Are You Living in Peace?

Are You Living in Peace[1]Living in peace is easy…when everything is going your way. But what happens when your life is interrupted by the less than serene realities of everyday life? Is it possible to live in peace in the middle of a chaotic world?

At times it feels as if there is a “peace-stealing” event at every turn. If it isn’t the threat of ISIL infiltrating the U.S. borders, it’s the reality of Ebola crossing the oceans and, as my son informed me last week (with a look of horror), China has now surpassed the United States as the largest economy in the world.

Sometimes we can sweep those unsettling feelings under the rug because they don’t seem to affect us in a personal way. But if you’re anything like me it’s the conflicts within my family that can send me careening off the pathway of peace. My natural inclination is to address the problem head on. Conflict doesn’t really bother me; I’d rather get things out in the open.  Here’s how a likely confrontation might play out in my mind:

“Look, you’re creating a lot of tension in the family.  Here’s what you’re doing wrong: __________. Here’s how you can make it right: ____________.”

OR

“Listen, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve made a list of all my complaints. If you could just go over them, initial here and sign here, here, here and here, promising to never do them again, I think everything will become more peaceful!” 

As much as I would love it, most situations aren’t solved through contract negotiation.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  My husband used to dread any conversation that began with me pulling out my 3×5 cards. All kidding aside (except for the part about the cards, which I actually used to do), at times I secretly imagine that everyone just does what I say, making everything perfect, right? It never really happens that way and maybe that’s for my benefit in the end.

Are you facing a less than peaceful situation right now? Is your stomach in knots as you wonder how things will turn out for you and the ones you love? Difficult times have the potential to keep us zeroed in on our primary purpose—to bring glory to God. (Romans 11:36) That’s why it’s so important to examine our connection to God and His word while endeavoring to live in peace.

Seek Peace 

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14 (ESV)

Have you ever come to God with your list of complaints and demands and left feeling less than peaceful?  Although we can confidently present our requests to God, at times it’s appropriate to stop asking and just be.  This removes any sense of anxiety from our prayer life. I’ve found deep, lasting peace in meditating on God’s word, thanking Him for what He’s done and resting who He is.  We find peace when we know the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Are you living in peace today? If not how can you change from frantic prayer to peaceful prayer? How can praying God’s word give you more confidence?

Coming Monday, October 20th–Are You Living in Peace? Part 2

Parenting: The Bittersweet Stages

BenandI2006The other day I leaned over and gave my nearly 15 year-old son a kiss on the cheek. I’ll probably remember that moment for the rest of my life because his face is now rough with stubble. I’ve gotten used to his deep voice and his tall, lanky body. I’m even accustomed to him talking on the phone in his room and not needing help with his homework.  But there was something about his rough face that made this mother feel like we had entered a stage of parenting that would forever change me and my boy—my boy who is turning into a young man.

More than a week later I still feel a bit teary. During this stage my son will learn to drive, graduate high school and start down the road toward adulthood. It has me thinking about all the moments we sat reading Goodnight Moon, Winnie the Pooh, Nancy Drew (yes boys like them too!) Encyclopedia Brown and countless others snuggled together on the couch. Or the times I comforted him when he was sick and tucked him in at night.

BenandI2014It’s different now. He tells me his little secrets—things about himself that he doesn’t always share with others—while we drive along in the car, and I wonder how I could be so blessed to have this young man for my son. He bends my mind and asks me to consider the possibility of time travel, politics, world religions and God.

I’m wondering how I’ll face this bittersweet stage. I can’t help but consider how my mother faced it with me.

She gave me space to learn and grow.

She spent time talking and praying with me.

She intentionally spoke truth even when I didn’t want to hear it.

She built in beautiful rhythms of life—weekly church services, family dinners and celebrations.

She never accused and always believed the best.

She took delight in me—loved all my jokes, loud laughter, just loved me!

