Chronicling 40: Day 180 of 365

Fellowship

In 40 years of living, I have had my share of fellowship.  There were times where it seemed easier to not only find my tribe of people, but also have an abundant amount of time for them.  There have also been times where it has been harder, and my time for others has been trumped by responsibilities.

When I was a child, I had all the time in the world.  We could do nothing and enjoy being together.  As I got older it was about doing “things” and things cost money.  Until I got a job, I didn’t have the money.  When I got a job, I didn’t have the time.

Isn’t that how it is?

When we had our first born and decided I would stay at home, I had the time… but I didn’t have the money.  When I started taking on side work, I had the money, but didn’t have the time.

This crux never seems to change.

But, I fully believe that fellowship with others is incredibly important and even the introverts shouldn’t close themselves off completely communing with others.

But, what the latter part of the last 40 years has taught me is to be far more intentional about that fellowship.

  1.  Carving out time for friendships, that includes phone calls… text messages… and face to face time.
  2.  Being more judicial in who I invite in my circle… my space has no room for negativity and drama.
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So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Couples Valentines Day Party

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I love a good party, a time to fellowship with friends or family.  If you are looking for something special to do with your small group, bible study group, or even just your close group of friends (or relatives), consider hosting a small Valentines Party!

If you are on a budget this can seem like a daunting task, but I assure you that there are ways to make it happen even on small budget.    This year won’t be our first party, and what I have learned is to start small and build each year.  To begin this year’s planning process, I start with an inventory of what I already have.  Figure out what I need to buy, and finally I consider what things I would like to add to our inventory.

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Our first party consisted of chairs scattered about, a fun game, and desserts.  We started the party a bit later in the evening, allowing the couples to head out for a nice dinner and join us for dessert a little later.  This year, we’ve planned a full meal.  This meant I was going to need more table setting decor and less room decor.

In order to keep the decorations & supplies affordable I shop at:

  • The Dollar Tree
  • Target (in the $1-$3 bins)
  • Oriental Trading

Also, because I know we will have future parties, I like to shop after Valentines Day for upcoming year’s decor additions.

To keep my sanity in order, when it comes to the food:

  • Some items are homemade
  • Some items are store bought & altered
  • Some items are purchased from local bakeries and restaurants.

Another option is to find a local caterer who will handle all the food preparation for you, and it isn’t as expensive as you would think.  If you have a mom friend who loves to cook (and is great at it), you could hire her to do the catering too.  This can turn into a blessing for the both of you.

I don’t like to plan a party that makes me crazy, I like to plan a party I can enjoy from beginning to end.

This year, I also partnered with Family Christian in order to showcase some of their great Valentines Day related items.

I even scored a GREAT deal when I found a slightly banged up lighted sign from Christmas, which actually fit our party decor!

A Good Party Starts with a Great Invitation

Since our party is for couples, I was only sending 1 invitation for every 2 physical guests.  I decided that it made more sense to hand make an invitation versus order something printed online.

I printed the party invitation on white paper, in red ink.  At Target, I purchased a book of stickers, 1 package of square doilies, and a package of cards with matching envelopes.  I used a glue stick and stamps I already had on hand.  For just $3.00 in supplies, I was able to hand craft eight invitations.

A Good Party Captures Memories

At our first party, I built a “Kissing Booth” and put together a few photo props.  At one point in the evening we took several photos of each couple.  After the party, I took those photos and made photo strips out of them (like you would receive in a photo booth in a mall or theme park).  This year I, I decided to go with a theme more akin to a Valentines Dance.    I purchased props from The Dollar Tree, Target, and even made a large polaroid frame by hand.  Oriental Trading had inexpensive silver foil drapes and an awesome valentines border.  I paired this with strung felt hearts I had on hand from a previous party. 

A Good Party Is a Lot of Fun

Besides capturing memories with the photo booth, we also have a lot of fun by playing games.  A group favorite is the not so newly wed game, where we all answer questions about our spouses.  Dry erase boards and markers can be purchased at most Dollar Tree stores.   I found a great set of cards with questions at Home Goods.  This year I added in Couples Mad Libs (I loved playing these as a kid), which will be scattered about our dining table to use throughout the evening.  I’m also working on a Jenga Truth or Dare Game I found on Pinterest!  If you are going to have games, you must have prizes.  I drove to a nearby Family Christian store and picked up a few home decor items and a set of Mr. & Mrs. Coffee Mugs.  We also have a couples gift exchange!  I found the cute gift bags at the Dollar Tree. 

