In this time of Divisiveness, don’t forget who YOU are

It is the Lenten Season and I am trying to be good and have daily devotion. Even though I work for a religious business (a church camp), I have to admit that, sometimes, I fall short of reading the Bible daily. I converse with God daily and I try to be a good listener, but the education component is sometimes missing-except during this season.

Today, my devotion took me back to my upbringing.

My dad was a small business owner. I was raised in a small/mid-sized city and I was sure that everyone knew who my father was (silly child!) What that did for me was to help keep me on the straight and narrow. (http://www.co-z-aire.com/)

I didn’t want to do anything that would cause shame to my family or in any way impact my father being able to do business. I was so sure that my actions might impact my dad being able to have customers. I may have been very naive, but it was something I always thought about when I had a choice to make; ‘How will this affect the family name? Will Dad lose business if I do this, or that?’

Today, I was reading about being part of the family of God. It made me think about what I do daily. Do I think ‘How will my actions affect my Godly family? Will Dad (God) lose business if I do this, or that?’ I will have to honestly say that I do not always think in those terms.

I am not a bad person but I could always be better.

Yesterday, my son had me take a survey to “determine” my political temperament. Where did I fit on the political strata? The questions were very black & white and very polarizing. I answered honestly and I think my son was surprised that I was almost smack-dab in the middle of the fascist/libertarian & right/left quadrants.

circle UM logo  When I take “what are you?” political tests, I always rank as a conservative Republican. If I were to take a religious test, I would be right where I am supposed to be. As a United Methodist (click and learn more about the UM Church) , I am allowed to have my own beliefs and still feel confident in my political views. You see, the United Methodist Church is made up of all peoples. And studies do show that over 50% of church members are conservative but over 50% of the pastors are liberal (I do not have exact percentages but you can read this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/05/on-the-political-leanings-of-methodists/483683/ )

I think my son was surprised at the results. I told him that I try to see all points of view and try to be compassionate and understanding. But there are times when I do not think about my God Family when I do things. I don’t think about how God might look at my actions.

While the majority of people in the United States believe in God, the percentage is dropping – http://www.theharrispoll.com/in-the-news/harris-polls/Americas-Belief-in-God.html . I think it is apparent when you see how violence has escalated, how insensitiveness  has increased and how people are louder, ruder and less kind than in the past. I think that people are hard and combative and not willing to sit across the table and break bread. It seems to have become ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude.

I try not to be that person. But I also know that I need to be more concerned about my God Family and think first how God will react to my actions. Just as I don’t want my children to behave inappropriately, I, as a child of God, need to make sure that I do not behave inappropriately. I need to make sure that my words are loving and not divisive; that I use proper language and not words which are polarizing, degrading or downright tasteless.

Today, I want to be aware of my God Family; that I make sure I do not do anything that would embarrass my Father or take ‘customers’ away from His Business. What a wonderful world we would have if we all just tried to make our family proud.

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The Power of a Woman – Part 2

I believe that God puts you in positions, or provides opportunities, for you to learn. Like, for instance, a part breaking on a plane which frees up some time for a person to write a blog.

“I struggle every day with who I am…” those were my words on Monday as I sat in an airport, waiting for my plane to attend a United Methodist National Gathering of Camp and Retreat Leaders. I arrived eight and a half hours later than I was scheduled. I missed the opening worship service, but I found out I did not miss the lesson!

Because I arrived late and missed the first event of the conference, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything else. I was up at 6:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. my time) to attend Morning Watch. I walked the short distance under the Spanish Moss laden trees to the little white chapel. Built in 1880, the small chapel is named Lovely Lane Chapel after the site where the founding of the Conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, MD, took place in 1784. It is significant in the life of the Methodist Church. But today, it was significant for me as it became my chance to move from my past, to the present and into the future. I did not even know that what I wrote yesterday would have such significance today. But that is the way God works.

The air was crisp as I walked towards the chapel. I opened the white-painted door to a small room filled with rich dark woods and beautiful, vibrant-colored stain glass panels. It was warm and welcoming. I was ready for newness.

I had spent much of yesterday, writing, re-writing and reading my blog. I wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to say. It was significant to me. After I was finished and hit the “publish” button, I kept thinking that the blog was not what I had intended.

