Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Daring to do something great

Hey  everyone, I am slowly making the transition over to my new website

I posted a new blog there tonight and would love it if you checked it out.

Soon and very soon I will add a blog feeder to the site so if you subscribed here, you can do the same there.

Thanks, and let me know what you think of the new site!

Be blessed

Monday, July 29, 2013

How's the book coming?

I am getting that question quite often these days, and rightfully so.  I am writing the first book of my career. My first, so it won't be my last.

It's a big thing.  A REALLY BIG THING.

I am afraid my answer to this question isn't really giving people a lot of confidence in me either.

I usually look at them with glazed over eyes, a little lost and a lot overwhelmed, and always tired.  And with that look I pause and then say, "It's good.  I mean it's going OK."  And then I don't know where to go from there, because what I really want to say is this:

Aggghhhhh!!!!!!!!  I have so many emotions I don't know which one to grab onto in this moment!

It is more work than I ever anticipated.

It's incredibly hard. When I say hard, I mean it in a 'go through 9 months of painful pregnancy where you are sick almost every day, you get painful gas and gross stretch marks, you are excited for this adventure but didn't realize you would loose your ankles, your identity, your bladder and your sanity in the process.  Then you go through 36 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing a baby out of your body that you are pretty sure isn't supposed to come through that way.' That kind of every day, all that I am is this process.  That's what I mean by hard.

It's frustrating because when you have time to write, the thoughts don't come.  Then when they do, you've written one page in four hours when you thought you would have the next chapter done.

I have never felt more insecure in my life!  Questioning and double guessing if it's enough, if what you have written should be said a different way.  Do you tell a story in a third person, first person?  Do I write the story like I tell it from stage?  Geezzzz, all those thoughts, then I have to spend the next half hour in prayer getting rid of those insecure thoughts that I intended to spend writing.  Now I am behind again!

I always feel behind.

I always feel stressed.

I always feel pressure.  Pressure that if I am sitting still, I should be writing or researching for the book.   Moments of peace aren't mine to have these days.

I feel imbalanced.  Every aspect of my life winding its way around this project and I don't like it.  It easily takes the joy out of it and I don't want that.  I want to love this, to enjoy this, to feel inspired by this.  Those moments feel too few and far between.

I feel excited that what once was a dream is going to be a reality.

I feel very blessed to have a writing partner that makes this book better, and then try not to feel inadequate in the process.

I feel like I can't give the book my whole attention, or my family , or my life, or my friends.

I feel overwhelmed by people's confidence in this project, in me.  Their encouragement, their kind words, their prayers, their help babysitting, all so I can write and not neglect the kids.

I feel worried about people's expectations.

I feel overwhelmed by own.

I feel scared about Henry's.

Then I pray again.

And it's better.  I remember that I do this because I feel called to honor God in this and support my family and extend my ministry.  I remember that I won't be defined by this moment or this project.  That this project is one step in the journey of discovering myself as a writer, a speaker, a professional, a person.  This is not all I have, this is just the beginning.

Then I when I wake up, I go through all these thoughts again.  It is a constant picking up the stress and letting it go.

So...I am not sure how to answer that question when people ask me.  I really just want to blurt out all these things and how much of a mess I feel most of the time.  But I don't.  I just say, "It's good".

I do believe it is good.  Being refined by this process is good.  Pushing at my insecurities and my stress and my life values are good.  They force me to think through my choices, my identity and who I am.  They force me to let go of expectations I didn't realize I was trying to live up to.  They allow me to see God's goodness in this process.  They give me a more aware sense of self, and this is before anyone has even read the book! I can't imagine the tough skin I am going to need when the book comes out.

So, as hard as this is, it is good.  But that one word means all these things to me right now.  Through this process, I am more open, vulnerable and humble and excited all at the same time.  In the end, I realize why so many people equate writing a book with having a baby.  It makes sense to me.  The process is so much harder than you anticipated, but the rewards of self discovery and having your heart out there in print is totally going to be worth it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Living in the tension: How do we help others?

Driving to the grocery store, I noticed a man lying on the ground at the bus stop.  Something in the way he was haphazardly lying there, told me it wasn't a natural nap position.  I have seen countless homeless men and women lying on the ground to rest.  I have seen even more college students, or bikers, resting in the grass as they wait for the bus.  Nothing about this man's position communicated that he landed that way on the ground on purpose.  His arm was akwardly behind his head and his legs didn't look natural.

Something didn't seem right.

I was driving, and only had a moment to process what I saw.  I had to keep driving, or risk getting hit by the car behind me.

It didn't feel right though, driving away.

Every other car I saw was driving away.  None of them were driving toward the man to help.

I sat at the light and processed what it meant that we live in a culture that dozens of cars would pass a man, not moving, lying on the ground in an unnatural way.  It made me sad to be apart of the culture that was either too busy, too focused or too scared to care.  (Does this remind you of a parable Christ told?)

The light turned green and I turned around to go back.

At the very same time that I drove up, two other cars had turned around and were stopping.

My faith in humanity being restored a little in that moment.

I got out of my car to check the situation and talk with one of the other women that stopped who was on the phone with 911.  We could see he was breathing, but he still looked so unnatural and very, very still.  No one had approached him or touched him.

I walked over closer to the man so that I could get a better look and he could hear me talk to him.  I was just out of arms reach, and asked in a loud voice if he was OK.  He sat up, startled, and said he was fine.  I asked if he needed help, and he just laid back down.

Something didn't feel right.

I went to stand back next to the other women, and then the sirens of the police came from every direction.  Before we knew it, three police cars pulled up and took over.

An officer came out of her car and asked the gentleman if he was alright.  He sat up again, attesting to the fact that he was fine.  She asked if he needed any help since he was at the bus station and missed the bus just moments before.  His immediate response was, "PLEASE!  Don't take me back to rehab."

The officers looked at us and told us everything would be fine.  They told us they had it covered, they thanked us for phoning in, and we could go about our day.  These women and I exchanged glances, not knowing what else to do and said our good byes.

I did my shopping and on the way home 20 minutes later, the police were still there with an ambulance getting ready to the take the man to the local hospital.

I felt sad and relieved at the same time.  Life is clearly difficult for this man, but I was so thankful he was getting  help.

I came home and starting telling this tale to Paul with Big listening intently to our conversation.  Paul was of course immediately frustrated with me that I got out of the car.  He let his frustration show in the way he exhaled his breath.  Then he said something like, "Why did you do something so dumb?"

To which Big cried, "Mama didn't do anything dumb!  That's bad to say that dad.  She helped someone!  She did what she was supposed to.   Mama did something nice!"

Paul let me finish, then turned to Big and said, "I am happy mommy helped someone.  I really am.  But mommy could have stayed in the car where she was safe and called 911.  She risked her life by getting out and approaching that man.  He could have tricked her and was there waiting for an attack.  I always want mommy to help, but I need her to be safe.  She could have helped just as much by staying safely in the car, and getting the police there."

