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Wife, Mother, Pastor

I’m Hearing Voices

Voices. Everywhere.

I know you hear them too.

Turn on the TV to another talking head telling you their opinion about something or someone.  Login to Facebook to another blog about the dangers of donuts, why this politician is the Antichrist, why we’re good moms (even though they don’t know us), or why the Titanic is a conspiracy.

Voices saying why we need a pet (a rescue pet of course) because it lowers blood pressure. You also have that book idea you have been sitting on for years and all you need to do is sacrifice some more sleep so you can write just a page a night.  You also need to budget, create more wealth, run 5 miles a day, take time for your hobbies, take care of yourself- but not too much or you’ll become vain.  There’s another romance movie telling you your husband isn’t good enough, another magazine article reminding you of your son’s inabilities, and another co-worker traipsing through Europe.  More voices telling me what I don’t have and how my life doesn’t measure up.  And don’t forget to pray that hour a day along with bible reading, scripture memorization, and worship.  Oh, and are you resting?

Don’t get me wrong, most of these things are not bad. However, what I have discovered over the years is that I have allowed way too many voices into my head and in turn have put too much pressure upon myself.  All this pressure has made me self-conscious and too busy.

In January, our church did a 40 day corporate fast.  My fast?  You guessed it, VOICES.  After 8 am I shut off the car radio with no music or talk radio.  I cut back on my social media supply because all I heard all day long were the voices, and it was pushing out the main voice I needed to hear: God’s.

That forty days was one of the best prayer times I have ever had.  I drew closer to God and I felt I was hearing His voice more than anyone else’s.  However, I have gotten back into the rat race of busyness and listening to everyone else.   Here are some steps I am taking to de-clutter my brain so I may hear what God wants me to do and not what everyone else thinks I should be doing.

  • SOCIAL MEDIA. Not having Facebook in this day in age is like being a missionary to another country without knowing the language- it’s just how our culture communicates. However, you might need to cut back.  I went through my ‘likes’ and ‘unliked’ a bunch of pages that were just not necessary in my life. I also removed the app from my phone.  Having an app is way too easy to get into other people’s drama.  This way if I really need to get on, I’ll do it the long way.  Also, turn off all app notifications.  Is it necessary to know every time Kohl’s is having a sale?
  • RADIO AND TV: Just turn it off.  If you want to make sure you are up and up on the news, watch it in the morning and then turn it off. If you are like me I blast AM radio every time I’m in the car, and really, it’s just more voices.
  • SUBSCRIPTIONS: Clean out your subscriptions whether it is your e-mail list or your magazine list. Do you need one more magazine reminding you of the nice house you do not have? Do you really have time to read that blog that comes into your email every week or day?
  • KEEP YOUR FOCUS: I have not only cleaned out my email list of articles to now just areas I’m focusing on, but my books as well. Sure, that Andy Stanley book looks really awesome, but does it pertain to my life right now? I really could learn something from him, he’s awesome.  However, right now I’m not a senior pastor trying to rear my congregation.  My focus is children and families, so are my book choices reflecting this?
  • A SELECT FEW: Everyone has an opinion, and we need to hear those opinions in our line of work. Praise is awesome, but you can only grow to the amount of criticism you can handle. However, this does not mean that all criticism is from the Lord. If you don’t agree with the constructive criticism then take it to prayer and your select few that you trust to speak into your life.  You may be able to understand a situation better with your ‘wise counsel’.

PRAY WITH ME, SISTERS

“Dear Lord, forgive me where I have placed other voices above yours.  I ask God that you would show me areas in my life I need to de-clutter in order to make more room for you and to actually live my life. Show me the areas of busyness I need to move away from to not be so consumed by ‘stuff’ but so I can be more consumed by you.  In Jesus Name, AMEN.”

What are you doing right now to clear out some of the voices cluttering your brain?  I’d love to hear them!

