Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Meet Other Moms

It's Back to School time!  Many of your kids have already started school, while my big boy starts 1st grade on Sept. 7th, and my little one starts preschool the week after.

With new classes come new friends for our kids.  I have a desire to know each of my kid's friends by name, as well as their parents.  This will get even more important as they grow older, and I would really love for our house to be the place that other kids want to come.  In order for that to happen, I have to work hard now to create relationships.  Nobody wants to send their child to a strangers house to play, including me.

By nature I am more of an introvert, so reaching out and making new friends is not always easy for me. In fact, there were days where I wanted to send my husband to drop off and pick up, just so I could have a break from socializing during those times.  When Micah was in preschool, his class size was only 10 children, and the other outgoing moms made it easy for me to get to know them.  As he entered kindergarten, however, his class size went up to 30, and I was daily hearing new kid's names who I didn't know.  By the end of the year I knew every child's name in his class, scheduled playdates throughout the year, and had other moms calling just to say hello.  Again, not easy for an introvert, but I wanted to do it for my son.

Meeting other moms not only creates new friendships, but it is also a way of creating connections that will last throughout the years.  The friendships I made with the moms in Micah's first year of preschool are still strong, and we still get together regularly for playdates, even though our kids go to different schools.  My husband has gotten to know their husbands and we've invited these families to church, to birthday parties, and networked with the businesses they have.

For those of you who might have difficulty reaching out, here are a few things that have worked for me, a fellow introvert:

-Volunteer in the class. Even if it's for 2 hours a week, it makes a difference.  You get to see who your kids friends are, how they interact, and begin to know all the kids by name.  You hear their family stories.  The kids love when you volunteer in the class; I would always have numerous kids come up and hug me and ask when I was coming back.  This way, when you meet the parents, you can say, "I volunteer in the classroom," and that always opens up doors for conversation.

-Arrive at drop off and pick up early.  This is where parents just stand around and wait, a great breeding ground for conversation.  Here are a few conversation starters:
     "Is this your first year at the school?"
     "Do you guys live around here?"
     "Do you know anything about such-and-such event coming up?"
     "How is the year going for your son/daughter?"
     "How does your son/daughter like school so far?"

-If your child has certain playmates at school, meet their parents and ask if you can go to the park after school one day.  Grab some snacks, and head over to the nearest park for even an hour.  We did this numerous times during the school year and I made some great friends during our park time.  It is helpful to offer to meet in a neutral location (at least for the first time), since some people may not feel comfortable entering your home with their child if they barely know you.

-Become a room parent.  Yes, this usually takes some work, so be sure you have the time if you commit to it.  But this is a fantastic way to keep in communication with the other parents and kids.

-If you can't devote the time to being a room parent, ask the teacher for other ways you can help out. Our classroom had a parent in charge of the Scholastic Reading program, and that parent would mail out monthly letters to the parents. That is all she did, yet we all got to know her name and her face.

-Go on a field trip with your child's class.  Reassure the other parents that you will be there to help keep an eye on the children. They will love you!

-If you cannot volunteer during school hours, see if there are other ways you can help out at school during other activities at night.  This will still give you opportunities to meet parents.

Obviously to do all of these would be really overwhelming.  One mom gave me a great piece of advice when Micah entered Kindergarten: "Don't volunteer for everything."  She got burned out fast.  In the same way, don't do everything on this list, but pick one or two if you want to meet other parents.

What other ways have you found to meet parents?  What advice would you give to moms looking to meet other moms?

Monday, August 22, 2011


Last year I wrote about my interaction with a little girl from Micah's school who was being made fun of and said she had no friends. This little girl (whom I will call "Lucy") continued to find me after school each day, smiling at me and waving each time I saw her.  One day I was out walking our neighborhood, and noticed that she lived right down the street from me. Her mother and I talked and continued to converse every time we saw each other after school.  We were neighbors, fellow moms of kindergartners, and becoming friends.

Today we were driving down the street and saw random strangers inside of Lucy's garage, piling up all of her family's belongings into black trashbags and loading them into a truck.  A "For Rent" sign was erected in the front yard: 4 bedroom, 2 bath house - available immediately.  I was trying to make sense of it all - seeing these people in their garage, throwing their stuff on the curb for the trash man, including a ton of baby and child items, told me something was wrong.  This was Lucy's stuff.

