Choose Joy and Choose Grace

Choose Joy and Choose Grace

It is a Monday morning, not even 10 am, and I am finding myself in need of a pep talk.

I woke up early today to go for a walk before work.  Ear buds in place and music turned up I began my walk on the trail.  Preoccupied with my thoughts of my youngest son starting his senior year of college and my daughter starting her senior year of high school.  My heart burdened by the senseless shootings that took place this past weekend in my country.  I began to pray and walk.  I thought I heard a voice and as the cyclist was approaching my side, I quickly moved over to accommodate him.  Much to my surprise, he hopped off his bike and began screaming at me to MOVE OVER.  He berated me and cussed at me before jumping back on his bike an pedaled away as he was nodding his head in disgust that I would be walking closer to his side of the trail than mine.

I then decide on my way to work to stop at the grocery store and pick up some items for my lunch.  There is road construction so I inadvertently turn and drive against the arrow pointing us to park.  My mistake as well as the car in front of me and the three others behind me.  We all encounter the wrath of a very frustrated driver who honks her horn, rolls down her window and proceeds to scream at all of us for being idiots.

I decide a large coffee is in order at this point and stand in line to order when the young mom in front of me who is juggling 2 little kids spills her iced coffee macchiato all over my sandals and feet.  I then have a choice don’t I?  I chose to laugh and to tell her it was no big deal as we both worked together to clean up the mess.  This prompted the man behind us to pay for both of our drinks and thank me for not treating her like I was treated in the parking lot. He was part of the wrong way driving escapade too. We all had a good laugh and wished each other a great day.

Choices…  Sometimes we are aggravated by what others do and sometimes we are the one who is aggravating.  Today I am determined to choose grace and gratitude.  All the minor issues I described for you are nothing compared to others in the world who would love the freedom to walk without fear in their neighborhoods, to have a working automobile and to have the funds to purchase coffee.  I spend my days working for a global ministry so I am well aware of the fact that these are minor in the macro of our world. Even with that lens I found myself sad and a bit annoyed.

My encouragement to you and to me today is this  –   choose the joy and choose the grace.  It is always worth it even when it is hard and who knows, maybe sometimes you might even be treated to a cup of coffee.

Reflections of Summertime

Reflections of Summertime

I love to feel sunshine on my face and living in Colorado I get to experience that a lot as we like to boast that we have 300 days of sunshine a year.  Blue skies create a sunny disposition so they say.  As our summer days feel longer and the sun shines until late in the night, I settle into my summer rhythm of walks after work, watering the garden, watching baseball and talks with my husband sitting on the back porch staring at the magnificent sunsets chatting about life and many nights eating a popsicle.  There is something about summertime that brings out my ten year old self. The rhythm of life seems to change with the arrival of fresh cut grass and ice cold lemonade.

A few summer ago, I participated in a Bible study that focused on the Psalms.  Right away Psalm 1: 3 caught my attention –

“ That person is like a tree, planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” NIV

That particular summer arrived after an intense time of ministry and quite frankly a time where I felt unlike the tree above, my leaves were withered. I was worn out, my joy was gone. This passage caught my attention because it promises that this tree gives its fruit in season, while its leaves do not wither. My expectations of myself, and the expectations I often see those around me putting on themselves, are that we are to be productive and fruitful all the time. Our rhythm to include rest has disappeared.

No wonder we feel tired.

We were created for rhythms. All of God’s created world was created with rhythms. God created night and day. God created and then God rested. The leaves fall in autumn and return with buds of promise in the spring – rhythm.

Modern life gives few reminders, but we humans used to go to sleep and get up with the sun. Life followed the rhythms of the agricultural seasons. There was a time to plant and a time to harvest. With the arrival of the summer fruits in the produce aisle and farmers market, I am reminded that fruit grows in seasons, not constantly or instantaneously.

Life today can be a constant barrage of noise and information that is accessible at our fingertips. We can be plugged in all the time, and we are expected to be fruitful year-round. The arrival of summer reminds me we can change that rhythm.

My challenge to myself and to you is to find our rhythm of summer. Find ways to slow down. Extra time with our families, extra time outside and maybe a little extra ice cream too.  Rhythm is a simple concept, let’s find ours and let’s not over complicate it… 

Happy Summer!!

Laughter is Good For the Soul

Laughter is Good For the Soul

I sat in the parking lot of the post office on a cold winter morning.  I could see the long line from where I sat in my car and I was feeling grumpy about the anticipated wait.  I had a heavy heart.    Grey skies loomed overhead replacing the normal bright blue skies of Colorado.  The whole day felt grey and heavy.

