Happy Birthday, Shawn!

Head Shots 047Another Lovejoy celebration ensues today: Shawn Lovejoy turns 45! Birthday’s are big deals around here, and a vegan feast will kick off the party. I know the word “vegan” just killed it for most of you, but it floats Shawn’s boat, so we are in full support!

Although Shawn enjoys gifts, he’d rather just buy what he likes himself. What speaks to him….what makes him feel valued and significant….what puts a smile on his face? Knowing he has helped someone. Knowing he’s impacted their life for the good.

I could shout from the rooftops all that Shawn has done for me. He has been my confidant and encourager. He has believed in me like no other person ever has. He has loved me with a love I’m sure I don’t deserve. He has disciplined himself to be a co-laborer in the home and in our ministry. He has led our family spiritually. He has sought forgiveness, and he has forgiven. He fights fairly and with respect. He protects my heart. He meets my needs at the expense of his own. He takes care of our family financially. And he has the cutest legs ever! I love Shawn Lovejoy!

Many of you know Shawn personally and have been impacted by him, too. Would you take a moment to celebrate him today? @ShawnLovejoy on Twitter. You can always send a direct message if you’d rather keep it personal.

Happy birthday, Shawn! You are the best man I’ve ever known.

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The Perspective Shift That Changes Everything

The apostle, Paul, never ceases to amaze me. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11 details the trials and suffering Paul endured as he preached God’s messages in Asia. He and his friends were “overwhelmed” and “crushed” and thought they “were going to die.” Those are real emotions and experiences, not just some quaint story in a book. Paul’s focus, however, was the comfort God gave during those trials. He viewed his suffering as something to be expected in life, and he viewed God’s comfort as the beautiful gift….the supernatural strength…..to help him endure. Shifting perspective from despair to joy is nothing short of amazing.

Ok, friends. Let’s get real. Do we view life and difficulties in the same way as Paul? Do we count it as a joy to suffer in order to experience God’s comfort? Do we then count it as a joy to pass the same kind of comfort to others who are struggling? Our struggles, though very real, pale in comparison to Paul. Most of us aren’t in jail or being physically harmed for our beliefs. Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize our trials.

  • Conflicts in our relationships can bring emotional turmoil.
  • Financial stress can bring fear and anxiety.
  • Depression can bring isolation and unhappiness.
  • Parenting can bring exhaustion and frustration.
  • Medical issues can bring fear and irritation.

When we face a trial, our focus is often the trial, itself. We tend to pay attention to our pain and become discouraged. Paul was the same way, I’m sure. He wouldn’t have been human to respond any other way. But, Paul overcame his human emotions and put his eyes on God in the midst of frustration, fear, and unhappiness. He looked for the ways God was ministering to him, and he chose to be the man God wanted him to be, to soak up God’s comfort, and to pass that strength and motivation to others.

How can we do the same thing? How can we rise above the trials we face and look for God’s comfort?

  • We can praise God for the love and friendship of our spouse rather than complaining about their shortcomings.
  • We can pause to thank God for the paychecks that cover our bills and provide for entertainment for our families rather than complaining that we don’t have enough.
  • We can meditate on the goodness of God – His unending love, His forgiveness, His strength, His righteousness – rather than the perils of our problems.
  • We can look for the ways He refreshes us daily – through a bible verse, in an unexpected financial gain, in the words of a friend, in a burst of energy that allows us to get more done that we thought we could, in a quiet whisper that He loves you – instead of being blind to His activity.

So here’s my challenge for today: Don’t allow trials to be your focus or bring you down. Focus, instead, on the ways God is carrying you through the trials!

Some of you might have a hard time seeing God at work in your lives, however. If you don’t feel like He is carrying  through your trials, that could suggest you are separated from God. Feeling far from God, not hearing His voice….these are indications that you might have a relationship issue with your Father. The truth is sin causes separation in every form. Can I encourage you to pause right now and talk to God? Confess any sin and draw close to Him again.