That is where the tension is.  That is what I felt in the car as I watched so many people pass by.  Not doing anything to help.  Not stopping.

How do we live in the light of hope and love while always being aware and safeguarding against the darkness?

I completely understand where Paul is coming from.  I get it.

And even while I get it, it breaks my heart that thoughts of protecting myself while helping others is a needed reality.

Gone are the days of just simply putting the needs of someone else before your own.  It is needed  to be aware of the traps and scams and people that will take advantage of kindness.  It hurt as Paul and I tried to explain this to our son.  We deeply desire to spur him on towards loving and helping others.  We want his life to reflect a heart for all people.  And yet, in that reality, we must make sure that he is at least aware of the darkness.  Aware enough that he is smart in the way he lives and comes to the aid of friends and strangers as he grows older.

There lies a tension in seeing people in their brokenness and doing what we can to help and love them, while remaining smart about how we go about it.

I want to throw caution out the window and just dive in.  I don't want to think about myself, or believe the worst in people.  I desire to do whatever I can to help someone, just because they need it.  However, Paul is right.  We live in a world where that could have easily been a trap and I would have walked right into it.  I could have suffered great damage or been one of thousands of women who disappear at the hands of a stranger, thus leaving behind a husband and three children, wifeless and motherless.

We can't be the people who just drive by, not seeing, or being too terrified to step out in love, worried always only about ourselves.

We must be a people who live in the hardness of the tension, especially as we teach our children.  We must be a people who helps a fellow man or woman or child in their moment of need.  I believe we can do it, while we are smart about it. 

We can't let fear win.

Love has to win.  Selflessness must win.  Compassion still exists, even in the tension.

I don't have an answer.  I don't know how to teach my children about this whole idea of loving others while protecting yourself.  I wrestle with it, not knowing how to understand it or live in it.

But I know I desire to find a way.  I desire for my children to always help others, and I desire for them to be smart.

In the meantime, we live in the tension, (hopefully leaning more towards love and selflessness).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taking care of business

I am writing a book.

I am writing a Bible Study, discussion guides and four brand new talks for a large conference in Sept.

I am writing four brand new talks and four group discussion guides for a camp I am speaking at next week.

I am working on our kids summer school schedule, planning field trips, organizing cooking classes, reading projects and math homework.

I am creating my first ever website on my own, which is is a HUGE feat for me and one I am growing more proud of, but am on a steep learning curve.

I am working with a great gal that is doing some business things for me, including researching new places where my ministry would be a good fit and doing some local booking to keep me closer to home.

I am writing and creating a new press kit to help connect with new clients.

I am gardening and weeding and harvesting and canning already.

These are the reasons I have't been blogging, even though I have so much I want to share with you.  Many of these projects will be done by August, but I am hoping to do a bit more blogging before then.

I wanted to tell you though that soon my blog won't be posted here.  It will be connected with my new website on Squarespace.  I will continue to post here for a bit, and help transition this site, but soon I will only post on the new website.  I will have a feeder there that you can sign up for to get notifications directly to your email when I post if you are that much of a fan.

I find it common decency to at least let you know that soon I will be changing things over.  The website is coming along and is almost ready.

Thank you all for your patience.  I enjoy doing life with you and will get back to posting soon.  Having free time at camp allows a bit more time for fun writing, on my blog.

Be blessed today and I will keep you posted about the switch over and new website.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hiking turns us into a circus

As we walked to the rose quartz mine this year, it reminded me so much of our experience from last year.

Somehow because of the schedule, I still ended up in a skirt and ballet slipper shoes.  I had Paul with me though and 15 other people so it was easier to pass Little around instead of carrying her on my own.

We did run into a few mutilated deer limbs though, which I am not sure I will ever get used to.  Seeing animal body parts that have been torn to shred by a larger, fiercer animal should by my first indicator that I should turn and go home.

We paused just as much  though as Big gathered so many rocks before we even got to the mine that he had to hold his pants up, otherwise the weight would pull them down.

Apparently this little hike seems to bring out our ridiculousness.

Either way, here is a fun story for you to read and enjoy from our South Dakota camping adventure.

I did laugh out loud when I read that I shouldn't do this hike again, or at least remember what happened last year.  Clearly, I didn't do that before we went hiking, me in my skirt and girl shoes.

Happy evening everyone.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The storms that seem to destroy our trust

It was early morning, the kids fell back asleep tucked in their car seats and wrapped in their blankets.  I had iced coffee and Sanders Bohke filling the car with soulful rich music.  It was a beautiful way to start our 12 hour drive home.  I was waiting for the sun to come up and greet us.  I was looking forward to the start of a brand new day, with the hopes of being filled with adventure and giggles from my kids as we sang silly songs and played games in the car.

We were heading west, so I watched the first signs of orange and red in the rearview mirror.  The further we drove however, it was clear that there was a huge storm in front of us.  At one point, immediately after the kids woke up, the sun was shining behind us, there were gray clouds over us, with slight sprinkles that brought out a double rainbow, but in the distance, I saw the blackness and I worried.  Big still really struggles with storms.  His triggers are dark clouds and thunder and instead of being safely tucked in a home under its protection, we were traveling in the big metal box that he saw damaged and pierced with tree limbs in the tornado two years ago.  His faith in our current protection was shattered as he too noticed the black clouds coming.  He looked out and said in a high pitched worried voice, “mama, its coming!  Look, something bad is coming!”

I tried to reassure him that we would be OK.  We worked on reality therapy.  I would ask him questions like, “Does thunder hurt us?  What is thunder?  What happens if it rains?  Who is bigger than this storm?  What has you worried the most?”  All these things he would answer, trying to hold onto the truth that the rain doesn't hurt and the thunder is just noise and we are never left alone.

But then we drove in the storm and even I got afraid.  Never in my life have I driven through such a storm.  It was almost like a winter white out, the rain was coming down so hard I couldn't see if front of us.  The sky moved from grey, to dark, to midnight black.  The rain pounded our car so hard that I couldn't even talk to the kids.  I had to scream to them that we were all right which just seemed to make it worse.  The thunder cracked so loud the windshield shook at one point.  The lightening would pierce the sky over and over.  My hands were white knuckled on the steering wheel and I kept questioning whether we should pull over and stop and wait it out.  I knew though however that if I kept focused we could push through and get through the storm faster, than just sitting in it and waiting for it to pass. 

I needed my kids to trust me.  I took my eyes off the road for one brief moment to check the review mirror to make sure they were OK.  I saw all three kids huddled together with their blankets over their heads.  I saw Big, Middle and Little all holding hands.

As I drove through that storm, I am sure my children wished with all their might that I would pull over and find a safer place to be.   They wished that somehow I could make the storm stop, to just make it go away and bring the sun back.  But I wasn't doing that.  I kept driving through the storm and I needed them to trust me.  I needed them to trust me to make the right choice in driving through the storm.   That I knew when the storm was OK to drive through, and when it was time to pull over.  I needed them to trust that I would keep them safe even though they were scared.  I needed them to trust my love for them, that even though things were very hard right in this moment, I wouldn't do anything to hurt them.  Even when it felt absolutely terrifying, I needed them to trust me.

