Monday, November 17, 2014

Giveaway!! Indy Int'l Festival

GIVEAWAY!!!

We go to the International Festival every year - it is one of my very favorite events. The food, the exposure to people of my city whose heritage is from another country, the music, the dancing, the arts... I love it all!



This year, I've got a great opportunity for YOU to attend with your family!!  I've got a family 4 pack of tickets that you could win! Check out the Rafflecopter and enter as many ways as you can!

Highlights:

  • If you can go on Friday afternoon, approximately 200 people will become U.S. citizens in a moving Naturalization Ceremony.
  • Italian street painting - try your hand at this beautiful type of art.
  • Kids can play on the giant world floor map.
  • Each booth will display traditional clothing from that heritage.

If you choose to just go and enjoy this event without winning the tickets (and believe me, it is worth it), adult tickets are $10, kids are $6 and kids 5 and under are free.  Bring cash so you can try a wide variety of food from around the world! There is also a beer/wine garden for the adults.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TKD Update: The Tournament

Teagan competed in 2 events - form and board breaking. Next year, she can add sparring to the list.

She took 1st in her group in both events.  All kids get medals. Each group of 3 is awarded 3rd, 2nd, and 1st. But I saw instances where the rank of 1st was given as it was deserved - not just based on who you competed against.  A strong, solid performance meant first place.

Of course, for Teagan, 2nd or 3rd would have felt like a failure so I'm very relieved that her first tournament experience was very positive.

At attention, prepared for her first event - Form.

Horse riding stance. 

Waiting for her turn to do her form.

Receiving her first place medal.
 
At attention, ready to break a board with a jump kick.


Blurry but you get the idea!

Waiting for results...

1st place!

JAAA!



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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hunting and Church

This is going to seem like a very random post.  But follow along - it should all come together.

I am not a gun person.  I am not a hunter.  I know people who shoot and I know people who hunt.  But it isn't my thing. I have a hard time killing a bug let alone shooting a deer or a duck or whatever.

I see hunting as very different than butchering. I will freely admit that I prefer to turn a blind eye to the killing part of enjoying the meat on my plate.

I feel differently about people who hunt and then consume that meat and they specifically hunt for that purpose.

What I don't find any joy in is someone who kills an animal for fun, who celebrates the violent death of that living creature, who then gloats and parties it up.

Yes, I believe that animals have a purpose to feed other animals and people. I do not believe that animals serve a purpose to have humans enjoy killing them.

There was a guy I have been following on Facebook for a few years now.  I don't always agree with the stuff he says and posts but there was always something I found in what he had to say that I enjoyed. He claimed to be a God guy and he works to bring others closer to Christ through worship.

But then he went hunting and killed his first deer and posted video and pictures that were very bloody and very joyful and very celebratory of the killling of an animal.

I found it distasteful and heart breaking.

I left a comment and I unfollowed.

And he left a quick reply that I didn't like one sermon so I quit the church.

Um. Dude.  YOU are NOT my church. You are someone I paid a scant amount of attention to on social media because you were consistently seeking Jesus, even in dark times and through struggles. If you think posting on Facebook and writing a blog and making videos in any way makes YOU a CHURCH, you don't understand what church is in the first place.

Here's what church is to me.

It's a family. It's people who come together seeking a single purpose - Christ. We might not all know that we are seeking Him when we walk in the doors. But eventually, the journey leads us to that Truth. Church is where the seekers gather to learn, to worship, to praise.  Where we support and love and listen and share.

There are people in my church who hunt and people who are vegan. People who are opposed to homosexuality and people who support gay marriage. People who are appalled at assisted suicide and people who believe in a right to die. People who are pro-life, people who are pro-choice. People who are rich, people who are poor.

You get the idea, right?

There is a guy in my church who is an avid hunter. And I love him. Not because he hunts. Not because he refrains from bloody pictures of hunting on social media.  He hunts, I don't. I love him because he is seeking the same thing I am.

There is a woman in my church that I love dearly. She doesn't hold the same position on homosexuality as I do. She strongly believes that she is biblical in her position, just as I strongly believe that I am biblical in mine.  I love her. She is seeking the same thing I am.

So, random dude on the internet, when I unfollow you because I find your sharing to be distasteful, inappropriate for my kids to see... it's not because you've given any kind of sermon and I'm certainly not quitting your "church."  I was never part of your church.

I can and do love people with different opinions than my own.  I can and do love people who believe differently than I do - because really, we all believe differently, don't we? I can and do listen to sermons that I don't agree with and I haven't left my church family yet.




