Sunday, November 15, 2015

How to Not go Crazy with Everyone Else's Problems

     Being a pastor's wife, mom of five daughters and working with teen girls means one thing: DRAMA. Well, it means more than that (miraculously amazing things) but it certainly includes other people's dramatic life experiences. I think every woman can relate to hearing someone else's problems. At times, it just gets to be too much. We hear it at home, at work, at church, in social media, in the neighborhood and on the news. People's issues and burdens are everywhere we turn! 

     So how should we handle all the things we hear without going crazy? My personality carries every. single. thing. people share with me. It could be so remote from my life, yet because I know of their situation, I am now carrying it emotionally. This is honorable according to Galations 6:2 which says to "Carry each other's burdens...". However, I often fail to remember WHERE and to WHO I am carrying the burden. In fact, sometimes I forget completely to carry it at all so I just stand there in place becoming more weighed down by the minute. But God hasn't asked us to do that.
     As stated in Ps. 55:22, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you." We are to take our burdens to the Lord.  We are called to let them go to Him and then He sustains us with His power and strength. WHAT RELIEF! No longer do I have to keep all the emotions and mental weight driving me crazy from the situations others share with me! I can give them to the Lord and leave them there.

     So here is what you have to do when someone decides to trust you enough to share their problems with you: Listen then Leave It. I don't mean listen then walk away but to listen sincerely then leave their problems with the Lord.

     1. Listen to them in love. Go there emotionally. Take time to understand. Give your undivided attention. Let their situation be as if it were yours.

     2. Leave it all with the Lord. Go there spiritually. Take time to explain to the Lord. Give your prayer undivided attention. Pray as if it were your situation.

     After countless desperate, tragic, horrific situations we have encountered hearing through the years, the "listen and leave it plan" has kept us grounded and sound. So, when you experience first row tickets to the next drama of someone, all you have to do is love them and then go pray.

     P.S. And if there is something tangible God calls you to do after that then do that too. For example, if you encounter a poor college students needing finances and you are a millionaire, listen and pray...then cut them a check! 

(Re-posted from 2014)


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Liking the Daughter You Love


     Raising a girl can be a blessing and a challenge all at once. Girls can be enjoyable and yet so difficult at times. As I think about raising daughters, lines from the song “Maria” in the classic movie The Sound of Music come to mind. “…She is gentle! She is wild! She's a riddle! She's a child! She's a headache! She's an angel! She's a GIRL!” Girls are so lovable and yet not always likable. 

