Monday, August 15, 2016

Raising Demigods

Something struck me last week and I haven't been able to shake it.  I was reading the onslaught of political news and noticed a common thread of flawed people who are personally convinced that they can do no wrong and that their mistakes are either lies about them or the result of someone else's failure. The scary part is that many onlookers have chosen one of these self-righteous individuals to get behind and to cheer on their perceived morally superior status.  

When it got real for me was when I was visiting with one of my children about a poor choice they had made.  Their response was to blame another individual for their own sin.  Of course, in my heightened sensitivity to the subject, I immediately pointed out that... no...they had sinned...because they are a sinner...and thus very much in need of a Holy God to forgive them of their sin... and help them, through grace, to make better choices... once they had repented (which they have still not done).  #notwinning

Here is where I believe our problem lies as parents and we need to own it.  We are (in our own sin) turning these precious gifts from God into little demigods.  When our kid hates band, it's the band teacher's fault (instead of a natural consequence of not practicing).  When they don't get enough playing time on the field, it's the coach's fault.  Those poor choices they made at school were because their teacher did not have control of her students and when they verbally disrespect their parents, it is because they have been spending too much time with ________.  Do you see it?  

If we are not careful, we are going to raise the next generation of Donald Trumps and Hillary Clintons who do not need the forgiveness of a Holy God because they themselves are without sin. 


I don't want to raise a child who justifies their sin but even more I don't want to raise a child who lives apart from a daily dependence upon Jesus. 

Here is what I know about demigods:
*God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)
*The self-righteous judge the sins of others while over looking their own sin. (Matt 7:5)
*The self-righteous seek to gain followers over following Jesus (Matt 23:13,15)
*The Lord detests the proud (Prov 16:5)
*ALL sin and fall short of the Glory of God (Rom 3:23)
*We cannot rightly relate to God unless we rightly relate to ourselves and our sin (HERE - this is a good read).

My hope is that you don't see my kids walking around with their head down and think, "Oh Ginny is still helping them get in touch with their sin nature," but instead see them moving forward with even more confidence because they know that the forgiveness we have in Christ and the power that He gives us to live far surpasses the life we live as self-righteous demigods. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2 Questions, 1 Mindset


I took a break from here to focus on meeting some immediate needs of my family and for a time of reflection on who I am as a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.  What does my role look like?  Am I investing in the right areas?  Am I taking care of myself at the same time?  Where do I get my confirmation of that?

This summer, 2 themes have been rolling around in my brain and I think they are connected not only to each other but also to what God is teaching me during this time of reflection.  I hope they spur you on to reflection as well.

(Pictures are from our summer so far)


1st Theme- Working from approval instead of for approval

At the beginning of the summer, I was having a conversation with a friend whose parenting style I have previously gleaned a lot of wisdom from.  She made a statement about her child that really got me thinking.  She said, “I can see that he is working for approval instead of from approval.”

Working for approval instead of from approval?  I wondered what does that look like?  What mistakes do you make as a parent that creates that scenario? Do my kids do that? 

When I was growing up, there was one relationship where I never felt like I got it right.  With each interaction, I was informed that my socks didn’t match, I needed a haircut, I needed to wash my face more, my clothes were out of season, etc.  For a decade, I had anxiety about seeing that person because our relationship had become such that I was working for approval.  Since then we have both matured and I now relate to them from approval and I can say that it has completely changed the dynamic and health of our interaction. 

In order to raise kids who work from approval, my parenting must be grace-filled.  That happens first as a paradigm shift in how I view them.  When I walk into my 13 year old's bedroom, do I see that he has made his bed or that he has clothes on the floor?  I must view my children through the lens of grace.  I have always understood the practical definition of grace to be represented as help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor. 

If I as a Christian walk in relationship with Christ by Grace through Faith (Col 2:6) then my parenting must also be grace-filled (consisting of help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor).  Only then will I raise children who work from approval that mirrors the approval we already have in Christ.



2nd Theme- Saying thank you or finding fault

Last month, Trent and I were putting the finishing touches on a set of talks we were preparing for a marriage retreat.   Trent came across some material by John Gottman where he predicted the long-term success or failure of a marriage.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/)

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart.  “It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

This really hit home because I know as a spouse, I have been guilty of scanning my marital environment for the wrong things.  This also got me thinking about my parenting because I think this goes hand in hand with raising kids who work from approval and relating to others with grace.  I don’t think Gottman calls it being grace-filled in your marriage, but that is exactly what it is. 

