Like most people, I can get caught up in the negative when others around me are. But lately, I have been thinking about how much of what bothers us is controlled by our thoughts and feelings. If we approach the situation with a clouded view, we will not be able to see everything clearly. In fact, if our view is clouded by past experiences, we may not be able to see anything.
So where do we begin? We can start by ”cleaning” our own view of the situation. What assumptions are we making? What historical knowledge are we bringing in? All of this can determine how we are viewing the situation or even our work. Try to let go of how things “used” to be and focus on how you can make things better moving forward.
I have been a Justice of the Peace for almost 20 years, and 99% of the weddings I have officiated have taken place in a chapel, a conservatory, a park, or someone's home.
So when a friend asked me to officiate her wedding at a local State park in the middle of July, I wasn't concerned. I had definitely dealt with my share of hot days while officiating weddings in New England over the years. But when I arrived at the park dressed in my usual wedding attire (black pants, heels and a jacket), she pointed to the beginning of a trail. “By the way, we have to hike to our ceremony location.” My heart dropped. She didn’t know this, but I had never hiked before.
I took a breath, smiled and said “Sounds like fun!” As we walked, that tiny voice in my head said things like: “you’ll NEVER make it to the top of that mountain,” and “you should have turned back a long time ago!” But I simply put one foot in front of the other and within an hour we were at the summit! The view was gorgeous!
As I officiated the wedding, eagles swooped above our heads and birds chirped in the distance. As they said their vows, the sun began to set.
As we walked back down the mountain, I thought about how worried I had been when we first stepped foot onto the trail. I really didn’t believe I had it in me to hike for an hour. But then I remembered one of the first Bible verses I ever learned: Philippians 4:13, which says: I can do all things through him who strengthens me
What did I learn that day?
Feel the fear, but move your feet!
Even though I had no idea how long the hike would be, or how high the peak would be. So instead of worrying about how long I would have to walk, I just put one foot in front of the other
No matter what the small voice says, I AM strong!
I reflected on all the ways I had been strong in my life. I birthed a baby, for goodness sakes! So a little 1 hour hike would be nothing compared to that.
Focus on the destination
I had seen the view from mountain tops many times in movies, in photos and online. But none of those images compared to the image that is now forever embedded in my brain from that day.
I have to be honest: I have not hiked since that day. But I know now that I am able to, if the opportunity presents itself again.
Are you facing a challenge and you don’t know if you’ll make it through? Pray about it and get moving! Trust that God has equipped you with all the tools you need to be successful.
I can still remember that Christmas in 2001 when, after opening his gifts, my son looked at me and asked “Is that all?”
It had been a tough year financially, and we had done our best to provide him with the best Christmas we could afford. But after weeks of seeing commercial after commercial of this toy and that car, my son fully expected to find everything he wanted under the tree.
So once Christmas morning finally arrived, my son didn’t care much for the brand new coat that would keep him warm, or the books that would teach him how to add and subtract. He wanted the Superman action figure that could hang from the doorway. He wanted the Elmo doll that laughed and giggled. He wanted the transformer truck that could light up and turn flips.
Aren’t we a lot like that, too? God gives us everything we need: breath in our lungs, a warm home, a car to drive, a well-paying job, hands to prepare a big meal for our family and friends. Yet we still long for the "shiny and new” things in life. We can often act like entitled children when it comes to receiving gifts because we’re looking for presents UNDER the tree, instead of seeking the PRESENCE of God in our lives.
Believe me, I still have some work to do. I have moments where I am selfish too! But every time I catch myself saying a selfish word, or exhibiting an "But I WANT!" attitude, I ask God to check my heart. I don’t ever want to expect the presents I receive to define the level of joy I’ll feel that day. Instead, I want my heart to be filled with the goodness of God!
Now, instead of an endless mountain of gifts to open, I want to open my door to find my family on the other side to join us for dinner. And instead of viewing countless credit card bills in January for all the unnecessary gifts I purchased in December, I now view my January calendar, which is filled with lunch dates and face to face time with my friends and family.
I pray that your Christmas season is everything you want it to be. Whether it is a house filled with family and friends, or a quiet day at home in your pajamas, watching the Hallmark channel. But most of all, I hope your Christmas season reminds you of the true gift of the season: God.
