Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Victoria's Secret, Hollywood, & Our Jesus

I entered Holy Week with a plan for a quiet, reverent post. I wanted to escape the distractions of this world and focus solely on my nail-pierced Savior wearing a crown of thorns for me…for you. Quite honestly, I struggled how, if at all, any words could be right on this page.

And then, of course, media had to blow up with news of Victoria’s Secrets new “Bright Young Things” slogan, a racy addition to the PINK line that uses words like “Wild,” “Call me,” and more on their underwear. Backlash was immediate with parents everywhere fearing this new line was a direct attempt to entice tween buyers into their store, something Victoria’s Secret denies.

On the newsstand Seventeen magazine is not at all denying promotion of impure messages to tween and teen girls. Ashley Benson is on the cover promoting her new movie “Spring Breakers”. Unfamiliar with the plot, I googled the title and the images and descriptions that popped up on my screen made me want to wash my eyes out with soap. Sharing the screen with two former Disney stars, their work is not so innocent anymore. Drugs, nudity, and, (grab the puke bucket) even a threesome, is a part of this film. To cap it off, I read that Vanessa Hudgens used its message as a springboard for her new vocal track “$$$ex.” Young fans everywhere will follow their favorite stars into dangerous territory with unhealthy seeds planted in their mind.

Admittedly, the news frustrated me. These are not things that a Christian purity author with books for teens on healthy relationships and the influence of media can ignore.

But how Lord, and why? Why now?

There is no better time for this news to hit. THIS is why I died.

On Sunday evening my husband and I were watching “The Bible.” I was struck by the scene between Jesus and Peter and tweeted, “I can’t imagine Jesus hugging me and saying I’d deny Him and yet in reality it is our story every day. Thank you, Lord, for the cross.”

We claim relationship with Jesus as individuals. Each day He wraps His arms of perfect love around us yet we let our eyes wander and focus in on the imperfect loves of the world. For us as mothers, this might look like financial success, the perfect image, etc. For our girls, faltering could happen in relationships. They want to feel valuable and pursued...

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Salute to Teachers

The first time we walked into her room she sunk down to meet Grace eye to eye, something I’ve done a million times, but in my daughter’s eye was a sparkle I don’t always see. It was time for a new academic year and together they would explore new ideas, magical in the eyes of youth.

During the first few days of class Mrs. D would pull out her guitar and jump start Grace’s day in an exciting way. She’d share about her family trip to Hawaii, love for animals, and that her favorite movie was “Big Miracle.” Needless to say, it came as no surprise when that was the request for family movie night the following Friday.

The tootsie rolls in her classroom are infamous. The candy she has long used to reward behavior and kindness are prized possessions and quickly replaced what was once known as “bank candy” with trophy status, worthy of guarding with one’s life. Grace earned some and beamed with pride.

In very little time, Mrs. D gained her love.

Because of that, all Mrs. D’s ideas became exciting. Using photo ideas to manipulate math concepts were taught to me at home. As I read to Grace my vocal inflection was corrected based on punctuation. Story details were graphed “just for fun.”

And, as I watched her reflect this appreciation, faces of my own teachers past surfaced in my head. Mrs. Sonnenfeld first rewarded me with red vines and to this day they make my sweet tooth happy. Mr. Pickard inspired a tenacious spirit to persevere through academic complexity. Mrs. (Waltner) Ferguson was the face of compassion in the midst of a school tragedy. Mrs. Connor taught me about a "writing heartbeat" and, if I had to attribute my authorship success to one teacher, it would be her. Mrs. Francis became a regular part of my early marriage conversation when my husband promised forever to a new bride completely fanatical about entering every debit in the check register on the day of purchase. Blame it on my sixth grade bank book. You’ve gotta keep that baby balanced. :)

Teachers become a part of our tapestry.

Tonight in our city a Teacher of the Year will be named. Mrs. D will sit amongst the nominees. I’m thankful she is affirmed in knowing her wonderful work is seen.

Last year I didn’t know the reward existed so I couldn’t put her special kindergarten teacher on the list. Yet, personal reflection reminds me that Hannah’s preschool teacher isn’t even eligible and none of the teachers I named above were ever (to my knowledge) on the list but what they did in my life can’t be contained in a certificate or cash prize.

Teachers help shape who we become.

It is amongst the most noble of professions. Most definitely a calling, I now see teaching from the vantage point of a parent. It requires extreme patience, creativity, persistence to infuse their own unique, exciting flare with each individual student all the while meeting across the board standards, awareness of family situations, a 24/7 call, and a heart big enough to claim kids that aren’t of their own biology.

And that special gift is what makes my kids’ eyes dance with excitement every time they set foot in the classroom and still continues to bring a smile to my face when I am blessed to encounter teachers past.

Inspiring teachers enter our hearts but never leave us.

They help dreams take flight and strengthen our homes.
Don’t leave knowing that up to an award.
Share it with the teacher(s) you love today.
Reminder: Don't forget to enter my bible verse necklace giveaway before 5/20/13.  You can have your favorite verse made into a custom pendant.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

"I Let My Light Shine By..." Jar {A DIY Craft to Bring Out the Best in Your Kids}

With Easter right around the corner I think we all have our Lord's sacrifice fresh on our minds.

He chose a painful death because He loved you and I, but how does that affect our living?

Clearly we're given the gift of grace.  Knowing we wouldn't do it right on our own Jesus took all our wrong onto himself so that we could remain right with God.

And, because of that intense, selfless love we should desire to live an intense, selfless life for Him.

