First Things First

IMG_5740I am not one to set new year’s resolutions personally. My time for goal setting is in each new prayer journal I begin. The first thing I do when I start a new one is write out my goals and dreams in the inside cover pages and then pray over them, asking God to keep a desire in my heart for the one’s that are from him and to help me accomplish them.

This year, there is a little something simmering in my heart for my kids. It popped into my heart about the time the calendar rolled around, so I guess we can call it a new years resolution I have for them. It’s something I’d like to do better at instilling in them this year. That is, First Things First.

Like many of us, my kids have a tendency to want to put joy before work, play before chores, fun before those yucky important things that must be done. As I was standing in the kitchen with them recently I found myself reminding them of the importance of doing first things first and it hit me, that’s what I want to help drive home this year.

What are those first things? Well, one I alluded to above, but they’re pretty simple:

  1. I want them to put God first. They need to start their day with God. A little devo, reading a verse over breakfast – these are all great ways to put him first.
  2. I want them to do the un-fun work and discipline type tasks before play. That is homework before TV, chores before video games, to tackle those lists we leave them so they can get them out-of-the-way before they go on to do anything else they want to do. Often times, tasks take less time than we think. We can spend more time dreading them than the time it would take to complete them. If we’d just get them done then we can go on to do other things we want to do with out them hanging over our heads. And in those rare times things take longer than we think, at least we tackled them with the time needed to get them done, rather than putting them off and feeling pressured and in the end only doing a half way job, because that’s all the time we had to give it – or worse, not getting to them at all.

Putting first things first helps us to live with out regrets. It helps us manage our time better. It helps us truly enjoy our rest and play time. It’s important. Here’s to keeping first things first in 2015.

Let’s pray: Father God help me to keep first things first. I realize my kids learn by my example, and I want to teach them to be disciplined and to keep the main things the main things. I want them to enjoy down time and rest time, but not at the expense of learning a good work ethic. Help me teach them the proper rhythms and balance for getting things done, resting, playing, and enjoying life in all it’s fullness. In Jesus name, amen

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It’s All Coming Together

Be patientAs I walked the Halloween aisles of Target with Kylie and all the other last minute shoppers the night before the big day, I have to admit I was hoping my daughter would change her mind on what she wanted as a costume. We passed a few straggling dress up sets and masks most kids would love, but she had her mind set on something unique. She wanted to be Medusa. I can tell you with certainty, there were no Medusa masks or head-dresses full of snakes to be found that late in the shopping game, if they had ever carried them at all. I tried to talk her into other costume ideas, but her mind was set. She was not going to be moved. If you know my girl, you know this persistent determination is a trait of hers – she can dig in her heels and hold her ground like… well, me! I get it. The battle at that moment wasn’t worth fighting and in my heart of hearts I wanted to see her step out the door on Halloween in something she felt great in. I wanted her to be who she wanted to be — which meant, I was going to have to get my creative last minute costume skills on and get to work quick!

As we left Target we headed down to the dollar store where I prayed we’d find snakes I could sew or stitch into a wig we had at home. I found two kinds of snakes. We bought six of them, and her and dad and I set out from there to figure out exactly how best to get the slippery little creatures to stay in the thick mop of black hair. I wanted to sew them in with thread, but I quickly found it wouldn’t be strong enough to hold them all day, as she was wearing her costume for school too. David went the guy route; he thought zip-ties would do the trick. If you’ve read some of my older blogs or heard me share our fix it stories, you know he has a special love of zip ties. They’ve held our car bumper on for a long road trip after a hazard knocked it half way off. Surely they could hold snakes in hair. He was right. We went with the black zip ties. And I have to give him props– he helped with the wig by making sure those snakes would stay in place, just right for our girl.

Meanwhile, I set out to find the right dress for Medusa in our house. My first thought was an old dress up dress of Kylie’s – a blue Cinderella dress I could cut up to look like something from the time of Greek Mythology. Let’s just say, she was near tears. It was hideous. We threw it away.