And then the rain started to ease up.  The thunder slowly started to sound softer, and the lightening was no longer flashing in the sky.  Streams of light starting to shine through the clouds and all of a sudden, we were on the other side.  The blackness we just drove through was behind us, reflecting in the review mirror, and the light was bright in front of us.

We had made it.

The kids slowly pulled down their blankets from their heads, and peaked out.  They cautiously looked at me and asked, “Is it over?  Are we safe again?” 

Yes.  We made it through.  Even though it was scary and hard, we made it through.

In the midst of the storm it was impossible to imagine it being over.  The storm raged so loud around us that it was all we could see, all we could hear, all we could live in.  I wasn't thinking about when it was over, I was thinking about, how do we live in this place right now and be OK?

And then God spoke softly in my heart, reminding me of how little I trust him when things are truly hard and overwhelming in my life and all I can see is the pain and the suffocating struggle of every day.  In that moment in the car, he begged me to trust him, just as I wanted my children to trust me.

There are days when I shut down and I hide in books or TV or FB or Twitter and I don’t want to come out.  I don’t want to face the things that make life hard.  I hide instead of handing my struggle to the Lord really learning what it means to trust him to guide me through it.

My children made it through that terrifying experience in the car that day.  While we walked back to our cabin this week in the black hills of SD, there were black clouds approaching and thunder rumbling in the distance.  As Big squeezed my hand, he looked at me and said, “We made it through that bad storm in the car mama, we can get through this one too.”

That is the great thing about trust.  When you put your trust in the one who can provide for you and get you through, every storm gets a little easier because they have proven to be trustworthy.  They become someone you can count on.

I spoke to Henry that day in the car and recalled the storm experience for him.  The first thing he said to me was, “You have a story in there.”  And he was right.

God has a way of taking the moments in our life and turning them into truths that we can hold on to get us through this journey called life.  These moments that can ground us in peace and love as we fight through the storms of life.  Our little family was scared that day, but we are stronger for it and God rested his peaceful hand on our hearts.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

As we press on

I sat in a worship service in the black hills tonight.  I was surrounded by family and friends and strangers.  The candles were lit, the lights low, the music soft and gentle brushing over people’s hearts.  It wasn't just quiet, it was still.

We all faced the cross and the words were read, “Take a deep breath.  Breathe in and breathe out, breathe the very breath that connects you to the one who made you.”

I closed my eyes tight hoping beyond hope that I could grasp onto that connection.  I wanted desperately to feel passionately about my faith again.  I have been running on empty.  That deep connection to your spirit, the one that lights up your eyes has been missing.  The list of things to do weighs heavier on me than I like to admit.  Instead of breaking down, I have become numb.  I get through the day.  I try to laugh and enjoy my family each day.  I try to write and find progress on the long list of projects that people are waiting to get from me.  I try to somehow just maintain a semi clean home where my family has clothes to wear and something to eat.  The monotony of each day with the pressure to accomplish super human possibilities causes me to shut down so that I can keep pressing towards the goal.  I accomplish all these things, but they are done with heaviness in my heart and a worn look in my spirit.

My prayers seem rehearsed.

The Biblical teaching to my children when correcting or encouraging them feels empty.

My running in the morning that used to be filled with cries out to God for guidance and help are silent these days.  I don’t even know what to say.  I fill pages after pages with words for multiple projects and then I have none when I am left alone to share my heart with God.

All the things that I used to do to try to reconnect to my spirit aren't working.  Or I am too tired to really care to try.

It feels stale, and worn and tiring.

I used to believe that it was wrong to say such things, till I realized that at some point we all feel that way.  About our faith, our life, our relationships.  Trying to ignore it never works though.

But tonight, in the black hills of South Dakota, I breathed deep.  I breathed out and breathed in.

I was reminded that the very breath I have inside of me is the one God gave me directly.  It is his breath that gives us life.  And so even in the midst of feeling distant and cold and shut down, I am still connected to him and my spirit because I live.

Because I am alive, he is with me.

Even when I am running on empty, he does not leave me.  Every breath I take belongs to him.

I had peace in my soul for the first time in awhile remembering this truth.

I am not alone, nor am I lost.

He remains with me, even when I am over committed and underwhelmed.

He is also with you, in every breath you take.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Behind the scenes

Paul and I have been talking a lot about our family values and what are our priorities are.  We have needs as a family as a couple and as individuals and we want to maximize the richness of those relationships.

As we talk about the kind of family we want to create, time together is at the top of our list.  Time to talk, to play, to teach, to encourage.  We want to pass on our living and active faith to our children.  We want them to see by our actions and how we spend our time that they and the Lord are important to our family's foundation.  You need time to create that understanding.

So one of the first things we did was evaluate our time and careers.  How can we maximize our work effort with increasing our family time?  We are both very aware of how quickly our children are growing up, and neither one of us wants to miss it.  These next 10-12 years are going to fly by and we have agreed that we want to be as present and wholeheartedly there for our children as possible.

The only way though to decrease Paul's work load is to increase mine.  I have been a stay at home for the last six years and it is both of our intentions to keep it that way, even with the children in school.  I do however have a passion and small career in traveling every couple months to go speak at conferences and retreats.  It's perfect because it keeps me at home, but allows me a weekend away every once in awhile.  Well, to increase my job means to get more gigs and travel more.  That, however goes against our priority and value of family.

So...what to do.

After taking much prayer time and vision planning, I came up with a plan.  If I am going to speak, than I would prefer it to be while Paul is at work and the kids are at school.  This means local gigs in schools, churches and mom groups.  These are usually simple and no more than 30 min.  They would take up limited time and if my goal was to do one a week, that would increase my work load by 100%.  So the goal is twice a month to start out.  I even hired a gal to help me with the booking so that my time would still be free to write and develop the quality of talks I want to deliver.  This and spend time doing my family responsibilities.

Doing local gigs while not taking away family time is step one.

The other piece is that while I love to travel and will continue to do it on a limited basis, I do want my ministry to extend past the Twin Cities.  This is where the book comes in.  The book is a beautiful way to get my heart on paper and put into the hands of people who need it.  It is the beginning step.  I like to write but really wasn't sure I was capable of a book.  Now I have ideas for the next three I want to write.  Ha, crazy right?  There is also dreams of some other great ideas that keep me at home, but put my ministry out there for others.

I felt like things were coming together.  I was excited about the way I could continue to do my ministry, while really not taking time away from the kids.  It means I manage my time a bit more, and right now its all still a theory, because nothing has changed, but it gives me a goal and vision.

It also allowed me to own my ministry and take responsibility for it.  For the last few years I just kind of let it happen.  If people call me, I take a gig.  I have a website, but its my transitional website till I took the time to develop it.  I didn't seek out gigs.  I didn't know how to talk about my ministry because it was always an after thought.