I was awakened that morning to alarming texts from friends who were sending out prayer requests for one of our friends who is battling cancer.  The outlook felt grim.  Then I received an email from another friend telling me of a friend’s child who was complaining of a stomach ache which turned into surgery which turned into another cancer diagnosis.  These are wonderful families and I just felt plain sad on their behalf.

I walked to the front door of the post office and while opening the door dropped several of my envelopes.  A young man stepped over the fallen mail without offering to help.  My grumpy meter was rising by the second  – that was until I got inline.  

In front of me was an elderly man and in front of him was a young mom with her little baby.  The elderly gentleman began playing peek a boo with the child and before you know it, the baby was laughing hysterically.  You know what I mean, those baby laughs that are so full of joy they make everyone around them begin to smile and laugh too. We all were laughing until our sides hurt.  We even clapped for the baby when she and her mom were leaving, and of course, on cue, she blows us all baby kisses goodbye.  My spirits were lifted by the laughter of this sweet child and the response from all those around me.

The lady behind me started crying.  She apologized for the tears and told me her husband had passed away earlier this year and she felt guilty for feeling joy and uncontrollable laughter.  I gave her a hug and told her I was so sorry for her loss.  I also probably over spoke and told her I thought it was ok to have joy.  Her husband wouldn’t want her to be sad forever.  She hugged me again.  I left the post office feeling lighter and as I walked outside, the sun began shining through the clouds. I stopped and prayed for my friends who were deep in hardship.  I prayed they would feel joy, that they would be able to laugh even when things were hard.

I think sometimes we are afraid to laugh while we are experiencing sorrow because someone might think our pain has passed or that our sorrow isn’t deep.  Laughter seems off limits or inappropriate to shine where there is the darkness of grief and sorrow.  My Christian faith tells me that because I place my hope in Christ, I can grieve differently from those who have no hope.  There are times when grief will have a tight grip on us for sure, life can be brutally hard at times.  Laughter gives us permission to say  – grief may have a hold of me but all of the life has not been choked out of me. I think laughter lessens the sting that sadness can bring. It is a gift to feel joy.

Let’s all be people who give each other permission to laugh, to experience joy even when our world circumstances say otherwise.  Let’s receive our joy from the Lord and encourage one another in this journey called life.

The Mountaintop

The Mountaintop

Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some do – like the one we read about in Matthew 17. “Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led
them up a high mountain”. And there they had a “mountaintop” experience – we know it as the transfiguration. A beautiful moment that Jesus shared with his disciples. You know, the kind of experience that doesn’t happen too often, the kind that changes us forever and results in lasting transformation. Not all mountaintop experiences happen on mountaintops. Some happen in convention centers in the southern state of Kentucky. Some happen each year at MOMcon.

Those of us who attended MOMcon had various mountain top experiences. I am always moved to tears when worshipping with thousands of other women. When leaders are introduced to one another in what I believe are God appointments, showing them their abilities to work together through the MOPS ministry to further God’s kingdom. When I see moms crying and sharing with me their recommitment to the Lord, their deep desire to reach others for Christ.

I experienced many of those moments with many of you and I am thankful. This year, being a part of the baptism service was an incredible moment – a true mountain top experience. I had the honor of working with Pastor Ed Ollie that morning. I stood at the bottom of the steps and held the hand of each of the 42 moms as they entered the water. An ordinary hot tub on the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Louisville was transformed into holy water as each mom proclaimed her commitment to following Jesus in front of her peers and other MOPS family. Tears of joy, I have never been hugged so tightly. During one such baptism, as the mom was coming out of the water, I looked over to see her friends crying and above them was the steeple from the church across the street and it was illuminated by the street light. The cross shone brightly that morning. I felt God’s love and will forever remember that as a holy moment, a mountain top experience.

Back to the real world with laundry and real life issues and some minor complaints. How do we take those experiences at MOMcon and hold them tight so that we remember why we do what we do? It really is about perspective and the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of a hike I did this past summer and reaching the top of the mountain. It struck me how nothing really grows at the top – the trees and foliage are gone and are replaced by large rocks and gravel. The view however of the valley was breathtaking. The air was clean and crisp. It gave me an appreciation of what my everyday life looked like as I viewed it from afar. The beautiful trees and city. That is what I take from my mountain top moments at MOMcon. The view of our daily lives, the moments of clarity. Still doesn’t make re- entry easy but it makes it more special when we take those moments and bring them back with us excited and recommitted to serving faithfully together.

That is my prayer for each of us as we lead moms around the world. Think of the call of God leading you and me. Our mountaintop experiences of experiencing God in an intense way also calls us to return to the very real issues and problems of our MOPS groups, our cites and state, nation and world. And we are called back to proclaim that Jesus has called us to work together – as people of faith – to improve the lives of all moms – bringing healing and hope and abundant life into their realities.