Five therapy dogs visited our campus today to help our students to ease the stress that comes with finals’ week!
The dog the the top photo was a “veteran” therapy dog- he had done lots of these events before. He was climbing onto laps and giving kisses and nose bumps.
But the dog on the bottom seemed a little overwhelmed at first by all the people, noise, petting, etc. He stood by his handler while the rest of the dogs were on laps and rolling around on the floor while getting their tummies rubbed.
He eventually warmed up to the room but watching him made me think about how (especially during the holiday season that always comes with large gatherings with lots of people and noise!), we need to be even more kind to each other.
Resist the urge to “show up” to every single event you are invited to.
If your body says to rest instead of going to that gathering, rest.
Give each other space.
And most of all: show each other grace.
The first thing I noticed were the cuts on her knees.
Then I noticed her blackened right eye. It was blood-shot and bruised, and she was holding a ziplock bag filled with ice cubes against her face.
“If I were you, I’d KILL HIM!” her friend said to her.
The woman just sat there silently.
I was there to run a writing workshop, not serve as a counselor, but I couldn't help it. As soon as the woman's friend stepped away, I started a conversation with her.
As we sat and chatted she began to tell me about how she ended up at this shelter.
“I hated my parents,” she said. “They were really strict, you know? They wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING!”
She left home on her 18th birthday and soon realized life on the outside of her home was anything but easy. Within a few weeks she was bouncing from couch to couch. Within a few months she had worn out her welcome at her friend's house, so she accepted a cot at this shelter.
She’s 19 now.
“How do you earn money? How do you survive?” I asked her.
“Dancing,” she said, pointing to the strip club that was directly across from the shelter. The neon light was flashing LIVE GIRLS, even though it was only 1:00 in the afternoon. Her shift was the begin later that day.
After spending most of the day with her, I began to think how one poor choice can lead to so many choices we may not have control over. She went from being someone’s “baby girl” to dancing in a dark club at 3:00 in the afternoon. Stripping was the only way she knew to get by. She told me her faith in God was long gone. “He forgot about me, I guess,” she said. But boy was she wrong!
I didn't want to preach to her, but I couldn’t wait to share Jeremiah 1:5 with her because she needed to know how special she is! She needed to know God formed her in the womb, not because He had to but because He WANTED to! She had a whole life ahead of her, and all she had to do was take the first step toward a change. I didn’t want to come off as one of those pamphlet-distributing Bible thumpers, I just wanted her to know how good God had been to me. Yes, I made (and still make) lots of mistakes, but my connection to God means by His grace alone I can get up every single day knowing I will do my best to serve Him.
When I went back a few weeks later, she wasn’t there. I immediately thought something had happened to her- but her friend told me she had reconnected with her parents and was now back at home. I was overjoyed!
Sometimes we lose sight of who we are and WHOSE we are, and this is when we start the spiral downwards into a life God never meant for us to have. God wants the best for us! He sets the plan in action but it’s up to us to be obedient and follow what He says. If it means we have to tolerate strict parents, a micro-managing boss or a teenager who thinks we know nothing, then so be it. This is the path God chose for us!
If you are struggling with getting back on track with your life, ask God for help! He is always available, all you have to do is ask. You don’t have to spend another moment waiting for things to “turn around”- you can take control right now and make it all right again.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.“
Mason jars have been a part of my life since I was a little girl.
I remember the women in my family using them to “can” food they wanted to store throughout the winter. Seeing them being pulled from the pantry shelf meant having something delicious to spread on my grandmother’s warm biscuits like strawberry jam or apple butter. My grandmother's shelves were always stocked with mason jars, so I saw them every day. My uncle even worked at the “Ball” plant for over 40 years in Tennessee, and I remember seeing the logo on his uniform growing up.
Over the years, the use for the mason jar changed. Suddenly, they were not being used to only store food, but instead were used for decoration at weddings. I have used them to create cakes in a jar and I've even placed votives inside them to use during parties and other celebrations.
But two years ago, my use of Mason jars changed yet again. Except this time, it was not for a festive occasion like storing treats or decorations. Instead, it was to fill and bring homemade juice to a friend who was dealing with another cancer diagnoses. A few months later, she passed away.
