Friday, December 23, 2011

Making More Time Part 7

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:53 AM 2 comments
It's been a while since I've posted about making more time. I've been making more time for Christmas cards, presents, finishing homeschooling and starting a new book. When these things take over, blogging gets pushed to the back burner. But, a request from a fellow writer to guest blog has gotten me back on. And now I'll share the last two tips on making more time, in a season when it's highly needed.

As a reminder, the first six tips are:
1 - Monitor how you spend your time
2 - Open yourself to change
3 - Redeem your time for the most important things
4 - Eliminate or reduce time stealers
5 - Take time to organize
6 - Include the fun stuff

And number 7 is - Make sure God comes first

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.Deuteronomy 6:5

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

These are Biblical principles known to many, but how do you put it into action? What does it mean day-in and day-out? It means scheduling your time around God and His priorities, instead of trying to squeeze God in around everything else we have to do. And surprisingly, when we do this, our time and effectiveness will actually increase.

We often try to do things in our own strength, which always fails eventually. Spending time with and relying on God for direction, wisdom, and strength will provide us with everything we need to live with joy and balance each day.

But what about when things get chaotic? Life often throws us off balance and circumstances come up that take up time in our already full schedules. If we’re standing on God as the Rock of our life and the Lord of every detail, He will guide us through every single detail.

Also, it's important not to see things as stealing your time. Every breath we take is a gift from God and we’re here for His purpose. Our time is His and our job is to live each second of it in gratefulness and obedience through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Putting God first doesn't mean you have to become a morning person and spend a couple hours in prayer and the Word (although it most certainly doesn't hurt anything), it means actively pursuing a deep relationship with God on a daily basis. And when our time is viewed as a gift from God and we dedicate everything we do to Him, our time will increase exponentially.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How I filled 6 Stockings for under $50

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:46 AM 0 comments
I'm a pretty frugal person, but I also like to buy gifts. Especially for those closest to me. We decided to do a simple Christmas this year. We only bought each child one gift of $20 or less (the littlest got 3 gifts, as her items cost a lot less.) We're doing homemade gifts for friends and family, excluding the parents. Our most exciting gifts of this year were our donation to Lottie Moon and the purchase of a bike for a missionary in Asia. Last night, I got to do one of the things I enjoy the most: I raided the Dollar Tree for stocking stuffers. And I got out of there for under $50! With enough items to fill 6 stockings (okay, hubby's isn't quite full, but mine is :)

So how did I do it? The trick, first, is to think small for stockings. The big gifts (even if it's just one per person) are under the tree. Stockings are for extra treats. The second trick is to shop a dollar store (or the dollar bins at Target or Wal-Mart.) The third trick is to buy multi-packed items. I like to buy things useful, and my kids are fairly used to this, so they don't complain. I also add in fun stuff. So here's what they got:

a highlighter (bought as pack of 4)
Christmas stickers (they're really gift tags, 4 sheets for $1)
gum (these come in packs, the older ones got 4 different flavors)
mints (also sold in multi-packs)
coloring book (each of younger got one, oldest got a small spiral notebook)
play kitchen items (set of 3 spatulas -each girl got one, ramekins - two youngest got set of 3 each)
bags of self-adhesive foam craft items
new toothbrushes (two got toothpaste in the package)
new bath sponges (they even had the fun animal ones)
a miniature coke glass (they each get one every year, they're 2/$1)
spy kits (one for each oldest 2, fingerprint kit and decoder)
glue stick
dry erase marker

So, that's my list. Fun and useful combined in one!

For me (yes, I stuff my own stocking - because I can!), I got new hot pads for the kitchen, a kitchen timer for school (for math speed drills), teacher tape with letters & numbers, reward stickers, green bags for fruits and veggies, my favorite blue gel pens, and gum, and super glue.

Hubby gets a new click n flame lighter, disposable vinyl gloves (he complained we didn't have any in the kitchen the other day - gag gifts work well for stockings), and gum.

Oh, yeah, and I bought a box of hot chocolate mix and gave everyone a packet.

So, it can be done. You can stuff stockings for less than $10 a piece, if you're creative and see it as fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Compassion for Christmas

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:41 AM 0 comments

Guest Post by Jennifer Slattery:



As I look around my house, wrapping paper strewn across the floor, packages lined on the shelves, and shopping lists still waiting to be fulfilled, a twinge of conviction nabs my heart. Each present, each tinsel, each afternoon shopping spree has the capacity to send our daughter a message–to train generosity or materialism. Each holiday celebration can either draw her heart further to Christ or center it more firmly around herself.

A while back I realized if I truly wanted to train compassion, I needed to pull her out of middle-class suberbia once in a while. It’s easy to long for X-boxes and other trinkets–to feel entitled and deprived–when you’re surrounded by friends who have those very items you lack. But surrounded by extreme poverty, by those who have little if anything to call their own, those wants begin to fade as something else rises in their place–compassion. Realizing this, my husband and I started to make determined efforts to place her in serving roles, around those who had far less than her. And we’ve noticed a definite change–less of the gimmes and a stronger desire to give.

What about you? What will you do to actively train compassion and contentment this year? Don’t buy into the lie that your children need one hundred gifts under the tree. In fact, those gifts you fought for, stood in line for, scrimped and saved to give them, could very well do more harm than good. Our children don’t need more cause to think of themselves, but instead, encouragement to look beyond and into the hearts of others.

As parents, may we remember our greatest call is to train not the next CEO but instead, a fully-devoted follower of Christ. With each activity we plan and conversation we initiate, may the lofty call outlined in Philipians 2:1-8 burn fresh in our minds as we remember this call is not for us alone, but for our children as well.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Lord, this Christmas remove materialism from my heart and home. Remind me to demonstrate it’s true meaning in how I spend my time, the things I buy, and the words I say. Prevent me from spreading the cancer of materialism into the lives of others and may I instead encourage radical obedience and full surrender.

Jennifer Slattery
Broken Lives Saturated by Grace
http://JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making More Time 6

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:06 AM 0 comments
Around this time of year (and most, really), many of us need more time. And this tip in particular. In the middle of everything going on, all the responsibilities we have, and running around, we must remember to Include The Fun Stuff. These are the things that help us to maintain our relationships, sanity, and health.

Jesus said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Life is often not easy. There is stress, hurt, and lots of work involved. One of the ways we live life abundantly (the main way is to completely rely on, trust in, and obey God) is to take time to enjoy the time we have.

God never calls us to simply be busy for busyness' sake. He calls us to be fruitful for His kingdom. Our busyness can inhibit our discipleship - growing in our relationship with God and fostering relationships with other. Whatever that may be, we should seriously consider letting it go. And make room for life to be enjoyed.

Everything, however, doesn't have to be perfect for us to enjoy life. God tells us to take captive every thought. That means we can have right, true, pure, and good thoughts regardless of what's going on. And having a positive attitude helps us to enjoy life. Even chores can become fun when we have the right attitude. Turn up the music. Make it a game. Leave the dishes once in a while and go play with the kids. They'll remember that more anyhow.

And remember: balance, balance, balance! If you always leave the chores for fun, life will become chaotic and dirty. But if you always leave fun for chores, life will be depressed and grumpy. And as you utilize all the tips for making more time, you'll naturally be more balanced.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making More Time Part 5

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:15 PM 0 comments
Did I mention organization? Oh, yeah, I did. Well, it's that important in making more time, so we're going to talk about it again. Taking the Time to Organize is our next step in making more time in our busy, over-scheduled lives.

In organization, it's true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The easier things are to find, the quicker you'll find them. Have you ever chased an item or two down, wasting precious time when you're trying to head out the door? Or marking things off your to-do list, only to spend half an hour searching for some essential piece of the puzzle? I think we've all been there.

On a large scale, imagine the library without organization. You have one particular book in mind, and you wonder around the library searching for the title among several thousand books thrown on the shelf in order that they came in, instead of by category or alphabetized. Think that would take a little more time than getting the call number or knowing where to look by the author?

On a smaller scale, the same is true for how we run our homes. However, you don't have to be an organizational master! Start small (where you put your keys, shoes, mail.) Recruit help to get started. If organization isn't your strength, surely someone in your life is good at it. And most likely, they'd be more than willing to pitch in and help out. My mother does several times a year - whether it is toys or clothes, in a house of four kids I often need help!

Set clear goals. Know what needs to be done when. Then they're easier to reach. What areas of home-management do you need the most help with organization? What tasks do you do on a regular basis that would run smoother if you had a more consistent routine?

As helps, lists, calendars, and day planners are available in abundance (or make your own!). These give concreteness to what needs to be down and helps reduce conflicts. Our brains are busy and often overloaded with extraneous data. Writing things down and being able to see what needs to be done is very helpful. And, when the calendar gets to full, it's a clue that it's time to return to steps two and four.

Don't worry if you're not a list/calendar person, though. These are simply tools! If it's not working for you (and make sure it doesn't become that you're working for it), then it's no longer a tool, but a burden. If that happens, reevaluate again and figure out what works for you.

We all have the same 24 hours a day, we simply have to balance our responsibilities and desires with how we use those hours. Organization will go a long way in helping us use our time efficiently and see when we need to unload a thing or two.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Making More Time Part 4

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:11 AM 0 comments
The fourth step in making more time is a fun one. Can you feel the sarcasm dripping off the page? This is actually one of the most difficult to face. We've addressed it somewhat in looking at how we spend our time and making sure we're redeeming our time for the most important things. But, today we go a step further. Today we look at: Eliminating or reducing time stealers.

If we're brave enough to examine how our time's truly spent, we will find that our lives tend to be full of time stealers. These are the things that are unnecessary. Things that bring comfort, or some pleasure, or simply offer distraction. But if we're complaining that we don't have time to do everything and these things take up a good part of our time, we have to be willing to acknowledge them.

So, here we go. I'm just going to throw them out there without much comment. After all, I struggle in many of these areas, too.

Television - how often does 30 minutes turn into 3 hours (or more)?
Computer/internet - have you ever gotten lost in the web maze?
Unnecessary extra-curricular activities - Do we need to be involved in everything we're involved in? Even if they're all good things?
Things to meet others' expectations - This doesn't mean we ignore responsibilities, but how much of what we do is because someone else things we should?
Arbitrary rules - many of us have "rules" that we live by, usually things that began as good habits by us or others. But we adapt them as rules we have to live by and they often become stressors. Does the house have to be cleaned every week? Do all meals need to be cooked from scratch? Can we not recruit help in some needed areas? What rules have you made for yourself that you could let go of?
Disorganization - Looking for lost items expends a lot of time and energy. If everything has a place and you take the few moments to put it where it belongs, you will save yourself gobs of time that would be spent looking for it.

Remember, if you don't have enough time to do everything, something has to change for you to have time for the important things. What stealers can be reduced or let go? I promise the long-term payoff is better than the short term pleasure of that time-stealing item!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making More Time Part 3

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:35 AM 0 comments
So, the journey to find more time continues. After you've begun to monitor your time and opened yourself up to make changes, the third step is to Redeem Your Time for the Most Important Things.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

We tend to have so many options for things to do to fill up our time, that it's easy to let the less important things slip in and push the more important things out of the way. If I were asked, I'd say that the most important things in my life are:

Faith
Family
Friendships
Finances
Fun

It's easy to claim these are my priorities, but if I'm willing to be honest and inspect my life closer, I have to ask: Am I living them out? It's much easier to say what our priorities are than it is to spend our time on what we say is most important. Are you willing to compare what you say your priorities are with how you spend your time?

That doesn't mean that if you spend 8 hours a day sleeping and 8 hours a day at work that those are your top priorities. God gave us sleep and calls us to work (whether it's within or outside of the home.) I'm talking more about our flexible time. The time we have that's more negotiable in how we spend it.

If you were to look at your time and make a chart of pie graph, what would it look like? In a typical week, how do you spend your time? How much time do you spend:

Quiet time with God in prayer and/or personal Bible study
Self-care (shower, makeup, nails, hair, etc.)
Physical fitness (exercising)
Watching TV
Non-work time on computer
Working
Housework (cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, etc.)
Time with children (taking care of and spending fun time with)
Errands and extra-curricular activities
Church attendance
Care of family members (not children)
Time with friends
Time with Spouse
Ministering to others (cooking meals, helping with errands, making gifts, visiting, babysitting, etc.)

After an honest look, are you living out your priorities? If not, what small changes can be made to move the most important things to the top of your time-list?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making More Time Part 2

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:33 AM 0 comments
In making more time, once you become aware of your time through monitoring it, the next step is to open yourself up for change. If you want to experience change (i.e. no longer feeling overwhelmed and like time's running away from you) then you have to be willing to make changes.

Even the small changes can be hard, but the payoff's immeasurable. Think back. Is there one habit you've changed in the past that's helped you use your time more effectively? Even though there might have been an adjustment period, didn't it make things run more smoothly? One thing I've changed is making sure I put my keys in the same place every time I come home. That way, when it's time to walk out the door and I'm trying to make sure myself and all the kids have everything they're supposed to have, I don't even have to think about where the keys are.

The second reason to open your self to change is that God wants to refine you through the use of your time.

Psalm 66:10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.

Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

As long as we're on this earth, there's work God can do and wants to do in us. It may have to do with our time, our attitudes, our thoughts, our relationships, or our money. All of these things take time, and if we simply open ourselves up to God, He will do an amazing work in us.

If we feel like we never have time to do everything, chances are we've taken on more than God's called us to. Something may have worked for a while, but then more or different responsibilities came into the picture and we didn't want to let go of anything.

If we're hanging onto something in our life that we should have let go, our hand stays clenched around that thing and remains closed to the additional blessings God may have waiting to pour down on us.

What have you been holding onto that God wants you to let go of so He can our more blessings down on you?

Next, and closely related to the previous reason for being open to change, is that God wants to transform you through the use of your time.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

If we don't have time to spend with God in His Word and in prayer, we are not fully living in His will. These are the ways God transforms us. There's no set time to spend with God that's necessary to draw closer to Him, but some time is essential.

Are you willing to ask God what time He wants you to give Him one-on-one?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making More Time

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:42 AM 0 comments
Do you ever feel like time flies by without notice? That there is never enough time to get everything done that you need to get done? In our world of hurry and scurry, most of us feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and short on time. The good thing is that there are ways to make more time! Think about it: more time to enjoy your family, more time to spend with God, more time to sleep. What a wonderful thought. Over the next few weeks, my posts will focus on the tricks and tools I've learned to make more time, something that's a work in progress.

The first step to making more time is to: Monitor how you spend your time.

Why is this important? A few reasons.

1 - God cares how we spend our time. Does He really? According to the Word, He does. Here are just a couple examples of God addressing what He thinks about our time usage:

2 Thess. 3:11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

1 Timothy 5:13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.

These verses address what God thinks about our wasting time. I couldn't even begin to include scriptures that talk about how we should spend our time: in hymns of praise, encouraging each other, loving each other, taking care of each other, preaching the gospel. All we have while on this earth is time. How we spend it determines many things in our lives: how hard we work determines our grades or pay or promotion. How much time and the kind of time we spend with our children goes a long way to determining our relationships with them. Our time spent with other loved ones, including God, determines the depth and health of those relationships. Time is the one thing, once spent, can never be regained. And it matters how we spend it.

What would you say if I said we have more time today than people (as a general rule) than ever before? You'd probably look at me like I'd lost my mind. We do, though! The more conveniences we get in life, the more idle time we have. We simply fill it up. We fill it up with sports and parties and dinners and browsing the web and watching TV and reading books and sitting around talking. We have tons of idle time (for the most of us) when we're not working on our livelihood or maintaining our homes. We simply fill all that time up.

However, it's important to remember that we have one purpose on this earth and that’s to be a disciple of Christ. That can include the fun things and the relaxing things, but it's important to remember that those are not the most important things.

