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One (Boring) Word

Have you guys chosen One Word this year?  I know it’s halfway through January and I’m late to the party, but give me a break…It’s been, well…complicated.

First, I asked my family members what word they would choose for me. Big mistake. I asked so I needed to listen, but not only did I get a bit of variety, but they weren’t words like “joy” or “adventure” – you know, the kind I wanted to hear. Ahem.  My daughters gave me “perseverance”, and “patience”. REALLY?? That’s the last time I play THIS game!

Next, I prayed and reflected, but the word the Lord seemed to impress on me was also not one I was crazy about.

BO-RING! Right?

It made sense because I’ve been working hard on some different things and I need to not lose sight of the eternal purpose of each, but I thought (again), “REALLY? Blah.” So I tried to think of more exciting alternatives that wouldn’t violate the intent, but I came up empty.

And then the Lord did that thing where He kind of freaks me out. I could almost see Him rolling His eyes, saying “This daughter of mine is a little slow. I’d better connect the dots for her.”

Here are a few of the verses He put in front of me to stumble over…

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruitfruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16

 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

Maybe part of the fruit He wants to produce in me is patience and perseverance?

But there’s more.

My husband, John,  (before I ever landed on “fruit”) said, “I’m not sure which one word it would be, but I want you to be able to celebrate the fruit God is already producing through you and enjoy it.”

Soooo maybe God uses a village? If you’ve chosen One Word for the year, what is it and what led you to choose it? If you’re commenting for the first time, don’t freak when it doesn’t show up immediately (it will, soon)

If you don’t have One Word yet, consider praying and asking your family.

P.S. This isn’t about working harder…not about doing more. It’s about paying attention and cooperating with the work God desires to do in your life to make you more like Him.

 

 

 

10 Day Winter Warm-up Challenge

Hey Friends!

How many of you are feeling like you need a nap after all the busyness of December? Maybe you agree with the quote I read recently that said “January is like the Monday of months.”

Regardless of how you’re feeling, I’m so grateful you are showing up here! I pray you will find encouragement and joy in this community!

You may be reading this in flip-flops from an area of the world that is balmy right now and I’m sooooo happy for you (eye roll), but for most of us (especially those of us in MN who have seventy billion more months of winter before we see color again) I thought we could bond around some winter warm-up prompts. Wherever you are, join in! 

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How to be a Perfect Parent

Sweaty but eager, we gather around our tennis coach after a drill.  In wrapping up, he reminds us of something he says often about “winning”. “Instead of worrying about whether you’re winning, you need to just stay in the present point. You need to detach from the outcome.”

Immediately one of the other moms on the team says, “That’s what I do with my kids!”

Does that mean she doesn’t care if her kids are convicts or racists or just neglect to say “thank you”? Not at all! It just means that she knows she can only be responsible for her part.

When they’re little that includes coaching and consequences, time-outs and training.

And prayer. Lots of prayer.

I have a mentor friend who used to tell her kids, “I have you basically for 18 years and I’m going to steward that time as wisely and prayerfully as I can.” Does that mean when they turned 18 she tore up her “mom card” and said “Phew, I’m done!”? Absolutely not. She continues to pray, trusting God to get her kids where they need to go. 

Another friend has a grown daughter with issues. She kept rescuing her daughter from the consequences of her bad choices as an adult until she had a “Detach from the outcome” moment. She realized her actions were driven by what others might think of her as a parent if they saw her daughter’s destructive behavior. She opened her hands and acknowledged that her daughter was differentiated from her – an adult, responsible for her own choices. Again, that didn’t mean she stopped loving and praying fervently for her daughter. It meant she clarified what was her job, and what was her daughter’s job.

But the other day I was talking to one of my closest friends about a family member we’ve prayed for for 15 years without seeing the fruit we have begged God for. WHY Lord?

I wonder…What might it have been like for the father in the parable of the prodigal son?

How long was the son gone? How long did the dad pray?

Did he go over in his mind all the mistakes he had made as a parent? The times when he lost his temper? The times they skipped family devotions? That time he was too busy to play catch? Did he struggle to trust God to forgive and redeem his parental shortcomings?

Did he pray, somedays feeling like it was hopeless – like his son would never come to his senses?

He let his son go. He let him experience the consequences of his actions. Did he fight the urge every day to run to the “far country” and rescue him?

Did he struggle to know what his part was and what God’s part was? What the parable says is that he kept waiting and watching.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

How can you be a perfect parent? You admit you’re not, and you embrace your job to pray and wait and watch, trusting the only One who is.