This is what I want to do, for Ben, for Emily—throughout the bittersweet stages of parenting.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (AMP)  

How are you facing the bittersweet stages of parenting? What is one choice you can make today to embrace change and be in the moment with your kids—whether they are in your home or grown?

Why I’m OK with Failure

Why I'm Ok with FailureFailure happens.  Not just for some people, but for everyone. The question is will we choose to have an optimistic outlook about failure. Are you OK with failure? Or are you hiding your failures in an attempt to look perfect? Let’s get real and be honest. Failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

I’m No Donna Reed

ApronI might look like her in this apron, but I’m no Donna Reed.  If you don’t know who she is, then  we’ll just say I’m no Martha Stewart.  (If you don’t know who that is then I can’t help you.)  That apron is purely for inspiration. I like eating more than cooking, so I’m inevitably forced to get creative in the kitchen.

Feeling particularly industrious one day I decided to take the roma tomatoes from my little garden, peel them (this took forever!) and make marinara sauce. I put the tomatoes, onions, peppers and various Italian seasonings in the crockpot to cook on low overnight.

Trying it the next morning it tasted bitter, so I added a little sugar (my Grandma always put a little sugar in EVERYTHING!) and some more seasonings. That night at dinner I served my family ravioli and “marinara” sauce. They were silent as they ate and after I took one bite I said, “I’m just gonna throw this out there.  This is the worst sauce I have ever tasted!”  We all started laughing.

And that’s not my only homemaking failure:

Making liquid hand soap:  This was a great idea from my sister Alison. But mine was too runny, or too thick, it dried out your hands, and squirted you in the face coming out of the pump. I’m not kidding!

Making laundry soap:  I got this idea online. I was determined to make this work because it’s incredibly cheap.  But, no luck. It turned all of my whites a dirty yellow color—back to Tide and Downy for me.

Baking soda:  Just in case you’ve ever wondered, baking soda is a necessary component in BAKING. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Failures CAN Lead to Success

Usually we tend to cringe when considering our failures—especially when they’re more painful than simple homemaking mishaps.  Failing the people we love most can be heartbreaking, but don’t give up.  Failures CAN lead to success.

“Failures are the fingerposts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis

Angry Outbursts or Unkind Words—an opportunity to build relationship through honest repentance and kindness.

Misplaced Priorities—a chance to consider your values and learn to set boundaries.

Getting Fired—an opening to passionately pursue your strengths and develop perseverance.

The path to success is often peppered with mistakes and mishaps.  Facing the adversity of failure will enable you to cultivate resilience, creativity, maturity and character.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Ultimately, failure can lead us to the realization that true success is in knowing the depth of God’s love for us and sharing that love with others.

Are you ok with failure? How has failure lead to success in your life?

5 Insights from my Reader Survey and What They Mean for You

5 Insights from my Reader Survey and What They Mean for YouIn September, I launched my first Reader Survey. I have to admit that I was a little nervous and wondered if anyone would want to take time to fill it out.  I knew I would benefit from your help so I sent the survey out and held my breath. I was pleasantly surprised by the response.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Ultimately, I think it benefits you because it helps me improve the content I create and to understand my audience in a better way.

Here’s what my “reader profile” looks like:

  • My typical reader is a married (82%) female (97%) between the ages of 25-54 (76%).
  • She is college-educated (88%) with (53%) having an undergraduate degree or higher.

Based on your comments I’ve come to these conclusions:

  • Personal stories: The overwhelming message from all of you was that you love the humorous, relatable, everyday, personal stories. I don’t think there will be a shortage anytime soon—look out, more to come on my crazy family!
  • Keep being honest: When I asked, “How can I improve my blog?” you said, “Keep being honest.” I appreciate this so much because there are times when I think, Ugh! This really makes me look bad! Do I really need to share it? The answer is YES!  We all struggle and there’s no quicker road to despair than pretending you’re perfect when you aren’t (and by the way no one is!)
  • Don’t try to please everyone: Some of you said that you loved the “quick read” and others said not to be afraid to “go deep and write more.”  That’s tough! I guess I’ll just have to go with my gut and realize that as much as I would love to I can’t please everyone.  That being said, maybe the “go deep and write more” means I need to write another book?
  • The heart matters: Several of you reminded me to “continue to write about the things God places on my heart” and to “guard my heart.”  This reminded me of Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) A great prompt to keep close to the source of all life and inspiration.
  • Keep on keeping on: When asked what subjects you liked most it was almost a five-way tie!  Overwhelmingly the survey let me know that I am headed in the right direction. I am truly humbled by your kindness!

What does this mean for you? I’m taking your input seriously! My purpose in writing this blog is to empower each one of you who are looking for authentic encouragement and Biblical perspective for our imperfect lives; so that you may know there are No Ordinary Days, only extraordinary opportunities to live with purpose and meaning.

Special Announcement: I noticed that a few of you had some technical or aesthetic advice about my blog.  A new design is in the works and I can’t wait to show it to everyone! Feel free to leave your comments below and thank you again.

Are You Doing What Really Matters—Today?

Are You Doing What Really Matters--TodayDo you ever wonder if you’re living a life of purpose? Do you ask yourself if the routine of your daily life will matter in the end? Maybe your career has lost its luster and you dream of something more fulfilling. Perhaps you’ve just received a diagnosis that means your life is going to change indefinitely and you’re thinking, “I’ve had it! I’m ready for something better.”

This past week one of my daughter’s friends was absent from school for a couple of days. Emily was concerned and called to check in on her only to discover that she had been hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As Emily began relaying the news I could only imagine how this mother was feeling—shock, fear, and the overwhelming desire to do whatever it would take to protect her daughter.

We called the next day, and they told us she was able to receive visitors. Halting our usual routine of chores, homework and other activities we drove 45 minutes to visit Emily’s friend. Driving to hospital I thought, “This is what really matters. Today, this is what counts.”  We brought flowers, sugar-free candy and a card. But more importantly than that, we brought the gifts of encouragement and friendship.

Are you doing what really matters today? You may be too tired to realize it, but sometimes it’s those seemingly ordinary things that can lead to extraordinary purpose and meaning.  Can you be faithful in the small things that have the potential to change a life?

Listening to your child talk about their interests. (Yes, even when it’s politics. Someone help me!)

Emailing an encouraging word to a friend or family member.

Bringing a co-worker dinner during a stressful time.

Sending a card to someone who is sick.

Offering your presence in a time of grief.

We make a mistake when we allow the urgent details of the day-to-day routine to blind us to the prospect of making an extraordinary difference in the individual life. The simple gifts of a listening ear, a kind word or a gentle reminder of truth are incredible opportunities to live a life of purpose.  This is true regardless of the situation we find ourselves in—a stay at home mother, teacher, business owner, minister, entrepreneur or retiree—we all have a life that is worth living because we all have the chance to do what really matters:  Love, encourage, pray for and connect with people.

Stop waiting for the ideal circumstances to make your life count and go live life on purpose!

How can you reframe your thinking about your day to day life and see the extraordinary opportunities in the ordinary routine?

For further reading on finding your purpose check out: Pathway to Purpose by Katie Brazelton.

Redefining Success

Redefining SuccessThe definition of success has changed over time.  I know this because Webster’s first definition of successoutcome or result—is listed as obsolete.  Success is not simply defined as a favorable or desired outcome, but also the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. Eminence? Really?

Our society tells us that we must achieve riches, approval and be well-known for our achievements in order to be considered successful. The desire to be chosen above others is nothing new.  We see this throughout the Bible in the relationships between Cain and Abel, Saul and David, and eventually between the disciples of Jesus.

What is Success?

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them … 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-22, 25-28 (NIV)

The mother of James and John saw an opportunity; she saw that her boys had the potential for success. So she reached out to grab it for them. But Jesus patiently taught another way. Just as He challenged this mother, He challenges you and me to lay aside our expectations and live the life of a servant.