I had meant to write about the fact that a woman has great power in no matter which position she holds in life. It is the right of a woman to determine her direction in life, whether it is being a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. I wanted to write that my parents had given me the power to decide my fate; I WAS to go to college; I WAS to get an education that would allow me to live on my own if that is what happened in my life; I WAS to have the chance to be independent and that would happen in college. My parents gave me the values and foundation to be whomever I wanted. That is what I meant to write about. I meant to write about the power women have and to not let anyone take that power away, and that power could be defined in many different ways.

That is what I meant to say. But that is not what happened. I cried that I missed my past life. I mourned for the person I was and I lamented my sorrow to the world.

It was actually on my mind as I entered the chapel. And then the pastor stands up to give the message. He cited Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God’s Word Translation says, “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events long ago.” Apparently, that was the Bible verse that was cited in the opening worship service which I had missed.

I was dumbfounded! That verse was speaking to me; God was speaking to me. He was telling me to get over it and feel blessed with the life that I have and am re-creating every day. He had probably been telling me that for quite a while and I was not listening (I just typed lostening. How ironic that I wrote lost because that is what I am/was.)

If I had been at the evening service and heard that verse, I am sure it would not have meant as much to me. I needed to be placed in a position where I allowed myself to have a pity party. I had to put down, in words, my feelings of despair because then, and only then, would it manifest itself into the “aha” moment of this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still own my words. I do miss being “that” person, but there are parts of my childhood and young adulthood that I miss. I do not mourn those times, I have recollections which have shaped who I am today, I must look at the past and take what I did and learned and use it in my present and into my future. I need to quit dwelling on my past and being mournful because dwelling on it makes me sad and I do not want to be a sad person. I want to be a happy person, an inspiring person, a person filled with love for God and family.

God gives us a chance to learn. Sometimes God needs to set things in motion that force someone to look at their life so they can quit dwelling on the past and begin looking towards new things, the future.

For my Morning Watch alone, I am a changed person. I may only say this once, but thank God for my canceled flight.

I believe in God – a confession on my life

I believe in God! I believe that He* is the Master of my life and that, by my belief and acknowledgement of Him, I am blessed. I have always felt that way no matter what was happening in my life. And while I believe that, sometimes it is hard for me to talk/write about. I feel that God inspires me in my writing and when this topic entered my head this morning, frankly, it frightened me. Why you ask, please let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about keeping family secrets and the importance of making sure that the family not be shamed. I also believe that you should be humble, no matter what the circumstances. So in writing this, I am making myself vulnerable. I must have faith that it is God that is inspiring me to write and that I am not being led astray by other forces. So I do write with trepidation but I think this is what I am to do. (Can you feel the hesitation that I have? Imagine me taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out…) Here goes…

As I wrote, I believe in God! I am a faithful person always; I believe in God, always; but I am not a religious person, always. I do not memorize where Bible passages are located in the Bible, although I know many Biblical stories and lessons. Sometimes I forget to say grace. And there are times when I am so tired or pre-occupied that I forget to speak with God daily. I go to church weekly and attend Sunday School and worship services. My husband and I have raised our children in knowing that Sunday is a day that we spend at church and church takes precedence  over sports, or sleep, if they were out a little too late.

To my recollection, I have never said that I hated God or been angry with God. I try to take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame God for my circumstances because I am of the opinion that God lays many paths before me. Based on the path  I choose determines my future. I rely on God to be with me if I make poor choices and available for me when I ask for guidance. I do not attribute my shortcomings to “things” that God “has done” but I do give Him praise when things are going well. Some may ask, “How can you give credit to God but not place blame?” I can’t answer that for anyone else but myself. I have free will to make decisions in my life and I believe that some of my decisions have caused my life to go in directions I did not anticipate.  When I make a wrong choice, God has the opportunity to show me the correct path, if I am open to His words. (I am still somewhat hedging. I don’t want to rock the boat, known as my life, but I think it is time. I think I am being called to share what I have not shared before. I hope you have given me a little leniency)

Coming up in two weeks, I will have been married 25 years. There have been ups and downs, as in any relationship. Having a husband who is self-employed, there were times, early in his self-employment, that we did not have income. When that happened, I would say, “Well at least we are healthy.” When someone became ill I would say, “Well at least we have health insurance.” I would always try to find a way not be angry or to get depressed. I always thought that there was someone out there that had it worse than me and tried not to have a pity party.