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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Life Lessons

Has your child ever been nervous about something?

Let's say your child has started a new sport. And the new sport has a specific uniform, as many sports do. And has specific skills to learn, as many sports do.

And it's the first day.  And your child is in uniform.  And is a little nervous.  What do you say to them?

"It's ok! Put on a smile and do your best!"

"Everyone has a first day when they start - it will be fine!"

Or maybe we even get a little frustrated and tell them they are being silly, that everyone else is wearing the same thing and doing the same thing... just get over it.

"Just give it everything you have - no reason to feel silly!"

I got to experience a little something that has certainly changed my perspective on how to handle those types of anxieties and nerves.

About 2 months ago, Teagan started Tae Kwon Do.  Within 6 weeks, she had earned her yellow belt.  The school then had a Parent Workshop - an opportunity to take a short class with your child and then have questions answered, learn more about the philosophy of the school, and learn how to best support your child.


Turns out, one of the ways they believe you can best support your child is by signing up to take 4 weeks of classes.  For free.  I get that it's really a great sales pitch and that at the end of my 4 weeks, they will be very complimentary and will want me to sign a contract at a special one time only rate.

But.

I signed up.

And I went to my very first class last night.

I put on the uniform.  White pants. The white shirt that has a weird elastic thing inside.  The white belt.

And I felt ridiculous.

Seriously ridiculous.

But the look on Teagan's face... she was positively beaming.

So I went to class.  Actually, we went together to a family class.

And as I sat on the floor, waiting for the class to be called on to start...

I felt ridiculous again.  And got this knot in my stomach.  And I was suddenly very uncertain about what I was about to do and what kind of ungraceful idiot I was going to appear to be.

And it struck me that this is probably how my youngest son feels at just the thought of doing a class like this.  And that this is how my daughter must have felt on her first day.

I'm generally a confident person.

But signing up for TKD? Signing up to do something that I've never done before, never had any interest in before, something that has never even been part of my radar??  Standing in front of kids and adults and Black Belt Master and trying to balance or kick or punch or do forms?

I don't have the brain power to memorize Korean terms (counting to 10, terms for school and uniform, how to say thank you, etc).

I'm old and fat and jumping jacks make me pee a little.

How can I possibly think that this was a good idea?  I was ready to tuck tail and run.

And then Teagan grabbed my arm and said...

"Mommy, I'm so glad you're doing this with me!"

Heart. Melted.

Confidence. Gained.

During class, I felt fat.  And old. And terribly out of shape.  Thankfully, the jumping jacks were not pee producing.  I felt silly and I felt awkward.  I understood exactly why my daughter gets that grin on her face - because sometimes it just feels silly.

It was an important lesson on confidence and humility.

I'm not exactly sure what I will tell my kids the next time they face something new... but I do know that I will look back on this and remember the feelings.  And I know I won't be just telling them to suck it up and try their best.

Life lessons. Taught by stepping into my daughter's shoes.  Pretty powerful!

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beauty In The Broken

I've been kind of hiding under a rock a bit.  Some people won't believe that - I'm still doing all the stuff I've been doing.  But I've been hiding from my blog because this is where I usually share my deeper thoughts, my experiences, stuff about my insides.  And lately there has been stuff that I can't really share because I'm trying to figure it all out on some level.

And today, I got to do some figuring.

I'm part of the leadership of my church.  My term is about to end as my time leading my particular ministry is coming to an end after 3 years.  This weekend, our leadership team had our annual retreat.  And I had something of an "ah ha" moment in a big discussion about our spiritual gas tanks.

I realized I wasn't full.  I wasn't empty.  I wasn't in the middle.

Or rather, I didn't know how to tell if I was full or empty or on the middle.

My gauge is broken.

I've been having some personal struggles.  The kind of struggles that aren't easy to define.  It isn't money or my marriage or stuff with my kids.  It isn't depression or illness or a fight with family members.

In the midst of the conversation about our spiritual filled-ness, as I was pondering if I feel spiritually full or not, I realized that I simply didn't know.  I know that I am in an internal struggle right now and I know that part of my struggle is church related and interpersonal relationship related and self evaluation related.  And I also know that God is carrying me through this.

But it suddenly struck me that God isn't just carrying me through it.  He brought me to it first.