But often we have allowed our minds to be patterned after the world’s way of thinking.  We grasp for success—for ourselves, for our spouses and for our children. We do it when we say,“Oh, there’s so much potential for success!” when we could be saying, “There’s so much potential to be humble, compassionate, strong in character, rich in grace and full of love.  There’s so much potential to serve.”

If we have redefined success before why can’t we redefine it again?

Success=Service

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 nature of a servant… Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)

How can redefining success change how you view your purpose in life and how you interact in your relationships every day?

2014 Reader Survey Closes on Saturday: I would love to get your feedback so that I can learn how to better serve you with my blog! If you haven’t responded to the brief survey please click here. Your input is so valuable to me!

Stubbornness—How’s That Working for You?

Subborness How's That Working for YouStubbornness. Maybe I’m weird but most of the time I like being stubborn. It can be a positive trait—I’m persistent, I persevere, I know what I believe and I rarely give up. But sometimes stubbornness doesn’t work for me. What about you?

I recently read an article by Tricia Goyer entitled “Surviving the Strong-Willed Child” (I encourage you to read it.  It is well worth the time!) In it she describes her experience raising her strong willed daughter and she mentions focusing on her daughter’s love language as a way to build a bond that lasts. If you’ve never read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman,  the idea is that we all speak a specific love language—a way that we receive love—either through acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time or gifts.  Many times we are giving love the way we prefer to receive love.  The key to making your child feel love is to understand how they receive love.

As I read the article I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit: Your stubbornness isn’t helping you love your daughter. It’s so easy to love the way I want to love—through physical touch and acts of service. This is where my stubborn nature is not working for me.   As a parent it is my responsibility to make sure that the message of love is getting clearly expressed to my children in an effective way.

We can say we love one another but often that is not enough. We need to show it with our actions.  Sometimes we need to lay down our stubbornness and be willing to go out of our way to love those around us. After reading Tricia’s article I asked Emily to take the love languages test online. Her love language is quality time.  Armed with this information, I planned a fun-filled day with my daughter. It didn’t really matter what we did, it just mattered that we were together.

Emily“This is the best day ever Mom!” I think her face says it all.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

Has stubbornness prevented you from loving those around you? How does understanding others help us to love them well?

 

Are Your Thoughts Working Against You?

Are Your Thoughts Working Against YouAm I the only one who immediately thinks that someone has died when the phone rings late at night?  Instantly my heart starts beating fast and my thoughts run to places they probably shouldn’t go.

The phone rang recently just before midnight right as I had just drifted off to sleep.  My father was officiating a wedding in a remote area in the foothills. It’s a beautiful location, but to get there meant driving along a pitch black, curvy, narrow road that could make almost anyone car sick.  My mom had fallen asleep only to be startled awake by the deafening silence of the empty house. My dad was over an hour late and he wasn’t answering his phone.

I tried to remain calm for my mom, but instantly I pictured my dad having a heart attack.  In my mind’s eye I could see him: slumped over the wheel of the car and careening off the road into oblivion. My second thought wasn’t any better, as I wondered if his blood sugar had dropped. Again I pictured him: alone in a parking lot with no one to help him as he slowly slipped into a coma. My thoughts were careening into their own oblivion of hopelessness as I wondered what we should do.

What do you do when your thoughts run down the wrong roads—the roads of fear, shame, unforgiveness, gossip, self-pity or pride? We have a couple options:

We can leave our thoughts unchecked and unguarded,

leaving our minds in distracted chaos.

OR

We can captivate and guard our thoughts, focusing our minds on truth.

During that call from my mom I had a choice—continue down the road of fear or take my thoughts captive. I quickly spoke the truth to myself; God alone knows the number of our days. He is our safety. He is our refuge. He is our comfort.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

My dad was fine (it was his cell phone that was dead!). The wedding party had decided to take extra precautions when traveling down the winding mountain road and everyone caravanned together.  It just took a little extra time to organize everybody.

