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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ministers, Clergy, The Church and It's People

The church has been part of my entire life and as the daughter of a pastor, I have a insider-view of the many facets of ministry life.  I've witnessed the midnight calls, visited hospital newborns and graveside widows.  I have glowed to hear the impact of presence more often than the words of a sermon.  I have cringed and wept to hear criticism without consideration of the impact on a family whose whole purpose is wrapped up in the effort of building a community of believers.

It's a complicated thing to have a front pew view of the pastor and the people of the church.  I saw the ideal concepts thrust against the real-life humanity.  I saw co-minister betray in speech and actions.  I saw the humble sacrifices and the desperate prayers.

Being connected to the clergy in such a personal way remains a privilege to me.  I have a soft spot in my heart for ministry families.  I understand the backdrop of church life from an insider's perspective.  So, I want to encourage everyone to let their pastor and ministers know they are seen and appreciated.  The church is made of its people and we are encouraged by our leaders.  They are most encouraged when we express our gratitude.

Ministers love the cards, baked goods and sentiments of appreciate.  But to speak to their heart, let your minister know how he or she has made a difference in your life.  Share a message, scripture, hug or moment where you were changed because of him/her.  Ministers aren't in it for the fame or the income, ministers want to make a difference. Also:

1) Be Dependable - in attendance, tithe and communication.  Pray for the church, the unity, the financial needs and wisdom for leadership.

2) Connect with your clergy and congregation.  Participate whenever possible and make church a priority.  Foster relationships with others in the church.  When you "do life" together, you build a community that is authentic beyond the Sunday services.

3) Keep it Real.  Don't expect perfection or entertainment that competes with the secular.  Churches are full of humans, from the pulpit down to the nursery.  You add to the community of believers when you bring your unique, quirky, real self to the community.  Stop weighing your commitment by what the church does for you and look for what you can add to the church.  THIS is how you will know you are a part.

What are you doing to encourage your church leaders?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Reality of Discouragement in Everyday Life

Fall is my very favorite time of year.  Both the climate and the scenery are gorgeous in my part of the country and it is like a little glow surrounds all our activities.  Even so, hardship creeps into the scene: difficulties at school, unexpected and expensive home repairs, sickness, vocational disappointments and stress.  This is just my current, short-list!

As I was reading through my journal, I recognized a familiar sense of discouragement when I read about our broken hot water heater, destroyed cell phone, income loss, a rebellious child, another one who is discontent and TWO car wrecks that just about stole my sense of well-being.  When wave upon wave of unsettling news rolls through your life, it's easy to begin taking it personally.  Is God out to get me?

Just this week, a dear friend is experiencing debilitating health issues and a car wreck, along with added stress from a recent move.  Another is facing unexpected home expenses and multiple appliance failures.  Hardship is real, even when in our first world experience.

In each case, these strong women face the trials with grit and determination, handling the details and taking charge.  But when another, then another difficulty arises, the women become weary.  Their resolve to deal well can turn into a pity party.

I know it's draining to deal with daily trials and a constant onslaught of difficulties.  Can you change it?  If not, the only thing you can do it keep moving forward - don't let difficulties be the boss of you!  If you find yourself adopting a victim mentality, you are only setting yourself up for a spiral of negativity.  Instead, adopt an attitude that overcomes.

We live in the REAL world, where some seasons are REAL tough.  My world view also explains that we live in a fallen world, where difficulties are real. These are not the result of an "out-to-get-me" vengeful God. While I do firmly believe that there are consequences and we reap what we sow, I believe there is a difference between that concept and life simply happening.  Tires wear out.  Gutters need cleaning.  Dental issues are constant!  The mistakes of others affect us all.

How can  you keep these life challenges from affecting your overall mood?  How can you combat discouragement?

I don't have all the answers. I certainly find myself discouraged on some days.  But then I walk

myself through the reasons for hope.  I remind myself that I don't need all the answers, just to know today's answers - and those have always been there.  I spend a lot of time "living in the moment" because looking too far ahead can be overwhelming.

One of the reasons I love journaling is because I can let out my concerns on paper.  Prayer allows the same release, but when I journal, I look back at how a situation has resolved or improved.  I see so much history of the faithfulness of God who was providing all along, sometimes before I even knew I would have need.

I don't have a neat, tied up ending for this post.  Mostly, I want to share the burdens of my friends and family and let each know I see their challenges.  You are doing so much better than you think!  I'm confident you will move forward with grace and beauty.  I'm so thankful to call you friend.  Oh, and I get it.  I'm praying for you and I can't wait to hear you talk of better days.  Some days, I plan for the "less" in "Flawless."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thinking Ahead...

To all my friends with little ones - We have loved this and still get giddy over it every year!

This is a great price!


Monday, October 3, 2016

I Stopped Waiting For Perfect, And Just Did My Best

Ever since I first saw the promotions for a new Ferris Wheel in our area, I have wanted to go to and ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.  I envisioned a fun family outing including dinner at The Island and the whole gang riding The Wheel while we enjoyed the view of our favorite mountains.  It hasn't worked out.  Someone is always gone or no one feels like making the drive, or we have other plans, etc., etc. It just hasn't worked out the way I wanted.

