Exams – they can kill ya or they can kill ya!

sarcastic-quotes-on-exams

That dude up there……..was me, Randy and Mitchell this week in preparation for exams. I wish I could come to you with some great helpful tips to help engage your child in preparing and acing his/her exams. Instead I come to you as a worn out, exhausted parent who has resorted to using potty mouth terms that rhyme with famous History peeps in efforts to make the thought stick. I will never look at Bartolome de Las Casas the same. Yes, he promoted Indian rights but I’ll forever remember him as Bart the Fart because there were stinky things going on around him and he stood up for the Indians. Oh.my.word! Did we really tell our kid that just so he could remember it for his exam? Um, yes we did. And did he remember it? Well, that I don’t know yet but I’ll report back in the next post. I’m very curious myself.

Rest assured, we didn’t totally rely on this less than optimal method of study. We used some other great resources that you also might find helpful. The resource teacher at our school told me about Quizlet which is totally awesome – already prepared online flashcards, tests, quizzes, study helps all based on the curriculum your student is using in class. Your student can take mock quizzes and tests based on the material he/she’s studying. The advantage to this is it’s already prepared. Whereas on Flipquiz you create your own flashcards and make “boards” according to topic of study. Then you quiz yourself. I used both of these tools to help Mitchell study this week and we found them very helpful.

 

 

Christmas festivities in full swing

IMG_0899IMG_0904

Sophie put on a dress to decorate the tree this year. Adorable. She got hot after about 5 minutes and shed all the clothes. #hotflash

IMG_0900

Meet “thingy” – the Christmas ornament I made when I was a kid. Thingy has endured years of ridicule and verbal abuse by my husband and our friends. Our first year of marriage we had friends over for a Christmas party and Randy’s best man in our wedding stole “thingy” off our tree and took it on a trip to Israel with him and sent pictures and a ransom note with it. No really, I’m not kidding for one second. So he’s actually famous, that little ornament I made in second grade.

IMG_092110422092_886013981422568_113560927970762065_n

Sophie had her Christmas program at her school already and it was so good! Love the girls in her class so much. They all get along really well.

IMG_0934IMG_0941

The first Christmas party of the season was at Sophie’s Sunday School teacher’s house. She had her kids over for lunch and tons of desserts and then gave them all new Bibles. The kids loved this.

IMG_0887

Mitchell made this clay nativity set a few years ago when we first moved to NC. I lost track of the lady who led this class but through Facebook rediscovered her and she is coming to lead a class at my house next week with the girls in Sophie’s class. I’m so excited about this. I love this little nativity set so much and know it will be a keepsake for them one day when they have their own families. If I decide they can take it with them. Ha!

IMG_0964IMG_0967

Yeah, about this huge platter. Well, I bought it at Goodwill last year for $2.50 and am determined to use it this season. I served a whopping four garlic breadsticks on it last night at dinner and Randy laughed out loud at the presentation. It had major “gap-o-sis”. That’s a word my Mom always uses in decorating when there is way to much space going on. Tonight I served four cupcakes on it. I think I now know why it was at Goodwill. But it’s really adorably cute for $2.50. Oh well, I’ll use it for the veggie tray I’m taking to an upcoming party. And surely there will be no gaposis.

 

 

 

Drama about the real Santa

It’s about that elf thing and Santa Claus. Don’t get me wrong. I love Santa and elves. Fun, magical…..all that. However we do tell our kids eventually that Santa is not real. Sorry, but we do. Not trying to be a kill joy or anything. The first few years we get into it with them and leave cookies for Santa, etc. But soon enough they start asking questions and we answer those questions with the truth which ultimately rats out Santa. We still play along with a *wink-wink* just for the fun of it and we encourage them not to tell their friends because some parents wish to play along without the *wink-wink* and we will respect that.

Apparently this year there are a lot of “Elf on the Shelfs” represented in our eight year old’s class. We have one too. It’s a generic stuffed elf that our kids gave a hispanic twist to by naming it “El-Fano”. Our elf went through a very short lived phase of making messes with flour, hiding in places, leaving notes and candy. Sophie loved every second of it. But quickly our realist eight year old was on to the fact that I was involved with El-Fano’s actions and she rolled her eyes and figured she was too big to believe in that stuff. I was glad I could quit the elfin antics because really it was a pain in the butt.

