Friday, February 20, 2009

My Children

Kylie (3 going on 15)

Sam and Kylie (They Like each other most of the time)

Sam playing hockey (he likes it even though mom
isn't so sure!)
Last night at our house was one of those night when these two beautiful children, who look innocent enough, pushed all of my buttons. I look at these pictures and think - there is a reason God made them so darn cute!!! Just kidding, but we did have a night. They didn't like dinner, they didn't want to clean up, didn't want to go to bed - all in all we are lucky they are really good kids, but boy do they have their moments, and last night they had all their moments in one night!!! I guess we all have days like that. I'm a lucky girl, I have a great husband and two pretty fabulous kids so I have nothing to complain about. God is good.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prayer and Lent

Several years ago now, in my first youth ministry call, I had the privilege to take a group of high school students on a Mission Trip to the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia. I was fresh out of college and full of youthful enthusiasm, excitement and zest to change the world and the lives of the teens I was bringing on this trip. Once we got to West Virginia we were divided into work teams and I was sent with another leader to do home renovations for the Cook Family. My co-leader and I were both relative rookies in youth ministry, and we knew absolutely nothing about home renovations, but here we were charged with renovating the Cooks home and we had 15 high school youth looking to us for leadership. We knew we were up for the challenge. We took control and started delegating jobs. Day one was a breeze, work was progressing, conversation was flowing, and relationships were building. Devotions that night were full of great insights and observations and we were patting ourselves on that back – I was thinking – “Wow, this is going to be easy.”
Then came day two. One of the girls from my church was using a KILZ paint primer on the walls that you use when there is mold on the walls, to prepare the walls for paint. There is some pretty hefty chemicals in that paint. We had been warned to be extra careful when using this paint. As she was painting one of the higher parts of the wall, a large drop of the paint dripped into her eye. As we rushed to her, I sent one of the other kids to run and get Mrs. Cook and ask where the nearest hospital was to which Mrs. Cook calmly replied … “Oh…. That would be at least a good 2-2 ½ hours…. that won’t do you any good”. My co-leader and I start to frantically flush her eye with water and see that it is bright red and looks as if it is burnt badly. She is screaming in pain.
Meanwhile I hear Mrs. Cook say “Okay, the rest of y’all come over here… and we are going to pray.”
I remember thinking “Pray….. are you kidding me….. what the heck good is that going to do me, this kid is going to lose her eye and I’m responsible, I’m going to have to explain it to her parents”. I seriousely thought this woman had lost her mind. Then all of the sudden the crying and screaming stopped, and we looked down and her eye was fine. It wasn’t red, it wasn’t irritated, it wasn’t even a little pink. It was fine. You could have heard a pin drop in that house. The Mrs. Cook said “Now I want you all to sit down, and I’m gonna tell y’all a little bit about prayer”. I’ll never forget it, and I’m sure none of those high school kids have ever forgotten it either.
Now the cynic in you may say that I had flushed everything out of her eye and it was just coincidence, but something special happened in that room that day, where we all felt the power of that one women’s complete faith and the great power of being surrounded in prayer. It’s when I began to realize to that it is God’s job to change people and change lives, not mine, and I can only thank God when I get to be a part of that.
This fall we traveled to New Mexico to visit family, and my daughter got sick. She was very sick, and there were lots of unknowns and as we passed the word to friends and families and continued to get the messages “We are praying for you” I continued to feel some of the burden being lifted from me. Now, as I watch her play, it’s hard to believe a few months ago she was in a hospital room looking so hopeless. It is a reminder of me to be vigilant in my prayer life, and to tell people when we are praying for them, because you may never know how much those words may mean to them. It’s a reminder that prayer can not only change things, but prayer can change people.

I've been thinking about Lent coming up, and many times during Lent I've given something up - chocolate .....or sometimes (heaven forbid....Diet Coke!!!) but I know that isn't really what it is all about, and this year, I wanted to add a discipline. This year I'm going to be more diligent about my prayer life. I've been trying to think about a concrete way to do that - and I've decided, cheesy as it may be, that I'm going to "pray through" my friend list on facebook. Being that all of those people are people that have some sort of connection to me, and mean something to me in some way or another. 40 days of lent gives me about 9 people a day to pray for- very doable. So... if you get a note for me asking saying I'm praying for you don't be surprised, or offended. Maybe you to will feel the power of another person praying for you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Valentine

Sam gave me this valentine.....for those of you who can't read "6 year old" it says "I love you cause you stay home with me." I cried when I read it because it was so sweet! I said to him "But mommy doesn't stay home with you every day, do you wish mommy stayed home with you every day" and my beautiful son said "No Mommy, God needs you to help other kids sometimes. Besides, I have to go to school and I LOVE to play with my friends at daycare it is so much fun. I think it is just right, and we have so much fun when you stay home. I love you".
Gosh, I love that kid.