I had plenty of opportunities to assure Kylie along the way, ” Don’t worry, Babe! Trust us. It’s all coming together.” A tee of mine, a scarf tied just so, a gold undershirt with sequins, some special gladiator sandals and a head full of black hair with snakes, and she was set. But as it all unfolded it was just bits and pieces that looked incomplete, in and of themselves. She was worried in those middle moments that her costume wouldn’t be right.

It reminded me of a time David and I walked down the halls of our church recently and saw the remodel going on around us. The walls were painted a new, fresh color and in contrast to the current carpet, in our opinion, it was hideous. But I know the designer, and I know she’s gifted at what she does and I’ve never seen her miss on wall color or any look she’s had a hand in. As we talked I remember saying this may not all look right at this moment, but I know once the carpet is changed out and the trim put on all of it would look fabulous. We are several weeks down the road now and the carpets in and guess what — it does look fabulous.

There are times in all of our lives when will go through a time of remodeling — a time when God strips away old thoughts and habits and replaces them with His truths and principles. There are times when God is shaping us for the next season of what he has for us. There are times we are taking steps toward a God promise and we can’t see how our current circumstances are going to work toward that end. In my life, I’ve had lots of these moments where I’ve wondered what God was up to and thought, this is not what I expected, how is all of this going to come together?

In those moments when our faith in God wavers, we can remind ourselves He finishes what he begins, as it says in Philippians 1:6,

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When we can’t see how all the pieces are going to come together, we need to fix our eyes on God and trust in Him. We need to be patient with him and ourselves knowing we are a work in progress. And we can confidently look toward the day when everything will come together knowing as we see it all from that perspective we will say, “Wow, look what God did. Look how he brought everything together in just the right way, to make something beautiful.”

Let’s pray — Father God, I trust you. I can’t always see or understand what you are doing. I don’t always know how the pieces are going to come together, but I know you, the master designer, have never missed on anything you’ve had a hand in. You know my end from my beginning. You know the steps I need to take along the way to get there. I yield to your preparation process. As you strip away, reshape, dress and mold me and work in those around me, help me to keep my eyes on you in bold expectation, knowing you who promise are faithful to complete all that you began and in the end, it’s all going to come together to glorify you. In Jesus name, Amen.

P.S. If you are wondering how Kylie’s costume turned out – let’s just say she was happy.

Medusa Kylie

Remember Who You Are

The Lion KingI enjoy being a football mom way more than I ever imagined I would. I told Ethan and Brendan, my two boys who are playing, they are spoiling their dad and I. They’ve each had undefeated seasons so far. I can’t imagine cheering them on yet in this new endeavor and seeing them lose. I’m sure that day will come, but for now – we are enjoying watching them learn and grow in knowledge and love of the sport and sharing the joy of each win.

I also love the sport for what it is teaching my boys. Ethan is still on the smaller side. I’m sure he will shoot up at some point, but right now many of the other 7th graders tower over him. He gets out there though with heart and sheer determination. He has no fear! The coaches play him again and again because they like his attitude and that he will go for the tough tackles that others hesitate in. If that doesn’t teach him volumes about attitude and determination, I don’t know what will.

Brendan on the other hand is huge for a freshman. He is sturdy with big hands. He also plays with all of his heart. Even though he’s only played two seasons before this year, he was picked to start on defense and punt return on the Pflugerville High School Freshman B team. At first, he was disappointed to be on the B team, but then getting to start and play through all the games has given him such great experience that he is growing in confidence and the coaches are getting a chance to see what he has in him.

Both Brendan and Ethan have growth related aches and pains they work through every day. Ethan’s is Sever’s Disease and we suspect Brendan has Osgood Schlatter’s – the equivalent of what Ethan has, but in his knees instead of the feet where Ethan’s flares up. Knowing they will outgrow it makes them push through the pain and keep going. Brendan comes home and ices and soaks just to ease the aches. Then he gets back out there the next day and kills it again. All with a good attitude. I am so proud of him.

That in and of itself is producing a determination and strength in him that is admirable. As if that weren’t lesson enough, Brendan had his first taste of politics on the field this week. An injured player from the A team, out four weeks, suddenly showed up on the B team practice field this Monday and told Brendan the coaches said he was going to be starting in Brendan’s position. Brendan was angry and bummed all at the same time. He came home after practice and was beside himself when he told us what happened. He believed it to be true.

