Posted in Character, Faith

My Valentine’s Day Tribute

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Love is in the air. Stores and restaurants are displaying symbols of love. Don’t forget a card, chocolates, and the heart shaped pizza for that special someone. My own home-based pie company sells special 3” QT (QuiteTiny) pies topped with adorable heart crust cut outs this time of year. (By the time you read this, it will be too late to order some, so I’m not ashamed to advertise.)

I don’t wish to diminish these gifts of affection. Who doesn’t feel good when they give or receive them? I like to be told that I am loved. On the other hand, I believe Valentine’s Day reflects mistaken ideas about true love that pervade our culture. It grieves my sensitive side to see how we have settled for less than love. I have been deeply impacted by love that has been thrown away, by relationships severed by differences of opinion, and by choices motivated by selfishness. I long that others experience more and better than this.

I have this sign posted in my bedroom, so I can see it every day when I rise.

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Forever, for always, and no matter what.

It sums up God’s love for me and my desire for the relationships with my husband, family, and dear friends.

These words express more than warm-fuzzy sentiments. They convey a commitment of true grit, the determination to keep fighting for a relationship, with the highest good of the other person in mind.

Easier to say. Much harder to live.

And yet, there are faithful people all around us who demonstrate true love and seldom receive recognition. I am so grateful for their examples.

~Those who hold a high standard for their marriage, believing that it is possible to reflect Christ’s love for the Church, and work hard together to achieve that goal.

~Those who realize they have nothing in common as a couple now that the kids are gone and determine to start over again with each other.

~Those who care for their loved one struggling with cancer or other debilitating disease, providing the strength of being there day after day.

~Those who face financial hardships and other crises, and support each other with encouragement and kindness instead of accusation and blame.

~Those who set boundaries for unacceptable behaviors but keep the possibility for relationship alive.

~Those who are not threatened by a different way of looking at things, and seek first to understand before being understood.

~Those who place a higher priority on their relationships than on being “right.”

~Those who extend grace to loved ones rather than judgment as they walk in the imperfections of being human.

~To the One who willingly laid down His life to pay the penalty for our sins, in order to restore our broken relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I celebrate you today on this Valentine’s Day.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me with perfect love. Teach me to love You and to love others with Your kind of love. May I not be controlled by my emotions moment by moment. Help me focus on the best interests of others in every situation. Empower me to keep going when it is difficult, and to walk in love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Faith

Take a Stroll Through Memory Lane

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Eighteen years ago this month, my husband and I loaded our five young children into our van and made our first visit to Grandview, Washington. We had been invited to preach at the Assembly of God church and meet with the Board as part of the pastoral selection process. We had sensed for some time that the Lord was transitioning us from our current church to a new location. We had prayed together as a family for a place where we could raise our kids, lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus, and minister to the community. Would Grandview be that place?

Two months later my husband and I loaded up our five young children again, this time with all our earthly possessions. We had been invited to serve as pastors at Grandview Assembly of God. The Lord had indeed called us to Grandview and opened the doors of opportunity to be examples of Jesus Christ. The excitement and expectation were tangible, swelling with every mile like a giant ocean wave.

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Last weekend ended the 18 year chapter of our lives, as we again loaded up our belongings to move to Yakima, Washington, a city 45 miles away. This move feels quite different from the last. Our five kids are grown, and only our youngest daughter lives with us. Two sons and their wives, along with some friends, came to help us relocate. Last time our hearts were filled with anticipation for the new adventure ahead. We dreamed of a growing, thriving church and being actively engaged in people experiencing the love of Jesus throughout the community. Passion and vision surged through our veins. This time there is a wider array of emotions—excitement, expectation, gratitude, disappointment, and a sense of loss and grief.

On one hand, I am thankful to relocate to a place where the Lord has called me to serve as the Executive Director of the local pregnancy center. After two and a half years of commuting almost an hour each way, I am eager to be closer to work and to become more connected with the community. I believe God has plans to expand the influence of this non-profit ministry.

On the other hand, I am sad to say goodbye to the place that has been my world. I raised my family there and was involved in the lives of their friends. Two of my kids met and married their spouses there. My husband and I dedicated ourselves to serve the dear people of our congregation and community. Hundreds of people prayed to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. We were there for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. We worked hand in hand with some very dedicated believers to reach out with the love of Jesus. We enjoyed deep friendships and were together for birthdays, holidays, and just to hang out.

