Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father Shows Best

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to the man who set my life on the right path!

     Powerful. Influential. Heroic. Men, would you like to be like this? When you are a father or a father figure, you have the potential to be all these and more. When someone positions you as the primary male role model in their life, you are crucial to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You are a big deal. And when it comes to life, you truly do show them best.

While it is understood that being a dad to someone is a top-honor, what is often misunderstood is what should a man do once he is one? What does it look like to “show them best” if there isn’t a manual that comes with each young person? While there are thousands of stats and ideas on what can be done, there is one man that has lived fatherhood for one boy and one girl that is an example to all.

My brother and I were raised by a successful dad. Although he was an Eagle Scout, Marine, and businessman, his most valuable success was in our home. He was and is a father that has showed us best through his actions and words. His sixty-five plus years of life can answer some of the questions about being a dad for other men just simply by hearing how he lived as we were growing up.

  1. He understood imperfection. Dad knew we would make mistakes and need understanding. He listened well to us before he enforced discipline. With his patience, we felt heard and respected even though we knew discipline was needed and would come. Afterwards, he always, yes, always, chose to forgive us. In addition, dad was the first to admit his own shortcomings. Whether it was from his childhood memories, relationships with others, or something at work, he would talk with us so we could learn from him and, at times, offer our own forgiveness to him. Dad kept life real and knew we weren’t perfect and that was okay. Consequently, we did all we could to please him and make him proud because of our gratitude for his understanding.
  2. He loved unconditionally. The words, “I love you unconditionally” came from dad countless times. And he meant it. He loved no matter what we did or didn’t do. And as any parent would know that isn’t easy and also says a lot. We absolutely knew no matter what extra-curricular activities, friends, clothes, music, hairstyles, colleges, or jobs we chose, as long as it wasn’t harmful or disobedient, he supported us. His words were encouraging and positive when he spoke to us and when he spoke of us; often times even when he didn’t know we were listening. Because of his love, we trusted him, and loved him unconditionally in return.
  3. He provided, protected, and played. Dad did everything he knew to do to provide for us with life necessities and anything above and beyond. He worked hard but not for his own gain, it was to give his family his best.  And because he worked hard, he protected us from anything that would come against us to break up the family. He guarded his faithfulness to mom, his time with us, and entertainment choices or people that weren’t beneficial to our minds and hearts. Consequently, had the freedom to enjoy the provided, protected life and had a blast playing with dad on family nights, in the car, on vacations, and at extra-curricular activities. We loved being with him!

          4. He lived out his faith. One of the fondest memories form growing up is of my dad reading his Bible. He would sit comfortably in his fluffy chair while wearing his pin-stripped, button-down pajamas as he faithfully studied God's word. He wasn't doing it for show or because anyone asked him to, Dad simply loved Jesus with all His heart. As we started our day, he would play worship music though out the home as well. The songs instilled Godly words in our minds and hearts as we prepared for school. And church wasn't a burden to dad. He loved it. The deepest comfort I had as a child was dad holding me in his arms during church. Everything felt right to me. And afterwards, dad lived the truths of the Bible at home. He wasn't perfect but he was sincere. He did all he could to be a Godly man and this solidified my own trust in Jesus. 

While being a “father that shows best” may take effort, it comes with matchless rewards. Perhaps you have attempted your best but have fallen short, start fresh. Even if your child is older, you can choose to be successful starting today. You can be that powerful, influential, heroic man to whoever it is in your life that needs you as a dad.
*Article used as published in Paradise Lifestyle Magazine June 2014


Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Am Not Miss American Teen Anymore...

          (re-post from June 2013) As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

      Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown people celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year all going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

      Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And for me, I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

      Now, fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.

     My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't even been washed in four days, I haven't worn a single ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week. (Not to mention that I caught a stomach bug and have visited the bathroom more times than I checked the mirror in high school.)

      Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 (MSG) that challenges me. "Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

     There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

      Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

      So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength. I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.

P.S. Congrats to Miss USA Erin Brady from Connecticut...let's do coffee in 15 yrs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Toilets, Trans-genders and Hot Topics....Learning How to Navigate through Cultural Issues

Like the swirling of flushed water in a commode, your mind and emotions may have zoomed with the the onslaught of debates regarding transgender rights and the choice of public restrooms. It’s enough banter to make one want to shut the door and have some privacy. But before you lock it, take a minute to look in the mirror. Stop. Think. Regroup. And after that, go out and influence those in the world around you.