PASTOR, YOU NEED A VACATION- PART 2

Pastor, you need a vacation. Feel like it’s too late to indulge in a vacation this summer?  Think again.  Even if it’s just a couple of days, do it for your family.  Or if it really is too late then schedule one at Christmas.  Whatever you have to do, make it a priority.  In last month’s blog You, Pastor Need a Vacation- 7 Simple Ways to Afford a Vacation I offered places that can actually get you out of your state in a way a pastor can afford.

Here are a few tips to help you create and save money for your getaway:

BONUSES- Do you receive a bonus from your board at Christmas?  Money from Pastor Appreciation?  Put a portion aside for a getaway. I know, there’s always something else to spend the money on, but how much longer do you have your kids at home?  Take advantage of this time as much as possible.

CONSIGN CLOTHES- Your kids growing out of their clothes?  Done with yours?  Consign them.  Thrift stores are easy, but if you can make money on them, do it. I have designated all my consign sales for our vacation spending money.  When I know where we are going, I make it a point to know what we will be doing there and use my consign money for that purpose.

FB RESALE SITES-  I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook resale sites, BUT I have made some money towards my vacation spending money.

SWITCH TO AN AIRLINE CREDIT CARD- I talk about this in my last post.  If you are using a credit card, make it work for you.  I try my best to use these points for flights, but things come up.  Next month I’m using my points to ‘pay’ for my hotel for my cousin’s wedding in Chicago.  I also used them to rent a car a few months back for a funeral.

Dave Ramsey would disagree with me on this topic, but I don’t use the card unless I have the money to pay it off right then.  You cannot earn the points unless they are paid for.  So, if you are not disciplined enough to use a credit card then don’t do it.  Skip this one.

PS- I use my church card points for gas cards.  This helps cover a majority of our gas on road trips.

GROUPON-  Do you know where you are going?  Type your destination into Groupon’s search bar and check out all the deals that pop up.  You can save anywhere from 20-60% on hotels, museums, and restaurants.

RESTAURANTS.COM- If you don’t mind being an adventurous foodie you can get gift cards to restaurants around your destination for as much as half price!  I tend to pack most of our food and if there is a kitchen I cook, but I like to eat a few meals out- because well, it’s a vacation!

 

I know many of you really feel like you can’t take time away.  However, please pray and reconsider. Your family needs time away from their home and church with you.  Whether you are married, single, have a family, you need time away to refresh.

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS

“Dear Lord, you see our family needs time away.  I pray that you would help us create opportunities to do this.  Help us find deals and bring us the provision to create family memories. Help us to be wise in our decision making and help us to draw closer together as a family.  In Jesus Name, AMEN.”

PASTOR, YOU NEED A VACATION

YOU pastor- you and your family need a vacation.

I know, I  know.  Work never slows, you don’t have enough money, excuse, excuse, excuse . . . However . . .

I recently took an empty-nester survey on social media.  I asked if they could have any ‘do-over’ with their kids, what would it be. The number one response was a family vacation.  Not getting them a specific toy or gadget. Not providing more for their college.  All the responses were wrapped around time, and mostly, the time of a vacation.

I used to feel guilty about spending the time and the money on family vacations.  I used to think, “This money could go to missions.”  or “I could be saving for a car.”

I finally got over it.  Why?  Because  it’s an investment.  We are creating memories and giving them experiences that can’t be found wrapped in a box under a tree.  We are creating memories outside of our home and church that doesn’t include mom being pulled in different directions or stuck on the phone at night.  And on top of it, drawing closer together as a family.

Don’t have money for a vacation?  Join the club!  However, I have done lots of research to make my travels possible. No, I can’t take my whole family to Hawaii or Costa Rica –yet.  BUT, we do the best we can to get out of our state so the kids can see and experience a world outside of their own.

Here are a few tips to help you figure out somewhere inexpensive:

TRAVEL HACKING– Travel hacking is a way to travel for very little money. There is too much to go into, so I suggest looking up these websites to learn more about how to do this.  It will take time, but it’s worth it.  Through travel hacking I flew my family to Florida one Christmas. All ‘paid’ for through airline miles I earned.  I’ve also ‘paid’ for hotels and car rentals this way.