I also acknowledge the heartache of unfulfilled dreams. Like most people in church ministry, we trusted the Lord for a growing, healthy congregation. In our second year there, my husband took on another job (career, really) as a school teacher when it became apparent that church income was unstable. Our family needed a steady income. We were committed to do whatever it took to stay and minister in Grandview. Thus, bi-vocational ministry began. In our congregation, we faced the moral failure of leaders, misunderstanding, betrayal, and false accusations that required outside intervention. In our tenth year, we initiated a major restructuring effort to stave off some signs of decline. It was successful for a few good years. Sadly burnout began to take a toll, and we resigned hoping that new leadership would revitalize the ministry. Less than a year later, the doors were closed. We continued to live three blocks away with the constant, painful reminder of “the death of a dream.” Until last weekend.

Looking back at our move to Grandview, I see a younger, more idealistic version of me. It has been healing to take a stroll through Memory Lane, because I can clearly see the unyielding faithfulness of God. I see Him there in both the good times and the bad times. His love is steadfast. His presence goes before me, follows behind me, and surrounds me. He rejoices over me with singing; He is near when I am brokenhearted. Come what may, His strength carries me; His comfort and joy fill me. In this new season of life and ministry, I trust that God’s Spirit will empower me to thrive.

My prayer for you is that as you take a stroll through Memory Lane, you too can see the Lord actively and intimately involved in your life.

Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2, NLT

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness in my life. As I reflect on where I have been and where I am today, help me see Your loving hand. Guard me from discouragement. Help me to be confident that You equip me with everything I need to do Your will in every stage and season. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

Leadership On the Home Front

She walked into her living room and plopped onto the couch, anxious to put up her feet and find a few moments of peace. It had been a long day of negotiating conflict at work, but she had navigated with skill and grace. Her children, happy to see mommy, climbed on her lap and pelted her with questions. Not exactly what she had hoped for. Her impatience mounted and she snapped, storming into her bedroom.

He had gladly agreed to watch the kids for the weekend so his wife could attend the women’s retreat. Had he known he would be caring for sick, feverish, whining children he may have made a different choice. He loved his family dearly and was committed to do whatever it took to provide for them. Sometimes, though, it seemed easier to succeed on the job. There he was able to rise to the challenges and was well respected by his staff. However, at home he was often mystified by his family’s needs.

Do either of these scenarios seem familiar to you? You may need to switch the genders to better relate. Why do outstanding leaders on the job sometimes struggle leading at home?

As servant leaders we invest so much of ourselves on the job, but do we let our guard down at home? After putting in a full day at work, do we feel justified in “letting it all hang out” in the comfort of our house?

Servant leadership is motivated first and foremost by love. When examining our leadership at home, it’s important to assess how well we love.

  • Do I demonstrate the compassion of Jesus?
  • Do I genuinely care about their welfare?
  • Do I model kindness, respect, and honesty?
  • Is my heart to serve?
  • Do I take an active interest in what’s going on in their lives?
  • Am I able to discern when they feel down without being told?
  • Do I put their best interests above my own?
  • Am I a safe person to bring personal problems to?

Servant leaders are always “on the clock,” especially at home. Our most important responsibility is to love and lead our families well.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of family. Help me to make home my greatest priority. I ask for Your wisdom to love and lead them well. By Your power, may I serve with grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

How to Love Your Crazy Family–A Book Review

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I love books, and God has a way of speaking to me through them. In every area of life—spiritual growth, marriage, parenting, leadership, coaching—I often find the answers or the inspiration I need in the pages of a book. I just finished reading such a book and heartily recommend it to any woman desiring to thrive as she leads her family. It’s called How to Love Your Crazy Family: 52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days by Angela Howard.

Motherhood is a high calling, whether you are a career woman, stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between. The influence of a mother reaches deeply into the lives of her children. And yet, with all the love and best intentions, marriage and family can feel crazy at times.