And nothing says we can't rest!God allows for rest, but in our society we take much more than the one/seventh of each week to rest. We view any time we spend on working, chores, and ministry as taking away from our time. The truth is, all of our time is a gift from God and should be used wisely.

2 - If we’re not conscience of our time, we’re more likely to waste it. How often do you get to the end of a day, or a week, or a month and wonder exactly where the time has gone? Time seems to simply slip away when we're not paying attention. That doesn't mean we are to ignore our responsibilities and watch the clock to value each moment. Scripture even addresses this:

Romans 13:11-14 But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about! (Msg)

So how do you monitor your time without wasting more time monitoring it? Organization is one way. However, I know that not everyone is an organization master. But you don’t have to write a to-do list every day or keep physical track of your time. It's often helpful to do so, but isn't a requirement. Being intentional about how you use your time – both active time and rest time – will, however, help you be more fruitful instead of just busier.

3 - Living in the moment we have, with a grateful attitude for every single breath and gift from God, will increase your time exponentially. When we race from one thing to the next and are always looking forward, we miss the blessings of the moment, feel rushed, and actually lose time. Working on being fully present in the moment we’re in helps us not only feel like we have more time, but will dramatically decrease stress and increase joy.

Are you fully here right now? Or are you wondering if the house is being destroyed while you’re away or the list of things you have to do tomorrow, or next week, or even next month? Pause and take a moment to engage fully in this moment. What are you grateful for? What gifts has God given you today? Savor them. Be grateful for them. Ask God to help you recognize them.

Then ask Him to help make you aware of your time.

ii. Take a moment, engage in this second fully, and list 10 things you’re grateful for at this moment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning from the Little Things

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:33 AM 0 comments
The sound of a small person thumping and rolling down the stairs is a terrible one.

A few minutes ago I help my precious 2-year-old and thanked God for her cries. She was bumped around a bit, but really okay.

But it made me wonder: How many moms are holding a precious child in their arms who can no longer cry? Whether having succumbed to disease, cut short by starvation, or brutally killed because of persecution or other evil, how many mothers will weep over a baby today?

I am so grateful for every moment with my children, even the frustrating ones.

And I also wonder: What can I do to make a difference to those other mothers around the world? What little thing would I have to give up to donate a few meals? What time in prayer could I sacrifice for safety? In what ways can I help promote the spread of the gospel of Christ Jesus, the only true source of hope and peace?

Thank you, God, for protecting my child from serious harm and using such a small thing to draw me closer to Your will.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Christians and Halloween

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:04 AM 0 comments
It's interesting to me that I've heard more discussion about Christians and Halloween in the last week than I have my entire life. I can honestly say that for the majority of my life, I never gave the holiday a second thought. Growing up, I dressed up (although I can't remember a single costume I wore) and trick-or-treated at the dozen houses in close enough proximity to do so. As an adult, I've attended costume parties (I do remember a few of those costumes), get-togethers, and handed out candy to neighborhood children. I'm not sure exactly when the change started, but sometime after becoming a parent myself, I began to look at it from a slightly different angle. I'm sure my maturing faith and growing closer and learning to be more heedful of God in my life played a role as well.

Still, I've never once considered completely giving up doing anything on Halloween. Both of the churches I've attended have done fall festivals - one on Halloween day, one not. The festivals focus on fellowship, fun, and food. In other words, your normal Baptist fare. Costumes are allowed, as long as they're not scary.

This year, however, I observed a passionate discussion between some Christians that began over one's opinion that Christians should absolutely, in no way shape or form, take part in Halloween or its celebrations. The main argument was that Halloween has deep roots in pagan rituals. It began as a pagan celebration that's been white-washed and adapted to the American commercial culture. We are in a spiritual war and participating in Halloween opens us up to spiritual attack from our enemy, the devil.

The counter, argued that in Romans 14 God clearly addresses how Christians are to respond to the world and pagan rituals. In discussing eating things offered to idols, the Word says to seek God and either eat or don't eat with a clear conscious. He never says don't eat. He also says that nothing in and of itself is unclean. That includes Halloween - nothing means nothing.

However, it also says not to put a stumbling block in another's path, a statement another fellow Christian made in a completely different discussion about Halloween I found myself in. So what does that mean for Christians?

It means to seek God. Keep the issue between you and Him. And be willing to give up whatever your ideas are about the holiday and its traditions. Whenever we begin to espouse our opinions and what God's lead us to do over love and edification of each other, we have missed the point.

Another comment made in the latter discussion is that we are to be light in the world. How do we do this in relation to Halloween? For some it's completely pulling out of anything to do with it. For others, it's offering alternatives. For our family it's taking part in something that is very cultural, but in a slightly different way.

We allow our kids to dress up, but nothing scary is allowed. We allow them to go trick-or-treating and see neighbors we don't normally see after the weather gets cold. We also hand out candy, each peace with a scripture stapled to it. These tiny pieces of paper are surely discarded as quickly as the wrapper, but curiosity almost ensures that it will at least be read by some. And who knows? Maybe this is the only time some children will ever hear the words of the one, true, and holy God. Maybe a parent is struggling, has lost their way, or has never heard the Word themselves, and that one sentence will make an impact. (God's word is powerful and accomplishes things on its own.)

In addition, we hand out cider and chili to the parents that are supervising trick-or-treating. I'll be honest to say a warm cup on a cold night has never began a conversation about God. But I regretfully admit I've never prayed that it would. That an unexpected door would be opened. From now on, however, I will. And maybe a heart will be softened and open to the gospel because of a small giving gesture.

This is how we choose to be light in world full of darkness and a holiday steeped in historical darkness.

In the end it doesn't matter for you what I do with Halloween. In the end, it matters if you're willing to submit completely to obedience to God and how He leads you to handle this holiday. We are not to quarrel over disputable matters. Halloween is not directly addressed in Scripture (although passages on other pagan rituals are there to guide us) and is not a make-it-or-break-it issue for salvation. That makes it a disputable matter. We shouldn't extract a few scriptures to back up our point of view either, but take scripture as a whole and with an openness to God about this, as well as about the other details in our lives. God might surprise us. He might confirm us. Most assuredly He will bring us together as one and bring glory to Himself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Does Helping Hurt?

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:28 PM 0 comments

A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here (http://www.samiesisters.com/previous_articles/Who-Cares-if-My-Room-is-Clean-.html). Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Thanks a bunch to Jennifer Slattery for the guest post!!

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer, marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and publicity assistant for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in many publications including the Bible Advocate and the Breakthrough Intercessor. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse, and co-hosts a faith-based Facebook community called Living By Grace with five other writers. You can find more about her and her writing at her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com) and you can find out more about her critiquing and marketing services at Words that Keep (http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com).



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grateful or Grumpy

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:05 PM 0 comments
I thought about writing this post a week or so ago, but didn't get around to it. It's about how we have a choice each day and with each situation we face: to be grateful or grumpy.

I've written several times about reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (I'm not going to tag it this time, you'll have to read my other posts to find the tag or look it up :) and the lessons I'm learning from it. How being grateful every day is essential in having a God-focused perspective. And I planned to write more about it. But apparently, God delayed me because He wanted me to write more about it when everything wasn't smooth and grand. He was waiting for me to hit today.

I'm in the 320's on my list of things I'm grateful to God for. And I've even started my two oldest children keeping a grateful journal. But today I'm struggling. Because everything is NOT going smoothly. Nothing major's happened, but you know, a bunch of small things can add up to make one grumpy momma.

The first thing is my computer. I told my hubby and asked him to transfer the info to our friend who's always worked on our computers that it's been shutting down. No response. Then on Monday it decided to completely shut down and not even attempt to boot up. Not a wonderful, fuzzy, warm feeling is induced when a writer, blogger, connect to the world through the computer momma's computer is dead. So, I've left it, cried out for help, and used any computer I can get my hands on to check email and check in on Facebook. Today I'm sitting at my in-laws blogging. Hopefully by Saturday all the appropriate parts and computer guy will converge onto my house and have me up and running again in no time.

Then, we started school today. Let's just say that my children are not adjusting well to having to sit down, pay attention, and do school work for several hours a day (even though it's only three hours broken up into four 45-minute sessions throughout the morning with plenty of breaks.) Whininess, bouncing around the classroom, and tears are not uplifting for a homeschooling momma. But we persisted.

Then (Oh, yes. there's more!), when I went to unload the washing machine and begin drying the first (of the only three loads I had scheduled today), I discovered that one of my children had left a dry pullup in their pajama pants. Now, do you know what happens to a pullup in a washing machine? I do. And it's not pretty. Billions - no, I'm not exaggerating, but I might be underestimating - of moisture soaking beads have a field day and attach themselves to EVERY piece of clothing in the load. And I don't wash 10 items at a time.

So, I spent the first two school breaks shaking out moisture soaking beads out of laundry, wiping them up off the dryer, floor, and carpet, and doing my best to get them out of the washer. Hoping, enough have gotten out and not found their way into the holes of the washing machine spinner to ruin it.

The load goes back in, minus pullup and billions of beads. On the next break, I throw the now-clean, bead-free clothes in the dryer. And turn it on. To be greeted by an awful sound. Promptly stopped, I open the dryer to too much heat created in one minute of running and I know. The lint catcher that I had just emptied really didn't have enough lint on it. It's a top-loading lint catcher and it must have released the other 3/4 of built up lint below the lint catcher where I cannot reach. and it's clogged something and threatened to catch fire. Which is why we replaced our 10 year old dryer last year.

I diligently pull out the dryer, unplug it, and examine the thing. Nope. Not touching it. Guess what's greeting my darling husband when he gets home from work today? At least today isn't scheduled to be a 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. workday like he's worked so frequently in the last two months.

So, on a day like today, I still have a choice: grateful or grumpy. To be grumpy would be easy. To vent, eat away my frustrations, lock myself in my room. Yell at the whiney, not-using-potty-like-she-knows-how, aggrivating each other children. It would be so easy. But then there's the list. The list I add several more things on today, even though it's a struggle to.

rain
tomatoes off the vine
hubby returning a message from work
sleeping in after a restless night
staying on schedule for our first day of school
plenty of clothes to wear
playing a game with my two oldest
watching my two youngest entertain and be sweet to each other

These are the things I choose to focus on. Even when it's hard. And I'm able to let go of the small ways Satan tries to attack, tries to get me off course, tries to tell me God doesn't care. But I know He does, and I'll hold onto that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motivation to Minister

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:03 PM 0 comments
As I sat and listened to a man struggle through talking about his experiences during Vietnam - what he saw, the nightmares that have lasted for more than 40 years, and the changes those experiences made in his life and marriage - I was reminded something a friend said recently: People are hurting. And we need to reach them where they're hurting, minister to them, care for them, and touch their lives in a healing way. And tonight I was reminded. By a man who is strong. A man who's committed to the Lord and his family. A man who continues to live and give. A man who continues to hurt because of trauma and devestation he saw over 40 years ago. People are hurting.

They hurt because of past or present abuse - physical, sexual, and/or emotional. They hurt because of abandonment. They hurt because of lies and deceit. They hurt because of traumatic experiences - accidents, fires, floods, tornadoes. They hurt because of others' selfishness. People hurt.

Taking a panoramic view of people and their pain can be overwhelming. But if we look at one person at a time and minister to their hurt, we will be able to make a difference. If we call them when they're going through a rough time. Send a card. Bring a meal. Clean a house. Watch children. Pray. Give. Encourage. Share. Love. It all makes a difference.

We miss these opportunities every day, just as we miss the opportunity to be thankful for the small things God gives us every day, but if we take the time, become intentional, we will impact lives.

When did someone love you? Share with you? Encourage you? Give to you? Pray for you? How were you impacted? Such small things, but big in life. The things that matter the most. The things that make life here on this fallen, sinful, ungrateful world better.

So, I'm grateful for the reminder. Of war. Of damage. Of carnage. Of pain. Because then I'm reminded of love. Of grace. Of healing. Of peace. Of God. He gifts us with everything we need to get through anything we may face and often that is each other.

People are hurting, which makes me ask: What can I do to help?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giving Your Best

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:25 PM 0 comments
In my last post, I talked about my renewed dedication to give God my best. The post ended with the question, "Am I giving God my best?"

If I'm truthful in answering that, I'd say "Yes, sometimes." There are times I am on fire and productive and disciplined and keep up with things. There are other times I look at what needs to be done and know that it'll be there for me to do tomorrow. I focus on the luxaries others have and wish I had them. I shut down and shut off everything except what has to be done and what I feel like doing at that moment. And I'm learning that I waste a lot of time.

I'll repeat something else I said. Breaks are not bad. Downtime is not bad. But it can easily get out of balance and become priority. Am I working for my next break? How am I usuing my break? How long of a break do I take? Am I getting done everything I believe I'm called to do?

These questions, and probably a few more I'm just not thinking of right now, go into evaluating how we see our time, and especially our down time.

We tend to see our time as just that: our time. However, each second we have is a gift. We did not create ourselves. We did not bring ourselves into being. While there are many things we can do to be healthy and live longer, we cannot ultimately prevent our death at any given moment. That means each moment is a gift.

This concept was gracefully explained in a recent talk I was blessed to sit in on. The speaker was Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, and a few things she said still reverberate through my head weeks later. One of them is this: We all have a Jew who gave His life so that we could have life. He paid our death penalty for us and therefore every breath we take is a gift. What would happen if we recognized each breath we intake as a gift?

Would we be as content to watch tv for hours a day? Would be crave surfing the net or checking out what's going on on Facebook? Would we growl at our children when they interrupt what we're doing? Would we be so concerned with how we look on the outside, spending much more time on what we wear and how our hair an make-up look than on growing in love and knowledge and wisdom of the Lord?

What would life look like?

Giving your best doesn't mean you don't ever do the above things, but you do them with care and make sure they don't become a priority over the better things. The best things. Sure, I'd love to kick back and veg, but God has called me to touch people's lives through writing and speaking the things He's working in me. When I've done that to my best for today, then I rest.

And if I haven't rested in Him today, that's where I should start. There is time...it's simply how we use it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changing Habits

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:05 PM 0 comments
This is usually the time of day I crash and say to myself, "I've been a mom, hostess, entertainer, chef, laundress, and all-around picker-upper all day and I deserve a break!" Then I crash in the recliner and veg out in front of the tv. Even if nothing good's on. Even though I had on today's to-do list to get some writing done. Even though it's been a good, full, blessed day. And most people would say, "You deserve it! Take a break."

Now, if you know me at all, or have read my blog for a while, you know that I tout "Balance, Balance, and more Balance!" So, let me start off by saying that I don't think breaks are bad. On the contrary, I think breaks are good and often necessary. If we don't feed ourselves (even by shutting down once in a while), we'll wear out and be no good to anyone. In the last week, I read a three-book series by an author I've only recently been introduced to. And when I read, I don't catch a half hour here and there. I become compulsive and obsessive about it, usually finishing a novel in 24-36 hours (and that includes a full night's sleep!) It's like a mini-vacation to me. So I definitely believe in and take breaks.

Tonight when I finish a busy day and want to crash, I remember the things I've neglected during my "mini-vacation", such as my own writing. I want to get it done. It's been processing in my head. But, if I don't sit down and do it, it's not going to write itself.

So, I popped up my blog and created this post. Despite my eyes being tired and my brain desiring to shut down. Why? Because I'm a verbal believer in doing things that are best, even if you don't feel like it.

Notice I said "verbal" believer. It's very easy to say the right thing and tell someone else to do what's right instead of what is easier or you want to do more. It is more difficult to discipline yourself to do so.

I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I fall into a cultural, lazy, I-deserve-a-break attitude. This is why I'm still trying to lose that last 20 pounds from my last child, who is now 2. This is why I haven't finished more books and gotten the ones I have through the editing process and ready to send off. This is why my house isn't always straight and has piles of paperwork here and there. The truth is: I do have time to do all things things. But sometimes I choose to waste my time and fritter it away.

