The Man in the Mirror


I’ve always really liked the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. I guess you could say it is my theme song for my oldest son, Ryan. We have spent many summer evenings driving in the car with the sunroof open, windows down and wind blowing as we sang along to the classic by the King of Pop. It’s one of our favorites so whenever it comes on the radio I think of Ryan and smile. He and I went to South Africa on our first mission trip together when he was just 12 years old. It was a great trip and we met many amazing people. He experienced something extraordinary that had a great impact on his young life. But it was two years ago when we returned to Africa that changed him in a way I could never have imagined. We went to Kenya, again as members of a mission team, to minister to children living at an orphanage near Nairobi. We also visited Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums where we spent time with children who lived there. Afterwards we took a walking tour through Kibera and witnessed the most deplorable and shocking living conditions anyone could imagine. Ryan captured the experience on film and the images are some of the most disturbing yet oddly beautiful pictures he’s ever taken.

Tomorrow Ryan will graduate from high school. While he has been an exceptional student and has made many friends in school, he is not your typical teenager. It was the final day in Kenya and we returned to the orphanage to say goodbye to the children we had spent the prior week with when we held a vacation bible school for them. We knew it would be difficult saying goodbye because we had grown so close to them in such a short time and many of them were very attached to certain members of the team. There was one little girl in particular who had not left Ryan’s side the entire week. Her name was Grace. It was obvious that Grace was not as strong as the other kids and we assumed it was due to some health problems. But when we went back to say goodbye we were told exactly what was wrong with her. Grace had a severe heart condition and was not expected to live much longer. Ryan was devastated. In a short time he had come to love this little girl and was saddened to know that her life would be so short-lived. In the moments he took to say his goodbye to Grace, I stood nearby and saw my 16 year old son become a man. I watched him hug this small child, place his hand upon her head as he prayed for her, then shed tears as she gave him the only thing of value she owned – a black and white bracelet made of string. In an instance my son went from a privileged boy living in a country blessed with an abundance of wealth, to a young man who would never receive anything more valuable than the gift from a small child in one of the most impoverished areas in the world. His life would never be the same. In an instance he understood what truly mattered in life.

This morning as I stood behind my son as he did a final check of himself in the mirror before heading off to graduation practice, I saw the man in the mirror who God created to make a change in this world. A man who dares to boldly follow Jesus in a world that tempts him and pulls him from every dark corner. A man who has chosen to listen to His Father in heaven instead of the thousands of negative influences he has faced over the years. A man who many said “you just wait until he becomes a teenager” assuming that like many his age, he would end up compromising his faith yet has remained faithful and steadfast in his walk with Christ. A man whose gift of compassion has drawn the hopeless to him for encouragement and hope, and made him a true friend to friendless. A man whose commitment to his church and pastors has made him a reliable and dedicated servant and  leader. A man who has lead by example to those who have looked up to him. A man who has been a light in the darkness of all that surrounds our children today. A man who has been asked many times “why are you always so happy?” because he is filled with the joy of the Lord. A man who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around him. A man who has been the most protective and loving brother anyone could hope for. A man who has been an incredible son and makes us feel honored to be his parents. A man who will some day make an amazing husband and father. A man whose future is filled with endless possibility and whose life God has destined for greatness. A man who will make the world a better place.

Thank you God for the privilege of being Ryan’s mother. Thank you for your grace and protection over his life. Thank you to our friends and family who have covered him with their prayers over the years. Thank you to all those who have influenced his life by being an example of what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ. Thank you to the Godly men who have demonstrated to him how to honor God with his life. Thank you to his pastors and leaders who have led him to become the man of God he is today.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives that we know love our children and have stood with us in prayer for them. There is no greater gift as a parent than knowing your child knows and loves Jesus. But the second greatest gift is having friends who know and love Jesus and love your child as their own. It takes us as parents laying spiritual foundations, an abundance of God’s grace and a loving spiritual family to do this parenting thing right and we are blessed to have all three. Thank you to all who have played a part in raising our Ryan. We can say with great confidence “Mission Accomplished”.