CONDOS VS. HOTELS– I always go to vacationrentals.com when planning a trip.  Most of the time, you can find a deal that is not only cheaper to rent for the week vs. a hotel, it’s more spacious.  We used to get hotels off priceline.com (and I still do sometimes).  However, I have learned the hard way we cannot handle the five of us in one room for more than three nights.  A condo gives you a living room to gather together, and bedrooms to get away from each other. 🙂   You also save money on meals because you can buy groceries when you get to your destination (or bring them) and cook at ‘home.’

MOM AND POP IT– If you have to do a hotel, opt for a mom and pop place.  Yes, they’re more run down, but the prices are right and they might have the amenities you need that big chains do not. Last June we went to Niagara Falls.  The only hotels with outdoor pools were super cheap run down places.  So that’s where we stayed.  We didn’t want to spend our free time in a pool indoors, we wanted to be outside. The kids didn’t care that nothing matched and the TV wasn’t flat.  All they cared about was playing outside and being together.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

KICK IT WITH NATURE– Nature is always cheaper and more relaxing than a great big amusement park.  Your child will not die if they didn’t get to experience Cedar Point.  Once we got a beach condo on the Gulf.  Many asked if we were going to Disney. Nope.  We camped our hinnies on the beach everyday, and swam the pool at night. Not only did we not have the exhaustion of the hustle and bustle of a big park, we relaxed every day while NOT spending money. My kids still talk about that trip.

NATIONAL PARKS– Speaking of nature, National Parks are the way to go.  Nothing says God is amazing like kayaking down the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon, a super cool 150 foot geyser in Yellowstone, or starfish in the tide pools at Olympic.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

There’s plenty to explore at each park with only having to pay the entry fee, (a couple don’t even charge).  Do you have a fourth grader?  Even better! Fourth graders get a free pass for them and their whole carload. It’s part of their Every Kid in a Park program. We’ve been taking advantage of this since we live right by Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can even camp for an even cheaper, more roughin’ it experience (not us, I rented a condo for when we head to the Smokies).

EXPLORE A BIG CITY– A couple years ago I went by myself to London for a weekend (yes, a weekend). I was able to get a free ticket with my airline miles (I did pay some taxes), I spent two days eating street food from vendors, rode the subway (the tube), and I put over 50,000 steps on my fitbit. London has so much to see and so much history that I didn’t need to spend money on tourist attractions. I spent $450 that weekend, and I only spent that much because I brought back so many souvenirs. Washington DC is another great place because you learn about history, and all the museums are FREE. We even stayed at an inexpensive hotel that shuttled us to the subway for free.

GO OFF SEASON– I know, we’re talking about taking a vacation this summer, BUT there are some places you can go that summer is their off season. You just have to do a little research.

Christmas vacation is a great off season time for southern states before January 1st. Prices skyrocket after this for all the snowbirds headed south for winter.

Stay tuned next time for part two, to talk about how to both create and save money so you can take your family on vacation!

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS

“Lord, you see we need to spend time together as a family.  It can prove to be difficult with our ministry life style.  I pray that you would open the doors of opportunity to create an inexpensive vacation for our family.  Draw us closer together and draw us closer to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Why am I Credentialed?

“What am I credentialed for?”

Have you ever asked yourself this question in the midst of motherhood?

I had the privilege to preach the Mother’s Day service this month.  It was called Feminine Empowerment-the difference between feminine and feminism. I had been so nervous for this weekend. After the three services were done, I knew God had shown up. Though I felt like it was completely unorganized and jumbled, I still felt God’s anointing.  I had many ladies afterwards share that it was one of the best Mother’s Day services they’d ever been to.

I had to ask myself, what does this all mean?  I know that I’m in this place today for a purpose.  Yes, I get to have a career and that’s awesome.  I get to preach now and then, I get to lead, I get to earn money for our family.  However, it is still hard at times because I want to move forward, I want to do bigger things.  I must remind myself that the mommying I am doing is also very big.  It doesn’t feel like it today as I see my house a mess after just cleaning it yesterday.  It doesn’t feel like it since my almost four-year-old son is still not potty trained.  And as I write this my boys are fighting in the background over Legos.