Sometimes it takes us a little time to remember what is true and to realize that we have the Holy Spirit’s power living in us and enabling us to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

When do your thoughts work against you? How do you take your thoughts captive?

If you want a daily reminder of the truth check out my devotional: How to Love Your Crazy Family–52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days.

Changing People—It’s Not Our Job

Changing People It's Not Our JobOne day driving along in the car we heard Emily mothering Ben with her usual enthusiasm.  Michael said, “Emily, you’re not his mother. It’s not your job.”  She sighed, loudly.

“Well, if you don’t want me to help make him a better person, fine.”

We did what any normal parents would do:  We laughed.  A lot.  Emily is so honest.  She really thinks she’s helping Ben. That’s part of what’s so funny. The other part is that we’ve all been guilty of this.  I know I have, especially with those I love the most.

Help me help you.

Do it my way.

Can’t you see where you’re so clearly wrong?

If he would change then I would be happy.

If she would stop doing…then we would have a better relationship.

But changing people is not our job. Unfortunately, that’s the way we approach many relationships. We hit a bump in the road and immediately think: If they changed, things would be perfect. Our motives for “inspiring” this change are usually less than pure. Be honest and ask yourself why you want your friend, your child or your spouse to change?

For your own comfort?

So they’ll be more like you?

To avoid conflict?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting growth in our relationships. Our mistake is the desire to BE the instrument of change. The truth is that we can only change one person—ourselves.

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11says it best…

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT)

Let’s allow God to transform our hearts so that we will overflow with the love that only He can give, then will we have a profoundly beautiful love to offer to those around us. I’m convinced that we will be less interested in changing people when we love them the way Jesus does.

Have you ever tried to change a friend or family member? What happened? 

Made Over—Indonesia Part 4

Made Over--Indonesia Part 4What do you think when you hear the words “made over?”  A renovation? A redo? A change? A fresh start? I can’t help but think of all the TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s that were obsessed with the before and after beauty makeover.  The before picture presents a tired woman with no smile, no make-up, flat hair, a baggy sweatshirt and faded jeans. After the makeover the woman has a big smile, a high fashion hair-cut and color, perfectly applied make-up, fresh off the runway clothes and an attitude to match.  These makeovers were all about the drama.

When Pastor Korie Taylor told me the theme of the women’s conference in Indonesia—Made Over—I knew it would inspire women from all faiths to attend. Who doesn’t love a good makeover? The real goal, however, was to treat women as the precious daughters of God that they are, and to make sure they knew that the makeover could be from the inside out.

ICA provided beautiful gift bags, a glam bar (complete with make-up and fake eye Made Over 2lashes), makeovers, speakers on home design, make-up, hair, personal style as well as sessions by Angela Craig, Korie Taylor and me on hope, perseverance, identity, leadership, redemption, and a life made over by God.

I saw women of all faiths come and hear the message of Christ’s ability to redeem our lives and make us new. Throughout the weekend I witnessed the power of God heal hearts and change lives. As I prayed with each woman I was reminded that whether I am in Indonesia or America the deep needs of our hearts are the same:

To be loved (Romans 5:8)

To be seen (Psalm 139:13-18)

To be heard (Psalm 116:1)

To be forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)

To be free (Romans 8:1-2)

The good news is that through Christ we have each one of those needs met. He loves. He sees. He hears. He forgives. He gives freedom. And He gives these gifts lavishly as a Father to His children.

Our lives are Made Over by a personal God who knows each one of us by name.

Do you need a “life makeover” today? How can I pray for you?

Made Over 3Special Note: If you missed my last three posts about my trip to Indonesia you can click on the links here:To Trust or Not to Trust—Indonesia Part 1 

A Lifestyle of Generosity—Indonesia Part 2

My Crazy Family—Indonesia Part 3