Advertisements

A Few Too Many Hats


The Kentucky Derby is known in the sports world as “the fastest two minutes in sports”.  Many also call it “The Run for the Roses” after the blanket of roses that is draped over the winning horse. But when I think of the Kentucky Derby I think HATS! Not just any old hats but elaborately adorned, lavishly ornate, ridiculously large, extravagantly outlandish, over-the-top hats. Many women go so far as to have a hat specifically designed for them to ensure their hat will be a one of a kind. Some day I would love to attend the Derby and wear an incredibly large hat just for fun.

Most women I know have many hats – the mommy hat, the wife hat, the friend hat, the volunteer hat, the employee hat, the sister hat, the caretaker hat, the daughter hat, the student hat and the leader hat. They may have one of these hats, all of them, or some combination of hats they wear in their every day lives. Each day we don our many hats in our attempt to be everything to everybody. We place unobtainable expectations on ourselves that we have to juggle all the roles the hats represent and there is no room for mistakes or weakness. The entire juggling act leaves us feeling overwhelmed and on the inside we’re screaming “I can’t take it anymore!!”. But some how most of the time we end up managing the vast array of hats we’ve accumulated and by the grace of God we pull it together just prior to a meltdown, check the mirror to make sure we’re sporting the right hat at the right time, then go about our day as if we’ve never missed a beat.

There are times though that we cannot seem to keep it together. The hat juggling act is just too much and we drop the ball in one area or another.  So many women today live with the burden of feeling as if they’ve failed when they can’t seem to manage it all. For many this leads to depression, exhaustion, insecurity, stress, addiction and other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating. The pressure for women to do it all is astounding and the truth is you can do it all – but in doing so something is going to suffer. There will be some area of your life that will pay the price for your attempt to do it all and be it all. Most of that time that area is the one that we give the least attention to – ourselves.

I spent many years working in Corporate America trying to balance a stressful job with being a wife, mom, volunteer, daughter and friend. The toll it took on my children, my marriage and myself was never worth the tradeoff of a big paycheck, big house and big vacations. I was a people pleaser who never said no until I found myself spiraling out of control. I reached an explosive point in my life where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying to do it all on my own and it just wasn’t working. It was during that time that out of His incredible love for me, God pursued me until I relented. I gave my life to Christ and surrendered it all to Him. I quit trying to run my life and made the decision once and for all to hand it over to God. An inexplicable amount of weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt a peace I had never felt before. I felt like a high school graduate tossing all my hats into the air. I learned during that season of my life that when God says His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He isn’t kidding (Matt. 11:30). We are not meant to do it all on our own. God stands at the door knocking with the solution to the craziness of our lives. All we have to do is open the door.

The more I put God first in my life the easier I found it to juggle all the hats I still had in my closet. My roles didn’t change but my ability to manage them with peace and joy did. There were and still are many stressful moments trying to keep it all going at once but what I learned over time is that God will give me the grace to wear any and all hats He has given to me to wear. Where I run into trouble is when I try wearing hats that were never intended for me in the first place. When I begin to get that sense of being overwhelmed and things are beginning to spin a little too out of control I have to check the mirror and see what hat I’m wearing and if it belongs to me.

Sometimes I find myself in a hat that looks good on but it just doesn’t feel right. This is when I’ve said yes to something that I didn’t take the time to pray about first. It may be a good thing but sometimes we have to say no to good things simply because it would be too much for us or it’s not the right time. Usually when I’m wearing this hat it means I fell back into people pleasing mode and eagerly raised my hand when asked if there was anyone who wanted to help before I considered if I had the time or how it would affect my other responsibilities.

Then there’s the hat I put on thinking it’s mine but it really belongs to someone else. This tends to happen when I hang on to something for too long instead of enabling someone else to rise up into the role I need to lay down. Out of insecurity we cling to roles many times that we are supposed to hand over to someone else so that they may have the opportunity and blessing of wearing that hat for a season. Some of our hats are simply on loan and when it’s time to give them up we need to do so without delay.