As you are leading yourself and others, there are the “3 Easy T’s” that you can remember on how to navigate through the transgender issues and any other controversial topic that will surface. These three steps can act as a filter for all you are processing. When you are looking at yourself and deciding how to respond, simply apply these three steps:

1. Think Biblically. Since the Bible is true, you can read and study it to find answers when faced with pressing issues. You don’t have to second-guess where to stand. Simply trust and obey what the Lord says about it. (And if you aren’t sure that the Bible is reliable, that’s okay. Take some time to learn more about it. Here is a starting point to study up on it:

Does this mean you can’t hear other opinions? Or take time to sift through your own thoughts and emotions? Certainly not! Go for it. But when it’s all said and done, you can rest and be 100% confident when you follow God’s way and His Word. 

The Bible has been completely accurate on what will happen in the world as time goes on. There is a plan and its all unfolding exactly the way the Bible said it would be.  The main direction of the world, including arguments over gender issues, is becoming further away from God and given over to unnatural desires because people do not acknowledge or accept Jesus. (Romans 1:24-25)

It seems unimaginable to even consider some of the issues we are debating over today. But again, this is no surprise as people who are living without a relationship with Jesus are left to their own sin, which is darkness. Anyone who is living in darkness and is considered “blind” truly can’t see or understand the light. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) People are going off their own whims if they have no clear vision of what they are doing. But if you have been given sight, by coming out of darkness through the Light of Jesus, then you don’t need to second-guess your decision when you settle on a cultural/political issue. You can see clearly and can know the path to take.

Think Biblically. Study and stand by it. But do it the way Jesus would, in love.

2. Treat people with love. Period. As you know where you stand and what you believe, communicate it in love. (I Cor. 16:13-14) Treat people as Jesus treated them. If they reject it, then pray for them and leave them but do it in love. Any form of disgust or hate will only make them more hurt, angry or unaccepting. But who can argue with love? (John 13:35)

Work hard to bring others into light. Don’t give up on people. Some of the sayings such as “Hate the game not the player”, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”, and “Don’t judge the book by the chapter you just walked in on” have some valuable principles to remember. Whether its people who are choosing to become the opposite of their God-given gender or any other choice, sin is wrong. But the person is God’s creation and God doesn’t want anyone to die in their sin. (2 Peter 3:9) The whole reason Jesus came to earth is to save people from their sins. Everyone is capable of doing bizarre and incomprehensible things without the Savior.

Odds are, if you are walking in truth and light, someone showed you love in the midst of your sin.

3. Take action. As you are thinking Biblically and treating people with love, there are other actions you can do. 

Talk openly about it at work and in the market or neighborhood. Silence doesn’t help others work through their own questions and concerns. Talking about it can bring light to situations.

Lead your children.  This is a prime time for children to learn to think Biblically and process how to handle cultural controversies. Help them know what the Bible says and how to think. Show them how to be firm and stand strong when they share convictions on issues. Keep in mind their age and level but don’t shy away from teaching them how to navigate through it. They will need to know how to make this journey on their own in just a few years.

Pray about it. Seriously, pray. Don’t just think about praying or sit in silence when others are praying, but connect with God and get His heart on the issue at hand. Invite the Holy Spirit in to give you compassion, supernatural wisdom to see with discernment, and guidance on how to handle certain people. Prayer changes us. And prayer changes others as God hears you and works on your behalf.

Vote! In your stance to take action, cast your vote! Speak up in your  community, write your state representatives, or sign a National Petition. Encourage and act positively, don't invoke opinionated anger. Your voice matters even if the nation seems too large to hear it. Remember, its individuals that make the whole world go ‘round! Do your part (in love!).

So before you shut and lock the door in an attempt to maintain your quiet privacy, look in the mirror and take ownership for what is in your power to control. You can have wise, loving, and active responses when it comes to navigating through cultural issues.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The First Five Minutes

I admit...I am a recovering grumpy morning mom. By the grace of God I have changed over the years. And the changes I have made tremendously influenced how happy I am as well as how happy my children are in the morning. 

     The first thing I do for myself as soon as I wake up is to immediately pray "I love you God! I give you this day. Help me Lord. Strengthen me. This day is Yours..." This is in the first Nano-second or else I automatically wake up on the wrong side every single day. This prayer has been a game-changer for me and only takes about five minutes of my waking time to overcome my evil sin nature that appears every morning.

     The other thing that has changed as I have grown as a mother is how I greet my children in the first five minutes. In the past when they woke up I would say after a brief hug, "Hello baby! I need you to get dressed" or "Goodmorning! Oh wow, your hair is crazy" or "Um...its not time to get up yet!" or "Yuck, your diaper is stinky" while not even look at them or truly connecting. But I have learned that this is a prime time to start their day off right. I was missing an influential opportunity.

     So, as each one wakes up or enters the room, I stop to make a heart connection. It could be by hugging them, wrapping them in a blanket, rubbing their back, speaking enouraging words about the day, making eye contact, listening to their dreams from the night, or offering help. Even if we are in a hurry, these few moments have the power to set the day straight.

