Three Questions to Prep You for a Dysfunctional Family Gathering

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:

 

But reality can often look like this:

And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

It’s a little comforting to know we have some not-so-stellar company in Bible families.

  • Lot got drunk and slept with his daughter.
  • Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
  • David refused to deal with his son, Absolom’s sin.
  • Abraham slept with his wife’s servant.

Not exactly “Minnesota nice.”

“How is this encouraging?” you say!

Well, in spite of their sin, God forgave, redeemed and used them.  There is hope for all of us.

For those looking forward to Norman Rockwell gatherings this week, praise God.  But for those who are going into the crazy zone that is your family, what are some things you can do to prepare?

Think of the person or people you will see who brings out the worst in you. The person who tries your patience, or shames you, or prompts you to act like your two-year-old self.

Consider these insights from Henry Cloud:

“You can’t control outcomes. You can only control your behavior. Focus on that and you will get better outcomes.” 

  • What is it in you that needs to change?  What can you control?

“No one can manipulate you unless you need something from them….figure out what you need and you will discover the source of their power.”

  • What are you looking for from someone else that only God can perfectly give you?  Approval?  Forgiveness?  Love?
  • What can you authentically affirm in each of your family members?  A kind word can diffuse a lot of tension.

Most importantly, though, maybe prepare by praying.  Hands open.

Lord, I bow before You, marred, and messed up, just like the rest of my family.  Help me to see myself and Yourself more clearly.  Give me grace to cover the offenses of others.  Give me humility to ask forgiveness where I have offended.  Give me courage to speak the truth and pursue healthy boundaries.

So as you anticipate being with family sometime during the holidays, is it with excitement or  a knot in your stomach?  Are you going in prepared and prayed up?

What to do With the Ding

You’re the only family not invited to a relative’s wedding. You wonder, whaaaat did we do wrong?

Ding.

You send an email with a question and get crickets, leading you to imagine all kinds of crazy scenarios why.

Ding.

A colleague always seems to outshine you, leaving you feeling inadequate.

Ding

Some close friends start avoiding you because they disagree with a leadership decision you made.

Ding.

A family member betrays your trust and disregards a promise, refusing address the issue.

Ding.

These are all real-life dings that friends have shared with me.

Your dings are different, but we all get them. It’s an inevitable part of…well…being us.

A ding can take our emotions hostage if we let it. 

It can bind and gag us, leaving us in a dark basement with feelings of “less than”, shame, and “not good enough”.

I think of Daniel, Shaddrach, Meshach, Abednego – all taken captive in Babylon.

In spite of the power being exerted over them, they chose not to let their spirits be taken hostage. They trusted in the Lord – His values, His opinion, His calling on their lives, not Nebuchadnezzar’s.

But think what intention this required! The temptation to cower, compromise, compare, or conclude they were second-class would have been constant. How many times did they repeat something like this to themselves?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

So…maybe we should ask a question of our ding:

God, what do YOU say to me? About me?

Confession: It’s easy for me to ASK these questions, but to be still and really listen for the Lord’s answers? Much harder!

Erwin McManus reminds us: “Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.” 

Instead of being held hostage by our feelings, can what we’re feeling be liberated by the sword of God’s Word? What perspective, peace, or promise frees us there?

Recently I shared a ding with a friend and she reminded me we are to “respond with the energies of prayer”. She wisely suggested praying: Lord, I welcome You into this ding. Let it bring out the best in me.”

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

How do YOU deal with the dings?

You’re Invited to Sit With Jesus This Advent

It’s 6 a.m. I sit in the dark, looking out the window of Starbucks at the twinkly white lights and a few snowflakes lazily dancing their way to the ground. It’s only the beginning of November, but if I’m not careful my mind can hopscotch right over Thanksgiving and land on thoughts of   goals for  stress about Christmas.

It’s coming. And we want sososososo much for it to be all about Jesus being born in us, meeting us on dark starry nights, overshadowing the chaos of the world with His peace that passes all understanding.

