Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just Braggin'!

February is one of my favorite months.  Although we don't really go 'all out' for Valentine's Day,  Greg and I do like to set aside some alone time to have an adult conversation or two.  And that practice comes highly recommended. :-)  If you have a trusted person who is willing and able to keep your children for a day or so, it can be extremely helpful for the marriage (and for the kids) to take a respite.  Ours are working out to be an average of twice a year, and may last for 24-48 hours.  And it's a blast.  I love being with my husband in a relaxed environment outside of our home and away from everyone we know. 

The weekend before Valentine's Day, we were able to get away to one of our favorite tiny little towns all of 20 miles north of here.  We had so much fun just being together in a complete state of silliness and relaxation.  More than once, I was reminded of how my husband takes care of me.  In fact, he practically forced me to take this little break, which I felt was coming at too busy of a time.  He insisted that we eat at one of my absolute favorites (not his), Tu Pueblo.  It's a locally owned Mexican restaurant that is as authentic as it gets (at least this far north), and their salsa is the best! 

A few days later, Greg was telling me about a phone conversation he had with a girl who is considering marriage.  It amused me...he said to her, "How does he [boyfriend] serve you?"  I can only imagine that question sounding a little absurd to her at that point.  :-)  Then he went on to explain to her that while he was having the conversation with her, he was also emptying the dishwasher for me.  Yes, he had worked hard all day, but emptying the dishwasher had become one of his ways of making my day more manageable.  To him, it was a big deal that her prospective husband not only be respectable and kind, but also someone who treats her well, helps to lift her load, and loves her unselfishly. 

My husband has definitely learned my love language (acts of kindness), and he lives it daily.  I'm spoiled rotten, and I know it.

 Thanks for listening while I brag on my man!  :-)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Holding Loosely...

It's Friday.  TGIF, to say the least!  This week has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion, and it seems that this evening the world is standing still to allow us breathe deeply and savor rest.  Literally, the peacefulness that surrounds me right now is so uncommon that I would be tempted to think it's a dream.  :-) Ahhhh.
My mind is constantly (every few minutes) going to Ryan and wondering just what he is experiencing at every turn of his trip.  It's a pretty big thing for a "little" guy his age, and I keep asking myself if it was the right thing.  The peace in my heart tells me yes. 
On the other hand, this little voice is saying, "How inconsistent you are!  The mom who doesn't allow her son to participate in sleepovers, surf the internet, or have his own cell phone is sending him to a foreign country via eight different airplanes for 12 days!"  Eeek!
But then another voice, one that I recognize for leadership and guidance, says,
"Hold them tightly from the world, but hold them loosely to Me."


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mom Talk

I'm a mom.  I love my kids. I make rules and set boundaries for them.  I sometimes tell them yes, and sometimes tell them no.  And I'm fine with that...even when they make fun of me and call me names.  Mean ones like "paranoid" and "overprotective."  :-)
When we make decisions concerning the four children God has given us, we make them with their best interest at heart.  As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my primary responsibilities as a Proverbs momma is to protect my home, and that protection extends to my children and my husband. 
It is becoming rather apparent that my role as a mom is changing. 
When the kids were younger (both Alli and Kait still qualify), I found myself focusing on protecting their bodies.  As tiny, fragile newborns, I held their backs while they strengthened their neck muscles and gained coordination.  As they began to scoot around, I kept their play area free from harmful objects.  And then, as they took those first steps, it was imperative that doorways be blocked to keep them away from staircases, stoves, and toilets. 
With the passing of weeks, months, and years, toddling turned to running and doorways turned to driveways.  By the time they were old enough to see and sense serious danger for themselves, I began to relax.  But only for a minute.
Suddenly, the weight of my evolving role began to settle upon me...
"Mom - Protector of the Heart"
This one brings me to the present.  It causes me to maintain a state of prayerfulness and carefulness.  It challenges me to stand courageously, and remain strong in principle.  Why? Because I am in a war.  Everything in this culture is working against my role.  The battle is for the hearts of my kids, but the enemy is adept at disguising its intent.  Its lures are cunning and shrewd. It prides itself in taking down even the most charactered.  Working in its favor is the fact that many don't even realize that the perpetrator has slipped through the back door and is meandering through the hallways of their homes.
I used to wonder why my mom seemed to have a back bone of steel.  I secretly wished she would be like other "cool" moms who appeared to be a daughter's best friend.  One of those moms that never asked the tough questions or demanded accountability.
It didn't take more than a decade for me to realize that God gave me a precious gift by giving me a mom who bears the title Protector of the Heart.  It paid off.  And she is my best friend.  :-)
Today I find myself wearing the armor and bearing the weapons.  My role as a protector of the heart is a full time job, with overtime most days.  But it's a task that I have no desire to shirk. I love their hearts too much to be deterred by whimpers of, "...but all the other kids do it!" and questions like, "Wow...your mom really won't let you?" or choruses of , "Seriously, mom..."  
 And someday, when they pick up their armor and brandish their weapons, they'll remember their momma...the woman with her mind made up, and her heart full of love. 
And they will stand - with courage
This is my prayer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A WOW Headline