Fortunately, God keeps placing excellent Biblical teachers in my path who are willing to share the truth in a way that penetrates my heart and gets my thinker-juices flowing in a different way. His way. The best way. Not the okay way. Or the comfortable way. Or even the good way. But the best. That's what He gave in His Son, His best, and that's all He asks in return. For me to give my best in loving Him and others. As I look at my time and my habits, I'm lead to ask: Am I giving my best?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Balance, Balance, & More Balance!

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:04 PM 0 comments
On my recent weekend getaway/womens/writers & speakers conference (i.e. She Speaks :) one of the new things I learned about was having a tagline for ministry. Since I'm primarily a writer and a speaker second, this wasn't something I was familiar with. The speaker talking about the tagline said, "Don't expect you'll come up with something that fits and you like today or even this weekend." But I did. I think.

I'm still sitting on it, but the more I think about it and the more I look at my ministry focus, the more I'm convinced I've nailed it. And it is:

Balanced Living for a Brilliant God.

That pretty much sums up my ministry and covers all topics I write/speak about. In attempting to live in a way that brings success, happiness and contentment, balance is necessary in every area.

When it comes to housework/chores and spending time with our families, balance is necessary. If we get out of wack in either area, we will either suffer from chaos in life or chaos in our relationships.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, balance is necessary. If we completely neglect ourselves, we will not be healthy enough to take care of our families and other responsibilites. If we spend too much time and energy on ourselves, we will be self-centered and our world around us will collapse.

When it comes to relationships, balance is necessary. If we expect too much of another without giving anything in return, the relationship will self-destruct. If we give too much and the relationship isn't mutual (notice, however, that I didn't say equal), it will be unhealthy and damaging.

When it comes to parenting, balance is necessary. If we give our children love with no limits, they will be spoiled, self-seeking, and have a "the world owes me" attitude. If we give our children limits with no love, they will end up hurt, angry, and lacking the ability to enjoy relationships as a gift from God.

Even when it comes to our relationship to God, balance is necessary. He tells us to pray at all times about all things, which doesn't sound balanced, but if all we do is lock our selves away from the world to pray, we will not do the things God has purposed for us to do. Prayer is work within itself, and we can do it at all times in all occasions, but it is not the only work we are to do in obedience and accordance to our faith.

When we get out of balance, we feel it. Life is often a constant self-correcting when we get lopsided in one area or another. I spent most of yesterday reading a book (this is why I greatly restrict my fiction reading diet!) So today, I'm getting work done and spending time with the kids, before I pick up the next book in the series.

And while balance is good for us, to help us stay content, be successful in the tasks we're given, and have happiness along the way, the ultimate goal in everything is to bring glory to the Lord, who is brilliant in every way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review - Slave

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:48 PM 0 comments
It's been a long time since I've done a book review. I enjoy being a part of BookSneeze, where they send you free Christian books to read and review. I thrive on words - I enjoy reading them, writing, them, speaking them. It's my "thing."

So, this opportunity sounded wonderful to me. And it's been great. My budget for books is nill and this opened doors beyond my public library. That is, until I got a book I couldn't give a four or five star rating.

I don't like giving things a bad review, especially when it's something that came with such high expectations. And, unfortunately, that is what happened with the book Slave by John MacArthur. It's been sitting by my bed since January waiting on me to finish it and/or review it. I guess that says something.

I had high expectations for Slave. I've listened to John MacArthur on Grace to You and been inpressed with his Biblical foundation. However, I did not find a lot of grace in the book Slave. There are a lot of important Biblical truths found in this book, but there's not a lot of balance. The history of slaves and the use of the word slave in scripture is good to know. Although the presentation of it in this book is repetitious. I wish I could have finished the book, maybe I would have found more balance, more grace, but since it's been sitting by my bed for seven months, now, I don't see that happening. Other biblical truths, such as God as our Lord and Master, and that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, are given. But then I'd come across something distracting such as a commentary on contemporary Christian music being an example of the world infiltrating the church. I couldn't disagree more! God created music and the style of music doesn't determine who it glorifies (God or the world), but the words do. And so, with distracting sections such as this, I left the book unfinished and disappointed. I didn't receive the great teaching on our positions as bond-servants to God, voluntary slaves submitting ourselves to a holy, loving God because He knows best how to bless us for His glory. So, Slave gets three stars, only because of the important and relevant truths woven through a book I didn't find easy to read.

Fear of Letting Go

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:15 AM 1 comments
I began my open journey of dicarding (after digging up and divulging) my fears in my last post. I continue that journey here with the admission that while my heart's desire is to radically abandon myself completely to God and His perfect plan for my life, the flesh in me clings tight. Like someone clinging to the side of a cliff not knowing the ledge is less than ten feet away, I cling to the idea that I have to work at things.

God recently dig a great work in me and gave me the freedom of knowing I don't have to work at everything - approval, acceptance, accolades.

Yet I still hold back. I don't want to completely let go. I know this because I do things like make my to do list without first praying about it. I pray for others, ask God to take control of my heart, but I don't go to Him with the details of my life. Why is that?

If I'm going to be completely open and honest, it's because I'm afraid of what I'll have to let go if I submit every detail of my life. What I eat. What I wear. What I write. What I watch on TV. What I listen to on the radio. How I spend every moment of every day. How I acknowledge Him with every breath I take.

Truly, I think this is a common fear - of both believers and unbelievers. We are afraid of what God will ask us to give up if we submit to Him. The things we like and enjoy. What we forget is that every second, every breath is a gift from Him and He willingly fills us up with more than we could ever imagine. If I give up certain things that bring me enjoyment, will He give what will bring me more joy? Of course He will, it just doesn't always look like what we would like it to look like.

So, I talk to myself, pause to pray one more time, and ask God to empty me of me and slowly pry each finger off the ledge, knowing He's waiting to catch me in His everlasting arms of love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fear of Abandonment

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:59 PM 0 comments
It's quite funny what God will do when you open yourself up. I've never been a fearful person. It's not part of my nature and I wasn't taught to be fearful. I'm more one of those people who jump head first into things, figuring that everything will work out.

Lately, however, God has been showing me my deep, hidden fears. They are less tangible than fears of some tragedy, injury, or disaster.

The first fear revealed was the fear that my ministry (i.e. speaking, writing, and getting published) would grow faster than my family was ready for. I am confident that my initial book hasn't sold yet because, at least in part, my family has not been ready for it. With my youngest child barely two, how in the world would I have been traveling and doing events on a regular basis before now? Life is busy and crazy as it is. While I know that God is in control of every detail - down to when and if I get published and where, when, and if I have a speaking ministry - I have to get it to my heart. If I have even the slightest concern about what affect my ministry growing will have on my family, then I'm not trusting that God is in control and has my and my family's best interest at heart. He has plans for each of us and all those plans somehow work out perfectly for all of us.

That doesn't mean that I don't step into things carefully and prayerfully. On the contrary, I could very easily try to finagle and work my way to a "successful" ministry. Then I would be out of bounds of God's will and protection and be neglecting my call, which is to first minister to my family. But neither do I want to hold back when God is coaxing me forward. I want to be abandoned completely to His will. I simply have to tell my heart to give up all of its own wants and desires, other than the single desire to be radically abandoned to the one and only Lord of my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Mom's Set Free

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 6:24 AM 0 comments
Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

Last time I wrote, I was getting ready to go to what I knew would be a fantastic conference: She Speaks -a writers, speakers, and women’s ministry leaders conference. I’d been wanting to go to the conference for years and this year finally got the go ahead – from both God and my hubby.
Long before the time for the conference arrived, I got to know many (almost 300 were members) of the to-be attendees through the conference Facebook page. We shared anticipations, fears, prayer requests and an overall excitement about descending on Concord, NC all at the same time (with a total of 650 registered ladies and almost 100 staff and volunteers to run the conference!) There was no doubt in my mind that I would be blessed by my time there.
I was in no way, however, prepared for all that God would do. Throughout the weekend God blessed me with little gifts. A surprise roommate who was as warm, welcoming, and encouraging as I could ever ask for. Friends made, contacts received, networking going on, positive feedback from my publisher appointments (even if no closer to getting my nonfiction book published) and a fantastic speaker evaluation group experience. I was confident, prepared, and all around having a great time.

Then the Saturday worship session came along. We were blessed to have Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, as the speaker. Her stories touched hearts, moved people, and made you think. Then something totally unexpected happened, something I was completely unprepared for. God used the words of Ann, along with my own words and scriptures I’d used in my speaker evaluation talks, to reach down deeper into my soul than I knew existed. He grabbed hold of hurts and false beliefs I thought I’d gotten rid of a long time ago, pulled them up to the surface, let me feel them, and then healed them. Yes, I was one of those snot-slinging, tear-wracked women in the prayer room. Sometimes that’s what happens when God reaches down deep and changes you.

One thing that I came out of that prayer room with was a sense that instead of knowing God’s truths (that I had myself quoted and talked about) only in my head, I now have them firmly planted in my heart. I also came away with knowing that while I’m a fairly transparent person, it’s only of those things on the surface, those things that don’t truly make me vulnerable.
But do I really want to show the real me, God? Isn’t it too ugly, too dark, too odd? No, He whispers. You are real and you who I made you and are becoming the person I desire you to be.
So as I take a deep breath, I vow to give up everything to God. Even my short-comings. My pride. My belief that I have to do everything perfectly. My belief that I have to earn love. My belief that without working at it, I deserve nothing, not even God’s love. My willingness to only allow the surface stuff to show.

I am grateful for all the little gifts God gave me, but am blown away by the biggest gift of all: freedom. Freedom from the bondage of my own false beliefs and the idea that I at least have to attempt to do everything perfectly. Freedom to truly trust in and rely on God. That He’s in control and I simply have to submit. Freedom to let these truths travel from my head to my heart and let God do the work in me that I know is yet to be done. Freedom to live – in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Today I’m grateful for: the sound of sealing jars, healing from yesterday’s migraine, today’s journey to my first mission trip, God’s word at my fingertips – and everything listed above!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Mom's Crazy Life

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:00 AM 1 comments
Okay, so Wow! It's really been almost a month since I've been on here. I knew it had been a while, but didn't realize it had been quite that long. July was packed long before it got here, but goodness, couldn't I have taken a few minutes to check in?

Then I review everything that I've been doing. We'll start with parenting four beautiful children under 9. Then we'll go to gardening, taking care of the home, and trying to catch a few minutes with hubby here and there. Those are the regular things. Oh, and writing!

Then we add in everything else, family in town for July 4 weekend, going to Northern Virginia with the kids for a week and visiting friends (we had a whirlwind trip, staying in 3 different houses in 5 nights!) and preparing for the fabulous She Speaks Conference, which starts in 3 days.

I had no idea how much preparation there would be. But I'm the crazy person who's doing a split track and so has to prepare two speeches for evaluation (done!) and get my book proposal ready (haven't looked at it in almost 2 years and am doing some revisions, over half-way there!) There is also finding "business casual clothes" that I as a stay-at-home mommy doesn't have (thanks to my good friend and mom, I'm all set!), getting my business cards ready, doing a one-sheet (which my faithful friend's son who is a design-stuff-on-the-computer-genius helped me with), and printing off directions and coordinating with my travelling partner. And, just for grins and giggles, I had 8 kids at my house yesterday and am squeezing in a cut and color tomorrow (which another fabulous friend is doing for FREE in exchange for me rolling her hair for a perm.)

So, life is busy. And God has blessed me throughout. He's continuing to teach me to prioritize, make sure I spend time with Him so that I don't lose focus (or my sanity), and to pray for those who are hurting around me.

I'll ask your forgiveness for not being more consistent in meeting you here, but you probably understand. Sometimes, we live day-by-day and minute-by-minute and are so busy enjoying the wonderful gifts God has given us (especially the gift of His peace amidst the craziness swirling around us) that we don't check in.

And that's not always a bad thing.

But I do hope to check in more often and be able to share all the wonderful things God is teaching me through this process. The first of which, as is obvious in this post, is the blessing of godly, caring, generous family and friends!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Challenges of Homeschooling

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:34 PM 0 comments
A while back I did a post on the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling. Now that we've been done with school for a few weeks, I can look back and talk about the top 10 challenges. As I said before, I love homeschooling! Just because we feel called to do it and it's a good fit for our family, doesn't mean that it doesn't come with its own challenges. This list isn't meant to discourage anyone from homeschooling, but to be realistic and balanced in what it looks like.

1 - Finding time to yourself. Yes, your children are always at home! But a little creativity and some exchanging with other homeschooling moms and you can find a few moments to breath.

2 - Getting past fears of being indadequate. Time and time again I hear moms say they don't think they're capable. "But what do you do when they get to high school? I wasn't good at that stuff when I had to learn it." There are endless resources and helps to homeschooling moms today, and if God's called you to homeschool, he will equip you!

3 - Fitting it all in. Homeschooling is time consuming, there's no question. So you teach, cook, grade tests, clean, do laundry, check work, and run errands. When you homeschool you learn to let some things go, and remember, your children are there with you. Teach them to help with chores and delegate, delegate, delegate!

4 - Normalizing being educated at home. When all their friends go off to school, homeschooled children sometimes wistfully desire to go with them, envisioning a non-stop playdate. Getting together with other homeschooled children, through participating in co-ops, play groups, and field trips, helps make it normal. Talking with them about what a public school day looks like may also help.

5 - Lack of support. Many friends and family don't understand homeschooling or take it personally that the school their children is in 'isn't good enough' for your children (even though that's not how you feel.) They will question, sometimes make blatant statements against homeschooling, and 'test' your kids. Equip yourself, be confident, and know that not everyone will understand or agree with you and that is okay. Answer them with kindness and keep on doing the right thing for your family. And you can forward them videos like this!

6 - 10 - I'm sure there are some more drawbacks to homeschooling, but I can't come up with them. These are the main ones I've come in contact with or seen with other homeschooling families. As with any challenge, there's always a way to meet it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:11 PM 0 comments
Patience is something I always thought I had before I had children. I could be patient at work, I could be patient sitting though dozens of not-overly-exciting college classes, I could even be patient in traffic.

But until someone is putting their own personal demands on you 24/7 (i.e. Motherhood), I don't think you can have a complete concept of patience. And once you become a mother, you suddenly understand why all those other mothers you've looked down on for all those years sometimes lost it with their children in the grocery store.

Don't get me wrong, I still cringe when I hear a mom in public berating her child or yelling at him. But I myself must admit, I've raised my voice a time or two.

What I often find, however, is that when I lose my patience, it typically has to do with what I'm doing, not what my children are doing.

Here's what I mean: Have you ever noticed that you don't mind that person meandering down the road when you have plenty of time, but when you're running late all of a sudden that person is being inconsiderate and in your way? The same goes with our children sometimes.

If my child wants me to pick them up or read to them and I'm not in the middle of some task (which hardly ever happens) I freely say "sure" and hang with them for a while. But when I'm fixing dinner, or working on a book, or folding laundry, I find little patience with their requests. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something?

I try to stay aware of staying balanced. Sometimes it's best to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes and spend that time. Especially since a mother's work is never done, and when she takes a break it would be nice if it were uninterrupted. But, my children need me to not only keep them in clean clothes and fix them food, but they also need me. My touch, my voice, my ear.

But balance also means not always giving in to them either. If I gave into every request with the utmost patience, I would never be able to teach them to be patient. Or considerate. Or selfless. Not to say that patience is a bad thing, but how we use it is important. Quite often, patience is needed in greater quantities when I tell my children "no." Then it's my job to stay patient while they ask questions, fuss, or complain. This is usually when we're tempted to lose our patience and yell or give in. But it's my job to back up my words with actions. If I said no, it's not going to happen. If I requested something be done, it will be done or there will be a consequence.

