Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teen Speak

I have made a few observations as I have been in the pre-teen and now teen world for a few years.  Here is my teen parent observation of the week:

When your teenager says something so ridiculous or incredibly stupid that you don't know how to respond appropriately take a breath, step back and think about this:  They have no idea what they are talking about.  However, for some reason they have decided to state what should be a question as a fact.  For instance, "You don't do the laundry right."  Should in fact be worded, "why do you sometimes mix my clothes up with dad's?" (or in Jake's case, "Can I do the whole families laundry for a week?")   "I don't need to study for that test."  Should actually be, "Could you help me understand how much more complicated this test is going to be than I realize?"

For whatever reason their brain, while still developing, has decided it knows everything and stops asking questions.  And then for some reason as parents we over react as if they actually should know everything.  So whenever Jake says something stupid to me I simply try to figure out what the actual question is.  What does he not understand which is causing him to draw this faulty conclusion.  He simply doesn't have enough information to even understand the question he is supposed to ask.

It sort of reminds me of the end of the second Matrix movie where Neo is talking to the Architect and after explaining that the world is in fact not what he thinks it is he says something like, "while your first question may seem the most pertinent what you don't realize is that it is also the most irrelevant."  That is how I feel about what many teens say. 

I see my role as a parent to fill in those holes.  Answer those unspoken questions and help him better understand what is happening to him and in the world around him.

Several years ago I heard about a training that was given to new senators and congress people on how to deal with the media.  They were told that if they didn't like the question that was asked of them they should simply answer the one they wished the person had asked.  (You will be amazed at how often you notice this now.)  While I don't know how great of political advice it is, I think this is great parenting advice.

So what crazy things have your teenagers said and what do you think the real question is?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ready, Set, Go

Isabelle and John are playing the Wii

The laundry is just about done and ready to put away

Jake and Jade are finishing their homework

The kitchen is clean and ready for the week

My study materials are in my bag ready for tomorrow.

And I have written a blog post to keep you company next week.  So with everything ready to launch me into a 40 hour work week I think it is time to relax in front of the TV.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two Years

Today is the 2 year anniversary of this blog.  I love anniversaries.  I love the marking of time that they signify.  I love the history of life that is represented in an anniversary.

With our wedding anniversary we can talk about all that has happened over the 20 years.  How we have changed and grown. The good and the bad of life and how we are thankful for it all.  This morning I was remembering a house John and I looked at 10 years ago.  We both liked it but just weren't sure it was the right time to move.  We wondered this morning how our life might have been different if we had moved then as opposed to 2 years later when we moved here.  You can't know.  But likely we would have missed some of the amazing experiences we have had because of the path we did take.  And I wouldn't change any of those.  I love our history.

This is my blog anniversary.  Marking 2 years of writing out all the bizarre, pointless and occasional insightful thoughts I have had. 

There has been some redundancy, like seeing Jake go to homecoming twice but with different girls, but that is part of the flow of life.  We do the same things, we create traditions and habits which give us comfort as we traverse the path of life. 

There have been new experiences, like my chronically of our trip to Kenya.  Into each persons life come new, life changing experiences which affect how we view the world and every decision we make from that point forward.  Kenya was definitely that for us.

I have shared thoughts on what God is telling me. As I sit with the Lord throughout my day I have enjoyed sharing the little insights I discover along the way.  They may not always be the most articulate or theologically accurate but I share from my heart.

And there have been posts of our day to day life.  The thing that happens between significant moments in life.  The part of our lives which seem insignificant but in reality make up the most significant portion of our lives.  It is in that day to day that life happens, relationships are strengthened, skills are learned, friendships formed and God works.

As I look back over the 2 years of blogging I wonder what I have learned.  How have I changed because of blogging?  I know I have grown a lot in the last 2 years but what specifically to credit blogging with? 

