Monday, August 30, 2010

An Angel in Human Skin

Not too long ago, my husband I took on a major project – repainting the majority of our upper level. When we moved into our home, we used flat paint. At the time, it was nice. It went on in one coat and made life easy. But, two kids later, it was looking terrible. Anytime they touched it it scratched and when I’d try to clean it it chipped. Needless to say, it NEEDED updating.

After looking through the newest paint colors, I couldn’t wait to get started. In the midst of my excitement, I was working out with my neighbor at the gym and telling her all about the colors we picked, the new shower curtain I’d purchased, and the funky frames I found for the wall.

When the “big day” came to work on the project, we dressed in our paint clothes and welcomed my mom over to help. Soon after we started painting, however, I found myself annoyed. I thought my two and four year old would be fine watching or playing downstairs, but it turns out they wanted to “help.” Unfortunately, their idea of “help” translated to annoyance for us. I constantly found myself saying, “Please move back” and “Don’t you want to do a puzzle?” but nothing was as fun to them as the paint.

As I found myself trying to balance parenting with productivity, I was severely slowed down. And, I was bummed. Bummed that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be for my children and bummed that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be in helping my mom and husband.

Then the doorbell rang. There stood my neighbor (that just days earlier I’d shared my excitement with). I hadn’t talked to her so she had no idea what was going on or how I was feeling, but she anticipated that it could be a struggle and asked to take my two children for the day. Thank you, Lord. An angel in human skin.

Excited about the unplanned play date, my two kids joined her three in their mini-van. During that day, she fed all five kids (7 and under) lunch, took them to a puppet show at the library, and gave them space for fun. During that time, we finished the entire paint project.

Gratefulness overwhelmed me. My neighbor looked around and sensed a need. And, I, in the midst of a frustrating moment, saw a powerful display of faith that forever impacted me.

Colossians 3:12 reads, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

My neighbor took on a house full of children – going out of her way – to help me reach a goal. Gratitude filled my heart and tears of thanks streamed down my cheek.

Because of her, the outlook of my day changed. And, beyond that, it has caused me to more frequently ask God how He wants to use me to help others every day.

As you start this new week, I’d encourage you to open your eyes and see the visible displays of God’s presence in the midst of your tasks and even frustrations. When you do, gratefulness will transform your perspective and inspire gratitude that promotes further joy in the kingdom of God.

**note- This Wednesday ends your opportunity to win the Pam Stenzel “Parents Matter: Raising Kids with Integrity” DVD. People around the world share gratitude for her expertise. If you would be grateful, please be sure to visit here. I'll be posting the winner this Thursday!**

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teaching Purity to Our Daughters (AND a Pam Stenzel DVD Giveaway)

“Why do brides wear white?”

After saying nightly prayers and setting out dresses for a wedding the following day, I was surprised to hear Grace thinking through the details.

“White is the color of innocence,” we explained. “It means that they listened to God in their choices.”

A child appropriate answer for an adult subject: S-E-X.

Despite being one of the smallest words in the English language, it unearths massive power. The decisions that our daughters make about sex before they walk the aisle will affect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually before they say “I do” and after.

So, how do we as mothers empower them to make right choices?

To finish reading my post, please visit ModSquad at


Internationally known abstinence speaker, Pam Stenzel, is a mother of three and speaks to over half a million teens worldwide per year. She knows the issues that today's young people face and the questions parents have. In her new faith-based Parents Matter: Raising Kids with Integrity DVD, Stenzel educates parents on up-to-date consequences to premarital sex, and empowers parents with useful suggestions to open up lines of communication and teach healthy dating. Providing you with the tools that you need to confidently build character and discuss sexuality with your daughters and sons, this DVD is a must-have for all parents. Since I write with Pam, I told her about my ModSquad post and she graciously provided one copy of Parents Matter for me to give away to a lucky winner!

All that you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post about why you would like to win. The giveaway will remain open for entries until Wednesday, Sept 1 at 10pm CST. I will use to select the winning comment number. Then, be sure to follow the blog to know if you are the winner, which will be announced Thursday, Sept 2. Also, please leave some indentifying info for me to follow up with you - email or a twitter name.

One person is going to be blessed beyond measure by the great speaking and incredible teaching Pam offers. Will it be you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Problem With Living in a Shortsighted Culture

I’m listening to a duet right now that I can’t say I enjoy. It is the coughing duet of my children.

This week has not been what I planned. As a stay at home mom, I envisioned lots of fun activities before our oldest starts preschool and we become more limited by a schedule. My list included play dates, the library, visiting the new rhino exhibit and baby giraffe at the zoo, going to the park, and normal weekday trips to the gym.

