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 ( http://igg.me/at/StopTraffick ) 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 matters...it 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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How does one move past the fear?

This morning I woke up to the sound of my son coming in to my room, hugging me and saying, "I am so glad you are alive mama.  I am so glad you are alive!"

I looked at him and said, "Oh honey, of course I am alive.  Is everything OK?"

That's when Big told me that last night they woke up to gun shots ringing in the front yard.  They ran out to get Paul, thinking we were being attacked.  Paul had already flipped the light switches off and was ducking down to see a group of teenagers breaking off in pairs from our front yard after shooting a couple rounds off into black sky.  They clung to their dad hoping he could make it better.  After calling the police, he tucked the kids back into bed and sang over them.

This morning, their fear for me and for them was all they could talk about.  I was writing at the coffee shop like I do every Tuesday night.  I wasn't home, and so in their young minds, I was at risk out there with the bad guys.  They were out there and I was out there, not safely at home.

As each of my kids came into my room this morning, all hugging me tight, thankful for my safety, my heart physically hurt for how to help them navigate through this.  I wasn't sure how to do that.

I can't give them promises that I will always be there for them.  Because I won't.

I can't tell them that nothing bad will happen to me.  Because I don't know.

So what can I give them?

First off, this is not a story of living in the hood.  This story isn't shared to get you to feel bad for us.  It's not a  story to gain attention or have some weird twisted story to brag about.  This story speaks to what we do with the fear our children have.  All kids have a fear of something.  Fear of fitting in.  Fear of being embarrased.  Fear of talking to strangers.  Fear their parents will split up.  Fear there is something wrong with them.  So the question then is, what do you do with that fear?

Second, as parents, I think it is very tempting to use our status in our children's lives to turn into the ultimate power.  If you have a wound, I will make it better.  If someone hurt you, I will go take care of it.  If you have a need, I will fill it.  It is nice to be needed and have someone rely on you.  To be the hero.  The one who saves the day.

But in the end, what good does it do to have our children put all of their trust in us?  In a human being who will fall short, mess up and disappoint them?

Paul and I have as much as possible, whenever possible, try to point our children to the one who will not fail them.  To the one who will ultimately heal and help them.  It is our goal as parents to teach our kids to reach out to God in times of trouble, pain and joy.  This is not without trying our hardest to be there for our children, to help whenever it is right.  But we can't desire to be their ultimate power in life.

So each morning, we try, at breakfast to institute, "Feed your body, feed your soul."  This is a time where we read a few verses in the morning to make sure that the word of God is in our children's hearts.  Lately, we have been reading through the proverbs.  But this morning I knew it was different and we would need a different kind of comfort and healing.  So we read Romans 8:31+

"What then shall we say in response to this?   If God is for us, who can be against us?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In reading this, it also brought to mind the verse that says, "perfect love drives out fear" which I think is 1 John.

God's love can drive out our fear and demons and insecurities.

I wanted my kids to walk away not living in fear.  Not overcome with worry about who might get shot and killed in our yard.  We are still trying to convince them that we won't die every time a thunderstorm hits in the middle of the night.  Two years later, Big and Little will still crawl into our bed trembling that we will die when the thunder hits waking them up in the darkness of night.

It is my belief that fear, left in our heart will create a foothold for Satan to tear us down and keep us from thriving in life.  When a small amount fear or doubt is left in your heart, the only thing it has the power to do is grow.  It gains strength every time we experience something that reminds us of that fear.  Then eventually, it will keep us fearful and unable to take chances, to trust, and to love.

So in this round about way, as parents, and just as people ourselves, the way to not live in fear is to cling to the one who has the power enough to love us out of the fearful place.  To admit that fear.  Surrender it.  Lay it down.  Give it over.  Try to learn to trust a little bit more every day.