Over the course of this year the most often used phrase I’ve said to Brendan on the ride to school in the mornings is, “Remember Who You Are.” This gave me a chance to drive that lesson home a little further. When I asked him if what his team-mate said threw him off his game, he admitted it did. I said, “He was likely trying to rattle you. And if so, he got the result he wanted today. More than likely he’s scared and feels like he has to prove himself again to the coaches. Until you hear from them that you are replaced you need to keep working hard, believing for the best, and remember who you are, whose you are, who is on your side, who is with you and for you.” I reminded him we can pray in those moments when people’s agendas cause them to act in difficult ways that rattle our worlds and to trust God with the outcome. I had him repeat scriptures to me out loud to see the effect they had on his mindset. He quoted scriptures as I said them. Verses such as:

If God is for me who or what can stand against me. Romans 8:31 (my paraphrase)

No weapon that is formed against me will prosper; And every tongue that rises against me I will show to be in the wrong. For this is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And this is their vindication from Him… Isaiah 54:17

Before God formed me in the womb He knew me, before I was born he set me apart; He appointed me as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5

These were just a few of the verses he repeated. Whether he wanted to admit it or not in that moment, David and I saw his countenance changing and knew it was working.  I finished by reading aloud to him Ephesians 6, reminding him the word of God is the sword of the spirit. It’s what we use to fight these kinds of battles where circumstances around us create storms of doubt and discouragement inside of us. Ephesians 6 also gave him a chance to remember we aren’t fighting flesh and blood. His battle isn’t with a peer who is coming back from an injury and wants his position. His battle is with the enemy of his heart who will do anything to throw him off his game in life. I then told Brendan our words have power, and yep – you guessed it, read him the verse about life and death being in the tongue, and told him not to let one more negative word come out of his mouth about this situation. To use the tools God’s given him, pray, and leave it in God’s hands – trusting him with the outcome.

And just so you know the rest of the story – Brendan went to school on Tuesday and talked to his coaches, asking if what the boy said was true. And to his pleasure found they weren’t removing him from his starting position of corner back, where he shines the most, but were going to find a way to give the other player a chance to rotate in and see how he does as he’s been out for so long. I’m so thankful too for Brendan to have an opportunity to learn compassion for a teammate. I asked him how he would feel were he in his shoes. That was a perspective he likely hadn’t thought of!

What a great teaching moment this presented to me on so many levels. I sent Brendan the image at the top of this blog Tuesday morning. A great reminder for him. All day I prayed for him when he crossed my mind. And I was thrilled when God came through for him in such a faith building way, and so quickly. Go God!

Let’s Pray – Father God thank you for the teaching moment’s life presents to us as parents to instill in our kids how to practically live out the truths of your word. Thank you for every moment they listen and apply what we teach to them. For anyone today who is walking through a challenging situation and taking it to heart and feeling afraid, I pray you remind them who they are, whose they are, who is in them, who is for them, and who is on their side. Bring to mind scriptures that can help them lift their eyes back to you and place there hope back in you. In Jesus name, amen

Practice Hospitality

HospitalityLast year, before graduation from high school, our oldest son was searching for the answer to the looming question, “What do I want to do with my life.” Due to being moved up in the middle of his fourth grade year and already being young for his grade with a summer birthday, he walked the stage at just 16. It’s hard enough for an 18-year-old to try to figure out what the future holds, but for a sixteen year old, who lacks two more years of maturity, it’s even tougher.

To add to the struggle, similarly intelligent peers all seemed to be headed in one direction. I remember sitting at his national merit award breakfast, cheering, as one after another of the winners came forward to receive their certificate of achievement. As a part of the ceremony, the superintendent shared with the crowd of family and friends what each one of them wanted to study after high school. Again and again we heard the same thing. It seemed each one of the students was going to go into the field of engineering. Russel was only one of two kids who listed business, or anything other than engineering, as his area of interest.