Then Paul challenged me to step up to the plate.  He is my biggest supporter and was sad to see me not developing my heart for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So in order to branch out and get new gigs, I need the marketing materials and the language to talk about who I am.  The last few months have been quite the identity crisis.  Much of my ministry has been me praying about who I am on stage, what is it that I want to say to people and how do present myself to potential clients and my audience?  It's been hard long hours of research, journaling, and discovery.

So I had a meeting with Guy from Vision Van Gogh, who specializes in helping artists develop who they are. He met with me and we talked about the importance of the professionalism of your website and press kit.  It is the first thing people see about you.  It is how they determine if you are capable to be hired by them.  What do I want them to know about me?  And a lot of that is based on photo's.  A website is built around photo's as well as your press kit.

So now I sat with all this information.  I now understood that I need great photo's that will allow people to connect with me, create professional materials that will allow me to get new gigs with new clients locally while my kids are in school, to help make that little bit of extra money for our family, to keep Paul from working three jobs, so we can all spend more time together building a family based on faith and trust and love.

If we connect the dots, the first step is pictures.

I have a really hard time designing a website for myself.  I understand that people need to see me on my website so they know a little about me and it creates a connection. Connection is the base of what I do. But I don't want a website that just has photo's of me.  I think it's weird.  So I need a photo where I am a part of a picture, and the picture communicates to you, who I am, but it's not me all over the place.

One photo that tells you who I am.  That doesn't sound hard?  Ha!

It took me a couple months looking through band photo's, actor's photo's, singers, performers, it didn't matter.  I was researching websites and head shots and press kits, all trying to see what others were doing to find my own way.  I couldn't find a location that I liked, or an idea for a photo that felt like me.

And what I realized is that I don't want a website that is just for my speaking.  I want a place where my blog can fit, where people can find out about the book, where I can start an Etsy account for the art I make.  So now, my website is not just for my speaking career, but its also for me.  All the ideas for locations for a photo shoot seemed like they were only a part of me.  I didn't want a city landscape because even though we live in the city, it is only a part of us.  I didn't want a family photo, because even though they are the biggest thing in my life, I am someone outside of them.  I didn't want to be out in a barn or country scape or railroad crossing, or brick wall.  All those things didn't feel right.

So I came up with something that felt natural, real, comforting.  I want to create an inviting and creative space.  I wanted a nook of trees that had elements of our home in them.  I love the unexpected, and little surprises.  So I brought our antique rug outside under the trees to create warmth.  I love details that add a little flair of fun and drama, and so I draped the trees in all my scarves tied together and spent time cutting my old crafting paper and stapling them into rings.  I didn't need Christmas lights because we did the shoot in the evening when the sun is low and magical and adds the effect that was perfect.  So if I was going to spend time out in the wood, I want this magical little reading corner.  Since it doesn't exist, I created it myself.

But then what to wear?

Again, if this is a place that I wished existed, then I would be wearing what I wanted.  Since I can't find it anywhere, I decided to make a very natural makeshift skirt that resembles the drama of a time piece skirt with my kind of twist.  One that is homespun and tacked together full of different textures and fabrics.  There are flowers hidden in the skirt and fabrics only I could see.  I love adding those little surprises.  The color scheme fits me.  I sewed on a little star on my plain old tank top to tie it in to the skirt.

Every little detail was thought through and intentional.  Every little thing was planned there for a purpose.  I even had a little fairy tucked into my old wooden book box.

So, here is the result of my photo shoot.  The photo shoot that was needed to start creating marketing pieces for my ministry to help my husband and family so that we could spend more time together.

See in my world, everything has a purpose and serves our goal.

Everything comes back to my faith, my family and growing our children into strong men and women of God.

Even this.

* A business side note: I used Katrina with Studio Laguna Photography and Brett Dorrian for hair and makeup to make sure I got the dream I wanted.  My vision could only go so far and I would only trust this idea to these two women.  They took my idea and Brett turned my face and hair into a work of art that was perfect for this shoot.  Katrina used her very honed talent and captured exactly what I wanted.  She has this beautiful eye and helped me by finding the dream in my head and making it a reality by capturing it with her camera.  She helped guide me and pose me so that everything was perfect.  I knew I could trust these ladies, I just didn't realize how dramatic and beautiful their art was when it was all said and done.  I love working with these ladies, and I would suggest using them for any of your family or wedding or business needs.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Head shots from Studio Laguna

I am blogging light today after yesterdays heavy unpacking.  So...

I got new head shots today!

As a professional speaker and soon to be published author (I hope!) I need photo's for people to use in their publications and promotional materials.  I have had shots taken here and there, but never the soul focus on getting the head shot.  I thought it was time and they need updated.

I am putting together a new website and my photo shoot for the cover of that is next week.  It's probably going to be a bit over the top, and so I wanted something simple, and down to earth for my head shot.

What I would like to stress is I have never worked with anyone as amazing as Katrina Hannemann from Studio Laguna.  Her and her husband Jon are without any sugar added, the BEST to work with.  Katrina is so personable and friendly.  When you meet with her, you feel as if you have been friends forever.  She is kind and witty and so creative.  She has this extensive knowledge of putting together shots with people and props in locations that are perfect for them.  It is such a joy to work with her.

As seen below, she has the ability to bring beauty out in everything.  We laughed a lot in our brief photo shoot.  We talked and shared pieces of life together.  She is so professional, and yet it didn't feel like work.

If ever you are in need of a photographer, I wouldn't go to anyone else, and she does travel.  She has been taking our family photo's for years and does one mean wedding shoot.

Anyway, today I got some work done, if you can call it that.

And my one take away from this photo shoot?  My hair is crazy out of control.  Seriously.  And yet I still don't want to cut it.

And yes this is a sweater and pants in June.  Welcome to the spring that never came to MN.

And then she just kept shooting while we were sharing a laugh in an "off camera" moment.

Katrina, thank you for giving me something so beautiful and something to be so proud of.  Thank you for your eye and your direction and your amazing talent.  I just think you are simply wonderful and you are my girl for life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The art of Collaboration

Some day I am going to craft a talk around collaboration.

There is something profound about working with someone and working to create something completely new out of who you are and who they are.  It isn't compromise where you each give up something to find a peaceful way.  Collaboration is about two people, giving 100% of who they are, doing the hard work of communicating to discover where their two thoughts and ideas come together to forge a new language.  That language for Henry and I is our speaking and writing together.  For others it can be music, spoken word, body art, dancing, gardening, cooking, community living, photography, leading an organization, it doesn't matter.

Collaboration is different than compromise.

What Henry and I strive to do in our work is absolute collaboration.  It is what I love and hate about our work.