For many months after she died, I drove around with the mason jars still in my trunk. Some of them had been washed, but others still had the remnants of the green juice caked on the inside. Every time I planned to bring them into my house to wash them, my eyes filled with tears. Just seeing them made me feel so sad, because I remembered what they were used for. I finally ended up putting them in my recycling bin last summer.
I still had a few leftover jars at my house, which I found myself avoiding by tucking them away in a cabinet. Anytime I needed to use a jar, I figured out something else to use instead. I just didn’t want to feel sad anymore.
Fast forward to April 2018, when one of my dear girlfriends offered to make me and my husband one of my favorite dishes she had cooked for me before: stewed bacalao, yucca and cilantro and lime rice. As I unpacked our food and smelled the wonderful aroma, I discovered a mason jar. As soon as I saw the top of the jar, my stomach dropped. Until I picked up the jar and noticed (in Tori's very beautiful handwriting) “Tori’s House Dressing”. As I shook it up and poured it over our salad, the feelings of sadness I used to have whenever I would see a mason jar disappeared.
Tori had no idea what the mason jar symbolized to me up until that day. But her one gesture of kindness: making me and my husband a meal, forever changed how I viewed mason jars. Where they once conjured up feelings of sadness, now I only see them through the lense of joy.
Is there something in your life that brings up bad memories when you see it? If so, how can you reframe the way you view it in a NEW way?
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19
I received a phone call recently from my mother, who informed me that she (along with my cousin and three aunts) would be coming to visit my family for a few days so they could visit her younger sister in a local hospital. One part of me was excited to be seeing my family. But the other part of me immediately thought of the state of my home. How would I prepare for 5 houseguests at a moment’s notice?
God has blessed me with a three bedroom, two-floor home, so there is plenty of room. But room did not automatically equal space for everyone to sleep. I had visions of the perfectly decorated rooms I had seen in magazines, but those rooms looked nothing like the rooms in my home.
As I sat in my living room, I started to do an inventory of sleeping spaces in my home. Two people could sleep on our pull out sofa, one person could sleep on an air mattress upstairs, and another could sleep on the twin bed in our guestroom. But what about the fifth person? Maybe they could sleep on the chaise lounge?
I had less than twelve hours to prepare for their arrival, so I spent some time in prayer asking God to help me to prepare not only my home, but also my heart for their arrival.
Then I remembered a scripture I learned many years ago: “Share with the Lordʼs people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13). 1 Peter 4:9 also says to: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” We are called to be hospitable to people in need. But hospitality does not mean perfection. My towels don’t always match, and that’s okay! Pretty towels and fancy dishes mean nothing to the Lord. What God wants from us for our hearts to open and for us to welcome our guests with open arms.
So the next day, when my family arrived, we welcomed them joyfully! Within an hour or so,my husband had breakfast cooking, and everyone began to settle in. After they returned from the hospital visit, we shared a meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. And we even had cupcakes to celebrate my mother and uncle’s shared birthdays!
The stress I had felt two days was replaced with a full heart as we created memories for years to come.
Do you have an opportunity to share your home with someone this month? Invite someone to join you for a meal and don’t worry about making sure your home is perfect. Instead, prepare your heart for fellowship and watch how God blesses your visit!
1 Peter 4:9
I can still remember that Christmas many years ago when, after opening his gifts, my son looked at me and asked “Is that all?”
It had been a tough year financially, and we had done our best to provide him with the best Christmas we could afford. But after weeks of seeing commercial after commercial of this toy and that car, he expected to find everything he wanted under the tree. Once Christmas morning finally arrived, my son didn’t care much for the gift of the coat that would keep him warm, or the books that would teach him how to add and subtract. He wanted the Superman action figure that could hang from the doorway. He wanted the Elmo doll that laughed and giggled. He wanted the truck that could light up and turn flips.
Aren’t we a lot like that, too? God gives us everything we need: breath in our lungs, legs to walk, hands to prepare a big meal for our family and friends. Yet we still long for the "shiny" things in life. We can often act like entitled children when it comes to receiving gifts because we’re looking for presents UNDER the tree, instead of seeking the PRESENCE of Jesus in our lives.