Fast forward to an Awana Christmas party two years ago where Santa came and Sophie quickly spotted it was a parent leader in the Awana program…..and wanted nothing to do with sitting on fake Santa’s lap. Flat out refused. I encouraged her to participate and be a part of things and so she did on the outside. But on the inside?….oh that girl was so not sitting on Santa’s lap.

All this to say I was utterly confused last night as I tucked Miss Skeptical in bed and she starts bawling and saying, “Why can’t ya’ll t be like other parents and tell me that Santa is real and that his elves are real. I had to lie to my friend yesterday at school because she said you aren’t allowed to touch your elf but I told her that El-fano said I could touch him and that was a lieeeeeee because he really didn’t tell me that because he’s not reaaaaaallll” – tears streaming down her face.

I was at a loss as to what to say. She kept begging me to tell her that Santa was real. So I said, “Okay, I can tell you he’s real. He’s real, Sophie. Santa is this real man that is ten times bigger than the average household chimney but somehow he squeezes his red fat hiney down it and he leaves presents. And then he gets in his sleigh with reindeers that have magical wings, although no other reindeers have that power, and off he flies through the sky leaving presents for all the children in the world. And his elves help him.” I sort of felt like throwing up after that consider how it all just fell out of my mouth with such cynicism.

She starts laughing hysterically. And then she says, “But who eats the cookies that we leave by the fireplace?” I said, “Dad.” She said, “But how?” I took a pretend bite into my pretend cookie. She said, “No, I mean ya’ll always go to bed when we go to bed on Christmas Eve.” I whispered that we sneak back down and take a bite out of them. She gasped and said, ” You mean we make those cookies for nothing?!!! I am NOT making cookies this year!” And then she laughed again as if she was let into a special secret. We prayed and in our prayer we remembered that Jesus is real. He performs miracles that are amazing and he’s the only one that can do that. And it’s awesome to worship such an amazing Savior at Christmas.

Merry Christmas folks! I hope Santa’s good to you – *wink-wink.

santa-claus3

 

 

Resources Moms might find helpful for their tween/teens

There are some great resources out there on the shelves today for our young girls. This is great news for the Mom who desires to train up her girl in the way she should go according to how God has shaped her. A small group of Moms in our church recently met for 8 weeks to do a study called “Your Girl” by Vicki Courtney. Excellent material. What’s even cooler is that while we met as Moms, the tween girls met for their own study called “His Girl” also authored by Vicki Courtney. Both are dvd based studies and cover the same material. Really good stuff. Could be used individually but the group dynamic always provides good discussion and helps the girls know they are not alone in some of their struggles. Same with the Moms. There is a member book that goes along with the study. There is also just a book book called Your Girl by Vicki Courtney which covers the same material but it’s not a Bible Study therefore it’s not as interactive on your part.  Both offer great food for thought in helping our girls navigate their world while thriving in their faith.

00130385721jKNoSQZYL._AA160_

Below is a picture of most of our group of Moms and girls. We culminated our study with a Sunday School breakfast and overview where Moms and Girls both shared what they had learned in the study.

IMG_0805 IMG_0806

Okay, two other books that I have not read in full but have looked through enough to know they are awesomeness. I bought  A Girl’s Guide to Making Really Good Choices for me and Sophie to go through at some point. It says it’s directed for ages 8-12 but I feel like Sophie needs another year before we do this book together. It’s a slightly deeper devotional type study than she is used to right now and I don’t want to turn her off with a “study” if she’s too young for it. Anyways, I just love this book. Elizabeth George’s heart comes shining through as she had her Granddaughters in mind when she wrote this book.

9780736951227

And then I found this book at Walmart about Sadie Robertson. Oh.my.goodness. Ya’ll, we need to pray for this godly young woman. She has such a beautiful testimony of strong faith. I love her heart for God and her desire to tell others you can still be in this world as a Christian and not of it.

IMG_0885

I’ve not read this book Live Original but I looked at the chapters and definitely want to read it with Sophie down the road. She loves Duck Dynasty and she often talks about the episode where Sadie’s Dad goes prom dress shopping with her to make sure it’s modest enough. I think Sadie is a fabulous role model for young girls and I love that she is launching her own fashion line of modest but trendy clothes.

