The Germiest and Messiest Places

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There we were in one of the germiest, grimiest places to be-a public restroom. The three of us, heads huddled together, looked down into the bowl of the toilet. I could see it. In my attempts to protect my children from the germy seat with layers of toilet paper, my favorite earring had slipped from my ear and splashed into the “pool of germs.”  Fortunately, it had not gone down into the abyss but instead lay sparkling, mocking me from the depths of the “clear” water.

Ummm…. now what? Should I stick my hand in the water and get it? NO!! No, I could not bring myself to do it. Maybe I could fish it out with something but then I realized my purse was outside with a friend. Deciding I really needed to have my purse, if not for some gadget at least for some comfort, I sent my oldest daughter to get it for me.

As I waited, I opened the door of the stall. I felt a little loss, needed some sympathy, and possibly some help from my fellow bathroom compadres. And on a more practical level, I wanted to make sure no one  flushed the toilet. Then all hope would be gone.

I tried to make eye contact with the women who came through the door. I stated my plight loudly enough for most to hear. Some women ignored me but many women curiously andwith empathetically peeked into the bowl, shaking their heads as they left, and agreeing it was a bad situation.

And then there was Linda. Oh, Linda!

Linda was different. She heard my appeal for help. She listened to my situation and decided to do something about it.  Without giving it much thought, Linda rolled up her sleeve and heroically reached deep into the toilet waters retrieving my earring. She carried it over to the sink and scrubbed her hands and scrubbed my earring. Then she carefully dried my earring and handed it to me with care and the instructions to CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY sanitize my earring before I wore it again. (That will NOT be a problem, Linda! I promise!) I thanked her over and over again but she just smiled and said it was really no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to Linda BUT it was big deal to me!

You know, I cannot help but think of what it would be like if we were all a little more like Linda. I am not saying we need to stick our bare hands into germy public toilet bowls. (Although, carrying plastic dish gloves in our purses may come in handy one day.)  What I am saying is this, what if we went along our schedules and agendas with the readiness to be interrupted? What if we tuned our hearing and focused our sight on the cries for help from people around us? What would it look like to join people in their messiness?

There are a lot of people who are stuck in messy and unhealthy situations. We often worry we don’t have what it takes to help and so we ignore or walk on by. While we cannot pull people out of their situations or fix things for them, we can come around them and let them know they are not alone.  We can care for them by providing a listening ear, a smiling face, a hand on the shoulder. We can join them in their messiness by not judging them and “wash” them over with prayer, friendship and love. And then we can “wrap” them in a big hug.

Most of all, we can help people find resources, hope and the One who defeated death. After death has been defeated, is there anything Jesus can’t do? Remember, Jesus met people in the messiest places, surrounded by the germiest people and He was their hope and new life. When we come before Him with our messes or better yet, when we come before Him together with our messes, we can expect that Jesus has the power to save, to rescue, and make ways for people when there seems to be no other ways possible.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in His ways and with His Spirit upon us we are called to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the slight to the blind, and set those who are oppressed free. (Luke 4:18-19) Most of all we are called to have faith and LOVE! (1 John 3:23-24) I think love starts with listening and looking for those in need.

So Linda, wherever you are, THANK YOU AGAIN! Thank you so much for your kindness.

And thank you Jesus, for allowing me these unusual, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations I often find myself in. What I learn from these “opportunities,” I hope will always be for your glory and your Kingdom work. ❤

PS Please note that this picture is a reenactment in a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized toilet. I wish I had snapped a picture during the unfortuante event but it was the last thing on my mind. LOL

Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti-The Podcast

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Photo Credit: MOPS International

I am so excited and honored to have one of my talks turned into a podcast! I gave this talk during MOPS International’s Coach training in Milwaukee last fall. The whole experience was humbling and surreal. I praise God for leading me out of my comfort zone and stepping into new things for His glory. I thank MOPS International for believing in me and allowing me to share my heart. I hope you will listen, be blessed and be encouraged. If you would like to know more about MOPS International and what they do, I would love to talk with you.

(Google Play link to the podcast below. It is about 12 minutes long.)

https://play.google.com/music/m/D4xz4cy52fqhn2d3gfdnv76c2im?t=Throw_Kindness_Around_Like_Confetti-Connections_Podcast 

“When Shanna woke up on her 38th birthday, she had a to-do list that didn’t excite her much. So she threw it out and made another list full of kind things she wanted to do that day. With her new list and a new attitude, she spread kindness around like confetti. All year long, we should strive to walk in grace and do good works and love each other in the name of Jesus.”

