Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Question I Asked My Son

The first day of school each year, the Mother’s Club (much like the PTA) at my son’s school, hosts their first meeting with great pomp and circumstance.  It is pretty wonderful!  Unlike the normal monthly meeting (that I try to attend with my two-year-old in toe), the first meeting of the school year offers free babysitting in addition to the wonderful food and awesome devotion time. 

The speaker the past two years is a local pastor that I have known the entirety of my 14 years in this community and I not only have a great deal of respect for him, but also think he is hilarious!  (If you know me, you know humor is pretty high on my list of amazing qualities people should possess.) 

As he closed his devotion, kicking off our year theme - “Fully Devoted” (Acts 2:42), he put out a challenge.  He encouraged us to ask our kids - without coaching, what they thought mom and dad’s top three personal priorities were?  

So, I did.  

On the way home from school that day, I asked Caleb that very question.  

Here was his answer: 

  1. Us (our family)
  2. Dad: Sports Mom: Hallmark Channel
  3. God and Money (apparently 3 was not enough) 

He let me know they weren’t in a particular order, and even though 2/3 were on point with what I want my life speak about my priorities, I was really hung up on the other two mentioned.  

In my effort to demonstrate value of things and how to properly care for something, I inadvertently made money a higher priority than it should have been.  Money doesn't matter, people do! 

I do like watching Hallmark Movies and my husband is a Sports fanatic and there is nothing wrong with that, but what really got me was this: 

I didn’t want Hallmark to be in my top 3 but I also was perplexed because I didn’t have a definitive answer for what I wanted to replace it.  I could think of about 10 things to choose from but still struggled to know exactly what I desired to be number 3.  

Some of the contenders for that third spot might be: Physical Fitness, Healthy Eating, Caring for the Needy, Serving Others, Encouraging Others, Singing, Theater, Dance - but not TV! 

As I came on it, I realized I want my kids to see me loving on people!  That is what I am called to do as a Christian but its also hardwired into me to love people.  Life is hard and we all need extra encouragement and love.  That means I need to change a few things around so people come before a good movie on Hallmark.  

I can't be alone on the misplaced priority train.  So now the ball is in your court.  This is a great question to ask whether you have kids or not.  Regardless of intention, you are leaving a legacy.  There is no choice in this, but you do have a choice in the legacy you leave.  Are you someone who lives with intention?  Are you spending your time in areas that matter to you or are you wasting precious hours? Is it time for some self-evaluation in these areas?  What do people know you for?  How would your family and friends answer the question I asked my son?  

If you don’t get the answers you were hoping for, then it is time to make some changes.  Find out what you are aiming for then decide what activities are distracting you from your course and need to be altered or eliminated.  

If you got the answers you were hoping for - great!  Help others to live up to their potential.  I don’t believe in reincarnation, so this is the only shot I get at life.  Who will join me in making the most of the years you have left?  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What Are You Fighting For?

Yesterday, I learned another marriage I respected went down in flames.  You know how I felt?  I felt angry.  

We have settled as a Christian community, on our standard of marriage and allowed divorce, when the Bible is clear - divorce is wrong.  Divorce is something that completely sucks. Yes, I know its 2017, but that truth still rings true today!  There are situations when divorce is necessary, but this blog is not addressing the special circumstance divorce - too many people simply don’t “feel” it anymore and just move on. 

But you can’t just move on.  

Marriage is two pieces of paper, glued together, and when the glue has dried those papers can’t be separated.  When we divorce, its rips us apart.  When you add children to the ripping, its an even greater tragedy. 

In light of this, I have some truth bombs to drop: 

  1. Marriage isn’t easy.  
I know that couple that posts their lovey dovey Instagram pictures about finding their soul mate and enjoying another day of their perfect life, and I’m sure you do too.  It can lead us to believe that the perfect marriage exists, but no marriage is perfect.  Social media is our best; we don’t post the bad days.  I’m married and I can say, marriage is HARD!!!!! 

