Friday, February 22, 2013

Mama - Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday. Write for a timed 5 minutes, no editing or planning, just writing for 5 minutes. Then link up:

Today's Word: Mama


In a word she is, strength. Always a fighter regardless of the fight. She spoke strong words, undergirded in love. She wore strong perfume by the name of Oscar De La Renta. And she rarely took no for an answer. If there was an injustice about, she was on the path to bleat it out and save the day. That's just how my Mama was. She used strong words to show my sister and I how serious she was about her love for us. I remember her saying, "You could get pregnant, rob a bank or kill someone and I'd still love you." We knew better than to do any of the above at the ripe old age of adolescence, but more than that we understood that come hell or high waters she was in it with us for the long haul. Unending, unshakable love. She let us be ourselves and never let anyone put us down. She had a strong inner Mama bear and everyone knew it. She also gives strong. Gives outrageously and generously and selflessly. She sings strong and loud, and dances strong - never one to sit out a dance when there was a dance to be had. She's the tiniest little lady I know, but she is so strong.  She loves me so strong, and I love her just the same!


Five minutes isn't fair with a writing prompt like, "Mama." 

Take 5 minutes to write about your Mom, and then link up here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Few Pointers for my Kids

As a snapshot in time, and because that's mostly what my blog is for, I thought I'd leave my children a little snippet of advice this morning, sort of on-the-fly, from their Mama in all of her 34 year old nonsense...I mean, wisdom. Definitely, wisdom. Or maybe...well, who knows.

Either way, here goes...

1. God first. He is the only wise, true King. Seek Him, love Him, follow Him, know Him and be known by Him, reflect Him, sing-dance-pray-talk to-scream-shout-whisper to Him, and definitely make jokes with Him. He loves to laugh! He is kind. He will always love you and He will never leave you. He is your provider. He is your healer. He is the standard. He is your Father. And He sent Jesus to die for you. He's serious about you!

2. Love yourself. You were not, are not, and never will be a mistake. (I can't even articulate how badly, desperately, you were wanted!) You are worthwhile, smart, witty, kind, beautiful and generous, and you have been given everything you need to get to where you want to go in life. The desires in your heart came from your King. Trust Him to help you fulfill them. He is faithful! And also, this is so important, are you listening? When you love yourself, you can love others! This is key because we were sent to this world to love. Remember this verse, Love your neighbor as you love yourself? One has to come before the other. I know I'm your Mom, but, I mean, honestly, what's not to love? :) Treat yourself well. Love yourself. And then spill that love all over the entire world, or as much of her as you can reach. 

3. Love your family with all of your heart. Look out for death-by-consumption when you meet your spouse (who should definitely resemble Jesus in some familiar ways), and when you welcome your babies. You will think your will to live has been stolen by an unquenchable love that steals your breath, consumes your thoughts and fills every space of every fiber of your entire being, but you will make it. Pull yourself together and love them madly. 

4. Listen to the small, quiet voice inside. The peaceful, kind one. It will always lead you, and never leave you. Sometimes the world will disagree. I say, carry on. Go for it.

5. Talk a lot. (I'm sorry if you tend to talk too much. You probably get that from me. I believe it's healthy, unless you speak ugly to another person. In that case, hush!) Here's what I mean. Don't stuff things deep down inside. Let them out. If you're angry, hurt, rejected, sad, stressed, worried, fearful, happy, giddy, overflowing...etc. Talk about it...out loud...with Jesus, and also with a friend or someone you trust. Keeping things bottled up is like burying something that's still alive. You can't bury the living because if you do, it will surely resurface, and usually in the form of a violent explosion. This is never good. So, talk it out, work it out. Be honest and transparent and vulnerable, but never try to be stronger than you were designed to be. No stuffers allowed. Stuffing leads to stress. Stress leads to sickness. Sickness leads to death. Don't do it. And, just so you know, your Daddy and I will always be here to listen, and there's nothing you could ever tell us that would cause us to change our opinion of you. Guaranteed!

6. Stay in your lane. (Thanks Brad McClendon.) Mind your own business. Try, really try, not to gossip. Sometimes silence is supreme. 

7. Set healthy boundaries. Help when you can. Do things if you have grace, time and energy to do them, and if not, pass on them. Don't pine for relationships or friendships that require you to constantly kiss hineys. You'll know what I mean. These relationships are toxic. Be yourself. Be genuine. You're super likable!

8. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Like in an argument, for example. Only argue about what you're arguing about. Don't bring the past 15 years into the argument. But, in all things, keep the main thing, the main thing. (Thanks Rick Joyner.)

9. Use the words, "always" and "never," sparingly, especially when talking to someone else or accusing someone else of something. It's rare that someone ALWAYS yells or NEVER keeps a promise. Give credit where credit is due.

10. Try not to say the word, "hate." It's ugly. Unless you "hate" cavities. It's okay to hate cavities. (Brush your teeth.) :)

11. Give generously, excessively, and extravagantly, never believing that giving something away means you will go without. The opposite is always true. Always give.

12. Get lots of sleep. Sleep keeps you healthy.

13. Be on time. Honor your commitments. Keep your word.

14. Close the toilet lid when you flush, and don't keep your tooth brush on the sink. Put it away. Why? Brace yourself. Because if you don't close the lid when you flush, all sorts of funkiness enters the air from the toilet, and I bet it often lands on toothbrushes. So, close the lid. And tuck your toothbrush away. Thank me later.

15. Don't manipulate people.

16. You are never a bad girl or a bad boy. You are always a good girl or a good boy. Decisions can be bad, but bad decisions don't make people bad (most of the time). 

17. Wash your hands when you come in from anywhere. Get dirty? Yes! Play hard? Yes! Live adventurously? For sure! Just wash your hands when you're done! And after you do, don't start texting on your phone that you were just using at the gas station (unless you Clorox wipe it, then it's okay) because otherwise you defeat the whole hand washing purpose. Trust me, you'll save yourself a lot of tissues and trips to the drug store.

18. Vitamin C works. Airborne is great. Water is best! Homemade food rules! Moderation in everything is ideal. Diets are dumb. Exercise is wise.

19. Don't flush public toilets with your foot. It's rude. Use toilet paper if you don't want to touch the handle (and then throw it away). What if the next person touches the handle and then doesn't wash his/her hands? Now they are eating their turkey sandwich with your dirty bathroom floor tennis shoes on their hands. Lets pause and say a prayer for their protection. :) I'm grossed out. 

20. Don't spend money you don't have. Save money.

21. Don't ask for loans you can't pay back.

22. Rise and shine and work hard. And then, rest. Live by faith, but don't live being lazy.

23. Be aware of what's happening in the world, but never let events rule you. Remember your King. He has the final say.

24. Read/watch/listen to the news and talk shows sparingly - they're almost always completely pointless. Do, however, watch Jimmy Fallon. He's hilarious and a-okay in my book! 

25. Listen to music. It usually makes you smarter, and occasionally makes you less smart. It's worth the gamble.

26. Play music if you can. I can't. I probably could. I just don't, so instead, I dance. Definitely dance.

27. Garden.

28. Take care of your belongings.

29. Clean if you want to. I like clean, but it doesn't mean you have to, but I'm not going to lie, I sort of hope you appreciate cleanliness. 

30. Peer pressure = lame. Try not to give in.

31. Dinner for breakfast tastes good, and so does breakfast for dinner. Switch it up. Keep it interesting.

32. Having the best things really doesn't matter. Peace and joy matter.

33. Nobody actually cares how clean or cute your house is, or what kind of car you drive. They care about their house and their car. Period. (Yawn.)

34. Comparison is the thief of joy.

35. You can learn not to lie if you practice.

36. New habits take 21 days of repetition to stick. Same with breaking bad habits. 21 days.

37. Drink lots of water, and maybe no caffeine, like me. Or not. Whatevs. 

38. Cow's milk, no! 

39. Cow's cheese, yes. :)

40. Never move away from your parents when you're good and grown. We will build you a house on our land and come running when you're sick or need help with your newborn baby, or when you've burnt dinner 5 minutes before dinner guests are set to arrive, or when you need anything...literally anything. And if you do move away, promise not to be offended if we follow you. 

41. Be a friend. Listen. Love. Help.

42. Matching socks are overrated. Mismatched clothes are fun. 

43. Be a lady. Be a gentleman. 

44. Be respectful. 

45. Err on the side of grace. 

46. Repent. Forgive. 

47. Try, try, and try again. Quit when, and only when, Jesus says to. And move when He says to. We did. It was scary, but worth it.

48. Spend summer days at the lake or in the pool. Bring fruit, salami, cheese and crackers, or a yummy salad, sunscreen and bottled water, and go home when you're long past the point of being tuckered out.