If I want to avoid contempt in my relationships and raise kids who work from approval instead of for approval, I have to scan their environment and look for opportunities to offer a grace-filled thank you instead of criticism.   I am confident there is more to it than just that, but man that sure is a good start.



Last thoughts

As a pastor’s wife, I have spent the last 9 years working for approval.   Now some in my church might say, “I sure can’t tell” and that would be because when I think I can’t gain your approval, I disengage completely.  I have had experiences in different areas of the church where I didn’t measure up and my response was to take that area out of my list of ministries where I saw myself to be useful. 

I see this in my social relationships with friends and family too.  I try to dance correctly enough to not rock the boat or hack anyone off or I disengage completely.   It is emotionally exhausting.  This time of reflection has helped me to meditate on the approval I already have in Christ.  He is the one who calls me and He is the ultimate voice to say, “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21).   He is the one who extends grace to me for all that He calls me to. He is my help, my forgiveness, and my source of unmerited favor. 


I can go on from that truth to live from approval instead of for approval.  I can go on from that truth to have grace-filled relationships with those around me as I scan the environment for opportunities to say thank you instead of opportunities to criticize.  Can you?



Here are a few more pics for you dad. :)


Monday, March 7, 2016

When Spiritual Attacks Happen

Our family and our church families have been under spiritual attack lately.  It felt like we returned home from the hospital, just caught our breath, and then battles started happening all around us. I have responded appropriately at times and have felt the desire to respond inappropriately more often.  I was thinking today about what you do when the enemy attacks and I have a few pointers from my last couple of weeks.

1. Don't Retreat  
I will be honest and say that is generally my first instinct.  More than once over the last few weeks, I have been ready to pack up my little family and start over somewhere new.  I have a "See ya later. This is for the birds" shotgun response in me and my voice of wisdom (otherwise known as my husband) is always there to remind me not to move until God gives the command.  

Many battles have been lost quickly due to a retreat.  Isn't that the attacker's goal?  An instantaneous, get-me-the-hell-outta-here response?  So if winning is your goal, retreating is not your option. 

2. Consider the Battle to be a Compliment
Warfare 101 says, if you are being attacked, it means that you have something that someone else wants.  If you are being attacked by Satan, then God must be doing something good around you. I guess instead of worrying when we are under attack, we should be losing sleep when Satan is leaving us alone. 

3. Quit Dressing for a Party
I had coffee with a friend the other day and she had some great words.  She said, "Christians need to stop dressing for the prom.  God did not tell us that this life would be a party.  He told us to prepare for battle and put on our armor."

Eph 6:10-11   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

4. Stop Taking it Personally
The next part of that little gem in Ephesians tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but  against spiritual forces.  In other words, it is not as much about you as it is about a much larger battle for the hearts and souls of God's people that you just happen to be a part of.  Remember, consider it a compliment. :)

5. Take your Battle Cues from the Revolutionary War
One of the spiritual attacks was aimed directly at me and it wounded me.  I mean:  cried off and on for days, questioned my calling, all but packed our boxes to retreat, deeply wounded me.  But then I had to stop taking my cues from how I felt and started taking my cues from the Continental Army. 

Did you know that the Continental Army suffered from lack of food, poor shelter, and diseases like small pox and typhus?  They were beat down folks but yet they continued to fight.  They knew that someone wanted what they had, that victory was the only option, and that they were called into the fight.  So when you feel beat down, sick of the battle, sucker punched at the turn, and like you just want to curl up in your Revolutionary War tent and take a day off, you need to take your cues from the Continental army and keep fighting, typhus and all.

6. Look to the Future
This is the good part friends.  Looking to the future reminds you that the Bible tells us we win! It gives you that spark you need to take the next step.  It also reminds you what the goal is.  Perhaps the Continental army can be our example here too.  They knew what losing meant.  Even better, they had hope for what life looked like on the other side of the battle, when the enemy was defeated, and they could walk in victory.  

I have been doing a lot of looking to the future lately and I have found that spiritual battles can bring us to a place of re-evaluation of our priorities.  They give God a chance to get our attention, take our eyes of the comfortable position of the every day, and set our course for the next journey.  

Here is the passage I was telling you about.  Enjoy and get to fighting. 

