To The Mothers (all of them)

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Happy Mother’s Day

To every mom…

… the ones waiting to see their children in heaven.

… the ones who gave up their baby for another to raise as her own.

… the ones who opened their doors to children who needed a mom.

… the ones who stand in the gap for the mothers who need help.

… the single mothers who are working this day to provide.

… the ones who are carrying precious cargo, eagerly awaiting the big day.

… the ones in the throws of parenting terrible twos, puberty, and all the hard stages.

… the ones going to high school and college graduations in the next few weeks.

… the ones who are praying for their prodigals to return home.

… the ones who are facing the empty nest for the first time.

… the ones who are wrapping their arms around their grandchildren, or raising their grandchildren.

… the ones who found motherhood through being a step mom or mother in law.

… the ones who mother, being part of the village it takes to raise a child.

… the ones who are missing their own mothers who are no longer with us.

To all of the mothers, where ever you are walking in this journey… thank you, you are a blessing to this world.

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The Mom Project, Virtual Summit

I am super excited to be a part of this team of women for The Mom Project, a virtual summit.  Check it out!

The Mom Project

Click on the photo or here to learn more about the summit, or to register.

Book Tour! Day 6 – Lists to Love By

Welcome to my 10 Day Book Tour.  I love to read, and I am often given books to read for review.  Over the last year, I determined that I didn’t want to turn my blog into a book review site.  However, I can’t help that I LOVE books.  I truly do.  They add so much value to my life, because I learn from them and glean new perspectives from the authors who put their hearts to the page.  So, I’ve decided that each quarter, I’m going to do a 10 Day Book Tour.  What have I been reading, what do I honestly think about the book, and to whom I would recommend it.  Each day, for ten days, you will get a peak into my bookshelf.

DAY SIX:  LISTS TO LOVE BY FOR BUSY WIVES by Mark and Susan Merrill

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I received Lists to Love By from Faith Words for the purpose of reviewing.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ok… so Valentines Day is not too far away, and what a better thing to do on Valentines Day than celebrate your marriage!

Times have changed, women are not at home tending the kids and prepping dinner before their husband gets home.  We are busy.

* We are busy at work.

* We are volunteering more.

* We are pinteresting perfect birthday parties for our kids.

Ok… to be fair, some of our busy is self imposed.  But, I remember thinking how much free time I would have once all three of our kids were in school.  This was a lie.

My whole life is organized by ongoing lists.  Lists keep me sane.  Lists make sure I don’t forget.

It is no surprise that this title would appeal to me.  Yes, I’m admitting it.  I need a list to be a better wife.

I’ve actually been a fan of the Merrills for quite some time, through Family First.  I expected that I would probably read some familiar ideas and suggestions, but also eager to get new ones too.  Turns out that this book was not exactly what I was expecting.

Expectation:  I would find cute, fun, romantic, and inventive check lists of ideas for date nights or flirty texts I could send my husband.

Reality:  This book digs a little deeper than superficial lists.  For example, the first “list”, is 7 Truths About Marriage.  Yep, we are going to dig deep to truth.  And… there was a quiz at the end of the chapter. List Three was on 5 Powerful Words for Your Marriage.  I realized I could do a better job in how I communicate with my husband.  List 12, it wants to talk about a struggling sex life. Yep, we are going to get personal.  Discussion questions follow that one, so… yeah I also have to talk about it.  UGH.

In all seriousness, this book is filled with 30 lists that are well beyond check off boxes with novelty suggestions.  It is filled with 30 lists that are meant to help us refocus on our marriages, our spouses, with intention and purpose.  Reading ideas, lists of truths, answering questions to explore these little chapters, actionable steps to be a better wife.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is married, or preparing to get married.

Great engagement or bridal shower gift, for certain.  I might also recommend this book to the woman who is struggling with her marriage.

It’s true that the only person you can change is you.  So, if we want a better marriage… I can only change myself.  If we put forth the effort we can save a failing marriage, take a good marriage to great, or keep the exceptional marriage going forward.

He loved Judas. The Samaritan Woman,too.

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A few months back, at a Women’s Ministry Council meeting, one of the speakers shared something that I can’t stop thinking about. I’ve mentioned it before… but it is on my mind today. So, I’m guessing either I need to be reminded about it or someone needs to hear it.