I think our family is where we are today because we have always given credit where credit is due. As a family, we have always praised God and made Him an important part of our lives. Our family is healthy; We are gainfully employed; We have a full food pantry;  There are no reasons to complain about anything going on in our lives. (It took a lot for me to write that. It all goes to being humble. I worry that by actually saying this to the whole world, I may affect things. I know that seems superstitious, and I like to think that I am not, but I really do not want to jinx our life)**

Why do we have the life we have, while other people of faith struggle? I wish I knew and that may be one reason why I am humbled about what we have and what we are able to do for our church and our community.  I was able to go 17.5 years and devote the majority of my time to managing the household, everyone’s schedules and was a very busy volunteer. I always said that I volunteered so much to take on volunteering for women that were unable to do so because they had jobs outside the home. We have taught our children that it is important to give back to the community; that your community is only as strong as the people who give, to make it a great place to live.

I don’t want to say that life is easy, but we are blessed. And I know that our life may seem “easy” compared to others. But I think it is how I have looked at things that make me feel like we are handling things well. And maybe things have not been easy and it is just the way I look at life that makes me feel so blessed.

BIG GULP!

I believe that my husband was meant for me. I was faced with circumstances that forced me to move back to my parent’s home. It just so happened that my husband attended the church where I grew up. We met only because I trusted too much and gave someone access to my life.

FLASHBACK…the story

It was the darkest day in my life. All I saw were stars escalating into a pit of darkness the day I found out that I had nothing! I didn’t have much, just a car and furniture and Oh Yeah, a job. That may not seem like much to you but I had just lost it all, because I trusted, trusted too much.

Standing in the phone booth, listening to every customer service agent tell me that my phone and my electricity and gas were not out because of the spring storms; they were cut off from lack of payment. Uncontrollably shaking, I dialed the number to the bank that had my car loan…my car was up for repossession! That phone booth kept getting smaller and smaller and with that, the oxygen seemed to be less and less. I thought I was going to pass out before I made that last, most important, phone call.

It was hard to punch in the phone number to my bank because I was too frightened to hear the truth. I didn’t want to hear that I had a negative balance in my account. But I knew that was what I was going to be told. And even though I could feel my life crashing down around me, I could feel the weight of all that I was being told, I was in too much shock to let my emotions burst out of my soul.

I had been robbed, financially raped if you will, by someone whom I had trusted, trusted with my life. I had to think. I had to get my act together and figure out what I could do.

I was young, in my early twenties. I had a college degree but had not earned my degree in life. I was from a Midwestern town where you left your doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about “bad guys”. I did not grow up in a small town, there were 60,000 people in this city which was near a larger city. When someone told me they were my friend, I trusted that was true. And when someone told me they wanted to help me, I took them up on their offer.

I was living in a different city about 6 hours from my hometown. I moved there for a job and basically knew where my bank was, and where the grocery store and my apartment were located. I worked long hours and my friends were people I managed. I now know that is inappropriate but they were the people I knew and my social life was my work.

I became friends with a man who seemed to know everything. He intrigued me. We began dating and then he started offering to handle mailing my bills for me since he was more flexible with his time. I thought, “How great is this. I basically have my own personal shopper and someone to take care of my bills.”

I would bring my bills to work and he would swing by my work and deliver my bills to the mailbox. (It seems strange but I don’t know that I remember where the post office was or any stand alone mailboxes. I look back now and know how dumb I was.) Within a month’s time I gave him access to my bank account. He was my friend, my boyfriend, I could trust him, right?

Fast Forward…The spring storms came and everyone lost power and phone service in my apartment complex. But after a few days I became concerned. My “boyfriend” said not to worry; it was just taking time to get everything back on-line. After a week, I decided to go to a pay phone and find out what was going on…

Every phone call I made saw me sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss. During the phone call to my bank the bottom dropped out of my life. If I remember correctly, I think I sunk to the floor of the phone booth and sobbed, deep-heavy breathing sobs.