2. Marriage is something to fight for!  
Marriage isn’t just about a love feeling.  It is a spiritual union.  It is a way to seek God on a whole new level.  When we come together as a married couple we can fight against the enemy.  Satan is real and he is out to take you down any way he can.  Marriage is just one of those ways.  

I love my marriage and my husband, but we are stronger because of the battles we have faced and overcame, not the romantic moments shared with a hashtag.  Kevin and I have come against a lot in our 14 years together.  I compare our journey to climbing to the peak of Mt. Everest with my climbing partner and celebrate the fact that we survived! 

Those challenges have made me a stronger wife, woman and child of God.  Sure, I’ve wanted to quit, but quitting doesn’t do anyone any good. There are beautiful moments and you have to hang onto them when you reach a storm, but the storm is normal and don’t forget you made a commitment.  Learning to stand strong and persevere grows character muscles we need and need to pass on to our children.  

3. You Didn’t Marry the Wrong Person  

If you married them, guess what, they are the right person.  God has a plan and if you trust him and follow his instructions, it will work out.  We aren’t here to be the happiest people on earth.  Happiness is great, but fleeting.  We are here to be holy and to become closer with our Creator.  Instead of seeing the greener grass in another person, see the beauty in your mate.  Get help if you need it, but refocus on what first drew you to them.  

4. Divorce is destructive.  

As a child of divorce, I can tell you my parents’ divorce, hurt me.  I don’t blame them or hold them in contempt of any kind.  God met me in my hurt and brought healing to me, he gave me compassion for others facing the same reality and gave me a place to pray.  But I never got God’s best, because divorce breaks the family.  Kids get shuffled and even in the best arrangements it messes with a kids identity and security.  

5.  Staying Married Isn’t Enough

If you are in a difficult marriage, its not enough to just stay unhappily married - you must pull up your sleeves and get to work.  My greatest tool in marriage, and in life, has been prayer.  When I pray for my husband, God’s work in him will benefit every aspect of his life including our marriage.  You must do whatever it takes to save your marriage and allow it to thrive.  

6. Just Because Your Spouse Has Quit, Doesn’t Mean Its Over

Some people don’t have a choice, their spouse left them and they are stuck in this new reality.  Others face a spouse with addiction or infidelity and in those moments we need to be strong in prayer and boundaries but we can’t give up!  Continue to pray because you never know what can happen.  I’ve seen people separate while one works on personal issues so that they could save their marriage, and I’ve seen people continue to pray and believe in God’s best in the midst of a spouse choosing to walk away.  

A great friend of mine said it best when she said: “In the end, its not really about marriage; it comes down to how much do you trust God?”  

Faith isn’t looking into the face of reality, its looking into hopelessness and speaking God’s truth, despite reality.  God is bigger than your marriage - do you trust him to save it? An easy life is fun but its not the richest life, and when we fail to fight for what really matters we lose - every time!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

When Someone Else's Words Are Better Than Your Own

With everything going on in our world right now, let me tell you, I have words - lots of words.  Sometimes, I have so many I just can't get them out.  The words in my heart and my head are currently in the midst of a traffic jam.  While they sit in gridlock and wait to flow again,  I decided to share some words that warmed my heart yesterday when I read them.  My sister, Catie Coyle, shared a story that I knew needed to be shared.  So for now, she speaks, and soon I will be too!  Thank you Catie for the following words and thank you to our mom for raising us to see people and not color.  

I have been thinking about the recent news out of Charlottesville and how to respond. I struggle to find the rights words and war with myself about my anger and my desire to be a light in the darkness. This process of thought has had me reflecting on my childhood and one experience in particular. 

As a little girl, I practically lived at the Springfield Marketplace. The building itself breathed and was alive with adventure and spirit. My mother had an antique shop toward the front of the building. Christos was a lovely shop, beautifully appointed, and always her shoppers would be greeted with the sounds Gershwin or Beethoven lightly playing from a small Boombox hidden in the back of the store. 

