Are we the Church?!

I was saved at the age of 21.
I won’t go into the intimate details of that day, but it wasn’t good.
I had let a lot of people down in my life, including myself.
It would be easy to live a life of unforgiveness, but thankfully,
I intimately know the One who provides that forgiveness.
He loves me…..and that’s all that matters.
I no longer felt judged…..I just felt loved.

Through the years I have met people who share that they will never
step foot into another Church because they believe that they are being “judged”.
For a long time I wrote this off as “lies from the devil”, and in some situations
I still do, but recently, I witnessed someone being “judged” by a Church member….
and it hurt me deeply.
And that’s why I am here to write this post.
Because judgement hurts. Unforgiveness hurts.
And without forgiveness there can’t be healing.
And healing is what leads to brighter tomorrows.

In Matthew 7:1-3, the Bible says:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

But all too often, it’s us Christians that are casting judgement on those in our congregations.
It is us Christians that are casting judgement on those in our world.
Now I am not saying that we have to trust everyone.
Trust & forgiveness are two different things.
And I am not saying that we have to condone or enable them either.
I am just saying that we need to forgive them.
If we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us”,
yet, we don’t really forgive them, then what we are saying is that we don’t accept
the forgiveness offered to us for our own transgressions.

I recently saw a young person, who had gone their own way & made some big mistakes,
come back home.
They were anxious about this because they were fully aware of the error of their ways.
Yet, they weren’t welcomed with open arms, as they had hoped.
For that matter, they weren’t welcomed at all.
They weren’t even offered a chance to be welcomed.

Is that a picture of the “Church” that we want the world to see?!
This scenario broke my heart…..not just because I know the young person that it happened to, but because all too often,
we as “Christians” look down our noses, and lay condemnation on those that are seeking the Kingdom.

And this doesn’t just happen to young people, it happens to adults too.
I have personally watched as “ministry leaders” berated & insulted those in service just because they didn’t agree with them.
I have had to personally work through forgiveness for those “ministry leaders”.
It wasn’t easy, but if I wasn’t willing to forgive them, then that unforgiveness would hold me in as much bondage as it does the offender.

We have to forgive if we want the world to see what Christ looks like.
We can’t claim forgiveness for ourselves, but then live like everyone elses transgression are not worthy of forgiveness.
I want this world to know & love the Christ I serve.
In order for that to happen we, as a “CHURCH”, has to be willing to put aside our personal opinions & let God have the judgement.
It doesn’t mean that you have to trust a thief with your wallet, or trust a murderer with your family, but if we don’t leave a window of opportunity for them to be a part of our “family”, then we can’t expect them to have a reason for true repentance. If we aren’t willing to openly forgive them then we aren’t giving them a reason to live otherwise.

Forgiveness brings healing.
Forgiveness doesn’t say that the hurt didn’t happen, it just says that we are willing to move past it and allow for second chances.
And who doesn’t want a second chance?!

Are we the “Church”?! Really?!
Let’s act like it then!

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Raising “Can Do” Kids

I have been hesitant to write this for many reasons.
One, I know that my children are not perfect. I know most of their faults intimately and so I definitely do not want anyone to think that by writing this that I am saying that my children are better than anyone else.

Two, like my children, I am also imperfect. I stumble & I fall…..daily; so, I don’t want anyone to think that by writing this I am saying that my philosophy trumps your philosophy, because I get it wrong……a LOT!

I am writing this because I have people ask me, “how do you do it?!”….

and I want people to know that: a. I don’t do it…’s God. b. It isn’t hard to do it (with His help). & c. I am not doing anything that you couldn’t do too. 🙂

So, here goes…..

So, I have been asked, how do I get my kid’s focus off of themselves?

Well, this is something that should start at a young age, but if it didn’t you should start as soon as possible.
For our family & from a very young age…..i.e. infanthood, our children have seen us serve as a part of some sort of volunteering. When our kids were very small we would encourage them to choose items to donate to organizations or pack shoeboxes or serve somewhere. Our oldest two have been to poverty stricken areas in our country, as well as, others. It’s okay to think that if you send your child to Africa they will see what poverty is really like, but it is possible to take your children to downtown Macon & have them serve the homeless in a soup kitchen. I can’t begin to name all of the places & situations where our family has volunteered, but one thing I can say, if you are focusing on helping someone who has less than you do, it won’t take long before you won’t focus on yourself. This has to be something that you have to make a habit, so you can’t really help out at Christmas time & then forget about it until next Christmas & think there will be a permanent change. This has to become a mindset, a lifestyle, a philosophy.

