Front Porch Tales

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Summer nights are the best. They land us on the front porch eating dessert and telling stories. Just the other night we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a conversation that began with, “Things to never tell the future boyfriend/girlfriend when you bring them over.”

We covered all kinds of hilarity – like the time one of them escaped from their bath and just randomly started hula hooping buck-nekked in the living room.  Yeah, we decided that would be a story NOT to tell when the new friend comes over to meet the family. Of course there were a lot more stories we exchanged. And it was fun. We laughed and cried and we’re enjoying this story telling time on the front porch.

Tonight’s question was, “What was the scariest day of your life?” 

I was shocked by Sophie’s answer and I felt so.bad. It was the April Fool’s day when we woke the kids up at 3am and told them a tornado was coming and we had to hide in the basement. You don’t even have to slap me to tell me that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. This was her scariest day. Oh my word my heart hurts so bad. And just for the record we were only down there like 2 minutes before we told them it was April Fool’s Day.

And I was surprised by Randy’s answer to this question as well. It was a day I came close to seeing Jesus face to face before an emergency surgery – I didn’t realize how serious this was until later – but it was his scariest day of his life. I had no clue.

I shared a story that my kids didn’t know – a scary time when a man tried to lure me and a friend by offering candy to us in a burlap bag from inside his truck. CREEPY!!!! A great short conversation followed about safety and what to do. What I did – rode my white Huffy home so fast the chain almost flew off. And prayed the entire way never looking back.

So it’s good these times of sitting on the porch and sharing stories. Story is good. If truth be known it’s what our ancestors did more of on their front porches back in the day.

Whether it’s the back porch, stoop, grassy backyard or your dinner table – tell more stories. They bring a family together.

A few prompters to get you going……

Talk about a time you tried something new. What was it? What happened?

Talk about a person you admire, famous or otherwise, who has fought or fights for the freedom of others.

Talk about a time something changed for you, something beyond your control. Have your feelings about this event evolved over time?

Tell about the best day of your life.

Ministry hurts

I’m heavy hearted with the conversations I’ve had with ministry families whose families are falling apart. Families who on the outside seem like everything is wonderful and fine. But on the inside they are crumbling.

Ministry can suck the life out of an individual and it can wipe out a family all while satan sits back with arms crossed shaking his head in accomplished approval. I know he’s at the root of it. Tearing families apart who are striving to follow Jesus while leading others.

It’s a fierce battle. One that must be intentionally fought daily. With the Word. With prayer. With forgiveness. With grace.

There are many approaches to ministry and we must be careful in casting judgement on others when they do things differently. But this we can know – God never calls a man or woman with a family to put a church or ministry over his family. God designed the family and calls a man to lead his home. Even pastors. Especially pastors. If a ministry leader is gone the majority of the week – missing dinners at home, missing kids games, important events and clueless about his/her children’s lives and clueless to his wife’s needs they are sadly missing the mark. Sometimes we equate God with ministry. “God is first” and so ministry is the same thing as God so I’m justified in putting my family after the ministry because God called me to the ministry. And this is where families start to crumble. Men and women who think the ministry depends on them solely. It’s a scary slippery slope and before they know it they have lost their family to the ministry.

So how can we as ministry families protect against this?

A great book is Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins when Family and Work Collide? by Andy Stanley. Not just for the pastor or ministry leader but anyone struggling with balancing work and family. And don’t we all? My pastor husband read this ten years ago and it had a foundational influence on him. It laid the groundwork for how he approaches ministry and family. Randy fights hard – I think it will always be an intentional struggle – to keep his family a priority. He has no idea how much we, as his family, appreciate it. I try to communicate to him how much but I don’t think he’ll ever truly understand just how much it means to me that he fights for his family time. When I say “fight” I mean he leaves work undone at the office so he can eat dinner with his family. I mean he misses an occasional meeting because he’s on a family trip. He actually takes his day off. And so on. And the fact that we have a very supportive church for these things is huge. Of course he said it up front before we ever came to our church this was his philosophy of ministry and family so they knew what they were getting when they got Randy as a pastor. He was and is a pastor who is a family man. And that’s a gift to his family and his church.

Including kids in ministry but not forcing them. And not holding labels over their head.

Randy includes our kids in ministry activities but doesn’t force them. Hospital visits, praying for people, etc. are optional. Never a “you’re a pastor’s kid so you need to…….” Church people will put that kind of pressure on the kids. Ministry parents don’t need to. And surprisingly they are open and willing to come along and even pray over people at times. And that warms my heart. Of course there are times when these things are not optional and there are times when they’d rather stay home and watch TV. Not saying we’re always primed and ready for ministry. Ha! Nope, not what I’m saying here. But we are careful not to hold “you’re a preacher’s kid so you……” over their heads. They don’t need that.