It's interesting because this is one of those things I think us women are hardest on each other about - and boy can we be catty and judgemental. I'm not really sure why, if it is because we all feel the need to defend the decision we made or what - which is just silly. No one should have to do that - because not one of us knows all of the reasons that each family has for making their individual decisions. For us, I work partially because I have to and in many ways it isn't a choice, but, I also love and feel passionately about my work and see it as a calling, and can't imagine NOT doing it. That doesn't mean I love my children any less. (It may mean my house isn't always picture perfect...hey.. I'm not superwoman after all :) ) So we work it out. I stay at home a little, I work, I rarely miss one of their important events and I make sure we have quality time together. In many ways I am a better mom because I work, because after a day of work I'm thrilled and excited to see them and can't wait to spend time with them. It works for me, but it doesn't mean it works for everyone. It's hard to explain. That statement doesn't work for everyone, so I wouldn't try to place that value, that works in our family and our situation on anyone else. It's interesting, for a long time I've wished that it could be a choice in our family - that I didn't HAVE to work - and have coveted some situations where that was the case. As life progresses I began to wonder if I really did have a choice if I would choose any different? Hmmm... I don't really know.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering Nick

Growing up as an "Army Brat" had some advantages and some disadvantages. I had the opportunity to see and experience lots of different things growing up and also the chance to meet a lot of great people, for that I'm so grateful. One part that makes me very sad now, is how we are all scattered all over the country. Some of us never really had "roots" of our own, and have gone back to where our parents are from, considering that to be where we are "from", some of us married into the military life and continue the cycle - but for whatever reason, I have several dear friends who I miss a lot that I never really get to see. Some of those friendships are so special to me and I know that no matter how much time has passed, if we would have the opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee it wouldn't feel awkward or strange, and we could probably be there for hours. How I wish that was possible....... I miss you guys.... Jessika, Tabitha, Tricia, Liv. Friends like that don't come around all the time.

It's times like this week when I really mourn the distance. As I am writing this, Jessika and her family are preparing for her father's funeral, and I feel awful that I'm not there for her and her family, and that I'm not there to honor such a good man.

Jessika and I met in High school in French Class - we connected and became virtually inseperable for the last two years of high school and beyond. I spent a lot of time at her house. Last night I shed a lot of tears remembering how good Nick was to us. At Jessika's house they spoke Spanish alot, he always tried to help make sure I knew what was going on, and didn't feel left out. He celebrated with me and gave me a big hug when he asked for a plate (in spanish) and without thinking I passed him one because I had understood him! The memories came flooding back to me last night and I cried. I cried because the world has lost someone special. I cried because I miss my friends. I cried because I wanted to get on a plane so badly but couldn't swing the $800 plane ticket. I cried because I don't want it to take funerals for me to see my friends who I love so dearly.

Rest in Peace Nick Paraskevas. Much love to you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I just got back from a staff/council retreat. All in all it was a good weekend - good company, good work and even some time for some good fellowship. In one of our devotional times I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Mother Theresa. It is one I think about often.

An interviewer once asked Mother Teresa, “When you pray, what do you say to God?” She said, “I don’t say anything. I just listen.” So the interviewer asked, “What does God say to you?” She replied, “God doesn't say anything. He listens.”

What a fascinating image that is, fascinating to me anyway. There is something about silence however, that makes us uncomfortable. When there is a lull in a conversation (I think I heard somewhere that it happens every 7 minutes.....) we get uncomfortable. It seems as if so many of us can't climb into the car without turning on the radio. Thanks to my husband, I can't even fall asleep anymore without some sort of background "noise". We are constantly "plugged in" - to our i-pods, our t.v.'s, our radios - and if it isn't the audio noise we are assaulted by visual noise - the images on the screen fly at us fast and furious, and it seems as if they must to keep our attention. I am so guilty of this. Especially it seems in todays fast paced society - in a world filled with so much "noise" - how do we make space for the "silence" that we need, the space in which God can enter in? The quiet in which we crave and need, but sometimes don't even realize how much?

I started to think about the instances in which we are comfortable with the silence - the times when you can sit with family, or a close friend, and feel okay saying nothing at all - instead of awkward. It is the sign of a close and deep relationship when you feel comfortable enough to say nothing .......... and then I start to understand Mother Theresa quote. That's when I also understand that only in the silence can I truly listen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


So right now, there is a group of 4 people from Incarnation in Chontala and I can't help but think about my trip there last year, and wonder about what they are experiencing. It was an incredible experience to be there. I remember spending the first few days in Guatemala city leaning about the history of the country - learning about the civil war and the violence ( "La Violencia") that had taken place there over the last 40 years or so. I was shocked and moved to tears by so many of the stories - and appalled to learn about our country's involvement in much of it. Our guides teased me, because I joked about hearing about "guerilla" warfare in Guatemala as a kid - and saying how I wondered about all those "monkeys" fighting in the jungles.... and why we really cared? Now I'm sad about how little I realized and about what was really going on.