Another question I have been asked recently:
How do you get your kids to be involved & do something that big (talking about Amelia’s Veteran’s project)?

My philosophy is that each of us has a gift. My oldest daughter’s is animals & knowledge, my son’s is the care & keeping of the environment, Amelia’s is art, etc. I have always told my children that if they do something they love to do then it will never be a job, and so when you start volunteering in areas that you are gifted in & you love to do, then you will eventually get to a point where you want to share those gifts with others. This can usually lead to a specialized area, which then usually leads into doing “something” big & visible.

Our oldest daughter created a tutoring program that rewarded her students with the knowledge of livestock animals. Our son cleaned up the waterways in our area and Amelia uses art to bring smiles to Veterans. Our younger girls already have plans for what they want to do in the future with their gifts & talents; and as a Mother, I feel it is my job to help them make those dreams a reality. I am the chauffeur, I am the secretary, I am the whatever-you-need-for-the-moment to turn their dreams into plans & their plans into fruit. I use these opportunities to help them become leaders. When they ask me if I will call so & so to set something up, I sometimes say yes, but a lot of times I say no. I help them script whatever they need to say & I help them write letters, but I also encourage them to do it on their own.
And there are times when I just make them spread their wings & fly…..completely solo.
If our children can’t count on their parents to encourage them in their dreams & challenge them to make a difference in the world, then who can they count on?! As parents we need to train our kids to get the focus off of themselves & use their gifts to make a difference in the lives of others. And it doesn’t hurt to let them do it BIG. 🙂

Another question:

How do you get your kids to give 100% to their projects.

One of our family rules is: If it’s worth your time, then it’s worth doing well. We are to give 100% to all of our projects. Our time is precious, so if we are going to work on something we may as well do it right the first time. I do not accept mediocre from my kids. That may sound harsh, but as a parent I know what they are capable of & so sometimes it will take all of my strength & determination to make sure my kids see their work to the end and to the best of their ability. In the end it is always worth it. If your kids know that you are expecting their very best, they will be less likely to give their very least to others.

How did you get your kids to behave in public & be so respectful?

I always tell my kids: Be a good representative.

I always tell my kids that when they go out into the world, whether to Wal-Mart, a pig show or to Church. They are going out as a Representative. They are a representative of our family, of our Church, of our Community and most importantly, of our God. When people see them, they see all of those other things too. If my children act in a manner that is not becoming, it doesn’t just reflect on my child, it reflects on our family, on our Church, on our Community & on our God. So be a good representative. Remember your manners, be kind, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
And always return with Honor.

One of the big questions is: How do your kids have time to do what they do?

Well, this one is a shocker…..are you sitting down?!
We do not have TV. I know, shocking, but we don’t. I don’t mean that we don’t have A tv, I mean that we don’t have cable or tv reception. We also do not have video games. For our family, we can’t focus on the things that are important with a TV going on in the background the whole time, so we limit our TV use to movies with the family or shows on Netflix. This leaves a LOT of time available for things that are more important to us…..and leaves us less distractions to take away our focus. It may not work for everyone, but its what works for us.

Lastly, I have been asked, how do I get my kids to follow through with what they are doing?

This is a big one for me. We have a rule in our home. If you start something, you see it through to the end.
We DO NOT quit. That means if we sign up for something & then we find out that our best friend’s birthday party is that day, guess what?! We don’t go to the birthday party. That means that if we start a project & we procrastinate, and time is running out and the project is going to look horrible because we didn’t do what we were supposed to; and we only gave 70% instead of 100%, guess what?! We take our half finished project in & present it. There is value in this. There are life lessons. Chances are that child will NEVER go back into a demonstration without being prepared. I have learned that if I allow my child to quit even one thing, then it will be easier to give up the next time & even easier to give up the following time. It may take all of your energy & strength as a parent to help your children stick to it, but whatever you do, do not let them quit.

And with all of that said, in the end, it comes down to this simple quote:

If not me, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?
I always tell my kiddos, go make today count….and thankfully, despite our failures, they know what that means. 🙂
And I hope with all of my heart that they never forget it!

