Don’t Wait for Others to Include You- Take the Initiative

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Regardless of our current stage in life, we all want acceptance. We see others we’d like to associate with and wish for someone to include us…for someone to draw us in…for someone to simply invite us to be part of “the group”.

Oh… We may be a few years older and wiser at this stage in life. And although we’re no longer in elementary school or high school- just the same- those feelings we experienced during our younger years have sure enough carried over into adulthood.

“Pick me to be on your team!” You inwardly yearn, like the last child picked for the kickball game, as you see a group of moms in your church (or at the park) chatting and laughing together like the close knit bunch they are.

Perhaps, you are somewhat shy, though. Or perhaps you’re just a little concerned that you don’t have all the qualities you need to fit in with the group.

Maybe you lack confidence… Or maybe you just don’t see yourself having as much to offer the group as they do…

Whatever the case, to sum it all up, you simply feel insecure in comparison to them, and so you find continual excuses to remain in your own little box… just waiting… hoping… one day they’ll extend the olive branch of friendship your way.

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Oh dear Mama… May I encourage you?

You are so much more than what all of those misperceptions and feelings of insecurity are telling you.

No, maybe, you don’t see yourself as having all of the outward qualities you so admire in these other moms.

Perhaps their style and what they can afford is slightly better than what you feel you have. Maybe they are in better physical shape than you right now. Maybe a few of them even carry themselves with a little more confidence than you do…

But you know what?! You’ve got things going  for you too…And in ways they could also benefit from!

You have the ability to be sincere and kind… You are hospitable and caring… You are compassionate and considerate… All qualities that would make any person an excellent candidate for friendship.

No, you may never be a carbon copy of these other moms, even if you tried…

But then again, God never intended you to be that way anyway. He equipped you with talents, grace, wisdom, and a beautiful personality that is unique to you…and for the benefit of others as well.

And although we are different, we can all learn from each other.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Yes, we can all benefit from each other’s strengths, gaining more strength ourselves as we work together and learn from those who are more skilled in areas where we are weak.

We are beautifully different, and that’s what helps us grow! We all have something to contribute…as we each serve each other as “iron sharpening iron” in our own unique ways.

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Something I’ve learned over the years, both during my high school years as well as during my adult life is this…

Don’t wait for others to include you. Take the initiative! Be the one to make others feel comfortable in their own skin, and in the process you will be a blessing and make many friends as well.

Does it make us feel validated when others do include us? Oh yes. Absolutely!

But the danger in always waiting for others to draw us in is that we limit ourselves, failing to capitalize on great friendships we could have had if only we had taken the steps to reach out and had simply been a friend ourselves.

John 5:1-18 is an account in the Bible that actually reminds me of this scenario. While it is actually the story of Jesus healing a paralytic who was waiting beside a pool for many years, wanting someone to help him get in the pool at the right time for his healing, I believe we can see a parallel in it with regards to our current topic.

You see, the man in the story (who was a paralytic for 38 years) never received help year after year from others… which is where it seems he thought everyone else found their success in getting healed.

“Sir,” the invalid replied,“I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7

Like the paralytic, you may sometimes think to yourself… “I just wish someone would invite me into their group. The reason I don’t have great friends is because no one has ever included me. So, here I am on the outside looking in… Just waiting for an invitation. Maybe one day they’ll invite me out for lunch.”

Um… May I encourage you again?

It’s time to allow Jesus to heal the wounds you have on the inside from perhaps past disappointments and unmet expectations, and “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

Unfortunately, like the paralytic, you may never get the “invitation” you’re waiting for….from people.

But honestly, you shouldn’t be waiting on them to “carry” you into and through a friendship anyway.

What we all really need is a healing touch in our hearts from Jesus, where He causes us to stand up on the inside- giving us the inner confidence and validation we need- and where He also gives us the strength to take the initiative for ourselves.

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” Proverbs 18:24a KJV

When I was growing up, something I remember my mom teaching me which is in line with the above Bible verse was the following statement: “Kindness is always in style.” Such a simple idea but a totally awesome nugget of truth.

Be friendly. Be approachable. Be humble and kind. None of us has arrived and we’re all looking for genuine friends that we can bless and that will be a blessing in our lives as well.

We may come in all shapes and sizes, but each of us comes equipped with a unique personality, talents, experiences, and a life that is created to be a blessing… if we allow the Lord to use our lives such a way.

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No, Dear Friends… Don’t allow inferiority to hold you back from all that God has for you, and especially don’t allow it to keep you from initiating those relationships with others that will end up being a blessing to all involved.

You’re an amazing treasure that God wants to bless and use as a blessing to others….And you- Yes, you- are so worth friending.

So, dare to be bold and take the initiative in forming new friendships.

…It can all start by you simply saying “Hello”.

