They will know we are Christians by our …obnoxious political rants?

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
 
One of my best friends voted on a different side than I did. We are both Bible-reading Christians who came to different conclusions on what issues we felt were most important and who we felt would be the best to lead the country. Do I think less of her because we don’t always agree on politics? No. Will we call each other names or degrade the other one for making a different choice? No. We will still have spirited debates about why we believe in our side? Absolutely. Will we expect the other to continue to be educated about what is happening in our country and around the world? Yes. Will we agree in the next election? Probably not. Will we remain friends and love each other anyway? Without a doubt.
 
Christians, stop it. Quit calling names, posting political opinions that you agree with and then trying to tell anyone who disagrees that you don’t want to be political. Quit condemning the other side because you don’t understand how someone came to that conclusion. 
 
John 13:35 says that the world will know we are disciples of Jesus by our love for each other, our love for the other people who profess faith in the same Savior we do. No wonder the world is a mess. From my newsfeed today I cannot tell who is a believer and who is not. There is condemnation, hate, gloating, attacking, but almost no love, almost no attempt to understand the other side. How can we expect to show the love of Jesus to our lost world if we cannot find it in our hearts to love a fellow child of God whose opinion is different from ours because their life/experiences/economic status/geographic location/___________(fill in the blank) brought them to a different conclusion than our own. 
Christian brother or sister, how are you known today? By your love and care for other believers (because until we figure that out we can’t even begin to care for non-believers well) or by your hatred or opposition of a certain political party, figure, or issue?
*NOTE: I am not accepting comments on this post. This idea here is to encourage self-reflection, not a debate.

I’m the mom of the child in the gorilla enclosure….

Ok, so not really. But I could have been. And so could you. And for 27 minutes one summer day I was that mom.

Along with several sets of friends, I took my kids to a water park in the capital city of Taipei, Taiwan while we were living there. We had been to the park previously with visiting family so I knew where things were located. I had all three kids with me but my husband stayed home in order to attend a training seminar on a church management system. The older girls could both swim well and knew the rules of water parks. I put our little man, who was 3, in his U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation suit and we headed out.

The rule was that the kids had to stay within my eyesight unless they had permission to go off with another parent from our group. Toward the end of our time all three kid were playing in the same general area, though not together. My eyes were constantly bouncing from kid to kid…1…2…3…1…2…3, keeping track of them. Then it happened. 1…2…and no 3. Certain he was right there I walked a small circle around where he had been playing before I looked up to check on his sisters. He wasn’t there. Thinking he had joined his sisters or another group of kids from our larger group I checked. He was not there.

Panic set in. He was missing. At a water park. In a foreign country. As the minutes ticked by with no sign of him, my panic level rose. I couldn’t adequately convey what was happening to the Chinese-speaking lifeguards. No one in our group could find him. No one around us spoke enough Chinese to convince the guards to take some kind of action. I was describing him to everyone around who spoke any kind of English and people, complete strangers, began to search the water park for him. I went to all the places we had been that day. I looked around the ice cream stand and the food court. I looked at the slides he wanted to do but was too small. No sign of him.

As I returned to the area where he had been playing I was at a total loss as to where to look next and what to do. I began praying. Out loud. In English in a Chinese-speaking country. I took a deep breath, ready to go look again when a man came up to me. A dad. From Australia. He asked me what my son was wearing. He said, “I have little boys. I will find him.” I was grateful for his help, although a little surprised by his calm assurance that he would find my little man. He took off running, calling his name and yelling for his sons to help him find where a little boy was hiding.

I was left standing at the top of a slide platform, in an attempt to get a better view of the kids area and hopefully spot his bright green and blue flotation suit. I kept reminding my self that a panicking mom was no help and to keep a calm head. I kept reminding myself that he was wearing a flotation suit and would not drown. And I kept praying.

After 3 minutes, and 27 total minutes, the Australian man and his sons walked up to me, holding my little guy by the hand. “He was hiding by the pinball machines in the arcade. I knew right where to look.” I tried to thank him, but he just smiled at me and walked off with his arms around his boys. I don’t even know his name.

As I write this, tears stream down my cheeks. Tears over remembering the anguish I felt. Tears of relief that my son is happily banging on his piano 5 years later. Tears over the realization that very easily this could have had a very different outcome.

As parents, if we are honest, most of us will admit to losing track of our kids at one time or another. Maybe it is in a department store when they hide under a clothing rack or a grocery store where they run into the next aisle. Maybe its at a park where they wander to the swings when we thought they were on the slide. In most of these situations no one else knows that the child has wandered away. No new crew interviews bystanders about the experience. And no one is hurt. But in some cases the outcome is much worse. There are parents still waiting for word 5, 10, 20 years after a child wandered off. And while there are obviously cases of neglectful parenting that may have led to these various situations, often it is not because a parent wasn’t watching the child. I didn’t have a cell phone out. I wasn’t attempting to watch the kids from a distance. I simply looked away from the youngest one for no more than a minute to check that his sisters were still where they were a few minutes before and he was gone.