I think it has given me much more confidence to express myself.  Not just secretly here in my office where I send my random thoughts out into blog world but also in person I am becoming more confident and articulate.  I certainly wouldn't have had the nerve to share at our women's retreat before blogging.  And although I have really always written things out when I had a problem I couldn't quite solve this has given me a much bigger platform for that and I find sometimes I figure things out in the midst of blogging about them.  Sometimes I will even start a post to address a frustration I have and by the time I am done I have figured it out and simply delete the post.  Clearly this is how my brain works.

It is fun to look back on an anniversary but I also love to look ahead.  To dream of what the future holds and all the new experiences that will come with it.

So what is the future of this blog?  I know that in this past year I have finally verbalized a dream to do writing beyond this blog.  I would love to get published in a magazine.  And maybe one day write a book.  Or start another blog or web site devoted to one specific subject, like contentment.  Lately I find myself feeling passionate about that subject which touches so many areas of life.  But none of that affects this blog.   What about this blog?

Well I have made a few changes already.  A fresh new look to start off the beginning of the 3rd year of blogging.  I added a box with ads just in case something sparks your interest.  Should be interesting to see what that turns into.  And I continue to work out in my head the rest.  I would love to create theme days.  One I think I will be starting shortly is to join a weekly blog thing over at Holy Experience where she posts about being thankful.  I know that is something I really want to cultivate more in my life.  I love her blog and would like to be her blog when I grow up but then I realize that I am not her and to write her blog would be to pretend to be something I am not so I will just read and love her blog while simultaneously creating the much less serene experience in blogging over here and just being me.  Beyond that I don't know.  But I will try to continue to be witty, insightful, bizarre, pointless and fun.

It was suggested that I do a give away for my blog anniversary.  A wonderful idea that I fully intended to do but then I forgot.  And people don't generally give me things to give away and we are sort of broke right now so...

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to hear from you on my anniversary.  So leave a comment and if you don't already follow my blog go ahead and become one of my followers.

I don't think I have posted enough pictures lately so here is a little glimpse at my desk where all the brilliance is created:

It is my real desk.  A mess.  I do clean it up fairly regularly but as you can see it is small and it doesn't take much to mess it up. 

Next week I begin training for my new job which launches me into my new life.  While the job will only be about 18 hours a week, next week I will be doing 40 hours of classes to get licensed.  So as I start a whole new life and new schedule this 3rd year will start out all new.  New things to talk about, finding new times to write about them.  Should be fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Putting out a fleece

On my mind lately has been the story of Gideon from the bible.  Remember when God told him He would save Israel but Gideon wasn't totally sure he believed so he put out a fleece one night and asked God to make it wet but the ground dry if he heard right.  So God did that but he still wasn't sure so he put it back and asked God to make it dry and the ground wet this time.  And God did that.  And then apparently Gideon believed God because he proceeded to march out with much faith and obeyed every crazy instruction God gave him after that and defeated the Midianites.

So why is this on my mind?  I have been thinking of it as I have asked God impossible things and seen him answer.

I am currently thinking of my new job.  As I have indicated in past posts, money is a little tight around here.  It isn't really anything particularly new, we have been in tight financial spots before, but this time I started feeling like it might be time for me to get a job.  Or what I like to call a J-O-B.  I had one self employed friend who referred to it as a "job-job".  Not just a job where you work but a job where you are employed.  Having spent over 10 years primarily supporting ourselves through our business I can tell you there is a difference.

However, with Isabelle only in 1/2 day kindergarten and me having not worked seriously outside the home for most of the last 16 years not to mention the poor economy, I wasn't exactly marketable.  Can I also mention I have no college degree and am 16 years behind on office technology and current software.  My last job used a DOS based word processor.  My resume wasn't going to overwhelm anyone.  I am fantastic and brilliant but you have to know me, I come across a little dumb on paper.

None-the-less I really started feeling a strong sense that I should seek a job.  I finally told God that I was willing to work but the job would have to fall in my lap if this was the year because I wasn't going to pound the pavement until Isabelle was in 1st grade.

