from the Father to His child, through us. It’s about not giving up or giving in – not today – and then claiming the same two words tomorrow and every day after. Yeah, maybe that sounds simplistic – but living...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

The Power of Agape Love in Marriage

He was late, again. No phone call. No “I’m sorry.” Nothing but me pacing the kitchen, glancing from the phone to the overcooked dinner crackling on the stove. At this point, I’d do better to throw it out, grab our daughter and head to a restaurant for a nice relaxing meal, just the two of us. Just the two of us. And now we get to the root of the issue, because it’s never just about burned dinners and unmade phone calls. Rather, it’s the dots we connect between each event, the interpretations we make of every statement and one line email. To my young, tired, and insecure mind, all of the inconsiderateness spoke a convincing and heartbreaking story—he doesn’t love you. My response? To fret and fume and work myself into the teary-eyed mess that met him at the door with harsh words and accusations. I effectively pushed my tired and defeated husband further away, adding crack after crack to his breaking heart. And yes, his heart was breaking, as much as mine was: I was just too caught up in my own emotional tsunami to notice. I was convinced he was the problem, and so, rather than turning to God for wisdom, rather than searching my heart for my part, I ranted. And complained. And begged God to change him, to make him into everything I needed. This went on for some time, each of us erecting stronger walls to hide behind, filtering every conversation through a mountain of hurt and distrust, while our marriage continued to disintegrate. Until one day, one sentence, spoken by a courageous...

Moms, Do You Ever Feel Locked in Instant Replay Mode

“How many times must I tell you …” Parenting would be so much easier if only we all had recording devices we could play back at will. When a behavior arises, simply fast forward to the appropriate statement, point the device at the infracting child, and hit play. Then walk away, problem solved. Imagine how peaceful our summers could be! Although I doubt that’d be effective. Shoes would still clutter the hallway and bedrooms would still look like someone swept through with a leaf blower. Because words by themselves are just that–words, and no child goes from toddler to adult overnight. In parenting, the key is to focus on progress not perfection, blanketed with equal amounts of patience, training, consistency, and accountability. Develop patience Children don’t learn overnight, and often, every step forward is accompanied with half a step, and sometimes an entire leap, backwards. But then again, isn’t that how it is with each of us? Habits, wisdom, and integrity take time to develop.  Our child may need to hear, “Put your plate away” twenty times before they begin to think of it on their own, then learn to follow through. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being defiant. It simply means they need to be reminded. A lot. Until that behavior becomes habit (then you can begin to tackle a new one). Train Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). In other words, don’t pester, nag, scream at, and belittle. Instead, train. 😉 When our daughter was young, I walked into her room...

When you sign up to give your heart away

So, my world started spinning at a different speed last Wednesday around 3:20 in the afternoon. We got this phone call, and then there was talk of this little one – and would we provide her a home for now? Love walked up my front porch that same evening, a brave little one with a bag of clothes and nice ladies on either side. A few days later, a stranger asked me if “they told us how long it would be?” And, my own ears were stunned to hear my lips reply: “Naw, there’s no time frame. We just sign up to give our hearts away.” (Is that what I did, Lord? Signed up to give my heart away?) Because only a week or so ago I was writing about being willing to invest deeply in relationships and not just watch from my window. At the time, I was sure that post was a reflection of countless heart-batterings – not a prediction of more. But, here I am. My home open. My heart exposed. I will love. I will hurt. I will laugh. I will cry. There is nothing but uncertainty and unknown on the horizon. Of that, only that, I am certain. Real love wiggles its way into our comfort zones, into our quiet routines, into our “me-time” and turns it all upside down, doesn’t it? Love changes us until we hardly recognize ourselves. Because, it’s not our love – not our human affection or good intentions that cause us to labor on another’s behalf, or open our hearts, or stay in the mess with a fellow pit-dweller....

Behind The Makeup

Over the years I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry at the local church. Most of the time you hope and pray that what you are doing is making an impact, but truth be told you never fully know just what that impact is. A good friend of mine, Michelle Garrison, shared this with me a few weeks ago and I immediately knew that this was something that needed to be talked about with you as well. This is something that many of us wrestle with, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that I talk/write about more than anything else: Girlfriends, vulnerability and being real with each other. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure, but something incredible happens when we start to get behind the makeup. I pray you are as encouraged by her words as I have been…she is not an author, speaker, or even someone that likes to be in the spotlight, she’s a real woman, doing real life and trying really hard to live out her faith and I just love that about Michelle. Her words are from the heart and I know that it will challenge you as much as it did me. As I assessed my face in the makeup mirror this morning, I was so thankful that I was able to hide my imperfections under the mask of makeup. The day before, I hung around the house and wore no makeup. It is amazing how good you feel when you look all put together. On that no makeup day, I wasn’t feeling at my best. Then, my thoughts...

Parenting in the Midst of Fear

There is so much going on in the world today that evokes the spirit of fear. Racism and violence fill our streets. Our news is filled with acts of terrorism. Because of social media, everyone now has a platform to share their opinions; the good, bad, and the very ugly. Our children are being exposed to obscene levels of violence and hatred. Parenting is hard. Parenting during this specific time period seems exceedingly hard. Our children are flooded with images of racism, hatred, and terrorism. They also see the christian community take extreme sides and draw lines in the sand stating this is right and this is wrong. Even though both sides of the lines believe to have the right answers. Our children hear and see everything we say and do. How are we representing our faith to them? How are we helping them navigate through all the emotions that are brought to the surface when deep rooted issues like racism and violence are discussed? Our children hear what we say, not just to them but to our spouses, our friends, our families. Do our conversations line up? Do they reflect our values that we have tried to instill in our families? We all have a value system. What we value is what we put a heavy emphasis on. Our children learn our value system through our words but also through our actions! They see everything. They see how you act and react. They see what you support through finances, prayer, and even just simple conversations. They see the gap between what we say we value and the way...

Waiting…Turn Your Wait Into a Verb

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25 ESV Over the last eight years I have spent a good portion of time in a waiting room. In 2005 my oldest son had a traumatic illness occur and thus started the journey of my time in the waiting room. The journey began on August 17, 2005 where we spent 51 days in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at the local children’s hospital. He was eleven at the time and for about three days we had no idea what was going on with our child and due to the trauma his body was going through he was put into a medically induced coma. Completely clueless as to what was going on and what had happened to our healthy little boy we trudged through those first few days completely unaware of how dramatically our lives would be changed. That was a long hard 51 days for our family, but thankfully our little boy is now a nineteen year old college student. I would love to say he is completely healthy and things are back to normal, but that is just not our reality. There were complications from his trauma and he was left insulin dependent (he lost 90% of his pancreas) and is now diabetic. A few years after that he started to have seizures and so back to the hospital we went in search of answers as to why this was happening to our boy. Tests, exams, scans, MRI’s and everything in between was run to find out what could...