“Love as brothers (& sisters)”

Y’all my brain is swimming as I plan & pack to be away from my brood of men for 4 days (at Allume). I literally just placed 11 jars of baby food on a piece of paper. I drew a grid of the days I’ll be gone and the meals for each day. (in writing this I just realized that’s 11 meals I don’t have to cook & I get to sit down at a table to eat…with adults…and have conversation…woot!).

I’m beyond-the-moon excited (which feels good after the past year) for all the lovely Godly women I will be chatting, praying, & worshiping with this weekend. God placed this weekend on His calendar before time began & I have no doubt He will be present. When you think of me will you pray I will be humble & open to His purposes? (gracias!).

By God’s goodness, He had me write a month ago a post for the MOB Society on brothers & facilitating “forever friends”. If this is a topic of interest to you ( if you are a mother of brothers), then click —> here<— to read more.

Just because you only have one boy, doesn’t mean your son can’t have a “brother”. Quade’s best friend has two sisters. He and my son call each other “brothers”. Price’s best friend is about to have his 3rd sister! Remember my hubby had 3 sisters. Give your son a “brother from another mother”!

Is there another boy your son enjoys spending time with? Perhaps you can arrange regular playdates. When they get to be over 5 (maybe even 4yo) you can have “drop off” playdates. Trade off who watches the boys each week. Then both moms benefit because your son has a playmate (other than you) or you get a quiet house for a couple of hours. Win-win.

The tips I share in my “brother” post apply to all sibling relationships, not just brothers. Actually they apply to all relationships. Because God is honored when we love one another with “brotherly love”.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

I am blessed with a large group of wonderful women here in Dallas who love me well (even when I’m not so easy to love). AND I have a large group of women online who demonstrate God-centered love in their words of encouragement and affirmation. I can’t WAIT to hug the necks of some sweet “sisters” this week.

Lord,

May you provide each reader of this post with the opportunity to experience brotherly/sisterly love. Draw a kindred spirit into her life. Break down walls that prevent vulnerability. Give her boldness to take the first step. To invite a sister in Christ to grab coffee. To write a note to encourage a friend. To start a book club or Bible study. May we continue to love one another well for Your Glory.

Amen.

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Making Room for the New Girl

It’s back-to-school time. New schedules. New opportunities. New friends.

photo credit: usag.yongsan

It’s not just the kids seeking out new friendships. Mommies may search the sea of unfamiliar faces for a inviting smile. Someone to include her in the inner circle.

But what happens if every mom she meets already has a “full table” of friends? If each mom already has established church friends, playgroup friends, old college friends, then we feel we don’t need anyone else to meet our friendship needs.

If my table is full and your table is full, who is going to make a space and pull up an extra chair for this mom? To continue the analogy…she may have the best chocolately brownies in her  lunch box and wants to share. But we’ll never know all she has to offer because she’s forced to eat alone.

photo credit

Having been homeschooled from 3rd grade to 8th grade, I know the feeling of being left out of the circle. Literally. At junior high youth group all the girls with mile-high bangs & permed hair wearing neon chatted in a circle. With their backs to me, I  tried to “work” my way in. But they were content to enjoy laughter & chatter. They weren’t looking around to invite me. Each girl was looking out for herself & her comfort.

Is it any different now that I’ve exchanged neon Umbros for a neon tank (the 80s are back!)? When I arrive at a back-to-school event I’m in the circle. It may not be the “coolest” circle, but I find my friends and catch up. There is nothing wrong with maintaining good friendships, right? But “she” is over at the snack table trying to look busy. Because the new girl doesn’t have a friend to walk straight up to. She may need me to make the first move.

I challenged you last August to meet 3 new people. How did that go?

If you struggle with making room at your table or your table is legitimately full, here are three tips:

  1. Invite her to an event you are already attending. It feels good to be invited and to know one person. Perhaps at the event/Bible study/play group God will bring the perfect friend who doesn’t have a full table.
  2. Introduce her to another new girl. Just because you do the “reaching out” doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with everyone you meet. Become a people connector. Introduce two new people you have met to one another. Have both new moms meet you at a park. Then step back and allow their friendship to grow.
  3. Be honest. Maybe you have overcommitted yourself and you know you can’t be the kind of friend you’d like to be. Say that. Tell her your life is full but you would love to get to know her. I shared this with a new mom to Dallas and she invited us over for dinner. There was no work for me. She wasn’t asking me to add anything to our schedule that we don’t already do (like eating dinner). It was a great time to share the ins & outs of Dallas and help a new family feel “plugged in”.