The Christmas our Katy was almost 2 years old, one day she took me by the hand and dragged me over to our manger scene that was set up by the fireplace hearth. (bottom left corner of the picture).

She pulled me down to sit in front of baby Jesus.

“Sit. Stay. Watch.” she commanded.

Ahhh such a precious invitation!

I believe Jesus will meet us anywhere we seek Him (yes, even in line waiting to see “Santa” in the mall), but He’s a gentleman and won’t barge in where He’s not welcome. As we approach the start of Advent, maybe we could respond to His invitation to sit with Him.

In June my friend Heather and I dreamed up a little project and prayed it would help people to meet with Jesus – really meet with Him, instead of reading a devotional with second-hand thoughts about Him. It was a “first effort,” and we’ve been working on creating an even better resource for Advent.

We want to get our new Advent Devotional Cards in your hands to help you press into Jesus this season.

Each card has a verse on one side, like the one above. On the flip side there is a longer reference if you want to read more in context and then a couple of simple invitations of ways to talk to Jesus about the verses. There’s white space if you want to draw or write your thoughts.

Here’s what I promise you:

They are simple.

They will invite you to look at, listen to, talk with Jesus.

They are portable and can be used in a variety of ways:

  • At your desk at work.
  • In the car.
  • Around the dinner table with older kids.
  • As scripture memory cards on your fridge.

“How can I get them?” you ask!

  • At Church. If you live in the Minneapolis area, you can buy these Advent cards at Pathway Bookstore at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina. This way you can avoid mailing costs!
  • In Person. If you are going to be at an event where I’m speaking, I will bring some with me that you can buy for $17 🙂
  • On Line. If you live elsewhere you can order the cards by clicking on the sidebar for $20 (which includes tax and mailing) and we’ll send them to you asap! For bulk purchases (3 or more), contact us for shipping costs. (you can preorder today)

And if you’d be so kind…. If you receive these as a gift, we would love it if you might post a picture of yourself using them on social media with any (or all!) of these tags:

#adventdevotional

#shareadventdevo

@lauracrosby

@inspired.desire.co

Thanks so much and have a blessed Advent!

Soul Food for Darker Days

It’s here – the darker season. We’ve turned the clocks back. The days are shorter, colder, cloudier.

Halloween is over, but Thanksgiving isn’t here yet.

We don’t have the lovely snow of winter to distract us and the gray days can make us feel a little Eyore-ish.

via GIPHY

Hang in there! You’re gonna be ok.

Music

Last Sunday was All Saints Day, when we as a church remember the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us. At our church we have a time of reflection and prayer as we scroll through pictures of those who have died this past year on the screens. This is a song that our worship leader, Heather Moen sang. It was beautiful and comforting.

Recipe

Ironically, I was set to post a soup recipe, when I re-read this delightful quote in Shauna’s Bread and Wine that is just perfect:

“Soup is cold-weather-dark-sky food. Soup is peasant food – odds and ends, bits and pieces, a way to stretch a piece of meat or a handful of rice… Soup is the wool sweater, not the little black dress. It’s the cardigan with elbow patches, not the pressed shirt and tie.”

This soup recipe isn’t from her, but is a favorite from Martha Stewart.

Pumpkin Mushroom Soup (I know mushrooms aren’t everyone’s jam, but my husband loves them!)

4 TB butter

1 TB (or less) curry powder

1 lb mushrooms sliced

1 lg onion chopped

1/3 cup flour

4 cups chicken broth

2 #1 cans pumpkin

5 TB honey

salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in lg. pot. Add curry powder and cook 1 min. Add mushrooms & option and sauté.

Stir in flour and cook 3 min.

Sitr in chicken broth and pumpkin

Brind to boil and simmer 20 minutes.

Sitr in honey and simmer 10 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Can garnish with sour cream.

Makes 10 generous servings.