(If you are new to my little world in blogsphere, then I should tell you that I am a stay at home mom who travels the country very part time as an inspirational speaker and am currently working on my first book with my speaking partner, Pastor Henry Graf.  Henry and I have been friends for a long time, and as two seasoned speakers, we wondered what having a conversational type presentation would look like from the stage.  This gives the audience a more authentic and personal interaction with the speakers and topic of discussion.  We have spoken together for years, and are currently trying our hand at moving what we do on stage, to the written word.  To say the very least, we are in a very steep learning curve.)

When we started working together, Henry and I were both professional speakers.  We were comfortable on stage and speaking in public.  We spent time crafting our work to be dynamic presenters.  Coming from a place of always taking the stage alone, it was so refreshing to share the responsibility with someone else.  Someone I trusted to fill in the blanks where I missed my mark, or read the audience and take our conversation where it needed to go to reach them where they were at.  I was no longer alone, and it felt very cool.

There was this really beautiful dynamic shift as well.  When I take the stage alone, I can get really intense and loud and passionate and sometimes emotional.  It's just kind of what I do.  Sometimes it involves yelling.  However, when you are sitting on stage with someone else, that doesn't tend to happen.  We are talking, discussing, laughing, searching scripture together.  It's very different, but very cool.

It felt like to me that I had found the perfect partner in this journey.  We balance each other out because we are so different.  Yes one is a man and one is a woman.  One is a Pastor and one struggles with the institution of the church.  But really, it reaches into the way we do life, not what we represent.  Henry is very analytical and intellectual, and those are not words I would use to describe myself.  He teaches, and I tell stories.  He thinks, I feel.  He moves fast, I am think before I act.  And even though we are both intense, somehow we are intense in very different ways, and I don't know how to describe that.  We bring such different things to the table for discussion, approach scripture from very different places and come away with very different ideas of what it means.  It makes for great conversation.

So imagine my surprise when just months ago, I realized that Henry and I weren't collaborating at all, but I was letting him take the lead and backing out of my responsibility to my own place in our partnership.

It was hard for me to figure this out until Henry and I spoke together three months ago.  We took the stage on Friday night at the conference kick off.  I experienced being on stage with Henry and he wasn't in his usual "loud/big self".  He felt more responsive than usual instead of charging the way.  When we debriefed our talk, he simply said, "you were the big personality tonight, so I backed off.  You usually aren't that dynamic."

Huh.  I didn't ever really think that I backed off and tampered my personality with him.  We chatted a bit more through that and continued on with our weekend.

Then, the book happened.  The book started off as a T-shirt idea that for the life of us, we couldn't agree on.    Then Henry had a brilliant idea that worked for us both.

Parables.  Earthly stories with Heavenly meaning.

We discussed the concept of the book, "telling stories, but more than stories, finding heavenly meaning in our everyday experiences, etc."  I loved it.  I thought it was a perfect first book for us.  It penned out on paper what we do on stage.  But the more we unpacked the book and gave a structure to it, the more confusing it got for me.  The harder and more complicated it became.

Henry would pen a thesis, a promotional email, a chapter outline.  He was working at lightening speed and it was hard to keep up.  I would read it, tweak it, process it, edit it, and send it back.

And something always felt just a little bit off.  I was still a part of the process.  My opinion mattered, but somehow, I was just responding, not speaking up.

And then I was standing in my kitchen, just getting off the phone with Henry, and I saw the red flags.  I saw myself shrinking back in my insecurities.  I was allowing my respect and admiration for Henry to shrink me.  When I elevated him, I became less.  I gave him the power and authority in the relationship instead of being in a partnership.  I let my old demons speak into my ear.  Lies that said my voice wasn't as significant as Henry's.  That storytelling was silly compared to teaching deep theological ideas.

I realized I wasn't owning my part in our partnership  I wasn't taking responsibility for my thoughts, my ideas, my voice and opinion.  I got steamrolled.  Henry wasn't doing this to me, I just let it take over.

What I realized was sometimes when we think we have overcome a weakness, a sin, it only reappears when pushed from a new angle.

I have worked alone for seven years, and now having a partner in this, this was a new angle for me.  And so my weakness and insecurities came flooding out.  I hated it.  I didn't know what to do with it.  I had moved past this.  I had conquered it.  I had surrendered it.

Or so I thought.

And then it brings us to last week when Henry showed up for a week of writing.  A week that we were going to use to make great head way with the book.

But I couldn't move forward because I wasn't ever fully present.

And so I showed up.  I really showed up and owned my voice, my opinions, my questions and my process.

We talked and processed a lot last week.

After we  processed our book, our ideas, our theologies, we talked some more.

Henry would push me to finish my thoughts.  To think through all the things I was trying to say but having a hard time articulating.  We dissected words that meant different things to each of us so that we could come to some kind of understanding.

We put our expectations for the week aside.  We sat uncomfortably the across from each other at the coffee shop and wrestled through our thoughts and opinions.

And at the end of the week, we came away with a books that feels like a conversation.  A new language of Henry's ideas and my thoughts.

We collaborated and found a book that speaks a new language that we took the time to understand and create.

Collaboration is not just hard work, its uncomfortable.  It is looking at your partner in the project and realizing that for you to say what you really think, you run the risk of them leaving.  You run the risk of them leaving project because they are done doing the hard work to find a new way.

It's risky and scary and vulnerable.  It feels exposed and in the end, the risk is worth it.

Writing a book on my own will probably be easier.  However, Henry pushes me to find myself.  To learn my process and understand my thoughts.  I have discovered so much about myself in the last couple months.  I have learned what it means to not have a boss or work alone, but to partner with someone and have them stay because they value you.

At the very least, God is using this experience to shape me.  To shape Henry.  To shape a new idea within us.  It's exciting.

It's tiring.

It's totally worth it.

Collaboration.  You need to be 100% yourself in order to have the conversation to create a new way.  To acknowledge who you are in order to give yourself to the expression of art in a new way.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Woodland Fairy costume

I have found by unlocking one creative outlet, it frees up all sorts of other desires and small talents for other creativity to come out.

On top of writing all the time for a large wide of projects, I am crafting as well, and hopefully will have my first painting done in a couple days.

BUT...I had one very special project that I want to share with you!

In our house we have come to understand that every day for me is like playing dress up.  Paul on the other hand thrives with themes and parties and like's having reasons to wear an actual costume.  This paints a very bizarre picture of us, but it's not weird, I swear, at least most of the time.

The pure joy in this though?  My kids get awesome homemade costumes!  Paul really has been on the front end of this, since we had boys and I am still a beginner.  He loves the construction behind a costume.  He can go to a thrift store on 50% day and come away with all sorts of materials, then cut and glue and paint and all of a sudden, the boys are transformed into supehero's.  It's awesome!

Well, I got my second shot this year for Little's 3rd birthday.  We were going to transform her into a woodland fairy.  (When she was 6 month's old, I made her a Raggedy Ann costume.  She looked awesome, but the construction of the dress was horrible.  I had to basically sew her into it.)

I had no idea how to make a woodland fairy costume.  BUT...I knew how to make wings out of old wire hangers, and I had a handful of cardboard wands in my craft room that I knew I could paint.  I just wasn't sure about the skirt.

