Where Am I Going to Church?

I often get asked where I’m going to church, *smile* I’ll get to that.

When we left the church in 2000 that we had helped plant in 1996 (let me be completely honest, we were kicked out for disagreeing with the pastor and “causing discord”), I was so hurt. I felt discouraged, displaced, and completely destroyed.

I have to add here…there was a day when I couldn’t admit that we were kicked out, I was ashamed and I would feel the need to explain, but not anymore. I will explain if asked, but I just don’t need to anymore. I know that Mark and I stood for what our hearts believed and would do it again, only this time I wouldn’t be ashamed.

Six months later when the group we were meeting with in our home grew too large for our house we moved into a building and had ‘real church’ (meaning we were in an actual building).

Six years of pastoring a growing church and it was finally time to focus on our own lives. Mark’s business (the only one we actually took a paycheck from) needed him more and we had just brought Lauren home from China so she needed me. We knew that it was time to hand the church over to our leadership team.

I was peaceful, content, and knew that we made the right decision. Thankfully, there was no pain or heartbreak this time, but I still had so many questions and didn’t understand the road we were now traveling. Why did I feel we didn’t need to be in church every Sunday? How could I be a Christian and not “plugged in” to a local church? I was a very good church girl and could preach a persuasive message on why we all needed to be there, but now, strand by strand, the fabric of that was unraveling for me.

I started this blog and began exploring what living for/with God really meant and my questions led me to a book titled “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” and a podcast called “The God Journey.”

The unraveling continued and God begin a beautiful work of knitting me back together by showing me that His love has always been there, that HE’s always been there, even in the midst of betrayal, loss, and pain.

Now I look back with gratitude for all that we walked through on this journey. The dark times brought me to the light. His light, His love, His grace.

This past year I read this amazing book which also gave me freedom to be myself and embrace the life I chose and not the one I was told I should live: Present Over Perfect. 

I have no desire to convince anyone that they need to do what I did, or follow the footsteps I’ve taken with my faith and choices. I just want to encourage you to follow Him. Trust Him. All of our paths are unique and yet similar in that as we lean on and follow Him, they will draw us closer to the Father and His heart…however that looks in your life.

So when I am asked about “where” I go to church, I smile, because it’s not about a place, church is not a place, the church is people, people who’ve chosen to follow Him.

I used to believe that the building a person sat in on Sundays was an indication of their faith, now I feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Now I believe that that kind of thinking is just linear, and my walk with God has become so much more dimensional as my relationship with Him grows.

He is a part of every bit of my life. The times I’m doing “good” things, the times I’m blowing it, and everything in between. His love never changes for me and His grace is what draws me closer to Him when I need Him most.

As I write this I hear my former Pharisee-self asking “so now what, you just go off and do whatever you want, pray, sin, act a fool, and God loves you so it’s ok?” That is exactly what I would have thought if someone said all this to me when I was deeply entrenched in performance Christianity. Back in the day when I thought I knew best and believed it was my job to correct those who had it wrong, I would have looked down on the Me of today.

Ugh, no!

Living in His love does not excuse sin and it certainly does not encourage it, but gives space to the fact that we are so flawed, and yet we are loved. That love calls me to walk closer to him not farther down a path away from Him, though at times on this journey I admit I have strayed from the peace which comes from fellowship with Him.

So to answer the question, where am I? I’m right here. You might find me in a church building occasionally on a Sunday but more likely home with my family. Thankfully, I now know that the body of Christ is not a building we call church. I don’t forsake gathering with believers, it just looks a little bit different now. Please understand, please, I’m not AGAINST church attendance, I’m FOR relationship with God, however that looks in your life today.

I admit that I considered writing this post for about 3-4 years now but didn’t have the courage to do it. I was worried that it would ostracize me from people I care about or stop the requests for speaking engagements, but now, I hope it opens doors for deeper conversations. I am so happy to be in a space of freedom about my faith/church life and if I never speak in front of a group again, I am ok with that. I just want to share life with whoever God brings alongside me on this journey.