This morning we prayed after reading scripture together.  We prayed that we could rest in God's love.  We prayed that Satan wouldn't have a hold on our hearts in the fear we have about how scary the guns were.  We prayed that God could create trust in our hearts.  We prayed that his words we read would strengthen our faith and allow us live in HOPE that God, no matter what, will work all things to his glory.

We don't know what that means exactly.  We don't really know what that looks like.  I do know though that I could tell a difference in their smiles this morning.  I am hoping that teaching them to give over their fear and worry and weakness, that they will start to cling on their own to a relationship with Christ.

He is much better savior than me.

And in the end, I have lived most of my life in fear.  I would like to find a way to help my children live in love and courage by showing them how to surrender over the fear.

Monday, April 8, 2013

When you are weary of the battle

I don't know about you, but I grow weary and tired of how hard it is to fight for what you want in life.  To battle all the things that threaten to take away your values and priorities and hope.

Everything the last few days has grated on my emotions.  Feelings that felt raw and ready to explode for reasons I couldn't figure out.

I knew I was tired.

I knew I felt worn down.

I knew I felt like I wanted to give up, sit on my couch, eat ice cream and pop corn and drink wine and iced coffee.  Snuggle under a blanket and just read a silly book or watch TV all day.

I was tired of battling the kids, myself, our neighborhood, our budget, my time, the book...well everything, and I craved relief.

I wanted relief from all the intentionality that we try to live in.

I wanted a break from all the rules and guidelines.

When talking with Paul this afternoon about why, "Why are we so easily frustrated and cranky, and so ready to give up?"  We realized it was because we are always fighting.

We are fighting for our kids faith in God.  We battle to find the time to invest in devotions, conversations, intentional time dedicated to exploring faith and what it means to believe in God in their world today.

We are fighting for our marriage.  We work hard on finding time to be together, trying to use communication that builds us up instead of tearing us down.  We evaluate all the time, what do you need to be OK?  How can I support you?  How can I love you during this hard time?  We are working hard on putting the needs of our spouse before our own.  To see the love of your life through the eyes of Christ.  To keep the spark alive.  To turn young love into something deep and rich and powerful that still contains magic and spark.

We are fighting for our safety.  How can we live in a place of trusting God to be enough and not living in fear, while still being safe in the choices we make?  Not making judgements on the kids walking around our neighborhood.  Not assuming that every person sitting in their car is there waiting on trouble, or that every person who knocks on our door is wanting to break in when we leave.  Our families safety is always, constantly present first and foremost in our mind.  We are always prepped for battle when it comes to our safety.

We are fighting for our money.  Money has a way of just disappearing and we are fighting to keep ours.  We are always aware of what we are spending, and fighting to keep money in our pocket so that we can be free from debt.

We are fighting for our own dream and for the dreams of our spouse.  Paul and I are both filled with ambition and determination and our greatest desire is to fulfill God's desire for our life.   It's hard in the mundane, every day chores and hurdles to fight for something bigger.  Something grand.  Something special that lives in your heart.  You have everyday choices that you have to weigh against the grand scheme of things.  This is one of the hardest things to fight for everyday.

When we intentionally live out our lives, it means we have evaluated and prayed and come to a set of standards of how we live our life.  How do we spend our time, our money, our resources?  Do these things hold up to the priorities and values that we live by?

But that also means that we just don't live caressly anymore.   Everything we do at that point means something.

Most often however, if you have taken the time to evaluate your life and have decided to live by certain standards, those standards will grate against the lifestyles around you.  When that happens, what do you  do?

We have a choice to give up on our standards and value of living, or we fight.

We try to have a family meeting every week so that we can take stock of our resources and time and money as we evaluate all the options that we face every week that want our time, our money and our energy.

And so we choose to fight.

But you can't fight every moment of every day.  Some days, when the battle becomes too much and it tears down your spirit, you need to take a break.  You need to sit and pray and release control back to the creator who loves you.  You need to remember that God is still God and we are just one person in one moment in time.