However, on Monday we found ourselves in the doctor’s office with our older one. Diagnosed with a bad sinus infection, we continued with eye drops and added oral antibiotics. I figured the inflammation and wretched cough would soon be gone and we’d return to the fun I had planned. But, that very same day our wee one started coughing. Unlike the older one’s cough, hers was dry and barky, reducing her to tears around the clock. So, for the first time ever, we had both children in the pediatrician’s office in the same week. And, we added another oral antibiotic and steroid to our medicine shelf.

Needless to say, the fun I had planned for the week didn’t happen. In fact, we are still homebound yet today. Although the older one is healthy, the younger one’s cough remains fairly persistent. She needs a little more time.

Interruptions in our plans happen all the time. And, when they do, our human tendency is to focus on what we are missing. In my case, it was the joy I anticipated my children would feel on our field trips, the sleep I'm lacking at night, the time taken from writing, and the daily trips to the gym.

But Scripture reminds to look elsewhere.

Psalm 121:1-3 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.”

The problem with living in a shortsighted culture is that as we miss the big picture. As we focus on the circumstance immediately before us that we didn’t wish for, the Enemy allows disappointment to fill in our hearts and taint the Truth.

And the Truth is this. We serve an alert God who is not surprised by any of the events that we experience AND He promises to work all of it for good (Romans 8:28). God sees the distant future and, no matter what we face – from the littlest of infections to life-altering scenarios – He has plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11).

So if you are in need of a little encouragement at the start of this new week, fix your eyes on the Heavens. Open your Bible and read His promises made special for you. As you do, a new peace will permeate your soul. And, you might even recognize new blessing. After all, I have gotten to rock my normally busy two year old much of the morning. :)

He is longsighted. We are not. Strive to keep your focus on Him because, if you do, tranquility is sure to follow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Which GPS Do You Use?

Recently my husband got a new phone. While I’m typically not a “techy” person, I was immediately impressed with this particular phone because it had a built in GPS. Gone would be the need for MapQuest or the good old-fashioned paper map. With this GPS, we could safely trust that we had all we need to stay on track.

We felt empowered.

Shortly thereafter we retreated home from a nice family weekend in Northern Minnesota. Although we had no clue where we were at, we felt safe with our phone GPS nestled into the front cup holder. Following its direction, we made our way from the gravel roads the cabin sat on through the forest of trees back towards civilization.

However, as we drove, we realized that where the GPS placed our car did not match with the street signs. Apparently the system’s signal was not strong enough and we were officially lost.

Life can be like this too. We can feel as though our faith life isn’t strong enough to know which direction to take so we look to strong Christian friends to help us map out our course. They become our GPS in unknown territory, and, because we trust in them, we feel more confident.

But, even the most faithful of our friends and family are fallible. Despite their best intentions, they can lead us astray. And, in the midst of our clinging to them in an effort to feel more faith-filled or right in our decision making, we abandon the one true GPS that will NEVER disappoint – the Lord.

Philippians 4:13 reminds us, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

We serve a God that meets us where we are at, directs us without fail, and empowers us with everything we need to glorify Him as He created us to do. Through our Faith-Giver, we can trust that we truly have all we need to stay on track and prosper.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's Your Biggest Concern?

She’s in the room next to me coughing incessantly. It’s fairly safe to say we will be making a visit to the pediatrician’s office tomorrow.

As I sit outside of her room listening, my heart is breaking. I wish I could make the coughing stop. I wish that I could make the pain go away.

More so, I weep for the beauty in her heart.

Before praying tonight she said, “I’m scared something is wrong.”

“What, honey?” my husband asks.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to pray tomorrow.”

She is four.

Shock overcomes me. I’m. Afraid. I . Won’t. Be. Able. To. Pray. Tomorrow.

Her cough is so deep she’s shaking. Her eyes are a watery annoyance. She’s in pain. Sleep might prove difficult. And, being sick means that going to the playroom for a play date with her friends tomorrow is out of the question.

Yet her BIGGEST concern is that she will lose her voice and be unable to pray aloud to Jesus who “loves to hear our voice.”

I’m speechless.

How often when calamity of some kind enters my life is my first thought my ability to pray? As adults we worry about the details – if we can do the things we have planned, if we will meet financial ends, etc. – and the Person that offers peace and an answer all those questions is just one conversation away.

The words “And a little child will lead them” (from Isaiah 11:6) rise to the surface.

Our biggest concern is not in the details of our situation. Our first and most important concern should be talking with God about it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Choices: To Faint or To Leap in Life

When I was young, I had a vision problem. Each day I’d go to school and after a very short time I’d find myself headache ridden with a blurry world, so I’d shut my eyes and rub them, hoping the issue would go away.