Thank God I had(have) great parents. I phoned my parents and tried to explain to them what had happened. In between the tears I told them that I had nothing. I explained to them that I had trusted someone and he had stolen everything from me. I had to explain that I gave him my bank account information and instead of mailing my bills, he was taking money out of my account; Instead of picking up my mail, he was throwing all of my bills away and only giving me the junk mail. I had not received any late notices or anything that would give me a notion that I was slowly being robbed of my life. I was lost, alone and I needed Mom and Dad to rescue me.

They explained to me that they could not get to me right away because of commitments that they had. I needed to be strong and they would take care of things. They asked for the phone numbers to all of the utility companies and they would make sure that everything was settled up with them. They would make sure I had lights and phone by the end of the day and I would not lose my car. My dad told me I needed to get things squared away with my work and tell them that I needed to make arrangements to transfer to my hometown and that I would not be in to work for a couple of days.

I did what I was told and my company was very understanding and very accommodating . I would have a job and could start at the new location in two weeks. Thank God for a good company. Even through all of this, God was there with me. I had made the mistake of trusting someone but I put my trust in God and he took care of me with a loving family, a good company and wonderful people at the bank, the utilities, the phone company and JC Penney.

JC Penney? Yes, JC Penney. I had purchased all of my furniture through them and was on a payment plan. I had a living room set, bedroom set and dining room furniture. I phoned the sales person whom I had purchased my furniture and explained what had happened to me. Through the tears I told her that I could not afford the furniture and I needed to leave the state and really did not need the furniture anymore. Can you believe that they took it all back! Within two days a big van came out and picked up all of the furniture. My 1200sf apartment was almost completely empty. I had a television and a plastic shelving unit from college. (I still have the shelving unit in a spare room of our home) I slept on the floor, ate on the floor and relaxed on the floor. It was an empty shell, a true picture of what my life had become.

I moved back to my hometown and moved in with my parents. They had settled up all of my bills and I lost nothing except my dignity and the trust of people. Innately, I still wanted to trust, but I was vulnerable and frightened of everything. I started working almost as soon as I moved back and started going to church regularly again.

My parents wanted to help me transition to my “new” life. I was asked by a pastor to join a group of young adults that were planning a singles group for our congregation. Needing to find ways to meet new people in a protected atmosphere, I said yes. Twenty eight years later, I am so blessed to say that my first friend back then, is now my husband. He knows what happened but we don’t talk about it. After we had dated for a while, I told him what had happened. And up until the day that we started building our home, I was making payments to my father for everything that he had to pay out to rescue me. The day that we signed the papers for our construction loan, my father forgave the remaining debt.

You see, bad things, really bad things happened to me. But as I look at things now, in a more mature and as someone from the outside looking in, God was with me always. I had parents that could help me in my dire situation. I met a man who looked past my failures and loved me for me. There were companies that bent over backwards to help this poor, naive, single female.

It was not all wine and roses. There were some companies that were not as kind and I had problems with this individual, this creep that stole my life, after I moved back to my hometown. But I moved past all of that. I thank God for my life and even though it was a horrible time, it was a blessing, because I am where I am today because of the situations that brought me back to the fold of my parent’s arms.

I believe in God! I am a faithful person but not always a religious person. I believe that when I take the wrong path, God is there to help me learn and move forward. I believe that God wanted me to tell my story. I believe that I needed to tell my story, finally. I believe that you should never give up on God because He will never give up on you. You need to be willing to have God guide you and you have to be willing to struggle through the hard times and still want God there with you.

As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “Stay in love with God.” I say, “Always be grateful and find ways to stay in love with God.”

A couple of side notes below…

*When I say Him, I do not mean male, it is the pronoun that I have used all of my life because there is not a pronoun for parent.

**It took me a week to finish this. The day after I started writing this, I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal. On that same day, I found out my car had about $1,000 worth of expenses in repairs and tires that were in desperate need of replacement. You know that “jinx thing” I wrote about in the beginning, it took me awhile to convince myself that was all coincidence. I thank God that my root canal was successfully treated and my car is in good repair. And I thank God that we are gainfully employed. As the old saying goes, “You can choose to see the glass half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full.”