Our trials will be difficult, but God’s comfort is enough to see us through. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!

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Follow Me

follow meA few friends and I are reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament of the Bible. We read a chapter each day and then share our thoughts in a group email since we all live in different states. In the quiet moments of my mornings, I read, journal, and share with my friends.

The other day, one particular verse grabbed our attention.

“And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.” (I Cor 11:1 NLT)

Wow. Sometimes I THINK this thought to myself, but I would probably never write it in a letter to a group of people! Paul was BOLD! And, apparently he was confident that his behavior was worthy of following.

I have to say, I find it much easier to model the Christian life when I’m “at work” (away from home, doing ministry, accomplishing a task, etc). When I’m teaching or coaching or engaging other people, I often feel confident to make the same bold claim as Paul. Yet, in my own home with those closest to me, my weaknesses bubble to the top. Maybe Paul could speak so boldly because he had no spouse or children to push his buttons! Maybe he was able to live “on point” because he traveled from place to place and was often alone after the crowds went home.

At least that was his explanation when he wrote in a previous chapter that following Jesus’ example was harder when we have the added demands of family, which he didn’t have.

Nevertheless, having a family has taught me vast amounts about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion – all qualities of our Father in Heaven. When I stumble with my family, I ask forgiveness. When they stumble, I forgive. I am loyal and committed to them. Most importantly, I can see a steady track of spiritual growth since I met Jesus, and I’m using that to help train my family. As long as I’m doing those things, I can not only tell strangers to follow my example, I can tell my family to, as well!

What about you? Are there areas of your life that you can boldly proclaim “follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s?” Celebrate them! Becoming more and more mature as a Christian is something to which we should all aspire. If you are having trouble pinpointing some successes in this area, don’t fret. Just get started! Pick one area of your life and take a few steps of improvement by following Jesus’ example more closely. Remember, the goal is steady growth, not overnight perfection.

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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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My Plan To Build Community

women-friendsSo my last few posts have been all about making plans – plans to turn our good intentions into our best successes – in 4 major areas of life:

Personal Growth

Leading/Supporting my family

Using the gifts God gave me

Building Community

If you ever feel as if life is running faster than you can keep up, these posts are for you. Setting an agenda for key areas of our lives enables us to stay laser focused on accomplishing what really matters to us.

Today, I’ll share the last post for this series: my plan to build community with others. All work and no play…..well, who lives that way? Not me! I LOVE breaking free of my responsibilities and goofing off. I secretly hope for cancelled events or snow days….reasons to plop on my couch and watch movies. And hanging with my friends….they make me laugh and keep me sane! But, if I’m not careful, my calendar will be so full of have-to’s that I won’t I have time for get-to’s. Sooooo, I PLAN it! Here’s my plan for building community with others:

1. Time for friends:

  • The first Wednesday of each month is blocked off for random fun with friends. We shop for new jeans, drink way too much Starbucks, or discover new places to eat lunch. We chat about parenting, the latest tv shows, and swap recipes. Sometimes we’ve engaged in bible studies, other times we’ve met at someone’s house to plan a monthly menu. Sounds exciting, right? Well, it is. Time with my friends – whatever we choose to do – is gold! But, I’ve learned that unless I schedule it, I’ll get too busy for it.
  • Each Sunday night my family and I attend our Life Group, a small group of friends from church who get together to eat dinner and discuss the sermon we heard at Mountain Lake. I am open and honest with these friends about the victories and struggles in my life. They make me better!
  • Remember my plan for personal growth? Exercising is a big deal to me, but I hate doing it alone. Instead, I partner with 2 friends. We get fit and grow in friendship everyday.
  • I set reminders on my Google Calendar for birthdays and anniversaries for my close friends. I want them to know they are important to me.
  • I text my friends. A lot. Random messages of encouragement, funny one-liners, inquiring about their day, prayers for them…..I never underestimate the power of connecting with my friends.