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Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher

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I love a good mystery! But what makes a mystery so great? Trying to piece together the clues? Testing theories against logical thinking? Or is it thinking about the possibilities of impossible things?
 
Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher are two of my favorite fictional heroines.They both share a keen perspective, ask the right questions, make accurate deductions, and find themselves in adventurous (and somewhat dangerous) situations. All the while they meet the most interesting of characters, solve the case, and seem to enjoy every minute of it. (Or at least the majority of the minutes, when their lives are not in danger…)
 
If we think about it, don’t we all have a little bit of Nancy and Jessica in us? Thrown into the great mystery of life? Trying to figure out the possibilities in impossible situations? Making deductions with what we know and moving forward testing our theories? Some of us trying to get out of dangerous situations? Crossing paths with some of the most interesting people and always, always learning something new?
 
I will never figure out all the mysteries of life (not while I’m here on earth) but I may be able to solve a small “case” here and there. I can get to know the people I meet and piece together clues to love and serve them better. I can ask questions and make deductions based on what I understand to be The Truth. I can marvel at scientific discoveries and wonder about vastness of God’s creation. I can put myself out there, in the middle of messes, take risks and chances, and embrace the places I find myself in.
I can do all of this because I have peace and confidence. Peace given to me by the One who has all the answers, who has solved all the mysteries, and who has created all things. Confidence in my relationship with Jesus. In this, I find safety and freedom to wander, to wonder, and securely step out and into what the Lord is calling me to do. So take hold of wonder, observe, question, search, dream, move forward in peace, and learn something new. Mystery and adventure awaits! 

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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Here’s to 2017….

2017

A Wrinkled Heart

I was in eighth-grade and one of the first to arrive at the door of my next class. The hallway was dimly lit and quiet compared to the rest of the school. The linoleum checkered-floor shined from the previous night’s cleaning. A group of popular girls gathered next to me, one by one they joined the gaggle of giggling and whispering and formed a small circle of exclusion. I was an outsider. I did not belong.

I do not remember what the class was about, how long it lasted or if any of my friends were in the room with me. I remember waiting in line to exit the room and then stepping into the hallway. One of the popular girls was waiting right outside of the door, she stopped me and looked me straight in the face.

“You have a horrible laugh and smile. I do not like it,” she said with a mean smirk. Then she went bouncing away down the hallway to join her snickering friends.

Shocked, stunned, and confused, I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the scene. I felt so alone. The hallway was a blur through my tears. I do not remember the details of the rest of the day but those words stuck with me for many years after.

Even twenty-something years later, I can still remember how those words felt as they passed through my ears and penetrated into my heart. The sting has long disappeared and been relieved by others’s kind words and actions. Years of growing in faith, wisdom, and self-confidence has made the comment irrelevant and a bit silly now. Just ONE mean girl’s opinion. But a wrinkle in my heart forever remains from the experience. And sadly, I am sure there have been many times I have put wrinkles in other people’s hearts by my unkind words and actions.

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My girls are at an age when friendships are starting to get more complex. They are learning how to navigate the broad spectrum of personalities, feelings and emotions that comes with relationships. I have found myself thinking back to my school years and the opportunity I have to share some of my experiences and bring a little wisdom from a perspective gained over the years.

In teaching my children about friendships and the importance of kindness, I came across this wonderful idea. It is hands-on, engaging and helped to open a new dialogue with my children. It is a great visual for adults too.

For this activity, you will need is a piece of paper (any color or size will do) and a pair of scissors. Cut the paper into a heart.

Have your children feel their own heart and explain that everyone starts with a heart as nice and smooth as the paper one. Discuss how words and actions can make others feel good or hurt other’s hearts and feelings. I shared a few examples of times when words and actions have made me feel good or bad.

I asked my children to give me examples of UNKIND words and actions they may have heard or someone has said to them. With each example, I folded part of the heart until the heart was completely folded. Then, I asked my children to give me examples of KIND words and actions. With each example, I unfolded the heart until it lay flat and wrinkled. I asked them what they thought of the wrinkled heart. We discussed how important it is to think before we speak because apologies can help to make the hurt better but the hurt sometimes never disappears. It becomes a wrinkle in their heart.

We were just about to move on to another activity when my daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, I think ___________’s heart is very hurt and wrinkled because she told me other kids don’t like her and say mean things to her. That makes me sad.” This led into a whole other discussion on how we can be good friends and come alongside each other. The activity was time worth spending. It got us all thinking and talking.

There are many great books written about feelings, emotions and the importance of being kind. Here are a few of my favorites that would go wonderfully with this heart activity. (They would make a great Christmas gifts too.)

