500 feet = Perspective

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On a recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee I had the opportunity to tour Fontanel, the former home of Barbara Madrell. Depending on your age you are either thinking “Who is she?” or “Can I eat Crackers in my bed?”  She was a country singer, song writer, musician – a very talented lady! When I was a little girl, six or seven, I remember sitting with my mom watching Barbara Madrell and the Madrell sisters on TV. It was a variety type show. My mom loved it.

Fontanel, is a 27,000 square foot log cabin nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Whites Creek Valley, just outside of Nashville! It has 20 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, an indoor pool, a large great room, an indoor shooting range, and much more.

While taking the tour we heard about how Barbara’s husband, who was also the builder of the cabin, found the land they called Fontanel while flying his helicopter. He viewed the land they fell in love with from the air. Now, I have only been in a helicopter once (another story for another time) and let me tell you, you can see for miles. Being up in the air in a helicopter is a different feeling than an airplane. It is slower, moves differently, and the view of the ground is fantastic. I can only imagine how beautiful the Fontanel property would have looked like from 500-1000 feet about the ground.

After the tour I was sitting around with other ministry leaders and we began to discuss what we noticed and learned on our tour. This point stuck out to me . . .what if we looked at our situations (in ministry and life) from an areal view, 500 feet in the air looking down? What would we see? I’m not sure if the Mandrell’s had walked up the hills on that property they would have seen all its possible.

In ministry and in family life we can be so busy, focused, or even overwhelmed that we often look at many situations from the ground level. Sunday to Sunday. One sports season to the next sports season. What would happen if we stepped back and looked at life, our calendar, our passions, different types of situations, from a more broad perspective? Would we make different decisions? Would it give us a new perspective?

The way I have best lived this out in my life is with the passing of my parents. As I walked through the pain of loss and grief, I often felt like I was walking through the forest. I was looking at everything from a ground level perspective. I was walking right by the refreshing waters or a place to rest, I was lost, I could not see those needed places through the trees. Once I could navigate life from a 500 foot perspective, I could see where I could rest, where the healing waters ran, and found a place to plant. It didn’t change my pain, it just changed how I processed it.

I would encourage you today to get above the trees. Find sometime to look at your ministry, family, and life from 500 feet. My prayer is that as you get above the situations in life, the Lord would show you his perspective and he would lead you to those perfect places.

Shower Wall Dreaming

The New Year fosters a wide range of emotions for me. The excitement for a new beginning, blank pages, endless possibilities …

It also provokes moments of panic (what if I don’t measure up), overwhelming dreams (that is too big, someone might laugh at that one) . . .

I joined Jon Acuff’s #DoOverBook Challenge. It is a ten-day hustle and work your dream type of program. Part of the challenge is joining a Facebook group. It has been awesome to read through the thousands of post from people starting the year with purpose, accountability, and dreaming. I love it. It excites me. It helps me dream.

So my first day of this challenge was to choose a dream I would like to chase. I was struggling to come up with my hustle (the focus of my ten days).

I was in the shower and I started to dream and pray {don’t you do your best work in the shower?} I took one the boy’s soap crayons and wrote my vision for the year using words, putting them on the shower wall.

I didn’t wipe them off when I got out. Later in the day the boys showered and noticed my writing. When I helped them get out of the shower I noticed they had taken the initiative to dream a little on their own. Now, I’m not sure they really were dreaming or just wanted to participate in the writing on the wall. It didn’t matter to me!

I was blown away by some of their thoughts. With no prompting of mine they were able to write down things they thought were important. I love seeing into the minds of my kids. I must say, I was very proud of their dream wall. This is what their wall said …

#DoOverBook

So this year I start my #DoOverBook challenge inspired by three little boys who can dream without any fear of being told they can’t. I am praying you can dream too! Want to dream with me?

Here’s to 2015!

How Sticky is Your Family?

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Picture with me a drive-through dry cleaner. Can you picture one? Maybe you have one in your area. What a convenient way to get those special clothes cleaned, huh? You drive up. You tell the clerk how much starch you want on your shirts. You hand them the clothes. You drive away. You don’t have to think about it all day. On the way home from work, you drive by and pick up those beautifully clean, pressed clothes. Waa-la! What a fantastic concept!

The problem with our current drive through conveniences is that we have come to expect those same conveniences in every area of our life; our food, coffee, and even the . . . church!

Unfortunately, that drive through dry cleaner mentality is what often can happen in our children and youth departments. I will swing by the kids or youth department and drop off my “dirty” child and I will come back and pick them up “clean”.

Sorry guys, but I can’t “clean” up your kids. On average, as a children’s pastor, I only have 40 hours a year of influence in your kid’s life. But parents, guess what? You have over 3000 hours of influence in the life of your child every year! You have a greater influence on the life of your child than I ever will!

Fuller Youth Institute has done some fantastic research on today’s youth and the critical years after high school. They noticed the alarming trend of high school graduates walking away from their faith and began to ask why. From their research they have written books, blogs, and provided workshops on how the church and families can help kids’ faith stick in those critical years.

In their book, “Sticky Faith, Youth Workers Edition,Dr. Kara Powell, Brad Giffin, and Dr. Cheryl Crawford, discuss the importance of Sticky Family Relationships.

So, let me give you some of their ideas on how you can become a Sticky Family – a family that is intentional about helping kids’ faith stick!