2. Time for mentoring others

  • Relationships are not all about what I can receive, but also about what I can give. That’s why I set aside the 4th Thursday of each month to invest into others. Sometimes I meet with other pastors’ wives to coach them through the challenges of ministry; other times I meet with local friends who need a little direction in finances, marriage, or parenting. My goal is to sharpen their skills and faith. To do so, we set time parameters, agendas, and how many sessions we’ll meet together.
  • Jesus told us in Scripture to “go and make disciples.” The word “go” literally means “as you go.” Since I take Jesus at His word, I do my best to keep my eyes and ears open as I encounter people each day. Random conversations can become something much more powerful when I simply become aware of God’s activity around me. Encouraging someone during a marital trial, encouraging a tired parent, complimenting a weary friend, sharing a bible verse with a struggling friend….God can use me to mentor and coach others anytime, anywhere.

Do you have a plan to build relationships with people? People need you. And, you need people. I’ve shared my plan, but what does it look like for you?

  • A weekly play date with other moms who have kids the same age as yours?
  • A monthly dinner with neighbors?
  • Joining a Life Group?
  • A monthly meeting with a younger friend who could benefit from your wisdom?

Put your thinking cap on and make a plan. Remember, you don’t have to change the world.  Just change your world.

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My Plan to Love My Family

1027So my last few posts have been all about making plans – plans to turn our good intentions into our best successes – in 4 major areas of life:

Personal Growth
Leading/Supporting My Family
Using the Gifts God Gave Me
Building Community

All of us want to know we’re doing the best we can in these areas, right? We want to love our families well, be a blessing to the world around us, and enjoy good friendships, right? RIGHT! But, life gets in the way sometimes. It looks something like this:

We fall behind on daily tasks and find ourselves working late into the evening trying to catch up….ignoring our family in the process.

We focus our energy on our own agendas for so long until one day we realize that we don’t have a close friend in our lives. We’re alone.

Or,

We have great ideas of helping a friend in need or serving in some capacity at church, but we don’t have the time!

Life gets in the way! We get busy. We get overwhelmed. Then, we feel defeated….as if we are disappointing others or ourselves.

There is a solution! Our lives don’t have to run us! We can run our lives! So, I’m sharing a few specific details of how I shoot for success in these 4 key areas. Today, I’m sharing the details of my plan to lead and support my family.

1. Family Night: One night each week is dedicated to my family hanging out together. No appointment, meeting, or social activity gets in the way. We don’t want “distance decay” to rob us of intimacy, so we protect our time together. Watching movies, playing game, going out to eat…..simple time together is a win!

2. Discipleship: We don’t have traditional family devotions. (Shocking, isn’t it?) Teaching our kids about God’s love is extremely important to us, though. We make use of drive-time to teach bible verses, we help our kids to set goals and evaluate their spiritual growth, we engage in Bible reading plans, and we talk openly about the social situations the kids encounter and how what pleases God.

3. Encouraging my husband: The best marital advice I ever received was this: Make your spouse’s interests your own. In other words, get involved in their lives. Some ways I support and encourage my hubby include being beside him for all 4 of our worship services at Mountain Lake Church, complimenting him and his accomplishments, never speaking in a negative way about him to others, and developing a love for football (his all-time favorite subject). If he makes a move, I make it with him. To my great pleasure, he does the same for me.

4. Nurturing My Marriage: Marriage takes effort. Focused effort. We plan weekly dates, we have a weekly meeting to discuss family matters/calendar issues, and we have a plan to resolve conflictWe’ve also agreed together to turn off our cell phones and limit social media in the evenings. If we aren’t careful, we’ll focus our attention on the world instead of each other! 