The Dixie Chicks song, Cowboy Take Me Away keeps playing in my head.  I just want to be swept away on an adventure. But what the Dixie Chicks song doesn’t tell you is that when you get swept away by your cowboy, life still happens. Dishes need to be done, laundry piles up, kids crawl all over you and it seems there isn’t any quiet.

So again, as I look back on the weekend, and in the midst of all the ladies’ responses, I have to ask myself, “What does this all mean?”  I’m where I am supposed be now, but with the responses, with the anointing, I just wonder what the future holds.

Lately I feel as if God is telling me He wants me to dream.  I’m scared to dream.  He has reminded me over and over the vision he gave me when I was 20 in a little church service in Palenbang, Indonesia.  In the vision, I was on a big black stage, microphone in hand, preaching.  This excites me, but I hold back just in case it’s not what I think it is.

“Do you put a Christmas wreath on your door in July?” 

This was a questioned posed to a Facebook friend of mine, Ruthie when she was like you and me.  A young mom, raising her babies, knowing she had a call to ministry on her life, credentialed, filling the pulpit once in awhile, yet watching others around her live out the dream she had.

“No, that would look really stupid,”  she said.

“It’s so important to recognize what is best for each season in our lives. Christmas wreaths in July just don’t work because they’re out of their season. They make everything just a little bit uncomfortable.  When they’re in season, they’re beautiful, but when they’re out of season it just feels a little bit off  . . . Christmas wreaths have to wait their turn.  And when it is their turn they are going to make everything beautiful. But there are certain times in the life of a Christmas wreath where it gets put away into a box in a dark closet when it is not doing and shining for what it was meant for.”

Ruthie, now with grown babies, gets to live her ministry dreams. All while enjoying grandbabies- you know, the reward God gives you for not killing your own kids (so I’ve heard).

Mother’s Day makes me think that I was created for more than just preaching once or twice a year.  But for now, I’m where I’m supposed to be.  Cuddling my kids, sweeping up Legos and trying not to swear- because they’ll all be gone one day. I’m where I’m supposed to be doing ministry “part-time”, watching and encouraging others to live out their dreams, filling a pulpit a couple times a year- because one day the house will be quiet, and I will have time to make those dreams into reality.

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS

“Lord, I understand there are seasons and it won’t always be this way.  There won’t always be diapers and hormonal teenagers.  I know that one day the Christmas wreath will be taken out of the closet and placed on the door in its due season. Open those doors of opportunity for me now to grow in you and in my gifting.  Help me where I feel discouraged in my season, and help fill those gaps. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Love you, ladies!

8 THINGS YOUR CHILDREN’S PASTOR CAN’T TELL YOU- but wish they could

Normally I write strictly to women in ministry. However, I am convinced that Children’s Ministry and Family/Parent Ministry is one of the most important ministries in the church.

I wanted to know more of what was going on inside a Children’s Pastor’s head. I reached out to a large number of CPs on social media and the response was enormous!  They are trying, but here are a few things they’d like to tell you, but feel they can’t.

“We’re tired.”  Why?  Because CPs are normal people just like everyone else.  Having the word ‘pastor’ in front of your name doesn’t mean possessing some magic super powers.  We are human and we mess up.  If there is a problem, please do not talk about us behind our backs (especially in front of your children) but approach us.

“You’re too busy, and so are we.”  The number one concern from those CPs I reached out to was busyness. Especially sports.  No one seems to be able to serve or be discipled due to sports. Pastors are not against sports and extracurricular activities, our kids do them too. However, it seems that when something better comes along, commitments get broken and ministry goes out the window. The Kingdom of God is suffering because everyone is so ‘busy.’  In turn, pastors are burning out because they have to fill the gaps.

You are the number one influence in your child’s life and we want to help you.  If you need help in how to best marginalize your time, ask! We love helping families, not just kids.