The truth is, these things happen. Maybe not as sensationally as a child getting into a gorilla enclosure, but they happen. They happen to most parents. Good parents who pay attention to their kids.

I have no idea what transpired to allow this child to get away from his parent(s). I have read accounts that don’t portray the parent as being on the phone or otherwise engaged, but I cannot testify as to what allowed this situation to occur. I would question the security measures in place that would have allowed a small child to accidentally gain access to this exhibit and I am sure the zoo will be doing the same thing. What I can do is offer a bit of grace to this parent. Because, for 27 minutes in 2011, I was this mother.

 

Preparing for the Worst

consent-clipart-pen_and_paper_legal_document_with_pen_signing_the_paper_0515-0909-2116-0233_SMUIn the last six weeks we have supported friends who lost their son and a friend whose husband died. Walking with my friend whose husband passed has brought about a renewed focus to make sure we have all our papers in order should anything tragic happen.

*DISCLAIMER – I am not a lawyer and am not offering specific legal advise. I am giving you suggestions of where to start.*

1. Make a Will – Visit a lawyer or buy software and make out a will. Include plans for what will happen with your children, your final expenses, your debt, and your money. You can specify who is presumed to have passed first if you both die within a certain time frame. You can give care instructions for your children. You can set up a trust to provide for your children in the future. You can also bequeath individual items to specific people and record your wishes for your funeral service.

2. Make a  Power of Attorney – Again, with a lawyer or software, make out a Power of Attorney that will allow your spouse to make decisions for you in the event you cannot. This will allow your spouse access to accounts and credit in your name only, as well as allow them to perform business on your behalf.

3. Make a Health Care Power of Attorney – Once again through a lawyer or software, make out a health care directive giving your spouse the right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Include your desires for life support and extreme measures, as well as your wishes to be an organ donor, if you so desire.

4. Make a file that includes birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards and other important identifying documents. Make sure you both know where this is and that it can be easily accessed. Include the kids identifying documents here as well.

5. Make sure both spouses know when and how to pay the bills. Even in today’s world, usually one person ends up managing the finances. Make sure you both know they system and how to use it.

6. Have all finance, insurance, and investment papers up-to-date and filled where you both can access them. Including banking records, safe deposit box keys, debt statements, mortgage information, auto loans, car or other vehicle titles,  and property deeds.

7. Have a secure list of your log ins and passwords. These can be kept in separate documents with a number code matching them up if you worried about security. You can also keep them in a hand-written notebook instead of on a computer file. Just make sure your spouse can access your online accounts or shared accounts.

8. Talk to each other. I know it is a subject no one wants to deal with, but the truth is that sometimes you do. Talk to your spouse about your wishes and their wishes. Will she stay in the current house/location or move closer to family if something happens? Will he have to put the kids into school (if you homeschool) or pay for additional child care? Do you want to be buried somewhere specific or do you just want your spouse to do whatever they think is best? Are there extended family issues that could complicate an already difficult time (e.g. Cousin Steve always pops up and asks for money when he knows someone has received something)? Talk about it all and then get it in writing.

Churros

392145Each Friday night we host 20 adults and 15 kids in our home for LifeGroup. We eat a potluck dinner with a theme before teaching and discussing a Bible lesson. Tonight our food theme is Mexican. In honor of that theme, I am sharing my favorite Churro recipe with you. These simple treats are easy to make and add a little sweet fun to any fiesta or Friday night.

Photo credit: allrecipes.com

Not Our Home

Phil 3-20.001This week I was reminded how very much this world is not our home. I was asked to pray for marriages that are struggling and breaking down. A friend was rushed to the hospital because of a chronic illness. We learned that the son of family friends shot himself and the prognosis is not good. And on a less significant, though more personal level, I struggled with the realization that our oldest daughter is old enough to know a kid who shot himself. (WARNING – This is not the time or place to start a debate about guns. Doing so will see comments deleted.)

It sounds so cliché, but he’s a good kid from a good family. My oldest did not know him well, but did know him. This is, thankfully, her first experience with something like this, but I am saddened because I know it won’t be her last.

So in the midst of all this pain, all this sadness, what are we to do? The temptation is to ask why but I believe I already know the answer. Broken. This world is broken. Broken by the weight of evil. Broken by our own sin. Just broken. And I am burdened with prayer for those who are experiencing more of the broken now than they were a week, a day, even an hour ago.