They may also get a consequence if they question or fuss too much (an innate tactic all children automatically know.) As long as I stick to my word and do so calmly, though, I've won the battle. And I've taken one more step on the road to a land called Patience.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moms for Moms

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 7:50 AM 0 comments
It seems that everywhere you turn these days you hear about mean girls. Movies, news show segments, magazine articles, and specials abound talking about mean girls and bullying between girls...and grown women. People analyze and speculate what makes some girls mean and try to make recommendations on how those the meanness is aimed at are to best handle it. If you are exposed to enough media, you might believe there aren't hardly any nice girls out there, looking for genuine friendships and willing to love and support.

I've been a big advocate of girlfriendships for a long time and believe they're an important part of life, especially during motherhood. Mothers can feel awfully isolated in our culture. Fear of judgement from other moms or past negative experiences can keep them from reaching out when they're discouraged or doubt themselves. But it is important to find friends who walk along side you on this journey of motherhood.

I'm very fortunate to have a group of women that I love and trust and can care my soul to. Some are women I get to hang out with once in a while and others are my confidants. But each of them are "nice" girls.

Recently, I've been enfolded into a whole new group of nice girls. I'm blessed to be going to the She Speaks Conference this year, a wonderful conference put on by the great gals at Proverbs 31 Ministries for writers, speakers, and leaders. Since registering, I've been drawn in through emails, websites, blogs, and a FaceBook group. It warms my heart and lifts my spirit to see women from all over the country who've never met each other lifting each other up in prayer and encouragement. These women embody the words: "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)

There are loving, supportive women out there who can be mentors, friends, and confidants. Don't settle for anything less! Eliminate (as much as possible) relationships with toxic people and cultivate those that are healthy. Then gather your girlfriends around a cup of coffee or ministry work and get bolstered up for all the work motherhood throws your way!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 4 & Final

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:59 AM 0 comments
This is the second half of chapter two. Sad to say, it's all I'm going to give out for now. (I hope it makes you sad!) Hopefully one day in the not-to-distant future I'll obtain a contract for this book and will have the whole thing out there!

Dana pulled into the field where a couple of dozen cars were parked. She still fumed. Brooke had talked the whole ride, trying to distract her. Dana was grateful for the company of her best friend. Otherwise, she’d go crazy tonight.
She used to like these parties. Everyone who was anyone would be there. She could hear the noise of people she used to consider her friends laughing and talking and getting drunk as she slammed the car door. She thought about getting back in the car, but one look at Brooke convinced her to stay.
Brooke’d had a crush on Max forever and he’d broken up with his girlfriend last week. Dana didn’t really have anywhere else to be, and the least she could do was let Brooke have her chance. At least one of them would have a good night.
The night went on like every other party Dana had ever gone to. The guys drank too much and acted stupid. The girls drank too much and threw themselves on the closest guy, the ones that weren’t attached anyway. Everybody knew everybody and who was dating who and who was willing to hook up.
Dana spotted Max, surrounded by some of his football buddies. She new Brooke had seen him too, as she stopped short and caught her breath.
“I’m fine,” Dana said. “Go ahead.”
“You sure?” Brooke asked, arching one eyebrow.
“I’m sure.” Dana gazed around the crowd. “I’ll find somebody to talk to.”
“You’re the best friend ever,” Brooke said as she squeezed Dana into a hug and then sprinted off.
Dana spotted Crystal and Kara on the other side of the fire. They weren’t too bad. She knew they wouldn’t be drunk. They were both nice, not catty like most of the other girls. They were cheerleaders, like her. Like she was, she corrected. Cheerleading and dating a bull rider didn’t go well together at Western Plain High School. She could still try out, but why bother?
“Dana!” Kara called out to her, waving. Dana waved back, forced a smile and strolled over. Maybe they’d feel sorry for her.
“Crystal, Kara. What’s up?”
Crystal rolled her eyes and took a sip from the red cup in her hand. She looked flawless, perfect skin, long, blond hair. Her jeans must be a size zero and the turquoise top she had on made her eyes even bluer. If she weren’t so nice, Dana would hate her.
“The usual,” she answered.
“Yeah,” Kara said. “I don’t know why we even bother.”
“Because there’s nothing else to do.” Crystal sipped from her cup again. Her eyes roamed around the field.
Kara looked at Dana. “What are you doing here? You never come out to these things anymore.” She brushed back her short brunette hair with one hand, using the other to move the clip that was supposed to be keeping it out of her face. She always wore a clip, but her hair always slipped out and encroached on her face. Dana had noticed a tiny scar by her hair line one time and wondered if that’s why she only half attempted to keep it pulled back.
Kara was pretty. She wasn’t stunning like Crystal, but she got asked out plenty. She usually said no, but in a gentle, thoughtful way. Of course, that didn’t stop the other girls from talking trash about her and the boys from calling her a tease behind her back. Dana knew the score though, the girls were jealous and the guys were ticked that Kara wouldn’t go out with them. She had heard a rumor about Kara dating one of the football players before she’d moved here, but not much else. Thinking about it, she couldn’t remember one date Kara had been on since Dana had met her.
Kara gave her the, ‘I asked you a question’ look. The door of the ambulance closing came to her mind. She did her best to not get peeved again at Bo’s complete lack of paying any attention to her. “Jeremy got hurt.”
“No!”
“What happened?”
Dana swallowed her hurt feelings and decided that she’d have to get over herself and remember that Bo’s brother was probably getting ready for surgery right then.
“The bull slammed his leg against the gate as he was coming out. That mad him off balance and he fell off. The bull came down on his other leg.”
“Oh, how awful!”
“Is he okay?”
Dana hooked her thumbs in her front belt loops. “I guess. They said they couldn’t tell how badly his left leg was damaged. They took him to the E.R. and were going to have to do some x-rays and other tests to know for sure. Most likely, he’ll have to have surgery.”
“Oh,” Kara said, leaning towards Dana, enraptured by the story. “That means no more riding.”
“Not for a long time, anyway. Like I said, they didn’t know anything for sure, but said he’d be off his leg for months.”
“Poor Jeremy,” Kara said. She looked out into the darkness and readjusted the clip in her hair again. “He’ll be crushed. And he’s been through so much already.”
Dana glared at Kara. What did she know? The only reason Dana knew about Stacy’s pregnancy was because of loose-lipped Aunt Flora.
Did Kara know something? Dana remembered that her friend had always seemed to hold interest in Jeremy. She’d always been more friendly to him than other guys, but Jeremy had dated Stacy forever. An image of Kara and Jeremy talking by his car in the school parking lot after the last bell a couple weeks back flashed in her mind.
Dana coughed. “Yeah.” Was there something was going on between Kara and Jeremy?
As Dana formulated a casual way to ask Kara, Crystal spoke up. “I can’t believe that happened. Jeremy’s been riding forever! From what I hear, he’s a perfectionist and is the bomb on the back of a bull.”
“Well,” Dana began, then hesitated. She hated to gossip. But was it really gossip? The facts were that Stacy’d shown up. But, she didn’t know for sure that Stacy being there had distracted Jeremy. Maybe he didn’t even see her.
But Crystal had a point. Jeremy had never messed up before. At least, not that Dana had ever seen. And of course it would have torn him up if he’d seen Stacy. And how could he not? She’d traipsed all around the arena with Stu, as cocky as a peacock.
“Well, what?” Crystal demanded.
Dana lowered her voice a notch and said, “Stacy was there.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 3

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:57 AM 0 comments
Chapter 2 part 1 (BTW, the book's title is: Riding the Wind)

Jeremy finally got his hand unwrapped and attempted to leap off the bull. The clowns were close by, waiting to direct the bull away from the rider as soon as he hit the ground. There was nothing they could do, though. When Jeremy loosed himself, he fell straight to the ground, instead of jumping off clear like he should have. The bull bucked twice before the clowns coerced him away and out of the arena.
Jeremy lay on the ground. He turned his head to the side and groaned. Bo stared in horror. As soon as the gate closed behind the bull, he raced in with a couple of the other bull-riders. The medical team, coming from another gate, arrived at Jeremy’s side at the same time.
The medical technicians seemed to be everywhere. They asked Jeremy his name and where he was. He answered, groaning and writhing in the process. Jeremy groaned and reached down towards his right leg. When he did, it drew Bo’s gaze away from the gash on his right leg. His breath caught in his throat. So much blood. Bo sensed the crowd gathering around his brother. He knew they were they, but no one spoke a word.
This was not like racing. No one liked to see an accident. Bull-riders weren’t encased and protected. They went flesh to flesh up against animals weighing over a ton, and the animal always won.
Bo looked into his brother’s eyes, identical to his own hazel eyes, as he leaned on the ground. He gripped Jeremy’s free hand. “You’re gonna be all right, Bro. They’ll take good care of you.”
He didn’t let go as they put Jeremy on a gurney and carted him out of the arena. He knew his first concern should be for Jeremy and finding his parents and Dana, but he couldn’t get Stacy out of his head. She had broken his brother’s heart, and now she’d broken his body. She needed to pay for it. And he would make sure she did.
*
Dana stood watching in horror as Jeremy was tossed around on and then under the bull he’d been tagged to ride. Not having any brothers or sisters of her own, she had adopted Jeremy as her big brother. He and Bo were close in age and close to each other and they were always together. He treated her like a little sister, teasing her and protecting her. He had even gotten into a fight with Bo once over what he said was Bo being disrespectful.
A small amount of relief washed over her when she saw Jeremy move. It even seemed that he might be talking to those close around him, although she couldn’t be sure from her vantage point. She could tell that he’d been hurt badly, though. He held one of his legs as the medical technicians hoisted him on a stretcher and carried him out of the arena. Bo stuck to his side.
She allowed a smirk to creep on her face. Her man. He must be so worried. Her smirk dipped down as her eyebrows creased. He knew the dangers of bull-riding and had seen many friends get hurt. She couldn’t imagine what he was going through.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jeremy and Bo’s parents making their way down the bleachers. Those around them called out.
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
“He’ll be okay.”
“We’re praying.”
Brooke didn’t think the Singers heard a word. Her own mind spun, slowing down her bodies reaction. She shook off the daze, grabbed her purse and Brooke’s hand, and began to descend the steps. There’s no way she’d be left behind. Besides, Bo would need her.
Focused on the Singers, Brooke raced down the bleachers and headed to the back area where she rarely ventured.
Oh, let him be okay.
Dana and Brooke rushed into the tent beside the ambulance that was always present in case something happened. Two guys crouched over Jeremy. Mrs. Singer wailed as she anxiously looked over the shoulder of one of the guys. She wrung her hands.
Mr. Singer stood beside her, resting a hand on her back. Dana’s eyes darted around and landed on Bo. He stood by Jeremy’s head and gripped his hand. She glanced at Jeremy, who lay with his eyes closed. His whole face was white and he had his lips pulled tight. A soft moan escaped and he shifted his body weight uncomfortably.
Dana’s eyes traveled down to see how bad his legs were injured, but couldn’t see anything through the technician and Mrs. Singer. She looked back at Bo and took a step towards him. He didn’t acknowledge her touch when she reached out for his free arm. Her anxious gaze met Brooke’s as her foot tapped nervously.
It seemed like an eternity before the two guys that she assumed were medical technicians finally pulled their attention from Jeremy. One looked like he wasn’t much older than Dana, maybe twenty. He had black hair, stood a foot taller than Brooke, and looked like he should be a football player. The other was shorter, maybe five-eight, and had short , sandy hair. He was rail thin and wore glasses. He looked older, more like her parents age.
“How…is…he?” Mrs. Singer asked anxiously, sobbing. “Is he…going to be…okay?”
“Ma’am,” the older one said.
Mrs. Singer calmed, sniffled and looked at the man with wide, teary eyes.
“The right leg was gashed by a screw on the gate. He’s going to need stitches.” He scrunched up his nose and paused before he continued. He sighed, as if he dreaded what he had to say next. “The right leg’s the real problem. The bull’s hoof came down on it after he fell. We’re sure the bones are broken, possibly crushed.” He hesitated again, scrunching his nose even more and adjusting his glasses. He sighed again, then continued. “We’ve seen only a few injuries like this before. There’s muscle damage in addition to the broken bones. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we get him to the hospital and run some tests. Most likely,” he adjusted his glasses again and looked at the ground, “he’ll have to have surgery and will be off his leg for at least six months.”
Mrs. Singer fell back against her much smaller husband and wailed. Mr. Singer’s right foot stepped back to brace himself as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
Tears pushed their way into Dana’s eyes. The thought of Jeremy off his feet for that long was unbelievable. No walking. No driving. No bull-riding.
Jeremy groaned and turned his head away. Bo leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you listen to them. You’ll be fine.”
Dana’s heart sped up. He was such a good guy. And such a good brother. She loved those things about him. Looking at him, concerned about his brother, encouraging him, she felt the all-to-familiar butterflies perk up and start flying around in her stomach. She also felt the fire of desire ignite. It was crazy, but all she wanted to do at this moment wrap her arms around his neck and dive into a thirty minute kiss.
What a cad! How can I stand here thinking about making out with Bo while his brother lays on a stretcher there in excruciating pain, facing surgery and a complete life change?
She mentally kicked herself as the medical technicians moved Jeremy into the back of an ambulance.
“I’ll ride with him, Mom,” Bo said.
“Do-“ Dana began. She stopped as her words were cut off by the slamming of the ambulance doors. He hadn’t given her a second to speak. He hadn’t even looked at her. Acknowledged that she was there. The flames of desire she’d felt for him moments before turned into an angry, raging fire. Regardless of what was going on, the least he could do was pay her an ounce of attention. Tell her to meet him at the hospital. Or that he’d call her later. Or a simple thanks for being there.
But no, he’d not so much as glanced her way. Dana fumed. Brooke must have sensed the change because she squeezed her hand. Dana glanced at Brooke, then let her gaze fall on Bo’s parents. She watched her crumpled face and his stoic one as the ambulance pulled away. Once it drove out of sight, Mr. Singer pushed his weepy wife towards the parking lot. Dana put her arm on Mrs. Singers’.
“I’ll meet you at the hospital, Mrs. Singer.”
“Oh, no, dear,” Mr. Singer said. “You girls go on and enjoy yourselves. It’s going to be a long night and there’s no telling how long it will take.”
“Oh, I…” Dana flounded. She never did know how to talk to Bo’s father. He was quiet and hardly ever said a word. “Really. We want to be there. It doesn’t matter if we’re up late.”
Mr. Singer gave her one of those looks adults give you that says they think you’re about five years old. “Bo will call you tomorrow, Dana. The family needs to be together right now.”
Dana wanted to argue with the man. She wanted to yell at him that he had no right to keep her away from her boyfriend. She wanted to tell him off and show up at the hospital anyway.
But that wouldn’t do her any good. Mr. Singer was Bo’s dad and she didn’t want to get on his bad side. She wasn’t sure what he could do if she made him mad, but from what Bo had told her, he could be awfully stubborn. She didn’t want to take her chances on him keeping her from seeing Bo.
Besides, she was mad at Bo. How dare he complete ignore her?
Fine! I’m not going where I’m not wanted. Dana turned on her heel and stomped off to her car, Brooke following behind. She tossed her purse in the back seat, huffed into the driver’s seat, and waited for the passenger door to close. She turned the engine on and then turned it back off.
“Dana?” Brooke asked. “Are you okay?”
Dana glared out of the windshield. “Fine,” she spit.
Brooke waited. Dana glanced at her and rolled her eyes. “I’m fine.”
Brooke looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
“Okay, I’m ticked. I can’t believe he didn’t even talk to me!”
Brooke’s eyebrow lifted a little more.
Dana let out a scream and laid her head on the steering wheel. “Fine! I know. His brother was hurt. Great. But does that mean I’m chopped liver?”
“Dana,” Brooke said gently.
“Oh, all right. Whatever.” She looked at her watch. Only seven-thirty. Now what? She didn’t want to go home. An empty house would be unbearable.
“What’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Dana’s head pressed into the steering wheel. She rocked it back and forth.
“Max’s having a party. Why don’t we go?”
Dana didn’t feel like going to a party. She didn’t feel like going home either. She wanted to be with Bo, but that wasn’t going to happen. “Fine,” she said. “We can go.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making More Time Part 7

It's been a while since I've posted about making more time. I've been making more time for Christmas cards, presents, finishing homeschooling and starting a new book. When these things take over, blogging gets pushed to the back burner. But, a request from a fellow writer to guest blog has gotten me back on. And now I'll share the last two tips on making more time, in a season when it's highly needed.