(P.S. And by the way, dear Mamas…Be sure to teach this to your kids now, so that they don’t wait all of their lives for others to choose them either. Encourage them to also begin taking the initiative in friendships. Being friendly, showing kindness and displaying a genuine interest in others is a great starting point.)

If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy – Guest Post

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Today, I am guest posting on StrongandCourageousWomen.com. It is such a blessing for PurposefulMoms to be a part of the Strong and Courageous team of writers, as we are given opportunities to share what God has placed in our hearts regarding motherhood via the online blog as well as in the upcoming holiday issue of the Strong and Courageous Women’s magazine! Please be sure to check out today’s post below by clicking on the title!

“If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”

And remember to “Like” Strong and Courageous Women on Facebook to stay current with encouraging and upifting messages in your feed from the magazine’s President, Francis Fernandez, and a variety of amazing female writers!

Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

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But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

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He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

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As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

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Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

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One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.

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The Beauty of Ordinary Days

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I have grown to love July 5 through Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing special about those days, nothing flashy, nothing that takes our breath away.

As much as I love holidays and making those days special for my family, there is something about those two months in the summer that has become precious to me.

They’re ordinary.

For me, these are the slow days.

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The days when we don’t have to leave the house… or we can if we choose to.

These are the days when trips to the beach with a picnic lunch are for more than a tan. They are refreshing to the soul.

These are the days that bring us peace before the storm of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

These are the days that Pinterest has not affected… yet. There are no articles on how to make these days spectacular, to decorate your home for them, or to throw elaborate parties for them.

These are the days of solitude. The days when we stay close to our immediate family before schedules pick up and send us flying in different directions. Days when we stay home without the worry of letting others down.

These are the days when our children can play to their hearts’ content without the pressure of being rushed here and there.

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But it was not always this way for me. As Jerusalem Jackson Greer says in her book, A Homemade Year, “Embracing the ordinary is something I had to learn.”

I had fallen into the pattern of thinking that I wasn’t giving my children everything they deserve. I felt that keeping them busy, always with something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to see, was going to give them the best childhood experience I could offer.

Then one day, my four year old asked what we were doing that day. I listed what I had planned, so proud of myself that I was giving him so many experiences. He looked at me and said, “But I want to stay home.”

It never occurred to me that my children didn’t need or want all of these experiences.

We began to cut back our activities significantly. “Less is more,” as my husband always says. No more trips to the summer movies. No more library classes. No summer art classes at a local craft store.

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Instead, we filled our time seeing family, going to the beach, and swimming at my sister’s community pool.

We watched Netflix.

Happy messes were made and left for a day or two (anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step for me).

We colored… I colored, too.

The ordinary, the mundane became beautiful.

And I saw why God instituted the day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

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Life is busy. There are schedules to keep, appointments to be made, work deadlines, school events, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. Unless we make a point of taking a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, to bring quiet to our souls, and give ourselves space to hear from God.

As it turns out, our summer was not boring, and when special days came up (like an unexpected trip to Legoland for one of the kids), they were extraordinary!

As the school year picks up, my heart feels a tinge of sadness. I know that schedules will resume, activities will find their way onto the calendar, and life will start chugging along at a rapid pace again.

But I have learned over this summer, that I can limit the appointments, the activities, the busyness, and we can continue to enjoy ordinary days throughout the year.

Balancing High Expectations with Love This School Year

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As a new school year begins, kids are excited to return to their classrooms, meet their new teachers and begin another season of learning.

Yes, “new” is always fun and exciting! Well…. for most children at the start of the school year at least.

But what do we do as parents when the excitement or “newness” wears off, like it so often does with most things?

When homework becomes drudgery and begins to interfere with the things our children would rather be doing instead?

When excellence in effort begins to diminish and work returns home disorganized and messy?

When an hour’s worth of homework becomes a never ending evening of pain that feels more like a root canal than spelling practice?

Where tears are spilt and impatience flares?

What do you do?

Might I suggest….

Balance it all with love.

Balancing high expectations with love this school year post for parents

As a third grade teacher for a little over ten years, I remember one year feeling quite frustrated with a particular class I had… And although I had been enthusatic and passionate about my career in education, this particular year I was  beginning to lose my joy in teaching.

I had a few chatty kids and- at the time- I just didn’t feel as if they were giving the attention, focus, and behavior I felt was needed to have a “good year”. It was- I guess- a bit overwhelming to me as well, because my focus on these students gave me a sense that the “whole” class was just a mess.

As a teacher you can begin to feel somewhat justified in feeling frustrated during times like these because of the way your students are acting, despite your efforts. Oh… And you can certainly feel justified in handing out consequences pretty quickly in times like these as well.

But you know what… That’s not how God wanted me to respond…

And I remember one day, He totally shifted my perspective…

Yes, He certainly did!

And it was a much needed shift that totally remade my year.

So, what happened so drastically to reshift my perspective and give me a great year?