I really love this quote:

“Jesus didn’t leave us with a system to manage, but a Spirit to follow.”

Wayne Jacobsen, Finding Church

It feels so good to not be ruled by “shoulds” but able to follow my heart and hopefully His Spirit each day.

Sue

Trust God

climb up and trust Him praise and coffeeWhen you’re hurting, feeling alone or facing the trial of your life…He’s there.

He never intended you to dance alone.

Trust Him.

 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!
Proverbs 3:5 The Message Bible

 

Fun Graduation Party Ideas

Taken from my Real Moms of West Michigan series on STAR 105.7 with Tommy and Brook… It’s Graduation season and they made it…no, YOU made it! Homework, sports, first loves and braces. It’s time to celebrate so put away the Kleenex for a minute and let’s throw a party! Here are some simple and fun ideas to make your day great.

1. Put up a video camera on a tri-pod and hit record for the party. Also, make a sign that asks the guests to say a few words to the graduate, it will be lots of fun watching this later!

2. FOOD! Be creative with food. It’s ok to step away from the ham and cheese sandwiches.

  • Baked potato and salad bar
  • Taco bar
  • Appetizer and Dessert party
  • Brinner! Breakfast for dinner is a fun buffet that people love.
  • Search Pinterest! I have a board all set up with a bunch of great ideas and you can find that on my website.

3. Decorations:

  • Dollar stores are your friend! You can find all kinds of great stuff there: lawn signs, balloons, plates, etc
  • An easy table decoration: Colored M & M type candies that you can find right in the bulk food section
    • Pick out your child’s school colors and add a few curly ribbons around them and call it good!

4. Stressing about getting the house ready? Have a destination party: host the party at a local hotel or restaurant. A local venue is ideal if you plan to have a large number of guests at the party.

5. Theme Party: Base the whole party around a sport or activity that your graduate loves. Video games, TV Shows, Twitter, travel, music, COFFEE…whatever they enjoy.

Another fun idea to have at a graduation party is get the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”…by Dr. Seuss and have all the guests attending sign the pages as a keepsake for the graduate. Most importantly: Real Moms are not afraid to ask for help! If your child is graduating, you probably know a couple other moms who are also planning parties, barter help with each other so you can spend time visiting with the guests. Then do the same for them. So, those are a few ideas, check out my Pinterest page for lots more. And congrats to all the graduates and their great moms that got them there!! Click to listen to segment: Real Moms of West Michigan on Star 105.7 I do the ‘Real Moms of West Michigan’ segments on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook every Tuesday morning around 7:05 AM. If you are not in the West Michigan area you can listen on iHeart radio More that might interest you: Has God Been Calling You to Step Out? Six Ways To Connect With Your Kids Helping Our Kids Deal with Separation

Fitting In Makes YOU Irrelevant

Anyone can fit it, but you are not anyone. YOU were created with a purpose and a plan in mind. YOU were not created to just fit in.

Be yourself, stand out and SHINE for Him and who He made you to be.

fitting in show up

Psalms 139

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

 

Leave Yesterday’s Mistakes Behind




yesterdays mistakes

 

Our past is a huge part of our future…our stories shape us and we become a women of our individual journeys. I don’t believe we can or should leave our stories behind us and think that we can just forget where we’ve been or what we’ve done.

But let’s not let our mistakes or sins keep us from the beauty that God has before us.

The ashes are a necessary part of the beauty, but don’t let the ashes direct us, let hope and trust in the Father direct us.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Get Out Of The Wake

boat-wake

When our kids were teens we had a 17 foot speed boat and took them tubing every summer. It became quite an adventure. What began as a fun family time quickly turned into “combat tubing” which included four tubes behind the boat, high rates of speed and acrobatics involving jumping over each other as we cornered and landing on top of the other tubers. The wake was their friend and often used to launch them into the air and Mom into a nervous break down. Thankfully it only made for great memories and no trips to the hospital.

The wake was a tool to propel them on to exciting heights but it could also be what held them back if they didn’t have the speed and momentum to get over it.

