Griswold (Don’t) Wannabe’s Part 2

griswold houseNext week the first wave of holiday festivities rolls in with Thanksgiving! I, for one, can’t wait for walks in the woods, pumpkin pie (which I’ve already been enjoying), and the Alabama/Auburn game. Some years I have hosted the festivities; other years I’ve been a guest in a family member’s home. Either way, all those festivities require responsibilities of me.

Yesterday, I shared a Holiday Help List for those of us who will be guests this year. Our goal should be to be a blessing not a burden to those who host us over the holidays. Our hosts likely spend hours, if not days, in preparation for our arrival, and the least we can do is to show our appreciation while we visit.

If you are hosting people in your home this Thanksgiving and Christmas, you might be overwhelmed with a never-ending task list: fresh linens, polished furniture, the perfect menu, a manicured lawn, and the facade of a peaceful family. Yikes! By the time your families arrive, you might be already tapped out! Never fear. your Holiday Help List is here! I’ve compiled a few tips to help you manage a house full of people and still keep your sanity.

Do lower your expectations – things aren’t going to go perfectly. Don’t expect your dysfunctional family to suddenly act like Miss Manners has personally mentored them.

Do provide your guests with a space to call their own – make space in a closet for their items and clear out a bathroom for their use. Giving them space means their clutter is out of view and not underfoot.

Do delegate – ask others to pitch in to set the table, get something out of the oven, or take out the trash. Ask kids to put ice in the glasses and refill drinks. Request everyone to help clear the table when the feast is over. Asking for help doesn’t make you less of a host; it actually invites people into your world where memories are made.

Do model the way – begin the holiday meal by sharing why you have invited everyone to your home. Be specific as you share why you are thankful. Your words will be a blessing, and they just might be contagious.

Do share your plans – letting your extended-stay guests know what to expect will help everyone. Planning a few activities at specific times gives everyone something to look forward to (movie night, shopping day, meal time, etc).

Do relax – sit on the couch and chat with your family for an hour or two. Play cards. Drink hot cocoa and go for a walk. Don’t do…just be. Your guests will actually relax more if they see you relaxing, too. Trust me, if they need something, I’m sure they can find the fridge or the TV remote.

Let’s not just “make it through” the holidays. Let’s relish our time with family and friends! Let’s not sweat the details….let’s lavish our families with love and attention. Perfection isn’t the goal. Memories are. So, clear out a closet and pull a few extra chairs to the table, and then be with your family and friends. No, really. Be with them. Love them. Make memories with them.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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Griswold (Don’t) Wannabe’s

griswold familyI thoroughly enjoy this season of the year and all of the traditions my family has come to love.

Like watching our all-time favorite movie, Christmas Vacation. Even though we’ve seen that movie hundreds of times, we still laugh at the true-to-life scenes.

Remember the scene in Christmas Vacation when the extended Griswold family arrives? Too loud. Too many critiques. Too much information. And as their visit continues, they are needy, messy, demanding, and yes, even embarrassing.

I love that family because it’s a fictional one that makes me laugh at the awkward moments they cause, but no one – trust me, no one – wants that family to come for a visit. Ever. So to help us all avoid being that family, I’ve compiled a Holiday Help List to ensure our families are a blessing to our hosts, not a burden.

Do take a gift – a small gesture of gratitude at the beginning of your stay goes a long way to setting the tone of your visit. Remember, your host likely spent hours preparing for you. Be appreciative.

Do lend a hand – pitch in to prepare meals and cleanup afterward so that the host isn’t overwhelmed. But be sure to follow the host’s lead. It’s not your kitchen!

Do contribute some groceries - bring a few side dishes or desserts. If your visit lasts several days, consider taking your hosts out for dinner one evening or supplying a few meals at their house. (Unless, of course, your name is Aunt Bethany. No one wants Jello Mold with kitty litter topping.)

Do show interest in others - disregard any notions you already have about your extended family and get to know them in a fresh way this season! (That includes getting to know crazy Cousin Eddie. You can do anything for a few days, right?)

Don’t leave your belongings lying around - keeping your items in your room helps to eliminate a little clutter from an already full house.

Don’t let your children run wild - your hosts WILL talk about you after you leave. Don’t give them ammunition. Send the kids outside to play or keep the noise level to a minimum. Prep the kids in advance to say please/thank you and be respectful.