I put out my fleece.

God made it wet.

I noticed my insurance agent took several days to return a phone call because it turned out he was sick.  In a follow up email to him I asked him if he was looking for an assistant because I was thinking about getting a part time job.  A brief phone call later I was filling out an application, getting approved by the parent insurance company and had a job that met all the criteria I could hope for with hours, flexibility and pay.  I never even went in for an interview.

After that initial phone call I asked God to put up a big, tall brick wall if I wasn't supposed to take this job.

I put out the fleece again.

God left it dry.  No wall, just a clear, smooth road.

I remember when I first heard God tell me it was time for that second baby I had given up hope for.  I had moved on and was perfectly happy with my one and only child and was trying very hard to ignore him.  After a few weeks of God harassing me I finally told him that even if I was willing to consider it there was no way I was bringing it up with my equally happy to have an only child husband.  So, I told God, go harass him!  Wouldn't you know that is exactly what he did and here we are years later with that baby God was preparing us for now in Kindergarten.  Thank you Lord for your harassment.

Based on the commentary of my bible and the commentary of my bible commentary book I am not sure this is the exact application of this scripture.  There seems to be a criticism of Gideon for asking God to prove himself.  Yet right or wrong it seems to me that God honors our human nature of doubt and fear when our motives are bound in faith.  Gideon wasn't asking God to perform tricks.  He wasn't trying to figure out how much he could manipulate God.  He truly was seeking to know and believe.  Yes it would be better if he simply had pure faith and believed right away but that isn't real.  Our human nature fears and doubts.  While it might not be an example of perfect faith God did choose to honor Gideon's request not once but twice.  And in doing so Gideon became so convinced of God's promise to save Israel that he willingly sent almost his entire army home at God's command and despite insurmountable odds went confidently to battle against a much larger army and won.

So right or wrong on Gideon's part I think the bottom line is that God knows our faith can be weak at times.  We can doubt and be afraid.  And he wants to comfort and reassure us.

Not like when my daughter stands in defiance of me and then cries because I hurt her feelings when I got mad and wants me to comfort her.  That is not the kind of thing we are talking about here.  This is more like when my daughter is afraid of dogs yet I know my friends dog won't hurt her.  I am willing to walk her by the dog, pick her up or go pet the dog myself to prove to her that what I am telling her is true.  The dog is safe.  I would love it if she would just trust me on that but I know her fear comes not from doubt of me but doubt of the dog.  So I prove to her.  Once the truth is seen she usually plays just fine around the dog.  I even heard recently that she dared to pet the dog.  Stepping out in faith.

You can read about Gideon and the fleece in Judges 6:36-40.  But then you should probably keep reading to see how strong his faith became as he went to battle for the Lord.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Fun

So I thought I would do a good old fashioned "what I have been up to/pictures I have taken lately" post.

Things I have learned as a mom.  If you say it out loud, be prepared to follow through.  For instance.  If you say, "we should make play dough someday."  Be prepared for someday to be very, very soon.

After much harassment on the part of my daughter we made play dough.  Honestly it was so quick and easy to make I don't know why we haven't done it before. 
Although it did use up all the salt in the house.

She loved every minute and loved playing with it.

Then a couple weeks ago we basked in the warm early October weather with a family dinner in the back yard.  What is normally referred to as "free pizza Friday"  Became "free food over a fire Friday".

While we cooked the kids turned sidewalk chalk into paste and did this.  We probably should have been supervising this activity but they didn't get nearly as messy as you would think so I figure, what we don't know didn't hurt any of us.

BBQ chicken legs, hot dogs and brats along with roasted root vegetables.  It was delicious but I didn't have enough.  Who knew the 21 month old would eat 3 hot dogs?

Grandpa, our sommelier for the night.

Mom and I enjoying our selections.

The fireman stoking the fire.

The men chatting.  I know it is all blurry but I still like this picture.  Is that weird?

The girls put on a fashion show for us.

