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Monday, October 31, 2016

Costumes & Colleges

I am solidly in the camp of celebrating Halloween as a cultural holiday and tradition.  My children love to select costumes and I love remembering what they were "into" based on their choice each year.  I steer clear of the scary and go big for the cute.  Of course, with two boys who are now in the tween years, cute is a relative concept.

Yesterday, I was furiously making 4 dozen "Harvest Brownies," (regular brownies with fall-colored sprinkles) for parties at the elementary school.  At the same time, Mr. Wonderful was in his office filling out college forms for his daughter.  Neither of us really wanted to do these tasks, but seeing them both happening at the same reminded me of how quickly the time flies by.  Before I know it, I'll be filling out college forms, too.

So, for today, I'm savoring these little cuties and all the tasks that come with parenting them.

Have great Halloween and enjoy many treats!

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.