Great books, resources and awesome role models don’t make a young girl who she is. The Spirit of God has to do that work in our girls. But how cool that he is raising up godly young women and as positive role models and mentors to influence the process.

What about you? Are you working through any good material with you girl lately? Would love to hear about it in the comments.

 

The Fault In Our Stars and a response to teens.

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

I’ve seen this book around and heard teen girls talk about how awesome it is for quite a while now. It made the New York Times Best Seller List and according to Movie ticket seller Fandago, “The Fault in Our Stars” broke the record for the biggest pre-selling love story in the company’s 14-year history.

I admit it. I was curious. Curious as to what teen girls are reading these days.  And so I cuddled up on a rainy day on my couch and devoured “The Fault in our Stars” in a day.

Below is a synopsis of the book taken from Common Sense Media. (*Spoiler alert)

“Parents need to know that The Fault in Our Stars is a story about teens fighting cancer, and sensitive readers might be uncomfortable with the subject matter and sometimes graphic descriptions of what it’s like to die. Hazel has some near-death experiences and also copes with Gus as he vomits uncontrollably, etc. Characters lose eyes, legs, control of their personalities, and more. Also, characters play violent video games and read books and watch movies with high body counts. There’s some swearing and drinking, and the two main characters, who are in love, do have (safe) sex, though it’s described only briefly. This is a mature and powerful story: Hazel not only provides teens with insight about what it is like to know you’re dying — and to lose someone you love — but her story is also about deciding to love and be loved, even when you know it will cause pain.”

My thoughts about this book come in the form of a hypothetical letter I’m writing to a group of tween girls in my church that I know  and love. And this is what I’d want to say to them if they consider reading this book or other romance novels like it.

Dear Tween and Teen Girls,

There is a book that some of your friends are talking about right now. You probably are fully aware of it. Some girls your age are huge followers of the author, John Green, and his most recent book “The Fault in Our Stars”. They quote lines from the book and get swept off their feet at the truly sweet romance that takes place between two dying teens. It’s a great story. Really it is. There’s humor, romance, friendship and heart throbs throughout the book. I’ll get right to the point, girls. In the book the two main characters, Hazel and Gus, have sex and although it is non descriptive you are brought there in your mind. And in some reader’s minds they might even justify the premarital sex between Hazel and Gus because, after all, they won’t even have a chance to get married before they die. So to experience what is perceived as true love and to culminate it in consensual sex might be okay. But then again it might not be. They’re pretty sure their parents would say No to that idea but now that they think about……if they were in that situation….it might seem okay even though it’s contrary to what they’ve seen and been taught from God’s word.  These girls, some of them your Christian friends, wish the strong language and continual use of God’s name in vain wasn’t in the book because they don’t use language like that. Or at least they try not to. They know it’s disrespectful to God and they love God. But the story is just so good that it’s too hard to put down. They decide to ignore the language. And so they read on. At the end of the book they realize they too would love to be held and cherished as Hazel was in the story. Gus did the most romantic thing ever for her. He shared his one and only “make a wish foundation” wish with her and went to extraordinary lengths to give Hazel what she wanted. A true knight in shining armor. It had to be true love – even though they’d only met and had a few months together. And so now your young reader friends are left with a visual and an ideal in their mind that has swept them off their feet. Oh, they know it’s all fiction. Of course there is no real Gus and Hazel hook up although the book was inspired by a girl who had cancer and died in 2010. Your friends have the clear ability to separate fiction from non fiction and to come away from this book still knowing that premarital sex is wrong but there’s a tiny seed planted in their hearts and they wonder what it might like to experience what Hazel did. To be held. To be loved in that way.

Oh girls, don’t fall for this. It’s not healthy for your faith walk. Guard what you read and watch. Fill your mind with better things than this. You may feel left out when you bypass the movie with all your friends or can’t hold a conversation about the book but it will be worth it in the long run. Promise. Our culture is not concerned about what you fill your mind and heart with. They could care less. God has amazing plans for you. Fill your heart and thoughts with pure things so that He can keep doing his amazing work inside of you. Let God be your first and only love until the time is right.