And the tears, they fell…

Easter is near. But first we must make it to Good Friday. Maundy Thursday was very emotional for me. I would like to tell you that I don’t know why, but I do know. I sat in the first row, on the lectern side of the sanctuary. This put me straight in line with the pastor. I was able to look at her as she spoke about Peter denying Jesus; as she spoke of forgetting a name or denying a relationship.

But more than the message, I was front and center for communion. I watched as young people kneeled for communion and stayed longer than most, praying. I looked at the very young getting excited about getting bread and grape juice. I saw the old kneeling, barely able to get down and then up again.

I specifically had great feelings for a 90+ year old who bowed her head, buried in her arms. She looked so intense in her praying. I thought to myself, what could she be praying? She was so intense. Was she thanking God for her fulfilled life? Was she praying for her husband who is long past? Was she praying for her granddaughter who was kneeling next to her? Maybe none of these things but maybe all of them.

We all have so many reasons to believe in something greater than ourselves. But tonight I felt it. I felt the need to believe in a Savior of the World. I felt the need to cry because he sacrificed everything for me, someone who would not come around until over 1900 years after his death. I felt the need to cry, to let it all out.

It was a very intense service for me. I like to think that God is setting me up for a growth in my faith. I have been asking for it and maybe I will be getting what I asked for in developing a deeper, more intense relationship with my Lord.

As Easter arrives, I hope to feel a sense of jubilance, knowing that Jesus Christ, in deed, did die for my sins. He died for the sins that I had not even committed. I have been forgiven for everything that I will do in my life. It is up to me to ask for forgiveness. It is up to all of us to ask forgiveness. But the great thing is, is if we ask and are sincere, we are forgiven. That is what makes Easter so great, we are forgiven!

May your Good Friday, bring you to Easter! Amen and Amen!

Searching for my life

I start writing this without a title. In the time that I began blogging I have learned so much and feel so inadequate in what I know. The reason no title? I keep thinking SEO; what should I write in the title to get more people to my site and reading “all the relevance” that I can give to the world? (ok, tongue in cheek!)

There have been so much that has been happening in my life over the last month which is probably why it has been that long since I last wrote. The thoughts in my mind are churning and it seems impossible to somehow organize them into manageable verse. But today I decided to jump in and just write. I hope that through Divine Intervention my words will give inspiration, or insight, to those that read but maybe more to myself.

I have to be honest and say that there are just some things that I will not write. I will not write about things that would be embarrassing to my family, immediate, extended, my husband’s family, etc… Although if I did, WOW! You would be amazed! But my grandfather always said, “Don’t share family secrets!” Even if it was a disagreement amongst spouses or children, he felt it was inappropriate to share with “outsiders”. I believe that. I don’t want to write or do anything that would lessen the value that people hold for my family members, whether I am close to them or distant. That doesn’t mean that I won’t speak with my friends concerning family matters; I have to be able to vent. I just can’t do it publicly. NOW ON TO TOPIC.

I have had tremendous highs and lows over the past 31 days. I have learned a great deal about myself and I know that I am not invincible.

In my lows, I realized I do not take rejection well. This rejection took place in personal and professional situations. Maybe because it happened in multiple situations and within a short time period, I was able to learn about myself. While I would not recommend this for anyone, it was very insightful and I now know how I react. Hopefully I will be able to handle situations better in the future. What do I do? I just want to give up, walk away and forget that it even happened. I won’t share family secrets so you won’t hear about my personal rejection but the act is not the point; It is the lesson.

Professionally, I was hired to ghost blog for websites. Website owners hire BlogMutt to write weekly blog posts based on topics that they provide. The customer approves, asks for edits  or rejects the post. There are hundreds of websites out there that are having blogmutt.com write their blogs.

The owner of BlogMutt says that there is about a 10% rejection rate and that you just need to let the rejections roll off your back and move on. Well, my first rejection ticked me off because it was well-written, original and factual. The website owner rejected the post saying that is was “factually wrong and not original”. One rejection lead to another and another. Before long I was over the 10% rejection rate. One rejection even received 5 stars (the most you can receive). How can you like something enough to give it 5 stars and then reject it!!!!

