Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Be-attitudes for Building Healthy Friendships

Friendships-count on me by Ares Nyguen
Flickr.com_photos/rsnguyen/8884956545_CC BY-ND 2.0
"Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace. We have promised by the Lord that we will be friends...'" 1 Samuel 20:42a (ICB)

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Helping our children build healthy friendships amidst the growing presence of social media can be challenging, especially children of Gen Y parents (born after 1981- early 2000's). According to a recent devotion I read, Gen Y-ers average 6 1/2 hours of daily Facebook usage. While their profiles brag of large "friend" totals, they rarely spend face-to-face time with their "friends".

Let's face it, virtual friendships are easier than "real" ones, but God calls us to true friendship. Consider God's relationship with Moses--the only man to see God. The Bible says, The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend, (Exodus 33:11). 

So, exactly how do we help our children (and ourselves) build real, face-to-face, healthy friendships? Here's my be-attitudes for building healthy friendships:
  • Be present. Limit social media especially when on a play date, family event, or extra curricular activity. Practice being present.  Rather than posing and posting every moment on social media, just live it and enjoy the moment. How many times do we miss the sheer joy of an event because someone wants us to "pose" for the camera.
  • Be friendly. Smile and say hello first rather than waiting for someone else to make the first move. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13) by opening your home to your children's friends and their parents. What better way to make new friends and keep an eye on your kids at the same time?
  • Be inclusive. School yard cliques happen, like it or not. Break out of the pack and befriend someone new, different, outcast, or lonely. When you're a longstanding community member, it's easy for both parents and children to stay within the familiar friendship circle. However, there's always a new family or classmate looking for friendship. Pursue them and include them.
  • Be wise. While teaching our children to be inclusive, we also must balance that with a dose of wisdom. If a new friend invites your child to their home for a play date, birthday party, etc., make sure the home is a safe place. If its a party, ask if you might accompany your child or check with other parents whose children might attend. If it's a play date, request it be at your home (see "be friendly" above). Once they arrive, invite the parent in for a cup of coffee or just make small talk at the front door while your children go off to play so you might get to know them better. I've also been known to do a drive-by the day before to check out their neighborhood, if I was unfamiliar, just to make sure it was a safe place to let my child play. Instruct your child to trust their gut. If they feel uncomfortable in the friend's home for whatever reason, call for a ride home immediately.
  • Be loyal. No gossiping allowed! Like Jonathan and David, we all need someone who's "got your back" and will stick up for us through good and bad times. If we call ourselves a friend, then we offer our loyalty in their presence and absence. 
  • Be forgiving. People will disappoint us, but the Bible teaches us that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). What a great lesson to learn early. No one is perfect and we will hurt one another's feelings, even if we love each other. Forgiveness is the key to building healthy, long-lasting relationships.
What would you add to the list? How do you foster healthy friendships in your home?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Awaiting the Groom




The Bride by Katharine Shilcut
flickr.com_/photos/kshilcutt/3368836744
CC BY ND 2.0
"The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry went out 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' " Matthew 25: 5-6


Outside my second floor living room door there was a small, steep staircase that led me to the mostly empty attic. Smelling of cold, dry wood in winter I'd make my way up there to fill the time with great imaginings until my sisters came home from school or until my mother called me down for supper.

In one corner close to the stairway laid an old black trunk with a rounded cover and a big brass latch in front quite resembling a pirates' chest. With my two, tiny, white hands I'd carefully lift that latch and open the cover to reveal the girly treasures inside: Mom's old dresses, her beige tortoise shell high heeled shoes and sheer, white, summer curtains! Treasures indeed to a little girl who loved to play dress up and especially loved to play The Bride! My wardrobe was complete when I found some plastic flowers in a box nearby marked, "Christmas."

I'd place my right hand on the stair rail to balance myself as I lifted feet into Mom's shoes one at a time. With that accomplished I'd dig deep into the pocket of my play dress to find the bobby pins I'd stashed for the veil. Then pinning it atop my blonde crown I'd grab the plastic, Christmas bouquet and start to hum "Here Comes The Bride." One shaky foot in front of the other I'd slowly clip-clop the entire length of the attic floor to where I dreamed my groom was waiting, wondering who it would really be someday.