I couldn't stop thinking about it.  We drove by 4 times.  We asked how much the house was for rent (mainly just to see if the people were burglars or not).  Nope, it was the landlord in the garage.  I came home and tried to scour Facebook, trying to find traces of Lucy's mom and dad.  I found them.  Her page was public, her wall was visible for everyone to see.  Over two months of status updates having to do with sadness, depression, confusion, and transition.  She announced she was taking her kids and moving out of state.  She wrote that she had "lost Joe."  Well, I saw Joe last Saturday, so I know he's still around.   After reading for a bit, it became obvious - she is going through a divorce.

I was so saddened for her, and for Lucy and her 3 siblings.  I know I will probably never see them again.  
It made me think of my other friends who have gone through divorces - so many of them now.  Most of them have children.  Every single time, it saddens my heart, as I know it saddens theirs.

This September 18th, Martin and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage.  We don't pretend to have it all together.  We are two completely opposite people who daily have to lay down our wills and our desires for the other.  I know most people say they are opposites, but people - WE are opposites.  It is true that opposites attract, and it is true that these marriages require work.  LOTS of work :)

The other day someone asked how long we have been married and then replied, "Wow!  How did you do that?"  The truth is, we don't have any magic answer.  We love the Lord, and we do our best to put Him first in our lives.  Yet many of our friends who have been divorced love the Lord too.

No one is immune to divorce, and the minute you think you are immune, that is when your marriage can begin to spiral downward- because you are no longer protecting yourself.

So what is our secret?  I wish I knew.  Maybe in another 12 years I'll have some more insight into that question.  What I do know is that love is a daily choice.  We have not had to face infidelity or addiction or betrayal in our relationship, which makes a huge difference.  We have had a few marriage counselors over the years who were incredible, and I credit them for the fact that we are still together through our ups and downs.  But if you are in a place of uncertainty, I wanted to pass on a few resources that might be encouraging to you. There are people who want to help you make it work, but you have to be willing to reach out for help. It is scary opening up your life to others, but it is worth it.

I hope these resources will strengthen and encourage you, wherever you are at in your marriage.  Read these stories, and take hope...

True Relationships - a ministry run by my former pastor and his wife.  They do conferences, counseling, and have a video series that is incredible.

Family Life - we have gone to 2 of their Weekend to Remember conferences, and they are amazing.  Pastors even go free!

Leading and Loving It - this is a ministry geared for pastor's wives and female ministry leaders.  They have a section of their website devoted to hurting marriages.  You can read their stories of hurt, betrayal, and restoration.

Sarah Markley - you can visit her website and read about her journey into infidelity, and how God enabled her husband to forgive her.  Watch the video where their story was featured on CBN.

These are just a few of the resources out there...if you have any that you would recommend, please leave a comment and let us all know.  There are people all over the world who are fighting for their marriages...and winning.  Don't give up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Women are Leaving Church

The other day I read an article by the Barna Group about Women and Faith.  In their research, they found that since 1991, church attendance by women has dropped 11% and weekly Bible reading has plummeted by 10% - to just 4 out of 10 women.  The saddest statistic was this:

"The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched."

That statistic was raised by 17%. However, there was an increase in women who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior - an increase from 38% in 1991 to 44% in 2011.

While the same study was conducted on men as well, the findings were not as drastic as the women's statistics.

So why are more women professing to be believers, yet not involved- or even attending- their local churches?

I read through 52 comments on this study, and came up with a few theories of my own. I'm not saying these are all true, but in 15 years of working in ministry, these are a few of the things I have seen:

- Women are relational.  If they have been hurt by someone in the church, they are less likely to get involved again.  Many stop going to church all together.  In addition, with the rise of technology, women are communicating online more than ever.  Tonight on KKLA, Dr. Larry Rosen, who is an expert in technological psychology shared that with the rise of online communication, many people are connecting less in person. Online relationships often replace personal contact.  This may also make women stay away from church; they simply just don't see the need, as they are in contact with their friends in other ways.

- Women feel overworked at church.  If a woman is working all week long, and then feels the pressure to give more of her time and effort at church, she may feel it is easier just to stay home.  Some women give and give and give, feeling guilty if they say no, and eventually they get extremely burned out in ministry and don't have anything left to give.  It is the church's responsibility to give volunteers times and seasons to rest, as well as make sure that one person isn't doing 10 different jobs.  Small churches in particular need more help, but it should never be at the expense of an overworked volunteer.