So here are the photo's of the creation of my little Woodland Fairy.  The T-shirt she is wearing is my old vintage T-shirt that says "Protect the Forrest."  I cut it and make it to fit her since it was  perfect!

I took two hangers and bent them to the shape I wanted.  I duct taped the ends together to protect from the sharp parts.

You can use nylons or shear fabric, or whatever you have on hand and wrap it around the frame.  Tie the material around the middle, glue it, tape it, whatever, just secure it and cut off the extra fabric.

I had feathers, jewels, fake flowers, glitter, moss, leaves, all sorts of things to glue to the wings.  I also had knitting yarn that I braided to use for her straps.

My Woodland Fairy wings.

And her Woodland Fairy wand.  I painted it and glued fun leaves and flowers on it.

The skirt I did backwards, so I am not including instructions because I will do it different and better next time, but what I wanted was a bunch of contrasting fabrics, based in cream with brown and green and pink thrown in.  I needed pink in there, otherwise she wouldn't wear it.  Her and I have differing opinions about color.

My mom was in town and I am SO THANKFUL she was.  It wouldn't have been completed without her.  We basically just kept sewing fabric on.  We would drape it and say, "Looks good.  Sew it on."  We are very structured sewers.  Can't you tell.  I think this was 1am.

Here are a couple shots of the skirt.

And here is my Woodland Fairy.  She is a little excited.

And when she spins, it flairs out all over.  It's AWESOME!

So, I get it.  She is only three, and this costume is a bit much. I think I enjoyed figuring out how to do it more than she ever will wearing it.  So for me it was a creative expression and I learned a TON!

Sewing is fun.

So are cute little girls in a big drape skirt.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Personal update 2: the cabin

The cabin.

The writing retreat.

I had hope that with more than 24 hours to myself, my laptop and journals and music, I could somehow process all the things going on inside of me for the last month and pour myself into the book.  Read, journal, write, process, pray, seek, and be led by God.

I have never had time like this before to work and to be honest, I was a little nervous with that much time by myself.

Can't you tell?

I want to share some things I came away with from the weekend, but first, I want you to see what I saw.  Here is my office set up.

This really was the perfect office.  Curled up on a couch, writing and reading and candles lit.  It was perfect.

This was my retreat view from where I sat.  It hailed most of the day, but by late afternoon, I got to out and take a walk.

I enjoyed light food and lots of coffee all day long.  I grazed, and when I was hungry, I ate, and yes I even drank coffee at 10 pm.  There were no rules.  The goal was to be inspired and find dreams and plans and words for the book.  It was perfect!  It was a day where I could go at a slower pace because I didn't have kids interrupting me every few minutes, or I wasn't restricted by a time frame surrounding naps or babysitters.  I could just be.

And then I took a refreshing walk to get all the pent up energy out of my blood.  I wanted to take this photo, because I stood in this spot for more than 15 minutes.  I stood and looked at the road stretched out before me.  I let the sounds of the lake and the country seep into my blood.  Sounds that are foreign to us where we live.  It felt like with every breath I took, more of the tension left my body, and more quietness and stillness entered it.  All the expectations started to cease to exist and only listening to the Lord seemed to matter.  I didn't want to move.  I wanted to stay in that spot until the only thing that remained were the answers.  But looking at the road ahead of me, I realized  I wasn't sure where the road led, but only the way to find out was to take one step at a time.

After my walk, I spent the evening wrapped in a blanket on the porch enjoying my new office.  A place full of peace and inspiration. 

So here is what I learned and discovered with my weekend in the wood.

1. I really enjoy time by myself.  I am good company.

2. You produce very different work when you aren't restricted by a time frame or deadline or children's needs.  I had the ability to really let the work come out of me, instead of rushing it, or throwing a bunch of words on paper hoping it sticks.  I could sit and ponder, and roll thoughts around my head and get the good stuff out on paper.  It was this amazing experience no to be rushed, but let thoughts and ideas and words formulate.

3. I got to work on my business, the book, my talk at the end of the month up in Duluth, my talk in the NE this fall, and my business concepst.  I had papers all over the floor with ideas and concepts and dreams and starting points for ministry.  It was this really amazing brainstorming session where I got to share my dreams with God, lay them out in front of me, and as I sat and prayed, I got hints of more ways to make them become a reality.

4. It is scary as hell to sit there in a cabin, all alone, with the time you have been asking for to make the dream come true, even one that you don't fully understand, and you have no more excuses.  I had no excuses.  I had to face my fear of this dream, the overwhelmingness of it.  I got to settle into those feelings.  Experience them.  I got to embrace it.  Look at it.  Evaluate it.  And most importantly, work towards. it.  It's easy to dream.  It takes a lot to actually work for it.

5. The closer I drove to the cabin, the more peace I felt.  While at the cabin, I felt inspired, I felt encouraged, I felt rested, I felt motivated, and I felt calm.  I'll confess I even danced a little bit with the music blaring and it felt wonderful.  I felt free.  And the words just came out of me.  I wrote a bunch of stuff I didn't even know I was thinking.  I wrote it, I looked at it, and I pondered on it.  I am excited to read what was going on in my head and my heart.  To process it and explore it.

It makes me very excited for my future.  As I said, I have felt like I am on the brink on something new and different.  This weekend was this incredible time of exploring that.  Of dreaming around it.  Of finding clues to what my future holds.

And I can't wait to share it with you.

I also walked away from this weekend with a secret love affair for a weekend away alone in the woods.  This may become my most spiritual exercise.  I hope.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Personal update 1

I don't know where to begin.  So I'll just start and hope I finish where the story begins.

I remember two distinct times that I felt completely insecure which then led to total fear.  The first time was in High School when the boy I had a crush on for a very long time told me he liked me.  I know it sounds like that would be a dream come true, but the truth is, I had been living a double life up until about that time, and I was incredibly lost and broken and confused.  I felt unworthy, and hypocritical and stupid and foolish and most like every bad teen  movie.  I was a cliche, which made it even worse.  I didn't know who I was, so I spent years making every wrong choice to find the right one.  I couldn't say yes to him because he didn't know the bad choices I had made.  I was scared that he might see how lost I was.  He thought I was great, and I didn't think I was.  He saw good in me, and all I could see was the bad.  I wasn't good enough.  And so I said no.

Then I graduated High School and almost immediately moved away.  Running scared of...myself, really.

The idea is the same when I got my first real speaking gig.  I was to be the keynote speaker to 800 students my first time out.  That was a big deal for me.  And I was overcome with feelings of insecurity.  I kept thinking, who am I that I was chosen for this role?  They have this image of me that just doesn't feel true.  If they really knew me, they wouldn't like me.  They would have picked someone better.  I am not good enough for this.  Clearly I was still wrestling with self acceptance and fighting hard to make the right choices and be who I thought I was supposed to be. Still fearful to really lean into who I was.  To say the things I really thought.  To feel like being me was the best choice.