1 – Conversations are important! – Have them! Listen to them! Talk to your kids. Ask open-ended questions. Pay attention to those moments. Make space for them. For me, often those perfect moments for conversations are in the car or while making dinner. When you travel through town doing errands, drop off, pick-ups, pay attention to the conversations going in the seats behind you. Ask open-ended questions that get your kids talking. “Never explain something to your kid if you can ask a question instead.” (pg. 125)

2 – Share your past and present spiritual journey – “The best discussions about faith happen when parents don’t just ask questions, but also share their own experiences.” (pg. 118) Have you ever shared your testimony with your kids? Have you told them how you met Jesus? Have you told them about the day you got baptized? Have you talked to them about the people in your life that greatly impacted your spiritual formation? Kids need to hear your authentic story. Now, I’m not going to share all the details of my life with my 8 year olds, there are filters and timelines. But, by the time your child is an older teenager they need to know. It builds in them a context to their spiritual journey. I believe telling kids about your past prepares them for their future.

 3 – Create family rituals – What are your family rituals? Family dinners? Family Meetings? Vacations spots? Those rituals help kids belong to what Reggie Joiner calls a tribe. It creates a sense of belonging in the life of your children. Some friends of mine do a weekly family meeting on Sunday nights at 6. Their kids are 8 and 5. In their family meeting they tell each other what they appreciate about one of the other people. “Mom, I appreciate how you make my lunch” They then communicate the plan for the week, play a game, and pray. You can read about my family ritual here.

4 – Serve together as a family– Find something to do together. Mow the neighbors yard. Help someone move. Volunteering and serving others allows us to see beyond ourselves. The focus is no longer inward. Start the new motto of, “this is who we are as a family.”

Let’s be intentional about our 3000 hours we have with our kids this year and work to be create sticky family relationships.

Are you being intentional? Let’s give our kids the sticking power to remain connected to their faith as they move into adulthood.

The First Week Of October

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This first week in October is always a week mixed with great emotions. October 5th is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 64 this year. October 8th will be 19 years since my dad died.

It is so hard.

My Dad died at 46 and my mom 5 ½ years later at the age of 50. Dad’s death was sudden. No goodbyes. No closure. Here one minute, gone the next.

My mom fought inflammatory breast cancer for over 2 years. Each day the cancer consumed more of her body. It was a slow, sometimes invisible death.

Both types of death are painful. Both deaths left me, in my early twenties, without parent. It is interesting when you lose both your parents, you lose them physically and their daily impact in your life, you also lose a part of your past and history. I have no idea if my kids show similar characteristics of me as a child. I have no one to ask.

As I reflect on this week many thoughts, emotions, and memories flood my mind. Here are some:

  1. Loss sucks! My daughter will never have the opportunity for my mom to take her on girl trips, sleepovers, and do fun grandma things. My boys will never be able to learn how to pitch like my dad did when he played in the minor leagues for the Dodgers. They won’t learn embarrassing stories about their mom. There are gaping holes in our family history. Our story is missing the beginning. Loss hurts. I don’t have parents to call and ask them to watch kids for the date night. I don’t have a mom who will help with my family when I am sick. I don’t have a dad to talk leadership studies with. Loss hurts.
  2. Foundation is important. I am so incredibly thankful that I had two amazing parents. They loved each other. They had fun together. They worked through tough things together. They trusted God with all that they had, were, and believed. They modeled a healthy marriage. Because of their hard work and dedication to our family, I have a solid foundation to stand on. My kids are who they are today in part because of the foundation my parents laid.
  3. Trust in God is what has kept me going. At a young age I surrendered my life to Jesus. I committed to live for him all the days of my life. I believe that he loves me, cares about me, and has my best interest in mind. I believe that, though I don’t understand why this happened, I can trust the one who created the world. He has proven over and over again that he cares about every detail of my life. His past faithfulness demands my present trust.

This week, rather than dwelling on what I don’t have, I am choosing to celebrate the life and legacy that was given to me. I stand on that strong foundation they toiled over. I continue to trust the creator of the universe with my life and the life of my family.

Thanks Dad and Mom for being you. Thank you for being awesome parents.

I miss you!

Remember the Underwear!

I am a wife, mom, sister, friend, children’s pastor, dishwasher, dinner maker, taxi driver, laundry folder, confidant, and more. The list could go on and on. Some days I can do some of those things simultaneously, like a beautifully orchestrated symphony.  Other days, my life sounds like a bad elementary school violin concert.

The other morning I headed to the gym with the plan of my husband getting the kids up and ready for their fourth day of school. As I got in the car to come home, fifteen minutes before the family needed to head off to school, I read a text message from my husband that said, “I have a massive headache and can’t get out of bed.” Oh no!

I raced home to find many of the “normal” morning tasks incomplete. We rushed . . . I prodded . . . I may have even raised my voice just a bit. Finally, we all piled in the car and began the couple-minute drive to school.

We were a block from school and my daughter mentioned that when she woke up the twins, one of them wasn’t wearing underwear. I nonchalantly looked over my shoulder at the twin who slept in the buff and said, “Well, you put underwear on when you got dressed, right?” DEAD SILENCE. I guess it never crossed this 8 year old’s mind to put underwear on TO GO TO SCHOOL!

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I panicked. What if he “accidently” got pantsed at school? Do they still do that? What if he sat crisscross-applesauce on the floor and another kid could see something? Thankfully, a good friend of mine lives close and has a son near the same age as my boys. I called her with the odd request to bring an extra pair of underwear to school. They saved the day! They saved my son (and me) from potential embarrassment.

Every time I think of that drive to school, I just shake my head and smile. I learned a couple things that day:

1 – Always ask your kids if they are wearing underwear before leaving the house.

2 – I can’t do it all. My kids are going to do things that will embarrass them and me. You know what? I’m ok with that. It makes us normal.

3 – I can’t do life without friends!

So parents, as you drive to school, make sure your kids are wearing their underwear and cherish the stage you are in. Smile, laugh, cry, and remember that even an elementary school violin concert can be beautiful to a parent!

Have any funny stories you want to share? I would love to hear them.