As a reminder, the first six tips are:
1 - Monitor how you spend your time
2 - Open yourself to change
3 - Redeem your time for the most important things
4 - Eliminate or reduce time stealers
5 - Take time to organize
6 - Include the fun stuff

And number 7 is - Make sure God comes first

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.Deuteronomy 6:5

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

These are Biblical principles known to many, but how do you put it into action? What does it mean day-in and day-out? It means scheduling your time around God and His priorities, instead of trying to squeeze God in around everything else we have to do. And surprisingly, when we do this, our time and effectiveness will actually increase.

We often try to do things in our own strength, which always fails eventually. Spending time with and relying on God for direction, wisdom, and strength will provide us with everything we need to live with joy and balance each day.

But what about when things get chaotic? Life often throws us off balance and circumstances come up that take up time in our already full schedules. If we’re standing on God as the Rock of our life and the Lord of every detail, He will guide us through every single detail.

Also, it's important not to see things as stealing your time. Every breath we take is a gift from God and we’re here for His purpose. Our time is His and our job is to live each second of it in gratefulness and obedience through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Putting God first doesn't mean you have to become a morning person and spend a couple hours in prayer and the Word (although it most certainly doesn't hurt anything), it means actively pursuing a deep relationship with God on a daily basis. And when our time is viewed as a gift from God and we dedicate everything we do to Him, our time will increase exponentially.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How I filled 6 Stockings for under $50

I'm a pretty frugal person, but I also like to buy gifts. Especially for those closest to me. We decided to do a simple Christmas this year. We only bought each child one gift of $20 or less (the littlest got 3 gifts, as her items cost a lot less.) We're doing homemade gifts for friends and family, excluding the parents. Our most exciting gifts of this year were our donation to Lottie Moon and the purchase of a bike for a missionary in Asia. Last night, I got to do one of the things I enjoy the most: I raided the Dollar Tree for stocking stuffers. And I got out of there for under $50! With enough items to fill 6 stockings (okay, hubby's isn't quite full, but mine is :)

So how did I do it? The trick, first, is to think small for stockings. The big gifts (even if it's just one per person) are under the tree. Stockings are for extra treats. The second trick is to shop a dollar store (or the dollar bins at Target or Wal-Mart.) The third trick is to buy multi-packed items. I like to buy things useful, and my kids are fairly used to this, so they don't complain. I also add in fun stuff. So here's what they got:

a highlighter (bought as pack of 4)
Christmas stickers (they're really gift tags, 4 sheets for $1)
gum (these come in packs, the older ones got 4 different flavors)
mints (also sold in multi-packs)
coloring book (each of younger got one, oldest got a small spiral notebook)
play kitchen items (set of 3 spatulas -each girl got one, ramekins - two youngest got set of 3 each)
bags of self-adhesive foam craft items
new toothbrushes (two got toothpaste in the package)
new bath sponges (they even had the fun animal ones)
a miniature coke glass (they each get one every year, they're 2/$1)
spy kits (one for each oldest 2, fingerprint kit and decoder)
glue stick
dry erase marker

So, that's my list. Fun and useful combined in one!

For me (yes, I stuff my own stocking - because I can!), I got new hot pads for the kitchen, a kitchen timer for school (for math speed drills), teacher tape with letters & numbers, reward stickers, green bags for fruits and veggies, my favorite blue gel pens, and gum, and super glue.

Hubby gets a new click n flame lighter, disposable vinyl gloves (he complained we didn't have any in the kitchen the other day - gag gifts work well for stockings), and gum.

Oh, yeah, and I bought a box of hot chocolate mix and gave everyone a packet.

So, it can be done. You can stuff stockings for less than $10 a piece, if you're creative and see it as fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Compassion for Christmas


Guest Post by Jennifer Slattery:



As I look around my house, wrapping paper strewn across the floor, packages lined on the shelves, and shopping lists still waiting to be fulfilled, a twinge of conviction nabs my heart. Each present, each tinsel, each afternoon shopping spree has the capacity to send our daughter a message–to train generosity or materialism. Each holiday celebration can either draw her heart further to Christ or center it more firmly around herself.

A while back I realized if I truly wanted to train compassion, I needed to pull her out of middle-class suberbia once in a while. It’s easy to long for X-boxes and other trinkets–to feel entitled and deprived–when you’re surrounded by friends who have those very items you lack. But surrounded by extreme poverty, by those who have little if anything to call their own, those wants begin to fade as something else rises in their place–compassion. Realizing this, my husband and I started to make determined efforts to place her in serving roles, around those who had far less than her. And we’ve noticed a definite change–less of the gimmes and a stronger desire to give.

What about you? What will you do to actively train compassion and contentment this year? Don’t buy into the lie that your children need one hundred gifts under the tree. In fact, those gifts you fought for, stood in line for, scrimped and saved to give them, could very well do more harm than good. Our children don’t need more cause to think of themselves, but instead, encouragement to look beyond and into the hearts of others.

As parents, may we remember our greatest call is to train not the next CEO but instead, a fully-devoted follower of Christ. With each activity we plan and conversation we initiate, may the lofty call outlined in Philipians 2:1-8 burn fresh in our minds as we remember this call is not for us alone, but for our children as well.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Lord, this Christmas remove materialism from my heart and home. Remind me to demonstrate it’s true meaning in how I spend my time, the things I buy, and the words I say. Prevent me from spreading the cancer of materialism into the lives of others and may I instead encourage radical obedience and full surrender.

Jennifer Slattery
Broken Lives Saturated by Grace
http://JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making More Time 6

Around this time of year (and most, really), many of us need more time. And this tip in particular. In the middle of everything going on, all the responsibilities we have, and running around, we must remember to Include The Fun Stuff. These are the things that help us to maintain our relationships, sanity, and health.

Jesus said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Life is often not easy. There is stress, hurt, and lots of work involved. One of the ways we live life abundantly (the main way is to completely rely on, trust in, and obey God) is to take time to enjoy the time we have.

God never calls us to simply be busy for busyness' sake. He calls us to be fruitful for His kingdom. Our busyness can inhibit our discipleship - growing in our relationship with God and fostering relationships with other. Whatever that may be, we should seriously consider letting it go. And make room for life to be enjoyed.

Everything, however, doesn't have to be perfect for us to enjoy life. God tells us to take captive every thought. That means we can have right, true, pure, and good thoughts regardless of what's going on. And having a positive attitude helps us to enjoy life. Even chores can become fun when we have the right attitude. Turn up the music. Make it a game. Leave the dishes once in a while and go play with the kids. They'll remember that more anyhow.

And remember: balance, balance, balance! If you always leave the chores for fun, life will become chaotic and dirty. But if you always leave fun for chores, life will be depressed and grumpy. And as you utilize all the tips for making more time, you'll naturally be more balanced.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making More Time Part 5

Did I mention organization? Oh, yeah, I did. Well, it's that important in making more time, so we're going to talk about it again. Taking the Time to Organize is our next step in making more time in our busy, over-scheduled lives.

In organization, it's true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The easier things are to find, the quicker you'll find them. Have you ever chased an item or two down, wasting precious time when you're trying to head out the door? Or marking things off your to-do list, only to spend half an hour searching for some essential piece of the puzzle? I think we've all been there.

On a large scale, imagine the library without organization. You have one particular book in mind, and you wonder around the library searching for the title among several thousand books thrown on the shelf in order that they came in, instead of by category or alphabetized. Think that would take a little more time than getting the call number or knowing where to look by the author?

On a smaller scale, the same is true for how we run our homes. However, you don't have to be an organizational master! Start small (where you put your keys, shoes, mail.) Recruit help to get started. If organization isn't your strength, surely someone in your life is good at it. And most likely, they'd be more than willing to pitch in and help out. My mother does several times a year - whether it is toys or clothes, in a house of four kids I often need help!

Set clear goals. Know what needs to be done when. Then they're easier to reach. What areas of home-management do you need the most help with organization? What tasks do you do on a regular basis that would run smoother if you had a more consistent routine?

As helps, lists, calendars, and day planners are available in abundance (or make your own!). These give concreteness to what needs to be down and helps reduce conflicts. Our brains are busy and often overloaded with extraneous data. Writing things down and being able to see what needs to be done is very helpful. And, when the calendar gets to full, it's a clue that it's time to return to steps two and four.

Don't worry if you're not a list/calendar person, though. These are simply tools! If it's not working for you (and make sure it doesn't become that you're working for it), then it's no longer a tool, but a burden. If that happens, reevaluate again and figure out what works for you.

We all have the same 24 hours a day, we simply have to balance our responsibilities and desires with how we use those hours. Organization will go a long way in helping us use our time efficiently and see when we need to unload a thing or two.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Making More Time Part 4

The fourth step in making more time is a fun one. Can you feel the sarcasm dripping off the page? This is actually one of the most difficult to face. We've addressed it somewhat in looking at how we spend our time and making sure we're redeeming our time for the most important things. But, today we go a step further. Today we look at: Eliminating or reducing time stealers.

If we're brave enough to examine how our time's truly spent, we will find that our lives tend to be full of time stealers. These are the things that are unnecessary. Things that bring comfort, or some pleasure, or simply offer distraction. But if we're complaining that we don't have time to do everything and these things take up a good part of our time, we have to be willing to acknowledge them.

So, here we go. I'm just going to throw them out there without much comment. After all, I struggle in many of these areas, too.

Television - how often does 30 minutes turn into 3 hours (or more)?
Computer/internet - have you ever gotten lost in the web maze?
Unnecessary extra-curricular activities - Do we need to be involved in everything we're involved in? Even if they're all good things?
Things to meet others' expectations - This doesn't mean we ignore responsibilities, but how much of what we do is because someone else things we should?
Arbitrary rules - many of us have "rules" that we live by, usually things that began as good habits by us or others. But we adapt them as rules we have to live by and they often become stressors. Does the house have to be cleaned every week? Do all meals need to be cooked from scratch? Can we not recruit help in some needed areas? What rules have you made for yourself that you could let go of?
Disorganization - Looking for lost items expends a lot of time and energy. If everything has a place and you take the few moments to put it where it belongs, you will save yourself gobs of time that would be spent looking for it.

Remember, if you don't have enough time to do everything, something has to change for you to have time for the important things. What stealers can be reduced or let go? I promise the long-term payoff is better than the short term pleasure of that time-stealing item!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making More Time Part 3

So, the journey to find more time continues. After you've begun to monitor your time and opened yourself up to make changes, the third step is to Redeem Your Time for the Most Important Things.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

We tend to have so many options for things to do to fill up our time, that it's easy to let the less important things slip in and push the more important things out of the way. If I were asked, I'd say that the most important things in my life are:

Faith
Family
Friendships
Finances
Fun

It's easy to claim these are my priorities, but if I'm willing to be honest and inspect my life closer, I have to ask: Am I living them out? It's much easier to say what our priorities are than it is to spend our time on what we say is most important. Are you willing to compare what you say your priorities are with how you spend your time?

That doesn't mean that if you spend 8 hours a day sleeping and 8 hours a day at work that those are your top priorities. God gave us sleep and calls us to work (whether it's within or outside of the home.) I'm talking more about our flexible time. The time we have that's more negotiable in how we spend it.

If you were to look at your time and make a chart of pie graph, what would it look like? In a typical week, how do you spend your time? How much time do you spend:

Quiet time with God in prayer and/or personal Bible study
Self-care (shower, makeup, nails, hair, etc.)
Physical fitness (exercising)
Watching TV
Non-work time on computer
Working
Housework (cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, etc.)
Time with children (taking care of and spending fun time with)
Errands and extra-curricular activities
Church attendance
Care of family members (not children)
Time with friends
Time with Spouse
Ministering to others (cooking meals, helping with errands, making gifts, visiting, babysitting, etc.)

After an honest look, are you living out your priorities? If not, what small changes can be made to move the most important things to the top of your time-list?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making More Time Part 2

In making more time, once you become aware of your time through monitoring it, the next step is to open yourself up for change. If you want to experience change (i.e. no longer feeling overwhelmed and like time's running away from you) then you have to be willing to make changes.

Even the small changes can be hard, but the payoff's immeasurable. Think back. Is there one habit you've changed in the past that's helped you use your time more effectively? Even though there might have been an adjustment period, didn't it make things run more smoothly? One thing I've changed is making sure I put my keys in the same place every time I come home. That way, when it's time to walk out the door and I'm trying to make sure myself and all the kids have everything they're supposed to have, I don't even have to think about where the keys are.

The second reason to open your self to change is that God wants to refine you through the use of your time.

Psalm 66:10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.

Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

As long as we're on this earth, there's work God can do and wants to do in us. It may have to do with our time, our attitudes, our thoughts, our relationships, or our money. All of these things take time, and if we simply open ourselves up to God, He will do an amazing work in us.

If we feel like we never have time to do everything, chances are we've taken on more than God's called us to. Something may have worked for a while, but then more or different responsibilities came into the picture and we didn't want to let go of anything.

If we're hanging onto something in our life that we should have let go, our hand stays clenched around that thing and remains closed to the additional blessings God may have waiting to pour down on us.

What have you been holding onto that God wants you to let go of so He can our more blessings down on you?

Next, and closely related to the previous reason for being open to change, is that God wants to transform you through the use of your time.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

If we don't have time to spend with God in His Word and in prayer, we are not fully living in His will. These are the ways God transforms us. There's no set time to spend with God that's necessary to draw closer to Him, but some time is essential.

Are you willing to ask God what time He wants you to give Him one-on-one?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making More Time

Do you ever feel like time flies by without notice? That there is never enough time to get everything done that you need to get done? In our world of hurry and scurry, most of us feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and short on time. The good thing is that there are ways to make more time! Think about it: more time to enjoy your family, more time to spend with God, more time to sleep. What a wonderful thought. Over the next few weeks, my posts will focus on the tricks and tools I've learned to make more time, something that's a work in progress.

The first step to making more time is to: Monitor how you spend your time.

Why is this important? A few reasons.

1 - God cares how we spend our time. Does He really? According to the Word, He does. Here are just a couple examples of God addressing what He thinks about our time usage:

2 Thess. 3:11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

1 Timothy 5:13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.

These verses address what God thinks about our wasting time. I couldn't even begin to include scriptures that talk about how we should spend our time: in hymns of praise, encouraging each other, loving each other, taking care of each other, preaching the gospel. All we have while on this earth is time. How we spend it determines many things in our lives: how hard we work determines our grades or pay or promotion. How much time and the kind of time we spend with our children goes a long way to determining our relationships with them. Our time spent with other loved ones, including God, determines the depth and health of those relationships. Time is the one thing, once spent, can never be regained. And it matters how we spend it.

What would you say if I said we have more time today than people (as a general rule) than ever before? You'd probably look at me like I'd lost my mind. We do, though! The more conveniences we get in life, the more idle time we have. We simply fill it up. We fill it up with sports and parties and dinners and browsing the web and watching TV and reading books and sitting around talking. We have tons of idle time (for the most of us) when we're not working on our livelihood or maintaining our homes. We simply fill all that time up.