Typically, I pay little attention to the news flicks on my Yahoo! homepage, but this morning I was pretty astonished to see that a Victoria's Secret lingerie model had decided to give up her position because "my body should be only for my husband, and it's just a sacred thing."  Hello! Now that's not something you see in the news every day...or even every 10 years!
I was intrigued, and had to read the story.  It was enlightening that Kylie Bisutti, who claims to be a Christian, says that after reading the Bible, she has become more convicted about that aspect of her profession.  She doesn't want to be a role model that influences young girls that it's ok to walk around in front of guys wearing lingerie.  Good move, Kylie.  I'm praying that God will continue to guide this girl and that she will remain open to the Light that He gives her.
There are several observations that I glean from this piece:
  • Kylie claims that her "lifelong dream" was to be a VS model.  I have no idea about her family structure, or her background, although it would seem that she grew up Christian.  Bringing this home, what is our responsibility, as parents, to help our children develop dreams that are Christ-centered and God-honoring?  Most of us would quickly agree that a career in modeling leaves room for huge temptation, as Kylie admits in the interview, and maybe we wouldn't consider helping our daughter fulfill dreams of that nature.  But I think that for me personally, it makes me ask myself: What are my signals to my kids about my hopes for their future?  Where is my focus today?  Are their peers, their activities, their influences working with us, not against us, in helping shape their direction and desire? 
  • Kylie was married just before receiving her "wings".  So, as a young unmarried and a newly married woman, she posed for multiple shoots and those photos will forever be available.  Even when she is a grandmother.  I am concerned that my children understand (especially in this age of media advancement) that one bad decision can forever haunt them.  God provides forgiveness, but the embarrassment and humility can follow for years.  I'm really, really glad that social networking wasn't available to me as a pre-teen/teenage girl.  Not that I was a "bad" kid, but I don't even think most kids have the capacity to understand how "forever" something is when it is put out for the whole world to read, see, or hear.  It's one thing to make a complete fool of oneself as an adult who should maybe know better, but kids can really mess up their image before they even understand the word. 
  • Kylie now understands that a marriage is a sacred commitment, and that part of her husband's gift from her is her body.  When other men are gaining sexual enjoyment from what is supposed to be reserved for one's husband, the gift kinda loses its value.  How can we better protect our children from the sexualization of our society?  As a mom who is now trying to outfit a 7-year-old daughter with a modest, girlie wardrobe, I'm stunned at the junk I have to sift through at the average department store in the size 7-16 section.  And I'm worried for the future - sewing machines and I don't have a great working relationship!  Beyond that, I want to make sure that my children are learning young to protect their minds, their eyes, their hearts, and their bodies for the one with whom they will spend the rest of their lives. We are trying to be proactive with our children by giving them facts before they learn from others, not shying away from the tough subjects, keeping open communication (if my kid isn't talking...there's a reason), and not assuming anything. 
I desperately wish that there would be a revolution in this generation of twenty-somethings that would wield a positive influence for righteousness and morality.  Unfortunately, most people under the age of 50 have no foundation upon which to even begin to build a charactered life.  That makes me sad, and yes, less hopeful for our country's future. and I have an opportunity to change our little corner of the world by, day in and day out, doing what it takes to raise more people who will catch and continue our vision.  The Light of the World, shining through us, can penetrate the darkness that surrounds us.  Just think of what He can do with a few families that, as a unit, are committed to being pure and clean!
And I think I'll add Victoria's Secret models to my prayer list...obviously, God IS at work, even there. :-)
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

