Thursday, December 12, 2013

If wishes were horses...

...then beggars would ride. An old English proverb. It means it is useless to wish unless one applies an action in order to actually accomplish anything. Here's to applying action to our wishes this year!

My children lovingly ask me everyday what I want for Christmas. So here is my list. I've only actually told them about wishes 1 and 3.

My Christmas wish list:

1. I wish for one day that all three of my children would love each other. No fighting. Let's make it bigger! I wish children everywhere would spend one day sharing and joyously living in righteous brotherly kindness all the loving day! One. day.

2. I wish for calorie-free Christmas cookies and the resurgence of reality in the marketing of women's apparel.

3. I wish for my children to know the true meaning and the reality of Christ's birth. That it was quite humble without glowing white robes and snow globe perfection. That he came as a bloody normal baby delivered in a very dirty place with no scalpel to cut the cord with a herd of confused animals all staring at a young frightened teenage girl. Somehow, God in flesh has been sanitized to make us comfortable. Somehow, we still want to make Jesus an earthly king with royal robes. Americans tend to sanitize the lowly Jesus who uses a rock for a pillow in order to make us comfortable with our own abundant riches and down comforters.

4. I wish for the Lord's church to stop name calling and squabbling. I wish half would stop condemning, and I wish the other half would stop condescending. I wish I didn't have labels for my Christian friends. I wish they did not have labels for me. I wish we would open our eyes and see that good people are watching our fights while thinking Why the heck do I want to buy into that? There's more unity at a Metallica concert! I wish we could recognize the power in grace and love and unity. I wish we would all just stop fighting for one day. One. Day.

5. I wish I could see all of my loved ones. I wish I could hug them all in one day. I wish distance was not an issue. Someday, I am counting on this one coming true.

6. I wish sin was no more. I wish pain was history. I wish death was a myth. Someday, this one will come true.

7. I wish we could all see each other as people. I wish for racism to truly be non-existent. I wish sexism was truly a thing of the past. I wish a man could hold open a door for a woman without being accosted, and I wish a woman could be CEO without being labeled a bad mom. I wish red and yellow and black and white neighbors could move in next door and no one would have a panic attack. I wish we all could take pride in our ethnicity or gender without someone getting upset about it.

8. I wish pug dogs were plentiful and that every one loved them as much as I do.

9. I wish that my eyes were consistently open to my own selfish mistakes. I wish I would never hurt another person again with my words or my own inadequacy.

10.  I wish we all had built in radars to detect the hurting. I wish that everyone truly felt the warm and fuzzy Christmas spirit that comes after watching cheesy Christmas movies. I wish Christmas was truly a time of peace for everyone. I wish bad memories didn't abound, and I wish bad relationships didn't destroy holidays. I wish for true peace at a time that the world crams artificial peace/love/joy/happiness down our throats with tinsel and overpriced cards. I wish joy could be felt by those who lost a loved one. I wish peace could be felt by those in the middle of a war zone. I wish happiness could be felt by those who are alone.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dear Christian, As school starts...

Remember to pray with your kids before you send them out the door each and every day.

Remember to pray for the teachers who care for your kids each and every day.

Remember to trust teachers. They spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to learn how to teach your children. Let them. They teach. You parent. Teachers are not the enemy.

Remember that you set the example of how to respect teachers and authority. So, respect teachers.

Don't yell at teachers, coaches, (youth ministers)...ever. Seriously, never.

Respect teachers' time. They have family. They have feelings...just like you. They also have a big job to do, and your kid is just a piece of that overwhelming puzzle.

Remember that a teacher who doesn't attend worship with you or a worship like you may still be a fabulous teacher and a great example. Atheists, muslims, hindus, and christians can all be amazing teachers.

Remember that you carry Christ with you to your school, to your parent/teacher conferences, and to concerts, and to games.

Remember that more people than just you are allowed to love your kids. Let them. Be thankful for them.

Remember that there is still good in the world that there are still great people in the world despite the media onslaught of negative sensationalism. Have more hope and trust in your maker.

Remember that others can share testimonies to help your children grow and become mature. Your kids need this.

Remember to let your children experience success by their own merit. Let them suffer defeat. Let life teach them how to handle life.