5. Chores/appointments/errands/financial planning: Ahhh, the never-ending to-do list. Here’s my plan in a nutshell.

  • Laundry is a daily chore. If not, it piles up in overwhelming stacks. I also vacuum and wipe down the kitchen counters daily.
  • Bed sheets are washed and the kids clean their rooms each Saturday.
  • Dusting, washing towels/rugs, and cleaning the bathrooms happen weekly while the kids are at school.
  • Appointments are only scheduled Tuesday-Thursday, as are grocery shopping and other errands.
  • Receipts are posted to our family budget every other day, if not every day. Monthly, I balance our bank statements and our family budget.

There you have it. My plan to lead/support my family. Life doesn’t get in the way of these things. Instead, life is planned around these things.

What about you? Do you have a plan for your marriage and family? I’d love your feedback and suggestions!

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By The Numbers

2408I’m one lucky girl.

No, luck has nothing to do with it.

I’m blessed.  God has gifted me with a wonderful friend….my closest confidant…my partner in every way.  Yep, that’s how I see my husband.  We’ll celebrate our wedding anniversary this month – a pretty monumental one.  As the date approaches my mind has wandered down memory lane on several occasions reminiscing on our life together.

We were just kids when we met – 19 years old – and in many ways we’ve grown up together.  We may not have shared our childhood years, but when I look back over our lives I can see how we’ve certainly grown and matured on our journey together.  We’ve shared a lot of “firsts” and partnered together in everything we’ve ever set out to do.  I can honestly say we spend the majority of our time together, not apart.

So, indulge me.  Allow me to walk down memory lane and share our life by the numbers:

Met at 19

Dated 3 years

Married when we were 22

Served 4 different churches 

Raised (ing) 3 kiddos

Made 7 houses our homes

Loved 2 dogs

Enjoyed 3 cruises (our fav way to vacation!)

Endured 5 surgeries (Note: Shawn is NOT the best patient)

Bought 9 cars

Started 1 church that has started 6 more

Hosted 9 conferences for pastors

Baptized 1700+ people for the Lord

Started/lead 5 ministries

Held hands 8,395 times

Supported each other more times than I can count

And, laughed (mostly at my expense) on a daily basis.

It seems I’ve blinked and decades have passed.

This month, on the 27th, Shawn and I will celebrate our life of partnership together.…20 years of love, friendship, and adventure. 20 years of high’s and low’s, laughs and tears, conflicts and hugs.  20 years of memories.

I would not be who God wanted me to be without that man of mine, and I pray we have many more years and memories ahead of us.  So, thanks for indulging a little sentimentality today.

Now, I could use your help! Do you have suggestions for how we should celebrate the big day? 

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Marriage and Ministry: Tune In This Wednesday

2408Leadership in ministry brings its challenges.  

Leading people is never easy.  The leader meets demands, resolves conflicts, maintains overall vision, manages a staff, and guides an entire congregation of people to unity.  All of that adds up to a few stressful days (seasons) and many sleepless nights.  Most of the time, the leader feels inadequate to accomplish the task God has assigned.  Ahhh, but that’s the beauty of God’s way of doing things, isn’t it? His strength is displayed in our weakness.

For those of us who are married and serve in ministry leadership, the challenges often rise to a whole new level.  We bring our work home with us – the burden of counseling others through infidelity, holding the hands of those with illness, strategizing new programs for the church, bouncing staffing ideas off of our spouse – we talk about all of it.  All. The. Time.

If we aren’t careful, doing good work (the best work there is, as a matter of fact) can actually consume us and our marriage.  In very subtle ways, we can allow our passion for ministry overshadow our passion for our spouse.  Oh, we would never say we love our work more than our spouse, but sometimes our actions tell a different story.

My husband and I are partners in every sense of the word.  In ministry and in our home.  We believe you and your spouse should be as well. This Wednesday, July 31st at 3PM, we will be talking very practically about how you and your spouse can be and stay partners in both ministry and marriage during an online Whiteboard Session hosted by the Launch Network.  We’ll share key insights, stories, and practical steps to protect your marriage in the midst of leading a growing church.