49. Be adventurous and inventive. 

50. Save your kisses for your spouse.

51. Always, always remember I love you more than life itself. Same goes for your Daddy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jenny From the Block, on Parenting

Here I sit having just finished a piping hot bowl of chicken flavored Top Ramen. The steam from the heat of the remaining broth is still spinning in a spirally little dance upwards. I literally burnt my tongue as I choked my noodles down today. Choking not because the noodles are difficult to eat, but choking because I have that thing in my throat that my mom, sister and I refer to as, the "lump." The one that sits there begging you to just give in and cry. 

I am torn today. Broken. Beside myself and desperate. I don't know how I got here. Sometimes life's all, BOOM, and what can a girl do? I'm just going to say it...I'm scared. My answers are running out, and my control is fleeting and I feel nervous and sort of angry. I really need Jesus to step in and do something because parenting is hard. Nothing big, or dangerous has happened, but I can feel the world creeping in to engage my girls in conversations I want so badly to protect them from. 

My third grader wants to hang out with fifth graders, (note: there is a big difference between third graders and fifth graders), and while she still makes believe and loves to play dolls I can see the transformation happening, and I don't like it. And so from that place of insecurity I sometimes parent from a place of fear. I turn into "Jenny from the block," all ghetto-like, and make fun of other kids, secretly hoping that my kids will fall in line, and also hate the behavior I'm talking trash about and rolling my eyes at. I wish 1,000 times over that I could take back words like, "Oh please, so-and-so better watch her mouth or I will call her parents to tell them what a terrible little person they are turning out, and you know what else? If I hear anymore of this you won't be allowed to talk to her. Ever. That behavior is so lame." 

So super mature. I stink at this. Sometimes. (I have to give myself some credit. I don't always mess up.)

So, today more than anything I want my girls to have an eagle's eye view into my heart where my love for them has drown most everything else out. Where they can see how deeply I love them and how I want nothing more than for them to never feel pain or hurt, or the sting of rejection, or the hate of a mean girl, or the pressure of their "friends" that comes on so strong that they are literally on the edge of giving in. Or worse yet, that they give in. And then become acquainted with regret and secrets. 

I want my girls to know that I'm sorry for being an immature, ghetto mama sometimes. That's not me. The real me wants more than anything to give love and to be available for them always. To be the mama that won't revert to pointed words and ridiculous threats when she feels threatened. Dear girls, I'm sorry. And I love you more than life, and I always, always will.

We are at that weird point in time where my girls don't know the first thing about curse words. They wouldn't know what to do with the f-word if they heard it. They'd probably just ask me, "Mama, what does *#+! mean?" And then I'd have to tell Jenny-from-the-block to back away slowly so she didn't use that very same word to articulate the anger that caused her to fall faint on the floor the very second she heard such fifth coming out of such a pretty little mouth. It hasn't happened, but the stories I hear...the stories I can't believe...those are happening and my girls are out there within earshot of the filth. 

Dear babies, don't let it in. Don't let it affect you. Stay the course. Grab a hold of Jesus and never ever look back. You can do this. You can walk through the grime and the gunk of this world and come out stronger on the other side. You can be the exception. You can be the example. And just so you know, you wouldn't bring me shame if you went a different way. There is nothing in this world that could ever separate you from me. I will love you outrageously forever (here on earth and in heaven). I'm your mama here and I'll be your mama in heaven. Nothing will ever diminish my love for you. That's a promise you can bet your life on. 

And so we are making some changes. Are we pulling them out of school? No. Not now anyway. I believe Jen Hatmaker was right when she said something like, when we keep our kids locked away and protected at home, we are keeping them from the very world they were sent to redeem. Tough words to process, but I believe she's right. Will we ever homeschool? Yes, probably. For extended periods of time? No, probably not, but then again, who knows? Is this right for everyone? No, definitely not. This is us. This is our story.

But we will shift our schedules around to allow our big girls the space and time they need to participate in kids church at a Baptist church nearby. And we will work to plant the word of God so deeply in their hearts, souls and spirits that they are better equipped to fight the battles that I cannot fight for them, which are becoming less and less -- they are growing up, and I hate it. (Oh, if I could only be there for them all!) We will continue to have dinner together as a family because this is where we do our best work. We play games, talk about the day's high and low points, and this is where we sort through the trials of the day. This is also where I vacillate from cool, calm, collected mom, to the occasional, so-help-me mom. I'm sorry for those abrupt moments. I know they're necessary sometimes, but I could stand to work on my delivery. And I will.