And so we surrendered.  Not to our ideals and priorities, but to the God in charge of those ideals and priorities.  And in that surrender, it gives us strength to keep fighting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

1 whine =1 penny

I HATE Whining.  

When I say that, I mean it feels worse to me than the fingernails on a chalk board phrase.

I HATE whining.  And my kids do it. All. The. Time.

That's when I asked myself, "What would Bill Cosby do?"

What's funny is I have found myself asking that question a lot with my kids getting older.  I grew up on the Cosby show and they had such inventive, creative ways of dealing with their kids.  So what would Bill do?

Well, I am not sure that this is what they would do, but it got my creative juices flowing.

After so much whining and then so many frustrated "pleas" from mom about "stop whining", Paul and I got together, and decided we needed a plan.

We called a family meeting and discussed our two current issues that needed correction.  

Whining and Disobedience.

We sat the kids down and prayed first.  Praying has its all calming power to refocus everyone and get us all on the same page.  As much as 2, 5, and 7 year old can be on a page.  

We talked about how we wanted them to succeed and we talked about how much they were probably really tired of being corrected by mom and dad.  We wanted to create a way to help them and remind them about the things that come out of their mouth.

Then we brought the Bible out and read a few verses about honoring God with our words and whining.

Are you communicating with a self-controlled voice? (that NEVER happens here!)
How does God want you to communicate?

Titus 2:12 says, "Whining is an ungodly form of communication.  God wants you to use self control, even with our voice."
Also check out, Proverbs 25:28, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:29, 2 Peter 1:5-8.  These helped us point our kids to WHY we ask them for certain behavior.

Then came the idea.  

The kids will get 10 pennies each morning.  (This idea actually came from the Bernstein Bears when Sister Bear was biting her nails.  Apparently, Paul and I are incapable of creating our own inventive parenting techniques.  We just steal from imaginary families.)  Every time they whine, they have to put a penny in the jar.  We went and got an old canning jar, and asked the kids what we should their money should go towards.  We decided to make it the "Car Repair Jar".  

So every time the kids whine, we save money for the next time our car is in the shop.  This will never amount to much, but we really liked the idea.  I had middle make a sign for the jar, (forget pinterest and all their fancy Martha Stewart like ideas, we just use scrap paper and markers.  We are old school, its cheaper.)  The next day we went to the bank to get a whole stash of pennies.

The kids were super excited because they started counting how many days they needed to be extra good to get a whole $1.  It lasted a day.  The second day, each kid lost four pennies.  At one point, Little looked at me, knowingly complained and whined about lunch while she marched right into her room and got two pennies to put in the jar as she finished her whining.  I laughed right out loud at her.  Wrong move I know, but I couldn't help it.

So here we are... the jar is filling up.  We don't argue as much about whining.  They whine.  We say, put a penny in the jar.  If they whine about putting a penny in the jar, that will cost you 2 pennies.  They have figured out that if they boldly say, "someone else is whining!"  they also put a penny in the jar.

It may sound silly or over the top, but did I tell you how much I can't stand whining?  This seems to be working.  Even Little now will catch herself, stop, and say what she wants to say instead of the old habit of IMMEDIATELY turning up the half cry/half baby talk to communicate what she wants.  I would say that is progress.

We tell our kids, we understand that whining will happen.  What we want from you is for this NOT to be your first choice of communication.  

But you know the thing about intentional parenting and communication and discipline?

If you aren't consistent, it doesn't work.

There have been a few times that Paul and I have looked at each other and said, "We just gave ourselves one more thing to manage and think about.  If we don't stay on top of this, then it won't work."  And yes that is true.

And though we still whine here in this house, because we are normal people who struggle to learn good habits, it is slowing working.  And every few days, or at least once a week, we ask the kids, why do we have a "NO WHINE" jar?  We want them to know its not just about how annoying it is, but that God desires better from us.  We can glorify him and honor others with the way we communicate.  That is why we do this.  (And it drives me nuts.)

And we raised $1.15 for our next car repair!!!!!