So how do we go on? How do we keep walking in this our brokenness? Hope. Not that by some magical happening things will “get better,” but in the hope given to us through Jesus, our Savior. Romans 8:24 tells us that our hope is not in the know things of this world but in what we don’t currently see. Our hope is not that the world will get it right, but that our God got it right and offers us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). With that hope we can move forward. We can go on. We can reach out to our broken world and tell them about the hope of Messiah, Jesus Christ.

If you would like more information about a relationship with Jesus, please click here.

So hug your kids a little more today. Have a little more grace for those around you. Take the time to call that friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Reach out to that coworker who seems to always be alone. Yes, the world is broken, but Jesus, who was broken for the world, offers us hope in the midst of the broken.

Back to School?

College word artNot the kids this time! Right now, my husband is pursuing his Master’s degree in an accelerated program that will have him graduating in May, just 12 months after starting. I’m not sure why, but I thought this would also be the perfect time for me to go back to school too. Maybe I was jealous that everyone else was in school? So now all 5 of us are in school. And it is crazy. Plus our ministry has ramped up and we are counseling two couples each week while still leading or hosting 3 small groups and leading a group of small group leaders. Oh, and then there’s our regular activities at church…praise team and the Connections ministry where we are leaders. Plus the kids activities. I’m tired just writing it all out!

I don’t tell you this so that you feel sorry for me. We have made these choices with prayer and purpose. But it is a crazy time at our house. How are we doing it? ORGANIZATION! This season of busyness has brought to light the need for organization beyond menu planning and clean closets. Here are some tips we have learned:

1. Shared calendars. 4/5 of us (the 6 year old is excluded at this point!) have smartphones and we sync calendars. Every family member has their own calendar (color-coded of course) and we have calendars for special groups. For example, there is a wife calendar, a husband calendar, and a couple calendar. Anything that is for us both goes into the couple calendar. The kids all have their own calendars and there is one for activities that involve all three kids. Then there is a calendar that deals with all-family things. Each person has all the calendars that affect them syncing to their phone (and for us it goes to the computer and iPad too). This way everyone knows what is going on, where we need to be and when. We use the notes section to include instructions such as what to wear and if they need to bring something like a book to occupy time or sports gear for the next activity. We parents see all the calendars so we know exactly what is happening in the family schedule. This helps keep us all moving in the same direction as a team.

2. Boundaries. Now more than ever we are also saying no. No to things that take our focus away from our primary mission. No to people who suck the life out of us. No to requests from others when it is our family time. No to good things that just are God things for us.

3. Scheduled family time. We have scheduled Mondays as non-negotiable family night. Everyone is expected to have work and school finished by dinner time on Mondays so that we can eat together and then play together. Whether swimming at the base pool or playing cards or Wii games, we spend time as a family uninterrupted. We don’t answer calls or texts. We just enjoy each other. This recharges us for the crazy week ahead.

4. School schedules – for the parents! Since my husband and I are both in school too we keep detailed plans of each class. Required online meetings go in the calendars. Before a class starts we make a detailed plan of each week’s assignments and schedule each part of larger projects. This keeps us from rushing around at the end of the semester.

5. Staying connected. Not just with each other, but with outside people too. The tendency for many when things get busy is to stop church activities like LifeGroups and service areas. We have found that when we withdraw from fellowship and service with other believers, everything else suffers. So we plan our time, use it wisely, but we stay involved.

The only way to be successful is to put in the hard work. That means doing the organization and planning that will help keep our family focused during this season of life. I am looking forward to Jonathan’s graduation in May. Then we get three months of calm before he starts on his Master’s of Arts in Religion and Doctorate!

New Year’s Resolutions

new-year-2015

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe you should wait until 1/1 to make a change that you know you want or need to make. I do see the value in taking this time to reflect on your past year and new goals for 2015. We review and update goals regularly: short term every quarter, annual, and 5+ year.

So whether you make resolutions or are just reflective this time of year, here is some help for common goals:

#1. Get Organized! You have definitely come to the right place. Here is a collection of organization tips. Or you can tackle your house room by room with these guides.

#2. Get Healthy! Click here for a variety of healthy menu plans and recipe ideas.

#3. Travel More! Check out these travel tips.

#4. Read More! Here are great reading lists for the whole family.

#5. Get Our Finances In Order! Here is a collection of financial tips.

#6. Promote Family! Start here by giving your family a vision and brand.

#7. Entertain More! Here is a collection of hospitality and entertaining tips.

#8. Start Home Schooling! Here are curriculum reviews and tips for starting your homeschool

#9. Focus on My Husband! Here are posts about marriage with tips, encouragement, and ways love your husband.

#10. Do More Projects! This is a collection of project ideas that range from sewing to building, practical to fun.