After visiting a brilliant eye doctor, the problem was discovered, revealed to us, and we were provided a solution. With a new prescription in hand, my mother and I went to the store and selected frames so that I could better face the world.

As I entered adulthood, a new vision problem emerged – seeing the entire world around me.

I like to think that I am good at noticing the needs of people immediately in front of me. We volunteer in church. If there is a special cause that we feel passionate about, we donate as we able. And, I’m very involved in crisis pregnancy center ministry. When I see a need I respond.

But as a young adult who hadn’t travelled much, there was a lot that I couldn’t see. One weekend at Women of Faith changed that. Before me on the big arena screens were pictures of beautiful World Vision children, loved by the same God, but without the same access to safe water, medical care, education, and healthy food.

My heart broke. I knew these problems existed, but I’d never seen the faces or heard their stories firsthand before. On top of that, I was a new mother. My desire for these children to be healthy, succeed, and know the Lord as my own would intensified.

Because my husband and I make financial decisions together, I didn’t choose to sponsor a child while I was there. When I got home, I shared the story with him, and yet I also shared my concerns. After all, we’d made financial concessions when I opted to be a stay at home mother. Could we afford this? How big of a difference would it really make?

I wanted to and yet I became that stressed child from long ago that couldn’t see quite right. Immediately, I closed my eyes rubbing them, hoping the issue would just go away.

And in that moment we had a choice. We could be what Women of Faith contributor Jan Silvious refers to as a fainting goat and refuse to face the truth. Or, we could be leaping lambs that rejoice in the midst of duress because Christ is in the center of it, and with His guidance we CANNOT go wrong.

As we prayed, the Scripture “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31) came to our minds and we both felt confident that we were supposed to take the financial leap to sponsor.

Gathering around the computer, we looked up a child that shared the same birthday as our little girl. Big brown eyes, beautiful brown locks of hair, and a huge baby grin gazed back at us. Andrea was meant to be our child.

And what a blessing it has been. Through shared letters with her mother, we’ve learned more about her life and joys. We’ve been able to talk with our four year old about the differences in Andrea’s way of living (she farms and we do not) and similarities (they both like to play with siblings and draw pictures) and how we love the same God.

Since Andrea lives in an always warm climate she asked in last week’s letter about snow. You think this will awe her?!

Our lives were enriched because we chose to be the leaping lamb. In the face of an overwhelming earthly circumstance, we jumped with our arms outstretched at what God placed before us, trusting that He would provide.

I don’t know what you face today. But, I do know that life presents us with a series of circumstances and a multitude of choices every day. Some of them are brought upon us and some of them we choose. Some of them are distant and some of them are right before our eyes. Some feel “huge” and crush us from every side and others are seemingly “little” and insignificant but still affect the whole. Regardless, I pray that you will look to God so that you can face life with clear vision and jump for joy with His direction.

End note: August is National Water Quality Month and that is why I chose to focus on the World Vision decision. Thank you World Vision for the work you do to make water safer around the world.

Monday, August 9, 2010

If You Don't Like the Mirror's Reflection, Remember This...

She stands in front of the mirror slowly brushing her hair. With each new stroke her smile seems to grow. Although I stand at a distance, she catches me in her peripheral vision and happily professes, “I like my hair pretty, but even if I didn’t have it I’d still be pretty, mom, because I have a pretty smile and a pretty face.”

Aren’t you confident? I think to myself.

That is the way it should be. God immediately replies, piercing deep.

I am guilty.

The last time I studied myself that intensely in the mirror I was at Ann Taylor Loft. Between the great sale and my birthday coupon, everything seemed right for a sale. Quickly spotting a trendy yet simple enough for the everyday top, I removed one from the wall and headed for the dressing rooms.

Once I had it on, I turned around to face the mirror. Cue the negative self talk tape: This looked MUCH cuter on the hanger than it does on you. Perhaps melting a few more pounds through the midsection would help…and on and on.

This comes as no surprise. As soon as one enters peer culture, they are quickly tainted by our society’s standard for beauty (or cool in the case of the guys) – from having the right shoes, to correctly styling bangs, to choosing the right clothes, to having ripped muscles, to having the perfect waistline… whatever that is.

And, yet, these standards are transient (which I think we can all agree is a good thing. I mean, do we really want to revisit the days of feather bangs or pegged jeans?). Despite this, we tie emotional value into our ability to “measure up” to the people around us. A societal springboard for self-esteem becomes a changing unknown, leaving people chronically dissatisfied.

And then we read this, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I now that full well.” Psalm 139:14 Gulp.