As a dear friend and faithful mentor shared with me:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."  Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

I'm in this place for a reason.  I'm in this place - where I feel lost, feel unsure of who I can trust, feel unsure of how truly loved I am, how much people actually like me - because it's here that I am vulnerable.  And it's in this vulnerability that I learn to see where I am broken and learn to see that God loves me in my brokenness.  And that the broken people I see around me aren't a sign that I have to pull back and protect myself.  I need to step in and love them as they are, where they are - the way God does.

But it's hard. And I'm not sure that I fully know how to do that because there is still a lot of uncertainty and a lot of desire to protect myself and a lot of wondering about my selfish need to be liked and this jealousy I've found within myself.

And then I had a random conversation with another friend.  About nothing related to any of this.  It was about our kids.  She's been through some hard seasons with her kids.  And she's supported me through some of those hard seasons with my kids.  And now here we are, both enjoying where we are in parenting.  For this moment.  Knowing hard times are ahead.  And knowing that more of these likeable seasons are ahead.

And it struck me...

She's a friend that has stayed by my side... even if there had been distance between our sides... through a lot in the past year or so.  That even though we've recognized distance between us because of life and lack of time and whatever else... we still have God's love between us.  We still have a heartbeat that is in sync as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ and we both have a spirit of desiring to love others.

She's someone who loves me in my brokenness.

And it made me realize that my life is filled with people who have loved me - even in my brokenness, in my flaws, in my pain, in the pain I caused, in the midst of my personal chaos.

My friend Cathy who stood by me through a lot of personal trauma in high school.

My parents as they supported me and loved me through a decade of nearly impossible parenting of my teen self who was terribly damaged.

My husband as he has suffered with me, loved me, sometimes maybe been a bit frustrated by me, encouraged me, and let me support and encourage him.

Friends who have sometimes faded and sometimes stood solidly by my side.

Friends who have prayed for me. Friends who have fun with me. Friends who hug me and hold me (and sometimes even pet my hair to calm me down).

Yes, there's been a garish light on some of this interpersonal difficulty lately.

But the light is starting to shine bigger and fuller and I'm seeing more and more that in this time of vulnerability and uncertainty... God has given me the incredible gift of people who love me.  People who love me just as I am - even when it is nearly impossible, even when I am very unloveable.

There is beauty in the broken. Beauty in the vulnerable. Beauty in the pain. Sometimes it is hard to see it or feel it or know it.  But it's true.  And I pray that if you are in one of those darker seasons that there are points of light surrounding you so that you know that you are still loved.



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Selfishness, Instant Gratification, Fear, and "Bully"

Last night, we happened upon Independent Lens on PBS.  They were airing the documentary "Bully."  I own this movie.  But I haven't watched it yet.  Because it hurts my heart to see meanness. It hurts my heart to see people hurting.

I don't like how angry I feel toward the kid doing the bullying. Or how angry I feel toward the parent who is trying their best but doesn't realize they are also putting down their child.  Or how angry I feel toward the administrators and elected officials who brush all of it off or who blame the victim.

I don't like to see a child struggle.  To see the look on their face when they try to tell someone and are shut down.  To watch as they try to figure out how to handle this situation - with laughter or with tears or fighting back.

Or by ending their life.  Because they don't know what else to do.

And it got me thinking.

This isn't just something that happens in middle school or high school or elementary school.  This spirit of selfishness runs throughout society these days.

Just like the vice principal who wants to look like she's taking action and being firm - her selfish desire is about how she comes across.  She doesn't seek to do what is right by the students who are being harmed.

Just like the bully who wants to feel powerful.

Just like the parent who wants to push their child to open up, to push their child to stand up for themselves.

Our selfish hearts get in the way of so much.

Our desire to be strong. Powerful. Above. Over. Bigger.

We do it as adults. In our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in our online groups, amongst our friends.  We want to be in control, on top, in the know, part of the loop - at all costs, sometimes.

Our desire for instant gratification is fueled by that selfishness. We want to feel big and powerful and best and we want to feel it RIGHT NOW.  So we make choices that hurt others in order to get what we want to feel.  Even if it is short lived.  And then we move on to another target and another and another - all so we can keep feeling "on top" and not lose our status.

We fear stepping back from that terrifying yet comfortably routine place where we gossip and spread doubt and plant seeds of negativity all around us... hoping that maybe if we make everyone else look at least a little bad, we will somehow look brighter.

Maybe you are shaking your head right now and saying that it just isn't like that once you grow up.

Or maybe you are afraid to look at your circle... or to look at yourself.

What if our greatest desire really and truly was about seeking to serve and love others?  What would that look like?

In the movie, there were times that I was yelling at the TV - "Mom! HUG YOUR KID RIGHT NOW!"  "Bus driver! PULL OVER AND STOP THEM!" "Administrator! BE HIS CHAMPION!"