God, the one and only—
    I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
    so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
    breathing room for my soul… Psalm 62:5-6

 

 

Thriving in a Plan B Life

The other day I wanted to throw something.  Or have a pity party that would involve eating lots of Patticake (from YUM!) with Cookie Dough ice cream.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

Until the late afternoon when it hit me.  I was cranky because I felt out of control.

Can you relate?  Maybe just a little bit?

You’ve had days like this when you were planning an outside activity and it’s minus seventy billion degrees,

and a friend who’s made a commitment to be somewhere backs out,

and a kid gets sick, and that thing that was promised is late,

and people don’t realize how lucky they are to have you around.

Big stuff and little stuff can throw us.

A lost job.

A freak accident.

Public criticism

Bottom line?  You feel powerless and you feel like you’re living a Plan B life, and you don’t like it.

Not one bit.

It feels like everyone else in the universe has power and they’re using it to wreck your day.  Can I get an “Amen!”?

But what if…

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2 Words That Will Improve a Strained Relationship

A friend of mine returns after a holiday visit with her in-laws. The relationship with her mother-in-law has been rough as a pot-hole-filled Minneapolis winter road from the start. Different interests, different expectations for the relationship, different cultures, different education…all of these are factors that leave these two both feeling like they are walking through a minefield whenever they are together.

They each go into time together armored up…wary. Over time, they have come to anticipate detonation rather than delight. The other becomes freeze-framed  as a caricature of their worst self…

“She is so ____________”

“Why is she so sensitive about _________________”

“I always have to __________________.”

Whether an in-law, or colleague or friendship that has soured, most of us have a relationship like this in our lives. I do. And as I have been reflecting on my friend with the in-law, and me with a difficult friendship, this is where the Lord has led me.

Humility promotes healing. 

To improve a strained relationship we need to remove our armor, examine our own failings, and offer two authentic words.

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Now The Work of Christmas Begins

Those of you who subscribe to this blog know that it is my heart to create environments and resources that help us draw closer to Jesus and others. Often that sounds really good, but living it out? Ahh that’s the tough part!

Someone recently said that January is like the “Monday” of months. It may include the excitement of fresh starts, but also the “Ugh, it’s back to work…” Boy I hear that!

This morning I opened an email from a friend that included this poem.

 

If you’re like me, you read this and say, “YES! AMEN to that!” It sounds so right, so noble, so inspiring.

But then we ask, “But how? Little ol’ me? How am I going to do that?”

Yes, God may call us to BIG, DRAMATIC actions in order to achieve the work of Christmas and I want to be ready and willing for that.

But for most of us,

  • finding the lost may look like greeting a stranger at church
  • feeding the hungry may look like preparing care kits for the homeless with fast food gift cards
  • releasing the prisoner may look like extending grace to someone who has wronged you
  • rebuilding the nations may look like supporting refugees (check out renewproject.org or preemptivelove.org)

 

 

  • bringing peace among the people may look like reaching out and getting to know someone from a different faith, culture, or political party – asking questions and listening well. Or advocating with your congressperson.

Big or small, may we be open to doing the work of Christmas every day.

 

Soul Food to say Good-bye to 2017

Ok, can we all just agree that we’re kind of happy to see 2017 go?

We’re hoping 2018 will be a kinder, gentler, more high-minded year. We’d like to expect better of ourselves and others. We’d like to read more stories of honesty, integrity, and service. Grace and truth in equal measure.

My prayer is that Love will be the loudest voice we’ll hear.

We don’t want to live in denial of the challenges, but just for today, I thought maybe a little inspiration, a few laughs and joy were in order.

Want a great, feel-good movie? We went to see The Greatest Showman and loved it!! Downloading the soundtrack.

And for a laugh…Some of the best text conversations of the year:

Smile.

An oldie, but such a goodie!! A-MAZING!

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Here’s to 2018! 

Words Matter

I sit at a table with my mocha looking out on an icy blue sky and pristine fresh snow on Lake Calhoun. It’s a perfect in-between day with nothing scheduled except prayer, reflection, and creation. Those of you with littles around don’t hate me. Your day will come.

As many people like to remind us, WORDS MATTER. Aspirational words, quotes, affirmation, words of self-awareness…They have power to form, inspire, discourage, challenge…

In our family we write a lot of words, read a lot of words, and speak a lot of words. And this can be dangerous if left unexamined!