Believe me, I still have some work to do. I have moments where I am selfish too! But every time I catch myself saying a selfish word, or exhibiting an "But I WANT!" attitude, I ask God to check my heart. I don’t ever want to expect the presents under the tree to define the level of joy I’ll feel that day. Instead, I want my heart to be filled with the goodness of God! Instead of an endless mountain of gifts to open, I want to open my door to find my family on the other side to join us for dinner. And instead of receiving countless credit card bills in January for all the gifts I purchased in December, I want to receive God's purpose for my life.
I pray that your Christmas season is everything you want it to be. Whether it is a house filled with family and friends, or a quiet day at home in your pajamas, watching the Hallmark channel. But most of all, I hope your Christmas season reminds you of the true gift of the season: Jesus Christ.
God bless you!
I woke up with the idea yesterday that I was going to make a homemade meal. I planned what I was going to make: country fried steak with gravy, homemade mashed potatoes and veggies.
I took my time to prepare the meal with love and when everything was done, I reached up to the top of the stove to take the foil and cover the mashed potatoes. As soon as I touched the foil (it is one of those heavy-duty boxes that is very heavy), the entire box tipped and hit the pan with the steak and gravy.
Within a split second, the entire pan and all of its contents splattered all over my kitchen floor.
I stood there frozen in place for a few seconds. My husband was in the other room but he heard the crash and came into the kitchen to see what had just happened. He looked down and saw the steak and gravy all over the floor, then he looked up at me and saw that I was on the verge of tears. He immediately hugged me and thanked me for making the meal, then he began to clean up the mess I had also made. Once I broke out of my shock, I helped clean up, too.
Once the floor was clean, I stared at the stove at what was left of the meal I had prepared: mashed potatoes and lima beans (my husband's favorite). The child in me just throw the rest of it away because I had no idea how I was going to pull together another meal in less than an hour before my husband had to leave.
So I did what any 21st century mother and wife would have done: I called a local restaurant and ordered 2 steaks. Within an hour, I was back home and the meal was saved. Our revised menu? Sirloin steak, mashed potatoes, corn and lima beans.
What did I learn from this mishap?
1. Be present and pay attention. I've noticed I have been very distracted this month because I have so much going on, and many projects that are due. If I had taken the time to take the foil with both hands, I would not have knocked the steak and gravy onto the floor.
2. Stay calm in the middle of chaos. I wanted to cry when I saw the steak and gravy spilled all over my floor, but instead, I collected myself and helped my husband clean up the mess.
3. There is always a plan B. Sure, the meal I made was made with love, but was dropping it on the floor really the end of the world? By thinking quickly, I was able to replace the meal with another meal that was just as good.
We are all very busy with our holiday festivities as well as our normal schedule, but God does not want us to be running around day and night without taking time fo ourselves. Hebrews 4:11 says: So let us do our best to enter that rest.
As you are completing your daily tasks this holiday season, don't forget to take time to renew your spirit. Otherwise, you may end up feeding your kitchen floor like I did yesterday!
When we graduate from high school, most of us assume our worries of bullies are long gone. We finish college and secure a satisfying job that allows us to earn an income that will support our families.
But for many of us, once we settle into our jobs, we find the issue of bullying is still alive and well. The difference between our bullies then and our bullies now is that the “new” bullies are carrying briefcases and cups of coffee. They’re driving new cars and talking on smartphones. And they most likely have influence over the rest of your coworkers.
Every day, some victims of workplace bullies have to take a sedative just to be able to go to work. Other victims spend their lunch hours in the car to avoid the stares and whispers in the employee lunchroom. They take “mental health days” at least once a month and they toss and turn on Sunday nights because they know Monday morning will bring another round of anxiety and stress headaches.
Bullying used to be obvious (being pushed in the schoolyard, being yelled at in the school hallways, etc.), but workplace bullying is usually subtle. A workplace bully may exclude certain co-workers from lunch outings or coffee breaks, or the bully may speak down to their victim during meetings. No matter the tactic used by the bully, it’s up to you to diffuse the situation immediately. Use the Bible as your blueprint on how to handle your offender.
1. Confront the bully in private (calmly)
Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”
Sometimes the person truly means no harm, but it is up to us to let them know how they are making us feel. Be clear about what is bothering you. And if the person laughs it off and continues to bully you, go to your supervisor.