Angela Howard has discovered powerful truths that she passes on to the reader in a heart warming and down-to-earth way, offering practical inspiration for navigating every kind of crazy you may encounter with the family you love. It all begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you want to love your crazy family, Christ must first be central in your own life. Angela’s writing style is humorous yet convicting, light-hearted yet challenging. Angela goes beyond the “what” and “how” of day-to-day tasks and relationships, and looks at the “why”—the motivation for your attitudes and actions.

Using vignettes of her own heart and home, Angela invites you to view real life examples up close and personal, along with important lessons learned. Each chapter provides encouraging insights that, when put into practice, will take your parenting, marriage, and life beyond ordinary. Angela emphasizes the power of Jesus to transform lives every day and the beauty of extending grace to those you love. The bonus chapter at the end shares Angela’s story and struggles with Bipolar disorder in her own marriage, offering hope through Christ to those walking through family difficulties.

Wherever you are in the marriage or parenting seasons, you will glean timeless wisdom from the pages of How to Love Your Crazy Family.

Find out how to purchase How to Love Your Crazy Family

Learn more about Angela Howard

 

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

When Life Takes a Left Turn

The car was packed and ready to go. I had one more stop to make before heading out of town to a leadership retreat, a gathering I had eagerly anticipated for weeks.

The night before, my daughter had gotten a splinter in her arm. It was a random mishap. She was on her way to worship rehearsal. While maneuvering her wheelchair across the threshold of the church entrance, her arm merely brushed up against the door post. I was able to remove an inch of the splinter before it broke off under the surface of her skin. I scheduled an appointment with our doctor to remove the rest. Once that was taken care of, I would be on my way as planned.

That’s when my plan took a left turn. The doctor’s assistant tried hard to cover concern with an air of professionalism. After examining the depth of the splinter, she declared, “I’m not comfortable conducting this procedure. The splinter is embedded in her muscle and will need to be cut out. Your daughter needs to go to the hospital.”

Leadership is an extension of our lives. Every day there are numerous possibilities for our well thought out plans to take a left turn. One moment we are heading in a certain direction. The next we find ourselves in circumstances leading somewhere we hadn’t planned on going. Left turns require special attention; our responses to them sets the tone for what happens next.

As conflicting emotions whirled inside me, I was acutely aware of my response choices, and that my daughter, family, and medical staff would be influenced by my choice. How would I respond? What kind of influence would I exert?

I could assign blame. It was my daughter’s fault for being careless. Or the person responsible for building maintenance. Or the medical personnel for being incompetent.

I could wallow in self-pity. This happens every time I plan something. How unfair! I am just a helpless victim! Will I ever get to enjoy anything?

I could lash out in anger. If I’m not happy, nobody else is going to be happy! Somebody do something to fix this, and do it now!

Instead I chose to rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV).

In the midst of this left turn experience, God was near. His Spirit rose up within me, giving me courage, strength, and joy.

No matter what happens, I am not a victim. Through Jesus, I will always be victorious. While events may not unfold as I would like, my God is in control. He is never taken by surprise. I trust that He loves me dearly and is actively at work on my behalf and for His glory. What about you?

My daughter looked at me with anxious eyes, and said, “I’m really sorry, Mom. I know you were looking forward to going.” I returned her gaze and replied, “You are so much more important than this retreat. If Jesus wants me to go, I will get there. Let’s walk this out together with Him.”

As we headed to the hospital, we burst into laughter, struck by the absurdity of the situation. We expressed our trust in our loving Father to work His plan through this unexpected event.

The x-ray machine at the hospital could not detect the splinter. Finally the staff located it by ultrasound. After three attempts they removed the culprit–a piece of wood about the size of a toothpick. Six hours after embarking on what was supposed to be a simple task, I delivered my daughter home, her arm mended with super glue and Steri-strips, and her heart touched by God’s loving presence. I eventually left for the retreat, four and a half hours behind schedule, my heart overflowing with gratitude and peace.

The way we respond to the left turns in life is crucial. It sets the stage for how well we lead our families and followers. We bring who are–strengths, weaknesses, and all–to our leadership environments. As leaders we must always remember we follow God’s lead.

Are you following God’s lead? Are you walking with Him? You can trust Him to work out the details when life takes a left turn. Rejoice! The Lord is near!