At the end of each year, my husband John and I have the tradition of taking time to read back over our journals (our words) from the year, noting what lessons God has been trying to teach us. We highlight quotes and key learnings.

This year, additionally, I asked our family what One Word they think characterized or summed up something important for them in 2017. 

“Perspective and priorities” from our son-in-law, and “modis vivendi” (literally “an arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully” – a way through) from our D.C. daughter were among those shared.

It’s hard for me to accept and celebrate “wins”, so it was reluctantly that I admitted I think “Brave” would be my word for 2017. As I look back I took some steps that felt scary to me. I created more. I put myself out there more. I stood firm more. I’m trying to celebrate that.

I also usually choose One Word for the coming year, but I’m doing things a little differently. I chose One Word for each of my family members that I’m committing to pray for them. 

Then, I asked each of them if they would share a word they think I should embrace this coming year. It might be a quality they think I need to grow in, or a stretch area or goal focus…It’s been good to hear their perceptions of what I need!

Lastly, I was inspired by Emily Quinton and want to write a letter to myself to be opened next New Year’s Eve about what I’m hoping to do and where I’m hoping to grow in this coming year. Words matter. And so I pray that I will speak and write and think words that are more like Jesus.

That’s what I’m up to this New Year’s Eve Eve day! What about you?

Towards the Making of a More Relaxed Christmas 2018

It’s the 28th of December as I write this. I’m guessing both you and I are both feeling a bit “over” – overfed, overtired, over-partied, over-drawn – after weeks of celebrating. Am I right?

Most of us are looking forward to taking down our Christmas tree for a fresh start, and simultaneously feeling sad for the passing of this holy time.

Some of you are thinking “coulda/shoulda/woulda” regarding some of the choices you made this Advent. Maybe you said too many “yes’s” or were totally unorganized. Maybe you over-spent, or were too tired to be present in the moments. Our dream is to be present to God and to others especially during this holy season, so what are we going to do about it?

At our church, every week we do a little post-service eval, asking what went well and what we could do better. I’m thinking that if we do that and give a little forethought, Christmas 2018 can be even better than 2018. So here are a few suggestions.

And let me just say, if you are a man reading this and thinking, “Not my thing”, think again. One of the best gifts you can give your wife if you’re married is your partnership in this season. Step up men!

December 2017 /January 2018 

Have a conversation today. Evaluate Christmas 2017. Discuss these questions:

  • What worked well for Christmas 2017? What are we thankful for?
  • If we were going to choose one word to characterize Christmas 2017, what would it be?
  • What mistakes do we want to avoid for Christmas 2018?

The putzy stuff I hate to do, but this helps:

  • LABEL EVERYTHING as you put it away. Attach pictures of how you decorated to your storage boxes. Buy a storage box and label it 2018.
  • Buy candles, ornaments, ribbon, and goodie bags at post-holiday sales. Put these together and label “Hostess gifts”

  • I LOVE making things, but when November rolls around I feel too pressured to get creative. This January I’m looking at some of the DIY gifts I have pinned and am committing to actually doing them during our cold Minnesota winter.
  • Write on your calendar for December, 2018 which cookies you absolutely loved this year and want to commit to baking next year.
  • Record which menus worked this year – for an Open House, for easy family dinners, for whatever.
  • Update your Christmas card list now.
  • Did you have a great idea for a gift or an activity? Write it down on your calendar – December 2018.

Throughout 2018

  • If you have trips or family gatherings planned for 2018, write in reminders on those dates – TAKE FAMILY PHOTOs for Christmas cards!
  • Keep a gift chart of people, ideas and budget through the year..

November 2018

  • Buy or order your Christmas cards before Thanksgiving if possible.
  • I know not everyone can do this, but I block off the 5 days after Thanksgiving to focus on prepping for Christmas – getting decorations up over time so I can be relaxed. We make a point of coming home from visiting relatives at least a day early to miss the crazy crowds driving/flying home and to give ourselves some time to get grounded before the rush of the holidays starts.
  • If you’re married and have kids at home, sit down with your calendars and see if there is one day you can both take off and work together on shopping (grocery or gift). Enjoy a lunch date!

December 2018

Talk about expectations with your family. What are the things each person is MOST looking forward to and what are they apprehensive about?

Gift ideas

  • A lot of Christmas gifts can’t be anticipated or bought way ahead, but one that everyone loves that you can do in November is to create photo books for family members. If you do this on Shutterfly you can add to save and add to your project throughout the year too.