Other hats don’t even look good on but we look in the mirror and think it looks great. I find myself in these hats when I’ve attempted to step into a role that I’m not skilled or gifted for. And as I reflect now on why I put those hats on in the first place it’s usually because I wanted to be like someone else who wears that same hat. Out of admiration or worse, envy, I grab a hat and throw it on and tell myself it looks good while usally making a spectacle of myself for sporting a hat that clearing I have no business wearing. I remember a time when I told a lady I hardly knew that I would babysit her children for her while she attended evening classes. I wanted to be that person that could help someone in need but in trying to be a heroine, I forgot that I’m not very good with multiple small children all in my care at the same time. It was not fun for me or the kids and only added stress to the mom. That was one time that I was grateful for a dear friend who was willing to tell me that although I thought the hat looked good on me, it didn’t and I just needed to get it off my head and save face while there was still time.

Just because a hat is available to be worn it doesn’t mean that you are the one who’s meant to wear it. If it looks good but doesn’t feel right, it’s on loan to you and now it’s starting to not fit right or if it looks pretty ridiculous on because it’s not your kind of hat maybe it’s time to clean out the closet and get rid of some of them. Remember, God will give you the grace to wear any hat that He’s given to you to wear. But if it’s not from God, it wasn’t your hat in the first place and it’s time to take it off. It’s never easy as a woman juggling all our hats but it’s impossible when you have a few too many hats to juggle. You may have a lot of hats you have to wear but none will ever be as important as the crown that marks you as a daughter of the King. Start each day putting on the first hat God ever gave you, the crown of a princess then let Him decide which other hats you’re meant to wear. You’ll never go wrong when you entrust your hat collection to God.

Blind Obedience


Have you ever heard the term “blind ambition”? Most people have, but could you define it if someone asked you to? My son recently asked me what it meant and like most parents faced with a difficult question, I picked up my laptop and googled it. There is not an exact definition for the term but here’s the best explanation I found: “Blind Ambition is simply that.  You do not have a particular ‘focus’ as to where you are going, or what you want to do.  You just KNOW you want to do something, but where exactly you are headed is uncertain.  You can’t make up your mind, yet you’d do anything to anyone to get there as quickly as you can.  Make sense?  I thought not..but it’s true.”

It’s kind of like having a goal, having the ambition to reach the goal, going full speed ahead toward it but having no specific plan on how you will achieve the goal. It’s when you just “go for it” without really thinking it through first. Like the definition above states – it doesn’t make sense and you don’t know what the results will be but you do it anyway.

So that got me thinking. What if all followers of Jesus Christ practiced blind obedience – the kind of obedience that doesn’t always make sense but you do it anyway. As believers we don’t obey a set of rules, but as an act of love we are called to obey God’s commands not because we have to but because we want to. We shouldn’t need to know all the details and know how everything will turn out. All we have to do is to trust God and obey what He calls us to do. He is certainly not required nor should we expect Him to explain the “why” behind every opportunity He gives us to obey Him. God doesn’t need us to fully understand all that He asks of us. But He does want us to completely obey. Besides, we would be beyond overwhelmed if God showed us the “big picture” of every aspect of our lives.

So why do we feel such a need to know what’s coming next? Why do we find it so hard to just obey the step that God has placed before us? Pride and fear are two obstacles that get in the way of blind obedience. We believe we know better than God what the best plan of action would be or we’re too afraid to step out in faith and do what He has called us to do. What is it that you know that God has told you to do that you’re waiting for the full picture to develop before acting on it? Could it be that God is giving you the opportunity to practice blind obedience and to trust Him even though it may not all make sense right now? In John 14:15 Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commands.” It’s not complicated or difficult to understand. Do you love Jesus? Then just obey Him, even if it means you can’t see beyond the first step. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Excuse Me, You’re In My Spot


All companies and organizations have a structure or hierarchy that determines the level of responsibilities and decision-making. An organizational chart is used to diagram the company structure, roles and how they relate to one another. In the military it’s called the Chain of Command. The thing that they all have in common is that there is always a top position. There is someone who is ultimately held responsible for the overall vision or mission and who is in charge of overseeing everyone below them. They are rewarded whenever everything goes well but they are also held accountable when things do not go as planned whether they were involved directly or indirectly. Many times they get the credit for work done by subordinates but they can also take the fall for others’ mistakes. It is a huge responsibility to be at the top of the pyramid.

