Am I A Disciple?

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Yesterday’s sermon discussed what it means to be a disciple. I could regurgitate his four point outline but instead I will share what God impressed on my heart during the sermon. If I am to be a true follower of Christ (a disciple), I need to deny myself and pick up my cross daily.

Luke 9:23 NIV –  Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Mark and Matthew also make a similar statement but only Luke says daily. I realized that I don’t daily dive into His word. I don’t daily deny myself. I don’t daily embrace His path for me. I don’t daily let Him lead. I don’t daily give Him first place. I don’t daily do it. I do it often. I do it more often than not but daily…that hit me hard.

The days I do deny myself and pick up my cross and follow Him, I’m good. I’m joyful. I have peace even in pain. I am connected to my source of life. I have energy to give to others. To live this way daily would be incredible and powerful.

So how do I do it daily? I don’t know. Discipline (obviously disciple and this word go hand in hand.)? Pray for help? Get an accountability partner? Find a mentor? Just do it?

All of those suggestions will help and lead to success in reaching a daily goal of being a disciple. However, some days I sleep in. Some days I watch too much TV. Some days I spend the day playing with my kids. Some days I hang out with friends. Some days I’m exhausted and go to bed early. Some days I don’t want to learn.

However, every day I check in with God. I connect with Him. I’m grateful. To live as a disciple daily, that doesn’t happen. I do want it to. My goal is to choose to be a disciple daily but I’m good with more often than not. So “more often than not” is the new goal. I can do that. Join me.

Dream Big!

 

Summertime

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…and the living is easy. I love that song. Remember when Fantasia sang it on American Idol? Phenomenal. I digress and I just started blogging. Sorry. It’s the reality of the beginning of summertime, the living ain’t easy.

The first week is recovery from the school year. We are all tired from parties, finals, wrapping up loose ends, and saying goodbye to friends we won’t see until mid-August. Sleeping in, staying up late, and eating at off times is the norm right now. We will find out groove but first we need to recuperate.

The second week is settling into a new rhythm. Play-dates, work, summer clinics, summer school, camp, and much more, pops onto the calendar. I printed out a free calendar with blank spaces for each hour of the day from Monday through Sunday. I color coded it and entered in our summer schedule. The kids can look at it whenever they need to see what’s up. We have a busy June but pretty mellow July. Rhythm will find it’s groove.

After we settle in, then the living is easy. We adjust to being together more often. We resolve disagreements (a.k.a. arguments) as they arise. We give one another space when we notice one of us is a bit snappy. Meals are casual. Chores get done throughout the day but not at set times like the school year requires. Board games get dusted off and played. TIVO gets down to 35% storage used not the usual 89%. Music is listened to. Ping pong is played. Naps are taken (usually just by me, but I’m grateful they let me.)

Enjoy the new pace of summer. Give yourself time to settle in. In a week or two, we will be there too. I look forward to the easy living of summer. I must be getting into the swing of it since I casually put off my blog for one day. Hope to stick with Monday, but hey, it’s Summertime.

Dream Big!

Amazing Race

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I love the television show Amazing Race. I have watched every episode, even their pathetic Family Amazing Race season. If you haven’t watched the finale yet, stop reading. This blog includes spoilers. If you aren’t familiar with the show, the premise is simple: several teams of two compete in a race around the world, solving clues and overcoming challenges to be the first one to the finish line to win 1 million dollars. It is funny, thrilling, exciting, and a view into the dynamics of the couples competing.

This last season, the winner disappointed our family. The guy deserved to win but his female partner drove us crazy. She whined about everything. Her mantra “I can’t do it.” happened every episode. She received help from other teams who felt sorry for her when she completely fell apart trying to finish a task. She felt no appreciation or remorse when she sailed past them to the finale. It became clear halfway through the final episode that they would win. I wasn’t happy.