We spent several days in the Mayan Village of Chontala. This is the heart of where Incarnation's partnership is - with a group of women who formed a Co-op with the help of a Methodist Pastor. All of these women became widows during the violence. Eileen, Diane and I stayed with Maria and her family. One night Maria told us her story. Her husband had been ordered to show up for civil patrol duty. The government was using these civil patrols to go into neighboring villages and kill other Native mayan people to help keep insurgents from "rising up". He refused to report for duty. The next day, he didn't come home from the fields at his usual time. Maria (who had two children, and was 7 months pregnant with her third child) went looking for him. She found him with his br0ther-in-law and a cousin in the fields. All three men had been mutilated with a machete. Maria's husband was still alive, but missing the back of his head and she knew there was nothing she could do for him, so she sat with him, praying and singing until he died. This was their punishment for refusing to show up for civil patrol duty. She and her children fled into the mountains. In the next few days the village was invaded. Several people in the village were locked in the area churches and the churches were bombed. Men were killed in front of their wives and children - things were horrific. Many of the wives and the children that survived fled into the mountains. After some time they returned, but had no way of supporting their families. They went to this local Pastor, Pastor Diego, who helped them get a grant for some thread, and helped them turn some of their weavings into artwork, bags, and shirts, and helped them sell them. This then formed their co-op, and has thus sustained them. The co-op now also works to help educate some of the village children, gives micro-loans to other small businesses and works to sell the womans weavings. It's pretty amazing to see how they have persevered.

And through it all their faith carries them through. That humbled me. They had very little, and they shared it all with us - unbelieveable. Here were people that should hate me, after all America was a big part of the problem in their civil war. It seemed to me like it would be hard to not be bitter, but they weren't. We slept in their only bed (fleas and all....), were given their best food and were treated like royalty. Their faith is strong and unwavering, in spite of their hardships - it gets them through each and every day. It is inspiring. I hope the crew there now is having an equally inspiring time.

Children In Worship

Have you been to a baptism lately? Last week, as I sat in worship I delighted to see that there would be a baptism. I love to see the proud families standing before God, each other and this faith community and making powerful promises on behalf of their children. It also reminds me of how meaningful that process was for me, when I stood in front of the congregation and made those promises on behalf of my children. As I was listening to this service, one of the promises struck me. The first promise made in a baptism is that parents would “faithfully bring that child to the services of God’s house”. I looked around me, and noticed very few children in the pews. Believe me it also didn’t go unnoticed, that two of the children not in worship were my own.

It had been one of those mornings when I thought that it would just be easier to attend worship while my son was Sunday School and my daughter was in the nursery. I thought to myself that bringing them with me was too much of a distraction to me, and to my experience in worship, so it was just easier to do it this way. That’s how it begins, isn’t it? When our children are small worshipping together can be a challenge. Believe me worship for me B.C. (before children) and A.D. (after diapers) are two entirely different experiences! So in the beginning we tell ourselves, it is just easier for us to worship while our children are in the nursery or Sunday School. We think to ourselves, when they get a little bit older we’ll take them into worship and when we do, we are shocked to find out that they behave inappropriately or tune out because they are bored. Should it be any surprise to us? Somehow, we have skipped one of the most important promises we made at their baptism – “to faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house”. If we don’t teach kids how to worship, or teach them what worship is, how can we ever expect them to engage? Should it be so surprising to us when as teenagers or young adults they fall away from the church?

Part of the problem is also how we define worship. When I fail to bring my children in to worship, because it takes away from my worship experience, I’ve missed the point. Worship is not about me. Worship is about giving honor and glory to God. At its very core, worship is our recognition of the greatness of God. In Psalm 50: 7-15 we learn about the true nature of worship. It tells us that God is not concerned with rituals and sacrifices. He most desires heartfelt thanksgiving and adoration toward Him. We are told time and time again that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind”. Worship is a reflection of that love. When I truly understand that, I also understand that our children, who love so freely, need to be in worship. They need to learn how to express their love for God. It’s important to God, and it should be important to us and to the future of the church as we know it.

Does that mean it will be easy? Absolutely not, because just like everything else, children will need to be taught. It means that I will endure goldfish in the pews, and the occasional loud comments with grace and the understanding that having them there is pleasing to God and is part of my responsibility in fulfilling the promises made at their baptism. If we don’t start now it only gets harder.

Jumping into Cyber Space

I've been reading my friend Danielle's blog religiously, and today she asked me about my own blog - and I had to admit that I didn't have one. However, I've been toying with the idea of starting one for some time. I've just never been sure who might be intereseted in reading what I have to say! So to get it started, I'm going to post some things I've written for some other publications that I'm passionate about, and hopefully I'll be good about keeping it updated and we'll just see how it goes!