Marriages and families are like a company in the sense that someone is ultimately in charge. The person at the top of the org chart of a family may rely heavily on their support staff such as their spouse, their children, or extended family. But there really can only be one Head of Household, at least according to the IRS. And just like in the corporate and military worlds, sometimes the lines of responsibilities may be crossed or the 2nd in command may have to step in and take the lead for a period of time due to certain circumstances. But in all families there is typically one person who is considered the man or woman of the house.

In Ephesians Chapter 5 God describes His org chart for a spiritual head of the household when He says “for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.” In a marriage God defines the role of the family CEO as belonging to the husband. However, there are many obstacles that can come between a man taking his designated role within his family. Sometimes he may unwilling or may not be equipped to lead the family spiritually. But in other situations the husband cannot occupy the position that God intended for them to be in because there is someone else already occupying that role. I was one of those people – I complained that my husband was not being the spiritual head of our home yet I was the one standing in the way of his promotion into the position that was created for him. There can only be one CEO or Commanding Officer and until that position is vacated then no one else can be promoted into it. It is the same in a marriage. There can only be one spiritual head of the home and while there are many reasons why the husband may not be operating in that role, in my case the problem was me. I was attempting to possess something that was never intended to be mine in the first place. But my husband was too much of a gentleman to just “put me in my place”. He waited and allowed the Holy Spirit to bring conviction upon my heart.

You may be in a situation where you are the spiritual head of your home because your husband is not willing or able to occupy the position. Or if your spouse is deployed or travels with their job and is unable to operate in their role for much of the time then you may have to step in and be that position until they can and will assume it for themselves. But if you are constantly battling with the question of why your husband is not acting as if he is the spiritual head of your home even though he is equipped to do so, ask God to show you if the position is available to him. It just may be that it’s already occupied and your husband cannot be promoted until you are willing to humbly step aside. There will always be difficulties within a marriage when the husband and wife are not in the role God intended for them to be. If that is your marriage, it may be time to say “I’m sorry, I”m in your spot.”

Prison Break


I confess – I watch too much television. One of my favorite new shows is Alcatraz, a drama that revolves around the prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and the efforts of a team of investigators to track a group of missing prisoners who mysteriously reappear decades after they disappeared from the prison. On a recent episode an inmate appeared at the home of a friend who thought he had died while being held prisoner at Alcatraz. When the friend saw him he said “I thought you were dead! When did you get out of prison?” The inmate answered, “When you’re in prison, you never really get out. You just move from one cell to another.” Many people today are being held in captivity. They are a prisoner to some form of bondage, desperately seeking the key to freedom. They believe the key lies in the “ifs” of their lives. If I had more money. If I was with someone who really loved me the way I deserve to be loved. If I could forgive them for what they did to me. If I could just find a way to overcome this addiction. If I could lose 50 pounds. If I could get a better ____________ (fill in the blank…….job, car, house). If only I were prettier, smarter, funnier, more confident. They keep wandering from one cell to another searching for their elusive freedom.

What I found in my own life is all of your “ifs” can be overcome. You can conquer every perceived obstacle and still be a prisoner. The freedom most find is only a temporary freedom and after the initial break from captivity they find themselves right back in bondage. They may have found short term liberty in a new relationship, new job or a move to a new geographic location, only to find that what they thought was freedom was simply a move from one prison cell to another. There is only one true key to freedom and it is found in Jesus Christ. He alone is the lasting key to a life of liberty. It was never God’s plan for you to be captive. His desire for you is to live a life without limits, an open and expansive life. (2Cor. 6:11-13 MSG).

If you are prisoner to the bondage of addiction, lonliness, insecurity, depression, unforgiveness or anger it is time to be set free. It’s time to break away from that which holds you captive and seek the only One who can truly set you free. All you have to do is ask. Jesus stands waiting to open the door to the wide open, spacious life. (Matt. 7:7). Isn’t it time you break free? You have nothing to lose and your freedom to gain.

Misplaced Trust


During a recent thunderstorm I was lying in bed listening to the heavy rain and wind outside. Although the wind made it sound like there was complete chaos going on just outside my window, I felt an unusual peace in the moment. I began to think about how people react when a “life storm” hits their otherwise calm existance. Do they experience that same peace I felt that night or is their response something much different. How you react during the storms of life greatly depends on who your trust lies in.