You see I have a strong sense of justice. I felt the teams nicknamed “mom and dad” or team “lolo” were more deserving. They ran the race with minimal conflict. They remained positive. They worked together. They never got fed up and wanted to quit. For me, they deserve to win. Not a whining, fighting, screaming, intense team.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I want the “good” to be rewarded. I don’t know these people who are racing. They may be good or bad or somewhere in between. Truth is, on earth, we all are faced with good and bad stuff that happens, completely unattached to our “goodness” or “badness.”

Matthew 5:45 in the NIV Bible says “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

We aren’t exempt from trouble if we are “good” or even if we are Christians. The sun rises and sets on all of us. Troubles, or rain, falls on all of us too. The difference is, when Christians encounter rain, we turn to God for hope, help and comfort. What do those who don’t know Him do? We all having coping tools, but those who know God, have a friend not a tool. He provides us with comfort and direction.

I want the sun to rise on the good and rain to fall on evil, but it doesn’t work that way. Amazing Race challenges me every season to let it go when seemingly “undeserving” teams progress and “deserving” teams don’t. My black and white thinking doesn’t apply here, or anywhere actually. It’s a show, a reality show, but an edited reality show. The producers decide who I should like or not like based on how they edit the film. I know that. Yet, every season I let myself get caught up in which teams I root for and which ones I wish would get out.

In my daily life, I need to make sure my thinking doesn’t stay as limited as it gets when I watch my favorite show. I want the sun to rise on all of us. I want to encourage and comfort those who are facing troubles. I don’t care who is deserving of the circumstances. I care that I introduce them to my friend, Jesus, who is the best friend for sunshine and rain.

When the next season of Amazing Race starts again, I am sure I will go back to my judgement of teams. My hope is that it stays with me only for that hour of television watching. I want to be free of that mentality in my daily life.

Dream Big!

Open House

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My son had his last Open House at his elementary school. He is graduating to middle school. The night was a typical Open House. We enjoyed a concert by beginning and advanced band and orchestra then off to see his classroom. This was the first year we didn’t need to visit the next year’s classrooms. We are the top class. We squished around the full desks to see the projects posted on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Like I said – typical Open House. However, after we left his classroom, we decided to say hi to a few of our favorite, former teachers. That’s when Open House changed from a celebration of completion to a grieving of what we were leaving behind.

I have been a mom of an elementary kid for the past 11 years. Letting go of this school, seemed easy until Open House. As I chatted with former teachers, I remembered my girls’ experiences at this same school. I walked into a lower grade classroom when a mom friend said, “why are you here? You don’t have any little ones.” It wasn’t an attack it was an observation. I explained we were saying goodbye to an old friend. I got sad.

With summer starting, it means change is coming. A new school in the fall (well, August is the new fall I guess). A new schedule. A new clothing style (no more uniforms). A new drop off point. A new pickup location. A new amount of homework. A new set of teachers to meet. A new PTSA to join. Old patterns will be replaced with new ones.

As I write this blog, I’m hopeful. The changes I listed are ones I look forward to. Summer will be a season to prepare for change and to release the past. I will grieve the loss of elementary life. It is very different from middle school and high school. I will grieve the loss of convenience to see former teacher friends. I will plan lunch with a few that I can’t let go of. I will grieve the simplicity of homework and friendship drama. I know middle school holds a whole new level of both of those things.

What are you letting go of this summer and preparing for in the fall (a.k.a. August – can you tell I don’t like school starting in August?)? Whatever it is, soak in the present and move toward the future. I plan to enjoy the next few weeks of school and embrace the calm of the first few days of summer. I’d love to hear what your changes are that are ahead. We can encourage one another in the comments.

Dream Big!

Margins revisited

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I literally thought I blogged last Monday. My dear friend just emailed me and said, “did I miss your May 15 blog?” I went online to check my blogs and sure enough, I didn’t write one last week. I had no clue that had happened. In my defense, it was my daughter’s 14th birthday and I had a cake to bake and presents to wrap but still. The fact is, I planned to sit down today and follow-up on (what I thought was) last week’s blog on Margins. Well, here’s to continued limited margins. They were so tight last week, I goofed. I wonder what else I missed.