Every fall evening should be like this.  (except without the bugs which really killed the mood.)

We are just days away from my 2 year blog anniversary.  Get ready to do something fun.  Don't know what yet but it will be great!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I must confess that I don't really spend alot of time reading the minor prophets in the bible.  I just don't want to work that hard to gleen the meaning.  But years ago I read a devotional on Haggai which explained what now seems obvious about one of the signficances of that book.  You see Haggai was charged by God with the task of explaining to the people that the reason they were not being blessed was because they were not prioritizing God. 

When they had first returned from exile they were going to re-build God's temple but challenges came their way and years later they hadn't gotten around to finishing it.  They had, however, managed to finish all their own homes.  Apparently God was tired of waiting for them to figure it out so he sent Haggai to explain it to them (He is nice that way).  They responded in faith, finished the temple and recieved God's blessings.

I often think about that book when I am feeling "too busy" to stop and spend time with God.  Those times when I don't think I have time to stop are the times I have learned I need God the most.  And when I find time for Him first He helps me find time for all the rest.

This year our family verse is "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well".  Exactly what God tells the people in Haggai.  As I meditate on this I am amazed at how many places in the bible I have noticed this similar teaching.  Put God first.  I didn't think to jot them all down but here is the one I came across today from James 4:7 "Submit yourself, then, to God...Come near to God and he will come near to you...Humble yourselves before the Lord and He wil lift you up."

It has me thinking that maybe this is an important concept since God repeats it so often.

Can you think of any other scriptures that communicate this message?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Intoxicated by Edina

We have lived in the city of Edina for 8 years next month.  I must confess that when we first moved here I wasn't super excited about it.  Our house found us, we didn't go searching for a house in this city nor would we have.  But the house found us and it was located in Edina so here we are.  Not that Edina is a bad city, quite the opposite.  Edina is an upper class city with a reputation for wealth and a bit of an elitist attitude.  We moved from a wonderful but firmly middle class community.  We loved it and felt like we fit in quite nicely.  We are just regular people, not at all elitist.  The move to Edina was a little intimidating.  I wasn't quite sure how we would fit in.

My husband grew up here so, although he grew up in a middle class family, he already knew how to fit in and be comfortable.  I grew up in a very nice community but I have no desire to move back yet he seemed excited about the move.

Everyone who lives here loves it.  A lot of our neighbors grew up here and a few even bought the family home when their parents or grandparents moved on.  I felt like I had moved to Stepford.  Everyone was so happy and in love with this perfect town.

And you should hear them go on and on about the schools.  The best in the state, rated nationally in magazines.  Best teachers, best students, best, best, best.  I wanted to gag, gag, gag.

Yet here I am 8 years later and I have to admit there is something intoxicating about Edina.  You really grow to love it.

We love our neighbors.  They are friendly, hard working regular people who prioritize family.  Yes some have a certain level of financial success but for the most part we are all regular people just doing the best we can.  No elitist attitudes at all. 

So first I fell in love with my neighborhood.

Then Jake finally started in the community schools.  As Jake was finishing up 8th grade at his Charter School I started asking people about the Edina schools and other options.  As I talked to friends in the neighborhood I often got a look that said, "why wouldn't you send your child to the Edina school?  I don't understand the question."  Frankly most people buy houses here to send their kids to the school.  Period.  Everything that comes with it is bonus.

Our house in any other city would be worth significantly less.  You can get more for your dollar almost anywhere else in the twin cities but the people here are willing to make the sacrifice for their children's education.

Once in the school system I have to say I was impressed.  While I believe the ultimate success of the schools comes from having a community full of parents who prioritize seeing their children succeed, the teachers really are wonderful, the opportunities these kids have with technology and school projects is beyond anything else I have seen.  The cooking class teacher that came in last year as a long term sub commented how in the school district she had been in previously they only had budget to cook once or twice a week but in Edina they would be cooking 4 times a week.  If they give that much more to cooking imagine how much they are putting into core classes. 