The Armor of God       Eph 6:10-18
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Choosing to Enjoy


Life is slowing down around here and I am getting the opportunity to enjoy family activities like watching Sam play basketball.  Reflecting on those moments prompted this post.



Somedays I feel like the word "mom" should be changed to "manager".  Like generations of moms before me, I manage my household.  I also aggressively manage my kids healthcare needs, educations, and spiritual growth.  Those all feel pretty normal, but in this day and age, management goes a step farther.  In order to keep up with our peers, I also have to manage our 9 year old's ability to one day make the school soccer team and the 10 year old's desire to gain musical theater experience between his basketball and piano lessons. I have friends who are managing their child's ability to get into a certain college or land the career of their dreams.  Societal expectations have forced us to turn the role of mom into manager. 

I woke up one morning last week and thought "Holy cow I am doing a whole lot of managing and not near enough enjoying." So I have made it my goal to change my mindset from managing my children back to truly enjoying them.  

I honestly didn't set out to be a manager, it just took over and I wonder if it has taken over for you too.  If so, I have put some thoughts together on enjoying life and parenting.  I am confident you could add something here and feel free to do so in the comment section.


THOUGHTS ON ENJOYING LIFE INSTEAD OF JUST MANAGING IT

1.  When you ENJOY what your doing, your outcome is better. 
I am a better PT and photographer when I am enjoying my time and not just pursuing an end goal.  Of course, that applies to parenting as well.  I want my kids to remember me laughing with them and enjoying their presence, not just dropping them off, packing their lunch, and talking to their doctor about the next stage of care. That leads me to #2. 

2. My children want to be enjoyed.
I mean don't we all want to be enjoyed? I love eating lunch and catching up with my friend Bernie.  I wonder how she would feel if I called her and said, "Bernie I need to eat lunch with someone my age this week so I can check it off my to do list.  Can you meet at 11:00?"  Bernie would probably have other plans because she wants to be enjoyed not managed. Why would my kids be any different?

3. We are more likely to remember what we enjoy than what we just manage.
Okay folks this is actually proven.  Kevin Leman says in his book, What Your Childhood Memories Say About You, that long term memories are stored through a neurotransmitter that is released when we feel extreme emotion.  If enjoying our children generates emotion in us then it is reasonable, based on Leman's book, to say that we are more likely to remember those occasions. 

4. The return on good management is measured in accomplishments. The return on enjoyment is measured in accomplishments and relationships.
Accomplishments aren't bad but they are better when paired with relationships.

5. I need to make more time to enjoy my spouse.

Trent and I are great managing partners but we fell in love when we enjoyed each other.  It is not enough to manage our family and home well.  We have to continue to pursue enjoyment in our relationship.  

6. Enjoyment is a choice. 
I am trying to intentionally approach our family's activities from a different angle and see how they respond.  When I took Ruthie to her doctor's appointment this week, I made sure we worked in a mother/daughter trip to the ice skating rink.  After Sam's basketball game, we didn't discuss what he could have done better like we normally would have.  Instead I just focused on how much I enjoyed watching him play and support his team mates.  

Another time that I am trying to enjoy more is bedtime.  It is not about the 3 steps necessary to get them to sleep but instead about those few precious moments we have together at the end of the day.  I want those to be sweet and memorable, not just accomplishing an end goal.  

7. Enjoying moments requires that we stop finding our identity in our chaos, achievements, or the achievements of our children. 
God has not called me to raise a thespian, a soccer player, or a future politician.  He has called me to raise good, God fearing people and that happens through relationship.  If I keep chasing their end achievements, I very well may miss the journey and their hearts.   

8. Another thing we are guilty of managing is our spiritual life.
There is so much to this thought that I have to bullet it. :)
  • Growing up Catholic taught me to manage my spiritual life through rituals.  The Baptist church has taught me to manage my spiritual life through church disciplines like prayer and reading my Bible.  How to enjoy God is something that I have learned on my own and am continuing  to learn.  
  • The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."  If I am a believer in Christ, my eternity starts the moment I accept Him so enjoying Him is not meant just for heaven but that forever begins now.  I don't have to wait for heaven to enjoy God. 
  • I found this quote in a puritan sermon, "It is a great matter to enjoy God's ordinances, but to enjoy God's presence in the ordinances is that which a gracious heart aspires after."
  • If you are having a hard time getting the notion of enjoying God, you are not alone.  I asked some friends how they enjoy God and here is what some of them said.  (This may help you realize that you are better at enjoying God than you thought or it may prompt so opportunities for you to pursue that enjoyment more intentionally) : 
    • Reflecting on His faithfulness in the past
    • When I am alone with Him in nature and we are talking.
    • I really like being able to ask Him for wisdom. Whether I am preparing to teach something, write an important note, on and on. And He puts thoughts in my mind that make what I'm doing so much better.
    • I communicate with him all the time sometimes in my heart sometimes out loud, and he talked back at me his own way, it can be by a friend, a family member or a stanger, I just love when he does that...
    • Laughter. Each day I look around for funny things, like God and I are on a scavenger hunt. Best part of my day!
    • I enjoy God every single time I help deliver a baby.. It's almost like looking into His eyes, just to see those precious faces and know that God is love, and that He still performs miracles!

