Sunday, August 20, 2017

3 Simple Rules for Young Moms (That I Wish Someone Had Told Me)

My first born is starting high school tomorrow.   I sat on the end of his bed tonight trying to give him every one liner that I could think of to help him succeed in this next chapter.  It was somewhat humorous because he was staring back at me with one eye since he super-glued the other one by accident two hours ago.  Apparently my early parenting advice did not include how to safely use super glue but that is another blog for another day.

Trent and I started preparing for him 2 years before he arrived.  We read books and even attended a parenting conference about raising the pastors kid before I was ever pregnant.  Intentionality was not our weakness.  Perfectionism, probably.  Intentionality we had covered though.  We heard a lot of great advice and 90% of it was solid.  100% of it was about how to raise secure, successful, and/or God fearing children.  None of it was about how to survive the stress of parenting.

So as a mom of 15 years, I have a few pieces of advice for young moms to help you nurture your own souls.

1. Focus more on making memories than measurable outcomes

When I was in high school I watched a talk show where there was an elementary age kid who was taking college classes.  I remember thinking that his parents were the definition of successful parenting.  My parenting theories thankfully evolved by the time I had my own kids but not enough for my goals to still not be measurable.  I wanted my boys reading by kindergarten and then excelling in sports, the piano, or whatever they committed their time to.  They needed to memorize their verses and know their alphabet forwards and backwards.  Yes, we literally learned it backwards too.

That method of parenting is not only exhausting for the kid but it is also exhausting for the parent too.   It sends the message that you are only as valuable as your performance (or your parents ability to brag about it) and it robs the family of an opportunity for a better goal.

When Maggie had her strokes, our gratitude that she survived caused us to shift our mission as a family from achievement to making memories.  It was as much subconscious as it was conscious but it was life-changing nonetheless.

I still care that my kids put forth their best effort because I believe that is a reflection of character instead of achievement.  I did change though my expectations of the outcome and how I talk about their experiences.  My questions now are - Did you have fun? Did you make a memory? Did you do your best?  They are not - Did you win? Did you make the highest grade?  Did you look the best? or even - Were you the most obedient or nicest?  Unfortunately, behavior performance can even be  unhealthy.  I want kids who naturally and normally obey from a place of security not from a place of performance.

Finally, when I say making memories, I mean going out of our way to make memories.  I have a t-shirt that says, "Life is short. Take the trip, buy the shoes, eat the cake."  Well let me tell you, as a mom who sends her kid to high school tomorrow, their time with us is short.  I don't want to look back and say we had perfect attendance, made all A's, and never got a hole in our jeans.  I want to say that we raised great people and made great memories along the way.

2. Don't become an escape artist

I am the queen of escaping.  I can even make escaping look pretty, Baptist-approved, and profitable.  What is escaping you ask?  Escaping in this case is anything you run to in order to numb the exhaustion or pain you feel from parenting and playing the comparison game.  For an increasing number of women it is alcohol but it doesn't have to be that shady.  Our places of escaping can be as pretty as reading, scrapbooking, or time spent on Facebook.  It can be an app like CandyCrush or a photography business that makes you feel appreciated but once you get your junk together you figure out you don't need it anymore and the only purpose it fills is to remove you from those you love the most.    

What I have learned about escaping is that it places a small and temporary band-aid on a deep wound created by comparison, shame, or exhaustion.  We can't just walk away from our escapes.  We have to conquer the reason for them so that we don't need them anymore.  That will likely require more than I can cover here but the first step is to recognize the pattern so you can look for help.

What this is not is a statement for a type of parenting.  I am not suggesting that someone stay home or go back to work.  Don't read that here.  I still work part-time.  I am just doing it for the right reasons and enjoying my time at home more than ever instead of longing for my next escape.

3. Avoid those groups where you might face the yard stick of comparison

There are a lot of great places where young moms can find encouragement and connection.  There are also an equal number of places where they can find discouragement and comparison.   I wish I could tell you that it is as easy as joining this group but not that one, but it isn't.  Groups of women are not best evaluated by their names, religious affiliations, or political stance.  Their desirability is more of a reflection of the emotional health of the individual women who make them.

How we relate to others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.  Therefore, you want to surround yourself with women who are comfortable enough with their place in life to be able to love and nurture you in yours, instead of evaluating you in it.    My best advice (borrowed from BrenĂ© Brown) is to surround yourself with people with whom you can belong, instead of places were you have to prove yourself or fit in.

One of my best days was when I mentally walked away from the yardsticks that I let people evaluate me by and from the relationships that could not survive without them.  I now surround myself with people who love me for who I am (not how I measure up), help me make great memories (one of my closest friends is nicknamed "good times"), and who help me grow as a person through their example and meaningful conversation.