As we left the ceremony I couldn’t stop thinking about what unfolded there. A group of highly intelligent kids all feeling like they had one or two choices of fields to go into to use the gift of knowledge and understanding God blessed them with. Now I am not knocking the field of engineering. I have a degree in Biomedical engineering myself. What I questioned was the thought and steering they’d received that intelligence had few options after high school. As I talked with Russel about it, I told him not to put himself in any box. I said intelligence can be used in any field or area of interest.

There have been plenty of times I’ve offered advice to my teen age son, and it wasn’t received. This time, by my surprise, it was fully embraced! I discovered this after Russel went to visit a University of Houston Open House; the same school where he is now attending college. He came back from that orientation so excited about what he’d found as an option for study. He’d met a guide there who was majoring in Hotel and Restaurant management, and after spending time listening to the ins and outs of what that entails; he was set that this field was for him!

Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t jump up and down at the news initially. I thought, “He went too far!” I thought he was messing with me at first, saying that just to see if I’d stand by what I said. But he wasn’t. He was dead serious. As I researched the field and had time to process myself, I realized what an opportunity this was for him. Yes, people who own or run hotels, restaurants, or country clubs make good money. That’s important for his future ability to support a family in the way he’d like to. But it’s more than that. This was a business degree that would teach him how to focus on the needs of people. Russel didn’t want to be in a cube. He wanted to interact and work with others. It’s perfect for that. And what it teaches, hospitality, is something he can use anywhere.

I remember when we were launching the West Campus, I taught our team on the topic of hospitality. This past Sunday I had a chance to speak to the guest services team at our church, and as I thought about what I wanted to share, this same message came back to mind. It’s fitting for what we do on Sunday’s; it’s fitting for any area of our lives.

Many of those I talked with were like me. Before learning it’s true meaning, when I heard the word, hospitality, I thought of magazines like Southern Living that taught how to set a table well, or how to arrange our homes in such a way that people would automatically feel welcome. In a church or business setting, I thought of hospitality teams as just those who served food or drinks to guests and others, or those who set the tables and made rooms beautiful for use. That can be a part of it, but hospitality is so much more than that. It was while studying Romans 12:13, that I found this out. Romans 12:13, says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

The Greek word used there for hospitality, is philoxenia, which means love to strangers. So on Sundays, any time anyone comes in the doors of the church, we have a chance to offer hospitality. For Russel, anytime he works at the Hilton on campus at the University, while in training, he has a chance to practice hospitality. Hospitality is showing God’s love to all who come our way in any setting.

When we look at hospitality that way, we realize we have a chance to offer hospitality anywhere we go. We can offer hospitality at the grocery store by offering to put up someone’s cart, or help load groceries, or even by just sharing a smile and kind word to someone who seems to be having a tough day. We can offer hospitality at the office by blessing a coworker in some way. We don’t have to have perfect homes to offer hospitality. We don’t have to be Pinterest or Southern Living Queens. All we have to be is people who want to be vessels God can use to pour his love through to touch hurting humanity and all people with his love.

We are all in the hospitality industry! What a blessing it is to be used by God in this way.

Let’s Pray: Father God, thank you for each and every opportunity I have to offer love to all you bring across my path today and every day. I recognize I am an imperfect vessel, and I thank you that you use me, even with all of my flaws and my desperate need of you, to pour your love out to those around me. Help me to be tuned in to needs everywhere. Give me a willing heart to obey your promptings to practice hospitality. Help me to remember it’s not about me, but about what you can do through me. I love you Jesus, amen.

Lifetimers, Seasonals, and Letting Go… A blog on the Cycles of Friendship

True FriendshipThe next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis

Life is a journey of becoming. Every day we move away from who we were yesterday toward who God is calling us to be tomorrow. As we live yielded to the molding and shaping work of Jesus we are always in the process of being transformed more and more into his likeness. As we are always changing — who we are, in relationship to those around us, is always somewhat in flux as well. There are amazing relationships that can stand the transformations that time brings, and there are some we have to release along the way.