I was very hurt and, even now, it is hard for me to write for fear of rejection. But I weather on. Just like any writer, you must write to get paid. If I did not write and submit posts, I would not be paid. And if I want to get paid, I must write. I realized that this would be a difficult career, as payment is based per blog purchased. And you have no direct comment with the website owner and have to take their criticism and move on. Don’t get me wrong, I do like writing for BlogMutt and hope to continue even when I begin a full-time job.

A high point – I was hired for a full-time position as the Camp Coordinator at Camp Fontanelle, a United Methodist Church Camp in Fontanelle, Nebraska. It is a brand new position so I will learn more of my duties when I begin April 1.  This was also a learning experience for me. My family is very familiar with the camp. We have volunteered there for years; Our children attend camp there (since age 3); My husband was on the board for six years and chairman for five; my son is employed as the laser tag “guy” during the fall when the corn maze is running. So we know camp.

But I don’t know that I was considered when the position was created. Four people interviewed for the job and I was probably twice the age of the other three applicants. What I brought to the table was a great deal of experience. I was a perfect fit for the job but there were some really hard feelings. There was at least one other person who felt they were a perfect fit.  After I interviewed I lost sleep as to whether I would take the position if it was offered me. I worried about the person that felt the position was perfect for him/her. I had just been hired by BlogMutt and I thought that is what I wanted to do full-time. So many things running through my mind.

One day, in my stress, I prayed to God. I said, ‘God, guide me in the direction my life is to go. I want to do Your Will.’ I had decided that if I was offered the camp job, it was meant to be and I would accept it. When I told my husband that, he questioned me as to my reasoning. For a short time, ok, maybe 30 seconds, I wondered if I was wrong to say I would accept the job if it was offered. Was I not being discerning enough? But no, I had given it to God and after I did that, I felt great. I would take the job. (Soon after I had accepted the job, I began receiving post rejections. Maybe a sign confirming I was doing the right thing?)

I know that I have not had a rough life. I have never been without a home, or food, or clothes. I have always had the love and acceptance of friends and family members. (Not every person all the time. But enough to know that I am loved).

I have struggled with trying to find a job. And even this recent venture only took 3 months to find a full-time job. Not bad for a woman who quit working full-time when her now 17-year-old son was born. And not only did I find a full-time career but I have a writing job that will bring in a little extra spending money.

I have had personal failures. I have disappointed people I love and I have been hurt by those same people. There have been times in the last four months that I wasn’t sure that I have made a difference in the world, that I was doing what I was meant to do, or be the person that I could be.

But through all of the highs and lows, I have tried to have faith – faith that it would work out and I would be able to shine. I think I forgot that I don’t need to be in control all of the time. My first step was to give it up to God. While I know that there will still be disappointments and I will disappoint, these last four months have given me some great perspective and maybe patience. It may not seem much to you, but I get to play at camp for my job. There will be long days and hard work in the summer but I know it is what I am to do because I, for once, didn’t need to be in control of my future. I now have the job of taking this gift that was given me and doing my best.

I guess now I am trying to figure out the purpose of this blog. Today was writing just to write; More cathartic than informational or inspirational.  My head is still spinning because my life is taking a new direction. I hope I continue to write this blog and find direction to be meaningful  and worthwhile. Bare with me as I evolve into the new me.

Just added a title – not very SEO – but SEO was not the purpose of this blog, come to find out!

Be Outrageous! Be Courageous!

I do not get to the movies very often. While I know that there are many great movies out there, I either can’t find the time or justify the cost to see a movie at the movie theater.

Courageous (film)

Courageous (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also am not one to rent movies much anymore. With the advent of Netflix online, for $8.00 a month, I can fill my time with old movies; or I can watch the many channels that are offered through our cable company. What I am trying to say is that I am going to be writing about a movie that came out in theaters in September of 2011 and was released on DVD more than a year ago.

The reason I am writing about this movie now, is that it has had and will continue to have an impact on my family. It caused my small family of four to talk about expectations, about God, about being who God has meant us to be. It caused me to look at what I have been given and to be grateful every day; not just think about being grateful but let those people in my life know I am grateful.