Obviously I can't force my kids to live this way, but we do make an intentional effort to talk with them about it.  We remind them that we are to love others like Jesus does.  We are to use our hands and feet for helping not hurting.  We are suppose to use our words to encourage others not break their spirit. 

We teach them that they can draw others to Jesus' love when they show His light to the world.

For the most part, they get it and for that I am thankful.  However, my house isn't perfect and these long winter months stuck indoors are trying on everyone's patience so a little added incentive to bring out our best is a bonus.

Welcome the DIY "I Let My Light Shine By..." jar.


I take no credit for this.  It all belongs to Hannah's incredible preschool teachers who had the children make things for a craft fair to benefit the school and this was one of them.

When I went to look at all the sweet gifts the children made this was the FIRST one that Hannah put her hands on.

"We need this mom."

And it turns out she was right.

Having this simple little jar sitting on the counter has served as a visual reminder to the girls that their life is meant to reflect the Lord's love.  They are constantly doing things to let their light shine and then they vocalize it, which I am fine with because they are young and being reminded about the nice things we can do is a great way to sear it into their little brains.  :)

When they let their light shine, they get to fill out the little paper form and drop it in the jar.  We are watching the jar fill quickly with joy.  They are going out of their way to do more acts of kindness as well as doing many of the same that they've always done but are reminded in the new way why it is so important.  And we've had so. many. smiles!

Through my DIY resurrection eggs we're teaching the Easter story, but this "I Let My Light Shine By" jar is helping the kids live out that risen love.  If you have little ones, I encourage you to try it.  It might even be fun for families with older kids, as we're never to old to focus in on this important idea and inspire one another.  Then, on Easter you could open up the jar as a family and read how you've been His hands and feet in the midst of your everyday world.  It's sure to bless you.  :)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making "QUINNcidence" A God Incidence

I don't know them.  Our only connect is a mutual friend who happened to be at my house, stuck by the sudden, unexpected loss of her co-worker's only baby, Quinn.  My mama heart broke right along with hers. 

"Tim and Ali are such great people," she said, "It's just so sad."

The unthinkable changed the look of their family forever.

I don't know her well.  Our only connect was a shared space, a space that seemed to lack enough oxygen as she shared the sudden, unexpected loss of her own.  And, in a different way, my mama heart broke right along with hers.

The unthinkable changed the look of her family forever.

I can't begin to grasp their pain, but the Lord, whom they both know, can.

After my friend left my home, I added this Tim and Ali to my nightly prayers and started reading their blog - a striking balance of honest pain dancing with heartfelt hope found in the One who promises to reunite them again.

It is with faith they rise to face each day.  It is with undying love that they are choosing to celebrate what would've been her first birthday today on random acts of kindness rather than they balloons, streamers, and gifts they once dreamed of.

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today it is in honor of Quinn and in the spirit of our shared faith that I'm choosing to join in Tim and Ali's invitation to bless another.  They write of their belief helping them endure, and I'm going to write out that Word for the young woman facing her mountain. 

Each week I'll share a Scripture verse with her as encouragement


{I'm starting with Isaiah of my very favorite verses.}

Because we know it is only He that can move mountains.

We do not walk alone.  We walk in His presence, with the added benefit of community.

How can you bless someone today?

Any way is a great way.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Perfect Easter Gift for Your T(w)een Girl

Easter is fast approaching and with it comes an onslaught of memories. 

In our church the opening song is always "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."  Families carry flowers down the center aisle behind a large, commanding cross that demands the eye's attention.  The tympani and brass instruments in combination with a band and thousands of joyful voices fill the space with hope.  Little kids dance by their parents, feeling the unique exultation found on this day alone.

Growing up my dad was a big fan of this processional and whenever I looked over towards him I would see honest tears in his eyes.  And, because he was so moved by it, it often meant staying for the beginning of another service.  Not always super cool in the eyes of a young one but a gift as I look back on it today.

When I buried my father during my college years I was overwhelmed with sadness.  Life as I knew it looked different, but my hope could not be buried because my father left a legacy of passion for the Easter service cross.

Today I anticipate the celebration because it is because of that cross that I will one day see my dad again.  And, it is because of our Jesus who has overcome the darkness that death doesn't get the last word.  He weaves together new hope into our story and brings people into our lives that never replace but always prompt a healthy beginning and new love.

We all need this hope found in the Easter cross because we will all face trails and tribulations.  We will all have question how to handle scenarios and feel sucker punched by life, and it is whether we follow human emotion or focus on Truth that will determine our outcome.

No where in life is this question of identity, significance, and hope needed more than in the t(w)een years when students are trying to figure out who they are and live in the Light of Christ despite the pressures of darkness and that is why I am super excited to tell you that SISTERHOOD magazine - that I just recently wrote about - is offering $2 off their print subscriptions if you order by March 13, 2013 using the code EASTER.

As one who was taught the power of Easter, I'm thankful for memories of my dad and all the efforts both of my parents made to show me the awesomeness that comes in a life lived out of the Easter promise.  It transforms.  Hope is born.  And, the desire to live for Him is amplified a million fold.

So if you are trying to figure out what to give the girl you love this Easter, take it from a girl who watched in her young years and appreciates it in her mature ones and share the Easter promise.  Show them your real love for the cross and give them a subscription to a magazine that will reinforce the hope of Christ as it relates to their lived experience year round.  The fruits of this tiny investment will last a lifetime.

And, if you are looking for a rock star mission trip for your girl, consider their Never The Same experience in Peru this summer.  My great friend and co-author, Pam Stenzel, will be there while I'm at home raising my three little future SISTERHOOD subscribers. :)

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