Letting your kids see how awesome ministry is.

Not only involving our kids in ministry but pointing out the beautiful things in ministry is helpful in keeping a ministry family loving and serving God in their context. If they hear us saying, “Did you see how God worked here……and look how God provided here……and how cool that your Youth Pastor took time to take you here……..” It’s not manipulation. It’s helping our kids see the hand of God at work in their church. Our kids need us to do that sometimes for them. And soon enough we can teach them how to look for and observe the hand of God at work in the ministry they’re involved in.

Pray. Pray. And pray some more. 

Ministry family, know this one thing: satan wants your family to fail. He wants any Christian family to fall apart but he really wants the pastor’s family to crumble because of the overall fall out. A ministry family is no more important than a Christian family. I pray I’m not coming across that way in this post. But there’s a target on your family, dear ministry family. Pray every day. Don’t live in fear. But pray every single day for God’s glory to be revealed through your family.

 

 

 

 

 

Our first pastoral retreat

We’ve never been on a Pastoral retreat weekend before and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was really a neat time of praying, planning, vision casting, laughing and sharing with the church pastoral staff and a couple training in ministry.

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A family in our church opened up their lake home for us to stay for the weekend with our families. The men went up early on Friday and the wives and kids came up Friday night and we stayed through Sunday afternoon.

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The kids had a blast on Saturday afternoon because it warmed up enough for them to play outside. A huge help was having a young married couple in our church watch the kids while we had our sessions on Saturday. There were six kids in all ranging from ages 2 – 14 so it was loud at times but it worked and we wanted the families to be together.

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At meal breaks we all pitched in and grabbed our food. I have to brag on my man because he did the food planning and buying for this retreat. And he did so good. Good with the amount of food, choices, etc.

We are blessed to be among a pastoral staff who genuinely love God with all their hearts. They love their families and they love the work of the church and what God has called them to.

Ministry is a heavy weight. It’s heavy because you are loving and leading people through incredibly joyous times and also through incredibly painful times. It’s heavy because there are huge decisions to be made that can shape and direct the course of the church. Much prayer and seeking God goes into it and honestly that can be quite draining at times. There are unique burdens and responsibilites that come with it but there are amazingly rich joys and rewards. It is an honor and gift to be called into ministry. We don’t take it lightly. This weekend we were able to seek God on matters, talk with each other and pray together about the things we love most.  And we wait in expectation to see what all God has in store for our church community the next 12-18 months. We even planned out 10 years loosely knowing God has the complete right and control to trump every single thing on the “planned agenda”. It is his work not ours.

Friends, please pray for your pastor’s and their families. I can’t tell you how much it thrills my heart when someone comes up to me and tells me, “I am praying for your family. I know marriage is hard and I’m praying for your marriage and your family.” Ladies, don’t ever take it offensively when someone says they’re praying for your marriage or think in your head, “OMGosh why does she think my marriage is in need of prayer?!! I need to give off a better impression of a stronger marriage.”  No, not at all. The truth is we all stand in desperate need of prayer for our marriages, in our parenting, in our family needs. And your pastor’s home is no different. Cover them in prayer as you cover your own family in prayer.

 

 

 

 

When the preacher’s family gets bored at dinner – this is what happens

So it started out as just a normal dinner but somehow this is where we landed between dinner and Upwards Basketball Practice.

Mind you this balloon was a Star Wars birthday balloon for Randy the second week of December. This is what was leftover.

And now for Mitchell……

And the Daddy-O

And the Helium Mom

The Makings of a Waffle House Christmas

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Hello family that is addicted to Waffle House! That’s most of us right there. My Mom has a neighbor who is a photographer and he took a family shot and did some candid Waffle House pictures for us. He was wonderful. If you’re in the Atlanta area and need a good photographer check Gibbs Frazeur out.

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This was the sight at our family Christmas party a few days before Christmas. The Waffle House crashed our party!

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This great WH team served all 22 of us our Christmas dinner. Certainly a memory we’ll have forever. I grew up going to the Waffle House and most all my friends remember coming along. We would end up skating in the parking lot and have our own booth and made up games to kill time while Mom and Dad had their coffee. We dropped more quarters into the juke box than they ever cared for. I’m pretty sure the WH staff hated to hear “Special Lady at the Waffle House” just one more time. One time I pretended to be blind and read the waffle house menu with my finger. How weird is that? Another weird fact: My Mom somehow got a Waffle House waitress uniform and wore it to a church Christmas party. We were still sort of new at the church so some people weren’t sure if she was for real or not. She had a big wad of gum in her mouth and long dangly earrings and told everyone she had just gotten off work. OH.MY.Gosh. This is my family.