That mystery has been solved. I've been married thirty-two years to a wonderful man and now my own children are married ... but I'm still getting ready for my Groom.

Today, those of us who follow Jesus are considered his bride. Brides are always thinking about their groom; always waiting for his voice to say, "I'm here. I'm ready. Today's the day! Join me at the altar, won't you?" 

What a heart-pounding day of excitement it is on our wedding day! Do we think that way of Jesus coming for us? Are we as excited about our groom, Jesus as we are about our earthly groom or are we drowsy from waiting? 

It's a challenge to wait but the wedding day is so worth it!

If you joined me here from {re}fresh, welcome!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

6 things Alice Through the Looking Glass teaches us (about life and family)

Alice through the looking glass by Sami Davis Dog
Flickr.com_4243505603_c52b2c9890_CC BY-ND 2.0
I break the rules in movie theaters quite often. Like, I tuck my own healthy snacks inside my purse in order to avoid my weight gain inducing, popcorn, cheesy tortilla and soft drink cravings. But mostly, you'll find that I'll pull our my iPhone and jot down life changing tidbits hidden within a movie's dialogue on my Notes app that strike a chord. 

That said, here's the 6 things Alice Through the Looking Glass teaches us about life and family:

1. "Very important thing, a family. You only get one,” said the Mad Hatter.  Living within our families isn't always easy. I know growing up in mine wasn't easy. One day we were the perfect, twice-on Sunday and once on Wednesday church-going family. The next day, we were the newest broken, absent-father, lock-key-kid, mother-working divorced and church-shunned family in the pews. No matter how I wished my family were whole again, or wished I could live in a different family, I soon realized you only get one. You only get one family and I wanted my whole one back. 

While my prayers were eventually answered, (unique among divorced families), we weren't the same. We were still a broken family striving to erase the mistakes of my father's indiscretions.  But, living through those broken and mending years reinforced in me was that we only do get one family and I wanted mine to work.  I wanted a Godly husband and family characterized by God-centeredness, unconditional love, loyalty, fidelity, honesty, transparency, and forgiveness toward one another and our “neighbors.”

2. "If you don't go back and reconcile, you'll be sorry...You're family will be lost and you won't be able to do anything about it, " said Alice to the Mad Hatter. While my parents' reconciliation was my heart's greatest desire, it took me thirty years to work through the heartache and pain of an absent father. Unforgiveness became my secret defense weapon—holding him at arm’s length protected me from further pain. Unfortunately, I carried every relationship I had at arm’s length, hoping to protect myself from their possible rejection and abandonment as well.

3. "Forgive me?" asked the White Queen. "That's all I ever wanted," replied her sister, the Queen of Hearts. In the movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass, we learn the back story of why the Queen of Hearts harbors so much anger. You see, everyone has a back story which doesn’t dismiss their misbehavior, but it sure explains a lot. Once I learned my father’s back story and God helped me see my father through His eyes, (how God created him, how nothing could stop God from loving and forgiving him)   then all my excuses to withhold forgiveness fell away. How could I not offer my father what Jesus so freely offered me? Freely offers the world?

4. "You cannot change the past but I dare say, you might learn from it," explained Time. No, we cannot change the past, even when we offer forgiveness. We don't own a chronosphere to travel back in time to make things right, like Alice did. But, we can move forward, learning the lessons from our past and with God's help, (always with God's help) we can forge a better future. 

5. "To do the impossible, you must believe it is possible," declared Alice.  Forgiving someone who has wronged you and hurt you deeply, may seem incredibly impossible to you right now. I get that. Although God confronted me about my unforgiveness, it took me over thirty years of working through my woundedness before I finally asked God for the impossible—the courage to face my father and offer him forgiveness and ask forgiveness of him.