There are lots of things to say about my past and history and all these emotions, and I can't get into all of it here.  But there are a couple things I want to pull out of these experiences.

First, the more we try to hide who we really are, the more disconnect there is.  We create the two selves, the one every one sees, and the one no one sees.  Then we have no one to blame but ourselves for no one really knowing who we are, because we don't trust them to know.  This existence is lonely and sad and full of doubt and regret.  Regret because you realize you are never really living your life.

Second, the only thing insecurity gives us is a life lived in fear.  I am not sure where my insecurity came from, but I can attest to the life lived in fear.  I used to be so afraid of everything.  Afraid to take chances, afraid to say what was really on my mind, afraid of making a mistake that I couldn't come back from, afraid of just being me.  I don't know why, and at this point, most of the time I don't care why.  I do know I don't want to live that way.  I desire to be brave and courageous and take chances and do things my way, instead of the way everyone else is doing it.  It took me a long time to get to that point.  A lot of prayer and hard work and conversations with my husband who has stuck by it all and loved me anyway.

I don't really live in a place of insecurity anymore.  The fear creeps up every now and then when I am trying new projects or talks, but surrendering them and pushing through it comes easier.

That's why I can so easily recognize these feelings when they creep back in.  They are huge red flags for me, because as I said, I generally like myself.  I'm not insecure anymore, which is why this last month has been so overwhelming for me, and why I haven't written really about anything.  (If you don't remember, the book campaign happened this month.)

To write about anything that has happened this past month,  I must first confess to the gut wrenching truth. I must tell you that I am scared out of mind.  I wish to be courageous and brave and fearless, but I'm not yet there.

Henry called me out on it very early on during the campaign to raise money for the book project.  He would hear me self doubt and cut down and one day he interrupted me and said, "I never realized you were so insecure."  My response was, "I'M NOT!  What's wrong with me?"

Doing the campaign was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in recent years.

It may seem like my earlier experiences have nothing to do with this moment now in my life, but in actuality, it has everything to do with it.  Except, this time, there was no mask or double life. See, the thing is I have made my career and my life to be as open as possible.  After spending so much of life trying to be someone I wasn't or running from who I was, or whatever my problem was, I promised myself that no matter how hard it was to be truthful, to be vulnerable and open, I would try.  Even if I was ashamed of how I dealt with something, or the way I felt, I would be honest.  I would embrace everything about me and invite my audience into that space with me.  I will often joke with Henry that when we take the stage together, I always come across as the big hot mess who needs counseling and he has it all together.  But that’s who I am, and that is why people hire me.  I am not two people anymore.  It’s just me.  But now that it’s just me, the vulnerability is even harder, because there is no hiding.

It may seem silly to you, but it was incredibly difficult to put together a campaign asking for money to support a book that my partner and I want to write.  I wasn't asking for your help for Haiti.  I wasn't asking you to support a child in need in a third world country.  I wasn't asking for money for any noble cause.  I was asking for myself.

That changes everything.

I had to publicly put myself out there and say, “Hey!  Do you see me?  Do you like me?  Help me make a dream come true!”  And that’s fine and great, until you realize you might not get the money.

Then what?

It’s like waiting to get picked for the kickball team all over again, except its just not your class that knows no one wants you, it would be everyone. 

That month of the campaign had me praying for God to release this hold on my heart more than I can ever remember.   I didn't want you all to have power over me.  I only wanted to care about being obedient to God’s call in my life.

But the trick is, to be obedient to that, I needed the money, which meant I needed to pay attention to the campaign and ask.  I had to put myself out there, over and over and ask for help.  Ask you to believe in me.

And then you did.

But you didn't just give to meet the goal, we surpassed every goal we had and more money than we budgeted.  I am still having a really hard time wrapping my head around that one.  My heart was pounding a mile a minute the day we surpassed our goal.  It wasn't a dream anymore, it was reality.

HOLY CRAP it is now a reality!

Now I can't run or hide or be lazy.  You said you believed in me, in us, and now we get to do something amazing.

Have you ever felt like sometimes it easier to sit on your couch and dream of all the really cool things you could do, and in your imagination, you are awesome, talented, you don't screw up because you know exactly what you are doing, and you win everyone over because you're amazing?  But because you know deep down, that really isn't reality.  Reality looks like hard work and trying over and over and making mistakes and taking risks and lots of practice.  And in the end, the risk that you might not even be very good at the thing that you dream of doing with your life.

I think that's why we sit on our couch.  Our imagination version of ourselves could never compare to the reality of who we are.  People who are risks takers, brave and courageous  the people who don't leave life with regrets are the one's who kill and bury the dream version of themselves and instead, just live their life.  They embrace their real self and go for it, leaving it all out on the table.

I have a tendency to be the couch sitter.  But I am tired of that.  I want to be a dreamer, a risk taker, a brave spirit with no regrets.

That's why I feel overwhelmed.  Not by the to-do list, though it is extensive.  I am trying to embrace a new reality and truth for myself.  I am trying to forge a new way of really, truly embracing all of me, letting go of all false selves and live my dream.

I asked you to believe in me and you did.  Can you even comprehend what that means for someone who spent so much time hiding away?  Again, overwhelmed.

So many of you went out of your way to encourage me, say nice such kind words about my ministry and my dream.  I didn't ask that of you, you volunteered it, willingly.  Again, overwhelmed.

Even more of you said that by pursuing this dream, you felt inspired to want to do more with your dreams.  That is HUGE!  I am so humbled and honored to be apart of that process that God is doing in your life.  Again, overwhelmed.

I sit on the brink of a new beginning to my ministry and our life.  Something has shifted and changed in my career.  I can't explain it fully, but I can tell, things are beginning, or shifting, or changing.  I still am a little nervous, because I don't know what that means, but I know that God is in this with me, and my husband and my children.

Feeling this emotionally overwhelmed the last month has made it hard to process.  So I went to a friends cabin for the weekend as a personal retreat.

That is part two of this story.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stop Traffick

I haven't written in a bit, and for me this is the perfect thing to come back with.  I couldn't think of a more urgent issue than to address this one.

There is a dear friend of mine who is a well known national speaker and founder of HappyFunTime Industries that is writing and directing a short film called "Stop Traffick".

Wes and his team of people are cut from some of the highest quality of work you can find.  His intelligence, his heart and his persistence for true interpretation is amazing to watch, because he balances it with humor, honesty and grace.  It is a pleasure to call him a colleague.

When I saw that they were doing this project, I grew so excited for the prospect of what it means for this issue.  For such a high quality product to be out there to draw attention to a very serious issue that I believe gets overlooked here in America.  When I told Wes I wanted to blog about it, he sent me this info.  Please, please, please check it out!

Did you know that over 100,000 American children are trafficked for sex. Or that the average age is 13? Human trafficking is an assault on our youth. But the tide is turning. And Wes and his team of Hollywood filmmakers are taking this problem seriously.  

