We Miss Out

maxresdefaultFor God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it. (Job 33:14)

We miss out because we’re not attentive to the right things at the right times. We get distracted. Perhaps we haven’t really gotten focused yet at all, at least, not on the right things. We think we know best. We think we know what to expect, including from God. We over-think and over-control, or we over-doubt and over-disconnect. We don’t want to be disappointed, so we try to structure our lives the way we think will keep us the safest…or the most successful or acknowledged or whatever is a priority to us.

All the while, we miss out on God’s encouragement, teaching, admonishment, and truth, because we don’t notice Him. We’re not attentive enough. We don’t know Him well enough.

But we can.

Should I Quit Social Media?

I want to quit Facebook. Can I do that?

My friend’s question was in response to the frustration of scrolling through her news feed and finding vague accusations and threats, gossip, and one-sided claims that blatantly disrespected people.

And…all those posts were by Christians.

Can you quit Facebook? Yes, you can.

Should you?

I don’t know.

Sometimes we feel victimized by social media, and we get frustrated, but what about the positive influences? What about the encouragement we give and receive? What about the support (the healthy kind, not the “I’m going to jump on your bandwagon and say, ‘You go, girl’ when I should actually be telling you, ‘Whoa! Take a breath and calm down.’”)? What about the opportunities to reach out to and catch up with people (again, healthy connections)?

Just like you have choices about who you hang out with on the weekend or who you call when you have a crisis or need an ear to listen, you have choices about social media.

  • You decide how often you check social media.
  • You decide who you connect with.
  • You decide what you look at the most, which determines, to some degree, what floats to the top of your news feed.
  • You decide what to post and how to engage others.

Maybe God is leading you away from social media. And maybe He’s leading you to be more discerning.

Apply some of the same lessons to your faith. You might complain about your church or specific people in it. You might get into inappropriate conversations with people, ask for affirmation when you really need accountability, or work behind the scenes to get support for yourself or against someone you’ve decided has crossed the line. You might be ready to give up on the faith community around you, because all you see are the shortcomings.

Can you quit? Yes, you can.

Should you?

Well…what if you applied some of the same choices available to you on social media? What if you made your connections–in church, your community, and social media–about honoring God instead of walking a tightrope strung across a fire pit? Why walk so close to the edge? Why not work on a secure relationship with God and let Him set the boundaries instead of trying to take control?

He knows what He’s doing. He wants you to trust Him, and that includes looking to Him to make each decision, no matter how large or small, online and in person. Maybe it’s not quite time to quit.

Getting Moms Together (and a Giveaway to help!)

womenAll moms are not the same. Some work outside the home. Some work from home. Some moms are young, and some are…um, a bit more “mature.” Some moms have one child; others have many; moms of multiples have several at once! Some moms parent only girls; some parent only boys. Some are raising biological children; many have grafted additional members into their family through foster care, adoption, and spiritual adoption of kids who wouldn’t have a stable family life without them. Some moms are single parents. Some are raising stepchildren. Some have clusters of children of varying ages because of multiple marriages, later-in-life surprises, or realization that there are more children that need parents than there are parents who are willing to step up to the plate and do the hard work. Some moms have older children who have moved away (or one or more who have moved back), but they’re still moms. Some moms have lost their children, but they’re still moms, too.

Despite all the differences among moms, we share some basic similarities.

We can compare ourselves to others and think we have it harder (or easier) than other moms around us. We can feel isolated and think no one else understands. And while it’s true that no one else leads the exact life we lead, we can support one another through the common needs we have not only as moms but as women.

Look around you. Who needs support and encouragement? What can you do to reach out to others? How do you need support and encouragement? How are you building trust with others, planting and cultivating healthy relationships that stand the tests of time and trials?

Don’t get so busy with everyday life that you don’t do life with others. Even when you’re in the middle of chaos, you can find solace in the relationships you build. Invest in others. That means pouring into others, sharing your experiences, listening, laughing, and crying through moments and seasons of life. It also means allowing others to pour into you, inviting authenticity and accountability. Sharing burdens isn’t just about carrying others’ burdens. It’s about letting others carry your burdens, too.

There are women around you who need you, and you need them.

You might not see how you can fit another thing, event, or person into your life right now, but if you’re not intentionally investing in others’ lives, you’re making it very difficult for others to intentionally invest in your life. So, grab a friend and get some coffee together. Skype a friend while the kids are napping. Go for a long walk and reconnect or get to know someone. Invite a handful of women from your neighborhood or work to get together to connect, study, and share.