However, it's important to remember that we have one purpose on this earth and that’s to be a disciple of Christ. That can include the fun things and the relaxing things, but it's important to remember that those are not the most important things.

And nothing says we can't rest!God allows for rest, but in our society we take much more than the one/seventh of each week to rest. We view any time we spend on working, chores, and ministry as taking away from our time. The truth is, all of our time is a gift from God and should be used wisely.

2 - If we’re not conscience of our time, we’re more likely to waste it. How often do you get to the end of a day, or a week, or a month and wonder exactly where the time has gone? Time seems to simply slip away when we're not paying attention. That doesn't mean we are to ignore our responsibilities and watch the clock to value each moment. Scripture even addresses this:

Romans 13:11-14 But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about! (Msg)

So how do you monitor your time without wasting more time monitoring it? Organization is one way. However, I know that not everyone is an organization master. But you don’t have to write a to-do list every day or keep physical track of your time. It's often helpful to do so, but isn't a requirement. Being intentional about how you use your time – both active time and rest time – will, however, help you be more fruitful instead of just busier.

3 - Living in the moment we have, with a grateful attitude for every single breath and gift from God, will increase your time exponentially. When we race from one thing to the next and are always looking forward, we miss the blessings of the moment, feel rushed, and actually lose time. Working on being fully present in the moment we’re in helps us not only feel like we have more time, but will dramatically decrease stress and increase joy.

Are you fully here right now? Or are you wondering if the house is being destroyed while you’re away or the list of things you have to do tomorrow, or next week, or even next month? Pause and take a moment to engage fully in this moment. What are you grateful for? What gifts has God given you today? Savor them. Be grateful for them. Ask God to help you recognize them.

Then ask Him to help make you aware of your time.

ii. Take a moment, engage in this second fully, and list 10 things you’re grateful for at this moment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning from the Little Things

The sound of a small person thumping and rolling down the stairs is a terrible one.

A few minutes ago I help my precious 2-year-old and thanked God for her cries. She was bumped around a bit, but really okay.

But it made me wonder: How many moms are holding a precious child in their arms who can no longer cry? Whether having succumbed to disease, cut short by starvation, or brutally killed because of persecution or other evil, how many mothers will weep over a baby today?

I am so grateful for every moment with my children, even the frustrating ones.

And I also wonder: What can I do to make a difference to those other mothers around the world? What little thing would I have to give up to donate a few meals? What time in prayer could I sacrifice for safety? In what ways can I help promote the spread of the gospel of Christ Jesus, the only true source of hope and peace?

Thank you, God, for protecting my child from serious harm and using such a small thing to draw me closer to Your will.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Christians and Halloween

It's interesting to me that I've heard more discussion about Christians and Halloween in the last week than I have my entire life. I can honestly say that for the majority of my life, I never gave the holiday a second thought. Growing up, I dressed up (although I can't remember a single costume I wore) and trick-or-treated at the dozen houses in close enough proximity to do so. As an adult, I've attended costume parties (I do remember a few of those costumes), get-togethers, and handed out candy to neighborhood children. I'm not sure exactly when the change started, but sometime after becoming a parent myself, I began to look at it from a slightly different angle. I'm sure my maturing faith and growing closer and learning to be more heedful of God in my life played a role as well.

Still, I've never once considered completely giving up doing anything on Halloween. Both of the churches I've attended have done fall festivals - one on Halloween day, one not. The festivals focus on fellowship, fun, and food. In other words, your normal Baptist fare. Costumes are allowed, as long as they're not scary.

This year, however, I observed a passionate discussion between some Christians that began over one's opinion that Christians should absolutely, in no way shape or form, take part in Halloween or its celebrations. The main argument was that Halloween has deep roots in pagan rituals. It began as a pagan celebration that's been white-washed and adapted to the American commercial culture. We are in a spiritual war and participating in Halloween opens us up to spiritual attack from our enemy, the devil.

The counter, argued that in Romans 14 God clearly addresses how Christians are to respond to the world and pagan rituals. In discussing eating things offered to idols, the Word says to seek God and either eat or don't eat with a clear conscious. He never says don't eat. He also says that nothing in and of itself is unclean. That includes Halloween - nothing means nothing.

However, it also says not to put a stumbling block in another's path, a statement another fellow Christian made in a completely different discussion about Halloween I found myself in. So what does that mean for Christians?

It means to seek God. Keep the issue between you and Him. And be willing to give up whatever your ideas are about the holiday and its traditions. Whenever we begin to espouse our opinions and what God's lead us to do over love and edification of each other, we have missed the point.

Another comment made in the latter discussion is that we are to be light in the world. How do we do this in relation to Halloween? For some it's completely pulling out of anything to do with it. For others, it's offering alternatives. For our family it's taking part in something that is very cultural, but in a slightly different way.

We allow our kids to dress up, but nothing scary is allowed. We allow them to go trick-or-treating and see neighbors we don't normally see after the weather gets cold. We also hand out candy, each peace with a scripture stapled to it. These tiny pieces of paper are surely discarded as quickly as the wrapper, but curiosity almost ensures that it will at least be read by some. And who knows? Maybe this is the only time some children will ever hear the words of the one, true, and holy God. Maybe a parent is struggling, has lost their way, or has never heard the Word themselves, and that one sentence will make an impact. (God's word is powerful and accomplishes things on its own.)

In addition, we hand out cider and chili to the parents that are supervising trick-or-treating. I'll be honest to say a warm cup on a cold night has never began a conversation about God. But I regretfully admit I've never prayed that it would. That an unexpected door would be opened. From now on, however, I will. And maybe a heart will be softened and open to the gospel because of a small giving gesture.

This is how we choose to be light in world full of darkness and a holiday steeped in historical darkness.

In the end it doesn't matter for you what I do with Halloween. In the end, it matters if you're willing to submit completely to obedience to God and how He leads you to handle this holiday. We are not to quarrel over disputable matters. Halloween is not directly addressed in Scripture (although passages on other pagan rituals are there to guide us) and is not a make-it-or-break-it issue for salvation. That makes it a disputable matter. We shouldn't extract a few scriptures to back up our point of view either, but take scripture as a whole and with an openness to God about this, as well as about the other details in our lives. God might surprise us. He might confirm us. Most assuredly He will bring us together as one and bring glory to Himself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Does Helping Hurt?


A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here (http://www.samiesisters.com/previous_articles/Who-Cares-if-My-Room-is-Clean-.html). Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Thanks a bunch to Jennifer Slattery for the guest post!!

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer, marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and publicity assistant for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in many publications including the Bible Advocate and the Breakthrough Intercessor. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse, and co-hosts a faith-based Facebook community called Living By Grace with five other writers. You can find more about her and her writing at her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com) and you can find out more about her critiquing and marketing services at Words that Keep (http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com).



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grateful or Grumpy

I thought about writing this post a week or so ago, but didn't get around to it. It's about how we have a choice each day and with each situation we face: to be grateful or grumpy.

I've written several times about reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (I'm not going to tag it this time, you'll have to read my other posts to find the tag or look it up :) and the lessons I'm learning from it. How being grateful every day is essential in having a God-focused perspective. And I planned to write more about it. But apparently, God delayed me because He wanted me to write more about it when everything wasn't smooth and grand. He was waiting for me to hit today.

I'm in the 320's on my list of things I'm grateful to God for. And I've even started my two oldest children keeping a grateful journal. But today I'm struggling. Because everything is NOT going smoothly. Nothing major's happened, but you know, a bunch of small things can add up to make one grumpy momma.

The first thing is my computer. I told my hubby and asked him to transfer the info to our friend who's always worked on our computers that it's been shutting down. No response. Then on Monday it decided to completely shut down and not even attempt to boot up. Not a wonderful, fuzzy, warm feeling is induced when a writer, blogger, connect to the world through the computer momma's computer is dead. So, I've left it, cried out for help, and used any computer I can get my hands on to check email and check in on Facebook. Today I'm sitting at my in-laws blogging. Hopefully by Saturday all the appropriate parts and computer guy will converge onto my house and have me up and running again in no time.

Then, we started school today. Let's just say that my children are not adjusting well to having to sit down, pay attention, and do school work for several hours a day (even though it's only three hours broken up into four 45-minute sessions throughout the morning with plenty of breaks.) Whininess, bouncing around the classroom, and tears are not uplifting for a homeschooling momma. But we persisted.

Then (Oh, yes. there's more!), when I went to unload the washing machine and begin drying the first (of the only three loads I had scheduled today), I discovered that one of my children had left a dry pullup in their pajama pants. Now, do you know what happens to a pullup in a washing machine? I do. And it's not pretty. Billions - no, I'm not exaggerating, but I might be underestimating - of moisture soaking beads have a field day and attach themselves to EVERY piece of clothing in the load. And I don't wash 10 items at a time.

So, I spent the first two school breaks shaking out moisture soaking beads out of laundry, wiping them up off the dryer, floor, and carpet, and doing my best to get them out of the washer. Hoping, enough have gotten out and not found their way into the holes of the washing machine spinner to ruin it.

The load goes back in, minus pullup and billions of beads. On the next break, I throw the now-clean, bead-free clothes in the dryer. And turn it on. To be greeted by an awful sound. Promptly stopped, I open the dryer to too much heat created in one minute of running and I know. The lint catcher that I had just emptied really didn't have enough lint on it. It's a top-loading lint catcher and it must have released the other 3/4 of built up lint below the lint catcher where I cannot reach. and it's clogged something and threatened to catch fire. Which is why we replaced our 10 year old dryer last year.

I diligently pull out the dryer, unplug it, and examine the thing. Nope. Not touching it. Guess what's greeting my darling husband when he gets home from work today? At least today isn't scheduled to be a 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. workday like he's worked so frequently in the last two months.

So, on a day like today, I still have a choice: grateful or grumpy. To be grumpy would be easy. To vent, eat away my frustrations, lock myself in my room. Yell at the whiney, not-using-potty-like-she-knows-how, aggrivating each other children. It would be so easy. But then there's the list. The list I add several more things on today, even though it's a struggle to.

rain
tomatoes off the vine
hubby returning a message from work
sleeping in after a restless night
staying on schedule for our first day of school
plenty of clothes to wear
playing a game with my two oldest
watching my two youngest entertain and be sweet to each other

These are the things I choose to focus on. Even when it's hard. And I'm able to let go of the small ways Satan tries to attack, tries to get me off course, tries to tell me God doesn't care. But I know He does, and I'll hold onto that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motivation to Minister

As I sat and listened to a man struggle through talking about his experiences during Vietnam - what he saw, the nightmares that have lasted for more than 40 years, and the changes those experiences made in his life and marriage - I was reminded something a friend said recently: People are hurting. And we need to reach them where they're hurting, minister to them, care for them, and touch their lives in a healing way. And tonight I was reminded. By a man who is strong. A man who's committed to the Lord and his family. A man who continues to live and give. A man who continues to hurt because of trauma and devestation he saw over 40 years ago. People are hurting.

They hurt because of past or present abuse - physical, sexual, and/or emotional. They hurt because of abandonment. They hurt because of lies and deceit. They hurt because of traumatic experiences - accidents, fires, floods, tornadoes. They hurt because of others' selfishness. People hurt.

Taking a panoramic view of people and their pain can be overwhelming. But if we look at one person at a time and minister to their hurt, we will be able to make a difference. If we call them when they're going through a rough time. Send a card. Bring a meal. Clean a house. Watch children. Pray. Give. Encourage. Share. Love. It all makes a difference.

We miss these opportunities every day, just as we miss the opportunity to be thankful for the small things God gives us every day, but if we take the time, become intentional, we will impact lives.

When did someone love you? Share with you? Encourage you? Give to you? Pray for you? How were you impacted? Such small things, but big in life. The things that matter the most. The things that make life here on this fallen, sinful, ungrateful world better.

So, I'm grateful for the reminder. Of war. Of damage. Of carnage. Of pain. Because then I'm reminded of love. Of grace. Of healing. Of peace. Of God. He gifts us with everything we need to get through anything we may face and often that is each other.

People are hurting, which makes me ask: What can I do to help?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giving Your Best

In my last post, I talked about my renewed dedication to give God my best. The post ended with the question, "Am I giving God my best?"

If I'm truthful in answering that, I'd say "Yes, sometimes." There are times I am on fire and productive and disciplined and keep up with things. There are other times I look at what needs to be done and know that it'll be there for me to do tomorrow. I focus on the luxaries others have and wish I had them. I shut down and shut off everything except what has to be done and what I feel like doing at that moment. And I'm learning that I waste a lot of time.

I'll repeat something else I said. Breaks are not bad. Downtime is not bad. But it can easily get out of balance and become priority. Am I working for my next break? How am I usuing my break? How long of a break do I take? Am I getting done everything I believe I'm called to do?

These questions, and probably a few more I'm just not thinking of right now, go into evaluating how we see our time, and especially our down time.

We tend to see our time as just that: our time. However, each second we have is a gift. We did not create ourselves. We did not bring ourselves into being. While there are many things we can do to be healthy and live longer, we cannot ultimately prevent our death at any given moment. That means each moment is a gift.

This concept was gracefully explained in a recent talk I was blessed to sit in on. The speaker was Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, and a few things she said still reverberate through my head weeks later. One of them is this: We all have a Jew who gave His life so that we could have life. He paid our death penalty for us and therefore every breath we take is a gift. What would happen if we recognized each breath we intake as a gift?

Would we be as content to watch tv for hours a day? Would be crave surfing the net or checking out what's going on on Facebook? Would we growl at our children when they interrupt what we're doing? Would we be so concerned with how we look on the outside, spending much more time on what we wear and how our hair an make-up look than on growing in love and knowledge and wisdom of the Lord?

What would life look like?

Giving your best doesn't mean you don't ever do the above things, but you do them with care and make sure they don't become a priority over the better things. The best things. Sure, I'd love to kick back and veg, but God has called me to touch people's lives through writing and speaking the things He's working in me. When I've done that to my best for today, then I rest.

And if I haven't rested in Him today, that's where I should start. There is time...it's simply how we use it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changing Habits

This is usually the time of day I crash and say to myself, "I've been a mom, hostess, entertainer, chef, laundress, and all-around picker-upper all day and I deserve a break!" Then I crash in the recliner and veg out in front of the tv. Even if nothing good's on. Even though I had on today's to-do list to get some writing done. Even though it's been a good, full, blessed day. And most people would say, "You deserve it! Take a break."

Now, if you know me at all, or have read my blog for a while, you know that I tout "Balance, Balance, and more Balance!" So, let me start off by saying that I don't think breaks are bad. On the contrary, I think breaks are good and often necessary. If we don't feed ourselves (even by shutting down once in a while), we'll wear out and be no good to anyone. In the last week, I read a three-book series by an author I've only recently been introduced to. And when I read, I don't catch a half hour here and there. I become compulsive and obsessive about it, usually finishing a novel in 24-36 hours (and that includes a full night's sleep!) It's like a mini-vacation to me. So I definitely believe in and take breaks.

Tonight when I finish a busy day and want to crash, I remember the things I've neglected during my "mini-vacation", such as my own writing. I want to get it done. It's been processing in my head. But, if I don't sit down and do it, it's not going to write itself.

So, I popped up my blog and created this post. Despite my eyes being tired and my brain desiring to shut down. Why? Because I'm a verbal believer in doing things that are best, even if you don't feel like it.

Notice I said "verbal" believer. It's very easy to say the right thing and tell someone else to do what's right instead of what is easier or you want to do more. It is more difficult to discipline yourself to do so.

I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I fall into a cultural, lazy, I-deserve-a-break attitude. This is why I'm still trying to lose that last 20 pounds from my last child, who is now 2. This is why I haven't finished more books and gotten the ones I have through the editing process and ready to send off. This is why my house isn't always straight and has piles of paperwork here and there. The truth is: I do have time to do all things things. But sometimes I choose to waste my time and fritter it away.