“Children’s ministry isn’t childcare.”  Even in the nursery, volunteers are focused on not only making sure your child gains knowledge of God’s Word, but that they have an encounter with the Lord too!  I know this goes against popular belief, but pastors don’t only work Sundays.  It takes CPs weeks, months and years to prep for lessons, retreats, Christmas programs, Easter services, and discipleship.

“Ask before donating your ‘treasures.'”  Oops!  Are we allowed to say that?

When someone out grows a material item in their home, their first thought is, “I know, kids church can use this!” Please ask first. I find stuff all the time dumped in our kids area because a good hearted person wanted to help. Once I had a donation of blocks.  Harmless, right?  Until my two-year-old opened the package and the smell of cigarette smoke poured out.  So . . . yeah, ask first.

“One piece of GMO candy a week will not hurt.”  I’m a mom too, I get wanting to make sure your child is/stays healthy. Once I had a parent tell her child to give me back the (very small) piece of candy she earned because their family didn’t eat candy.  I was heartbroken.  Not for the rejection of my gift (ok, kinda), but for the child. You could see the brokenness in their eyes.   I understand not having a halloween sack of candy being brought home every Sunday, but candy is a child’s love language.  Please allow us (and them) this small token of fun. If you are still not ok with candy (or the CP really does give out too much), approach them with these Yummy Earth candies.  They have suckers, hard candies, and jelly beans. Our kids church doesn’t give out candy often, but when we do, these are parent approved alternatives.  They taste AWESOME.  If they are too expensive for your small church’s budget, maybe offer to purchase some for them.

“Please stop asking your kids if they had fun when you pick them up from service.”  Do we want them to have fun?  Of course!  But remember, we are fighting against an entertainment culture.  Children’s churches are trying the best they can to be interactive, engaging, all while hoping they have an encounter with Jesus. Children’s Pastors are up against music, social media, TV, ipods, ipads, gaming systems, and so on.  How can we complete? We can’t.  The more screen time a child has, the more ‘stuff’ they have, the less ‘fun’ church is.  Please help by cutting back on screen time.  Instead of asking if church was fun, ask what God taught them.

“We love you and your kids!”  All pastors have a heart’s desire is to see your child grow into a full functioning adult. Children’s Pastors are not just thinking about your child this week.  They are thinking about what they want them to be like 10-15 years from now.  That’s why they do what they do, and teach what they teach.  To help them later as adults.  And parents can’t do it alone, that’s what’s so great about kids church.  Someone other than mom and dad reiterating what is taught at home.

The hope is that relationships will be built with your child, so when you are going through the tough middle school and teen years, you have other adults who have your back.  When my daughter turns 16 and there is a boy who catches her eye, I hope she will trust me enough to talk to me.  However, that might not happen.  How awesome will it be that she has relationships built with our kids ministers from a young age that she can confide in.  Ministers that I trust that can help lead her in the right direction.  Kids will go somewhere to talk to someone- either inside the church, or outside. 

Thank you for taking the time to understand a Children’s Pastor’s world for just a few minutes.  You may never walk in a CP’s shoes, but thank you for trying them on.  Just remember that all Children’s Pastor’s want to serve you as the parent and see your child grow into a full functioning adult that is on fire for Jesus.

We love you!

 

 

 

 

 

The Anti-Feminist Loving the Feminist

Before you stone me for saying I’m not a feminist . . .

Unless you’ve been living in a hole, there have been a lot of protests in the news lately.  Mainly focused on the Million Women’s March (I think . . .).  I roll my eyes because we as American women have so many rights it’s crazy.  I listen to women yelling cuss words and think, “Is this how we get what we want anymore?  Temper tantrums?”  I listened to Madonna share that these protests were about love, then a few minutes later tell those that don’t agree, “F*** you!”

At first I was angry.  How hypocritical . . .

But then I was saddened as I remembered Jesus’ words: They are blind.  They have no idea how deceived they are. I can’t expect them to understand they’re stepping on our feet when they can’t see. These women are screaming for love but are so blinded by Satan’s deception and bitterness that they don’t know what love really is or what it looks like.