I will bless you and wrap this up, but I hope it prompted you to think, as it has me.  Even more, I pray it prompts you to pursue enjoyment.




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Survivor, Overcomer, Warrior, Fighter, Dreamer

I had a great conversation with my brother tonight.  He was telling about a book he read that told the stories of modern day "Davids" who have overcome great adversity to change the world.  The book is called David and Goliath.  I ordered it on Amazon and not 2 minutes later, my husband walked in and handed it to me.  I should have know that if there was a good book out there that he would already own it.


I am pretty excited about getting started because the blurb speaks to something I have believed for a long time, "all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity."  It is a message that I preach to my children every day and it looks like this picture.


Some people might look at this picture and see a 3 year old ballerina.   When I look at this picture I see so much more.  

I see a survivor who made it through being abandoned at birth and spending the first several months of her life flat on her back with minimal interaction.  What you can't see in that swept back hair is the flat posterior head that tells the story of her early months.  She is a survivor.

I see an overcomer who woke up one morning to find herself being placed in the arms of people who didn't look like her and then being carried across the world to a place she had never heard of. What you don't see in those eyes is the insecurity we encounter every time one of us leaves her presence for more than a few hours. She is an overcomer.

I see a fighter who suffered 2 strokes and, if she survived, was supposed to be blind, deaf, and paralyzed.  Do you see that part in her hair?  That is the scar from where they drained her infected cysts on her brain on two different occasions.  She is a fighter.

I see a warrior who battled through open heart surgery at 3 years old and is still battling the complications of having her tiny heart re-built on an operating table.  You can see her chest scar peeking through her leotard but what you can't see are the numerous scars that look like gun shot wounds between her ribs from the multiple chest tubes she has had to drain fluid off of her heart and lungs.  She is a warrior.

Finally, I see a dreamer because for weeks she has talked about being a ballerina.  The week after her first lesson she continued to put her hands in the air and show her daddy how she twirled in circles and walked on her tippy toes.  She is dreamer. 


 I can't wait to read this book because, if it is right, my little "David" will most definitely change her world and I too may write a book some day about the survivor, overcomer, fighter, warrior dreamer who I got to call mine. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When the Light at the End of the Tunnel Goes Dark


(pics courtesy of our week at home)

I went back to the YMCA today.  It was a step toward returning to my normal routine after spending the last 2 months in the hospital with Maggie.  This last week home has felt like we finally had a light at the end of the dark tunnel we have be traveling down.  That was until yesterday when Maggie's doctor informed us that her effusion was back and I saw that light turn dim.  Tomorrow we will return for another follow-up to determine if she will have to be re-admitted to the hospital. 

It was in between Tae-bo punches, round house kicks, and glances at the clock to see how much longer I had to go that I began pondering how you are supposed to respond when the light at the end of your tunnel goes dark again.  I thought about friends fighting for their marriages and another fighting for her son's future as he moved in and out of treatment facilities.  I remembered a friend who has traveled in and out of remission for cancer and several others whose light to dark circumstances feel far more serious than my own. 

So if that is you, and you too feel like the light at the end of your tunnel is growing dim, I hope you find encouragement in these thoughts.  Oh, and don't get angry with me if you disagree.  Instead, blame it on the oxygen deprivation I was experiencing while starting to formulate my post.  :)



WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL GOES DARK AGAIN?