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It is True?!


Is it true?! Is is helpful?! Is it inspiring?! Is it necessary?! Is it kind?!

These were the questions I wanted to ask them.

You see, I was sitting in a room full of “acquaintances”…..
listening to the conversation, as somebody’s misdeeds, mistakes, and missed chances were replayed off the tongues of those in the room.
The “somebody” that they were discussing just happened to be out of ear shot.
And the way the person was being “discussed” was breaking my heart.

It was not necessary……
and so I walked out of the room.
But that was me not all that long ago (“discussing” information that I had no business judging, let alone sharing)…..and it made me realize that but for the Grace of God, there walks I.

I have been in many situations where people openly discuss others faults, mistakes and stumbles. It happens all of the time. In all kinds of settings.

It is not helpful.

And if I have learned anything else, I have learned that if someone will gossip to you, then they will surely gossip about you……
But what if we all just got up and walked out?!

What if upon hearing the first few syllables of a hurtful, condemning statement about somebody else, we all just got up….and walked out of the “room”?!

If that didn’t stop the behavior, it would at least let the “victim” know that others care for them…..don’t you think?
I will admit that it was an awkward moment when I walked out. It was an obvious statement of, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore”.
Do I really think they stopped talking about that person when I walked out?
Not a chance, if anything, I think they just added me to the conversation topic….
But by walking out I made my own statement. I said “this is wrong”….and I won’t listen to it anymore.

I also realized that everyone sitting there, and partaking of this “bashing session”, must have some deep seated insecurities to find such fulfillment in dissecting someone’s flaws.
And, I really felt sorry for them too.

But here is a thought:
What if we spent the time we waste judging others & used it to change ourselves?
What if we used that time to feed the homeless, or visit a nursing home, or encourage an at-risk young person, or plant a garden, or go to Church?
What if we used the time to improve somebody’s life, instead of disapproving of somebody’s life?
Now there’s something I can listen to…..

Using our time to encourage & strengthen one another.
Using our time to build one another up.
Using our time to change the world.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”.
~1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

Is it true?! Is is helpful?! Is it inspiring?! Is it necessary?! Is it kind?!

Let’s all take a moment to THINK before we speak….
and strive to build one another up & encourage each other in our journey through this crazy thing called “life”!

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Parenting……and other legacies.

Here is a news flash: I am an imperfect parent. As a matter of fact, I am fairly certain that I have won the “Worst Parent of the Year” award on several occasions.

BUT……because of this fact, I am willing to work at it…and to try to improve.

Being a stay at home Mom is my FULL time job. So I HAVE to get it right……if only in my own eyes. 🙂

I am a Full time Mom, not as in 9 to 5, or 5 to 10, but full time, as in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No holidays off (Actually you get to work double time on holidays), and no vacations (because you almost always have to take your work with you).
It’s the kind of job where you work and work and work, but your work is never done.

So, you might be asking, “Why do it, then?!”

Well, it’s because, out of all of the jobs I have ever held (and there have been a LOT….in MANY different fields), it is the MOST satisfying, and HIGHEST paying job, I have ever had. The rewards are priceless, and long-lasting, and my work as a SAHM will outlive me, or my children……AND that’s an incredible thought.

What I do today, as a Stay at Home Mom….my work ethic, my responses, my behavior, my character, my values, my morals…..ALL of it, will be passed onto generations of the future.
Have you ever heard about the poem, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World.”? There is a lot of truth in that.

There are not many jobs in today’s world where you can say that….and that is an amazingly, rewarding thought……IF we do our job well & to the best of our ability.

So, being a SAHM adds a little pressure to the idea of having a work ethic & doing my job well, because it makes me realize that I am setting a pattern, not only for myself, but for the future generation that will carry on our family name. They will represent me in the now, in the near future and in the not so near future….and I want a GREAT representation. I don’t want mediocre….I want to see them do big things, be great things and change the world. {insert creepy, mad scientist laugh here}
And that means that I can’t expect others to set that kind of example for my children, that means that I have to show it to them…..every, single, day.

Which makes me wonder……what if everyone had this kind of vested interest in their daily work? Would we be a better society?
Would we hold each other to a higher moral compass?
Would we hold each other to a higher work standard?
Would we strive to set the bar higher and not settle?

