Monday, December 28, 2015

A Mouthful for Ministry

I’ve found over the years that I have a disguised advantage that many of my Christian friends don’t have, though it’s taken a long time to train myself not to hide it, because being open about this sort of thing means allowing people the opportunity to judge me-many times with the same measuring stick I use to sift through my own peers. 

I’ve lived on both sides of “ the track”.  It’s this track, or line, as I like to better call it that often causes people to triumph, or to fail; to be confident, or hopeless. This line tells one little boy not to try out for basketball and another that he’ll be the star player. It might even contribute to your social class or income level. Are you familiar with this line?


I’m a Christian. Clearly. It doesn’t get more black and white. I’m head over heels for Jesus Christ. Likewise, I’m blatantly pro-life. There’s no reasoning that could convince me otherwise. I also believe in traditional family values. My heart bleeds God, husband, kids. I’m conservative. I believe women should save themselves for marriage. I believe sex is an amazing tool that God gave us to connect physically, emotionally and spiritually with our covenant partner. I also believe there are detrimental effects of abusing sex, but that’s for another post. I strongly believe women should put their household before ministry. In fact, I find it one of my strongest passions to highlight that in my life ministry. I believe in the tithe and the benefit of it on earth and in heaven. I’m pretty simple, right?


People either love me, or hate me based on my beliefs, but I can usually fit in just right with the usual church crowd. We share a lot of those beliefs in common, but telling a new Christian friend where I’ve come from or who my parents were, is kind of like throwing a stick into a bike wheel’s spokes… while I’m riding that rapidly-moving bike down a steep hill.
“Wait, what? Your mom was a stripper?” “But I thought you were oober conservative. I thought you frowned upon sex before marriage. Your childhood Thanksgiving memories were gathering around the table in the basement and passing around joints before feasting? I thought you were the spokesperson for abstaining from drugs and the very appearance of evil. I thought you were a stickler for eating at the table as a family. I thought you were THEE over protective mom of our group; ‘Mrs. Safety Police’. How could you possibly have slept in your car or lived with strangers?”


Imagine watching that thought process on someone’s face! It’s kind of funny, but when it’s happening, it’s downright frightening! Over the past almost 10 years, I’ve grown really comfortable with my circle of friends. My people know me. They know where I come from, but they know who I am now and what to expect from me. Lately though, I’ve been introduced to so many new faces. All of these people come from different churches, different backgrounds and have their own take on scripture, so I’m overwhelmed with this weird type of culture shock almost and I’ve found myself drawing back from talking about my own life and my own past, or as I call it "B.C." - Before Christ - out of fear of rejection! And so, that’s my disadvantage, while we’re here. If my new friend is still standing there after I get myself off the ground, dust my clothes off, and pull the stick out of my bike tire, I’m thankful, but I’m seeing that too many people are using that measuring stick I mentioned earlier against people’s history to determine their worth instead of judging their heart despite any history and giving them an opportunity and a message for hope.

But, what threatens my relationship with fellow believers in new circles, proves a great advantage to a lost and dying world, and that is the reminder that I so recently needed.

Here I am now. I’ve crossed this line. When I accepted Jesus, I hardly noticed, but during that march with Him I took on His thinking, and as I did, I dropped my own poor choices; the choices I had been watching and had been trained to make since birth. I dropped the idea that I would never make it. I forgot the messages that had been drilled into my head throughout childhood: “There’s them, and there’s me. WE never make it through high school. WE never get through college. WE can’t hold a GOOD job. WE don’t keep nice houses. WE settle. WE take who we can get. We’re not worth it. Welfare will back us up. Smoke another bowl. It’ll all be alright.” I know what they’re thinking. I didn’t even know then how broken I was. I remember dreaming as a kid or even a teenager as I passed by nice houses, or seeing a doctor and looking at his family picture on the office wall and wondering what their lives were like. I remember “knowing” I could never live like them, "knowing" I was destined for failure, or barely getting by at the least. I was born into generations of food stamps, high school dropouts and teen pregnancies. We do what we see. I didn’t decide consciously to repeat that, but I sure didn’t reach for the stars either. I didn’t dare reach. How could we be any different?