1. Keep your focus on the source of the light
I know that sounds like a Sunday School answer and it is hard to check off when you are in the thick of it.  I believe it is important though and needs to be #1 because "the Source of the light", God, is the only One who knows the future.  He is the best source of wisdom and comfort as you navigate the dark road ahead. He is like your Google Map lady when you are lost in the 5th Ward, at night, and can't find your way home.   #Houstonianswillunderstandthat

2. Stop and don't travel another mile until you seek Him first and get direction
A lot of us would like to respond first and pray second but that is not what God calls us to do.  You need to move only when He tells you to move. 

3. In the words of Carrie Underwood, let "Jesus take the wheel" and you take care of yourself for a moment
Self-care is so important when you are going through a stressful situation.  I don't know about you, but if I am not getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking a little time for myself, I don't think straight.  You have to take care of yourself if you are going to be able to move on down the road.  Cars don't drive on empty.

4. Help other motorists along the way.
This achieves 3 purposes: #1 it gives you perspective, #2 it takes your eyes off the darkness, #3 it advances the Gospel where you are.

5. Think about the destination and not the darkness.
When I focus on the darkness, I can come up with some crazy potential scenarios that may not be my reality but the emotional responses they generate are very real.  It doesn't make any sense to picture your child gone, your marriage over, or your some other whacked-out worst-case scenario that is not yours.  Instead, focus on the desired outcome (destination) until your reality tells you otherwise.
 My sister forwarded a great quote to me today that goes with this:
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” – French Renaissance Philosopher Michel Montaigne
6. Make memories on the journey.
The easiest thing is to wish for the tunnel to be over and the journey to come to an end.  The reality is that time is passing in the tunnel and you don't get that time back when your circumstances improve.  There are still good memories to be made where you are.  Don't miss that opportunity. 

And as a bonus - What NOT to do in the tunnel- Don't pull off the road and give up unless God has given you permission to walk away from your circumstance.  I can say that He rarely calls us to walk away and, more times than not, that is the Enemy talking. 

So there you go for my Tae Bo work out, tunnel driving, no light, yes this can suck, but it doesn't have to be all awful, thoughts on the when the light at the end of the tunnel goes dark.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Life and Poker

I am probably not going to have time to proof read this so please forgive any spelling or grammar errors.  My sweet niece, Paige, is sitting with Maggie and I ran down to get a cup of coffee and return some emails.



Now onto the update.

Maggie went back into surgery yesterday for another chest tube and for a heart cath.  While in the cath, they discovered a narrowing over her superior vena cava.  They ballooned it which is a bit of a temporary fix.  They felt this finding was significant but was probably not contributing to her fluid problem.  They also tested her to see how she would respond to Viagra to relax her venous system.  She responded well to this and this is the path we are testing for the next 4-5 days.


She is still pretty weak today from not eating and the anesthesia but was perking up toward the afternoon after they returned her to the fat free diet and the drugs finished wearing off.  Now we just watch and wait, again.

Now onto the Poker illustration.  There is a little irony in this one too like God was getting me in the mindset for this lesson.

We don't know the doctor who performed Maggie's cath as he was kind of thrown onto the case at the last minute.  When he was finished with the procedure, he met me in the conference room and explained all he found with a perfectly straight face.  Now I consider myself to be a pretty good reader of people's thoughts and emotions and I was really struggling to figure this guy out.  I spoke with a friend afterwards and commented on how this doc had the perfect poker face and I had no idea if Maggie looked terminal or if he felt the procedure was a complete waste of time.

I hung up and headed to recovery when I saw him in the hallway and decided to ask him straight out how serious he thought her situation was.  I wish I had recorded his response because it was one of those stop you in your tracks and make you want to grab a pen and paper kind of answers.

He said, "Maggie has been dealt a short hand but your job as her mother is to help her live her life, however long that is, like she has the full deck at her disposal."  

How good is that!  So that, of course, got my wheels turning like crazy.  I bet 95% of people have been dealt a short hand in one way or another, but we all play the life game of poker differently.  Some people give their hand away immediately and don't get very far in the game.  Others, however, play the game (of life) like they have the entire deck at their disposal, like they have the best hand at the table.  

I don't know about you, but I want to be that kind of life poker player and hopefully I will parent well enough that my children will do the same. 

Thanks for praying. 


From our last few days:  

It seems like a different group comes by every day to bless the kids.  One of those groups was from the FBI.  I am pretty sure the hospital has never been as safe as it was in that hour. :)


A non-profit called Dec Your Room came by and blessed Maggie with a Frozen themed hospital room.  She loves it and that's good because I am starting to wonder if we will ever leave.