Don’t be a couch potato – get out of the house! Being gone for an hour or two each day of an extended stay allows your host to have a mini-break. No matter how much they love you, they need a break!

Trust me, even if we follow these guidelines, we can still find ourselves in the middle of frustrating or awkward moments over the holidays (think: the swat team busting through the Griswold’s windows after Cousin Eddie hog-ties Clark’s boss). If we plan to be a guest in someone’s home this Thanksgiving or Christmas, let’s at least make a plan to be a blessing rather than a burden.

If you are the host rather than the guest this holiday season, check back tomorrow for a Holiday Help List just for you.

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Sunday Summaries: Holiday Head Start for Generosity

holiday head start no date squareYesterday, our church continued our teaching series Holiday Head Start with a challenge to become more generous. It was more specific than that, though. My husband wasn’t asking us to be randomly generous whenever the notion strikes us. Rather he challenged us to be intentional and personal in our giving.

As Shawn taught, he asked one question that gave me pause. Pause to consider my own actions in the area of giving. Here it is:

Are you raising your standard of giving while you’re raising your standard of living?

My family gives away what I consider a large percentage of our income in the form of tithes, offerings, and meeting needs. But I’ve never – never – considered raising my standard of giving when I raise my standard of living. Sure, we increase our tithe and offerings as our income increases, but my mindset has never been to find ways to creatively give more.

I find ways to creatively MAKE more, that’s for sure. I sometimes dream about a roomier house or a blinged-out backyard which of course costs money. I have no problem dreaming up ways to spend money, but I can honestly say I’ve never dreamed of ways to give money away.

Why not? Why not determine a finish line for my consumerism (as Shawn suggested in his message)? When is enough, enough? How could I spend less on myself and give more away?

How do you respond to that question? Are you raising your standard of giving while you’re raising your standard of living?

*Want to watch the message for yourself? Click here and search Holiday Head Start Part 2.

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Girlfriends Review: Authenticity

girlfriendsI find myself striving for perfection more often than I’d like. Just when I think I’ve beaten the temptation to put on airs, I fall victim to false pretense once again. Recently, our family posed for our annual Christmas card pictures, and we had 3 major meltdowns while we got dressed.

I can’t wear this if she’s wearing that!

My hair looks like THIS??!!

Who stole my sweater?

We were bickering and complaining, and then we slapped happy smiles on our faces and posed for the perfect family picture. We wanted perfection (or at least a facade of it), and we allowed that desire to ruin our afternoon.

Why do we do that? Why do we want to present ourselves as “perfect” to a watching world? Why not just be authentic? 

In an age of Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram it seems so much easier to pretend like we have all the answers (thanks google) and do all the craftiest projects (thanks Pinterest). Yet, we struggle to present our authentic selves.

No one wants to post a pic of the pile of dishes in their kitchen sink or a video montage of all the spats our kids have on the way to school. We much prefer showing the “perfect” parts of our lives with a cool filter added to our photographs make others oohhh and ahhhh.

But authenticity requires transparency and admission of failure. It’s truth-telling about all areas of life.

Last night, I hosted Girlfriends (our women’s environment) at Mountain Lake Church as my friend Hannah Whitley talked to us about this very topic. My takeaway from the night:

Perfection is not relatable, but authenticity is. 

None of us are perfect. Let’s just throw that out there. Maybe we choose to withhold this truth and live a false life because we think that we have to be perfect to be liked or valued or accepted.

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The only perfect we need to be is that kind of perfect that Christ calls for us and sets the example to be.  Nothing else. Not perfect like your neighbor who has a blemish-free past. Not perfect like your friend who posts pictures of her house that always looks clean. Not perfect like your favorite blog/Instagram account/Christian author. We have one obligation in life when it comes to perfectionism – IT’S CHRIST.

Do you know what HIS idea of perfect is?

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Wow. All other secular ideas of perfectionism fall to the wayside, don’t they?

Let’s stop pretending. Let’s be real with one another. Let’s share where we are struggling in our marriage, in our singledom, in our parenting, and in our faith. Let’s carry each other’s burdens because we have ACTUALLY admitted we have burdens and failures. 