I lived it and then I met Jesus. The real, Living, Loving Jesus and He saved my life long ago. I don’t speak out against smoking weed because I think I’m better than the pothead next door. I can say that with confidence because I WAS the pothead next door. I was born to potheads; sometimes a crackhead; a partying teen. If there is a low, if there is someone to look down upon, I was it! It went on for generations and I, myself took on many of those bad habits at my own fault. It’s scary to share my heritage and my past. Even though my present life speaks nothing about it, it’s scary to open the book and consider the consequences of allowing friends, acquaintances and even strangers the option to their own response, whatever it may be, because there are so many different scenarios of outcome.

But staying quiet means shadowing the work that God has done in my life and drawing an ever bolder black line between US and THEM. “We’re free from poverty. They’re not. We’re free from addiction. They’re not.” The first time someone associated me with the opposite side of that line, I sort of got a smirk on my face. "I've never been a them!" I thought to myself, but someone had now characterized me! My emotion was quickly turned to rage, followed by panic. How could I convince that person that there was no difference between us? My life is a testimony to the lie in that line. I HAVE to talk about Jesus. I have to talk about the importance of training up my children and serving my family. He's who changed me. Him and these life lessons are what saved my life and gave us a solid foundation, but I have to talk about being real, too. That means talking about my parents, talking about the drugs, shelters, moving around; all of it, because people have to know that we’re people. Real people. Not just perfect people with unachievable lives. I don't want to lose my ease. I don't want to forget how to be real in front of people. I'm all for professionalism when it's called for, but the world needs real in the church of all places, not a fake smile. There is a medium. I'd rather wear my faults on my sleeve and let my victories train those behind me than cover my failures in a tight neck and perfect speech to keep up my image, and cause people to think they don't measure up. After all, we're all the same. There is no us and them. It's only a matter of believing in God, believing in yourself and reaching. I’ll burn a million bridges with so called Christians to reach the heart of one person who dares to dream AND reach. And I’ll put a new stick in my bike tire spokes again and again if it takes that to prove that Jesus is the hope to every shortcoming, every generational curse and every sad story-especially in my life.


Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sharing is Caring

Am I the only one who thought that housekeeping would get easier as my kids got older? I know, I know, hilarious, because I’m learning quickly that the older everyone gets, the harder it is to maintain this house. I'm sorry to break it to you ladies, but for those of you like me, who long for the day when our children will brush their own hair without instruction... you might soon find out that the transition into independence isn't all you've imagined it to be.

Once upon a time, I had 2 babies under one roof. I’m just going to skip right to there because looking back, being a family of 3 was the easiest part of my life, so let’s talk about being a young family of 4. We had two babes needing to eat 3-5 times a day, one throwing toys around the house and requesting book reading every 20 minutes, and the other pooping and eating, sometimes simultaneously every 2-3 hours! The house was a wreck. No one tells you about that part when you’re planning your family. Fast forward to when my oldest goes to school-A sigh of relief when I have one less kid to pick up after for about 7 hours, not to mention a huge window of opportunity to think to myself without constant toddler conversations. Of course, there’s the transporting part I had to deal with in exchange. When school started, I had to adjust baby number two’s sleeping and eating schedule to allow for the 30 minutes it took to get her ready, drive to and WAIT at the elementary school behind a line of 45 cars also waiting to pick up their kids, before finally going home. It’s a hard knock life for those 2-3 years. Once the second started school though… BLISS!!! Unless you’re me and added one more baby just before that. Repeat that last life cycle for another 4 years.

It’s easy to imagine why I might have convinced myself that things will get easier as time goes on. I’m finally approaching a whole new time period as my babiest baby, Manny is 3 and a half and can get his own socks and shoes on, and run to the car as soon as he sees me grab my purse. The down side to that is that I can rarely leave the house without him, or without a screaming fit following me that I have to bribe someone else to handle in my absence. Other than that, though, BLISS!!! Exhale.

Scratch that, because when I carelessly begged and pleaded with God over a 2 year period to bless us with a house almost 4 years ago, I kind of told Him that the house wouldn’t only be for me. I told God I would use it for His Glory. “I would open the doors when someone needed help. I mean, come on, God! This is a win/win! Gimme a house!” I didn’t really think much about those words when I said them, but apparently God did because since we’ve bought the house in early 2012, we have had 12 different people live with us at different times. We’ve shared the house with others more than had the house to ourselves since we bought. Take my advice: Watch what you say when you talk to God. He will take you at your Word.