Movies

I wrote a post awhile ago about wanting to hear/see the better stories…the ones that inspire us to something higher. There are three movies based on true stories that I have loved lately. Take a look:

Victoria and Abdul

Marshall

Goodbye Christopher Robin

And my movie maven friend, Heather, also recommended this one. I read the book and am going to see the movie today:

Same Kind of Different as Me

What have you seen or read lately that has been uplifting? Share in comments?

Have a great weekend!

5 Important Questions to Ask About Boundaries

“I often can’t get away from work til around 8:00.”

“I make work calls on my 45 minute commute to the office.”

“I’m a stay-at-home mom because I want to invest time in my kids while they are young, but I’m in so many important volunteer positions that I’m exhausted and pre-occupied with all I have to do even when I’m with my kids.”

“I’ve been up til midnight the past few nights trying to get my work load under control.”

“If I go out of town or take a break on the weekend, I’m swamped when I get back. It’s not worth it.”

These are all statements I’ve heard recently.

So many of my millennial friends are in seasons of high stress, high demand, and long work hours. The discipline of setting boundaries while trying to establish a career is tough, and scary.

I know there is no silver bullet, but this ties into my post from Monday on your “The Hardest ‘Yes’ of Your Day”.

What do you have the courage to say “no” to?

Before anything, maybe journal about what values are most important to you.

Family? Faith Community? Spiritual Growth? Balance? Volunteerism? Peace?

Is it possible to prioritize these values within the career you have? Do you have clear expectations and boundaries built into your job description?

“You get what you tolerate.” Henry Cloud

Here are a few questions to consider asking yourself as you are making decisions:

  1. If I say “yes” to this request, what will I need to say “no” to? What will I need to sacrifice? Who will I be cheating?

2. Does saying yes to this (deadline, project, staying late..) tap into an unhealthy sense of “need to be needed” or pride? (Ouch! I know this is an important one from experience!)

3.  Who might benefit from me sharing this opportunity or delegating this task?

4. Am I letting urgent things crowd out the important things in my life?

 

5. Who am I coaching or mentoring on a daily basis so that not everything will be dependent on me? 

Whether you’re a boss or not, there are some great strategies here:

The One Thing All Great Bosses Do Well

Remember, your true self will never change. You are beloved child of God with nothing to prove. Your false self is based on titles, paychecks, and awards that will come and go.

At the end of the day may we, like Jesus, be able to say:

 I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. John 17:4

The Hardest Yes of Your Day

“It never gets any easier. There will always be something ‘urgent’ or ‘sparkly’ to distract you.”  This was a wise word from a mentor. She encouraged me, when my girls were toddlers, to put into practice, “chair time” – a daily meeting with the Lord.

Yes, in some ways it does get easier physically. In different seasons of life you may not have to hide in the bathroom to get alone time, with your “chair” as the toilet seat. And you may not be as sleep deprived. But emotionally?  Spiritually? Not so much.

What would Satan like more than to keep us from the priority of reflecting on God’s Word, opening ourselves to His power and presence?

We would never say it this way, but I think the way Satan distracts us most often is to get us thinking we are indispensable.

The world may stop spinning if I don’t get this email out, or if I don’t get into work early, or get this call made, or this thing mailed or this insightful tweet posted… I am soooo important!

We frantically commute and call and consult while God calmly causes the sun to rise each morning.

When we meet with God early, the fragrance of Him lingers throughout our day.

We may be reminded to pause and ask Him for wisdom when making a decision.

We may think to breathe in His name when we are impatient.

We may look for the imago dei in the co-worker who gets on our nerves.

Most of all, when we make time with God our most important priority it strengthens our ability to put boundaries in all areas of our life.

In order to say “no” to the things that are draining life from us, the things that are lowering our standards, the things that are drawing us away from our best self,  we must first say “Yes!” to chair time with God.

Where’s your “chair”?  This morning I texted a young friend at 5:45, thinking she would just get the text when she woke up, but instead she responded right away with this picture 🙂 She was having her chair time.