Today, friends, let’s choose to be authentic. Our greatest worth lies in being exactly who God created us to be. Nothing more.

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Hey Everybody! Look At Me!

Recently I joined my husband to teach during one of our weekend church services. We were in a message series on marriage and were sharing God’s commands as well as our personal experiences. As people listened, I knew they were also sizing us up….watching how we interacted….looking for discrepancies….critiquing my hair. To see the pastor and his wife talking candidly about a personal subject conjures some level of judgement whether good or bad.

Life as a pastor’s wife means we’re on display for all to see – which is a good thing. The Apostle Paul, himself, invited people to watch his life and follow his actions. Yet, sometimes that notion can be overwhelming or can catch us off-guard. Like when our youngest child is acting like the devil is his best friend or when we are in a full-blown argument with our husband as we walk into the church lobby. When we know we’re on display, many of us are tempted to live our lives to meet the expectations of others.

Maybe we plaster a smile on our face or say yes to every request or present ourselves as the perfect family. Whatever it is, we are tempted to live up to the hype of the “perfect pastor’s wife” by looking good, sounding good, and feeling good. ALL. THE. TIME.

Yet, just as Paul invited people to watch his life and follow his actions, he also reminded them that his goal wasn’t to meet their expectations. He didn’t always meet their expectations, as a matter of fact. Scripture depicts more than one occasion in which Paul was at odds with people. He, however, was adamant that his goal was to please God rather than measuring his success by what everyone else thought.

While we are tempted to live up to the hype of perfection, we don’t have to live that way.  It’s just a temptation….one that we can overcome. Just because we live in a fishbowl doesn’t mean we are without flaws. We simply have a responsibility to lead and shepherd others. While being aware that eyes are upon us, let’s be transparent. Real. Let’s not hide our mistakes. Let’s allow people inside our world to see what happens after the mistake….the confession….the healing. Let’s not model low standards or poor character, but let’s not model perfection either. Let’s simply allow people to see God at work in our lives.

That’s attractive.

That’s good leadership.

That’s the Christian life.

Remember you don’t have to be perfect. Just be on the journey with Jesus. In Him, alone, will we find freedom.

Galatians 1:10 “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Could you use more encouragement as a pastor’s wife? Help along the way? Join us at Velocity 2015, February 24-25, 2015 for a Pastors’ Wives Track designed specifically for YOU! Click here for all the details. Grab your hubby and register TODAY!


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Holiday Head Start: Sunday Summaries

StressLogoIt happens every year. The holiday season sneaks up on us as if we are unaware that Halloween just ended, and we find ourselves scrambling to clean our houses, bake holiday goodies, and find the perfect gifts for everyone on our lists. In the midst of our regular agendas, we add in office parties, family visits, decorating, and STRESS!

Stress over money (or lack thereof).

Stress over extended family relationships.

Stress over our overcommitted schedules.

Stress over the less than polite shoppers who will elbow us, steal the last toy on the store shelf, and then laugh as they checkout.

The holiday season is supposed to be full of good cheer and joy, but most of us experience anything but. At least we don’t until we attend a Christmas Eve church service in which we pause long enough to focus on Christ and feel His peace….and wish that feeling could have defined our holiday season.

That’s why at Mountain Lake Church we are getting a #HolidayHeadStart. Rather than allowing stress to rule our world, we’re choosing to put our minds and hearts in the right place before the craziness begins. The truth is that our own unrealistic expectations cause most of our stress.

The unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves to have the perfect tree, present the perfect meals, and give the perfect gifts.

The unrealistic expectations we put on others to behave perfectly at all times.

The unrealistic expectations we allow others to place on us to keep us with the Jones’s. 

Peace is lost when our expectations are different from the expectations of Jesus. We wear ourselves out trying to create the peace we crave by meeting those unrealistic expectations rather than simply being still with God. The only gift we need this season is the gift of peace…the peace that Jesus offers when we let go of the hype and fluff of the perfect holiday season and focus instead on the perfect God we serve.

So, we’re getting a #HolidayHeadStart at Mountain Lake. We are letting go of unreal, unwise expectations in advance. We are determined to keep a peaceful heart through the holidays…..a peaceful heart that worships God, allows Him to use us to influence others, and celebrates the most beautiful time of the year.