Here is what Wes has to say:

"We think the problem lies in ignorance. But we know that film is a powerful educator! We want to produce 'Stop Traffick,' a short film shot in Las Vegas, NV and Bakersfield, CA as it tells a startling story of trafficking... and HOPE... in America."

But this film, starring Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects, Midnight Clear) and Lauren Sweetser (Winter's Bone), can't be made without our help. The next 7days of donations are critical to our mission of immediate intervention and education. Every hour and every dollar counts!

Go to Stop Traffick's Indiegogo site ( ) to make your tax-deductible donation now. You can also learn more about Wes's partnerships with organizations that are on the front lines battling Human Trafficking. If you have any questions, feel free to email one of their producers at ron@happyfuntime.comYour immediate donation will fuel a film that will help combat Human Trafficking… a problem we know can be solved in our lifetime!

Keep fighting the good fight!

After watching the video, if you were effected at all,  PLEASE pass this blog along, re post it, tweet it, donate to it, blog about it, tell others.  We are talking about real lives here.  Lives trapped in slavery.  Lives that matter.  That is the key isn't it?  The issue of the value of someone else's life.  By donating even a small amount to this project, you give value to a young girls life.  You tell her she is worth it.  You tell her, that even if no one else see's her, you see her.  You gave to change her life.

Please, check out this project, and give any little bit you can.

Thank you Wes and your team of people for giving a voice to this.  For spending time and money away from your families to help in anyway possible bring a voice to these young women.  We want to partner with you and give hope where there is none.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Inspiration breeds inspiration

I had mentioned either here or in person how in our home we try to read scripture together every morning.  We do that not because we feel we have to, or because this is what good Christian's do.  Honestly we do it because of our philosophy of Big Picture Parenting.  We believe that as our children leave our home every morning and attend school, we want the word of God in their heart.  We want them to know scripture, to feel comfortable searching God's word for insight into his heart and to really know what God says about life and love.  To really know God and not just what people say about him.

Then I went and had a play date with a friend of mine a couple months ago.  As we were sitting in her kitchen, she had index cards covering her walls with scripture written on them.  As I took a closer look, she had the first couple dozen chapters of Proverbs up.

I fell in love.

I asked her what was going on with all the proverbs posted on her wall and her response was, "I got the idea from you."

I had a look of total confusion.  We have never done anything like this, so it didn't really feel like my idea.  "I don't get it" was my response.

She told me that she appreciated how much we were trying to create a love of God and his word in our children.  She said as her and her husband were trying to raise up their kids, they wanted God's wisdom strong in their mind and in their heart.  

I Love it!!!

See, I pray for God's wisdom over my children almost as much as I cook their meals.  These young boys and girl are faced with choices every day about who they are, who they are going to be, and what they stand for.  Choices of fitting in, going along with the crowd, sticking up for the kid getting picked on, helping someone in need, it will never end.  I want them filled with the knowledge of God's love and his desire for their life.

So instead of just praying wisdom over my kids, this felt like the perfect compliment to put it in their hearts.

The proverbs are also an easy way to find just a couple of verses to read in the morning.  A couple verses read, then discussed leaves us with a perfect small 5-10 min devotion.  It has sparked such great conversations and questions from the kids, and having them written down, on days when we don't have time for a new one, we can pick one off the door and read it again.

The other great benefit of having it written down and up where we can see all the time, is I can stop and read encouragement every time I  need it.

The best part of all this...

I shared a desire of my heart and a small tradition that I do with my kids.  Another mother took that idea and made it her own.  I saw what she did and she inspired me to follow suit and take it another step further.

This is the best part of living life publicly   The way our hearts, our desires, our traditions can inspire others and in turn, we can be inspired by them.

Thank you Jessica!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Social, ethical, parental responsiblity

In times of crisis, I wish I had a medical degree.  I wish I had the freedom to pick up and go to where help is needed.  To comfort people in despair.  To organize volunteers.  To lift away debris and bring the hurting to help.

To work.

To help.

To love.

To be human.

But I can't.

There are people here in this house who desperately need me to survive.  They need me here, and so I can't be there.

When tragedy strikes, and I hate to admit that most of the time it is news on main stream media that I hear due to my lack of media watching and listening, I can't seem to tear myself away.

Today was no different.

We don't turn the TV on, because seeing the images of blood streaking the Boston streets would only serve to put fear and anger in my children.  And so I listened to the radio in the kitchen while I cooked.  Even when it felt like too much, I had a sense that if I turned the radio off, I would be turning my blind eye or deaf ear to the situation.  It felt wrong to leave the tragedy, when so many others couldn't.

And yet, you have to.  Not forget I mean, but take a breather.  Let it sink in.  Allow the gravity of the situation to have it's rightful place.

In these moments I often wonder what my role is.

Where is my responsibility in this?

I think about my children sleeping in their beds right now.  I think about how impressionable they are.  I wonder on what their futures hold.  What battles they will have to fight as young men and women.

I really hate to admit that I have lived a long time in "retreat" mentality.  Pull away, live off the grid, stop all the media from being in my house, go simple, don't invest, it's too much out there, so I'll just live small in our own little world.

But really, all that means is that I escape all responsibility and I hide from being apart of the solution.  What my greatest sin with that way of living, is teaching my children to do the same.  When I don't engage, they will never know how.

As parents it is critical that we understand the importance of what our job is.  If you have small children living in your home, then you understand the absolute power you have in your words and actions in shaping the minds and hearts of the young people who look up to you.  The way we engage, or ignore problems.  The words we use to describe hate crimes and those who hurt.  The way we talk about different cultures and religions.  Our words will directly shape the way our children see the world and the people in it.

Humans history is filled with wars and killings based on greed, power, selfishness  and sickness.  It won't ever go away.  So how do we deal with that?

The only power I have right now, today in my circumstance is to raise up children who will desire to be apart of the solution, not the problem.  To be helpers.  To be supporters.  To be advocates.

To give my children a language to communicate their thoughts and feelings, so that talking through problems is the first solution.  To teach the power of communication, understanding, forgiveness, and compromise.

To install in my children a longing for justice and a heart for the wounded and hurt.

To equip them with the tools necessary to find solutions to problems.

To in every way possible, give them an acceptance of all people, without judgement so that they can see the man behind the culture, the religion, the uniform.

To talk about the scary things that happen in a space where it allows your children to voice their questions and concerns and worries and wonderings. 

To give them your thoughtful observations and passion against evil.

Today felt overwhelming.  The obvious tragedy brings with it a sense of hopelessness.  After the hopelessness came the urgency in the awareness of the responsibility of raising my children.

Raising them to not run from the fight, but equipping them to be prepared for it.

In my opinion, Jesus hasn't shown up yet, so I would rather we were a family who actively cared about the solution, instead of pretending that all the problems don't exist.

We have a responsibility as parents.  Our children are what we are giving to the world, to the next generation.  They will inherit all of our mistakes and all that is wrong and right with our world.  I will say it again, my greatest mistake will be not preparing them for that.