Well…. The Lord began to open my eyes to the students who actually “were” paying attention, and He inspired me to begin majorly highlighting them verbally in front of the class when I needed the class to “come back” to me.

When things began to get chatty, I would all of a sudden start naming the students I saw behaving appropriately, and it was totally amazing!!! You could see how everyone else started to follow suit so that they could get recognized as well. Yes, friends, love and a positive outlook took over as opposed to stress, pressure and a focus on negativity.

It was a miracle!!!! 

Furthermore, something God also opened my eyes to was the fact that I also needed to change my preferred style of teaching a bit to accomodate the students who enjoyed talking more… So, it actually helped me grow as a teacher too! (Yes, many times it’s not simply about changing others’ attitudes or actions, but it’s about God changing us in the process as well…. Something we don’t often like to hear, but it’s so true.)

Balancing High Expectations with Love this school year

No, our children are not going to always give us the responses we want from them…and so often it’s so easy to fall into the trap of highlighting the negative…

“Stop acting  that way… Sit down… You’re not doing your work. Pay attention! Why don’t you ever clean your room or your desk?”

We often highlight the negative things our kids do with our words… Don’t we.

And while it may at times produce the result we want… I’d like to suggest a more effective way of achieving the responses we would like to see while still holding high expectations for our children.

It’s something God has helped me learn over the years and something I can always continue working on, as I raise my own little one.

Balance your high expectations with love, highlighting your child’s positive behaviors and alllowing the Lord to use your words and actions to inspire them to continue following the path you want them to be on.

Instead of saying, “Johnny, you’ve been sitting at the table all night doing your homework. You have to get your work done, or your teacher won’t be happy!” (Or whatever other phrase you normally use….)

Why not instead say something like… “Johnny, I know this is hard work, and sometimes it’s not all that fun. But I want you to know I am SO proud of you for working so hard. Remember when you did that paper last year and we thought you’d never get through it… You did it, right? I’m SO proud of you! And I know you can do this too! How about we step away from it for fifteen minutes? Then, we’ll come back to it and get it done together.”

Try it out and see!

Afterall, there’s no reason why you need to add to the chaos of the moment by pulling your hair out when there’s something positive you can do to redirect your child in following through with the task.
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Our children are still little people with hearts that can be wounded by our harsh words spoken “in the moment”, hardened by stubborness because they’re tired and just not motivated to follow through, and yet softened and encouraged to press on when they see your patience, love and admiration.

Children truly want the caring adults in their lives to be proud of them and will do what they can to reach the expectations we set for them. And yet it is our repsonsibilty to continually give them positive reasons for striving to meet our expectations… Expectations that will ultimately have long term benefits in their lives.

(Hey, and as adults, we don’t simply go to work everyday just because we’re always just so excited to get up and go, right? We have reasons for going beyond just a passion for our career. Don’t we? And the same is true for our kids…)

So, yes! Go ahead and throw in some tangible rewards for your kids during the year for them to work towards and to celebrate their success!

Put their good work on display for all to see. Take them out for a celebratory meal or fun day after a hard test or project that they worked hard on. Give them opportunities to share their successes and their excellent work with you and others. Tuck little notes into their lunchboxes to let them know you are proud of them.

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…Because we understand our children are not learning robots, simply storing and computing information just for the sake of it. They are little human beings with beating hearts longing for our approval and a reason to give their personal best.

And whether it’s sitting behind a desk answering phones in the workplace as adults or studying for a spelling test as a second grader, we all need daily reasons to strive for our personal best.

Let’s all give our children good reasons to pursue excellence and give their personal best throughout the year… setting high expectations that are motivated and inspired by the love they see in our eyes and the words and tones they hear in our voices.

“A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 NET

 

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Passing the Torch

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It’s here!

That’s right…. the Olympics!

Here in our family, we look forward to the Opening Ceremonies. We color pictures during the week prior to the ceremonies, make our own version of the Olympic torch the day of the Opening Ceremonies, play John William’s Olympic Fanfare and Theme, and relay around our house.

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It is a small way for us to make the Olympics a special time here at home.

But the more I thought about our torch passing relay here, the more it reminded me of an even bigger torch that I need to pass on.

My faith.

As I pictured myself running with my faith being held high as a torch, I wondered “Is my faith tangible enough that my children can take the torch and continue running with it?”

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I think of my mother and the torch of faith she carried.

It was real.

It was something she carried everyday of her life. It was a torch she not only carried in public, but in the privacy of her home. There were times that she and her torch would go into her room, close the door, and we could hear her pray. When she emerged her torch burned even brighter than before. Her torch led others into a relationship with Jesus. Her torch helped to build the faith of other women.

And when she passed away, her daughters picked up her torch and continued running the race set before them.

