Tag Archives: survival

Preparing for the Holidays, Part 1

Although it has been an unseasonably warm fall here in the Northwest, the calendar doesn’t deceive, the holidays are upon us. When I say “holidays”, I am not trying to be politically correct; I use the word “holidays” to include all the next 2-3 months will bring: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

The holiday season can be challenging for us as women. There is a lot to be done and the majority of it falls upon our shoulders – special meals to plan and make, purchasing, wrapping and sending gifts, decorating our houses, baking, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

For those of us who serve in ministry, there is the added pressure of holiday preparations for our church families as well – cards to be sent, people to appreciate, special services to plan for, reaching out to our cities, etc . . .

I have learned over the years that during the busy holiday season, if I fail to plan, I plan to fail. Yes, planning takes considerable thought and time, but it is time well spent. Once you have a clear picture of what needs to be done, you can make it happen a whole lot easier than if you wait for things to sneak up on you and then scramble to get them done.

During this series, I want to share with you how I make a plan and work to accomplish it. The goal of this planning and preparation is not to say, “Look at me, I’m so organized”. The goal is to survive this crazy season with a good attitude and a heart that remains focused on what the season is all about: gratitude, faith, family, friends, and showing Jesus’ love in tangible ways.

Join me for the next couple weeks as I share practical ways to prepare your home, and more importantly, your heart for the holidays.

A good first step is this simple prayer of commitment for the holiday season:

Thank you, God, for this holiday season. It is a time to give you thanks for your goodness and faithfulness. May my heart be truly grateful as I recognize all that you have done for me and the blessings I’ve received. As I make preparations to celebrate your birth, please help me to keep my focus on you. Allow me to make a plan and to not to be overwhelmed with my many tasks, but to serve others with the strength you provide. As the New Year approaches, may I be filled with anticipation of Your faithfulness no matter what the year holds and a sense of excitement about how I will continue to grow in You. I commit this season to You and know You will help me. In Jesus’ Name and for His sake, Amen.

Your Friend in Ministry,

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When You Need a Good Cry

Yesterday it happened. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know to what extent. Yet, when the first notes were played by our worship team, the tears began rolling down my face. Once they started, it was like a dam broke open and I continued to crying during the whole worship set. Thankfully, I had come into the sanctuary late and grabbed a seat in the second to last row, allowing me a little privacy as I had this mini emotional breakdown.

Interestingly enough, I was sitting between two very dear friends. I rarely sit by either, let alone both. Both of these women have beautiful singing voices and when I could not sing, their beautiful voices were like a balm to my spirit. During the first song the one on my left put her arm around me, offering comfort and strength. During the last song, the one on my right put her hand on my shoulder and I could tell she was praying for me. Also, my compassionate son who was sitting nearby went and grabbed me a whole wad of tissue so that snot wouldn’t drip down my face. When the minister is ministered to, it is a humbling yet wonderful thing.

Although, I have rarely been embarrassed to cry in public, I know many people who are. Some see crying as a form of weakness. Yet, God designed crying to be a natural stress reliever. Just like sweat was designed to keep your body from overheating, crying was designed to relieve stress, anxiety or other emotions that get built-up. In fact, “a study by the University of Minnesota discovered that the chemicals that build up in your body during emotional stress can be removed in your tears, and unreleased stress can increase your risk for heart attack and damage certain areas of your brain. So your human ability to cry is not only therapeutic, but could also be considered a survival tactic.”

Since God designed crying, it stands to reason that He does not see tears as a form of weakness, but rather a humble reliance upon Him. No wonder the word “cry” is listed about 150 times in the Bible. Consider the following examples:

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. Exodus 2:23

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. 2 Samuel 22:7

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, Psalm 10:17

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. Psalm 72:12

From these verses, you can see that God:

  1. Wants you to cry to Him
  2. Hears you when you cry
  3. Offers you comfort and encouragement
  4. Helps you when you cry to Him

Even though, yesterday, I would have preferred to have a good cry in the privacy of my own home, I have learned that to be emotionally healthy, I can’t keep stuffing my emotions below the surface. I am modeling good emotional health to those around me when they see my tear-stained face once in a while. (This does not give me license to be an emotional basket-case any time I feel like it, but the reality is you and I need a good cry now and again.)   As worship concluded, there was a little battle going on inside me. We had a baby dedication right after worship and I didn’t want to get up in front of everybody with a tear-stained face. My flesh said “Stay in your seat”, but my spirit said “Go help your husband”. This time, my spirit won and by God’s grace and strength, I dried my tears and went forward to pray over a sweet little baby girl. As I did, Jesus healed my sorrow and turned it to joy. I don’t know how He does it, but that is one of His specialties. He gives us “the oil of joy instead of mourning” Isaiah 61:3. Whatever you are facing right now, either personally or on behalf of those you serve, turn to Jesus. Cry if you need to. He hears. He comforts. He heals.

Your Friend in Ministry,

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Four Hugs a Day

Four Hugs a Day

About 20 years ago, I student taught in Southern California. I was placed in a very low income school, Magnolia Elementary School in Azusa, CA, in a kindergarten classroom with an excellent master teacher. She taught me so much about how to manage a classroom well so students could learn. However, the thing I remember the most about my experience in her classroom is a simple little song she had the students sing each day, “Four Hugs a Day”.  Click here for the Youtube link.

Since I grew up in a family where affection was the everyday norm, I didn’t realize that many homes are not that way. This wise teacher understood that hugs help develop emotionally healthy kids, and unfortunately, many kids were not getting enough hugs at home. The same is true for all people, regardless of their age, we all need hugs! I’ve heard it said that we need:

  • 4 hugs a day for survival
  • 8 hugs a day for maintenance
  • 12 hugs a day for growth

Ever since that silly little song got burned into my subconscious, I have been known as a hugger. I hug my kids, I hug my friends, I hug my church family (with appropriate side hugs for the men). In fact, I believe a hug to be one of the most powerful ministry tools at our disposal. By welcoming somebody into your personal space, a hug says, “I accept you”, “I love you”, “You are valuable”, “I care about you”, “You are important”, “Jesus loves you”.

You can tell, by the rigid feel of their bodies, those who are neither used to nor comfortable with hugs. This has seldom deterred me (*smile*). I have seen many people transformed from reluctant huggers to some of the most enthusiastic huggers I know. It’s amazing – the transformational power of something so simple. One reluctant hugger recently told me, “I have needed every single hug you have ever given me.”

There’s an added benefit to being a hugger . . . as many hugs as I give, is as many hugs as I get. Even if I am the one to initiate a hug, I still benefit from it. When you serve in ministry, you have to pay close attention to your own emotional health. Are you surviving (4 hugs)? Maintaining (8 hugs)? Or growing (12 hugs)? I have found that the more hugs I give in a day, the healthier of a person I become.

Consider embracing the hug (pun intended!). It will do wonders for both those you serve and yourself as well. How many hugs can you give today?

Your Friend in Ministry,

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