So, I just decided to quit waiting for the perfect moment and make it happen.  I'm so glad that I did!  Mr. Wonderful wasn't in town, so I gathered my children and headed out.  The weather was great! Our view was of the entertainment lights instead of mountain vistas.  The restaurants were way too crowded and their were requests to do even more attractions, that were not in the budget.  We had to park way far, the phone battery didn't charge and we were all pretty tired since we didn't head out till around 7 pm.  But it was totally fun.  We all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

The actual Wheel was awesome, but even more so I enjoyed sitting by the synchronized fountains, just watching my three enjoying each other and the night out. We grabbed fast food on the way home and everyone collapsed happily into bed.

We spent the next afternoon in the mountains and stayed later than planned so we could enjoy the wildlife.  This week has extra commitments and it will be a busy one for every member of our family.  For this very reason, I wanted to escape to nature, where there are no screens, no demands and just enjoy being outdoors with each other.

It's not always the perfect time or perfect opportunity, but make time for memories and fun anyway!

It gets dark early in the mountains and I planned to be home by this time, but we were still enjoying ourselves.

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Children Have Stepmother

Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine
Copyright 2015, Disney Cinderella
My former spouse, who is the father of my children, was remarried this summer and I haven't mentioned it because it isn't really part of my story...except, it is, because my children now have a permanent woman in their life...who isn't me!  She is "the mom" at the other house.

I don't know this woman well, though she has been present in the life of my children for quite a while. She is at the children's activities, performances and celebrations. Sometimes, we even sit next to each other.

From what I do know, she treats them with respect and they all like her.  My outside observation is that she provides a sense of stability and care for them while they spend time with their dad.  Because they spend time with her weekly, I know she will have an influence in their lives and shape part of their experience while they are apart from me.  I don't relish the idea of a woman I didn't select having a priority position in the lives of my children.  But this experience is a common aspect of life after divorce and simply part of our reality.  I can live in denial and rail against what is, but that is futile and leads to anxiety, depression and despair.  Instead, I choose to work with the factors that play in the lives of my children and find the positive (more on that another day).

As a stepmom myself, I know the challenge it is to accommodate and serve children who may or may not recognize your role in their lives.  I understand that it can be difficult to find your place.  I have to respect that a unrelated woman is choosing to share her life with my children.

Stepmom life isn't for the weak, so I know she makes sacrifices on behalf of children that aren't her own.  I am grateful that during the times we are together for the sake of the children, we have avoided awkward least so far.  I appreciate that she defers to me as their mom and doesn't attempt to usurp my role.  Ultimately, I do think we both desire to operate in a way that minimizes their confusion.  I can live with that.

Five Essential Stepmom Skills

Stepmother Influence Family Identity

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life Lately in Photos - Lots of Family Time!

We don't live in a town near any of our extended family, but we manage to stay close through concentrated effort and making time to be together.  This month has been so fun!  We went to Missouri for a long Labor Day weekend.

Our trip was followed by a visit to US from our Atlanta clan and we had a relaxing weekend enjoying the company of my in-laws.  I'm so grateful for them and the way they accept me and my children right into their family.  It is a rare gift. 

Now, we are once again visiting with my parents, who made the trek east to visit.  We're enjoying a few days, filled with our normal routines and soaking up some Nana & Papa time.  Finally, Mr. Wonderful will head out to Asia soon to visit our daughter with wanderlust. 

Family doesn't always get to be nearby, but we make the effort in time and money to keep the ties close!  How do you keep in touch with those you love who live far away?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Change in the Kitchen

I didn't choose the home in which I live, but I've spent the past three years making this my home.  It has been home to my husband and his girls for more than ten years, and their roots are deep here.  It's not a simple thing to walk into a place that already represents others and put my own mark on it without upsetting the balance that makes it feel comfortable to them.

I'm so excited that I was able to paint the kitchen, with plans to continue into the great room area.  Mr. Wonderful simply loves overcast days, so my inspiration was a cloudy sky.  I also took note of the stone in our fireplace and hope that the color brings out their natural beauty even more.  Green is a wonderful color.  We are surrounded by the green of the woods in which our home is found.  But the green in our home absorbed light and was very dark.  Our walls were covered with spills and splatters.  It was time for a new coat of paint and so it was the time for the change of color.  

Change doesn't come easy, and Mr. Wonderful isn't too keen on the new color yet.  I'm hoping it feels more homey with time and all our stuff spread over the counters.  I really appreciate him for encouraging my DIY endeavors!

Can you see the spatters and spills on the green paint?  The new paint with primer covered these stains in one coat.  I was thrilled!

Most things in our home become a family project, and these two were truly helpful.  Faith helped with the details (she's really good at details) and Jake filled in the space between trim.

Oh my, he looks so tall!

The room sat likes this for a while.  It was hard to find a large chunk of time to complete the task, so it was a work in progress for several days.  I tried to overlook the clutter, but I'm glad it's done!

I'm happier than expected with the way the gray looks against our counters!

The dark green is currently in our entry, living room and the rest of our kitchen.  You can see the contrast here.  What do you think?  What is the best way you can take ownership of your space?