Six hours notice and she was in our arms forever!

IMG_0674

Sophie came to us with literally six hours notice. We got the phone call from the adoption agency around 10:00am and picked her up that evening. Randy was painting a house and I was with our son at a Dr’s appointment when I got the phone call from the adoption agency. I called Randy immediately and asked him to get off the ladder that I had some news for him. And then I told him we had a baby girl waiting for us.

And sure enough she was the most beautiful baby girl bundle of joy we’d ever laid eyes on. She was wrapped up tight in a blanket when she was brought to us. Randy, Mitchell (then 5) and I were all sitting on a couch waiting for the case worker to bring her in to us. As soon as she came they placed her in Mitchell’s arms first. He held her and smiled so big. She was perfectly still and asleep. Then all of a sudden her arm jerked up as if raising a hand in worship and without skipping a beat Mitchell exclaims, “Cool, she’s alive!” We all busted out laughing and that was Sophie’s introduction to her family.

Today we’ll celebrate her life and go around the table and share 5 things we love about Sophie.

Sophie, I love your zeal. That just means you have a lot of excitement in what you do. It’s when you skip without thinking and sing and don’t even know it. I believe your compassion for others and desire to be helpful will be things God continues to use to show His love towards others. You have a strong sense of leadership inside of you my sweet girl! My prayer is that you’ll use it for good. You have a song in your heart at all times – keep enjoying life!

We love you more than you know,

Mom and Dad.

 

Community Outreach instead of Cyclical Church Events

IMG_0713 IMG_0717

For the first time ever our church took Trunk R Treat to a slightly sketchy neighborhood park. We had no idea what to expect but we prayed and planned and asked God to provide us with what He knew we needed for the night. Our church family worked hard and long to create a lit up obstacle course on the playground, set up decorated tables of candy and created a “dark room” where the Gospel would be presented every 4 minutes for two and a half hours straight.

IMG_0721 IMG_0723

We are a small rural town and estimate that around 1000+ people came through the park. Of those people only about 5% got their candy and skipped out on the “Dark Room” where Randy gave a short telling of the Gospel using different kinds of light to represent how we can all go from dark to light through Jesus Christ.

We got home last night and neither one of us could sleep because we were so excited about the night. What God did. How excited our church family was about what God did. It’s impossible to do what God created us to do (to know Him and share His Good News with others) and not get a thrill from it. Combine that with a sugar induced high and you got some major sleep deprivation going on. And so as I lay awake late last night these are the things that ran through my mind and heart in regards to outreach.

#1 You know your Trunk R Treat is a true “community outreach” event when there is only one Bible character that shows up out of hundreds of people and everyone mistakes “Moses” for  Gandalf. You can catch a glimpse of Gandalf’s twin, Moses, below. Love it!!!

IMG_0728 IMG_0731

#2 Another way we know we’re participating in a true community outreach is when the church is serving off site. It’s easy to set up our church homes with all kinds of fun stuff and ask people to come to us – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but true outreach is when we reach out to people beyond our church property. Beyond the pews and steeples. It’s when we go to our community instead of asking them to come to us every. single. time.

IMG_0737 10644877_10204915888634412_2350740524427256347_n

#3 Outreach is taking the love and message of Jesus to places where people are comfortable showing up. I can’t know for sure but I would say that more than half the people that came to the park last night and sat through a 3 minute sharing of the Gospel most likely don’t and would not step foot in church. We can make all kinds of judgements about people who choose to stay away from church but the bottom line is this: do we want them to hear the Gospel and be shown the love of Jesus? If so, we must be willing to serve outside the walls of our churches.

10632781_10204915888114399_2599870717773764867_n 1384138_10204915889114424_6912029123695761816_n

#4 Reaching out in our communities will get messy. But it’s worth it. People will be rude. There will be times that people will take advantage of your kindness. Not necessarily often but when it happens it will make you stop in your tracks and ask yourself if it’s worth it. And we remind ourselves that it is so worth it. Remembering where we were before Christ and recalling the abundant life we now have in Christ will remind us how worth-it it is.