- Men are not spiritually leading their wives.  Many women want to go to church, but their husbands don't.  I personally know of many, many women in this situation.  Maybe the woman married an unbeliever, or maybe she & her husband have different styles of worshipping.  Either way, if a woman feels she has to beg and plead with her husband to go to church, she may just give up altogether.  I cannot tell you the many conversations I have had with brokenhearted wives who show up at church alone.  It takes a lot of strength to continue going to church, especially with your children, without the support of your spouse.  Men, it's time to step up.

- Women are frustrated.  Maybe they have leadership gifts, yet feel their gifts are not valued by their church.  They are continually told that their role should be something else.  They are not encouraged, and so they don't feel valued.  Many times these women are leaders in their communities, yet are not given the same opportunities in their churches.  One commenter said, "The fact that many churches and parachurch organizations emphasize males as automatic leaders (an unbiblical view) and bar women from leadership roles (including that of pastor) also are turning more women off. If we want to keep from losing women, perhaps we need to take a fresh look at scripture and how Jesus treated women and adjust accordingly."

- Women are busy.  Society has told us that other things are more important, and we have believed it.  We will sign our kids up for after school classes, multiple sports, playdates, etc.. and pretty soon we have crowded out time for church.  It is just not a priority anymore.  Friends, let me tell you - if you are not involved in church right now, at least get involved for your children. Your children need to see your family place an importance on going to church together, on worshipping together, on fellowshipping with other believers together.  Your kids need the consistency of learning about God as a family, even if they go to Christian school.  Christian school is not church.  Home school is also not church. (Take it from me, I was a Bible teacher at a Christian school.)

- A lack of childcare or Sunday School.  This is probably the #1 thing moms are most concerned about when visiting a church.  If the children's ministry is low-functioning, or barely there, moms will be less likely to return.  However, this should not be an excuse for not going to church. There are other churches out there with tremendous kids' programs - find one.   This is of particular importance for single mothers, who need good quality children's ministry so they can relax and be fed when they attend church - which may be the only break they have.

- Some women don't think they need church. This is classic. Women are professional "know it all's" (I'm one myself), and if we've grown up in the church or participated in XX number of Bible studies or retreats, we think we know it all.  We make up excuses as to why we don't need to go to church anymore.  This is a sinful mentality - a consumerist mentality.  This is a person who says, "I go to church for what I get out of it.  Since I don't get anything out of it, I won't go." Instead, we should have the attitude that we are a part of the Body of Christ, and the Body is less effective when even one of it's members is missing.  This is the beginning of a hardened heart - one that thinks it doesn't need what Christ has commanded.

I fully understand that there are "house churches" and missional communities that may not fit the traditional church model. The point is that we are all to be in community with one another, on a regular basis, in a place where we can weekly be fed spiritually and serve others, using our spiritual gifts.  I won't extend this post by including the many, many Scriptures that exhort us to do this.

My point is that we should look at the reasons many women are not attending church, as well as the excuses we make for ourselves.  If we know of women not attending church, let's do what we can to address their needs and invite them back.  If you are a women who is not attending church (yet is a believer), examine your heart and ask God to lead you to the right place.

I'm curious to hear your own theories as to Barna's study and why less women are attending church. Leave a comment and let me know. Are my own theories on or off the mark?  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Catching Up

My poor little I've been neglecting thee...but things are slowing down now and I am BACK!

Here are a few fun things we've been up to the past few weeks:

1) The OC Fair - We had an opportunity to go to the Orange County Fair, where this year's featured foods included fried butter, fried kool-aid, and chocolate covered bacon! While I did not partake in any of this fine cuisine, I did have some mexican funnel cake, and it was AMAZING.  It's basically soft funnel cake that is swirled and made to look like funnel cake.

We saw the Ice Museum

Pet the wallabies and a baby deer

and Jaden went on his first roller coaster (he loved it)!

2) I joined a gym and started ZUMBA!  Yes, folks, I have been shaking my booty something fierce at Zumba.  It is so fun and quite the workout, but a little embarrassing when you see a lady from church in front of you, and the instructor for the day decides to do a "sexy" routine.  Yeah.

3) We had a girl from church stay with us for a few nights, along with her 17 month old son.  We lost a little sleep but it was a precious time of staying up late talking about God, laughing together, and eating a ton of food.  I think I actually gained about 5 pounds the week she was here, since I had to make food for all of us every day (as opposed to "wingin' it" which we do occasionally).  On Sunday night I helped her and her son move into their new place, and I already miss having them around.