This ended up being a longer post than I had originally planned so I will wrap it up with this gem of validation that was given to me early on.  We lived in Waco when Jack was a baby and there was wise, God-fearing women at our church named Pollyanna.  She told me once that she did not love having toddlers but enjoyed the older years much more.  Miss Polly was a spiritual giant to me so hearing her say that it is okay to not love every moment of parenting was incredibly validating.  It is normal for parenting to be hard.  It is normal for it to make us come close to insanity in the process (Polly didn't quite say that but it is still true).  We can take steps though to help us enjoy this stage of life more and I hope these 3 nuggets of advice help you to do just that.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Rodeo and The Church

    There are a lot of blog posts that I read and think, “Thanks for numbering the obvious.”   I am confident that I have even been guilty of posting a few.  Today I came across something different.  A friend shared this (These are the Things I Don't Want My Kids to Learn at Church) on Facebook and it was good.  Insightful.  It was so insightful that I thought, “This woman has seen too much.  She must be a pastor’s wife.” I was right, she is.  

   After reading it, I thought of a #11- 
Jesus is not defined by your experiences.

         Jesus is not loud music and flashing lights that made you feel good at a youth event. He is not defined by your infant baptism or the card you filled out during an altar call.  He is not whether you spoke in tongues at a charismatic event or saw 50 kids come to Christ at VBS.  Jesus is not defined by your personal spiritual experience.

         I was thinking about this and had an illustration come to mind that I hope will be as meaningful to you as the above blog link was to me.  

Here you go:

The Church today looks a lot like the Houston Rodeo (or whatever rodeo you visit.  Mine just happens to be Houston).  For the sake of continuity, I will # it for you. 

  1.    The Entrance - We all walk in the first time with a sense of excitement or trepidation at what lies ahead.  We are ready to take it in and create our own story of what the rodeo is by what we personally experience there.
  2.  The Food - Some people define the rodeo (church) by what they consume.  The Houston Rodeo is known for excellent barbecue but also delicacies like Fried Twinkies.  There are a lot of people who go to the rodeo to sample the “food” and define their experience by how well “fed” they are.  
  3.   The Rides -  There are some crazy rides at the Houston rodeo.  I am personally not a fan of being suspended in the air and losing my stomach on a piece of metal and bolts that was put together in a day but that is not part of my illustration.  What I am trying to illustrate is that some people define church by the highs.  They pass from ride to ride and high to high. If you ask them about their time, this is how they will define a successful visit. 
  4. The Convention Center -  At the Houston Rodeo, we have a large indoor area that is pretty safe.  You can casually walk around without being exposed to the elements, high rides, or delicacies that might push you beyond your comfort.   You can stay in there for hours and see a safer presentation of the animals and even have a few experiences but nothing too dangerous like what is taking place outside.
  5.    The Stadium This is where the action happens.  Faithful Houston Rodeo goers (like churchgoers), you know the kind who holds season tickets and volunteer their time to its success, will say that you haven’t truly experienced the rodeo unless you have entered the NRG Stadium.  The NRG is where the “real rodeo” takes place.  It is where kids race on the backs of sheep, where teenagers wrestle cows, and where real cowboys are thrown off of bucking bulls.  

         *Here’s the meat (in case you are scrolling) - Those who make it into the Stadium are a step ahead of those who just consume delicacies, move from high to high, or play it safe.  However, even they have not fully experienced the rodeo.   No, they buy a ticket, sit in their seats, watch the action, consume their food, and cheer or heckle from the safety of their row.   They see the action firsthand, but even they are not true rodeo participants. 
Those who truly experience the rodeo are the few who 
dare to enter the Arena.
         My friend Bernie and I are reading Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown.  In her books, Brene' talks about the courage and vulnerability that it takes to step into the Arena, get your ass kicked, and then do it again.  She even says, “If you’re not in the Arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”   Now those of you who are more concerned that I said “ass” twice than about what I am trying to illustrate are probably seat holders.  My friends who are serving orphans in Bolivia are probably giving me an air fist bump and saying “hell yeah” about now.  

         I have watched bull riders get thrown off, stepped on, and kicked in the ribs then stand up and throw their hands up in victory.  I have seen Christians do the same.  They limp off stage for a night, mend their wounds, and come back ready enter the Arena again.