So, no real answers here, only thoughts, and prayers, and a reminder that Jesus knew what He was doing when He sent us 3 girls and a boy to parent. He believed in our ability to do our very best, and we are trying. 

Is this scary? Am I at a loss? Yes. Am I giving up? Not a chance. This is good news, I suppose. It quite simply means that Jesus must be at the forefront. That the days of just getting by are tired and over. That if we hope to come out stronger and healthier on the other side we will have to hand the reigns completely over to Him. Everything with prayer and supplication. So there you have it. I'm done being afraid. I'm no good when I'm afraid. I'm weak when I'm afraid. My kids need me to be brave now more than ever. Dear girls, I will be you can be brave. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

5 Minute Friday

I found a new stranger friend who does this cool, 5-Minute Writing Friday Thing. This is mine. Where is yours? Go here to join in Lisa-Jo Baker. I think I could get into this!! Hooray for new friends.

5 minutes. No cheating. Ready, go.

The Word: Bare

How my soul felt yesterday when I stumbled onto Lisa-Jo's blog. It was a breath of fresh air for a young Mom like me always looking for sisters to come alongside me and help me navigate this ship called motherhood, daughter of the King, and wife to the most handsome, loving guy I know. And also, bare, as in the place I'd like to live all of the time. A place where walls are down, worries are situated in the backseat of my car - the one where joy is in the driver's seat and peace is her co-pilot. Bare as in not being in control of my life, but giving all control to Jesus because He's the only One who can protect my family in this big, problem laden world. Bare as in clean floors. I love clean floors. Wait. Is that an area of control? Yeah. Yeah, it is. Bare as in the slate is wiped clean. Today is a new day, and the world will open up to bless me so that I can remain bare. Bare and peaceful and clean and hopeful. I like bare!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Confession time. My family has not been to church in a very, very long time. Well, not in the, "What church do you go to?" church sense. We've organized 24hr worship with some of the most precious people on earth for the past four years, and that's been amazing, and we attend a Wednesday worship night led by Don Potter as often as we can, but we haven't been in an actual church, like, on an actual Sunday, in a very long time. We've had church at home, complete with all the bells and whistles -- announcements done by my 7 year old, welcome and opening prayer done by my 9 year old, worship led by Josh and accompanied by the Trask circus, books of the Bible memorization song by YouTube, lesson plans done by the Internet, tending to toddlers done by the nursery staff (all of us), and crying time led by me...which leads to corporate crying...over things like orphans, or Jesus dying, or almost nothing. I'm an emotional person. I cry. I lead with tears. The little girl sheep follow. And our Senior Pastor, my husband, looks at us like he's lost complete control of his flock, but he's smiling. We sit pathetic and sobbing, huddled on the couch in our jammies, because Jesus has come, and He's awesome, and we've been wrecked. A sure sign that this Sunday will be a good day. Or whatever day we happen to gather on.

So, why am I mortified when someone asks me, "What church do you go to?" Partly because we live in the South so naturally going to church is the right thing to do, and partly because I know (to my horror) that one of my kids will blurt out, "We don't go to church," which is sometimes subsequently followed by a pointed, "We need to go to church, Mom." I'm always like, "Take me now, Jesus. These kids are total sell-outs." (Hush, child.) And then I try to explain, but it's hard. How do you say, "Yep. We don't go to church on Sunday. We stay home. We do other things in place of Sunday morning church. We aren't backslidden. We love Jesus. We are good Christian people." 

Are you buying it? It's such a hard sell. 

We are conflicted, and you're probably confused. Let me explain. We used to live for church. There was a time when we were so lovesick with programs and meetings and messages that fed our souls and spirits that we became addicted to them, and regarded the people bringing the messages like real life celebrities. Shame. We lived for a good, fiery message that pulled us out of ourselves and threw us into the heart of God, and we still do. These messages are life giving and important, but they aren't what keeps our worlds in orbit anymore. Jesus does.

Over time something has happened at our house. The person we considered our mentor (our former Pastor) became human (he always was) and had personal problems in his life to overcome. And things shifted. He moved away. We were sad, but we pressed on, still staying as amped up about church as ever, granted a little broken-hearted, but still focused. Still church meeting go-getters! And then life happened. Babies came, and then more babies came, and over time church changed for us. Church became real life. Church was in everything - diapers, sleep deprivation, bleeding hearts over the miracle of our children, sharing food with others - just ordinary real life stuff. Jesus was everywhere, and so He still is. We just simply changed. Josh stopped leading worship for a paycheck and started leading only if he felt like the Lord wanted him to do it. We prayed about everything. Where to go to church. When to go to church. Was church benefitting our entire family? IF we should go to church. IF we should continue to teach kid's church. And then, everything about being at church stopped. And I'm not sure exactly when it stopped. I only know that church still meets on Sundays and we aren't there. And it turns out, we aren't the only ones.