My past 2 weeks (that I thought was only 1), I did savor my margins. Did you? I had thirty minutes at a coffee shop where I sipped iced tea, ate a sweet treat and read my book. During my daughter’s piano lesson, I stayed in my car and chatted with a friend on the phone. I took time to read these past two weeks. I usually let that go when I’m busy but reading gives me joy and calms me. Diving into a book became a go-to in my margin times. I found a devotional book with short chapters so I could read them in a five-minute margin in the car line at school. I drank a lot of tea the past two weeks too. If you are a regular follower of my blog, remember my “cup of tea a day” year? If not, what I did was drink a cup of tea a day for a year and recorded where I was and who I was with for each tea sipping. For me tea is relaxing because it requires you to slow down. It’s impossible to gulp a hot tea.

Focusing on margins and enjoying them helped me with this busy May. However, it wasn’t full proof. I didn’t make time to exercise. Getting sweaty requires a shower and I didn’t have time for a workout and a shower in my mini margins. I do meal planning for our family but purposely scheduled a few nights of take-out to make life easier.

In just a few weeks, I will have a ton of margins. How to fill them will be a topic of another blog. As for this week, I plan to soak in two music concerts by my children along with Open House. I will say goodbye to a beloved yoga teacher who is moving away. I look forward to a quick tea with a friend. I plan to spend time with God through devotionals, online sermons and lots of prayer.

Keep seeking margins. Keep seeking God. Keep seeking relationships over to do lists. Keep being kind to others and yourself.

Dream Big!

May…the busiest month of the year

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For families with school-aged children, May is the busiest month of the year. This is when last-minute concerts pop up. Promotion or graduation parties and ceremonies need to be planned and attended. Last minute projects finish up this month. For older students, cramming for finals and/or AP test takes center stage. Not to mention the end of the year gifts for teachers and staff we need to ponder and purchase. Summer can’t come soon enough.

Our family personally has 2 birthday parties in May (2 spring babies), 1 open house, 3 music concerts, 1 retreat, many soccer games, a dentist appointment, promotion party meetings (I have 2 promoting to new schools this fall), a PTA meeting, thank you breakfasts, piano lessons and soccer practice. Mother’s Day is tossed in there too. So how do I stay sane during the craziness of May? How do I prevent road rage, exhaustion and a nervous breakdown from entering my life?

I have to find a way to make margins. I read a book a few years ago called Margin by Richard A. Swensen. His title comes from margins in a book.  When you read a book, there are margins on all sides. What if the print went from one edge of the page to the other edge? What if the text started right at the top and ended up against the bottom edge? Your brain would have a hard time processing all of the sentences in this jumble of words. You need margins to visually soak it all in. Such is true in life. When I don’t have margins (space in my day), I am building up to blow up. There is no space to release any pressure or stress that may (will) enter my day.

Take today for an example. I made breakfast, dropped off the kids at school and attended a breakfast meeting. The meeting was with a friend so it was a pseudo-margin (we talked fun not just business). I rushed from there to a doctor’s appointment then directly to my workout. After sweating up a storm and toning my arms, I stopped at Trader Joe’s for groceries. I enjoyed a conversation for a few minutes with two friends I ran into in the parking lot (nice unexpected margin break). Unloaded groceries, started laundry and took a short margin for lunch and TIVO. Off to pickup then home for more laundry. Brought my daughter to her appointment then dinner then off to youth group for my oldest. The moment before I get my daughter from her appointment, is another semi-margin. Those tiny breaks do help. Steam can be released. A snack can be consumed. A phone call or text can be made. Important mini-margins on a day like today and a month like May.