4) Even though I keep trying to get out of the photography business, I have been taking jobs here and there if we need the money.  I had a beautiful maternity shoot at the beach and it was well worth the time and effort.

5) I am in the process of writing a book for stay-at-home moms.  My goal would be to have it finished by December if all goes as planned, and then self-publish.  Lately I've been working on my website and will publish that when it's ready.  It's been a lot of work!  I'm also looking for speaking opportunities for the Fall and Spring, if you know of anyone looking for a speaker for their church or women's events.

I cannot believe that school starts in 4 short weeks, and many of your kids have already started!  This week my goal is to continue to get ready for school - cleaning out our closets, our office, etc...  We have a few more weeks of summer so we're going to take full advantage of that.  Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Casting our Cares Upon Him

When I was a kid, I listened to records of "Psalty the Singing Songbook."  Psalty was a large blue hymnal-person-thingy that would hang out with kids and sing songs with them.  He was kindof like Barney, but a weird looking book.  For some reason I don't think people would respond to Psalty today like they did back in the 80's. :)

Anyway, I LOVED listening to Psalty. I knew every song, and I dreamed of being a kid on the Psalty videotapes.  But there was one song I loved more than any other song:  "I Cast All My Cares Upon You."  I remember singing this song every time I was scared or felt sad.

To this day, this song comes to my mind frequently. Tonight I was reminded once again of this song.

This past 2 weeks I have had to deal with a situation that is so big, so overwhelming, that I had no other option but to lay it at God's feet.  You know those problems you have in life that just immediately lead you to pray, because you know it is not humanly possible to handle it?  This situation does not involve me or my family, but someone I care for greatly.  I am really the only person bearing her burdens right now, and her life has become my life for the past 2 weeks.  I find that this situation is on my mind every single minute, and affecting every single thing I do.

At first, laying it down at God's feet was easy.  It was the natural thing to do.  It was the "of course" option.  Then a few other people got involved who helped carry the load.  It was nice having them to lean on and talk with about the situation.  I found that they were helping me to bear the burdens which I felt so heavily weighed on my shoulders.  And as I relied more on them, I found myself relying less on prayer.  Then today, I felt the weight completely on my own shoulders again, as though I was handling this all on my own.  I realized that I did 3 things:

1) I first trusted in God, and put all my faith in Him.
2) Then I started to put my trust in other people, and rely on them for strength.
3) Then I started to put my trust in myself, that I could handle this in my own strength

The weight felt oppressive.  It felt heavy.  It made me tired.  I couldn't focus. I got mad.  I said things I shouldn't have said.  And I took the load away from God, and away from others, and put it all on myself, and that's when things turned ugly.

How many times do we do this to ourselves?  So tonight, 25 years after I first heard that song, it played softly in my heart again, because the words are so true. When we are faced with a situation that is so big, so overwhelming, so troubling...this is what we need to do:

I cast all my cares upon you
I lay all of my burdens
Down at your feet
And any time, I don't know
What to do
I will cast all my cares upon you

Today if you're facing a hard situation, instead of trying to talk to others about it and let them carry the load with you, or trying to handle it on your own, cast all of your cares upon Him.  

P.S. If you were a fan of Psalty, you have to check out this funny video that Saddleback did about Psalty- a parody of VH1's "Behind the Music":

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Case You're Wondering

Sometimes people wonder what pastors do.  They ask questions like "what do you do all day?" and get frustrated if you're not always in the office.  My own pastor even received prank calls almost every day for a year with an anonymous person leaving him a voicemail asking, "Where are yoooouuuuu???"  Strange.

Pastors have an extremely hard job. They are daily faced with people in need asking them for help, as well as constantly facing criticism.  "The music is too loud!"  "The preaching is too soft!"  "The chairs are too hard!" and other nonsense.  Very few pastors receive encouragement and most receive complaints more than anything. People can be critical and just plain mean.  However, despite those obstacles, this job is also very fulfilling.  There is nothing better than knowing you are right where God wants you to be, doing what He wants you to do.  It is an amazing privilege serving people and caring for their needs: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

My husband and I have both served as pastors on staff at our church in different capacities for over 11 years. SO - in case you were wondering, here is what the last 48 hours have held for me personally, not to mention my husband who is also a pastor (actually paid for it) and deals with way more than I do:

8:00am- take church member to get her car fixed
10:00am- have a Skype call with a former youth group member who is in Israel
10:30am- leave to go pick up car that was fixed, along with previous church member
11:00am- talk with church member about life and God
12:00pm- head to store for groceries for a get together later
1:00pm- lunch and clean house
3:00pm- leave for dinner at a dear friend's house
4:00pm-9:00pm - have dinner with dear friends- food for our soul.
11:00pm- remember that I have to teach Sunday School in the morning and pour over curriculum in bed.