     As a mother of five daughters, I certainly love them all deeply and unconditionally. But it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t necessarily always like them. For instance, one of my girls talks excessively. This little one reminds me of the continued “Maria” lyrics, “When I'm with her I'm confused, out of focus and bemused and I never know exactly where I am…” while another daughter is highly emotional and “Unpredictable as weather, she's as flighty as a feather…” The other three deal with everything from hyperactivity, “how do you make her stay, and listen to all you say…” to overly opinionated, “many a thing you know you ought to tell her…” to stubbornness “…many a think she ought to understand.
    So, assuming there may be another mother out there that has admitted she doesn’t always like her daughter, here are a couple of things that are helping me on this journey of liking my lovables. First off, choose to like her. The story of old “Mr. Jones” comes to mind. After his wife passed away, Mr. Jones needed to move into a nursing facility. Upon arrival, the nurse walked him down the hall on his way to his room. She said, “Mr. Jones, we have prepared the room for you and we will see how things are when you get there.” He answered, “I already like it!” “But you haven’t seen it.” “No, but I have decided that I will like it!” And we can do the same as mothers. We can decide to have the attitude of accepting our children no matter what. This resolve can drive us steadily forward through the challenges that may lie ahead. I am determined to like my girls.
     Secondly, remind yourself how undesirable you have been. I can think of dozens of my behaviors that weren’t what they should have been. I don’t even know how my dear mother made it through all my questions in elementary school, my emotions in junior high, and my dominating attitude in high school. Furthermore, as an adult, I still have moments of less-than-admirable actions. None of us are completely likeable at all times. This very thought causes me to give grace to my daughters. And just as most of us know when we are being unacceptable, our children may be in tune with their own awareness of their behaviors yet may not be mature enough to know how to handle it or stop.     This leads to a third step of taking time to communicate in order to work through issues. While it is necessary to decide to like our girls and beneficial to remind our self of our own shortcomings, this doesn’t mean we just move on and let things go as they are. In fact, this is a prime time to face the issues at hand in order to gain understanding. Listen. Ask questions. Engage with her emotions. Then, share your feelings and thoughts so that she can see how her actions are affecting others and how she can improve. Sometimes we need to confront the unlikeable as we lead our girls. It may take time and several attempts but they are listening and most girls do want to know how they can be the best they can be.
  In fact, my mom and I had a talk like this just a few years. She and I were frustrated with each other. So, we talked it out. It took three hours and many tears to work through how she thought I was controlling and I thought she was careless but it worked. We both ended it feeling understood. And we also knew we both had things to work to improve.
     Finally, when all has been done, think outside your own personality. Sometimes we just don’t like our daughter because she has a different personality. There are some things about girls that are a part of who they are! I am amazed at how my five girls can all be born within seven years and each can be so unique! I have had to accept that while some things need to be changed, there are other things that are just personality.
    For example, one night I burned the rice at dinner but served it anyway to see if anyone noticed. Well, they did. And each one had a comment. My oldest said logically, “Mom, the rice is burnt because you got distracted with laundry.” My second girl responded, “Yes, but its okay because we all make mistakes, mom, and I still love you.” The next one wasted no time and spit out the food while saying, “Yuck! That is terrible!” Her younger sister took note and said, “Thanks for making it mom but I am NOT even going to taste it!” And of course, my toddler just played with the rice happily. It was just a matter of their personalities. Sometimes, it’s just easy and fun celebrating who they are and how they see life!
     Overall, learning to like the daughter you love may feel like the ending words of the “Maria” song that ask, “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” but I believe we can. We can like them as we do all we know to do then simply embrace the fact that, like us, “She’s a GIRL!”

Published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine. Picture of girls from 2011. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Laundry Logistics

      It's intriguing to me how dirty clothes can have such control over my life. As the laundry needs build, the piles have a looming, creepy voice that calls out in eery tones..."wash me...dry me...fold me...put me in the closet..." over and over in my head! The voices are enough to drive a girl crazy! So here are some logistics I have learned that silences the call of laundry:

1. Certain loads go on certain days. Choose which family member gets which day. This can depend on who they are and what their needs. For example, I don't mind doing baby laundry because the clothes are easier, a smaller load, and sooooo cute. Therefore, the baby load is done on Saturday when we might be out more. I do my older two girls laundry (at times they do their own from start to finish but not always...yet) on Wednesday because that is a day that they can put it all away for their afternoon work before a busy church night. This relieves me from doing it. Friday is our family day off so towels and sheets go then because they are easy to put away and the girls can fold them with me as the day is more relaxed.

      Having a system gives me a the freedom to not think about what is waiting on me. If it isn't the day for that load, then it can wait. Even if it is falling out on the floor overflowing from the bin, it can wait. The only exception to this is if someone truly needs an item or two before their day then I may be a merciful mother and allow them to throw it in with another load. But it better be truly needed! ha. Below is my write up for what we do:

Sunday - off

Monday - off

Tuesday - Bria and Allison's laundry

Wednesday - Candice and Kelly Grace's laundry

Thursday - Scotty and my laundry

Friday - Towels, sheets etc

Saturday - Angel's laundry

2. Start as early as possible. Before I even make breakfast I throw a load in for the day. This is so that all laundry is completely done before I start dinner at night. That way all I have to focus on is dinner and kitchen and baths and phone calls and emails and time with my husband and yeah. Laundry has to be done before dinner or I start to get a little tense.

3. Take days off. Days off will be like a lullaby to your mind. Sunday and Monday I don't do any laundry (unless someone has thrown up). This takes pressure off on a busy ministry day and the day we go to a school group that takes all day. Having a couple of days break is a relief.