And I realized...

My heart yells like that every day.

When I see someone post judgemental stuff on Facebook about the guy on the street corner begging with his cardboard sign.

When I hear about private groups of online friends who spend their time laughing at and making fun of others.

When I'm in a conversation and the topic turns to disparaging someone I know.

When I find myself participating in that conversation.

When I hear myself fight with my husband or yell at my child.

When I think of a family member and roll my eyes or groan at the thought of spending time with them.

When I spend time with a group of people - any group - and in any way come away feeling like I'm somehow better than they are.

I'm just as guilty as any other person.

I sometimes think the difference is that it eats me up inside.  I can't live with myself when I find myself drowning in those kind of behaviors and conversations and thoughts.

But I want people to like me and they will like me if I agree with them.  I want to be accepted.  I want people to think I'm pretty and loving and generous and authentic and I want them to see certain things in me that maybe I don't even really see in myself.  So I try to fill that gap... and instead of filling it with love, if I'm not careful, I can easily fill it with yucky stuff.

While kids might be more physical with their bullying and might use words and language that is more directly cruel, we adults certainly know how to smoothly cut someone down with a glare or a few choice words.  We know how to ruin someone's reputation, weaken their support network... turn their friends against them.

We all have to get real.  Right now.  If we want kids to stop bullying... if we want kids to be kind to one another... if we want kids to stand up for each other... if we want kids to be friends with everyone...

If we want to be able to teach them to be that way and we want to demonstrate for them how to be that way...

We have to authentically live that way first.

I certainly don't do this perfectly.  But I do want to challenge you.

Look inside your heart. Are you being a bully? Are you making excuses for your selfish behavior? Are you trying to fit in by being mean? Are you afraid to stand up because then you become the target?

Do you feel good about how you treat others?  Really and truly? All others?

Step 1 is to recognize in ourselves what we are afraid of identifying, afraid of recognizing.

Step 2 is to change that behavior.  To not go there anymore.

Step 3? Well, I think it's to try and help shape other people's behavior.  To encourage them to make changes, too.  To stand up against wrong and hurtful choices.

Step 4?  More hugs.  Lots more hugs and healing and loving ourselves and loving each other.  Serving each other. Loving each other. Choosing to see beauty and positivity in everyone around us.

But most important is step 1.  Being really and truly and deeply honest with ourselves about how we behave, how we treat others, what we think about others, what we say about others.



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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Raise My Hands

I've become a very demonstrative worshipper.

I don't plan it.  I don't practice any moves or watch myself in a mirror to see how I look.  I don't plan out when to raise my hand or when to sway or when to dance.

But I've learned that inward worship requires outward expression.

I'm a very expressive person.  But in worship, in that intimate place with God, I'd always held back my emotions.  God's been working on that, though.  From starting to feel ok with my hand in the air from time to time... to feeling like I am truly reaching for God when my hand is raised or that an outstretched hand is a sign of my prayers over the congregation... to now being in a place where I don't even know that I am fully aware of everything I'm doing when I worship.

I sway. I rock. My feet move a bit.  My hands go up or out or to my heart.  Sometimes I cry.

Worship is a way of expressing that God is worthy of my praise and I am worthy of His love.

I was curious to learn more about what Scripture says about worship so I did some reading and learning.

Nehemiah 8:6
Then Ezra called out and blessed the Eternal, worshiping God’s greatness. With their hands raised to the heavens, the people called out loudly in response, crying, “Amen! So may it be!” Then they fell to their knees and bowed. With their faces to the ground, they worshiped the Eternal. 

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:19
When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God

1 Corinthians 14:26
What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community.

I'm learning more and more all the time about what it means to be a Worship Leader.  It took some time to feel comfortable with the title and sometimes I still struggle with it.  But more and more I'm understanding what it means.

Worship is personal.  It's between a person and God.  But there is power in sharing praise and worship in a group of people.  And being a worship leader means that I get to lead people into a closer relationship with Christ and to teach them *how* to worship the way the Bible teaches us.

Maybe you hold back.  Maybe you don't really like to sing.  Maybe you don't really get why people sing or why they raise their hands or move around.

And maybe now you can at least see that and realize that it's a Biblical thing.  It's not about drawing attention or somehow being a "better praiser" than anyone else.  For me, it's completely about opening my heart to the Holy Spirit and trusting Him to guide me and move me for the sake of others who seek to worship.

That's why I raise my hands.


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