This is an exercise in humility. Serving others before yourself. You (and I) will be tempted to seek out comfort. Looking for a familiar face. But let’s resist the comfort and embrace “the new girl”.

We may discover a rich, new friendship. We may learn something new. We may give her a reason to smile that day.

I’ve been the new girl. I am the new girl. Thank you to all those who have welcomed me in the past and will in the future!

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”-C.S. Lewis

Today I’m writing over at The MOB Society about my experience with a new friend. An email led to an entire new table of friends (literally every other Monday we sit at a round table). Click here to read more.

My “Bump Into Grace” Friends

*disclaimer: I received permission before including any of the following stories for this post. 

80% of our interactions are accidental. I should rephrase that. We didn’t plan on seeing each other, but God always had our “accidents” written in His planner.

Monday morning I felt like a metal ball in a never-ending pinball game, bouncing from need to need. The crazy wave never seemed to die down. When the sitter arrived I announced, “I’m ready!!” Unfortunately, there were still 45 more minutes of ‘crowd control’ (a.k.a. disciplinary measures and tantrums) to deal with before I walked out the door.

Driving away from the house, tears brimming, I said out loud, “I don’t want this life.” Just as quickly as the words slipped out, my mind filled with all the logical reasons why I really did want my life. Included in my gratitude list were boys who said “goodbye” with big kisses and hugs (and blows on necks…it’s a tradition). Despite the nuttiness of a morning, they still wanted to give me hugs. They live big and love big and forgive big.

My main goal for the afternoon was to mail out Quade & Price’s birthday party invites.  But the first step was to find envelopes large enough for the invites I created on my computer. I knew there was a Michael’s near the post office. So my half-aware brain headed towards Michael’s.

As soon as I walked into the store I bumped into a friend…a “bump into grace” friend. Since Quade was a toddler we’ve consistently bumped into each other at stores, museums, parks, restaurants… I leave our conversations refreshed. We go deeply quickly. We breathe grace in each other’s presence.

On this particular day I was super impressed to find her three kiddos perfectly behaved standing next to her, all quietly holding on to the cart. I encouraged them, saying “Wow! Y’all are doing such a wonderful job patiently waiting in line with your mommy.”

photo credit

My “bump into grace” friend, through smiling, gritted teeth, said, “You have NO idea.” I shared with her some of my morning. Including my theory that challenging behavior may have been due to a late bedtime from the previous evening’s VBS. She agreed. We exchanged goodbyes and I was off in search of envelopes.

I walked out of Michael’s empty-handed, just as my phone showed a text message from my “bump into grace” friend. Her text explained how a moment before I walked into Michael’s her oldest and youngest were playing an angry tug-of-war in with a Brave coloring book. Right before I saw them behaving perfectly, she had given the “mommy look” and insisted they both put their hands on the cart. Her middle child was just scared quiet. She ended the text, “nice to see your smiling face.”

As I looked up from reading the text I saw my friend driving through the parking lot. I held up my phone to show I got the text. We shared knowing glances. We get each other. I felt encouraged because I’m not the only one struggling through the challenges of motherhood. It helped pull me up from my belly gazing and “woe is me.”

She shared how it encouraged her to see me and know God is kind. Seeing me had re-colored her day. Instead of remembering the horrible “tug-of-war” incident she remembered my perfectly timed entrance.

You know what’s even crazier? As I walked away from her car I asked if she could think of any office supply stores nearby to get envelopes. She pointed me to the Office Depot. RIGHT NEXT to the post office. Um, yeah.

Why didn’t it cross my mind to go to the very conveniently located office supply store for envelopes?

I believe God directed my steps.

“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

He is kind. If we are willing to see His hand in our day we can see how He orchestrates “bump into grace” incidents.

Not just friends. Perhaps grace comes from bumping into a stranger (<—click to read). Or even through the world-wide web…

This week I received a Facebook message from a college friend I have not seen in over 13 years. She took time to tell me I have been on her mind. The night before she dreamed about my husband Bruce and I meeting her at a conference. When she woke up from her dream she prayed for us.

Do you know where my husband was when she messaged me? In Boston at a conference. I hadn’t posted it on Facebook. But I needed prayer while he was away. God had been kind. She had been available. She took the time to stop and pray.