     These "First Five" minutes are powerful either for the good or for the bad. It is up to you and to me how we start the day and how we lead our children to their start off their day. As a recovering grumpy morning mom, I can honestly say these two changes have transformed me into one happy mama with five happy children.

Friday, June 3, 2016

No Summer Blues! A Guide to At-Home Days with Kids

     Do you have the summer motherhood "How will I handle my children home all day" blues? Having a plan is imperative! I don’t know about your family but when we are home without our typical school schedule or a plan, our family turn into lazy, mindless, visionless, whiny, messy, bored, complaining, tv-overloaded people who ask for food all day. It isn't pretty.
    The summer can be overwhelming if you aren't in a routine of children being home more.  But the summer doesn't have to be a bummer! I bring you good news! Happiness can be found! All you have to do is think through how you want the summer to look then make a plan.  I guarantee that everyone enjoys the day more when it isn’t aimless.
    The below schedule is what our days look like when we are home. If we are out part of the day then we just pick right back up when we get home. This is simply our personal example. Adjust for what you need in your situation since some of you may have to go work or have other circumstances.  
8:00(ish) Get Ready: Wake Up, cartoons (or workout for older kids), breakfast, vitamins, clean kitchen, brush teeth, make beds, get dressed, do hair etc. Having the basics covered allows everyone to be ready for whatever may come for the day! And I feel relief knowing everyone is fed, kitchen is clean, beds are made, and everyone is presentable and yet the kids enjoyed seeing a show when they woke up. Since it’s more relaxed in the summer the thought would be that everyone is ready for the day by 9:30.
9:30ish This is a perfect time to do something fun, productive and perhaps new! Do the things children may not have time for during the school year. Gardening, shopping, working out, cleaning, baking, gift-making, visiting friends or running errands are some ideas to use during these couple of hours. Toddlers can do different activities such as art table, room toys, sibling play, video, snack or join you if it works.
 12:00 Lunch, Clean Kitchen, Free time. We eat then everyone does a kitchen job such as sweep floors, clean off and wipe counters, pull out chairs, and help mom with dishes. A little tip during meal time is to play a tape (or CD/IPOD/Phone)and listen to stories. We use older story tapes like GT and the Halo Express, Adventures in Odessy, Dan and Louie etc. with a tape player from Wal-Mart which is a novelty to them. Once eating and cleaning is finished, everyone can do whatever they like for a bit.
1:30 Read together (Little ones nap) We choose a book that is one of those “every kid should read books but they don’t unless I read it with them” books. We are currently on Pilgrims Progress kid version. Reading together makes my mama heart happy since I can’t seem to find time for as much reading together during the school year.  May also play more or have computer/electronics time for everyone.)
2:00 Chic Chat Chocolate This time is our Bible time with a theme every month. We sit on a comfy blanket and eat chocolate while talking about scripture and life. It’s my favorite time with the children because it’s all about their heart and walk with the Lord. Summer is a fabulous time to instill values and character while the kids aren’t distracted by school and extra-curricular activities. (Angel naps)
2:30 Rest Time This is my quiet time to do whatever I need to do! Woohoo. And yes, I do sometimes take naps…even when I am not pregnant. Bria and Allison quiet time on beds, Candice and Kelly have personal reading (little ones nap).This time gives everyone a breather from the playing and being together all day.
 3:30 Snack and Clean Bedrooms We get a food boost while watching a PBS show then clean bedrooms. This is a daily job to keep rooms from being overwhelming.
 4:30 Afternoon Work These jobs come from a house list such as clean out car, vacuum, dust, and bath rooms, depending on house needs and day of the week. And it’s a perfect time to teach how to clean if a child needs some training.
5:00 Free Time Because there has been some order to the day, this play time is fresh and they play better together when free time comes.
6:00 Dinner and Kitchen Cleanup
6:45 Free Time This is more time to play with neighbors, watch a family movie, play board games, go out for ice cream, or be outside as a family
8:30 Baths and Showers
9:00 Family Snuggle on our bed all together to pray and chat
9:30 Bedtime This time is later than normal but works great for summer.
     This basic system has caused our summers to be enjoyable on the days we are home because the kids are ready for the day, learning new things, keeping the house clean and yet we still have plenty of time for rest and playing. 

My hope is that you would feel the same as your family is productive while being refreshed without any summer motherhood blues!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Trust and Obey!

Today I am reminded that God gives certain opportunities for specific seasons. My responsibility is to simply obey Him and what He asked of me. As I go into these two surgeries, an opportunity  that God once gave me for a season will end. But I trust Him. 