Click the links above for all the details and join Shawn and me online Wednesday at 3pm.  Your ministry and marriage will be better for it!

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The Power of an Encouraging Spouse

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and I enjoy sharing it with you guys, too.  This month the magazine focuses on love and marriage.  Fitting since Valentines’s is just days away.  Check it out.

February is the month of love.  The Greeting Card section of every store is full of romance, and many of us are hoping for some sweet surprise on the 14th.  We’ll spend money on frivolous gifts – stuffed animals, candy, restaurants – all in the name of love.  I’ll get caught up in the fun, too, but I wonder if we are really showing love?  We’re putting on a good show – pretty boxes with ribbons and cards with sweet sentiments – but, if our actions don’t back up our gifts, we aren’t showing real love.  Real love goes beyond candy boxes and teddy bears.  Real love displays itself in daily life.  Let me explain.

Have you ever stopped to think about what your husband faces in a typical day? No matter what his job is, he deals with demands, pressures, and probably a competitive drive that pushes him to constantly be better, do more, or measure up to some standard. In the midst of those demands and pressures from his career, he might even deal with pressures he places on himself to provide for his family, to be the dad he ought to be, or to keep his wife happy. I know sometimes our husbands seem like their minds are a million miles away, but I assure you these concerns weigh heavily on their hearts.

What about you, men? Did you know that your wife faces similar burdens?

She constantly tries to be all things to all people – an admirable, albeit impossible goal.  She longs to be a wonderful mother, but privately deals with guilt when she feels she’s blown it.  She feels pressure to say yes to everyone in her life and will exhaust herself trying to help others.  She wants to be a team player and offer her best, even as she faces the unspoken fear that she’ll be taken for granted.  Husbands, your wives want to be loved for all they do.  I assure you that love is the grand prize they are seeking.

With goals and demands weighing heavily on both sides of the gender gap, it’s fair to assume that we could all use some encouragement….some recognition….some love.  How could we partner together to help one another?

In Scripture, Jesus taught that we should treat others the way we want to be treated.  So, if encouragement and love would build you up, what would it do for your spouse?

More than anyone else, our spouses need to hear us say things like, “I’m with you no matter what” or “I know you the best, and I love you the most.” They need us to keep them focused on living out God’s purpose for their lives, not on the voice of the naysayers. Our encouragement means more to them than a thousand pats on the back by well-meaning friends. We have a voice of power in our spouses’ lives. Let’s leverage that voice to build them up!

How could you encourage your spouse today? Could you write a love letter? Could you tell him how much he impresses you? Could you thank her for all she does to provide for your family? Could you plan a celebration for one of her accomplishments? Could you compliment him in front of others? The ideas are endless.

During this month when we so visibly celebrate love, seize the opportunity to tell your sweetie just how wonderful they really are.  After all, our lives shouldn’t be about us – about what we can get or what we want.  Ultimately, our lives should be about what we can give – the love we can share – and the influence we have over the people closest to us.  That’s real love.

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I Do Means I Will….

marriageTomorrow night, one of the Pastors at Mountain Lake is tying the knot!  I’ve gotten a sneak peek at the church, and it looks beautiful!  Drew and Meagan will don their fanciest duds and stand in front of family and friends to make their vows, and then we’ll all celebrate with too much food….except for me, who will be watching my calorie intake (the holidays are over, and so is my love affair with fattening foods).

All the work that goes into the Big Day pales in comparison, though, to the work the couple will do over their years of marriage.  Saying “I Do” means saying “I Will” love when I’m angry, forgive when I’m hurt, and apologize in humility. It also means I will find ways to celebrate my spouse, hold up their arms, and bear their burdens.  It means I will be a partner to someone for a lifetime.

So, I’m wondering what advice you would give to the newlyweds?  What have you learned in marriage that might help them?  Serious or funny, what is your best advice for a happy marriage?

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