1505602_10204915890234452_3626211596142816918_nIMG_0736

#5 Outreach is not about building our church but solely about building the Kingdom of God. Sometimes that translates into our churches growing and that’s awesome but the motivating factor in outreach is to share Jesus with people expecting nothing in return. That’s why church turf guarding isn’t necessary one bit. Last night we were telling people about the other awesome churches in our community doing Trunk R Treat at their church. One person made the comment they were going to Community Baptist Church next and I had to tell them “Dude, this is Community Baptist Church!” That was an awesome moment. They said, “Really! That is so cool that ya’ll came to the community for this. Thanks for doing that.”

I’ve mentioned before that our church is learning and growing in so many areas. Getting out of our comfort zone is one of them. But we are seeing God go before us, provide for us and do through us what we could never do ourselves. One of our members looked at me last night as we were taking down the last of everything at the park and he said, “Now this was church right here.” I couldn’t say it better myself!

 

I want a pet alpaca & and what’s your “high”?

Bill Hybels in “Just Walk Across The Room” shares an experience he does with a dinner group. They go around and share their “high” and “low” of the week. It’s an incredible way to hear from other people and we have adopted that in our home. Almost every week I’ll ask the kids what their “high” and “low” was of the week. And so today……I share two highs from last week and I’d love to know yours.

IMG_0639IMG_0619

I’m not sure which is cuter – the alpaca or the older people! Randy and I got to go to the Mountains with some of the Seniors in our church and we had such a great time. We went to Mt. Airy and saw where Andy Griffith grew up. Stopped for some good ole’ country cooking and stopped by and got some crisp country apples. We saw the world’s largest rock quarry and I bought the most awesomest Halloween hat you’ve ever seen.

IMG_0640

You know you want it.

Monday we had the most fabulous family day together. We fed the ducks, walked the Dan River and climbed bridges. I tried not to freak out and instead heed my husband’s advice – “This is good for them. It builds confidence.” They loved it and wanted to eat their lunch at the highest point of the bridge – oh you know… just a relaxing picnic while transfer trucks barrel one inch above your head while inhaling their exhaust with each bite of ham sandwich.

IMG_0665 IMG_0664IMG_0662IMG_0670

Another example of building confidence below:

IMG_0695 IMG_0689

I’m not sure why the insurance guy said we had to move our trampoline or get a net or our homeowners would increase. Sheesh, what a deadbeat. Just Kidding. We’re in the process of moving it but this was just too fun to not try.

I realize this post is nothing but a rambling mess of miscellany but it sure was fun reliving it all. Thanks for sticking in there if you did. Ha!

I’d love to know what your “high” or “low” of the week is. If it’s a “low” I will pray for you and if it’s a high I will do the dance of joy-joy with you. Oh yes this Baptist girl does dance. When nobody’s looking.

 

3 ways to overcome the fear of praying aloud

78317324

Sweaty palms. Hives. Stomach in knots. A loss for words.

It’s what some of us go through as we begin to pray aloud in a group. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve had four conversations with awesome Christian people in the last few weeks that have explained their desire to pray aloud but the anxiety that rises up keeps them from showing up or contributing to praying aloud.

I get it. Been there done that. I’m now at a comfortable place in my prayer life – both privately and corporately but it hasn’t always been that way. And while there’s nothing wrong with praying in our hearts silently while someone else prays aloud there’s something very special about joining the prayer conversation verbally with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you desire to pray aloud but you just can’t seem to overcome your fear consider these 3 thoughts that will help you move forward in your public prayer life.

  • If you can say it you can pray it. If you can read a sentence out loud then you can pray out loud. And reading a verse of scripture is a powerful way to pray or praise God.  P.S. It’s okay to pray with your eyes open. Especially if driving.

Mom’s In Prayer is a great resource that lists ample scriptures that tell us who God is. And what a great way to praise God aloud than to pray scripture back to Him telling Him that we believe He is who He says He is. To access this list within the MIP website you’ll click on “Leaders Corner” at the top bar and then on “Prayer Sheets” at the drop down and then “Attributes of God” on the side pop up.