That movie is “Courageous”. I had heard about it, seen trailers for it and thought it would be a good movie to watch. But after two people from our church, decided to put together a showing and bring in one of the actors to speak afterwards, did I take the time to experience its message. http://www.courageousthemovie.com

It was actually my husband who got our family involved. Volunteers were needed in various capacities for the movie that was to be held at our high school. Kent thought it would be good if the four of us did something to help. Frankly, I was surprised but jumped right in and volunteered our family to be ticket takers. My daughter took time out of her social time with friends to come to the movie, volunteer her time and watch the movie. Even one of her friends joined us for the showing.

The gist of the movie is that men need to be involved in the lives of their children. The story is told through the life experiences of five different men. Four of these men are law enforcement officers. The fifth man is a laborer who is having a hard time finding permanent work. Each of them has a different family dynamic.  But the common factor is that they all have children. Each is involved (or not involved) in different degrees with their children. A tragic accident causes one of the fathers to look differently at his family and enlists the other four to make him accountable for his actions. It is a very powerful film and I would recommend it to everyone who has a child/children or who wants to have children.

Studies show that there is a greater incidence of suicide and violence amongst children who do not have a father involved in their life. A child is more likely to join a gang if there is not that male figure to influence them. During the movie, one of the characters stated that 87% of youth in juvenile detention do not have a father in their life. The actor that spoke afterwards, re-iterated this in his dynamic speech.

Even the federal government has studies that show the impact of the father in the raising of children. He is not just a second adult in the household. He counts and does have influence. http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm A father can show his son how to respect a young lady by the relationship he has with their mother. A father can show a child how to work hard and how to be a good influence.

My children are lucky. They have a mother and father in their life. They have a mother and father who love each other. They have a mother and father who have taken on the responsibility of being a parent and guiding them in a way that teaches consequences, commitment, consideration and yes, courage.

Too many parents out there think that a child is a trophy (look what I have) or a burden (I have to haul them all over the place) or an inconvenience. I cringe every time I hear a pregnant woman complain about her pregnancy. We struggled so much to bring biological children into our family. We were blessed with two children. I wanted more but God had other plans. So when I see women “belly ache” about their pregnancy, I just want to say to them, “Be grateful that you have been given this blessing. There are so many out there that have not been as lucky.”

The movie made me cry more than once. It made me proud of my family. I was certainly proud of the family that felt compelled to bring this movie, and everything that went with the movie, to our community. On a beautiful, warm, Saturday, over 250 people took time out of their day to experience “Courageous”.

After the movie, we were invited to join the family that organized the event, some of their family and friends, our pastor and Robert Amaya for dinner. Robert played Javier Martinez in the movie. He was the man struggling to find work to provide for his family when he was befriended by Adam (main character) purely by accident. http://premierespeakers.com/christian/robert_amaya. Robert is a very powerful speaker and was a perfect fit for this movie.

Kent, my husband, was lucky enough to sit by Robert at the dinner table and they had a wonderful conversation. Kent learned that Robert tries to live his life as a man of courage. It was very evident in his speech after the movie. He quoted the Bible a lot in showing that God has a plan for fathers, a plan for men in this world.

Part of the plan is to work hard. God called Adam to work in the garden (Genesis 2:37). Work is not a sin or punishment. It is what man is to do. A man is also to be a father and teach his children the ways of God. I think Kent was inspired to continue his duty as a father to our two children and teach them Godly Ways.

I know that there are a lot of single parent households out there. I know that there are children out there that do not seem to have love. I wish that every father, and every mother, could see this movie and really hear the message that it is trying to deliver.

We wonder how to make our world a better place? We do so by being better parents, by being a better spouse. We do so by taking our responsibilities seriously and thinking through the consequences of our actions.

I know that I am a better person because of this movie. I know that I am inspired by Robert Amaya. Even though I am a woman, I know that I can be more supportive of my husband as the father of my children. I know that I do not always honor him the way I should. By me being a better wife, he can be a better father.

I thank God for Robert Amaya, Sherwood Pictures for bringing this story to the big screen and the Kendrick brother’s, Stephen and Alex, for writing this inspiring story. Sherwood Pictures and the Kendrick brother’s have written and made other inspiring movies. They are “Facing the Giants“, “Fireproof” and “FlyWheel“.

While I have not seen their other movies, I do believe that they are on my “to watch” list.