8:00am- get boys ready for church, keep them from destroying their church clothes until we leave
9:00am- run to the store to pick up a gift for church member
9:30am- arrive at church and set up for Sunday School
10:00-11:30am- teach Sunday School and lead worship for Sunday School
11:30-12:30pm- fellowship with people from church
1:00pm- lunch and try to nap, but fail to nap due to loud 4 year old
2:00pm - spend the rest of the day in a coma trying to recover from the busy morning.  Way too much socializing for me! :)
4:00pm-8:00pm- spend time helping a person from church who is in an emergency situation
11:00pm- crash into bed

2:00am- receive a phone call in the middle of the night from a church member who needs a place to stay
2:30am- welcome church member into home, making her a bed on the couch
2:30-3:30am- lay in bed wide awake
7:00am- wake up to head to court with church member who is on the couch
8:00am-12:00pm- sit in court with church member.  She is devastated from the ruling.  Console and counsel.
1:00pm- have lunch with church member, pray, provide her with resources...

Finally things slowed down and we were able to enjoy a nice afternoon with great friends. We went to the beach and had dinner- just what we needed after a rough 2 days.

As exhausting as some of these things can be, they are also so rewarding. God supernaturally gives you the strength you need, the wisdom you need, and the resources you need to minister to people who are hurting.  You find that you're able to touch lives out of your own life experiences and pain.  God is faithful to use your own weaknesses for His glory.  We are privileged to serve God in this capacity and feel honored that He uses us in this way.  He can use you, too - you don't have to be a pastor or a minister with a title. We are all ministers of Christ if we have Him in our hearts.  Ask Him how he wants to use you today - it is a great adventure and so worth every moment!

Friday, August 5, 2011


This week Micah and Jaden attended their first ever Vacation Bible School.  The theme was PandaMania, and many churches in our area chose this curriculum.  There were over 300 kids who attended this church's VBS, and on the first day the director asked the kids if any of them knew what kind of noise a panda makes.  A little boy raised his hand and she called him to the stage.  Because he was Asian, we all assumed he had seen one in Japan.  He did his best panda impersonation, and the director asked where he had heard a panda before.  He replied, "Oh, I went to another Pandamania VBS last week!"  Turns out that quite a few kids had "made the rounds" at the local VBS's! :)

The boys loved going each day, although Jaden was more apprehensive and never wanted to participate in the worship service.  Here is a video I took of one of the worship services.  It was awesome seeing them all worship together:

(If you wait you can see my boys towards the end)

On the last day, I bought the video of all the worship songs that they had been singing all week.  We brought it home and the boys wanted to watch it over and over.  Little did I know it would turn into "interrogation hour," where they asked me about every single detail of every single song.  Take this song, for instance:

Questions Micah had about the video  (asked the whole time it was playing):

"Mom, why are those kids in the jungle?"
"How did they get there?"
"Did they have to go on the freeway?"
"How long are they staying for?"
"Where are their parents?"
"Why are they singing in the jungle?"
"Do they live there?"
"Who is playing the drums?"
"There are no power lines in the jungle, mom!"

So funny - he is my little thinker.  I'm so thankful that they had a great week learning more about God's love!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Poem About Bathrooms and Such

Today I came across this poem I wrote when we lived in our former 800 square foot house.  I was so desperate to get out, to feel less confined, to have space of my own.  We are now in a 1200 square foot house, still very small to many, but those 400 extra square feet do help.  Still.... there is only 1 bathroom for 4 of us to share.

This poem was about my need for space, and especially the desire for my own bathroom.

The Cottage

I am a lone woman in this house of mine.
A lone woman am I.
In a house full of males and puppy dog tales,
There are days where I just close my eyes.

I dream of a place, of porcelain and tile
A place full of comfort and style.
A place to relax and take a warm bath
Where I can just lay there and smile.

But in this cottage of mine
is only one bathroom I find
and the door remains open all day.
My place of repose has become quite the joke
as the boys have invaded my space.

One day we'll have more
Than this small tiny floor
and more than one bathroom to share
I'll have one to myself
and my own wooden shelf,
and you'll find me sleeping in there.