Would we be better Moms, better Dads, better children, better workers…….
better citizens?
Would we want to change the world?
And then go out & do it?!

Now that would be something.

So, what’s stopping you?!
Well, here is today’s challenge,
whether you are a Stay at Home Mom, a Corporate Career Dad, a gardener, a mechanic, a fireman, a cowboy or whatever…..
get out there & change the world.

Make it better….and leave a legacy.

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Our lives exist in a series of “seasons”…..especially if you have children.

When our children are new, fresh & young, our lives exist to care & provide for them. This can seem like a taxing time in a new parents life. It seems like we are spending every ounce of our energy on our children.

As our children grow, they become more self-sufficient, which can relieve the parents of some of the “stresses” of day to day care, but what may have seemed overwhelming in the younger years, quickly gives way to what may seem insurmountable in the teenage & early adult years. Looking back, with 20/20 hindsight, I can now say that I would take a 100 babies & toddlers over one adolescent or young adult.

Comparing the two different seasons is like comparing apples & oranges…..or more appropriately, minnows & sharks, or starfish & jellyfish, or goldfish & piranhas.
You get the picture.

When they are young, their needs are physical (& only slightly emotional), but as they grow older, their needs are more physical, spiritual, emotional & financial.
And all of those are competing for your attention.
All of those are needed…..ALL. AT. ONCE!

It can be draining…..
especially if we don’t remember who is in control.
And just an FYI, but it’s not us parents, and it’s definitely not the kids.

Train up a child…..we all know that verse, but what if we do train up a child, and then they depart from it. And they will… me on that one…..they will depart from it.
At least, at some point.
And this when faith kicks in because you will need to trust.

You will need to trust your own abilities.
You will need to trust your God.
You will need to trust that it will work out.
For good.
And it will.

In His time.

Just like the seasons of the earth, what might seem like a cold, bleak, winter,
can in a blink turn into a warm, bright, spring.
We, as parents, need to trust that our spring is right around the corner from that
It’s coming…..just have patience & faith & hope.

Your “parenting” season will not be stuck in winter forever.

Your spring is coming!

It always does…..when you have faith.

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Thanking God for a Sick Child…..

Almost a year ago, my life view was readjusted in a dramatic way.

Almost a year ago, we almost lost our 3rd child, and our 2nd born daughter.

Almost a year ago, we learned what was real & important, and what was fake & valueless.

Almost a year ago, our daughter came home from a 4-H event  with a headache……

that turned out to be Meningitis.

Almost a year I sat next to a hospital bed, and watched her lay there motionless….for almost five days. It turned my world upside down, but it enlarged my heart & blessed me in ways that I never imagined.

Almost a year ago I learned a priceless gift & the true value of life, of friends, of family.

There are times in my day-to-day life when I stop & remember those moments. It is important for me to do so, because if I don’t, I get focused on the world & not the blessings that truly saturate my life.

When Amelia came home complaining of a headache, I chocked it up to a fun time with her 4-H friends, the sun, the heat, and lack of sleep. The next day the headache continued, but she was sleeping much of the day, so I assumed that my first “diagnosis” was accurate. Then the next morning she didn’t wake up without being prodded, and when she did, she complained of a headache. I told her that I was going to a wedding shower, but we would go to the Doctor as soon as I got home. When she called me crying two hours later, stating that she couldn’t move her neck, I knew that we were facing something serious.

I don’t remember how fast I drove, but I knew it wasn’t legal. Our oldest daughter & I took Amelia straight to the Pediatric After Hours Center in Macon. I knew that there was no point in wasting time at any ER….I knew what we were facing…..and I knew it could go one of two ways. One of those not being good in any sense of the word. The Doctor immediately confirmed our fears & Amelia was admitted to the hospital within 10 minutes of us leaving the Doctor’s office.

The Medical staff at the Children’s Hospital was beyond amazing. Amelia’s nurses were outstanding & the Doctors were on top of their game. Their whole purpose in life was to give our daughter the best possible care and their commitment to that job was obvious. Right now, looking back on all of this, I can say that the Medical Staff was one of the many blessings we experienced during a very bleak time.