Of course, right now- just at the brink of the bliss, I have two extra people in the house, but not just normal people.. TEENAGERS. Some days, believe it or not, we think back to when we were a family of 4 in an apartment building and reminisce of how much easier things were. Yes, these teenagers can tie their own shoes, wipe their own butts, buckle their seat belts, make their dinner plates, and even cook their own food sometimes, but they definitely pull time and energy from me daily. Growing up means getting involved in things outside of home. Two trips to an elementary school became 4 trips to 2 different schools. One trip to church turned into 2 trips when the teens volunteer early. Add in work transportation, shopping, friend’s houses- basically I live in my van now. Then there’s the planning. They want to get a job? That means you’re hauling them around for applications, sitting down to fill it out, practicing interview questions, setting up bank accounts, discussing spending, all the while questioning friend choices, encouraging, talking, talking… There’s just so much more talking going on. My attention is being summoned literally sun up til sun down.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up

Truth is, when I’m not talking to these kids, I’m talking about them! There’s so much happening, here! Kids are getting licenses, permits, bank accounts, jobs, first paychecks, diplomas, first cars, signing up for college- the list goes on and on. I am so thankful to see these lives transform from dependent to independent. More-so because I didn’t do things this way when I was growing up. Everything in my life was backwards. I get to have a front row seat to watch these kids run their race on their own under much better circumstances. It’s just as rewarding as it is tiresome.

None-the-less, I’m realizing quickly that if I want to be successful in every area, even with the added responsibility, I’m going to have to learn to properly delegate some responsibility as much as I delegate my time to each person.

There are a million and one ways to organize a system of responsibilities, but all I needed was one way that works with this household. When it comes to adopting new habits, I always look to someone I know who’s doing it right.The world has a way of bullying us into thinking that admitting our ignorance is a negative. Don’t fall into the trap! It’s an honorable thing to recognize where we need help or direction, and to find someone to sit under and learn from. Copying uprightness is never a bad thing.

Titus 2:3-5   3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Thankfully, I have a trustworthy older woman to urge me to love my husband and children, and to teach me how to be busy at home. She doesn’t come over and point out my flaws, but she makes herself available and approachable for me to go to her for direction. I’m customizing and incorporating those things I’ve learned from her into my new plan here at home. Not everything works for every family, but I’ll be trying this on for size and making adjustments as hiccups arise.

For starters, I'm going to be focusing on ensuring that chores are being done in the same manner that they would be if I were doing it myself. To do that, I made cards that list the things that need to be done in each room. For instance, Crissy will be doing dishes twice a week-Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the calendar, the purple lines at the top of every Tuesday and Thursday box indicate her dish days. (Wednesday and Friday have green lines at the top of each box, indicating Kike's dish days.) Crissy knows based on the "dishes" card that not only do the dishes have to be washed and put away, but that job also includes wiping down all the counters, stove top, and cleaning the windows and sink and taking out the trash. Clean bedrooms are mandatory for everyone all the time, but I did write out what I expected to be maintained in the bedrooms. Laundry is scheduled ahead of time and indicated on the calendar with an L. Each person(s) has their own color across the board. So, the blue L means Myah and Natalie will be heading down to do their laundry on Tuesdays. (It's a brand new day, people.) Again, I don't know how well this will work for us yet, but I'm hoping that by sharing responsibility, I will be able to free up enough time to put more effort into making sure the girls are learning to clean effectively.

Until next time, feel free to pray for me! I have a couple grumps running around here. (Weird, everyone else isn't as excited as I am about this new process. If you don't hear from me in too long, send the police and question the kids.) ;)

How do you delegate responsibility in your home? I’m always looking for new ideas. Share them! I’ll be doing a drawing for a gift card from the names of those who are able to share!

Happy Cleaning,
Tina



*** SPECIAL UPDATE***

How many of you are like me and tend to be full of good ideas for chore charts, or general household order, but have a hard time sticking with them after about the second week? I guess I put a little more effort into putting these plans together than I do carrying them out. Look back to one of my earlier posts titled, "Dishin' out Discipline" to learn about another cool idea I had tried to incorporate concerning behavior, but was truthfully little short lived.

 Honestly, I'm so used to not following through, that I guessed I would have fallen off the wagon by now, but I surprisingly this time, (drum roll please.....) I am pleased to report that this chore schedule is STILL being followed in my house! Praise God

Yesterday was our 7th wedding anniversary. I left home just before 7am for work, went straight from work at 4:45 to dinner with my husband, and after dinner went to grab the teenagers from their jobs. I didn't get my shoes off until 9:30pm. Before this new delegation process, I would have walked in to find a long list of chores to try to accomplish before work the next morning, but this time, I found the floors vacuumed, toilets clean and dishes done!  