According to a recent message by Jen Hatmaker, 

* 3 out of 10 people in their 30's go to church in a 6-month period.
* 4 out of 10 people in their 40's go to church.
* 5 out of 10 people in their 50's go to church.
And the numbers for people in their 20's are so dismal that there aren't any good stats to quantify it.

She also talked about how 90% of church growth is either biological, meaning new births, or transfer growth (people going from one church to another). 

And then she struck a chord with me, and pointed out something that bothered me on a subconscious level, that came shooting to the surface when she said it. What about the world? Why is it an "us" and "them" paradigm? Why do we spend so much time blessing the blessed and ministering to the saved? What about the rest of the world? What about winning new believers? Where are they? She talked about how churches often respond to this problem by upping their game, adding cool coffee shops, more home groups, better phrasing, etc. -- new tactics all focused on getting people to the church campus. The idea being that if we can get them to church, we can win them. There's a lot of focus on the church building and her offerings, and seemingly very little focus on winning people to Jesus. It resonated with me. It made me sad because it's true. So true. But, guess what? Hope is not lost! It's not too late change things. Relationships with non-believers in whatever space they're in, without judging or preaching? Just loving? Making time to be in the world, to love the world? Yes.

You'll have to pop over to to hear her entire message. It's worth it.

For us, not being in church has meant changing the way we meet with Jesus. We haven't stopped meeting, we only meet with Him in different ways now, at different times, still very much a part of the church of God. We've just backed away from Sunday mornings and the unending church commitments and duties that we used to be tied to, almost to the point of suffocation. For some people Sunday mornings are essential, and for those people I say, yes! Be where you fit. Definitely. For the record, I am Pro-Church. It's just different for us. Was it the message being brought in the church that turned us off? Sure, occasionally.  But honestly I can't definitively put my finger on any one thing in particular except that I think that we (the church) have gotten way off-track from the original intent of coming together for a singleminded purpose, and for whatever reason, it's just not working for us in the traditional sense anymore, and that's the case for a lot of others as well. Much of church has become white noise to the world, which has led to "us" and "them" teams, and it makes my stomach turn. We all collectively come from one place. There is but one Creator and He loves every one of us equally, without question.

So, to answer my daughter who says, "We need to go to church Mom," I say: We do go to church. Everyday. It doesn't just have to be on Sundays under the umbrella of a certain church name. But, and this is a big BUT(!) -- we can only say that we go to church (or, rather that we are the church) if we keep doing the stuff Jesus encouraged us to do (which we have some time for now that we aren't volunteering for every program under the sun), and those things are this -- 

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.

I'll end with this. Just the other day I posted about a little boy, Matthew Robert Pierce, battling cancer on my Facebook page and asked my praying friends to pray for his healing. (This boy is precious! Please pray.) My step-sister Melissa posted a comment that almost made me cry. She wrote, "You know I'm not really the praying type, but this sweet boy has inspired me to try to learn how. I've spent countless days talking to car ceilings, shower walls, and awkwardly clasped hands asking for Matthew's miracle."

This, friends, is church. A sweet helpless boy fighting for his life has captured the hearts of thousands of people who, not knowing what else to do, are trying to touch the heart of God in order to save his sweet little life.  I bet Matthew wins more people to Jesus than any church program ever will. The Bible says, a child shall lead them. And also, love hopes all things. It really is time to love everyone. No more "us" and "them." Only "us."

I love this quote-- 
"Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late – and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work." (A.W. Tozer)

And finally, we are open to getting back to the business of Sundays in the future. This is just where we are currently. Our focus at the moment is to keep on keepin' on, find an Awanas type kids church setting for our girls, and get going on a new Bible Study with our friends. One with a structure like this: Meet every Tuesday (1st and 2nd Tuesday - Bible Study; 3rd Tuesday - Bible Study group serves community in some way as a group; 4th Tuesday - everyone stays home to do something to serve your own neighborhood). 

Please know that the goal is to know the Savior. Period. This blog is just a snapshot in time for us. Please, please, be where you fit. Do what you can. And definitely be love to the world. That's all for now.