      Those three steps will change your life. Well, maybe not your life but they will keep your mind from hearing creepy voices all day and wondering when to do everything. A little laundry logistics can set things in order. Your clothes will be quiet and your mind will be at peace!

(Re-posted from 2013)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Staying Connected with My Husband

     "We just need more time together!" "There just isn't time to talk." "My husband and I are living two different schedules." "I love my husband but I am so busy with my job, children, and home there isn't a way to stay connected." Ever felt this way? I shouldn't even ask that because odds are we have all felt that way at some point.

     In the midst of parenting 6 children all day, doing homeschool, housework, and leading in ministry, staying connected with my husband isn't always the easiest thing to do. In fact, there was a season a couple of years ago that we went through in our marriage where things just weren't alive and flourishing between us like it should have been. So we made some changes.

    One of the main things we do to stay connected is we have a strategy. If we just let life go with all its responsibilities and activities, time together just doesn't happen. So for our marriage, here are a few of the things we decided we needed to do have time together...but before you read this and roll your eyes because none of this is possible, just know that I understand you may not be able to do this all but I am just sharing our plan and perhaps you can get some ideas.

Daily: Put the girls to bed by 9:00 and go to bed to have time to be together by 9:30. This gives us up until 10:00 to chat and still get 8 hours of sleep.

Daily: Call or text throughout the day to touch base on what we are doing or how things are going or even just to say "I Love You"

Daily: At dinner after we pray, the girls make their plates and listen without talking to Scotty and
I talk about our day. This allows the girls to make their plates and start eating while listening to us communicate. It is hard for Angel who is 2 to be quiet but she is learning and its better than all five children talking!

Weekly: Date night on Tuesdays from 5-9:00. Sometimes we go out with a gift card or somewhere inexpensive and every now and then we spend a little more. Half the times, we actually just go up to Scotty's office and eat home food, chat, watch a movie.  For the girls, we order pizza and the babysitter does the same routine with them every week so it is easy. Dinner, clean kitchen, take baths/showers, brush teeth, watch a movie and baby in bed at 8:00. We do have the blessing of not paying the babysitter because we have a girl from the church offer her support through the free childcare on date night. And I know this won't be the case for everyone. But even a date twice a month or switch out with a friend for childcare or ask grandparents etc.

Weekly: We snag a thirty min window by occupying the girls with house work or school or play while we discuss the upcoming week calendar. This makes sure we are together on details of events and what is needed. This is a MUST!

Quarterly: Something we started this past year also is to pull away for two nights to be together alone. This is not for ministry trips or anything that requires working but simply to stay close in our marriage. We go to nearby Branson and we pay a trusted friend of the family to keep the home-front going. This takes a special type person to do it all but God will provide for you. I typically go crazy busy making sure the house, car, food, schedule is all laid out before I go but its worth being able to have 48 hrs. away. To save money while we are away, we mainly eat in and don't spend money other places during the month to save for these getaways.

     These basic strategies in my marriage have helped us tremendously. I used to view Scotty as another child to care for in life. However, I realized that is not God's plan. Staying connected is crucial and can make things so much less stressful for all the family. It may take time to get back on track, but I believe you can will do it as the Lord helps you.

(Re-posted from 2013) 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Killer Harvest Celebrations!

      In a local store, my little girl saw gory Halloween decor and said, "I don't like this place. Look at all the mean things." The checkout employee heard her and replied, "Oh, honey, its not real. It's just pretend." I could tell by the face she made to the clerk that my little girl wasn't buying it. So I answered my daughter and said, "The lady working is right, those actual items are not real but they DO represent things that are real." I could tell the clerk thought I wasn't for real.

       Our family is all about the fall. We enjoy the cooler air, indulge in comfort foods, decorate with autumn colors, and participate in seasonal parties. But there is a darker side to this month that is a concern to me. Why are we rejoicing over blood, fear, knives, pain, chains, screams, death, terror, missing limbs and broken bones? Those are the very things that none (or, should I say, most of us) want to avoid in life. And yet, there is much effort and publicity to make it something we should all celebrate as if it's pretend. But I know from personal experience, those things are real and none of them seem like a fall festival.