2. Develop a new daily routine
Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing!
If you are being excluded from lunch outings, take yourself to lunch! Find a good book of devotion- als to read or go for a walk. Spend time with your Father, who loves you most!
3. Know your worth
Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made! God made you just as you are, so don’t allow another person’s actions to change how you feel about yourself. The light of God will always outshine the darkness of a bully.
4. Pray for your bully
(Luke 11:4) and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “She wants me to PRAY for that #$@%*?” But believe me, prayer works wonders. Pray for peace in their lives. Pray for the love of God to come in and heal their bro- ken hearts. You’ll be amazed to see how God can move in their lives!
Dealing with a workplace bully is never easy, but by addressing the situation immediately, you clear the way for a more peaceful (and productive) work day.
This article first appeared in Lioness Magazine.
Parents of small children definitely recognize this image- but I think even those of us who have grown children (or no children at all) recognize her. You may even hear her famous song “Let it Go” playing in your ear.
For the past few months, I could relate to Elsa. While I experienced great success in parts of my life, other parts seemed frozen. Change is hard for me, and sometimes, change causes me to freeze in place, unable to make a decision or a next move.
But the other day, a thaw began. It was gradual, but noticable. What did I do to start the thawing process?
Admit/ identify that something is changing, or needs to change. I spent some time in meditation thinking about what was changing in my life that I had no control over.
Make a plan: I wrote down exactly what I wanted to happen over the next year, and then I broke it down into chunks, 4 weeks at a time. Then I broke the weeks down into a daily action plan.
I got busy: Now that I had an action plan, I started to work on my daily tasks, while keeping my 1 year goal in sight.
Change is hard! Especially when we don’t know if the outcome will be in our favor. But if we stay focused and positive, we can begin the “thawing” process much faster than if we allow ourselves to stay frozen.
How do you handle change?
I was recently assigned to set up an informational table at a local event. As I arrived at 7:15 a.m., I was surprised to walk into the gym walked into the gym to find dozens of providers already set up and ready to welcome the incoming clients. Since the doors had not officially opened yet, almost 100 clients were already lining up outside!
I searched for the table that was supposed to be mine, but I didn’t see it. One of the organizers must have noticed my look of dismay, so he asked if he could help me. I told him the name the table should have been under, he looked at his clipboard and said “Oh! Your table is downstairs! Follow me!”
“Okay!” I said as I gathered up my display board, signs, handouts, coffee and bamboo plant (I usually have a plant on my table when I do tabling events. Most organizations have candy. I have a plant.) I know. I'm strange.
I followed the man to the elevator where we traveled one floor down to the basement. “This way!” he said as he made his way down the dimly lit corridor. As we walked further and further I thought: “Am I going to be able to find my way out of here? Should I have dropped breadcrumbs so I can get back to the elevator?” We finally arrived at my assigned table, and once he pointed it out, he disappeared.
The other three providers in the room said hello and asked if I needed help setting up. I thanked them but said I could do it on my own. A few minutes later, I was all set up and ready to go. I had planned to show a slideshow of our volunteers and past events, so I was setting that up on my laptop when a woman blew into the room like a tornado.
“Where is MY table?” she asked the same man who had so joyfully led me downstairs a few minutes earlier.
“Right there,” he said, pointing to right where I was sitting. “You’re taking one half of the table and she (meaning me) is taking the other.”
“WHAT?” she huffed. “First you bring me to a dungeon and then I don’t even have a whole table to myself?”
The man’s face dropped and he turned away from her. “Have a nice day!” he said as he disappeared again.
I immediately stood up and began to move my things to make room for hers. Just as I moved to the end of the table to adjust my laptop, I felt the table moving toward me. The woman was furiously pushing the table over so that she would have more room for her things. What she didn’t know was that the table was literally on its last leg, so it immediately collapsed onto my ankles and feet, sending all of its contents (aka MY STUFF) crashing onto the floor.
My pumpkin Dunkin Donuts coffee? Spilled.
My laptop? On the floor, but luckily it was okay.
My lucky bamboo plant? Crushed and emptied of it’s dirt. It’s little leaves were broken and scattered all over the floor. So much for good luck!
As the table came crashing down on me, the woman gasped. “Oh my GOD! She said. “I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that!”