If you want a couple of resources for chair time, check out:

Pray as you Go

First 5

Authenticity and Telling a Better Story

Recently I did something I rarely do. I got 250 pages into a book and quit.

I had invested a lot of time, but I just couldn’t finish.

It was well written, compelling historical fiction about the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, but I could tell where the story was heading and I just couldn’t take any more narrative about bad, sad choices, no matter how factual the research was.

Do you ever feel weary of authentically depressing news? Disappointed or dismayed over person after person modeling less than noble behavior?

Over the past ten years we have put an increasingly high value on “authenticity”. We want speakers, leaders, pastors, writers who tell us the whole messy truth. We want vulnerability and  transparency. No plastic saints thank you ma’am. This is a good thing.! A great thing even!

Scripture says,

“Confess your sins one to another…” (James 5:16)

“The truth will set you free…” (John 8:32)

But the stories we’re telling aren’t the only stories to be told.

There are true accounts of courage and sacrifice and service.

Stories can be authentic, but also good and inspiring. Not perfect or formulaic, but capable of lifting our eyes and motivating us to become our better selves.

This past weekend John and I were at an event hosted by Opportunity International – an organization that gives micro-loans to the poor to start small businesses, lifting them out of poverty.

The CEO of Opportunity shared this story:

Arles Mina is a client of Opportunity who now makes cheese curds and sells them from a hole-in-the-wall storefront in Bogota, Colombia.

However, there’s more to the story.

A young loan officer found Arles on the streets of Bogota. He was a drug runner for Pablo Escobar and was high on drugs when they met. The loan officer told Arles that he had a future and insisted he take a loan to start a formal business so he could earn a living and work his way off the streets.

Now, Arles says, “Opportunity has made me who I am.”

Arles received a loan from Opportunity. He repaid it and got another loan, and another, and another, expanding his business. Now he employs 3 women.

3 widows.

3 widows whose husbands were killed by the drug cartel he used to serve.

This is an authentic story. A story of redemption.

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

Yes, we should be informed, and the truth can be ugly, but what if we major on the kingdom stories of restoration, reconciliation and redemption so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24)?

Why it’s Important to Make Your Bed

If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you know I am captivated by the idea of “small things”. I’ve always thought of this in the sense of doing small acts of service, or giving words of encouragement – the widow of Zarephath showing up with her tiny bit of flour and oil, or Jesus choosing dropouts for disciples, or Namaan dipping in the water – things that seem counter to the world’s economy.

But recently I heard a sermon, and I’ve been thinking of Zechariah 4:10 differently. It brought to mind a story from a couple years ago when, during a commencement speech at the University of Texas, the commander of the forces that organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden told the graduates:

The U.S. Navy Admiral went on to say:

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. 

Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” 

Instead of thinking about “small things” as stewardship or service, I’ve been thinking of it as the small commitments to disciplines that God can use to equip us or train us, having exponential impact.

Jeff Manion writes,

“Greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but by doing good things repeatedly” 

For Daniel, “making his bed” was the discipline of refusing to eat the royal food.

Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved  not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”

On the surface this discipline might just seem dumb. Who doesn’t like Lou Malnati’s pizza and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream? But this wasn’t just about being healthy. It was about not eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. For Daniel, this discipline reminded him who was the most powerful in his life and it wasn’t the king.

For David, “making his bed” was the discipline (long before Goliath) of faithfully remaining – guarding stinky, muddy sheep while his brothers were off doing the fun stuff fighting the bad guys. While pursuing this unseen discipline God was preparing him for more.

1 Samuel 17:37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

My friends inspire me in this area of discipline.

For one who has just endured a painful break-up, “making his bed” has meant the discipline of not drinking at all for a time because he recognizes his temptation to numb with alcohol in this season.

For another friend, Mycah, “making her bed” is the discipline of Sabbathing.  And the thing that strikes me about her, is that it didn’t start with the “small thing” of Sabbath. It started with the smaller discipline of not using social media on Fridays, and then not working on Fridays, and then turning her phone off from Thursday night to Saturday morning.