Jesus knew the role Judas would play.
He knew that Judas would betray him for handful of coins.
He know that this betrayal would lead to his death.
Yet, Jesus never stopped loving Judas.
Jesus still poured into Judas.
Jesus taught Judas, broke bread with Judas.
Jesus had fellowship with Judas, and served in ministry with him.
Jesus kissed Judas and embraced him like a brother.
All the while knowing what Judas would eventually do.
Then I thought some more about Jesus and how He treated those He encountered. Jesus knew everything about every person who came into His presence. The good and the bad, their thoughts and their hearts.
Jesus loved them enough to call out the truth of what He saw, but never in a way that heaved upon them guilt or shame. Instead Jesus helped them to see their value and worth, and to choose a better path. He didn’t hurl degrading words at them, but instead challenged their accusers who were blameless to cast the first stone.
Jesus had more concern about people knowing who He was and His purpose in their life. He preached the Good News before we could even understand what that meant. He knew that the people having a relationship with Him and His Father would be the catalyst for transforming their lives. He knew that the closer He could draw them to Himself, the more they would desire to follow His ways. His thoughts would become their thoughts.
Instead of shunning the Samaritan Woman at the well… he actually went out of His way to spend time with her. He didn’t talk down to her or avoid her, like the townspeople. Instead, He intentionally chose her to reveal himself to. Through her many were saved.
Instead of allowing the woman accused of adultery to be stoned, He turned the tables on the accusers. Jesus reminded every one of them that they had their own sins to worry about, the planks to remove from their own eyes.
He allowed the broken, imperfect, sinning women… who had the faith of a mustard seed to wash his feet, anoint him with oil and perfume. To sit as His feet and learn, to witness miracles, and be healed.
If I am to be Christlike, then this is my calling.  This is what I am to do.  I am to love those who are broken, imperfect, sinning, with small doses of faith (if any).  I am not to shun them but invite them to see the glory of God by teaching, leading, and guiding them to the Cross.  My job is not to make these women feel guilty or cast upon them mantles of shame.  For Christ died for whatever it is they are in the midst of.  Instead, I am to remind them of freedom and God’s love.  I am to show them a better way, and introduce her to a loving God who forgives those who call him Father.
I seek out the lost sheep.  I open the door to the prodigal daughters.  I trust that I have trained them in the way they should go, and one day they will return to it.  I understand that I cannot dictate their path to salvation, nor convict their hearts.  I am not the Holy Spirit, I am not qualified for that job.  I do not murder them with my words or demean God’s handiwork.    I remember that she is created in God’s image and to insult her is to insult the one who crafted her within her mother’s womb.
She is HIS, and He loves her.  He says she is more precious than rubies.  He says she will be a jewel to her husband’s crown.  He says that she belongs to Him.

Created for Connection

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This past weekend, the family drove down to one of the biggest malls in our state.  We spent the day shopping, met up with some new friends, and had an amazing lunch.  Each family member came home with decent haul of goodies, my absolute favorite take home was from the candy store.  I was able to fill up a ziplock style bag with my own custom blend of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  Why is this such a big deal?

  1.  I hate all jelly beans other than Jelly Belly.
  2.  Within the Jelly Belly menu, I have just a few that actually like.
  3.  When I buy a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans, I end up eating like 10 beans and giving the rest to the kids.

Being able to fill up a bag full of my favorite, hard to find, flavors brought me joy.  I didn’t even care how much it was going to cost.  FILL HER UP!  I should also confess that thanks to this insane election day, I pretty much finished off the bag already.  Sigh.

Many years ago, I think my husband would have had a fit about me spending so much on “jelly beans”.  I’m sure there would have been a few Dave Ramsey quotes thrown at me.  No, I don’t NEED a custom filled bag of jelly beans in the flavor of buttered popcorn.  However, we have also learned over the years that my husband doesn’t NEED to understand why I desire something.  He just needs to respect the fact that I do want it.  Just like I don’t NEED to understand why he likes certain television shows that I don’t enjoy.

We are different people, God didn’t make us a duplicates of each other in different gender form.  We are very, VERY, different.  Yet, we always find ways to connect with one another.  We recognized that it was important for us as a couple to find things we enjoyed mutually.  This gave us something to talk about, to connect over.  It is very easy when you have kids to connect over parenting, but one day those children move out.  When that happens, then what?  What will you talk about?  What will you do together, when your lives no longer center on your children and their activities and events?

It is imperative that as a couple we stay connected, and we were created for connection.  This is why God states from the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone, and so from his rib a woman was fashioned to be his helpmeet.  God gave man a companion in woman, and they did life together.  They connected over their responsibilities, they connected in emotional relationship, and they connected physically.  Connection is important, and when we can recognize that connection is important between US… we also see how important it is that we ware connected to God.

Once, I was scrolling through my husband’s notes app on his phone.  He was in need of information from one of his task lists.  I happened upon a list that my husband was keeping in his phone on ways he could be a better husband.  Unbeknownst to my husband, around this same time I working through a women’s study on how I could better meet his needs.  Our connection is so important to the both of us, we are seeking it out independently as well as together. 