If you’re looking for an excellent resource to jump start your connections or to facilitate any size of group gathering, consider the new Where Moms Connect moms’ ministry curriculum. It provides everything you need for groups of any size, and it includes enough lessons for an entire year (18 lessons). You can pick and choose what best fits your group, or you can use every bit of what’s included. Moms get the opportunity to connect with each other, connect to a topic, connect with God, and apply what they’re discussing and learning to everyday life. There’s even an added option for children’s lessons. For women in ministry who need something for moms groups of varying sizes, there is clip-art, publicity, registration resources, and more. For women  wanting to connect with a few friends, Where Moms Connect is simple enough to use for any setting.

And I’m giving away a full Where Moms Connect curriculum kit ($149 value)!  Click the Where Moms Connect graphic below and enter multiple times every day until the giveaway on August 1st!

Logo_WhereMomsConnect_HR

Fit Faith: Lifestyle: Foreign Familiarity

I was in Israel for two weeks, staying in three different hotels. I knew my days would be long, filled with unforeseeable wonders. I was leading a women’s group, so I wanted to be prepared for each day full of questions, needs, and personality differences. That meant spending some time allowing God to ground me, so each morning I got up earlier than most others and went for a walk. I was in the third hotel the longest, nearly a week, so it’s where I got into the most consistent routine. Every day, I’d walk from our kibbutz to the Old City.

There was part of me that still felt like a foreigner. I was definitely an observer. I loved watching people going about their daily lives, opening their shops and carrying fresh breads and fruit to set up for the day. People walked their dogs, cars lined the roads carrying people to work, and children walked to their schools. People greeted me on the street, usually in Hebrew. I had learned enough to be able to respond, but I was fairly certain they knew I was a foreigner just the same.

There was also a part of me that felt I belonged there. Some of it was because I simply felt “at home” in Israel, as if a homing device had at some point been planted inside of me, and while I had been unaware of it all my life, it clicked into place once my feet hit Israeli soil. Part of my belonging was because I had found my way around the area of Jerusalem in which I was staying. It didn’t take me long to find a regular, safe route to walk every day. As I repeated the path, I saw similar faces and places. I felt I was a part of the morning routine and traffic.

I slid into the flow of life on the streets of Jerusalem. While I likely stood out to some, I didn’t see any indication that people looked at me any differently than anyone else out and about in the mornings. Perhaps it’s because people in Israel are so diverse. I could set aside the fact I was walking on holy ground and appreciate that I was walking among diverse people: people who were struggling with finances, relationships, jobs, conflicts, and faith. Just like me or anyone else. We can look around and appreciate diversity while acknowledging similarities. No one person is exactly like another, but we can certainly find commonalities.

As I walked alongside and crossed paths with others, my heart seemed to beat a familiar heartbeat with those around me. I felt connected. I was doing life among familiar strangers. There was a connection despite my foreign citizenship.

The Jewish law had many commands and rules, but Christ ended that law. His purpose was to make the two groups of people become one new people in him and in this way make peace. It was also Christ’s purpose to end the hatred between the two groups, to make them into one body, and to bring them back to God. Christ did all this with his death on the cross. (Ephesians 2:15-16)

Be attentive today. Notice those you see as different from you. Do you draw a firm line in the sand to separate yourself – or the other person?

Erase the line and look for similarities. Even when you don’t have a long-term relationship with someone, every interaction you have can be significant. God intends for you to be intentional about life. Live it alongside him. Live it alongside the people he brings into your life. Whether you’re walking side by side or simply cross paths with someone else, you each have purpose in God. He’s passionately pursuing you…and those who are doing life around you.

This Week’s 7 – Connecting Across Generations

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. As many students are entering college, I’m reflecting on how the life experiences of this age group differ from those who precede them. Each year, Beloit College releases The Mindset List. Instead of reading through the sample list as something interesting or annoying, focusing only on the differences, use it as motivation to reach out and connect with someone of a different age and lifestage than you. Everyone needs encouragement. You just might need to learn a new communication style or assume a fresh perspective in order to connect and impact someone’s life. People are worth the effort!

A few characteristics of college students…

  1. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
  2. Entering college this fall in a country where a quarter of young people under 18 have at least one immigrant parent, they aren’t afraid of immigration…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.
  3. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
  4. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.
  5. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.
  6. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.
  7. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

Send a text, Facebook message or join a Circle to connect with someone this week. Or, invite someone to Starbucks and order a “caramel macchiato” or “venti half-caf vanilla latte,” lingo that’s existed the entire life of those in their late teens. And if you’re right in the middle of the generation who relates to this post? Connect with someone of another generation by writing a note, picking up the phone, or spending the day fishing or shopping…without using technology to enhance the experience. Spend some time connecting. We all long for healthy relationships.