I can remember when God spoke to me as I laid flat on the ground with my face in my open Bible as I wept. I had a 3 month old and had just found out I was pregnant again. In the midst of being a first-time mom, I was dealing with strong side-effects from medications because of a fracture that occurred in labor, I had been through a follow-up surgery and was experiencing post-partum depression.  Finding out I was pregnant was not good news. But God spoke to me.

The Lord asked me in that moment if I trusted Him. He said, “If you will give me your womb, I will give you the grace you need to have every baby I call you to have.” In gut-wrenching searching of the heart, I surrendered to the Lord His plans for our family. I wholeheartedly, tearfully answered Him, “I trust You and I give you my womb.” And He has given undeniable grace.

I went from not wanting more than one baby to being open to all God had for me. After six births and two miscarriages, today with this surgery, I will once again trust Him with my womb. In the next hour, I will be having a hysterectomy to remove a grapefruit-sized fibroid tumor that is inside my uterus. Then, I will have an additional internal repair surgery from some complications that were caused to the surrounding organs. 

I trust the Lord that my time to give birth is over. I am reminded of Job in the Bible and his trust of God. He says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” My window of opportunity to obey a specific call of God was only for a season. I am so thankful I obeyed Him without delay. My life is more blessed than I could have planned on          my own.

How about you? Is there any area of your life that God has called you to obey, right now, for this time? If so, don’t miss it. His call to have you obey in a specific area is something He has given you. He will give you this time and there will be a time He will take it away. 

If you follow Him, right now, with full surrender then you will experience more blessings than you can imagine. If you are living in obedience, you will experience His gifts for you at this time in your life before that season changes. More than anything, you can trust Him!  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making Time for Your Summer-Love...A Marriage Post for Youth Ministry Leaders

It’s here! This is the season of Camps, Fine Arts, mission trips, fundraisers, bonfires, community service projects, and the typical ministry meetings and services. On the home-front, kids are running loose since they aren’t in school, baseball games are most every night, and a vacation week is going to be squeezed in at some point. It is busy! In the midst of all that is happening, keeping your spouse, your “Summer Love”, close and connected is not always the easiest task. In fact, you may feel your only options for time with your spouse look something like this:

1.     While at camp, volunteer to serve as overnight security to get some quiet time together.

2.     While at Fine Arts, meet at the hotel vending machine to have some chat time at midnight since you are currently sleeping in separate rooms with junior highers.

3.     While on the missions trip, get all the students across the border but leave your luggage behind so you can catch a later flight alone with your spouse. Just put a mature senior in charge. I’m sure the parents will understand.

Have you every thought these are the only options? The challenge of having quality time with your spouse during this exhilarating season is real! The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Just take a moment to consider some basic reminders that will reinforce your Summer Love.

In the midst of all God has called you to do, remember that He launched you two into ministry as a team. Remember your spouse in the midst of working for the cause of Christ. Each couple may display their roles differently but it is important to remember each other in the midst of doing the work. There are a hundred distractions right now but only one person that truly needs you the most. Keep each other in mind while working.

I remember a season in my life that my husband, Scotty, was the last person I was thinking about daily. The day in and day out life of raising a family and leading in ministry were taking all I had. He was not in the right place of my priorities. As God revealed this to me, I made small changes that have made a huge difference. Getting help with the kids or delegating leadership needs can take the load off of you so you have energy for your marriage. Keep your spouse as your #1 person while you are in the middle of leading others.

Look for every way possible to do things together. Something that my husband has said to me for years is, “I always want you with me.” No matter if he is traveling, speaking up front, eating a meal, or having down time, I know he wants me with him. He often says, “I would rather do life with you than anyone else.” These statements are heartfelt and I know he means them. Although I don’t always travel with him, speak when he speaks, eat every meal with him, or spend every free moment with him, I know he wants me to be with him every time it’s possible. Look for moments to do life together while you are doing ministry with others.

            Even more so, care for each other during the busyness. Your spouse could be at the top of your list internally but if you aren’t caring for her or him then your summer love isn’t all it could be during this time. Take time to slow down enough to communicate. Do random acts to encourage each other. Give careful attention to your love life especially in the midst of busyness. Set the stage to help each other get the proper (or at least decent) nutrition and sleep because it will affect all you two do. Help with each other’s workload when possible. With all the emotional, spiritual and physical efforts that are poured out in ministry leadership, taking care of each other will help prevent marriage stress. 

            More than anything, God will equip you to be the spouse and leader you need to be. The summer is a wonderful time for your family and ministry to thrive. You are managing much but God is your source of wisdom on how to handle what He has given you. Although you may need those Top 3 ideas at some point this summer, you can have some fun with your Summer-Love by remembering to care for each other as you do life together!