Now that Isabelle is in school I continue to be impressed.  The teacher is great, the school is well organized and there are lots of opportunities for parents to be involved.  And the technology continues to amaze us.  Her classroom has a smart board instead of a chalk or white board.  It is quite interesting.  You can pull up computer images and use it like a touch screen or you can write on it like a white board.  Isabelle comes home and pretends to be writing on the smart board when she teaches me the stuff she learned.

I also love how close to shopping I live.  I am spoiled that way.  2 miles to Target, the mall and several coffee shops.  I could seriously live the rest of my life without ever going more than 5 miles from home.

On the down side, Edina is an older community which mean the roads are old, lots of cracks and bumps in our street, the homes are older and in constant need of updating and maintenance but even all of that just adds to the charm of the city.  We aren't new and flashy, we are well worn and comfortable.  We have a history.

There are still plenty of times I roll my eyes while living here.  Reading the city's magazine which showcases some of our more famous or financially successful residences.  Dealing with the city ordinances which prevent John and I from living like the hillbillies we secretly want to become.  And my current frustration with certain residences refusing to let the city put a bike path on city property behind their homes.  We need bike paths people!

Over all I must admit I have fallen in love with Edina and find myself smiling each time I drive home.  I don't know why but I just felt like sharing that with all of you today.  I hope you live in communities you love as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homecoming Happens

You know how when you are in high school you don't think it will ever end?  Well when you have a child in high school you can't believe how fast it goes.  I can't believe Jake is already a junior in high school.  One more year and it is over.  And the thing is, I am just starting to figure it all out.  I guess this is the advantage to having several kids close together.  Once you figure it out you just plow through a group of kids with confidence.  With Isabelle either I have forgotten everything or the rules completely change by the time she comes around.

The only thing to do is enjoy this time.  And that I do.  This weekend was homecoming weekend here in Edina.  Being new to the school district we are just getting into the spirit of our city.  A couple years ago when Jake was first at the school we thought we should go to the homecoming game.  It starts at 7pm, we showed up at 6:45 only to discover that the game sold out almost 2 hours earlier.  We learned.  Last year we skipped the game but Jake did go to the homecoming dance.  We learned how dances are done these days and he had a wonderful time.

This year we added another element, the parade.  With Jake's girlfriend in the marching band he was motivated to go see it.  We drove down to the end of the parade route, found a parking spot and began chasing Jake backward down the route to find the parade.  (I don't think he really wanted to hang with Isabelle and me but we stuck with him.)  It was a wonderful little community parade fille with clubs from the school, school officials, homecoming court and everyone tossing candy at little girls.  What more could you ask for?  The moment it was over Jake began bolting for the football stadium (where the parade ended) to get his ticket 2 hours before the game started.  Isabelle had a birthday party to attend so we skipped the game but Jake saw his girlfriend march at half time.  When they returned to our house later neither knew who won because they left before it ended.  Real big football fans.

Finally the day of the dance arrived.  Jake slept in for a while, walked down to the florist to pick up the corsage and then I talked him into going out to lunch with Grandma and the other little cousins.  While we sat relaxing at Caribou a couple hours before the dance, Jade, his girlfriend, had been busy all day getting ready.  After a quick volleyball practice it was on to the beautification.  Among the many activities we girls go through for these kind of events she spent 2 hours at the salon having her hair straightened.  Oh the things we women go through.  Finally Jake put in his 20 minutes getting ready and it was time to go.

I followed him and his friends to Centenial Lakes for the pictures:

Here we are before Jade arrived.  It was after this picture I discovered Jake needed a little tie adjustment.
Can't forget the sister.

The Corsage

The Boutineer.

The lovely couple.  Just love this dress.  The one thing I miss about high school is having a reason to buy and wear a dress like this.

Ahem.  They aren't shy.

It was so hard for Isabelle to not be the center of attention but she did fairly well.  She could almost burst to be able to get in one of the pictures.