  • One of the best gift ideas I heard this year was from a grandmother who is a voracious reader and has a huge library of books. She chose one of her books to give each of her kids and grandkids with a note saying why she thought they’d like it. My mom has given me similar gifts that are precious to me – classics we loved, my grandfather’s Bible and my grandmother’s scrap book (100 years old!)

  • For busy mom friends this year I made them the main course of a dinner they could freeze and pop in the oven on a busy day when they didn’t want to cook.

  • Time is our most precious commodity. It may sound like a cop-out, but giving a “date” with someone to take them to a movie and dinner is a precious gift.

 

  • I love it when friends use their gifts and talents to create something special. My friend Sharon, who runs a creative communications team called Open Book,  made these prints to give.

  • And my friend Cara, who has started Rooted by Design, a flower arranging business made these lovely gifts for each of her friends (in a votive holder that can be reused!).

  • Looking for a gift for neighbors or hostess gifts? Make a big batch of ONE thing and put it in the bags you got after Christmas last year. Attach a tiny ornament. Three of the things I have given in the past are homemade granola, or “Christmas crack” snack mix, or quick bread in inexpensive ceramic loaf pans (I got red ones for about $2.00 a piece at Michaels)

 

  • Do you know someone who is grieving? This one is tricky because everyone what is helpful to one might be hurtful to another. The first Christmas after my brother died, my sister-in-law didn’t have the will or energy to decorate herself, but friends snuck over and hung a wreath on her door. You also might give an ornament that reminds you of the person who died, with a note sharing a memory. 

Those are a few of my ideas. What would you add? Please share in comments!

A Post For Young Leaders

The other night John and I got an email. You know…one of those emails. The ones that make your heart race and your stomach do flip-flops. An email criticizing something you’ve done or said.

In this case it was me being criticized, but they wanted John, as senior pastor to know.

As a first-born rule-follower, people-pleaser with WOO as one of my strengths, this is just the worst. And being in ministry for 35 years, it’s been my biggest area of growth.

When I was younger, my immediate response would be ALL THE FEELS – embarrassment, shame, righteous indignation, anger, and (as a J on the Meyers Briggs)….. IMMEDIATE ACTION!!

Is is darn hard living with people’s displeasure, whether we’ve made a mistake, or there has been a misunderstanding, or we just disagree. There is no way to make all the people happy all the time.

This is the hardest lesson I’ve learned as a leader: It’s not my job to please everyone, but it is my job to pray and pay attention in order to learn from everyone.

This is the challenge for each of us: To allow criticism to teach us more about God, ourself, and others. 

I’ve grown a tiny bit over the years (and I’ve gotten much more used to criticism), so after my brief emotional freak out over this recent email, I settled down, prayed, and went to sleep.

The next morning I prayed again.

  • I listed all the issues I thought the critique-r raised.
  • I listed all the questions I needed to talk to God about, including “What is true? What is from You? How do I please not the critic, but YOU?”
  • Then I went through Scripture typing out any pertinent passage that might inform my thinking about the issues raised.

  • I prayed some more.
  • I wrote a response to the offended person and asked if we could talk face-to-face, but I didn’t send it immediately. I let it sit and came back to it 5 hours later.

 One of our rules is “Never argue in email.” I stand by this because body language, tone, and nuance are so important, and so easy to misinterpret in email, but I also see the value in putting something in writing that others can take the time to read over and process.

  • Before I sent it, I asked myself:
    • “Does this fail of grace?”
    • “Is there pride, resentment, self-righteousness…that I need to confess and deal with before sending this?”

In this case, I was fortunate because the critic who had been offended is someone healthy and well-meaning.

But that’s not always the case. One of the hardest parts of dealing with criticism is letting go.

We do our part. We pray and search for the kernel of truth. We apologize when appropriate, but we can’t control the response of the other. 

As Jesus-followers we’re supposed to be all about redemption, forgiveness, and do-overs. We’ve discovered that many give lip-service to those values, but not all are willing to do the hard work of living them out in real-life relationships.

It takes two to come to understanding and reconciliation. It takes two to truly listen to each other with compassionate curiosity. So it’s deeply disappointing when you feel like you’re doing your part, but not getting the response you envisioned.

This is when we need to do the further hard work of opening our hands and praying: “Lord, if I’ve missed anything that is mine to own, please show me. If I’ve done what’s mine, help me to forgive and let go.”

What about you? What has your experience been with criticism, conflict, and crucial conversations?

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