If you're anything like me, it's likely you are currently stuck somewhere in the cycle between brainstorming a new routine and sulking in frustration when it didn't stick, but I'm here to encourage you. There is a golden process that will work for you! 

With that being said, I wanted to go ahead at this time and draw a name for the give-away! I am thankful to be able to use this blog as an avenue to get some advice out on these issues, but to tell you the truth, I have way more questions than answers. I always enjoy discussing my point of view, but i covet your knowledge and wisdom even more. Thank you for taking the time to respond in the comments. I love hearing from you! 

 The winner of the gift card drawing goes to Amy Roudenbush! Please message me with your choice of the following gift cards options and your mailing address and I'll get it out to you quickly! 

Barnes & Nobles
Pizza Hut
Bath & Body Works
Subway

Stay Tuned. I'll be sharing soon about something that's been really pressing on my heart.

Until then,
Tina

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Hearty Helping for the Husband

So, I know this is hard to believe because I'm such a lovable, agreeable, awesome person and all, but people like to poke fun at me when they see how precise I am about my job at home. I know, unbelievable, right?! Not that I necessarily accomplish my precise order of operations, because I come up short daily. Let me elaborate.

Last year, my little brother got married, so naturally, I searched Pinterest for cute wife-themed wedding gifts for my new sister-in-law. The search had somehow lead me to an actual textbook lesson from the 1950’s called, “The Good Wife’s Guide.” Heard of it? It was actually used as curriculum content in a home-ec class for near graduate school girls. I don’t know much about the 1950’s, but I always considered myself a 50’s girl because my views are most fitting for that time period. I just miss the days when having a large family was something to be proud of, when only having one parent working out of the home was still respected; when the neighbors looked after each other's kids and dinner was usually always homemade and served precisely at 5:00. Ah, the good old days... about 37 years before I was born. Anyway, back to my Pinterest find: Along with the discovery of the textbook lesson, I found a lot of negative commentary. I can't help but think that this negative criticism has a lot to do with the lack of respect for the love and servitude between a husband and wife, and even for the family unit in today's world. So, with the valentine season just passing us by, I thought it would be nice time to put out a second opinion and defend my less than popular support of the text. Brace yourselves. The following are excerpts from the lesson and my responses to them.

“Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.”
“Be a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.”

My husband and I were just talking about a trusted employee he had hired in the past who worked under him for several years. The employee was a female and we recently learned that she had been stealing from the company right under his nose for a long time! When he found out, he felt totally betrayed. For a second, as he told me the news, it almost seemed like he was going to break down. He told me that this employee was his closest and most trusted work-mate. To tell you the truth, I was a little jealous at how hard it hit him. Who was this lady to get him so riled up? Well, they shared 8 or 9 hours a day for several years. They knew each other’s lives, the names of each other’s spouses and kids, their day-to-day walk, having shared so many conversations on down time. Come to think of it, this woman was there every day, sharing my husband with me. Don’t get me wrong, it was no competition. He loves me and he maintained a professional relationship with his employees, many of whom were female, but my point is: If he would have come home every day to find my hair a mess, my grumpy mood, sour attitude or complaints, I wonder how much more he would be effected by his employees' pristine work attire, their required daily customer service smiles and attitudes and their nicely done-up faces. How much harder is it for our husbands to desire us when we care nothing about how we portray ourselves to them. Another question: What about our kids? Do you determine to have a good attitude with your kids? You hear all the time about parents verbally abusing their kids, talking them down or targeting them to relieve their stress. You see commercials on t.v. about encouraging your children, spending time with them, building them up. That’s all important, so why is it too much to encourage a good attitude toward our spouses? I’d say it’s just as important to carry ourselves in a way that is pleasing to them. I like it when my husband smells good. I love smelling his cologne. I love when he gets a fresh hair cut or wears the clothes I favor. My attraction increases. I can't change the way my flesh prefers his fresh look, and he can’t control the way his flesh responds to a fresh looking woman. It was made to do that. He can turn away, make a choice not to pay attention, change his thoughts, and it’s his commitment to do that, but he shouldn’t have to work to keep his attraction toward me. Why, if I can keep him there myself?

“Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you are thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.” 

When my husband and I first got together, he came to my apartment to dig through the cupboards and found literally nothing except a box of Chicken Bisquits, Gerber baby juice and some sliced apples in the fridge. He spun around, looked at me and said, “This isn’t going to work.” Not because he thinks the woman should do the cooking, but because he had absolutely no idea how to cook himself! If he couldn’t do it, and I couldn’t do it… by golly, how would we ever eat? Fast forward 7 years and I still can’t duplicate his mom’s cooking, (Frankly, no one can. She’s that good.) but my husband doesn’t care that I’m not the best cook. He cares that I care that he eats. Dinner on the table for my husband is important because God forbid, he DOES come home hungry, and often ready for a 20 minute break on the couch. The last thing he wants to do is start cooking. If I’m home during that time, I love him enough to recognize that he is hungry and to take time to prepare something that he will enjoy. If roles were reversed, which often times they are in other homes, and even some evenings in our home, I would hate to come home hungry and tired and have to figure out what I want to eat. What if I come home and don’t have all the items in the cupboard I need? Well, then I have to go to the store, come back home, and make the meal all before I can enjoy it and then finally rest. (Yeah, right. Before bedtime?) If I ever had to work full time and come home to do that, I imagine I’d feel a little forgotten and maybe even unimportant by my husband also. It’s not about being his servant-him my master. It’s about showing my husband I love him and want him to be happy. Is that so terrible? Good. Moving on.

“Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.”
“Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.”
“Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give YOU a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.”
“Be happy to him.”
“Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.”
“Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.”

This one is especially important to me. I completely agree that it gives me a lift as well to sit down in a clean house. I hate walking through a messy house, especially dirty cups or food wrappers on the counter tops. Don't get me started on loose, random papers. Tomas hates it even more than I do. I can let it go if I have something more pressing, but I make sure that before I expect him home, I do a clean sweep through the house. My sister’s family came to stay with us for a few months recently and witnessed my daily, “Uh-Oh, guys, Dad’s on his way home from work, Let’s quick pick up”-routine. I make sure to include the kids in the process, too. One-because they produce most of the clutter, and two-because I want my kids to know that the environment we create for Dad is important to me, just like the environment I create for them. Whether Dad is around or not, I want my kids to know that I am thinking of him and loving him all day. Creating a place of peace, order and tranquility is important for our whole family. It renews the body and spirit of everyone within the four walls. I will add that rarely do I ever have every area of the house in order all at the same time. If the floors throughout the whole house are swept, mopped and vacuumed, you can bet money that the laundry room is full of dirty laundry. I wish I could say I have a good system in place, but I'm not so organized, YET! One thing that has helped me along the way was asking Tomas what he preferred done above all else; what makes him most irritated to find undone when he gets home, and I strive to have that accomplished, not because I HAVE to in order to be a good wife, but because I WANT to, because I love him and want him to be happy.

There is more to the lesson, and it's an interesting viewpoint. If you're looking for a good read, I encourage you to search it out and determine your own opinion of what it teaches. I would love to hear your voice in the comments. I would like to add that everything listed here really applies to both male and female. It’s not just instruction on how to be a good wife, but also how to be a good husband. When the roles are switched, I expect nothing less. We are a team. He buys the house, I take care of it. He buys the food, I prepare it. He pays for the mop, I use it to clean the floor. When I work nights, I can almost always find a plate of food in the fridge for me when I get home late at night. It doesn’t make him any less of a man to have prepared that for me. It makes him a loving husband and I honest-to-God find delight in the fact that he thought of me while he and the kids ate their dinner. I want him to feel the same way when he finds a plate for himself. We don’t always get it right. Half the time, I feel like I’m drowning, especially with 3 small kids and now a pup.

In closing, I’ll share this, several months ago, I waited on a couple who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary! It was just the two of them but they didn’t seem to mind that one bit. They asked me about my husband and my kids, and as I shared about them, they both had a reminiscent look on their faces as they remembered when their kids were little. They talked about how it went by so fast, and how I need to be careful to enjoy the time I have with my family before they are grown. Our kids grow so fast! In a flash, they’re moved out and having their own kids, but when that happens, where will you be? Will you remember the love you have for the person you married and had the kids with? We share 18 years under one roof with our kids, but then they go. You share a lifetime in one bed with your spouse. Don’t forget to nurture that relationship!

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 


With love,
Tina