What about you? Could you use a #HolidayHeadStart, too? Let’s not allow the holidays to fly past in a blur of regret and dysfunction. Let’s determine NOW to allow God’s peace to be our focus. 

Click here to watch MLC’s weekend messages. The holidays are coming. Are you ready?

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Holiday Head Start

holiday headstart dateI never wanted to be that family. The one with Christmas lights up before Thanksgiving. I am a fan of celebrating the holidays….all of the holidays, including Turkey day complete with fall leaves, gourds, and pumpkin pie. Red and green decor has no place in the collage of Autumn wonder in my home. (Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I have a fall wreath on the door and some pumpkins on my mantle.) Christmas decor must wait it’s turn and not make an appearance until Black Friday – after I finish shopping with the other deal-crazed maniacs (read: my daughters).

This year is different. The last few months have been a blur of family demands that have left me emotionally and mentally fatigued. I thought I was busy when my kids were preschoolers and demanded moment-by-moment attention, but now that they are older, the demands are at another mental and emotional level. I find myself wanting to press pause on life and slow the whole mess down. But, I can’t.

I can, however, make a few changes. For instance, I can blog a little less often, say no a little more, and yes, decorate for Christmas a little earlier.

Let me explain. If I can’t slow life down, maybe I can find ways to enjoy it a little longer. Since I don’t want a hectic life to rob my family of the joy of the Christmas season, I’m choosing to start it a bit earlier. I know, I know. It means that red and green decor will overshadow Turkey Day, but who cares? Instead, my family has slowly been decorating the house, stealing moments to hang a stocking or string lights in between study sessions, tumbling, and football playoffs. We’re listening to Jingle Bells while we prep for Velocity 2015 and craft church messages. And, we’re taking pictures of our dog in Santa’s hat while we eat Halloween candy.

Rather than be slapped in the face by the holiday rush, I’m getting a #HolidayHeadStart, which by the way is the name of our latest teaching series at Mountain Lake. I might not be able to slow life down, but I can certainly prevent it from going by in a blur. I’m going to make it last. And make it count.

Local friends, join me this weekend at Mountain Lake as we all embrace a #HolidayHeadStart!

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Velocity 2015 Is Coming!

velocity 2015I love a good sale. A bargain. Knowing I’m not just getting my money’s worth, I’m getting MORE than my money’s worth. The thrill of the deal gets me every time.

That’s why I’m pumped to tell you about Velocity 2015. It’s a DEAL! This isn’t just a conference. It’s two days of inspiring speakers, helpful workshops, and tons of resources, not to mention the opportunity to connect with other ministry leaders, ask questions, reignite passion, and unify our teams. We need this. We WANT this!

The registration site is open, and an early bird rate is waiting for you – $69 until December 1, 2014! We are busy preparing for Velocity 2015 because at Churchplanters, we care about pastors, their families, and their teams. So we’re planning a conference that will equip us all to lead well and stay spiritually healthy.

PW TRACKOf course, my favorite part is the Pastors’ Wives Track! We’ll hear from:

Kathy Litton, National Consultant for Ministry to Pastors Wives for the North American Mission Board and Pastor’s Wife of First Baptist Church, Mobile, Alabama.

Amy Bloye, co-author of the book, It’s Personal, a book designed to help ministry couples and church planters thrive during the journey of church planting, Lead Pastor’s Wife, West Ridge Church, Dallas, Georgia, and 20 year veteran of marriage and ministry.

Lindsey Gerdes, Lead Pastor’s Wife of Revolution Church, Canton, Georgia, church planter, worship leader, and women’s ministry leader.

Tricia Lovejoy, yep, I’ll get in on the fun too. I love connecting with and encouraging other women in ministry, and I’d love to meet YOU!

Click here to see the line up and begin making plans to join us February 23-24, 2015. I hope you’ll join me for two days of ideas, motivation, community, and inspiration.

Hope to see YOU there!