I didn’t respond, because I knew she had pushed the table because she was upset. I don't think anticipated the table falling over. As I began to pick everything, my fellow providers rushed over to help as well.
Camille from City Hall ran to find some lysol wipes to wipe up the dirt.
Corey from the Consumer Affairs office in Boston grabbed paper towels.
Within a few minutes, the table was upright again. The woman didn’t say another word. She simply finished setting up her brochures.
I know she was disappointed about being placed in a basement room when she expected to be placed upstairs where all of the activity was happening. I felt the same way! But instead of huffing and puffing and blowing tables over, I set up my materials and made a few new friends (Namely: Corey and Camille).
A couple of hours after I arrived, one of my volunteers came downstairs and said “What are you doing down here? Your table is supposed to be upstairs!” He helped me pack everything up and then showed me where I could set up upstairs. I was able to spend the rest of the day where all the action was happening! No more basement dwelling for me.
And the women who made all the ruckus? She remained where she complained, and she (nor her table helpers) never left her basement quarters.
What was my lesson in this moment?
Scripture: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good... — Genesis 50:20(a) NASB:
I hope you have the most amazing weekend ever!
her daddy’s brother was black like coal
like Michelin tires, like tar on blacktops,
draped like midnight, slick like motor oil
dripping hot every night she’d
sleep over with her cousin
onto her cot, breathing
in her ear,
called her babygirl
she never told
just buried it
deep in her heart, promised
one day she’d run so far from black that she’d
never go back
she found and married
a man as white as snow
with skin like porcelain
like angel wings, like vanilla ice cream
just so her kids would be light-bright
with no need for afro sheen
with skinny braids too thin to house clickclack beads,
Blue Magic hair grease
banned from her bathroom cabinets, she promised
she’d run so far from black that she’d
never have to go back,
naming her children
Sarah and Dylan and Meghan and Jack,
the ache to bake cornbread with cracklin’s
ignored the itch in her hands to stand at the kitchen counter cutting collard greens
she secretly hopes her children
will also seek white like she did,
they’ll also have light bright children who one day
won’t need hair grease,
who one day
won’t want chicken fried crisp in Crisco
she hopes to wash the black away, someday.
hopes to wash the black away,
(C) 2017 Crystal Senter-Brown
A prayer for mothers who are parenting alone
Heavenly Father, please bless my sister as she balances motherhood, work, school, church activities and home so perfectly.
Lord help her to build lifelong relationships with Godly people who will lift her up and encourage her instead of tearing her down with blaming nods and looks. Let her know how much you love her!
Give my sister the strength to work hard and the determination to follow the path You have created for her. May she be encouraged to finish school and (if it is Your will) to complete her college degree as well. Make her home comfortable and welcoming to all who visit, and allow it to be peaceful place she can retreat to after a long day.
Lord, please bless her with understanding and patient friends that will encourage her to always do the right thing! If marriage is what she wants for her future, surround her with married couples that will serve as examples of what a lasting and loving marriage looks like.
Lord, please help my sister to be a good steward of the income you have blessed her with. Help her to make smart financial decisions that will allow her to live comfortably, provide for her children and leave a legacy for her family. Help her to be a joyful giver to her church and to her community.
Lord, if marriage is what she wants for her future, help my sister to prepare for the husband YOU have chosen for her and help her to be okay with being alone for now. Help her to focus on raising her children, being a community leader and serving You.
Lord, let my sister know to turn to You for her every need instead of turning to destructive habits such as alcohol, drugs, excessive shopping, self-harm, over-eating or toxic relationships. Help my sister to honor her body as a temple created by You.
And finally, Lord, help my sister to have a healthy and stress-free relationship with her child’s father, even if they are no longer together. May she always be treated with respect by her child’s father and everyone she meets.
In Jesus’ name, Amen
Written by Crystal Senter Brown
A few days ago, my mother called to inform me that she, along with four additional family members, would be coming to visit me for a few days. Her sister has been in an area hospital, and they were coming see her. My heart immediately dropped as I thought about preparing my home for five houseguests.
I have a three bedroom home, so there is plenty of room, but I had no idea where people would sleep, what they would eat, etc. I had visions of perfect rooms and meals I had seen in magazines, and those rooms look nothing like the rooms in my home and the meals didn't look like meals I would serve.