Do you have friends you frequently “bump into” and God uses to speak to your soul and show you grace?

If you don’t have a real-life grace community, have you experienced “bump into” moments through online community? God speaking through the words of a blog post when you were at a breaking point? Scripture shared through Twitter or Instagram?

Ask God through His Holy Spirit to open your eyes to “bump into grace” moments. They are happening. My prayer is you don’t miss them!

3 Easy Ways to Encourage a Friend

I’m blessed with amazing friends. I know this is rare and I treasure it. The reason I know it’s rare is because in my first 5 years of marriage I moved to 4 different new cities. Being the new girl is hard. One of the hardest parts is not having a community of friends to support you and encourage you.

2012 has been a year full of joys and trials (what year isn’t, really). In times of celebration you want to be surrounded by loved ones. In times of heartache you need your soul lifted up. Through my own experience I’ve found the following ideas to be great ways to encourage a friend…trial or triumph. The good news? Two out of three of them you don’t even have to live in the same city!

1. Write out a prayer

When you hear about a prayer request, instead of replying “I’ll be praying for you” or “You’re in my prayers”, just type out a prayer right then. There are so many prayer requests and needs, we cannot keep all of them in our prayers all the time. So remove the guilt and write out the prayer.

Lord, may my words encourage the mom reading them today. May she be held close by your loving, capable arms. Bring friends to encourage her and which she can encourage. Thank you for creating community. Amen

I honestly don’t know the first person who did this for me. I only remember when she did I cried. Yes, I’m a crier but reading her words to the Lord for me was invaluable.

2. Text her a verse 

I have dear friends who encourage me through Scripture. Being reminded of His truth in the midst of my challenge is more helpful than any “thinking of you” or “hope it gets better.”

If you have a smart phone, open your YouVersion or ESV Bible apps and copy the verse directly from the app or text from the app. Very easy to do for busy moms.

3. Drop off a coffee

For a new mom or a mom stuck at home with sick kids, one of the simplest ways to love on her is to pick up her favorite Starbucks drink and drop it off. Near us there is a drive-thru Starbucks making it even easier to pick something up with a carload of kiddos.

Either text her ahead of time so you can find out what she wants (or any dietary restrictions…I’m currently an iced caramel soy latte drinker…in case you were wondering. =)). Or you could get the drink if you know what to get and just text that it’s on her front porch. No need to stay and visit. Just knowing you took the time and made the effort to treat her special is oh, so encouraging.

What’s your favorite way to encourage a friend?

**In light of the upcoming holiday, I’ve decided to take a break from writing next week. Hope you and your family have a fabulous Fourth of July!!

Life Lessons Learned at McDonalds

I know taking my kids to McDonald’s is not consider the best parenting decision. However, at the end of the week, on a rainy morning, taking my boys to McDonald’s was the perfect parenting decision. Sometimes I have to ignore the “shoulds” and “should nots” and go with what I know is best for my family at that moment. By ignoring the world’s standards of a “green-living, organic” mom, we were blessed with some great life lessons, bonding, laughter & discoveries:

Seeing Similarities

As I sat sipping my über large iced tea, my 4-year-old quickly ran by with a new friend  close behind him. Each boy flying their plastic green lantern superheroes. With a huge smile on his face, my son yelled out: “We’re friends because we have the same toy!”

It’s that simple. My son didn’t care how old his friend was, where he lived, if he knew Jesus as his Savior, what denomination he was or that he had different colored skin. He only cared that they shared a similarity: a free toy from McDonald’s. Later we talked about how great it is to make new friends, even if they have different colored hair, shirt, eyes or skin.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Seeing Hearts through Actions

After more playing, my sons came running up to me overflowing with words about a “not nice boy”. They described his bad choices: throwing food on the floor, hitting my youngest son, and squirting apple juice on my eldest son.

Instead of releasing my “mama bear” to teach another child a lesson, I used the opportunity to instruct my boys…

Me: “What do you think of the “not nice boy’s” heart based on how he acted?”

My four-year-old quickly replied, “He probably has a bad heart, not a good heart.”

My six-year-old argued, “But we all have bad hearts. We all make made bad choices.”

Me: “You are both right. When we act badly, others see that our hearts are bad.”

“Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” Proverbs 20:11

Me: “But Christ came to cleanse us and to give us pure hearts. We are still going to make bad choices, but we have been given the power to make the right choice. We can show other’s Christ’s heart. Imagine if you are kind to your brothers and you work together. Would others call you the ‘not nice boys’ or the ‘nice boys’? Would others think you have kind hearts or unkind hearts? Would others see Christ in you?”

Love in Action

Despite my recent attempts to “say less, pray more”, I still find myself giving the boys unnecessary warnings. In this case: “Be careful not to let your toy roll under the slide, we won’t be able to reach it.” Upon hearing this, my youngest son took it on as a challenge.  Very quickly after my warning, he managed to lose his toy, just out-of-reach, behind a gate.

Since I had warned him of what would happen, I felt little sympathy. However, his brothers exhibited kindness towards him. Losing a toy is monumental in their minds. They plotted and schemed on how to retrieve the toy for their little brother (so maybe my lesson on kindness was sinking in! Miraculous!).

I offered a solution: “Go get me 5 straws.” This is what we created…the world’s biggest straw:

Those sweet brothers worked together, using the world’s biggest straw to reclaim the lost toy. They drew an audience. More than anything, love took action in a simple gesture.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

At the end of the week, on a rainy morning, even at McDonald’s, miracles can happen. New friendships can be made from the simplest of commonalities. Hearts can be reached. Brothers can serve one another. Lessons can be learned while sipping ice tea and eating giant french fries.

“Say it to Her Face” Challenge

Last week I wrote how we can break the negative cycle by entering into Christ’s fruit-producing cycle. If I long for love, joy, peace, patience in my family life & my friendships, then (according to John 15) I must:

  • Abide in Him by…
  • Abiding in His love by…
  • Obeying His commands, one of which is…
  • Love one another, I can do that by…
  • SAYING IT TO HER FACE (instead of behind her back).

My tongue has gotten me into a lot of trouble. In second grade I was punished for making a girl cry because I was whispering about her to a friend…yes, I was a “mean girl”. Over the holidays I’ve frequently created or worsened tensions among family members by talking behind someone’s back (“A dishonest man spreads strife,  and a whisperer separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28).

Honestly, I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to be held accountable by friends, family and my online community. However, if I am going to be obedient and experience the fruit of the Spirit in my life, this is one area I need to be held accountable.

WHAT IS THE “SAY IT TO HER FACE” CHALLENGE?

When interacting with others, I want to be aware of my words. Before I speak, I want to consider if it’s something I would say to her face. If I couldn’t say it to her face and she isn’t present, then I should NOT say it.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

As women we all know gossip is a problem & is wrong. Read Paul’s words:

“They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29b-32)

We know it’s wrong, yet we still do it & encourage friends to gossip. Look at the other groups mentioned along with “gossips” in this verse: “haters of God”, “inventors of evil”…ouch!

Another reason for this challenge is to set a good example for my boys. They are old enough to pay attention & listen when my husband and I talk with each other. Slander and gossip should not be a part of our conversation.

HOW DO YOU PARTICIPATE?

1. Pray each morning for God to “put a guard over your mouth and watch over the door of your lips (Ps 141:3)” and not allow any “unwholesome talk to come out of your mouth (Eph 4:29).”

2. Pray this again before meeting with a friend or attending a social event, spending time with family, etc.

3. Memorize this scripture:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

To memorize this verse I am going to write it on a card & keep it taped to my computer keyboard. I will also make the verse my wallpaper on my phone as a reminder before talking with a friend or family member.

4. When in a conversation don’t talk about ANYONE unless they are physically present. 

  • Even if she is a common friend (if we both know her still not ok to talk about her)
  • Even if I am speaking well of her (it’s a slippery slope!)
  • Even if I am just stating facts

5. Keep her confidence. If someone shares information with me, it is not my job to share it with other people.

  • Even if it’s exciting news (pregnancy, marriage, job)–> use the line: “That’s her news to tell”
  • Even if she needs prayer–> only if she wanted me to ask others to pray for her should I share a “prayer request”.
  • Even if someone asks me a question about a person not present–> I will gently direct them to that person (“You should ask her”).

6. Instead of talking about others, ask those I’m talking with these questions:

  • What is God teaching you lately?
  • What was your highlight/low light this week?
  • What specifically can I pray for you?

7. Give myself grace. 

I am going to fail in this challenge because I am sinful. Even if I fail & speak about someone who is not in my presence, I am going to give myself grace to try again in the next conversation.