The wake can hold us back too.

We can spend our lives riding in the wake of our past, the words and opinions of others, and our own fears and insecurities or we can choose to get out of the wake and journey on uncharted paths.

What has been keeping you in the wake?

Who has been keeping you in the wake?

Whose opinion matters more than your hearts desire to launch out of the wake?

What fears are keeping you in the wake?

You are limited only by your belief that you have to stay in the wake.

 Isaiah 43:1-But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. NIV

 

 

 

When You Think You’ve Gone Too Far

As long as you’re still taking breaths…you haven’t gone too far away from His love.

No matter where you’ve gone or what you’ve done, He’s been pursuing you with His love.
Stop running…

god love is fierce copy

Fierce: /fi(ə)rs/

Adjective: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.

 

1 John 4:9
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Proverbs 3:3
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Psalm 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Six Ways To Connect With Our Kids

six ways to connect with our kids

Taken from my “Real Moms of West Michigan” segment on Star 105.7 every Tuesday at 7:05 AM…

We have never had more information about parenting available to us, but often we’re still baffled about how to deal with situations with our kids.
I think that is because the more important part of parenting is not WHAT we do but WHO we are to our kids.

All the parenting skills in the world can not compensate for a lack of connecting with them as a parent, as an authority and as the one who is most reliable to care for them. Listening and letting them know that you care.

A lot of parents today are shrinking back because we don’t feel qualified to help or understand our kids and what is happening is that they are reaching out to each other, looking to peers to fill that void of connection. They’re looking to each other for social cues and direction but their peers are not equipped to guide them which can leave our kids on very unstable ground emotionally.

And yes, social media plays a huge role in this today. Instead of kids looking to parents as their compass and their validation, they are looking at “friends” and “likes” on their pictures/status’s.

The good news is that it’s not too late. Children want connection with us, they want to look up to us, no matter what they say or how they act, they have an internal instinct to need their parent.
So what do they need from us? They need us to lead with love and authority. Give them guidance. Be their parent.

I am doing a series on my Real Moms segment on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook, it’s about the Six Ways to Connect with Our Kids. We will go from the most shallow and most basic type of connection to the deepest level of attachment with someone because understanding attachment/connection is the single most important factor in knowing how to help our kids become confident, secure and emotionally healthy adults.

Much of this information was learned through reading “Hold On To Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld.

1. The first one is SENSES.

Children have an instinctive need to sense who they are connecting with: sight-smell-sound-touch. Physical proximity is the most basic way we connect. Even though this is considered the most basic level of connection, it is extremely important in all relationships; and that hunger for closeness never goes away.

To apply that to parenting: spend time together, make eye contact, and make sure you still have physical contact with them. Hugs, high fives, wrestling when their little, touching their arm or shoulder or patting their back as they get older.

They need this from us all through life.

If you’re feeling distance from your child, you might want to pay attention to who they seem to need to be around. Are there peers whom they are driven to be with and at the same time putting up walls with you? Are they making some poor choices as they follow their friends?

This is not the time to just draw back and say– “well they’re growing up and this is normal that they want less to do with me.” Especially if you see their character changing for the worse.

Yes, they will grow up and leave the nest, BUT parents still need to stay engaged until they do leave the nest and remain connected because often they are searching for outside connection because they’re not feeling it with us.

Even and especially through the teens years they need to have connection with us…they need to know we are there for them and believe in them.

So, stay connected to your kids in the most basic of ways which is through their senses.

2. The second one is SAMENESS.

We start to see the need for sameness when our kids are toddlers as they mimic those who are closest to them. They are essentially trying to discover who they are so they start to assume our identity. They want to be just like mom or just like dad, so they copy us. Our words our actions our responses; they are paying close attention to everything we say and do.

This is an important part of connection and it continues on in life. It is a very strong drive for children to be the “same” as others. This breaks down on so many levels; it can be about them wanting the same brand of shoes that everyone is wearing or in extreme cases gang affiliation.