A Good Party Has Good Food

With the internet we have access to websites that can help us plan out a great menu.  This year I am planning a Pear and Asiago Salad, Chicken and Artichoke Pasta with Grilled Asparagus, Fresh Bread, and for dessert Red Velvet Cake.  In previous years, I have leaned toward desserts only which included cupcakes, cheesecake, chocolate covered pretzels, and even cake pops.  Websites like Pinterest make it a lot easier to not only find recipes, but also themed food ideas too.  You can even find a full planning page on how to throw your own party from start to finish.  I like to mix it up, coming up with an idea that is totally my own.

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Since this year we decided to have a sit down meal, instead of desserts or finger foods, table decor was added to our supplies this year.   Many components of the decor were diy projects that used inexpensive items like doilies, ribbons, and candles with holders from the dollar tree.  I did invest in a few nicer silk peony flowers, I wanted to ensure they would last through the years.  We added in faux flower petals, table scatter, and a cute runner from Target.  But, my absolute favorite are the milk bottles!  Not only are they cute and perfect for holding our Love Potion Punch, but when we dual purposed them as place cards!

I paired up decorative Valentines paper plates, which are more than enough for the salad with a heartier piece of china for the main dish.  Cute napkins, matching plastic ware for utensils, and disposable cups make for easy clean up.

A Good Party Doesn’t End

Predating our Valentines Day party, our good friends have a Christmas Party each year.  Truth is, we all enjoy spending time together but it gets hard with kids and life in general.  That was when the Valentines Party was born, we didn’t want the party to end.  At the end of the Christmas Party our hosts always sent us home with a great little favor bag.  We decided to do the same.  Our favor bags are little mini date night bags, something the couple can use at home to keep the romance going.

The gift bags and tags are from Target, as well as the candies and the tropical scented candles.  I ordered some mini bath salts from one of my favorite Bath and Body companies, Jordan Essentials.  As a fan of the show Shark Tank, I remembered the episode with the Kisstixx (two lip balms, one for him and one for her, that compliment each other).   From Home Goods, I added in the card game for couples, and finally added a CD of long songs from the local Family Christian store.

I must admit, most favor bags are not quite as generous.  When Family Christian was looking for a  way to promote their Valentines products, and I had already been working with them for book reviews, I jumped at the chance!  So, a big thanks to Family Christian for providing the prizes and CDs for the favor bags! 

I have a big heart for couples continue to build their relationships over time, we need to support strong and health marriages.   To give back to other couples, just as others have blessed us is a great thing. 

Official Family Christian Blogger

Just Show Up!

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My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality.  She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army.  She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt.  I could express it in a single sentence:  Suck it up, you do what you have to do.  There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother.  Stitches needed, stitches given.  Broken bones get casts and physical therapy.  If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with. 

Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should.  When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion.  It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong.  You do, what you have to do.  Period.  No sense in crying or getting depressed.  My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears.  I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.

This response is not even toward others, but to myself.  In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus.  It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy.  I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people.  I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern.  It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that.  I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine.  I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose.  It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already.  It was just part of how I was raised to view things. 

There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now.  My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born.  I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances.  In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back.  I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults.   I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death.  I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.

So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people.  Far from.  I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment.  I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning.  My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.

I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion.  And, that is probably still right.  However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action.  I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child.  I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions.  I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.

I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully.  When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious.  She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help.  My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation.  This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder.  I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process.  I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it.  Every single day.  I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.

To this day, she still has at least some of the cards.  Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them.  When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion.  In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you.  I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.

This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill  Lynn Buteyn.  This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers.  And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it.  This book is simply put, super important.

You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you.  You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations.  Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all.   In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!

Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering.  Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her.  In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging.  This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process. 

We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say.  In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends.  It opens our eyes to what real,  godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like.  In the good, and the bad.  When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.

One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way.  For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me.   I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me.  BUT, I can speak to my personal friends.  They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.

This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us.  Let’s do life together, even when it is hard.  When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share.  Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts.  When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book.  When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.

Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering.  I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.

 

Official Family Christian Blogger

Bridging the Way – Fellowship & Small Groups

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One of the things we can struggle with in ministry service is creating a ministry that is balanced between social activities and discipleship opportunities.  This struggle is not unique to women’s ministry, but it does seem to impact women’s ministry more.

In speaking with women’s ministry leaders across the country, I’ve seen the struggle played out in many different ways.   The women’s ministry team may be divided, some wanting social events, and others wanting more studies and workshops.   The church may want less fellowship, and more small groups.  Even the women in the congregation want more of one thing, and others would prefer something else.

We seemingly keep coming to the same place…. and all or nothing stance.  Either we have a women’s ministry that is all studies, workshops, mentoring and discipleship… or a calendar of events that is centered around relational fellowship events. 

Can’t we have both?

Can’t we have a fellowship event that turns the women’s gaze toward Christ?

Can’t we have a small groups that encourage building relationships?

Do we have to chose one or the other, or could we not have the best of both worlds?