The torch of faith in Jesus has been passed down through generations on both sides of my family and on my husband’s side as well. And it is now our job to pass the torch to next generation.

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But how do we do that?

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

“…shall be on your heart…” Our love for Jesus and His Word needs to be in our own hearts before we can pass that love on to our children. How do our children learn to love others. They see the love we have for others first, and they emulate that love. As they see us living out God’s Words and commands, they will begin to live it out in their own lives.

“…You shall teach them diligently…” It is our job as parents to teach our children God’s Word. As an elementary student, I remember my mom sitting me down for breakfast before I went to school in the morning and reading God’s Word to me (I lost my front tooth in 2nd grade during a reading of Moses and the plague of frogs in Egypt at breakfast… somethings you never forget). She made the time, and she made it important.

When we came home from school, my mom would sit me down with a snack and ask me about my day. As things came up, she would pull out her Bible and show me how God wanted me to respond, act, or stay away from, depending on what we were talking about. This is how I learned about God’s view of intimacy in marriage.

Every evening, she would stop what she was doing and memorize Bible verses with us. We learned one verse a week. She chose the verses based on what we were facing in life. For example, when I was in college, she had me memorize Colossians 2:8.

“…when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up…” Our torch should not be pulled out and shined on Sunday mornings and possibly mid-week. Our torch needs to be out all the time- in our living room, dining room, kitchen, toy room, and bedrooms. When we’re having dinner, our torch should be lighting the table. We should be preparing our meals by the light of our torch. Our torch should be the last thing our children see as we put them to bed at night.

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How is our torch lit? By fueling it with the Word of God. We need to spend time in God’s Word personally before we can pass on what His word says to our children.

How long does passing it on take? Not long at all… and a very long time. Giving our children time in God’s Word every day for five to fifteen minutes over the span of years you have to influence them, will build up over time.

We have a Bible reading time that the kids and I share during the day. It takes between five and fifteen minutes. Sometimes we read a verse that will help my children face their day (like when my daughter went to art camp, we read 1 Corinthians 15:33 to remind her of the company she should keep. She found a few very sweet friends and stayed with them all week.)

Because I have a 4 year old boy, right now I want him to see God’s Word as the greatest adventure ever written. We have skipped past Noah’s Ark at this point, and we are focusing on Elijah, Elisha, Gideon, David, and the strength of Samson (Samson’s poor choices in women will be a lesson for a future date).

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I do realize that my children have to choose to pick up the torch on their own. I cannot shove my torch in their hands. But I keep God’s promises tucked in my heart, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6.

In the meantime, I will continue to carry my torch for the Lord, fuel it with prayer and His Word, and make it a familiar sight for my children to see…. everyday.

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Don’t Be a Football Widow

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football-widow It is coming up very quickly!

What is IT, ask?

Football season, of course!

If your husband is like mine, then he starts gearing up for football season in April when the NFL holds its 3 day draft. He is on at least one or two Fantasy Football leagues, watches footage on his favorite players and the draftees as everyone is in training camp, and takes special notice of how these new players will work well with the veteran players….

or it might be that my husband is the only one like this……

So what is a girl to do?

I have two choices. I can sulk, sigh, pout, plan events on the days of his much anticipated football related events, and treat him and his hobby like they are worthless or….

I can join him!

That’s right, ladies! You heard me!

Join him!

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Usually, I sit with him (or do something in the living room where our main TV is) during the 3 days of the NFL draft (after the kids have gone down for the night). I enjoy the back stories of the players, the red carpet walk, and I cry along with them when their lives change because of one phone call.

I help him host the Fantasy Draft at our home every year. I enjoy opening our home and turning our dining room and living room into a war room for 4 hours. Picking up the pizza and helping with the flow chart has been my job since I was pregnant with Addie 9 years ago.

I have found the dates for the free evening practices at Raymond James Stadium so we can go as a family (all of us sporting our Tampa Bay Buccaneers colors).

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I try to watch the televised games when I am not rounding up one of our stray Buccaneers, or I give him the time and space to watch without interruption.

We make an event out of the Superbowl, whether our team is there or not.

I have even joined all female fantasy football leagues in the past.

Why?

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Oh, darling! What a fabulous question!

Because……

……this is the one thing that my husband enjoys as a hobby (and believe me, there are worse things out there that he could be involved in).

……he is self-sacrificing for his family and only asks for the 16 games in the fall to enjoy (5 months of football season….. only Sundays…… some Monday nights…… occasionally Thursday nights….. but at least he is home!)

……I love him, and I want him to know that I love every aspect of him (he is absolutely brilliant and has such a sports mind. He amazes me!)

There are other ways to make football season memorable and fun for you and your honey. If you have never been there, check out the Dating Divas website. It’s full of wonderful ideas for keeping you close during football season.

Make this his best football season ever.

He will thank you for it.

Originally posted here at The Joy of Homemaking.

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