This all brings me to the book, “Created for Connection” by Dr. Sue Johnson.  What I really enjoy about this book is that it isn’t passive.  Sometimes, you pick up a book on marriage… read (or speed read) you way through it.  You feel a bit better or more hopeful, or a sting of conviction that you could do a better job… but life moves on at it’s normal pace.  Dr. Johnson makes you stop and actually participate in the process.  Taking inventory and putting principles in to practice as you move along, brings an active element toward making real change in your relationship (or taking a great relationship and making it even greater!). 

You can read the book and do the work on your own, or go through it as a couple (I recommend the latter).   Dr. Johnson uses her experience as a couples therapist as well as the Scriptures to walk us through what she calls the “seven conversations” that will lead to a lifetime of love.  This is a take your time book, that will pay off in dividends if you are genuine about connect on a deeper level with your spouse … and then ultimately God.

 

Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

Forgiveness & Reconciliation

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A few weeks ago, I was sitting through our weekly small group meeting.  We took a bold step and decided to tackle Authentic Intimacy’s Passion Pursuit.  Dr. Juli Slattery began to discuss the importance of forgiveness in healing and improving our marriages.  She also delved into the need to forgive past hurts in order to move forward.   Something she said jumped out at me:

The acknowledgement that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. 

As she waded through the waters of forgiveness, the words FREEDOM were key.  Forgiveness leads to freedom because what ever that wrong was, it no longer holds on to us.  However, reconciliation may not be possible.  Perhaps the other person hasn’t apologized, hasn’t repented because they do not believe they were wrong.  Or, perhaps they took ownership of their wrong doing but for your own safety you can not resume a reconciled relationship with the person.  In some instances the person may have died, moved away, etc and there isn’t a way to even reach out and start a reconciliation process.  However, we can still forgive them and more forward.  This forgiveness does not free them from the CONSEQUENCES of their actions, it does however free us from being held captive by that person or situation any longer.

I walked away that evening reflecting on several situations through the years that cause me distress.  I thought of the scriptures that call us to forgive and reconcile.  I felt like a failure in many ways because even despite my willingness to forgive, there were relationships that were not reconciled.  I had sold myself to believe that I couldn’t more forward until reconciliation had happened.   I resolved that those relationships wouldn’t necessarily reconcile to what they once were, but that to at least be on “civil terms” would be enough.  When that couldn’t happen, I felt like I failed.

Now, that burden was lifted.  I had permission to walk in that freedom of forgiveness, even I was walking alone and the other parties were not ready to join up yet.  Today, I watched a video from The Gospel Coalition on forgiveness without repentance.  One of the things I took away from the video is:

Reconciliation requires repentance and forgiveness from both sides.

It can’t be both sides saying they are sorry, and no one changes.

It can’t be a change of behavior by both sides, without anyone actually apologizing.

It can’t be an exchange of apologies, modified behaviors, when one or both don’t truly forgive.

Forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation may not come in that exact order & not all at one time.  It may be a process that can span days, months, or even years to complete.  Reconciliation may not even come this side of heaven. 

If we have chosen to forgive, and if we have identified our own mistakes and repented… we may have to be okay with reconciliation’s slow arrival.  If it even comes at all. 

For each of us lies the responsibility of our own actions.  Have we come to God and asked Him to reveal if we are part of the problem?  Is there more to this than being sinned against?  Are we too guilty of sinning against the other person?  If you have a trusted mentor, have you shared the situation with them and sought their counsel and guidance? 

Once you have taken an honest look at yourself, if there is a need for you to apologize then you are responsible for taking the step of repentance and seeking forgiveness.  Then you can also extend your forgiveness to the other person and work toward reconciliation, should both parties agree.  However, if you are truly the only one who was sinned against and the other person is unwilling to repent and ask for forgiveness… you can still choose to forgive as Christ has forgiven.

All of our sins are against a perfect God, who has done nothing wrong to us.  Yet He is able to forgive our sins and cast them to the oceans depths.  If the Lord can forgive me, how can I not forgive those who sin against me?  Reconciliation may not happen, but that doesn’t mean that forgiveness is impossible.

The scriptures state that as much as it is possible, and is up to me, to live at peace with everyone.  Reconciliation isn’t entirely up to me, it takes both parties to happen.  But forgiveness is a choice I can make to bring peace into my heart, life, and relationships.  Then we can lean into trusting the Lord to do the work in the other person, and if reconciliation is possible it will happen under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

When we forgive, we can live in the freedom of Peace.  I choose Peace.