         I think of Katie Davis (Kisses from Katie) serving in Uganda.  I think of fellow adoption moms who have lost heart babies and then gone back to adopt another.  I think of pastors who are beat down by congregations who just want to eat fried twinkies but go back to work on Monday committed to make a difference.  I think of my friend who sold everything so she could serve in Brazil.  I think of the persecuted church in the Middle East.  I think of my friend who dedicated her life to set up tent clinics for those who don’t have access to healthcare around the world.  I think of the wife who hits her knees every night and prays for her husband who does not know Christ while listening to him daily criticize her faith.  I think of my friends who have experienced two heart-wrenching failed adoptions but are back at it because they feel called to care for orphans. THEY are in the Arena. 

         While it is part of their rodeo experience, the Jesus of those who enter the Arena is not defined by highs or delicacies and He is certainly not safe.  Walking with Him occasionally comes with an ass-kicking and yet somehow it is the kind of ass-kicking that makes you stand up, throw your hands in the air, and want to go back in.  That is the power of fully experiencing the Church. 

         To go back to the beginning of my post, that is what I want my kids to learn at Church:  I want them to learn how survive and succeed in the Arena.

Brene' Brown has one more quote worth mentioning and closing with here:

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.”   –Brene Brown

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just An Update on Us

I haven’t updated here in a while. Thankfully we have been free of weighty trials and just busy with the every day tasks of life. Trent and I went for Chinese today and my fortune cookie said this:

Isn’t that the truth? So I haven’t been writing to give testimony because thankfully we have experienced fewer tests. Can I get an Amen?

So test free? Yes. Theme free? Never. When I reflect on the last 10 months, there are 4 common threads that weave through my time:

1. Gratitude. First, I have never been so grateful for normal. What I used to take for granted or even find boring, I am now finding myself praising God for. On top of that, I prayed last spring for a very specific home for our family. Even my realtor was cautious in suggesting that we could find all that I wanted. We have been keeping our eyes out for years and I finally just laid it all before God and asked specifically for what I wanted. Two days later, I randomly met a lady in her yard who told me that her house was going on the market and invited me in to see it. I knew immediately that it was the one. It had everything that I had prayed for and even things that I felt were selfish to mention. We bought it before it was even listed. We are settled in our new place now and every day I thank God for his provision, as it really is the perfect home for our family. I am grateful.

2. This season has been a re-write. I feel like with each passing holiday or event, we are writing new stories over previously missed or painful ones. Instead of spending Thanksgiving in the hospital this year, I had 20 family members in my home. There have been dozens of moments like that over the last 10 months and each has been therapeutic. Heck I even rejoiced the first time I went to a Chipotle that wasn’t across from Texas Children’s. Trent was like, “Are you sure you want to eat THERE?” New memories. New symbols. New stories. Don’t you love a good re-write?

3. We are cherishing every moment. It may feel like I already said that with the first 2 but that is not what I mean. Maggie’s story is not over. Her trials are not over. We have been given a break but how long we will have these moments is unknown. A sweet little one with Maggie’s diagnosis passed last night and another family, with a child like Maggie, was told their 6 year old is suddenly and unexplainably in heart failure and will need a transplant. Maggie had a few weeks this fall where she would wake up with her face swollen and nobody knew why. These little anomalies and the stories of other families are regular reminders that not every day, but every moment with her is a gift.

4. I have been redefining my roles.
My role as a PT has changed. For 16 years I worked as a physical therapist and it was mostly about what fascinated me, what challenged me, where I wanted to work, and whom I wanted to work with. When Maggie was discharged, I quit my loved outpatient sports medicine job and took on the role of pediatric home health PT. Being a PT is much less about what I want and so much more about the ministry that God places before me now. He uniquely equipped me for this role change and I love it.

My role as a pastor’s wife has changed. This has been a hard one and honestly I am still working it out, but it came down to a couple pretty simple truths for me. It is not my job to pursue approval from the church. It is only my job to pursue peace. They may sound the same but they aren’t. Approval is outside of my control, it is incredibly restrictive, it is inauthentic, and frankly it is impossible. Peace comes when I do my best to fulfill my God defined role in an authentic way that is free from the opinion or evaluation of others. My release of the need for approval has also given me great comfort in saying no more. I am loving that too. :)

I am about to redefine my role as a photographer and pull back a little more. I am tired of editing at night while my kids are growing up in the other room. I will still do photography but it will be less and I am excited about being present.

I was in a great conversation with a friend today and she asked me, what in my life is worth fighting for. Of course, that also prompted the thought of what I have I been fighting for that is not worth the time and energy? Maybe that is its own post but I hope it foreshadows where we go from here. Right now, I want to fight for days that reflect my faith, cherished moments, authenticity, peace, and gratitude.

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.  (

“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.