God does speak—sometimes one way and sometimes another— even though people may not understand it. John 33:14

Chain of Choices

I’m not sure I want to know all the things my daughters tried when I was away from home and they were old enough to stay by themselves…but also found creative ways to entertain themselves. Like the time Caitlin wanted to see how many Gummi bears fit into her younger sister, Courtney’s, mouth.

What is it with kids trying to shove as much as possible into their mouths? Ever been challenged to fit as many marshmallows as possible? What about chewing crackers and trying to whistle? My husband once filled his younger brother’s mouth with small wads of paper to pass time in church. His brother had fallen asleep, so his head was back and his mouth open. Way too tempting. The closing song started, and Jeff just about choked.

I’d heard the Gummi bear story several times over the years, but I was curious. I asked Caitlin how many Gummi bears she actually fit in Courtney’s mouth. “I don’t know. She did it herself. I just told her to.”

She did it herself. I just told her to. That’s about like my husband saying he wouldn’t have stuffed Jeff’s mouth with paper if he wouldn’t have been sleeping in church. Or saying we wouldn’t talk with our mouths full if someone didn’t ask us a question while we’re eating!

Even when we know what makes sense or what’s courteous, we make small choices that sound okay – and even fun – at the time but look back and say “what was I thinking?” Many of those things are trivial and not life-changing, but what about the small choices, made one at a time, that end up taking us somewhere we didn’t expect to end up and is definitely not where God would prefer us to be?

The big choices can consume a lot of our time and energy, but we have a lot more small choices to make every day, and they can have just as powerful of an impact.

Put a dozen paper clips in your pocket or purse in the morning. Each time you make a small choice – even if it seems trivial – clip one paper clip to the next even if you don’t see a connection between two choices. How early in the day have you strung all your paper clips together?

Keep the strand of paper clips connected to your purse as a reminder of how the small choices you make string together quickly.

The heart of the wise leads to right, but the heart of a fool leads to wrong. Ecclesiastes 10:2

Summer Camp

I learned a lot at Summer camps…

Face my fears. From the dark corners of the cabin and walks after dark to the risk of rejection from other campers and failure during games. I had a choice: jump in with both feet and perhaps learn something about myself that I didn’t know – or hide in my sleeping bag for a week and die of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Sure, I was embarassed when I missed the volleyball and got stuck on a log in the canoe, but, contrary to my belief at the time, I didn’t die of embarassment. And if someone is now blogging about anything stupid I did at camp…well, at least I’m providing entertaining content for someone!

Make friends. I grew up in a small town, where I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. I didn’t have to work very hard at meeting people. Camp was different. As frightening as it was to consider some people might not like me, it was an adventure to find people who had something in common with me. And since we were all at camp for the week, we at least had one thing in common! Sure, we were different in a lot of ways, too, but small groups of us could easily unite in areas like scheming (harmless) tricks against camp counselors or crushing on one counselor in particular.

Work together. Who knew we’d have to clean our cabins! We thought we’d left the cleaning responsibilities at home, but suddenly, instead of being responsible for our own space, we had to somehow cooperate in a group of 12 girls to keep our cabin clean. Seriously?! Some of my cabin-mates were slobs, and yet, by the end of the week, we (proudly) hung the Clean Cabin Award from our ceiling!

Stay connected. There are always people to miss. I was happy to go to camp, but there were moments I missed my family and wondered what they were doing. I treasured the handful of letters I received from my mom and grandmas (and enjoyed the dollars bills, too!). I tried to send at least one note home as well, although I usually beat the mail home. Once camp was over, it was fun to reconnect with some of my new friends, sharing photos and memories. When contact ends, relationships end.

Test yourself. I was a good swimmer, but I must admit, I didn’t like the camp’s swim test. For me, it wasn’t so much of a test of swimming, but a test of courage and friendship. I might be a dolphin but if my friend was a tadpole, would I hang out with her while swimming? And since I was away from home, would I stick to the basic rules and values from home, or would I let peer pressure get the best of me and cross boundaries? To be honest, a little of both.

There’s something to learn through every experience. I might not remember many details of camp, but I know I learned many lessons – at camp and in every other experience, good and bad. When I “fail,” I can learn. And when I “succeed,” I can learn. If I’m continually seeking where God wants me to be and how I can be obedient to him, I’ll grow. And that’s what learning in faith is all about.

Don’t stop listening to correction, my child, or you will forget what you have already learned. Learn the truth and never reject it. Get wisdom, self-control, and understanding. Proverbs 19:27; 23:23