I loved the Marketplace; I loved the people there and the adventures we shared together. It was my little paradise.

Despite the warm memories, it was also in my own little Hamlet that my heart was first darkened by the awareness of racism. The Marketplace had a shoe shine stand that my friend, Charlie, owned. Charlie was old and gentle and apparently… black. I can’t explain why I didn’t seem to notice that about him. I just didn’t. 

Charlie was just my friend. 

Sometimes, when the stand was slow we would go for our walks together. I would show Charlie silly things like where I had scooped a drowning bee out of the fountain and cared for him until he could fly away. Or Charlie would tell me stories about the people that had their shoes shined that day. It was nothing spectacular, except maybe to me. 

Then one day, Charlie would not go for a walk with me. 

I was heartbroken. 

I didn’t understand why my friend would not want to spend time with me. 
To make matters worse, my mother wouldn’t let me go outside either. There was a nervousness in the air. It was uncomfortable and confusing. 

I don’t know how I found out about the Klu Klux Klan or their despicable presence that day. I don’t know who told me. I don’t actually remember if I really understand who they were. All I knew was that they were gathering by MY fountain. I somehow learned that they hated my friend Charlie, and people who shared the color of his skin. I learned that Charlie was scared. And I knew, without a doubt, that I hated the KKK.

As an adult, I still struggle to forgive those that have such foulness in their hearts. I know that hating those that hate does nothing to promote the love of Christ, but I still struggle.

The recent news about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville has had me thinking about Charlie again. When I heard news of the rally I felt so angry and helpless. Even after all these years, I still don’t have the words. I still feel like a little girl who feels betrayed by total strangers. 

I wish there was a way, as an adult, I could go back there and tell Charlie how much he meant to me, and how ashamed I am for being upset that he wouldn’t go for a walk with me. 

I wish I could hold his hand again, his old wrinkled hand, and tell him that I would keep him safe. 

I wish Charlie knew that that day, that was undoubtedly terrifying for him, awoke in me a passion for equality. 

I hope Charlie knew that I loved him. 

I know that there are a million “Charlies” out there. People that are our neighbors and our co-workers, our friends, strangers we pass on the street, and family that we adore. People who feel scared and angry. I know that my experiences are different than theirs. I know that I cannot speak for them and for the racism that they experience every day. 

I know I don’t really know what is it like to suffer under the yoke of racism because I was born with light skin. I also know that I will stand up for what is right and what is true and what is love. I will do my best to show my neighbors, and my co-workers, and my friends, and even strangers that I pass on the street, that will stand with them. And I know that we will be victorious in this battle, because “love never fails."

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” - I Corinthians 13:4-8

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

If I'm Being Honest

I love to share my life and lessons learned with others. Whether its speaking from a stage, leading a workshop, writing a blog post or just meeting for prayer and coffee with someone,being able to minister to people at the heart level is the pinnacle of fulfillment for me.

But if I am being honest, I've struggled at times with the ministry I do. I am not a perfect person, and its easy to feel like a fraud.  I don't have it all together, I have my own struggles, and I can begin to question what right I have to say anything to anyone?

Then I remember, its not about me.  I don't share, write, pray, listen and talk because I am so great.  I do it because I am not.  I do it because I have walked some roads in life that didn't lead me where I thought they would.  In the midst of all of it, I found hope in Jesus.  I do it because He and I discussed long ago that if I had to face it, He better use it.  I don't want any of the pain I have endured to be worthless.  

I wish I were further along in my journey.  I wish I could check off the boxes in areas where I struggle; despite my current reality, I know:

1. I will get there. 

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) - "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."

2. No matter how much my enemy comes against me, God already won, and I have victory!

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." - I John 4:4 (NIV)

I am lucky because I have seen victory in areas of pain in my life.  I had an abusive step-dad growing up that I not only learned to forgive, but God gave me mercy and love for him.  I was happy God brought me into his life so he could know God even with the pain I experienced.