Before we go there, let’s all pause and give thanks for those amazing relationships in our lives that have spanned the test of time. It’s truly a gift to have longstanding friendships, and it’s also a rarity. I’ve heard it said that some people are in our lives for a reason, some for a season and some for a lifetime. Recognizing this makes us treasure those life timers all the more, and it also helps us be more ok with those we are close to for just a season. For truly, whether we are friends for a short time or a long time, every one of these relationships imparts some beauty into our world and teaches us valuable lessons on life and loving others well.

Over the years I’ve been blessed to have some amazing life timers! I’ve also had some awesome seasonal friends where time naturally caused us to part ways. And I’ve had some friendships I’ve had to let go of that I treasured, because they just weren’t healthy for me. That’s hard. Friendships shifting naturally is one thing, having to let go because of toxicity in the relationship, betrayal, judgment, misunderstanding, or offense – that’s another. It is so hard when God calls us to let go of a cherished friend because love and unity have left the relationship. It’s equally as painful to try to prolong a friendship past the point of wisdom saying it’s time to move on. On this journey of becoming, loving ourselves well along the way, means being wise about who we choose to do life together with.

As a mom, I try to teach my kids who they surround themselves with has a bearing on them. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future, I always say. I steer them toward recognizing what healthy relationships look like and guide them away from making meaningful relationships with those who might lead them off track or not be trustworthy with their hearts. That has been one of the toughest relational lessons to instill in them. It involves helping them understand the difference between us loving everyone as Christ loves us, yet being wise with who we let into our close circles. There are a few life lessons I feel are key. This is one of them. As an adult, I still try to live this out today. It’s not easy. I have to remind myself who I surround myself with matters.

Whether it’s for one step of the journey, a few, or many – true friendship takes us by the hand along the way and reminds us we are not alone, we are worthy of being celebrated, we are treasured and loved. Friendship is a gift. Let’s choose our friends wisely. Love them well. Let go when needed. And trust God to surround us with the right people for every step along the way!

Let’ Pray – Father God I thank you for the amazing friends you have blessed me with through out my life. I praise you for those lifetimers who make my world richer, who celebrate who you are leading me to be on this journey of becoming, and who I get the pleasure of celebrating as you lead them onward to becoming more like you and accomplishing more for your kingdom in this life. They are treasures to me! Give me wisdom to love those you have placed in my life well, to forgive when needed, to fight for when needed, and to release when needed. Bless those who are a blessing to me and bless those who have not been trustworthy with my heart. Make us all more like you. In Jesus name, amen.

Verses for reflection:

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 – And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • Proverbs 27:9 – The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
  • Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at ALL times.

 

 

 

 

Ditch the What If’s

What IfI ran along the trail with tears streaming down my face as I thought about taking my oldest son to college the next day and with my sad thoughts, I had a litany of what if’s running through my mind…

What if he gets hurt.

What if he doesn’t go to church.

What if he doesn’t get the last two scholarships we are waiting to hear about.

What if… what if… what if…

I was a mess. I don’t know why my running time has turned into one of my key processing times. If you see me running with an ugly cry face and tears streaming, I apologize in advance. Wouldn’t it be great if we could schedule our grieving, deep thinking moments?

One of my friends texted me in the midst of my what if moment that she was praying for me with this big shift coming the next day. I gave her the first quick answer that came to mind, the same one I gave most people who texted me thoughts and prayers in those days — something along the lines of a simple, “Thank you! I appreciate it so much.” And I meant it. But this time, for some reason after texting her that same reply, it hit me – underneath all those what if’s, was fear.

It was eye-opening to me after many teary moments over the months leading up to and following his graduation and again as the move in date for college approached, that in the midst of the grief of letting go, fear had taken up residence in my heart.

All of those what if’s were possible worst case scenarios scrolling through my mind. They were places I wasn’t completely trusting Jesus with my son. As I texted this trusted friend for a second time, I said, ” I think I’m scared.” And then I shared some of my what if thoughts. Having been through releasing kids after High School a few times herself, she responded back with words of wisdom and a reminder to trust God with my son. Immediately after realizing and texting my fears to her, I felt better. Relief flooded my heart and my tears dried up.