We as Christians know Jesus is the one who gives us our rights and validation, not the government, not man.  He approached the woman at the well that no one else would talk to, saved a woman from stoning, and healed women that no one would touch.  Women were the ones who discovered His empty grave and were the first to spread the Gospel.

In God’s image He made us male and female.  When Adam and Eve were created, He said it was VERY good because we’re better together.

As I prayed about my small voice in this huge world, I wondered if I should voice anything.  My opinions, facts, etc. This is between you and the Lord, but for me at this moment, Silence is Golden.  I feel that if this generation of protesters want love, that is what they should get. Could you imagine a surge of evangelicals loving on those that are lost? Oh the confusion that would happen!  It would be amazing to see their faces when confronted with those bestowing kindness and listening ears.

I am still praying as to how to accomplish this, but one thing is for certain- my opinion is white noise.  My memes will only cause anger and harden hearts towards the Gospel.  My facts will not change anyone’s mind, just make them more bitter.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is what will enhance the Kingdom.  Love is what will change the hearts of men (and women).

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS:

“Lord, thank you for making me a woman.  You are the one who opens doors for me. It is because of YOU I have freedom and validation.  I pray that through all the noise of the media, politics, fake news, and social media that you will show me how to truly love people.  Help me to stand up for truth, but show kindness to my fellow men and women, because it’s your kindness that leads us to repentance. Use me in a mighty way this season in our country’s history.  And help me to keep praying for those that are serving the White House, whether I agree with them or not. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I’d love your opinion and ideas.  How do you think we should show love to these women?

Recommended Reading for 2017

As we say goodbye to 2016 (and George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds . . .) it is at this time we start to ponder the following year.  Have you thought about how you will grow in 2017?  One of my biggest growth spurts comes from books. Books help us become more well rounded, give us understanding and expand our knowledge in different areas of ministry. Here are some that I highly recommend for your 2017 reading list:

 

EPIDEMIC- How Teen Sex is Killing Our Kids: An older book that is relevant in our day.  Dr. Meg Meeker lays out the dangers of teen sex and how to appropriately help our kids navigate through our sex driven culture.

GOOD PICTURE BAD PICTURES- Every parent, pastor, and child need to read this.  A book made for children as young as 7 to help them understand what pornography is and why it is dangerous.

THE FLIPSIDE OF FEMINISM- What Conservative Women Know and Men Can’t Say: One of the best books I’ve ever read.  I knew I wasn’t a feminist, but I couldn’t articulate why.  These ladies give you the scoop on feminist history and how it has damaged our society today.

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE-  Because who doesn’t want to be better with people while working in ministry?  Enough said.

WHAT HE MUST BE IF HE WANTS TO MARRY MY DAUGHTER- A great book that helps parents on the importance of marriage in our society as well has the importance of a parent’s role.

HOW TO BEAT THE COLLEGE DEBT TRAP- Getting a Degree without Going Broke:  This book by Alex Chediak, is written for teens about ready to embark on the road to college.  However, this is a must read for every pastor and parent.  It is loaded with information high schools, colleges, and banks are not telling you.

ITS YOUR KID NOT A GERBIL- Creating a Happier and Less-Stressed Home:  Our lives are way too busy.  God did not design our lives to be this crazy.  We have no time for Him, and we certainly have no time with our family. Psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman does it again with his last born of the family humor, helping us learn to slow our kids down.

THE PRICE OF PRIVILEGE-  This is a great book explaining the damage affluence has done to our children and culture.  Affluence is not bad, it only becomes bad when do not glorify our God with our abundance.

WITHOUT RIVAL- Lisa Bevere knows women well.  Here she digs right into the roots of our insecurities and how we can see ourselves as God sees us.

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS:

“Lord, I thank you for growth.  I thank you ahead of time for the growth that will happen in me in 2017.  Show me areas of my life that I can best help my spouse, my children, and my ministry.  In Jesus Name, AMEN.”

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