Sunday, October 22, 2017

Watch the Cure for Hectic Schedules!

Do you feel like you're operating on autopilot?
Are you struggling to simply get through your days instead of enjoy them?
Is your schedule turning you and your family into something you're not?

We don't have to allow our culture of rush to rob us from what's authentic and important in our lives. But having a conviction to fight isn't enough; we have to have a game plan. Luckily, faith can provide us with just that.

This week last year, the premiere episode of my TV series went live on the topic of hectic family schedules. Hear one ordinary mom of two raised children reflect on what's at risk, and hear one dad who is also a teacher and coach struggling through it all as he raises two young children. How can their perspectives bless your life and bring wisdom to the decisions you're making right now? WATCH HERE to find out.

You're not alone in the chaos — calm can be right around the corner. Stay tuned for more episodes this year from my series Chaos to Calm! Finally, if you loved this episode, please SHARE IT!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why We Don't Have to Live Discouraged

This Monday marked the worst shooting in US history. Our hearts break as a church, community, and people of faith. As we learned about the event in disbelief, it’s hard to find our bearings. Sometimes it feels like tragedy just keeps unfolding on the wide-screen of our TV’s and in our very lives.

I remember hearing an encouragement to “look for the helpers” in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Mr. Rogers, the popular children's television icon, coined that phrase as a sign of active hope.  He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

As the country lit candles, sang songs, pledged dollars, and honored rescue workers this week, we have seen those helpers. Living in New York City during 9/11, I can testify that that show of solidarity indeed means something. But I believe as a people of faith, our job isn’t just to look for the helpers; our job is to be the helpers.

It is through the eyes of people who have suffered that we can see the suffering of others anew. We can work to bless others who are in pain. We can bind together what once was broken, and in our effort to mend fences, the holes in our hearts can heal too. The miraculous promises of our Savior are active in the world partially to the extent that we open ourselves up to be those "helpers" — in the broader communal sense and at home. Here are some ways we can do that:

·      Pray. This isn’t a trite, quick-fix solution; the Bible promises that it unlocks the power of God to move redemptively.
·      Give. We can send money, supplies, or handwritten letters to those who are hurting. Recently, my youngest son made teddy bears for children affected by Hurricane Irma at his school. He was so proud to help make a difference for another child.
·      Model. I love the quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether we’re modeling with our life or patiently teaching character-building to our children, we should never underestimate our power to plant positive seeds. These seeds can grow and become much more impactful than any tragedy, as they are not limited to a single event, but rather reflected over an entire lifetime.

This week and always, remember your God-given power to make a difference. Share your tears, open your palms, and shine your light.

It's good to be blogging again after a late summer/early fall break, though I wish it were not under these circumstances. My prayers continue for Las Vegas. If you'd like more encouragement, you can read my full Boston Marathon post here. Also, be sure you've signed up for my free devotional ebook and email updates here

This post was also shared with my church site

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Learning to Listen

I wrote this article in response to a writing teacher's challenge: Write about a humiliating moment (of hopefully redeeming value)! I hope it inspires you to listen — an important challenge and responsibility as we parent. 

I felt confident walking into the New Jersey post office that afternoon. I had set clear rules beforehand for my children. They knew to avoid the automatic door buttons. As tempting as the buttons were, an open door would land them right on Main Street with oncoming traffic while I was still in line.

In typical 2-year-old fashion, my younger son was not persuaded after our arrival. He wanted to push the door buttons. My left hand held his; the other was juggling two large, rather awkward packages of art that I was sending to his grandparents. What started as a gentle pull, a slight lean toward the door really, soon became a full-body pursuit.

“Mom, let me goooo! I want to push them!” he exclaimed. He threw himself to the floor, hoping the weight would cause me to drop his hand. But I knew that trick from raising his older brother. I held onto his hand tightly when I saw his attempt at a jump.

My son swung from my arm, a few inches off the ground until he stood back up. He started crying. Here comes a tantrum now that he knows I will not give in, I thought. Line, please hurry up! I made it to the front, quickly paid for the packages with embarrassment, and left with my two sons, one still screaming.

When we got to the car, he told me his arm hurt as I tried to strap him in. I was gentle with my movements but emotionally raw. I wanted to get home and get him down for his nap. I needed a quiet moment to compose myself. I tucked him in as soon as we got home. I told him he would feel better after his nap as he often did after boo-boos, real or imagined.

After about ten minutes of a quiet room, he started crying again as he had in the post office. It was the first time it clicked that something was wrong. I rushed into his room to see my son sitting up in his bed, telling me his arm hurt. It was lying motionless. He couldn’t move it. Panic ensued. What was going on? I rushed him to the ER.