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That’s my sweet Mom (with umbrella) and my nephew getting their food. My Mom is so cool you guys. She’s pushing 80 and can still rock a party like nobody I know.

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We all got a grand slam breakfast and had chicken or steak with it.

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And even though we’re eating on paper plates and greasy Waffle House food we are most definitely still eating on nice linens. Thank you Mom for always making it nice for us.

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The only thing we lacked was some good ole Waffle House music and so I shall provide it here…..

Happy New Year friends! Go have some hash browns scattered, covered and smothered.

Belly Laughter

Usually family formed belly laughter is just that – for the family – and just like pulling out old home videos is boring to other people so are their family belly laughter stories. But one reason this blog exists is for family memory preservation so I’ll share it anyways.

The weekly belly laugher comes in the form of a mispronounced Science term. I’m explaining to my son how this Science stuff works while trying to be all brainy like until I get to the term “Stratigraphy”  (\strə-ˈti-grə-fē\) and murder it completely and cannot with all my might say it the correct way after multiple attempts.

My 8th grader is beside himself laughing hysterically at me, not with me, with each mispronunciation of the word. I admit, it really is funny. It sounds so redneck and uneducated the way I say it. The wrong way. We laugh and for the last two weeks all I’ve heard about is the word Stratigraphy! At bedtime. At breakfast. On the way out the door to school – “Hey Mom, remember “Stratigraphy?”

As if to follow in this new pattern of mispronouncing words I get to the word Potomac River while studying with our third grader and once again say it totally wrong – short o and added a “t” in the middle making it sound like an automatic Pontiac car or something just completely off.

There’s no hiding anything with Sophie. You don’t get by with anything with her. No saying it correctly real fast like in hopes she didn’t catch it the first time. Nope. You’re doomed with this child.

Eyes roll in the back of her head and she says, “Mom, that is NOT how you say that word. Bahahahaha!”

Oh dear. One can hope for better days of pronunciation I guess.

 

When the unexpected hops into your life

Two Saturdays ago Randy was working in the yard and found a white and black bunny. Not a tiny little bunny but more like a gigantic Easter bunny – bunny.

We spent all morning trying to catch the thing. The kids set a trap and the bunny would come so close to getting the carrot but then it was like he knew he was being tricked. I think he was playing us more than we were him! Ha! Sophie was so patient and stood behind this tree with the cord to pull down the storage container for over an hour. Soon we all realized that wasn’t going to work. So we moved on to good ole’ fashion chasing.

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Finally the kids cornered him in the neighbor’s yard and Mitchell picked him up. Randy and I were inside and we could hear Sophie squealing with delight all the way inside. We ran outside and then all four of us were yelling with excitement. Poor bunny had to be terrified!

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The kids begged to let the bunny come inside so like a sucker we let them bring him in. This was the coolest looking bunny I’ve ever seen. It clearly was somebody’s pet because he was pretty calm and well groomed. The kids loved playing with him inside and we were debating keeping him if we couldn’t find the owner. We realized though that with all the shedding he was doing and with Sophie’s allergies we just couldn’t do it. A rabbit was not a good fit for our family.

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But it was an experience we’ll never forget! It was funny because our entire family needed the release this crazy oversized bunny brought us. We were screaming, yelling, planning how to capture and running around the yard like a bunch of crazies. I think God knew it had been a really uptight few weeks leading up to “Mr. Stanley, the bunny” coming into our lives. We all needed something totally random and crazy to loosen us up. And it worked.

I love how our God knows what we need when we need it. And how cool that he uses his creation to intersect with those needs. Who woulda thought.

 

 

 

 

What 44 years of life has made me thankful for

I’m turning 44 on 9/11 and I’m reflecting on the things that I’m thankful for……

  • Life – my Mom’s OBGYN told her he could just scrape me out of her womb and “take care of” me after my Mom expressed her shock and disappointment in her pregnancy. But God…….led my Mom into a conversation with her Pastor who talked her through this decision. As she answered his questions she realized how selfish and how wrong that choice would be. She chose life. I’m thankful she did.
  • New Life – after nine years of life I realized I could have a new life in Christ. One that would transform me from the inside out. My third grade teacher sat with me in the hallway of Mount Parent Christian School and led me to Jesus Christ.
  • Life in a Christian Home – such a blessing to have godly parents who loved God and loved me. Who taught me the Bible and provided an example of a committed marriage built on God’s faithfulness.
  • Life with “my man” – marrying my high school sweetheart has to be the highlight of my 44 years of life outside of getting saved. Our dating years were so much fun and life with him is still one of life’s greatest gifts to me.
  • Lively chil’rens – at one point we were beginning to wonder if we’d ever hear the sounds of children in our home. After ten years of marriage God brought to us two incredibly awesome kids – loud kids. Trust me –  you might even hear them now. Ha! God knew the quiet type might not ever survive our home. They are one of my greatest blessings.
  • Life in the Church – oh yeah, how could I not think about my life in all the different churches that have assisted in my spiritual growth. The one I grew up in after getting saved. The youth group that grounded me in high school. The church I came home to all through college and got married in. Our church as newlyweds that took Randy under his wing and mentored him. The first church plant God led us to and allllllllll the things we learned. For the second and current church we’re in now and how beautiful the body of Christ is when she’s healthy and growing. Oh yes, in my 44 years of life I am sure thankful for my church.