Finally, remember that you, parent, YOUR example is the most important example to your child. Despite the hours spent away at school or in practice, children learn the most from mom and dad. A child's moral and ethical compass come from mom and dad alone. Impress love and morality and righteousness on your children daily. That is YOUR job.

Have a great year!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Three Ways to Bless Your Husband

Dave and I will celebrate 16 years of marriage this summer. We’ve lived in four states together and eight houses had three children and adopted two pug dogs. We also celebrate 15 years in youth ministry this fall without killing each other or any church congregants…yet. We are blessed with a great marriage. We are best friends. We respect each other and are still crazy about each other. We have our share of knock down drag out fights, but we consider ourselves so blessed to have each other’s hand to hold.

After observing many successful marriages and, unfortunately, many strained marriages, I found three of the best ways to bless your husband. (Today, I am specifically talking to wives so no high-horse shenanigans. If you are not a wife or you are a man- hater, best move on.)

1. Respect him. If I could name one thing that sends shivers up my spine, it is when a wife publicly insults her husband. Here are a few sentences that I have witnessed multiple times over the last 16 years:

            I don’t have three kids. I have four! My husband is just a big kid.”

Or the other most common…

            You know, men don’t ever think. My husband doesn’t. My boys don’t.”

If either of these statements were made about women, it may rightly make national news with feminists everywhere screaming about gender equality. Nevertheless, ‘loving’ wives jokingly say this daily about their husbands (and sons) ignoring gender equality and moving right back into despicable sexism.

Often we define our marriage for the outside world with what we say and how we act. Proverbs 31 outlines how a noble wife behaves. Verse 23 says “Her husband is respected at the city gate…” My question to you is, should others respect your husband based on your description of him?

The second comment is simply abusive. It is one thing to insult and disrespect your husband and call him a child. It is quite another to raise your children to believe they cannot think because they are male. Hopefully, you would not tolerate it, if someone claimed you were brainless. If my sons are ever in earshot of this sexist and abusive phrase, I quickly rebuke the abuser. 

Please respect your sons and husband enough to protect them from this sexist treatment as well. Back in Proverbs, wives are instructed to bring their husband good not harm. “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:12) If your words can be taken offensively, or you wouldn’t desire someone to say them of you, then don’t say them.

Husband bashing is despicable to me (wife bashing, also). Unfortunately, I have sat among women who cannot say one nice thing about their husband. They sit clinking wine glasses literally laughing at the man they promised to cherish. I hope when you are around your best friends, your conversation is consistent with your marriage vows. I hope that you uphold him in public. I hope you do not slowly corrode your marriage for a few cheap laughs between friends. 

Christ should be your first love. 
Your husband is your second.  
Your kids are third. 
Your friends are way on down the line.

2. Support him.  My husband is a smart guy. I don’t just mean average smart. I mean, always wins Trivial Pursuit smart. I hate it because he always wins. Hate it.

Nevertheless, we have a very equal partner-based marriage. He respects my opinion, and we consistently try to stay on the same page about everything in life: kids, money, jobs, friends etc. However, when it comes to his job, the ministry, I recognize that it is his job, not mine. Am I affected by his job? Absolutely. Does that mean I do his job or answer questions about his job? Nope. The same is true for my occupation. He does not do my job. I do not presume to do his.

Along with his occupation, comes supporting him in decision-making and leadership. Regularly, I have Christians approach me wanting to discuss my husband’s ministry. Most of the time this is innocent, sometimes it is sinister. I never allow anyone to insult my husband to me. If they have a problem with him, I quickly cut them off and suggest they contact him immediately. I do not fight his battles. He does not fight mine. I am always on his side. Always. I do not joke about his competence. I do not allow others to joke about it. I double-dog-dare someone to try to pull me away from this man. It just won’t happen.

3. Pray for him. There are days that come that are not easy. There is a reason why we are told to pray for our enemies. Sometimes it feels like we are married to the enemy.

Everyday I pray for my husband’s success, for his fulfillment, for a growing faith. I pray that he is blessed and content. I do not pray that God changes him. I pray that God uses me to bless Dave. I want to be the wife that he needs.