Fortunately, God keeps placing excellent Biblical teachers in my path who are willing to share the truth in a way that penetrates my heart and gets my thinker-juices flowing in a different way. His way. The best way. Not the okay way. Or the comfortable way. Or even the good way. But the best. That's what He gave in His Son, His best, and that's all He asks in return. For me to give my best in loving Him and others. As I look at my time and my habits, I'm lead to ask: Am I giving my best?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Balance, Balance, & More Balance!

On my recent weekend getaway/womens/writers & speakers conference (i.e. She Speaks :) one of the new things I learned about was having a tagline for ministry. Since I'm primarily a writer and a speaker second, this wasn't something I was familiar with. The speaker talking about the tagline said, "Don't expect you'll come up with something that fits and you like today or even this weekend." But I did. I think.

I'm still sitting on it, but the more I think about it and the more I look at my ministry focus, the more I'm convinced I've nailed it. And it is:

Balanced Living for a Brilliant God.

That pretty much sums up my ministry and covers all topics I write/speak about. In attempting to live in a way that brings success, happiness and contentment, balance is necessary in every area.

When it comes to housework/chores and spending time with our families, balance is necessary. If we get out of wack in either area, we will either suffer from chaos in life or chaos in our relationships.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, balance is necessary. If we completely neglect ourselves, we will not be healthy enough to take care of our families and other responsibilites. If we spend too much time and energy on ourselves, we will be self-centered and our world around us will collapse.

When it comes to relationships, balance is necessary. If we expect too much of another without giving anything in return, the relationship will self-destruct. If we give too much and the relationship isn't mutual (notice, however, that I didn't say equal), it will be unhealthy and damaging.

When it comes to parenting, balance is necessary. If we give our children love with no limits, they will be spoiled, self-seeking, and have a "the world owes me" attitude. If we give our children limits with no love, they will end up hurt, angry, and lacking the ability to enjoy relationships as a gift from God.

Even when it comes to our relationship to God, balance is necessary. He tells us to pray at all times about all things, which doesn't sound balanced, but if all we do is lock our selves away from the world to pray, we will not do the things God has purposed for us to do. Prayer is work within itself, and we can do it at all times in all occasions, but it is not the only work we are to do in obedience and accordance to our faith.

When we get out of balance, we feel it. Life is often a constant self-correcting when we get lopsided in one area or another. I spent most of yesterday reading a book (this is why I greatly restrict my fiction reading diet!) So today, I'm getting work done and spending time with the kids, before I pick up the next book in the series.

And while balance is good for us, to help us stay content, be successful in the tasks we're given, and have happiness along the way, the ultimate goal in everything is to bring glory to the Lord, who is brilliant in every way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review - Slave

It's been a long time since I've done a book review. I enjoy being a part of BookSneeze, where they send you free Christian books to read and review. I thrive on words - I enjoy reading them, writing, them, speaking them. It's my "thing."

So, this opportunity sounded wonderful to me. And it's been great. My budget for books is nill and this opened doors beyond my public library. That is, until I got a book I couldn't give a four or five star rating.

I don't like giving things a bad review, especially when it's something that came with such high expectations. And, unfortunately, that is what happened with the book Slave by John MacArthur. It's been sitting by my bed since January waiting on me to finish it and/or review it. I guess that says something.

I had high expectations for Slave. I've listened to John MacArthur on Grace to You and been inpressed with his Biblical foundation. However, I did not find a lot of grace in the book Slave. There are a lot of important Biblical truths found in this book, but there's not a lot of balance. The history of slaves and the use of the word slave in scripture is good to know. Although the presentation of it in this book is repetitious. I wish I could have finished the book, maybe I would have found more balance, more grace, but since it's been sitting by my bed for seven months, now, I don't see that happening. Other biblical truths, such as God as our Lord and Master, and that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, are given. But then I'd come across something distracting such as a commentary on contemporary Christian music being an example of the world infiltrating the church. I couldn't disagree more! God created music and the style of music doesn't determine who it glorifies (God or the world), but the words do. And so, with distracting sections such as this, I left the book unfinished and disappointed. I didn't receive the great teaching on our positions as bond-servants to God, voluntary slaves submitting ourselves to a holy, loving God because He knows best how to bless us for His glory. So, Slave gets three stars, only because of the important and relevant truths woven through a book I didn't find easy to read.

Fear of Letting Go

I began my open journey of dicarding (after digging up and divulging) my fears in my last post. I continue that journey here with the admission that while my heart's desire is to radically abandon myself completely to God and His perfect plan for my life, the flesh in me clings tight. Like someone clinging to the side of a cliff not knowing the ledge is less than ten feet away, I cling to the idea that I have to work at things.

God recently dig a great work in me and gave me the freedom of knowing I don't have to work at everything - approval, acceptance, accolades.

Yet I still hold back. I don't want to completely let go. I know this because I do things like make my to do list without first praying about it. I pray for others, ask God to take control of my heart, but I don't go to Him with the details of my life. Why is that?

If I'm going to be completely open and honest, it's because I'm afraid of what I'll have to let go if I submit every detail of my life. What I eat. What I wear. What I write. What I watch on TV. What I listen to on the radio. How I spend every moment of every day. How I acknowledge Him with every breath I take.

Truly, I think this is a common fear - of both believers and unbelievers. We are afraid of what God will ask us to give up if we submit to Him. The things we like and enjoy. What we forget is that every second, every breath is a gift from Him and He willingly fills us up with more than we could ever imagine. If I give up certain things that bring me enjoyment, will He give what will bring me more joy? Of course He will, it just doesn't always look like what we would like it to look like.

So, I talk to myself, pause to pray one more time, and ask God to empty me of me and slowly pry each finger off the ledge, knowing He's waiting to catch me in His everlasting arms of love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fear of Abandonment

It's quite funny what God will do when you open yourself up. I've never been a fearful person. It's not part of my nature and I wasn't taught to be fearful. I'm more one of those people who jump head first into things, figuring that everything will work out.

Lately, however, God has been showing me my deep, hidden fears. They are less tangible than fears of some tragedy, injury, or disaster.

The first fear revealed was the fear that my ministry (i.e. speaking, writing, and getting published) would grow faster than my family was ready for. I am confident that my initial book hasn't sold yet because, at least in part, my family has not been ready for it. With my youngest child barely two, how in the world would I have been traveling and doing events on a regular basis before now? Life is busy and crazy as it is. While I know that God is in control of every detail - down to when and if I get published and where, when, and if I have a speaking ministry - I have to get it to my heart. If I have even the slightest concern about what affect my ministry growing will have on my family, then I'm not trusting that God is in control and has my and my family's best interest at heart. He has plans for each of us and all those plans somehow work out perfectly for all of us.

That doesn't mean that I don't step into things carefully and prayerfully. On the contrary, I could very easily try to finagle and work my way to a "successful" ministry. Then I would be out of bounds of God's will and protection and be neglecting my call, which is to first minister to my family. But neither do I want to hold back when God is coaxing me forward. I want to be abandoned completely to His will. I simply have to tell my heart to give up all of its own wants and desires, other than the single desire to be radically abandoned to the one and only Lord of my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Mom's Set Free

Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

Last time I wrote, I was getting ready to go to what I knew would be a fantastic conference: She Speaks -a writers, speakers, and women’s ministry leaders conference. I’d been wanting to go to the conference for years and this year finally got the go ahead – from both God and my hubby.
Long before the time for the conference arrived, I got to know many (almost 300 were members) of the to-be attendees through the conference Facebook page. We shared anticipations, fears, prayer requests and an overall excitement about descending on Concord, NC all at the same time (with a total of 650 registered ladies and almost 100 staff and volunteers to run the conference!) There was no doubt in my mind that I would be blessed by my time there.
I was in no way, however, prepared for all that God would do. Throughout the weekend God blessed me with little gifts. A surprise roommate who was as warm, welcoming, and encouraging as I could ever ask for. Friends made, contacts received, networking going on, positive feedback from my publisher appointments (even if no closer to getting my nonfiction book published) and a fantastic speaker evaluation group experience. I was confident, prepared, and all around having a great time.

Then the Saturday worship session came along. We were blessed to have Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, as the speaker. Her stories touched hearts, moved people, and made you think. Then something totally unexpected happened, something I was completely unprepared for. God used the words of Ann, along with my own words and scriptures I’d used in my speaker evaluation talks, to reach down deeper into my soul than I knew existed. He grabbed hold of hurts and false beliefs I thought I’d gotten rid of a long time ago, pulled them up to the surface, let me feel them, and then healed them. Yes, I was one of those snot-slinging, tear-wracked women in the prayer room. Sometimes that’s what happens when God reaches down deep and changes you.

One thing that I came out of that prayer room with was a sense that instead of knowing God’s truths (that I had myself quoted and talked about) only in my head, I now have them firmly planted in my heart. I also came away with knowing that while I’m a fairly transparent person, it’s only of those things on the surface, those things that don’t truly make me vulnerable.
But do I really want to show the real me, God? Isn’t it too ugly, too dark, too odd? No, He whispers. You are real and you who I made you and are becoming the person I desire you to be.
So as I take a deep breath, I vow to give up everything to God. Even my short-comings. My pride. My belief that I have to do everything perfectly. My belief that I have to earn love. My belief that without working at it, I deserve nothing, not even God’s love. My willingness to only allow the surface stuff to show.

I am grateful for all the little gifts God gave me, but am blown away by the biggest gift of all: freedom. Freedom from the bondage of my own false beliefs and the idea that I at least have to attempt to do everything perfectly. Freedom to truly trust in and rely on God. That He’s in control and I simply have to submit. Freedom to let these truths travel from my head to my heart and let God do the work in me that I know is yet to be done. Freedom to live – in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Today I’m grateful for: the sound of sealing jars, healing from yesterday’s migraine, today’s journey to my first mission trip, God’s word at my fingertips – and everything listed above!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Mom's Crazy Life

Okay, so Wow! It's really been almost a month since I've been on here. I knew it had been a while, but didn't realize it had been quite that long. July was packed long before it got here, but goodness, couldn't I have taken a few minutes to check in?

Then I review everything that I've been doing. We'll start with parenting four beautiful children under 9. Then we'll go to gardening, taking care of the home, and trying to catch a few minutes with hubby here and there. Those are the regular things. Oh, and writing!

Then we add in everything else, family in town for July 4 weekend, going to Northern Virginia with the kids for a week and visiting friends (we had a whirlwind trip, staying in 3 different houses in 5 nights!) and preparing for the fabulous She Speaks Conference, which starts in 3 days.

I had no idea how much preparation there would be. But I'm the crazy person who's doing a split track and so has to prepare two speeches for evaluation (done!) and get my book proposal ready (haven't looked at it in almost 2 years and am doing some revisions, over half-way there!) There is also finding "business casual clothes" that I as a stay-at-home mommy doesn't have (thanks to my good friend and mom, I'm all set!), getting my business cards ready, doing a one-sheet (which my faithful friend's son who is a design-stuff-on-the-computer-genius helped me with), and printing off directions and coordinating with my travelling partner. And, just for grins and giggles, I had 8 kids at my house yesterday and am squeezing in a cut and color tomorrow (which another fabulous friend is doing for FREE in exchange for me rolling her hair for a perm.)

So, life is busy. And God has blessed me throughout. He's continuing to teach me to prioritize, make sure I spend time with Him so that I don't lose focus (or my sanity), and to pray for those who are hurting around me.

I'll ask your forgiveness for not being more consistent in meeting you here, but you probably understand. Sometimes, we live day-by-day and minute-by-minute and are so busy enjoying the wonderful gifts God has given us (especially the gift of His peace amidst the craziness swirling around us) that we don't check in.

And that's not always a bad thing.

But I do hope to check in more often and be able to share all the wonderful things God is teaching me through this process. The first of which, as is obvious in this post, is the blessing of godly, caring, generous family and friends!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Challenges of Homeschooling

A while back I did a post on the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling. Now that we've been done with school for a few weeks, I can look back and talk about the top 10 challenges. As I said before, I love homeschooling! Just because we feel called to do it and it's a good fit for our family, doesn't mean that it doesn't come with its own challenges. This list isn't meant to discourage anyone from homeschooling, but to be realistic and balanced in what it looks like.

1 - Finding time to yourself. Yes, your children are always at home! But a little creativity and some exchanging with other homeschooling moms and you can find a few moments to breath.

2 - Getting past fears of being indadequate. Time and time again I hear moms say they don't think they're capable. "But what do you do when they get to high school? I wasn't good at that stuff when I had to learn it." There are endless resources and helps to homeschooling moms today, and if God's called you to homeschool, he will equip you!

3 - Fitting it all in. Homeschooling is time consuming, there's no question. So you teach, cook, grade tests, clean, do laundry, check work, and run errands. When you homeschool you learn to let some things go, and remember, your children are there with you. Teach them to help with chores and delegate, delegate, delegate!

4 - Normalizing being educated at home. When all their friends go off to school, homeschooled children sometimes wistfully desire to go with them, envisioning a non-stop playdate. Getting together with other homeschooled children, through participating in co-ops, play groups, and field trips, helps make it normal. Talking with them about what a public school day looks like may also help.

5 - Lack of support. Many friends and family don't understand homeschooling or take it personally that the school their children is in 'isn't good enough' for your children (even though that's not how you feel.) They will question, sometimes make blatant statements against homeschooling, and 'test' your kids. Equip yourself, be confident, and know that not everyone will understand or agree with you and that is okay. Answer them with kindness and keep on doing the right thing for your family. And you can forward them videos like this!

6 - 10 - I'm sure there are some more drawbacks to homeschooling, but I can't come up with them. These are the main ones I've come in contact with or seen with other homeschooling families. As with any challenge, there's always a way to meet it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience

Patience is something I always thought I had before I had children. I could be patient at work, I could be patient sitting though dozens of not-overly-exciting college classes, I could even be patient in traffic.

But until someone is putting their own personal demands on you 24/7 (i.e. Motherhood), I don't think you can have a complete concept of patience. And once you become a mother, you suddenly understand why all those other mothers you've looked down on for all those years sometimes lost it with their children in the grocery store.

Don't get me wrong, I still cringe when I hear a mom in public berating her child or yelling at him. But I myself must admit, I've raised my voice a time or two.

What I often find, however, is that when I lose my patience, it typically has to do with what I'm doing, not what my children are doing.

Here's what I mean: Have you ever noticed that you don't mind that person meandering down the road when you have plenty of time, but when you're running late all of a sudden that person is being inconsiderate and in your way? The same goes with our children sometimes.

If my child wants me to pick them up or read to them and I'm not in the middle of some task (which hardly ever happens) I freely say "sure" and hang with them for a while. But when I'm fixing dinner, or working on a book, or folding laundry, I find little patience with their requests. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something?

I try to stay aware of staying balanced. Sometimes it's best to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes and spend that time. Especially since a mother's work is never done, and when she takes a break it would be nice if it were uninterrupted. But, my children need me to not only keep them in clean clothes and fix them food, but they also need me. My touch, my voice, my ear.

But balance also means not always giving in to them either. If I gave into every request with the utmost patience, I would never be able to teach them to be patient. Or considerate. Or selfless. Not to say that patience is a bad thing, but how we use it is important. Quite often, patience is needed in greater quantities when I tell my children "no." Then it's my job to stay patient while they ask questions, fuss, or complain. This is usually when we're tempted to lose our patience and yell or give in. But it's my job to back up my words with actions. If I said no, it's not going to happen. If I requested something be done, it will be done or there will be a consequence.

They may also get a consequence if they question or fuss too much (an innate tactic all children automatically know.) As long as I stick to my word and do so calmly, though, I've won the battle. And I've taken one more step on the road to a land called Patience.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moms for Moms

It seems that everywhere you turn these days you hear about mean girls. Movies, news show segments, magazine articles, and specials abound talking about mean girls and bullying between girls...and grown women. People analyze and speculate what makes some girls mean and try to make recommendations on how those the meanness is aimed at are to best handle it. If you are exposed to enough media, you might believe there aren't hardly any nice girls out there, looking for genuine friendships and willing to love and support.