  • Keep it short and simple. Long and lofty prayers are not the goal. Eloquent words are not necessary. Remembering that prayer is simply conversation with our personal and intimate Creator will help us not feel so pressured to sound a certain way when we talk to God. Yes, He is holy and prayer is sacred but we are his children and we can approach him as our Father with complete ease and comfort. We get to talk to him.  P.S. It’s even okay to laugh in prayer.
  • Practice praying aloud when you’re alone. Sounds strange but as we form a habit of prayer and talking to God with ease throughout our day the easier it becomes to transfer that into public places. It becomes a more natural part of who we are. In the car, cleaning the house, in the shower, etc. Go ahead, practice. Stop right now and genuinely in your heart and through audible words tell God one thing that you believe to be true about Him and thank Him for that.                                     See, you just praised God out loud and you didn’t die. Same thing with our requests. Just speak your request to God in the same words you would tell your best friend over coffee. “But God’s not the same as my best friend over coffee.” You’re right. He’s not. But when the King of Kings died for my sins and your sins something very special happened. It gave us direct access to God Himself because he loves us so much. And He wants to hear from us in our natural voice. P.S. It’s even okay to pray on the toilet. 

Okay so the next time you’re at church or in the office and someone just asked you to pray about something, do it. Do it right then and right there. Think about a verse you know that tells you who God is and praise him for that attribute and then ask him in light of who he is to hear your specific request. And if you haven’t passed out from a panic attack then utter another short praise to Him. And one prayer after another you will soon see how your prayer life will take on a totally new life. And all for his glory.

Taking Jesus to the park

As a church we are learning what it means to live out our faith beyond the pews and stain glass. And so our outreach ministry team coordinated an opportunity for our church to flesh out our faith at a local park in town. For weeks on end we met and prayed for God to give us generous hearts and provision for babies and toddlers in our town. What would people need that WIC or Food Stamps or any other government program might not provide? Diaper, wipes, and baby blankets. And so that’s what we started collecting and asking God for.

IMG_0551IMG_0533 IMG_0534 It was slow going at first. A few packs trickled in. I admit my faith was shaky. I got scared and questioned whether we chose the right item to give away. Diapers are expensive. Could our congregation provide enough to meet a huge need in our community? We would keep praying. One of our planning meetings was at the park to map out where we’d set up everything. We concluded our meeting by circling up and holding hands and praying in the center of the field asking God to supply our community’s needs and to use us in the process. To bring the people he wanted to encourage and to love on that day.

IMG_0542 IMG_0547

Our most exciting meeting came on the Wednesday before our event this past Saturday. Our outreach leader informed us that an anonymous donation of $2,000.00 came in and was designated for outreach. This exciting news would send part of our team back to Sam’s and Cosco in search of an abundance of diapers. We were so psyched!

IMG_0549  IMG_0563

We loaded up the church van and other vehicles, flat bed trucks and anything with four wheels and took hundreds of diapers and baby goods to the park on Saturday morning. As people came through the line we asked them to fill out a card with their name and how old their children were and what size diapers they needed. This helped it not to be a chaotic free for all.

IMG_0567 IMG_0573

The most tender moments were little babies being held and prayed over. Oh, that just warmed my heart. My friend Tanya (holding the baby below) who is not even a year old in Christ took on a boldness in talking to people as she painted faces. She asked if they had a church they were plugged in and she invited them to ours if they didn’t. She also prayed with some of the people. Beautiful to watch a newbie in Christ grow in boldness.

IMG_0579 IMG_0583

Our goal was to show the love of Jesus and to speak of his love as opportunities came. We didn’t know what that would look like but we prayed God would show us. And He did. Community Cares is not about promoting our church so we can build our church. It was about one thing – loving others as Jesus loved them. He looked on the marginalized with compassion and he did it on their turf. And so must we.

Today at church we celebrated what God did yesterday. Randy read Isaiah 58:1-11 which will knock your socks off. It framed what we did yesterday. Why we did it and what we did. Then we showed this video below of what took place yesterday and then took turns sharing what we saw God do. Many tears were shed. People shared how we’re growing as we learn to serve our community outside our normal context of church. To top it all off three families came to church today that we met at the park yesterday. We even got to have lunch with one of the families afterwards. God is at work in our community and we got to taste it.

Our sweet spot as Christ followers will always be showing and sharing the love of Jesus. Always.