Apparently they weren't the only ones who thought this was a good picture taking sight.  None of the people in these pictures are with Jake's group.

When I first got there I couldn't find them and was frusterated.  It isn't like I can say to someone, "did you see a kid in a tux come this way?"  There were dozens!

Some of these people were in Jake's group.

The Guys

The Girls

The whole group

Finally I had taken enough pictures and left them to have a lovely evening.  While last year the parents organized driving groups to get the kids to each activity, this year they drove themselves.  I was sound asleep when Jake came home late that night.  What a difference a year makes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day of rest?

What have I been up to lately?  Well I have a few pictures to entertain you all with this week but I thought I would do a quick morning post about what happened yesterday, no pictures.

Sunday's can be relaxing days to spend with the family or they can be days like yesterday.  In our small church there are plenty of ways to get involved and John and I manage to keep ourselves well entertained in various ministries.  Yesterday we had a bit of a back up.  The building team, which we are part of, planned to meet after the service for a lunch meeting as we often do and the pastoral search team I agreed to be on (we are starting a new church that needs a new pastor) decided to have their first meeting at 2:30 across town.  Plus John had to stain some trim for a client so it would be ready to install Monday morning.  No problem, we can shuffle all of this. 

We drove 2 cars to church that morning, I drove one and Jake, with John in the passenger seat, drove the other.  As we were getting ready to run pick up a lunch to bring back to the church Jake announces that his girlfriend wants to pick him up so they can go out to Mc Donald's together.  Fine we say but you have to bring Isabelle.  John gives Jake his key to the van so they can get the car seat out and we head off to get our lunch. 

Half way through our building meeting I suddenly realize something important that escaped me when John was giving Jake his key, Jake already had my key to the van.  So now we had no key to the van.  And Jake's driving girlfriend had by this time dropped them off at home and was gone.  No problem, friends are wonderful and gave John a ride home and back.  First crisis solved.

In the mean time I drive 30 minutes across town to my second meeting of the day, have a lovely and productive time and begin driving home.  I can see split in the freeway which would put me on "my side" of town when suddenly I hear a noise, experience tells me it is a flat tire.  I pull over on a very busy freeway, slide across the seat, peak my head out and confirm that I have a flat.  I call John to come rescue me.  Despite his concern that I shouldn't drive on the flat tire I decide that my location is too dangerous to change a tire and drive to then next exit a few feet away and into a Cub Foods parking lot.

As you may recall I changed my van tire with a friend last year so I figured I could get started on the process while John was coming.  And who wouldn't help a woman trying to change her tire in high heels and church clothes?

Sure enough a kind man did come and give me a hand but just like when I was changing it with Colleen after we got the lugs off and the car jacked up we still couldn't get the tire off the car.  At this point John was less than a mile away and I thanked the guy and he left.

One thing of note, and what John told me was the real reason he wanted me to stay on the freeway, it wasn't the best neighborhood in town.  It was far from the worst neighborhood but not great.  Here are a couple things that wouldn't happen in the suburbs that happen in the city:  The amazing number of people who DIDN'T stop to help me and were clearly looking away before they guy finally stopped.  As opposed to my suburban flat tire where almost everyone who walked buy said something.  Second, and most irritating, someone took my spare tire!  I had taken it out and leaned it against the back of the car.  Sometime while the kind stranger and I were working on taking off the flat someone walked by and rolled it away with them.  I was totally disgusted!  After determining that it was definitely no where around my car I started looking around the parking lot for someone with my tire and saw the tire quite a ways away leaning against a curb.  Could it have just rolled away?  Yes I suppose it could have but it would have had to thread a miraculous needle past quite a few parked cars and over a couple curbs to get where it landed.  I would have liked to see that.  I have a hard time believing that it landed in that location on its own.  What a sad world we live in where someone thinks that is OK!

Anyway, John came, my tire was changed, I then drove home just in time to bring Jake to his evening activity.  Then back home where I made a light dinner and crashed.