As I look at my May calendar, I decide to add nothing new. I will protect the few large margins still in the month. I plan to use those times to read, connect with God, write, enjoy a sweet treat, take a walk or bike ride, enjoy a friend who fills me up, or maybe take a nap. I will also savor mini-margins as they pop up. To make the most of your mini-margins, I suggest the following:

  • Load your favorite song on your phone – if you need a pick-me-up in the day, play it.
  • Keep a book or magazine in your car. Use your moments waiting for a kid at pickup to dive into literature.
  • Download a devotional app on your phone. Read it when you have one of those breaks.
  • Close your eyes, take a deep breath, stretch your arms high and thank God for your moment.
  • Look at nature around you. Listen to a bird sing. Follow a butterfly on his path. Pet your dog.
  • <CREATE YOUR OWN HERE – maybe share it in the comments>

The key here is to take the time to savor the moment. A quick pick-me-up, prevents a future build up or blow up. Find margins fellow moms of school-aged kids. This is crunch time. Don’ t let May crunch you. I hope to connect with you in my margins this month.

Dream Big!

 

P.S. Sorry for a delay in the blog today. I plan to post before lunch but I had no margins until now. I’m working on it. Enjoy your nighttime blog reading. Off to make dinner – tonight we are having sliders.  Yummy!

Sirens

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Easter is the day we focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a day Christians celebration the foundation of our faith. We are all sinners so we are separated from God because of that sin (or disobedience to God). Death is the penalty that needs to be paid to cleanse us from sin. Jesus (God’s son) paid the penalty but conquered death and rose again. Our belief and trust in Him, restores us to God in relationship.

This Easter we attended service at Arcadia Community Church. Pastor Jim Conner leads this congregation. After arriving a bit late, we sat in the balcony as the floor seats were all taken. Our first seats were too low in the balcony and we were unable to see the pulpit. So we moved up a few rows during a time of transition for kids to go to Sunday School. Finally settled, I worked to release the frustration of being late and focused on what was being taught.

The sermon itself brought some new ideas to light and included a clear presentation of the gospel. It was the pause in the service that spoke to me most.

Sirens could be heard loudly as some type of emergency vehicle passed on the street next to the church. The pastor stopped his sermon mid sentence to draw attention to the siren. He then said, “let’s pray.” He proceeded to pray for those in need and those who were going to help the ones in need. After an amen, he continued with his previously scheduled sermon.

I broke into tears as my heart softened for the first time that morning. I had raised my kids to pray whenever they heard a siren because it signaled that someone was in need. To see it played out, on a bigger stage, in church, in the middle of an Easter sermon, moved me. This pastor truly knows God and has His heart. I think many pastors would have kept on teaching their well prepared, well thought out, well rehearsed Easter sermon. The churches are packed on Easter. It’s a time when many return who rarely come to church except for the holidays. This pastor, with a heart in tune to the things of God, stopped and addressed the immediate. It spoke to me more than anything else He taught that day.

Do I stop and address the immediate?

“Mom, can you help me?” my child asks.  “In a minute” is usually my reply.

“Please pray for me,” a friend asks via text. “Praying” I usually text back.

“Excuse me, do you have any change?” a stranger asks. “No” I usually reply.

 

What if I addressed the immediate?

“Mom, can you help me?” my child asks.  Stopping my task and looking into his/her eyes I reply, “what do you need?” I may still need a minute before I help, but I took a minute to access the possibility of an immediate need.

“Please pray for me,” a friend asks via text. “Lord, please help my friend find peace in You today. Let Your presence be real and known to her. Amen.” I can text the prayer immediately.

“Excuse me, do you have any change?” a stranger asks. I can offer money or a granola bar or bottled water. I rarely do. I have said for years that I am going to keep those things in the car for these very moments that happen frequently in the area I live. I can address the immediate if I prepare a bit ahead of time. I can also offer, “I don’t have anything to give you but what is your name? I want to pray for you this week.”

What are the “immediates” you ignore or put off? We can all make a plan to do it differently this week. Whenever you hear a siren, I hope you begin the habit of praying immediately and let that sound be a trigger to address what else in immediate in your life.

Dream Big!