Whenever there is a big thunderstorm at our home my grandmother who lives with us reacts with worry and fear. She can’t sit still. She comes in and out of her room as she tries to stay calm but she can’t help but keep looking out all the windows to make sure everything is still ok. If she was in the middle of something and a storm comes up she stops everything to direct all her focus and attention to the storm even though she’s in the safety of our home. She prepares for the worst possible scenario by readying her flashlight and ensuring that if it gets too bad we’ll all head to the basement for safety. She wants to talk about the storm and relay all the information that the weatherman has communicated on TV. She thinks there’s no chance that the storm will quickly blow over and fully expects it to last a very long time. Even if there is no severe weather in the forecast, if she sees clouds outside she assumes that a bad storm is coming. And although at 99 years old she has been through many, many thunderstorms and has come out of them completely unscathed, she still becomes consumed by the most current one.

Even as Christians don’t we respond that way many times to the storms of life? We worry, we can’t be at rest, instead of being full of faith we fully expect the worst case scenario, we put all our focus and attention on the storm and we are fearful of what’s going on around us even though we’re under the covering of God’s protection. We expect our storm to last a very long time and we quickly forget the previous storms we’ve been through and survived. Yet we proclaim our belief in Jesus, the very One who calmed the storm by rebuking the winds but like His disciples we lack faith and are fearful when the storm hits. We put our trust in our own abilities to overcome our storm. We become consumed by it and allow it to steal our focus away from the only place it should be. We too easily brush off the promises of God’s word that says that we are to be without fear because God is with us wherever we go. (Joshua 1:9). We forget that His word also says “When I am afraid I will trust in you”. (Psalm 56:3). Our trust is completely misplaced if it is anywhere but in God and the promises of His word.

When our trust is in God, not only can we experience a calm before the storm, but we can experience complete calm during the storm. When we surrender control of the situations and circumstances in our lives that usher us into the darkness of a storm, there is an inexplicable peace that overcomes the effects of the storm. And when we can continue to rejoice in the Lord even when things are spiraling out of control, His grace will sustain us through the storm. Philippians 4:6-7 promises “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He is faithful in His promises. If you are in a storm and everything is raging around you and fear and worry are consuming you, it’s time to put your trust in the Jesus. Cry out to Him and ask Him to calm the storm. Then praise Him that He is the only One who can. The storm may continue to rage all around you but the storm within you will subside. That’s a promise.

Mean Girls


The popularity of shows like “Real Housewives”, “Teen Mom” and the 2004 movie “Mean Girls” draws attention to the increasing division and animosity among women. In these shows young women are made to think that gossip is a normal part of relationships between girls. They also are taught to believe that they must compete for a boy’s attention and that they will be happier if they have a boyfriend. All of these “reality” situations seen on TV are creating distrust and disloyalty in women’s so-called friendships. Unity among females is clearly under attack and it is very purposeful. As women we have a bullseye on our backs because according to God’s word there is a very real enemy who knows there is power in the unity of women. When women join together and encourage one another and stand by each other it strikes fear in the enemy. He knows the impact we can have on each other when  we display the very characteristics of the One in who’s image we were created. But instead of standing in unity women are constantly comparing themselves to other women. And due to the lack of reality on “reality TV” and a lack of truth in the media, women believe they don’t measure up to other women which in turn fuels isolation and division. The problem with the comparisons are that they are not apples to apples. Women today are comparing themselves to something false, staged or edited to a point that it’s impossible for them to measure up. The images and portrayals of women in music videos and print advertising further add to the isolation and lack of authentic relationships among women. Women need real friendships. They need other women who they can trust and rely on in their times of need. They need good friends that they can share their goals with, tell their struggles to and who can let them know they are not alone in their doubts and worries. They need girlfriends to laugh with, to cry with and to share life’s moments with. Women are not your enemy. Men are not your enemy. The media is not your enemy. They are all just tools used by the one true enemy of your soul who longs to keep you in isolation so you will be less likely to have a relationship with the One True God and to keep you from authentic friendships with ladies who can encourage you, pray with you and walk with you during times of struggle. Isn’t it time you turn off the TV and find some real friends you can do life with?