Some days are like that.  So my day of rest wasn't too restful but I did go to bed early and sleep in a little later than usual.  Today I am feeling pretty rested and full of energy to tackle this new week.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Leadership Lessons

My husband and I were part of a team that started our church 6 years ago and since its inception I have been part of the vestry (similar to elder board).  We are allowed 2 3-year terms and then we are off.  So I am looking at about 3 more months of vestry meetings before I am free to follow my whim (or God's leading) to other ministry opportunities without having the responsibility of overall church direction or knowing how much everything at the church costs (and other stuff).

As I think about getting off the vestry I have been reflecting on the leadership skills and confidence in my ideas I have developed as part of this ministry.  While I had plenty of experience with leadership roles in "women's" ministries like kids, mom's and women, the vestry felt a little intimidating and I think for about the first year I was there I asked myself every month what our pastor could have possibly been thinking when he asked me to be part of it.  It didn't help that I was a stay-at-home, non-college educated mom serving with 2 doctors and a college librarian who had formerly pastored a church and all of whom had experience on other church boards.  Again, what was I doing there?

Yet month after month I would leave the meetings really feeling like I had contributed something, like my ideas had been validated and that good discussion had come from them.  I finally stopped questioning why I was there and simply trusted God to use me in the ministry He had put me in.

There are 2 big things that come to mind when I think about the leadership lessons I have learned from this experience.

The first lesson I learned was simply how to lead meetings.

The first couple years I served as the Jr. warden, sort of the second in command of the vestry.  I seemed to end up in this role more by default than any sort of definite plan.  The senior warden was some sort of department head at children's hospital and it sounds like spent a lot of time in meetings.  He had developed a great leadership style, among his strengths he kept the meetings moving and didn't allow them to go on and on and on.  Exactly what we needed in those early years when we had a lot of decisions to make and none of us wanted to  be there all night.  You often hear of legendary vestry or elder board meetings that go into the wee hours of the morning.  None of us wanted that.  On the other hand there were nights I was home  before 10pm wondering if we had actually finished discussing some topics before the decision was made and feeling like I had more to think about on the topic. 

Not being in charge of those meetings I was free to just participate and say whatever popped into my head (not always a good thing.)  I often noticed the senior warden giving me "the look" which seemed to say, "do you mind?  we are trying to have a meeting here."  or "Would you please stop talking."  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't inappropriate, but I would occasionally break topic or decide to disagree just as he was about to move on to the next thing.

After a couple years he moved out of state and I was asked to take over as senior warden.  I spent a lot of time praying about it and I really didn't think I was going to say yes until almost the last minute.  I don't remember what changed my mind only that I initially didn't want to do it.  And again, I probably spent about a year wondering if I made the right choice.

During one of the first meetings I remember having a startling revelation.  There we were in discussion about whatever hot topic of the month we had before us.  Lots of thought, lots of opinions.  I was listening and participating as the discussion went on when suddenly I realized something--I was the one in charge of bringing this discussion to a conclusion!  My years in the peanut gallery were over.  It was time to step up or get out.

Initially I operated from something of a "what would the former senior warden do?" mentality and occasionally still default to it but as the years have passed I think I have developed a style all my own.  We have a lot more discussion than we used to but I still try to get us home by 10pm.  And I am still not afraid to throw out the slightly off topic comment occasionally but I don't let it get us too distracted.  I often say that my parenting style is "subtle".  At first glance you might think I am not doing anything but upon further inspection you notice a lot going on.  My leadership style is similar, it is also subtle.  It might not seem immediately obvious that I am leading the team if you were to visit but I know what is going on and keep it moving.

The second thing I have gained from my vestry experience is confidence.

As I said, I spent quite a long time wondering what on earth I was doing on this team.  Frankly I sometimes felt the same way when I was on leadership teams at the large church we used to attend but I at least had some qualification, like I was a mom and it was a mom's ministry.  I didn't know much but I did know how to be a mom.  Of course when we would go around and say what we did "before" we were mom's I could quickly loose confidence.  When one of the women I had gotten to be friends with mentioned that she had graduated from Harvard I was definitely intimidated!  Yet somehow she liked "dumb" me anyway and we moved on.