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chrysanthemum

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My experience in junior high was not for nothing. Over the years, it has been a reminder to me of how powerful words can be and to think before you speak. So very often I need this reminder…..

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Where Is the Love?

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Where is the love? Where is the grace?

Two years ago, I helped manage a book signing line for a well-known and very popular Christian author at a leadership conference. This author had collected a large following of “fangirls” who started lining up for her meet and greet about two hours in advance of her arrival time.

As the author walked to her meet and greet spot and picked up her Sharpie markers, women went C-R-A-Z-Y. The best way I can describe the scene was something similar to the Beatles arriving in the 60s or a scene from a 1990s New Kids on the Block concert. There was pushing and shoving and squealing. There may have been crying and fainting (okay, maybe not fainting, but you get the point….)

As the line moved, I tried to keep up with the book purchases but I was mesmerized by the women and their praises, compliments, and stories of how their lives were changed by the author and reading her books. You might have thought Jesus Christ himself was standing there. (And when we get to heaven we better have way MORE enthusiasm, praises, and compliments of how our lives were changed because of OUR Lord Jesus…just saying.)

With every woman, the author was gracious and welcoming and smiley…very smiley. I wondered if her cheeks hurt from all the smiling and I wondered what was going through her mind as she listened and listened. Was she tired? Did you she need a Starbucks? Did she want to go back to her hotel room and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls? Did she think this was a lot to do about nothing? Did she hope these women could see her as a just another woman trying to walk out her faith and live her life?

When the time came for this beloved author to leave, women still stood filed in line with anxious faces and praying for a miracle to meet their word-wielding hero. Women had to be turned away. Sad, disappointed women reluctantly left the line sulky and teary-eyed with their unsigned books clutched in their hand. I packed up the unpurchased books, tried to process all that had happened, all that I witnessed, and all I could think of was “for the love.”

Fast forward to this week, the same author, and her fans. Things are different. Some of the women who have loved, adored and been devoted to this author, are now crucifying her for comments and HER opinions published in recent articles. These women (and some men) are questioning her faith, her integrity, her intentions, and her abilities as a Christian leader.

Let me make sure we get this straight. These women and men are not Muslims, Jews, or atheists they are Christians against other Christians. Comments have been flying through cyber space and landing hotly in notification boxes. Our very own sisters and brothers taken up in arms against each other. If you think the world is not watching, you are wrong. If you think the Devil is not having a hay day, kicking back with a martini, legs stretched out, smiling as he is watching this situation turn into a train-wreck like a bad reality TV show….you are wrong!

While I fully believe there needs to be accountability and responsibility if you are in a place of leadership, and especially if you have been entrusted with a very large sphere of influence, I also believe that there are right and wrong ways to go about disagreeing. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions. I believe we are all on a journey of faith and it is healthy to wrestle with God and each other over questions of faith. I believe those in leadership should have mentors and advisers to talk things out and pray through tough issues.

Disagreements are going to happen BUT there is a proper place and certain time to work them out. Public arenas with millions of eyes watching and ears listening lead to greater separation and move us further away from the unity God designed for His people. People who are not Christians (or even Christians that have stepped away from their faith) are watching and listening. And some Christians are on holy crusades of righteousness using Pharisaical phrases and speech, throwing darts and fiery opinions out from behind the safety of a computer screen.

All the while, the world is rotting away. People are starving from hunger. Some are thirsty from lack of clean water. There are prisoners of addiction and self-sabotaging ways.  Lost and lonely people have been wandering for far too long. People are without hope and we have a gift to share. If our arguments, our very public arguments are distracting people and drawing attention to ourselves instead of drawing attention to the One, the gospel, the only One who can bring satisfaction, light, life,  freedom, and peace, then shame on us!

I can only imagine what it might feel like to be the author this week. The real live person behind the interviews and articles. A human who claims to love Jesus and others and has shown it through many good works, written words and the thoughts she has shared.  Keep her in your prayers!

Let this is also be a reminder why we must not put each other on pedestals and remember people are just that….people, imperfect people. As God extends His grace to us, we must extend grace to others especially our sisters and brothers. That includes grace in our words, our social media postings, and even in our thoughts. It also means addressing disagreements in a Biblical way.

There is enough chatter and noise in the world. In fact, I am adding more to it by writing this blog post. I would like to encourage you, if you are a follower of Jesus, to be wise to distractions and splits, consider using some self-control with your opinions, and immediately run to Jesus in prayer and read your Bible. In the meantime, I am going to shut my mouth and go put my words into action. Pray, love well and live faithfully!

(If you are still reading….enjoy this video…think about the words… be inspired….and keep praying and living out your faith. )