Disclaimer: This is a personal conviction. It is not my intent to preach AT you or assume this is a problem for you. My hope is if you struggle with “gossip”, talking about others or keeping confidences, then you would join me in the “Say it to Her Face” challenge. 

Will you join me in this challenge?

Few Favorites Friday: My Friends’ Faves {4/20}

This week I thought it would be fun to have some of my friends share their favorites with you. I love these gals (there are soooo many other friends that I’d love to have share their favorites…email me if you are interested!). Without further ado…

1. Rose Salve–Jae 

My sweet friend Jae brought us dinner & brought me a little gift this week, Rose Salve. She spoke so highly of this little product I asked her if I could share it on my Fave Fridays! She puts it on her lips each night before bed and claims it works miracles! I tried it out and not only does it feel nice but it has a pleasant (not over-powering) rose smell.

The canister (which is bigger than it looks in the picture) claims you can use the salve on your: elbows, knees, face, lips, & cuticles! Check it out: C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve from Bath & Body Works ($5.50, buy 2 get 1 free…share with a friend!).

2. Dry Bar–Erin M.

Have you ever wished you could blow-dry your hair like your hair stylist does? Maybe you want your hair to look gorgeous for an event, but don’t have the skills to do it yourself. My friend Erin went to the Dry Bar here in Dallas this week to get a blow-out. She said it was awesome! Basically they wash, blow-dry and style your hair. All for $35 (the price of a pedicure)!

Doesn’t she look great! Here is the link to their website: Dry Bar (they have locations in CA, Scottsdale AZ, Atlanta, & New York).

3. Lemon-Mint Cake–Erin M.

The same gorgeous friend (inside & out!) brought us dinner on Monday. She went above and beyond and made us a Lemon-Mint Cake. Love that she was thoughtful enough to make a “non-dairy, non-chocolatey” dessert so I could enjoy it as well!

The recipe is from Giada (LOVE her) on the foodnetwork.com site: Lemon-Mint Cake.

Instead of making the lemon syrup like Giada’s recipe, she made a frosting for the top:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp Milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

AND it made the perfect treat for a tea party I had with the boys this week. My mother-in-law gave me the idea to cut up the treats into bite-size pieces and put them all on one plate. The boys think it’s really special. When served like this the food seems more appealing. They fight over banana slices…while the whole bananas have been ignored for days…go figure!

4. Playdoh Porcupines–Erin D.

Another Erin friend of mine, just as cute & lovely as the first, is a preschool teacher. Here is one of her favorite activities with toddlers. She says it’s great for keeping hands busy while she cooks dinner!

“Play-Doh is often hard for a toddler because they are still learning how to manipulate the tough dough with their little hands so mommy ends up being the one to roll it out for cookie cutter or ball it up to build with while the toddler either struggles to do the same or merely watches mommy work.

So I figured out a way to start using Play-Doh by making “porcupines” out of Play-Doh balls and cut up straws or toothpicks.  Using their developing fine motor skills, the toddler can pick up the toothpicks (dull the tips) or small straws and stick them all around the Play-Doh balls.

Now that I have a 3-year-old that can cut out shapes and do other things with her Play-Doh this activity gives her little 2-year-old brother a way to participate too!!  (I think it would be fun to add other things like pebbles, seashells or large sequins if you don’t mind digging those out the Play-Doh later.)”

5. Iced Lattes–Megan

This dear friend watched my three oldest boys this week so I could attend some parent-teacher conferences…yes, she is a good friend. She also encourages me throughout the week with texts of Scripture and reminders that she is praying for me.

The favorite she wanted to share is:

“On my days off, I love going to Cultivar coffee and getting an iced latte. It always seems like a real treat! Enjoy!”

I haven’t tried out Cultivar Coffee, but I’m a big fan of local coffee shops. What’s your favorite (non-Starbucks) coffee shop?

Don’t you love their faves? I couldn’t resist not posting any of my faves so here are a couple:

6. Mother of Boys Society (MOB Society)

I was invited to be a contributor on the MOB Society site. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team. Particularly because of the site’s goal…

Today I have a post I’d love for you to read. It’s entitled: “Let Him Be a Jerk”. Curious?

7. A Day full of memories…a day I LOVED my job!

This Wednesday we had the best day we’ve had in a very, very long time. Knox slept a lot and cried very, very little. So we were able to spend time playing with Play-Doh, having formal tea, playing soccer, coloring, reading books. It was truly wonderful.

What were some of your favorites this week?