Parents, we really need to pay attention to who our kids are emulating and trying to be the same as. As they grow we see a pulling away and they want to be the same as others. Some of this is normal progression of a child becoming who they are…but be careful not to dismiss rebellion for individuality.

A child who is truly becoming their own person will be an individual in all circumstances and not just individual from their parents.

If you are feeling your child being sucked away from you, it’s time to step up and work on fixing that connection with your child because that is not normal or healthy. It is almost like we’ve just taken for granted that our kids will become teens and rebel, but that’s a mistake because true individuality does not mean rebellion.

So parents, let’s pay attention to our kids need for sameness, give them space to be individuals but also nurture their uniqueness and encourage their individuality by validating who they are. They will be drawn to those who accept them.

We’re seeing a generation of kids that are terrified of being different. They feel that “different” is wrong, it’s our job to give them a secure foundation to let their unique personality and individuality blossom. They need to know that they have a place to belong and be loved- no matter what.

3. The third is BELONGING and LOYALTY

Again we see this unfolding in toddlerhood as they lay claim to whatever they feel is theirs.
“Mine!”
This is all part of connecting, they even do it with us; MY daddy, MY mommy, they jealously seek to possess us.
We see this as they get older with BFF’s, and the tight knit relationships they form in junior and senior high school. Along with that comes loyalty; sharing and protecting each other’s secrets, taking their friend’s side.
This is a crucial part of attaching and connecting, and the thing we need to watch out for is if our kids are finding their sense of belonging and becoming deeply loyal to friends or peer groups and those relationships are becoming more important than the sense of belonging and loyalty that they feel in their family.

A child will be stronger emotionally and socially if their deepest ties and loyalty are to their family first.

Let them know how important they are to your family, that home is their first place of belonging and show them your loyalty to the person they are becoming by believing in them.

 

4. The fourth is SIGNIFICANCE

This is that sense of knowing that we matter, that we are held dear to someone’s heart.

It’s all about our deep need for approval.

Our kids will gravitate to those that will accept and approve of them.

A child can tell by our countenance if we approve of them, if we are glad they walked into a room.
Are we happy to see them? They will know it.
They desperately want to know that they matter, that they are seen and valuable.  They need to know that they are significant. Just like we all still do.
A few things to help our kids feel significant:
*Don’t minimize their feelings. Home needs to be the safe place for them to allow their feelings to be heard and understood.
*Encourage them to pursue their dreams. What do they love to do? Help them get better at it.
For those of you that said- they only like video games…get them out of the house, expose them to more things and places, opportunities.
*Listen to them, give them eye contact when they’re talking. Put down the phone when they’re trying to tell us something.
Our kids want to know that they are significant and the healthiest place for them to find their significance is the home. When they have the solid foundation of who they are at home, they can become strong, determined young adults.

 5. The fifth is FEELINGS

Kids and adults find closeness through feelings, warm feelings, loving feelings, affectionate feelings. We want to build solid connections with our kids and emotion is strongly tied to connection.
When a child connects emotionally to their parent, it forms an intimate attachment that is not easily broken. Even when there is distance between them AND even when there are challenges and peer relationships that might be interfering with our parenting. We need to have emotional attachment with our kids.
This is when connection goes from the shallow end of just being in proximity to each other TO connecting through a loving relationship.

This includes being vulnerable with one another and it is a riskier form of connection.

If you hear a child say to a parent, “yeah, whatever” or “I don’t care” – that’s defensive sign of a lack of attachment – it means the child is afraid of getting hurt by the parent so he becomes defensive against vulnerability – he protects himself from feeling vulnerable by putting up a wall.
As parents, we want to create a safe emotional environment for our kids to FEEL our love and affection.
Sometimes we get off track when parenting trials come along and we think we need more information. We feel we are not good enough parents because we don’t know enough about parenting, but that is not true. Parenting is not about being skilled, it is about the relationship we have with our children.
Parenthood is not a skill to be acquired.
Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.
Parents- you are fully equipped to raise your kids- even if you’ve never read a book about parenting. Trust your gut, follow the instinct that IS in all of us and nurture your relationship with your child as it works best in your family.