BLOOD reminds me of the day my dad saved a man's life with his own neck tie in his workplace when a bomb went off from a box received in shipping.

FEAR reminds me of the night of the tornado that hit Joplin, MO where children and families are still in counseling over for post-tramatic stress syndrome

KNIVES remind me of the innocent landlord that was stabbed nearby after reaching out to help the family in need.

PAIN reminds me of what my grandmother felt when dying in her last horrific stages of ovarian cancer

CHAINS remind me of a college-aged girl I know that miraculously escaped the American sex trade in which she was literally chained in a warehouse for over 4 years

SCREAMS remind me of a very young local foster girl I know that reported screaming from the pain she felt when being sexually abused.

DEATH reminds me of all the thousands of precious people who tragically lost their lives on 9-11

TERROR reminds me of how our troops, including my cousin, who have fought and are fighting in horrific circumstances to end the terrorist groups

MISSING LIMBS reminds me of the children I saw on a recent trip to Haiti in which street children have been tortured to the point of brutal loss in order to make them work as slaves

BONES remind me of when my husband and I visited a Holocost museum and saw pictures and video footage of piles of mutilated people's bones

      When it comes to much of what is advertised and celebrated in October, we can call it merchandise, entertainment, a tradition, or a holiday, but at the very least we need to call it what it is, REAL. Some of these items and events glorify harsh realities that are not worth celebrating. So what will I do with my daughter this month? We will break out the jackets, cider, decor, and costume parties and we will have a killer...I mean, a life-giving harvest season!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Teaching People Skills

     My oldest daughter Candice and I watched as two of my younger girls got out of the car and walked into the church. While holding the door, one of the pastors greeted them enthusiastically, "Hey Girls!" Much to my dismay, my girls didn't stop, make eye contact, speak up, or even thank him for holding the door. They simply mumbled, "Hi" and kept moving. AHHHHH! Mothering moment of hight blood pressure! That is when Candice (then age 9) expressed my exact thought, "People skills, people!" So when we came home, we went over how to interact with people once again.

     Your children may do the same thing...actually, I know they do the same thing because it is typical of most all children at some point. Even those that are well-trained have to be reminded from time to time. My biggest comfort was that at least one of my children noticed the lack of skills which proves they do know better. So how do we go about teaching interaction with people? For this first entry on this topic, lets start with the basics.

     1. Show them the value in others. If your children understand that each person is created by God then they will have respect to treat others as such. Have them think of every person as a handcrafted gift from God so that no matter what the person looks like or acts like or seems like, they are valued. 

Remind them of Ps. 139: 13-14 "For God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Or as Judy "The Manners Lady" states, "Pretend each person is wearing a star that says 'Make me feel special!' " It is not about how we feel but about how the other person needs to feel.

     2. Show them the value in themselves. When children know the above about themselves then they will also see the value in using their gift of life in response to others. For those children that claim its because they are shy, its actually more about having manners than about becoming a type-A person. I

t only takes a moment to smile, speak up, look at someone, and show respect. I have two girls that aren't outgoing, but we do build in them the confidence from the Lord to move beyond their hinderences. They can respond to others because they are strong in themselves.

     3. Show them how to do it. Practice!Practice! Practice! It will take years of consistent work. But you will see progress! We start the practice by talking through scenarios with the girls, then we see how they do in public. When they are younger than age 7, we may train them in front of people if they haven't had good manners in the moment. 

However, as they get older, we don't address them on the spot (unless we know the person extremely well) so as not to humiliate them, but we do address it first chance we are able for a better response next time.

     One of the ways we practice with the girls is by training at home in role-play. For instance, I may say, "Let's pretend you are about to meet an adult for the first time. Smile. Look at them. Extend a hand if necessary. Answer questions so people can hear you."

Another time we train, is in the car by going over what is expected before they go somewhere. "Alright, girls, what are some things to remember before you go into the store (or the church, school, bday party etc)?" Last, we train as watch others and evaluate the good and the bad. "Did anyone notice how the family you met today had a child that was rude by not answering when greeted? How did that look to you? How do you think the other person felt?"