Gone are the looks in the mirror. The way the shirt fits, having the perfect complexion, and making sure every hair in place is of no value. We are given a new frame of reference – the eye of our Creator.

God took great individual care in His craftsmanship of each us. When He knit us together in our mother’s womb, He made us PERFECT in His eyes. We were given the perfect hair type, body shape, and look to be who He wanted us to be. You and I, as different as we may look, could not be more beautiful.

Because my little girl is not old enough to have been emotionally skewed by society, she innocently trusts that she could not look better. And, every morning as I style her hair I say, “You are so beautiful, honey,” reinforcing that message. Of course she is confident.

And we all should be too.

You were not made for the world around you. You were made for God above, and He looks over you each morning just as I do my little girl saying YOU are beautiful.

So right now I pray that you would see the beauty that God sees in you. (For those that are parents, this is particularly critical because we pass our perception of beauty on to our children.)

And soak in this from Nichole Nordeman.

I cry every time I watch it.  True story.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We Are All Like Toddlers Sometimes

Have you ever

Stood at the edge of the unknown and been told to “JUMP?”

Start with this new writing project. I, your God, want you to.

But everything in you said, “Run the other way!”

Lord, I’m scared. What if it’s no good? Or, what if I spend a bunch of time on something and no one appreciates it?

And then your father took you in his arms

Listen, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

And knowing his faithful love for you, you relaxed.

Okay, Lord, I trust you.

I’ve been there this week. Have you? I guess we are all like toddlers sometimes.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Love Lessons: Purity is Possible (The DVDs No Home or Church Should be Without!)

How did “the talk” go for you? Did you hear “God says wait until you married” (end of discussion). Or, were your parents altogether silent but fervently praying that you would pick up on good church teaching? Perhaps you heard it was for “love” and walked away scarred by the differing definition of love in the eyes of the world compared to love as defined by Christ.

Let’s be honest. Relationships, sex, and abstinence can be difficult to discuss. Not only is there a fear of saying the wrong thing, but there is a definite lack of awareness about all of the risks that exist for our sons and daughters. However, as parents back away from uncomfortable conversations because they simply don’t know how to have them, the world is bombarding youth with sexual messages. “Family” television displays teenagers jumping into bed together, magazines push the boundaries of pornography, much of today’s music limits the body to a lust object, and schools are handing out condoms to students as young as the first grade.

At home and in the church, these important conversations MUST begin, and lucky for you Internationally known Pam Stenzel brings her expertise to parents, pastors, teachers, CPCs, and youth leaders to bridge the knowledge gap and invite conversation. Speaking to over a half million teens per year, Pam is engaging, funny, dynamic, and wise. And, she’ll give the best “sex talk” you will ever hear.

Created specifically so that anyone can correctly educate, Pam recently filmed Love Lessons: Purity is Possible. With nearly three hours of total run time, this series is divided into four parts. The first lesson, “The High Cost of Free Love,” addresses the physical consequences of premarital sex. While every young person thinks pregnancy is their biggest concern, Pam highlights the major STDs and shares mind-blowing but true statistics that most students never otherwise hear. In session two, “Will You Accept This Rose,” Pam debunks the lies of today’s culture about “love” and meaningful “connection” and challenges students to guard their hearts. Session three, “The Slow Fade” discusses how small concessions in values end in major compromise, and encourages students to be one with Christ rather than the world. Lastly, “The Four Chairs” pushes students to consider their relationship with Christ in all areas of life, aiming to mature their faith to the point that they will stand for what is right regardless of the cost.

To top it all off, Love Lessons contains an extremely user friendly leaders guide (that I wrote). With an intro to prepare you for each section, this CDrom has discussion starters, activity options, and handouts for each session to choose from and print off in the number you desire. Awesome.

As we close in on fall and you begin preparing your homeschooling ethics curriculum, religious education, confirmation, youth group, or faith based school programs/clubs for the fall, I’d strongly recommend choosing this product for your students 12 and up. It will take the pressure off of you while ensuring that you deliver critical information to the important teens in your life.

And, for those who don’t feel the need for a curriculum but want to get the abstinence message in their homes, you can get Pam’s incredible one hour talk, “Sex STILL Has a Pricetag.”

Do you want to help your teen(s) and their peers choose character? Do you want them to have a clear set of healthy boundaries? Here is your opportunity! So, sit down with the students you love and listen together. Incredible discussion is sure to follow!

Then, I'd encourage you and your teens to check her out on Facebook. She'll keep you up to date on her speaking whereabouts, share fun stuff from the news, and provide you with personal encouragement.
Pam Stenzel ensures that the Love Lessons your teens get are straight-forward and Godly. There is no one better.
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