 6. The sixth is BEING KNOWN

To be close to someone is to be known by them.
This is closely related to last week- feelings. The feeling of being loved is so important…especially coupled with being known.
When a child is vulnerable to their parents and feels loved even in their failures, they are known deeply and the attachment/connection is powerful and they don’t fear rejection.
They put down their guard and let you in. This child will not want to keep secrets from their parents, they will trust that they will be accepted, loved and invited to be themselves.

Being known is the deepest level of attachment and connection.

This kind of relationship does not happen by chance and you can not assume that it will happen just because you are the parent and they are your child. This level of connection is nurtured and developed over time and trial and situations that show our children we are there for them and love them without conditions.
I’m not saying that it doesn’t involve discipline, but the focus of this relationship is not about just dealing with wrong behavior and correcting them. The focus is training and teaching our kids how to make the best choices.
Ultimately, a deep attachment with parents will help your kids become emotionally secure and independent.
REMEMBER Parenting is above all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.

 

Listen to segments here: Real Moms on Star 105.7

Take Your Stand

Freedom: the condition of being free, the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.

Freedom gal 5 1 praiseandcoffee copy
We picture a woman in an abusive marriage or children being freed from trafficking…
But what about you, are you free?
Are you able to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints?
Are you free to be yourself or are you restrained by living up to others expectations of you?
Let’s take it even deeper. Are you free to be who you really are or does some inner voice silence you?

Does fear keep you restrained from stepping out with power to do the things that burn in your heart?
If fear did not hold you back, what would you do?
What would you say?
What would you create?

Freedom always costs something.

Jesus came and paid for our freedom from the power of sin and death. I’m hoping you’ve experienced that freedom.

But even after receiving such a glorious freedom many Christian women still live in self-imposed slavery.

We live stifled.

We read book after book about how to become a better woman, wife or mother but still ache with the feeling of being smothered by the expectations of others. Guilt flows as we read the Facebook status’ of women who cherish every waking moment with their children while we pray at noon for bedtime to come.

We step into our capris, grab our yellow markers, attach our plastic smiles and stroll into Bible study with an ache in our heart hidden behind a giant shield of perfection. We may fool these ladies but we’re not fooling God or ourselves. He knows that even though we spend a half hour each morning reading a devotion and reciting prayers from our favorite pocket version of the “power of a praying someone,” we haven’t spent any real time with the Father.

We’re so programmed to “do,” that we don’t even miss the “be.”

But we know something’s wrong.
We know that our heart and our words don’t commune.

We haven’t rested in His love.

Being a good Christian wife and mom doesn’t earn His love. He doesn’t love you more when you finish your exercise video than He does when you stuff yourself into your fat jeans and throw down another peanut butter cup.
In fact if we are honest, we carry a mental list of all the things we should do before we are loved by Him.

Our prayers are filled with requests but void of the heartfelt “Father, this hurts, help.”
We’re missing the prayers that draw us to His heart and let us crawl into His lap for comfort.

The performance is thriving but the relationship is lacking.

Intimacy with God cannot be replaced by good deeds.
Ladies, there is more. The Father wants a relationship with you that brings freedom.

It’s the freedom to be who He created you to be.
It’s the freedom to breathe, the freedom to shine.

Freedom to be vulnerable and leave the plastic smile in your make up bag, admit that you’re struggling and watch the masks fall off other women like paper mustaches when they hear that they are not alone in their prison of performance.

Freedom to be brave, because when you know that the God of the universe loves who you are, bad words, secret sins and pity parties, it makes you brave.

You don’t have to DO something to be accepted by Him, you have to BE something: His daughter.

When you choose freedom through a relationship with Jesus, He gives you “the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.”
 Take your stand ladies, because when that happens, everyone is blessed.

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1 The Message

Anne Frank

Lauren (3rd grade) and I are reading about Anne Frank during homeschool.
I love this quote:

anne frank praiseandcoffee copy

A giving heart is filled with joy and contentment, but a person striving for stuff or control never has enough.

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