     So if you have ever watched in dismay as your children don't respond respectfully with others, just start with some basics and practice! Before you know it, your child will see others and say, "PEOPLE SKILLS, PEOPLE!"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

How to Like Other People's Children

     Have you ever felt thought that you like your own children but not other people's children? I am sure you have at some point unless you are one of those people that naturally see ALL children as a gift. If so, I completely respect you. We should all be that way. But for those who just simply don't like other people's children or connect with them, I have been there. Thankfully I didn't stay there, but I do remember being there.

      You know how it is. Other people's children just don't seem the same as your own. They aren't as smart. They aren't as funny. And they certainly aren't as cute. There have been times a child that isn't mine can do the same thing my child would do but because it was someone else's child it bothered me! I didn't enjoy or tolerate those "other children".

      Then, God changed my heart when I read a book called Too Small To Ignore...Why Children are the Next Big Thing by Dr. Wes Stafford, CEO of Compassion International. Specifically, I learned that "every encounter with a child is divine." This was a radical shift for me that I believe was a divine encounter with this child of God. (Me).

      When I heard Wes talk about how the Lord allows us the privilege of time with His children to lead and influence either for good or bad, I began to see those encounters as an opportunity. When my heart was open to see that my time with other children is a chance to shape the heart and life of God's people, I changed dramatically. I embraced the Lord's heart for ALL children, I began to actually like other people's children.

      The Lord says firmly in Mark 10:14, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." If that is how the Lord sees them then that is how I want to see them. 

The transformation has taken time for me to be more like Christ, but since my perspective has changed, I have been completely blessed by other people's children. They are smart. They are funny. And they are actually cute...most of the time. Ha! And since I don't want you to miss out on this amazing experience, I have written three thoughts that have helped me through this journey.

1. Insight - Children are extremely valuable. They are not only made by God but they are who God uses to carry out His purposes now and in the future. The Lord makes people so His kingdom will be built! Our view of these little people and teens has to have the insight to see where they came from and why they are here.

     Moreover, our moments with them are impressionable. Highly impressionable. Every moment and encounter we have with a child should count towards the making of this person. Whether it is acknowlegding other children when they are standing beside their mother when I am talking to a friend, or coming into my home to play, or passing as a neighbor, or needing something at church, we must have the insight to see that the time and love invested in a child is divine and therefore, eternal.

2. Ownership - We are all responsible for the children in our circle of life. We must allow our hearts to have ownership of them. We have been given leadership over them because of age and position. All authority comes from God, meaning that He decided the layout of how things trickle down in headship, so the children in my life are for me to care for with ownership. We are appointed leaders to children. They are all ours. And when something is our own we care for it as such.

      A practical look at this view is to think to how we feel when riding in someone else's car. We don't really care as much about the details or needs. We don't appreciate the car because we don't have personal ownership in it. We have no investment in it. We don't think about it or care. The car is simply there and doing what it does. This is a natural response to something that isn't our own. But we must own the leadership God has given to us with children. Otherwise, we just see them as being there doing what they do. But this should not be. For children, we must own them. We must care about their details and their needs.

3. Understanding - I can recall telling someone that because we were youth pastors I wasn't sure how to relate to children. I was used to talking to teens about parental respect, boyfriends, temptations etc. but to talk to a 4 yr old was foreign to me. I may have well spoken Japanese when I came across a little one. Yes, I made the worst babysitter growing up. It was rough. I did not know what I was doing even though I took a babysitting class. I just didn't understand children. Which is bizarre to me because I used to be a child.

      Anyway, understanding how children think and act whether it be by age or personlity, makes a tremendous difference in our interaction with them. If we know how they think, feel, and do then we can get into their world. When we know where they have come from and what experiences they have had, we can relate to them. All of this and more can be learned by taking time with them. Ask questions. Listen well. Do life with them. When we know them, it is easier to embrace them.

     So those are my three main thoughts on how I have learned to like, even love, other people's children. They make the acronym "IOU" if you want to remember this post when the next little darling crosses your path and you start to slip into annoyance. 

As we have the insight to value them, we truly do owe it to children to lead with the authority God has given to us in understanding their world. Blessings to you as you start to enjoy some of the most amazing people on earth!