Pray together. It took a long time to feel comfortable praying together. We never witnessed our parents praying together, and we both have very personal faiths. We got over it. Desperate times came in our marriage. Whether it was our best friend’s divorcing, multiple miscarriages, or simply not having money to pay the bills, times came where we both let go of our awkwardness and cried out to God together. If you are blessed to be yoked to a believer, please try to hold your husband’s hand and talk to the Lord. Invite God into the marriage. You won’t regret it.

May God richly bless you as you continue to love your spouse.
May you be reminded of the promises you made to love and honor.
Remember that your marriage is symbolic of the love of Christ for the church.
Protect your marriage above everything else. 
Be faithful. 
Seek counseling early on if the struggles are more than either of you can bear. 
Above all, pray.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Dual Nature of You

            I am a sucker for a good personality inventory. I love the Meyers-Briggs Assessment and regularly try to guess the personalities of people I meet. I usually get pretty close. The stronger the personality, the easier to spot whether someone is an Introvert/Extrovert or Perceiver/Judger etc. I recently went through a book for the third time with my kids called Nurture by Nature. This book uses the Meyers-Briggs Assessment to pinpoint your child’s personality. Then chapter by chapter it unloads hints and advice on how to parent each specific child.

            All three of our kids are a pretty good blend of Dave and me. The fascinating observation regarding my kids’ personalities is that they each have a dual nature about them. The hardcore leadership of my firstborn backfires at times. She has a great sense of right and wrong and expects everyone to fall in line. She gets angry when she sees injustices and irritated when others sit on life’s sidelines without sharing her passion to seek beneficial change. She questions authority. She questions traditions. She seeks improvement in everything. She is hard on herself and others, an amazing future leader tempted to isolate herself.

            The compassion of my middle child comes with a heightened sensitivity and loads of guilt. He has all the mercy for everyone in the world except himself. My middle kiddo is the most loving of the family. We all recognize this. He has more compassion in his pinky toe than the lot of us. With this compassion comes great emotional turmoil because life simply does not deliver peace, love, and joy to all the hurting. He can hardly discuss our adopted child through Compassion International without distress. He gets depressed when the rest of us forget to include her in prayer, a future humanitarian discouraged by humanity.

            When I look at my own personality I see a similar dual nature. I am an INFP (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving). I am idealistic. I place a high priority of sticking with my personal values, in my case, my faith.  My personality is unwavering loyal to my faith, my family, and my friends. However, when those whom I love the most are threatened, trust goes out the window. It is extremely hard to gain my trust initially, and once that trust is lost, forgive me, Lord, but that trust is gone. I am the best friend you will ever have or forever an acquaintance.

            No matter how hard I fight my tendencies to re-learn trust. It is extremely difficult. I work on it daily through prayer. I nurture the side of me that needs space, quiet, and solitude to regain a sense of reality and to train my brain to seek peace and forgiveness with others.

            I believe God made each of us with a purpose and plan in mind. I do not believe God’s intention was for us to change our personalities. I believe His intention is for us to use the best of our personalities to challenge others, to love the unlovable, to cry with the hurting, to give without question. Whatever gift God gave us, we should use it to the fullest.

            The biggest challenge for all of us is to avoid turning our personality into self-righteousness and to recognize our tendencies to step outside of God’s will. I can recognize when this is happening to me. When I can’t forgive or trust, I need to look up to God’s expectation for me to forgive when others have hurt me. He does. I should.

            I would never tell my daughter that she should not challenge injustice in the world. I would never tell her that she should not be angry at inconsistencies in others. She should be angry at injustice and inconsistency. We all should. I am proud of her, and I admire her for her tenacity. We desperately need people like my daughter in our churches. We need people like her to hold us accountable and to encourage us to be right with God and others. Someone has to take a stand and challenge the rest of us, and it will be my kid if you don’t. 

            I would never make my son one iota less caring and loving toward others. He will make the best husband someday and the best friend. I hope he uses his gift to love those who the rest of us forget. I clearly see what is coming for his life. I fully expect to send him to a third world country on a mission field far away. I am proud of him, and I will wave goodbye to him with the knowledge that he goes with God.

            I challenge myself and my kids to see God’s plan for our lives daily. I want them to be thankful for their gifts, thankful for their individuality, and always seeking God’s will and purpose for their lives. He made each of us with an purpose. Not one on earth is an accident. Seek God’s will. Be thankful for who he made you to be.

I am sure that God, who began a good work in you, will continue His work until it is finished on the day Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6