Well that’s all I got for now. I’m exhausted from being so serious. Now I’m off to party. To be the sassy birthday girl. To eat my cake. Cuzzzzzz it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. Cry if I want to. Eat chocolate cake with chocolate icing on top if I want to……….

Oh, and yes, I do have the annual birthday voicemail message up and running on my cell for all my local yocals. Call me if you dare. Muwahahahaha.

2 Tips in training money $mart kids

1. Let them make money by working. 

In order to teach kids how to manage money wisely they need to have the opportunity to work for a weekly amount of money even if it’s just one dollar.

Mitchell and Sophie have the opportunity of making $5.00 a week in household chores if they do them all. They also have non-paying responsibilities around the house that they are expected to do just because…. well, because they live here. Mitchell mowed a neighbor’s lawn this summer so he made some extra money and this got Sophie wanting to make more money.

So she decided to earn extra money by making a lemonade stand. I rolled my eyes and prayed she’d have a few customers because I really didn’t think it would go well but she really really wanted to do it so I let her.

She made $13.50 her first hour and she’s only selling it for 50 cents!  The second day she hired out help and made $40 in less than 2 hours. She hired me to make the lemonade ($1.00) and split the profit down the middle with the friend who helped her sell. HA!! Doesn’t the UPS Truck, Taxi van (?) and police car crack you up??? It totally blessed my soul that they would buy lemonade from the girls. (And yes, I was watching closely….. Mama bear showed her face upon every lemonade transaction.)

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2. Teach your kids to do 3 things with every dollar earned. (Give.Save.Spend)

Whether it’s $1.00 earned or $20.00 earned we teach our kids to do the same three steps: They put their money in three different envelopes: Give (tithe 10%) Save (saves 10%) and Spend (what’s left over – 80%). Sophie is saving up for a bike so all her Spend money will go towards a bike soon. Her “Save” money goes into her savings account to offset college expenses. We/she deposits it in her savings account every six months. And every six months she puts all her Give money together and gives that money in an offering at church. Mitch does the same thing. And we do the same thing with our money.

It’s a discipline that has the potential of changing your child’s life when he or she is older. If they can get into the practice now of giving, saving and spending it will become a life long habit that will give them a strong foundation going into marriage.

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Want to teach your kids good financial cents? (ha! ha! I couldn’t resist) Then check out Dave Ramsey’s materials. The Financial Peace Junior kit is awesome and very affordable. I love it out of everything out there I’ve tried as far as chore charts, payment charts, etc.  There is actually a Financial Peace Junior Bible Study that is downloadable. Our church is starting this study for kids 1st -5th grade this month. The envelopes you see in the picture came in the Financial Peace Junior kit. It comes loaded with some other great resources as well.

Linking with Jennifer, Holley and Kristin

 

Signs of a bad week

You know it’s been a bad week when……

  • You call your child a butt and then realize he’s most likely going to go to school and tell all his teachers and friends that his Mom called him a butt. Then they won’t believe him and he’ll keep arguing until he gets a detention. I should write a book called, “If you call your child a butt he’ll ask for prayer at school.” And by the way he cracked up laughing when it came out of my mouth because honestly it shocked all of us. And I apologized and he wouldn’t accept because he thought it was hilarious and he knew it was true.
  • Your daughter overhears a phone conversation about having a routine mammogram and laughs hysterically making mammogram squashing machine noises with hand motions. As if that’ not enough she graciously says she’ll request prayer for me in her class.
  • You make your entire family late for school all because of greasy hair. I should’ve just let teenage britches go with greasy day 2 unwashed hair but like a refined Southern Mama I made him go up and take a shower in 5 minutes knowing that was impossible. It was just plain stupid. And the whole family came unglued. I’m wearing a sign on my forehead that says, “I’m a butt.”

Other than that we are just having a peachy kind of a week. In a few days I get to attend a prayer conference in which I talk about how I pray over my kids – after I call them a butt. The process of refinement and humility is not easy I say.