I've been a big advocate of girlfriendships for a long time and believe they're an important part of life, especially during motherhood. Mothers can feel awfully isolated in our culture. Fear of judgement from other moms or past negative experiences can keep them from reaching out when they're discouraged or doubt themselves. But it is important to find friends who walk along side you on this journey of motherhood.

I'm very fortunate to have a group of women that I love and trust and can care my soul to. Some are women I get to hang out with once in a while and others are my confidants. But each of them are "nice" girls.

Recently, I've been enfolded into a whole new group of nice girls. I'm blessed to be going to the She Speaks Conference this year, a wonderful conference put on by the great gals at Proverbs 31 Ministries for writers, speakers, and leaders. Since registering, I've been drawn in through emails, websites, blogs, and a FaceBook group. It warms my heart and lifts my spirit to see women from all over the country who've never met each other lifting each other up in prayer and encouragement. These women embody the words: "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)

There are loving, supportive women out there who can be mentors, friends, and confidants. Don't settle for anything less! Eliminate (as much as possible) relationships with toxic people and cultivate those that are healthy. Then gather your girlfriends around a cup of coffee or ministry work and get bolstered up for all the work motherhood throws your way!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 4 & Final

This is the second half of chapter two. Sad to say, it's all I'm going to give out for now. (I hope it makes you sad!) Hopefully one day in the not-to-distant future I'll obtain a contract for this book and will have the whole thing out there!

Dana pulled into the field where a couple of dozen cars were parked. She still fumed. Brooke had talked the whole ride, trying to distract her. Dana was grateful for the company of her best friend. Otherwise, she’d go crazy tonight.
She used to like these parties. Everyone who was anyone would be there. She could hear the noise of people she used to consider her friends laughing and talking and getting drunk as she slammed the car door. She thought about getting back in the car, but one look at Brooke convinced her to stay.
Brooke’d had a crush on Max forever and he’d broken up with his girlfriend last week. Dana didn’t really have anywhere else to be, and the least she could do was let Brooke have her chance. At least one of them would have a good night.
The night went on like every other party Dana had ever gone to. The guys drank too much and acted stupid. The girls drank too much and threw themselves on the closest guy, the ones that weren’t attached anyway. Everybody knew everybody and who was dating who and who was willing to hook up.
Dana spotted Max, surrounded by some of his football buddies. She new Brooke had seen him too, as she stopped short and caught her breath.
“I’m fine,” Dana said. “Go ahead.”
“You sure?” Brooke asked, arching one eyebrow.
“I’m sure.” Dana gazed around the crowd. “I’ll find somebody to talk to.”
“You’re the best friend ever,” Brooke said as she squeezed Dana into a hug and then sprinted off.
Dana spotted Crystal and Kara on the other side of the fire. They weren’t too bad. She knew they wouldn’t be drunk. They were both nice, not catty like most of the other girls. They were cheerleaders, like her. Like she was, she corrected. Cheerleading and dating a bull rider didn’t go well together at Western Plain High School. She could still try out, but why bother?
“Dana!” Kara called out to her, waving. Dana waved back, forced a smile and strolled over. Maybe they’d feel sorry for her.
“Crystal, Kara. What’s up?”
Crystal rolled her eyes and took a sip from the red cup in her hand. She looked flawless, perfect skin, long, blond hair. Her jeans must be a size zero and the turquoise top she had on made her eyes even bluer. If she weren’t so nice, Dana would hate her.
“The usual,” she answered.
“Yeah,” Kara said. “I don’t know why we even bother.”
“Because there’s nothing else to do.” Crystal sipped from her cup again. Her eyes roamed around the field.
Kara looked at Dana. “What are you doing here? You never come out to these things anymore.” She brushed back her short brunette hair with one hand, using the other to move the clip that was supposed to be keeping it out of her face. She always wore a clip, but her hair always slipped out and encroached on her face. Dana had noticed a tiny scar by her hair line one time and wondered if that’s why she only half attempted to keep it pulled back.
Kara was pretty. She wasn’t stunning like Crystal, but she got asked out plenty. She usually said no, but in a gentle, thoughtful way. Of course, that didn’t stop the other girls from talking trash about her and the boys from calling her a tease behind her back. Dana knew the score though, the girls were jealous and the guys were ticked that Kara wouldn’t go out with them. She had heard a rumor about Kara dating one of the football players before she’d moved here, but not much else. Thinking about it, she couldn’t remember one date Kara had been on since Dana had met her.
Kara gave her the, ‘I asked you a question’ look. The door of the ambulance closing came to her mind. She did her best to not get peeved again at Bo’s complete lack of paying any attention to her. “Jeremy got hurt.”
“No!”
“What happened?”
Dana swallowed her hurt feelings and decided that she’d have to get over herself and remember that Bo’s brother was probably getting ready for surgery right then.
“The bull slammed his leg against the gate as he was coming out. That mad him off balance and he fell off. The bull came down on his other leg.”
“Oh, how awful!”
“Is he okay?”
Dana hooked her thumbs in her front belt loops. “I guess. They said they couldn’t tell how badly his left leg was damaged. They took him to the E.R. and were going to have to do some x-rays and other tests to know for sure. Most likely, he’ll have to have surgery.”
“Oh,” Kara said, leaning towards Dana, enraptured by the story. “That means no more riding.”
“Not for a long time, anyway. Like I said, they didn’t know anything for sure, but said he’d be off his leg for months.”
“Poor Jeremy,” Kara said. She looked out into the darkness and readjusted the clip in her hair again. “He’ll be crushed. And he’s been through so much already.”
Dana glared at Kara. What did she know? The only reason Dana knew about Stacy’s pregnancy was because of loose-lipped Aunt Flora.
Did Kara know something? Dana remembered that her friend had always seemed to hold interest in Jeremy. She’d always been more friendly to him than other guys, but Jeremy had dated Stacy forever. An image of Kara and Jeremy talking by his car in the school parking lot after the last bell a couple weeks back flashed in her mind.
Dana coughed. “Yeah.” Was there something was going on between Kara and Jeremy?
As Dana formulated a casual way to ask Kara, Crystal spoke up. “I can’t believe that happened. Jeremy’s been riding forever! From what I hear, he’s a perfectionist and is the bomb on the back of a bull.”
“Well,” Dana began, then hesitated. She hated to gossip. But was it really gossip? The facts were that Stacy’d shown up. But, she didn’t know for sure that Stacy being there had distracted Jeremy. Maybe he didn’t even see her.
But Crystal had a point. Jeremy had never messed up before. At least, not that Dana had ever seen. And of course it would have torn him up if he’d seen Stacy. And how could he not? She’d traipsed all around the arena with Stu, as cocky as a peacock.
“Well, what?” Crystal demanded.
Dana lowered her voice a notch and said, “Stacy was there.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 3

Chapter 2 part 1 (BTW, the book's title is: Riding the Wind)

Jeremy finally got his hand unwrapped and attempted to leap off the bull. The clowns were close by, waiting to direct the bull away from the rider as soon as he hit the ground. There was nothing they could do, though. When Jeremy loosed himself, he fell straight to the ground, instead of jumping off clear like he should have. The bull bucked twice before the clowns coerced him away and out of the arena.
Jeremy lay on the ground. He turned his head to the side and groaned. Bo stared in horror. As soon as the gate closed behind the bull, he raced in with a couple of the other bull-riders. The medical team, coming from another gate, arrived at Jeremy’s side at the same time.
The medical technicians seemed to be everywhere. They asked Jeremy his name and where he was. He answered, groaning and writhing in the process. Jeremy groaned and reached down towards his right leg. When he did, it drew Bo’s gaze away from the gash on his right leg. His breath caught in his throat. So much blood. Bo sensed the crowd gathering around his brother. He knew they were they, but no one spoke a word.
This was not like racing. No one liked to see an accident. Bull-riders weren’t encased and protected. They went flesh to flesh up against animals weighing over a ton, and the animal always won.
Bo looked into his brother’s eyes, identical to his own hazel eyes, as he leaned on the ground. He gripped Jeremy’s free hand. “You’re gonna be all right, Bro. They’ll take good care of you.”
He didn’t let go as they put Jeremy on a gurney and carted him out of the arena. He knew his first concern should be for Jeremy and finding his parents and Dana, but he couldn’t get Stacy out of his head. She had broken his brother’s heart, and now she’d broken his body. She needed to pay for it. And he would make sure she did.
*
Dana stood watching in horror as Jeremy was tossed around on and then under the bull he’d been tagged to ride. Not having any brothers or sisters of her own, she had adopted Jeremy as her big brother. He and Bo were close in age and close to each other and they were always together. He treated her like a little sister, teasing her and protecting her. He had even gotten into a fight with Bo once over what he said was Bo being disrespectful.
A small amount of relief washed over her when she saw Jeremy move. It even seemed that he might be talking to those close around him, although she couldn’t be sure from her vantage point. She could tell that he’d been hurt badly, though. He held one of his legs as the medical technicians hoisted him on a stretcher and carried him out of the arena. Bo stuck to his side.
She allowed a smirk to creep on her face. Her man. He must be so worried. Her smirk dipped down as her eyebrows creased. He knew the dangers of bull-riding and had seen many friends get hurt. She couldn’t imagine what he was going through.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jeremy and Bo’s parents making their way down the bleachers. Those around them called out.
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
“He’ll be okay.”
“We’re praying.”
Brooke didn’t think the Singers heard a word. Her own mind spun, slowing down her bodies reaction. She shook off the daze, grabbed her purse and Brooke’s hand, and began to descend the steps. There’s no way she’d be left behind. Besides, Bo would need her.
Focused on the Singers, Brooke raced down the bleachers and headed to the back area where she rarely ventured.
Oh, let him be okay.
Dana and Brooke rushed into the tent beside the ambulance that was always present in case something happened. Two guys crouched over Jeremy. Mrs. Singer wailed as she anxiously looked over the shoulder of one of the guys. She wrung her hands.
Mr. Singer stood beside her, resting a hand on her back. Dana’s eyes darted around and landed on Bo. He stood by Jeremy’s head and gripped his hand. She glanced at Jeremy, who lay with his eyes closed. His whole face was white and he had his lips pulled tight. A soft moan escaped and he shifted his body weight uncomfortably.
Dana’s eyes traveled down to see how bad his legs were injured, but couldn’t see anything through the technician and Mrs. Singer. She looked back at Bo and took a step towards him. He didn’t acknowledge her touch when she reached out for his free arm. Her anxious gaze met Brooke’s as her foot tapped nervously.
It seemed like an eternity before the two guys that she assumed were medical technicians finally pulled their attention from Jeremy. One looked like he wasn’t much older than Dana, maybe twenty. He had black hair, stood a foot taller than Brooke, and looked like he should be a football player. The other was shorter, maybe five-eight, and had short , sandy hair. He was rail thin and wore glasses. He looked older, more like her parents age.
“How…is…he?” Mrs. Singer asked anxiously, sobbing. “Is he…going to be…okay?”
“Ma’am,” the older one said.
Mrs. Singer calmed, sniffled and looked at the man with wide, teary eyes.
“The right leg was gashed by a screw on the gate. He’s going to need stitches.” He scrunched up his nose and paused before he continued. He sighed, as if he dreaded what he had to say next. “The right leg’s the real problem. The bull’s hoof came down on it after he fell. We’re sure the bones are broken, possibly crushed.” He hesitated again, scrunching his nose even more and adjusting his glasses. He sighed again, then continued. “We’ve seen only a few injuries like this before. There’s muscle damage in addition to the broken bones. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we get him to the hospital and run some tests. Most likely,” he adjusted his glasses again and looked at the ground, “he’ll have to have surgery and will be off his leg for at least six months.”
Mrs. Singer fell back against her much smaller husband and wailed. Mr. Singer’s right foot stepped back to brace himself as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
Tears pushed their way into Dana’s eyes. The thought of Jeremy off his feet for that long was unbelievable. No walking. No driving. No bull-riding.
Jeremy groaned and turned his head away. Bo leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you listen to them. You’ll be fine.”
Dana’s heart sped up. He was such a good guy. And such a good brother. She loved those things about him. Looking at him, concerned about his brother, encouraging him, she felt the all-to-familiar butterflies perk up and start flying around in her stomach. She also felt the fire of desire ignite. It was crazy, but all she wanted to do at this moment wrap her arms around his neck and dive into a thirty minute kiss.
What a cad! How can I stand here thinking about making out with Bo while his brother lays on a stretcher there in excruciating pain, facing surgery and a complete life change?
She mentally kicked herself as the medical technicians moved Jeremy into the back of an ambulance.
“I’ll ride with him, Mom,” Bo said.
“Do-“ Dana began. She stopped as her words were cut off by the slamming of the ambulance doors. He hadn’t given her a second to speak. He hadn’t even looked at her. Acknowledged that she was there. The flames of desire she’d felt for him moments before turned into an angry, raging fire. Regardless of what was going on, the least he could do was pay her an ounce of attention. Tell her to meet him at the hospital. Or that he’d call her later. Or a simple thanks for being there.
But no, he’d not so much as glanced her way. Dana fumed. Brooke must have sensed the change because she squeezed her hand. Dana glanced at Brooke, then let her gaze fall on Bo’s parents. She watched her crumpled face and his stoic one as the ambulance pulled away. Once it drove out of sight, Mr. Singer pushed his weepy wife towards the parking lot. Dana put her arm on Mrs. Singers’.
“I’ll meet you at the hospital, Mrs. Singer.”
“Oh, no, dear,” Mr. Singer said. “You girls go on and enjoy yourselves. It’s going to be a long night and there’s no telling how long it will take.”
“Oh, I…” Dana flounded. She never did know how to talk to Bo’s father. He was quiet and hardly ever said a word. “Really. We want to be there. It doesn’t matter if we’re up late.”
Mr. Singer gave her one of those looks adults give you that says they think you’re about five years old. “Bo will call you tomorrow, Dana. The family needs to be together right now.”
Dana wanted to argue with the man. She wanted to yell at him that he had no right to keep her away from her boyfriend. She wanted to tell him off and show up at the hospital anyway.
But that wouldn’t do her any good. Mr. Singer was Bo’s dad and she didn’t want to get on his bad side. She wasn’t sure what he could do if she made him mad, but from what Bo had told her, he could be awfully stubborn. She didn’t want to take her chances on him keeping her from seeing Bo.
Besides, she was mad at Bo. How dare he complete ignore her?
Fine! I’m not going where I’m not wanted. Dana turned on her heel and stomped off to her car, Brooke following behind. She tossed her purse in the back seat, huffed into the driver’s seat, and waited for the passenger door to close. She turned the engine on and then turned it back off.
“Dana?” Brooke asked. “Are you okay?”
Dana glared out of the windshield. “Fine,” she spit.
Brooke waited. Dana glanced at her and rolled her eyes. “I’m fine.”
Brooke looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
“Okay, I’m ticked. I can’t believe he didn’t even talk to me!”
Brooke’s eyebrow lifted a little more.
Dana let out a scream and laid her head on the steering wheel. “Fine! I know. His brother was hurt. Great. But does that mean I’m chopped liver?”
“Dana,” Brooke said gently.
“Oh, all right. Whatever.” She looked at her watch. Only seven-thirty. Now what? She didn’t want to go home. An empty house would be unbearable.
“What’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Dana’s head pressed into the steering wheel. She rocked it back and forth.
“Max’s having a party. Why don’t we go?”
Dana didn’t feel like going to a party. She didn’t feel like going home either. She wanted to be with Bo, but that wasn’t going to happen. “Fine,” she said. “We can go.”
 

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