Right after high school, I chose an abortion even though it wasn't what I wanted or believed in.  I can echo the words of Frederica Mathewes-Green when she says, “No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.” When I first read that quote, I was relieved someone got it!  I was haunted after my abortion, but now I can say with certainty - I am free from the slavery I felt after making that choice!

Those two things are just a sampling of the hurdles God has helped me overcome.  That reminder gives me the strength to know I can continue to overcome with God's help. 

This past week, I shared my struggle with anxiety and subsequent anger on my public Facebook page.  This is my current battle, and on a rough day or in a rough moment, that is when the questions arise, but I embrace the journey and hope that those who read this blog will journey with me. 

I know God has victory in store and my God is bigger than my struggles.  I feel blessed for the current resources I am working through because for the first time in a long time I see victory approaching. 

What about you?  What struggles have you down?  Where do you need a boost and encouragement? May I encourage you to continue on!  Don't give up!  Do you know God?  He has a plan for you!  If you have questions, comment below or message me and I am happy to help.  Happy Wednesday!  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

One Thing You Don't Need

Its ironic to me that when we survey the world's population and examine issues that each country and region face, the biggest issue in the richest countries are things like: depression, anxiety and suicide.

Interestingly enough, suicide isn't an issue in impoverished areas like it is in first world countries. How is it that people that "have it all" are the most unhappy people in the world?

I heard a sermon recently from a guest speaker at a Christian camp, discussing the Beatitudes, a section of scripture also known as the Sermon on the Mount.  It is a sermon given by Jesus.  Many of Jesus' teachings seem counter to our culture and this section of text is no exception. Jesus says things like, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," or "Blessed are those that mourn..." What? How can they be blessed?  Yet, when we look into the communities of the world, these statements of Jesus are reflected in real-life.

Whenever I visit Thailand and spend time with the Karen refugees living in the northern Thailand mountains, I am moved with the happiness of the Karen.  Here are people who are living outside their native country, without citizen rights, often poor and yet - they are happy.

When a sponsor gifts a new outfit to a girl at the center, you will see that outfit many times throughout a visit, and each time on a different person.  When someone gets something, it is for the group, not the individual.

This attitude is also modeled in the scriptures when we read about the early church in Acts.  Followers of Jesus were focused more on community than the individual.

It seems that the Bible is right.  The more we become focused on ourselves, the more unhappy we become.  The more things we possess, the more empty we become.  The more we get our way, the less we really get what we truly want.

What is the one thing you and I don't need?


We don't need to have things the exact way we want it.  We don't need everything our heart desires and can possess with the click of a button and free drone instant shipping.  We don't need to be the center of the universe.

What we DO need is an others-focused, community mentality.  We need to be self-less not selfish.
We need to be told no and to experience disappointment.
We need to live without
...only then are we strong, brave, empathetic, creative and fulfilled.

Seeing others succeed is a greater high than getting the latest technological device.  It is always better to celebrate each other than to have it be all out me.

Our culture is feeding us a lie - A LOT!  Are you ready to abandon the cultural standard of having it all and live the kind of life God created us for?

These 3 things will help you to live counter-culturally:

1. Recognize it - Do you see the subtle and not so subtle way advertisers sell the message that you deserve it all?  Can you take note of how many times that message crosses your path each day?

2. Deny It - Make note of the truth that stands in the face of the lie you are being spoon fed.

3. Defy It - Step out and live in a way that puts others' needs first.  Choose to give more than you receive, to embrace the thorns that prick you when you come across a rose and see the beauty that came with the pain.  Live in such a way that embraces the needs of others and community more than you the individual.

When we see others before ourselves, we live in a way that celebrates our communal and spiritual purpose.  We are, after all, the Body of Christ - working together is the only way we truly work!