Still another friend talked to me about “making her bed” as the discipline of gratitude in a season of hard circumstances.

We don’t “make our bed” in order to gain God’s attention or favor. He’s crazy about us, messy bed and all.  Grace, grace, and more grace is the bedrock of our relationship with Him! Instead, I like Doug Rumford’s definition of discipline:

“A means to develop soul memory for reflexive spiritual responsiveness.”

What are the small disciplines God wants to use to train you? Are there ways you see that physical discipline impacts spiritual discipline?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Soul Food for a Fall Weekend

This has been a week of joy-filled experiences and rich, soul-strengthening conversations with dear friends, here in MN and in D.C.  where we traveled for a World Vision board meeting.

Today I am overwhelmed at the wonder of God and His sustaining presence even when the world is in a bad way. I’ve been doing a study of Job using the First 5 app which I highly recommend. (You can do any of their previous studies too.) Maybe my tiny dose of optimism is partially the result of this verse:

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:1-3

And few other things to share this week:

Made me laugh…

A creative idea from my friend Kathy Burleson who leads Community Bible Study leaders…

She filled this to-go cup with tea, hot chocolate, and other goodies for under $2 a piece. Such a fun, visual reminder of the importance of soul care. I don’t want to just look at this as a gimmick, but truly sit at Jesus’ feet before anything else.

A quote I like…

 

What I’m reading…

My friends and I went to hear Brené last week when she was in town at the beginning of her book tour on Braving the Wilderness, and I have been thinking about her words ever since. It was a powerful evening – what an effective communicator! She addresses how “sorted” and divisive our culture has become.  Although some reviewers dislike some of the political overtones, I thought it was particularly timely and convicting.

I feel there are really valuable insights in this book. My only note to those who are considering reading this is that it is not a “Christian” book and I took issue with Brown where she seems to orient everything in reference to self, not God.

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world.” Brené Brown

Lastly, one of my go-to Fall recipes…

Carrot Bars

4  eggs well beaten

2 cups sugar

2 ts. soda

2 ts. cinnamon

1 ts. salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I know, I know…and yes, you can try cutting it down, but I can’t guarantee results)

2 1/2 cups flour

3 small (4 1/2 oz. jars of baby food carrots

I spray pam on a jelly roll pan and pour the batter in. Bake @350 for 20-30 minutes.

You can frost with canned frosting, but scratch is easy and so much better:

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 oz. cream cheese

2 ts. vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

SaveSave

SaveSave

How to Build a Sanctuary

“Any building is a temple if you make it so.” Phil Knight

I read this quote and it brought to mind this old post which was a good reminder for me, so I hope you don’t mind a redo!

People say I have the gift of hospitality, but I once put a cup of salt, instead of teaspoon of salt, into a batch of lasagna so clearly it can’t be about gourmet cooking.  I also once totally forgot that we had invited six people for dinner, so hospitality apparently doesn’t hinge on attention to details.  Instead, I would agree with someone I heard recently who said, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house”.

Actually I’d expand that to say, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house…the bus, the office…the hair salon…the airplane…the parking lot.”  And I know many people who do that much better than I do.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers, but felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming, walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets! Can you even??

Another friend moved to a new home last year and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote.

IMG_4805She and her husband were declaring their house a sanctuary.

Another friend, Daoud Nassar, has a farm outside Bethlehem that is surrounded by Israeli settlements.  The government has blocked the road to his farm with boulders so you have to walk in.  They have restricted him from building anything above ground, so he uses caves.  They have repeatedly bulldozed the olive trees he grows.  But his farm, called Tent of Nations, is a sanctuary.  This is the sign that greets everyone.

IMG_3664

Welcome, Jesus.  May each place we set our feet today be a sanctuary, a piece of heaven on earth.

Where is your sanctuary today?  Might you take a minute to dedicate your space to the work of God?

 

« Older posts

© 2017 Laura Crosby

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