One of the main encouragements I treasure from this “crisis” was from our many friends & family. Friends from Church, friends from 4-H, friends from everywhere. That old song: “You find out who your friends are” is so true. In all honesty, the people that I expected to be there, weren’t; and the ones I didn’t expect anything from, were. We had 4-H friends travel long distances to bring us food in the hospital, and others to send (or even bring) Amelia flowers, teddy bears, balloons or gifts. We received texts, emails or phone calls from people that just wanted us to know that they were there for us. We had friends to skip Church service & just come to sit in the quietness of the hospital room. One of our friends, who knew the risks of Meningitis, even brought her daughter to visit with goodies  & encouragement in tow. Even our Pastor had come to the hospital as soon as he heard. He sat & prayed with us in the hospital until 2 a.m., even when he had to preach that very morning. This sacrifice made a huge impact on my life. It made me realize that there will be many people in our lives and all are meant to be there, but some are there to make an impact. Some are there to help me know that I am loved, by a great big God, who sends His comfort & Peace through every day people that surround us in our lives.

There are all kinds of people in our lives….and all serve a purpose. All are there to teach us how to treat others. In our time of crisis, I learned the ways that made me feel loved & the things that hurt. I learned who I could count as a true friend and I learned who I couldn’t trust. This was all good, because it especially taught me to treat others the way that I wanted to be treated, not just the way that they treated our family. It reinforced the “Golden Rule” in an age when most people are just looking out for themselves….and the words: “Do unto others as you would HAVE them do to you”, resonate through my mind whenever I look back on the events of July 2012.

Almost a year ago, I learned a lot of life changing ideals. I learned that not everyone in our life is who we thought they were. Some of them are better friends than I ever could have imagined.  BUT in all of this, I learned that the light always shines through the darkness. And whenever darkness comes again in our future, or the future of our friend’s or family, then I want to be the one leading them out of the darkness into the light. I want to be the one that shares the love that I felt, I want to be the one that helps them to know God’s comfort & peace.

I want to be the light that shines for Him.

So, today, I am thankful for a crisis that could have gone one of two ways.
I am thankful for a sick child, even when I wasn’t thankful then.
I am thankful that God uses the bad to change us from the inside out.
I am thankful that nothing is ever wasted, and that He can make beauty from ashes.

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We all live by a certain set of standards.

They can be good standards, bad standards….or mediocre standards….
but they are standards, none the less.

We may never notice any body Else’s standards until they infringe on
our time, our work, our efforts, or our lives.

Of course, we all want to think that we are holding ourselves to the
highest standard, but what if we aren’t?
What if our standard is not only not the highest, but maybe it isn’t
even mediocre.
What if we hold ourselves to the lowest standard…..and call it good enough?!

That’s when life starts to get complicated.
And such is the case, when adults are not only content with the lowest standard,
but also do not expect anymore from the young people who are watching the adult’s every move.

I personally saw this happen recently, and to be honest, it broke my heart.

Not so much for the adult, but the young person who may never strive to lift themselves out of that low standard. It especially breaks my heart when I know that the young person is capable of SO MUCH MORE!

To complicate matters, the adult’s standard also served to weaken the other young people around that child.

You remember the old saying: “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel”.

We all know it’s true. We have seen a group of young people that have been corrupted by the “bad apple”; But what’s worse is when there are “bad apples” in the bunch & they are being led by an adult that doesn’t strive to correct or encourage them to change that bad behavior.
And that is why, I believe, that our standards, morally, physically, or ethically, have been weakened in our nation.
We do not have adults that stand by what they say, we do not have adults that complete their work assignments, we do not have adults that are dependable or trustworthy or moral. We do not have adults that hold themselves to a higher standard.

We have adults that are content with just getting by…..
doing the bare minimum…..even if it means that they have to lie, or cheat, or steal, to get it done.
Now please do not misunderstand me. While I have seen the worst in plenty of adults, I have also seen the best.
AND that is why I know that we are capable of being better.
That is why I know that we are capable of lifting our standards.
That is why I know that we are capable of being ethical, and moral, and strong….and good….in our work, our behavior, our standards…….
and in our character.

Margaret Thatcher once said:
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it”.

Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A woman of character, a woman of determination, a woman of morals and ethics……and standards. The Iron Lady known for standing up to subpar standards…and expecting more.

I hope that we can learn a lesson from her……
and expect the best of ourselves, of others, of our young people.
I hope that we can learn the lesson to be the very best that we can be….

and expect NOTHING less.

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