35 Years

Don, Ruth, and Stephanie
Recently, our family celebrated a huge milestone.  January 30th, 2012, marked the 35th anniversary of my dad becoming pastor at the Lima Pilgrim Holiness Church.  Although I wasn't with them on that first Sunday morning in January of 1977 (it was something like -28 degrees, so they left me with my grandparents in Cincinnati), my life has been shaped and impacted by the acceptance of that little congregation and the subsequent members and friends who have associated themselves with our ministry. 
Each pastor has his own personality and style of leadership, and God has varying designs for pastors and churches regarding time lines for service.  A 35+ year ministry isn't the norm, in fact, it is a rare occurrence.  Some would argue that a pastor loses his effectiveness after a much shorter period of time.  Others would say that a person must either be a pushover or a dictator to be able to maintain working relationships with a congregation and a church board for 35 years. 
On the other hand, I love to be able to share with people the secret to this lengthy partnership, and it involves three entities:  a pastor and his wife who are dedicated, submissive, teachable, selfless, and committed; a church board/membership who are supportive, forgiving, dedicated, teachable, and solid; a God in Heaven who brings people together, binds their hearts toward a common cause, and gives victory over, and over, and over again! 
I wouldn't trade my heritage for anything in the world.  I've seen both the joys and the sorrows that come along with a life spent in ministry, and the value that I have gained from them is of immeasurable worth to me. 
And, wow, does 35 years ever do a number on us!

Don, Ruth, and Stephanie
-January 29, 2012-

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's February...

is anyone else having a hard time believing that? As we passed from December 2011 to January 2012, I felt a little defeated because I hadn't really spent any time reflecting over the previous year, or setting some goals for the new one. I gave myself a pass, since November and December were as crazy as any two months have ever been, and promised myself that things (laundry room, closets, garage, schedule, priorities, quiet time) would all be in order by the end of January. After all, January is a slow month, right?   Whatever. Now it's on to a new month with new challenges, new demands, new memories, new commitments, new growth.
This month we will see our son get on a plane (eight of them, to be exact) and spend 12 days in places that do not have phone or internet access.  He'll be experiencing things that, in my 35 years, I have never experienced.  I'm nervously excited for him, and I'm expecting God to use this opportunity to impact him in ways that his life here in the States could not.  I want him to see not only how blessed he is, but I want him to develop a burden and see the tremendous need for people who will be willing to spend their lives unselfishly investing in the Kingdom. Anyway, more on that later. 
February also means a deadline for one of my responsibilities, our school yearbook.  This year, it is just one student and myself doing the 48 page book, and so it is requiring a little more creativity and effort on our part.  It's actually a fun little project, and all online, which is pretty cool.  But...making myself carve out the time to do the work...not so cool.  If you see a zombie-like woman with blood shot eyes and a faraway look roaming around town toward the end of the month, just grab her hand and lead her home.  It'll probably be me, having forgotten whether I was coming or going. 
But before all of that, we get to experience Spirit Week!  Next week will find our school in crazy mode, and boy, do we ever have fun!  Marea and I decided that we should put a piece of caution tape across the entry door with some kind of disclaimer.  We have a tendency to scare UPS, 7 UP, fire and health inspectors, and whoever else might decide to visit during Spirit Week!  
I'll leave you with a fun pic from a recent project that I will be sharing later -

With three of my favorite ladies -  Spring 2006