Robert Amaya, from the movie "Courageous" with me, my husband and son.

Robert Amaya, from the movie “Courageous” with me, my husband and son.

Please find time to see this movie if you have not already. I hope that you too, are inspired to be a better parent, a better partner to the one you love.

May God Bless and give you the COURAGE, to be the best you can be to Honor Him!

Facing the Giants

Facing the Giants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Flywheel (film)

Flywheel (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sherwood Pictures

Sherwood Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Teens, Happy Family, Happy Life

Note: I do inter-change “I” and “we” when I am writing about parenting. In parenting, sometimes it is a joint effort and other times not. So, because of that, I include my husband when it is appropriate and sometimes it is things that I have done individually.

When I woke up this morning in the new year, I thought to myself, ‘What made me most proud in 2012?’ It did not take me long at all to realize that I am most proud of the relationship that I have with my teenage children.

My newly turned 17-year old son and soon to be 15-year old daughter still like being around their parents. We joke; we talk; we shop; we still do most all of the things that we did ten years ago. I know that amongst the friends of my children, I, and my husband, are a rare breed.

Do I have any thoughts as to why this is the case? Of course, I do; we joke; we talk; we shop. That has not changed in my 17 years of parenting. While I say this so confidently, it is not easy. There is a fine line that you walk from being a friend, to a tyrant, to a pushover. And believe-it-or-not, each of those characterizations are just a step away.

My parents were not poor parents; but they also were not very good communicators. To this day, my mom has never spoken with me about sex, or even menstruation. I don’t know if it was just my mom or if it was the times but my sex education was not controlled at all by my parents. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted a different relationship with my children.

I don’t know if I value my children more than other parents. I know that about 22-years ago, my gynecologist told me that I would probably never have any biological children. After buckets of tears and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue an answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Our investigation resulted in me having surgery for endometriosis and being put into menopause at age 32. (That is a whole other writing!) And as I wrote above, 17-years ago, we were blessed with our son. After a miscarriage, God blessed again and we had our daughter.

So you see why I wanted to make sure that I always would have a good relationship with our children. We went from being told we would be childless to being blessed with not one, but two children. I am sure all parents wish for a great relationship with their children. I worked from the time they were born to have the relationship we have today.

How did I do it? I think first of all, I was conscious of what I wanted and I have worked for it. From the beginning, I have always been open in our discussions. When they were younger we did not speak with them as if they were babies; we spoke to them in normal voices and used words, adult words – a penis was a penis; a vagina was a vagina. If I was uncomfortable using words, how could I speak with them about those things? I was determined to be open and honest.

The car was a great place to talk. We drove a lot, so instead of zoning out on music or movies, we would spend the time talking. Because we spoke with each other from the beginning, it was natural that it continued as the kids got older.

We are a family that cussing is not allowed. But the rule is that if you have a question about anything, that rule does not apply. I never wanted my children to think that they could not come to me about anything. We have had wonderful conversations that, I am sure, many parents have not had with their children because they have not been open to anything and everything.

I think we have done a good job in teaching our children to respect authority. It has taken a little bit but we have tried to emphasize that the way they speak with their friends is not the way they speak with us or other adults. We have taught them that there is a level of respect that needs to be given. And even though we want a good relationship with our son and daughter, we have taught them that we are still the adult, still the parent and what we say goes.

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to face is that my daughter’s friends do not want to have any type of relationship with me. After six years of homeschooling, our daughter went back to  public school in 8th grade. While she had church friends, homeschool friends and Girl Scout friends (which by the way, I had relationships with) these new friends wanted/want nothing to do with me.  I think it was shocking for me because I have such a good relationship with her. My guess is that the relationship I have with my daughter is different from the relationship they have with their parents.

Some of her friends think I am the “cool” parent. They also know that we have rules and while they think I am “cool” they also think I am strict. Thankfully our children don’t think we are strict; they think it is just the way it is.

In a nutshell, I believe we have happy teens, a happy family and a happy life because we communicate and we set rules and expectations. We come from a position of love and respect but ultimately, our children know that we are in charge; they do not have carte blanche on their life. We have taught them to be grateful for what they have and always be thankful to God, who gives all.

Happy New Year and I hope that you have a great relationship with the people whom you love!