I don't which is harder, teaching our kids good habits or saving for the next time our car breaks down.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Who I am instead of who I want to be

I called up a friend the other day, one whom I haven't spoken to in awhile and we were casually chatting.  As with any conversation it was basic and going through the routines.

How is life?  The kids?  School?  The job hunt?  On and on and on.

It was fine.

It was comfortable.

It was socially normal and expected.
Then she asked about the book.

So a couple things went through my mind.  The first thing I said was, 

"It's fine.  It's going good.  Hard to write and find the time."  

And with all those things being truthful, I still wasn't revealing the true matter on my heart.

I was scared and spending far too much time caring about what other people thought.  I was worried that people won't like it, or they won't support it.  I hadn't prayed over it in awhile and had taken total control of the matter back in my own hands.

I know my friend would understand this truth.  I know she would pray with me and encourage me.  That wasn't the issue.

The truth is, I didn't want the be the girl who was struggling.  I didn't want to be the girl who had slipped in her faith and started to do it all on her own.  I didn't want to be the girl who had to learn a lesson, who after years of overcoming her insecurity, was feeling more insecure than ever before.

I wanted to be the girl who was doing it right.  Who didn't fall into temptation of making this book about me.  I wanted to be the girl who surrendered her will to God every morning, prayed without ceasing over her work, created good habits to make it happen and could do it all.  Doesn't that sound great?  It sounds like a wonderful story of great faith and spiritual leading.  I wanted that story.  I wanted to for once in my life do it the right way.  

But that wasn't what was happening.

And so, in a moment of feeling brave and wanting to be honest, I said what was true.  I decided not to be who I wanted to be, but who I really was instead.

"The book is going well, but I have noticed lately that I am far too scared about what others think.  My mind seems overrun with thoughts of feeling less than I am.  I am scared that someone else could do it better.  I worry that it will fail.  I get nervous thinking about how others will value the quality."


I had said it out loud.  The dark things that were crowding my brain.  The hard things that were taking away my faith.  After I say them out loud, I have to own that they are true.

To this, my friend encouraged me in my dream.  She filled my heart with kind and encouraging words. And then she said, "You need to read the book of Joshua.  Joshua is filled with courage and trusting God, and that is what you are doing.  You are doing something courageous and your ability to trust in God is the only thing that will carry you through.  Read Joshua and find comfort and truth in what you are doing."

All my tension and worry went away.  

This, right here, is why we are writing a book.

This is what the book is about.

In the midst of even our struggle and weak faith, and total control issues, God is still present and working.  When we are capable of taking off our expectations and ideals, and can be real with the people around us, God's truth becomes clear.  Friends, mentors, blogs, pastors, scripture, podcast, whatever and whenever you find it, truth can be revealed.

I was reminded that day to be honest.  It does no one any good to pretend to be something they are not. My honesty encouraged my friend, and she was able to encourage me as well.  She spoke encouragement and pointed me toward truth to heal my wound, my insecurity, and my weakness.

If I haven't told you yet here, I am telling you now.

My friend Henry and I are writing a book about stories.  Stories we live every day that hold deep spiritual truths.  These stories are used in communicating about our faith with others.  These stores enrich and encourage others.  These stories point towards heaven.  These stories bring heaven to earth.  They nurture love and forgiveness and God's ultimate power and goodness.  There is power in the stories we live here on earth.

We would love to share this project with you.  Henry and I are interested in making this a community project.  If you are interested in pre ordering this book and supporting the writing process, please donate to our campaign at  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/more-than-a-story/x/2561912.

If you are interested in knowing more about the project after the funds are raised, during the writing project, please visit our website www.pearabull.com or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mightier-Press/301285753332675?ref=hl 

I am excited about this book.  I am also really excited about all the ways is shaping my heart and creating a deeper trust in him in regards to all the stories of my life.  Thank you for being apart of this journey.  Thank you for showing up and walking through life with us. 

Be blessed friends.