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Bedroom Confessions

This past weekend I helped my hubby close out a teaching series at Mountain Lake Church called Bedroom Confessions. For 4 weeks we have been learning about God’s plan for singleness, marriage, and sex. God does have a plan for this area of our lives, although many churches remain silent on the subject. Yet, the world glamorizes its view of sex in every way! We are bombarded by commercials using sex to sell everything from hamburgers to cars; television shows portray individuals who treat sexual intimacy in a flippant way; and society encourages us to use our sexuality to build our own esteem. And while the world has been loud, the church has been far too quiet. But, God has never been mute. He has a plan, and His way is always best. We simply need to know the plan! So here’s a brief overview of what we’ve discussed during this teaching series:

Week 1: Bedroom Confession #1: “I’m not getting it” and by IT, we meant “needs” as in, “I’m not getting my needs met!”Although many of us might feel this way, we learned to seek to meet needs before seeking to have needs met. Ask yourself questions like, “Have I truly listened to my spouse today?” Or, “How can I be a better friend to my spouse today?”

Bedroom Confession #2: “I’m doing it my way.” Our tendency is to pick and choose which bible verses we want to obey, and in so doing we adopt our own guard rails for this are of our lives. Yet operating outside God’s guard rails always does damage to our relationships. Operating inside God’s guardrails is the path to safety and health!

Bedroom Confession #3: “I want to quit” Loving each other with God’s kind of love means never giving up, always persevering, and therefore never-failing.

For the last week of the series, we unveiled Bedroom Confession #4: “I still have so many questions” Over the last several weeks, Mountain Lakers have anonymously submitted questions for Shawn and me to answer, and let me tell you….there were some doozy’s! We were able to separate the hundreds of questions into 6 major categories, and Shawn and I based our answers on what God says in Scripture. It’s critical that we don’t determine our beliefs or actions based on what we FEEL or what the culture around us is saying, but that we ALWAYS use God’s Word as our standard.

Here were our 6 questions:

1. When should we talk to our kids about the birds and the bees?

2. What are the boundaries inside marriage? What’s ok? What’s not ok?

3. What are the boundaries outside marriage? What is we really love each other? What about living together before we get married?

4. How honest should I be in my marriage? About my needs? About my feelings? About my past indiscretions?

5. I’m tired at the end of the day. How do we make space for intimacy?

6. How can I forgive myself? How can I forgive them?

Intrigued? Watch Bedroom Confessions for yourself to hear our answers! God is not silent regarding our marriages…..and neither were we!

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Relationships Aren’t One-Sided

phoneLast Friday morning I was one of the first customers in my local Sprint store to purchase not one, not two, but three iPhone 6’s for my two daughters and me. How could we afford 3 phones, you ask? Well, two of us were due for upgrades and one of us was getting her very first phone. All of us had money saved and ready….and we were so excited. For days we surfed the web investigating the cool new features of the iPhone and our anticipation was building.

So when I stood at the Sprint counter and listened to the saleslady explain that one of our upgrades wasn’t exactly what we thought, you can only imagine my disappointment. In a flash my mind began spinning how I would explain to my daughter that she wasn’t due to cradle a new iPhone in her little warm hands until next spring. It’s a first world problem for sure, but my heart sank nonetheless. We had been talking, dreaming, researching, and planning for this phone for months. My only option? Pay the full $650 for a new phone.

Ummmm, TOTALLY not going to happen. 

So I began to wheel and deal (that’s the Southern phrase for begging with dignity). It took awhile, but by the time I left, I had three new iPhone 6’s, one free phone case, and three free Invisible Shield screen protectors. And I didn’t have to pay $650.

Competition is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Sprint wants to compete with other cell phone carriers for business, and they are willing to work for it. They, as a company, are doing what it takes to win loyal customers by promoting attractive pricing, unlimited data, and fantastic trade-in values for old phones. And it’s working…..at least for my family. I was ready to do a cartwheel in the store after all the store manager gave me.

Sprint is a business, and they are simply out to make some money. Nevertheless, their promotions won me over as a customer. Do you know what I was reminded of? Blessing others wins their love. Treating others with respect wins respect. Giving to others always blesses the giver in return.

Do your relationships need a boost? Are you craving a new level of intimacy and loyalty in your friendships? Would you like more friends? Bless someone. Show respect more often. Give to others. It’s really quite simple. The old adage is true: to have a friend, we must be a friend. In some ways, Sprint was a good friend to me last week, and I was reminded of how important it is to treat others well.

Relationships are never one-sided. If they are, they’re over. So, this week, reach out to others. Give, Respect. Love. Bless. Don’t wait for others to invest into you….seize the day to invest into them!

 

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