As I sat in my living room, I started to do an inventory of sleeping spaces in my home. Two people could sleep on our pull out sofa, one person could sleep on an air mattress upstairs, and another could sleep on the twin bed in our guestroom. But what about the fifth person? Maybe they could sleep on the chaise lounge?
I had less than 12 hours to prepare for their arrival, and eight of those hours would be spent at work. I spent some time in prayer and asked God to help me to prepare not only my home but also my heart for their arrival.
Then I remembered a scripture I learned many years ago: “Share with the Lordʼs people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans). We are called to be hospitable to people in need. And my hospitality may look different than someone else's. Everyone knows that I am no Martha Stewart. My towels don't match, and my furniture is outdated.
But none of that matters in the eyes of the Lord. What God wants from us is that we welcome people into our homes with open arms. Cook a meal, prepare a place for them to sleep, and be joyful!
So the next day, when they arrived, we welcome them in! Within an hour or so,my husband had breakfast cooking, and they were beginning to settle in. While they were only here for two days, they seemed to enjoy being in my home. We shared a meal of fried chicken, mac and cheese and coleslaw. And we even had cupcakes to celebrate my mother and uncle’s shared birthdays!
The stress I had felt two days before was gone, and it was replaced with a full heart as we created memories for years to come.
Do you have an opportunity to share your home with someone this summer? Do it! Don't worry about making things perfect, instead ask God to open your heart and allow you to be the host he created you to be!
Honor your father…(as long as he doesn’t ___ or ___ or ____)
Scripture: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.(Ephesians 6:1)
When Father’s Day rolls around, most of us scramble to find the perfect card. The little ones gather up macaroni to make ties or coffee mugs, and many dads are treated to breakfast in bed or a day out with their family.
But what about the “rolling stone” daddies? Who buys their cards?
Surely not the children they left behind or the mamas they abandoned. I assume they probably spend the day in quiet reflection (or maybe not) but however they spend it is a day that could have been spent making it all right again.
As kids we are so quick to forgive. Someone takes our favorite toy at recess and we may cry about it, but the next day we’re on the see-saw with the same thieving kid. But as we grow our forgiveness “muscle” becomes less flexible. Our bounceback period becomes longer and longer because our feelings are hurt. And in the case of being abandoned by fathers, some of us NEVER recover. In my opinion women have the hardest time with this.
But what if our God showed us the same unforgiving heart? What if after we sinned he turned his back on us? That wouldn’t be cool, right? So why do we think we’re better than our God?
We’ve decided to modify the ten commandments, putting our own “remix” on it by adding to “Honor your father”- “as long as he doesn’t abandon you. Or drink. Or smoke. Or swear. Or have a mistress.” We can’t do that! I’m sure when Moses wrote the commandments, he was not looking for a co-writer. :)
So on this Father’s Day, if your father is living, call him. Bright and early. Tell him you love him. Tell him you forgive him (if you have had a recent argument.) But most of all, celebrate the fact that your earthly father is still around for you to talk to. A lot of people can’t say that.
As a volunteer manager for the past 20 years, there is one thing I know for sure: there is a cycle to volunteer management. And that cycle costs nonprofit and faith-based organizations thousands of hard-earned dollars every single year.
The volunteer recruitment cycle usually looks like this:
1. Recruitment (money is spent on placing ads, creating and posting flyers and staff time)
2. Training (money is spent on training, supplies, food, t-shirt, etc.)
3. Orientation (money is spent on staff time, supplies)
4. Volunteer serves well in their position
5. Volunteer begins to get tired of doing the "same old, same old," or feels burnt out
6. Volunteer quits or just "disappears", leaving a gap that is often filled by a paid staff person
7. Cycle starts all over again at recruitment
But what if there was a way to retain your valuable volunteers, which ultimately saves your organization money?
According to Give Them Something to Smile About, organizations spend up to five times more to develop a new volunteer than to cultivate greater exchanges with existing ones. Nonprofits lose money each time a volunteer decides to depart from a position. In my recent survey of volunteers that left their positions, 72.73% said they were not contacted by the organization to ask why they left their position.
What can a volunteer manager do when a volunteer quits?