May God lead us off the high mountain and into even the deepest and darkest valleys to
share God’s love in transforming ways.

Much love – Sherri

Contentment

Contentment

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Why is contentment so hard to achieve?  A great question brought to my mind this morning as I was walking through my garden enjoying the beautiful roses that are still blooming.  It is mid September here in Colorado and each year about this time, I get a second blooming season from my rose garden.  Heavenly.

The temperature for the next week will be in the upper 80’s yet when I walk into the area stores it is all about the fall decor, pumpkin spice galore!  I even heard a lady this morning say to the grocery store clerk, “ I wish this nice weather would hurry up and get out of here so I can put on a sweater and drink a pumpkin spice latte.”  She wasn’t teasing. In Colorado the fall season is typically shortened by a snow storm so I plan on enjoying the sunshine and roses until then. Not wanting to wish away the last days of summer.

Why do we wish things away?  When we are young we want to hurry up and be adults and then when we are adults we wish we could have some carefree days like when we were young.  When our kids are toddlers we wish they would be potty trained and not so needy and then when we drop those kids off at college we long for the days when we could ready stories to them and snuggle on the couch.

My outlook on contentment certainly has been skewed by my experience of having breast cancer.  It really gave me the gift of enjoying each day, each season of life – not only in nature but with my family and my work.  Seasons are just that, temporary moments in time.  Sometimes sunny and bright and other times dark and cold.  Whatever season you find yourself in, my prayer for you today is that you will enjoy it, learn from it, embrace it , don’t wish it away.

Pumpkin spice lattes will be enjoyed soon enough, today is an iced tea, rose filled kind of day.  I plan on enjoying it.

Learning to Shine

Learning to Shine

I spent last Friday at Disneyland with my husband and two of my four kids.  What a fun day!  We crammed as much Disney as we possibly could into about seven hours.  Let me tell you a little more of the story…  We arrived the night before in LA ready for a quick weekend get away.  My luggage however didn’t arrive so off we went in the Uber to our hotel where I requested “ the bag”.  You know, the hard toothbrush, paste, odd scented deodorant, and tiny black comb kinda bag.  I must say I was feeling annoyed with myself for not just carrying on a bag.  I was assured my luggage would arrive by 9 am the next day.  9 am comes and goes and my son is flying in to meet us and so we need to go.  I put on my jeans and shirt from the day before, brush my teeth with the bristle brush, borrow my daughters make up and throw my hair up in a pony.  Sad my shorts, white shirt and tennis shoes are still in transit as it is going to be 90 degrees.

We arrive at the Magic Kingdom and I am determined to enjoy this abbreviated day of fun with my family.  We quickly start hopping on rides and grabbing fast passes and walk for miles.  I now have a blister on my toe because although my flip flops are oh so cute, they are not the best walking shoes.  We enter “ Splash Mountain” and literally sweat to death for over an hour to be told the ride had a log jam and will be closed for the remainder of the day.  Disappointed, yes!  I was looking forward to being splashed by the cold water in the sweltering heat.  We shrug our shoulders and walk to Indiana Jones where we had reserved our fast pass. “ Sorry folks, the ride is shut down,” says the very chipper Disney worker. We decide we are ready to leave the Magic Kingdom and head to our favorite place in Marina Del Rey for dinner.  It did not disappoint, we laughed about all of our mishaps and adventures and deemed it a wonderful day!

We arrive back to the hotel, still no luggage.  We take the stairs because the elevator has a sign… “Out of Order”.  We burst into laughter and climb the stairs satisfied with our very fun day!  

So what does my Disney day have to do with your leadership, your parenting? It’s all about perspective.  The truth is we all are going to face disappointment in our life journey.  Things don’t always work out the way we so meticulously plan them.  The learning is this – just because there are a few bad moments doesn’t mean it is a bad day or worse a bad life. A few rides not working didn’t lessen our very happy day spent at Disneyland.  Disappointment is commonplace, that however, isn’t the challenge.  The challenge is how you react to disappointment.  Disappointments give us opportunities to shine.  They can help define us as good leaders/good parents.  In fact, how well we handle disappointment can either hinder our relationships with our team/our family or can earn us respect and credibility for the challenges that will come in the future.

Here are some things to help when disappointment happens –

  • Remain calm and composed so those emotions don’t rule the response.
  • Look within  – could your involvement (or lack of it) have prevented the situation?
  • Always give the benefit of the doubt – operate in grace.
  • Focus on the issue, not the person.
  • Ask yourself, what can I learn from this?
  • Be a leader – allow the disappointment to help you build better bonds with your family/your team.

 

Life is about enjoying the journey God has you on, learning to shine for Him, disappointments and all.

 

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