I’ve heard Joyce Meyer say, “When you think about something to the point it causes fear or confusion – you’ve thought about it too far.” That’s so true. I’d thought about it all beyond the point of trusting God with all areas of my son’s life. There are no what if’s when it comes to trusting Him. He has it all, every detail, every concern, every possible scenario that can unfold, in the palm of His hand. If you are struggling with what if thoughts today, I hope you will pause and remember – God’s got it! You can trust Him to see you and all those your thoughts pertain to, through to the end.

Let’s pray – Father God, I think you for your faithfulness to watch over and protect us and those we love. You are good and your love endures forever. Today and every day, may I live with my eyes fixed on you, my hope anchored in you, and my trust in you and you alone to keep all that pertains to me safe in your arms. Quiet every fear. Calm every stormy thought. Peace, be still. In Jesus name, Amen.

Verses for Reflection:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall PAssWhen David and I went upstairs to tuck our precious daughter, Kylie into bed this past Monday, we found her red-faced and crying big elephant tears into her pillow. We asked what was wrong, but we knew what it likely was, and we were right – she missed her big brother. We’d just dropped him off for his first year of college the day before and she was super sad about not having him around on her first day of school.

I totally get how she feels. When my good friend, Aileen, texted me this week to ask me how I’m feeling, I said, “Just between friends — all I can think to explain how I feel is, – this blows!” I’m excited for him, I’m slightly heartbroken for me.

Sending one off is not easy, and being the momma of yet three more kids still very much in our home and also facing this transition, my role is not just letting go – it’s helping them process through letting go, yet holding on to the fact that we will always be family, no matter what season we are in. I ask often how they are feeling. I respond in ways I know are healing and comforting and helpful, steering them to see this is a positive change, even though it’s not easy.

As I sat with Kylie on her bed that evening I came up with a plan I’ve since rolled out to the rest of the family. I told her it is normal to miss her big brother. She can call and text him anytime. Also, I said, “each time he crosses your mind and you think of how much you miss him, why don’t you say a little prayer for him. It can be one sentence, it can be more, just whatever is on your heart.” I explained prayer connects our hearts with those we pray for, and our prayers are like arrows aimed at them that God can use to bless and touch their lives in amazing ways.

As I look at Russel’s first few days on campus I’m already seeing the fruit of all the prayers prayed for him. David and I marvel at the number of “coincidences” that have taken place since he stepped on the University of Houston campus just 5 days ago. Of course we know we don’t really believe in coincidences. I call them God incidences. God is up to something big in that boy’s life and it’s such a joy to watch it unfold even as we grieve and let go of our season of having him in our home, under our roof, day in and day out. Our daily prayers keep him covered and continue to open the door for God to move.

As I looked at other back to school pictures on Facebook and instagram this week, I have so loved seeing other friends kids heading out to their first days of school. Many precious friends little ones are just entering kindergarten. That’s the first big milestone that often brings us mom’s to tears. I remember each of my kids going like it was yesterday. Wait, wasn’t it just yesterday? Now it’s hard to believe I have a fourth grader, seventh grader, ninth grader and a college student! Time passes so quickly!

Yet the days can feel so long. I remember many days where I felt like the monotonous, Ground Hog Day like repetitiveness of motherhood would never end. I remember feeling like every day was the same – day in and day out – laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, naps, feeding — over and over again! I remember feeling like all I heard was, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…” And I would have given anything for a few quiet minutes to myself. Yes we need to pamper ourselves through every stage and take breaks so we don’t lose our sanity, or good hygiene.. but we also have to realize at every stage this too shall pass.. and so will time… and before we know it it’s time to send them out. To those mom’s still in these early stages, I say – savor every moment.

And so for you precious mom’s and dad’s who are reading this blog with little ones at home – I hope my reflections inspire you to savor these moments, keep your children covered in prayer, teach your family to pray for one another, and remember in the tough moments, this too shall pass!

Let’s pray, ” Lord thank you for the precious children you have entrusted to our care. Help us to savor every day and love them like you love them and raise them to be the world changers you created them to be. Thank you for daily grace, like manna, to sustain me and give me just what I need to see each moment through. Grant me wisdom that I need to raise them well. In Jesus name, amen.”