1. Reach out to the volunteer and see if you can meet them for coffee (your treat!)
2. If they agree, spend some time during their meeting thanking them for their service! Then ask why they decided to stop volunteering.
3. Come prepared with other volunteer opportunities that may appeal to the volunteer. Maybe they served for the past 3 years as a volunteer on your event committee, but now they would rather serve as a volunteer ambassador who will recruit new volunteers? You never know until you ask!
4. Ask them how you can improve as a volunteer manager. Do they feel supported? Are they placed in the right position? What can you do better?
There will be times where the volunteer simply does not want to volunteer for your organization any longer- and that's okay! But you will be able to re-engage many of the volunteers who have left their positions for various reasons.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19 NIV
Last night I had a dream that I was trying on various types of shoes. Some were pretty high heels, some were flat, some were sneakers. The shoes I was wearing at the beginning of my dreams were old and had holes in them. But the shoes I ended up wearing at the end of the dream were brand new, and very pretty. As I walked in them, my feet hurt a little at first, but once I wore them for a little while, I broke them in.
When I looked up the meaning of my dream in my dream dictionary, it said that dreaming of changing shoes means a big change is coming in my life! This is very true! Lots of changes are happening, and while change can be very scary, I am excited to see what God will do next in my life.
How do you handle change in your life? For me personally, I prefer to know as much about the situation as possible so that I can plan accordingly. But sometimes I don't have any control over the situation, and I have to just trust that God will provide throughout the process. As my grandmother always said, you can't worry if you are praying. So I stay in prayer for God's provision.
I hope that whatever change you are facing is one for the better. And that you trust that God will provide for you no matter what your circumstances are!
For the past few weeks, I have been experiencing being in a holding pattern in my life. There are many changes taking place, but with change comes not only waiting for things to work out the way that God has planned, but also TRUSTING that God will answer your prayers. If I said it was fun, I would be lying.
But this period of waiting has caused me to draw even closer to God. I pray more. I write more. I spend more time being quiet. And I think it has made my faith even stronger!
Remember when Moses was kept hidden for 3 months after he was born? No one saw him. He was literally hidden away (Heb 11:23). But three months later he was floated out onto the river and was discovered and raised by the King’s daughter. The KING’s daughter.
God doesn’t say that everything in our lives will go smoothly. He doesn’t promise to make each transition seamless, either. There will be bumps. There will be disappointments. But we can rest on the knowledge that He will never leave us.
How do you feel? Is your life progressing and moving forward? Or do you feel stuck in a holding pattern? Feel free to comment below!
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. (Hebrews 11:23)
For performing artists (and most people, I believe), social media serves as a highlight reel for our lives. We usually only share the best performances, largest crowds and cutest outfits.
We (usually) don't show the performances where we flub our lines, or the times we perform to an almost-empty room (my smallest audience ever? TWO people).
Well, I wanted to share something very raw with all of you.
Last Friday, I attended the funeral of one of my closest friends. I spent most of the day (and a good part of the entire week) crying. I am absolutely heartbroken over her death, she was only 50 years old and still had so much to do in this life! Any time I cry excessively, I also usually get sick and lose my voice. So of course I ended up with a sinus and ear infection after crying so much.
When I signed up to tell a story on 3/31 at the MOuTH at the Mark Twain House & Museum a few weeks ago, I didn't know the event would fall on the same day we would be laying my friend to rest. Who could have known? But if I say I am going to do something, I am determined to do it. So, after spending the day at her wake, funeral, graveside service and repast, I went home and got myself together so I could drive an hour away to tell my story.
I always practice whenever I am driving to a performance, and as I rehearsed on my way to CT, I realized my voice was leaving! I thought about turning around and driving back home. But I heard Tracy's voice in my head saying "Do it Anyway." So I did.
And I am so glad I went.
I was able to spend 90 minutes listening to stories about first bikes and winning $10,000 in a cookie competition. The theater was packed with people who tell stories and those who enjoy hearing them. I left the Mark Twain House feeling refueled and full of joy.
What did this teach me?
When we are feeling our lowest, just look up. Look for a friend, an open mic, an ice cream partner or a loved one you can talk to. It’s okay to grieve! Just don’t let your grief stop you from doing the things you love to do.
Mama. Wife. Poet. Teacher. Maniac.