6. "Everyone parts with everything, eventually," explained Time.  While God created all things for his pleasure, including and especially family, sin entered the world through the first family of creation, and therefore, we all pass away...eventually. My father suffered a long good-bye. In some ways, I'd never want to relive that again and yet, it was the sweetest good-bye I've ever experienced. During his last months of life, God reconciled all the stolen years. We talked about the past and said all those important, unregrettable last words to one another. Best of all, God taught me how to be a good daughter to him; how to love and care for him unconditionally, until his very last breath.

Do any of these statements challenge you today? What are some great life lessons you've learned from stories or a movie recently?

If you joined us from the Christian Children's Authors blog today, thank you! Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Do You See a Sparkle?

Reflected Stone Rainbow by pshab
flickr.com_photos/pshab/1343896490_572409f3a6.z.jpg

"...brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel 1: 27b-28a

If you're joining me from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

"When you look at me," Molly Mahoney asks, "What do you see? Do you see a sparkle...like something reflective of something bigger that's trying to get out?"

This is one of the best lines in one of my favorite family movies, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," (2008). It's one the most significant questions we can ask ourselves as followers of Christ. Even as parents and grandchildren, do we seek, encourage and call out their sparkle?

In the movie, Mahoney is the loyal manager of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, a magical toy store where everything comes to life. Most alive and happy when she's working, Mahoney relishes in Mr. Magorium's child-like faith. Mr. Magorium recognizes her "sparkle" and upon his retirement, transfers ownership of the toy store to Mahoney. But she feels completely inadequate, noting her lack of magic (the sparkle) that makes the Wonder Emporium...well, magical. Mahoney further reasons that she just can't be a kid anymore and therefore, opts to sell the store even if it means her unhappiness and that of all the children.

Isn't that how we act too? I mean here we stand, created in God's image, meant to reflect everything about Him including His glory and yet, we feel so inadequate most of the time. We don't see the sparkle, the reflection of His greatness in us. And as parents or grandparents, do we look for that sparkle in our children/grandchildren and encourage it's appearance?

God placed a desire in each of us to do something that seems, in any normal circumstance, natural. But, when asked to step out in faith, using that desire or gift for His kingdom, we suddenly retreat. We may even opt to "sell the store" of possibilities to someone else; someone more deserving or more talented, because for us, accepting the task would be simply impossible, even childish. 

And what happens when our children are maturing? Do we acknowledge their talents, applaud their God-given desires and encourage them to seek out opportunities to grow those desires or test them?

Sometimes we miss God's reflection in ourselves and our children. We cheat those around us of the same when we sit frozen to our chairs of impossibilities. So, what does it take to get us to see God's "sparkle" in ourselves or others?

I believe that something, event or moment when time stands still and we say, "Aha!" is different for everyone. But, common to all God followers? Abiding - spending alone time with God through His son, Jesus. We reflect the heart and glory of God himself when we abide in Him. Then, when we recognize God's movement in our lives or the lives of our children, faith grows. That's when we realize that with God nothing is impossible.

Thankful hearts brim and respond in obedience to God. It's here where we find our true selves - through obedience - what make us, us.

Do you see a sparkle? Do you have that reflection of something bigger that's trying to get out? Will you let it out? Will you spend time with your Creator so that He might shine through you?

What about your children or grandchildren? Do you encourage their sparkle? Do you recognize God's reflection through their personalities and do you give them opportunities for God to appear?

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Unshackled

Prisoner Shackles by Jonathan Dresner
flickr.com_3072374801_db98b198a7_CC BY-ND 2.0
If you're visiting from {re}fresh, welcome!

"But I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists." Jeremiah 40:4a

Tommy walked outside the iron gates a free man, carrying all he owned inside a crisp manila envelope - life simplified. Endless possibilities stretched out before him promised life renewed, but somehow life got crazy on the outside, his past hijacked him and freedom didn't seem so rich or desirable, after all (from the movie, Crazy on the Outside, 2010, starring Tim Allen).

Sometimes we're a lot like Tommy. We find ourselves suddenly unshackled - finally free from our past - and yet we bend down and pick up our own manila envelopes. We peek inside at the past, at the little life we own and suddenly our dreams and desires skew; they veer way off the freedom road.

It's an old, old story and the ending remains the same:

Only God frees

Throughout history God said, leave everything behind - all your possessions, your little life and all it's gods - and follow Me

Live life unshackled

And when we do? 