After an X-ray, the doctor told me that nothing was broken, but my son had nursemaid’s elbow. I didn’t know what that was. Then he said these simple words: His elbow is dislocated. And it had happened when he swung from my arm.

While the doctor reassured me that this condition is common in young children, I was devastated. In an effort to protect my son, I had hurt him. Further, I hadn’t listened to him. He had told me that his arm hurt. He had been screaming at the post office, and I had misread the signs.

The latter particularly stung because I’m a minister who’d worked for two years as a hospital chaplain. It was my job to listen to people’s pain and accompany them through their healing process. I had learned the best chaplains erase their own agendas and become skilled at empathizing with patients. I had done this with countless cancer patients and high-risk pregnancy mothers. I had held hands with those who were dying. I had helped others, but not in this instance for my own vulnerable child, whom I adored.

After the doctor had manipulated his elbow back into place, I looked at my now pain-free son. I recognized that sometimes listening was easier at hospital bedsides. There, it was typically a conversation between two adults. With my children, I was used to knowing better and instructing them. They often depended on me for that.

I’d spent the afternoon talking nervously on my cell phone with my husband, keeping him informed. When he got home from work that night, our 2-year-old bounded toward him with his arms flung wide for a hug. My husband picked him up gingerly and let out a quiet sigh as he held him close; meanwhile, our son chattered about the events of the day. He seemed unfazed. I, on the other hand, was different.

Parenting is one of God’s best character crucibles. Even the best parents have imperfect moments. I learned that day that good parenting doesn’t just involve sincere attempts to keep my children safe. It doesn’t just involve imparting necessary care and guidance. It also involves pushing aside my preconceptions and agenda, getting down on my children’s level, and saying, “I want to listen.” I still needed to learn something.

If you resonated with this article, please give it some love here! It's been published by my writer's guild in their monthly RedBud Post. Discover their other parenting-themed articles here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Receive My First Free E-Book

"The first step to living a soul-filled life is to make time for what feeds your soul."

I am delighted to offer YOU my first e-book. It's one that I hope will impact your life as I've written it with you in mind. 

Are you looking to move from chaos to calm? For parents, this is a daily journey ... and this devotional can help! Every day for one month, read a different meditation complete with Scripture and a challenge to think about that day. Your parenting, personal development, and connection to God will grow as you experience this resource and its professionally-edited, color-illustrated pages!

Going on a monthlong journey together is intentional. You'll get to know me better as I honestly convey my thoughts, aspirations, and struggles in an effort to encourage us all ... Parenting is no easy gig, and we're in this together!

This e-book is yours for FREE when you sign up for my mailing list and follow the prompts. Those of you who are already on my mailing list got the download link this morning. YOU can join hundreds of others and sign up by clicking this link. Please note that you will not be spammed. This service is simply for weekly blog updates and occasional newsletters. My hope is to give you an exclusive sneak peek into my new book on life purpose through the newsletter, for instance.

Thank you for reading and being a part of this community. I am grateful for you. Please let me know what you think of my e-book. I can't wait for you to read it!

Want to keep the momentum going? This resource is named after my TV series. Don't miss its episodes, which are available on demand. Watch here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Provision

The end of the school year is no joke. I’ve heard parents describe it as a busier time than Christmas! With the end of the year productions, teacher gifts, and goodbye parties, that might very well be true. It’s a scramble to fit in everything that’s important.
That’s why I added one more thing to the calendar a couple of weeks ago. Yes, you read it right, I ADDED something. And that something was cooking a meal for the homeless with my children for Family Promise.
In case you’re wondering, Family Promise is a national nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income families. My church, Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, occasionally hosts some of its families. Most of them are employed; they just cannot afford New Jersey’s high rent.
Equally saddening was the news I heard recently that approximately 40 percent of the children at a nearby school, Jefferson Elementary, are food insecure. That makes snow days, holidays, and summer break precarious times in which some children could go hungry in my community and perhaps in yours.
As we turn to summer and think about the wonderful memories that are hopefully in store, I want to also consider the fear that some might be feeling as well. As farmers’ markets burst with abundance, let’s take the time to share some of our provision to make our community stronger, our children wiser, and our hearts just a little bit softer.
Are you local and interested in helping? Contact Amanda Parish Block (nokidhungryin07901@gmail) of GRACE. She’s looking for surplus produce! GRACE stands for Giving and Receiving Assistance for Our Community’s Essentials. To learn more about it, click here to read an article from a New Jersey paper. 
This post was also shared with Central Church on the staff blog.

TODAY Video Clip