When I first started on the vestry I was a little hesitant to share my ideas.  I would tell myself that if they were really valid thoughts that the others would have thought of them.  Or I would worry that the questions would reveal the depth of my cluelessness rather than just being a point of clarity.  However, as I bravely shared a few thoughts, ideas or questions they were almost always validated, encouraged and built upon.  I found myself feeling part of the conversation rather than someone who had to be carried by the rest of the group.  Yet I was still unsure of myself and never introduced a new idea.  Then a couple years ago we did a team building exercise where we all said what we saw as a strength and weakness we had and then the team had an opportunity to agree, disagree or just discuss.  I don't remember what I said my strength and weakness was but I remember that someone said, and the other's agreed, that I had great ideas and input and they often wished I would have shared my thoughts sooner so they could have avoided some of the discussion.  It was such a shock to me to hear someone say they wished I would share more.  So ever since I have been bugging them with my opinion whether they wanted it or not.  Sometimes I wonder if they just created a monster!

I think about these things today as I prepare to lead a new group in women's ministry and am excited to step into this roll with a confidence I have never had before.  I still have plenty to learn and am excited to see how God directs this next ministry and what lessons He has in store for me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Encouraging One Another

Why is it that kids are always better behaved for other people than they are for their parents? 

Everyone with kids has a story about how their wild, ill-mannered child comes home from a play date and the other parents rave about how wonderful he was.  Brought the plate to the kitchen, said please and thank you and willingly included the younger siblings of his friend in play.  Yet at home does nothing but fight with siblings, demand and leave a wake of destruction everywhere he goes.

What gives?  Why do our children save their good behavior for others and torment us day and night?

I'm not going to answer that question today although there are many answers and implications not just for our children's behavior away from home but our own as well.

Today I am going to talk about our role as the other parent.  Having the opportunity to encourage and lift up a friend who isn't at a stage of parenting where they get to see the fruit of their parenting the way you get to when her child is a guest in your home.

This past week I went to the mall with my mom and Isabelle for lunch and a little shopping.  Isabelle wasn't horrible but she definitely got it into her head that she needed to control the flow of the afternoon and the two of us battled it out for supremacy as we walked around the mall.  At one point my mom said to me, "she isn't like this when she is with me or with Julia (my sister-in-law)".  She told me what a delight she was with them.  It is just me she feels the need to go to battle with.  Somehow knowing that made me feel like I was doing something right even if it didn't feel like it at that moment.

Yesterday after church our children's pastor, Liz, was telling us what a treasure Isabelle is in Sunday School.  How she always volunteers to pray in class and how her prayers are always beautiful, on-topic prayers rather than just prayers for random things that pop into her head as many prayers are at this age.

I wanted to cry right there on the spot.  Isabelle generally does not pray at home.  In fact when I go to pray with her at night she often will refuse to sit for me, will get out of bed and try to do something else or will start singing a song.  Dinner prayers are a similar experience.  Yet in that moment I knew she was listening and I knew God was answering my prayers for Isabelle even though I didn't get to see the answers myself.  The whole thing was an encouragement to keep praying for her, keep praying with her and keep talking to her about our faith in Jesus.

On the way home it got me thinking.  My mom and Liz just shared the comments in passing but they had a big impact for me.  I wondered how many opportunities I might have to encourage moms in that same way that I miss.  Do I always tell my friends how wonderful their children are when they are over?

It is so simple yet could be a whole ministry.  How many people need encouraging?  Actually it is a whole ministry.  Encouragement is supposed to be a spiritual gift so I suppose for some people it comes naturally but I don't think that means the rest of us are off the hook.  We need to be looking for these opportunities to bless and encourage others as well.

Who can you encourage today?

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13