                                              God builds us up, prospers us
                                              God plants us, establishes deep roots
                                              God stays with us, protects and guides us
                                              God restores us, brings health and healing

What's inside your manila envelope? Are you willing to leave it at the curb, walk away and follow God on the freedom road? I know, it's easier hanging onto what we know rather than hoping in what we can't see. Hope goes against everything we are, but dig deep and scream, "Help!" He'll come alongside and show you the way - that's the kind of God He is. He's living and breathing and always there when we call. His greatest desire is to free us, restore us to who He created us to be. 

Father, it's so hard to leave behind what we know and walk towards hope in what we cannot see, but today we cry out, "Help!" and take that first step toward freedom - trusting you.  



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Jesus Talked To Me Today

If you're visiting from Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome! 

Have you ever been so desperate for God that when he shows up you didn't recognize him at all? But the funny thing is, children recognize him right away.

That's what my story, A Visit From the Healer, (and many others' stories) compiled in James Stuart Bell's book, Jesus Talked To Me Today: True Stories of Children's Encounters with  Angels, Miracles and God, (Bethany House 2016), is all about.


Our family faced tough times with prolonged unemployment in a tough economy. The last thing we needed was for sickness to strike. But it did. Longing for relief for my daughter and our entire situation, I shot a quick prayer into the darkness. And, well, you'll have to read the rest on pages 134-139 to find out how miraculously Jesus showed up.

The entire book is filled with hope and children's true encounters with the Living God. Children whose eyes could see and ears could hear. Is it not surprising then, that Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3 NIV)?

This book would make a great family devotion resource as each story runs between 1000-2500 words. What a great way to spend summer evenings with your children, sharing other children's stories and passing on the works of our great God.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Turn Around: Letting Go of Your Best Laid Plans

If you're joining us from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! It's so good to visit with you.

U-turn by Jordan Nielsen
Flickr.com_97338266_ed37f724df_CC BY-ND 2.0

I accepted a job, against Godly counsel that looked promising in every way: more money, better and cheaper health benefits, a lucrative 401K plan and still close to home. 

Within eight weeks none of that mattered as I found every facet of my life turned upside down. My pride kept me going, holding onto this job that I just knew was right, but screamed, "TURN AROUND! WRONG WAY! DO NOT ENTER!"

Month after month things grew worse, at home and at my job, but I was in this job to stay, like I had something to prove to God, and planted my feet firmly under my desk. Then one day, I lost my footing; literally tripped and fell, head-first into a solid, steel reinforced fire door. Even then, while suffering painful concussive headaches, I stubbornly stayed. Two months later, I surrendered - admitted I'd made a wrong decision - begged God's forgiveness, and let God’s healing process begin.  

When we find ourselves in the midst of disaster—when it's obvious we made the wrong decision, how do we just turn around?

1.       Stop! Make an about-face and turn back towards God.
2.      Set things right. Admit your mistake and ask God's forgiveness.
3.      Step in line. Ask God, "Which path?" and walk on it.
4.      Seek Godly counsel from someone who will keep you accountable to God's will.
5.      Savor God's presence. Develop daily God-time. God alone is our ultimate counselor. Be intentional with reading His Word, praying about your struggles, your intentions, and listen for His advice. He will speak if we listen and welcome His presence into our daily lives.

God did a miraculous healing in my life both physically and spiritually in the months that followed. He taught me about abiding and being still and knowing him as God; God of creation and God of my life. He taught me total dependence on Him for every need and showered me with grace and good gifts.

Are you in the midst of a tough decision? Is it dangling promises and prosperity, but Godly counsel says, "Stop?" Won't you take the time to stop and seek God's presence, ask Him what His plans are for you? Ask, "What's the right path, God?" and walk in on it.  God promises, "I will counsel you and watch over you." What is there to fear?


Abba, I pray for all my brothers and sisters facing a tough, life-changing decision today. May they set aside their own plans, seek godly counsel and most importantly, seek your will for their lives. Shine your Light on the path you’ve chosen for them – the path that keeps them in step with your will. Amen.