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In church leadership, most of our Pastors and Elders have been raised in the church.  They understand how we do things as a church, and there is an expectation that others will fall right into that line.  However, when you haven’t been raised in a church… it’s not the same.  You won’t automatically thrust yourself into a small group setting.   You will need time to build confidence in yourself, get to know people in the church to build relationships, and to ultimately find the small group that you feel best suits you.

Social Fellowship Events are the bridge to making this happen.  It provides an environment for women to meet each other, and set the foundations for future relationships.  It also serves as a great avenue for sharing information about the women’s ministry and church with the larger body of women.

Historically, women had many opportunities to gather with each other as a community.   They would work along side each other in the fields and in the market place.  As times changed and people became more transient, they moved away from the from their close knit families and communities.  When the Industrial Revolution took men from the home, and brought in modern conveniences, women spent more time IN the home than gathering the public spaces.  They became more detached from community with every passing generation.  Even today, in 2015, despite the endless social media communities… women are complaining more about being alone than ever.

We miss community and fellowship.

While “women’s ministry” was present even in the Old Testament days, it looked very different than what we see today.  Because, in the OT and NT (and early church) women’s ministry was active in the daily lives, as we lived together and worshiped together daily.   In more modern times, we created women’s ministry programs that would fill the community void, but lost purpose.  We allowed women’s ministry to become more of a social club atmosphere.

The good news is that women’s ministries around the country are trying to take it back to it’s roots.  Doing life together, ministering to each other, building relationships and community are all in addition to deeper scriptural study and knowledge.

In order to do this, we need to find the balance between the activities that are warm and inviting, and the ones that are deeper and challenging.

A women’s ministry team should be looking at the vision of the church, and then asking how each and every activity they propose to do supports that mission.

It is being more intentional and purposeful over the planning choices that we make, clear communication with the Pastoral Team, and in submission to God’s will for the ministry over your own.

Andy Stanley’s ASK IT – Loving this study.

I was really excited for spring Small Groups, because we selected Andy Stanley’s Ask It!  I am a HUGE Andy Stanley fan, I like his “tell it like it is” attitude, how he speaks directly to the heart of the matter, and more importantly he doesn’t generally use a lot of filler.  That fits my personality to a tee.

If you are one of those people who wants to know what God’s will is for your life, or even in a particular situation or relationship… Andy Stanley takes through the steps to discover those answers.  And, it’s simpler than you think!

This is a great study for small groups, or the video can be watched in a single sitting.    If broken up into sessions, the video will take your small group just 6 weeks to complete.   If you would like your small group study to run a bit longer, couple the video with the book.

My small group loves this study so much, we want to do an adult fellowship night on it.  We kept thinking not only of our own situations, but others whom we felt could benefit from this study.

You can purchase the video and book through Family Christian.

SPEAKING TRUTH – What is Truth?

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I was thinking about how we interact with each other, as believers.   I can’t find any source in the Bible or reference in a sermon that indicates we should lie to each other.  In fact, the Bible commands us to not bear false witness. 

From the Old Testament, to the New Testament, here are just a few examples:

Leviticus 19:11  ” ‘Do not steal. ” ‘Do not lie. ” ‘Do not deceive one another.

Proverbs 12:22   The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Zephaniah 3:13  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.”

John 8:44   You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Colossians 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

If you were to ask anyone what the opposite of a lie is, their response would be truth.  So, it would appear that if we are NOT to speak lies to each other, than we are called TO speak truth.

John 17:17   Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Ephesians 4:15   Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14   In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Scripture also tells us that Jesus is the Word, and he is Truth.

John 1:14    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If Jesus is the Word and the Truth, then when were are told in the scriptures:

John 8:32  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2 Timothy 2:15   Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

We are being handed a very might assignment, we are not just handling the words that come out of our mouths … but we are handling the representation of Christ IN US.  We are charged to RIGHTLY handle the word of truth.  Not just words on a page, but the words of Jesus.

We must rightly handle Jesus, and everything He has said to us in his life and the words in the Holy Scriptures.

If we are looking to Jesus as “the Truth”… doesn’t that change how “Speaking the Truth in Love” means?  We are to be speaking about Jesus in LOVING terms.  We love him, we speak fondly of him, we don’t misrepresent him, we don’t devalue his ways with our opinions.

To speak Truth = To speak about Jesus

To walk in Truth = To walk in Jesus.

To declare Truth = To declare Jesus.

To worship in Truth = To worship in Jesus.

To come to Truth = To come to Jesus.

To believe and know Truth = To believe and know Jesus.

To handle accurately Truth = To handle, represent Jesus accurately.

To obey Truth = To obey Jesus.

To be established in Truth = To be established in Jesus.

Because, TRUTH — JESUS… sets us free, sanctifies us, purifies us, establishes us as part of an eternal kingdom.